Church for mavericks and misfits
It’s a real privilege to be part of the HOPE leadership team as we explore ideas and strategies to reach the UK with the message of Jesus. Seeing people from different streams uniting around a common goal, praying together and getting passionate about the same stuff has been a fantastic experience. My day job however is pretty focused. I give leadership to Elim’s church planting and church development work. 100 years on from the birth of Elim and the DNA to reach people with the gospel through church planting is as strong as ever. Currently there are about 60 church plants underway with more in the pipeline. Exciting times. Perhaps though, the most significant thing I’m witnessing as I slog around the UK visiting the churches is the way in which people are thinking outside the box. A hallmark of a mature movement is the way in which it handles mavericks and misfits and we’ve certainly got a few of them! I visited one church plant (calls itself Chav church) where they worship to Florence and the Machine, embrace with gusto the fact that they are self described Chavs and have successfully reached out to people living in estates that the local churches have pretty much failed to reach out to for years. Most telling is the way in which the pastors house was stuffed full of beautifully wrapped food parcels he was giving away to people, and the spare beds tucked into corners of the living room where he was giving people a place to stay who needed a safe place to live for a while.
I like that. It’s a true blend of word, spirit and action.
Here’s what I’m thinking as I type out a few thoughts. Do a quick Bible study of the first eight or so chapters of Acts. As you read it through, have a few headings in your mind: “word, works, wonders.” Then every time you see the early church engage in some kind of activity, apply the heading. You’ll be amazed at the balance you see. They preach the word, they feed the hungry, share their possessions, heal the sick. All things working together to proclaim God’s kingdom and to participate in loving the unloveable and reaching out to the poor (because they loved people, not just for missional effect).
And that really is the heart of HOPE. We want to be a movement that embraces works and word, in balance. We’re hoping and praying for an explosion of united activity across the UK. We’re forging partnerships, dreaming big (really BIG) and are full of faith to see the UK church grow. However, the real work is always in the grass roots. It’s every believer getting their hands dirty, filled with confidence that the Gospel radically changes people’s lives that will ultimately make the difference. HOPE is here to help facilitate. Let’s have an adventure together!
Carl Beech is director of church planting and church development for Elim and President of CVM.