Prophetic words over Hope Church Luton that speak about church planting

In my previous two blogs I have written about the principles of church planning, I now want to focus this down on what God is saying to us as a local church.

Laid into the very foundations of us as a church is a call to church planting. Not only are we a  church plant ourselves which means it is in our DNA but prophetic words given to us from the very early days reinforce this.

In May 2002, a few months before our public launch Kim McCaffery brought this word to us.

God gave me a Firework: God gave a picture of a firework, which keeps spurting out.  As you watch it you’re never quite sure what’s coming next, and it pours out all over the place. There is a force and an unknown nature to it, but the certainty is, you know it’s going to spurt out.

God said this picture describes church planting, because He will place a firework (per-ching! There it goes!) in Hope church, and there are going to be many churches coming out of here.  From the very beginning you are going to put on a firework display and out of you, whole areas around here have got no chance, churches are being planted all the way around here.

But remember the unexpected nature of it, you don’t know when a firework is going to burst into life, but you just wait for the ‘WOW!’, when the next one appears.  Have that in your spirits.

After we had been going as a church for a year we had a visit from Kerry Southey a prophet from South Africa, she brought this word to us.

I believe that there are going to be a number of church plants into the area and young people will do many of them… Start to ask God to lay places on your heart and to open homes in those areas … God gave me a funny picture of a frog with all the spawn coming out of the frog and then these little babies leaping into all sorts of places.  A little frog pool with the spawn, then the tadpoles and then the little frogs leaping out doing new things in all sorts of surrounding areas.

I don’t think we have seen the fulfilment of these prophetic words, churches have been planted through us in this county and overseas but nothing to the extent described in these prophetic words.

I am excited to think that as we seek to engage with the whole of Luton, all the communities of the town and especially those communities for whom Christianity is a foreign language and church is an alien culture we will see church plants emerge like a firework spurting out and like little frogs doing new things in all sorts of areas.  There are a few taking shape, we have had a youth programme for years and have recently added Breakout which focuses on students and twenties, there is also Timeout focusing on active retired people and Pathway engaging with Muslims. However I anticipate God calling us to plant into many more of the communities in Luton over the coming years.

To hear a recent talk and account of our prophetic words as a church listen to Tony Thompson speaking on “Hope Church Vision” on 10th Feb 2013 here

Questions for you to consider.

  • Why do you think there is often a time delay between a prophecy being delivered and it being fulfilled? (This seems to be true both in scripture and experience)
  • How should we respond to prophecies such as these? What should be your response?

WRITTEN BY TONY THOMPSON

tonyt

Tony is an Elder at Hope Church Luton and part of the Leadership team.

He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

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The elements of a church plant: Part 2

This is a continuation from last weeks blog about elements of a church plant. Last week Leadership was covered. Read that blog here

 

Location

A key decision is where to plant the church. Sometimes God clearly speaks about a specific location, an example being: ‘Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us”‘ (Acts 16:9). Not surprisingly, Paul went to Philippi, a leading city in Macedonia, and planted a church. Paul was also encouraged to stay in Corinth because the Lord told him that He had many people in that city.

However, it’s not always so clear. The Holy Spirit told the church in Antioch to ‘set apart for me Barnabas and Saul to the work which I have called them.’ It was clear to them that this work was to plant churches but no specific instructions were given as to where to go. They themselves chose to go to Cyprus. The reason would appear to be that Barnabas, the leader of the team, was originally from Cyprus (Acts 4:36). It is always easier to establish a new church where there are already existing relationships.

The policy of Paul and Barnabas, as outlined in Acts, was to use ‘common sense’ to identify the next place to plant, fully offering this to God then expecting Him to redirect if necessary. This seems to be a healthy model for us to follow when considering where to plant.

Apostolic and prophetic ministry can both, therefore, be involved in identifying strategic locations. I believe they also have a key role in helping match leadership with location.

 

Vision and strategy

Having a leader and a location doesn’t mean we are ready to plant a church. There is the need for vision (what sort of church is to be planted) and strategy (how it is to be planted).

Too often there is not enough clarity regarding the style or ‘flavour’ of the church that is to be planted. It is one thing to say we want to help students for whom Christianity is a foreign language and church is an alien culture discover Christ in all His fullness but what sort of “church” will accomplish this? Similarly how do we communicate with Arabic speaking Muslims or families with pre-school children or active retired people? Doing things the same way we have always done them will not work, we have to have distinctive and creative ways to communicate.

I believe that apostolic ministry has a role in helping churches in identifying appropriate vision and strategy for their context.

Conclusion

There is something special about church planting! It continues to be God’s chosen method of establishing His kingdom on earth. There is much to learn from both Scripture and experience but nothing beats rolling up your sleeves and getting involved in making history by planting a church!

I believe with all my heart that it is God’s chosen method to reach those for whom Christianity is a foreign language and church is an alien culture.

 

Questions to be considered.

  • Within your community what sorts of church plants are needed?
  • Is God calling you to be involved in a church plant?
  • Which “location” / type of person are you called or most suited to reach?
  • Do you have a sense of God calling you to lead a church plant?

 

WRITTEN BY TONY THOMPSON

tonyt

Tony is an Elder at Hope Church Luton and part of the Leadership team.

He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

The elements of a church plant: Part 1

In my previous blog I identified different types of church plants that I thought could play a role in reaching those for whom Christianity is a foreign language and church is an alien culture. I know that to highlight the factors required to start a church plant and to unpack some of these factors in more detail.

At its most basic, a church plant requires three elements – leadership, location and vision/ strategy. (Location as described in the previous blog may be a people group rather than a geographical distinct location.) This is true for each type of plant described above.  It is occasionally possible to gather a small number of people when only two elements are present, but all three are needed to plant a church.

Sometimes, once a location and a vision are identified a leader is sought for that context. Alternatively, you can have a leader with a vision to plant a certain type of church and a suitable location is then sought. Even having a leader and a location requires vision of what sort of church is going to be planted, and a basic strategy of how this is to be achieved prior to gathering people intentionally. From my experience, there is no ideal order for the three elements to come together, but church planting only really starts when all three are in place. Let’s look at these three elements in more detail.

Leadership

The bottleneck in many parts of the world is leadership. If we had more leaders we could plant more churches. The benefit of keeping strong relationship between the plant and the mother church means the leadership requirement for the church plant are less releasing more church planters and therefore enabling more churches to be planted.

A key role of apostolic and prophetic ministry is to identify church planters. This appears to be a God-given ability. Put an apostle in a group of leaders and he seems to be able to pick out those gifted and called as pioneering church planters in no time! Many church planters have been identified and released by apostolic ministry in this way.

Prophetic ministry also has a role in releasing church planters. I vividly remember sitting in a room minding my own business when Colin Baron prophesied over me that I needed to move from where I was and get involved in a pioneering church plant. Over a short period of time others prophesied similar things, confirming my call to move to Luton to plant the church there. Many have been released into church planting through the prophetic. I do not believe a prophetic word is essential before you can plant, but having one does help!

Once church planters are identified, they must be suitably trained and developed. Church planters need to be leaders, able to get their own vision from God and inspire others to join them in establishing the vision. This is very different from a manager who seeks to implement someone else’s vision. Very few people are natural leaders, if we want to plant more churches we need to have a purposeful way of developing leaders. If we want to increase the rate of church planting we need to identify and develop more leaders.

Location and Vision & Strategy will be looked at in next weeks blog.

WRITTEN BY TONY THOMPSON

tonyt

Tony is an Elder at Hope Church Luton and part of the Leadership team.

He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

Different types of church plant

In my previous blog I shared my passion for reaching the whole of society, including those for whom Christianity is a foreign language and church is an alien culture. In this blog I want to share another of my passions, church planting. These two passions are linked because I believe that “Church planting is the best form of evangelism under heaven.” (A term coined by C. Peter Wagner)

In the past I have taught that scripture and experience indicate that there are three basic types of church plant. There is the pioneering church plant where leadership is ‘parachuted’ into an area to establish a church. This was a common method employed by Paul. A good example was when he planted into Ephesus. Without having anything on the ground in Ephesus, or even close by, Paul turns up with his team, builds relationships with others in the city, gathers local people to him and plants a church. This was how Hope Church, Luton was planted, I moved to Luton in 2002 with a team, we gathered some local people and started the church.

Then there is the mother church birthing others. The initial plant in Ephesus resulted in many other churches being planted in the province of Asia, as Luke tells us in Acts 19:10. The churches mentioned at the beginning of the book of Revelation are among those planted out from Ephesus. In many ways this is an easier way to plant a church, coming out of an existing church. Hope Church, South Beds was planted in this way.

The church in Antioch is an example of the third type of plant, the ‘unplanned pregnancy’. In Antioch a group of Christians gathered because of persecution, ‘the Lord’s hand was on them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord’ (Acts 11:21). Apostolic ministry was sent from Jerusalem to serve this spontaneous new church. In Newfrontiers churches we too have experienced this type of, where God just breaks out and causes a church to be planted. Apostolic ministry then responds to what God has already done. The apostolic role is present but different in each case.

However since I began writing and teaching on church planting other forms of church planting has been experimented with. The distinctive of this new form of plant is that strong relationship remains with the mother church. Many churches are experimenting with starting new congregations planted into different communities but remaining part of one church. Other churches are starting mission groups into particular communities.

In many ways this “new” form of church planting isn’t new at all. Every church I have been part of over the last 30 years has had a youth group that functions like this type of church plant, having its own distinctive flavor allowing it to reach out relevantly to teenagers but remaining very strong links with the mother church. This concept is now being extended to other communities sometime defined by geography (e.g. a particular house estate); age or stage of life (e.g. not just youth but active retired people or students or families with pre-school children); specific ethnic or language groups. As with our youth groups we can reach out to specific communities in a relevant way whilst maintaining the gospel imperative of demonstrating that we are all one new man in Christ.

These new ventures can take the form of any of the types described above though the difference is that the “umbilical cord” to the central church is never cut; infrastructure resources including celebratory gatherings and overall leadership continue to be available to the church plant.

I think this form of church planting has a major role to play, alongside the other forms as we seek to reach the whole of the UK and the whole of Luton.

 

Questions to be considered.

  • Why do you think that “church planting is the most effective form of evangelism under heaven”, especially when it comes to reaching those for whom Christianity is a foreign language and church is an alien culture?
  • What are the benefits of church plants remaining linked to the mother church? What are the vulnerabilities?

WRITTEN BY TONY THOMPSON

tonyt

Tony is an Elder at Hope Church Luton and part of the Leadership team.

He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.