mgpcpastor's blog

Australian Presbyterians And Multi-Campus Models


The closest situations I’ve heard of to a multi-campus church in Australian Presbyterianism have different Congregations functioning on the one site. This can be achieved by either having distinct meeting times on the one site or by a preacher moving between meetings being held at overlapping times.
It’s more multi-Congregation than multi-campus.
Another is really a more direct church planting model. The local Congregation plants a group of its own, along with a designated leadership team, in a locality and provides them with financial/logististical support until they become fully self-supporting.
It is notable that there is not really the equivalent of the ‘name preacher’ system here in Australia that there is in the U.S. People are prepared to go and watch Mark Driscoll talk on a video screen for 50 minutes because he’s Mark Driscoll. In Australia the attitude may be more along the lines of ‘Who is he to think he’s so special that we’d watch a video recording of him?’ Australian evangelicalism is well served by numbers of highly competent biblical expositors, but our national character doesn’t like recognising individuals.
Challenges for both within the Presbyterian system, as currently practised, is that geographic boundaries of parishes are assigned by the collective oversight of a Presbytery. A local Congregation can’t just establish a campus over the road from an existing Presbyterian Church. Whether you think that congregation is doing a reasonable job or not. Growing churches can find themselves hemmed in, and growth areas can be assigned to Congregations that lack the resources or will to foster Gospel work.
Sometimes these lacking Congregations will contend that personell and resources from stronger works should be allocated to them without the slightest sense of concession that their current situation of lack is due to their own choices and management skills and that people should be generally hesitant to provide scarce resources when the only promise is for more of the same.
Geographic markers are also used to tie pastors/elders to a specific location for purposes of accountability. Again, for reasons that have more to do with institutional administrative ease and historical factors than sound biblical principles pastors are bound to serve one locality rather than a number of localities. Australian cynicism would probably view the use of video or visits from ‘lead-pastors’ to campuses as suggesting that the guys they’ve got are not up to the standard of the centre campus.
I’ve encouraged my co-leaders here at mgpc to take the view that we’re not going to allocate our resources to propping up works that we don’t believe in. If we were going to invest in a church revitalisation or a church plant it would be one into which we could have meaningful input and from which we would have sound accountability. We’d need to have a say in how it ran.
This brings me to a final thought.
The rules by which Presbyterian pastors have nothing to do with identifying their successors has more to do with Scottish politics in the 19th century than it does with any biblical principle. It continues to create some sort of perception that pastors are visiting consultants rather than organically part of the Congregation. I do everything I can here to ensure that those who have served as pastors at mgpc are recognised as being part of our community. Their ongoing involvement in the lives of the Congregation here should be a given, not a concession. I don’t think the discretion of the choice of new pastor should be taken away from local Congregations, but the present system of:

  • pastor leaves;
  • small group chosen to carry out pastoral search from scratch;
  • time without pastor while process occurs;
  • pastor is identified accepts and (usually) has to leave former church; and then, finally,
  • pastor arrives and is installed;

strikes me as being administrative and about as non-organic as you can get.
Succession planning should mean that leadership transitions, not lurches from one to the next.

2 thoughts on “Australian Presbyterians And Multi-Campus Models

  1. I thoroughly agree with you on the transition of leadership. I suspect the solution to the problem, though, might look pretty radical:
    *having plural male eldership who are genuinely involved in leading the church, rather than one paid professional;
    *training up leaders from within, rather than hiring in someone who’s been trained in another context.

    A change that takes a generation?

    • I see some development of the plural leadership ethos in some churches.
      As a connected church there are some benefits to being able to bring people in who have experience in other areas. This should be done strategically to help with identified need.
      Training from within is an interesting situation. I watch some other denominational contexts where ministry transition looks more a handing over of the family business.
      In some Australian Presbyterian jurisdictions the plural male eldership are not guaranteed a role in the search committee for pastoral vacancies. This is a gob-smacking oversight to my way of thinking.

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