Interview: Gav Perkins

Christian Reflections: Do you listen to any sermon podcasts? If so, who are you listening to at the moment?
Gav: At the moment I am just listening to Tim Keller. Too many podcasts, too little time.

CR: What are St Ives' plans for church growth? What are St Ives' plans for church planting?
Gav: Christ Church St Ives is a fairly large (by Aussie standards) suburban church in northern Sydney. It is a part of Sydney where ripped jeans and unusual facial hair are not prerequisites for being a church planter (in fact they might actually be an obstacle).

We have adopted a 'hub-and-spoke' approach to growth and planting.

We have one strategy that seeks to grow the large central congregations based around specialist staff who work in either creating excellence and clarity in our large Sunday meetings, or in building discipleship and community through our small groups.

From that hub we have begun and will continue to plant community churches. The purpose of a community church is to reach deeply into a specific existing network. In a dormitory suburb like St Ives one of the last vestiges of community is centred on the government primary schools. Over the last 4 years I have led a plant in St Ives North Primary. The purpose has been to generously engage the school community with the gospel, and we have seen great fruit in that. Recently the Jewish chair of the P&C took it upon herself to post a news item in the school newsletter which lavished praise on the members of St Ives Family Church for our commitment to the life of the school. We are slowly seeing that good-will turn into interest in the gospel.

From next year I will hand on responsibility for the plant and return to the 'hub', where I part of my role will be recruiting and mentoring planters for a cascading series of community plants in St Ives and beyond.

CR: Is training church planters different to training parish ministers?
Gav: The core gift of a church planter has to be evangelism. If the planter is not an evangelist then the plant will only grow by transfer. At the training level we need to identify and nurture the gifted evangelists and expose them to a plant environment. It is vital that every new planter has beside him 1-2 MTS apprentices who will be ready and rearing to plant their own church in 4-5 years time.
The other key skill of a planter has to be a knowledge of how churches work at a systems level. In planting you need to think carefully about how the new church will make and grow disciples. If you haven't thought through the unique and specific way that this plant will do that, then you will either fail, or you will simply replicate the systems of the mother church.

CR: What do you think the bigger Sydney Anglican churches could do better to support church planting in Australia?
Gav: As well as planting new campuses of Christ Church, we are also developing partnerships with other local churches. Last year we sent 30 folk off to help start an evening congregation at a church in East Roseville. Churches like Christ Church need to do more and more things like that.
The future of mission in the Sydney diocese is not in centrally authorised and directed programs, but in large regional churches generously sharing their resources and 'know how' with surrounding parishes.