Ness Wilson, Pioneer Network’s UK Team Leader has always had a heart for church planting. Following the call she felt God put on her heart, in 1993 aged 21 she and several friends planted Open Heaven Church in Loughborough. Right from the start, she felt valued by the team at Pioneer.
“I was a single woman who hadn’t been to Bible college, yet I experienced what it was to be taken seriously from a very young age. My experience with Pioneer gave me a passion for mobilising and making space for others to hear the call for church planting.”
Having planted a church, served on the Pioneer National UK core team and taken up the role of UK Team Leader two years ago, Ness is passionate about raising up leaders, multiplying churches and ensuring they stay healthy.
And that’s where Stewardship comes in. Earlier this year, we formed a partnership with Pioneer, where they can refer churches who need support to our team. Stewardship helped them to create a governance checklist to ensure that all of their churches, whether new, established, or those who have recently joined the Pioneer Network are healthy and well-run. Ness is delighted about this new development.
“I’ve often seen people with really good hearts and motives and real passion for the kingdom being tripped up because of poor governance or the lack of strong foundations. To have a Christian organisation like Stewardship come alongside our church planters and take what can seem like an onerous task off their hands means that they are freed up to share the gospel and see lives changed. It’s brilliant working with John at Stewardship. His church background means that he understands all the unique pressures and challenges. Stewardship have done some really good thinking around governance and services which is a real gift to our church planters.”
Ness has plenty of stories about how God has moved in church planting, but her favourite is one in which she is intimately involved. “When I was first married, we lived opposite a Church of England building. I felt grieved that it had a dwindling congregation and prayed that God would bring it back to life. Eventually, it closed and the building was offered to the churches in Loughborough. Our church put a joint proposal to plant a new congregation with the Elim church which was accepted. We wanted to put two floors in to triple the space, open up the front with a huge glass-fronted entrance on the main street, and put in a café and prayer room. All that came to £1.7 million which we didn’t have.
One evening a young married couple came to see us. They told us they’d been praying and felt God tell them to give £100,000 as the start of the fundraising campaign. Between us and Elim, the entire amount was raised, and we were able to bring the building back to life.”
As church plants go, this one was immense. The architect wanted to keep the beauty of the old building but make it fresh and contemporary while putting in a mezzanine floor and building a glass entrance to the front. “There was a tangible sense of God’s provision, of the impossible becoming possible. We found a time capsule from a hundred years before with the original order of service, complete with prayers. We prayed those prayers back to God and recommissioned the vision and our dreams. We also wanted to make sure the building was soaked in prayer. Before we painted and carpeted, everyone prayed and prophesised and wrote down what God told them with Sharpies on the very fabric of the building. I’m sure that’s why we’re seeing amazing things here.”
We know that church plants flourish when they’re connected to healthy networks and that’s why Stewardship are so looking forward to our enhanced relationship with Pioneer. Ness believes that church planting is the most effective form of evangelism.
“There’s something about connecting in a place where there is life, strength, faith and where the spirit of God is free to move. That’s when you start to see breakthrough. If you build with an eternal perspective in mind, it’s the best way to reach people with Jesus.”