Thursday, April 12, 2012

Should our congregations have an identity?

I'm the pastor of a small church plant, SOUL Presbyterian Church and we worship together in the city of Hobart. I arrived a year and a half after our mother church Cornerstone Presbyterian and it's minister, Campbell had started the church. The goal is for SOUL to eventually become independent financially, with its own session of elders. SOUL is part of the Vision 100 network, which ultimately wants 10% of Tasmania to be attending "gospel-based churches" and sees planting lots of small churches as a way of achieving that goal.

I recently read this blog post and it got me thinking about our church's identity again. In it Trevin Wax interview a couple of pastors about the idea that our churches should be multi-ethic. Most of Tasmania is Anglo, (white Australian) but there notable class divisions, the flannelette curtain being an obvious one. One of the exciting things about SOUL which reminds me of Melbourne, are how many nationalities are represented in the congregation. However the congregation is overwhelmingly University educated and about two thirds are unmarried. We meet at 5pm in the city but most people drive although a few walk or ride. Our services are simple and we share a meal afterwards which together I think creates a relaxed atmosphere.

One of my goals, Vision 100's and the Presbyterian Church, and rightly so, is to grow God's Kingdom. What that looks like on the ground is lot tricker. Should congregations be homogenous units? (Is that a worthy means and a noble end?) Should we target a specific group or pick a particular time-slot or geographic area? Certain things are always going to be the glue for particular groups. At SOUL I suspect it is similar life experiences. But our time-slot, our preaching, our music and our developing sub-culture will end up excluding someone, so how much do I work against our natural tendency to homogenise? I have a feeling that this year will be one where the churches in our 'network' think more about our churches identities and our wider goals for our Tasmanian church planting.