A MESSAGE FROM MATTHEW
The assembly was in confusion: some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there.
This description of the riot in Ephesus sums up our present day pretty well! We’re living in a time when there is an awful lot of noise and very little sense. The Lord told Jonah that Ninevah was full of people “who cannot tell their right hand from their left” (Jonah 4:11) and our modern day world feels like that too.
In the midst of the chaos of the world our confidence is that we have a firm place to stand. Jesus is described as the cornerstone on whom we can build our lives (1 Peter 2:6). God is our refuge and salvation, our fortress: He is the unshakeable one in whom we can find rest (Psalm 62:1-2).
Over the twelve months represented in this report we have certainly had to navigate some turbulent waters. A year ago we would never have imagined falling victim to a huge financial fraud. Yet even as we experienced that, and the Lord’s rescue as the money was eventually repaid, there was a sense that God was preparing us. It feels like our spiritual shoulders have grown broader.
Completing the building work at Alder Road and relaunching into two congregations has been the headline of the past year but God has been at work among us in all kinds of ways. In this report you can read some of the evidence of His grace and kindness to us over this time.
A particular highlight of the last year for me was our church camp in July. It was the first time we had been able to do something like this since before the pandemic and there was such a delightful experience of being God’s family together. That weekend was an oasis in the craziness of life.
The great 19th century preacher C.H. Spurgeon said, “Have your heart right with Christ, and he will visit you often, and so turn weekdays into Sundays, meals into sacraments, homes into temples, and earth into heaven.” It is that experience of the nearness of Jesus we need!
It is a safe bet to predict that the world will not get any less crazy in the coming year but we can be even more certain of the rock on which we stand. As you read this report I pray you will be encouraged and fortified. Jesus is our cornerstone and those who trust in Him will never be put to shame!
BUILDING PROJECT & GIVING
Completing the Alder Road building project was a significant milestone in the life of the church! Our buildings facilitate the mission that God has called us to. This building represents a significant step of trusting in God’s provision and Sovereignty, and is a wonderful demonstration of his ability to provide for his people.
The project represented more than five years of prayerful planning, giving and trusting in God with so many hurdles to clear and mountains to scale. Our God is good - we got there!
Build Cost: £1.95m
Money Given/Raised: £750k
Money Loaned: £1.2m
The graph shows the monthly income into our vision fund - our next challenge is to meet the repayments of the Baptist Union loan (£10,353 per month), and work together to clear the entire debt in order to go again for what God calls us to next!
AREAS WE'VE BEEN ABLE TO BLESS
THROUGH OUR GIVING
Just as we encourage church members to give ten percent (a tithe) of their income to God’s mission through the church, we also give away ten percent of our income at Gateway. We use this to bless other ministries, to help plant and strengthen churches, and to serve the poor.
given to help to provide assistance for communities affected by the war in Ukraine.
given to plant and strengthen churches around the world through our partnership with Advance.
to support people, churches and mission in Nepal, India, South Africa and the UK.
to support Mission through the Baptist Union.
to local people and organisations in need.
We give generously to the mission of Jesus because we love him, we love partnering in his mission to reach and save the lost and bless the poor, and because we want to reflect the generosity that he shows us through the gospel.
Giving of our finances is a significant act of faith, and a mark of a disciple of Jesus. All that we have, we receive from Jesus in the first place. Whatever the economic conditions and geo-political pressures, the people of God are called to fight fear with faith, and trust him to meet our needs as we trust him with our finances.
Here are some of the ways that we have met that challenge in the last year. Our General Fund is how we pay for our day to day operations. Our Vision Fund is used for ways in which we feel God calls us to respond to his plan for us for the future, such as with the Alder Road building project. We prayerfully and faithfully give to both.
General Fund : Income and Expenditure
The elders and trustees have set another faith-filled budget for 23/24. As we seek to serve more people in more places and reach further and further with the gospel, it is important that we place our trust in God for his provision in every area of our need - finance being just one of them!
Over the past year we have had five main teaching series:
A House for My Name
This series gave an overview of the whole of the Old Testament. It is vital we understand the story we are part of.
Encounters with Jesus
In this series we looked at how encountering Jesus transforms people’s lives.
As we got ready for completing the building work at Alder Road and moving back into two congregations this series from 2 Corinthians helped us prepare.
The Lord’s Prayer
To start the year we took 21 days to pray and fast and explored the shape of prayer taught us by Jesus.
The Air We Breathe
In this series we took a deep dive into some cultural issues, showing how Christianity provides more satisfying answers to the longings of our hearts.
SOME SIGNIFICANT STATS
Average number of people attending Life Groups per term
Number of songs sung on Sundays
Average Sunday attendance
STORIES OF GOD'S FAITHFULNESS
TASTE THE NATIONS
We know that we are caught up in God’s mission to all nations and anticipate the day when people from every nation, tribe and tongue will gather before Jesus’ throne. So we are delighted that people from many nations are part of our Gateway family, including:
Honduras, Columbia, Brazil, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Poland, Lithuania, Germany, India, the Philippines, Ukraine, China, Iran and others .
Our annual Taste the Nations event was once again a wonderful way of celebrating different cultures and flavours as we ate food from around the world.
MINISTRY UPDATE: KIDS
Another year wow! Many things have happened and as always, through storms and moments of calm God has been with and sustained those of us who are part of the kid’s team.
We continued working together at the 502 building during the latter part of 2022 while patiently preparing for another big change coming our way at full speed, the launch of the new Alder Road site.
We had a nice end of year meeting with all the team in November, lots of games, food and a reminder of why we are part of the kids team and why we do what we do, which is: to teach our kids the deep truths of the gospel and to point them to Jesus so they can have a personal relationship with Him.
We have had 2 baptisms among our kids, one while we were still meeting at 502 all together and one since we have been meeting as two sites. So, praise God because he is touching and moving in our kids’ lives.
Since we split into two sites, we have seen an increase again in the number of kids coming along on Sunday at both sites, which is great. It brings new challenges but makes every Sunday more exciting.
We are still praying for new friendships to be formed, for the kids to get closer to God, for personal relationships with Jesus and for the kids' lives to be transformed and affirmed in Jesus.
So why not join us in those prayers? And why not think about joining our team?
To the team: thanks again for what you do week after week, thanks for planting the seeds of the gospel in the hearts of our Kids!
MINISTRY UPDATE: YOUTH
We've had a great year so far and seen the young people grow in their relationship with Jesus in many ways. Wednesdays are a consistent highlight with an evening of games, hang out time and meeting with God. A segment everyone particularly loves on Wednesday nights is called "counting every blessing". This is where the youth can share from the front something God has done in the week, it is great to hear from them about how they are seeing God involved in their lives. We have had a few new youth join us on Wednesday nights who have really got stuck in with all parts of the youth group. There have been a couple of the young people baptised recently and there are a few more baptisms coming up. The Sunday youth team has grown which was an answer to prayer and the youth are enjoying the topics we are looking at during Sunday mornings. The youth band continues to practice regularly and the older young people who are part of this have grown in leadership and relationship with God which has had an impact on the wider youth group. The sleepover in mid-March went really well and was a great extended time of what God has been doing throughout the year already.
MINISTRY UPDATE: STUDENTS & 20s
Our goal for the Students & 20s this year was to really make the most of our time together as a group, to study the Bible more, to open up with one another about how life is going and to develop deeper friendships. We've definitely gone a long way to doing this and it's been amazing to see the growth in individuals from September to now, from leading life group devotionals and sharing their testimonies to doing the Freedom in Christ course and deciding to get baptised!
We have grown in size once again which has been encouraging to see, plus we grew our leadership team to include Steve and Catherine Hunter which was vitally needed and has been a huge win for the whole group.
Student lunches continue to be a firm favourite with every S20 and so a massive thank you to everyone who has opened up their homes and fed our herd of students (we're still trying to teach them how to wash up afterwards).
MINISTRY UPDATE: TRUTH BE TOLD
Since January 2023 Truth be Told has been running in ‘The Aldbury’ a local dementia nursing home.
Paul and Julie Barnett have been visiting residents there with young children and their parents, building friendships with the residents (our older friends) and the lovely staff.
The nursing home love having us visit and this welcome has enabled us to share some precious times across the generations. We have heard resident’s stories, seen lots of smiles and laughter, babies have had extra cuddles and many silly songs have been sung.
At its heart TBT’s desire is to value the weak and vulnerable and share the love of Christ with them so we are pleased to have been able to pray with our older friends and meet some of their families who have praise for us and what we are doing.
At a recent session one resident said how pleased she was to hear us talking about Jesus with the Christian family of another turning up in person just to be with their mum during a session - even one of the home’s carers brought along her own child to be in a session.
MINISTRY UPDATE: OASIS
Oasis has thrived over the last year, especially with the development of the befriending team. We now have ten people who have been journeying with people in or out of the refuge. This team is able to help with practical challenges such as finding work, driving lessons, setting up a business, moving home, support with English or maths or simply taking a family on a day trip. We ran a number of successful events and day trips over the last year: pizza in the park, summer paddle boarding and a Christmas party, park walks and so on. We are able to provide gifts when people arrive at the refuge and source things they need.
A number of those from the refuge have become very involved in Gateway life, attending services and life groups and coming to events like Taste the Nations and the summer camp. The iAmconfident and increasing skills sessions serve vulnerable or struggling women in the local area as well as families from the refuge. We support women from as young as early 20s to late 70s who regularly attend. As well as the personal development sessions we have also made Christmas stockings together, created a vision board and knit together too. We have had really positive feedback about these sessions:
'I feel like this is my family.'
'I do not know what I would have done or how I would have coped if I did not have these sessions every week to go to.'
'I now know I can cut people's hair again, thank you so much for providing the opportunity in the Church every week. It has really grown my confidence.'
'The vision board session has helped me to think differently and be more purposeful and start thinking about me and what I like and what I can do.'
'I feel I now understand how to be assertive and understand why I was misunderstood before.'
God is doing great things!
MINISTRY UPDATE: GATEHOUSE
Gatehouse was launched in June last year at 502, running on Thursday and Friday mornings. We have a wonderful group of Gateway volunteers who set up and make drinks, serve cake, sit and chat or play games with our guests. From our original numbers it has grown to between 70-80 people visiting on Thursdays with fewer on Fridays. We have welcomed people from all age groups, all walks of life and several nationalities. We have encountered people needing help due to the current financial crisis, as well as a few homeless people and we were able to signpost them to the appropriate agencies. However, we are finding the greatest need by far is loneliness.
Many of our guests and especially our Golden Generation, have suffered terrible loneliness over the past three years, some were widowed during the pandemic. Many of the team have been told by guests ‘I’m just lonely’ and so Gatehouse offers a warm, welcoming place where anybody can find friendship, company, great coffee, extremely good cakes and, if they are so inclined, a super intense game of Rummikub! We have been blessed with so many answers to prayer and many positive conversations about Jesus with several Gatehouse friends now regularly attending the Sunday meetings.
ADVANCE & HOSTING CONFERENCES
In May we hosted the Advance Global conference in Bournemouth. 400 people from across the UK and around the world gathered together around the theme of Humbly Onward. It was a real joy to have friends from India, Nepal, Uganda, South Africa, Madagascar, America and Australia with us at Gateway.