Cinderford is a small rural community. A downtrodden ex-mining town of 10,000 in the middle of the beautiful Forest of Dean.
An area where the average age is 15 per cent older than the national average, jobs are limited and low paid and a very independent, determined, stubborn spirit exists. Yet at the same time if you gain the hearts of people they are very loyal, supportive and kind.
Tim Cracknell was very happily involved in dairy farming for over 20 years when he sensed God calling him to something different. “It took a couple of years to work out what the ‘something different’ was and when I realised it was replanting a church in Cinderford of all places. I came very reluctantly and after several very clear promptings of the Holy Spirit!”
Tim has been the pastor of the Forest Community Church, Cinderford, Gloucestershire for the last 13 years. “The main focus of my role in this new church is to equip, inspire and fan into flames the gifts that God has put within those who he sends to this growing church. I call it creating the environment where others can thrive,” he said.
One person Tim has helped fan into flame is Duncan Murray, already a senior leader in the Community Church when it became evident that his secular employment was getting in the way of his church work and the desire to do more. When the opportunity arose to work full-time with the church he grabbed it with both hands.
The Hub spoke to Tim and Duncan about how they became partners in God’s work in the Forest of Dean.
Duncan: I have known Tim since the 1980s. He was in the same church singing group as a young lady I eventually married. I joined the same church but in those days we had little in common and were not what I would call buddies.
Tim: It has been quite a journey for both of us. Whilst we had known each other for many years we were not close friends at all. In fact, we are complete opposites in almost everything, but the Lord has enabled an amazing relationship to grow up between us built on mutual love and respect for each other. I know that neither of us will hold back from saying uncomfortable truths to the other if we know it is needed but always from a place of wanting the other to succeed and grow which is vital in any discipleship process.
When did you start working together?
Tim: Duncan called me when his marriage had broken up to ask what I would think if he were to come to our new church. I told him “God was the God of second chances and this could be his second chance as God was more interested in his future than his past.” Unknowingly to me at the time, those were the words of hope that he needed to hear and our relationship grew from that day on. Happily, Duncan and his wife are back together.
What work are you doing in your community?
Duncan: The main focus is now with Counties’ Neighbourhood Chaplains, which allows us to become more deliberate in the work we do within the local community.
Tim: Loneliness and isolation, debt and poverty seem to be the main needs within our communities. The same needs faced by many inner-city people but often without the framework of support.
What are your thoughts on making disciples?
Duncan: For me it’s simply getting alongside someone in a structured way to encourage and support them. Watching them grow and being able to steer them toward a fuller relationship with God is great.
Discipleship includes accountability – it’s a real pain! Having someone ask if you’ve done what you said you’d do. Are you keeping on with your plan? It’s difficult but I’m glad they persevere with me because without them I would go to pot. At last I’m in a church where I feel loved and encouraged for who I am and not what I do.
Tim: We are focusing at the moment on nurturing the next generation. We are very aware that we are in our 50s and soon will be needing to hand over the baton to the next generation. Therefore we are intentionally building up relationships with younger Christians in our church hoping to pass on what we have learned to them as we share our lives by spending time together each month. For us this is the most important part of our work so far. We must set a culture that makes disciples who make disciples. After all that is what Jesus called us to do.
Find out more about Forest Community Church at fodcc.org