Calvary Chapel Norwich, England

Continuing the 2005 series of interviews with pastors from various Calvary Chapels around Europe, Calvary News Network has put 10 questions to Pastor John Brown of CC Norwich. From his abode in England, the American pastor describes the spiritual situation in today’s England, how to dodge Darwin and Bush en route to the Cross, and he shares the needs and praises of his congregation.

How did God call you to be a pastor and, later on, to serve in Europe?

I had been a full-time staff member with Calvary Chapel Imperial Valley, CA as a Youth Pastor for the better part of 10 years. God was blessing it tremendously, growing the youth both in depth and numbers, and I was loving it. In fact, I loved it too much. The Lord began to convict me that the ministry had become an idol. I repented and prepared to leave full-time ministry, but then I sensed the Lord telling me to take a step of faith. In our circumstance that step was getting off the staff at the church and then waiting for Him to show me what was next.

So, with the much-appreciated support of my senior pastor, Pete Mallinger, I gave my resignation. I was preparing to take our youth to what would be my last summer camp with CC Costa Mesa. Kenny Wood, one of the Youth Pastors at CCCM (who happens to be British), called me and asked me if I’d speak at the camp. I said yes and shared how it would be a bittersweet time for me as it would be my last youth camp. “Where are you going?” he asked. “I have no clue,” I answered sheepishly, “but I’m sure the Lord will show me.” Kenny enthusiastically and prophetically replied, “O you gotta go to the UK, bro!” At the camp, Kenny introduced me to Brian Broderson, who invited me to go with him on his next trip to the UK. I went, and after wrestling with the Lord for about a year, finally submitted.

The Brown family: John and Sarah with their
five kids
My wife and I sold our house, car and most of our furniture and moved to the UK in September 2003. At first, we helped Rob Dingman at CC Twickenham, London by developing their Children’s Ministry and by doing youth and University outreaches. We knew it was just a step and in September ‘04, God confirmed that we were to plant Calvary Chapel Norwich. We finished up with CC Twickenham and moved to Norwich in December.

What part of the role and responsibility as pastor can overwhelm you the most sometimes?

Meeting individual needs. There are so many people here (in the UK) who have very little pastoral care. No one will take the time to just listen and then pray. There is also a great need for one-to-one discipleship. At this point, my wife and I are doing individual discipleship with two different couples and I am doing discipleship with two other men individually. Pouring into these individuals has been some of the most fruitful and rewarding parts of ministry. But it is also extremely time-consuming. That being said, God really is faithful to “lead us to the Rock that is higher” (Psalm 61:2).

Pastor John teaches a Friday night Bible study.

What is God doing in, through, and around CC Norwich at the moment?

We’ve been really blessed. I’ve been told that with most church plants, things happen very slowly. But we’ve seen new people almost every week – and they all seem inclined to stay! God is just so faithful to bless His Word. Many people who have come to our fellowship were just about to “give up” on the visible church. They had been begging God to send a church that would teach the Scriptures without the traditions of men or winds of doctrine or the hype of “charismania”. It’s humbling to have them tell us that Calvary Chapel is an answer to those prayers.

In your view, what part of the culture and mentality in England is the biggest obstacle to overcome when advocating a personal, living relationship with Jesus Christ and an uncompromising, literal approach to the Bible?

This British culture is completely secularized. “Darwinism” is not just accepted as “scientific truth”; it’s esteemed with national pride (Darwin is on the 10 pound note). I’ve shared the gospel with several people on the street, and every person under 25 years old says initially that there is no God! So there is a lot of pre-evangelism that has to happen.

Lately, there’s been a growing focus on the differences between Europe and the USA when it comes to their approach to God and “faith-based” issues – in some cases adding to the prejudices between the two continents’ populations. You are an American pastor ministering in Europe to Europeans. What has that brought you in terms of both challenges and benefits in your ministry?

Pastor John Brown.

The greatest challenge is constantly changing the subject when people want to talk about George Bush! The challenge with non-believers is to keep the conversation in the direction of the Cross. But that is a challenge everywhere. Within the church it’s avoiding those issues that take away from equipping the saints, loving the brethren and spreading the gospel. There are some “faith-based” issues that we cannot avoid. For example, if you teach the Scriptures, homosexuality will be addressed. But others are at best a distraction from the gospel. Avoiding such distractions is always beneficial.

Do you work together with other ministries in the UK or in Europe in any way?

In London, we worked with Youth For Christ and here [in Norwich] I’ve tried to make contact with other ministries. I would really like to be linked with other churches because I think Calvary Chapels can sometimes have the reputation of being isolated from the rest of the body of Christ. At the same time, much of the visible body of Christ is embracing destructive doctrines, which we cannot condone. Right now, I’m praying about where the missions’ focus of our fellowship should be. I believe fellowships are divided but the Body of Christ is not. Worship styles are negotiable but the gospel is not. We want to work with any group who wants the focus to be the gospel.

The children of CC Norwich.

What book of the Bible are you teaching through at the moment, and what messages has God seemed to especially personalize for you as a congregation in that process?

At the mid-week studies, we are going through the book of Genesis. On Sunday mornings we are studying through Mark. There are two themes that God continues to impress on our hearts. 1) This world is not our home. Abraham’s life was characterized by altars and tents. He worshipped as he wandered, knowing that “he waited for the city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). 2) Jesus is our model for ministry. All that happened in the Book of Acts is just an amplification of Jesus’ ministry.

Sunday socializing at a monthly "Bring and Share" fellowship lunch at CC Norwich.

What are some of the specific church needs that CC Norwich is lifting up to God in prayer right now?

Unity. This group is as diverse as it gets. The whole spectrum of Christendom is represented and therefore the potential for disagreement abides. Pray that the Spirit would unify us all under the authority of His Word. Health. It seems we have a disproportionate amount of physically ill people. To their credit, they are faithful to be at the studies. But the amount of suffering breaks our hearts. Pray for endurance and as the Lord wills, healing. A facility that is conducive to fellowship (right now we have to hurry people out so the caretaker can lock up).

This picture was taken on the very first Sunday service of CC Norwich on April 10th

What are some of the specific praises that CC Norwich is lifting up to God in gratitude right now?

Love for the Truth. All who come so appreciate sound teaching. They make my job a joy! Love for one another. This little fellowship continues to grow in the fruit of His Spirit. May we abound more and more.

In your view, how can people best pray for the ministry of CC Norwich and the spiritual situation in England?

Pray that men would be raised up to be servant leaders; laying down their lives for the sheep. Pray for believers to have the courage to confront in love those pastors/vicars who preach false doctrine and that those pastors/vicars would repent. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

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You can read more about Calvary Chapel Norwich by visiting the church’s official website