Excuse Me, Is This Space Taken?

There were lots of good reasons why we should plant a new venue of Everyday Church in Sutton. God had clearly spoken to us through Mark 1:38, “Let us go to the nearby communities to preach there also”. We wanted to steward the growth we were experiencing in our Wimbledon venue well and we had lots of great people already living in the neighbouring borough of Sutton. In many ways it was a no brainer.

But there were also strong reasons why we might hesitate. There were many great churches already in Sutton, including River Church, a thriving New Ground church that had been planted from Wimbledon twelve years earlier. In fact, I had been part of the eldership team that had sent them out! What would our decision to plant again say to them?

Our longstanding friendships within the New Ground family certainly helped. We met and talked honestly about the feelings that our move raised, as well as the practicalities that would need to be addressed. I will always be grateful for the generosity shown to us by the leaders of River Church and recognise the faith exercised by them in choosing not to see us as rivals competing for scraps, but as fellow workers called to a plentiful harvest. We have found that to be the attitude of many of the strong churches in Sutton, the arrival of new churches seems to be greeted as evidence that God has wonderful things in store for the borough we love.

A year after our launch in October 2016, I met Steve Musters, the leader of River Church, in a coffee shop on Sutton High Street. It has been a good year for both of us with much to thank God for. Feared tensions over territory or people have never arisen. Steve and his team have strengthened and encouraged us with a generosity that must surely delight our Father’s heart.  

For the health of our relationships going forward, it was right to ask questions about the wisdom of planting so closely to one another, and it was essential that the feelings it raised were acknowledged. But the result to date has been a net gain for the people of Sutton who are now served by two healthy New Ground churches in partnership and love.

 “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live in unity…. For there the Lord bestows his blessing”. Psalm 133