Explaining the Unexplainable

Explaining the Unexplainable

How a small church in North London is planting multiple new churches

As the number of churches I have been able to plant as the pastor/church planter of Grace Baptist Church Wood Green in the past three year nears double digits, people are looking for an explanation. Though there is no explanation other than the goodness of God, there are some human factors which I as a pastor/church planter think are quite significant.

The People at my Back

When C.H. Spurgeon laid the first stone at the Metropolitan Tabernacle on 16 August 1859 he boldly pronounced his desire to see new churches started with these words, “God sparing my life, if I have my people at my back I will not rest until the dark county of Surrey be covered with churches.” And at his back they were as he planted upwards to 200 churches including more than 40 in London alone. To the praise of God, the people at Wood Green have never been on my back and have ever been at it. Let me tell you about them.

The people at my back are prayerful. We meet for prayer every Friday at 7pm. This night was chosen so every member of the family could come and participate without concern for having to go to work or school the next morning. Often guests remark how encouraging it is to hear the young people and even the children joining in the times of open prayer. More recently, the congregation has been meeting for a special time of prayer for revival on the first Monday evening of each month. We are pleased that other congregations have been sending along representatives to these meetings as well.  Occasionally, we have had days of prayer and fasting for particular areas of concern. God has always faithfully heard and answered the prayers of His people.

The people at my back are flexible. Our service locations, times and formats have changed more times than I can remember. We have changed everything from Bible versions to hymn books. Each change has been met with flexibility rather than rigidity. The people have been willing to lay aside personal preferences for the sake of the gospel.

The people at my back are supportive. The members of our church have demonstrated their support in countless ways. They have cleaned chapels where services are set to begin. They have leafleted entire towns and villages with gospel literature in advance of new churches being planted. They have given of their time and financial resources again and again to see new works flourish. One of our members remarked that if the leaders ever suggested planting a church on the moon the first question would be, “What time does the rocket leave?”

The people at my back are selfless. Like a mother who will go around in rags rather than see her children lack some essential need, the people at Wood Green have shown themselves selfless at every turn. They have given away members, leaders, finances – whatever has been needed – to the various church plants not out of their own prosperity but from their own poverty.

The people at my back are gracious. Numerous times I have blown it by saying or doing something foolish or just plain wrong. I have come to these people on those occasions and have asked their forgiveness. They have always graciously accepted my apologies and have not thrown my stupidity up to me at every turn. They not only believe the doctrines of grace they practice the grace of the doctrines.

The Men at My Side

This church planting movement is no one man band. My knowledge is not expansive enough nor my gifts extensive enough to manage that. I have been blessed by numerous men being brought alongside me to help in the various areas in which we are involved. You should know more about them.

The men at my side are teachable. Whether it is in formal teaching settings such as we have on a monthly basis or in informal one-on-one mentoring, these men manifest a teachable spirit and desire to learn. They don’t know it all. The difference between them and others is that they realise this fact and are anxious for every opportunity to learn from the teaching and experience of others.

The men at my side are humble. They don’t seek position or promotion. Each man is content to stay in his place of service for a lifetime if God so leads.

The men at my side are diligent. These men balance myriad responsibilities. Most are in full-time employment or education in addition to their church planting work. They are not lazy but demonstrate faithfulness and diligence in their work.

The men at my side are evangelistic. They preach evangelistic sermons. They distribute tracts on the street and in the markets. They go door to door. I often tell them that some of them put the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons to shame.

The men at my side are patient. One of them met alone in his village chapel for Bible study and prayer not one time but for five months. Last week he was overjoyed that three people joined him. That is the type patience required to do gospel work in the rocky soil of 21st century Britain.

Some who would stand with me in larger attempts

After serving in London almost a decade Spurgeon spoke these words:

I have constantly letters like this, “Sir, I live in a village where the gospel is not preached … cannot you do something for us? You have many young men training for the ministry, could you not send a friend to preach in my drawing room?” Then comes another – “Sir, the chapel has been shut up in our village a long time, could you not come and help us?” This happens every week, and your minister feels that as long as ever he has a man, he will say, “I will do it for you;” and as long as he has any money of his own he will say, “Oh, yes, I will do it for you;” but every now and then he wishes that he had some who would stand by him in larger attempts.

In recent months a desire for others to stand with us in larger attempts has led to the formation of Grace Baptist Partnership. The partnership aims to bring together representatives of our various Grace Baptist constituencies for concerted prayer and joint endeavour in the area of church planting. There are several ways in which you can stand with us.

You can pray. I would appreciate your prayers for me as I lead the partnership. Prayer for our trustees, David Chapman, Geoff King, David Piper, and Dennis Gamston as well as our treasurer, Eric Cousins and our secretary, Lou van Zyl would be appreciated as well. Above all please pray for those men who are doing the hard work of evangelism and church planting across the country.

You can inform us of church planting opportunities. Maybe there is an area near you where there is no evangelical witness. Maybe you know a town where there is a crying need for a Grace Baptist church. Why not take a few minutes to send an email to me at to tell me about the situation. We can also keep you informed about various church planting projects around the country. Why not send us an email at the address given above requesting a weekly email update about the progress of the work?

You can give. We are seeking to raise £50,000 this year to get the partnership firmly established. Contributions of any size from individuals as well as churches are welcomed. Gifts can be designated for a specific church plant or can be given for the general ministries of the partnership. Cheques made payable to Grace Baptist Partnership should be mailed to 48-50 Park Ridings, London, N8 0LD. Bank details and Gift-Aid forms are available on request.

You can participate. We offer training classes for those men interested in church planting work. We have one-day evangelism projects in areas where new churches are being planted. We organise groups to clean chapels and make minor repairs before services start in a locality. Let us know if you would like to join in.

You can rejoice. The fact that churches are being planted where the gospel has not been preached for years should certainly be cause for rejoicing amongst those who love the truth. The knowledge that people are meeting together to discuss ways of helping churches plant churches throughout our land should certainly bring gladness to our hearts. Rejoice with us and tell others about the God who continues to do the unexplainable.