by Mark Seabourne (20s-30s Development Leader, St. Nicolas, Nuneaton)
2 – Moving (20th February 2017)
2016 arrived with many exciting prospects on the horizon, but little did I know that the year would be so eventful.
The Acceler8 project was still in its infancy and I was finding my feet as Development Leader at St. Mary’s, Leamington Spa. I’d had meetings on vision and direction of my ministry with the Vicar and the PCC. We quickly established a strategy and shared excitement at what God would do through the work with 20s and 30s.
God was blessing us with people coming to faith and lives being transformed. However, in my personal life, challenges were emerging. My wife and I wanted to start a family and didn’t really have the space in our home to do so. We were living in Southam and wanted to be closer to church but the property market in Leamington and surrounding areas was increasingly looking out of our reach financially.
Meanwhile, I had the sense spiritually that I needed to broaden my experience of church. St. Mary’s is an amazing place but it is where I became a Christian. When the role at St. Nicolas, Nuneaton came up, the different challenge very much appealed to me. These factors combined to encourage us to explore the possibility of a transfer. After weeks of intense prayer and several meetings, God seemed to be opening the door.
I continued at St. Mary’s for the next few months and focused predominantly on raising leaders and mentoring those who had just come to faith. My replacement, Gary Matthews, has made a brilliant start so far, especially in establishing the popular Costa Coffee evening which is bringing the gospel to many young people who don’t know Jesus.
Since September, I’ve been working at St. Nicolas. The people are incredibly friendly and I’m enjoying getting to know the church. It’s really different to St. Mary’s. The services are either very traditional or family orientated, with Messy Church in particular seeing real growth.
My approach to the role is different than it was in Leamington. At St. Mary’s, there was a strong core of active 20s and 30s who met together frequently so I worked more with individuals and in outreach. At St. Nics, fellowship and discipleship among young adults was less common so I immediately set up a group called L.E.D. which holds fortnightly events of a social or spiritual nature. I’m very happy with how it has began.
I’ve also helped out on a Start course and am about to lead an Alpha course. I’ve also redesigned the church website and had some input in how the church can be more appealing to 20s and 30s. I’m starting to get more into the community but much of my early focus has been to get to know people and discern what direction God wants me to go in.
Although my move was unexpected, I feel it was the right decision and am enjoying being at St. Nicolas so far. There are great signs of 20s/30s growing in their relationship with Jesus and I’m certainly growing through this journey.
1 – My Acceler8tion (17th January 2017)
I hope you’ll forgive the terrible pun in the title of this story of how I came to work on the Acceler8 project and my faith journey so far.
At the start of 2012, I was not a Christian. I had been brought up in church but left in my early teens when my mother stopped demanding I join her. I had a basic relationship with God but it didn’t stretch much further than ‘Lord, can you get me the latest Nintendo please?’. In honesty, I found church irrelevant and alienating.
However, I believe that many seeds were planted during my early years. You see, when I went to university and tried to live the party lifestyle, I always felt conflicted somehow. I didn’t quite fit in, no matter how I tried. This led to a period of depression. To combat this, I joined Self Improvement and New Age Spirituality communities. I read books and teachings that contained a pick and mix style of spirituality. Many Christian precepts were interspersed into this material but always with some sort of twist. They loved the forgiveness and blessing aspects but weren’t so keen on repentance, for example. I wouldn’t say it was all totally incorrect but the teachings were inherently selfish.
My eyes began to open following the breakup of my first serious relationship. In this difficult time, the teachings I had been studying for 6 years began to seem cold and hollow. I moved to Leamington Spa and joined an ecumenical Christian 20s and 30s group, simply because I wanted to make friends in my new town. However, God spoke through these people. I was amazed by some of their stories and how they had transformed in their lives after getting to know Jesus. This set me on an exploration of the Christian faith. Lots of amazing things happened in this time that I can’t explain and God was speaking to me through his Word on a daily basis. After a couple of months, I felt convicted to burn all my New Age books and it made me feel extremely free.
I was very blessed during that time to have some very Godly people around to disciple me. Some were from the 20s and 30s group and some were from the church I started attending, St. Mary’s. They brilliantly modelled to me the value of discipleship and I moved on extremely quickly in my faith, tackling challenging parts of the Old Testament fairly early and operating in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Within a year, I had attended the week long School of Evangelism led by German preacher Reinhard Bonnke. It was an exciting and faith growing experience.
When the advert for the Acceler8 role came up, I was of course interested, although I was working as a Data Analyst at the time with strong prospects. However, I had doubts that they would consider me; especially as I had only been a Christian for three and a half years at that point. I nearly didn’t apply for that very reason but my wife and several friends encouraged me to do so. Yet, to my big surprise, I got the job and was even asked to do some work for the project on the data and web development side.
I was placed in St. Mary’s, the church I had already been attending since I came to faith. This made my transition easier but also more challenging. I knew the culture of the church and most of the people. However, it was unusual to go from someone within the congregation who many saw become a Christian to someone in a position of leadership.
There were many rewarding experiences at St. Mary’s but God unexpectedly called me to St. Nicolas, Nuneaton. I’ll elaborate on this in a future blog.
Overall, the real message my own faith journey has taught me is the value of discipleship and the effectiveness of 20s and 30s groups, especially when churches unite. Although I believe that people should not be put in positions of leadership in ministry without maturity of faith, I also know how quickly and dramatically that God can work within people. My own experiences, and the extraordinary people that God surrounded me with, have definitely shaped my outlook towards this role. I believe that young Christians should be lovingly challenged and encouraged that they don’t need a theology degree to serve God in amazing ways.