Combine a small group of Christians, working together, with an open Bible and a blank piece of paper, and what do you have? ‘TEAMwork’.
Early last year, Dr Gareth Crossley, minister of West Park Church, Wolverhampton, began turning the cogs of a new project with the aim of ‘Training, Evangelism And Ministry’ – otherwise known as TEAMwork.
The desire was to train and equip men for evangelism and ministry in a practical way – specifically through church-planting. During the months that followed, in God’s providence, three younger men and their wives joined Gareth in this new venture.
Alan Stenfalt from Leicester also joined to help lead the project and by September 2001 the project was ready to go.
What are the New Testament principles underlying church-planting? The first believers were commanded: ‘Go … and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19). From the book of Acts onwards, we have a manual for church-planting.
The Bible makes it clear that churches are to be God-honouring, Christ-centred, Bible-believing and gospel-preaching. But it goes further in providing a model for training men in the work of evangelism.
Timothy and Titus, for example, worked with the apostle Paul – in a kind of apprenticeship (Acts 16:3; 2 Timothy 1:13; 2 Corinthians 8:23). The evangelist’s task is to ‘make disciples’ (recognising that only God himself can make believers).
In each locality, our object is (1) to gather a group of believers; (2) to see an independent local church established; (3) to appoint elders; and (4) move on.
It was with these basic principles in mind that we began.
The first hurdle to overcome was perhaps the hardest – where to start? The Scriptures tell us to evangelise ‘to the end of the earth’ (Acts 1:8), so we needed guidance!
We set ourselves to pray, asking the Lord to direct our paths. There were various places around the West Midlands desperately in need of a church that proclaims the true gospel.
We were led to the city of Lichfield (population around 30,000). It has several churches but, as far as we knew, they were all involved in ecumenism.
The work began in October. Having decided on the place, the team needed to determine what methods should be used, according to God’s Word. We tried to follow the apostolic pattern by going to central places and preaching the gospel.
Those early days were hard. As the winter months drew in, we did at times question our sanity, as we stood in the centre of Lichfield preaching to ourselves.
No one seemed to listen. We also tried door-to-door evangelism and offered a course called Christianity Explained. During November we were able to take one man – a local trader called Shane – through this course.
Also in November, we started meeting on Sunday mornings in the Guildhall, located in the centre of Lichfield. Again, these times were difficult as only six or so gathered each week.
But we thank God for what he was teaching us. We decided to work in Lichfield for three months and look to the Lord to make his purpose clear within that time.
But as we approached the end of that period, with no obvious fruit, we were almost ready to ‘shake the dust off our feet’ (Matthew 10:14).
The New Year
In late December, we held an evangelistic meeting called ‘Star Trek’ – based on the great distance that both the star and the wise men travelled to see the Saviour. About a thousand invitations were given out prior to the meeting.
We hoped that this meeting would give us a clearer indication of what we should do. We were encouraged by the attendance of a couple, who are prayerful, concerned Christians.
They were currently travelling to another town on Sundays because there was no suitable local church. More significantly – and unknown to us – they had been praying for Lichfield for three years.
We later found that other local believers had also been praying similarly. This cast a new light on the situation. This couple had a burden for gospel outreach in Lichfield, and started attending our Sunday morning service at the Guildhall.
Soon after, one of their neighbours, also a believer, began attending with some family members. We currently have around 25 believers worshipping with us, including some who moved into the area and were seeking a local Bible-believing church.
A midweek meeting is now well attended and we are considering whether to start a Sunday evening meeting.
The first convert
We also have unbelievers regularly present at the morning service and continue to spread the gospel in the city centre during the week. This has included regular contact with local traders and opportunities to speak to young men from disadvantaged backgrounds.
However, we were still praying for conversions, and were thrilled when Shane (the local trader mentioned earlier) trusted in Christ in April 2002. Shane was the first person we spoke to on the streets of Lichfield.
He has since been going on with the Lord and was baptised in November. These developments have given us great encouragement and the Lord has made it clear that, for the time being, we should concentrate our efforts in Lichfield.
Alongside the church-planting work is the training for the men. Of the three in training, one, Evan Richards, has already completed a BA in theological studies and has had some pastoral experience.
He has thus been able to take on most of the ministry and pastoral issues. TEAMwork are renting a house so that he and his wife Tracey can live in Lichfield.
Provision has also been made for the other men, Andrew Setchell and Fraser Kay, to train at a monthly seminary overseen by Dr Ray Evans of Kempston Evangelical Church.
The first year of the seminary covers the main doctrines of the Christian faith and both men have found these studies extremely helpful.
The last year has been a great adventure, and other barren areas similar to Lichfield have been brought to our attention. This highlights the need for more workers.
We are able to support others in practical training but have not yet found men to take up this opportunity. We would value prayer for this.
The value of working in a project like TEAMwork is that you have the support of the other team members. Those in training have learned much through working together, praying together and seeking to point souls to Christ.
We long to see churches planted in places where God’s name is not honoured and where God’s Word is not preached. Please pray for us as we seek God’s will – to his praise and glory through the Lord Jesus Christ.
For further information, and our newsletter, please visit www.teamwk.co.uk or phone 07020 973438.