As Each Part Does Its Work
When Steve Packham was called to pastor Southern Cross Evangelical Church in Brighton in 2002 he laid out a renewed vision for the church’s life and ministry. Despite a membership of just 20, Steve has seen God build a successful ministry team at Southern Cross and seen people become Christians.
Southern Cross was established in 1904 and has seen a number of good Bible teachers serve as pastor over the years. But when I arrived in 2002 I felt that we resembled more of a collection of societies and organisations, rather than a cohesive body.
We had lots of different ministries and clubs being run by the church but there seemed to be little interaction or fellowship between any of them. Some came to the prayer meeting but they were in the minority.
So the vision statement I presented to the church was heavily centred on finding and encouraging gifts among the church members and adherents, and adopted the principle that if you suggest it: be prepared to do it.
This has defined our church life. Everyone started to play a part in the life of our church whether they had been Christians a long time or whether they were casual attenders or committed members. This continues to be very helpful as we are still a small church.
God has blessed us with new faces but our congregation size has been static as many of the congregation have been called home.
So where are we now?
We have a team of five – including myself – who are able to preach. Two of my team are experienced, one is our senior youth leader whom I am training, and the other is a young man who grew up in the church and I had the privilege to baptise a few years ago. He is gifted in preaching and he has a real heart for evangelism, something that has been lacking here.
I delegate a number of things to various members of the congregation. This includes leading the morning and evening services and leading the sung worship, as well as the public prayer from time to time. I do most of the Bible reading and preaching but one morning and one evening a month one of the preaching team preaches.
What do Sundays look like?
As Pastor, I don’t feel it is my place to do everything during our worship services.
Ephesians 4:11-12 says it is the work of the Pastor/Teacher to build up the flock to undertake the work of ministry.
So we have individuals greeting, taking up the offering, giving thanks for the offering and giving youth talks who would never have believed they could say a word in public, but because of our approach to Sunday they have warmed to it.
We are blessed with a number of guitarists and a very good all-round musician who can play the keyboard, cello and violin, and often alternates between instruments in the same service.
As the Pastor/Teacher, I usually minister the Word, with the exceptions already stated. But when I cannot, the team are trained that they can step in literally at a moment’s notice.
It saddened me greatly recently to hear a minister share that he had to get into the pulpit with a raging fever because he had no one to call on. We are blessed indeed.
All the youth work now comes under the same senior leader, who has a good team around him.
We have a women’s social evening once a month with different themes and a men’s social evening around our pool table, which usually encourages non-believing husbands of believing wives to join us.
On the second Sunday of the month we have “Path to Life” a meeting for those with special needs, led by a member who has a disabled daughter. All those attending have learning difficulties.
I personally don’t need to be involved with any of these activities, they are self-managed and self-financed. If a new group starts up the church will give initial finance, and then it is up to the department to fund itself.
How did we get here?
The first thing I did was to get to know my church members and look for the gifts they possessed. These gifts didn’t have to be fully formed, but embryonic abilities that could be encouraged and honed.
Because of the importance of the work I gave a lot of attention to the youth team and this grew from one group for 9-14 year-olds under the Crusaders banner, to three, adding Southern Cross Kidzklub (5-9 years) and a group for those 14 and over, all under the oversight of our senior youth leader.
One day a woman in the church asked if we could have some basic course that would help those with little or no Bible knowledge. Characteristically I put the ball in her court explaining that if she arranged it I would come and speak. We subsequently met in her home, and I can honestly say all except one of those who came to that first course are still going on with the Lord and I have baptised a number of them.
The course is still running as new converts come in to the life of the church. Currently I have three young converts going through the course.
I remember when an unemployed man started to come on a Sunday. He was very quiet and shy but one day he asked me if we needed any work doing to the church building. It turns out he used to be a fencing contractor and is able to turn his hand to many trades, so is often painting, hammering or sawing something around the building.
Here at Southern Cross we are a small church, but we are a working church. Each person uses the gifts the Lord has provided to give the structure and stability of a much larger church, for which we thank the graciousness of our faithful God.
The aim of this article isn’t to suggest churches should be doing more, but it is suggesting that churches could think about doing some things differently. What do you think? We’d love to hear your experiences of ministry in smaller churches.