How might you plant a church in the Black Country?

One of the things we’ve talked about on is the possibility of seeing a network of interdependent Gospel churches planted across Sandwell and the Black Country. So if you’re thinking about getting involved in church planting and wondering what that might look like here then here’s one scenario of how it could happen.

We would love to partner with people who are called to plant churches. We realise that starting a new church is no easy thing. Often, and perhaps the easiest way (not that we are saying it is really easy, just relative to some options) is to gather a group of Christians who are already part of one church and begin meeting together. But what if you don’t have such a group to start with. After all, the early church often didn’t have that luxury, nor did missionaries when they went across the seas to other countries for the first time. Historically and globally, church plants have started from scratch.

Now actually, if you come to this part of the West Midlands it’s not quite that extreme. Gospel loving churches do exist but they may not be large with lots of people to send out and they may not be cash rich and able to pay generous salaries to church planting pastors. But with the head start of partner churches like Bearwood Chapel already on the ground and a mindset that says you can plant without that large core team to help you start, here’s a possible scenario.

What if you were to plan to move to the West Midlands. You would need to think about how you were going to finance living and ministering here as you won’t have church members able to pay you a salary. Funding could come from two sources. First of all, supporters and other churches might recognise this as a missionary project and be able to help you raise some of your support. Secondly, the advantage of moving to a heavily populated urban area is that it should be possible for you to find work. What if you were to work 3 days a week and keep the other 3 days free to focus on church planting?

Now moving to a new area can be lonely and challenging. This is where having an existing local church like Bearwood Chapel comes in. You would be able to join with us for fellowship and bible teaching. If you have a family you would find a welcoming home for them.  You would not be on your own.

The local church also becomes the context for training. You may not have undergone formal Bible College training yet. Not only that but finances and even your temperament may well mean that you don’t consider theological college a realistic option. In fact, you are probably eager to get out into the real world and get on with the business of evangelism and discipleship. However, good solid Biblical training to help you teach God’s word, lead a congregation, pastor the flock, answer those big apologetic questions etc is still both vital and possible.

Working alongside us, you would be able to take time to do some guided reading, make use of and have 1-1 and small group tutorials to stretch and challenge your thinking. You may also be able to sign up for a formal training course, for example you could attend the Midlands Training Course 1 day a week and increasingly our Bible colleges are thinking very carefully about how to make distance learning for non-residential students as effective as possible. Union School of Theology for example offer the opportunity to study from a distance as part of remote learning communities.

We learn best when we do and so as part of a local church you would get hands on experience in teaching, evangelism and pastoral care.

However, here’s the difference. Your primary focus in church life would not be on leading or taking part in ministries to grow that church. Right from the start, your main objective would be to begin gathering a new congregation.

But remember, the congregation you would be gathering would not be from the existing church. You would be gathering new converts. Living in a local community, you would be able to focus on reaching your neighbours. You’d be making friends with people, talking to them over the garden fence, inviting them over getting to know them. You might start to knock on some doors, offer people a copy of Luke’s Gospel and/or a church newsletter. Over time we’d be praying for one or two people to be willing to either invite you into their home or come round to your home and start doing bible studies to find out about Jesus and the Gospel. Our prayer would be that they would become Christians and they’d invite their friends and neighbours along to the Bible study too.

Eventually we would hope to see a missional community built up. These would be young Christians and they would have learnt from the start about how to be a community together who love and care for one another and who instinctively share their faith with others. The way they come into the kingdom is likely to be the way they go on and the way that they seek to invite others. At this point you have your core team. This can then grow into an autonomous congregation.

All the time, you will have the support, prayers and practical help of an existing church. We’ll share resources, do things together and we’d learn from each other.

Oh and then one day, people from within the new congregation will start planting with your support.

This is just one possible scenario for how a church planting partnership might work. If it sounds of interest, have a look at our #PlantBC page and then get in touch.