Thursday, May 03, 2007

A tale of two churches

Crossway is the largest Baptist church in Melbourne. It has also established satellite congregations in Cranbourne, known as Crossway South, and Preston, known as Crossway Moreland. Another congregation is planned for Craigieburn, to be known as Crossway North.

I found out about Crossway Moreland through its website, so towards the middle of last year I visited there one Sunday morning to have a look. At the time, I was still actively involved in Diamond Valley Baptist, which had been my home church for the past 11 years, and was quite happy there. Its ministry had been a blessing to me in innumerable ways, and I'd made some good friends there as well. I'd also spent four years leading a cell group.

Even so, as I no longer lived in the Diamond Valley community, having moved to Hadfield in January 2006, to some extent I felt detached from it. While I don't expect church to spoon feed me all of my needs, another factor was the lack of people there in my age bracket. Because of a lack of numbers, late last year the cell group I was leading ended up having to fold. Living alone for the first time made me realise how much I missed the community and social aspect of church life, which to me meant being able to pray for and minister to other Christians, serving alongside them in the community at large, or just going out and enjoying their company. Diamond Valley was doing all these things, and doing most of them well, but because I no longer lived nearby, to my mind it was no longer practical to participate in them.

I thought through and prayed about this question. Should I leave Diamond Valley to attend Crossway Moreland? Were my motives right? Single Christians often have ulterior motives for changing churches. While I don't deny that I hope and expect to be married one day, I put these questions before God and asked Him to make it clear to me, as far as possible, that it was the right step to take, and that my motives for wanting to change churches were honouring to Him. I kept attending Diamond Valley, while also visiting Crossway Moreland roughly twice a month, just to get a feel for the place, and to see if God wanted me there. There are other Baptist churches in Coburg, Brunswick, and Glenroy, all of which are doing great work, but I didn't look into any of them. For the time being, I'm living and working in the City of Moreland, so it made practical sense to be part of a church in this area as well.

I soon realised it wasn't sustainable to attend two churches at once. I had to decide either to stay where I was, or change churches altogether. In January 2007, after much prayer and consideration, Crossway Moreland became my home church, and will be for the foreseeable future. Its venue is a rehearsal room at the Darebin Arts and Entertainment Centre, on the corner of Bell Street and St. George's Road, Preston. With a congregation of around 70 people, it is significantly smaller than Diamond Valley's average attendance of 600, but numbers aren't everything. There's something to be said for quality over quantity.

I've met some quality Christian people there, who are passionate about their faith and living it out. They see the need for there to be a dynamic Christian presence in the City of Moreland, and are willing to do their part in seeing this vision become a reality. While I'm still settling in and getting to know people, I've tried to make a conscious effort to become actively involved in the life of this church. It's been great to be part of a viable cell group again, having people to share the journey with, and I've joined the church prayer team. This team meets every Sunday for an hour before the service to pray for different church and community needs.

This congregation is passionate, dynamic, and missional. My prayer is that God will use it to build His kingdom in this part of Melbourne. I've only lived in Moreland for one year, but have worked in it for the past four years, so I have at least some understanding of this community's spiritual climate. My impression is that there is a real need for this area to be reached with the Gospel, and Crossway Moreland will be part of this. Changing churches was a big step, but at this time, I have peace that this is where God wants me to be.


Glen O'Brien said...

Sounds like a good move Ross. Good on you for stepping out in faith.

Ross McPhee said...

Thanks Glen. So far, things seem to be going well.

Moses said...

You've put in more prayers and thoughts than most people I know, who switched church as often as they switch mobile phones (this is a social commentary too!! :))

I might direct some people to you to share your own experience (and angst?! :)) and how God walked you through this process.. Hope you wouldn't mind :D

Ross McPhee said...

Hello Moses. I'd be happy for you to direct others to me to discuss my experiences, as an exercise in iron sharpening, so to speak.