THE JOURNEY SO FAR
The Fringe Church started when a small ring of drug users started coming to Christ quite miraculously. A bible study started, and a few people came to Christ. These people moved to other churches where some are still following Christ - but some found the culture was so foreign, they had to come back home to Fringe.
In early 2016, we realised there was a renewed need for a Community. A small group met, and realized we were all seeing facets of the same thing. We set out to help people who were never going to feel welcome in suburban churches, to find Christ and the church. We realised early on that we were sailing into unchartered waters. For example, we rang a couple of churches and asked what resources there were for perpetrators of DV or othe violence. We got all sorts of ideas for children’s ministry – but no-one was talking to perpetrators. The same applied to DV, mental illnes,s and a range of other things "our people" deal with.
Given that we are a community of sometime criminals, the mentally ill, domestic violence perpetrators, drug users, and parolees, we decided the simplest approach to ministry with children was to ban them. We have an 18+ rule.
Our policy is that we “DO NOTHING” for people. We don’t do anger management, relationship training, drug rehabilitation or anything else. We don’t do food hampers, emergency accommodation, meals, or counseling. We help people find themselves in Christ, wait for them to become brothers and sisters with us – and then join in the effort to hold each other accountable to walking with Jesus. We believe repentance involves practical action – and taking consequences. That can regularly involve the law, and we have all been in court a couple of times to ensure our people are supported while they face up to the realities of what has happened. We also try to co-operate with government-funded services that are readily available. (We have a pretty good database built of where to go for different things.)
Our preaching is a bit “blokey”, always direct and the conversations tend to be strong and very personal. We have turned out to be mainly a community of men. However, some very brave women have started to join us. All of these are recent converts and are unphased by the rest of us. We have rich contact with a couple of people who identify as LGBTQIA, and small exposure to Aboriginal culture. Our Facebook community is growing - and several people stay in touch with live feeds.
Our outreach list is at least five times the size of the group that physically attends worship. Over the last couple of months, we have heard the Lord talking about moving to the inner city. We have established a community in the city in a cathedral-style city church - which is sort of strange given who we are - but it works. That church has been incredibly gracious and welcomed us.
Our community has some rules:
Rule number 1) If you know Jesus – you have been given gifts, and you are expected to show up for ministry – regardless of whether you are still addicted, mentally ill, or otherwise in a bad place. A great example is one of our people who were in the secure unit in a psychiatric ward in a hospital. Our man was on 16 Valiums a day (among other things), facing criminal charges, and losing his marriage. While in this fragile state, he nonetheless led two other people to Christ.
Rule number 2) We are utterly disinterested in where someone has been and how good they were at being ‘bad’. Anyone who wants to talk about the ‘old days’ (after we get to know them) is pretty much shut down. We are interested in building the future – and try to imitate Paul; “Forgetting that which lies behind – I strive forward…”
The worship centers on Holy Communion. We call ourselves a community rather than a church (despite our name). We don’t sing, we pray with passion, and Jesus attends. Loving it!