Posts tagged ‘My Various Churches’

September 26, 2012

My Various Churches – Yarra Plenty Church

Yarra Plenty Church was a church that met near where the Yarra River meets the Plenty River in North East Melbourne.

I first attended in 1998 after I had gotten to know the pastor, Steve Wyndham, through us both being students at Harvest Bible College.  It was our church home for many years.  Here are 3 things I liked loved about my time at Yarra Plenty:

It felt like family

There is nothing like a church that feels like family – a place where you know people, people know you, and the collective group of relationships makes you feel like part of a family.  That is a sensational thing.  If you have that in your church right now then please realise that you have something very, very precious.  I am not sure if there was anything special compared to any other church, but it sure was special to me.  I think it comes from a combination of relationships, time and personalities.  After a while something just gels.  That’s not a very scientific analysis.  All I know is that somewhere something went very right.  To be part of a community like that, and where God is at work and good things are happening is just awesome

I met Catherine!

If you met your spouse at a church then that church will always hold a special place in your heart.  For me the very first time I set foot on the premises of Yarra Plenty Church was the first time I met Catherine.  Steve had asked me to teach a small group that was meeting on a Monday night.  The first time I attended Steve taught and he wanted me to participate, so that I could then take over the following week.  Catherine was in the class.  She thought that I was a nerd and needed help socially (can you believe that?)  She adopted me as her “grace case” but ended getting so much more than she bargained for!  That was the last week of August 1998.  We were married on 15 August, 1999.  So that was a completely awesome 12 months.

I had my most fruitful ministry

In the bible when Esther has the opportunity to speak to the king and lobby him to save her people, the hand of providence was recognised by her cousin Mordecai.  He said to her, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”  Every now and then in life you get to do something and you know that God has given you the opportunity for such a time as this.  In December 2010 and January 2011 I felt that God was telling me to get ready.  In late January I had the chance to join the board and eldership of Yarra Plenty, and it was a wild, crazy ride over the 10 months before the church voted to become a campus of Planetshakers Church.  We had staff retrenchments, State Executive intervention, went close to insolvency, farewelled our senior pastor of 17 years, almost had a church split, and on top of all that I got to do a lot of bible teaching.  It was extremely intense and extremely rewarding, and we came out the other side.  I will treasure serving at Yarra Plenty in 2011 for the rest of my life.


June 6, 2012

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.


May 8, 2012

My various churches – St Paul’s Anglican, Castle Hill

I have been a part of 6 local churches in my 26 years of being a Christian.  This post is the first in a series which will look at some of the good things about each of them.

The first church that I was ever a part of was St Paul’s Anglican Church in Castle Hill, in the north western suburbs of Sydney.  I was a 13 year old new Christian, having come to Christ through the ministry of the Christian group at my high school.  St Paul’s was (and still is) a large church – there was an average Sunday attendance of about 900 spread across 5 or 6 services for pretty much my entire time at the church.

I stayed at St Paul’s for 10 years (1987 to 1996), and for the last 2 and a half I was on staff, only leaving when I moved to Melbourne as a 23 year old.  Here are 3 things that I loved the best about St Paul’s:


The leadership made a decision in the early 90’s to transition the Sunday night service which I attended from a traditional service with a set liturgy from the Anglican prayer book to a contemporary service with modern music, and no use of the prayer book.  The metamorphosis took maybe 3 years.  At the time I was just a teenager with no concept of church history, traditions and very little idea of what was happening in the wider church.  All I knew was that each week church was getting better, and I loved it.  Not only was I loving it but hundreds of other people were loving it as well.  The Sunday night congregation was about 400 people, the church’s largest, and there was such a great sense that good things were happening.  When a church has momentum it’s just great – you almost count down the days until the next service.

Working in youth ministry with Tim Hawkins

The youth pastor at St  Paul’s from 1988 to the present is Tim Hawkins.  Tim is a rare beast – a lifelong youth pastor.  Tim and I didn’t just work together for a long time, but we thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company as we did it.  We still catch up regularly despite living 900 kilometres apart.  During the time that I was involved as a youth leader Tim was in the process of transforming the youth ministry from a bunch of programs that attracted lots of kids to a bunch of programs that made lots of disciples.  It was a thrilling time to be involved as we started to reap the fruit of changes that were made to put the gospel front and centre.  Tim taught me an enormous amount, and his help in developing me as a preacher was something that I particularly treasure.  I have realised that it is not often in life that you get a mentor who you work with closely for many years.  I had that atSt Paul’s and it was fantastic.

Being supported as I pursued study in a Pentecostal bible college

In 1992 I enrolled at the bible college run by Hillsong Church, also in Castle Hill (the college was called Power Ministry College at the time but is now called Hillsong International Leadership College).  I ended up pursuing study with a Pentecostal college because of my own introduction to things Pentecostal through some school friends. St Paul’s was not a charismatic church.  Culturally or theologically there was nothing charismatic about it.  However despite this all of the leadership were very happy for me to study at Hillsong and continue to develop in leadership at St Paul’s.  Ever since I left St Paul’s I have only ever been a part of Pentecostal churches, and that is where I will stay.

I remain very grateful to this day that the leadership at St Paul’s were open minded enough to see that their Pentecostal neighbours were doing good things and were happy for me to be trained there.

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