Nov 14, 2012
neil

Three years in and we’re learning valuable lessons

Movements are marked by a compelling vision says Tim Keller in Center Church and that is what we are discovering in Birmingham. 2020birmingham is a church-planting movement for the UK’s second largest city. We’ve been building the work for the past 3 years.

Neil Powell & Jonathan Bell outline the vision

So what’s our compelling vision?  20 church-planting churches by 2020. It’s as simple as that and maybe that’s why there is momentum for 2020birmingham. In three years we’ve seen 6 new churches started – 3 new churches, 2 new congregations and 1 replant.

We are not a denomination, we have no staff (apart from a terrific part-time administrator who’s been with us 3 months) and so far we’ve had no money to invest in planters or plants.

What we do have is a team of 8 planters who are committed to the gospel, to the city, to their congregations, to the lost and to each other.

This last Saturday we held our third conference and we were amazed to find we were going to be 100 people from 29 different churches and organisations. I counted just six who came from outside the city to look at what we were doing and three of those used to live in the city and are planning to come back to plant.Tim Keller again A movement says ‘If this is where you want to go, come along with us’ and so at our conference this year we made our theme partnership.  Our message was come join us  – because we can do far more together than we ever could on our own.

Al Barth from Redeemer City to City.

We reminded ourselves why our city needed a church-planting movement. Birmingham is Europe’s youngest city with 37% of the population under 25. That’s a lot of people who are highly secularised, highly diverse, and pretty suspicious about the church.

We celebrated what God had done in planting the six churches and seeing them established and growing.

We were inspired through stories of church planting movements in cities of the world from Al Barth & Martin de Jong.

We were challenged by the need to reach new communities in our cities and the complexity of third culture communities growing up around us. How do we plant highly contextualised churches to reach every community?But most of all we wanted to be generous. We wanted to invite others to join us. We said you don’t need to be a church-planting church to join a church-planting movement – although be careful because that’s just maybe what you’ll become. We said why not become a 2020 Partner Church? Partner churches are established churches in our city willing and available to partner with a new church plant in their area; ready to pray, share wisdom, coach, mentor and train core-team members. The synergy created between plant and partner church ensures that the partner in turn is blessed not least in being motivated to keep an outward focus for themselves too. Who knows how many partner churches may in turn plant for themselves inspired by the example of the new churches they have partnered to create.

We also let the gospel of our God motivate this movement.

Efrem Buckle and Jez Boamah mixed it up

A church-planting Bishop from the Church of England shared his experience of planting in London  (Rev. Andrew Watson, the Bishop of Aston).  He described the powerful synergy only experienced when we choose to work together in planting and he reminded us that the God who is trinity is a God of partnership in his very being. It was something special to be reminded by the Bishop that we are at our most god-like when we are in partnership too.

The apostle Paul told us from Romans 13:12 that we have an on-going obligation to love each other. There is never a time when I can say ‘I have loved you enough.’ The church may have a mission, a mandate, and  a motivation that forms a movement but more than anything else it needs the love of Christ pulsing through its veins.

4 Comments

  • Very good day and lots to think about …

    Birmingham is Europe’s youngest city with 37% of the population under 25. That’s a lot of people who are highly secularised, highly diverse, and pretty suspicious about the church.

    I’m not sure that that much of the 37% are highly secularised … I suspect that the majority of these would have various degrees of religiosity – predominantly Muslim – I have heard it said that 50% of the children in Birmingham’s schools are Muslim – which may be a bit of an exaggeration but probably not that much…. we’ll see when the census results come out …

    I think this is one of big differences between Birmingham and NYC / London. So in using Keller’s global city ministry model (which seems to rely on Christian / Christian background immigration), I wonder how that looks in Birmingham ?

    God bless

    TT

    • Hi Tim

      I remember someone pointing in a recent talk that we are experiencing the polarisation of culture in our times ie we are becoming more religious and more secular at the same time. So for Birmingham we might well be trying to reach a highly secularised youth and a deeply religious youth at the same time!

      Secularisation as a social phenomena also means the privitisation of religion across the board as people of faith are increasingly marginalised. So even in a city with many religious youth (even say the 50% Muslim figure you mention) there is little or no space for them in public policy and decision-making at a city level.

      We live in interesting and challenging times.

  • ‘we are becoming more religious and more secular at the same time. So for Birmingham we might well be trying to reach a highly secularised youth and a deeply religious youth at the same time!’

    Definately … and there are already signs of this … but the highly secularised youth ie white and maybe some African Carribean, are leaving the city – and there are some signs of secularised African Carribean young people converting / reverting to Islam. If we accept the secularisation thesis and apply it to muslim young people, it will be interesting to see how this happens, the numbers it effects and the timescales on this ?

    ‘Secularisation as a social phenomena also means the privitisation of religion across the board as people of faith are increasingly marginalised.’

    Again, there are some who question the secularisation thesis, but certainly there are signs in Birmingham, that people of faith are increasing in influence. In the sector where I work, some of the most innovative are people of faith, and I see them coming in from the voluntary sector into the public sector in the next 10 years.

    I also suspect the council will change from being predominantly white and secularised to being less white and more religious in the next decade. The support for the Respect Party may be a protest vote, but probably also indicates the the 3 main parties cannot run non religious candiates in the inner wards (and some of the outer wards in the years to come).

    So in a city like NYC or London, there may be ‘little or no space for them in public policy and decision-making at a city level’, but in Birmingham where there is limited gentrification and relatively few liberal whites (except maybe in a few South Birmingham suburbs – Moseley springs to mind and Sutton Coldfield) relative to the numbers of people of faith, whilst there may be some truth to this currently I can’t it staying like this. The demographics would seem to support this ….

    Half the time I can’t even buy a Guardian when I want one !!!

  • Some wise thoughts there Tim!

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