How God Called Me to Fareham – Part 1

How God Called Me to Fareham – Part 1

The story of how God called me to plant Christ Church Fareham is a good one, with twists, turns, sacrifices and challenges along the way. Ultimately, doing God’s will always requires those things and I’m grateful for God’s calling upon my life. It’s a story of God’s providence, the wisdom of others and the prophetic all coming together as well. Over a few blogs I want to give you a flavour of how the story goes.

Lacking Direction

In the summer of 2015, I had lots of my own ideas about what the future held, but nothing was coming together quite the way I wanted it to. I was dating Rachael and I wanted to marry her, but she hadn’t made her mind up about me yet. I was a year away from graduating from Bible College and, while other students had job offers lined up, I didn’t. I was a leader and preacher at Christ First Church in Watford, who had supported me in my training, but there wasn’t a clear route into full time ministry there. I knew that I loved preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ and teaching from God’s Word in the Bible. I knew that I was called to Church leadership, but wanted guidance from God about where.

As a Church, we attended Westpoint, Commission’s annual conference with thousands of Christians all gathered to worship together. During the conference, there were several calls for young people called to Church leadership to respond. On each occasion, I responded and was prayed for, each time expectant that God would speak clearly and prophetically – “This is where you should plant a Church” or “God wants you to stay in Watford and serve where you are, even after you’ve trained as a Pastor.” I was blessed by lots of different people who prayed for me, but each time I walked back to my tent disappointed and increasingly frustrated with God.

On the last morning of the conference, I was up early and prayer-walked around the Westpoint campsite, desperate for something from God that would help me move forward into my final year at Bible College. As I prayed, I felt a deep desire to speak to Guy Miller, who leads Commission, or Steve Petch, who led Commission’s Church Planting Strategy. As I felt this, a jolt of exhilaration pulsed through me, because Guy Miller was walking past me just a few metres away!

Guy was deep in conversation with a colleague and, as a nervous young man, I was too shy to interrupt the conversation and introduce myself. I followed Guy at a safe distance, hoping the conversation would end soon. It didn’t and Guy Miller walked into the main arena and through a door, which I thought was for leaders only. I turned back very disappointed in myself. God had answered my prayers, given me an opportunity to speak to the leader of Commission and I hadn’t found the courage to take advantage. With my head down, I turned back to walk back to my tent and as I did so, I all but bumped into Steve Petch.

I blurted out my story and he invited me for coffee in Chichester after the conference was over to talk Church Leadership and possible locations around the country.

Coffee with Steve Petch

Driving to Chichester to see Steve, I worried about coming across as arrogant. How do you tell someone you feel called to Church Leadership without it sounding proud? Fortunately, when I arrived Steve told me that he had spoken with my Church leaders in Watford. They had backed me and given Steve confidence that this was going to be a fruitful conversation. He grilled me for about half an hour, asking lots of tough questions, before saying “You know what, I think you might be called to church planting – the question is where?”

There were ten or so locations in the UK that Commission had identified as places that needed new churches. Steve reeled off demographic information, the church that wanted to plant and reasons for wanting the new church to be planted for all these locations. It was clear he prayed for these places regularly and cared about them. In all my conversations with Steve, I’ve been challenged by his huge passion to reach the lost with the good news of Jesus Christ.

None of the locations meant anything to me, if I’m honest. They were all towns in the South of England that I hadn’t visited. There was one name Steve mentioned that did mean something – Tim Blaber. Three years previously, I had attended a Commission Students and 20s Weekend. I was an Anglican Boy who had just joined New Frontiers and I had plenty of questions. One of the seminars was a Q&A with Guy Miller and other leaders and I went along thinking I could learn something new about the theology and mission of New Frontiers. There were only 5 people who showed up and actually Guy didn’t feel well, so instead of Guy Miller, it was a nobody called Tim Blaber answering our questions (Tim Blaber was a nobody to me at the time – it turns out he’s a wonderfully gifted and faithful minister of the Gospel, who holds fast to God’s Word in scripture and has always been a wonderful encouragement to me).

One of my questions was about Church Planting. I can’t remember the exact wording, but I was trying to be a little negative, struggling to understand why you would plant rather than support churches already in existence. Tim answered my question and then asked me one “Duncan, do you think you might be called to church planting.” I laughed and forgot about that moment until I was sat with Steve and he said Tim Blaber leading a Church in Portsmouth wants to plant a Church in Fareham. I was instantly reminded of that rather bizarre conversation years before. Whether you call those coincidences prophetic or providential, Steve Petch joined the dots in that moment and suggested I go and meet Tim Blaber once again.