NSW Strength in Unity Conference 2004

Theme was "be real"
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The 2nd SIU Conference was held over the weekend of 6 to 8 August 2004 at the Elanora Conference Centre.

This year’s theme was ‘be real’ – both personally before the Lord, in our churches, and in our communities and it was an extremely challenging and thought provoking weekend - enjoyed by all who attended.

From the outset, the stage was set to consider the important role played by the Christian Brethren Assembly in the growth and development of the body of Christ in NSW and nationally and its declining influence over many years.

The challenge of the whole conference was to capture a vision for the future of how we as individuals and assemblies can renew our evangelical vigour and influence to grow churches and people for Christ in the years ahead. How can we better work together; better develop our leaders for evangelism and growth; better feed our sheep for God’s glory?

On the first evening, Archbishop Peter Jensen challenged us to think about how the church is going to evangelise the broader community and tabled a policy strategy they had embarked upon in an endeavour to get 10% of the people of Sydney in church – not just Anglican churches, but in a church where the gospel is preached faithfully and the believer is encouraged to be more like Christ! We should be Evangelical 1st and denomination 2nd.
Without God, such an ambitious plan is not possible, but with God and a strategy for action anything is possible!
He spoke of Jesus’ standing orders from Matthew 28 to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ and challenged us to consider how seriously we take these "standing orders", both personally and corporately.

The second day focused on the role we have as individuals in the church through our relationships, and the impact we have on others through the ways in which we communicate, or not, Christ’s love to those we come into contact through church and the community.

Bruce Buckley spoke about our need to be real with each other and the encouragement that can come to others when we reveal our own struggles and frustrations and show how to work through these issues to a more Christlike character. We need to start being church, not doing church, by becoming more Christ like – reflecting God’s glory. That therefore requires us to look into God’s face – to be real in prayer and in reading and applying the Word of God to our lives.

Tim Cooper was our Kiwi connection – he spoke about the way in which the Lord had changed their church in New Zealand, and their paradigm, about how they did church and how to encourage the community into the church. Their assembly, like so many of ours, had come to a point where they needed to either change or die! So they changed! The lesson they learned included nurturing the Vision from within the assembly; becoming aware of what God was doing and responding to it; communicating in an open and ongoing manner with each other; being relevant to the people they were trying to reach; and connecting people with the gospel in a way the unreached can understand. To that end, the morning sessions have become very mission focussed with real coffee and an informal service centred around a scene from a movie or popular song that the unchurched can relate to, but see the relevance of the gospel message and biblical values. This is then followed by light lunch and time of fellowship. The evening service has become the church family worship time.

The day also involved a series of workshops that: further explored the issue of authentic relationships; the use of technology/multi media in innovative and creative ways that could enhance worship services and presentations; a paper was presented on how to guard against risk in our litigious society, including child protection, benefits of incorporation and insurance issues; and finally, ‘leading people for growth and maturity’, a workshop that focused on the invaluable benefits of mentoring, including mentoring our own children and young people, to be leaders.

The evening session gave a practical application of the days proceedings, and was devoted to hearing first hand the testimony of a number of believers who had been, or were going through, some tough situations, highlighting the helpful, and sometimes not so helpful, words and deeds of the church and its individual members.

John North, on Sunday, spoke from his passion for growth in our Christian walk and the need for focus on the ‘function’ we are endeavouring to achieve that in turn dictates the ‘form’ our activities will take. He described the churches function to lead people into relationship with Christ and then to help them grow in that relationship – becoming more like Him. To that end, he spoke of our need to be real in our own personal relationship with God – surrendering our entire life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ; embracing Kingdom values; being transformed by the renewing of our minds focusing on what God has given us to renew our minds – prayer, the Word, Bible Study, Christian music and fellowship. We need to look at church to see what forms need to be put in place to encourage this function in the individual’s lives. John pointed out that a deep growing relationship with Jesus Christ ‘is something that is caught, not something that is taught.’ We have to live it; be it; do it, ourselves! Our life is our tool – like the Apostle Paul said ‘imitate me because I imitate Jesus’.

The conference was attended by over 130 delegates representing some 20 assemblies. The following is a summary of survey questions responses:

What changes would you like to see in the Christian Brethren movement?

  • More integration between individual assembles/sharing of resources; networking opportunities to share ideas/stories/approaches; more combined activities
  • Leadership training/strategic leadership development/mentoring of youth
  • More relevant to today’s society/contemporary evangelism
  • More open to change
  • Revival & growth

What obstacles do you see to growth in your local church?

  • Lack of Resources – people; $’s; space;
  • Lack of participation in prayer times
  • Inability to engage others with the vision of the church
  • Unwillingness to reach out/lack of love for the lost
  • Lack of musical gift and fear of the future
  • Resistance to reasonable change/elders not open to change/aged elders
  • Apathy
  • Tradition and brethren culture
  • Busyness of life
  • Lack of genuine leadership/leadership with vision for the future
  • Not culturally relevant

What changes would you like to see in the next SIU conference?

  • Lots of positive feedback about format and content!
  • Sponsorship of young people to attend
  • Church reports to encourage others
  • Discussion points raised prior to conference
  • Focus on leadership for the changes ahead
  • Broader involvement of churches
  • More ‘how to’ sessions
  • Outline the character of a genuine leader
  • Teaching for elders on leadership

What assistance would your leadership team like to have in helping you revitalise your church?

  • Input from visionary people
  • Prayer
  • Reaching more areas of the outside community
  • Ideas relevant to our area for evangelism
  • Church planters
  • Greater and effective eldership
  • Plans that are working
  • Help in developing a vision, plan and strategies
  • Interaction and support when it comes to integrating youth into church
  • How to get from maintenance mode to mission mode
  • Instruction and modelling of the discipling process

If you are interested in more information about the future SIU activities and next conference or in speaking to someone about the needs of your assembly, please contact Bradley Scott (9626 0055) or Ross Bunyon (9579 2225).

A full set of recordings of most speakers is available on CDs for just $33.00.

Please post your details and cheque or credit card details to
PO Box 4114
or phone Bruce Hibbard on 9530 5154.

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This page last updated – 10 September 2004
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