Church Planting Gaining Momentum
I was really impressed by the church planting conference I attended in Birmingham on Saturday – entitled Momentum and run by a group called “2020birmingham”. Their goal is simply to encourage at least 20 more church plants in Birmingham by the year 2020. Birmingham is a growing and very diverse city and will require many church plants just to keep pace with population growth and the unreached people groups in the city. That probably sounded fairly ambitious when the goal was set, the evidence so far is that this goal will be exceeded.
The stories that we heard on Saturday were grounded in reality – really encouraging and from a wide range of people. It was good to hear from leaders of black majority churches alongside the stories of Anglo church planting.
I loved the age profile of those attending. Most were younger leaders in their twenties and thirties and nearly half were female. I don’t know that we would have seen such a gender balance even 10 years ago. Around about 100 attending representing at least 31 different congregations from a range of denominations and networks. From my personal knowledge of those attending, there was a strong reformed feel to the theological orientation and probably not so many from a Pentecostal background. That is not a criticism, just an observation.
I actually found it encouraging to see church planting coming from a segment of the church that has not been as active in church planting in the recent past as those from a more Pentecostal tradition. It’s another indication that the momentum of church planting at a grass roots level is developing in reach and diversity.
It was also good to see that there were a number of people from other cities taking a look. There is a real possibility that similar initiatives will happen in other locations. More evidence of church planting momentum building.
Para church mission agencies with a passion for planting were a part of this mix. Some have a particular emphasis, e.g. reaching particular ethnic groups, and seek to do this through a common heart for church planting.
For me the most fascinating dimension was to see how many of the younger potential partners came from a relatively small number of thriving congregations based in the city. That serves to illustrate how movements can begin from the initiative of a relatively small number of individuals. In this case, it has been the vision of a few leaders that has produced a few vibrant churches full of younger people.
These churches consist of some younger existing Christians – many of whom have moved to Birmingham to study – together with converts from the same age group. Planting many churches with the capacity to multiply other plants from this relatively limited initial source is the way in which movements begin. That initial impetus tends to draw in others from para church agencies and other congregations who desire to be part of a dynamic initiative.
For me this adds to the picture that church planting is happening at both the national strategic level and the much more local grass roots level. Church planting is moving to the point where it is becoming a natural part of the breathing life of a recovering Christianity in the UK.