In a tiny ‘gospel hall’ in a back street in Lancaster around 20 people begin to gather for the weekly meeting of Moorlands Church. The church is a mainly elderly congregation, who want to see their city reached for Jesus, but have found their numbers and energy dwindling. This morning, however, there is the excitement of a new beginning.
A small team, led by Danny Rurlander, who has moved with his wife Emma and four young children, has joined them with a vision to re-start the church in order to bring the gospel of Jesus to the city and its two university campuses. As Bibles are opened for the first sermon, everyone is conscious that God alone can give the growth through his powerful Word.
Lancaster, 8 March 2015, 10am
In the foyer of the Ripley Sixth Form Academy around 220 people gather over coffee for the morning meeting of Moorlands Church. Young and retired, families and students, people from Britain and the rest of the world from China to the Dominican Republic.
The place is buzzing with children. Bibles are opened with the same conviction with which the work began – that God grows his church through his Word. And the evidence is clear: after the meeting several groups of international students will eat together and meet to study the Bible; the 14–18s will return later in the day to do the same; in the evening the students will return for a talk, meal and Bible study taking them through Romans; during the week there will be numerous small groups meeting all over the city; youth and children’s programmes; enquirers’ courses; regular evangelistic events for both students and non-students; training courses and dozens of people meeting one-to-one to read the Bible. Across the river in Morecambe, Church By The Bay, planted by Moorlands in 2011, will be beginning their morning meeting.
How did it happen?
What was it that caused such growth? Danny Rurlander explains: ‘We’ve done absolutely nothing new or revolutionary. From the very beginning, our method has been to pray, open God’s Word, and trust him to do his work. And that reliance on God’s Word has meant that we’ve been relentlessly focused on training people to live and speak for Jesus in whatever context they find themselves. As well as the city and wider Bay area we have seen the two universities as a particular mission field – our goal is to see hundreds of students converted, clarified and equipped to serve Jesus for the rest of their lives, and in God’s grace that is what is happening. And we have worked hard to train all of our church family to put the kingdom first, to know how to build the church and to live and speak for Jesus. All that is about multiplying ministry – raising up workers for the harvest field who are passionate about Jesus’s glory, are crystal clear on his gospel and can be sent out to serve him usefully elsewhere.’
It was that gospel which transformed Michael’s life. Michael was brought to Moorlands as a student in 2012 by some Christian friends. ‘When I came to Moorlands, I knew nothing of the gospel, of how sinful I am, or of what Jesus’s death meant. Through coming to church and doing a Christianity Explored course I heard God’s word clearly taught for the first time. I came to understand what Jesus had done, and that it demanded a response. I am so thankful that God completely changed my heart.’
Since becoming a Christian, Michael has grown steadily as a disciple of Jesus and has quickly learned how to disciple others. He is currently part of Moorlands’ Ministry Training Scheme where he is learning to handle God’s Word and lead others in order to be equipped for a lifetime of fruitful service.
‘Michael is by no means alone’, says Nathan Weston, the assistant pastor. ‘Last year we baptised 13 people, and over the last ten years the Lord has graciously turned around hundreds of lives as people have grasped what God is doing in his world to bring about his purposes in Jesus. But there is so much more to do.’
The church is looking back with thanks to God for his grace and kindness. But Danny and the team of elders and staff at Moorlands are keen to make sure no one is sitting on their laurels. Danny explains: ‘We are celebrating our tenth anniversary by looking to the future, redoubling our efforts to reach the city and campuses for Christ. We have begun with a blank canvas and will effectively be re-launching ourselves this summer with one clear aim of making more disciples for Christ. And we will be praying that we will be faithful to the gospel and fearless in its proclamation for another ten years, and beyond.’