So in honour of our move to a new building for church this week I have given my blog a facelift. It was either it or I, though at six weeks away from turning fifty what amount of money could change my craggy features?
It’s got that modern Mondrian look about it, don’t you think? My blog not my face.
So in light of some big changes here’s a potted history of where we have gotten as a church.
Providence Midland started up as a church plant connected to the original Providence City church plant five years ago, and for the first year or so we were a household church led by me and my great young mate Damon Sokolowski. We met in our lounge in our old house. Here we all are:
And that was pretty much all of us.
We then started to grow a bit. Not by doing anything special, but by just being God’s people caring for each other, proclaiming the gospel, living out its fruit in our lives and spending time praying for and hanging out with others. We soon ended up as two household groups and then 25 or so of us started to meet fortnightly in the downstairs section of the old Midland bank:
There was something slightly subversive about meeting in a bank – the haven of so many earthly hopes and dreams – yet having a treasure beyond earthly compare in our midst.
We were still meeting household fortnightly, but took the decision to go to a weekly meeting. We honestly believed that it was a better way, and more culturally acceptable in our area, to meet in public spaces for our main gatherings. So we did just that.
Soon we started to cram out the bank, so the local community sports centre, which was way too big for us, but a great building to hang out in after the main meeting was over, became our next stop off. It was a great building to start off with, and it was the home of the local bowls club, the local tennis club, the local footy club. The smell of stale beer and slightly off prawns would meet up many a Sunday morning as last-night’s 21st or whatever lingered on. We always made it a point to leave the place better than we found it. That should be what Christians do, whatever it is they are doing or belonging to.
I love the photo below taken in that building, because it is a birthday celebration of our oldest, and most venerable church attendee, Dr Noel Vose, founder of Vose seminary and one-time President of the Baptist World Alliance. Oh, and at 91 he was still bowling up to new people asking how they were, if they were followers of Jesus and how he could pray for them. Only 41 years to go until I am that age. Hope I’m as still in love with Jesus:
But soon it was no longer the right place for us. There were too many Sundays we couldn’t use the building as the sports clubs had first preference. And that’s fine when there are forty of you and could can devolve into household groups at short notice on a Sunday, but not when there are eighty. We needed somewhere a little more consistent.
It was a bit after that that we shot up quickly, and that comes with all of the attendant problems of a gangly teenager. And the attendance problems. Providentially God brought us to a funky old church building owned by Swan Christian Fellowship, who generously allowed us to rent the building, an office and a kitchen for minimal rent.
It was definitely smaller than the sports complex, but we didn’t have to worry about double bookings or Sundays we couldn’t use it. We switched from a morning service to an afternoon service as the only time the owners needed the building was Sunday morning for their church service. The rest of the week it was ours.
The first Sunday we met there our singing almost blew the roof off. We couldn’t believe the acoustics! The singing has definitely been the highlight for me in this building. That and seeing so many people cramming in to identify as God’s people, hear the Word, take communion weekly, sing praises, pray (we do “the long prayer” thing), and hang out for ages afterwards.
So for the past eighteen months we have been packing in way more than 110 people into a building that can seat 110 legally. We’ve loved the building, Why wouldn’t we when it looks like this?
Rapid growth since we moved in has meant it’s hard to find a seat. Regulars love it. Newcomers are terrified by it. “Hey, welcome to Providence Midland, Now there’s a seat for you over there, a seat for your husband over there, and your two year old can sit on the piano stool during the breaks from music.” That sort of stuff.
There’s a point where you come to the conclusion that what you have been calling a church plant all these years is no longer a “plant”. That’s right, you can take that funky word away and just leave the word “church” hanging there all by itself. I think that’s where we are, although it still feels precariously fragile somehow. Sure we’ve got leadership structures in place and a budget and stuff, but we’re forever conscious that we are totally reliant on God’s Spirit for everything. And when we forget that, something usually happens to remind us.
So Providence Midland feels like it is now at that non-plant stage. Sort of all grown up, but still feeling its way. From this Sunday we move into a building that can seat 320 people, a theatre at a Christian school:
There’s still much to do. Midland is still not reached with the gospel in any decisive way. Many people are still disinterested or antagonistic. But God is changing people, growing people, saving people, growing people’s love for other people. And all by his gospel.
This Sunday in a new building we start a new series on Romans entitled One Voice. We’ve based it on Paul’s wish prayer in ch15:5-6:
5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God’s gospel has one peculiar aim: to take the fractured cacophony of human voices that direct glory towards almost anything or anyone other than Him, and turn them into a beautiful, united sound of praise and worship towards the one true King. The church that practices Romans 15:5-6 is a taste of the future church in Revelation 7:
9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
Let’s not kid ourselves. We may be moving from a lounge room that holds 15 at a pinch to a school theatre that seats 320, but in God’s economy that’s a drop in the bucket of the work he is doing around the world through time and space.
But we’re moving buildings again because we want to see more people get the opportunity to do now in Midland what all of God’s people will do then throughout the world.
Oh, and a big shout out to Tom Pugh for bringing my blog into the 21st century. You can read Tom’s excellent blog here.