A Church Plant Twenty Years in the Making
Goldfields Wesleyan Methodist Church in Heathcote began services in our home on the 19th of May 2016.
However in God’s scheme of things it began one Sunday evening in September 1998. How, you may ask could a new church plant begin eighteen years before the first service. Let me explain.
Gayle and I had been worshipping at another denomination for a number of years where we were in charge of the Sunday school. After a service one day, the senior pastor came to inform us that our services were no longer needed as it has been reported to him that our baptism was not in accordance with the theological principles of that denomination. “Unless you are willing to be rebaptised, we would have no place in the life of that church.”
We felt hurt and unwanted. Where were we to worship? What would we do? There was no other suitable church for us in the area. In desperation Gayle told me she had heard of a Wesleyan Methodist Church about half an hour from where we were living. She asked would I like to go there and see what it was all about.
“I will go next Sunday” I said and added, “that will be the last time I set foot in a church; I am tired of the in fights and squabbling. All they want is their own way and can’t see that other people may have slightly different ideas on what I consider to be noncore theological issues”. Begrudgingly I went.
“Wonderful” I thought as I entered the service, “about twelve people here, this is obviously not a successful church. I guess I can put up with it for a service then it will be all over”
How wrong I was! The people in front of us turned and spoke to us. Not a casual hello, but a genuine interest in who were and where we came from. The pastor came and made herself known she took a great interest in us and invited us to the church tea after the service. We felt accepted, we felt loved, and we felt wanted for ourselves not for what we could do for the church. I was overwhelmed by what I found – a church that genuinely loved people and didn’t use them for its own ends or major on minor theological differences.
As time went by we were introduced to Kingsley College courses leading finally to ordination and a parish for us.
Move on to 2016. Again we were in a quandary. I had completed my time at the Uniting Church and we needed another place to worship. There was none. Two choices were available to us, move or travel a long distance. Neither was appealing.
A person approached me saying, ”Churches don’t need walls we could worship anywhere. Why not start a Wesleyan Methodist Church in Heathcote?” “Yes”, I thought, “a church planter I certainly am not.” Saying nothing to anyone I laid my plan before God.
“If three people come with a similar suggestion, I will arrange for a monthly fellowship type activity in my own home”. I left it there. Three people came, in fact seven people made similar suggestions.
We had no choice. God was really in this work. On May 19th we had a service in our home. Thirty seven people came. Many of those were friends from Bendigo who came to support us. It was a wonderful time of sharing followed by a barbecue lunch.
As one person was leaving I was asked when the next gathering would be. Out of my mouth fell the words, “Next week here same time, but no lunch” What have I said! Next week up early clean up the family area and set up a church meeting. This time seventeen people were present. After six weeks we have Thirty three people on our contact list – all who have been to a service at least once and four others who have indicated interest but are currently on extended vacation.
The suggestion was made we move to the Guide Hall. We did and since then we have had an average of twenty people attending, transfers from other local churches, but more marvellously some from the local area who have had no connection with a church of any type. Each Sunday we have had one new person attend.
God has been so wonderful. All our needs have been supplied, both material – we bought a Communion Set from a local Op Shop for five dollars – and human resources.
Among our highlights has been an infant dedication giving us the opportunity to preach the message of salvation to many who had no church connection at all.
We praise God for the marvellous things He is doing in our midst and know that we must keep faithful to Him and seek His plans, not ask for ours to be blessed.
How has all this been possible?
- We acknowledge it is God’s work not ours.
- Praying friends have supported the work.
- Living in a small country town the people know the leaders personally.
- Care has been taken to follow up each new person.
Please remember Goldfields Wesleyan Methodist Church began in the heart of God almost twenty years ago when He led two hurting Christians to a loving fellowship led by Rev Beryl Baker to be cared for and carefully nurtured.
As a church our challenge is to show love to each person that God brings into our congregation that perhaps sometime in the future someone else will be able to say “I have been able to do a work for God because I was nurtured in the loving Wesleyan Methodist congregation at Heathcote.
Perhaps it is your challenge also.