Revitalisation in Gateshead
Long before any of us were using the term “Church Revitalisation”, God was using a missionary couple from America for his purposes in north-east England. Andrew Nicholson explains why he’s been so encouraged to learn more about Gateshead Evangelical Church.
David and Cheri Kelso arrived in Britain from the USA back in 1986 when a work appointment brought them to Europe. More than 20 years later in 2009, David and Cheri were in the North East of England, getting involved in Gateshead Evangelical Church.
The church was blessed with faithful older members in an area where jobs were getting harder to find and amongst a community that was becoming more multi-cultural.
Standing on the south bank of the River Tyne and opposite Newcastle on the north bank, Gateshead today has a population in excess of 120,000 with ethnic minorities more than doubling in the ten years to the 2011 Census.
Ron Swales, an FIEC evangelist resourcing churches in the North East, had been based at the church for over two years in the early 2000s. With his big heart for the people and his considerable gifts he worked tirelessly for the gospel. But God, in his providence, did not give the expected breakthrough he longed and prayed for at that time.
With David and Cheri arriving later that decade (long before people were regularly using the term Church Revitalisation), they were getting on with the task – despite holding down full-time jobs. Wonderfully, God began to give gospel fruit and people were saved.
Today the church is bustling with up to 70 people on a Sunday with more than one third being children. A recent service saw seven people from two families attend for the first time. And just as the ethnic make-up of the area has changed, so has the church with people from 16 different countries attending.
Relating to FIEC
The recent North East Mission Forum hosted by FIEC further encouraged David and Cheri. David says it helped him expand his ministry horizons with the church being part of something national and not just local or regional. The Forum also enabled them to deepen existing ties with local church leaders, but also to form new ones and he has since met up with another local leader for mutual encouragement and prayer.
The town is still struggling with economic conditions and few of the congregation are in employment. So in the FIEC office we were particularly surprised and delighted to not only receive the church’s membership renewal form earlier this year, but also a donation that was almost double what had been suggested by FIEC for a church of Gateshead’s size.
“Last year we were not able to make a financial contribution as we had committed the little spare funds we had to the costs of converting to a CIO (Charitable Incorporated Organisation) with the help of FIEC Practical Services (now Edward Connor Solicitors). It’s great that God has blessed the team with the gifts to serve churches as we’d struggle to have completed the exercise ourselves.
Although many members are on benefits and it would take sacrificial giving, we wanted the whole church to be part of FIEC’s national gospel vision and to see that we are part of a wider group reaching the whole nation with the gospel. Having saved up the funds, giving the larger contribution this year was our way of demonstrating our practical commitment to this gospel vision.”
Pointing specifically to Acts 1:8, David said that FIEC helps the church see how it can also be part of reaching their ‘Judea and Samaria’ through our national family of churches.
David has taken early retirement and is looking to the future of the church. With huge gospel needs in the region and many more men needed to minister in churches in the area, new home-grown elders have been appointed at the church.
In conclusion, David’s says his aspiration under God is for Gateshead Evangelical Church to:
“Fulfil its potential by helping other struggling regional churches to impact their communities with the gospel of our dear Lord.”
Praise God for this faithful witness in Gateshead and please pray for their work as they labour to reach the 120,000 people on the banks of the River Tyne with the good news of the gospel.