Hey folks, I hope that you’re doing well, and thank you for taking the time to read our Updates. Firstly, I have to apologise for not giving last month’s update (Monthly Update – June 2023), and I hope that today’s update will better explain why.
Secondly, today’s update is going to be a little different from the usual – usually, our updates are all about “here’s the what’s been happening”, but today’s update will be more of “here’s a general assessment of where we are as a church”. These updates have already been given to the church (members and non-members), and we feel it’s necessary to give this update to everyone else. The purpose is not to paint us in a positive or negative light, neither do we want to cause a stir or panic, but rather to give a realistic view of us as a church – and in so doing, be transparent in our dealings with one another, as well as highlighting our desperate need for the Lord to work in us, and our dire need for the Lord to work for us in the areas which will be detailed below.
So, here’s the update (please excuse that it’s lengthy compared to the usual):
The Church Situation
Since the start of the year, we have been working at a slower pace than last year, and we have since continued to slow down for various reasons that I’ve mentioned in a previous update, but will mention here again:
- We Have Lost Church Workers – Since July 2022, we have had to say goodbye to a lot of our workforce. As many of you are aware, Travis and his family (the church planters) have moved back to America to occupy a new role within their Missions Board/Agency. Not long after this, Sam and his family (missionaries who worked with Travis) moved to Colchester to continue the work that Travis started there. In March 2023, Bethany (a missionary who worked with us for a year) went back home to America to raise support with the hopes of returning to the UK as a full-time missionary. We have been blessed to have worked with them throughout their time here, but without them, the work is unsustainable for the saints who have remained – without slowing down, we will all be in danger of being over-worked and over-burdened to the point of burnout and exhaustion.
- We Want To Focus On Grounding Our People, Not Ministry Output – As a follow up to the point above, we want to focus on building up the people who are left here rather than putting them to work in a ministry. According to Ephesians 4:11-12, we believe that we must first perfect, or mature (ground) the saints so that they are equipped, enabled, and ready to do the work of ministry; not the other way around where they are put into a ministry or a position they are not equipped for.
- We (Ricardo and Katharina) Have Had Another Child – My wife gave birth to our third child on the 1st April. Because of this, we will be unable to do as much for the next few months as we take the time to focus on a new family dynamic.
Despite the slower pace at Downham, things are still a bit too much for us to handle as a small congregation.
The Church Situation – Some Good News
We do have good news, for which we praise the Lord. In the last few months, we have seen some visitors become regular attenders. We have had a baptism. Some of the men in the church have had the opportunity to preach and hone their God-given gifts. Although we don’t have evangelism as a “formal ministry” anymore, some of the saints have begun to witness and share the gospel on a day-to-day basis. Some of the church people have hosted each other and have spent more time with each other outside of our scheduled church meetings.
In short, the Lord has blessed us, and has graciously worked to bring about some growth and maturity. Having said that, we’re finding it to be an extremely slow process, but nonetheless, we praise the Lord.
The Church Situation – Some Bad News
Whilst we rejoice in the good things, we want to be realistic and honest about some other things as well. Despite the increase in attendance and the growth we’re seeing in the lives of those who have been here a while, we are still unable to start/re-start ministries, and we are struggling with the burden of necessary church administration. Of those attending the church, only a fraction are able to commit to the church work for the following reasons:
- Lack Of Time – Living in London means that everyone is busy working to survive, pay bills, take care of family, . There’s very little time to commit to church meetings and church events, never mind committing to the work of the church.
- Lack Of Knowledge/Ability – There are those who have a desire to serve in some way, but are unable due to a lack of knowledge/ability. For example, there are those who show an interest in teaching, but are not yet at the point where they are able to teach/communicate Bible truths (because they themselves don’t know the truths to teach); those who show interest in the music ministry, but have not the ability to play musical instruments.
- Lack Of Maturity – We believe that every believer should serve in the church, but we also believe that those who lead ministries, those who occupy positions within the church should be mature believers whose example the rest of the congregation can emulate and follow. For example, we believe that we should all invest in the lives of those younger than us, however, we don’t believe it’s right for someone who has been a believer for a short period should be teaching a class.
The list above is NOT AN ATTACK against the saints at Downham. What we are saying is that we need people who are willing, able, committed, and mature enough to take on the responsibilities of “running a church”. The majority of the people at Downham are in need of being ministered to and equipped so that they can grow to the point of being able to take some of responsibilities – this is why we have been focusing on “grounding the people, not ministry outputs”, but it is a slow process. We will continue to minister to the saints here with the hopes of seeing them mature and take on more responsibilities.
Alongside this, we have lost our main source of income. Since 2021, the church had been hiring the Church Hall out to the British Red Cross (BRC) on a regular basis for their First Aid Courses – this was the church’s main source of income. Sadly, we have had to stop hiring the hall out to them for the following reason:
Downham Baptist Church does not own the building that we occupy, we rent it from The London City Mission. It is stated in our Tenancy At Will with our Landlords that we are not to sublet or charge other parties for the use of the building. Since we hired the hall out to the BRC, we have breached the Tenancy At Will and have had to stop allowing the BRC the use of the building.
NOTE: The church members and attenders are generous givers, especially considering the circumstances of the current Cost of Living Crisis in the UK, the expenses of living in London, and the saints supporting families in their home countries.
Where Does This Put Us As A Church?
With everything said so far, it means that we are, as a church, unable to stay functioning in the same way that we are at this current point in time. Our current set up is not sustainable. Without the necessary workers, we will be unable to effectively grow, and the workload and administrative burdens will overwhelm the few who are currently able to commit to the church work. We currently have an underwhelming structure in that we have one Pastor/Elder, and one Deacon – we seek to be able to put spiritually mature, capable men, into the Diaconate and the Eldership so that the workload can be shared more evenly (we are currently unable to do this). Without our main source of income, the church funds will continue to decrease, resulting in us (the Hipolito family) being unable to stay and labour here as we are financially supported by the church.
We are in need of more workers who can take on some of the responsibilities in the following areas:
- Church Administration (helping deal with accounts, policies, insurance, etc.)
We are at an unstable period as a church – and it seems that things are unsustainable. Be that as it may, we believe that we serve a God with whom nothing is impossible. Throughout church history, there have been many congregations who have been in similar or worse situations, and yet they have experienced the blessedness of seeing God work to rescue and sustain them.
Despite the negative tone of this update, “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28), and we trust that the Lord will use this as an opportunity to conform us into the image of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Please pray for us, specifically that the Lord would give us wisdom as to how to progress, and also for labourers who can help in this corner of the field.
Thank you for taking the time to read, I appreciate that this update is lengthier, and more grave in tone than usual. If you have any questions, or queries, or would like for anything to be clarified, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I love you all in the Lord,