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(This is an updated version of what Richard Hagan of Emmanuel Church Canterbury said at our Regional Partners’ Meeting 20th June 2018)

The Kent Gospel Partnership has been set up with a single aim: to reach Kent for Christ. There are 1.5 million people living, working, eating and sleeping in this great county, and the vast majority have not heard any warning of judgement or offer of salvation. Achieving this aim is a huge task that requires fervent prayer and careful co-ordination. I am always impressed to see what happens after a great famine or disaster: different agencies come together and work side by side for the shared aim of helping the victims. Because their bigger goal is so urgent and clear, they don’t work in isolation or duplication- they get to the task in hand and usually do it well.

The planning team of the Kent Gospel Partnership is Steve Lloyd (Hope Church Gravesend), Steve Price (All Saints’ Loose), Matt Lloyd (Christ Church Bromley), Ollie Land (Rochester Baptist Church), Peter Mawson (Trinity Church Tenterden) and Richard Hagan (Emmanuel Church Canterbury). When reflecting on this aim, we see three particular ways that we need to join together as local churches: training, mission and prayer.

1. Training

A few years ago, the RNLI had an advertising campaign which included this:

It’s true; if one RNLI crew member is well trained, that investment in one person will result in many lives saved at sea. And so it is the case in our churches. If we imagine our church as a lifeboat, when the crew are better trained, more people can be saved.

Ready To Go is a termly training meeting that came out of a discussion at one of our Regional Partners’ Meetings a couple of years ago. We saw the need for better quality training than we could do in our churches and cheaper and more local training than going all the way in to London. Each session has focused on a particular Bible book. A guest speaker has shown us what the book is about and how we might teach a particular passage as a working example. The small group times after a delicious hot lunch has helped us focus on a particular audience- teaching children and youth, small group Bible study, preaching and personal conversation.  Our next session of Ready To Go is 1 and 2 Kings with Andrew Sach on Saturday 13 October. Do book in via the GospelKent website.

We can rejoice that we do have people in our lifeboats, but training is vital to mobilise everyone who is saved to be established in in gospel and seeing others saved too.

2. Mission

We all know why the sinking of the Titanic was such a disaster- there weren’t enough lifeboats and even the ones they had weren’t used effectively. All around us people are perishing, drowning in their sin with only the prospect of eternal hell ahead of them. This is much worse than hunger in famine or dislocation in disaster.

To reach Kent for Christ we need to ask ourselves questions. For those in church leadership, where are we steering out lifeboat? Are we steering it towards the mess and mayhem involved in hauling troubled souls out of the water, or into a cove of safety and comfort?  Are the crew in our lifeboat ‘on mission’?

Just like in bigger disasters, there is a need for co-ordination and assistance between lifeboats. There are plenty of lifeboats in key places in Kent that just need more crew. It was striking to read in Philippians earlier about how Paul and the Philippians church sent people to one another. How could we be doing that in Kent? Yes, people move with jobs and it’s good to make introductions for them to like-minded churches. But what about the costly sending of people to other churches? We might be happy to send a missionary across the world, but what about across Kent?

All this sort of thing happens when we know each other better. It feels like our relationships across churches in Kent are just beginning to flourish. The Kent Gospel Partnership is united in the apostolic gospel, as summarised in our Statement of Faith. But we are also united together as churches with the same ministry values- the centrality of preaching, evangelism being sharing the gospel word and so on. These are exciting times as we are looking around and notice who else the LORD has placed near us. Are there other church leaders we could introduce to the Kent Gospel Partnership? It costs nothing to join (at the moment!), it gives your church extra publicity, but more importantly as we grow together we can be so much more effective in reaching Kent for Christ.

Over the course of the next year there will be a focus on church planting in our meetings. The South East Gospel Partnership Annual Conference in London on Saturday 2 February will be on church planting. It’s a great day to bring our leadership teams along. After that we also plan to have a church planting and revitalisation consultation here in Kent. Do let us know if you’re interested in coming.

3. Prayer

I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t struggle with the lack of response we see in our evangelism here in Kent. People are perishing, but they refuse to see it, and swim away from every offer to save them. I am reminded of what Jesus said to his disciples after they couldn’t drive out the impure spirit in Mark 9: ‘This kind can come out only by prayer.’ I have evangelistic resources coming out of my ears and have learnt many techniques and outlines in evangelism. But the bottom line is that we need to pray.

My own prayer life is woefully inadequate, but I can and do pray when time is set aside with others to do so. Especially as those set aside for prayer and the ministry of the word, perhaps we could organise a prayer retreat just to pray for Kent. Do let us know if you are interested.

Perhaps we could buddy up with another church in Kent and pray for them in our church prayer meeting. We organise our church prayer meetings praying for the world, the nation, the county, the city and then our church. That commits us to an outward focus. How do you organise yours?

We always give time to pray at our Regional Partners’ Meetings too. I always leave encouraged after going to these meetings as we share the pain and joy of manning lifeboats in these stormy seas.

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