Story 13 - Multi-Congregational Church
Dinas Powys Baptist Church
By Suzie Abramian in conversation with Revd. Jon Davis - June 2020
What do you do when you make connections outside of an established church, to the point of leading people to faith, only to find the new believers don’t want to, or can’t come to a Sunday service?
Revd. Jon Davis, minister of Dinas Powys Baptist Church, explains how this question has been challenging and reshaping the structures of the church itself into what could now be described as a multi-congregational church.
It is perhaps important to firstly note that the church has never had its own building, which has arguably contributed to the flexibility and openness needed for this model of church to develop so organically.
Originating from a church plant in the 1990’s it still uses other public venues for its Sunday services based in the village of Dinas Powys, but now has a variety of other congregations meeting throughout the week in Dinas Powys and the surrounding towns and villages on the outskirts of Cardiff.
Looking back over the journey the church has been on, Jon explains that a couple of years ago the church started to make intentional moves to look outward into their communities and gradually started to see a few people come to faith. Naturally they looked to disciple these new Christians but soon realised that their normal way of discipling people through Sunday morning services or traditional house groups would not work.
Instead a more radical change was required, which led to those from within the church meeting and discipling the new believers in their own settings, with the attitude that Jon described as, ‘we’ve gone and done mission where these people are, so we’ll go and do discipleship where they are.’
From this a multiplication began to happen as these new Christians went on to create further groups - congregations - themselves. These congregations are often identified by friendships or a certain commonality, such as the youth groups which meet in church member’s homes or the community that gathers in a sheltered housing complex.
When these groups meet, they pray, read the Bible, essentially “do discipleship” and as Jon describes, ‘are just as much an expression of church as what happens in Dinas Powys on a Sunday morning.’ Only recently this has also led to the first person from one of these congregations asking to become a member of the church without ever attending a Sunday service. Jon describes the growth that has happened as something that almost seems to take place itself when the testimonies from new believers are so strong and they become the best evangelists as the want to share the transformation that they have experienced.
Jon is keen to emphasise that this journey has been slow, typically seeing someone come to faith every couple of months. However, most of the people who do come to faith are doing so through these mid-week congregations rather than through the Sunday services which a few years ago would have been viewed as the primary place for evangelism and conversion.
It is also interesting to see that all of this didn’t come with an intentional plan, at least in the beginning, instead there was the approach to simply try and be aware of where God was already moving and join in with Him there.
Although this journey hasn’t been without struggles and has brought up questions of what church should actually look like, there is a hopeful recognition that the church is still on a journey and that God is still working. Encouragingly, in doing this Jon also notes that they have sometimes even had to say no to what on paper looks like the best idea but instead have always endeavoured to see where the Spirit of God is already moving and try to join in where God is already present.