Off and Away…

On 8th July, we’re going to the Blackley Centre, in Elland, for our first ever team Away Day.

As we draw closer to our launch date on 3rd September, we want to get together as a team to get excited by the gospel, and the thought of taking it to the Spen Valley.  We also want to get to know one another more, and think through exactly what church life is going to look like as we Rejoice in Jesus, Love one another, Serve together, and Reach the Spen Valley with the gospel.

In order to help us rejoice again in the beauty of the gospel, and think through what church planting life might look like, we’ve got Al Gooderham, of Grace Church Doncaster, preaching for us in the morning.  Al planted Grace 10 years or so ago now, and will give us a real helpful perspective as he opens us 1 Kings 19, and then Acts 1.  I’ve recently been listening to Al’s series at Grace on John’s Gospel. You could do a lot worse than giving it a careful listen!

We’ll then be spending some time in the afternoon enjoying each others’ company, getting out in the fresh air and countryside (weather permitting!), and getting to know one another better.  After that we’ll be looking at our vision in more detail and thinking through together, led by myself and Derek, what church life will look like on the ground in Spen.  We’ll be praying hard, and then enjoying fish and chips together.

We’re praying it will be a fantastic day of fellowship, learning, laughing, rejoicing, and planning. There’s still opportunity to join us if you’d like to find out more of what Spen Valley Church will be about.  Do give me a shout if your interested.

And please do be praying for our day, and for our launch in September. We really believe the Lord has his people in the Spen Valley, and would ask that you would pray that he might be gracious enough to use us to show them Jesus and bring them to himself.

We want to plant, and water, but our God gives the growth.



Back to the Future

It’s been great to hear recently that so many people and churches are praying for us as we prepare to plant in the Spen Valley this Summer. If you don’t receive our monthly prayer letter, and would like to, please do get in touch. One of our big prayer requests has been that the Lord would send workers to this corner of His harvest field, and we know that many have been praying exactly this for us. We still need, and are praying for, many more workers. But, as so often, those prayers have begun to be answered in a bit of an unexpected way!

Over recent months I’ve been in conversation with a friend about the possibility of coming to work with us at Spen Valley. We’ve been waiting for final confirmation, but now it is with great pleasure, that I can announce that Derek Ventress will be Spen Valley Church’s first ever Assistant Pastor.

Derek has been the Pastor at Staincliffe Baptist Church for seven years, having served as an Elder there since 1999. He also has church planting form, having been part of the team that planted Mirfield Evangelical Church. Before becoming Staincliffe’s Pastor he was a Maths teacher, starting his career at the Spen Valley’s own Whitcliffe Mount High School, before moving on to the Mirfield Free Grammar School, where he taught for 26 years. Derek is the Chaplain at Batley Bulldogs RLFC. He’s also a local, hailing from Batley, West Yorkshire born and bred!

I am thrilled at the prospect of working with Derek. He has been a friend, and a great encouragement, for more years than I care to remember. He has a huge heart for the Spen Valley and its people, stemming right back to his time at Whitcliffe Mount. In fact Derek was one of the first people to mention the Spen Valley as a needy area, at a Gospel Yorkshire meeting, nearly three years ago. He brings wisdom, experience, and a pastoral heart that is second to none. I, for one, am extremely grateful to the Lord for this opportunity to work with, and learn from, such a godly pastor as Derek.

Please do pray for Derek as he makes this transition over the next few months. Please also pray for Derek and I, as we begin to make plans for what ministry life at Spen Valley Church will look like. And please pray that Derek might be just one of many new joiners to our team, that we might be equipped to shine the light of the Gospel into the Spen Valley.

On that note, we’re having a prayer meeting, in the next few weeks, for anyone who’s seriously considering whether they could join us in the Spen Valley. Coming along wouldn’t imply any concrete commitment to join us, but it’s a great chance to get to know others who are thinking about being involved, and to pray together for the Lord to grow our number and be at work in the Spen Valley. Do give me a shout if you’re at all interested.

Leave to Dream Big

I’ve spent the last couple on weeks on a study leave, given to me by the kind folks at Hope. The two weeks were specifically set aside to progress plans for planting in the Spen Valley. It was an opportunity to read, to pray, to plan, to do some of the endless admin tasks that come with planting a church, and to meet some people who are interested in joining with us. I’m really grateful for this time, and all it allowed me to do, and wanted to share some of the encouragements that came out of it.

Firstly, the opportunity to think clearly, in a focused way, about what studySpen Valley Church will look like. To be able to set aside time to think and to pray about the distinctives and vision of the plant was really refreshing. I was able to clarify large areas of my thinking and get what had just been vague thoughts down into concrete ideas and plans.

Secondly, the opportunity to make real progress on raising the funds we need to plant in the Spen Valley. I was able to give the time needed to applying to funds and grant making trusts. I always find it encouraging, and humbling, to see just how many groups are willing to give sacrificially to Gospel work. We’re not there yet, and I’ll be applying to many more trusts, churches, and individuals over the next few months. We’re looking to the Lord’s people, wherever they are, to partner with us as we seek to see His Name worshipped in the Spen Valley. If you could help financially in any way, then details are here.


Thirdly, it was really exciting to meet up with people who are seriously considering whether they could join with us, and be part of Spen Valley Church. For each of the people I spoke to, joining us would require sacrifice and difficulty. And yet, people are willing to consider it because they want to see the Gospel preached in a place where it isn’t at the moment. Each of those people believes that the Gospel really is God’s power to salvation and that the people of Spen Valley need to hear that Good News, and therefore, they’re willing to think about uprooting large areas of their lives to join with us. That willingness to sacrifice for the Gospel really excites me. Maybe it’s something you’ve thought about. The apostle Paul said that he made it his ambition ‘to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.”’ (Romans 15.20-21)  There are 50,000 people in the Spen Valley, many of whom will never have heard the Gospel. Would you seriously and prayerfully consider joining with us so that they might hear? It’s been really encouraging to talk with people, but we’ve still got a long way to go to reach our prayer target of 20 adults. Could you be one of them? Do get in contact.

Finally, it’s been great over the last couple of weeks to have so many city-logochurches ask me to go and share our vision for Spen Valley Church with them. It was a joy, for example, to be with City Evangelical Church in Leeds last Sunday. This is the kind of Gospel Partnership that needs to happen if we are to see our county, and our nation, re-evangelised. We need to work together, give sacrificially, and pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers to the harvest field. Who knows. Maybe like the disciples in Matthew 9-10, Jesus’ answer to your prayers for workers for the harvest field might just be to send you!

A taste of Heaven…in Hemsby?!

It was great last week to be at the FIEC Leaders’ Conference in Hemsby.  It’s always a great time, but this year it was particularly exciting to be able to share with so many others our plans for planting Spen Valley Church.  People were universally encouraging, and eager to help where they can.

A great start to day three on Hemsby Beach
A great start to day three on Hemsby Beach

The theme of the Conference this year was ‘Engaging Evangelism’.  It was so helpful to think through the ways in which we can, and must, reach those around us with the Good News of the Lord Jesus.  From FIEC National Director John Stevens’ opening thoughts on the instructions Jesus gives His disciples for evangelism in Luke 10, right through to the outstanding final sermon from Mission Director Andy Paterson, there was much to stimulate and provoke.  So much of what was said at the Conference will have a direct impact on how we go about reaching the Spen Valley with the Gospel.  This was particularly true of the seminars run by Mez McConnell and the folks from 20 Schemes.  We want to make disciples right across the Spen Valley, and the sessions on discipleship, diversity, and women’s ministry were all outstandingly helpful.


I personally love being part of the FIEC. There’s a real momentum and togetherness, as the churches which make up the FIEC seek to work together to reach our nation with the Gospel.  It was thrilling to hear news of new churches being planted, of established churches growing, and of FIEC churches working together to do more than they can do individually.  This is particularly true of the Training Fund, which has helped to fund 87 people, including myself, through theological training or their first job in ministry.  I am so grateful for the opportunities that being part of the FIEC has given to me personally, as well as the church I serve.  Without this help, I would never have been in a position to come to plant a church in the Spen Valley next Summer.




That’s why we hope that Spen Valley Church will be affiliated to the FIEC as soon as possible.  We want to take advantage of the opportunities that being in fellowship with 500+ other independent churches, all seeking to reach our nation with the Gospel, brings.  But we also want to do our bit, and link arms with others as, together, we proclaim that Jesus is the Saviour our whole nation needs.

Another exciting part of the Conference was hearing so many people say that they want to support us in any way they can.  For some that might mean prayer support, for others it might mean supporting us financially, and for some it might even mean getting stuck in in the Spen Valley.  While I was in Hemsby, I received an email to say that the amazingly good folks at Hope Church have created a temporary bank account for us.  This means that you can now give financially to Spen Valley Church, and partner with us to see the Valley reached with the Gospel.  All the details are on the ‘How can I help?’ page.  Please do consider whether you can help in this way.

Ultimately, we want Spen Valley Church to become part of the story that defines the whole history of the universe.  The story that, as Andy Paterson reminded those of us in Hemsby last Thursday, is all about ‘God rescuing His people, through His Son, for His glory.’  We hope, in time, to join the FIEC because it exists to serve that purpose.  Could you join us as we seek to serve it too?

A Vision for the Valley


Dawn and I were in and around the Spen Valley on Saturday afternoon. As WP_20160719_12_21_53_ProI looked down on Cleckheaton I found myself wondering just how many people in all the houses I could see had ever heard the Good News of Jesus, never mind knew Him as their Saviour and Lord.

Statistics tell us that just 0.4% of people in Yorkshire are evangelical Christians.  If that’s true of the Spen Valley, there are only about 200 believers in the whole of the valley.  That also means that, as things stand,  around 49 800 people in the Spen Valley are headed for a Christ-less eternity.  We are desperate for that to change, and that’s why we’re planning to plant Spen Valley Church.  We want to see people in the valley encountering the risen Lord Jesus and putting their hope and trust in Him.

It was great, a couple of weeks ago, to be at the Gospel Yorkshire Conference in Dewsbury.  I was particularly struck by

      Hugo Chateris' description
of the church in Acts 2.42, as ‘a place where there is devotion to the Scriptures, to one another, to hospitality, to prayers and engaging with others.’  It is churches like this that will effectively reach people with the Good News of Jesus, and therefore, that’s the kind of church we long for Spen Valley Church to be.  A place where people can see the transformed life of Jesus’ people, as we live out the implications of the Gospel of grace, and a place where they can hear that Gospel for themselves.

Times, and Church buildings, have changed...the Gospel need has not
Times, and Church buildings, have changed…the Gospel need has not



SSo can you help us?  Firstly, by praying.  Praying to the Lord of the harvest to send workers to labour in this corner of His field, and to save His people in the Spen Valley.  We’ll be sending out a monthly prayer letter by email, starting in a couple of weeks. Drop me a line if you’d like to receive it.  And do encourage us by letting us know you’re praying for us.

Or could you help by giving?  We’re dependent on the Lord’s people to help us get going.  We need the resources to take the Gospel to those who haven’t heard it.  We’re in the final stages of setting up a  bank account.  Again, do let me know if you’d like the details.

Why wouldn’t you want to live here?!

Or could you join us?  The Spen Valley is a brilliant place.  We can’t wait to move in there and get to know people.  The opportunities for the Gospel are massive, the people are brilliant, the transport links can’t be bettered, and the community feeling is great.  ‘Ilkley living at Bradford prices’ is how one local recently described it to me.  What could be better?!  Why not spend some time praying through whether you could join us to see the Spen Valley transformed by the Gospel.  Why not book me up for a chat?  Or perhaps you know someone who’s thinking about moving, maybe to work in Leeds, or Bradford.  Why not point them in our direction?

Ultimately, the need of people in the Spen Valley is the same as people everywhere.  They, and we, need Jesus.  It’s our prayer that in coming years many might meet Him in Spen Valley Church.