John Peters is the Rector of St Marys, an Anglican church in the heart of London. It began meeting in 1997 as an initiative of Holy Trinity Brompton. St Marys has grown to over 1400 people and the average age is around 26.
I attended the St Marys refresh conference recently and interviewed John about the growing church planting movement that is springing up around St Marys.
1. Tell me about St Marys?
It's an Anglican church strongly influenced and founded on the principles of the Vineyard movement with a commitment to growing by conversion, a commitment to ministry in the power of the Spirit, and a commitment to an unreligious ethos.
2. How did you get into church planting?
I always thought we'd get around to church planting one day, but because of the way in which our church began we had to overcome considerable challenges at the start. We had to raise £3.7 million to renovate an historic building in the heart of London and move into it.
As soon as we had overcome that challenge God brought up the question of church planting. I felt a strong call to plant churches. But I dispute that you need a call. All churces are called to plant churches.
I recall a day of prayer and fasting. God spoke to me through his promise to Abraham, "I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing to the nations." I saw the nations as people groups. Some had churches and others didn't. I felt God wanted me to set up a loose affiliation of churches.
It was for our benefit. We need to give ourselves away—money, leaders, and people.
3. What are you learning about church planting movements?
As with most things in life what begins as a carefree spontaneous love affair has to become a marriage. You need to set up training and support systems. You need to employ people to help with the set up and administration.
We employ a leader, a project manager (not just an administrator), a youth leader, a worship leader and children's worker. Ideally they are employed positions from the start. In addition there is a wider team.
4. What new initiatives are you working on?
I'm thinking about Hollywood at the moment. Hollywood is the worst place I've ever seen. It's overtly influenced by the occult and it's overtly sexualized.
We'll start with three gathering meetings. We'll look for a good size core group. We'll run our LIFE course and do some teaching about the Holy Spirit. We'll provide a pneumatology that is neither Pentecostal or formal or dead. Not mad, but real.
We'll run three gathering events in next eighteen months. We'll cast a wide net and look for the right people to build a team and build partnerships with local leaders. Wide net and look for right popel for the team. We'll be looking especially for God's leader for the church plant.
We have church plants and friends of St Marys in Florida in the US, New Zealand, Brazil, Germany (partnerhip), Uganda and Exeter. We have a Spanish church plant in London of about 100 people.
We're looking at Australia and Hungary.
5. What are you learning?
I'm learning it has to be the Spirit who is doing it.
I'm learning the more maturity you can get into your leaders the better.
I'm learning the more they inhabit the values of our movement the better.
I'm learning that leaders need a lot of support. You can't just spit them out and leave them. You're in it for the long hall.
I'm learning that church planting is incredibly life-giving when it works. You also need to accept the possibility of failure.
I'm learning you really you can't pay enough for the people who "get it". How do you get crazy people who connect with lost people. We need people on the edge. You can't train it into them.
I'm learning you need to find hard core adventurers. You need to invest in them when they are young.
6. Who is going to win the FA cup?
That is a question of no consequence. Arsenal, the supreme expression football excellence, has been trampled under foot by the Russian mafia. The only thing now is to look forward to next season.
7. What are you reading?
An excellent series of cartoon books called "Daddy: what's it like to have small children?" I read them in the loo.
8. What's your relationship with the Anglican church?
One of the reasons I became an atheist as a young person was my Anglican church experience. But my current experience of Anglican church leadership has been positive.
We receive strong support from the Bishop of London. I regard him as head and shoulders above most leaders in the English church. He is a blesser of life. He has never succeeded in saying no to anything we've done.
Mostly I get on with doing things without the need for asking permission.
9. If you were in your 20s, starting all over again, what would you do?
I wouldn't change a thing.
10. What legacy do you want to leave behind?
I believe that God has called me to have multitudes of descendants. Despite all the problems and struggles of my life, God has repeatedly spoken to me through the story of Abraham.