At the start of this year, I’m featuring a number of church planters. I’ve written a bit about whether we really need new churches, and a couple of weeks ago I featured Gary Bolton from the Journey, in Lisburn. In this post, we get to meet Lucas Parks who leads a church called Village, in Belfast.
Lucas is 40 (you’d never guess from the photo) and has been married to Su for 20 years. They have 2 girls Averi- 10 & Kenedi-5, and a 3 year old son Lawson. Lucas is from Northern Ireland but moved to the US as a child as his father is American. he and his wife returned nearly 10 years ago where he worked as an assistant pastor in an existing church. In addition to his local church leadership, he currently serves as Country Director (Ireland) for Acts 29 Europe – a global church planting network seeking to catalyse the planting and replanting of gospel-centred churches by assessing, coaching, training, and supporting church planters. Lucas came to faith in his youth, and was called to ministry while doing a one year bible course during a gap year. He then went to seminary to complete a degree in theology.
Tell us about your sense of call and vision for this new work
As I was working in an established church in Co. Armagh I was spending more time amongst Belfast’s young, emerging creatives due to my brother being a musician. I was attending gigs and meeting loads of people who would ask what I did for a living. They were always surprised when I said a pastor! This almost always led to a conversation I would end up having dozens of times about how they were interested in spirituality, Christianity or Jesus, but put off by their perception of institutional church. I realise some of their issues with the church were false perceptions, or an excuse to live however they wanted but there were also enough real issues that it started to bother me that there was a whole subculture of young people who were open to the Gospel but found church too entrenched in our troubled history, or in a commitment to unnecessary traditions over Gospel clarity. We felt God calling us to move to Belfast and get involved in the lives of these people to plant the Gospel and let a church organically grow from that work. we want to be a church that makes sense as we practice the way of Jesus in community as we are committed to Gospel fidelity and clarity.
Tell us about your church – where is it, when did it start, how is it going?
We started with 6 people in my living room, and after 2 years of studying the bible together, and developing missional communities that have rhythms of practicing the way of Jesus together we launched Village Church Belfast publicly in February of 2014. We currently rent the hall from Cooke Presbyterian on the Ormeau Road, though we are looking for a new venue that would allow for further growth and a morning meeting time for our central gathering (we currently meet at 5pm). We have 3 missional communities that meet throughout the week and have about 50 adults involved regularly in the life of our church. We have new people most weeks, and are encouraged by God’s presence among us.
What are some of your hopes for the church in 2015?
That we would continue to build upon the foundation God has laid so far. We started with almost exclusively single people in their 20’s, but a lot of them have gotten married at Village and are now having kids – so caring well for children and families, as well as single people will be important. We would also like to see our demographic get a bit more “mature”. We love that our church is filled with young people in their 20’s and 30’s, but we look forward to the day when I’m not the oldest person in the church… we would welcome some older, wiser saints! Also as we are now establishing a more public presence in the community, we are praying for opportunities to serve our neighbourhoods as we join God in the renewal of all things. We continually personalise Jesus’ prayer that it would be in Belfast as it is in heaven.
How would you like to be able to relate to other, more established churches in your community?
The other churches on the Ormeau Road have warmly welcomed us, and we have a good relationship with them. All the ministers meet monthly and they have welcomed me into that fellowship. I guess I would like all new church plants to have a relationship that is mutually beneficial with established churches. We as a plant have much to offer in ways existing churches (which are often in decline) can learn mission and ways to engage culture in meaningful ways to see the Kingdom of God grow. Existing churches in turn have resources, hopefully a good reputation and know the history of the community. I think willingness to partner or cooperate together where possible could serve both churches and the community well.
To find out more about Village, Belfast, you can visit their website.