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A Tale of One City (And Two Gatherings)

Over the past few months, two contrasting events have been a huge encouragement to me. They took place only a few metres apart, yet could hardly have been more different.

First, on the last Sunday evening in November 2018, around 1400 people packed into Brisbane City Hall to sing together, pray together for the work of the gospel in Queensland, and hear God’s word proclaimed.

It was a great night for multiple reasons. The sheer intensity of the opening song ‘Only a Holy God’ thundering around the iconic old building which stands right at the heart of Brisbane was spine-tingling. Hearing from a range of gospel workers from the Gold Coast to the Sunshine Coast—veterans of faithful ministries, church planters, church revitalisers, pastors, student workers and evangelists—was immensely encouraging. Looking around to see, not just individuals, but local churches standing together for the gospel was a real encouragement to gospel faithfulness and to pray-on for the work of the kingdom in Queensland. Kevin de Young’s message brought the evening to a brilliant conclusion (you can listen to it here), and his international voice reminded us that here in Queensland, and in Australia, we are part of God’s great work among the nations.

Looking around to see, not just individuals, but local churches standing together for the gospel was a real encouragement … But of even greater significance is the growth of lasting gospel partnerships on the ground.

The second gathering was a little different. It took place on the day before Australia Day in a room in a church on the other side of King George Square in Brisbane’s CBD.  There weren’t quite 1400 there—in fact, we were delighted that there were ten of us. It was a holiday weekend at the tail end of the summer. A few people who would like to have been there couldn’t make it. In the end, we were four pastors, a women’s worker, two AFES staff, two City Bible Forum staff and a theological college lecturer (hardly the Avengers!)

We met for an hour and a half. We didn’t do all that much. We caught up. We read the Bible. We prayed for the city we all work in. We prayed for our ministries. We prayed for each other. We prayed for the weeks ahead. And then we went our separate ways to get on with it. Not exactly stellar. But we all walked out with a new spring in our step, and the confidence to throw ourselves into proclaiming Christ for another day.

Now I have no idea how these two gatherings will be regarded when ‘the books are opened.’ But I suspect that their order of significance might be the reverse of what we might think! Please don’t misunderstand me—I think there is something good and right about getting together as a great crowd of God’s people to express our partnership in the gospel and encourage one another. It was a great night in City Hall, and there is clearly a place for this kind of event. In fact, it’s a key part of why TGCA exists, as we work hard to ensure both gospel clarity and gospel priority.

But of even greater significance is the growth of lasting gospel partnerships on the ground. Praying for each other, cheering each other on, thinking and dreaming together about how to reach our communities, loving in each other in the gospel, learning from each other, even working together to get the gospel out when it’s more effective to do so… over time, such small gatherings across our nation which slowly but surely raises the gospel temperature, helps us to maintain both gospel clarity and gospel priority from the ground up, may be the great contribution that, under God, TGCA makes to the progress of the gospel in Australia in our day.

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