PLANTING & GROWING RURAL CHURCHES
In this issue of Impact: How to plant a church? • Life without a Pastor • Share an Evangelist
I met God
Andy Robinson, Pastor of Sherborne
Community Church in Dorset,
writes about the Lord’s amazing
intervention on a very dark and
in a ditch!
dangerous night last winter.
have been saved from death on at
least five occasions in my life. My
latest escape was in February 2009.
Unusually heavy snow had fallen but on
6th February it was replaced by dreary
rain. I had an early morning appointment
in Southampton which meant being on
the road at 4.30am. As I headed towards
Shaftesbury the weather was wet, really
wet. Suddenly, as I approached the high
ground of Shaftesbury the rain quickly
turned to heavy driving snow. I decided to
head down towards the coast. This proved
to be a mistake.
The descent on the steep and winding road
was hazardous. The car swerved from left
to right and back again, as I applied the
brakes. On approaching a sharp corner, it
was all too much for the car which started
going sideways down the road at about 40
miles an hour - not my driving; but sliding
on ice. Then the car gave up on gravity
and rolled on its side, then onto the roof,
and rolled over and over again. I knew I
was upside down when it stopped rolling,
but the car was still moving! It skidded
down the hill, careering through some
bushes into a ditch on the side of the road.
Everything was quiet and still.
My back was broken. The car was a write-off. I was still alive. There was no blood but I
was upside down in the car with the engine
But at some point during my time in the ditch running. Fire was a distinct possibility. I
released the seat belt, dropped down into
and my amazing time with the Lord, the use of the cab full of branches, leaves, broken
glass and cold snow. The car radio still
my limbs returned.
Continues over the page
Rural Ministries is an Evangelical Mission Agency committed
to planting and growing rural churches in the countryside
PLANTING & GROWING RURAL CHURCHES
talking away was strangely comforting. The I started thinking about church. I am a of the earth. There was nowhere else I
only way out of the crumpled mess was to dedicated pastor! I had just signed an would rather have been! On that dark cold
attempt to kick in the window. Something agreement to return to the church I loved, morning I knew for the first time how much
cracked in my body and I realised that having had to leave previously partly as a I meant to God. In that ditch with a busted
beneath my arms nothing was moving. No result of severe health problems. “This is body, covered in snow and with no help in
feeling, no pain, just nothing. not going to go down well among those sight, I enjoyed the best time I have ever
I was determined not to die in the car. I who have expressed confidence in me.” had with the Lord.
wondered if the electric windows would A car making an early journey to the
open as the engine was still on. They airport stopped on the road. Why, I do not
did. I managed to pull myself through
the window. Lying in the road I let out a “You are a know. They found me covered in snow and
called the emergency services, who arrived
triumphant sigh. I was out the car. Five at the correct location. Two ambulances
o’clock in the morning on a quiet road,
with heavy snow falling. Suddenly pain hit child of God” had to reverse down the ice covered hill
to get to the wrecked car. At one point a
me, the lower part of my back screamed in paramedic pulled a blanket over my head
agony. The pain was searing. I could not “Hey,” I said, “I’m not dead yet!’, “Don’t
move. I had known cold when I lived on But lying partially paralyzed in the dark worry” he said, “I’m just covering your face
the streets but nothing like this. frozen ditch, I was suddenly aware of one from the snow”.
phrase... “You are a child of the King - you My back was broken. The car was a write-
are a child of the King.” My spirits were off. But at some point during my time in the
lifted. Yes I was a child of the King. I felt ditch and my amazing time with the Lord,
“ What about my the Lord draw not only close to me, but the use of my limbs returned. Buried into
lift me into a place far above my earthly
mobile phone?” conscious. No I was not abducted by
the upside down engine bay was a tree that
had driven right through the grille and into
aliens - God did not take me out of my the engine. A foot higher and it would have
circumstances but instead he visited me driven through me.
I thought. Unusually it was in my pocket in them. He lifted me above the painful
cold and chaotic mess I found myself in, I lost a car as a result of the accident but
rather than in the normal place on the knew that I had gained far more than I lost.
dashboard. I called the emergency to the wonderful realms of his peace. I felt
of immense worth as a child of the King. I Life is not all about the “stuff” we desire or
services, not realising I had sent them to accumulate. I am loved by the King and
the wrong location. felt the most privileged person on the face
my love for him now is far deeper than
before the accident. I want to worship and
serve him. If God sees me as valuable and
precious in his sight, how he must long for
the entire world to know of his love.
Following a period in hospital I was able
to return to my family and church who
were so supportive. I now live and pastor
knowing that the earthly does not control
the spiritual. Our God reigns. In life or
death, we have nothing to fear.
The Lord met with the psalmist David when
David called out from a pit. And the Lord
met me in a ditch. Wherever you are today
and whatever your circumstances, may
you know that you are a precious child of
Clarify the focus
Without clarity, a new church can exhaust
itself by running in too many directions or
trying to please everyone. Think about the
Beliefs – What are the foundations?
Vision – What could this church look like
in the future?
Mission – What has God called and
equipped you to do?
Values – What is really important to you?
Strategy – What are we going to do
Answering these questions and producing
How to plant a short written summary will help you deal
with two types of people likely to appear in
a new church: those prepared and sent by
churches? God, and others prepared by the enemy
to spread discontent or hijack the plant.
Church plants struggle when they are too
Each new church is part of the “research and all-embracing and fail to confront people
development” section of the wider church. As well Invest in partnerships
as supporting existing churches, Rural Ministries is The common characteristic of successful
assisting eight new churches and mission projects in rural church plants is that they resist a
the countryside. We are learning quickly the joys and “go it alone” mindset. Church planting
is an exercise in kingdom-mindedness. It
challenges of church planting. Some of the pointers is always valuable to inform and consult
below may be helpful in your own situation. with other church leaders. With so many
areas in the UK lacking active churches,
unhelpful competition should be avoided.
First count the cost disciples, in prodigal Christians returning An over-emphasis on independence can
Jesus warned of the dangers of and in existing Christians developing and obscure the interdependent nature of
enthusiastically commencing projects growing. churches described in the New Testament.
without considering all that may be Fellowship in the gospel was a joy shared
Start developing leaders – now in more than one geographical location
involved (Luke 14:28). Church planting
requires careful preparation. It is always If an existing church considering planting (Philippians 1:5). This enabled churches
costly. It requires existing churches to waits to discover surplus leaders, they to go on and plant more churches. Strong
release people and resources elsewhere. are unlikely to ever plant churches. All rural church plants develop a wide network
Without sacrifice church planting is churches need more leaders, children’s of friends and supporters. While not all
impossible. workers, musicians, preachers, youth will have the opportunity to be personally
workers, administrators, small group active in church planting, we can spiritually
Ideally someone will be available to lead leaders etc. Wise leaders will make it invest through prayer, fellowship and
the new church, on a part or full time a priority to grow leaders for both their financial support.
basis. Additional costs may include venue current and future work.
hire, equipment and publicity. A realistic We can easily forget that every church had
budget is required. Avoid being married to to be planted. Pioneers were required -
a model often in face of opposition to take the good
The good news is that a blessing comes news of Jesus Christ to their communities.
to churches that give (Acts 20:34-36). It is possible to read books or attend
conferences and be attracted to a church Within Rural Ministries we would like to see
We observe that where churches support many more take up the challenge.
others, particularly church plants, there is model that has worked elsewhere. Some
clear evidence of growth taking place in principles may be transferable but each Declan Flanagan
both the existing and the new churches. place and group of people is unique.
Overseas missionaries constantly ask the
Identify the motives “who, when, where” of their local context. In the previous edition of Impact we asked
People start churches for many reasons It’s vital to take time to appreciate the “Why plant churches?” If you have internet
and different motives. Church planting is particular history and stories within an access this is available at
only helpful if it enables us to participate area. What tends to help is learning from www.ruralministries.org.uk/smartweb/
more fully in the mission of God. He those who have planted churches and do main/resources and under ‘Impact’ section
is interested in more people becoming not hide the battle scars. ‘Summer 2009’
2009 - Vision
n business, politics and the church we
all search for visionary leadership. ttendance at the Conference These are just
Vision statements and ‘strategic plans’ increases every year. Children some of the
are increasingly commonplace but often are catered for by Kids-inc. – visit comments
ignore an essential reality: we all have www.kids-inc.co.uk/coverdale.htm The received from
imperfect vision. young people have their own valuable participants at the
At the 2009 Rural Ministries Conference times of fellowship and teaching, plus 2009 conference.
the guest speaker, Dave Burke from the challenges presented by orienteering
and archery. It is an invaluable time for “So encouraging to be given time to
Bethany Church, Sunderland encouraged rest in His presence”
over 100 adults, to have an unblurred those often in isolated situations to enjoy
vision of Jesus Christ. When Jesus is clearly a weekend of sharing, teaching and
“A time of encouragement”
in focus, we are in a better position to fellowship.
introduce him to those who fail to see his Would you like to be there in 2010 “We go home with a refreshed heart
greatness and glory. – to hear Ian Coffey speak, 22nd to and look forward to next year”
As Dave carefully worked through Psalm 24th October?
“This weekend is valuable and
103, we saw again reasons to truly praise Book now - contact the Rural Ministries appreciated”
the Lord. He is one who forgives, redeems, office on 01933 303050 or download a
satisfies, heals, preserves, provides and booking form from the website at: www. “Dave Burke – a great speaker,
knows us intimately. We are to call others ruralministries.org.uk/smartweb/main/ insightful and inspiring”
to join with the heavenly hosts in declaring conference-2010
what the Lord has done.
Dave reminded us that people of vision are “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what
restless. They tend to be dissatisfied with is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is
the present. They ask “What’s next? How
are we going to get there?” We left the unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18
conference with a clearer vision of the Lord,
asking similar questions for ourselves and
our churches. If you have internet access
you can listen to or download the talks at:
When your previous pastor What advice would you give
announced his decision to retire, to a church looking for a new
what were your expectations for pastor?
appointing someone new? Do the spadework at the outset. Keep
without Naively we expected a wide selection of
good candidates, a straightforward process
and speedy appointment.
persevering even when opportunities come
and go. Develop a unity of purpose within
the church and pray, pray and keep on
a Pastor What was the reality?
Our expectations on the quality of the
Russell Howes was welcomed as Pastor
pastor appointed were entirely fulfilled, but in September 2009. Russell first felt God
Throughout the UK it took three and a half years to find him. was calling him to pastoral ministry while
there are hundreds Not the six to nine months we expected. a student in Bristol in 1999. Following
a period working as an IT administrator
of churches seeking Did you develop a list of in London, he commenced studies at
requirements and did the Moorlands College and has recently
pastoral help. person appointed closely match graduated. Married to Helen they have one
your initial expectations? child and are expecting another. Moving
Albert Road Evangelical The church approved a profile and, yes, to Oswestry has meant a new baby, new
Church, Oswestry, our new Pastor certainly fulfils the essential home and a first pastoral appointment.
requirements although he’s younger
is typical of many. and less experienced than perhaps we
In 2005 their Pastor envisaged. We soon realized that our
desires were not always in line with what
retired and the church God desired for us.
was unsure about how Did you ever think that you
would never find the right person?
to find a replacement. Sometimes we found the waiting difficult.
Rob Webb, Rural We kept going because of the original
vision adopted by the church that gave rise
Ministries Operations to the profile, and the unity of the church in
Rob Webb welcomes Russell as Pastor of Albert Road.
Manager, who helped pursuing it.
the church throughout What opportunities arose while
you were without a pastor? A new pastor for
the process, asked The Elders were wholly responsible for Bawtry in Yorkshire
Brian Catton, one of the all aspects of leadership, preaching and
pastoral care. However, other members of Simon Carter is
church leaders to reflect the church and congregation readily took married to Sharon and
has two children – Ruth
on what happened. on new roles as the need arose. During
(14) and Richard (9).
this period we appointed Deacons for
the first time. People discovered gifts that They are an international
Russell, Helen God had given in ways they may not have family with Simon being
and Kieran Howes. English, Sharon Irish, Ruth Mexican and
Richard a British born Pakistani. The
During the time of waiting to
family arrived in England during the
make an appointment, what
summer and are thoroughly enjoying
happened to the church?
being part of the community of God’s
The work and ministry was maintained people in Bawtry Evangelical Free
but without any real development or Church. Previously they have been
going forward. involved in missions, including four
What positives can you point to? years in Mexico and, latterly, four
years in North Africa. Being a pastor is
Church members unanimously adopted
therefore a new challenge for Simon.
proposals regarding where we were as a
church and whether we even wanted
a pastor. We clarified our aims,
priorities and vision for future
ministry and outreach. Having
drawn a profile based on those
foundations we all knew what
we were looking for.
Church leaders pray with Simon.
David Pibworth is Pastor of Rowhedge Christian
Over the Fellowship in Essex.
1. Look to and trust the Lord, study the Bible, lead and
fence! don’t compare yourself to
others. Get on with the job
the Lord has given you and
encourage others to lead Bible
Studies and finally preach.
Above all SERVE the Lord (don’t
don’t keep berating yourself at ‘lord it’).
We asked two experienced others’ apparent success. 4. Salary. Don’t do it ‘for the
money’, or ‘for money,’ lest
Pastors to pass on their words 2. Watch your own spiritual
development (Bible Reading/ vanity creeps in.
of wisdom to those starting Prayer etc). It is the hardest 5. Fellowship regularly with your
thing to do, but ESSENTIAL.
out in church leadership in 3. Pastor the people. Keep
own people preferably. Meet
with other church leaders, of
the countryside. yourself physically fit, have like mind if possible.
a rest-day, visit, chat in the 6. Loneliness. Don’t make a false
street, listen to problems, be god of this. Others have similar
organized, keep good records, pressure in their work.
read widely including daily
news and general literature, 7. Rejoice in the responsibility the
Lord’s given you - ENJOY IT!
David was Headteacher at Ashmole School in
Barnet. On taking early retirement he moved
to Colchester and became Pastor at Prettygate
Grace Baptist Church. In 2005 he retired again,
only to become Pastor at Rowhedge in 2008.
Ewen Gilhespy is Pastor at Epping Green Chapel in Essex.
I would want to say to a Pastor starting out:
1. Are you sure that you are 3. Seek out one or two
doing this because you know spiritually mature people
that God has called you and to be your prayer partners,
that to honour Him, you can mentors or sounding-boards.
do nothing else? Without 4. Know your spiritual gifts
that certainty, there will be and ensure that the church
the likelihood of giving up leadership knows them too.
– as the complexities of the
demands made on you, and 5. Agree with the church that in
disappointments, begin to the absence of certain people
mount up. gifts, new initiatives may have
to be put on hold until the
2. Is your personal relationship Lord provides.
with the Lord secure? It is His
work and He calls you to be 6. Protect your family life by
with Him in it (Mark 3:14). establishing a regular day
Guard that time with Him off, and taking proper
in prayer, study and daily holidays.
Ewen Gilhespy began his working life as
a Youth and Community Worker, firstly in
Norwich and then for 13 years with the
Methodist Church in Toxteth, Liverpool. After
experiencing a life-changing event during the
Toxteth Riots of 1981, following training he was
appointed Pastor to Emmanuel Church, Granby Street, Toxteth. He
has been Pastor of Epping Green Chapel, Essex for the last five
years and will be retiring at Easter 2010.
Music the common language!
to the Congo
itherslack in South Cumbria is
a far cry from the devastated,
war torn Congo in Africa but
the mission team are proposing to take a
group from the village to the Congo. Sue
Sainsbury, a church member said “It is not
uncommon for us Christians to go off to
some far-flung place and ‘do good’ but
the locals of Witherslack think
it’s wild! People are fascinated.
We’ve been amazed how many
The band : Dougie (bass), Russ (keyboards), Danny (drums), Martin (guitar and vocals).
people who absolutely don’t
know Jesus are prepared to
pour themselves into working
od has given us all different gifts. Crowded House, Snow Patrol and Kaiser
for his people”.
In the UK, east and west, Christians Chiefs, all selected to give a message that
are putting their musical talents to we can be proud of. In the Spring of 2010 willing
use making good music and reaching out volunteers are going for 2-3 weeks to
with the good news of Jesus in pubs and People often ask “What does Azimuth
Eastern Congo to help an organisation
clubs as well as churches. mean?” and this gives us an opportunity
called “Heal Africa”. They are going to
to explain. The dictionary definition is ‘The
‘Azimuth’ offer any help possible, especially among
Path’ or ‘The Way’, the early name for the
children abandoned in refugee camps.
The band first got together in Tydd Gote, Christian faith.
More information is available at
Lincolnshire, two years ago. We really enjoy www.outreach-house.org and
Our church is developing a further band
playing music and saw an opportunity to www.healafrica.org/cms/
through the ‘Music Makers’ initiative. This
put that passion to good use. We’ve played
is an opportunity for musicians to come
at barbecues and outdoor gigs at the
church, then a wedding. We’ve also played
together and play for one evening every New Partner
month. The sessions are held in the
at one or two of the local pubs which are
established music venues.
church and a variety of people bring churches
their music and play with us. The new
Our music is current and mainstream, the band will have a different style, but the Welcome to Takeley
idea is to witness primarily by who we are. reason for playing is the same. To go into akeley is a small village close to
We play covers from bands like Coldplay, the world . . . Bishop’s Stortford, Great Dunmow,
and two miles from Stansted Airport
in Essex. The chapel at Brewers End was
Alex Edy founded in 1808. Since 1989 the site has
lex has always had a heart for music outreach. In South also been the home of a Christian school.
Africa he headed up a gospel rock band, ‘Malachi’ who 2009 saw the church commence a Parish
played in prisons, on the streets and at both gospel and Visiting Programme, where they visited
secular community events. Malachi were involved with the Christian 150 households in the village.
Bikers and helped them in many outreaches, even making a DVD Relationships with the Parish church are
of a song written especially for the Christian Motorcycle good as they join together for worship
Association, CMA Riders! Malachi hit the number 1 slot on a South regularly throughout the year and run a
African Gospel Radio Station with their song, Man from Galilee. monthly Youth Fellowship Group. Visit their
website on www.takeleychapel.org.uk.
Since coming to UK in 2007, Alex has played on the streets in various cities and
villages. He joined Operation Mobilisation in 2008, and has been active in the
church planting initiative on the Plas Madoc estate outside of Wrexham. Alex has Together
played on a regular basis in the market on a Thursday morning and at family fun for and
days in the area. He has also taken part in several local church outreach events. in Christ
Alex has played in pubs in and around Oswestry on various occasions.
Recently Alex has teamed up with Ian, a pianist who attends a church in Llangollen.
In the next issue we look forward
Their first gig was at the Ironworks, a secular club in Oswestry where they were very
to introducing Sutton on Sea
well received. Following that appearance, they were invited to be the support act for
Evangelical Free Church, Gosberton
the Chester band, Loose Kites. Alex sings and plays guitar / harmonica and writes
Baptist Church and Durrington
all the music they perform. Ian provides accompaniment on piano. They aim is to
Community Church as new partner
perform music with a message that reaches into the lives of the audience.
Thank you Steve!
Young Evangelist to help at Steve Fenning has indicated
that the time has come to stand
Swarland in 2010! down from his responsibilities as
a Council member. As a busy
Question: church leader, he has served since 2000
How can a small independent evangelical church in rural and made an enormous contribution to the
Northumberland, with only 8 members, afford to employ an development of the work. Steve has brought
evangelist to help them in their outreach to the village? vision, insight and energy to all discussions
as well as the ability to enjoy himself. His
contribution to leading worship at Rural
Share him and the expense, with another church in the area.
Ministries Conferences was appreciated by
t Swarland Evangelical We established contact with a young all. Thank you.
It is amazing
Church Daniel Johnson man in Newcastle, Daniel Johnson.
what two Welcome to 2 new Trustees
will become a part-time Daniel was known in our church
Evangelist at both Swarland and and seeking the Lord concerning Russell Gant
North Shields Evangelical Church his future. He was convinced of the Having come to faith on an
with the Lord!
in Newcastle. Daniel will reduce importance of reaching people in Alpha Course run by the then
his hours teaching guitar at local schools so the north-east. He thought that perhaps Mendlesham Christian Fellowship
that he can help both churches reach out what God was calling him to was to work as (now The Forge Church) in his
in their communities and equip people to an evangelist in two or three churches in native Suffolk in 2002, Russell was then
be more effective in sharing the gospel. The the area. surprised when God called him to the
cost of employing him will be split between Church of England.
This is where God’s hand was so clearly
the two churches.
evident in bringing the two sides together. After a time of ‘on the job’ training at Albury,
For the past five years, since our one and We had no idea of Daniel’s situation and Surrey, Russell along with his Canadian wife
only pastor retired, the church has, without he didn’t know we were looking for an Jenny are now training for ordination at
success, been looking for a replacement. evangelist instead of a pastor. His eyes St. John’s College Durham.
We have people possessing a number of nearly popped out of his head when I told Elaine Fisher
gifts. What we were patently lacking was him of our fresh thinking. We discussed the After working in local
someone with time to plan and prepare idea with the pastor and elder of the North government for seven years
outreach in the village. This became even Shields Church and have agreed to and then 30 years as a
clearer when the Church met with Rob and employ Daniel between us. teacher of Advanced Business
Angela Webb from Rural Ministries last
We are excited at the prospect of what God Studies, Elaine is now a part time education
March and discussed the way forward.
is planning to do in both churches. Please administrator at Marshland High School.
The next problem however was where do pray as two churches and one evangelist The rest of her time is taken up with serving
you find an evangelist who would want to set out on this journey together. Working at her local church, where Martin her
come to a small rural Church with only 8 together is the way forward. husband is an Elder, representing the charity
members? Oh ye of little faith, with God all Samaritans Purse and clerk to a local charity.
things are possible! Alan Tavers
Update from Cornwall At East End Chapel in Shipdham in
September 09, Shipdham Community
eptember 27th was the launch of the new Light and Life church in St Austell,
Church held the first baptisms in the village
(see Impact Summer 09) when 80 adults and children gathered, followed by a
for more than 30 years. The service created
time at the beach when three people were baptised.
quite a bit of interest within the village,
Attendance fluctuates from 50 to 80 but with a Marriage Course, Christianity Explored which the church hopes to build on. Pastor
Course and regular ‘Power Hour’ prayer Paul Taylor said, “It was a very exciting time
meetings taking place, the church is certainly for Shipdham Community Church and for
bringing ‘Light and Life’ to the community. the village itself. Of course, we made the
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most of the opportunity to share the Good
News with the people. We are looking
forward to many more baptisms as the
If IMPACT has inspired you to want to know more about Rural Ministries then please
church continues to grow.” The church
contact us via our web site or telephone the Rural Ministries office and talk to the
was launched in 2004 and features vibrant
Chief Executive Declan Flanagan or Rob Webb our Operations Manager
worship and contemporary teaching for
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