Church Planting 5

QUEENS PARK BAPTIST CHURCH

In the late nineteenth century when the Glasgow city centre churches were flourishing, a number of Christians were tired of continually travelling into the city for worship, and planted a church in their area so that they no longer had to travel to church. This new church plant was therefore entirely for the benefit of Christians living in the area, and had nothing to do with outreach or evangelism. That church was Queen’s Park Baptist Church.

Having planted Newton Mearns in the (relatively) late twentieth century (although this had not been a Queen’s Park initiative), the leadership of Queen’s Park Baptist Church now considered what their vision was for the fellowship. Was it to establish a mega-church in the city, or to grow by planting churches where they had Christians in communities?

During 1998/99 the leadership agreed a vision statement, part of which is quoted here:

TO IMPACT THE CITY THROUGH PEOPLE

By developing clear local identities through home groups, Alpha groups and community services. In particular we will encourage Neilston members to develop local evangelism with a view to establishing a viable church plant. By promoting city unity through prayer, worship, ministry and evangelism, accepting our responsibility to be a storehouse, resourcing and encouraging other individuals and fellowships as well as being ready to receive help and encouragement from others.

In two areas (West End and Neilston) Queen’s Park Baptist Church had people that were in the process of establishing local identities and engaging in community evangelism towards church planting, and, almost on their doorstep, was a Baptist church that needed help.

CASTLEMILK BAPTIST CHURCH

Originally a Pioneer Ministry church plant itself, Castlemilk had fallen into decline and was getting very small in the late twentieth century. Income had been reasonable when Baptist Union of Scotland support was available, but the late nineties saw people moving away or just stopping coming to the church, and the financial situation worsened with the declining numbers. A single-figure membership of whom around 40% were over seventy years of age saw no real way to survive, and closure was the most obvious destination.

The area of Castlemilk had been identified as having a stronghold of gossip in the community, and this had permeated the church, contributing to the decline of a church that simply had not flourished in the community in which it was set.

The struggle to meet the pastor’s stipend and other expenses was on an ongoing issue, but the pastor – Rev Stephen Anderson – had felt a call to a city-wide prayer ministry for Glasgow during the latter decline.

A merger with another Baptist Church posed a number of logistical difficulties, and another possible solution was explored. Edwin Gunn and Stephen Anderson had already established a relationship and they explored the possibility of Queen’s Park Baptist Church assisting Castlemilk in their need.

The formal approach to Queen’s Park came in late 1999, and Queen’s Park looked for some of its own members who would be willing to move to Castlemilk for a two-year period, after which members would review their commitment. A number of Queen’s Park church meetings led to around twenty agreeing to support Castlemilk for two years (to Summer 2002).

Yet this was no numbers game, for Castlemilk wanted people with vision and determination to move their small fellowship on – they did not want to simply inherit problem people or those who were only looking for a way out of Queen’s Park. Castlemilk wanted, and needed, people who would grow in their own gifts and ministries and be leadership potential for the church; that is exactly what they got. The church that had been hanging over a cliff edge now had a new lease of life.

It was in no way a take-over by Queen’s Park – neither Queen’s Park nor Castlemilk wanted that – and the people who came in were sensitive about not making it appear like a take-over; rather it was a real partnership with the Queen’s Park people, and a partnership that has worked well.

There are some logistical difficulties for those members who live outside Castlemilk and travel into Castlemilk for meetings, but the church has run two Alpha courses and has a huge work with asylum seekers that is staffed by a number of people, some of whom are from outside the church itself.

The church has, however, still not impacted the local community. The Alpha courses did not attract local people despite leaflet drops, and this issue is at the forefront of the church’s attention in these days. Castlemilk have a long-term vision for whole families to see the church as their local church, though it may mean re-inventing the local church. They now have a life of their own, and are not dependent upon Queen’s Park Baptist Church for life and resources, and pastoral care is handled by Castlmilk’s own people with home groups providing support to members.

Many people who went to Castlemilk from Queen’s Park have made a real commitment to the small church and will remain after the two-year deadline, and try to build bridges into the local community and make contact with Castlemilk folk. Castlemilk needs a church that will listen to God and not just do their own thing, and that is what the people in the church are trying hard to do. As a part of this effort, Castlemilk Baptist Church has been renamed Castlemilk Community Church.

WEST END (ANNIESLAND)

Sometime around three years ago, John MacDonald, who was one of the Queens Park Baptist Church Core Leadership Team, felt that God wanted to move in the Anniesland area of the city and asked to become Pastoral Leader for that area. [A Pastoral Leader oversees a number of home groups and is responsible for the pastoral care of that area.]

A Pastoral Leader is not one of the Pastoral Team of Pastors, though the term may be confusing to some. John shared his vision with the Queens Park Core Leadership Team and received general support, the West End vision fitting in with Queen’s Park’s general city vision for church planting through local identified communities.

John and his wife Fiona, along with Neil and May Young who had joined Queen’s Park Baptist Church and then discovered that there was vision to church plant in the West End, are at the centre of the vision for the West End, and have spent much time envisioning others from the four area home groups.

The profile of the West End vision has been raised through weekends away, prayer meetings and meetings with people from other churches in the area. The four people at the heart of the vision are very keen not to be seen as independent or as having all the answers, and are fostering relationships with other church leaders in the area.

John feels that some find the term ‘church plant’ to be threatening and possibly misleading, and prefers to speak of a satellite congregation of Queen’s Park Baptist Church that retains links with Queen’s Park while working towards holding services in the West End. There have been three Alpha courses in the West End supported by Queen’s Park, one of which took place in partnership with three other churches and was situated in a café; those converted simply went to their nearest church.

Monthly afternoon services begin in March 2002 at a venue yet to be decided. The next year will see the establishment of a thirteen-week course based around material by Neil Anderson, and the year after will include a discipleship course and public meetings. Their philosophy for the West End is conversion growth, not simply a redistribution of Christians in the area.