Interview with Lucas Parks
Support Lead for Europe
- You’re a church planter, based in Belfast. Tell us about your family and your ministry there.
My wife, Su, and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary last month. God has blessed us with 3 children ages 8, 10 and 15. We’ve experienced both the celebrations and challenges of raising a family, and planting a church at the same time.
We launched Village Church Belfast publicly 6 years ago, but since we were really targeting the unchurched/dechurched, we worked slowly under the radar for a couple of years discipling and developing a core group before launching, so in many ways it is a church with relationships that are 8-9 years old. The Lord has been kind to us and after 2 years of renting space and setting up every week, we were given use of a church building that had closed. With the growth that occurred during that season, last year we were able to send 35-40 adults with another pastor to plant a second congregation in another part of the city, and they have more than doubled in that time. Acts 29 has been integral in our ability to plant two churches with plans to plant a third in the next two years, because of the assessment, training, and support we received and the relationships we have developed in the network.
- You were recently given the all clear following cancer treatment. In what ways have you seen God working through these past few challenging years?
I suppose most people don’t expect to hear they have cancer in their mid forties, so obviously it took me by surprise. Because it was throat and neck cancer I wondered how, if I survived, it would affect my speech and ability to preach and really had to trust God during a time that your own mortality, future quality of life, ministry etc… is unknown. I like certainty and the ability to know what is happening to be able to plan the next seasons of life and ministry, so to have all that taken away and have the reality that my life, family, ministry is in the Lord’s hands and not mine, was brought into sharp focus! God has, and is continuing, to use this journey to challenge me to trust him with things I want to think are in my hands. He also has strengthened my marriage and family, bringing my wife, children and I much closer together. Cancer and the treatment brought new levels of vulnerability between us, and focused us on what is really important and matters. It was a very aggressive treatment regime and so I was out of ministry, or very limited in what I could “do for the Lord”, for 6-9 months and yet I experienced more of his tangible love and intimacy during that time when I wasn’t working, or achieving anything. It was a needed reminder that God’s love and affection is set upon me solely by grace, and not because I earn it by working hard for it.
- Tell us about your role at Acts 29.
I love Acts 29! I’ve been privileged to be a part of it from its inception in Europe, and it’s been such a joy and testament of God’s kindness to us as a network to see its growth and maturation over the past decade. In the early days I served as European Assessment Coordinator, and most recently as Country Director for Ireland. I’m now looking forward to getting a new role in Europe up and running as Support Lead. In a survey of english speaking assessments, when asked the question “why Acts 29?”, the most frequent word used after planting was ‘support’. As a network we offer support through many resources and structures such as assessments, conferences, coaching, training, webinars etc. However, the element of support that is anecdotally evident is best described as ” a sense of belonging”. As we grow, how can this be nurtured and not lost, so that churches, pastors and wives feel valued and connected?
This role will be two fold:
Advocate for the network by:
-providing personal contact with lead pastors and churches
-pursuing churches that are less engaged with the network to explore how they can be better connected
-Meeting non-Acts 29 churches to explore partnerships
Advocate for the church by:
-Listening, caring, advising, serving and providing a voice of experience if needed
-Linking churches for partnership
-Raising common issues that affect churches to the Network Leadership Team
-Thinking about how the network cares for pastoral health and implementing structures of support
Essentially healthy churches plant churches and a healthy network is an attractive network, so this role will try to support the health of pastors and be a signpost if pastors need a place to reach out to. We’ve had specific people look after the first 3 aspects of A.C.T.S. (Assessment, Coaching and Training) and we have developed into a network, not just of planters, but maturing churches so for Support to now have a dedicated point person to nurture that aspect of our network in Europe seems right. I look forward to having an initial call with all our European planters/pastors in the next couple of months to gauge our needs and get feedback on how best we can serve them.