On May 7, Ralph Mayhew and co-planter Ori Zacher officially launched Village Church – a City to City Australia affiliated church located in Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast. In this interview, Ralph shares with us about how the plant came about, and their vision for Village Church to become so focused on Jesus, that people would join them to see more of him.
How did you become a church planter?
I’ve been in full time ministry for 14 years, first pastoring a beautiful group of churches in Victoria and then leading the youth and young adults of Newlife Uniting Church on the Gold Coast. As my role was increasing and changing I felt a strong call from God to dream about church planting.
As I did a vision of what could be began to grow in my spirit as I pondered how we, the church, might more effective to win people to Jesus. The question of discipleship is huge for me. How do we help those who have no idea who Jesus is, journey to a place where they are making disciples who are making disciples? This is the approach which has shaped a lot of our thinking about Village Church. Trying to create a church that is true to the Gospel and culturally relevant as it evaluates the benefit and detriment of all that has been church before us.
So, after working closely with the leadership at Newlife, and feeling an enormous amount of support, Ori and Bec came on board to co-pastor and it’s been amazing. A year ago, we had no idea we would be doing what we are, but we’re so thankful God has called us to this. So, we gathered a team together, developed a culture, prayed through our vision and on May 7 went public to the people of Burleigh.
How did the church plant come about?
At the start of 2016 I sat with the statistics, that by 2050 the population of the Gold Coast will double and most of that will be up (multi-story) not out (land footprint). When you think about it, that means that to just sustain the number of people currently going to church in the Australian population (7-8%), our city would need 250 churches of 200 people or more in the next 35 years. This is frightening. It also doesn’t take into account anyone new following Jesus.
At the time I was also wrestling with the tension that people feel part of an intimate movement until the numbers exceed 150. When that happens people begin to feel disconnected from each other and the vision. What if a church could grow to that number and then multiply, each time inhabiting a new postcode, including multiple expressions within the same postcode. Pretty soon we would see a movement of church plants, enabling people to meet Jesus, connect with each other and go out into the world.
With that dream bubbling away in my spirit I approached Newlife’s leadership, spoke with the elders, worked with our Presbytery, and now we are seeing the birth of what we hope will make more and more disciples of Jesus.
Give us a description of the character of the community you’re reaching out to. What are some of the challenges involved in reaching out to this community?
Burleigh is an extremely diverse collection of people. It is a health centre on the Gold Coast, with a huge focus on good eating and fitness, it has a large community of people who engage in New Age Spirituality, there are a number of homeless people throughout the postcode, the housing prices are souring, leaving families struggling, 40% of the population is retired, there is a massive number of international students and visa holders who find their way to Burleigh. It really feels like a modern-day Athens that the apostle Paul preached to.
There are a number of challenges including how does the church offer something different (of the Gospel) than the multitude of community services already present in Burleigh. An obvious question we face is, how do we help the homeless and those with mental illness find life and hope, when we have very limited physical resources? A further challenge is not just connecting with people but discovering ways in which we might bless and love them deeply.
Who's involved in the church plant?
To date it is led by Ori and I and we have a team of 33 adults and 15 children. That’s our team, which is different from our church. Our church would attract between 48 and 100 or so people who we are doing life with, loving, blessing and connecting with. We understand our church as people who we are journeying with in some form or another.
We have been well supported by Newlife Uniting, our sending church and also the Presbytery of South Moreton, who have been walking beside us.
What are your hopes for the future?
One of our goals is to be the church who, when asked about by anyone in Burleigh, will be explained as the Church who love us. We believe that the only thing we have to offer people is Jesus and if that is first expressed in our love, then the Holy Spirit will be at work in the exchange.
We want to plant other churches and other gatherings in and around Burleigh, which we know requires God to bless us richly and us to be obedient to what God is asking of us.
One of the other cries of our heart is that we would become so focused on Jesus, that people would join us to see more of him. That Jesus would completely define who we are, that those who don’t know Jesus would be driven to him by intrigue alone.
How can we be praying for you?
- That our passion for and devotion to Jesus would become all consuming. May we be so focused on Christ and the grace he gives us, that we might lose our lives to find his and in doing so give that life to others.
- For financial blessing. We have made the decision to never ask someone who we are reaching out to give to us, so the mission of the church is entirely supported by the team and their giving.
- That our team would be spiritually protected so that they may continue to make disciples and equip those they love for the kingdom.
To find out more, visit the Village Church website: