This is a bit of a multi-purpose Blog/Email/Journal type entry that will probably pop up in various places – apologies if you come across it twice.
A while back I mentioned something that was going on that I couldn’t really mention. Well, now I can mention some more, though I will have to remain a bit vague for reasons that will become clear.
Sally and I are, possibly/probably, going to be involved in a church plant in a new part of Swindon that isn’t yet built. It’s very exciting, but a little bit scary and unknown. This message will probably be the first of many on the topic.
History and Background
When we first moved to Swindon we searched around a bit for a church that was our style and found Upper Stratton Baptist Church (USBC). It wasn’t massively local, being a couple of miles away, but it felt like the right place to be.
Shortly after committing to being at USBC, we joined a small group. For the uninitiated, a small group is, well, just that. Where the typical Sunday church service has many people and is lead from the front, a small group is a group of around 10-12 people who meet together during the week. Small groups, or house groups, or cell groups as they are sometimes known, enable people to connect at a deeper level, get to know each other better, share their experiences, learn from each other and pray for each other. It’s just a more personal way of meeting together as Christians.
Almost immediately we felt that our house group was important. Sally and I had a sense that this small group could be a little church of its own, and that maybe our small group leader might one day start a new, house-based church. Some would refer to this as a “church plant”.
The problem was…where??? There are plenty of churches in Swindon, and no shortage of them in the area that our small group meets in. So we dismissed it.
It turns out that there’s a new development in Swindon going on. A group of churches in the area have been praying about the development for years, and, now that it’s starting to happen, they’re looking to have a Christian presence there.
Our small group leader feels called (and there a lots of signs that its the right thing to do) to move into the area and be forming a Christian presence in the community from very early on. And it looks like the small group might be involved quite closely in this.
Some will find it odd that God appears to “speak” or to “lead” people to a particular course of action. I believe that this does happen. But I’ve really never seen the messages so loud and clear as they are for this.
So, here’s the Mission, if you choose to accept it: help our small group leader establish a Christian presence in this new development from the word go, and work to build community, welcome people to the area, and show those moving in a huge amount of love by serving them, being generous, and accepting them as friends and neighbours.
Any group of Christians will probably become known as a “church”, but we’re hesitant to define what that means for us just yet, and we certainly have no plans for a building.
That’s the story so far in very brief form. I could say lots about how the churches of Swindon have been working together in wonderful ways, how funding hasn’t been an issue, and how people we didn’t expect to have been incredibly encouraging about the whole thing. It really is too good to be true.
There’s also been other things going on that have really brought our small group together in the last few weeks. We’re a very tight knit community who get on really well together and are all very excited about being a part of the new community.
So what’s our involvement?
Well, we’ve obviously been supporting and praying for the team as this is a massive change for them, and quite a big risk. But we’ve also been considering our own involvement.
Now, I’m normally practical, working through issues and thinking things through thoroughly before committing to them. But in this case, everything in me says “well of course we’re going to be a part of it”. When our small group leader told us what she was up to, we already knew, and I think we already knew that we would be a part of it too.
We’re both hugely excited and want to be involved in as much of a capacity as we can.
It’s not all simple though. We’ve had to ask ourselves if we’re doing this because we think God is calling us to, or because we just want to be part of a new exciting church that lots of our close friends are in too.
We’re wondering just how we can be involved in a community-building project when, at present, we’re unable to actually move into the area.
We’ve also recently become aware of the practicalities. There’s always politics when a group of people are involved in change and this is no exception. There will be some real challenges along the way.
Though God’s call seems clear to us…we have to be sure that we’re following God’s call for us as we proceed.
To put it another way, some good friends of ours are waiting for a definite call from God before they commit to being involved. We’re the opposite, waiting to see if God calls us NOT to be involved.
What happens now?
Well, we don’t really know. Things are happening extremely quickly, but they are also being revealed a little at a time. We had a really good meeting with the small group the other night to discuss what the “shared values” of the new “church” might be (worthy of a whole blog post of its own), and we’re all praying, asking God questions, looking for answers, wisdom, guidance in faith that they will come.
I can’t give too much detail in a public forum, but I’m hoping to be able to post bits and pieces about what’s going on here; to record the process that we go through, but also in the hope that those reading may be able to support us.
I will try to use as little church jargon as possible, though such a thing is hard when you’re writing about such a topic.
It’s obviously something that could be quite a big change of direction for us and consume a lot of our time. As I said before, it’s exciting and scary stepping into the unknown in faith. I hope to be able to share some pretty exciting stuff here as time goes on.