Cabramatta Vineyard Church

Forming Disciples and Communities around Mission

I. Renovate or Knockdown Rebuild

In 1995, we planted a church in Cabramatta – a poor, highly diverse immigrant community (170+ nations); centre of Sydney’s heroin trade.

  1. We moved into a small, 3br weatherboard cottage in Cabramatta West, ex-housing commission. When the kids came along, the house became unsuitable for family life and ministry.
  2. Renovate or Knock-Down Rebuild?

II. Church parallels family life

  1. Funny how family life parallels church life. A few years ago I realized that church wasn’t working.
  2. I started to renovate. Then I realized that the old design is hard to renovate. The model of church I was using was designed for a different world. It doesn’t work in our context.
  3. Better to demolish and build something new.

III. Church not working

  1. South Granville Baptist, local teenagers and cultural distance.
  2. The Vineyard – ‘coming home’ to church the way I like it
  3. Cabramatta Vineyard Church (Mark I)

1. Planting what we’d seen –the denominational template
The Five Year plan
Gather a team
Start a meeting
intimate worship;
expository preaching;
powerful ministry of the Spirit;
built around a coffee break
Serve the poor
Grow and multiply small groups

Add staff …

2. We grew a pretty good church, about 100 people, and sent teams that planted three others. But …

  1. We didn’t reflect the community we were in
  2. We were making very little impact in mission.
  3. I was entertaining the saint instead of making disciples. I felt like a shop-keeper.
  4. Most people come to church for what they get out of it.

D. Western culture has formed the church into ‘a vendor of religious goods and services’.

1. Christians shop around for the right brand. The result is Christian consumerism with low brand loyalty.
10% performers
90% consumers

2. Alan Hirsch says, “Consumerism is the most vigorous alternate spirituality that the church has ever faced.”
Shopping malls are secular temples.
You cannot consume your way into discipleship.

E. Like any competent church planter, I tidied up the shop. Excellent worship teams, kids program, brilliant preaching, strong sense of God’s presence, our own cosy venue.

IV. Rearranging the furniture

A. The Western church’s response to the challenge of rapid discontinuous change has been largely inadequate. Internal changes make little difference if you don’t connect with your context. It amounts to rearranging the furniture.

Traditional church Church Growth Alternative worship

B. Fundamental Questions
My frustrations with church crystallised reading Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy. What if the sorry state of the Western church is not in spite of the gospel we preach, but because of it?
This haunting question led me to face some scary questions:
1. Are we making disciples? What is a disciple anyway? And how do we make one?
2. What is church? What is it for?
3. What is the good news?

C. On the missional journey, the questions are more important than the answers. The questions are meant to be wrestled with in community. They drive the journey. Answers are provisional.