Typically, we fear something new and different for those very reasons. All humans embrace the familiar and routine and resist that which challenges our comfortable, long-established patterns. “After all,” we reason, “we have always done it this way; it must be correct!”
When I rode the train nearly two hours north of Sydney to attend a recently planted church, I was not sure what to expect since I had heard many opinions ranging from “everything the wider church needs” to “precarious experimentation that cannot last.”
My host, Pastor Wayne Krause, who also serves as director of the South Pacific Division’s Center for Church Planting, had noted that I would not need a dress suit since most of the attendees would dress “casual.” After three weeks of a difficult travel itinerary, this expectation immediately made the entire venture much more appealing.
Although the church’s location, just two blocks from the train station, was close enough to walk, the pastor met me, and we took a quick drive around the community of Wyong on Australia’s central coast. Soon we circled back to a large facility that looked more like a warehouse than a cathedral. Signs identified the multi-use building as a district social hall, a Salvation Army Center, and Central Coast Community Church of Seventh-day Adventists (CCCC). The lack of abundant parking was less obvious because of close proximity to transit lines and several nearby parking lots.
Worship services are held first at CCCC with Bible Discovery (Sabbath School) following. Logically, this resonates with the needs of the many young families who attend “Big Church” and allows parents to worship together as a family before their kids become too restless to settle into a sermon/worship setting.
Following worship, the church clearly envisioned the needs of various groups. First, a delightful breakfast buffet greeted all attendees, as fellowship time extended into prayer groups, sharing, storytelling, discussions, and unrushed social and spiritual engagement. The church always provides a noon lunch as well.
Provisions for children included babysitting plus Kids’ Church that was carefully themed to the adult study and worship. The youngsters enjoyed the lesson study in various ways, such as small groups, crafts, singing, mission story, and age-appropriate witnessing strategies. I was particularly impressed with the number of community kids who showed up at their church. This outreach strategy of high-quality children’s programming works because kids bring their parents.
Adult study options included a general lesson study taught that day by the pastor who emphasized the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, as well as the importance of orthodoxy coupled with outreach.
Various fellowship groups offer mutual and interactive support that spills over into other functions throughout the week, such as men’s group at the local pub (a location selected for the purpose of interacting with the locals), prayer ministry, and various support groups.
Although the type of music played and sung was not my preference, it showed careful thought and thorough planning integral to worship preparation. Extraordinarily talented individuals, such as the original drummer from the band AC/DC— now a CCCC church member—led the congregational singing. A Bob Dylan song, sung just before the sermon, perfectly matched Pastor Krause’s message that followed.
Two young adults, who had scheduled their baptisms, each shared powerful testimonies of their search for God and commitment to discipleship.
Attractively designed, freestanding banners, detailed CCCC’s core values: inspiring worship, gift-based ministry, need-focused evangelism, Christlikeness, community, empowering leadership, process, excellence, passionate spirituality, holistic small groups, multiplication, encouragement, authenticity, love-acceptance- forgiveness, and relevance.
Wayne and Tracey Krause make mentoring a high priority for their ministry. Erika Gemmell, who served a year as assistant pastor, says, “I saw the church function in a totally different way than I’d ever seen before. People became alive as the body of Christ.” She adds, “Pastor Krause mentored me and constantly challenged me to determine how I would apply what I experienced there in my future ministry. In the five years since, I have resolved that when a body of believers has a clear and focused mission, we become empowered to use our spiritual gifts for God’s glory and to care for each other in His name. My experience clarified my understanding of God’s call on my life.”
The South Pacific Division should rejoice in this emphasis on innovative church planting. Although some have raised questions about the authenticity of CCCC’s approach (primarily individuals who have never actually attended), I was pleased to discover a passion and clarity for both the message and mission of Adventist beliefs. I encourage others to discover for themselves the value of such needs-based ministry that struggles to involve the church community with local society in a way that abandons the fortress mentality of isolation from the world and embraces the force mentality that engages the world.
I summarize my CCCC experience in two words: different and genuine!