I love times when we gather the church together to pray, like we did yesterday. When we pray we are hitching our carriage to the locomotive of God’s blessing! To hear from some of the people involved in our GraceWorks ministries was inspirational, moving and a great motivation to pray. And of course there are many more ways that we serve our communities that we didn’t even get to mention!
As part of our evening, I was delighted to announce that Steve and Ann Blaber will soon be moving from Eastbourne to join us in Grace Church, together with their son, Joel. Steve is currently an elder in King’s Church, which is a large multisite church in Eastbourne. From the moment I first met Steve and Ann earlier this year, I have been deeply impressed by their humility, their servant hearts, and their overwhelming love for people everywhere, not least within the church. They will be around increasingly between now and September. Look out for them and say hello! They will hopefully also be moving house during that time, and then we plan to welcome Steve onto the staff team in October.
Here are three reasons why I believe that this move sits squarely within God’s plan.
1. It Meets a Need in Grace Church
My desire as I lead Grace Church has been to build a well-rounded leadership team that can take Grace Church into the future with confidence. I am looking for the right team balance. The right mix of gifting and personality. Ever since Dave and Pam Lyons left us in 2012 to support their family back in Hastings, I have felt the need for a senior pastoral elder to serve the whole church. John and Mollie Oldfield have filled that gap wonderfully and continue to do so, but since John retired from eldership last summer I have felt this need all the more so.
Having Steve and Ann with us to serve us pastorally gives me a sense of real peace. They are a gift of God’s grace to us. They are able to come alongside people, even in the complexity of situations that modern life can bring, and patiently and lovingly point people to Jesus. This is true for those at all stages of life. As in any family, Grace Church is made up of people of all ages. There is great kingdom potential in people of more mature years (by which I increasingly include myself!). Yes, we are a church for the young and the go-getters, but we are also a church for the old, and everyone in between!
As well as being gifted pastorally, Steve in particular has significant administrative ability. Those of us who have been around for a while and can remember the Stoneleigh Bible Weeks (think Westpoint but for 20,000 people!) will be interested to know that Steve played a large part in delivering those events. Whilst I don’t expect Steve’s role in Grace Church to be primarily administrative, there are some key ways in which he will be able to lighten Darren’s load. More on that to come!
2. It Fits our Values
Steve and Ann have a long history in the Newfrontiers family of churches. It is not surprising, therefore, that as soon as I met them, I was immediately aware how aligned their values are with mine. Grace Church is part of the Commission family of churches, which is itself part of the wider Newfrontiers group. This means that we have a shared history, the same ‘DNA’. We believe in the importance of local church, the need to build on the foundation of God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit, an emphasis on God’s grace and a desire to see people released to serve one another – and that is just the beginning!
3. God’s Hand is In It
It is amazing how often I see that God has been working on a plan behind the scenes long before I even became aware of the need! (Well, now I stop to consider God’s salvation plan in Jesus, perhaps I should have come to expect it more…)
I’m sure they will tell you their own story better than I can, but suffice it to say that God has been speaking to Steve and Ann for some time about moving westwards from their current location. He revealed to them that this chapter of their lives in Eastbourne was coming to an end. They were seeking God for a destination close to Portsmouth (where their son, Tim, leads ChristCentral Church) but not actually in Portsmouth. I picked up the phone one day to ask them what their plans were. In the light of other conversations they were having at the time, the timing was extraordinary.
Steve and Ann have another son, Joel, who lives with them and, because of his specific needs, requires care around the clock. They were praying for a place where they could settle as a family for the foreseeable future, and for a variety of reasons, Chichester fits the bill perfectly.
It is just like God to match up the needs of Grace Church with the needs of this dear family. His plans really are good everywhere and it is always good to remember that He goes ahead of us in all things.