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Embracing a Mission-Driven Approach – Mark Cornford, Presbytery Minister at Moreton Rivers Presbytery

By Andrew McKaysmith, Synod Writer and Content Creator

Moreton Rivers Presbytery is taking a mission-driven approach to reinvigorate its congregations and engage with local communities. Reverend Mark Cornford, Presbytery Minister of Moreton Rivers Presbytery, recently discussed the Presbytery’s mission work and their efforts to support its 37 congregations and faith communities covering Brisbane CBD, southern river suburbs, and northern suburbs up to Bribie Island.

The Presbytery has adopted a mission-driven approach that prioritises fostering a heart-centred, personal relationship with God as the foundation of all its work. This is how they developed a new program to support congregations in connecting with the community. The program, ‘Reimagined’, is designed to help congregations rediscover their purpose, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and discern what God calls them to do. “Our focus is on encouraging and equipping congregations and agencies to be active in mission,” Rev Mark said.

Through the ‘Reimagined’ program, Rev Mark hopes to assist these congregations in identifying a renewed sense of purpose. “We want each congregation to focus on their own mission while we help them reflect on their progress, goals, and where God is leading them.” This approach differentiates it from traditional strategies that may rely on rigid programs and structures.

The Presbytery has identified the tendency to lose sight of its core mission as one of the biggest challenges faced by its churches. This can manifest in various ways, such as becoming too inwardly focused and not having the resources for outreach efforts or getting bogged down in bureaucratic processes. “Worship and pastoral care are meant to serve mission, not the other way around,” Rev Mark said. “It’s crucial to rediscover the heart of why a church exists and ensure that everything they do fulfils that purpose, not just existing because it’s the way things have always been done.”

Reimagined is not just a strategic or academic exercise but a journey of hearts and minds that requires rediscovering the passion of being loved by God, responding in faith and love, and sharing that love with their neighbours and communities. Rev Mark said every congregation has its own distinct context, yet the ultimate goal for all is to fulfil God’s mission. “It’s crucial for congregations to know what their call is, what they’re trying to do, and how they’re going to accomplish it.” The Reimagined program is an innovative initiative that has been embraced by some congregations but still requires work. “The key to success is recognising that this is a spiritual journey that requires a shift from looking for a one-size-fits-all solution to centring around the heart and relationship with God as the foundation of all they do,” Rev Mark said.

The Presbytery embraces empowering laypeople to take on crucial roles previously reserved for ordained ministers. This move aims to strengthen the laity’s involvement in the church’s work and foster a greater sense of community and collaboration among its members.” While preaching and sacraments are the primary tools of ministers, lay members should also fulfil their congregation’s mission, even if there’s no ordained minister available.” By providing such opportunities, the Presbytery aims to tap into its members’ diverse talents and gifts, fostering a more inclusive and vibrant community that can better meet its congregants’ needs. This approach also helps reduce the burden on ordained ministers, allowing them to focus on forming faith and leadership of members to live out God’s mission.

Read the companion article featuring Jillian Ross, Lay Preacher at St Paul’s Uniting Church Stafford, here

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