Last month 64 church planters gathered from 10 church plants across the UK, via zoom, for a landmark ground-breaking UK learning community. Covid-19 may have changed plans, but it has not stopping the vital work of church planting and as such this was the first of its kind across Europe! Hosted by the Counties Planting Network as part of the M4 training process, it was exciting to see the 5 church plants that started last year join up with the 5 new plants that are about to start this autumn. It was also wonderful to see how God is working across our land bringing together new churches from London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester as well as rural towns in Cumbria, Somerset, and Herefordshire. We also have a wonderfully diverse mix of cultures representing the richness of our demographic currently in the UK with the new churches being led by a range of different ethnic background leaders such as Ethiopian, Nigerian, Filipino and of course white British.
Over the two days the technical team navigated the complexities of running 18 breakout groups, with three parallel streams running simultaneously with one track given over to M1 teaching and training for the new plants focusing on the values, vision, model and where they see the church plant 2-3 years from now. A second M2 track focused on the areas such as discovering the context and target group, creating pathways for new people coming into the church, working out the network of contacts and who are you sharing and demonstrating the gospel to. The third track was compiled of a group of 12 potential church planters who are looking to start planting new churches in 2021. Whilst M4 is running in 15 counties across Europe and has planted over 400 churches using this process tool, this event was a landmark occasion as it was the first to take place in Europe where all the teaching was conducted over the zoom internet platform. We are thankful to the Lord that the internet never dropped out and that he has blessed Counties with an outstanding technical team capable of pulling such a complex event off.
Were greatly blessed to join up with some of our European partners and benefited from having M4 founder Oivind Augland join us to bring some of our teaching sessions live from Norway and also to have Kenno Leier join us live from Finland to share with us to from his vast experience. They complemented our British teaching team of Martin Erwin and Tim Cracknell, both of whom have been involved in planting churches in the UK. James Hyde who is Counties M4 coordinator oversaw the coaching and facilitating which is a key part of equipping the planting teams for action.
We have been greatly encouraged by the feedback with teams sending us the following messages afterwards:
“Again – practical and inspirational. Conference probably works better on Zoom! Well done!!”
“Good teaching and encouragement from the M4 leaders”
“Very encouraged…brilliant teaching…very clear and useful”
“Encouraging to meet people in very different contexts from ours”
“Genuine encouragement, guidance and advice, going forward.”
Obviously the Covid pandemic has impacted greatly the plans of the teams who started last year and not made it at all easy for them. Do pray especially for those who are in teams that were new to an area when the pandemic started as they are understandably struggling with how to make connections with people during these times of various levels of lockdown when it is harder to get close to people because of social distancing. One of the sessions focused directly on this challenge, giving practical encouragement at this tough time which was well received.
We are now building towards the next learning community on 12-13 February when it is expected even more will be joining the gathering as we journey together to obey our Lord’s great commission knowing that he is the one who is building His Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
Counties Planting Network