New mission to Wales in 2014
A new year generally brings with it a series of initiatives to declare anew the Christian faith. Whether it's the UK launch of the latest evangelistic craze or a bright and shiny course that will solve everything and answer all your questions, there is a yearning to see the church advance and not retreat.
But small is beautiful according to Waleswide, a church planting and networking organisation based in Wales. Instead of promoting an ambitious national strategy, it is planning a series of conferences with a simple message: do something different and fill your local gaps.
In many ways it's the same ethos that motivates food bank to ask shoppers to donate extra goods to them as they shop for their families. Waleswide is simply asking churches to start or support a new missional venture in their communities whilst continuing with existing outreach.
The organisation is hosting three conferences in north, south and mid-Wales during February. The purpose of the conference is to encourage, inspire and motivate delegates to become part of 'a new mission to Wales'.
Every church will be encouraged to do something outside their patch, so that gaps can be filled and differences made. The possibilities are endless: planting a church, establishing a missional community, supporting an existing new project, or doing Messy Church on a nearby estate.
Two of the conferences will be held during the working week, one on 6 February in North Wales at Kinmel Bay Church, and in south Wales on 11 February in Brackla Tabernacle, Bridgend.
However for the first time since starting these conferences, there will also be a gathering in mid -Wales at Newtown Evangelical Church. This will take place between the other two on Saturday 8 February and is aimed at leaders who are unable to meet during the week due to other work commitments.
It is particularly hoped that this extra date will appeal to people who are interested in church plants and fresh expressions of mission. Each event runs from runs from 10am to 4pm.
The message may be simple but the vision is expansive. The organisers say they are seeking to engage churches all over Wales and challenge them to reprioritise Wales as a mission field. To keep content practical, the events will include suggestions for planting, strengthening and growing churches.
Chairman of Waleswide, David Ollerton said: "If every gospel-minded church in Wales decided to reach out in some way to an adjacent area, near or far, we could really begin to see a difference.
"It may be a house group or a gospel community beyond our present sphere; giving support or people to a plant or re-plant, a messy church group, or indeed anything that is realistic. So that we all play an active part in a new mission.
"Everyone is welcome to attend. We specially hope that church leaders, those stepping into leadership and those considering a call to pioneer in Wales will come."
The keynote address will be given by the Reverend Chris Green, Vice Principal of Oak Hill Theological College, lecturer on church planting, and author of the Message of the Church in 'The Bible Speaks Today' series. There will also be a range of workshops and seminars lead by practitioners from across Wales. Subjects will include:
Planting a church from another church – Gareth Lloyd
Restarting an existing work – Gary Stirling
Starting from a gospel community – Steve Dyer
Pre-planting steps (Messy Church) – Bill Chapman
The options in Welsh – Rhun Murphy/Hywel Edwards/David Ollerton and James Sercombe.
For people who are committed to the health of churches in Wales this may well prove to be the most important missional gathering of the year.