I launched the itinerant arm of my growing international ministry portfolio last week. I preached in Clapham. I’ve no idea whether the proverbial man from the omnibus made it. But the rest of Clapham Central Church were kind enough to pitch up. I can only assume word of my visit hadn’t leaked out! I was there to replace Phil, who’d taken the fragrant Juliet away for a week’s holiday in Suffolk. Phil had me preaching the fourth of the ten commandments. It was a whole new sermon for me. I could have done without that if I’m honest. But it gave me a chance to work out what I thoughts about the Sabbath. So it wasn’t all bad!
Clapham Central is the latest Co-Mission Church plant. It’s all of five months old. It was started with about 20 people. It had all the familiar hallmarks of a young church plant finding its’ feet. The musical accompaniment was provided by an accomplished pianist competing manfully with a ropey piano. The church hall is currently undergoing a wholehearted renovation so it feels a little like the inside of Wickes. The bookstall was unpacked from a translucent plastic box. And the fuse went in the uplighters towards the end of my sermon! Genius. I miss those days.
It meets in the church of the Nazarene just round the corner from the Northcote Road. They meet at 6pm. You should go, if you’re not already involved in another church. Phil is a first-rate preacher, a brilliant personal worker and he’s married a terrific woman who’s totally out of his league. Haven’t we all. The church regulars are a great group of adventurous souls doing something exciting for the gospel.
We had a little Q&A so that people would discover a little about me before we looked at the scriptures together. They asked me about my family and about my background. But what they really wanted to know was about planting and how it works out! I tried to get them to take their minds off growth. I reminded them that in 1 Corinthians 3 Paul says that he planted, Apollos watered but that it was God who gave the growth. And so as long as they were planting and watering they were doing their bit. It’s up to God to use their work for the gospel in any way He chooses. What I wanted to say to them was something like ‘you have no idea how exciting this is. I know you feel like rabbits caught in the headlights. But give it a few years and you’ll look back on these days with real fondness. I’m sure you’re wondering what on earth you’re doing. But it’s absolutely fantastic. Hold your nerve and trust God’. I tried to convince them that there are advantages to being small. It was perhaps an exaggeration to say that when they’re twice the size they are no their relationships will be half as good. But I wanted them to enjoy the community life that they can have when they’re small and not spend the whole time thinking that church begins when you hit a certain size. God says He’s happy to pitch up to a church with two or three members! I’m not going to knock Him for that.
It was brilliant. It was church paired back to what really matters. There was a crowd, there was conversation, there were Bibles and there was a preacher. We prayed and we sang. What more do you need? It was church. And I loved it.