My current focus is on encouraging church planting into the Urban West Midlands. My desire is not to see one church growing big but to see a city that is full of churches bringing Gospel light to needy neighbourhoods.
My specific concern is for those areas that are often less reached with the Gospel. This means a particular focus on council estate and inner city contexts. Geographically it also means that I hope to see more church planting happening around North Birmingham and into the Black Country.
Over the past decade, we’ve seen a lot happen in South Birmingham primarily through people joining churches as students and then planting out from there. However, the places and neighbourhoods that we are talking about are not the kind of places that tend to be on the Graduate migration path. Furthermore, even if you could get together a group of 20-30 people from an existing larger church in South Birmingham and get them to move to one of these localities, it is likely to be counterproductive as the core team will be treated with apprehension as suspicion.
For that reason, I believe that a key need right now is for people to be willing to be part of smaller pioneer teams of 2-6 people who intentionally commit into an area and start making disciples of Jesus Christ. I’d love to hear from you if that could be you. One thing I’m offering to do is to provide coaching and vocational training for people seeking to do this. Indeed, such an option may suit some people better than traditional Theological College training.
The outcome of this will, I believe, be a mix of churches. In some cases, the only way to get into a community will be through a house church model with small groups meeting together in a home to share food, pray, praise and look at God’s Word together. However, this won’t work in all contexts. Some communities are wary of going into one another’s homes even after knowing people well for years. So we’ll need conventional church gatherings too.
Smaller, pioneer, house based plants offer the benefits of informality and flexibility. However, there are other challenges. These primarily fall around questions about accountability and transparency. This is particularly important around legal issues (employment, charity etc), finance and safe guarding. So, whilst they don’t want to get tied up in bureaucracy, these types of plants still need some structure and organisation behind them. My view is that this can happen best as churches link up and co-operate locally to share resources and it may be that house-plants will link in with a more conventional church that will help to provide staff, structure, logistics etc.
I would love to hear from you if this is something you would like to be part of and partner with me on whether that’s through coming and joining in, praying or supporting financially.