Church Planting Into Unreached Communities (with Sam Foulds)

Sam Foulds is an Anglican minister who has recently taken oversight of two church plants in deprived and minority communities in Manchester. In this Broadcast we interview Sam about his experiences of taking leadership in a church plant that he didn't start, ministering through others, and working into communities where there is very little gospel presence. 


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What Lessons Have You Learned About Leading a Church Plant That You Didn't Start Yourself?

  • The first congregation of TCC was started in 2010, and the second in 2015 - both by different leaders. Sam is the third leader of TCC.
  • When you are planting from scratch, you have a blank canvas to dream about things and do them!
  • Coming into a church, this has been done already, and you are inheriting something with DNA.
  • It is key to listen and learn, find out the DNA and the story of the church and the people.
  • It is tempting to come in and do things the way we have always done things in the past - but this won't always work.
  • It is also important to recognise that it is a new season - as a leader you will have different gifts to the previous leader.
  • How do you fit into the story of this church? Why has God called you to this place at this time?
  • 1 Corinthians 3 - Paul and Apollos were both used by the Lord and had different roles to play. 
  • When we come into a church started by somebody else, we play an Apollos role.
  • Look at the church and also your own gifting and ask where the two things coincide.
  • Ask what things are already going on that you need to press into and develop.
  • We should be planting pregnant churches. We may be an Apollos now but a Paul in the future. 

What Have You Learned About Leading Through Other People?

  • Sam oversees both church plants, and in each there is a leadership couple. 
  • There can sometimes be a mentality that the 'main leader' is a 'professional' Christian who does everything.
  • Francis Chan writes about his experience of people coming to watch him use his gifts, but not coming to use their own gifts.
  • We should work hard to avoid creating 'mini-mes' - get to know their gifts and develop them in it.
  • Eat together often.
  • The differences that we have are more important in how we lead than our similarities.
  • Be clear in roles and consistent in decision so avoid stepping on toes and undermining each other.
  • Bleed for your people!
  • Leadership is about helping people to follow Jesus - our true leader and king. 
  • Enthusiasm only takes a leader so far. When that runs out you need a hard graft maturity that is only found through following Jesus deeply, often through suffering.
  • You need to encourage an obsession with Jesus in your leaders!
  • Hebrews 11 - Moses chose to be ill-treated with the people of God rather than enjoy the treasures of sin... The treasure of Christ was worth more than the riches of Egypt!
  • Encourage reading in your leaders.
  • When you meet, before talking about everything else, read something from the Bible about Jesus and pray and worship him together.

What Have You Learned About Reaching Out Into a Predominantly Islamic Context?

  • It makes you re-ask questions that you have assumed the answer to - about the gospel, about church etc.
  • Look at people and ask 'What would it take for these people to become Christians and join our church?'
  • Are we in relationship with these people to share Jesus with them?
  • Are we offering a vision of Jesus worth living for, suffering for and potentially losing family for? 
  • Is our church community one that will sustain someone and see them flourish if they have potentially lost their community?
  • We can sometimes forget the basics of actually getting to know people! Sharing meals is a great way of doing this.
  • For many Muslims, saying yes to Jesus would mean saying no to friends, home and family.
  • How much does Jesus impact our life and thinking?
  • Being a Christian isn't just changing views on sex and Sunday, it is getting in step with reality!
  • Have we got a vision of church that provides family, home and community. 
  • We need a vision of Jesus that is worth paying the cost for.

How Do You Balance All Your Responsibilities?

  • It has been an area of struggle.
  • Have a clear sense of what you are called to - our calling is not to be a professional friend, but to help people to follow Jesus.
  • What does this look like in the diary? - Perhaps we end up giving ourselves to things that maybe we shouldn't.
  • Priority areas are Devotion, Discipling Others, Developing Leaders. 
  • Other priorities are Prayer, People, Preparation, Pisteos (reading and writing).
  • These priorities can help us know when to say no to things.
  • An absolute key priority is the daily quiet time.
  • Left to ourselves, we only ever pray the fourth petition of the Lord's prayer! - There are three other lines before this to also focus on as we pray.

Q&A

1. When do you start to consider a church plant as a church

  • Though we have spoken about church plants, as soon as a church is planted, it is a church!

2. Do you have more church plants in the pipeline?

  • Yes - the vision is to keep on planting!
  • It is important to give the best of yourselves to see more planted.
  • Support other church plants, and send out new plants yourself.

3. How do you share your own sufferings as a leader in a way that helps your people?

  • Vulnerability happens in relationship.
  • This is more of a challenge when overseeing two churches!
  • It needs to come out in our preaching - sometimes we can be tempted to do application at a distance.
  • Confession in church is important. We need to create a culture where we can be open about what is going on in life.
  • We live in a culture where lots of masks go up.
  • Creating a culture of openness takes time.

4. Do people sometimes try to bypass the lay leaders to get to you as a professional?

  • This can be an issue.
  • Communication is important - of structures, roles, expectations.

5. Are there examples of things you have changed since coming in? How did you go about it?

  • We need to assess our hearts as to what we want to change - is it just changing things to our own personal preference. 
  • We shouldn't be too quick to change things - we need to take time to understand things first.

6. What are the most important elements of the church life?

  • The Acts 2 church were devoted to the apostles teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayers - all of this was in the context of Peter's proclamation of Jesus.
  • Our devotion to Jesus flows from his own devotion. 
  • The Lord's supper has discipleship and mission implications - it is the antidote to gnosticism.

7. How does communion shape your thinking on mission and discipleship?

  • Gnosticism suggested that matter is bad and spirit is good. 
  • Communion is a very materialistic thing that we do where we are together in body, eating and drinking.
  • It reminds us of the incarnation.
  • It points us to the future meal that Jesus will have with us. 
  • Materiality is good - eating together is good.

8. How does living these values out look different in each setting?

  • The way we practice it - for example prayer... different prayer gatherings. 
  • Fellowship - for a congregation with lots of asylum seekers and refugees, then there is a lot to do to help people be housed and fed.

9. What has been the biggest encouragement and biggest challenge in your ministry?

  • The biggest encouragement is seeing people become Christians and seeing that Jesus is on the move all around the world?

10. What is your final piece of advice for church leaders or planters?

  • Get a big vision of Jesus!