In 1925, twenty-one followers of Jesus gathered on the site of what would become our church building at Alder Road to pray Alder Road Baptist Church into existence. Their vision: "To build a chapel, usual or convenient for carrying on the work of a Christian Church."
1925 feels a world away now, but we still carry that original vision to see the church flourish in Poole and beyond. Nearly a century on there have been many changes in our town and in our church (not least a change of name, and buying a second venue) but we are still committed to telling the story of what Jesus has done for us in our local community, across Poole and Bournemouth, and to the ends of the earth.
Some of the key milestones for us in more recent years include:
Connecting in heart and mission
Alder Road was founded as a Baptist Church, and Ashley Road was a Methodist Church. While we are grateful for these historical connections, our primary relationship has been with Newfrontiers, becoming part of the Newfrontiers family of churches in the late 1980's.
Newfrontiers was founded and led by Terry Virgo and was born out of the charismatic renewal of the early 1970â€™s. Terry had a powerful personal experience of the Spirit which set off a chain of events in how he understood Christ's purpose for the church - such things as an expectation of the use of spiritual gifts by followers of Jesus; having a team of elders, rather than a solitary pastor, leading local churches; and the role of the 'Ephesians 4' gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers who serve across churches. Over time an increasing number of churches began to look to Terry and the team that grew around him for apostolic leadership, and these churches eventually formed a family known as Newfrontiers.
In 2011 Terry, now in his seventies, stepped back from the leadership of Newfrontiers and a number of other men and their teams were recognised as carrying apostolic authority in the Newfrontiers family. These men were given freedom to grow their own families of churches, and to adopt new names for the groups of churches they work with. At Gateway we are now connected to Advance, which is led by PJ Smyth, as well as remaining in close connection with other branches of the Newfrontiers family. The Advance movement of churches exists to plant and strengthen churches.
In January 2008 I moved to Poole, with Grace and our four daughters. Previously I had been leading New Community Church, Sidcup. Grace and I had moved to Sidcup within a year of getting married, in order to be with David Holden who was leading the church at that time. I spent two years serving the church in a full-time, unpaid position, shadowing David and attending a theology course at Spurgeon's College. I was then employed as the church youth worker, was recognised as an elder, and eventually led the church for seven years. After thirteen years in Sidcup we felt it was time to move on, and - quite unexpectedly! - the Lord led us to Poole. We now have a growing team of church staff, elders and deacons, who lead and pastor Gateway.
A change of name
When I moved to Poole I felt that it would be helpful for us to have a change of name. I came with a strong sense of being called to reach the 400,000 people in the 'South East Dorset Conurbation' rather than just a small parish around our church building, so the name 'Alder Road Baptist' felt a little restricting. However, making a change happened rather quicker than I had anticipated when in July 2008 a prophet from Canada was at a meeting in Bournemouth and prophesied over some members of Alder Road who were there: "I believe God recommisions you tonight to be a mighty army in the community, God wants you to touch Poole by the power of the Holy Spirit and be a gateway into the Kingdom of God."
While I was not at the meeting myself, as soon as I heard this prophecy the name 'Gateway' leapt out at me and in September 2008 we changed our name to that.
With limited space and a growing congregation, in January 2009 we began running two services at Alder Road on a Sunday morning. This served us very well, but we were also discussing, and becoming increasingly committed to, having meetings in more than one location. In seeking God's direction for us, and in thinking about the town in which we live, we came to the conclusion that multiple meetings/locations was a better fit for us at this time than seeking to buy a big warehouse-type building to meet in.
In response to this, in April 2013 we launched a second meeting at Poole Quay. Then, in the summer of 2015, the Methodist building at 502 Ashley Road came on the market. We felt we should go for it, were able to raise sufficient money to make an offer, which was accepted, and started meeting there in April 2016. Meeting in more than one location creates some complexity in leadership and oversight, but is also a wonderful way of multiplying leaders, giving space for more people to serve, and helping us to connect with our local communities.
We are very optimistic about the future of the church! We believe Jesus is building his church. There are times when the church suffers apparent setbacks, but because God's plan is to display his multi-coloured wisdom and glory through the church (Ephesians 3:10,21) we are confident that the church has a brilliant future. This means we are full of faith about what Jesus is doing at Gateway, and together we want to step into all that he has planned for us. Why not come with us?!
by Matthew Hosier