Posts tagged ‘Church Buildings’

May 2, 2012

The Missing Ring of Melbourne

There’s a strange phenomenon occurring in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne where I live. There is a missing ring of churches.

Amongst Pentecostal churches in Melbourne there are 2 large churches in the inner city –Bridge Church in Richmond (2.5 kms from the city centre), and Planetshakers City Church in East Melbourne (1.5kms away).

As you then head east there are various Pentecostal or charismatic churches, which as far as I know are not particularly large.  Then when you get to the outer suburbs there is a ring of substantial sized churches –

  • Activate Church in Ringwood (22 kms),
  • Northside Christian Centre in Bundoora (16 kms),
  • Bayside Church in Cheltenham (18 kms),
  • Stairway Church Whitehorse in Vermon t(19 kms)
  • City Life Church in Wantirna South (24 kms),
  • Faith! Church in North Dandenong (27 kms),
  • Careforce Church in Mt Evelyn (36 kms),
  • Crossway Baptist in Burwood East (16 kms).
  • And my church – Planetshakers North East Campus (17 kms).

Whilst this list might not be perfect (and if I have missed one then please leave a comment), in general there is clearly quite a number of large churches in the far eastern suburbs, but a missing ring in the middle suburbs – suburbs that are 5 to 15 kms from the city.

The story is painted vividly by looking at the history of what is now called Stairway Church Whitehorse.  When I first moved to Melbournein 1997 they were known as Christian City Church Camberwell (8 kms from the city centre), which is a suburb right in the ring that I am talking about.  Under the capable leadership of Peter McHugh the church outgrew it’s facility in Camberwell and moved to premises in Box Hill (13kms).  Having changed its name to Christian City Church Whitehorse (Whitehorse being the name of the local municipality) the church continued to flourish, and once again outgrew it’s facility and had to move.  The church again moved east into premises at Vermont (19 kms from the city).  So what was once a thriving church in the middle suburbs is now a thriving church in the outer suburbs – one amongst many.

Why?  It’s not the people in these suburbs – many of them drive into the city churches or out to one of the churches listed above.  I think that the core issue is that it is very hard to find premises that are suitable for a large church in the middle suburbs.

Amongst non-Pentecostal or charismatic churches there is one large middle eastern suburbs church that I know of – St Hilary’s Anglican in Kew (8 kms).  The Anglican Church, because of its long history, has the advantage of having substantial grounds for it’s building and a car park.  Pentecostal churches – being newer on the scene – do not have that advantage.

And yet 2 churches can do it in the inner city which is even more developed than the middle suburbs!  If those churches –Bridge Church and Planetshakers City Church– can do it then others can too.

It’s a matter of targeting the car parks and the suitable venues that do exist. May the  missing ring be filled with thriving churches (that don’t have to then up and leave!)


March 1, 2012

What Does Jesus Think about “Touchdown Jesus”?

On the fringes of Cincinnati, Ohio,USA is Solid Rock Church.  I love that name.  Planted by Pastor Lawrence Bishop in 1978 it has grown over the decades to now have 3,000 to 4,000 members.

In September 2004 they completed an interesting part of their new complex – a giant 19 metre statue of Christ looking heavenward with both arms raised.  The statue (which was made from Styrofoam covered in fibreglass) was given numerous nicknames but the one that caught on the most was “Touchdown Jesus” which was given because the 2 arms raised is the signal for a touchdown in American football.  It cost about $250,000.

Do you think that Jesus likes “Touchdown Jesus”?  If you think that he doesn’t then you would have strong support from the events of June 15, 2010.  On that night Touchdown Jesus was struck by lightning, caught on fire and was completely destroyed in the subsequent inferno.  All that was left was the steel frame which was dubbed “Terminator Jesus” which makes sense if you have seen the movies. Not to be deterred the congregation at Solid Rock are building a new statue.  “Come Unto Me” is Christ with his arms extended outwards and is based on the words of Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…”  This time it will be made from fire resistant material.

You might say that Jesus never asked us to build statues of him.  He asked us to go into all the world and make disciples.  He asks us to store up treasure in heaven.  He asks us to spend ourselves on behalf of the poor and needy.  Where does building statues fit into that?

Yet it seems to me that Solid Rock is doing all those things.  They are making disciples and if they don’t have programs to reach the poor and needy it’s not because the statue is stopping them.  Has their statue habit caused them to be less fruitful for the gospel?  Not as far as I can see.

We don’t have a problem when someone writes a song for the Lord.  Or if they do a painting.  Why can’t we do statues to express our love for God?  If the only difference is that statues are expensive the whole thing was funded by special offerings – it’s not as though they had to shut down their welfare ministry for a year to build it.

So I think that Jesus likes Touchdown Jesus.  Or rather, he did like it.  Before he destroyed it.  I think that he liked it not for the finished product, but because it was built as an act of adoration and worship.  I think that he liked their building it so much that he wanted them to do it again.  In the same way that the Psalmist urges us to “sing to the Lord a new song” maybe God is saying to Solid Rock “Build to the Lord a new statue.”

Regardless of their statues the folks at Solid Rock now have a much greater issue on their hands.  On October 2 last year Lawrence Bishop died.  He was 69 and was still the senior pastor of the church – his 33rd year of leadership.  I’m not sure if a new senior leader has been appointed yet.  Praise God for the life of Lawrence Bishop – a life of fruitful service to the cause of Christ and the local church.


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