What is Connect09?
Senior Telstra Executive Phil Burgess tells me that he connected to his Anglican church in a funny way. A taxi driver said to him, "Go to that church; they teach the Bible there. Mind you I wouldn't go there myself.'
As an American, Phil really loves Sydney. And, with the help of that taxi driver, he found us.
But that does not happen to everyone. In fact we are surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people who do not even know a Christian. It is really hard for them to find us. We can't expect them to do so. We are disconnected - how can we connect with them? How can we find them? That is the next level that our Diocesan Mission pushes us to.
Our city is a world city of great strategic significance. One in every five Australians lives in our region, when you add Wollongong and the South Coast and the Highlands and the Mountains. We are in a place where great good can be done for the cause of Christ now and in the future. We can impact the world from right here.
We live in an exciting place at a crucial time.
In 2009 we are planning one of the greatest make-Jesus-known campaigns ever seen in this country. I am hoping that you and your church will be part of it, so that as we do it together it will be as powerful as it can be. The aim is, to challenge all our churches to make contact and connect with their communities in a way we have not done before.
It is called Connect09.
Naturally you'll want to know what the details of Connect09 look like. And this year you will be hearing from us with concrete suggestions about how to get ready, and what sort of things you can do. Already you can be researching the nature of your area and thinking of ways of connecting. We can all do that at once.
But there is a really important first step that must be taken now. And that is why I am speaking to you urgently.
The first step is prayer.
A few weeks ago I sat down with a piece of paper and began to think - how can I pray for my city; my suburb; my street? It was an amazing experience, and I have begun to see answers to my prayers.
This year, too, we began something at Moore College. We started a prayer meeting especially for Sydney and its region. We prayed for this great population centre and the thousands of people who do not know Christ. We prayed for lost tribes - people-groups who have settled here and amongst whom there are few known believers. And we prayed for the geographical spiritual deserts - places in our city where there are very few churches, very few Christians.
Join Connect 09 in the most important way. Start now, by praying for Sydney; pray for your town, pray for your suburb, pray for your street, pray for your neighbours. Pray for schools and hospitals and the business community. Pray for the lost tribes and the spiritual deserts. Pray that the Holy Spirit will open the hearts of people to the message of Christ. I believe - because it happened to me - that prayer is going to open your eyes to the needs and opportunities to connect.
You can register to receive prayer information at your.sydeyanglicans.net or follow the details in Southern Cross.
We need intense, united prayer leading up to the end of 2009.
How will they hear the message? Well, it is the word of God which brings the story of Jesus. But the word is usually conveyed by God's people and we need to contact, connect, relate and befriend.
I hope that you will research your suburb or town in 2008 " we will help you. I suggest that you're going to be provoked to figure out how best to contact people in a way that they will have the word of God with an invitation to connect with us. How can you offer the word of God in written, audio or visual form, with an invitation to your church or to a course you are running or simply to further conversation or to contacting us through our Connect web-site.
Contact leads to connection, connection to relationship, relationship to friendship and friendship to Jesus.
Will you be doing this on your own? Of course not. That's the beauty of a joint campaign happening everywhere over a year. The Connect09 team is working even now on the media campaign which will accompany this. We hope that people in your suburb will be expecting to hear from you. In fact that is one reason why we have chosen the year 09 - it is the year that the Bible Society is also running its superb media outreach called Jesus All About Life.
We are busy planning all sorts of ways to help the local churches gear up for this in 08. One of the features of Connect09 is going to be partnership across the Diocese.
But I thought I'd better speak to you at once about the most important thing of all - praying for the Lord's blessing on our city. I truly believe that as we begin praying, so the Lord will begin preparing the hearts of people in our city - preparing them for a visit from you, for a contact from you, for an invitation from you, for an offer from you to read the Bible with them.
We are going to be surprised. As we leave our churches and meet our neighbours and connect to the reality of our community - we will be surprised by the way in which the Lord is going before us. Through our willingness to make sacrifices for him, he will bring more of his people home to himself. He will find them.
You can start Connect 09 immediately, on your own if you have to, and this year - you can begin to pray for Sydney. I did and I have had more contact with my neighbours since then than I have had in six years! Now, how am I going to connect?