Colin and Gill Bonner have been part of CCK since the Eighties. They live in Southwick and currently serve as coaches in the Harbour Zone. Colin is due to join the CCK Eldership team in the next few weeks and they will both form part of the team on our site in the West. In this article they share their personal God stories and tell us what they're looking forward to with regards to going multi-site.
I was about four when some neighbours took me to a Brighton Sunday school for the first time - I enjoyed it but I certainly didn’t become a Christian in the time that I went there. In my teens, I started to do my own thing, and then at age 15, I met Colin at a dance hall! While we were going out, Colin was keen to start going back to church, so we joined one in Brighton. But while he was getting interested, I wasn’t really sold on it. However, a fortnight later, I was at a baptismal service and I was hearing testimonies of all these people who had relationships with God and I suddenly yearned for that. I didn’t then understand my need for salvation or that I was a sinner, but I just knew that I wanted this relationship, so I responded to an appeal to accept Jesus as saviour and invite him in. That was 45 years ago!
I was subsequently baptised and married and we got involved with the young people’s work at our church. Then in the late 60s/early 70s, there was a powerful move of the Holy Spirit in the Church and it was quite a big issue whether you were for or against it, as a church. I met other young mums in my area who were baptised in the spirit and got them to pray for me. I got a sense of peace at the time, but prayed at home and I felt like a warm blanket had been wrapped around me and I received the gift of tongues. It was wonderful.
My parents were Christians and we were part of a church in Brighton for most of my childhood, but leaving school at 16, I drifted away and found life outside it. When Gill and I got engaged, I really felt that we needed to rethink our priorities. My brother was a great witness to those around him and often shared his testimony and did Bible study groups, and this had a real effect on me as it truly sunk in with me that God was serious. We started going back to my parents’ church and I recommitted my life to Christ shortly after Gill did. My parents had sown good seeds in me and things progressed rapidly for us - the church had a really strong youth work and it wasn’t long before Gill and I were leading it. It was a good church and I was actually made a deacon, which was a real honour, but it was a very traditional set-up and we longed for more.
I came under significant teaching at a prayer and Bible week where two very spirit-filled men, Denis Clark and Campbell McAlpine, really impacted me and our youth work, in terms of their style of preaching and application of truth. It was a difficult time for our church, as it had two camps - those who were baptised in the spirit and those who felt it wasn’t necessary.
After hearing and sharing a very strong word from God to our church at a communion service, we knew that we wouldn’t remain at the church for much longer. We had heard about a small fellowship then happening at the Clarendon Villas and so we went along to see what it was like. It truly felt like home, and we quickly got involved and became leaders of a small group.
What many people don’t know is that I actually had a season as a CCK Elder in the 80s. I was one of four Elders who were not full-time as I was working in commercial insurance. Progressing things became difficult as the full-time Elders had to wait to meet us in the evenings before making decisions, so it became unworkable and I said to Terry that I was happy to pull back.
When Joel asked me to consider taking an Eldership role for a season this year, I knew that I should take it. I love to give to people and serve them, with God's help, and in retirement I have more time to do that. At the moment we act as coaches over two small group leaders in the Harbour Zone led by Matt and Jo Simmonds and we love being part of that Zone. Harbour is out west so we will be taking a larger role as part of the multi-site team with Matt and Ali Davis.
The next few months for us will be spent preparing for the launch of the new site in September, and just praying and believing God for real success with this new season. We really want to be able to impact the community there, and for me, I’m really praying that whatever building we get for the site can be used in the week, as well as for Sunday meetings. It’s going to be important to be able to serve the area in whatever it needs, whether that’s mums and toddlers or drop-in or whatever.
It will be key to our growth, to have our Zone and Small Group life becoming really outward looking – to be truly on mission to reach the greater Brighton area. We’ve got a lot to learn as a Church in this. There are areas where we’re weak and need to be stronger, but we’re getting there. We’ve grown so much already which is just fantastic - the potential for us as a church is massive, and that’s such a great place to be.