MATHETES TRUST MISSION AT ST LAWRENCE CHURCH NORTH WINGFIELD, 17 – 24 JUNE 2018
The Mathetes Trust exists to help promote a culture of discipleship and disciple-making within the local church, and one of the ways we do this is by helping with parish missions. Over the last few months we have been working closely with Colin Cooper and St Lawrence, North Wingfield (near Chesterfield), and in June Roger Morgan led a full ten day mission titled ‘Love North Wingfield’, staffed by a joint team of people from the local church and visitors from the Mathetes Trust. We were very encouraged by the way things went – not just because of the many people who responded to an invitation to enter into a relationship with Jesus, but also because we feel that we are learning a huge amount about how an ordinary church can grow today. Here’s a report from Colin, followed by some reflections on mission from Roger.
Team Rector Colin Cooper writes:
“North Wingfield is an ex-mining village with a population of about 7,500 people. It is mainly working to lower middle class in its social make-up and is generally a friendly and pleasant place to live.
“This mission took place as part of a year of mission from St Lawrence Church with the title ‘Love North Wingfield’. The church prepared for the mission using the Beautiful Lives material and it followed the usual Mathetes Trust style of special events, home meetings and door-to-door visits with a ‘Home’ team of 14 and an ‘Away’ team of 12, forming a foundation of personnel enabling the wider church to engage in mission. We were blessed with beautiful weather which enabled us to use to full advantage the light summer days and evenings.
“The church at St Lawrence responded very well to the challenge and most took some kind of part with real generosity shown in providing hospitality of different kinds. Perhaps the greatest blessing (among many) was the emergence of a committed and competent group of people trained and excited about the future and evangelism.
“All special events were well organised and well-attended with around 600 people attending them in total (there was obviously some overlap as some people attended multiple events) with clear Gospel teaching from Roger Morgan, Richard Scott and Gary Ralls. Personal contact was made with 115 people on the doors (although many more doors were knocked). By the end of the week, 16 people prayed a prayer of commitment to Christ following a ‘Bridge’ presentation and another 20 are being followed up as meaningful contacts. 2 small Alpha groups have begun, with another small group studying Mark’s gospel. If there was a disappointment, it was the relatively small uptake on the Alpha course, leaving me to question whether this is the right approach for reaching completely unchurched people.
“This mission was a pleasure to be part of and was made possible by the amazing commitment of Roger and his ‘Away’ team, and the hard work and commitment of St Lawrence ‘Home ‘ team and other church members who played a full part. We are now looking forward to future outreach and mission in the Autumn and 2019 as the ‘Love North Wingfield’ project continues.”
So what are we learning about mission?
We all know that the typical local church has seen its membership decline over recent decades. A huge amount of energy has been poured into trying to do something about this, with initiatives of all kinds both local and national. Many of these are innovative and experimental, and many are bearing fruit. But the trouble is that many ordinary churches feel that these initiatives are beyond their reach; they require entrepreneurial skills, technological ability, financial resources, dynamic full time staff, and lots of time.
So what about the ordinary church whose ordinary members have ordinary skills and live in an ordinary place? Colin had been told by one national leader that he was simply too old to grow his church – only churches with young leaders grow! North Wingfield is short on innovation, resources, and youthfulness. And yet it is growing…
How did they do it?
Colin is a member of one of our EQUIP support groups for church leaders, and has been meeting three times a year with Roger and a group of local colleagues to think and pray together about how to grow his church. Colin decided that a simple strategy was the best. He invited the entire church to start by exploring their own discipleship. “I want to provide a way for people to explore what it means to be a follower of Jesus which is thorough, interesting and which does not ‘soft sell’ the demands of discipleship,” Colin wrote. He ordered copies of our discipleship programme The God Who is There, and the church met in small groups over a period of two years. Those who complete the course emerge with a strong personal faith, a strong fellowship with one another, and a shared determination to share that faith with anyone who is attracted by it.
Colin followed this discipleship training with a focus on evangelism. How do we equip ourselves, as disciples of Jesus, to share our faith with others? He used Roger’s Beautiful Lives course. 1 Peter 3.2-4 speaks of the beauty and reverence which should characterise our lives as Christians, and the course is built on the assumption that it is beautiful lives, lived in the power of the Holy Spirit, which lead others to faith. Disciples of Jesus are people who are gradually being transformed into the likeness of Jesus. They have something to share, something which is found not in glitzy programmes but within our own, ordinary hearts.
Beautiful Lives encourages people to reflect on their own story, to share it in gentle ways, to invite their friends and neighbours to attractive and appropriate events which help them to find out more. And that is what the mission was based on. Church members talked with their friends and invited them to things they thought they’d enjoy. The mission team knocked on doors and invited people to some of those things too. People came, people responded, and Jesus was made known.
So over the last two years St Lawrence has pursued a strategy focussed solely and simply on discipleship; the mission flowed out of that, and out of the mission has come not just new disciples, but a new conviction that the church has in some sense found a pathway to growth. If we are not excited about Jesus, no one else will be either – and the people of St Lawrence have a new determination to forge forwards in mission.
How about you?
We think any church could do this! If you think we can help, please do get in touch.
Find out more about growing disciples with The God Who is There here
Find out more about evangelism with Beautiful Lives here
Find out more about parish missions with the Mathetes Trust here
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