Hearing God speak through Scripture
As a church, we place God’s Word at the centre of all we do. Our desire is to be a church that hears and obeys God’s Word. Through this year our different gatherings have been looking at a variety of Bible books as well as special themes and topics including
Some important themes that have kept coming up have included.
– Remembering that we are part of a family together. We are called to love and care for each other, sharing our gifts for God’s glory. It has been encouraging to see people responding to this and being willing to use their gifts for God’s glory becoming more involved in the life and witness of the church.
– We are called to be faithful and fruitful. We are not to be consumerists.
– Grace – past, present and future is what motivates us to godly living and Gospel witness. We should not be driven by guilt and shame.
– The Gospel is all God’s work and so he gets all the glory
– The Gospel transforms our relationship to God and this should have an impact on our relationships with each other.
– It is possible to know real peace in and through the storms of life. Peace is a person not a concept or place. That person is Jesus.
We believe that evangelism is something that should be part of our everyday life. However, we also try to include opportunities for special events when people are invited to come and hear the good news. This year we have been able to do this through:
The Difference 2016. The Difference Easter makes. This brought people from all parts of the church family together to share the Gospel over Easter through a variety of events including
-A children’s holiday club
-The Difference Festival Café with live music including original compositions from Jonathan Girling, interviews and a short talk on 3 nights.
-An Arts Day on the Saturday
Rooted – our new course looking at the big questions of life including “Who is God?” “Where do we come from?” “What does it mean to be human?” and “How does all the mess get sorted out.”
Christmas Events including a café style carol service, traditional carols by candlelight, A Spanish Christmas and Family Carols on Christmas Eve.
We have been encouraged throughout the year as we’ve engaged with a lot of different people from different backgrounds and at different stages of finding out about God and the Gospel. All of our congregations have seen new people coming along.
PlantBC – a vision for planting
Back in 2012 we had a decision to make. Our little Chapel was becoming quite crowded on a Sunday morning. We didn’t want to just coast along, happy with the feeling of being full. We saw the great need of the mission field around us. We realised we could either raise funds for a building project, move offsite or add another service.
We decided to go for the last option, something incredibly brave and costly for a small church to do. However, we also said that we didn’t want this to be a one off split out of necessity. Rather, we felt that this was a step forward to seeing other congregations and missional communities multiplying. So, we added the Sunday Night Church and then last year we found ourselves planting a Spanish speaking congregation meeting as part of the Chapel family on Saturday evenings.
One of our desires is to see new churches planted across Sandwell and the Black Country, particularly reaching into areas where there currently is no or very little Gospel witness. To this end, we have done three things
- We’ve sought out partners who share a commitment to Gospel witness and church planting including 2020 Birmingham and CPI (The Church Planting Initiative
- We’ve put out an appeal for labourers in the Harvest Field.
- We’ve linked up with Union School of Theology to offer their Graduate Diploma in Theology for potential church planters. This means people will be able to study part time within a learning community whilst putting their learning into practice.
One particular area of focus is the Bristnall area, a council estate with its centre about 25 minutes’ walk from the Chapel. Our prayer is to see a sustained, meaningful witness on the estate. To this end, this year we did some focused door to door outreach visiting homes on the estate and we’ve followed up with regular newsletter drops to a few of the streets. We’re praying that in 2017 and 18 we’ll be able to build up some contacts leading to 1-1 and group Bible studies using Firstlook and Rooted.
In The Community
This year has seen a growth in our community link activities including
- Our ESOL classes. We have been able to increase provision and now offer classes at the Chapel, Thimblemill Library and The Hub Victoria Park
- Our Community Café has now been running for just under 2 years. We see a number of regular customers and have been able to offer food, help and advice to people coming in with various needs including a number of homeless people. Several of our volunteers have moved on to permanent paid work and often voluntary work at the café has been a vital stepping stone towards this.
- After-School Club is regularly attended by 20+ children from a variety of backgrounds and situations. This is an area where we particularly need prayer. The club was originally set up with the help of OM ELCO teams. Those teams are no longer available and so we have found ourselves quite stretched for man-power. The current team are encouraged by the number of children coming but finding the workload challenging. For the next few months we will only be able to offer the club fortnightly but are praying for new volunteers to join us.
- Toddlers – has regular contact with over 60 families. The year started with a challenge as Hannah who has led the ministry for several years found that changes to her work days meant she was no longer able to be present on Tuesday. She has however been able to continue to support the ministry by meeting with families and running the face-book group and her husband Jonathan has been more involved in the ministry this year which has also led to growing opportunities to build up links with dads attending the groups. The real encouragement has been to see parents stepping up and becoming more involved in helping run the groups
We believe that an important part of local church life is supporting wider mission. This year we’ve been able to support mission partners working OM and YWAM training people for mission and discipleship, supporting the local church, missionaries and various community projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo and training for church ministry in mainland Europe with one church member Hannes being supported through Theological College at Union in Wales. We’ve also been able to add a new mission partnership supporting training for ministry in the Middle East.
With so much happening, it would be easy to neglect the vital place of prayer in the life of the Church. This year, we felt it right to place an emphasis on coming together as a whole church for prayer each month. We focus on a particular topic each month such as world mission, youth and children’s work etc followed by opportunity to share testimony and individual prayer requests.
Last year’s review mentioned a few challenges including the fragile health of a number of our older, faithful members and the fragile uncertainty that many of our church family face about housing, residency etc. Those factors remain true. We’ve said goodbye to a couple of church members who have gone home to be with the Lord We’ve also seen people come and go as they’ve been moved on to new accommodation. At the same time we are so encouraged by the way that people have used their gifts and continued to serve out of weakness.
We also had the joy of seeing some of our young people getting married including one wedding at the Chapel which saw 110 guests packed in for a meal after the ceremony. We didn’t think it was possible to squeeze that many in for a sit down meal!