Oldham Bethel Church is a small church in the Glodwick area of Oldham. Over the years, the Lord has blessed us greatly. He has given us a building in which to meet, faithful gospel ministers who love the Lord and his people and a clear ministry within the local neighbourhood. The Lord has blessed us with many asylum seekers coming through the church and have seen the joy of many Iranian men and women coming to know the Lord Jesus and going on in their walk with him. The church has developed into a genuinely multicultural, multilingual congregation with people from Britain, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, Middle East and Africa (some South Americans and East Asians would give us the full bingo card!)
Despite all these great blessings, many of those coming into the church are drawn from the most needy backgrounds. Oldham is the most deprived town in England and many of those converting through the work of the church are asylum seekers with nothing to their name and this means we are only able to generate around 50% of our running costs. The truth is that we are a financially poor church and are in need of the support of wealthier churches. At present we have no outside supporters and, at current rates, our funds will run out some time in the next three years. With all the demands on our resources from no doubt worthy causes, why should you decide to partner with us?
The church is God’s plan A
As Tim Challies rightly notes, ‘the local church is God’s plan, and he has no backup’. The church exists to make and grow disciple-makers. As God’s plan, discipleship and mission are best carried out in and through the church. That does not mean that parachurch organisations have no role to play, but they work best when they work in concert with the local church; when the church sends the workers and when these organisations link up with local churches into whom they can plug the people they meet. The best way to reach any area is not to send a mission team for a time but to plant a church who will reach and disciple the people long-term. One reason you should partner with Oldham Bethel Church over and above other worthy causes is because we are a church.
Oldham is needy
You only have to type Oldham into Google to find the stats. Oldham is officially the most deprived town in England and regularly tops the polls for the normal markers of deprivation. The area in which Oldham Bethel Church is sited is not only physically needy but spiritually needy too. The area is replete with Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims and mosques are ten a penny. Our church sits at one end of Waterloo Street with a high church Anglican at the top end. In between are at least five mosques – just on the one street – with one resident in a former Methodist chapel. A few hundred yards behind our church building lies Greengates Mosque, the largest mosque in the borough of Oldham. Glodwick was the epicentre of the 2001 race riots.
Oldham Bethel Church is the only gospel-centred evangelical church in Glodwick. We are reaching out into one of the most deprived areas of Oldham, replete with Muslim people and are the only gospel-centred evangelical church in the area. Supporting Oldham Bethel Church is to support gospel work in one of the neediest areas of the UK. There are no other churches reaching out with the gospel in this area. This means you will be supporting a pioneering work in one of the most deprived areas of the country.
Bethel church cannot rely on people simply wandering in
Given the area in which we work, in the marketplace of British consumerist churchgoing, Bethel is not an attractive church option on paper. Unless people catch the vision of the church or have a specific heart for Glodwick and Oldham, we are highly unlikely to find people simply wandering in. Many city centre and affluent suburban churches can rely on the attraction of their setting and a transient population to help support their churches as people move in to the area. This is simply not something Bethel can rely upon.
You could support another city centre plant or a wealthy middle class church, but you will be over resourcing churches that need limited help. In supporting us, you will be making an active decision to support a church not only reaching people others often aren’t but will be supporting a church that has no other support on which to draw. Your finances will be used to maintain gospel witness in the area and will be used in frontline evangelistic activity among Asian Muslims and the white British urban unreached.
Bethel Church is seeing fruit
Despite the setting of the church and lack of patrons, we are seeing fruit for our labours. Many Iranian people have come through the doors of Bethel Church and come to true and lasting faith in Jesus Christ. The church is making inroads into the local Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities (and other groups too) through English Classes and regular Dialogue Evenings (more details here and here). We have seen people convert, grow and even go on to lead groups in their own language.
Supporting Oldham Bethel Church would not mean merely throwing money at a church to prop up a dying endeavour, you would be supporting active gospel ministry that is seeing real fruit. Our issue isn’t that people aren’t coming to Christ, it is that those converting typically have no means to support themselves, let alone the work of the church. What they lack in finance, however, they more than make up for in their zeal for the gospel, desire to learn from the Word and build up the believers in the church.
Bethel have a long-term vision for Oldham
As barren as Glodwick is for gospel witness, there are other areas of Oldham with no church presence of any sort. The nearby areas of Fitton Hill, Alt and Holts Estate have no Christian witness in their midst. Though Fitton Hill lies a short 10-15 minute walk away from the church building, the predominantly Asian area of Glodwick has traditionally been considerd a “no go” area for the largely white population of Fitton Hill (and vice versa). Bethel Church is happily showing Glodwick that the gospel will break down such barriers with our multicultural, multilingual church. Nonetheless, we are also conscious that the average person in Fitton Hill and Alt are simply not going to wander down to Glodwick. The way to reach them effectively will be to plant among them.
Though Bethel Church are clear that we want to maintain a gospel witness within Glodwick, we believe that we are best placed long-term to plant churches on Fitton Hill, Alt and Holts Estate (among other similarly unchurched areas). If you support Oldham Bethel Church, you will not only be supporting our endeavours within Glodwick but will be supporting a longer term vision of multiplying churches in other unchurched areas of our needy town.
We currently have a Ministry Trainee role available for somebody who is willing to commit to Oldham for 1 year, with the option of a further year’s extension. For further details please visit the FIEC job board or North West Partnership Ministry Opportunities page.
We would also be pleased to talk with any church planters interested in working among the urban unreached.
Please prayerfully consider whether you could support the work at Oldham Bethel Church whether by coming and joining or supporting financially. Why not be part of a fruitful ministry in a physically and spiritually needy area of the UK.