Meet Michael Leader, coordinator of Jesus Club Beverly Hills
UPDATED, MARCH 2022
Since we spoke to this club back in 2019, Jesus Club Beverley Hills has gone from strength to strength. Steadily growing from a small club of three members two and half years ago, to being attended by up to 9 adults with intellectual disabilities every fortnight!
Lee, a member of their Jesus Club, was instrumental in much of this growth, as predicted by Michael. He firstly invited two of his Christian friends with Down Syndrome, then, later, encouraging two more of his group home housemates to join as well. The three friends now go to Beverly Hills Baptist Church together, and two were even baptised last year!
In the words of Michael, this growth has been a real blessing! And with a very stable leadership team, who are all loving this ministry, we look forward to seeing many more exciting updates from this club.
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Getting involved with disability ministry seems to be what God had always planned for Michael Leader, the new coordinator of Jesus Club Beverly Hills.
A father to a son with Autism, Michael began planning for a Jesus Club while working at CABC Thornleigh. However, he left soon after for his current position as Pastor at Beverly Hills Baptist Church and never saw its fruition. Yet, God didn't let the idea leave him, and soon after arriving at his new post, Jesus Club Beverly Hills was opened in July 2019.
Serving the suburbs of Sydney South
As the only Jesus Club serving the St George area, Jesus Club Beverly Hills has found a niche sharing the Bible to adults with intellectual disabilities in the area.
"We’ve got a lot of larger churches in the area that are doing all these wonderful things, and I thought, well there is an area no one else is doing ... no one in the St George area [has] a Jesus Club.”
Regardless of denomination or membership, everyone is welcome to join Jesus Club Beverley Hills. "We are not interested in taking [members] away. We just want to give them the benefit of Jesus Club and then send them back to your congregation a little bit closer to God, " said Michael.
The gospel is for All people
No matter what others have to say about the fruits of discipling people with disabilities, Michael strongly believes it is an essential ministry.
"All people can understand the Gospel… because all people can have an encounter with God... with Jesus.The Gospel is for this life, as well as the next. [It's about] a life that reflects Christ's character, and I believe all people can do that, whether they are 2 or 100 or have an intellectual disability.”
Expression of faith is what matters
Moreover, Michael believes in giving opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to serve at church utilising their unique gifts.
"People with an intellectual disability should be treated the same as anyone else. If they present gifts and have an expression of faith, that is, … they love Jesus in their own capacity. [They should be allowed to serve]."
"The more we put people into boxes and label them as such [the more we] limit people," said Michael.
Through his work at three different churches, Michael has come across a broad spectrum of people with disabilities and mental illnesses and seen how with wisdom and common sense, churches can benefit from the many gifts offered by people with disabilities.
"In my previous congregation there was a girl with Down Syndrome who was one of the most encouraging young people I have ever met! It was a church that gave very little comment on the sermon, but after every service [this girl] would say to me, 'you have done a great job Michael' and gave me a high 5.
I don't know how much she took in, but she took the time to say well done. It was enormously encouraging!" said Michael.
"He is one of our front line evangelists!”
And in the boldness and sensitivity of one his current member, Lee, Michael sees great potential for outreach, "[He] has great outreach opportunity amongst the special needs community. He was baptised last year and now he has a platform to invite [his friends]. He is one of our front line evangelists!"
All in all, the outlook for this new club is looking bright. At the time of our conversation, Michael's goal was to reach four members by the end of the year. Yet within a week, their club welcomed their fourth member, and there's every sign that more will soon join from neighbouring churches.