city on a hill

Brisbane needs more churches

A thing I wrote for the Bible Society about the impending arrival of City On A Hill went online last night. It’s in the print copy of this month’s Eternity newspaper. Eternity has just started a local Queensland section in print editions distributed up here that I’m excited to be writing for occasionally.

Here’s the last paragraph.

City On A Hill will change the church ecosystem in Brisbane. It’ll make life uncomfortable for existing churches. Any new animal introduced to an ecosystem causes disruption. I learned that in grade nine science. City On A Hill is a new animal. But if we want our city disrupted by the Gospel of Jesus, we need to keep welcoming new animals into the ecosystem. We want the ecosystem we live in to change – that’s why we’re part of God’s church.

It would be really easy to be anxious about City On A Hill coming into Brisbane’s CBD. Planting a church and reaching Brisbane is pretty hard and “competition” can be a scary thing. I had a recent experience on Facebook where someone moving to Brisbane was looking for church recommendations and heaps of interstate people who love and know Dave Miers were keen to recommend City On A Hill, and it could be disheartening for me, for other ministers, and other church planters in particular, to have a sense that people outside of Brisbane don’t know much about Brisbane’s church scene, but know City On A Hill and know Dave. It could be disheartening if our church strategies were built on securing transfer growth, not on telling people who live in our city about Jesus.

Here’s the stark reality facing the church in Brisbane.

Brisbane’s population is steadily growing. In the 5 year period from 2008 to 2013, the South East Queensland region’s population grew by 2%. If our churches aren’t growing at that rate, they’re actually shrinking. Between now and 2020, Brisbane’s population is projected to grow from 2.1 million people (2013) to 3 million people (2020) — there are some issues with population statistics in this document having different breakdowns between local government areas, and the area treated as “South East Queensland” which includes the Gold Coast, and the Sunshine Coast… but the stats all tell the same story. Our local governments — like the Brisbane City Council — are trying to figure out what infrastructure is required to facilitate this growth, and even just keep pace with it. The church in Queensland needs to do this too.

Queensland is growing faster than most churches in Queensland are growing. Brisbane is growing faster than most churches in Brisbane are growing. Which means we’re actually shrinking.

This new growth means higher density living in some parts of Brisbane, and upgrades to existing infrastructure and networks to keep pace with the growth — a shift in the make up of existing parts of Brisbane. But it also means new suburbs, new roads, new connectivity — new things being built to cater for growth.

Our existing churches should be keeping pace with growth, but we also need more churches to keep pace with this growth. Both more density in high density areas, and more churches in these green field developments.

It’s not rocket science.

Our church infrastructure — which is really a question of human resources, not building resources —needs to be constantly reinvented in order to meet the needs of our growing city and state. The status quo isn’t going to be sufficient if we want to keep pace with growth, or better yet, outpace growth.

That’s why we need City On A Hill, and many more workers for the harvest up here. There are plenty of great churches looking for staff — and the output of our colleges up here isn’t enough to supply the demand (yet). Check out, for example, this job that’s currently going at another inner city church plant. Village Church.

Fun times in Batmania

I can’t be the only person in the world who thinks that while Melbourne is a cool city, it would be cooler if the name Batmania had stuck

We’ve been here since Friday. It has been cold. We’re staying with my friend Mika, which has been fun. We’ve been to a bunch of cafes (stay tuned for reviews on We’ve been to a wedding (the real reason we came down here), a wedding that featured a surprise opera performance during the toasts. We’ve caught trams. We’ve been to City on a Hill (the church run by Guy Mason, the guy who did that Sunrise interview)… and despite all that fun stuff, and the amazing coffees, probably my favourite part was meeting Arthur and Tamie of Cyberpunk + Blue Twin fame. First off, Tamie makes possibly the most amazing Baklava I’ve ever tasted (and I spend two weeks in Greece and Turkey trying to find amazing Baklava), secondly, the meeting of the minds and the warm and engaging conversations we shared yesterday are a reminder of the beauty of being part of the kingdom of God, and one of the tangible benefits of doing this blogging thing. People who read and participate in conversations online are real people, and it was nice to be reminded of that – it’s also nice when you meet people and the real life version of the person is pretty much what they display online only in three dimensions. So that was fun.

The League of Honest Coffee – our first Cafe stop

City on a Hill was interesting. I’ve never seen a church with such amazing branding and design, they meet in a cinema which offers the most comfortable church seats I’ve ever been in, they had a video Bible reading featuring cool shots from around the city with key parts of the text written in chalk. It was a really hip and happening deal. The two criticisms I have, and I’m not really in the business of taking shots at other people’s models of ministries (unless they don’t talk about Jesus) were that the cinema setting made conversation difficult – nobody really said hello to us until the end of the service, even though we were about five minutes early, and the music, while tight and enjoyable, featured the occasional repetition of line/verse that wasn’t indicated by the powerpoint, which made singing a long a little bit disjointed.

I loved how “on message” people were in up front stuff, it was clear that if you were new at the church your next step is to become part of a “connect group” (via a newcomers information evening), and it was clear that this is a church where the expectation is that you role up your sleeves and be on mission. So that was pretty cool too, in that it seemed to recognise the limitations of doing welcoming/connecting with new people in the venue that they’re in, while conveying the church’s desire to incorporate new people into the flock, and move people into the process of serving one another.

The sermon was on 1 Corinthians 14, on Spiritual gifts, tongues and prophecy – so there was plenty of interesting mental fodder. Guy managed to hold and nicely articulate the tension between skeptical cessassionists and tongues-loving reformed charismatics nicely, while pointing out that spiritual gifts are only spiritual gifts if they point people towards Jesus. So that was nice.

Traffic jam

It seems I’m not alone in being inundated with traffic. Over at City on a Hill Jeff asked if Christians should be defending marriage – ie the traditional definition of marriage. I thought it was an interesting question, so I threw in my two cents and left. Unfortunately I left before the fun started.

Jeff was featured on the homepage and he got quite few comments. They make for interesting reading… one American guy suggested doing away with the separation of church and state.

You should read Jeff’s blog – his posts are bite sized, like meals at a fine restaurant.

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