Becontree is miles away. Not from Dagenham admittedly. But I live in Streatham. And it’s miles away. And so my heart sank temporarily on Monday morning when I realised my termly visit to London’s north-east had come around again. Google maps quoted 1 hour 37 minutes if I went by bike. That was the briefest of deliberations. I didn’t feel I could justify putting Uber on expenses. But Rosslyn had the car. And so I went by public transport. I must have sat on the District Line from Victoria for an hour. But it dawned on me that Mike Reith, the Antioch Planter in Becontree, has been travelling this journey almost every week to commute to the Antioch. So why has he done that?
In short, he’s loved being part of a cohort of planters who get together to talk strategy, share scars and swap war stories. It’s been the camaraderie and the stimulation of being part of a group who really get what you’re doing ‘from the inside’ that makes that kind of commute worthwhile. The other Antioch Planters know what he’s going through. They’re asking the same kinds of questions. They know what it feels like; the discouragements, the excitement, the anxiety and uncertainty. They get it. It’s one thing to be independent and single minded. It’s quite another to be isolated. And there are a lot of lonely church planters out there. But one thing God has done through Antioch is to form these guys into a Band of Brothers. And our planters are better off for it.
It’s worth saying that Mike is not your typical church planter for the urban estate environment. He wears a Barbour and flat cap, owns a labrador and still thinks a tattoo is something that involves the army and happens in Edinburgh. But for the last three years, ever since he led the church planting team out from Dagenham Parish Church where he’d been the Senior Minister for over twenty years, he has been engaging the estate with the good news of the gospel. Their door knocking ministry is beginning to bear significant fruit. A number of people from the estate have joined their church and some have professed faith in Christ. And now Becontree Church is a gnat’s whisker away from being recognised as a Co-Mission established church. What that means is that in God’s kindness he’s grown the congregation, provided them with resources and raised up leaders to take responsibility for the gospel ministry there. It’s a wonderful story of the planting team’s stubborn sacrifice and God’s grace.