James Hammond has served in Bordeaux for four years, focussed mainly on ministry to students through GBU (Groupes Bibliques Universitaires). He has also been involved in Bordeaux Church, an international church in Central Bordeaux. Now he has joined the leadership of a new French church-plant in the centre of the city, Eglise Bordeaux Chartrons. Here James tells the background to this project, and what they have started.

Why plant a new church in Bordeaux?

God continues to bless the nations through his Son Jesus Christ.  We read in Ephesians 1 that God’s plan is to gather a people to celebrate his glorious grace manifested to us in Christ. We believe that this plan applies equally to Bordeaux, that there are people in this city who will respond to the gospel message and come to celebrate with us the blessings that we have in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Bordeaux is a city where ‘life is good’ (une ville où il fait bon vivre). The city enjoys a rich cultural heritage, having been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once called ‘la belle endormie’ (the Sleeping Beauty), through ambitious urbanisation projects it has been revitalised and transformed. Bordeaux enjoys a warm climate. The gastronomy is renowned, and of course, the city is famous for its wine. Bordeaux has become synonymous with la douceur de vivre’(the good life).  In short, Bordeaux is an attractive city that draws many to set up home here.

The population has increased by ten per cent annually since 1999. There are eight distinct quarters and each one needs its own Christian witness at the heart of the community. Given the population density, we want to see new churches planted in the heart of the city in the coming years. The Bordelais need to hear the gospel, and what better way to do this than to plant new churches.

Most churches are on the outskirts of Bordeaux, leaving only three or four evangelical churches in the centre. The CNEF (Conseil National des Evangéliques de France) judges that to reach the whole of France with the gospel, we need to aim for one evangelical church per 10,000 inhabitants. That means another 21-22 new churches just for the 250,000 inhabitants of central Bordeaux! Please pray with us that there would new churches planted for each of the eight quarters.

Bordeaux is culturally attractive and growing, and too few people have heard of Jesus.  Despite its beauty and charm, the city is still spiritually asleep. The people need to know that the true ‘good life’ is found ultimately in Christ. Bordeaux still needs to wake up.

Eglise Bordeaux Chartrons

Bordeaux Church, the International Church, has always wanted to be a catalyst for new church-plants. This is the first one, partnering with Maxime and Demelza Soumagnas who moved to Bordeaux last January to plant a church with us.  

Maxime became a Christian as a teenager through missionaries in the south of France. He then studied at Bordeaux University where he was involved in ministry with Alan and Pat Davey. He headed to the UK to get some more training and ended up working with international students in Cambridge (with Friends International). He then moved to London to work at Helens Bishopsgate while doing the Cornhill Training Course as well as leading international ministry at Euston Church. Maxime met Demelza at St Helen’s and they got married in 2011. Demelza had studied French at university and spent a year in Paris working with the GBU. They both felt called to come back to France. Maxime studied at the Belgian Bible Institute in Brussels before completing an internship in Paris. They then came to Bordeaux, having seen the lack of gospel churches for such a big and growing population.  They have a heart for evangelism and for training students and young Christians.

Our first move was to form a core group, made up mostly of French people from the international church. We held eight meetings last April and May where we prayed and discussed our vision and strategy.  During the summer we looked for a venue, only to be discouraged by systematic refusals by people who were uncomfortable with having a church meeting in their building. Near the end of August, the Lord provided a place for us in a small cafe-restaurant called ‘So-good’. It was perfect! It could seat up to 60-70 people, depending on how one arranges the chairs and tables.

We began our meetings on 23 September with a core group of twelve. We arranged the chairs and tables so that people could sit in groups of four or five. There were at least twenty who attended, mostly from Bordeaux Church, but a few visitors as well, including relatives of church members. We printed off sermon outlines to help people take notes and added a follow-up question intended to create conversations about the sermon content. We have also tried to organise an informal gathering after church – a picnic by the river or a light lunch at someone’s apartment – designed to help us create community and deepen our relationship with one another.

Maxime and I worked hard on creating a sermon series in Mark entitled Zoom sur Jésus (a close up of Jesus). We believe firmly that it’s the gospel that saves and that it’s the gospel that edifies. We don’t start with the Gospel and then move on to something else. We preach it in a way that invites seekers to trust in Christ, while at the same time showing Christians that it’s through the gospel that we grow and bear fruit. We’ve endeavoured to make our services and sermons accessible to those who know very little about the church and Jesus.

We recently started Bible studies in 1 Peter on the theme ‘How to live counter-culturally as a Christian in the world.’ We want to form and train the people God has given us to be witnesses for Christ in their daily life.

There is still lots of work to do and lots of challenges to overcome. Please pray for our visibility as a new church in the city, that we would be involved in city life and be ambassadors for Christ to those living around us.  Pray for us as we seek to train and equip young Christians to reach out to their friends with the gospel, whether at university or at work.

A New Church Begins in Bordeaux
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