John Hindley is pastor of Broadgrace Church, which was planted in the North Norfolk village of Coltishall in May 2010. Prior to that, he co-founded The Plant church in Manchester. John also works for Acts29, a global church planting network. Hear his reflections on the encouragements and struggles of rural ministry, and join him in praying for more planting in rural areas. 

"In May 2010 Broadgrace Church was planted in North Norfolk, a rural part of the United Kingdom. We meet in Coltishall, a village of about 3,500 people, making it a large village for our area. When it began, this new church consisted of 12 adults and six children. In the eight years since, the church has grown numerically, and is now around three times the original size. This means that we are still a small, rural church of about 36 adults and 20 children.

In Christ’s kindness we have grown in love and faith. We are working to send our first overseas missionaries to a Muslim-majority country and we are planning for our next church plant into a nearby village. We have seen some people saved to worship Christ for all eternity and we have seen most of the church deepen their love and understanding of the gospel, their desire to pray, and their efforts in sharing the gospel with friends, family, neighbours and colleagues. We can tell the story of Broadgrace Church as one of growth and success. That is a good and true way of looking at it.

We can tell the story of Broadgrace Church as one of growth and success. That is a good and true way of looking at it. We can also tell the story as one of weakness and struggle, and that is also true. 

We can also tell the story as one of weakness and struggle, and that is also true. Christ works in and through our weakness, and this world is a veil of tears. The elders and members of Broadgrace Church are a godly, gifted, loving, hard-working church family. It is a delight and blessing to me to be pastor of this church. We are also a struggling and weak church family. Most families in the church have a member who is ill - many struggling with depression or anxiety. There is poverty for some and many are weary. Modern life is demanding and living in the countryside, whilst beautiful, has particular challenges. The winters are long and dark, but that is not the worst of it.

For many of us, we have achieved what the world has to offer. When we have a house, work, family and possessions, and live in a lovely, safe place, we should surely be happy. That is what the world tells us. So why does life feel so empty? For the Christians, we must battle to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must battle to believe that our joy, hope, meaning and life is found in him, not in the good things of this world. It is as we fight that battle in our souls that we are equipped to share this good news with those around us who are living in despair and fear. This is a slow ministry. You need to be trusted before a neighbour will tell you that he has lost all hope and doesn’t know where to turn.

The slow, long-term nature of rural church planting makes it hard work. Even harder work than church planting in urban centres. Yet it is desperately needed, as a quarter of the population of England lives in rural areas, and the proportion is higher across Europe. We need to plant more churches in rural areas. As part of this desire Union’s partner, Sarang Church in Seoul, South Korea, has partnered with us to run a rural church planting collective. This year eight men involved in or considering rural church planting are gathering at our building in rural Norfolk. We will meet six times during the year to pray for one another, to further our own efforts, and to work together on ways in which we can see more churches planted in rural areas. Some of these men are contacts I have made through the Acts 29 church planting network, others through Union, and others simply through connections between rural planters. Please pray for us as we seek to discern how to serve Christ in seeing more churches planted in rural areas. We are weak and struggling, and so wonderfully we get to depend on our Lord for all that we need. May he cause the countryside to resound with the praise of his Son!"

John Hindley, Broadgrace Church

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