marvelous mess

IMG_20150215_100639The image that comes to some people’s minds when we talk about a church service is somber, quiet reflection on God in an atmosphere of neat, orderly worship.  But some of the services at Takanini Community Church, an Advent Christian church in South Auckland, New Zealand are anything but that.  There are games and toys and learning exercises going on all over the place. Instead of everybody facing a speaker in rows of pews, most often big kids are working on projects in small groups, or small kids are playing together or singing and dancing together, with lots of noise and a bit of controlled chaos.

A few years ago, Takanini church made the decision to really be a community church.  They have worship services, and can be quiet and somber when the time calls for it, but what really sets TCC apart is its ministry to people (not just from the church fellowship, but) in the community.  Every Wednesday, there is Noah’s Ark Playgroup, where small kids from the community come together and enjoy playing with each other within the church’s fellowship hall and lounge, and on the church grounds.  Later, the kids and their parents enjoy singing and dancing at our Mainly Music event.  It’s like a really lively Sunday School, but it’s designed for those kids and their parents who do not go to church.  It’s a way of introducing them to fellowship, wholesome fun, and Christian life without the formal structures of membership. 

IMG_20150215_104938One Sunday a month, TCC has what we call Messy Church.  This is a little bit more structured than Playgroup, and also attracts kids who are a bit older.  It still involves a great deal of activity, learning projects, fun and fellowship.  Everything is centered around a Bible lesson, and the staff teaches that lesson well, but not with a long sermon.  The kids learn through their projects, and the short teaching time drives it home.  It is more like a Vacation Bible School event than a church service.  However, like VBS, this may be the only opportunity for some of these kids to hear the gospel message.

There are many other things we at TCC do to immerse ourselves into the community.  We offer our sanctuary and other rooms to be booked for personal, social group and community events.  We invite other churches and church plants to use our property for their meetings.  Our staff volunteers for service in schools and government run programs.   The commitment is to not just be located in the Takanini community, but to be part of that community, to touch as many lives as possible, through as many means as possible.

That is ministry.  It makes an impact on people in the community with the gospel.  It also gives those within the fellowship a chance to prove their love for God and others by kind acts of service. Lots of churches are beginning to realize the potential for these kinds of programs.  We are just beginning to see that “effectiveness is not measured by what happens inside the church but rather by the impact the people of the church have on their communities.”In Takanini, Advent Christians have committed themselves to the task of serving others as a means of winning them to Christ.  It is a costly commitment, and it means getting a little messy now and then.  But it is a marvelous mess.



{Here’s Penny Vann helping some kids construct a tower.  This month’s lesson was all about the tower of Babel.}

Jefferson Vann

Auckland, New Zealand


1 Rick Rusaw, Eric Swanson, The Externally Focused Church.

Author: Jefferson Vann

Jefferson Vann is pastor of Piney Grove Advent Christian Church in Delco, North Carolina. You can contact him at -- !

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