Newcastle station

A community, a café and a prayer...

John and Debbie Bullock’s goal is to build links with their local area in Newcastle.

When John and Debbie Bullock came to Newcastle in 2019, a conversation with a lady in the church they were about to lead left them scratching their heads.

“I have a picture of lots of people coming down the street and into the building,” she told them.

“I was thinking, ‘when will that happen, how do we get there?’” says John.

Three years on, and all has become clear.

Kingdom Life Church’s six-month-old community grocery store is now welcoming hundreds of members to its aisles and its new 100-seater café is helping John and Debbie achieve their aim of building strong local relationships.

None of this would have been possible without a foundation of prayer, John says as he begins the story of the church’s blossoming outreach work.

“We have three prayer meetings a week to make sure everything is covered in prayer, then we can approach the other things confidently knowing we’ve prayed into them and that God is building his church.”

One way God has enabled Kingdom Life to expand its outreach is via its home in a large four-storey former bingo hall a mile outside Newcastle city centre.

“A lot of people coming to lead the church might have been put off by it because it’s massive, but we have a long-term plan for refurbishing it,” John says.

Newcastle

This plan began with a year-long revamp of the basement in order to house the shop and café.

“The church had a food bank for nine years but we sensed it was time to change focus so we talked to the Message Trust, which is pioneering community stores.

We turned the basement into a shop and now we’re running it with stock from the Message Trust, local stores, and we buy cheaply from a few other places too.”

This is especially important, says John, given the crisis people are facing with the rising cost of living.

Kingdom Life is based between Byker and Heaton with a community stricken by poverty and drugs on its doorstep, making this service all the more vital.

“We’re open five days a week and people can shop three times a week for £4 a time. Anyone can join, it’s just £5 a year for membership.”

Also important is the opportunity the shop gives the church to connect with local people.

“We felt God wanted us to be a counter-culture alternative and to emphasise kingdom living in everyday life.

“In the shop we’re able to be overtly Christian and people know what they’re coming into because it’s in a church.

“It’s the same with the café. We’re hoping people will come regularly so we can get to know them.”

The café and shop complement the church’s other community activities too, which include support for addicts through Teen Challenge and a drop-in centre in the building.

“We have a street team who go out weekly and help the homeless, and we’ve sent several people to rehabilitation through Teen Challenge.

“But this isn’t an overnight thing; it’s relational. The people we meet can be trapped in a lifestyle which isn’t easy to break free from, so we have to be persistent and patient.

“They can come and spend time with us and have some food at the drop-in centre. That used to be once a week, but now the shop and the café are open every day we are more accessible.”

John hopes this greater accessibility will lead people towards the raft of courses Kingdom Life offers.

“We’ve got a Kintsugi Hope group, a CAP financial course, parenting classes and Alpha and we’re trying to make sure that anyone who comes to the drop-in centre, shop or café knows they’re welcome to do a course too.

“Our aim is to help people with everyday life issues.”

John is also keen to invest in church members’ lives.

To this end, the building is home to the Kingdom Life Development School, which focuses on healing, health and wholeness.

“Our aim is to have a space to mend people. That’s important because often we just talk about healing rather than mending, which takes a work of the Spirit and a strong discipleship message.”

With the basement completed, John is now looking to revamp the top floor to create a better place for the school.

“We’ll dedicate it as somewhere where people can come knowing there will be a balanced approach to helping them become whole.”

John says God has been at work and answering prayers despite the limitations of the past two years and is grateful for all they are seeing at Kingdom Life.

“It’s an exciting atmosphere because people are seeing and experiencing the spiritual and physical growth that’s been happening here.

“We’ve got this footfall coming into the building and into this Christian atmosphere and hopefully a number will eventually come to church.

“It’s phenomenal. We couldn’t imagine this happening when we first came, but now we’re seeing and embracing it.”  
 

This article first appeared in the September 2022 edition of Direction Magazine. For further details, please click here.

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