'No frills' church plant in Melbourne's outer west echoes Jesus' approach
A new church in one of Victoria's highest growth areas is using a new approach to mission.
October 23 2018
Members of the congregation of Newstart Church in Melbourne’s newest suburb, Manor Lakes.
“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.”
“It is not the Church of God that has a mission, but the God of mission who has a Church.”
The City of Wyndham in Melbourne’s outer south-western suburbs had the second largest percentage increase in population of all Victorian local government areas, and the largest numerical increase, between 2011 and 2017, with its population increasing by more than 77,000 during that time.
Within this vibrant urban growth area, a new expression of church has also grown. The parish of St Thomas’ Werribee has established a congregation in Melbourne’s newest suburb, Manor Lakes.
“Newstart Church, Manor Lakes is just as it sounds – a new start,” said its priest, the Revd Neil Taylor.
“Whether it's a new year or a new job, new opportunity or new travel destination, the journey to start something new has an energy all of its own. A fresh new start is sometimes what is needed most. An opportunity to put a line in the sand and say, ‘that was yesterday’. At Newstart Church we recognise everyone has a ‘yesterday’ but with a God of second chances everyone can have a new start and tomorrow can be a whole new day. Exploring what tomorrow might be is always much more fun with like-minded people who are also looking for meaning and purpose and seeking God's plan for their lives.”
Revd Taylor described the Newstart church plant as “no frills”. He said: “It is an especially simple model of church planting, and challenges many of the dominant conceptions about starting a new church. The model? We gather together for Sunday morning worship in the drama room of the Manor Lakes P-12 College, preach the gospel – also making sure that the kids that come have as much fun in the Sunday School as possible – eat together, and meet intentionally and unintentionally in our homes.
“It is not comfortable, in fact it is on the edge; it is not self-serving; and it is not for everyone.
“Our ethos is simple – it is based on the foundation of what Jesus actually did. As Jesus walked the dusty roads of Palestine, encountering and interfacing with people, he never uttered the words ‘attend me’. He declared ‘follow me’. To follow Jesus in those days, either one was attracted by his person and what he did, or one had become a believer in who he said he was. Namely, you were engaged. No one attended Jesus, but people did follow him. This charism transpired throughout the early church. Early Christians did not go to church, they were the church – attendance equalled engagement. In our generation, the norm is to get people to attend in the hope that it will drive mission engagement. At Newstart Church, we realised there is a use by date on that approach to mission because the sum total of people who choose to attend church is declining year on year. We now believe that any potential church attendance will not dynamically drive mission engagement; mission engagement will dynamically drive attendance. Sooner or later, largely because of our demographic and cultural milieu, the engaged will attend, because on the whole, only the engaged will endure.”
He said, “Engagement at Newstart Church, Manor Lakes means sharing in a community where you are known, but not judged, where you can learn, without feeling lectured to, and of course having fun! We are everyday people at Newstart Church who care for one another and are simply seeking to learn more about Jesus and be more like Him.”