If you’re a subscriber to those two great evangelical publications, ‘The Briefing‘ and ‘Evangelicals Now‘, then something may have dropped out of the middle pages when you ripped off the plastic cover this month. That may have been our fault.
Co-Mission has now gone public with a plan that’s been brewing for a while. It’s been kicked around behind the scenes in many a Cluster Leaders’ meeting, sharpened by the Senior Pastors’ meetings and wholeheartedly approved by the Partnership. It was announced to the Co-Mission collective at Revive this past June.
When I say ‘behind the scenes’ what I really mean is that it’s been cooked up in the mind of Richard Coekin and scribbled on the back of an envelope. Richard is the Director of Co-Mission and the Senior Pastor at Dundonald Church, Raynes Park in south-west London. I’ve known him for nearly seventeen years. And I’ve come to dread the first staff meeting back after his summer holiday. His mind never rests. Even on holiday. And whilst most mere (normal?) mortals read ‘Dad-lit Grisham’ on their summer break, Richard takes a fag packet to record his latest strategic plan to advance the gospel. In the early days of working for him it was wonderfully exciting; we were going to try something new. Then after a few years it just became worrying. If I’m honest, it’s now sometimes just plain wearying. But invariably it’s a bold and brilliant plan to keep pressing ahead with our Co-Mission vision to plant churches in London. Antioch is perhaps his boldest yet. Brilliant? Time will tell.
In essence, the plan is to invest in godly entrepreneurial type characters with robust temperaments who are willing to start small and build from there. They’ve got to fulfil the criteria of the Pastoral Epistles for eldership but within the scope of that description we’re after those best described as ‘evangelistically minded hunter-gatherers’. The idea is that they’ll be willing to be bi-vocational whilst they gather a core group, establish a vision, train and equip this missionary team and begin to make inroads with the gospel into an area untouched by existing evangelical ministries. It won’t suit everyone. It may not suit many. But Co-Mission will undertake to provide training in theology, ministry and church planting. They’ll undertake to provide part-time funding for three years. They’ll provide mentoring to help encourage pioneer planters through the process and nurture them in their spiritual development. And they’ll provide wisdom in planning and launching church plants. There are already a handful who’ve expressed an interest in giving it a go, for which we praise God.
I ought to confess an interest. Co-Mission is the organisation for which I work. And I’ve been involved a little bit in trying to birth this baby. I’m not the Father or indeed the Mother, I was no more than an interested bystander at its conception. But I’m sufficiently involved to feel a little sensitive to criticism! And I think that’ll be forthcoming. Because in our evangelical constituency we’re not only conservative theologically (which is a good thing) but we’re also conservative in our ministry patterns, which is less good. But the truth is that our instinctive conservativism may be wise. If it’s not been done before then there may be good reasons for that! But it could be that we’ve become comfortable and we need something like this to shake us up.
Over the past couple of years I’ve had the joy of seeing two guys give this a go. Pete Snow was the pioneer planter who managed to get King’s Church (now the Boat House Church) off the ground in Putney. And I’ve spent the last two years working with Jay Marriner as he attempts to launch a church plant in Brixton. This method of trying to establish and grow new churches is not without difficulties. We’re aware of many of those having committed most, if not all, the mistakes in the book over years of church planting. But in God’s kindness, it can be done. We’ll plant and water. But He’s the one who’ll give any growth. We’re in his hands, which is the best place to be.
You can find a few more details here. But if you’re keen, or you know of anyone who might be then send an e -mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.