A Gospel-Hearted Love for Smaller Churches
A large church in Essex has sacrificially taken steps to partner with smaller churches in the county to reach more people with the gospel.
During my nearly 20 years as a pastor in Essex, the number and health of conservative evangelical churches has declined noticeably, especially Independent ones. Essex, home to 1.8m people, is now one of the most un-churched counties in Britain.
The leadership at Danbury Mission have increasingly felt challenged by this: we are one of the larger churches in the county and with size comes responsibility. As such, we agreed to set out on a path to plant several new churches in the coming years.
However, we were also struck by the number of smaller churches that were starting to approach us, asking for significant help. These churches were needing administrative support, volunteer training, and help with finding and mentoring pastors.
So, it was agreed that we should formally set aside resources to enable us not only to plant but also to revitalise smaller churches. Mission Essex was launched.
Introducing Mission Essex
From the start, the aim was for Mission Essex to become a local network of Independent churches with a similar gospel-minded DNA.
We started in 2022 with three congregations – Danbury Mission, City Church Chelmsford (our plant), and Greenstead Evangelical Free Church, Colchester (a smaller FIEC church) – agreeing that Danbury Mission would have to drive the network to begin with as we were the only ones with the resources to be able to do so.
To kick start the work, we recognised that we would have to commit significant resources upfront. As such, the elders at Danbury agreed to change my role so that 50% of my time could be given to Mission Essex.
Time from other staff members (especially our Operations Director) was also allocated to the work. Of course, this inevitably leaves holes in Danbury and so, from the outset, the elders have been willing to increase the staff team in order to make it all possible.
A year on
It is encouraging to see what the Lord has enabled us to do during these first twelve months.
- Misson Essex has facilitated the buying of a city centre building for City Church Chelmsford.
- We have run training events for preachers, youth workers, and musicians across the churches.
- We have held a county-wide women’s conference and are about to do the same for men.
- The staff from all three churches meet up weekly and this term we are all following the same preaching programme so that we can pool resources and encourage each other with preparation.
- Importantly, we are able to support all three churches with administration and compliance issues in order to free the pastors from that burden.
Although Danbury Mission is bearing the brunt of the cost of this work, we are grateful to the Lord that the church is united in its support of Mission Essex. I think this is because it has helped us to become more mission-minded as we look outwards to the needs of the whole county.
We have also grown spiritually as we have begun to experience the joy of giving to other churches. Remarkably, the Lord has also graciously brought a significant number of new people to Danbury in the last year – including unbelievers who have been converted.
We are excited to do more!
Conversations have begun with a couple of other churches about helping them and we are prayerfully considering our next plant. Our prayer is that we might have the privilege of being involved in ten new plants or revitalisations in the next ten years.
Please join us as we pray that the Lord might use these churches to bring many in Essex to know Jesus as their saviour.