For more than a decade we have been telling stories of ordinary churches seeing success in community outreach. This time Love Your Neighbour has a story of its own to tell!
In late 2015 Love Your Neighbour came to an arrangement with the Baptists to do what we could to re-establish a worshipping, missional community at the former Pt Chevalier Baptist Church site. The area is remarkably under-churched; and we saw the value in being practitioners of the principles we teach!
The building is used by several community groups. We began by rebranding the building as ‘OneTwoSix’ (our address is 126 Pt Chevalier Road) and the name of our church flowed naturally from this – church@onetwosix.
Services commenced in June 2016 and six months later we were partnering with Studentlife (the university campus ministry) and Youthserve (a ministry of Scripture Union aimed at high-schoolers) to pull off a summer mission called ‘I love Pt Chev’ based out of our building. Having 30+ young, energetic and enthusiastic people descend on the suburb certainly made an impact!
The teams were involved in practical service (Selwyn Village support, Oakley Creek restoration, car washes) as well as outreach in the community (door to door surveys/evangelism, giving out free sausages and ice blocks at the park, running a ’who is God?’ area at the park). All of this culminated in a community day where we built pallet gardens for the local community centre and then had a free fun afternoon with bouncy castles, face painting and a ’Soularium’ faith questions tent.
Through this summer mission hundreds of locals experienced some act of kindness in the name of Jesus and discovered that there is a new community-minded church in the neighbourhood! Many people, possibly for the first time, had a spiritual conversation with a Christian where they felt listened to. We were able to pray with people who were struggling, and had several opportunities to share the Gospel too.
Andy Banks, who headed up the Youthserve team, had this to say:
“We are reminded in Scripture that ‘iron sharpens iron’ and this was an apt description of what took place as our high schoolers worked alongside university students, learning from each other and encouraging and inspiring each other to step out in faith. Please pray for the church as they follow up the many people we made contact with over the mission and continue to LOVE Pt Chev!”
Here are some stories from the mission told by Studentlifers:
“I met Mary during one of the beach outreaches at Coyle Park. We got talking after I offered her a free ice block. She had a church background but was still very unsure of what salvation and grace really meant. We had a really good conversation and she had lots of questions she wanted to ask. At the end Laura and I were able to pray for Mary and talk some more about her studies and what she was planning on doing in the year to come. Being able to talk to her and hopefully shed some light on some of the things she was wondering about was such a blessing and it was awesome to be used by God to speak some truth into someone else's life.” – Molly Pottinger-Coombes
“One thing I loved about project is how everything was saturated with prayer. We quickly realised that it was no short straw to be on the prayer team during the outreaches, because it was such an uplifting time. When everyone returned we got to hear the stories of how our prayers had been answered in real time. One day a man named Ewen brought his already-clean car to our free carwash and asked for prayer for his wife Cecily, who is dying with fourth-stage cancer. He has been soliciting prayer from dozens of churches, and he seems to believe wholeheartedly that God will heal his wife. He also desires spiritual gifts. We got to pray Ephesians 3:14-21 over him. I know that God is sovereign and grants gifts and healing according to His good purposes, and I pray that God would reveal his love to Ewen and Cecily even if He chooses to work through her continued illness.” – Catherine Webb
“I was initially a bit scared of Das. He was covered with tattoos of skulls and the Illuminati, sitting on the beach with his mother from Thailand. But as he answered the questions in our survey that Manlong was asking, he proved really open and thoughtful. Although he wasn't personally convinced by Buddhism, he followed it out of respect for his family and had even served as a monk to bring them good karma. When the survey asked who he thought Jesus was, he said, "son of God, right?" He actually believes this for himself; he even has a grasp of the Trinity from a Christian friend in Thailand. As we talked more, he said he needed more time to think about Christianity, and asked if he could find Manlong on Facebook and keep in contact!” – Anna van Noppen
Hosting a mission just 6 months after launch and in the middle of the summer holidays when many folk are away may seem a little daft, but our special circumstances made it work for us.
We started out by ‘borrowing’ folk from supportive churches with the promise that we were planting a local church that would be reaching out to Pt Chevalier, so we began with a strong missional core. We had folk leave before we even got to the mission because we weren’t moving fast enough!
We had already prepared the hearts of our people by prayerwalking every week and we had covered every road in Pt Chevalier. We did 12 weeks of ‘God Space’ training to equip our people for spiritual conversations.
Being able to ride on the coattails of two very experienced teams made it easy for us. We were the smallest partner, but we could join is as we were able and it gave some of us our very first taste of engaging community and proclaiming the gospel. It has been faith-stretching and confidence-building.
The mission also established ‘I love Pt Chev’ as a brand, with a Facebook page, T-shirts and stickers. We will continue to invite civic-minded families to community service events where their kids can also pitch in and help. Those that come we will invite again and seek to build a relationship with them.
Our surveys pointed to a need for a parenting course, so an Alpha Parenting Course is what we will do next, and we want to do at least one Alpha course a year and will invite the contacts we grow through the year. Our services are already patterned on Alpha – we begin with a meal and conversation, we hear a message and discuss it in small groups and we pray for each other.
We have already grown from 20 to 40 and have the goal of being 60 strong by the end of the year. And the mission was so much fun, maybe we’ll do it all again!