Interview: Al Stewart

Christian Reflections: Do you listen to any sermon podcasts? If so, who are you listening to at the moment?
Al: I probably listen to Tim Keller more than I listen to anyone else, especially given that I plan to be back speaking to CBD office workers next year. I'm trying to sharpen up on apologetics etc by listening to the master.

What does Geneva mean?
Al: Geneva is named after the city where Calvin did most of his ministry... he raised up hundreds of missionaries and church planters... to other cities and countries. "Geneva" is to be... a network of networks, to help recruit, assess, train, and resource church planters, we're keen to do this in cooperation with other like minded people around the nation. we can do more working together than in competition.

What will its relationship be to the Sydney Diocese? Is it really just an Anglican thing?
Al: No it's not just an Anglican thing, we've got a meeting of about 20 guys from around the country at the end of September... So far FIEC have said they want to be involved, we've got Presbyterians, Baptists, CRCs and we're keen to work with other Reformed Evangelical people. Sydney Diocese will be one of the players, but it's wider than just the Anglicans.

Did you actually have a falling out with Steve Chong and Guy Mason? Why are you going separate ways?
Al: No not a falling out... Guy and Steve, Andrew Heard and Mikey Lynch and I are still mates. In fact I'm having lunch with Steve on Wednesday, and I had a great time at RICE last week. We just found that in hammering out the details... we had different philosophies of ministry about how we'd go about things: not different theology, but different ways of building a network.

I still pray for Guy and Steve, and I'm sure God will bless their ministries, they're great young blokes, and there's plenty of sinners to go around in Australia. What I mean is we're reaching such a tiny proportion of the population there's plenty of room for us all to get on with gospel work, and not be critical of one another.

Aren't you the Bishop of Wollongong? Have you had any experience in church planting yourself?
Al: I'll be the Bishop of Wollongong until the end of the year... Then I'll be moving... back to Sydney to take a position with EM, and with responsiblity to get church planting happening in the Sydney region. This will be one hat I'm wearing, the Geneva network will be the other hat.

Me and church planting? ... I've started a night church in Mt Druitt, been involved in setting up approx 7 church plants at St Matts during the 90s, been the pastor of a plant into UNSW, and been a... member of a church plant while I was at Youth Works. We've managed to get 4 or 5 startup plants happening in the Wollongong region... I've been doing itinerant evangelistic speaking all this time, and I'm keen to move back to more frontline evangelism... in partnership with City Bible Forum.... I don't think I'm an expert, but I'm keen to get back to the front line, and I have had a lot of experience in coaching and helping to resource young guys starting out.

What are three new ministries or church plants in Australia that you think are worth watching?
There are lots of different models at work around the country:

  • Holy Trinity Adelaide is... working out their own model of how to start new congregations. They are starting with larger teams of people and resourcing the plants strongly at the start.
  • Wayne Pickford (with Church Army) has headed up a team that's done great work at Berkley in the Illawarra... They've been using adopt-a-block and really started from scratch.
  • Hans Kristenson's church Resolved is another new effort, Hans has planted a church in the Newtown area in Sydney,
  • Phil Campbell and the Presbyterians in Brisbane are using a different model again.
  • and of course Guy Mason in Melbourne is doing a great job in a great venue, a pub at Docklands.
There are a few other guys in small communities who haven't yet got to start a public meeting, so I'm not sure if they want their work advertised yet.

Our aim is that Geneva will provide a forum where people will be able to swap ideas, talk with each other, both on line, and in person.