Next week, FIEC National Director John Stevens will speak at the annual Gospel Yorkshire conference at Dewsbury Evangelical Church. Gospel Yorkshire is a church planting initiative with the objective of transforming the county with the good news of Christ as Steve Horton explains.
With a population of nearly 5.5 million people, Yorkshire is larger than Norway, New Zealand or Ireland. However, of this population, less than 2% attend an evangelical church – even once a month – and in South Yorkshire, that figure struggles to reach 1%, the lowest incidence of believers in England.
In response to this desperate need, Gospel Yorkshire (GY) was set up in close association with the Yorkshire Gospel Partnership (YGP) with GY established to focus purely on encouraging the planting of evangelical churches across the county. If you like, it’s the church planting arm of YGP (although a totally separate entity). Other parts of the country have Gospel Partnerships that work differently but this split seems to operate well in Yorkshire with both organisations working closely together.
But how does GY function? What does it do to make church planting work?
I’m afraid the most frustrating of answers rears its ugly head: “well, that depends”! Just as there is no one-size fits all model for church planting, there is no one-size fits all model for supporting church planters.
For example, GY was right at the forefront of the planning for the new work in Cleckheaton, bringing together churches to pray and plan as the Lord led Graham Thompson and his team to establish Spen Valley Church.
As Doug Clark starts his planting activities in Halifax, GY has been able to contribute significant amounts of local knowledge to help shape the development of Hope Halifax. However, in Scarborough our work was largely to support Lee McMunn – encouraging other churches to welcome Lee and helping him to expand his communication network.
In Sheffield, GY has set up a regular Leaders’ Breakfast to ensure that the major churches, across the denominations, share their insights so that planting in Sheffield is considered at strategic (rather than local) level.
GY could perhaps be best thought of as a church planting facilitator. Our local co-ordinators are charged with gaining an intimate knowledge of evangelical churches on their patch so that they are best placed to help men and churches identify planting opportunities. Our Trustees are charged with raising the profile of needy areas and ensuring that any funds we receive are targeted to those plants whose need is greatest.
We work cross-denominationally and we’re able to encourage objective thinking where a particular ‘church mindset’ might be hindering progress. And the whole team is on standby 24/7 to talk to men who are feeling the call of God to serve the many lost souls in our county.
But this must not be seen in any way as a man-centred initiative.
At our heart is a recognition that all we are doing is obeying Christ’s command to “go and make disciples”. We have seen first-hand the power of our sovereign God who raises up men and churches to meet a specific need, who answers prayers in amazing ways, who provides the people and money and who blesses the fledgling churches.
Our prayer is that our sovereign God will continue to draw Yorkshire men and women to Himself in ever increasing numbers. Will you pray with us?
The Gospel Yorkshire Conference takes place on Wednesday 3 October at Dewsbury Evangelical Church. Tickets are £10. Find out more.