Story 14 - Being Invited
Portrack Baptist Church, Stockton
Dan Holland - words by Suzie Abramian in conversation with Dan Holland 04/06/20
Situated at the edge of the Portrack estate on the outskirts of Stockton, Portrack Baptist Church describes itself on its webpage as a church that ‘feel an affinity with and for those who feel like they are on the margins of society and perhaps also on the margins of church.’
In an area of large deprivation and many social needs it may be easy to imagine all the outreaches, events and general help a church could be offering here. And, whilst Portrack BC does indeed serve their community in many of these ways through excellent ministries such as their Messy Church, toddler group, “baby bank” and youth work, Dan Holland explains how personally and as a church they have been exploring how this could be taken further, looking to see where God is already at work, rather than relying on an invitational model of mission alone.
Much of this questioning has come about by noticing the clear gap between those who live on the estate and those who attend church services.
Other than the occasional fleeting visit for dedications and one-off community events, connections have been relatively difficult to forge when the expectation has been to invite people to something the church is hosting.
Dan observes that the challenge has been to quite literally, ‘turn outwards, rather than changing what happens inside and wait for people to come in.’
As Dan explains in this video about the work he and volunteers from the church have been doing to help local schools during lockdown in 2020, all from asking the question, ‘how can we help you?’ it is interesting to learn how much this approach was already being considered by Portrack BC before coronavirus had been heard of. Not only had there been much prayer given to this from within the church, including a prayer week ending just before lockdown began, but Dan also notes the shift he is taking personally to be more intentional in mission, making space for relationships, neighbours and by simply spending time in local places. His role as a local school governor is one example of how he has been invited into the local community on their terms but by living in a certain way among them he demonstrates the love of God, often in a more powerful way than had he invited them to something on his terms.
Whilst the effects of lockdown are raising questions for many churches, Dan reflects on how some aspects of mission in the community are actually working better during this time with more time being given to prayer and questions being raised about what aspects of church might need to be different moving forward.
Dan’s encouragement to any church or individual wishing to explore this kind of missional approach which seeks to be the guest rather than always the host, is to be intentional about the place you’re trying to engage with, ‘prayerfully be out there, ask how you can get involved and trust that God is in us as we go.’