Planting in the Brother View Region of NSW

I began to offer as a consultancy on behalf of The Pines Training Centre, some elements of the Journey programme we offer, to The Salvation Army in NSW, ACT & Queensland. So far I have done intensives in Sydney (twice), Port Macquarie, Townsville and I will be offering another intensive in Rockhampton for them in October this year. At the second Sydney intensive and also at the Port Macquarie meeting, there was a planter and his wife whose story I would like to relate to you.

I was invited by the planters (Randall & Glenda Brown) to be their guest for the first church camp they have had as a church. During the weekend about a third of their congregation attended but I also had the opportunity to meet key leaders at the event and also to tour the area and to see the progress in the planting work that is being made.

The Salvation Army in Kendall (about 45 minutes inland from Laurieton (NSW) was begun over a hundred years ago. This church (now closed) opened, some time later, another outreach work at Hannam Vale, which is about 30 minutes south by car. The work at Kendall closed in 1956 and responsibility for the outreach work at Hannam Vale was given to Taree Salvation Army. However, this basically meant maintenance of the congregation there rather than anything particularly along the lines of evangelism and discipleship. By 1989, there was not a lot of activity at Hannam Vale. The Browns moved to Hannam Vale in that year and became active in the area, taking responsibility for Hannam Vale and leading regular worship there.

Randall and Glenda developed their property and engaged with the people. Randall is the local fire department captain for example. Both he and his wife Glenda showed a strong commitment to the community of 500 people and slowly through the 1990’s and through their shared passion for children’s ministry, the ministry of the church at Hannam Vale was re-established and began to grow. This was a typically small rural church, made healthy by a commitment to evangelism and discipleship. But in 2003 this began to change.

In 2003, the couple felt that God was calling them to church planting. They sensed (and still do) a strong commitment to their region called “Brother View” so named because of the three small peaks identified by Cook, who called them North Brother, Middle Brother and South Brother. The region is bounded by the small town of Laurieton in the north, to the village of Combyne in the west and the village of Coopernook in the south and including the fishing village of Harrington on the coast. All up there are a little over 15,000 people living in this mostly rural area with the major centres of population being just over 2,000 at Laurieton and just under 2,000 in Harrington. However, the State Government is projecting a population double that number by 2020. This is therefore a strategic region and suitable for planting.

The vision for church planting for the region was birthed and the first target was Moorland – a village of about 500 people just ten minutes from Hannam Vale. Keep in mind this is a rural area and a small one at that, but notice how the church planting principles, when applied faithfully, bears fruit. Their outlook is that evangelism and discipleship results (eventually) in church multiplication.

In 2005 the work at Moorland was commenced. There is now through local contacts and new converts. A local couple runs a congregation of about 35 and the ministry in the village under the oversight of the Browns.  In 2007, the work at Harrington was planted which now has a congregation of local people and new coverts of about 45 and in this year, the Moorland church has begun its own plant in John’s River (about 15 minutes north) with a play group which will be the basis for the work there. This means that in the last five years this small church of 80 people has planted twice and one of its plants has now begun to plant!! There are 160 people (approximately) meeting for worship and who are involved in ministry to the region. You should also note that Hannam Vale itself intends to plant in Laurieton.

Here are some statistics for you to consider against the national averages. The church at Hannam Vale comprises almost 20% of the population of the village; the Moorland work has almost reached the national average of attendance against population and the Harrington work is at the national average now. The three churches and the new plant at Johns River (with an attendance of about 160) is over the national average of attendance against population. You should remember also that the status of rural based churches is not as strong as the city averages. On almost any measure you could apply, this is an amazing work of the Spirit.

Can you tell me where else in Australia (city or country) this kind of multiplication has occurred? Ignore the numbers for a minute – where have you seen a church plant twice in five years with plans for a third in place and have one of their plants, plant??? At the very least this is reproduction, which is great enough, but then the multiplication factor emerges from the work of Moorland into John’s River? This is a great story of faithful loving commitment to a people over a long period, of courage to do evangelism and discipleship and of creativity to see beyond the numbers to the heart of God for His people. I commend this story to you for your ongoing prayers.

Who else has a story of multiplication to tell?

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