A core aim of ReformissionWales is to strengthen local churches. Here is a report from John Funnell about Noddfa Church in Abersychan. There are some great ideas here about re-engaging with the community. Find out more about Noddfa Church here. Sign up for a regular email by contacting John direct (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by following ReformissionWales using the box on your left. You’ll need to scroll down a bit.
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10
A new pastor and a Nehemiah work
After two years of itinerant ministry I had the privilege of accepting a call to Noddfa Evangelical Baptist Church, Abersychan, in June 2014. This move was made in partnership with ReformissionWales and Emmanuel Evangelical Church, Newport, under the mentoring of Rev Bernard Lewis.
Like so many churches in the Eastern Valley, Noddfa was without a minister. It had a predominately elderly, but very committed, congregation that had become increasingly disengaged from the wider community. Noddfa was struggling to survive with just 15 regularly attending the Sunday morning Service, a handful of children at the Monday night Club and a Mothers and Toddlers’ group on a Tuesday. We took on the challenge knowing it was a Nehemiah work that was needed.
Making contact with people in the community
Initially I distributed a personal letter to all the immediate homes in the area. This letter introduced myself and our family, explained why we have moved to Abersychan, and included my contact details if people wanted to get in touch with me. This had a huge impact as many thought the church was, in fact, closed. It gave me a great opportunity to speak to many people as I went door to door and began to understand that the darkness was not due to “atheism”, as I had first assumed, but to “nominalism”.
This was a game-changer. I understood then that as a church we had to re-engage with a mission field amongst those who, sadly, think they are Christians but who do not feel they need to worship God and receive his Word in fellowship with his people.
I was encouraged that many people still had affection for Noddfa and would be sad to see it close. They had a loose assimilation to chapel tradition that we could use to our advantage. But the general opinion was “the world has moved on and I have other things to do on a Sunday morning.”
We started by holding reunions for former Sunday school attendees who are still living in the area and have now grown up and have families of their own. They were well received. We enjoyed Fish and Chip Suppers and a Summer BBQ. Old pictures and fond memories were shared, stories told and, more importantly, local people left those meetings knowing that Noddfa is still here and continues to run activities for their children.
Through these meetings and speaking with the families that attend the weekly clubs, it became clear that, despite having a desire to attend and be affiliated with Noddfa, Sunday morning has become a struggle for many in our community because of work or sporting commitments. This is the world we live in today and we must be pragmatic in these situations just as the early Christians were in Acts. So we planned to run another Sunday Service at a time that suited people living in a secular society, so people will no longer have an excuse. This ‘family friendly’ service is called “Look Up”. This great name was coined by an 84 year old church member and allowed us to put a big sign on the road that guides the eye to “Look Up” the hill to see Noddfa Chapel. The “Look Up” service includes Bible readings, hymns and a 20 minute message, followed by fellowship with refreshments and a seasonal activity.
Initially we thought we might get a few families from the youth ministries, some who came along to the reunion and supporting families from Emmanuel. To our amazement the service now welcomes, on average, more than 60 people from the local community, many of whom have never experienced church or heard the Gospel. This peaked on Firework night 2014 with more than 120 people attending. They heard the Gospel proclaimed as well as “looking up” to see some fireworks after the service.
Capturing all of this activity and putting it on Facebook has also been a great opportunity for people in the community to discover what actually goes on inside the chapel walls and to see pictures of their friends and family being involved.
By simply living in the area we reach out to the community at every opportunity and encourage the congregation to do the same. We make an effort to buy locally whenever possible. This allows us to get to know the shopkeepers and speak to those in the queue. It also helps when it comes to putting posters in the shop window! As funds allow we try to eat out at local cafes and restaurants once a month. Our oldest boys attend the local school and are involved in the local music group, football team and boxing club. The Lord has opened doors in the local schools for me to take assemblies and to visit the local care homes. My wife, Harriet, is a member of the slimming club (not that she needs it) and attends other pre-school playgroups in the area with our younger children. We try to attend most community activities; charity nights; pub quizzes etc and are constantly building bridges, knocking down walls and simply being accessible to people so they know where to go when the Lord puts that desire in their hearts.
We praise God for the way He is blessing the work as some from the “Look Up “services have trickled through to our regular Sunday morning services. Attendance has doubled with two new families regularly attending and a couple of other individuals, one of whom professed faith in January. The Monday Club now enjoys double-digit attendance and the Mother and Toddlers’ group has also seen significant growth.
Please pray for us
The last 6 months have been amazing, the Lord has worked beyond our wildest expectations, but the church at Noddfa is still in a desperate situation. I have to support myself financially and, although the numbers have been a great encouragement, it is all superficial if we do not see souls being saved. This is our burden for the people in our community and we ask you to continue to pray for the work, so that we can continue to do everything possible with what God has given us. Please pray that God will do the impossible, as only He can, and revive this land once more bringing many people to saving faith in Jesus.