In the year 2000, the Trinity Network didn’t exist. We were a largish church that met on North Terrace in the oldest church building in the city of Adelaide. We had a problem. The church was pretty full and had been for over a decade. The question we were wrestling with was what to do about the site limitations. Should we build bigger facilities on North Terrace? Should we church plant?
In the late 1990s, the Trustees of Holy Trinity Church sent Sue and I away on sabbatical leave to undertake some study to help work out how we could navigate our way through this (positive) problem. In late 1998, I attended a church planting intensive at Fuller Theological Seminary in Los Angeles. Professor Bob Logan asked us a helpfully clarifying question – ‘Why did we want to plant churches? What was the problem we thought church planting would solve?’
I arrived at the course thinking about the physical constraints of Holy Trinity Church and how church planting might help us move beyond the site limitations. But this question got under my skin. It got me thinking about the spiritual poverty of the people of Adelaide and South Australia. A city and state with over a million people facing a Christ-less eternity. I was reminded of my family and friends who didn’t know the Lord of heaven and earth. I went overseas thinking about whether we could plant a church. I came back thinking that what our city and state needed was hundreds of healthy gospel-centred churches.
2 Thessalonians 3:1 was imprinted on my heart. Paul is teaching the Thessalonians how to live as they wait for the return of the Lord Jesus. At the beginning of 2 Thessalonians 3 he asks the Thessalonians to pray for him and his fellow workers that:
… the message (literally ‘word’) of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honoured, just as it was with you.
I began praying that God might spread His gospel message rapidly here in our context in South Australia.
A little over 20 years later we are, in God’s kindness, a network of 14 churches in Adelaide and regional South Australia. It is exciting to see the way God has been at work. Sue and I have the wonderful privilege of visiting all the churches in the Trinity Network. In every church we hear about and meet people who have become followers of Jesus and we witness the heart each congregation has to serve the Lord. And yet, it feels like we are scratching the surface. The spiritual need of our city and state is still acute.
Last month the Trinity Network Board met together for a strategic planning day. The Network Board is a group of men and women, lay and staff, who meet regularly to think about how we can grow a healthy network of disciple making churches and ministries across our city and state. In truth, it was less a ‘strategic planning day’ and more a ‘isn’t our God gracious and merciful, how can we serve Him for His glory and honour?’ day. We began by sharing how God had brought each one of us into His eternal family. We were reminded of God’s mercy and grace as we looked at Luke 19 and the wonderful way Jesus encountered Zacchaeus. We prayed, giving thanks and asking that God, in His kindness, might keep extending His mercy to those in our city and state.
The Board then turned its collective ‘mind’ to think about the future. What would we love to see God doing in our midst over the next ten years? There was strong alignment that we remained keen to keep planting more evangelistically healthy churches. We talked about the possibility of being a network of 30 churches in ten years’ time. Then we looked at the resources that might be needed to support this and the character or culture we would love to see emerging in our churches. We identified some key areas to focus on:
- Seeing the evangelistic ‘heat’ in our churches rise.
- The need to invest and grow leadership in our Network – lay and vocational.
- Consolidating the regional focus of our churches.
- Investing significantly in youth and young adult ministries.
- Continuing to partner with gospel-centred churches and ministries beyond the Network.
- Providing the necessary organisational and administrative support structures that will enable a growing Network to flourish.
- Thinking through whether the time has come to invest in facilities to enable the churches in our Network to consolidate their gospel ministry.
This was a wonderfully refreshing Board meeting because it was driven by a gospel-centred passion that rests on the grace of our sovereign and merciful God. We spent time asking God to glorify His name.
In Philippians 1:3-5, Paul writes to his brothers and sisters in Philippi with striking affection. He says:
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now …
Sue and I have that sense of joy as we see believers in the 14 Trinity Churches pressing on to make the gospel known in their context. We are also encouraged as we hear churches being led in prayer for other churches in our Network and other gospel partners outside the Network. Prayers that reflect the deep desire to see God honoured as His Word spreads rapidly in our city, state and world.
I am very thankful for our partnership in the gospel.
Your brother in Christ,