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Reaching out with faith at St Mark's

Stories of urban ministryWhat truly excites the congregation at St Mark's Camberwell is sharing the Gospel with those who have not heard it

By Greg Allinson

August 15 2017St Mark’s Camberwell grows when parishioners from nearby churches get tired of their church, minister or changes in their church and come to us. We offer pretty reasonable range of preaching, music, style options and ministries. But this does not excite us.

St Mark’s also grows when people move into the area from overseas or interstate, read about our church on the web and then come along. This is good, but not exciting.

St Mark’s is excited when we see people who are outside the Christian faith building genuine friendships with our members, coming and hearing the Gospel through various courses, and then joining our church. “I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Alpha 2017 St Mark’s Camberwell

St Mark’s has a number of relationship building ministries (playgroup, mainly music, ESL, school ministry), although we find the best take-up of our ‘present the Gospel’ courses come from the friends of people in the congregation. So, we are working as individuals within the congregation on our own missional discipleship in order that we might deliberately build deep friendships with people for the sake of the Gospel. We want to strengthen each member’s friendships and missional intentions.

We have a series of five habits we try and work into our lives, summarized by the acronym B.E.L.T.S.

Bless: I will bless three people this week – at least one of whom is not a member of our church and one of whom is.

Eat: I will eat with three people this week – at least one of whom is not a member of our church and one of whom is.

Learn: I will spend at least one period of the week learning more about God in Christ.

Time: I will spend at least one period of the week with just me and God.

Share: I will write down all the ways I alerted others to the good news of God in Christ.

But building relationships is not enough. We need to offer deliberate ways that people can hear the core of the gospel and have an opportunity to respond. At the moment (apart from people’s own conversations with people) that is through two courses.

The first is one-on-one meetings with a leader and the ‘Christianity Explained’ course (five to six sessions reading through Mark’s gospel and exploring who Jesus is and how to respond). One person of Hindu-Indian background has come to faith through this course this year.

A second has been through using the Alpha course. This year has been amazing as 45 people have attended (about half parishioners and half outsiders). It has been a lot of work. There’s advertising, promoting, setting tables, preparing presentation, cooking dinners, serving wine(!), and finally washing up. Yet it creates a great feel where many from church can serve, where relationships are built and where the gospel is presented. Both last year and this year people who would not have called themselves Christian and who did not attend church now do.

The Venerable Greg Allison is the Archdeacon of Kew and Vicar of St Mark's Camberwell.

This story has been shared as part of Melbourne Bishop Genieve Blackwell's call to parishes in the Marmingatha Episcopate to share their stories of urban ministry. To find out how your parish can get involved, click here.