On Saturday I spoke at the Adventist church in Benalla (VIC). A great little town, a neat country church – close to the town centre; and a warm welcome given to all who came near the place! A simple Bible study and worship experience – singing led by a little family, with the husband/father playing a guitar; enthusiastic and sensitive Bible reading (reading whole chapters about how Jesus related his goodnews to wealthy people like Levi Matthew, Zacchaeus, etc); a kids’ zone; a kids’ story – for 12-15 children under 6-8 (I would guess!); hymns sung to the music of an organ (yes, an organ! I know, it’s a while since I’ve done that, but it was upbeat and enjoyable!) – and I preached! But three features really attracted my attention –
1. The announcements. It was evident this gathering was connected – involvement in community events, a water ski day on the Murray River for friends, a Bible reading group in a home for neighbourhood women, a DVD afternoon, support for the elderly, prayer for a friend diagnosed with cancer, etc.
2. The friends. Some introduced friends they had brought to worship. ‘My friend is part of my ladies’ Bible reading group’, one elderly lady told me. ‘We’ve been getting together for years!’
3. The food. There was variety. Some families had ‘a kid’s birthday party to go to!’ Others were visiting friends in the community – but, 20-25 stayed for lunch. A great meal. Mostly elderly, some not well – some broken. This was family for them. A weekly meal shared – and they’ve been doing this for 6 years.
This little country church is missional. Yes, they meet in a church building – but they are not waiting for people to come to them, they are taking church into the community!