Urban Expression, Victoria Park
Posted by Mission Catalyst at 13:15 on 9th June 2011
One afternoon, when I was pastor of a ‘regular’ Baptist church, I sensed God say to me: ‘reach out to the unchurched’. After much consultation with my District Minister, Regional Minister, Urban Expression, and my church, I refined the call to ‘reaching out to people who won’t set foot in a church building’.
My church sent me into urban mission in the way a church sends a minister into overseas mission. My wife Chris and I left our comfortable manse and generous stipend and landed on the doorstep of my aged father-in-law’s house in inner city Manchester; I got a ‘proper’ job in Asda, and promptly began to become a part of the community I was reaching out to.
Thus began Urban Expression Victoria Park, a fresh expression of church for people who don’t do church.
Our aim is to enable people to be church in a way that’s relevant to them. They start from little or no recognition of God in their lives, so we have to start small, with small expectations. We’re thrilled when people we’re developing relationships with start to ask questions about God, and when they graduate to praying.
The Baptist in me wants to gather people in – to a home group, or some other kind of study or worship group – but the people we love don’t want that yet, or maybe they won’t ever want it.
So, we go out to them, through our God-centred movie nights in a local pub, breaking naan bread together as we talk about God on The Curry Mile (pictured), funeral services for people with no church connection, our ‘Coping with bereavement’ course in a local NHS medical centre, ministering to people in Alcoholics Anonymous, home visits, and simply working alongside people. (Photo credit: iwouldstay)
The toughest part of this ministry is answering the question, ‘How many in your church?’ When so many people meet in so many different places so irregularly, what is it that we’re meant to count, and how?
Why might this be considered a ‘pioneering project’? Those aren’t words I’d have chosen. I’d hazard a guess it’s because we’re building a church without walls, quite literally.
I’ve heard it said that it takes five years for a person to commit to Jesus from the time they first hear the gospel. If that’s true, I hope to see our first baptism in about four years. That sounds like a long time away, but it’s a mere drop in the ocean of eternity.
By Gary Serra di Migni