Progress Report: Grace Church Wakefield
It’s always a joy to hear from young church plants in the FIEC family. Ian Goodson brings us up to date with the progress and ongoing needs of Grace Church Wakefield, which has now been meeting as a church for three years.
In 2015, FIEC highlighted Wakefield in West Yorkshire as one of the country’s 50 neediest places for a new gospel witness. Around the same time, Dewsbury Evangelical Church (six miles down the road but in a very separate community) sent out five members, plus three small children, to Wakefield to try something among the 100,000 people who live there.
Wakefield is virtually barren in terms of growing evangelical ministry. Led by a very green, part-time supported ‘church planter’ (yours truly) we wanted to try anything to reach this town with the gospel.
Wakefield itself is growing and experiencing a good deal of recovery from the northern post-industrial decline. Dewsbury, meanwhile, struggles on. Therefore, sociologically speaking, you’d expect this movement to happen in reverse.
Where are we now?
The original five in the planting team has now grown to 21 with a dozen children. Whilst we are still legally part of Dewsbury Evangelical Church, Grace Church Wakefield looks more like a little church in its own right. With the strength God has given, we have worked extremely hard and there are many openings for the gospel.
We meet each Sunday morning, almost always with visitors joining us. Teens from the local housing estate come along too and we plan to start youth Bible study nights in September. Church members are working hard at local mission and evangelism with school parents, sports clubs, neighbours and work colleagues. We run regular events in the community. We’ve run evangelistic courses including one in a local pub. We’ve baptised new believers. We spend relaxed time together over meals and love to invite unbelievers along. Local people notice that we are a predominately young (most of us are in our twenties and thirties) which is unusual for a church in a non-University city.
Grace Church Wakefield has amazing potential for gospel growth and so much of the hard work in laying a good foundation has been done. There is a significant appetite for the word of God, the team is committed and centred around local mission and there is a huge amount of love for one another that points to the love of Christ.
However, in line with Matthew 9:38 we are praying hard for more gospel workers for Wakefield. In particular, we would love just a small number of mature Christians to join our team, perhaps including someone to provide pastoral support alongside me. Could a larger church encourage someone to relocate to this place of great gospel need?
Or perhaps there is a family out there who could relocate? Maybe a retired couple could give the next few years to supporting a church plant like ours? After all, the house prices are a lot better than in the south!
Our next steps
As with any growing church, there are big challenges. Our general youthfulness means there are young Christians who need teaching and mentoring and so there’s plenty of pastoral ministry to do. Running good public Sunday meetings that work, with just twenty one adults (and there’s always people away or sick), is difficult. There are also lots of evangelistic leads we find hard to chase up simply because we lack people-power.
In 2017 we saw a year of seemingly unending encouragements. But so far in 2018 we have seen many discouragements with some people moving away and others turning their backs on us. The parable of the soils (Mark 4:1-16) is working out right before our eyes. The encouragement is that we know there will be those who will produce a great crop, “multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times” (v8).
So we’re asking the Lord of the harvest to send us some workers – and just a few would make an enormous difference here. Could one of these workers be you? Could it be someone you know?
I’d love to hear from you. Get in touch.