This week's reflection focuses on the new year, new seasons and Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
Taking off: a church plant launches in Prospect
By Bindy Taylor
Posted in Faith
Spend a small amount of time with Jenny and Mike Wardrop and you can’t help but be energised by their enthusiasm for Christ and by their vision to reach a younger generation for Jesus through a new church plant.
Church planting wasn’t something Jenny and Mike had visualised for their future, it was more of a “God interuption”.
“This unexpected call on our lives was not what we had anticipated, but it was something that God had very clearly spoken to us about in a few different ways and really placed on our hearts,” explains Mike.
“So we pursued that call and now here we are, just a few months away from launching our first service.”
Encounter Church was officially recognised as a Uniting Church faith community on Monday 25 September, 2017. Their first public church service will be held in Prospect in mid-February 2018. This inaugural service has been over two years in the planning.
“We have gone down a really long process and path to get to where we are now,” explains Jenny, who co-pastors Encounter Church with Mike.
“We spent significant amounts of time praying and fasting, training and attending conferences on church planting, and seeking mentoring from those who have planted successfully in the past. We just wanted to be really prepared for what God has for us in this season.”
As the church plant idea progressed, Jenny and Mike sought to gather a team to help them lead and establish the new Uniting Church community.
They wanted to be as collaborative as possible, particularly in the early planning stages, so it wasn’t just the two of them directing what the church core values were or what the church should be about. They invited young people to share their own vision and heart for the church community.
“We really wanted to capture how young people saw the church because we really believe this church is going to reach younger generations for Jesus,” says Mike.
Earlier in the planning process, the start-up team developed four core values - Jesus, People, Real and Generous. These values are fundamental to the way Encounter Church acts, thinks and shares.
“For us, the word ‘real’ is crucial to our existence. We want to communicate in the most real and honest way possible,” says Jenny.
“We have a really strong focus on the younger generation. We want a place where they can come to, where they can be seeking out what’s going on in scripture and be asking questions, be hearing the Gospel and finding something that really relates to them where they are at. This is a big focus for Encounter and something we want to hold true to as well.”
Those who are already part of the plant represent a diverse Uniting Church, coming together from different cultures and age groups. The majority of them are currently in transitional phases of life – many of them are high school graduates, university students, newly engaged or married, or have just moved out of home.
Having established a strong culture and a base of core values, Encounter Church is now undertaking the ‘launch team’ phase of the church plant.
“[This is] the phase that occurs three months before the official church launch. Our launch team is being trained to be ready with the first public service in February,” says Jenny. “We hold team-builing and culture-building days called ‘Close Encounters’. These sessions consist of teaching, training and team building, as we seek to develop more leaders within the team and to encourage people to help out in different areas of the church.”
The young leaders emerging from this training are clearly demonstrating the core values that are part of Encounter’s DNA – dedicated to learning more about the Gospel, spending more time with God, growing spiritually, and sharing generously. It is evident that the people involved in this church plant are practicing what they preach.
Church planting is never an easy task. Not only because of the challenging secular culture which exists in Australia, but also the personal toll that the planting process can take on the planters.
Jenny and Mike have just relocated their home to Prospect to be better placed to connect with the community that Encounter Church will be part of. They regularly open their home to members of the church plant team for prayer, training and worship, offering hospitality and friendship to everyone who enters the Encounter community.
In addition to this, Mike has a full-time role as an Intergenerational Discipleship Developer with the Mission Resourcing ministry centre of the Uniting Church SA, and Jenny is regularly contracted as a film editor. They also have three young children, all under the age of nine.
Despite the busyness of their home and family life, Mike and Jenny seem largely unperturbed by the disruptive nature of God’s call.
“We feel really blessed in what God has given us and what God has done so far. Our ultimate goal is to see people find real life in Jesus, and for people to discover purpose and hope through Encounter,” says Jenny.
This is not to say that Encounter Church doesn’t need support from the wider Uniting Church SA community. The Encounter faith community has already received encouragement from the Generate 2021 church planting initiative, from other Uniting Church communities in Prospect and the surrounding area, and through mentors and educators.
Mike and Jenny encourage anyone who feels called to support Encounter to pray for the community, particularly as they approach their official launch date. They have invited people to offer prayers of support and encouragement to lift them up as they move into the next phase of ministry. They have also requested prayers and support for resources - in the form of people, finance and encouragement.
Mike shares the ongoing vision for the Encounter Church faith community:
“We want to establish a place that forms amazing community, declares the name of Jesus and helps people find answers to the deepest questions in their life. It’s really important to us at Encounter.
“Why not partner with us as we do it?”
For more information about Encounter Church, please visit encounteradelaide.com.au or email email@example.com. For more information about church planting and Generate 2021, please visit ucasa.org.au/growing-uniting-church-sa
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