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A Regained Vision

It’s been ten years since Otford Evangelical Free Church had a pastor. Phil Walter reports on the induction of Kevin Bracken and explains how this story links to our church revitalisation initiative.

A Regained Vision primary image

In beautiful countryside in the heart of Kent lies the lovely village of Otford. With a population of 3,500 and a number of other villages around it, Otford is an idyllic place to live. There’s a duck-pond, local pubs, cafes and a village shop.

Otford village

It is to this community that Otford Evangelical Free Church (EFC) seeks to share the love of Jesus.

But it had been a long time since the church had a pastor. And in the ten years without one, it had started to decline.

It was into this context that, in late 2015, Otford EFC agreed to take part in FIEC’s brand new Church Revitalisation initiative. It began with the ‘Let’s Look’ process, which is a 12-week course designed to help a church evaluate its spiritual health; holding up the mirror of God’s word to its situation.

A retired pastor – Geoff Gobbett – facilitated this process with the church and presented his findings, helping the brothers and sisters at Otford to reflect and then respond to the challenges they faced.

It was a difficult process.

In short, they soon realised they were leaderless. But they had to go through a period of honest reflection to reach that conclusion. So how did they move forward? Well, Geoff and Christine Gobbett agreed to the church’s request to step in and help to lead the church for a period of six months.

This was a truly blessed time. In God’s goodness the church regained its gospel vision and took the bold step of calling a full-time pastor. Kevin Bracken was sent to Otford from Hayes Lane Baptist Church who were a tremendous support to Otford during this time of transition. In January 2018, Kevin was formally inducted to the role.

So many people wanted to attend the service to celebrate that it was held at a nearby evangelical Anglican church – St Nicholas in Sevenoaks – because the building at Otford couldn’t fit everyone in!

All told, 250 people from 38 churches and Christian organisations were represented at Kevin’s induction and the service was a wonderful testimony to God’s grace. Geoff Gobbett asked the formal induction questions of Kevin before the laying on of hands and the commissioning prayers. David Hircock, pastor of Hayes Lane, preached at the induction.

This is what church revitalisation is all about. Otford EFC have recaptured their gospel vision and the church is starting to see growth. Please pray that God would continue to bless their ministry as they begin afresh to reach their community for Christ.

If you would like to speak to Phil about church revitalisation please contact us.

Footnotes

Photo of Otford by Brian Chadwick (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Phil Walter photo
Phil Walter - Church Revitalisation Coordinator

Phil grew up in Plumstead, South East London and pursued a career in the food industry before becoming Pastor of Brixworth Christian Fellowship in 1996. He is married to Ruth and they have two sons and four grandchildren. He became FIEC’s Church Revitalisation Coordinator in February 2016.