In the Buckinghamshire city of Milton Keynes you can fill your days with snowboarding, shopping and water-skiing.
You can spend your hard-earned money at the all-new casino; you can eat and drink at one of the hundreds of restaurants and cafés, take in a show at the theatre or hang-out in one of the many green spaces. But what you won’t be able to do very readily is hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
As Milton Keynes has grown rapidly since its inception in the 1960s, one thing that has not grown up around the city (still officially a town) is a strong gospel witness. There certainly are gospel churches, but nowhere near enough to reach the quarter of a million plus people who live there, which is expected to grow by another 60% in the next few decades.
A new partnership
Seeing this need, and through a link with one small church in Milton Keynes (formerly Britten Grove Baptist Church), four FIEC churches in the region have formed a partnership to help replant this church and establish a strategic gospel witness.
The Four Counties Church Partnership (FCCP) consists of four supporting churches led by Ray Evans (Grace Community Church in Kempston), Martyn Hallett (Hope Church in Bedford), Mark Lawrence (Christ Church Dunstable) and Michael Teutsch (Flitwick Baptist Church). Together these churches have committed funds to help support a full-time pastor / church planter over five years to lead and re-establish the work.
A new church for a new city
In early 2013, the church and FCCP together called Richard Wardman as full-time pastor. Richard was formerly assistant pastor of the Thomas Cooper Memorial Evangelical Baptist Church (TCM) in Lincoln and as part of his ministry training he completed the Binary Course at WEST. Since starting in May 2013, Richard and the small team of elders have helped to relaunch the church as New City Church Milton Keynes: a new church for a new city. New City Church is an FIEC church plant working to see the whole city renewed and regenerated through the gospel of Christ.
Doubled in size
In the short time since Richard’s appointment the church has almost doubled in size to around 80 adults and children as the Lord has answered prayers to send workers for his harvest field. There is a wonderful sense of excitement about all that the Lord is doing and could do through this small church on the edge of a great city.
The church recently spent a Saturday morning dreaming up creative ideas as to how they will make links with the local community and tell local people about the hope of Christ. There have been people coming to Christianity Explored courses, and several unbelievers in regular attendance on Sundays. New people frequently comment on the warmth of the welcome they receive and the excitement of joining a church focussed on the gospel. The congregation is very diverse, reflecting the diversity of the city. Over 25% of the population comes from black or ethnic minority groups.
There are many challenges to growth: the 2011 census revealed that the average age in Milton Keynes is 35 and that the number of residents born outside the UK has doubled over the last decade. Other faiths are growing rapidly in number and over 30% of residents claim to have no faith at all. Ecumenism is rife in the town with Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists and Catholics all sharing the same designated buildings, while the local council seems reticent about granting planning permission for non-ecumenical church buildings.
However, despite these obvious challenges, Jesus has promised to build his church (Matthew 16.18). Christians may do the planting but it is God who makes the harvest grow (1 Corinthians 3.6). The church has a big vision for Milton Keynes with a big God behind them.
The need for workers
The long-term vision for the church is to grow beyond independence from the FCCP and develop the resources needed to plant more churches around the city. Part of that strategy involves calling and training gospel workers to help grow the work at New City Church and eventually to lead these other church plants. The church would like to see this happening sooner rather than later. They would like to see an assistant pastor work alongside Richard, possibly from September 2015. But the church needs financial assistance.
For more info see www.newcitychurch.co.uk