“A decision was made to go contemporary”

Brethren church goes modern

2001. It was do or die for a small Brethren church in Petone that was vulnerable to losing members, especially youth.

After approximately four years of soul searching and seeking God on their situation, a decision was made to go contemporary and be a place where people find reality in community.

The church’s young people particularly were very keen to be part of something bigger.

Some regarded the Petone Bible Chapel as anonymous in their Cuba Street dwelling, but Church Director Tim Cooper says their new premises in Silverstream Christian Park has much potential for community because of the broad range of facilities on offer.

The auditorium in the new building seats 275, whereas 6the old premises seated half of that.

Petone Bible Chapel was one-third the size of the current premises, which is a 24-meter by 12-meter ex-hospital cinema surrounded by other rooms and halls and a large outdoors.

The youth have already taken advantage of the spacious outdoors and play touch rugby between morning and evening services. Mr Cooper wishes to capitalise on modern technology and has a big screen television and projector, which he hopes will be used for broadcasting, for example, sports events.

“I’ve been in a small church before and watched it. Great people and a great church, you just begin to lose one or two, you lose the youth, once you lose the youth you don’t attract new families and so you go down and down until you need to fold up.

There has been a real desire, especially amongst the leadership, to become more contemporary, accessible, and familiar”, Mr Cooper says.

The morning service is deliberately short and relaxed as their aim is to be accessible to the non-churched. The sermons are friendly for people without great Bible knowledge, he says.

Their name change reflects what the leadership felt lacking in their approach of the past: making connections. The new name, LifeSwitch, intends to encourage people to switch on to God. As well, for those who have been put off by how church has been packaged to encounter a welcoming and relevant face.

“It was quite incredible really the way in which we felt inspired to make a move.”

Mr Cooper says they felt clearly led by God, which was noticeable in the unity of the direction in the leadership. A few years earlier they had contemplated a change but had only seized upon the idea in 2001, which was a year that “has been amazing to see what God can do in a church.

“It has just been staggering for me to watch”, he says.

By Peter Veugelaers.

Published 2001, Challenge Weekly

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