Church Planting Conference

415734Just spoken to a mate who’s involved in church planting in Oxford. I invited him to ‘Planting for Christ’. Despite being an old Co-Mission boy, he didn’t know anything about it. To be fair, he’s been in the States for the last few years. And so I thought it’s probably worth a quick post so that people are aware it’s happening.

In my view this is a conference worth attending. Not all of them are. Don’t make me name names. As conferences go for usefulness, it’s up there with the administrators’ conference. It’s church planting specific. And its distinctive is the desire to be practical. That’ll probably be no more in evidence than in Richard Coekin’s seminar, which is an unplugged Q&A clinic. It’s entitled ‘Get going … in planning your plan’. Basically Richard will respond to  questions posed by delegates on church planting specifics. I can’t imagine that it’ll be recorded. It probably shouldn’t be because it won’t be characterised by nuanc; few things he says will die the death of a thousand qualifications. He won’t always be right. Irritatingly for those of us who work closely with him, he often is. But even when he’s not, he’s hugely stimulating and encouraging. That hour-long session is probably worth the admittance price alone.

Then there are two plenary sessions. I’m speaking on ‘What constitutes ‘success’ in planting?’ Because I’m so familiar with it, obviously! And Andy Patterson, the FIEC Yoda of Church Planting, will be looking at the issue of sustainable sacrifice in ministry. That’s a burning question amongst planters who feel like we’re involved in the spiritual equivalent of starting up our own business. You’re not. And you tell yourself you’re not. But you still think it.

The seminars before lunch are entitled ‘Get Going’. They’re to do with starting up plants. Reuben Hunter will reflect on his experience in planting Trinity West in Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush, in the seminar ‘Get going … in a big city’. Pete Woodcock, from Cornerstone Kingston together with Simon Martin from King’s Church Walton on Thames will talk about church planting in the suburbs. And Jason Roach of the Bridge Battersea and Graham Miller the Director of London City Mission will talk about getting going in a UPA.

After lunch the seminars are entitled ‘Keep Going’ and they’re to do with maintaining spiritual health. Andrew Nicholls, now on the staff at Dundonald as the Biblical Counselling guru, will deal with our marriages and the stresses placed on them by the demands of church planting. Jeremy Hobson, who’s led the St Helen’s Church Plant, Trinity Islington for the past few years, will talk about maintaining our own spiritual disciplines and devotion for the Lord Jesus Christ. Neil Powell will talk about keeping going despite the financial pressures. Neil is involved with Birmingham 2020, a church planting initiative in the country’s second city. He’s also the senior pastor of City Church. Andy Mason, who runs a ministry on a large UPA estate off the King’s Church, St John’s Chelsea will talk about perservering through the inevitable disappointments of gospel ministry.

I’m a big fan of this conference. I don’t think you need to be involved in church planting to find it useful. But the particular demands of church planting bring the issues that all of us in full-time gospel ministry face into sharp focus, perhaps with an increased intensity. You can find details of the conference here. It’s held at the Factory in Raynes Park (a suburb of  Wimbledon). And at £15 it’s a bargain.


Pioneer Planting Plan

The Antioch PlanIf 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

Planting for Christ

The second Co-Mission day conference ‘Planting for Christ’ is on Wednesday 21st March this year. The theme of the day is ‘The Mission of the Church’.

No doubt they’ll be interacting with some of the material in Greg Gilbert’s and Kevin de Young’s book. At least that’s what I’m assuming since Richard hasn’t ever read Christian books for fun and it’s been open on his desk for weeks!

The aims of the conference are stated as follows

  • To explore Biblical principles that shape contemporary church-planting so we’re not just pragmatic but driven by God’s Word
  • To encourage Missional priorities for making disciples of all nations so we’re not just growing networks but reaching unbelievers with the gospel
  • To share Practical wisdom from proven church planters for British urban contexts so we’re not just theoretical but effective

and so to glorify Christ, the Saviour and Lord of the church who is our motivation, model and message.

Richard Coekin and Al Stewart are the main speakers, though that’s a little unfair. There are more than ten main speakers. Half of the day is given over to seminars which allows for a good deal of flexibility in choice.

I’m interested in hearing what Steve Timmis has to say about ‘Nurturing missional Godliness in Plants’ in the first session. Though it’ll be a shame to miss hearing William Taylor on ‘Priorities in City Centre Plants’. Phil Allcock and Pete Woodcock on ‘Making Disciples One to One’ will be gold dust. I’m going to send our staff to different seminars and tell them to take extensive notes. Or record it on their mobile!

In the second seminar session Justin Mote’s session on ‘Deciding where to Plant’ should be stimulating and Roo Standring and Paul Dawson’s answer to ‘Planting with or despite the C of E’ will undoubtedly be informed by their contrasting experiences north and south of the river Thames!

You can find further details of the day here. You’ll find the complete list of seminars there.

You can book a place via the Good Book website here.

I work for Co-Mission and so you’d expect me to say this, but I think it looks great. The number of different speakers is exciting. They come from different countries. For example Al Barth is from the USA and Al Stewart is from Australia. The contexts the speakers work in are very different. For example Steve Casey works on a northern council estate, Mike Cain in the suburban south and William Taylor in the city centre. Theologically the speakers’ convictions will be pretty similar. So whilst there won’t be the nervous excitement we enjoyed last year when Mark Driscoll got up to speak, there’ll be the settling confidence of knowing that we’re all on the same page!

London Men’s Convention

Aussie Bishop Al Stewart

This year’s London Men’s Convention promises to be a cracker. I ought to confess a vested interest in talking it up. It’s been hugely influential for lots of our guys at church and so, as a local church pastor, I’m a big fan. That’s also why I agreed to be on the organising committee, even though I loathe admin.

There’s lots about this years’ LMC that’s stayed the same; solid meaty Bible exposition, uplifting praise and encouraging fellowship. That’s all there again. In spades. But this year things are also different. We’re meeting in Westminster Chapel not the Albert Hall or the ExCel Centre (which I’m alone in loving). We’ve gone for two conferences in one day to accommodate the numbers. And the price has been reduced to £18. We reckon people are feeling the pinch in these times of austerity. And so we’ve done what we can to make it more affordable. I guess not everyone will be able to find that sort of cash. But we’re hoping that within a congregation the men can sort it out so that no one’s unable to attend.

The subject matter this year is the Christian Man’s daily fight against the opposition we face from the world, the flesh and the devil. We’ve got Australian church planting Bishop Al Stewart, a real favourite from past conventions, to come and address the issues of the world’s lies and our fleshly desires. And we’ve bullied our own convention Chairman, Richard Coekin to speak about the contentious issue of satanic opposition. I’ve heard Richard on this subject before and his material was brilliant. It promises to be a great time.

You can find the flyer by following this link. Or check out the website.

In promoting the LMC at our evening congregation on Sunday, I said that we should consider going for three reasons

1. Go for yourself. We need help with this, don’t we? The battle against the worldly influence of peer pressure, the sinful desires of our hearts and the satanic opposition that hides behind them is unbelievably wearying. We need help for the fight. Some of us are casualties and we need mending. This convention is meant to help.

2. Go for your mates. They need our encouragement, support and accountability. I have every confidence that the talks will be great. But it’s the conversations afterwards, between people who know each other well, that often make the difference. With mates from church we can talk openly and honestly about the implications of what we’ve heard. And we can pray together, where we sit. And we can resolve to help one another pursue godliness. The effect of the convention ought to be felt long after it’s finished. Men who’ve travelled up together and returned home after a meal and a drink together can take what they’ve learnt back into their families, friendships, churches and workplaces.

3. Go for your church. The health of our churches depends on the existence and participation of godly men. Of course the women are significant, but you need godly guys busy in personal ministry throughout the congregation. Our Sunday School kids need godly male role models apart from their Fathers. Our young men in small group Bible studies need godly role models. Our unbelieving lads on Christianity Explored need godly role models. And so it goes on. This convention ought to help us begin to address the issue and think about the resources God has given us in the gospel to mature as Christian men and fight the good fight together.

Church Planting Consultation

Wednesday was church planting consultation day. It comes around six months or so. The Senior Pastor of Dundonald and the Director of Co-Mission, Richard Coekin, chairs a gathering of likeminded friends from around the country in the Factory. They come to talk about the nuts and bolts of launching and running small congregations. It’s an informal gathering, it takes up most of the day and it’s hugely stimulating. It grew out of Richard’s inability to deal properly with the increasing number of requests for a chat about church planting. These were filling up his inbox and clogging up his answer machine. So he convened a day to kick around some of the common issues that many of us seem to face. It went down well. It’s been well receieved. People keep coming back and each time there are newcomers to the group.

Strangely I’m often in two minds about whether to go or not. It takes up the lion’s share of the day and Wednesday night is Ministry Matters. I always need to prepare so that I’m on my game! The topics we tackle there aren’t straight forward. I can’t blag. And they can be a feisty lot. And they have high standards! I ’forced’ myself to think about the value of the consultations and, to my mind, whether I go or not has become a ’no-brainer’. Here are the six reasons why.

1. It’s eminently practical
People submit their questions beforehand or throw them in on the day. And that sets the agenda, so there‘s always a fresh feel to the discussion. Richard has a stab at answering them and that usually generates supplementary questions. He does the vast majority of the talking. And so although the word ‘consultation’ has a certain semantic nuance, we’ve limited it! It’s consultative in the sense that we ask Richard’s view on things and he gives an answer. It’s interactive in the sense that people interrupt Richard when he draws breath and he stops talking for a moment! And that’s OK. It’s why people have come. Occasionally and very generously he asks for my wisdom but people haven’t come for that! And every now and again there’s a quip to be made, which is something I rarely pass up. Typically the range of questions is very broad so we end up talking about all sorts of things. For example, on Wednesday we talked about how to raise money to finance a church plant, we thought about how to persuade a school to let a church hire a building, what thought about what to look for in a second staff member amongt other things. It’s the kind of ministry issues specifics that you simply don’t get at most other ministry conferences. Let’s be honest, there’s no point in flying Tim Keller or Mark Driscoll over from the states to ask  them where you should run an evening church in Balham or start a lunchtime ministry in Bradford. Our focus is at the ministry practice end of things. We‘re dealing in tactics not the big picture strategic stuff.

2. It’s brutally honest
Richard doesn’t pull any punches. Phrases like ‘you’re not the man to lead it’ are occasionally heard. He doesn’t beat around the bush but gets to the heart of the issue pretty quickly. But he says what needs to be said. Often he manages to say things with sensitivity and he’s savyy about the delicate issues. But he says what needs to be said. And people appreciate that. They haven’t come to have their egos massaged. They’ve come because they want some answers and they’re concerned about the growth of the kingdom and want to know the best way to grow it. I’ve not been in the firing line and so I’ve been happy with the level of honest assessment. It might be different if I was being told what was wrong with my well conceived plan. But for the sake of the kingdom, the churches we lead and the effectiveness of our ministry we just need to get over it. And they have.

3. It’s accumulated wisdom
People come because they want to download what Richard has learnt over fifteen years of church planting. He’s a few steps ahead of most of us. He came to run an established church plant, Dundonald Church, twenty years ago. He planted an evening church in 1996 and he’s been planting ever since. Under God and with the sacrificial support of key elders, he’s established a network of church plants. In the past five years or so we’ve been able to plant at about a rate of two churches a year. He’s made some mistakes that I can think of, though not many. And he’d admit to fewer! He always seems to forget that momentous decision in November 1996, when the evening church plant was about a dozen strong to tackle the book of Ezekiel in four 50 minutes long sermons. Genius! You won’t find that in most church planting manuals! But overwhelmingly there’s credibility to his comments and wisdom. He hates being the centre of attention. Genuinely. But he knows that it’s useful because that’s what people keep telling him.

4. It’s unavoidably contextual
This is where I get most frustrated. Although he’s been involved in leading a handful of church plants and he’s initiated several others, he’s unavoidably bound by his own ministry context. He often reverts to type. And that’s Wimbledon. Not everywhere is like Wimbledon. And church planting in Balham, Bristol or Bradford isn’t the same as church planting in Wimbledon. And he sometimes forgets that. I’m not saying that Wimbledon is an easier place to plant a church. But I am saying that it’s a different place to plant a church. And though the principles for planting may well be the same, how those principles are applied in a specific location will need to vary. That became acutely obvious when we started talking finance. You could see the Free Church boys from the north wide eyed at the sums of money we’ve been able to raise to support the church planting initiatives in south London.

5. It’s inevitably  opinionated
That goes with the territory. It’s inevitable. We’re not dealing in the realm of right or wrong where we can measure our convictions against the Bible’s teaching. We’re in the realm of wise or unwise. And so the kinds of things that we discuss come down to judgment calls. And so there’s scope for disagreement. We might take issue with Richard’s analysis, and that’s OK. But rarely. What he says is so often sensible. And that’s why people come. If they could stay on their own and bat it around with their own elders and staff team then they wouldn’t travel to London, but they do.

6. It’s hugely encouraging.
We feel like a band of brothers. We’re all on the same team; we’re conservative evangelicals and we’re all trying to do the same thing; lead recent church plants. There‘s camaraderie that comes from sharing the same issues, facing the same challenges and knowing the same experience. There’s no testosterone, which is nice. I don’t pick up any sense of competitiveness. That might be different if we were all planting in each other’s areas. But we’re not. There’s a wide geographical spread to our locations. And so we’re all just trying to do what we’re doing better, more effectively. It’s been hugely encouraging. I never fail to learn something. Richard asked my why I take notes and scribble throughout the sessions. It keeps me engaged and it stimulates my thought processes. Invariable I end up doing things at CCB differently as a result of these sessions. And that’s a good thing.