Growing a church in Stratford-upon-Avon

John Martin, the pastor of the Elim church in Stratford-upon-Avon, shares the story of how they have replanted and grown the Oasis Community Church, starting with just nine loyal members in the famous Shakespearian town.

“We replanted the church in 2015, back into the centre of town, so we've got a building on the outskirts of Stratford. We just really thought God was calling us back into the heart of Stratford to try and see things transformed from the inside out.

“So we took a handful of people that we got at the time, some faithful people that were really up for seeing God do something and replanted back into the centre of Stratford, meeting in various different places and theatres and schools.

“As we've seen over the last five years or so, God just really growing numerically, but also in discipleship, seeing people's hearts getting stronger, living lives for him in their every day and so it's an exciting journey to be part of.

“For us, discipleship is at the centre of what we do. For me, it's what Jesus has called us to do. Matthew 28 'Go and make disciples of all nations is not just about equipping people to come and serve the church, but how do we allow everybody to have a ministry where God has placed them.

“There's a significant mission to reach our town, reach our district and there are 130,000 people in Stratford-upon-Avon. We're not going to reach them by having one service, but we can reach them by releasing people out into the places and spaces that God's put them.

“So really early on in the life of us being at the church, we just felt some big principles about what we needed to be and who we needed to be and one of those was generosity. There was a sense of generosity in the church and we really didn't know what direction to go with for outreach. It was kind of we don't know what to do so let's do what we can do right now, which is your generous people. So let's take a month per year on top of all of our regular giving of to missions and everything else on top of that we're going to take a month one month per year and every penny that we get in we're going to give it away.

“So we've done that now for four or five years, from year one with a handful of people giving away £1,500, which seemed like a huge amount of money at the time, to most recently well over £10,000 in one month just to give away.

“And it's gone beyond finances. So in the most recent month giveaway, people started saying well how can we start being generous with our life intentionally in this month? What that's starting to do is it's creating a culture in the church of people just thinking how do we live generously with the people around us? Not just in this one month, but as I leave my house this morning being open to the fact that God might just want to work in and through me at this moment to meet that person that I'm standing next to.

“Life can be busy with two jobs. I work for Elim Missions and the responsibilities that carry, and also work in the local church. I've got a young family so it's busy and it can be challenging. And I'm not sure I've been great at the balance.

“I think people in the church understand. I think one of the benefits of being bi-vocational is the church understand that you're not full-time, and so there's not a full-time concept of I can call on somebody immediately. Or actually, even if they do, my thinking is how do I equip that person to become a disciple, not a dependent.

“So instead of being dependent on me as their pastor, how do I get them to a place where they can disciple themselves because I'm not going to be around all the time, because I'm not full-time or whatever that is? So creating discipleship by being bi-vocational is an exciting journey as well.”

Creating gospel communities

Oasis Community Church is an Elim church that seeks to be disciples that make disciples, not through attractional events but by being an attractional community. By creating gospel communities, the church seeks to create an extended family on mission with God, depending on the Spirit, showing and sharing the gospel of Jesus in everyday life.

These communities are small in size (between 10-40 people), flexible and reproducible community of people who are living as disciples of Jesus and intentionally making disciples. They seek to multiply by planting more communities through disciple-making with a vision to reach the 130,000 people that live in Stratford-on-Avon by saturating every space with the love of Jesus.

To do this, Oasis Community Church would like to see 1 gospel community for every 1,000 people in their town of Stratford-on-Avon. John Martin shares more in this short video.

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