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Starting Small

Mark Selby is an elder at Grace Church in Hilton, a small plant just outside Derby. He’s passionate about seeing new churches in areas where there is no gospel witness. To that end, he’s encouraging us to think about joining churches in places with smaller populations and taking a risk for Christ. Here’s the story of how Grace Church was launched in 2013.

Starting Small primary image

The name ‘Hilton’ might be quite familiar to you. Many people associate it with the hotel chain – or even the celebrity family that now go with it. But there’s another Hilton too and one where, in God’s grace, a new gospel work has begun.

Hilton is a large commuter village just outside Derby in the Midlands, with a population of between 8,000 and 9,000. It is now a large, modern, housing estate that has grown so big in recent years that it contains Derbyshire’s largest primary school.

Hilton is also one of many areas across the country that need a compelling, gospel-centred church to be established to help reach the people living there. Three years ago, that need was recognised by local evangelical churches in Derby but there was a problem: none of us had huge resources – in either people or finances – to plant in Hilton.

So how could we move forward? We decided that a small group of people – backed by these churches but largely self-financing – would move into Hilton with the aim of starting a church to reach people with the good news of Jesus and to grow together in Christ.

From small beginnings

There were just four adults and one child when we started meeting together as a church in September 2013. Our vision was to become a loving, joyful church known for our commitment to spiritual growth through God’s word as well as caring for each other and the wider community in which we lived. We wanted to be a church where talk of our Saviour was never far from our lips.

We felt a whole mix of emotions as we started out: excitement about the prospects ahead; fear about how we’d be received in the village and nervousness as to how things would work out. We were uncertain whether what we were doing was really viable, if we’d grow and how we’d ever begin to make a gospel impact amongst the thousands of people living around us.

Grace Church Hilton group photo

Since then, God has been very gracious to us. He’s added people to the church family. He’s helped us to get to know lots of people in the village through the friendships we’ve been forming and community groups we’ve got involved in. People are getting to know about us in the village and other churches in Derby are encouraging us and helping to provide for us. God has addressed us, time and time again through the regular teaching and preaching of His word.

The reality of the mission

But it’s not always easy. There have been times of great sorrow in the church family; especially when people we’ve been getting to know have died before we’ve even had the chance to share the life-changing news of the gospel with them. Growth is slow and we know we’re in for long and hard work for the advance of the gospel in this place.

However, God tells us that there is a harvest waiting to be reaped and that the real problem is the lack of workers. We need more people who are prepared to live God-centred lives amongst unbelievers; who are ready to give a reason for the hope that they have. We need people who are willing to bring the good news of the gospel into the lives of those living in darkness.

We’re so excited about this work and see huge opportunities for the gospel here in Hilton, but we also know we’d benefit from more workers joining us. So if you are moving house, why not consider joining a small church plant? If you, or others you know, are moving to the Derby area, why not consider joining us in Hilton? (visit our website)

Small new churches can’t entice you with big congregations and long-established ministries, but would you be willing to join a family of believers with a heart to see people saved in areas with smaller populations? New church plants like Hilton would love your support.

Mark Selby photo
Mark Selby

Mark grew up in Derby and is one of the elders of Grace Church, Hilton. He is married to Anna and they have two young children, Cerys & Theo. Mark divides his time each week between leading the church, getting to know people in Hilton, and looking after the children.