Thank you to everyone who have been sharing with us your prayers, thoughts and good wishes as we seek the Lord’s will for our next steps after Bearwood. I wanted to give you a little update on how things seem to be developing in my mind.
Really, this is not about a new direction but thinking about what we have been involved with and have seen to begin to happen over the past ten years. My current desire is to continue to contribute to this in some small way.
I would describe that vision as:
“To see urban regions currently deemed to be ‘unfashionable’ become priorities for Gospel outreach leading to church planting, replanting and revitalisation”
By unfashionable, I mean that priority tends to be given to the prominent cities at the heart of conurbations of “City Regions” Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham. However much of the urban population is outside of the headline city. Therefore some places are seen as fashionable both to the world and even to the church.
Let me give you two examples that have an important place in my heart. The Black Country and western parts of the West Midlands conurbation and the West Yorkshire conurbation with a particular focus on the Bradford Metropolitan district. Both have similarities and I have personal affinity with them. I grew up in Bradford, became a Christian there and still have connections to “home.” Meanwhile, here in the West Midlands is where we have made our home for the past decade and grown alert to the great need and great opportunities here. There are 1.1 million people living in the Black Country whilst Bradford District numbers over 500,000 – only 250k less than Leeds. And then that wider West Yorkshire area includes places like Halifax, Huddersfield, Spen Valley, Wakefield etc. It is encouraging to see Gospel witnesses happening in those places too.
Meanwhile up in the Greater Manchester area, we want to keep thanking God and praying for Steve Kneale, Andy Smith and Stephen Watkinson serving in the Oldham and Rochdale area.
The vision should not to see just one church planted or revitalised in each of those regions. Rather, I believe that each area will benefit from a movement or informal network of small churches interdependently working together to share the good news.
At the moment, we are prayerfully considering a couple of options where we might be involved in leading a plant in such a context whilst at the same time keeping our eye on possibilities of working with an existing and established church to send out workers and resources.
However, whatever our own priority focus will be and wherever that will be I believe that it will continue to include.
- Recruiting and building teams of church planters to reach specific neighbourhoods.
- Providing training, coaching and mentoring for urban planters and pastors, with a particular focus on those who for various reasons would not be best placed to access traditional theological seminary training.
- To help source other resources for church plants including finance, buildings/venues etc
Please continue to pray with us and share your thoughts on how we can play a part in this vision. At the same time, please pray about how you might be able to be involved. Could God be calling you to help Andy Smith in Oldham or Graham Thompson in Spen Valley? Is your church able to support the church plant led by Stephen Watkinson into Rochdale or Hope Church, Halifax? Are your own circumstances changing in a way that might free you up to join a church planting team into the Black Country or into Bradford? Give me a call if you want to pray and talk through these possibilities too.