As described in my previous blog, Anne and I were called by God to start a new church in Luton, He gathered a team around us and we all moved to Luton to start something new.
Over a period of around a year we got to know each other better, started to imagine what the new church would look like as well as gathering some people who were already living in Luton who had heard of what we were planning to do.
Over this time, we came up with the name Hope Church, Hope being an antidote to the despair which we recognised as an issue in Luton.
We built up to a public launch of Hope Church which was to meet at Luton 6th Form College in September 2002. We got articles published in the local newspapers, delivered leaflets to homes and tried to get the word out as much as possible. Our first meeting was encouragingly large, in addition to our core there were well wishes and many visitors. A great start.
Our second meeting was even more memorable! It was held the following Tuesday, again at the college, this time with a healing evangelist from India, Ram Babu. This meeting caught the imagination of the local press, front page in one newspapers, and interviews on local radio prior to the event. As a consequence, massive crowds turned up, causing total chaos. As the college said they let out their facilities to a small church group and never imagined that we would fill their large hall and cause such traffic chaos. Some were healed, suddenly people knew about Hope Church.
Over the next year or so we grew quickly.
During this first year God established the foundations.
We were visited by two prophets, Kim McCaffrey from Coventry and Kerry Southey an Australian based in South Africa. They both brought prophetic input which helped shape us as a church. Key words included.
Hope for now as well as the future – something that built on what we already felt and has been a key aspect of us as a church.
Church planting – We have planted a church in Dunstable / South Beds, helped establish a region of churches around Oxfordshire, as well as plants in Valencia, Spain and Dublin. Not all our planting has been successful – we tried and failed to establish something in Hitchin. Over a number of years and with different leaders nothing really took root. This was difficult and painful. Somethings just don’t happen as you would like.
International gateway – people coming from other nations changed and returned. This has been remarkable. We have had people join us from China, Hungary, many African nations and India. They have met with God and then returned changed to their home nations. Most we are still in touch with.
Increasingly we have become a more diverse church, in the early days it was hard for those from different nations to feel at home, they felt a minority. Over time this has changed, and is no longer an issue. We owe so much to those early pioneers from other nations who stuck with us.
We have also seen original members move away to serve God in leadership in other parts of this nation and oversees. Original members of the planting team are now in leadership in churches in Harpenden, Southampton and Vancouver, Canada.
Community centre and God’s provision of resources – people and finances.
More of this in future blogs!
Written by Tony Thompson
– based on his sermon from 17th April 2016 – Click here to listen to it
Tony Thompson is the leader of Hope Church Luton. He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.