Congregation Mission Part 4: Partnerships

BUV Flourishing Churches Devotions
Congregational Mission Part 4 – Partnerships

by Geoff Maddock and Leanne Hill

“Make yourselves at home there and work for the country’s welfare.

Pray for Babylon’s well-being. If things go well for Babylon, things will go well for you.”

(The Message)

Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”


Jeremiah 29:7

Partnership with Babylon?  Surely not, Lord! 
It turns out that God has designed the people of God to be tethered to the world around them. It’s clear from this scripture that if the world around us flourishes, God’s people will share in that flourishing. As the great Baptist preacher declared, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”[1] 

In these two versions of Jeremiah 29:7, the words “welfare, “well-being”, “peace” and “prosperity” are all derived from the one Hebrew word, Shalom. This word is so wonderfully spacious it holds all our best God-given hopes for healing, salvation, reconciliation, justice and renewal. There is no better word to describe God’s plans for the whole cosmos.  This is the mission of God and partnership is essential.

While we can be grateful that we are not enslaved by the ancient Babylonians, we are still caught up in this network of mutuality and compelled to “seek the shalom of the city.”  So, what does this mean for us?  How do we flourish through partnership?  What does it take for the church to be the people of Shalom in the places where God has sent us?

There are challenges and opportunities to be sure (and we’ll get to those!), but first, good partnership will reflect the ways of God. Here we can briefly identify two of these ways.  Without much effort you will recognize them as core to the ministry of Jesus.  These characteristics are intentionality and self-sacrifice

To be intentional is to properly survey your context and stay alert to what the Spirit of God is up to in your neighbourhood. Just like Jesus, be willing to come alongside unlikely (and even unliked) members of your community if that’s what leads to shalom.  It’s risky to follow Jesus, and fact leads us to….

Self-sacrifice.  To be self-sacrificial in partnership is to understand that we will not always own, manage, and control partnership projects nor will we fully agree with those we work alongside.  The enslaved Israelites certainly had good reason to find conflict with the Babylonians.  Talk about value differences and culture wars…they were in the midst of an actual war!  And yet God didn’t excuse them from partnership.  The call to seek the prosperity of their captives sounds a lot like the words Jesus utters some 600 years later – “love your enemies”[2]  New Millennium. Same God.


While this biblical example of partnership in the midst of slavery is extreme, our ministries will involve their own difficulties.  Invariably we will need to share conversations, projects, and plans with people and organisations that see the world very differently to us.  When we think about partnership in this context, we can sometimes fear that we might lose something, like control or ownership of an idea or initiative.  This challenge should be held up to the light of God’s work not only in the world around us but in our own discipleship journey (as individuals and churches).  Might God be inviting us into partnerships to teach us reliance on God’s control and provision, not our own?  It would be just like God to transform us even as God transforms the world through us.


When we read the New Testament, we see that Jesus didn’t passively attend events or idly sit by.  As he interacted with people, he was actively present not just in saying and doing, but in listening and discerning.  How might partnership be an opportunity to really listen to your neighbours, especially those who have no interest in or affiliation with your church?   How might partnership be an exercise of discerning what God is up to in our neighbourhoods?

We are called to partner with God in what God is already doing.  As we have walked around our neighbourhoods, we see people partnering together, making and sharing masks, helping each other with shopping, bringing joy through Spoonville displays (where families are decorating wooden spoons and creating little villages in the front gardens for neighbours to add to or simply take joy in). We see where community groups are providing care, life’s necessities and genuine love to others.

Partnership is at the heart of how God expects us to live out shalom.  It is at the intersection of God’s people and God’s world that we have the opportunity to really encounter the Kingdom of God “on earth as it is in heaven.” 

In conclusion, we leave you with a quote from our Parish Collective friends that reminds us what it means to be the church-for-others:

“Loving without agenda: Often our neighborhoods are filled with special interest groups. The church is not a special interest group; rather we have a reconciling mission that seeks unity, that all might flourish. Consider how your faith community can champion what others are already doing.”[3] 

Questions to consider:

1. How can you increase reach into your neighbourhood through partnerships?

2. How can you this week notice and engage in a deeper way with what is already happening in your local community and partner with others to seek the welfare of the city? (look up the homepage of your local council website and identify where their mission and vision overlap and intersect with the values and attributes of the Kingdom of God).

3. Could we accomplish more of our mission objectives if we partnered with others?

4. Would the community benefit if we partnered with another group?

5. How would the Kingdom of God be realised if we entered into a partnership with others?


Geoff and Leanne

[1] Martin Luther King, Letter from Birmingham Jail.

[2] Matthew 5:44

[3] Sparks, Soerens and Friesen –  The New Parish

Congregational Mission Part 3: Justice

BUV Flourishing Churches Devotions
Congregational Mission Part 3 – Justice

by Rev Paul Manning

What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘justice’ or the phrase ‘social justice’? Within the Church there’s often differing definitions and ideas about justice.  It is also often seen as secondary, an optional extra to congregational mission or evangelism.

In our secular culture, there are four categories of justice theories :

– Libertarian – justice is basically about freedom;
– Liberal – justice is basically about fairness;
– Utilitarian – justice is basically about happiness;
– Postmodern – justice is basically about power.

All theories share two assumptions: there is no transcendent, moral absolutes on which to base justice and; they all see human nature as a blank slate that can be wholly reshaped by human means.[1]

Since none of these theories include God, using them to inform Congregational Mission is limited. And with God missing, the idea that justice is secondary, an optional extra to the Church’s mission, is only reinforced.

Fortunately, there’s an alternative, Biblical Justice, a theory of justice which includes God and can inform Congregational Mission.  Biblical Justice is grounded in several truths:

  • We are created by God in His image [Genesis 1:26, 5:2; Matthew 19:4; Mark 10:6].
  • We are created by God for loving Him as well as our neighbour as we love ourselves. Jesus makes this clear in Matthew, Mark and Luke when He identifies the greatest command as “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” [Luke 10:27]
  • God is just, therefore, the Scriptures condemns injustice because ‘with the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.’ [2 Chronicles 19:7; refer also Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 103:6; Romans 9:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:6] In fact, justice, doing what is right and just is identified as a most acceptable act of worship [Proverbs 21:3; Amos 5:21-24].
  • Biblical Justice is rooted in seeking the welfare of those who are unable to fend for themselves; because these are the people who frequently get abused and treated unjustly. We’re told to show concern and care to the poor, widows, orphans and foreigners; we’re to defend and seek the welfare of those who are most vulnerable to suffer from injustice [Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 22:3].

What implications are linked to Biblical Justice for the individual follower of Jesus as well as for the collective followers of Jesus and Congregational Mission?

First, made in the image of God, all people must be treated equally and with dignity. Second, Biblical Justice is all about loving God and loving others. It’s about our vertical relationship with God as well as our horizontal relationship with each other. Therefore, Biblical Justice demands a balanced approach, we must tell the gospel and confront sin, as we simultaneously stand against injustice.

In answer to the question: “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan [Luke 10:25-37]. We’re told of a man who was travelling on his own, minding his own business, when he was attacked, stripped naked, and left to die. Clearly, this man had been a victim of injustice in that his basic rights were violated, via the unprovoked violent attack by others. The attack was unfair and undeserved; through no fault of his own, he was beaten, naked, half dead; the man was disempowered, degrade, humiliated, pushed aside, left to die.

Adding salt to the wound, two men, a priest and a Levite, who both held top roles within Jewish culture/society, (two men who should have known and done better), walked past him; their actions only reinforced – almost validated – the injustice already experienced by this man. Unable to help himself, the man became trapped within the circumstances into which he’d been pushed.

The ‘good Samaritan’ saw the injustice –  he did something, he acted, he gave the man a helping hand up and out of the unfair, undeserved circumstances.

Putting it in today’s language… he stopped his car, jumped out, ran over to the man, picked him up, put him in his car, drove him to the nearest private hospital, paid for his care, checked on him a day later, and paid the remaining amount owedThe ‘good Samaritan’, the one who stopped, got his hands dirty, he literally got blood on his hands and dirt on his clothes.

We need more people willing to get their hands dirty. More willing to show love and give hope; we need to be people loving God and loving our neighbour as ourselves!

Remember, Jesus told this story in answer to the Jewish lawyer’s question, “Who is my Neighbour?” [Luke 10:29]. In the end Jesus’ answer is simple – EVERYONE – everyone is your neighbour, there are no exceptions.

With this answer Jesus makes the point we need to treat ALL people equally, there’s no exceptions. Jesus does this by making the Samaritan the hero in the story and by doing this He reinforces that we are to act justly, show mercy, to love and give hope, even our ‘enemies’ are included in the ALL;  there’s no exceptions, ALL people are our neighbour and potentially need us to show them love and give them hope.  This includes people who are ‘local’ as well s people who are ‘global’.  This means we do need to think beyond our borders, we do need to think global, we do need to respond to the injustice being experienced by people we probably will never meet.

Through the story of the Good Samaritan Jesus makes clear we are not to just talk about justice, we must do justice. He ends the parable with the instruction to “Go and do likewise.” [Luke 10:37]

This means we need a balanced approach to Congregational Mission; we need to include justice. We need to dispense compassion and love into our broken world; and give those trapped in unjust circumstances freedom and hope. We need to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. [Micah 6:8]


1. How did Jesus demonstrate a balanced approach between sharing the gospel while responding to injustice?

2. How can you ‘do justice’ in your life? List 1 or 2 practical things you could do this week.

3. What are some practical ways you can ‘do justice’ in your congregational mission?



Church Relationship Manager
Baptist World Aid

[1] Timothy Keller, A Biblical Critique of Secular Justice and Critical Theory (

Congregational Mission Part 2: Evangelism

BUV Flourishing Churches Devotions
Congregational Mission Part 2 – Evangelism

by Rev Brett Mitchell and Sulari Nielsen

 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20


Sulari: I love the Great Commission in Matthew 28: 18-20. We are invited to go and share with all people of all nations.  It’s an invitation from Jesus to participate in His mission; in what He is already doing, and it is comforting to know that He is already there to guide us as we go. So, I decided to respond to this invitation to go….

My transformational experience of mission involved going to Cambodia with Global Interaction in January 2019. I had never been on an overseas mission trip and I didn’t know what to expect. It was here I saw missional engagement and evangelism come to life. God opened my eyes to what His mission looks like, not only in a Global context, but also in my local context!

1 Peter 3:15 states “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” This is what I saw our cross-cultural workers in Cambodia doing. They spent time praying, waiting on God, learning the language and the culture.  Evangelism and mission for them was spending time in their village getting to know the locals by forming reauthentic relationships with their hairdresser or barber; shopping at the same market; chatting with coffee shop owner; eating at a regular breakfast bar and buying clothes from the same shops. The Xposure trip had me reflecting on my understanding of evangelism and mission. I even changed jobs and started working for Global interaction as their Young Adults Consultant – that is how transformational the experience was!

Brett: I recall the very first time I went overseas as well – as exciting as it was to visit India I returned with a renewed enthusiasm about the fact that the world is on our own very doorstep, living and serving as I do, here in Melbourne.

I would not classify myself as an Evangelist – my strengths lie elsewhere –  and yet, when I came to the realization that God has given to me, a very ordinary person, the invitation to share in His mission, my life has been anything but ordinary. My wife and I are about to embark on a new mission: move to a new house, yet again, and plant ourselves smack in the middle of a new housing estate on the outskirts of Melbourne. Our plan is simple – wait (on God); listen (to our local community); and serve. I call that evangelism!


What does evangelism look like for your church or for you, personally? Ask yourself, “What do I already do well?” How you can use that to become creative in innovating what mission looks like in your local neighbourhood and context. It maybe something as simple, yet profound, as writing a note or letter; making a care package; or using your gifts and talents to safely serve and bless others. We must keep investing in our own relationship with Jesus so that those that we meet, see and speak with, can hear Jesus in us and through us. With evangelism there is no formula. God is working all around us, as He is already in our communities and invites us to participate in what He is already doing. Evangelism for me involves engaging with those who I encounter each time I go to the shops, exercise or am out engaging with my neighbours whilst gardening. One of the young adults, Cat, in my Global Interaction Unearthed Leadership team said recently “it involves loving the person in front of you”. Let’s use the opportunities that we have to go the extra mile to interact and start building some authentic relationships. Begin with one person – the same courier; barista; hairdresser; or sales assistant– be authentic, share your story, listen, and love them.

I am also surrounded by some incredible young adults at our church. Callum, recently expressed that “mission is every action you take, being Christlike every day and mission locally involves living with purpose and walking in step with Jesus.” Another young adult, Charlotte, shared “it’s God doing the work in people’s hearts – praying for opportunities. We must live mission in the everyday.” Let’s be inspired by these words and ask Christ to show us how we go and share to those on our doorstep and to the ends of the earth.

Our top tips, as we go out and live out the Great Commission is to:

– Listen to God – Begin with prayer and listen to and wait on God. Each day ask the Holy Spirit to guide, direct, and help you to be sensitive to those around you and to where God is already at work.

– Be prepared to share your story – Genuinely sharing your story, your personal Jesus encounter, using language others can hear and understand.

– Serving your family, friends, and neighbours – We need to safely serve in our own local contexts for the sake of seeing people come to know Christ. The heart of the cross is that Jesus entered a context, our world, to make the Father’s will known to us.

Note: In Stage 4 restrictions it is difficult to be practical and serve those around us. However, we can be creative in this. Mow someone’s lawn; order a care package; send a box of chocolates; purchase an Uber Eats gift-card; or a bunch of flowers; and show what it means to love, care and serve – please wear a mask, sanitise, wash your hands and adhere to the rules of contactless delivery!

Brett – Questions for consideration and discussion:

1. Why do you think so many Christians get a little nervous about the word evangelism? How do you feel about the word, and why?

2. If it is the Spirit’s job to draw people to the Father (John 12:32), how do we partner with God in this?

3. Who is it (who doesn’t yet follow Jesus) that the Lord has laid on your heart to love, bless and to serve at this time?

4. Is there a special group of people or a household that others in your Church can partner with together to love, bless and to serve, this coming month?

5. When can you set aside some time this coming week to specifically pray so that you can be better prepared (1 Peter 3:15) as you ‘go’ out into your world (Matt 28:18-20)?


Brett and Sulari

BUV Mission Catalyst Team

Congregational Mission Part 1 – Community Engagement

BUV Flourishing Churches Devotions
Congregational Mission
Part 1 – Community Engagement

by Rev Gayle Hill and Rev Jono Ingram

so, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” Luke 10:29b

Jono Ingram and I (Gayle Hill) both moved back to Melbourne after living for a significant period in the country and/or regional town. Community and neighbourhood are the essential fabric of life in the country. You cannot go to the local shops without taking another half hour to chat to someone you know. For both of us, relocating to the city revealed challenges as we sought to participate with God in creating the same kind of community engagement (or neighbourliness, because everyone can be a dedicated neighbour), despite people’s seemingly independent and indifferent manner. The starting place for this is the following:

1. A passion for God

2. A passion for People

3. A passion for Place (where God has planted you)

It in likelihood, these three simple but profound areas are marks for all followers of Jesus.


For Warren and I, our inner city neighbourhood of Carlton is a strange mix of people. There are three distinct demographics and none of these integrate, and all but one is reasonably transient. It has the highest number of students (we have three universities within the suburb), young professionals who predominantly rent, and the highest number of people in social housing for an inner urban suburb.

We moved into Carlton ten years ago and have since built developing friendships with neighbours in our street. Paul Sparks1 describes it as “becoming a known character in your neighbourhood”. Sharing meals together, going to the Nova for movies and bike riding and supporting one another when there are issues has become part of the rhythm of our lives, and even deepened during COVID. Warren and I also commenced an intentional work in the social housing precinct just around the corner four years ago. This was a gift from God, and we now have a faith community established with an Afterschool Families program as well as food bank, support etc. We have become “known characters” in this distinct community. I really believe it is a matter of having a prayerful heart and deep love for where God has planted you and following the Spirit’s lead.


My family’s new neighbourhood of Aintree is a growing, multicultural, suburban housing development in Melbourne’ north west. It is one of Melbourne’s fastest growing communities with many people building their “dream home” and looking for a good neighbourhood to raise their family. It is also probably the most religious place I have ever lived, however the proportion of Christianity in that mix is very low.  

Likewise, in Aintree, I have built relationships in the neighbourhood through sporting clubs, running community events & community programs, and inviting new friends over for meals at our home. We have even cut a hole in our fence and installed a gate so our family and our neighbours, particularly our kids, can freely and frequently visit on another. We have discovered that despite having different world views to many of our neighbours, we often yearn for similar things — connection, belonging, acceptance, and a place where we can do things we enjoy alongside others.

Cameron Harder tells the story of coming back to Kolkata in India after twelve months away. The neighbourhood was depressed but it had been transformed in this short period of time. When he asked how this had happened, the answer one woman gave was, “the best thing is that we found each other”. Finding “each other” is a spiritual practice because community engagement or neighbourliness is predicated on the Trinity. God’s essential character of love, unity and joy in the community of the Godhead (the Perichoresis) is our anthem for having a heart for our community and it is a call for every follower of Jesus.2

Jesus taught us to pray each day, “Your kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven.”3 
Beginning to discover “God’s dream”4 for your neighbourhood is the starting place for community engagement. As Christians, we often feel like we need to look for the brokenness, the problems and the deficits in our community and then get out there and try to fix them. Instead, a good place to start is by looking for what is strong, resilient, good, just, and aligned with Kingdom values and the fruit of the Spirit. When we look for where God’s Kingdom is already breaking forth in our neighbourhood, we will begin to find the partners and opportunities to work alongside the Spirit in what he is already doing. 


1. Who is your neighbour? Who lives in your community, and even right next door or across the street? Who are local business owners, and the movers and shakers?

2. Are you a “known character” in your neighbourhood? What kind of reputation have you started to build?

3. What is God’s dream for your neighbourhood? What would it look like for Heaven to overtake earth right here, right now?

4. Where can you already see signs of the Spirit at work? Where can you see Kingdom values and the fruit of the Spirit?

5. What are you going to do to join in with God’s activity where you live?


Gayle and Jono

BUV Mission Catalyst Team

[1] Paul Sparks, The New Parish: How Neighbourhood Churches are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community, (Downer’s Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2014).

[2] Cameron Harder, Discovering the Other: Asset Based Approaches for Building Community Together, (Herndon VA: Alban Institute, 2013).

[3] Matthew 6:9-13

[4] Tim Soerens, Everywhere You Look: Discovering the Church Right Where You Are, (Downer’s Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2020).

Congregational Character Part 4 – Innovation

BUV Flourishing Churches Devotions
Congregational Character Part 4 – Innovation

by Christine Wanstall 

I wonder sometimes if it can be hard to decide to be innovative. Do you just wake up in the morning and think “Today I am going to innovate”? Or is innovation an expression of our natural personality, so there are some people who are naturally innovative and some who are not?

Developing this article has been an interesting process of unpacking what it means to innovate. We would probably all agree that for a church to flourish we need to innovate, to try new ways of being church, but this can be hard when it seems to disrupt the settled rhythm and cherished traditions of our church life. So, let’s explore some key questions that I have about innovation and how it relates to church life. I figure if I have these questions, then some of you will have them as well.

The word innovation means the act of creating a new method, idea or product or improving something that already exists. It has been defined as `change that adds value’. It is generally agreed that in a changing world, businesses can only survive by continually innovating. This happens by improving what they already have and finding new products or markets in which to grow. Apple is a classic success story of constantly innovating and improving their own product.

vation is not a new concept to God. The biblical narrative commences with an act of innovation “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1).  The gospels remind us that “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made…..But new wine is for fresh wineskins.(Mark 2:21-22). Our Christian life begins with a new birth (Jn 3:3) and our daily walk with Jesus is an ongoing process of innovation as the Holy Spirit improves us each day as we grow as disciples of Jesus (2Cor 3:18).

When we consider innovation in our church life, it seems that this becomes more complicated as we find tension between people who want to pioneer new things and people who prefer to keep things the way they are. We seem to see innovation as disruptive and chaotic but it doesn’t have to be that way. Innovation is actually about inviting our creative God to continue to renew His church. Jesus reminds us that He will build his church (Matt 16:18) and therefore we just need to be willing to cooperate with God in how He wants to do that.

Innovation does need us to be open to new ideas. Our faith and hope in God help us with this. Be encouraged that God is creative and has innovative ways for His church to flourish. As disciples of Jesus, we need to be willing to try new things and risk failure as we follow his leading into innovation.

Our current restrictions have forced us to be innovative and we have many stories of how God has met us in our need. We can take courage and confidence from this in this unusual situation so that when we return to more ‘normal’ life we can continue to explore different ways of being church.

Let us press into God and allow Him to innovate in our lives and the life of our church.

1. Start on a personal level:

  • How does God want to renovate my heart today?
  • What are the areas of my life that God wants to improve?
  • How can I engage with God as He leads me through this process of change

2. Reflect on your church:

  • Where are the areas in our church that we are seeing life?
  • Are there small improvements we can make to build on this life?
  • Are there parts of our church life that are inhibiting life and growth?
  • How might God be calling us to make changes in those things?

3. Engage with new material or methods of being church:

  • Read some blogs or books written by authors other than your favourites.
  • Make contact with churches that seem to be continually innovating with fruitful outcomes and chat with their leaders – what did they do, how did they do it

4. Make contact with the BUV Church Health and Mission Catalyst to discuss how they might support your church in innovation.

5. As you consider innovations, talk with your church leaders about which ideas you might explore or pioneer and who can help you to do that.



BUV Church Health Consultant

Congregational Character Part 3 – Structure and Process

BUV Flourishing Churches Devotions
Congregational Character Part 3 – Structure and Process

by Rev David Devine 

Recently both my wife and I have been receiving treatment for cancers. This is a very personal and extreme reminder that not all growth in our bodies is healthy. Some organic activity drains the body’s energy and disrupts its intended structures and functioning.

This also applies in the Body of Christ, one of the Apostle Paul’s favourite images of church (Rom 12:5; 1Cor 12:12ff; Eph 4:11ff; Col 1:18). Typically Paul uses this image to teach the church’s unity in Christ and functioning in faith and love. He emphasises the church’s orderly structure and coordinated activity as determined by Christ and enabled by the Holy Spirit. The Body is both organic (alive in Christ) and organised (arranged by the Spirit).

A flourishing church will not simply be busy, with members all doing their own thing; it will be strategic – intentionally doing the right things in the right way – and will organise its structures and processes to enable its members to do those things efficiently and effectively. This is not introducing human managerial approaches into the church; but rather it is the church reflecting something of God, who is both orderly and intentional (eg 1Cor 12:11, 18, 28; 14:33). Healthy church structures and processes are an outworking of our Spirituality, for they reflect God and express relationship with God.

Paul’s most developed discussion of this is found in Ephesians 4:1-16. He begins in vv1-10 with the relationship with and in God that is given to each and every Christian. Then in vv.11-16 he outlines the practice and purpose of this within the church. He refers to three relationships that must be maintained if churches are to flourish.

First, Paul notes that while every believer is part of the church (v7) and has a part to play in its life and growth (v16), Christ has given some to lead and serve the Body in various ways (v11) – apostles and prophets who lay foundations (Eph 2:20); evangelists who proclaim the Gospel (6:15) and pastors/teachers who equip God’s people for works of service. Flourishing churches give attention to building on these apostolic and prophetic foundations (honouring God’s Word), releasing and supporting those sent into mission, and allowing pastoral leaders to equip others to serve rather than being distracted by doing things that others can do.

The word translated `equip’ (katartismos) had a range of meaning including repairing (Matt 4:21), completing (1Thess 3:10) and training (Lk 6:40). In New Testament times it was used in medical texts to describe setting broken bones to knit and function properly. Given the physiological language in Ephesians 4, I think this is what Paul was referring to. Primarily through teaching, Pastoral leaders set their fellow believers in right relationship with God and one another, so that they can function in truth and love as God intends us to. As Israel Galindo writes, `Leaders who are committed to empowering the members for ministry will create the structures and processes that will help the members to (discern and) respond to God’s call and acquire the necessary ministry skills (and relational qualities) to actualize their spiritual gifts.’[1]

This introduces the other two relationships that are key to flourishing churches – relationship with God and one another. Paul declares that each and every believer has direct relationship with Christ. We are all called to grow in our knowledge of Christ – not drifting along with the latest idea (v14), but sticking to the truth of the Faith laid down in Scripture (v13, 15), pressing into Christ in prayer (v15), and becoming more like Christ, individually and together, as we reflect his nature and will by serving one another in love (v16). Each and every member has a part to play in this growth in faith and love as we serve one another, and to the extent we all do that, our churches will be built up and flourish.

The structures we set up and processes we follow in our churches should support the three relationships Paul outlines in Ephesians 4 – allowing leaders to lay foundations, move into mission and equip others for faith and service; encouraging believers to develop their relationship with God; and empowering members to discern and respond to God’s leading as they serve together in love and unity. To what extent is your church organised to flourish and grow as God intends it to?


1. Read Ephesians 4:1-16. What words does Paul use in this passage to describe a church that is flourishing? What actions does he identify as contributing to those things?

2. How does your church encourage you and others to grow in relationship with Christ? How have you grown in faith and love over the past few years?

3. In what ways do your church’s structures and processes help or hinder members to use their gifts to contribute to its life and growth? If you could change a few things about the way your church functions, what would you change?

4. Paul writes about the church growing into maturity marked by unity and Christlikeness. What are some practical steps that you and your fellow members could take to help your church to become more united and Christlike?


Rev David Devine

Head of Church Health & Capacity Building


[1] Israel Galindo, The Hidden Lives of Congregations: Discerning Church Dynamics, Herndon, Alban Institute, 2004, 194.

Congregational Character Part 2 – Identity

BUV Flourishing Churches Devotions
Congregational Character Part 2 – Identity

by Rev Marc Chan

9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2: 9 – 10, NIV)


The pandemic that we are currently facing is causing us a lot of anxiety – when will we see the number of cases dropping, when will it all end?  However, it is also providing us with the wonderful opportunity to evaluate where we are at as Churches and what the months ahead will look like for us.

In the Melbourne metropolitan area – and the Mitchell Shire as well – we have to wear a face covering whenever we go out, except for some very specific reasons.  One of our friends told us that she was having her daily walk (with face mask on) when she saw a couple (also with face masks on) walking their dog. 

She sort of recognised the dog but, because dogs of that breed look quite similar, she was not sure since she was only able to see the eyes of the owners.  Suddenly, she heard the man saying “Hello” to her and she recognised the voice of her Pastor – whom she had known for years and whom she used to meet every Sunday before the lockdown happened.

The face masks have taken out all the features that allowed our friend to recognise her Pastor – most of the face was covered, she could not see any smile or expression of the face or even the shape of the face.

COVID-19 is causing our Churches to be like a person with a face mask on. Our identity is masked because we are not able to fully demonstrate who we are as a Church. Our services are all online and that is the only part of our face that is exposed. The rest is all under the face mask.

This leads to the pertinent questions we can ask ourselves: What is the community we are supposedly serving missing from our Church being restricted in what we can do? Is there something unique that clearly identify who we are in the community? Or no one is really missing our presence in the community?

It is a timely reminded that we are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession”, and also “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God”. The face mask can take away some of our features but there are others that can still make us recognisable – like our voice.

As God’s special possession, in our wish to see the Church flourish, are we doing what He is calling us to do? As a flourishing Church, we have a clear sense of who we are – a sense of being the people of God called to achieve what He wants us to.  We know where we come from, where we are at now and where we are going. Our identity is in Christ and we are part of His body knowing what role we are playing as part of that body.

As such, even though we may be wearing a face mask at the moment, with part of our identity covered, we are still able to stand out and be recognised through our voice – the Hope, Love and Care that we can bring to those around us. 

At the same time, we have the opportunity to re-evaluate where we are now and prepare ourselves to be ready to go forward when our whole identity as the people of God can be fully revealed post-lockdown. Let’s join together in a union of flourishing Churches with Christlike followers, that redeems society and brings transformation to Victoria.


1. What is the community we are supposedly serving missing from our Church being restricted in what we can do? 

2. Is there something unique that clearly identify who we are in the community? Or no one is really missing our presence in the community?

3. As God’s special possession, in our wish to see the Church flourish, are we doing what He is calling us to do?

4. How can we prepare ourselves to be ready to go forward post-lockdown?

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3: 20 – 21, NLT)


Rev Marc Chan

Multicultural Consultant

Congregational Character Part 1 – Leadership



In our BUV devotional series on Flourishing Churches, our Pastoral Leadership, Support and Development Team have taken the lead on the “Congregational Life” sections of our framework – and they’ve done a great job in focusing on Discipleship, Engagement, Hospitality and Diversity. (The links are here if you’ve missed any.) Next up, our Church Health and Capacity Building Team are going to lead you as we consider the “Congregational Character” aspects of the Flourishing Church framework


BUV Flourishing Churches Devotions
Congregational Character Part 1 – Leadership

by Rev Mark Wilkinson 

Recently, when I was reading in Luke’s Gospel, I came across again the incident where Jesus takes Peter, James & John to Jairus’ house to raise his daughter from the dead. (See Luke 8:51-56) Then in the very next chapter, the same 3 disciples are brought by Jesus to a mountain – which we call the Mountain of Transfiguration – where Jesus was to pray. And they had the amazing experience of seeing “clothes became as bright as flash of lightning. Two men, Moses & Elijah appeared in glorious splendour, talking with Jesus.” (Luke 9:28-30) There is a third episode where Jesus takes Peter, James & John with him – which is when he prays in the Garden of Gethsemane (See Mark 14:33).

Why does Jesus take just three of the Twelve for these episodes? Given that the text doesn’t tell us, we can’t be definitive but it seems likely to me that there were keys times when Jesus was investing in the 3 key leaders who would be most influential in taking the Gospel forward. We know that the 3 of them were – along with Andrew – the first disciples to be called. We know that Peter was always first mentioned in the lists of Apostles – indeed in Matthew’s Gospel he was actually specified as first (10:2) – and became the key spokesman in the early chapters of Acts. And John was right alongside him in leadership in Acts 8:14 and became a key writer of a gospel, letters and the book of Revelation.

There is an important function of leadership that is vital for a church to flourish. Both pastoral leaders and lay leaders who serve in ministry and governance are vital in seeing Churches flourish. And both pastoral and lay leaders need to work together – neither are more important than the other. Sometimes the pastoral leader is seen to be the most important for they have the more public role and at times get too much credit for the church when it’s going well and too much blame when it’s not!

I’m a big AFL fan and the head coach is the equivalent of the lead pastor who is the public face of the team. When a team is going well the call is, “sign the coach to a longer contract” and when a team is going badly; “sack the coach”! And it might only be a couple of years in between – think the Adelaide Crows right now. I follow Geelong and when they won 3 Premierships in 5 years, it wasn’t just about the head coach but the off field leaders of the President (Frank Costa) and CEO (Brian Cook) who were equally important. More recently Richmond have been the dominant team of the past 3 years and their stable off-field leaders – CEO Brendan Gale and the AFL’s first woman President Peggy O’Neal – have been instrumental to their success.

I have seen over a long period of time the critical nature of good church leaders to go along with good pastors. Church leaders are called to rise in pastoral transition and conflict and then work well in the background in governance and empowerment when the church is flourishing under positive pastoral leadership.

How do leaders flourish? Firstly by looking to and keeping connected with Jesus. It’s no coincidence that “Spirituality” is at the core of the Flourishing Churches model for we know all 12 aspects fit around the core of our relationship with Jesus. All of us need to connect to and nurture our relationship with Jesus. How you do that will be as individual as you are; but the necessity of doing that is common to all leaders and followers of Jesus.

Secondly, keep short accounts within your leadership team; both ministry leaders and governance leaders. I see teams thrive and I see teams struggle – and the common theme of both situations is relationships! When relationships are strong churches tend to flourish; when relationship fracture churches tend to struggle. Invest in relationships and don’t be afraid to have difficult conversations.

When Jesus chose the 12, Mark’s Gospel tells us that Jesus “appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.” They were firstly called into relationship with Jesus and each other and then sent out in ministry. Relationship with Jesus precedes ministry for Jesus.

Church leadership – both pastoral and lay leaders – are high callings to partner with Jesus the Master Builder as he builds his church and they are both vital to a flourishing church.

Questions for reflection

1. How are you doing in your walk with Jesus? Is there a need for you to re-prioritise that afresh?

2. How are you going with relationships amongst the key leaders in your church?     

  • How can these relationships still be fostered in lockdown (as it is for our Melbourne – based churches)?
  • Are there any difficult conversations that you are procrastinating about? 

3. Are there some leadership resources you could invest in at this time – books to read; podcasts to listen to; on-line training you could access? Keep checking our BUV website for opportunities to learn and grow.

4. What do you sense God saying to you about your church in this strange season of COVID-19 that we are all in?

BUV Church Health Consultant 

Congregational Life Part 4 – Diversity

BUV Flourishing Churches Devotions
Congregational Life Part 4 – Diversity

by Rev Chris Barnden 

Every Friday night my wife and I turn to Better Homes and Gardens on the TV as one of our regular programs to enjoy.  The home renovation section is lost on me, but I’m always interested in Graham Ross’ garden spot.

I love to see the sheer variety of plants we can plant in our garden, both native and exotic plants, plants with glorious flowers of wonderful colours, and plants with striking foliage and all the varied growing conditions to have each plant flourishing and blooming at their best.

What strikes me as most beautiful is when Graham tours a garden showing a whole range of plants and shrubs planted together as one garden.  To me, what makes a garden so beautiful and appealing to the eye is the diversity of shapes and colours growing and cascading together in the garden.  Bold dynamic plants mixed in together with small delicate shrubs, with an endless variety of textures, colours and shapes, and all adding to the overall beauty of the garden.

The prophets Isaiah (58:11b) and Jeremiah (31:12b) refer to the restored people of God as like a well-watered garden.  I find this picture of a garden an apt metaphor for the church.  In the church of Jesus we are people of all manner of preferences and personalities, people of varying characteristics, cultures, histories and vocations.  However, in the name of Jesus we have been brought together to be both a community shaped by the gospel, and a witness to the communities around us of the peace and joy of God’s kingdom.  And this is challenging!

Just as every single plant, large or small, robust or delicate, through simply doing what it’s been created to do, adds to the beauty of the garden, so every believer, every member of the church, by being what God has re-created us to be, contributes to the richness of life in the Christian community – the church.

Many of our churches have multiple cultures represented in our community, each of whom add to the richness of our life together.  When we learn to listen to each other, and through listening, try to better understand each other, we flourish together through increased understanding of God’s ways, through encouraging each other’s contribution, and through broadening our appreciation of what God is doing among us and within us.

I have had many opportunities to read the Bible together and to pray with sisters and brothers of other cultures.  As a typical western Christian I had thought that my way of reading and understanding Scripture was the right way, that my way of understanding how God moves, guides, and acts among us was the right way, and that my view of the church was the right view. 

But God challenged my unthinking assumptions, and my prejudices, and opened my mind by helping me to accommodate different perspectives, teaching me that other views were not necessarily wrong, just different.  My life and my faith have become the richer for learning those lessons.

But we’re not thinking exclusively of cultural diversity here.  For example, by learning to appreciate diverse views, different personalities, different ways of understanding how God works among us, by listening respectfully to each other, especially listening to those who see things differently to ourselves, our own appreciation of God’s gracious ways among us is enlarged, is deepened.

By not assuming that my view of life and faith is always right, or even the only legitimate view, is a first step towards flourishing in my own spiritual life.  By understanding that the church is not a western cultural invention, but the marvellous cascade of a myriad of cultures called together to work out life together as a community in the name of Jesus and empowered by his Spirit, we become open to experience the amazing blessings God has for us, and free to blossom and flourish according to God’s deep desires for us.

To use a different metaphor for a moment, the Apostle Paul described the church as like a human body, with all manner of organs, bones, sinews, tendons and muscles working together in harmony to create a healthy integrated whole (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).  We all know how uncomfortable and painful it is, and how limited we become when one part of our body, even a small, insignificant tendon or muscle is not working as intended.  And we know, that’s exactly how uncomfortable church can be sometimes, and how we prevent our church from flourishing healthily when we fail to value each other appropriately.

Instead, as members of Christ’s church we offer ourselves, and welcome each other with all our diverse histories, cultures, our personalities, experiences and our skills to create a healthy, beautiful garden lovingly tended and cared for by the Lord, and growing, blooming, and blossoming to God’s delight.


  • What are some simple things you can do to welcome diversity in your church community?
  • In what ways do you think your church life is being inhibited because the diversity of members is not valued or encouraged?
  • How can we encourage diversity in our leadership?
  • How can we encourage the quieter members of our church to make their contribution to the broader life of the church?
  • What can you do to provide opportunity to receive the blessing of the quiet voice and not just the loud?
  • How might we better respect the cultural diversity in our church family?
  • Where your church has multiple cultures represented, in addition to cultural events like “International Day” how can you promote and celebrate diversity in the life of your church?

BUV Regional Pastor – Metro

Congregational Life Part 3 – Hospitality

BUV Flourishing Churches Devotions
Congregational Life Part 3 – Hospitality

by Kimberly Smith – Generations & Emerging Leaders Pastor  

I was recently invited to lunch at my friends’ house. As I walked up the front steps, the door flung open and the eldest child, Miss 5, greeted me holding a plastic tiara and a patterned sarong for a robe. “Put these on Queen Kimmy!”, she urged and then turned back into the house yelling “Queen Kimmy is here – make way, make way for the Queen!” The entry way of the house was laid with red fabric – maybe a picnic rug and a towel – and she waved her arms, ushering me along the path she had created.

As I was seated on the couch (“Kimmy, this is your throne!”) her dad came to offer me a drink. She rebuked him and ordered him to address me correctly, “Oh, right, Queen Kimmy, may I be so honoured as to bring you a drink that would be to your satisfaction?” He looked over to Miss 5 who gave him the nod of approval.

Our time together proceeded with various changes in character and role plays of all sorts which made for a highly entertaining couple of hours! (And the lunch was delicious!)

In our Flourishing Church Framework, the focus on Congregational Life includes the aspect of hospitality.

I wonder what comes to mind when you read that word? Perhaps you think of a hospital or maybe you immediately think of the hospitality industry – cafes, restaurants and hotels. Your thoughts might go to images of dinner parties with friends, or to specific people who embody hospitality in the way they conduct their lives and open their homes. Like my little friend, Miss 5, quite literally treating me like a queen!

Hospitality is defined as the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.

1 Peter 4:9 says, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” In attaching this exhortation to the ‘one another’, Peter makes it clear that hospitality is not an industry, a business, a role, or a location. It’s something we are all encouraged to engage in – a heart posture we would all seek to hold. In Romans 12:13 Paul says, “Always be eager to practice hospitality.”

The Greek word used here is philoxenos. It’s a hybrid of two words. Philo which means friend and xenos which means stranger. These words are an interesting pairing. In fact, they are opposites! But in that, we understand the fullness of the act of hospitality.

To treat a stranger like a friend or to make a friend of a stranger. 

What if that defined every single person’s experiencing of encountering a Christ follower or a community of believers? What if our churches were places where people of every walk of life felt like a friend? What if the strangers in our country, our neighbourhood; our streets, found a place of friendship and inclusion amongst us?

In Luke 19 Jesus encounters a man named Zacchaeus. Previously unknown to Jesus, Zacchaeus had heard He was coming through Jericho and climbed a tree to get a better vantage point. 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.  Despite the incredulity of the crowd (that Jesus would meet with someone of Zacchaeus’ reputation), Jesus went to his home. The encounter was one that catalysed radical transformation in his heart and life. “Salvation has come to this house!”, declared Jesus.

It wasn’t just an invitation to a meal, but to a shared life. Jesus wasn’t looking to be invited merely into Zacchaeus’ home but also his heart. He demonstrated a way of living and interacting that went beyond words and teaching, to profound effect.

There is something powerful in the transaction of welcome, generosity and open-handedness that facilitates a deeper work. In the rest and warmth of genuine kindness, hearts are softened and opened.  

In this season of isolation and ‘social-distancing’ many of our usual avenues of offering hospitality may not be open to us. But somehow, in our communication, in the things we choose to prioritise and promote, and in how we allocate time and money, we must still be intentionally shaping a community of welcome, inclusion and warmth. Where strangers are treated as friends and every effort is made to make a friend of a stranger.


1. How would you assess yourself or your church in regard to hospitality? (What would others say about their experience of you/your church?)

2. What examples of hospitality do we see demonstrated in Jesus’ ministry? What was the impact of those occasions? What can we learn from his modelling?

3. If you look close to home – to whom might God be directing you to offer hospitality? (Consider your household, your street or local neighbourhood, the people in your sphere of contact and influence.)

4. Paul says we must “practice hospitality” because it often goes against the natural gravitational pull to be more self-focused. What would Jesus reveal that you might need to lay aside in order to make space in your heart and life to extend the welcome of God?  

5. What is one practical action you could take this week to treat someone ‘like a queen (or king)’?

BUV Generations & Emerging Leaders Pastor