American, U.K., Ireland churches share challenges, solutions

Ben Greene

Pastor & writer

  • Missions


The momentum to start or revitalize 10 churches in one of the United Kingdom’s fastest-growing regions is accelerating because churches and leaders have united as partners in God’s work. 


Danbury Mission, pastored by Simon Medcroft, launched Mission Essex in 2023 to start or revitalize churches in Essex County. The church felt a growing sense of responsibility for its least-reached neighbors to the north and east of London, so it valued starting and strengthening churches.  


Medcroft met Steve Bialy, the director of Converge’s U.K.-Ireland Initiative, almost immediately after starting Mission Essex. A few months later, tight relationships throughout Converge’s network demonstrated their power when Rock Point Church in Arizona sent pastors Bill Bush, Dave Sutherland and Jeff Larson to Essex.  


The church has sent interns to the Alliance for Transatlantic Theological Training (AT3), a ministry that trains apprentices to learn from and assist the church of the U.K. As the relationships between AT3 and Rock Point deepened, the three men realized they were called to do more but didn’t know what. 


“We started a journey to go back and explore and do some trips,” Bush said. “We just had a heart for a place and a people.” 


Dialogue leads to facing the same challenges together


So, the three prioritized relationships with British church leaders on trips in 2022 and 2023. Everyone later realized churches operate on many of the same principles.  


Out of that awareness came honest dialogues about similar challenges that Mission Essex and Rock Point both navigate. Each church seeks culturally appropriate solutions for growing and sharing the gospel. But they’ve also faced some of the same obstacles along the way. 


“They can relate to us,” Medcroft said of the Converge church’s team. “We’re going to be better together.” 


Dave Sutherland, Rock Point’s executive pastor, feels optimism and inspiration. 


“It’s built an excitement at their churches and our churches for what we’re doing,” he said. “It is obvious God is doing something here.”   


Bill Bush agrees that these British churches are thriving in a situation many American churches aren’t ready to face.  


“They’ve done something we haven’t done,” Bush said. “They’re still reaching people.” 


What’s begun is just the beginning


Meanwhile, Bialy has continued to utilize Converge’s resources for church vitality and discipleship.  


“We want to do more together so that more people have the opportunity to meet, know and follow Jesus,” Bialy said. “We want to see powerful, strong gospel witnesses thriving in these communities.” 


The Mission Essex concept excites Bialy because it has the potential to be reproduced elsewhere in the U.K. He believes what Danbury Mission started is part of a gospel movement across the United Kingdom and Ireland. 


Sutherland and Bush, who minister in one of America’s least biblically literate cities, feel inspired as they learn from British believers. They want to build relationships and trust so Christ’s harvest workers can labor together. 


“There’s an opportunity in the U.K. right now,” Sutherland said. 


How is Mission Essex pursuing God’s goals?


To advance that opportunity, Mission Essex identified three priorities for the 10 churches that God will start or revitalize in the coming years. First, the mission will help small churches more easily comply with state policies.  


Next, training events are planned so all 10 churches can send volunteers and leaders to learn in a more practical way. Finally, the mission unites the 10 churches in a relationship so pastors aren’t as lonely and isolated. 


“There are a ridiculous number of pastors burnt out in the U.K.,” Medcroft added. We’re hoping that those pastors, as they plant churches, won’t feel alone.” 


Bush is quick to embrace pastors, embodying Converge’s value of God’s people working together. 


“I know what it feels like to know you’re doing ministry alone,” he said. “And in Converge, we don’t do ministry alone. You can handle the tough stuff when you’re not alone.” 


Related: Burnout among church leaders isn’t limited to the U.K. Converge can help.  


Leaders are cheering each other until the finish line


Since meeting Bialy a year ago, Medcroft has realized Converge offers his church and the whole Mission Essex effort a partner in gospel work. 


“Even Mission Essex doesn’t feel alone because we’ve got a bigger family that’s also standing behind us, cheering us on, helping us,” Medcroft said. 


Sutherland said he and the Rock Point team thank God they can be part of that family rallying around Mission Essex and churches in the U.K. and Ireland. 


“We want to get behind somebody that’s going after it there,” he said. “They are ripe for the gospel.” 


Converge is asking God for a gospel movement among every least-reached people group – in our generation. Learn how we are playing a role in accomplishing the Great Commission and how you can be involved. 

Ben Greene, Pastor & writer

Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.

Additional articles by Ben Greene