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Two Churches & Four Plants

John Stevens reports on two new churches joining us, four new church plants recognised and one church that is leaving the family after our recent recognition team meeting.

Two Churches & Four Plants primary image

It’s a great encouragement that new churches are choosing to affiliate and join our gospel vision for the nation, while new church plants are seeking our recognition in anticipation of becoming fully afflicted churches in due course.

New Church Affiliations

New Life Church, Whitehaven

I am delighted that New Life Church has joined FIEC as I was able to visit the church in March 2016 when they were considering affiliation. The church was also represented at a “Vision Day” for churches in Cumbria that we hosted in Keswick last summer, where we were able to consult on the best way to support and encourage gospel work in the region.

Whitehaven is a town of 24,000 on the Cumbrian coast, and it includes some of the most deprived communities in the UK. The church was founded in 1920 and was, for a long time, a member of Assemblies of God (AoG). Under the leadership of Pastor Gary Brown they realised that they were more in tune with FIEC and the churches of the North West Gospel Partnership, and so they ended their affiliation to AoG.

New Life Church

The church has a membership of 36 and a morning congregation of 60 adults. They have seen three professions of faith and three baptisms in the last year. They run a variety of ministries for all ages, as well as a community drop-in and a foodbank. The church has a predominantly working class rather than graduate culture, and has wonderfully emotionally expressive worship that reflects its Pentecostal origins.

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“We share FIEC’s gospel vision for the UK. We desire to stand firm with other like-minded Christians, being able to support others and be supported in our mission for Jesus.”

I am hugely encouraged by the way that FIEC is growing in Cumbria, and how the churches are beginning to work more closely together. Andy Hunter, the FIEC Scotland Director, will be taking responsibility at a Director’s level for supporting and encouraging the churches in the North of England, and will be seeking to build links with the churches in Cumbria.

Sedbury Evangelical Church

Sedbury Evangelical Church serves a village of 3,500 people near Chepstow in Gloucestershire. The church was founded in 1951 and today they have 11 members and a congregation of 16 adults. In the past they had a thriving Sunday School work with over 100 children attending, but like many similar churches this has declined as the wider culture has changed. The church is led by a lay elder and three deacons.

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“We wish to join the FIEC because we believe that as a small church going into the future we need a stronger identity and the security to remain an independent evangelical witness faithfully proclaiming the gospel in these uncertain days.”

As in the case of many smaller churches, they currently lack adequate governing documents for the church and its buildings, and so FIEC Practical Services will be able to provide them with help to make sure that these are put in place. We recognise the vital importance of maintaining a gospel witness in smaller communities and hope that FIEC affiliation will enable them to build mutually beneficial links with other churches in the area, as well as take advantage of our growing expertise in church revitalisation.

New Church Plant Recognitions

Alongside these two newly affiliated churches, we have also been able to “recognise” three new church plants. “Recognition” is a way in which FIEC is able to help and support church plants when they are forming and is appropriate for planting groups that are sent out from established churches, or for groups that have come together without any specific sending church.

Recognised churches receive support from FIEC Mission Director Andy Paterson, free legal help with governing documents and access to loan funding for start-up costs, but they have no constitutional right to vote at the FIEC AGM. The expectation is that successful church plants will subsequently apply for full affiliation.

Grace Church Denbigh

Grace Church is a church plant in Denbigh, a market town with a population of 9,000 in North Wales. It started meeting in October 2013, and was planted by Ebenezer Baptist Church in Mold. It is not yet a fully independent church but a congregation of Ebenezer.

Grace Church Denbigh

It is led by Daf Cunningham, who moved from London to lead the church but who is a native welsh speaker. He has been supported by grants from the FIEC Training Fund. About 50 people attend the church on a Sunday and they run a mid-week Toddler Group which is fully booked up with a waiting list.

Their reasons for seeking recognition from FIEC were:

“We recognise that we’re probably playing catch up with the admin here after a slightly shaky start to Grace Church back in 2013. Positively we want to be recognised formally by the FIEC because we want to more fully share in the joy and responsibility of reaching our nation for Christ.”

Grace Community Church Loftus

Grace Community Church Loftus is in a very deprived town on the North Yorkshire coast with a population of 7,000. It was planted in April 2014 by Robin Singleton, who previously pastored a Baptist Union Church in Marske-By-The-Sea, near Middlesbrough. The new church has been gifted a building by an AoG church that was on the point of closing. They are at least 16 adults and a number of teens and children attending the church.

Grace Community Church Loftus

Their reasons for seeking recognition from FIEC were:

“An expression of evangelical unity. Mutual encouragement and support, legal and practical advice. Shared resources. Training.”

Grace Church Orkney

Grace Church is a new church plant that is being established in Stromness, the second largest town in Orkney with a population of 2,200, by a number of leaders - one of whom has left the Church of Scotland. It is also supported by other churches and leaders. There is a core group of 14, and they are expecting to be given a former Brethren Assembly building for the new work. They started meeting in homes at the beginning of February, and will begin meeting publicly in the building once the legal transfer is completed. They are looking to set up an appropriate legal structure for the new church, and FIEC Practical Services is able to provide them with help via an experienced Scottish lawyer.

“We believe we have the same goals and beliefs as FIEC. We believe that with affiliation we can make wiser decisions (help from Practical Services) and grow a healthy church under God’s leading (help from support networks)”

The Crowded House Leicester

The Crowded House is a new church plant that will be launching in summer 2017 in the Beaumont Leys area of north Leicester. Whilst there are strong evangelical churches in the south of Leicester, there is little gospel work in the much more deprived northern area of the city. The church is being sent out by The Crowded House church in Loughborough, which is already affiliated to FIEC, and they have the support of other FIEC churches in Leicester and Hinckley.

The core team will move into the area and begin meeting in homes, moving towards meeting in a local space in due course. They will also be part of the Acts 29 network.

Their reasons for seeking recognition from FIEC were:

“Because we hope to become an FIEC church once planted and functioning as an “independent” congregation. We have seen relational benefit of belonging to the FIEC, with it enabling us and other FIEC churches.”

Resignation

Whilst we are excited by these new church affiliations and recognised church plants, we are sad that one church has chosen not to renew its affiliation to FIEC.

Beacon Evangelical Church in Birmingham has resigned from the Fellowship, partly because they felt disconnected with the wider FIEC, but also because they no longer felt comfortable with the FIEC ethos statement on Women in Ministry. Whilst we are sad to see them go, we wish them God’s blessing on their ministry.

The ability of churches to leave FIEC at any time is a crucial element of what it means to be a network of truly “independent” churches rather than a controlling denomination that has power over the decisions of local congregations.

However, we are thrilled that more and more churches are seeing the value of joining our national vision, and that so many of the churches and plants are in very needy areas of the country with little gospel witness. Find out more about affiliating to FIEC or becoming a recognised church plant.

You can get to know more of our churches in our new video and prayer resource which we launched earlier this week. Get to Know… is an opportunity for you to hear about the ministry and witness of other members of the family and to pray for them.

John Stevens photo
John Stevens - FIEC National Director

John is FIEC's National Director. He's married to Ursula and they have four children. He loves books. John blogs regularly – and at length – over at www.john-stevens.com


Follow John Stevens on Twitter – @_JohnStevens