Our Mission Statement: To guide those far from God into the new start found in Jesus Christ.
Our Mission Theology: "Pastoral care is a task of the total Christian community – a task of ministering to each other and reaching out beyond ourselves." – Howard Stone
Newstart is a contemporary community church of the Melbourne Anglican Diocese.
“The church would be a perfect place if there weren't any people in it.” We have all heard this said and many times thought it ourselves. People (like me and like you) are the problem. No matter how it’s viewed, or what controls we try and program in, every church community will be messy, because it is filled with imperfect people, imperfectly following Jesus. As people we are the problem, but Jesus calls us to be the solution.
All the entry points into life, church and faith can and will be messy and that will never go away. Therefore pastoral care is the most compelling way of telling the Gospel and of being the Church in missionary mode.1
This countercultural position – of being neither religious nor irreligious but embodying a third culture – that must be magnanimous of spirit – sees everyone, not just church members, as likely beneficiaries of pastoral care.
One of the disappointing dynamics of religious life is the tacitly deep-rooted church paradigm of the “gate keeper”. That is; in dealing with the messiness of life (the “you and me” or “those people” problems), some churches have bluntly placed a high entry level to belonging. For “gate keeper” communities, belief in Christ is the first step in being part of a church, but you do not really belong until you behave or conform to the community’s or church’s norms – conformance determines acceptance.
Through the narrative of scripture and the relay of faithful testimony it is obvious (at least to us at Newstart) that Jesus' number one demonstrative emotional response revealed in the gospels is concern, kindness and compassion. If Jesus is the source of true and complete pastoral care then we must manifest that source and imitate that journey in our engagement; in our teaching; in our influence; and in our abilities, with the notion of Jesus’ third culture.
The 3B’s of Christianity
How can we be incarnational and how can we lead people (in the church and outside of the church) into an inclusive expression and experience of koinonia and faith? In response we at Newstart embraced the resulting statement (and its challenges): first you belong, then you believe, and finally you become.
We have a vision for a church where everyone BELONGS
Jesus critiques the religious types (the chief priests and the elders of the people) in Matthew 21:28-32 (the parable of the two sons) because of their refusal to promote any sense of inclusion for the lost. In fact he makes them doubly accountable and says “these people are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.” Everyone belongs and everyone is welcome because community is natural and community is liberating.
So dismantling the walls of the church and including everyone (as a pastoral care paradigm) means that some attendees have yet to place their faith in Jesus; they might be agnostic; they may be a fusion of numerous religious convictions; they may be searching. But they belong first, they are cared for first and our prayer is that one day, they will believe.
Therefore the task of ministering to each other and reaching out beyond ourselves requires a third way – a third culture. Loving those whose lives we approve of requires no strength; no moral imagination – it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. Here lies the great challenge of pastorally lead mission – loving everyone no matter where they are; even those you profoundly disagree with. Out of that love, our prayer is that life-change will eventually occur as people are socialised into new realities, carried along by the graciousness of the Holy Spirit. That’s the gift of Christianity and that’s the genius of Jesus.
We have a vision for a church where everyone BELIEVES
It is only through belonging that any kind of space can open up; spaces of trust; spaces of social currency; spaces of understanding; spaces of vulnerability – all are spaces of believing. So we endeavour to place pastorally lead mission at the forefront of all ministry, we have adopted a liberal and Christ-centred representation of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals – that a person’s belief in themselves, their community and ultimately in Christ is not built or found in data, information and metrics. To understand other people as completely as possible, we must take special steps to meet them on their own ground.2
Jesus’ engagement with the woman at the well3 is a wonderful example of our believe conviction. The process of revelation and formation that this woman went through demonstrates valuable lessons as we journey with others:
- Her journey, like many, begins by feeling antagonistic. “Why, you being a Jew, are you asking me a Samaritan to do something for you?” She is not really open to Jesus at this point, she is quite antagonistic. She is drawing attention to the fact that there is distance between the two of them - there’s no belonging.
- And then Jesus begins speaking to get her to open up. Right here is the tipping point – do I continue to remain antagonistic, or do I open up.
- Questions are asked and those questions fuel the process.
- Then there is acknowledgment that others need to be brought into the process4, and giving them permission to be part of the process fuels the process even more.
- Finally the acknowledgment that God wants her (you and me) to explore the issue.5
It is really incredible that her story about her encounter; her experience; her vulnerability, actually lead a whole group of people to a place of revelation.
It is our prayer that our encounters with God; our vulnerability; our willingness to share and unite people’s stories with God’s great story will actually lead the way for a whole assortment of people to know God in a very real way.
Our believe pastoral care conviction of being a touchstone in the commonplace, unfolds as simply as this – following the first commandment6 – living as a son or a daughter before living as a servant – living out of intimacy before living out of involvement. So when we come alongside a fellow traveller, we are actually able to bring human need into what God has already been speaking to us about – as a true companion we can bring bread to the table to share; we can bring a spiritual resource; we can bring a counterpoint; we can bring a connecting story; we can stand on holy ground.
We have a vision for a church where everyone BECOMES
We want Newstart to be a church where each person can become the person that God has called them to be. The most instinctive conclusion to belong; loving everyone no matter where they are – believe; unite people’s stories with God’s great story – is becoming a transformational community. This is unfolding in two aspects:
Firstly; through the trust of pastoral hospitality (belonging) people are engaging and asking questions about God’s great story and their own lives (believing). Through that process they are finding answers, connection to the gospel and a practical focus for their existence – their lives and minds are being transformed by the word of God.7 People are becoming shaped by what they are giving themselves to.
Secondly; we could have just parked the whole transformational phenomenon bus right there and transitioned from Sunday to Sunday being an introspective, passive community. But we decided to put the facilitation of Christian growth and development at the forefront8 of the church’s ministry, which meant our encounter as a faith community dramatically changed with those outside.9 And like Jesus’ disciples in Luke 10 we have become strangers taking no baggage as we move around our neighbourhoods, receiving hospitality from our community. It is this hospitality that is allowing us to seek the good of the city,10 positionally connecting us in municipality and is inviting us to their tables and into their conversations – we are becoming incarnational.
Belong – loving everyone no matter who they are and where they are.
Believe – unite people’s stories with God’s great story.
Become – a transformational community.
1. Connection to the gospel – spiritual literacy
2. Connection to the other – emotional literacy
- Paul Goodliff, Care in a Confused Climate: Pastoral Care and Postmodern Culture. Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd. 1998 – page 129
- Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, Vintage 1989
- John 4:7-42
- vs.28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” (NIV)
- Proverbs 25:2 “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.”(NKJV)
- Mark 12:30
- 2 Corinthians 3:18
- Stephen Pattison, Is pastoral care dead in a mission-led church? Practical Theology, 1.1 2008 – page 7
- Colossians 4:5 “Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.”
- Jeremiah 29:5-6