Three Local Churches

Last week, as part of their induction to the team, our NI research assistants had the opportunity to visit three of our local member churches. The churches differ in denomination, approach and style and have different historical roots. Ricky reflects on their experiences…

Village Church

In the heart of East Belfast is a relatively young church plant called Village. It was birthed in the living room of senior pastor, Lucas Parks. Lucas has been leading this congregation for seven years and has shepherded a steady and healthy growth. 

“What does it look like to be the Church all the time?”

“What does it look like to be the Church all the time?”

Village church emphasises the importance of community and church planting. They talk about their ministry with warmth and excitement. Lucas and Andrew (to be site pastor for Village South) are incredibly passionate about creating a church culture that emphasises “Church as Family”. Sometimes our modern way of thinking can lead us to deliver more events as a means to achieve community as a body of believers. Village would argue that more events are not what is required, instead, the church should be more intentional about mission. The “Church as Family” slogan is a fascinating insight into how they, as a church, pursue community with one another. It is not just a simple initiative of fellowship, a home or connect group to plug into, but people coming together as family. They have a structure where small ‘Missional Communities’ meet together every week between Sundays in people’s homes around a meal.

Secondly, Village church emphasises the importance of church planting. As Missional Communities develop, the next step is for part of the family to move to another plant. Village church has had healthy growth, from 65 to 225 people attending. In contrast to some larger churches in the area, Village believe that for its members to be effective in their growth, they should be located and given the opportunities where their gifts can be utilised and grown. Lucas further demonstrated his point and stated that it is in fact,

“…better to have four churches of two-hundred than one church of eight-hundred.”

The leadership at Village has implemented a really interesting template. The imperative of ‘Church as Family’ has given them a platform to disciple within their Missional Communities with an outward initiative that seeks to share the Gospel.

Christian Fellowship Church

Christian Fellowship Church, just like Village church, is in the heart of East Belfast. The church was born in the 1970s and has been on the Belmont Road since the mid 1980s. During the 1970s Northern Ireland experienced some of the darkest days in its history and during this time a group of people, across the denomination and religious divides, came to pray for the Holy Spirit to bring unity and peace.

“If it’s not for us to keep, it’s for us to give away.”

“If it’s not for us to keep, it’s for us to give away.”

Today, CFC is a church with five sites, with 1200 attendees on any given Sunday. The staff have a clear vision for the future, working in two-year plans. CFC very much see themselves like a “Reservoir”. As a reservoir stores water for the towns and cities, CFC look to be a reservoir that resources the church. CFC look to equip local churches in Word and Worship, recognising that if they are not required to keep, they give away.

CFC focuses their events and programs on their congregation and newcomers alike. As part of their two-year Reservoir initiative, CFC is collaborating with 24/7 Prayer, an organisation that seeks to pray for the church non-stop, night and day. The staff hope to bring a 24/7 Prayer sanctuary to their church.

Led by the Worship Pastor and leader of Worship Central Ireland, Ryan Griffith, CFC has developed a program, as part of their Reservoir initiative, for Northern Ireland's up and coming worship leaders. The program is a place to “grow as a worshipper, a leader and a songwriter” with the added focus on theological teaching. Many churches across Northern Ireland have displayed their appreciation for CFC's Worship Year Out program.

CFC is a church that has seen exponential growth. It is a congregation of people from a variety of backgrounds who are utilising their influence and position in order to resource the local church.

Legacurry Presbyterian Church

Legacurry Presbyterian Church is on the outskirts of Lisburn. It recently celebrated its 175th year and has a deep sense of place and legacy in it’s rural surroundings. The church’s age means a considerably different dynamic in comparison with Village and CFC in terms of challenges and opportunities. The Church has long-term roots in their area with many members of the congregation becoming well known and respected in the community. Legacurry is a generational church with many local families woven into it’s very fabric. Rev. Bobby Liddle has seen the church double over the past 15 years and managing these different aspects and aspirations of the congregation is a challenge he enjoys.

“Welcoming, Worshipping, Witnessing.”

“Welcoming, Worshipping, Witnessing.”

Sometimes the word tradition has negative connotations attached. A reluctance to change is not always a bad thing, as long as the right things are being held on to and the right things let go. Legacurry Presbyterian Church is an example of a local church which is growing, investing in its local context, and still holding to its historical and denominational roots.

As research assistants for the Evangelical Alliance NI, it is vital to understand how important each and every church is within its local context. Our discussions allowed us to explore the various methods and practical models that have been implemented to help each one heed their call as a church to their area. It has been a privilege to see how these three Churches are utilising their potential and opportunities to live as a Church Family, to equip the church resourcefully and to invest into our communities with a long term focus - all with the joint aim of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.