It is the end of January 2019 already! We are excited to continue our monthly Church Feature stories this year! We will be sharing stories of A29 churches that have matured into vibrant church-planting churches and new A29 member churches whose planting journey has only just begun.
To start the year off, we would love to share with you the story of City on a Hill (COAH). Guy & Vanessa Mason took some time to share their church-planting journey with us and also how we can be praying with them as they continue to be a church that plants churches all across Australia!
What is your role at City on a Hill?
I am the founding and lead pastor of COAH, which is a church that gathers across five locations, in three cities and is united around the central mission of knowing Jesus and making Jesus known. I serve our family of churches by providing peak leadership and vision for the church as well directing the City on a Hill Planters Academy and serving locally at City on a Hill Melbourne. I am married to Vanessa and have four wonderful children.
When and how was City on a Hill planted?
In February 2007, my wife and I were invited to join a small group bible study that was praying about the possibility of planting a new church in Melbourne’s Docklands. The initiative was birthed through a church partnership between St. James Old Cathedral (the oldest church in Melbourne) and St. Jude’s Anglican Church. Under the leadership of Richard Condie and John Sugars, a search began to find someone to lead the group and help plant the church. I’m sure that Richard and John knew I’d not planted or lead a church before, but perhaps owing to a lack of alternatives, I was invited to begin a part-time role as a “church planter.” I was unprepared, ill-equipped and fearful about for what lay ahead, and yet couldn’t shake an inner call by God to trust Him and serve in this way. I’d often ask God to send me wherever he wanted and thought I’d find myself serving in some remote part of the world like Africa or Tasmania. In the end, I realised that God called me to be a missionary in my home city.
My wife and I moved into the heart of town and began connecting with local residents, inviting people to join our crew and started praying that God would use us to bless our city and introduce people to the beauty, truth and relevance of Jesus. I still recall one of the very first midweek gatherings I hosted in our apartment. I was enthusiastic and optimistic, waiting expectantly for people to arrive. But my excitement quickly dissipated as I received text message after text message- people telling me they couldn’t make it. That night not one person came. I remember the sense of fear, doubt and embarrassment swirling in my heart as I walked into our apartment to explain to my wife Vanessa (who was holding our newborn child) that it would just be us tonight. It seems insignificant now, but looking back it was a moment of profound grace. In this moment I was compelled again to depend on God. I resolved that if this little plant was to ever arise from the dirt, it would need His Spirit and grace alone.
Within a few months, people did begin to turn up and God added to our number. Our small group became four mid-week communities that journeyed through the gospel of John, as we laid the foundation for our church. We also held monthly meetings at a brewery in Docklands to pray, share ideas, dream together and consider: “What will a mission-shaped church look like in a post-Christian world?”
What is City On a Hill’s vision?
In Jesus’ famous sermon on the mount he says,
« You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16
Jesus’ vision of a city that emanates the transformative light of God is a compelling picture of our identity; it’s who He has called us to be. Like a “city on a hill” that stands tall and shines in the midst of darkness, so we want the light, love and life of God to burn so brightly in our lives and the relationships we share that people cannot help but lift their eyes to the heavens and praise His name. We have seen hundreds of women and men find new life in Christ and enter the waters of baptism. We have celebrated with those who have recommitted to following Jesus. We’ve seen God inspire leaders and volunteers to care for the poor and marginalised, pioneer new ministries, train leaders, equip and send out missionaries near and far, plant new churches and open many doors for the gospel. As a movement, our vision is to see 50 new churches planted that would help reach ten cities with the good news of Jesus.
What sparked your interested in Acts 29?
A few years into our little plant, I was contacted by the always energetic and optimistic Steve Chong. He was on a similar journey with a church plant of his own and explained that he’d become friends with a pastor from the US named Mark Driscoll (former president of Acts 29). Following our conversation, I received an invitation to join him, Al Stewart, Mikey Lynch and Andrew Heard to participate in a church planting conference in Seattle. We went to learn about the Acts 29 Network and see if a similar network could be formed down under.
It was in Seattle that I met Mark myself and was introduced to other leaders from across the globe. Mark and I stayed in touch and he very generously took time to encourage me and share his thoughts on leadership, family and gospel-centred ministry. A few years later, I joined Acts 29 and found a great network of brothers and sisters who loved Jesus and were committed to engaging culture with His good news. Being part of a diverse and global network that has a big vision of God and what can be accomplished in Jesus’ name continues to be a source of tremendous encouragement, support and strength.
Where are you seeing God at work in COAH and how can we be praying with you?
I’m forever amazed at all the Lord is doing. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined being part of a church with so many incredible women and men who love the Lord and are committed to knowing Jesus and making Him known. In 2019, we as a church are preparing to plant our next two churches and lay the foundation for the next three. These are unique days and we need God’s hand of grace and provision as we step out in faith. We are also working with greater intentionality on our areas of discipleship and health across our churches. As we grow wider, we are longing to dig deeper.
As with all our locations, City on a Hill Melbourne also has a particular focus on increasing our missionary zeal and effort. In addition to our global partnerships with organisations like Compassion and Acts 29, we are praying that God would ignite the church and bring revival to our city. We are earnestly praying that God would bring scores of people from death to life. Andy Pearce (who serves as our executive pastor) is leading a growing and dynamic team in Melbourne and my prayer is that we’d continue to set our eyes on Jesus and take big, bold and audacious steps to see His name lifted up.
Join with us as we pray for all that God is doing in and through COAH!
If you are not connected to a local church, please visit the website to find a COAH church near you.
Acts 29 is a diverse, global family of church-planting churches. For more information: https://www.acts29.com/plant-churches