To the untrained eye it might look like me and my family just got dropped off on this hill-top council estate like a mini crack troop of maverick missionaries, to get on with the job of planting a church with zero back-up, support, strategy or accountability in place. The reality, however is that far from being isolated, we’ve actually been backed to the max, and owe a massive debt of gratitude to A LOT of people, without whom Hill City Church would probably not be alive, let alone thriving! This post is both an expression of gratitude to them, and also an encouragement to anyone considering church-planting to do everything in their power to make sure that when they get into the trenches, they’ve got as much back-up as they possibly need.
Here’s a concise list of how we’ve been blessed by back-up on our little adventure:
1. God – Shouldn’t need to to explain this one! Jesus’ promise to those who step out on mission for Him is “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28v20) Nuff said!
2. Sending Church – Right this one’s massive for us! For those who didn’t know Highfields Church in Cardiff became my home church when I became a student in 1995 and has been ever since. After I graduated I worked with them for 2 years reaching out to young people on the streets. Furthermore, when I went to St.Mellons (6 miles up the road) I was sent and supported as one of their missionaries, as was Michelle when we got married. So when I approached the elders about the call to plant a church in the valleys it was business as usual as far as our status as missionaries was concerned.
There’s obviously loads of different strategies for church-planting, and one of the more common ones is sending a team of 20-30 people to create a ‘critical mass’ and make sure that multiple areas of ministry are deliverable from the off. However, we just felt that parachuting a huge crowd of ‘foreign’ middle-class Cardiffians into a valleys council estate context might not have been the most culturally sensitive or effective way of reaching the community. That’s honestly not a slur on middle-class people by the way – just an honest appraisal of the situation! We just wanted Hill City Church to be as organic and as true to the local context as possible, so it was agreed that we would go up alone, move in and start small. What that doesn’t mean, however, is that we were cut adrift. Below is just a very short list of the various ways that the Highfields mother-ship has supported us in the mission:
Prayer, Finances, Pastoral Care, Administrative Help, Website Support, Coffee, Friendship and the Provision of 2 amazing Ministry Apprentices…
In short I love Highfields to bits. It’s not an exaggeration to say that without them, we might have started strongly but we would have definitely crashed and burned by now without the blessing of their back-up!
3. Waleswide – Dave Ollerton from the Waleswide church-planting movement has been a really good friend to Hill City, especially in the earliest stages of the plant. His wisdom advice and probing questions really helped us as we set about laying out our Vision, Distinctives and Theological Foundations. He also spoils my dog which is nice!
4. Family – We are so blessed to have Christian parents and siblings who not only understand our mission, but actively support us in it! We have been completely overwhelmed by the gracious way that they have helped us out in so many practical ways. From cooking us meals to looking after the kids. From regular, committed prayer to words of wisdom. I genuinely can’t imagine how different this church-plant would have looked without the silent, sincere and sacrificial support of our amazing families!
5. Friends – Finally, we have so many ‘friends’ who have also gone above and beyond the call of duty to draw alongside us and give generously of their time, tears, treasure, prayer, passion and provision. These friends include our amazing supporters who pray like crazy, always ask how we’re doing and who help us to survive each month financially. Other friends include the scores and scores of individuals (too many to list but you know who you are!) who have visited, helped and blessed us in so many precious ways! Several churches have also got behind us and encouraged us in our mission – Christchurch, Pillar, Beacon Church, Rumney Chapel, Ebenezer, New Life and Oasis, to name a few!
To everyone mentioned explicitly on this post, as well as all those referred to more broadly, I want to close with the words of Paul that echo perfectly how I feel towards you for all you’ve done to back us up and help us stand:
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” (Philippians 1v3-5)