The Billabong Uniting Church and 3dm

The founding Pastors of The Billabong Uniting Church, Mark and Deb Illingworth came across 3DM and the order of mission around 3 or 4 years ago. Soon after, they travelled to Sheffield for the annual pilgrimage and were inspired by what was happening there. The concept of missional communities and huddles began to be used and a few different things were tried.

We quickly learned that there was more to it than implementing some programs and that what we needed was culture change. This led us to participate in the first Australian Learning Community with a team of 4 to 6 people. During this time we pulled back the things we were attempting and began to invest more intentionally in key leaders in our church. A few huddles were started and slowly ideas for missional communities began to be birthed. After starting up missional initiatives ‘all guns blazing’ in the first few years and learning what ‘not to do’ we slowly and prayerfully allowed God-ideas to develop into new communities of people with a heart for mission. Coaching by way of huddles for our senior leaders and the Melbourne and new Perth Learning Communities have helped us get to the point where 3 missional communities are now running effectively with others on the way.

Aside from the valuable coaching and encouragement we have received, the Covenant and Kingdom material has been incredibly helpful. Our preaching on Sunday is now centred on helping people know God as Father and King and understand our relationship and responsibility. These as well as other theological concepts communicated simply by Mike Breen (eg. Word, Works and Ways of Jesus; Up, In and Out) have helped us communicate more clearly and use a common language that shapes culture.

The visible change at our church is minimal at this stage. We still look like a church who meets on Sunday, has various activities during the week and a few small groups here and there. But behind all that, our culture is shifting dramatically. In the coming years we will definitely see a lot more visible change, beginning with the primary focus of our church shifting from Sunday gatherings to what we are calling “Life Communities” – clusters of people on mission to a particular network or neighbourhood.

As a church who have just built a new facility after meeting in schools and halls (and tents) for 15 years, it would have been easy to ‘put all our eggs in that basket’ and focus on the central activities at our church building, both missional and attractional. However we now have a developing church culture where discipleship and mission is being placed at the centre, and the central activities happen to support and fuel the outward mission. Whilst we still don’t know what the future holds for us, there’s a humble confidence about the direction God is leading us and the way we’re going to live out the great commission. And that’s exciting!

Rev. Luke Williams