28th March 2024

Opportunities to Flourish in a Safe Community

A visit to Rosebud Empowered Faith Community (EFC) in March allowed BUV Partnership Development Pastor, Andrew Naylor, to witness a safe space where people love to connect with each other and with the Christian faith.

Andrew enjoyed playing guitar and singing songs with Chris, a member of the Rosebud EFC. Chris writes upbeat worship songs for the group to sing together including one titled, God Is Great. Participation is key at Rosebud EFC where everyone is encouraged to play a part as they have dinner together, followed by a time of sharing, celebration and communion.

An EFC is a new form of discipleship community that provides an empowering and caring environment for people who are often marginalised or are experiencing significant life challenges, by showing them that they are cherished by God and can find their purpose in Him.

The Rosebud EFC known locally as the Community Hub, is a ministry of New Peninsula Baptist Church who provide the organisational resources and very capable staff of the local ministry.

“It was very inspiring to see Rosebud EFC in action and it was a pleasure to be a part of the evening,” Andrew said. “It is very rare to see any community share so openly with each other, let alone a community where a significant number are vulnerable, have suffered in various ways or are just struggling in some way with everyday living. To see this and to hear people talking about how it is a safe place is quite remarkable. Add to that the overall safety people feel with each other and support that obviously happens through the week, in a faith context – along with worship, prayer and communion – is amazing.

“Whether you are a leader, meal server, participant or someone who just finds some level of belonging by turning up, God is clearly changing the lives of everyone involved through the love and care that exists.”

Co-founder and Rosebud EFC Team leader, Mark Matthews, said: “This is where we identify the needs of the community and utilise the assets within the same community to strengthen it. By encouraging the use of each other’s strengths to meet each other’s needs, we all become stronger. EFCs have a discipleship culture where spiritual parents (mentors) build authentic, trusting friendships. “Many people who come to a community meal see the world in a very different way to a middle-class person. Spiritual parents are trained to recognise this values gap and look beyond it to the person God created, and to build a relationship with them that is trusting and safe. Out of those relationships, they’re building a discipleship relationship – some are reading the Bible one-on-one with people on the verandah of a local rooming house, or out in parks and gardens with those experiencing homelessness. One group in Brisbane is meeting in a coffee shop once a week to read the Bible together. We’re teaching people who are doing life tough that they can actually hear from God Himself –teaching about the works and the words of Jesus and importantly encouraging them that God has a mission and a plan for them.”

One participant, Adam, has a mild intellectual disability but rather than pitying him or doing things for him, at Rosebud EFC Adam is encouraged to fulfil a valued role in his community by playing clapping sticks in the worship band, helping set up and distribute communion. Another member battles with a chronic anxiety disorder, but he was encouraged to use his artistic talents to draw caricatures of people, and while doing so, share a verse and pray with them.

From fairly humble beginnings in 2014 at the Rosebud campus of New Peninsula Baptist Church under the leadership of the then campus Pastor, Richard Cathie and his Team Leader, Mark Matthews, the EFC model has grown exponentially over the last 10 years.

Drawing on their extensive community development and social work experience, co-founders Mark Matthews and Toby Baxter further developed the EFC framework grounded in Asset Based Community Development frameworks and thinking.  This enabled the EFC model to grow and expand into other denominations and networks, nationally and internationally.

Mark Matthews adds “In terms of Christian growth nationally, we are seeing scores of people make first time faith commitments (double the rate of the mainstream church community), and they are following that up with Baptism and wanting to share their faith with their social peers.”

Now a ministry of Crossway Baptist Church, EFC is offering churches in Australian capital cities and regional centres free training in how to run an EFC. For details visit efc.org.au or contact mark.matthews@efc.org.au

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