As we enter a new year, it is always worth looking back at how the Lord has blessed us in 2017. We have much for which we can give thanks to God.
Baptisms & Converts
We have seen a number of people come to the church, engage with the evangelistic outreach and teaching programmes and come to faith in Jesus Christ. In December, we baptised 3 ex-Muslim Iranian men and, in addition to their joining the church, welcomed another Iranian lady into membership. Earlier in the year, we had baptised and welcomed into membership another Iranian man. Over the course of the three years of my tenure as pastor, we have conducted c. 15 baptisms predominantly, but not exclusively, of ex-Muslim Iranian converts. Most of those are now either in membership with us or have been moved on elsewhere and continue in fellowship with another local church. We give all the glory to God for using us to bring Iranian Muslim people into his kingdom.
It has been a delight to see growth in our members. Many of the new converts involved themselves in our most public forms of evangelism and shared the gospel as they were able. One Iranian man started running a Farsi version of Christianity Explored, which he did with aplomb. We have plans to move onto another course which we are hoping he will also lead. We have increased the number of people involved in leading services, delivering talks and studies. It has been wonderful to see individuals growing in their desire to show hospitality, to share scripture with one another and to care for the needs of our members. We give thanks to God for this sort of growth in our membership.
A blessed reduction
Previous to 2017, there had been difficulties in the church with a lack of unity and divisive attempts to split the church. Some of the issues had been ongoing for a couple of decades but had been exacerbated much more recently by particular individuals. By the end of 2016 and into 2017, God graciously resolved this with several people moving on from the church and we have spent the past year far more united. Though the wounds are still raw for some, we can give thanks to God that much work in the church can go ahead, press on, be overhauled and, most importantly, the gospel-centred reformed theology of the church was maintained.
We give thanks to God for the many and various ways he has given us to share the gospel in Oldham. We have maintained regular open air preaching in the town centre and have seen numerous gospel conversations take place with both the local white population as well as many Asian Muslims. We have continued running regular monthly ‘cultural evenings’ in conjunction with Muslims friends from the Khadija Centre. We have been able to learn more about their specific beliefs as well as taking hold of opportunities to share the gospel with them month by month. We have been able to start a regular book table, with the help of an evangelist from an evangelical church in a neighbouring borough, reaching out to the Pakistani and Bangladeshi population of Glodwick. We have also been able to setup a local litter pick as a means of getting into conversation with our neighbours around the church building. Our regular English Classes have continued to see between 20 and 30 people regularly coming into the church to learn English and we have seen many opportunities to share Christ as a result. Back in October, as an alternative to Halloween, we held our annual Light Party. This was the most successful (numerically speaking) for years, seeing the church full and with the largest number of Asian Muslims in attendance we had ever seen. Most were families with whom we had contact through the English Classes. We continue to give thanks to God for all these opportunities and pray that he will grant us many more in 2018.
Despite all these blessings granted by the Lord, we continue to need outside partners to help us sustain the work in Oldham. Here are some of the ways you can partner with us in 2018:
We covet the prayers of other churches. Without an underlying ministry of prayer, the work at Oldham Bethel Church is doomed to failure. Could you commit to praying for Oldham Bethel Church in 2018? If you would like to make us regular prayer partners, please do get in touch using the contact form above.
Although we are seeing net growth, and continue to see conversions, those we are reaching are drawn from the lowest socio-economic backgrounds. Most of our converts are asylum seekers with no income and others come from local council estates. We have very few people able to give substantial amounts to the church and we function with a c. £1500 deficit every month. We have a small number of outside individuals giving to the work of the church for whom we are extremely grateful but, at our current rate, we are likely to go bust in 2021. Could you consider partnering with Oldham Bethel Church in 2018 and sending some of your missions budget to support our fruitful mission?
We are especially keen to attract gospel-hearted believers to come and serve in Oldham. We want to become long-term sustainable and believe this will happen as gospel-hearted, mission-minded, generous believers join the church. Also, as the only FIEC church and one of only two gospel partnership churches in a borough of 230,000 people, we are keen to plant new churches into several of the unchurched council estates nearby. We desperately need mission-hearted people to commit to Oldham to make this happen.
We are likely to be looking for church apprentices in September 2018. Further to this, we are currently in discussion with Union School of Theology to become a learning hub delivering their GDip. Could you consider sending someone to Oldham Bethel Church for 2 years whom we could either send back fully trained in urban mission with a Graduate Diploma in Theology, whom you could bless Oldham Bethel Church with long-term or who we could train and send out to plant into unreached areas of Oldham?