The story of Open Heaven goes back to 1993 on Loughborough University campus. Ness Wilson arrived in Towers Hall as a fresher, and found that Christian students had been praying specifically for ten 'fired up freshers'. Ness was one of those ten. As they all prayed passionately for their friends in Towers Hall, the numbers of students following Jesus trebled by the end of the first term. This young group of students graduated, and taking God seriously, considered the possibility of staying in Loughborough to start a Church. They were encouraged by a significant prophetic word about ‘a Church set up by young people for young people in the Midlands’. Open Heaven has since become the reality of an extraordinary God at work in the lives of ordinary people.
Open Heaven now has three expressions; our OH1 gathering for 18-30’s meets on Sunday in Room 1, the biggest room at Loughborough’s Student’s Union. Our OH2 gathering, which is intentionally children and family friendly, meets on Sunday at the St Peter’s Centre, which is shared with our friends from Elim, another congregation in the town. OH3 is our most recently formed gathering and is shaped around communities which celebrate feasting and worship across nationalities.
Our mission statement is 'Making Disciples who establish Heaven on Earth'. Since Open Heaven started over twenty years ago, we have had a specific call to make disciples meaning over a thousand people have experienced a church culture which has actively discipled them, often through a season of 1 to 1 discipleship and being part of a community that is committed to inner transformation. Open Heaven is not a church to belong to if you want to stay the same.
Our five core values spell the word GRACE: Growth, Relevance, Authenticity, Community and Empowerment. This helps us to easily remember our five core values and fits us well as a community who are characterised by the grace of God. We want to be a community characterised by the grace God has shown us and so we have used the word grace to further describe our values as a church.
Growth. We are growing in numbers because numbers mean people, and people matter to God. We are growing in Christ-like character, generosity and gifting because that enables God to use us to our fullest potential. We are growing leaders to influence every sphere of society. We are growing and sending out Church planting teams because Church planting remains the most effective way to make disciples who make disciples.
Relevance. We want our faith to be connected to the rest of our lives. As a culturally-relevant Church we think about location, language, music, content and the overall feel as we create expressions of Church to be accessible to people who have little or no experience of Church. Jesus connected with people who did not regard themselves as religious and we want to do the same. Everyone is welcome and all are invited.
Authenticity. Open Heaven is a place where you can be who you really are before God and before others. You will notice that people are really honest with each other about their lives, knowing they are always totally accepted but also knowing that there is help here to become the person they really want to be. We will love you as you are and will inspire you to become more.
Community. Church is a community of people. It doesn’t take too long before people start to comment that it feels like family. We are a community committed to sharing our lives with one another. This is no mere mantra, for some of us this commitment has led to sharing our homes and possessions. There are a multitude of ways to belong and build deep relationships within our community. The quickest and easiest way to belong is to be part of a small group.
Empowerment. Open Heaven is committed to spotting people's potential and then finding ways of developing and releasing it. As well as releasing people, we provide coaching and training to support those stepping out. We actively encourage people to discover their calling, their passions and their unique set of spiritual gifts and then find ways both within and outside of Church life to outwork them.
Be an Apostolic Resource Community. We are able to serve and strengthen other churches, both within Pioneer and also more widely across our town and region. The word 'apostolic' means 'sent' and means we can break new ground for God's Kingdom by creating new expressions of Open Heaven locally and by church planting further afield. To date, we have planted OH1, OH2 and with our friends from Elim and Kings planted a Messy Church. We have also sent a church planting team to Annecy, France.
Be a City of Refuge. Along with other congregations in the town, we are committed to making Loughborough a City of Refuge. First we are a supportive and welcoming community to children coming out of care who are being adopted and fostered in Open Heaven families. Second we run a well-being cafe called Safe Haven which supports parents struggling with the pressures of parenting and their mental health. Third we run Messy Church with Elim and Kings which provides a hot meal, a clothes bank and a safe, fun environment to explore faith.