Benita Clark sat with one of our ‘Simple Church’ church planters to find out more about how a simple church plant can operate.
Delhove and Rhonda Blennerhassett have started a church plant in the Byron Shire called Water of Life Ministries. This is just a small snapshot of their ministry and the encouragements that they have received.
Rhonda and Delhove began Water of Life Ministries because they had been moved by the account of the first Acts church (Acts 2:42-47). “We love its simplicity. Our Lord put it on our hearts to try to start a church/ministry that would see ‘the Lord adding to our numbers daily those who were being saved’. He introduced us through various sources to the rapid expansion of Church Planting Movements across the world today.”
Delhove explains about the Church Planting Movements (CPMs) saying: “These CPMs have a number of common characteristics:
- Crazy fervent prayer
- Passionate, fearless and abundant gospel sowing
- Scriptural authority through self-discovery and community Bible discernment.
- Led by local leaders, not outsiders. Authority is decentralised.
- Radical obedience-based discipleship focus.
- Size is small and structure is simple churches (and among natural communities)
- Churches plant churches intentionally (in their DNA from start) and quickly (1-6 months max).
- Passionate and creative worship in the heart language.
- Rapid, fairly chaotic growth that is often uncountable.
- Suffering and sacrifice for the sake of the gospel.”
It is these characteristics that Delhove has attempted to incorporate (adapted to their setting) into his ministry.
In recent months Delhove has attempted to do this through ‘Jesus Circles’. Jesus Circles are a forum that allows the frequent asking of people in the church ‘what does Jesus ask of his followers, and how can we practically respond to these commands’.
Delhove explains “The way I facilitate the Circle, is by getting them to imagine they are with Jesus back in the first century. We even try to meet in places that bear some resemblance to the environments that Jesus’ first disciples experienced.”
The Circles are divided into 3 parts. The first part involves worship, prayer and sharing stories of what happened when people in the last Circle obeyed Jesus’ command. The second part introduces a new Jesus command, and the third part involves practicing the new command. For instance with Jesus’ command to baptise, Delhove will train each person how to actually baptise a new follower of Christ. “We expect that this might come in handy as it did for the Ethiopian Eunuch!”
Water of Life Ministries looks at sharing Jesus with seekers of alternate spirituality, sometimes known as followers of the New Age. Delhove and Rhonda moved to the Byron Shire about 3 years ago and now live in a town called Mullumbimby (about 3500 people), which is the centre of New Age culture in the area Northern NSW area.
Delhove shared what a Sunday at Water of Life is like “We gather in our home on Sunday afternoons. Rhonda leads Children’s Church from 4-4:45pm loosely based on the ‘Godly Play’ paradigm. Then we share a meal that everyone contributes towards (sometimes we celebrate Communion). The adults then gather for about 1 hour of worship, vision, sharing stories, Scripture discussion/application and prayer. The group is small, about 7 children and 9 adults at the moment. We hope that ‘church’ will be much more than a Sunday gathering though. We aspire to make church a 24/7 vibrant faith community that is constantly reaching out to those who don’t know Jesus.”
As with many ministries their needs to be room for change. When Delhove and Rhonda first arrived in the Byron Shire, their focus was on forming a vibrant, culturally sensitive weekly meeting that people could invite seekers into. “Our experience over the last 3 years has shown us that people who have had no experience of church, are unlikely to come to such a meeting. It seems that God has been moving in people’s lives when we meet them where they are at – physically, emotionally and spiritually. God has led us lately into some really exciting encounters with Christians who share our ministry ideals. We would really love prayer for Gods guidance this area, and for doors to open so that these things don’t just remain ideas but actually become a reality.”
Delhove finished with this story. “William had come along to a discussion group on authentic community. (Loosely based on Scott Peck’s book – The Different Drum.) I had forgotten about that meeting when he came to our door 3 months later, saying ‘something’ had compelled him to come and see me. I invited him in and we talked for hours about his spiritual journey (as a Buddhist monk for 6 years) and was in turn able to share my spiritual journey connected to Christ. We plan to meet again next week, and I would love to introduce him to the Way, the Truth and the Life at that meeting and future meetings.” This encounter encapsulates the role that ‘simple church’ plays in the kingdom. The model allows contact and connection with people that may never be reached by a more complex church model.
Delhove continued “We have been having quite a few of these types of encounters lately. The pattern that we see emerging out of these meetings is that the Holy Spirit has been working in people’s lives, making them open to His message. This activity is really what we would love to see and is the heartbeat of our community of faith.”