Brussels is the centre of the European Union around which the debate about Britain’s membership is raging.
God has his people in that city and a new church plant began recently. Naomi Pilgrem takes up the story. ‘Why do we need another church? Our church is small and there aren’t enough of us as it is!’
The person asking that question was genuine and servant-hearted and this was their gut reaction to hearing that we were planning, under God, to leave the church we had been members of for five years in order to plant a new one in a neighbouring borough of Brussels.
In many ways, such a reaction is understandable. The church in Belgium is weak, the ground is hard, trained Bible teachers are few, finances are very limited and evangelicals make up a negligible percentage of the overall population. So the desire to bunker down and try and solidify what is in existence is in many ways legitimate and necessary.
God uses the weak
And yet, over the course of history, we see again and again that our sovereign God chooses to use that which is weak to accomplish his glorious purposes. And when we think that we know the Bread of Life and that two miles down the road, in the next borough, there are 50,000 people dying of spiritual hunger without access to a Francophone church where the gospel is clearly proclaimed…(to read more click here)
Coming up in the September issue of Evangelicals Now…
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Yorkshire is a county which needs no introduction.
Famous for its landscapes, agriculture, industrial past and present, and modern commercial clout, its sporting success and the warmth (and pride) of its people, Yorkshire is a well-known brand.
What is less well-known is its current desperate spiritual state. Yorkshire has been blessed with astonishing revivals and courageous church planting movements in the past, and in many areas chapel buildings of different sorts bear witness to what God has done.
Today there are just a small handful of churches which we might call ‘large’ by UK standards. In most places, gospel-loving churches are very small, and in a tiny minority. Whole communities, urban, semi-urban and rural, are without a vibrant witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. With a population of nearly 5.5 million (the same as Scotland’s), the need is almost overwhelming.
The good news for Yorkshire
Last year a handful of concerned believers living and working in Yorkshire started meeting to talk about the needs and opportunities for church planting. Over the months since commencing… (click here to read more)
It all started with a coffee and craft.
A small gathering sat together in a cosy corner of a newly converted pub and discussed life’s labours as they knitted complex creations.
Jesus at The Oasis
One of the women attending made friends with others who were there, including a number from the church next door. Soon, she was coming to other events being held at this budding community hub. She met other people from the neighbourhood and began to share her life with the faithful hosts serving hot drinks from behind the bar.
Next came an invitation to an evangelistic event at the church; accepted at first ‘just the once’, but then again, and again. Two years after that first contact at the women’s craft evening, she knows Jesus is her Lord and she is living for him.
Dozens of strangers from the community are passing through The Oasis in Reading.
The Oasis has become a flourishing local meeting point under the guidance of Carey Baptist Church, as neighbours build relationships with the supportive church family and hear about the saving news of Jesus Christ.
It wasn’t always this way
The public house on the corner of Baker Street and Carey Street was originally called The Eagle and landed in around 1865. It changed hands many times before its name was altered a few decades ago to The Oasis. Its fate has teased Carey’s church members over the last 50 years as the site was put on the market several times. Many viewed The Oasis as a way of reaching out to the community, but for decades its purchase eluded them. However, in 2009, the church had another chance to acquire the building.
A series of discussions with a developer secured a three-storey part of the building plus car park, and planning permission was soon granted to change the historic pub’s use to a ‘place of worship’, an extension of the neighbouring church building.
Then began the process of converting a filthy and run-down pub into a modern oasis, bringing living water and offering spiritual refreshment to the neighbourhood.
Ten months of building work started in November 2011: re-roofing the structure; creating two self-contained flats on the first floor for the use of church staff members and missionaries; refurbishing the ground floor; and creating a new entrance onto the principal thoroughfare.
The re-imagined centre was born, placed in the heart of an extremely diverse and needy neighbourhood. Many live comfortable and affluent lives in west Reading, but it is also no secret that the dark menaces of drugs, alcohol and prostitution lurk on its streets. The area is home to many nationalities and people experiencing all stages of life – and all in need of a saviour.
Building a bridge
A founding team worked on the principles behind the new venture and established a clear direction for its use; they were determined for this to be not another place for meetings, but rather a place where people meet. Here was an opportunity for people in the church to build relationships with people in their area. It was agreed that The Oasis’s vision would be to embrace, enrich and evangelise the local community.
Today, these principles are being lived out almost every day of the week. Visitors pass through the doors on a Friday evening and see familiar faces scattered across the room.
A smiling face greets them from behind the bar: ‘Would you a like a tea, a coffee?’
To their right, men shake and yell as they compete at table football. Two pool players sip on their drinks and chat behind them. To the left, a mixed group is huddled around a sofa and on stools playing a board game, while next to them a couple chew over life’s big questions. In front of them, a young man has picked up a flyer for the upcoming Christianity Explored course. He asks a friend, a church member, what he is living for.
There are community evenings, low-cost lunches, craft nights, knit and natter sessions, men’s breakfasts and courses exploring the Christian faith. Neighbourhood action groups hold meetings at the centre and The Rahab Project – a charity tackling sexual exploitation in the area – uses the location as a base. Church youth clubs and 20s/30s groups invite friends to socials at the venue and one-off events like the screening of major sporting events regularly draw a crowd. Church members are making good friends in the community. People are drawn to the welcoming and homely feel of The Oasis.
Coming to know the Lord
Heart-warming stories of neighbours coming into The Oasis, getting to know the church family and coming to know the Lord through ongoing contact with Carey Baptist Church are a huge encouragement in this new season for a once-neglected pub. May God continue to bless his work as the church seeks to embrace, enrich and evangelise the local community.
They’ve been growing, moving and building at Christ Church Central, Sheffield!
On Sunday September 7, Christ Church Central relocated its Sunday meetings to a new venue in the heart of Sheffield city centre. The Workstation is a conference centre adjoining the city’s popular Showroom Cinema. The move is the latest response to a decade of steady God-given growth, as the church has met in a primary school, a nightclub, a former Brethren meeting hall and a Scout hall since its launch in 2003.
Outgrowing the premises again
Planted with 50 adults from Christ Church Fulwood in the western suburbs of Sheffield, Christ Church Central now has a regular attendance of over 200 across two services on Sundays, including more than 40 children. The church owns the aforementioned ex-Brethren hall (Egerton Hall) and uses it for midweek activities, but has repeatedly outgrown its various Sunday meeting spaces, prompting the leadership team to pray and search for a new venue in the spring of this year.
The Revd Tim Davies, Senior Minister, takes up the story: ‘We reflected that the size of our meeting space had become a limiting factor in our attempts to grow the gospel in our city-centre location, with our children’s groups in particular feeling the pressure. The Lord answered our prayers through the provision of the Workstation, which gives us more room to grow, as well as being more attractive and accessible than our previous space, and in a better location. We’ve been abundantly blessed and are extremely grateful.’
Opposite the Students’ Union
The new facility is also directly opposite the Students’ Union for Sheffield Hallam University, meaning the church will be well-placed to expand its important and strategic ministry among students.
The move comes, however, as Christ Church Central is in the middle of an even more exciting project: the redevelopment of the Egerton Hall site. Planning permission has been granted for a new building that will include a 300-seater auditorium, as well as additional meeting, catering and administrative facilities.
Building for the future
The building project is central to the church’s long-term strategy, as Tim explains: ‘We’re committed to establishing a permanent, prominent presence for the gospel in the centre of Sheffield – a Bible-teaching, Bible-learning, Bible-living church that reflects our evangelical Anglican identity. We want a building that will enable us to grow large enough to plant new churches sustain-ably in other parts of the city, where the gospel need is extremely great.’
Such a facility comes at a cost: £3m, to be precise. The church family is now praying for and working on the daunting task of raising the funds, with the target of having all the money secured, or at least pledged, by the end of 2015 so that construction can begin. Early signs are encouraging: a poll of members indicated the potential to give £800,000 to the project over the next five years, with the remainder to be sought from external sources.
But there’s a long way to go, as Tim acknowledges: ‘We’re learning a lot – about God and about ourselves. It may be that God uses this project to humble us. But we’ve seen God’s abundant grace to us so many times in the past that we feel confident to push forward prayerfully. And already we’ve seen the project generate significant opportunities for evangelism and discipleship, which is really what we’re all about anyway.’
People who don’t go to church
To what does Tim attribute the church’s growth? ‘The grace of God. We aren’t – in one sense, at least – doing anything special. Just preaching Jesus week-by-week and encouraging one another to follow him authentically and wholeheartedly in our homes and workplaces. Since we began, we’ve aimed to be a church for people who don’t go to church – to present the gospel as clearly as possible to as many people as possible. But any success we’ve had isn’t our doing. We’re planting and watering as best we can, but it is God who has given – and will, we pray, continue to give – the growth.’
For more info, visit www.christchurchcentral.co.uk