“You’re quitting? But this is your dream job!”
This was a common question Joel Deacon heard when God called him into ministry. Deacon went to college to become a civil engineer in Wollongong, Australia—a coastal city south of Sydney. With a population of about 300,000 people, Wollongong is historically a worker’s city and home to the largest steel manufacturing plant in Australia. But in the last decade, it’s transformed into a vibrant, growing, multicultural city. Wollongong is now full of families moving out of Sydney, along with workers and students from around the world.
Deacon and his family loved Wollongong, and he was living his engineering dream. His job was fixing and maintaining heritage timber and steel bridges along the beautiful coast of Eastern Australia. Joel enjoyed the challenging work and had plenty of opportunities to share Jesus with his coworkers. On the surface, it should’ve been his dream job. But he says, “I felt the Spirit was stirring within me a godly discontentment.”
While working as an engineer, Joel and his wife Emma were also youth leaders for a local church. This is where they felt drawn to ministry. So, in a step of faith, he quit his job and enrolled in missionary college. “I always believed missionaries had crazy faith,” he says, “and even then, I believed the Lord wanted me and my wife to be missionaries in Australia through church planting.”
They eventually moved to Melbourne to join City on a Hill, a movement of churches passionate about and committed to church planting. This is where they were built up and equipped for the mission. After two and half years of gaining ministry experience and wisdom, they returned to Wollongong as a parachute plant to build a team, be on mission, and plant a new church to see souls saved and disciples made.
Wollongong is a diverse city in terms of faith, culture, and wealth, but with a growing irreligious population (~30%). Joel believes this is caused by a great awakening. “Nominal Christians and everyday Australians have awakened to the fact that they don’t actually believe in Jesus or have any connection to a church body.” In the past, the church had a more significant influence on culture, but today, many are skeptical of leaders because of past failures and mistakes. Additionally, the pandemic and numerous lockdowns were incredibly discouraging for some already down in their faith.
But by planting a church, City on a Hill formed a new community in Wollongong. According to Joel, “That’s a new opportunity for people to follow Jesus or, for those who were wounded or down in their faith, to come back to following Jesus.” “That’s a new opportunity for people to follow Jesus or, for those who were wounded or down in their faith, to come back to following Jesus.” —Joel Deacon Click To Tweet
Another way they’ve seen God move was by bringing people together. A church plant is a new beginning made up of a variety of faith experiences, convictions, and gifts. Sometimes this makes new churches vulnerable to division, so praying for unity is key. “People pray for growth and expect unity,” Joel says, “inspired by Jesus praying for his disciples in John 17, we prayed for unity and expected growth—and God answered.” A church plant is a new beginning made up of a variety of faith experiences, convictions, and gifts. Sometimes this makes new churches vulnerable to division, so praying for unity is key. Click To Tweet
While forming a core team, they saw faith deepen, strangers become family, and new people come to faith in Jesus. As a new church, City on a Hill: Wollongong is united on what matters—focusing on the gospel, seeing God save souls, and building deeper relationships. Their official launch gathering was a moment of invitation and celebration. A moment for the launch team to celebrate what the Lord had already done in forming them as a team and as a people. But also a moment of invitation to bring those outside of the church to come, learn how to follow Jesus, build deep friendships, and find wisdom and purpose.
Built on a Strong Foundation
“We prayed we would be a people of love and prayer, and so that as a church, no problem would faze us, and no person would evade us—by God’s grace, he answered these prayers.” City on a Hill: Wollongong held their first official worship gathering on Easter Sunday at BlueScope Steel Visitor Centre, a key cultural icon of the Wollongong region. Family and friends were in attendance cheering them on, as well as new people eager to find a church.
Members Karah and Jeremy shared, “We’re so grateful to be part of City on a Hill: Wollongong. Being part of the launch team played a massive role in us returning to church and helped us renew and strengthen our faith.” The strong foundation on community and biblical teachings reignited their relationship with God and his church. They’ve been so excited to share this opportunity with the city of Wollongong and hope to see more people have the same life-changing and encouraging experience.I’ve been encouraged by how God forges us into something as strong as steel or as beautiful as gold. For this to happen, I need to be temperate, I need to be sober-minded. I need to endure. Click To Tweet
Reflecting on his church-planting journey, Joel says, “I learned how God can use trials as a means of grace. I’ve been encouraged by how God forges us into something as strong as steel or as beautiful as gold. For this to happen, I need to be temperate, I need to be sober-minded. I need to endure. I need to keep preaching the gospel to myself again, and again.”
Acts 29 celebrates the planting of new, local churches and their role as the primary means by which God chooses to establish his kingdom on earth.