ABC guide to reaching Sydney

Andrew Lim

How did we start to reach out to the 80 percent of people living in the city from an overseas background? I will explain the (Asian Bible Church) ABC way…

Five years ago, a young minister and his wife stood on the precipice of a great adventure. This is our story.

When we were invited to initiate an Asian ministry focus at the Cathedral a number of years ago, it was a dire situation.

Looking out at the urban face of New Sydney, it was undeniably Asian (see previous article on the New Sydney) - something like 80 per cent of the people living in the CBD are from an overseas background.

Yet, in the Cathedral congregations, the number of Asian faces represented more like 3 per cent of the total. There was a grating disjunction between the two populations demographically.

Where to begin?

A. Pick the low-hanging fruit.

We started by inviting the existing people of Asian background and newcomers to the Cathedral to a Bible study after lunch in the church hall. The first Bible study had maybe 3 or 4 people in addition to my wife and I. Each week, we systematically worked through the chapters and verses of a book of the Bible. Over time, the group started to grow, and present its own problems. How to lead a Bible study group when it gets as large as 12-15 people?

B. Pick the right ministry partners.

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that the burden of many new ministries/church plants is that it can often attract the disaffected from other churches, looking to get involved (and have their voices heard) in the hot new thing that’s going on. These are often poor ministry partners, who are more interested in recasting the new church in sharp relief to the perceived faults of their previous church, rather than addressing the ministry needs of those right in front of them.

So choose carefully. Thankfully, we were blessed over time to also gain the interest and involvement of keen lay Christians who caught the vision of reaching the 80% of the city. Their commitment to the ministry enabled our Bible study groups to grow to 2, 3, 4, and 5 groups meeting on a Sunday afternoon.

C. Climb the tree and pick more fruit.

Now, with the support of our ministry partners, we could plan to reach out to more people by identifying the locations and opportunities to connect to New Sydney.

We quickly worked out that the dozens of English colleges dotted throughout the city were filled with students, not only keen to learn English, but looking for opportunities to experience Aussie culture, make new friends, and curious about the Jesus Christ they may have been aware of in their home countries. We went around to each college, offering to leave flyers about these opportunities at ABC. We also offered to run a Christmas and Easter program to explain to students the meaning of these celebrations. From these visits, friendships were formed, people joined our Bible studies, and most excitingly, we saw strangers become part of God’s family

Andrew is the founding pastor of Asian Bible Church (ABC) at St Andrew’s Cathedral. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, and the Cathedral website.