In early 2002 a group of about 15 of us began meeting together to discuss how we would set up and run new church plant in a village with no other evangelical witness. We booked the local community centre, leafleted the area, spoke to people on the doors about the kind of church they would consider going to, and planned the first service. We really had no idea what to expect that first year.
The first year
Baglan Community Church (BCC) held its first service on 1 September 2002. Somehow, 90 or so people showed up! Some came from other churches to support us for our opening, but as time went by we were still getting about 70 people each week. Some who came were Christians who hadn’t attended church for a number of years but had been moved by God to respond to the leaflet drop, whilst others came who weren’t saved but likewise testified to how they felt drawn to come. One lady was converted in the first service, and over the next few weeks her whole family and her sister’s family came and were converted. That was the pattern throughout our first year.
As the years went by the growth continued, albeit at a slower rate. In 2010 the local social club shut down and was put up for sale. Interest in the building, or at least the land it was on, came not only from ourselves but also from a housing association and a large supermarket chain. Our initial reaction was to almost resign ourselves to defeat. How on earth could we compete against organisations of that size and with that level of financial clout? But then we felt challenged to ask ourselves the question, ‘Who’s bigger? God or Tesco?’
We were convinced that if God wanted us to have the building then have the building we would. Cutting a long story short, a series of events took place that put us into pole position and the building was ours. With so many church buildings today becoming restaurants and pubs, it was thrilling for us to see this particular pub becoming home to a church! We renovated the building and now have a modern centre with a hall that seats approximately 350, other rooms of various sizes, and a community coffee house.
Of all those who have become Christians in BCC over the years there are two that stand out for me, the conversions of Barry and ‘Big Phil’.
Barry was a man who had been involved in madcap fundraising activities for years. He had an alter ego. He would dress up as ‘Captain Beany’ – an orange painted, giant sized baked bean of a superhero with a cape from the planet Beanus – crazy I know! Wherever Barry went the expectation for him to play the role of the madcap entertainer weighed heavily on him, and, unbeknown to anyone apart from his doctor, he was depressed and lost.
He was befriended by a member of the church who loved him for who he was. Barry was soon coming regularly to the Sunday services, was converted, and at his baptism, in floods of tears, he spoke of how God had done what the doctors had been unable to do. He was now forgiven and filled with God’s life and joy.
Phil was a 21 stone, ex-SAS and now weightlifting lump of a man. His first Sunday in church, having been invited by his girlfriend, was Easter Sunday. Phil’s testimony at his baptism was that no-one in his entire life had ever been able to put him on his knees. That Sunday, God literally brought him to his knees, and on his knees he stayed until he was ready to rise up a forgiven man and a follower of Jesus.
Before we opened the doors for our first service back in 2002, we had an overwhelming conviction that God was both able and willing to work and to save. So whilst it would be true to say that we were a little shocked at the immediate growth we saw, we had been praying with a degree of expectation that God would work. We knew that the gospel was the only hope for everyone, and we were determined to tell as many people as possible what Jesus had done for them. There are still many, many people in our locality who are not saved and who we haven’t reached yet. Our vision and desire is that God will continue to use us in reaching more people for Christ.