In the 70s and 80s churches were planted in quite a serious way and they were simply replicating what they already knew. But today there is much more awareness of a movement and since 2000 it’s been more missional. We’re thinking about the people now before we even imagine what the church will look like. So the churches that are being planted are being formed out of a mission encounter.
But it has often been the case that churches have been planted without much of a structure because even the denominations were unsure of how to support their own church planters. So there has been a lot of isolation among church planters. We’re doing some things for the first time, there are no established patterns, so there is isolation.
Mission21 was formed out of recognition of this movement and to connect the people who are isolated and allow them to have a bigger sense of being part of a large movement. Through Mission 21 they could get connected and then use those connections.
Out of the many messages at this conference – the need for discernment, variety, and oneness between the black and white churches - which one resonated with you the most?
Discernment is a big thing for me because even before we have the strategy we need to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying. We can always have all the strategies in the world but we still need to discern. Because for the under 25s certainly there is almost a new sense of Britishness. Ethnicity is not a big issue for them. It’s a big thing for my generation because we always thought in lines of ethnicity but for the under 25s who were born here they are happy to speak English. And that’s a new opportunity for the church. The younger generations can help the older generations to understand.
Was Mission21 about starting the process towards a structure for church planters?
I think we wanted to start a conversation and from that we’ll just see how it goes. We will continue to talk after this, maybe hold more events and take soundings from the people who came.
You must be quite encouraged by the broad range of ages here?
It’s exciting to see that there is no one model of church planting. There are men, women, young, old, people of all ages planting churches and it’s indicative of a movement that only God could operate.
What are you most excited about as you survey the spread of churches across the UK?
There is a new atmosphere, that we are Christians first and our denominational identity comes second. There is a generosity of spirit where Christians are willing to give across their boundaries.
As one person said, the future of the church will be “not by race but by grace”. There is a real sense of doing whatever it takes to get the job done, an “outrageous generosity”.
Some people say the church in the UK is dying. What would you say to them?
There are parts of the church that are dying but underneath all of that there is a new wave. There is a Welsh language event called New Tide and I feel like there is a new tide of God coming in. There is a lot going on under the radar that the secular press won’t catch.