Our Vision: Foundation Church Belfast
The pandemic has provided ample opportunity and motivation for us to re-focus on our vision as a church. This post aims to bring clarity as we prepare for a return to gathered ministry soon – both to those already part of Foundation Church Belfast and those who are looking in!
What is our vision?
We aspire to be a church that plays a catalytic role in the gospel transformation of our nation through resourcing, renewal, and replication.
At Foundation Church Belfast we say we are a gospel-centred, Spirit-empowered community on mission. We take our cue from the New Testament book of Acts where churches who were centred on Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit made a profound impact on the cities and regions where they lived as they spoke and demonstrated the message to everyone around them.
Churches today should expect to have a similar effect in their own cities. We possess the same message and share the same spiritual power as the early church in Acts. So we humbly expect the same gospel transformation in our own generation, in our own unique moment in history.
Just to be clear: we want to play a catalytic role because we know we are not alone on this mission. God has many faithful churches and people across the city of Belfast and the entire island of Ireland. We want to add our voice, throw in our resources, and link arms with like-minded churches to do all we can to advance the gospel as far and deep as we possibly can.
Why the Need for More?
Some ask: why does Belfast need to hear and see more of Jesus? Because the statistics show fewer and fewer people know him as the years roll by. And if his offer of restored relationship with God and life in all its fulness is not understood, there are heart-breaking consequences both in the present and the age to come.
Based on mathematical analysis of data from the 2011 census, McCartney and Glass found that 17 percent of the Northern Ireland population identified with no religious system: the so-called ‘nones.’ Based on their analysis the authors predicted that the proportion of nones would rise to 20 percent in 2021 and up to 34 percent in 2041. In other words, a third of the population in this generation will eventually reject any form of religion.
Church attendance has been in decline across Northern Ireland for several decades. In 1998, 81 percent of Roman Catholics attended mass at least once a month, falling to 50 percent in 2017. Among Protestants, a decline from 52 percent to 43 percent was noted across the same period.
Figures from the Republic of Ireland are even worse. Estimates place the number of evangelicals between 0.5 to 1.5 percent of the population, giving Ireland the lowest percentage in the English-speaking world. However, there is some cause for hope. According to Professor Crawford Gribben, in 1980 there were an estimated 10,000 evangelicals in the Republic of Ireland. This rose to 30,000 in 2000. Of the 450 evangelical churches in Ireland, 60 percent have existed less than ten years.
Yet with this in mind, there still remains much work to be done. Whatever we have been doing as the church in Ireland – both North and South – we must stop and take a sober re-evaluation of our beliefs and practices, and consider with fresh eyes how we may persuasively present Jesus to our land once again.
Explaining Our Vision
Jesus gives gifts to his church to plant it, to nurture it, and help it to be fruitful and multiply. Through his Word and Spirit Jesus builds his church with his people. He gives them spiritual gifts so that the church is built up. He brings in finances so that ministry can be supported and expanded.
As a resourcing church we focus on training people – the community on mission – to be effective in advancing the Kingdom of God. This means we are equipped to lead and serve, then carefully deployed depending on our gifting and calling. And as more resources come in to the church, we will utilise them to release more ministry into our church and city. In so doing, our commitment to resourcing paves the way to renewal and replication.
This speaks to our heart for gospel partnership and unity in our city. We know we are just one voice, so for Jesus to be powerfully made known in Belfast, it is vital that we do so in collaboration with other churches. The job is simply too large for any one of us! Too often a silo mentality exists among the churches in Belfast and this only weakens our combined influence overall.
For us, renewal is about building one another up. We want our resources – be they leaders, gifted servant-hearted people, money, knowledge, or experience – to be used to strengthen other churches in our city. This means crossing denominational boundaries in order to bless and build up.
We’ve already begun to do this in small ways: supplying bible teachers to other churches in the city or helping churches to establish online Alpha Courses for example. But we want to do more. We’ll invest whatever we have so that many churches across Belfast are stirred up and renewed in their zeal for Jesus – becoming a powerful influence in their own communities.
Resourcing will find its output in replication. A natural consequence of fruitful gospel transformation is the need for new gospel communities to be established for believers to worship, serve, and be sent out on mission.
One means of replication is church planting in Belfast and across Ireland. Again, our resourcing will include pathways for church planting teams to be equipped and sent out wherever the Holy Spirit directs them. As part of the Advance Movement of churches we have access to superb training resources such as the Advance Church Planting Course and the Advance Theology Course.
But church planting is only one part of replication. We also want to replicate through church revitalisation (bringing in critical resources to a church that is in severe need of assistance) and church replanting (effectively a new church being birthed from within a deceased church).
Just to be clear: church multiplication (in whatever form it comes) is not the end game. It’s a tool to use to facilitate a grander vision – the gospel transformation of our land. A by-product even. It’s not about promoting a name, a style, a model, or a brand. It’s all for Jesus – his name, his renown, his glory.
What can we do now?
1. Get in training
As we contemplate the easing of lockdown restrictions, we have a special opportunity to get ourselves into training. Personally and together as a community we must ask, ‘how can I best prepare myself for a new season of ministry?’ Or in other words, think about what you can do now to get as healthy – spiritually, physically and mentally – as possible.
You may want to make a fresh commitment to prayer and engaging with God’s Word in Scripture. We are planning a church-wide day of fasting and prayer to help refresh us and sharpen us as a community on mission. Perhaps you might want to talk to talk to a trusted friend, a pastor, or a health professional if you need help for your mental health. As a community on mission we are here for one another – and we’re here for you too. Training is always easier (and more fun) when we train together.
2. Give to the vision
You can partner with us financially by clicking here. Your donations will help us to play a catalytic role in the gospel transformation of Belfast and our nation.
We are already using our resources to build one another up and to serve our community. Your financial partnership will enable us to go further and deeper.
3. Join the team
As a community on mission, the deeper, wider and richer that community grows, the more impactful its mission will become. Come and pay us a visit on a Sunday morning when we begin to gather again. Keep in touch with our social media for the latest information.
At Foundation Church Belfast we operate a system of church membership. Membership is all about identifying with Jesus and a specific group of fellow believers, on mission together. For more information about what church membership means for us, listen to this message.
Here’s some more writing that will encourage and inspire you further:
- Renewal: Church Revitalisation Along the Way of the Cross – John James
- Together for the City – Neil Powell and John James
- Multiplanting – Colin Baron
- Church Planting is for Wimps – Mike McKinley