Future Focused Planting
We recently partnered with Acts29 and Co-Mission to host Planting Collective – our biennial gathering of church planters in London. Among the delegates was Dan James and we asked him to share his reflections on the day.
Let me lay my cards on the table – we are not planting a church. Not yet.
We are, however, seriously thinking about it. We see an area that needs a church, and we have people who live there who are passionate about seeing this happen. We also have some people in our church who regularly meet to pray for that specific area of Leicester.
But, for now, we are a long way from planting a church.
However, we do believe it’s the right thing to be thinking seriously about it right now. So, me and my pastor got the needlessly early train from Leicester to London back in May to attend Planting Collective.
The theme of the day was ‘Future Focused’ which was vague enough to leave me unsure what it would actually be about. But as we began, Richard Coekin, Pastor of Dundonald Church and Director of Co-Mission, made it abundantly clear.
Looking Up, Out & Forward
He opened up 1 Peter 5, and encouraged us firstly to Look Up. Look up to God and submit to his plan for us and our ministries, knowing we can trust him entirely – even suffering is always in God’s sovereign hand. So we can cast our anxieties on him.
Then he encouraged us to Look Out – because our enemy is prowling around and will try and stoke up any opposition he can. To resist him we must stand still, not shaking in our faith, resist him and his attacks and then be encouraged by others around us. We can’t do this alone.
And finally, he encouraged us to Look Forward – eternal glory is guaranteed for us. These struggles are temporary and compared to eternity, any pain we suffer here is so brief. So we can keep going. And we can trust in God’s promises for us.
Following this, the first batch of seminars took place. I went to Lee McMunn’s as he shared the remarkably ordinary but encouraging story of a recent church plant in Scarborough (trinityscarborough.org.uk). They haven’t seen great revival, but through careful decisions, prioritising the Bible, evangelism and being a church community, they have seen conversions and growth. None of what he shared seemed unattainable, and I left the seminar feeling excited and encouraged by what the future could hold.
After lunch I went to Pete Nicholas’ seminar about gathering a team ready to plant. He identified that any team begins with its leader, and challenged us all on the robustness of our own spiritual walks. He then identified some of the sorts of people we would want to ask to consider joining the launch team, and gave helpful, practical advice on what a team should do when thinking about planting.
The one thing that struck me the most from both these seminars was how saturated these churches were with prayer. Individual prayer and private prayer fuelled everything they did. Pete particularly challenged those in leadership: “Is your prayer life sufficient to bear the weight of a church plant?”
The day closed with Neil Powell, Pastor of City Church in Birmingham and co-chair of Birmingham 2020, identifying from Luke 23 that Jesus was motivated on his mission by the reality of hell – and challenging us that we might have functionally removed hell from our outreach.
Jesus loved people enough to warn them about it, and so should we. He showed us how hell should motivate us because it is real, so we should warn others and watch out that our churches don’t become complacent about it. We should also work with others – even if we might disagree with them on some secondary issues – to call as many people to Jesus as possible.
Neil ended his talk by praying that there would be “many more people in heaven and spared a lost eternity due to days like today.” And if people were as encouraged, challenged, motivated and helped to pursue church planting as I was, then I trust that will be the case.
Please would you pray for more churches to be planted in our country, for the gospel to be declared clearly from these churches, and for more people to be saved from a lost eternity than currently are?
Prayer needs to saturate every part of church planting – thinking about it, planning it, organising it and running it. So please continue to pray for it. We can plant the seed, we can water it, but God makes it grow. Please pray that he would.