Plant Sandwell

Our friends at The FIEC have created a fantastic resource to encourage churches to pray for Church planting. It’s called Go Into and it’s a set of 50 fact cards about places around the UK which would benefit from church-planting

Sandwell isn’t in the pack. That’s not an oversight. The list does not claim to be exclusive. It’s not even a strategic list. It’s just a selection of places to get us praying.  So if Sandwell was in the pack, what sorts of things would we find out?

Where and what is Sandwell?

Sandwell is the Metropolitan Borough which our church, Bearwood Chapel is in. We are just inside the border so our congregation tends to come from Birmingham, Sandwell and other Black country towns.

The borough is right in the middle of the West Midlands conurbation sandwiched between Birmingham, Dudley and Wolverhamption.

The Borough[1] is really an amalgamation of a number of towns including Oldbury, Smethwick, Warley, Cradley Heath, West Bromwich, Wednesbury and Tipton.  It’s home to a Premier League Football Team, West Bromwich Albion (The Baggies) and has included among its residents at some point, the comedian Frank Skinner and actress Julie Walters.

The population of the area is about 309,000. Politically the Labour Party dominate.  There is a rich ethnic diversity with 19.2% Asian, 5.9% Black and 3.3% mixed race as at the 2011 Census. Diversity has probably increased since then and is higher in some areas than others (e.g. Smethwick and West Bromwich).

There are high levels of economic and social deprivation throughout the borough.

Why does Sandwell need church planters?

Even if every church throughout the borough was full each Sunday and preaching the Gospel, there would still be many thousands of people who would not have had the opportunity to hear the Gospel.

There are a number of estates and neighbourhoods that are effectively unreached and untouched by Gospel outreach. In an earlier article we talked about the unreached and unchurched and there are a number of areas where this is evident. This includes areas where people primarily belong to other faiths including Islam and Sikhism. It includes council estates where there isn’t an active Christian witness.

Within the broad spectrum of church planting models, we include church revitalisation. There are also many churches in the area that are struggling to maintain a witness and at risk of closure. It would be wonderful to see them revitalised and once again becoming beacons of light in their communities.

How could church planting happen?

We’ve already mentioned one way above. Through churches being revitalised as other churches and Christians commit to partnering with them to enable a fresh start.

One of our prayers is that Gospel churches will eventually be in a position to plant new churches committing to send a number of people from their congregation to start new fellowships in needy areas. We often say at Bearwood that we are currently learning to do this by planting new congregations within our existing building. We recognise that there is a need for churches to overcome time as well as geographical boundary barriers.

Church planting might happen when Christians choose to move into the area with a specific intention to plant. They may not come with a large team. They may not have financial resources to hire buildings in which to meet (at least to start with). What if someone was to move onto an estate or street as a bi-vocational worker and start to build up a small group of people meeting in a home to find out what the Bible says. What if the people coming along professed faith n Christ, started to learn to pray together and to tell their friends, family and neighbours about the Gospel.

Hopefully –and this may be a personal preference but one I hold to passionately, church plants in Sandwell will reflect the cultural diversity of the area and not become artificially homogenous churches divided by race, age or class (of course a church in an neighbourhood where there is less diversity might expect to be less diverse).

Please Pray For Sandwell

Please pray for local churches that are committed to the Gospel including Bearwood Chapel . Pray that we and those other churches will remain faithful to God and His Word. Pray that our witness will bear fruit and that people will put their trust in Christ.

Pray that God will send workers into this harvest field including people with a desire to plant and lead churches but also believers who want to be part of an existing church and plant and are ready and able to serve.

Come into

The FIEC cards are headed “Go into” and so we can’t talk about the work of the Gospel in this area with-out an invitation to “come into” Sandwell. If you’re moving to the West Midlands to work or to study, why not consider living within the borough and worshipping at a local church (students at the University will still find churches like Bearwood Chapel local, a quick bus ride on the 11 or 48). Maybe one day you will be part of a plant out from a local church.

Maybe you are considering Gospel work in this area and would like to find out more.  Do get in touch with us if you are.

[1] Much of the information here comes from a mix of local knowledge through living here and talking with locals and from the Wikipedia Page (cited 18th November 2015).