01 November 2011
Gather God is doing something
Unity movements where church leaders from across towns, cities and regions work together in friendship are helping to change their communities. God seems to be doing something very special where Christians are working together...
Kingdom not empire. That's what groups of Christian leaders who have come together under the banner of seeing their towns and cities reached with the gospel have at the back of their minds. From Lincoln to Liverpool, Manchester to Middlesbrough, Bath to Bournemouth, unity movements have been springing up in clusters across England.
Until now, what God has been doing has been a hidden work. The vibrant movements that are building upon a shared sense of territory to cast aside theological differences and reach their geographical areas with the Good News of Christ have been going unnoticed nationally.
Research by the Alliance's England ambassador Roger Sutton has identified around 40 of these lively movements across England. Now, the Alliance - so inspired and passionate about what we have seen - is helping to bring these unity movements together under the title of 'Gather'. It will be a meeting together of those who believe that when churches and leaders put down their differences and start to form friendships, pray together and undertake mission initiatives for the sake of their local areas, God commands the blessing.
Gather will help equip these unity movements, share stories of best practice and foster relationship between the leaders across the UK from city to city, town to town. Its sole aim is that through learning from each other and building on the already great work that individual movements in cities have been doing over the years, we can impact the UK as a whole - together.
"What would happen if other cities and towns were inspired to start unity movements themselves and eventually all the major towns and cities had vibrant prayer-focussed friendship-based mission and vision," asks Roger. "Could we see a fundamental change in the social and spiritual landscape in the UK?"
A sense of place
Together for the Harvest in Liverpool was founded in 1998 when church leaders in the city felt the importance of having strong uniting relationships.
They dreamed that, together, they would see a harvest of people turning to Christ in the Mersey region and see society changed by the adoption of biblical values. At the heart of movements such as these is the regular meeting together of leaders in prayer and friendship. Each week in Tyneside, up to 30 leaders of churches join together to pray.
Roger, who has spent time visiting many of the unity movements over the past year, said of Together in Christ Tyneside: "There is a strong bond of love and affirmation among the leaders of the churches there and they have much to teach others about the values of honouring each other in Christ."
It's the same thing in Southampton where the unity movement there has developed 'Love Southampton' - part of its mission strategy following Hope 08. The network manages to bring together a wide variety of evangelical expression. Once a term they gather leaders to a big lunch with a speaker and once a year about 40 of them go on a retreat. They aim to develop father figures for the city, have an emphasis on kingdom not empire, pray and forge good friendships. When one of the churches faced a difficult time in recent years, a number of leaders in the city stood in support with them.
One Voice York (OVY) was first formed in 1990 to plan a major mission in York, but began to see growth when a weekly prayer meeting between church leaders was formed in 1999. Recalling when the weekly prayer meeting was started 11 years ago, David Casswell, who co-chairs OVY with Graham Hutchinson, said: "We said it doesn't matter if noone else joins us, we will commit to it. We wanted to pray, not for the churches in York, but the Church in York; for the city, those in authority, business, schools - and for revival.
"One Voice York was a charity, set up to promote the gospel, but now it has become a network based around prayer. Over the years, many have joined us, so now each week, 30-plus leaders are praying together. It is an important time for individuals to hear from God, relate to others, and receive encouragement.
"And out of this prayer, we have seen things happen that have been possible only because of our unity. We have invited our local Civic, council, health, and education leaders etc. to address breakfasts and have assured them of our prayers. This has opened doors of communication and understanding which has given One Voice York considerable favour and respect when we want to do things in the City. It has also enabled them to understand the place and impact that the Church already fulfils.
"We are still asking, 'What could God do in a City where leaders pray together?' We want to see more, we know there is more - and know that much depends on our unity and perseverance."
"What would happen if other cities and towns were inspired to start unity movements themselves and eventually all the major towns and cities had vibrant prayer-focussed friendshipbased mission and vision," asks Roger.
"Could we see a fundamental change in the social and spiritual landscape in the UK?"
The Alliance is helping to help gather these unity movements together, so we are holding a conference at Swanwick
Christian Conference Centre on 22-23 February. To book your place, visit www.wegather.co.uk