Two years ago the Diocese of Sydney embraced an ambitious form of the Mission of Christ.
The Mission of Christ has been operating for the last two thousand years. All nations are being called upon to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Saviour, and to find forgiveness of sin in him. For God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” (1 Tim. 2:4-6)
God has entrusted this gospel message to his people. By our spreading the message of Jesus, He builds his church. And He has given us the gifts we need for the task. We are to speak the truth in love to one another. We are to use the gifts that he has given for the common good. We are to seek to edify—that is build—the church.
This ongoing mission of Christ has found many expressions in history. The current Sydney mission takes notice of how few people in the society are in Bible believing churches. It tries to address our failure to penetrate the society. By prayerful trust in God, it seeks to transform the parish ministries. It aims to open up new churches and ministries. While these new congregations are to be faithful to the gospel ministry they aim to reach a greater variety of people.
All this takes time. It takes time to recruit and train more full-time workers to lead these churches. It takes time and enterprise to open up new congregations. The temptation for an old institution such as ours to agree in principle and then do nothing. The Diocesan Mission sets us the time frame of ten years. Long enough to give time for change. Short enough to force us to take action.
The growth in people attending is expected to be gradual at first when we are recruiting workers and making structural changes. However if we make the right changes and God blesses our work, then the penetration of society should gather momentum.
So after two years how is the diocesan mission going? As expected the percentage of the society attending church has not noticeably changed. However there are exciting signs of real and effective change happening.
There has been a 45% increase in candidates training for the ministry. We have never had so many people volunteer to serve in the diocese. Next February in the Cathedral we will see the largest ordination of Deacons in the history of the Diocese.
More significant still is the increase in jobs. Knowing that there would be a sudden increase in new ministers, parishes were invited to start new ministries. Instead of an overflow of workers unable to find a job, the parishes have created more jobs than the number of workers! This is an exciting expansion of ministry.
There is a long way to go in the mission. But if we keep opening up new ministries lead by a growing number of well-trained ministers, then we are heading in the right direction. Yet as always we must remember:
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. (Psalm 127:1)
So let us keep patient and persistent in prayer.