Posted by Graham French on 21st January 2021
In 2011, Chris and Lisa led a team from Mosaic Church, Leeds, to plant The Oak Church. Ten years on, The Oak is sending them again to plant a new church in Bradford.
Starting churches is a biblical strategy to outwork the great commission to go into all the nations and make disciples. We have always known as a church that we would plant again…it was just a matter of when and how.
We understand that sending Chris and Lisa, for some, is tricky. And that there is a mix of emotions. But we are confident in God’s plan for The Oak and for the next steps in Bradford.
We thought it helpful to write some brief comments on some questions that have come up as we have announced the news of the new plant.
1. When will the new church be planted?
We hope to send Chris and Lisa and their team at some point in July with the aim of beginning the plant in the autumn. We are hoping for an easing of restrictions so we can send them face-to-face - we want to do this prayerfully, joyfully and together!
2. Where will the new church be planted?
Chris and Lisa live in the south-east of Bradford but have the city on their heart. Whilst the strategy at this stage is unclear, God has been speaking to them about serving the whole city and about diversity.
3. Who will go with Chris & Lisa in the new team?
Anyone at The Oak is free to seek God about joining the team. Being part of a church planting team is incredibly exciting and also a big commitment - there aren’t all the usual ‘established’ ministries and pastoral structures to call on. With that in mind, Chris and Lisa are asking people who are considering going to: a) seek and hear clearly from God to go, b) enter into discussion with Chris and Lisa and the Senior Leadership Team at The Oak about suitability and timing, c) be willing to move to Bradford.
4. Will the new church be a multi-site gathering of The Oak or an autonomous new church?
The new church will be planted similarly to how The Oak was planted - as a separate and autonomous church plant. That means that when we send them, they will have the freedom to plant with a new vision and new structure, with the direction of our Hub family led by Matt Hatch. We will continue to pray, serve, give to and bless the church plant ensuring, as far as is possible its success.
5. Why a new church and not a multi-site gathering?
Last summer God began to speak to the Senior leadership Team about multiplication. At the time, the most natural way was to consider going multi-site - that means The Oak would be one church with multiple Sunday Gatherings. Through the autumn God began to speak to Chris and Lisa, and the Senior Leadership Team, through a string of prophetic words, that The Oak is strong and that it was time to go. We were also reminded of a prophetic word given to us as a church at Love:Nations four years ago - “you’re to go to Bradford, God is giving you licence to do things differently”. A new church plant allows Chris and Lisa to plant with fresh vision and the freedom to plant a church culturally relevant to the city of Bradford. As a team, we have weighed these words, alongside Matt Hatch and our Hub family, and we feel this is the right move for Chris and Lisa and the right move for the next era of The Oak.
6. Who will lead The Oak?
The Senior Leadership Team lead The Oak together and with plurality. Chris’ role is to lead our team and we are praying about who will take on this role in the long term. Matt Hatch and the team have confidence in the Senior Leadership Team leading together as we send Chris and Lisa. Dan Kingsley will continue to chair our team meetings as he has done for the last few years.
7. Will the Senior Leadership Team grow as Chris leaves?
We have been putting plans in place to grow the Senior Leadership Team in the coming months and years for some time now and will continue this process. We usually invite someone to sit in on the team while we, and the apostolic team serving us, weigh ‘Character’, ‘Competency’, and ‘Chemistry’ before bringing their official joining to the church family to weigh.
8. Will we appoint more elders alongside Graham?
We are in the process of weighing and talking with Senior Leadership Team members as to their suitability and calling into the role of elder. We fully intend to have a plurality of elders within our Senior Leadership Team before Chris steps down but are trusting in God for this process - this is not a management position but a calling of God to serve the church in a very specific way and so needs to be done as God leads.
9. Who will do Chris’ paid role and responsibilities?
We have allocated funds for the autumn term to be able to release paid staff time into different areas of the church life enabling us to grow into the next season. We have worked hard since Chris’ sabbatical two years ago to ensure the responsibilities in the church are more evenly spread across the Senior Leadership Team and other Team Leaders in the church ensuring any one member's departure would not cause problems. We are now in the process of working out the transitionary process of Chris’s specific responsibilities to the rest of the team alongside staffing in the most appropriate way to ensure the church’s growth in the future. The Senior Leadership Team at the Oak is responsible for leading the direction and vision of The Oak. Although it’s common in many churches that some of those leading are paid staff members (and currently for us both Chris and Elea are), this isn’t essential for a thriving local church. In fact in the New Testament, those leading churches were commonly also involved in other paid work outside of the church. We believe in the priesthood of all believers - that means we’re all involved in caring for one another...not just our staff - this releases our leaders to pray and govern the church. We are really passionate about caring, supporting and pastoring each other out of relationship and through our Life Groups and Community Groups.
10. Why now? We’re in the middle of a pandemic.
The church (historically) has often multiplied in seasons of change and in seasons of difficulty. The early church was scattered because of persecution and grew as a result. There are many churches across the country and across the world growing and multiplying in this season - God seems to be on the move. We have considered the timing a great deal but feel that at some point we must move beyond waiting for the season to end into adapting to the season we find ourselves in - that point for us is this summer. It will take some time, probably years, for the nation to find new ways of moving forward post-COVID - we want to lean into God's purposes and plans and act with faith when he speaks. This all means things may look different to how we expected both at The Oak and in the plant, but we are confident in God’s unfailing love and unimaginable care.
11. Who will The Oak look to for apostolic input?
The Oak will continue to look to the Catalyst Hub team led by Matt Hatch for its apostolic oversight. Andy Bramall, a leader at City Church, Newcastle (one of our Hub churches) has been helping the Senior Leadership Team over the past few years and will continue to serve in that role where needed.
12. Will we change our vision to not include East Bradford anymore as we will have a plant there?
We have always carried the vision of serving West Leeds and East Bradford and will continue to carry that vision with members of our church family living and working in Bradford. One of the ways we are seeking to outwork that vision is to plant a new church. In time we would love to plant more churches, more gatherings and more Community Groups across West Leeds and East Bradford, Yorkshire, the UK and the nations.
13. How will the new church plant work financially?
The new church plant will operate financially independent of The Oak but under the same charity, Mosaic Church Ltd. The new church plant will be responsible for its own staffing and resources. However, The Oak will be giving to the new church plant from it’s reserves and from a Special Offering to be taken later in the spring. Our Catalyst Hub is also backing the new church plant with a financial gift.
14. What about Chris’ links with the nations, with Andrei Bondarenko and the team in Ukraine?
The Oak will continue to develop existing international relationships throughout Catalyst and Newfrontiers. Where these have been primarily connected to Chris, the Senior leadership Team will work out the best route forward; either continuing to connect or forging new relationships where God leads. Andrei Bondarenko and his team in Ukraine remain supportive and in prayer for The Oak, including speaking at The Oak later in the term and are helping Chris and Lisa to prepare for the plant.
So, how do we respond as we enter this new era? In prayer. Let's pray together for faith and courage as we get caught up in God's big mission to see the world transformed through Jesus' power to change lives.
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