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Story 25 - No Fear of Failure

Jonathan Boyers - Peoples Church Partington

Partington, part of the Trafford area of Greater Manchester, was originally built onto a pre-existing village as an overspill from central Manchester in the 1960’s. This unique history has undoubtedly led to Partington’s own identity within Trafford with a strong community spirit, something with can be of great value to a church when exploring their missional presence in an area.
People’s Church, Partington originally began over 50 years ago when it was planted by a travelling preacher and evangelist John Pennington before moving to their current site in 1968 following a 7-year building project undertaken by then pastor-builder Gordon Kayes.
Story25Pic1As the church gathered at the new Chapel Lane site, many local people became part of the building project really making it the 'People's' church. The church reached out to the whole cross section of the community and enjoyed real times of growth and the presence of the Holy Spirit, seeing people come to faith from all walks of life, ex-bikers, ex-fighters, ex-addicts, all sorts of people moved by the love of God.
This is still very much in the DNA of this church, who desire to be a Spirit filled people of hope, joy and grace reaching out to and making a difference in their local community.
However, despite the strong charismatic background throughout this church’s life there was a time some 15 years ago when the church community had dwindled to a 'faithful remnant', a handful of older people who were keeping the church and the building going.
Minister, Revd. Jonathan Boyers explains the journey People’s Church has been on over the last 12 years, a journey led by God's faithfulness that has seen in recent years many come to faith and re-connect with church.
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So how did this regrowth come about and what plans were put in place to bring it about?
Jonathan recounts how the handful of older people who made up the congregation when he and his wife arrived were faithful, open, and praying with desperation for God to simply ‘do something’!
Some of the initial plans of action may not sound too dramatic on the surface such as, re-painting parts of the building, updating signs, modernising their publicity and even disposing of plastic flowers(!), but it seems this physical transformation was actually of real importance as it tangibly showed the heart attitude of the church to be open to change and growth.

Furthermore, Jonathan stresses how much permission they were given from the beginning to reach out into the community and not just focus on pastoral care of the congregation. This led to good connections being made with local schools and another local Baptist Church in Altringham with whom they still partner with for the CAP money course. There was also the permission from the outset to ‘have a go, with no fear of failure’ which has clearly allowed the wide variety of missional activities to take off from the church. Amongst many of these activities is the church’s link with the Eden Network (https://www.message.org.uk/eden/) who lead the youth work at the People’s Church and establish a natural way to connect with young people in the local community.
There has also been the creation of ‘Love Partington’, a concept specifically seeking to  be a blessing to the local community by providing events for families at no cost, with no need to leave the local area to have a great time, consequently providing family fun days, summer holiday clubs, beach trips, Easter trails and even a real live nativity at Christmas complete with donkey rides!
Story25Pic3From these kinds of activities and more, the church has seen steady growth as people began to connect with church. Jonathan is keen to point out that these kinds of ideas come from many different people within the congregation, drawing on the skills and contacts within the church. This has also created an atmosphere of openness to share resources and skills with people and organisations outside of the church whilst also still holding to the core faithfulness of the church and its beliefs.
Whilst there has undoubtedly been quite a dramatic change in terms of growth and mission in the community it is interesting to hear Jonathan’s observations that as a church they don’t wish to get too comfortable in this, especially with regards to putting on activities unless they hold genuine purpose. He states that their experience has been, ‘even if you put on a good service, people aren’t interested if they’re not a Christian. If you say “good preaching and contemporary music” that’s not going to get people out of bed if they’re not a believer…..People have got to know God or be searching for him if they’re going to get out of bed to worship him. So we need to get out there to them.”

Jonathan goes on to say that one way of galvanising the church to embody this has been to remind everyone in the church that they are themselves missionaries, saying ‘every person in the church has someone only they can reach, and the challenge is what they will do with that call.’ In turn, he feels that there may be a shift coming when it might be time to actually do less activities, particularly if they are only activities purely for building up Christians, and instead focus more on the people who don’t yet know Christ rather than the events themselves.
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Above all, there is the realisation that however good and praiseworthy the growth and fruit has been there is still always room for more, even if the building itself becomes physically full. Jonathan concludes by saying that it is possible to get comfortable when you see such growth happen but that statistically there are still thousands in his community alone who still don’t yet know Jesus. Instead he gives the encouragement to return to what has been a driving motto of the church over recent years to, ‘have a go, with no fear of failure and for everyone to get involved.’

 
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