Comment from across the partnerships

Gathering a team to plant a church

12 June, 2014 Gerry Straker

Gathering a team to plant a church

For Church by the Bay in Morecambe, a plant from Moorlands in Lancaster, we didn’t gather a team to plant – not in the usual sense, anyway: I didn’t go round hand-picking people who were excellent evangelists or had particular gifts.

In our particular planting situation there’s no gap between Lancaster, the city of our sending church, and the town into which we were planting – the two merge into one. A number of people had been travelling from Morecambe to Moorlands for church. This made Morecambe the obvious choice for a church plant and it made the people who were going to join the plant obvious too. We planted Church by the Bay with the people who already lived in Morecambe.

Some had moved to Morecambe with the hope we might plant before anything was decided (though cheaper house prices were a factor too!) and one couple moved over later. But, in practice, our church plant team picked itself. I simply spoke to everyone who lived in Morecambe, laid out the vision and the challenge, and said they didn’t have to join if they didn’t want to. As it happened, everyone living on the Morecambe side of the river Lune joined the team.

This meant our new church family began with a mixture of ordinary people: older couples, young families, young couples and singles: in total 22 adults, 4 children and 3 teenagers. Ordinary people who were already living in Morecambe.

This brought with it some challenges. For instance, we didn’t start with a dynamic evangelistic team. Many people in our new church (often by their own admission!) were not very good at ‘everyday evangelism’ – living as a Christian in front of people, meeting people, speaking about Jesus, and inviting people to things. Also our new church was made up of people who were at different stages, both in their thinking and in their Gospel living. This meant that we started more with a small, ordinary church family, rather than with a team of mission-minded evangelists.

And yet this brought with it several positives.

  • We were already in Morecambe. This meant we had already started to build relationships. 
  • We felt like a church straightaway and not a crack team of evangelists.
  • For a small new church, we had lots of diversity and that meant we were ready to welcome new people from different backgrounds, ages and stages – because we ourselves were people from different backgrounds, ages and stages. 
  • It has helped –integration – I don’t think Church by the Bay feels like ‘the team’ plus ‘newcomers’.
  • We had to put training on the agenda and keep it on the agenda. We didn’t just ‘do mission’ together.

Church is what God is doing in this world (Ephesians 3:10), and church is all about very different people uniting in the Gospel. Think Ephesus: Paul expects even Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:19-22) to be united in the Gospel together. Think Philippi: a rich Jewess, Gentile jailer and all his household, and presumably the rescued slave girl (Acts 16), united in the Gospel - Paul wants them to live out that unity (Philippians 2:1-4). That kind of unity in diversity within a church plant is surely a great advert for the Gospel at work.
We thank God for our ordinary people in our ordinary church here in Morecambe!

Gerry Straker Gerry is Pastor and Elder at Church by the Bay in Morecambe. Gerry worked for Moorlands, Lancaster and St John’s Lindow in Cheshire and prior to that he worked in university administration.

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