More than 400 leaders from Greater Sydney Conference (GSC) gathered at ANZ Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park, for the Mission 2 Sydney Think Tank, February 23-24.
The think tank was designed to bring representatives from all Sydney’s churches together “to pray, to listen and discuss innovative ways in which we can reach the secular mind in Sydney”, said GSC president Pastor Terry Johnson.
In his welcome to attendees, Pastor Johnson challenged those in the room. Quoting the parable of the lost sheep, he said there is great pain when “even one sheep is lost”. He referenced the 13 million people who have left the Church since 1960, 4 out of every 10, and even higher percentages of young people. He also made the point that going out to seek the lost sheep is a high risk activity. “I want you to risk and I want you to risk big during our think tank,” Pastor Johnson encouraged attendees.
“This weekend, I don’t want you spending time trying to work out all the logistics, issues and challenges. . . . Instead, allow the Holy Spirit to lead us to ideas no matter how nuts it may sound to our human way of thinking.”
The key text was from 1 Chronicles 12:32 where 200 chieftains of Issachar are described as men who knew the times and what to do. Pastor Johnson reflected that at this time we need men and women who can understand the times they live in and help to lead the Church to make an impact.
With that, the two-day conference began, followed by the history of urban outreach in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
It continued on Saturday with presentations covering unity in mission, church planting, how to change an established church into a missional church, and stories of successful ideas that are already being implemented, such as the centre of influence at Stanmore church and a “meetup” photo club.
A highlight was the presentation by social researcher Mark McCrindle. He broke down the demographics of Australia and the city of Sydney, outlining some of the challenges and the opportunities present both today and in the future. He encouraged the Church to reach out through innovative, collaborative and responsive approaches.
Keynote presentations were followed by prayer and then a time for discussion. iPads were provided for each table to answer the discussion questions and submit answers to be collected and collated. From these answers, recommendations will be formulated and a strategy will be developed.
“I’m quite excited about the outcomes that have been discussed. We’re going to collate the information and bring together all the boards of churches in Sydney on May 5 to discuss this issue and from there bring it to our session in August,” Pastor Johnson said.
These recommendations will inform the strategic direction of the Conference for the next four years.
“We’ve got to find different ways in which to share the fact that Jesus is coming soon. We want you to pray for us.”