Multi-ethnic community is beautiful. But to be a multi-ethnic church community it must gather around God’s word. The church community needs to hear the word, digest it and be transformed by it. This was where things got interesting.
For many, English is a struggle. Even those with good conversational English struggle with sermons (translated ones are not the same). With so much lost in translation, the danger of syncretism is real. We were convicted of a need to raise leaders from other cultures to speak to people in their vernacular. This was particularly the case for those who would culturally never step into a church building.
In those days we read a lot of missiology, and talked with lots of missiologists and church planters—whoever would help us really!
We began to mull over the idea of creating smaller or simpler congregations or churches that were more decentralised and flexible, joined together in a network with centralised training, kids, youth, access ministries, and other key resources. The goal: raise more indigenous leaders, and have church gatherings where people could access God’s word more clearly.
Then COVID came. The ideas that were abstractly floating around suddenly were thrown into action. Smaller churches seemed a strategic way to both weather the pandemic storm, and try out some of these ideas. It was like two birds with one stone. The Revelation 7 network was born.¹
What followed gave much food for thought. The positives?
- People were growing
- People who previously struggled to connect were connecting
- People became Christians
The big three challenges decentralised systems face?
- Heresy (ironic I know, since we’re doing this to help people access God’s word!)
- Homogeneity, since groups tend to grow around a common language
- Losing ‘missional heat’ due to limited resources in small groups
Working against each of these requires a centralised system which can provide some checks and balances. It depends on developing clear ‘campus constants’ throughout the gatherings, to have some kind of healthy synergy expressed through all-in activities and events with a critical mass. Mostly, it depends on constant leadership training and collaborative think tanks.
Establishing these elements effectively is crucial. And much of it is new to us. We’re kind of building the plane in the air. While church planting is hard, multichurch planting takes on a new level of complexity which I regularly feel overwhelmed by.
Where in all this chaos are we trying to head? There are many small homogenous churches in south west Sydney. Often leaders can lack access to support and training. They struggle with keeping the second generation engaged, and find it difficult to reach those outside their own cultural group.
Multi-church planting speaks into this reality. It seeks ways to support indigenous leaders and equip people to access God’s word in their heart language while being part of something bigger and multi-ethnic to both reach our city and support the next generation.
Beth Webb / Moore College Alumna