Looking Back, Looking Forward
“By the grace of God” is the phrase that springs to mind when I think of Oxfordshire Community Churches. I was first called to be student pastor at Cote Baptist Church in 1972, and then became full-time pastor in 1974. That means it’s now 42 years that I have been working in ministry in this region of the country, to my great surprise. I expected to end up in the inner city somewhere, since I grew up in the Toxteth area of Liverpool, but God’s plans were different.
When I think of the great teams of people that God put together to work together, the fourteen churches planted, spiritual sons and daughters trained up and sent out to plant and lead churches in UK, France, and other countries, it’s a testimony to the grace of God. Then there is the founding of The King’s School, and subsequently Tyndale Community School, and young people associated with church and school who are now involved in politics, education, medical work, social work and enterprise and mission in many nations, it’s truly the amazing grace of God! We have seen the purchase and use of the The King’s Centre, involvement with many local projects such as street pastoring, healing on the streets, besom, playgroups, mums and toddlers, working with homeless people, the establishment of community centres, youth projects. We have seen amazing moves of God, healings too numerous to mention, and people coming to know Jesus in all sorts of amazing ways. We are always looking for more, but, by the grace of God, we have seen many lives powerfully touched and transformed by God.
We have sent teams all over the world, to France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Slovakia, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Scandinavia, India, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Zambia, many N. African nations, S. America, China, Japan, to name but a few of those I can think of off the top of my head as I write. Some of these have engaged short-term, and some long-term, and many of them with amazing impact. I am profoundly grateful, and very aware of the grace of God.
I see people who are currently part of our churches now, or whose lives were significantly impacted and trained within our churches, now influencing significant areas of society here in the UK and all over the world – by the grace of God. I am profoundly grateful, for this represents many people who are totally committed to God’s Kingdom, and many teams who have worked tirelessly together for God’s glory, and by God’s grace are having a huge impact.
I wondered whether to list some individual names, but decided there were too many to list! But I value so many hundreds of people who have been part of this family of churches, or who were trained in this family of churches, and I say all credit and honour to you, even as glory goes to our Saviour Jesus.
For years, as OCC was being built and established, we worked as one family of churches across the area of Oxfordshire and beyond. Our first and simplest strapline was “Oxfordshire for Jesus”, although this soon became too small a vision, as God led us into Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Berkshire. A few years ago, God spoke to us again prophetically, as he has done many times at critical junctures in our development, that it was time not to look simply for one area church, but that he wanted to multiply us into three regions. Still one family, with the same heritage and DNA, but now working in three regions – to multiply our influence and fruitfulness for God’s Kingdom.
It has taken us time to develop these regions, but by the grace of God, it has happened over the last few years. The Central team led by Steve and Bev Jones, the South team led by Neil and D Townsend, and the West team led by Dan and Kerst Campsall. I am confident that these three regions can, by the grace of God, also see more churches planted, more of society influenced by God’s Kingdom, more nations touched with the glory of King Jesus, more people trained up to be Jesus’ men and women with passion in their hearts to touch God’s world with God’s power and presence.
I pray that, by the grace of God, all our weakness will be turned to strength to take these three regions forward powerfully into all the promises of God for them. The teams have already been commissioned a couple of years ago, and Lorraine’s and my own role is defined now simply as being a spiritual mother and father and mentors to these teams. I am praying that their future will be much more anointed than ours, by the grace of God, and that these regions will influence even more dynamically their neighbourhoods, other cities and nations.
Who knows exactly what the future contains? I would never have guessed forty years ago what was going to come in the future through OCC, but we do know that God wants to keep growing his Kingdom in our nation and all the nations of the earth, and we can all be part of it!
Steve and Lorraine Thomas continue to serve the Oxfordshire Community Churches family as a spiritual mum and dad. From their base here they also travel widely offering advice, support and teaching to churches and leaders internationally. Steve leads the International Apostolic Team of Salt & Light, our wider family of churches.