I have been amazed at the involvement of God in the planting
of Albion Park Community Church. Even down to the tag line beneath the
logo, “A place to belong”. At first sight, it appears to describe the
church as having members like any other group or club, but it's more
than that. Let me tell you all about it.
When Mel Moore, the pastor of Albion Park Community Church,
suggested this tagline, we thought it would let everyone know this
church does not exclude anyone from joining. But we have found it means
much more than that. God had snuck something else in.
If we think of God as a king over a kingdom, we are his
subjects. God invites everyone into his kingdom, his place.
If we think of God as our heavenly Father and we, his
children, he is calling us home. Either way, we belong in his place,
his home is our home.
Jesus told a parable illustrating this. It's called the
Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). It goes like this:
A man had two sons. The younger son asked his father for his
inheritance. He didn't want to wait until his father died. You would
expect the father to get angry, but instead he gives his son a third of
what he owns, and the younger son leaves home.
The older son got a double portion in those days, or two
thirds, so now everything the father owns will be the older son's
inheritance. Anyway, the younger son squanders his wealth and falls on
hard times. He decides to go back home, maybe his father will give him
But it turns out his father has been on the lookout for him
every day. The father was over-joyed at the return of his son and
welcomed him home and put on a party. The older son was miffed. How
dare the Father spend his inheritance on this good-for-nothing son.
But, for those with ears to hear, God welcomes us good-for-nothings
home like that.
Now, when you come home (to your place), you don't knock on
the door and ask permission to go in. You just open the door, go in,
sit anywhere you like, help yourself to whatever's in the fridge.
Coming home to God's place is like that. You don't have to convince God
to let you in. You were always meant to be there. You don't have to say
any special prayer, there is no secret password, you don't need to pay
for entry. You can come in simply because it is where you belong.
Believe it and come in.
But there is still more to this tag line. God hid another
message in “A place to belong”: In three words: God wants in.
Perhaps that should be a little more punchy.
The church is the place to belong. God's people are the
church, not a building or institution. God wants to be with you. Didn't
Jesus say that he would send another helper, the Holy Spirit, after he
had gone? He did.
And, is not the Holy Spirit, the Spirit
of Christ, the Son of God, God himself? He is. (John 14:25)
“A place to belong” is not just about us
joining a church, it is much more important that God lives in us (Gal
was involved up-to-His-neck in the planting of this church. He even
inspired it's tagline. He knew what he was saying all right. Albion
Park Community Church is no cult, nor a denominational outpost, it is
Religion is us trying to reach God, but the gospel is, and
always has been, God's desire to be with us, his people.
Yes, the phrase “A place to belong” was God's sneaky way of
getting the gospel into the church's tagline, so we would never forget
The Church Logo
When I first saw the logo suggestion of a tree bearing fruit
hearts, I thought I knew what it meant. I thought it referred to the
fruit of the spirit being love, joy peace, patience, kindness,
generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22).
I even asked our logo designer to make sure she placed 7 hearts on the
tree, 7 being the symbolic number for God in the book of Revelation.
After our first meeting, I knew I would have to ask God what
he thought the logo meant.
I tried to give God a hand. I don't know why we do that, as if
God needs our help? I suggested to him that there were other trees in
the Bible that he might have been thinking of: there were 2 trees in
the Garden of Eden – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the
tree of life. The tree of life makes another appearance on the last
page of the Bible growing by the river of life that flows from God's
throne. The tree produces 12 kinds of fruit and its leaves are for the
healing of the nations.
However, God wasn't there, as Elijah found when he was in the
cave (1 Kings 19:11-12a). Instead God showed me another tree, the tree
that Jesus cursed, not a tree that I would have thought of. It was a
troublesome tree. People criticise Jesus for cursing a tree.
Let me tell you the story. It's in Mark 11. It is the last
week of Jesus life on earth. He had done his triumphal entry to
Jerusalem and looked around at the temple and gone back to nearby
Bethany where he was staying. The next day, he was walking in to
Jerusalem with his 12 disciples. He was hungry, so he goes over to a
fig tree to see if there is any fruit on it. Mark mentions that it was
not the season for figs. Jesus says to the tree “May no one ever eat
from you again”.
Then Jesus continues into Jerusalem where he clears the temple
of the money changers and traders and teaches the people.
The next day when Jesus and his band were walking in to Jerusalem they
see the fig tree has withered away to its roots.
Peter pointed this out to Jesus, who said, if you have faith
throw a mountain into the sea. Jesus turned the conversation in the
direction of faith. In Mark's gospel there is no explanation given for
the cursing of the fig tree, but then Mark wasn't one of the twelve.
Matthew (21:18-22) was one of the twelve and he also records the
cursing of the fig tree, but he doesn't give any explanation either. I
don't know what was his excuse. He records the comment about having
faith and being able to pray for a mountain to be thrown into the sea.
Luke doesn't record the cursing of the fig tree, but he does give the
parable of the barren fig tree, which explains what is happening. Luke
13:6-9 goes like this.
A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard. He came looking
for figs but found none. So, he said to his gardener I have been
looking for figs for three years from this tree and have found none,
cut it down so it will not waste the soil. The gardener said to give it
one more years and he would fertilize and cultivate it but if it still
did not bear fruit, it could be cut down.
Jesus is the gardener who for three years had ministered to
the Jews who had not produced the fruit of repentance (Lk 13:5). The
fig tree was often used in scripture to represent the Jewish nation. So
Jesus cursed the fig tree, the meaning would have been clear to the
disciples who would have often heard Jesus telling this parable.
The mention that it wasn't the season for figs should alert us
to the fact that Jesus did not expect to find any. Only a couple of
days earlier Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus had made
wine come forth from a water jug, he had fed thousands of people with a
few loaves and fishes. He could have made the fig tree bear fruit if it
was really about satisfying hunger. He was using the tree as an acted
parable of what will happen if we do not bear fruit.
The meaning of the fruit on the tree in the logo is different
to God. He comes looking for fruit in
his church. The fruit is faith working through love as it says in
Galatians 5:6. We are not saved by loving one another. We are saved by
the grace of God through faith in Jesus which is evidenced by our love
for one another.
For Jesus, this action was never about the figs. As Jesus said
to Peter after seeing the fig tree withered, “Have faith in God”
If Christ's Spirit is in the church, the fruit will be on
display. Repentance is not about turning from doing bad things to good
things or proving your faith by doing good works. Repentance is about
turning to God in faith. The fruit will look after itself.
This is why God wanted the logo to show fruit on a tree. It questions
us. Do we have faith in God? If we do, the fruit of the Spirit will be
APCC is an experiment in church planting. We seek God’s
leading and obey. It seems to me, that churches are not very effective
at introducing people to God. The traditional approaches to engage with
the general population have had diminishing influence. It is not that
the church is merely losing nominal Christians due to changing fashions
or that immigration from non-Christian countries has changed the
If the Christian message is true and the gospel is powerful to
transform lives, why are we not seeing people flocking to church? Does
not the church have some responsibility in this? The child sex abuse
scandal has shown the institutional church is more interested in
self-protection than love of others. The multiplication of
denominations shows that churches care more about their doctrinal
positions and organisational strength than reaching the lost.
The provisional structure of APCC will allow us to easily
modify it as led by the Holy Spirit. We will start off by being
non-denominational, welcoming everyone, inviting speakers from a range
of church backgrounds, building relationships of love, and having
informal, fun services around a fellowship meal. By giving due emphasis
to the horizontal relationships between people, instead of giving
priority to the vertical relationship with God (doctrine, liturgy and
worship practice), we hope people will meet God through his family.
There is no point in planting a church the same as any of the others in
The Church as God’s People
Just as there is only one body of Christ, the universal
church, with Christ as the head, APCC is an assembly of God’s people
sharing their Christian journey in the world. Christians encourage one
another in the faith and support each other through the hard times. We
believe in and practice the priesthood of all believers (1 Pet 2:5
& 9) and encourage every-member ministry at church meetings and at
The church is God centred – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus
is the senior minister. Although we don’t have a paid pastor’s
position, in Mel Moore, we have a pastor or shepherd who watches over
We seek to be guided by the Spirit of Christ in
decision-making and acknowledge that the Holy Spirit’s leading may be
discerned by any member of the congregation as confirmed by the
majority of the church as represented by those in leadership.
Congregational meetings may be called for more important decisions.
Church members seek to love one another and behave as led by
the Spirit of Christ. But if matters of church discipline arise those
involved will seek resolution through a mediated dispute resolution
Public meetings for the purpose of fellowship, worship,
teaching and outreach are proposed to be held in Albion Park Community
Centre on Saturday evenings.
A Welcoming Church
APCC welcomes people from all walks of life. Just as Jesus
taught in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Father stands waiting
for our return. We do not exclude people on grounds of disability,
economic power, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, learning
disability, or mental health. Just as Jesus accepted everyone who came
to him, we will not demand you change either. The repentance and faith
Jesus called for means to stop disbelieving in God and place your faith
Albion Park Community Church is, at the time writing, in the
stage as we set up incorporation and organizational things. It is
proposed for the church to establish home groups for ministry, teaching
and fellowship and a weekly Saturday evening informal Church Service
around a meal for fellowship and community outreach. Mel Moore will
pastor the church and Derek Thompson will look after admin.
Why do we need another church in Albion Park? There are some
20,000 people in the 2527 postcode area and only 9 churches (including
a house church and Albion Park Rail Anglican as separate churches).
According to the 2016 census, 55.2% of the population in NSW identified
as Christians and, according to the National Church Life survey, 15%
attend church at least once per month. If you do the maths, Albion Park
needs more churches just to meet the spiritual needs of those already
identifying as Christians let alone reaching the remainder with the
APCC seeks to be different from the other Christian churches
in the Illawarra in order to reach those who are not finding God
through the others. We see Jesus Christ as head of the church, which
includes all the Christian denominations. Differences in doctrinal
positions and biblical interpretations are not sufficient cause for
breaking fellowship with other Christians. APCC is non-denominational
and welcomes people from different church backgrounds and no church
backgrounds who give priority to fellowship with Christians on the
basis of their relationship with Christ.
Ephesians 4:1-6 (NRSV) 1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to
lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with
all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in
love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the
Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one
Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one
Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all,
who is above all and through all and in all.