Being part of a church planting team involves a fresh sense of calling and an exciting vision to reach new people in new places. Yet what does it feel like to be the sending church, releasing valued members of your congregation to bless a different community? Phil Allcock, Associate Minister at Church Church Mayfair, looks at the dual emotions of joy and sacrifice involved in sending a church plant.
In Multiplying Churches: Exploring God’s Mission Strategy, Matt Chandler writes, ‘Churches that plant churches experience loss and gospel goodbyes that are awful and beautiful, right and good.’ A church plant is a cause for celebration, bringing fresh life and hope as a group of people reach out to a new community. Yet church planting can also involve loss and sacrifice for the sending church. Longstanding and loved members of a church may move miles away, leaving behind an hole that is not easily filled. Phil Allcock, Associate Minister at Church Church Mayfair, shares his thoughts below on the gospel goodbyes involved in sending a team to start a new service at St Paul’s Harringay:
What is it like for us as the sending church to commission the team of grafters at St Paul’s Harringay? A painful privilege!
It is quite painful for us at Christ Church Mayfair. It’s painful to send away some of our best, most committed, most servant-hearted and gifted people. It’s painful to find holes on rotas and to see empty chairs on Sunday. But what is most painful of all are the severed relationships. Of course, we can still see them – it’s not like they’ve moved to Tajikistan! But the reality is that we will see each other much more rarely. And these were not just colleagues or friends; they were family. We had praised God together with them as we celebrated marriages, births and baptisms. We had cried with them and prayed with them through tragedies (and plenty of tears were shed on the final Sunday at CCM). Now they are gone and we miss them.
But it is worth it. It is an enormous privilege to be able to partner with St. Paul’s in this adventure. We commissioned them on their final Sunday with the words of the Lord Jesus which Paul quotes in Acts 20:35: “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” What a privilege it is for us to be in a position to help St. Paul’s, and to partner with the faithful saints who have been worshipping there for years. What a privilege for us to be healthy enough to be able to send out our team of 35 to reinvigorate the church. What a privilege that we are now involved in a new gospel initiative in a new part of London.
One of the particular joys has been seeing members of the grafting team stepping up to take on new responsibilities and putting to use the training they had received at Christ Church Mayfair. Furthermore their going means that new people are having to step and serve at CCM. Some are heading up to Harringay to help with music and Sunday school at St Paul’s while they get up and running. Others are stepping to fill the gaps here. Either way it’s wonderful to see the way that the graft is fostering spiritual maturity.
Of course, the blessings for us don’t stop now that the grafters have been sent out. We look forward to praying for St Paul’s through the years and hearing how God works through St Paul’s to bring his gospel blessings to Harringay. The children may have grown up and moved out, but we do hope that they will stay in touch!
Dare I say too that we hope and pray that we might get to do it again soon…
Phil Allcock, Associate Minister at Christ Church Mayfair