My Various Churches – Eastside AOG

This is the second blog post in a series based on the 6 local churches that I have been a part of in my life.  The first post was about St  Paul’s Anglican Church, Castle Hill and can be found here.  In 1997, at age 23, I moved from Sydney to Melbourne.  Looking back now I can’t believe how relaxed I was about such a huge step.  I guess that’s what happens when you are in your early 20’s – there’s not always a lot of planning that goes on.  I just loaded up the car and 900 kilometres later I was there.

Once I arrived I then had the task of finding a church to join.  As things turned out I ended up at Eastside AOG, which is in Bayswater, on the Eastern fringe of the city.  One of my housemates attended and as I got to know some of the other people there through him I became a part of the church too.  Eastside at that time was a medium sized church with about 150 to 200 people per Sunday.

For me, it didn’t work out.  The Senior Pastor, Chris Sutton, and I simply didn’t hit it off.  It was all very civil and pleasant, but personality wise we just didn’t get each other.  But God was sovereign over my move to Eastside and I thank him for the great people I met there.  Here are 3 good things about my time at Eastside:

The Youth Leadership Team

Phill Brake (yes, it is meant to have the double-l) was the youth pastor at Eastside.  Phill was and is a very loving man.  He was a pastor’s child and I say without hesitation that he is one of the most Christlike men that I have met.  When I look back now on the youth leadership team that I was a part of it was a very eclectic group.  We were a bunch of people that hung out every week, but if it was not for the local church we just would not have moved in the same circles.  That is surely one of the triumphs of the local church – the way that it brings people together who have little in common apart from Christ and moulds them together to form a team.

They Dreamed Big

At Eastside there was a genuine hunger for growth.  The church wanted to make an impact on the area.  There was no contentedness with being the size that we were when there were so many people in the surrounding suburbs who did not know Christ.  As far as I could tell the church was not growing, and those arriving were about the same in number as those leaving.  But always the passion was to grow and reach the lost, and that was reflected in the name, which indicated that the vision was for the whole Eastern half of the city.

Chris Sutton’s Integrity

As I learnt more about the history of the church I discovered that there had been a number of Pentecostal churches in the area before Eastside was planted in about 1982.  A good number of those churches in the 70’s and 80’s folded or were weakened by ministers who fell morally.  There were a number of families that had to work through the hurt of seeing their pastor sin and be removed from leadership.  Chris Sutton was a man of rock solid integrity, and I can see the wisdom of God in putting him there when integrity, stability and faithfulness were badly needed.  To his eternal credit he certainly delivered that for the 20 years and more that he pastored Eastside.

Chris Sutton has moved back to Adelaide, from where he and his family originally came.  Eastside is now called Eastside Church, and is led by Artie and Alana Shepherd, whom I have never met.   But I pray that under their leadership it might continue to think big and do big things for the gospel.


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