Although our final decision to move was only recently, the plans of what we are returning to Newcastle to do are established in that they were on our hearts before we left and some of the groundwork had already been laid. What we hope to do is a result of 20 years of life together, working out what we’re really passionate about as a couple when it comes to ministry. When all is stripped away, this is what gives a resounding ‘Yes!’ to us. We’ve come so close to taking the leap of faith before now, and now is the time.
The first part of our vision is to plant a church (eventually churches). My relationship with Churches in Communities means that we have accountability and oversight from them, renewed annually by appraisal, which places us in relationship with wider bodies such as the Free Churches Group, the Evangelical Alliance and Churches Together in England. Lots of ‘relationships’ are important in any kind of pioneering ministry.
So, here are a few key things for us:
Firstly, we plan to share in ministry together. Although Tracy has moved into a career in teaching, our call to minister is still central for us and we are looking forward to working together in a new way, hopefully with others in a small team too. ‘Together’ also means the family…our older two children have always lamented our move towards formally shaped church where they don’t get to express their views!
Second, we have a heart to see a church community built around Jesus, that functions as a family around the table: relational, missional, hospitable. We long to see a multi-voiced church where ‘everyone gets to play’, everyone gets to contribute, where leadership structures are flattened and where Christ is discerned together. Sure, every church needs a wee bit of structure as growth comes, but we want to aim for simplicity and informality. This makes the church multipliable, uncluttered and with hopefully more ability to keep the main thing the main thing! We want to plant Jesus and trust that ‘church’ will follow that.
Third, we see a church the keeps people free to be obedient to Jesus and hear him for themselves in community, and that then equips, enables and releases. This is key if a church in a community is to develop its mission in a location and make a real difference. We believe that people hear ‘no’ too much in churches, when what is often needed is an affirming Kingdom ‘yes…how can we help you do it?’ These things, amongst others, are at the heart of discipleship.
The second aspect of our vision is to develop a ‘boots on the ground’ community chaplaincy in communities where both the established church needs a boost and where people face socio-economic challenges.
This will mainly be my work, in eventual partnership with others, and will involve the formation of a charitable organisation. The key is to get into local communities, listen to what is happening, and then MOBILISE other parts of the body of Christ to respond in ways that will help the transformation of communities.
The third aspect of my work in particular, will be to continue to develop my ministry in retreat leading, teaching, spiritual direction and church consultancy through ‘Solace’…seeking to build up the wider body of Christ wherever that is possible or needed. I had already started this work in Newcastle before we left, and I hope to pick that up through the various ways it had begun. This is the aspect of my ministry that is currently officially accredited by Churches in Communities as a ministry.
We will be a ‘self-supporting’ team. Tracy will be seeking full-time teaching post, a key part of her calling and vocation. I will be, initially, looking for some ‘crowd-funding’ in partnership with Stewardship Services, who are a charity who help manage donations/gifts for Christian workers/ministers who are, effectively, self-employed. The hope would be for each aspect of ministry to provide a modest salary for me eventually, but in the early days, we’ll trust that God will provide as we get established. This is a strange concept in some circles, but God’s mission has always advanced in this way…ever since the apostle Paul made tents to pay his bills! We’ll be a wee missionary family believing that ‘God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s provision’ (Hudson Taylor).
We hope to rent a place in Newcastle, where our work will largely take place, and that puts us in some sort of close proximity to supportive friends who might help to keep us sane!
PRAYER! All of it is reliant on God’s grace and the partnership of his people. Feel free to pray with and for us. We will be sure to provide plenty of updates on what we will be doing and what we need.