In Acts 16:9-15, Paul has a dream where a man from Macedonia appears to him and asks him to come and help them there in their Gospel witness. It’s the start of September and that means the start of the academic year. This tends to be one of the two or three times a year when people stop to think about their short and long term plans and priorities. It may be that this is a moment when some people heat a request to “come over and help us”.
So, I’m going to be sharing a few articles over the next couple of days asking you to consider whether God might be calling you to partner with us in making disciples for Jesus in urban contexts whether that’s on council estates, in multi-cultural inner city contexts of in what I’m increasingly referring to as the urban normal (more of which in another post to come). The articles will ask you to consider whether you can pray, give or come.
As well as some individual articles looking at those three ways of partnering with us I’ve got two articles coming up looking first at different types of church planting and then secondly at the different types of urban context you might find yourself called to.
However, before we start to look specifically at the need and opportunities here in the West Midlands, whilst I have a specific concern for the West Midlands, my concern is for the work of the Gospel in urban contexts generally across the UK. So, before we talk about the possibility of coming to help us here, I’d like to mention three friends of mine that might appreciate your help.
Steve Kneale and Oldham Bethel
I got to know Steve initially through some lively debates on twitter and since then we’ve become good friends. The church he pastors in Oldham is situated in one of the most deprived wards in England. There’s a significant Muslim population in the area and Steve has pioneered approaches to reaching Muslims including monthly discussion meetings with a nearby Mosque where Steve has the opportunity to present what Christians believe on specific subjects.
The church has seen significant fruit with conversions and baptisms amongst the Iranian community. At the same time, the nature of their context has meant that although quite a few people have become believers, they haven’t always been able to settle in the area. This means the church continues to be fragile in terms of size and resources. However, Steve has a big heart for the towns around greater Manchester. During the pandemic, Oldham Bethel helped plant a new church into Rochdale with Stephen Watkinson. This is another church that you might consider planting with.
Dan James, Eyres Monsell
Dan is a former primary school teacher and having taught on the Eyre’s Monsell estate, he has caught a vision for a church on the estate. He has been an assistant pastor at Avenue Church in Leicester (itself a fairly young church) with the specific aim of planting. The estate is in the South of Leicester, a council estate with about 12000 residents and no church. Imagine a small town or large village in that situation.
In 2013, he moved onto the estate with his wife to get to know the area better and to live among the community. Since 2019, they began gathering a team of people to start to plant a church there and have asked people to move onto the estate with them.
Graham Thomson, Spen Valley Church
Finally, I wanted to mention an area very close to my heart, West Yorkshire. I grew up in West Yorkshire in South Bradford. I still continue to pray for my home city and county because there is a big need for Gospel churches there.
Spen Valley is to the south of Bradford at the bottom of the M606, running alongside the M62, the main arterial motorway crossing the north of England. You’ll find here a cluster of towns including Cleckheaton, Batley and Birstall. This was the constituency of the Labour MP Jo Cox who was murdered in shocking circumstances during the Brexit referendum campaign.
Spen Valley Church is small. In a recent post, Graham described how they only have the one musician and so often find themselves singing unaccompanied. It strikes me that this is the kind of church that would benefit from a few people moving into the area and joining them. As mentioned before, it’s situated just off of the M62, this means both that this is a potentially strategic area and that it’s also the kind of place where it should be possible to move to whilst working somewhere like Leeds, Sheffield or Manchester with reasonably straight forward commutes to those places.
Whilst we are in West Yorkshire, I’d also like to mention another place I’m familiar with. My dad worked at the Rowntree Mackintoshes factory in Halifax and so we would often pop across to Halifax as dad knew the shops there or to visit his workplace. I’ve many memories of the iconic Piece Hall (remember the Brass band competition in the film Brassed Off?) Doug Clarke leads Hope Church Halifax, another smaller church in an urban context that would benefit from support.
How could you partner with them?
Each of these churches would benefit from Gospel partnership from individuals and other churches. They all produce prayer letters and so a first step would be to ask for this so that you can commit to interceding for them regularly. They all tend to be fragile resource wise and so it would be brilliant if individuals and churches would treat them as part of their missions support and give regularly.
Most of all, I believe that they would say that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. They need people to come and join them. Maybe you could plan to move and be part of one of these churches. It may be that you stay with them for the long term or because they all have a concern for the wider area that after a couple of years they send you out to plant in another needy place close by.
Why not get in touch with one of them via the contact details on their websites?