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.
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.
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.
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.
The New York Times has a 36 hour guide to visiting Birmingham – ”no longer fly-over country’
(HT: Dave Chamberlain)
An interesting article in today’s guardian.
“Every time I see a mosque or a temple going up,” Rev. Bryan Scott says “I think, ‘That should be a church.’”
Dreaming big for God
Expect great things from God attempt great things for God so said William Carey the founder of the modern missionary movement.
I guess like me you find the quote inspiring but what does such trust in God along with such godly ambition begin to look like in your life and in mine?
In a book I’m reading called Exponential, Dave and Jon Ferguson, lead Pastors of Commnuity Church, Naperville, Iiinois made some very helpful observations of the need to dream big and how big dreams begin to change things not least your own life:
I have found that when you dream big, it changes how you think, how you act, and it can even change those around you.
Not least because ‘allowing your heart and mind to pursue a vision that is bigger than you can handle will change you in some very significant ways.’
1. Big dreams change your questions
The bigger your dream, the more you challenge and stretch your mind with tough questions. The size of your dream will often determine the types of questions you ask. Small dreams that are within your grasp and easily managed require one set of questions. Big dreams lead you to ask an entirely different set of questions, questions you would probably never ask otherwise.
At City Church Birmingham we’ve asked the question ‘how can we plant a daughter church?’ now we’re asking a different kind of question ‘how can we see 20 churches planted by the year 2020?’ Only when we started to ask that question did we realise that the only way we could ever see that happen was through seeking working partnerships with other church-planting churches in the city of Birmingham, churches we hardly new and churches of whom we had previously felt no real need to connect with. All because our ambitions were too small.
2. Big dreams change your prayers
Big questions also force you to ask questions to which you do not know the answer. When you have questions and you don’t know how to answer them, who do you turn to? God! Big dreams force us to ask the types of questions that lead to greater dependence on God.
As we start to form new partnerships in the city we pray that God would protect our unity. As we look at church-planting with no resources to fund or
support planting so we pray that God would provide. As we ask questions of strategy such as ‘how do we reach a city of a million?’, ‘how do we practically work together?’ so we find perhaps more than ever we need wisdom from God and so we ask him knowing that he gives generously (James 1:3).
3. Big dreams change others
Big dreams are also contagious. They are infectious. They not only change you, but they can also slowly begin to change your friends and those around you!
We’re thrilled to find that in the first year of running the ‘2020 Planters Programme’ that six church-planters, all committed to planting in the city, are gathering to meet every couple of weeks, pray for one another, share ideas, vision and resources. As we listen to each other, share and pray so we are inspired and urged on in the task. It all seems so much more possible at the end of a Wednesday morning than it did at the start.
4. Big dreams change you
As our dreams get bigger, our doubts will inevitably grow.
That’s certainly been my experience too. The bigger the dream the more you are constantly reminded that it is beyond your ability to deliver it. Wherever there is faith doubt will be right there along side.
At present we are planning a second conference for 2020 birmingham this time the conference will be jointly hosted by Acts29 Western Europe (5-6th May). Mark Driscoll will be speaking and 2020 will have an opportunity to share something of the vision we believe God has given us for this city. As the conference approaches so we feel ever more unworthy because of our sin, unable because of the size of the task and unprepared to answer the questions raised by the task before us. But each times those feelings rise there is a fresh opportunity for faith to grow as we remember that we only attempt great things for God because we expect great things from God.
So what stops us dreaming big dreams?
I find that there are two common fears that keep us and our churches from taking risks for the sake of mission. The first is our fear of failure. We say to ourselves. ‘I’m afraid it just won’t work…and I can’t accept the possibility of failure.’ The second fear that keeps us from taking risks is closely related – it’s the fear of loss. We work for years to build a large church or successful career, and our ‘success’ can become the very thing that gets in the way of our taking more significant risks. We tell ourselves, ‘I’ve accomplished too much to lose it all.’ If it is a fear of failure or loss that is holding you back, let me remind you of the grace of God. Walking faithfully in obedience to God is what matters, not your success or failure in the eyes of the world.
When it comes to taking risks, the important question you need to ask is when was the last time you took a risk and trusted God? When was the last time your courageously followed Jesus and did something that was clearly beyond your own abilities? When was the last time you followed Jesus so closely that it was uncomfortable, maybe even a bit scary?
What might this mean for you?
Dave Harvey author of Resucing Ambition wants us to keep asking this question:
What is the Spirit-constrained ambition that God wants us to indulge for his glory right where we are?
And we could also ask:
- Is there a ministry opportunity I’ve simply been too scared to take?
- What is stopping me from going for it? Is it fear of failure? Fear of loss?
- Who can I talk and pray through this dream with?
- Who can help me shape and realise this dream?
- How deliberate I have been in praying for guidance or in asking God to enable this dream?
- Am I being held back by small ambitions that must give way to something out of my reach?
We carry the same gospel Paul carried, and it requires us to have a similar ambition – Dave Harvey
I love living in Birmingham.
I’ve lived here for over 30 years and at our church on Sunday we held our annual Serving the City Sunday. Three statistics highlight the challenges and the opportunities that face the church in Birmingham.
1) Birmingham has the highest unemployment rate of any major city in the UK. At 12.5 per cent it is twice the national average. Youth unemployment is a staggering 24.4 per cent. Unemployment rose more sharply here than in any other city during the recession.
2) The UK average for church attendance stands at around 10 per cent but for Birmingham it’s just 6.3 per cent. No wonder Birmingham has fewer evangelical churches than many large cities in the country.
3) The church must change to meet the rapidly changing make-up of the city. The Muslim population, currently standing at over 14 per cent, is due to exceed 20 per cent over the same time. Many others are finding a home in Birmingham – how can we help them find Christ?
City Church is working with others as part of 2020birmingham, a network of churches working together to see 20 churches planted in the city by the year 2020.
Please pray with us and for us and for this great city.
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