I’ve been sharing regular updates on our journey from Bearwood into “something different” over the past 18 months. Now, we’ve moved to Great Barr, this is probably a good time to finally put some flesh on the bones of what that future appears to look like.
A bit of background
Over the past decade, I’ve had a growing concern to see Gospel work in the less reached parts of the urban West Midlands. There’s a geographical element to this, I don’t think that conservative evangelicals have been so good at reaching into the North and East of Birmingham or into the Black Country as we have at seeing churches planted in the South of Birmingham. That doesn’t mean that we haven’t done anything in those places, just that they’ve not had the same kind of attention. But also, we’ve not been so good at reaching into our inner cities or onto council estates and reaching working class communities and those from different ethnic groups. Again, that’s not to say that nothing is happening in those areas and indeed there are Christians from slightly different traditions who have done more who we can learn some things from but I don’t think that anywhere near enough is happening if we are serious about sharing God’s good news with all who need to hear.
So, whilst at Bearwood, we looked to try and multiply where we were. We planted a Spanish speaking church and we helped with a small replant/revitalisation project. Within the church and using our own building we multiplied congregations and midweek small groups. Our aim was to be available wherever and whenever people wanted to meet who were hungry for God.
I became increasingly aware of two things. First that if we were going to reach more places, that we would need more and different approaches. Simply waiting for a church to be big enough to send 30-40 people off somewhere wouldn’t work. It would take too long, people were less likely to move from existing churches into new areas and if they did, it would be treated with suspicion by local people. So, my concern has been for what Jonathan Bell has called “Swifter, smaller, simpler church planting.” I believe that we are going to need people who are willing to move into a community in twos or threes, to open up their homes and start to share the good news locally (or to start doing this where they already live).
Secondly, I believe that this means we need to be training and equipping more people for Gospel ministry than would normally head off to Theological College -particularly people who might find full time formal training a barrier through finances or because they haven’t got a formal academic background.
We were able to start to encourage a few of these things but our prayer was that we’d be able to focus much more on helping to see these things happen. So, here we are now in north Birmingham. Our desire is to create a home that is loving and welcoming with Christ at the centre and to help equip, encourage and plant churches to do the same.
All of this, I think you’ve probably heard me talk about before as we’ve shared that growing dream over the past 2 years. Now, I think we can fill in a bit more of the detail. My plan going forward is to give my time to two things.
Church Central North
Half of my working week will be spent with Church Central North. This is a young church that started out as part of a multi-site church a few years back and them was formally planted out as a church in its own right with its own eldership team just as the Global pandemic hit. Since the end of lockdown, the church have been encouraged to see new people from a variety of backgrounds joining with a desire to get involved. The desire of the church is to reach communities in north Birmingham with a particular focus on Kingstanding and the hope that this will lead to multiplication and planting in the longer term.
My time here will be given to helping the elders with pastoral care and one to one/small group discipleship. Our hope is that over time, we’ll be able to multiply the number of small groups within the church by encouraging and equipping others to lead them. It may be in the future that some of these small groups become the foundation for new church plants. I’m also aiming to do some cold contact evangelism and community engagement.
Recruiting and equipping urban planters
As I mentioned above, if we are going to see Gospel multiplication and churches reaching less reached and hard reached communities then we need to do some things differently. This is where I’ll be giving time to that. So, I’m actively looking for pioneer church planters, either people already living in the West Midlands or willing to move here.
The idea is that we would like to find 2 or 3 people who are willing to get stuck in. Perhaps that could be you? If so, then the idea would be that you would look to move into a specific area and begin to build relationships with neighbours in your community, intentionally seeking out gospel opportunities. At the same time, you’d receive training and coaching including some in person teaching and training provided by me and others. We’d also look at getting you access to the Crosslands Theology courses.
I’m also hoping to develop some foundational training to start to encourage local people from working class and other backgrounds to explore gifting and calling. This might take a similar format to the Ragged School of Theology run by 20 Schemes.
Meanwhile, I’ll also be continuing to provide online support through Faithroots teaching resources including PDF E-books, blog articles and podcasts.
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I’d love to hear from you if you are excited by what you are reading here. Could you partner with us in some small way? If you would like to receive my prayer letter, then please register below.
You can also get in touch via the contact form. I’d love to hear from you if you are willing to stand with us in prayer or if you might be able to help with financial support. I’d especially like to hear from you if you or someone you know might be interested in joining with us in church planting.
 Conservative Evangelical is a term which tends to refer to Christians from the “reformed tradition” – i.e. associated with reformers like John Calvin who placed a strong emphasis on God’s glorious sovereignty and our complete dependence on his grace. Conservative Evangelicals hold a particularly high view of Scripture as God’s true and authoritative word that it is infallible and inerrant (incapable of error and without error). We also emphasise that Christ died on the Cross as our substitute, bearing the penalty for our sin. The term includes both charismatic and non-charismatic believers and so you would particularly associate networks and movements such as New Frontiers, The FIEC, Grace Baptists and Affinity with the term.