Dai Hankey, an Acts 29 church planter based in Wales, gives us an insight into his nation.
Welcome to Wales
Tom Jones. The Manic Street Preachers. Stereophonics. Dylan Thomas. Ryan Giggs. Rugby. Male voice choirs. Fireman Sam. Coal mines. Mountains. Sheep. Place names that are impossible to pronounce...just some of the people, places and stereotypes commonly associated with the wonderful land of Wales.
Wales is a small Celtic nation that forms (the best!) part of the UK and is situated to the West of England. Its population is roughly 3 million with the vast majority living in the industrial south. Wales has a rich musical and literary history and is affectionately known by many as ‘the Land of Song’. It is also a truly bi-lingual nation with both English and Welsh being spoken (Welsh being the mother tongue of many, especially in the North and West). Wales is a country of breath-taking natural beauty, with sandy beaches, rolling hills, valleys, vales, and mighty mountains including Mt. Snowdon.
Welsh Christian Heritage
The Christian heritage of Wales is considerable, having been blessed by numerous revivals throughout its history. The last revival occurred in 1904 and its impact was felt around the world. Some of the global church’s most well-loved hymns were penned by Welsh worshippers: ‘Here Is Love Vast As The Ocean’ and ‘Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah’, to name a few. There are also many influential preachers who have come out of this small principality - not least Efan Roberts, Seth Joshua and Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones.
So with such deep spiritual roots you’d think that Wales was a hot-bed of gospel activity...right?
Current Spiritual Landscape
As a young boy growing up playing rugby in the Welsh valleys there was a phrase that was drummed into me and my friends: “The bigger they are the harder they fall!”
That phrase is fitting when considering what has become of Wales. In the early 20th century there were church buildings on almost every street in every town village and city in Wales. The church was literally the heart-beat of community life and most people you met would have considered themselves Christian.
Today, the spiritual landscape is very different. Less than 5% of the population attend church and even fewer than that are truly born-again, gospel-loving disciples of Jesus. Many churches that were once Spirit-filled and alive have long since died - suffocated by religion and traditionalism. As if to illustrate this dramatic fall from grace you can no longer drive through communities across Wales without passing scores of antiquated chapel buildings - boarded up, smashed down, sold-off as bingo halls, houses, shops and even mosques.
Hand-in-hand with the devastating decline of the church in Wales has been the onset of social chaos. As in many parts of the UK there are massive issues that are ripping people’s lives apart in Wales. The industrial Welsh valleys in particular, home to around 1.3 million, is the poorest region in Western Europe with many living in poverty. Addiction, abuse, crime and hopelessness are rife. Consequently depression is a huge issue - with the Welsh valleys topping the UK’s anti-depressant prescription charts. Furthermore, the suicide rate amongst Welsh young people remains alarmingly high.
However, it would be wrong to imply that it’s all doom and gloom! There are some fantastic churches who are bucking the trend, preaching the gospel, serving their communities and seeing people saved. Many of these churches are in the larger towns and cities in the South (though not exclusively). However, there still remain great swathes of Wales, especially in the rural areas and across the valleys, that are utterly bereft of any kind of authentic gospel witness...and they are perishing!
The challenge is immense and there is a very real need for new churches to be planted and dying churches to be repurposed.
Acts 29 in Wales
I am currently partnered with Acts 29 and pastoring Hill City Church (www.hillcitychurch.org). I’m involved in networking and training men to plant strategic, gospel-brandishing churches across the principality. I have been encouraged by the increasing number of saints who are taking seriously the call to church planting and are ready to do what it takes to establish communities of light in the darkest corners of Wales.
Please pray for us
1. Pray for Wales - that God would transform this nation again, by His grace and for His glory.
2. Pray for the churches - that we would receive fresh vision and urgency from the Lord that compels us to passionately proclaim and live out the gospel in our communities.
3. Pray for men - that God would continue to raise up men who are sold-out for Jesus and are willing to lay down their lives for the sake of seeing His Kingdom come on earth!
4. Pray for Acts 29 to play a strategic part in the planting of vibrant, life-giving churches across Wales. Pray also for Porterbrook Cardiff as it launches this September.
Thanks so much for your care and your prayers.
Yours in the trenches,