A humid venue in the heart of Canberra; no-frills accommodation; sandwiched between the end of a busy year and the beginning of the frantic holiday season.
For many people these would represent positive reasons not to attend a three-day training event.
Yet they did nothing to dissuade the more than a hundred and ten church planters and their supporters attending the second National In The Chute (NITC) conference hosted by Geneva Push.
“It was so encouraging and inspiring. It made me excited about church planting,” says Belinda Grant, who is planning to plant a congregation with her husband Tim in Melbourne’s Box Hill area.
“It was very helpful to hear from early stage painters in the ‘From conception to reality panel session’,” says Luke Yelland, who is currently pastoring a church plant in the Brisbane suburb of Corinda.
Geneva Push is a ‘grass roots’ network supported by a number of denominations and organizations including the Sydney Diocese that aims to raise up a new generation of Australian church planters.
Bishop Al Stewart, one of Geneva’s directors, says the network has been responding to the nation’s desperate need for more churches in a very Australian way.
“There’s an Australian expression about confronting an overwhelming situation: ‘Bite off more than you can chew, and chew like … well, do the very best you can.’
“That’s exactly what we’ve been doing for more than a year now and we’re encouraged by the results.”
The second National In The Chute conference was held at the Australian National University in December and featured Don Carson as well sessions from a number of successful Australian church planters.
Sharing from his experiences during the French Canadian revival, Dr Carson encouraged church planters to learn the lessons of history.
“Whitfield was the better preacher, Wesley the better planner,” Dr. Carson said, explaining the longevity of the Wesleyan movement.
Bishop Stewart says Geneva is determined to help planters plan for success.
This is the ninth conference run by Geneva in its first year of operation, and the network is already fostering the planting of 12 new churches, with another 15 projects under consideration.
“In The Chute was another great time seeing people come together from all over the country to encourage each other,” Bishop Stewart says.
“It’s also been great to see the real progress in terms of new churches starting and new people being reached.”