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Winter 11 Issue 51
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The next edition will be published in April 2011. The advert booking deadline is 11 February 2011. Editor Mark Melluish Magazine Manager Lucy Williams Commissioning Editor Lucy Avery Advertising & Classifieds Jeremy Geake Jonathan Tearne Creative Phil Revell Print Halcyon Find us: 4a Ridley Avenue Ealing London W13 9XW
Our God at work.
Looking at our world.
Email us: email@example.com
Is your life an adventure?
Gleaning wisdom from sheep.
Trusting in God while disposing of bombs.
Practical ways to love people in need.
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New Wine Magazine is published three times a year by the New Wine Trust as part of their mission. Your feedback is welcomed; letters may be edited and published in future issues.
We want to look after our environment so we’ve used a recyclable paper. Please recycle.
Promoting sustainable forest management. www.pefc.co.uk
A note from John Coles
Mark Melluish encourages us to walk on water.
How to hear God
Harnessing the power of words.
In Safe Hands
Healing stories from a local church.
Can God be held responsible for natural disasters?
God at work in 2010.
Finding compassion when our hearts are hard.
Learning to live without healing.
The Arches Project
God in my Hurting
The Humble House Group
Celebrating a place of genuine community.
Stories, tips, news, a crossword and more.
Why we can’t ignore the Old Testament.
A glimpse into life as a fire fighter.
Finding Jesus after a life of crime.
An assortment of suggested reading.
Bits & Pieces
Is God Homicidal?
Life to the Full Getting more by doing less.
Faith at Work
Second Chances: life after prison
Part of a Wider Family
How to be inclusive: advice from a single parent.
A note from John Coles Dear Friends In the early days of following Jesus, most of us find it exciting, adventurous and possibly scary at times. When we first read the Bible knowing who the author is, we’re amazed that what God has to say is highly relevant to the issues we face in our lives today. When we first pray a specific prayer for someone else, or for God’s provision, or for someone to come to know Jesus, we’re wowed when God hears and answers. We’re excited when God gives us a vision or a word of knowledge that enables us to speak prophetically to someone else in an encouraging way. When we first dare to pray directly for someone who is physically sick and see God healing them of their symptoms in front of our eyes, we’re lost in wonder, love and praise. But the question I want to ask is this: Is your Christian life still an adventure? As I travel around the country I see many people being faithful in attendance, in giving, in serving, in personal prayer and in Bible study. But yet I think that many are stuck in an unadventurous rut or routine of life; the spark of adventure is missing. It’s as though the first love for Jesus has waned and we have settled into the same sort of ‘normality’ that many good marriages fall into – secure but no longer full of the vitality and excitement that characterised the heady days of courtship and the early years of marriage! God wants us to have a lifetime of adventure following Jesus, rather than just a few exciting years and then dull routine. This magazine includes many stories of people who have been prepared to take a risk; who have been lured out of the rut of the routine and back into a life of adventure. I want to encourage you, as you read this magazine, to ask the Lord to speak to you, direct you, call you into something new, and then to take the risk of obeying even a faint whisper from him. I was recently so provoked by some words from 19th century American author Mark Twain that I want to finish with them: ‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones that you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.’ With very best wishes
John Coles Director of New Wine 4
Leadership Conference MAY 2011 Hosted by John & Anne Coles together with your regional leadership team, plus guest speakers and worship leaders.
Mon 9 - Wed 11 May 2011 Ealing Christian Centre, London (non residential) With Dave Workman
Wed 11 – Fri 13 May 2011 Trinity Cheltenham (non residential) With Dave Workman
Mon 16 – Wed 18 May 2011 Adelphi Hotel Liverpool (residential) With Gary Best
For 2011, the New Wine Leadership Conference is going regional! If you’re involved in leadership in your local church - whether as a key staff member, in children’s, youth or small group ministry, or a leader in any capacity – don’t miss this great opportunity for in-depth teaching, specialised ‘how to’- style seminars and networking, all with a local church flavour. Dave Workman is Senior Pastor of Cincinnati Vineyard in the USA, where the idea of servant ministry on the street was birthed. They have an incredible ministry to their community that embraces justice and mercy, mission and attraction, and is all fun and fruitful in sharing something of the faith of Christ in really exciting ways.
Feedback from the 2010 event
Gary Best is National Team Leader for Vineyard Churches Canada. In a very simple, unassuming yet profound way, Gary is able to articulate how the Holy Spirit longs to work through ordinary believers to transform lives and the world around us. He will inspire you to go out and do the work of the Kingdom in a very naturally supernatural way.
‘This was my first New Wine Leadership Conference though I’ve been to countless others over the years - for 10 years with a role in a national organisation. Without doubt this was the best I have been to!’ ‘Speaker after speaker spoke directly into my situation and I was moved…to get out of my rut and begin to do what he has been laying on my heart over many months.’ ‘Came away feeling scrubbed down, cleaned off and geared up for the next stage!’
Discounts available for under 30s!
UPCOMING EVENTS FEBRUARY 2011 There’s a well known story in the Bible of Jesus’ disciple Peter getting out of a boat in the middle of a lake and walking on water. In fact, the saying ‘you’ve got to get out of the boat’ has now become part of our language, and talks to us about taking risks and putting ourselves out there. At our recent Kingdom Training Day with Rich Nathan I was struck by a story he told about how, over a period of five years, the number of people he was leading to faith had become less and less, and that he had stopped doing what he did when he first came to faith. I know that when I first became a Christian I was ready to tell anybody and do anything to share the kingdom of God. I probably made as many gaffes as I did good decisions, but it was all done with the intention of sharing Jesus with others. I wonder if you have had the same experience in your life. Maybe you got out of the boat once and haven’t done so since. Perhaps you haven’t got around to sharing your faith with anyone yet, and it seems a huge leap for you. The contributors to this edition of the magazine talk about taking risks; getting out of the boat to extend God’s kingdom and draw others in to the excitement that is following Jesus. I hope that you will be inspired, encouraged and challenged, so that together we will put our feet on the water to see what God might do with us.
Rural & Village Church Leaders’ Forum 1 – 2 February Leicestershire Healing Ministry Training Day 12 February Durham Kingdom Theology Taster Day 19 February Manchester 26 February London Women’s Day 26 February London
MARCH 2011 Inner-City & Urban Priority Area Church Leaders’ Forum 1 – 2 March Leicestershire Women’s Day 5 March Harrogate Kingdom Theology Taster Day 12 March Winchester 19 March Cheltenham Family Time Conference 19 March London
APRIL 2011 Kingdom Theology Taster Day 9 April Guernsey 30 April Ashill, Norfolk
MAY 2011 Leadership Conference 9 – 11 May London 11 – 13 May Cheltenham 16 – 18 May Liverpool
God bless you as enjoy this magazine. As ever,
Full details available at www.new-wine.org Mark Melluish Editor firstname.lastname@example.org 6
Kids Leaders Conference October 2010 Swanwick, Derbyshire
Kingdom Training Days November 2010 London l Cheltenham l Manchester
‘It was amazing how God spoke to me, and these words were confirmed in the leaders’ messages and conversations with other delegates - it was so encouraging. God gave me specific direction and vision at this conference, which could be life changing.’
‘I came full of ‘stuff’ and left refreshed and encouraged by the Word and the Spirit. It was not easy to make space for this day in such a busy season for myself and our church, but it was absolutely the right thing to have done. Something shifted for me on the day which has borne fruit since.’
Cathy Smith, St Columba’s Church, Corby
‘I came with an open mind and heart for what I would receive. I came away with a heart and mind filled with food for thought, ideas and people to get in touch with once back home. I had the most amazing sense of the Holy Spirit at work.’ Dawn Barnes, St Mary’s, Sale
‘I have come away not only with great ideas but the practical application of them. The time and space I had to seek God having been inspired by fantastic speakers was exactly what I needed!’ Eleanor Bird, Kings Church Amersham
‘I have been looking for a way to help children experience the Lord for some time. Here was a way to allow that to happen that was ‘normal’, not scary or using unfamiliar language.’ Helen Lewis, Holy Trinity Church, Southwell
‘God, through New Wine, blessed and refreshed me. I praise him and give him thanks for introducing me to such a fantastic group of people who uplifted me, made my heart wrench, and have enabled me to know that it is God’s presence I want in my life and the work he has called me to do.’ Jim Matthews, All Saints’, Sapcote
‘God set up divine encounters with other kids’ leaders in my area which was so exciting and encouraging. It’s fantastic to get a taste of what God is doing in our nation; to see how many churches have a heart to see children encountering God and moving in the power of the Spirit was very exciting.’
New Wine events are happening across the nation throughout the year, but what difference are they making to people’s lives? Find out what God’s been up to among our church leaders, kids, youth and special needs workers
Mark Balfour, St Peter’s, Maidenhead
‘I was feeling tired, over-stretched in all I do and in need of a break. The day was right up my street, I feel refreshed and encouraged. I loved the teaching, Rich was honest and funny. Oh, and the worship was great too!’ Wendy Richards, Cheddar Valley Community Church, Somerset
‘This was a fabulous day that came just at the right time for me. Rich Nathan was a fantastic speaker and I would definitely want to hear him again.’ Lisa Lewis, Emmanuel Church, Guildford
‘I felt a mutual humility and fellowship among everyone: hosts, participants and speaker alike. That strongly suggests that those present were faithful workers in their local situation and not religious bystanders. Such strength and encouragement always gives resolve, doesn’t it?!’ Rob West, ARC, Birmingham
‘The teaching was great and really gave me ‘food for thought’, but the ministry was amazing. The person praying for me spoke so directly into my life there was no mistaking God was talking to me.’
Sarah Cornthwaite, Vinelife Church, Manchester
‘Just amazing! God revealed direction for our church, and not just the kids’ work. I received lots of pictures, visions and scripture references and have come away with my knowledge and faith in Christ strengthened and renewed, and can see a lot clearer the path he is calling me to.’ Zena Beech, St Mary’s, Bridgnorth
Youth Workers Training Days October 2010 London l Stockport ‘It was so encouraging to spend the day with people of vision who were brimming over with passion and energy for youth work. Your support and inspiration has helped me to keep going and not to give up!’ ‘I was blessed by just being with like-minded people who are going through the same struggles, and hearing lots of good advice which could be applied to similar situations when I returned.’ ‘The seminars were excellent and the speaker incredibly passionate, enthusiastic and totally genuine. I learnt a lot and was challenged a lot.’ ‘I just felt really blessed with some ideas for youth work and re-inspired to carry on loving and serving young people.’
Special Needs Training Day November 2010 Stockport ‘It was so lovely to be able to meet new people and increase my enthusiasm for working with children with special needs within church. The conference gave me ideas and practical tips for doing this.’ ‘I have more determination to work with these children and fight to get them noticed.’
John Lowe, Holy Trinity Tewkesbury
‘I came away inspired with ideas for how to make the things we do more accessible for our children with special needs, and encouraged in parenting my own child with special needs.’ Ruth Kiley, Calvary Christian Fellowship, Preston
Bits AND pieces A GOOD GOD STORY Ian from Aylesbury wrote to tell us about how Jesus changed his life after a 30-year gambling, drug and alcohol addiction. At last year’s summer conference he felt God speak to him through Henry Orombi, telling him how he wanted to use him significantly. Since then he’s been involved in healing on the streets with his church, showing love and compassion to everyone. He says: ‘Everyone can ask for their sins to be forgiven, even me, once a thief, prisoner, gambler, drug addict and alcoholic.’ Find his full story under ‘Your Stories’ on our website.
ONE TO WATCH Go to YouTube and search for ‘Food Court Hallelujah Chorus’. Some unsuspecting shoppers got a surprise while enjoying their lunch!
Book for a New Wine event To book for any event you will need an online account. This involves filling out some basic details (including your church info) and following a few instructions that will be emailed to you. The system is totally secure, but you will need an email address to get going. Once registered (which means you have a username and password), you can log in and book for any of our events. You can even go back and manage your bookings, so substitute people, add new people, pay deposits and choose how we communicate with you! So, just follow the links and either log in to create/manage a booking, or if you’re not yet registered, register to get started! Go to the ‘My Account’ tab on our website.
Something to talk about The Gods Aren’t Angry is a DVD resource by Rob Bell. Rob raises the questions, ‘Where did the first caveman or cavewoman get the idea that somebody, somewhere existed who needed to be worshiped, appeased and followed?’ And ‘How did the idea evolve that if you didn’t say, do, or offer the right things, this being would be upset, agitated or even angry with you?’ It could spark a great debate in your small group. There are free previews available from iTunes if you want to try before you buy. For your chance to win a free copy, email ‘The Gods Aren’t Angry’ to email@example.com. A winner will be selected at random and emailed before 14 February 2011.
THE BEST MEDICINE? Here’s a few extracts from David Pytches’ book If you think my preaching’s bad, try my jokes
Signing the register at a wedding, the best man had difficulty making the ball-point pen work. “Put your weight on it”, said the vicar, helpfully. The man duly signed: John Smith. 10 stone 4 pounds. Etiquette is knowing how to yawn with your mouth shut. The average amount of time between throwing something away and needing it urgently is about 2 weeks. A mother was doing her best to look as if she were enjoying the birthday cake her little girl had made for her. Seeing her mother’s pleasure as she struggled to swallow, the daughter said “I’m so glad you like it mummy, there should have been 32 candles but they were all gone when I took it out of the oven.” Somewhere on Earth, every 10 seconds a woman gives birth. We must find her and make her stop.
...to the thousands of people who took the time to fill out our magazine questionnaire. It was great to hear your feedback, and we’re overwhelmed by all the encouraging comments. You’ve also given us some ideas of how we can improve, so look out for a few changes this year. The lucky winner of the Summer 11 ticket is Richard from Leeds, who has already booked into the N&E event so has decided to donate his ticket to someone who was unable to attend for financial reasons.
DID YOU KNOW? You can watch and listen to teaching for free on the New Wine website. There’s a selection of top talks from our Summer Conferences – from Kenny Borthwick, Henry Orombi, Mike Breen, Beth Redman and more. Get your hands on it by clicking the ‘Resources’ tab on our website.
SHARING IS CARING If you’ve got any stories, jokes, questions, tips or advice, please let us know. There are plenty of ways to get in touch: Email:
2. Enoch was his great-grandfather
6. Abraham’s nephew
13. The first child born in the Bible
14. The first king of Israel 16. Complete this sentence from John 3: ‘He must become greater; I must become ____.’
18. Who God sent to restore Paul’s sight
21. What Samson later found in the lion that he killed
19. A village about seven miles from Jerusalem 20. What Gideon placed on the ground to receive a sign from God
10. The event that helped release Paul and Silas from prison 11. The servant who had his ear cut off at the arrest of Jesus
5. He had a wife named Ruth and a son named Obed
20. 21. Visit www.new-wine.org/mag for the answers.
Down 1. A political movement that got its name from the hill in Jerusalem boasting the Temple of Solomon 2. Like a _____ wind that brings unexpected rain is a sly tongue - which provokes a horrified look (Proverbs 25:23). 3. The animal that spoke to Balaam 4. James says in chapter 4, verse 7, ‘Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will ____ from you.’ 7. The city Jonah tried to run to instead of going to Nineveh as God commanded 8. One of the seven churches in Revelation 9. He decreed that a census of the entire Roman world should be taken at the time of Jesus’ birth 12. and 17. Jesus’ first two disciples 15. The payment Judas accepts for betraying Jesus 9
How to hear God
Archie Coates reminds us that regular, two-way conversation with God brings freedom and purpose
op of my resolutions this New Year, like most years, is to spend more time with God. I know that life is best lived in an ongoing conversation with him. And this is what God is hoping for too. Throughout the Bible there is a continual refrain, ‘God said…’ Why is it so important that we hear God speak to us? In a word: freedom. Hearing what God thinks of us sets us free from illegitimate human influence; it frees us from inherited prejudices, or from being slaves to circumstance, ambition or expectation. The 12th century French abbot St Bernard of Clairvaux said that it is not enough for us to know that God forgives sins, we must each hear God say to us personally, “Your sins are forgiven.” And hearing God for ourselves not only sets us free in who we are – unconditionally loved and eternally redeemed children of our Heavenly Father – it also brings freedom to the way we organise our lives. Jesus lived a seemingly pressurised yet gloriously free and very effective 10
life, simply listening to God and then going out and doing things. For example, after a time praying in the mountains he knew who to choose as his twelve disciples (Luke 6). There’s a sense that he lives under orders, saying that he can only do what he sees his Father doing ( John 5:19). In the same way, if we’re going to make the most of life’s possibilities, and yet not be overwhelmed by them, we need the clarity of hearing God’s voice day to day: how should I apportion my time, resources and skills? What are my priorities right now? I can’t tell you, and you can’t tell me, but by listening to God each of us can begin to grow our personal sense of vocation.
So what’s the method?
In John 10, Jesus explains that life works best when we understand that he is the Good Shepherd, and we are his sheep. A sheep does not have to worry because the shepherd takes care of everything (provision, protection and direction). There are just three basic things a sheep needs to do for itself: 1. LEARN TO LISTEN
‘The sheep listen to his voice’ ( John 10:3) I find God speaks to me through the Bible; if I’m not reading it, it’s like the phone is switched off God can’t get through to me.
As someone accustomed to making time to read and listen to God first thing in the morning, I found the birth of our children unsettling. They tended to disturb my sleep and get up early! To begin with, I responded by setting my alarm earlier and earlier, but within a few days I realised this was hopeless. I was no good at that hour and I don’t think even Jesus wanted to meet with me then! I had to learn to listen in other ways: turning off the radio and having a few moments quiet while I was doing something or travelling somewhere. Or taking a pen and piece of paper to church and asking God what he wanted to say to me personally through the sermon, and writing down something to take away and chew on in the midst of the forthcoming week. Different phases in life may require us to learn to listen to God differently. Is there a way of organising your current schedule to give you the best chance of hearing God? 2. RECOGNISE HIS VOICE
‘His sheep follow him because they know his voice’ ( John 10:4) There’s a difference between hearing a voice and knowing a voice. Mary, friend of Jesus, understood this. In Luke 10 we read how she would sit at Jesus’ feet, ‘listening to what he said’ (39).
‘I have found that God only very occasionally speaks to me about some life-changing direction for my life, but he seldom fails to speak if I ask him about the specifics of the day ahead’ Then later, at a key moment in the Easter story, it’s Mary who, when a stranger she takes to be the gardener speaks to her, knows that the voice belongs to Jesus ( John 20:11-18). But that knowing doesn’t come out of nowhere. It comes out of years of friendship between Mary and Jesus, all those hours of listening so that when he speaks she instinctively knows it’s him. That’s the second thing about sheep: the more they listen, the more able they are to pick out their shepherd’s voice. So lots of hearing provides the context for instinctive recognition. It’s the same as any close relationship; for example, I don’t have a complicated set of rules for recognising my wife’s voice (quite the opposite: when she speaks I jump to it!). In the Bible, God speaks to people in many ways – some startling (a burning bush, a dream, a fleece), some less so (another
person, Scripture, a thought, a voice that can be mistaken for that of an old man in the next room). And remember, when God is talking, it looks and sounds like Jesus, so any time we think God may be speaking to us, it’s good to ask, ‘Does this look and sound like Jesus?’ 3. DECIDE TO FOLLOW
‘His sheep follow him because they know his voice’ ( John 10:4) We don’t want to hear God’s voice simply for the sake of hearing it, but that we might be better followers. And strangely, God seems most often to speak to people who have already decided they’re going to do whatever he tells them! In the parable of the wise and foolish builders (Matt 7:24-29), Jesus says the question isn’t whether or not we hear God’s voice, but whether we put his words into practice. Sheep don’t have to know the whole master plan, they just have to be willing to take the next step, to follow day to day. I have found that God only very occasionally speaks to me about some life-changing direction for my
life, but he seldom fails to speak if I ask him about the specifics of the day ahead. Then quite easily he reminds me of someone to forgive or help or pray for. Or most often, something in my character he’d like to improve or reshape. This is how it works: in the morning, I decide I’m a sheep, following Jesus this day, and then I open my Bible, or sit and think through the day ahead, and say, “Lord, is there anything you want to tell me for following you this day? Have you any advice or encouragement for me, anything I should watch out for, or an extra thing I should do?” If you’re anything like me, you’ll decide to do this today, but then tomorrow it will be a major struggle. And don’t think that having made a breakthrough tomorrow, the day after will be any easier: you’ll have to fight for it! But it’s worth it because in this same passage as he’s telling us about hearing God’s voice, Jesus also says, “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full” ( John 10:10).
Archie Coates Archie is the Vicar of St Peter’s Brighton, Holy Trinity Brompton’s first church plant outside London. He is married to Sam and they have four young children.
What’s the conversation that you’ve been avoiding for days, weeks, months, even years? Who is it with and what’s it about? Chris Pemberton encourages and equips us to take a deep breath and say what we’re really thinking
n the novel The Sun Also Rises by American author Ernest Hemingway, a character is asked, “How did you go bankrupt?” He answers, “Gradually, then suddenly.” This phrase summarises my recent epiphany that people, families, churches, careers and companies succeed or fail, gradually then suddenly, one conversation at a time. You could say that a large part of life is fundamentally about an extended
conversation – with God, family, friends, employees, customers and the unknown future emerging around us. An essential competency for anyone is the robust ability to engage in highly skilled conversations around challenging issues. What gets talked about and how it gets talked about often determines what will or won’t happen. Conversations provide clarity or confusion. Conversations targeting real issues create cross-boundary collaboration and cooperation or, if avoided or badly handled, add barbed wire to the walls between well-defended fiefdoms and create a myriad of problems that any number of safe conversations may never sort out.
It’s time for us to change the conversation – the way we speak to one another. In fact, it’s crucial. The most valuable currency in 2011 is not money. Nor is it intelligence or attractiveness.
‘While no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a career, a company, a relationship or a life, any single conversation can’ It is relationship. It is emotional capital. A 2002 Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences was awarded to a psychology professor at Princeton University whose studies prove beyond any doubt that we behave emotionally first, rationally second. Let’s translate that to you, your career, your church and your organisation. Each of us accumulates or loses emotional capital, builds relationships we enjoy or endure with family, friends, colleagues, bosses and customers, one conversation at a time.
If the conversation stops, all possibilities for the relationship become smaller and all possibilities for the individuals in the relationship become smaller, until one day we overhear ourselves in mid-sentence, making ourselves smaller in every encounter, behaving as if we are just the space around ourselves.
If we compromise the way we speak to one another at work or at home, if we lower the standards about how often we talk, what we talk about and, most importantly, the degree of authenticity we bring to our conversations, we are on a slow and deadly slide that leads towards incremental degradation. In addition, the community of which we are a part stalls and may never fulfill the purpose to which God has called us. Avoid the conversations you really need to have and cooperation is unlikely to happen.
Take some time to study the conversations that Jesus had with the disciples in the gospels and see how he accumulates emotional capital and builds trust. Ponder how he speaks courageously of the truth that he knows to those around him in the knowledge that some will be offended. Reflect on the nature of the offense caused and then wonder whether that was a good thing.
Keeping it going
What about closer to home? A friend confessed that he was often frustrated that his wife needed to talk yet again about their relationship when they had talked about it last weekend. He wondered, ‘Why are we talking about this again? I thought we settled this. Couldn’t we just have one huge conversation about our relationship and then coast for a year or two?’ Eventually, it dawned on him. ‘This ongoing conversation I have been having with
In such times leaders often play micro-managing versus leading. Original thinking happens elsewhere. Church members feel excluded. Families suffer, marriages fail and children are bewildered. Employees have little or no emotional connection to the organisation and its customers. Relationships steadily disintegrate one failed or missing conversation at a time. Love is not preserved, alienation continues, problems are not resolved, reality is not clarified and growth is stifled.
Leading the way
At such a crossroads, many leaders review measurable goals, economic indicators, cash flow projections, process and procedures. Staggering amounts of money are dedicated to reviewing basic business processes while one galvanising conversation is often longed for. Just one. I know. I’ve talked with many people who wanted one. Sadly, it is an unusual leader who turns his or her attention to the conversations of the community; and yet, our leverage point, our fulcrum, is whatever conversation in which we are engaged at any given moment in time. While no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a career, a company, a relationship or a life, any single conversation can.
Part of a leader’s job is to engineer breakthroughs one conversation at a time; conversations that reveal we are capable of original thought, that are intelligent and spirited and provide clarity and impetus for change.
my wife is not about the relationship. The conversation is the relationship.’
Courageous conversations will get you having the most important conversations you can have with someone, right now. After all, if you want someone or something to change, you are the one responsible for initiating it. If something is bothering you, you need to be the one who does something about it. When the conversation is real, the change often occurs before the conversation has ended. Don’t try to have important conversations via e-mail. The most powerful communications technology any of us will ever have is eye contact. The next is our voice. Dead last is words on a page or a screen.
‘If you want someone or something to change, you are the one responsible for initiating it. If something is bothering you, you need to be the one who does something about it’ Courageous conversations are no emotional walk in the park. You are faced with some hard questions about your reality. It takes a certain fearlessness to make your private thoughts public. If what you’re thinking makes you squirm and wish to wriggle away, you are probably onto something. Whether through fear of hurting a person, receiving retaliation, or having someone point out our own mistakes, we delay having the conversations we need to have. If you begin to have such conversations, your relationships will grow before your very eyes. You will begin to talk about what everyone is pretending to not know. Don’t miss having that one conversation that could change your life.
How to begin • Recognise that a careful conversation is a failed conversation because it merely postpones the conversation that wants and needs to take place. 13
• Don’t linger on the edges. Small confusions are easy to clear up and can lull you into thinking you’ve addressed your subject in a comprehensive way. Instead, ask yourself: What is the deepest issue in this confusion? Speak toward it, with firmness and concentration.
Worksheet 1 Identify a situation where you need to address a difficult relational issue.
• Read some books on how to have difficult conversations you’ve been avoiding. Boundaries Face to Face by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend provides a helpful introduction.
2 Briefly explain the context – what is the nature of the issue or issues you need to address?
• Speak directly to the heart of the issue. Tell the truth as much as you can. There is something deep within us that responds to those who level with us, who don’t suggest our compromises for us. Try living on the edge when it comes to speaking courageously. You may topple off but the fall will not kill you. Avoiding the conversation, however, may have dire consequences.
3 What is the problem you want to solve or the subject you want to engage with the person concerned?
Questions to trigger courageous conversations Gather your family, church or organisation together and ask:
4 Why is this a challenging conversation for you?
5 Prepare for a courageous conversation: What is your position?
• What’s the most important thing we should be talking about today? • What do we believe is impossible for us to do, that if it were possible, would change everything?
How can you illustrate your thinking (data and interpretation)?
• If nothing changes, what’s likely to happen? How will you test your view?
What might their reaction be?
How can you be prepared to enquire into their reaction? Think through your basic approach.
Chris Pemberton Chris is the Training Director for the New Wine Training Partnership. From 1998 to May 2009 he was the vicar of St Mary Bredin in Canterbury. He has a background in marketing and worked for Dunlop Holdings in London before ordination.
New Wine Training Partnership Practically focused Spirit empowered Academically challenging The NWTP delivers undergraduate and graduate Kingdom Theology courses from Westminster Theological Centre (WTC) within local churches in London, Manchester, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, East Anglia and Guernsey. These courses are ideal for people wanting to practically apply Kingdom Theology and leadership training to their life place and ministry, and are manageable alongside a full-time job and other commitments. There are currently 125 students from many different walks of life studying within local NWTP learning communities. This is what they are saying: “Exciting, cutting-edge and encouraging teaching delivered with love!”
Kingdom Theology Taster Days • What is Kingdom Theology? • How is it taught? • Is it relevant for my life place? • Will I be able to cope with the challenge? If you are asking some of these questions then this day is for you. Join us for a morning of free teaching from the WTC teaching faculty and the opportunity to find out more about the accredited courses being run in your area. Manchester Hub:
Saturday 19 February 2011 with Dr Bob Ekblad London Hub:
Saturday 26 February 2011 with Dr Bob Ekblad Hampshire Hub:
Saturday 12 March 2011 with Rev Chris Pemberton Gloucestershire Hub:
Saturday 19 March 2011 with Dr Crispin Fletcher-Louis Guernsey Hub:
“I’ve found that my mind and heart have been expanded in ways I didn’t know they could be and this has given a greater depth of hunger and excitement for the things of the Kingdom.”
Saturday 9 April 2011 with Dr Crispin Fletcher-Louis
“It’s been a life-transforming and very inspiring experience which I believe has started a huge healing and learning process.”
To find out more, visit us online at www.nwtp.org.uk or call the WTC office on 0300 040 6200 (UK local rate).
East Anglia Hub:
Saturday 30 April 2011 with Rev Chris Pemberton
If we’re honest, we don’t always feel compassion for the people suffering all around us, let alone act on it. Nadine Parkinson and Ruth Perrin offer some inspiration to step out and transform lives, using the story of an unnamed little girl
ew Wine’s new strapline is ‘Local churches changing nations’, but many of us need encouragement to see ourselves as part of the solution to all the brokenness around us. It may not be apparent to others, but we know we suffer from compassion fatigue as a result of the endless needs all around us in a society that has rightly been declared broken. And for many, our faith in God’s power to save and heal has been knocked by personal disappointment.
The great and the small
There’s a little girl in the Bible who can inspire us, who had remarkable compassion and faith given the circumstances of her life and experience. She appears in the Old Testament book of 2 Kings: ‘Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said’ (5:1-4). And so, Naaman goes to Elisha, washes in the Jordan and gets healed. 16
This little girl is quite something – and we don’t even know her name! We can piece together a few fragments of her young life. Captured in a raid on her village or town, it’s likely her family are dead and that she’s seen things we would hope our children would never see. Certainly she has been forcibly taken from her home against her will. There are parts of the world today where her story wouldn’t be so remarkable. Children are regularly snatched in parts of wartorn Africa or trafficked for prostitution in Southeast Asia. This little girl has been sold into slavery and is working as maid to the wife of the captain of the army – the man who has effectively ruined her life. We don’t know from the text how long she has been there, or how she has been treated; whether her owners are harsh or kind to her. But what is striking about her is that she has the courage to speak up and to honour Elisha, the prophet of Israel’s God, who has not saved her from captivity! There are two remarkable things about that.
The first is that she is full of compassion and really does love her enemies (Matt 5:44). You wouldn’t blame her for being glad that her captor, owner and oppressor is debilitatingly ill, but instead she is sufficiently concerned about the health of her master to try and help him. She probably wrestled with whether she should say something or not, but it seems the situation was so desperate and her mistress so distraught that compassion outweighed any fear she may have had, and she makes a suggestion to her mistress. The second is that, despite everything that has happened to her, she is full of faith in God and his prophet Elisha. God had not prevented her capture and suffering, but she still believed that he was the answer to Naaman’s problems. She must have cried tears of bereavement, confusion, homesickness and exhaustion, yet somehow she still has faith in God. She is able to hold in tension the lack of a miracle in her own life and her faith in the fact that the prophet of God could heal. Her faith is solid despite her own circumstances. What a girl! How do we measure up against her?
When compassion is hard
We are surrounded by people whose lives are affected by work pressures, unemployment, broken relationships, money worries, addictions; people living in darkness, fear, anxiety and dread; people who desperately need to discover the love and saving power and presence of God. Many times we find compassion comes easily and we can’t help but respond and reach out. But what about the people who have caused us grief, where there is a history of ill feeling or irritation – how easy do we find it to feel compassion for them when they are in trouble? To offer to pray for a bullying boss when they are in crisis? To show patience and kindness to a family member who takes you for granted or treats you unreasonably? To a neighbour who is being frosty or difficult with you? Compassion isn’t always the first feeling we have for them when they have difficulties!
‘All of us know people whose lives are in need of a miracle. Some of them are people we love; some are people who make life hard for us. Do we feel free to point them to our God who can help them, or do we feel gagged – constrained by our lack of faith?’ And then there are those who are just so different to us. We may not like the way they live their lives and can feel they have brought hardship upon themselves and should suffer the consequences of their choices. Our hearts are sometimes hardened towards others so that we are not ready to extend news to them of a good God who can bring them freedom, release, healing and forgiveness.
Dealing with disappointment
Or maybe we are locked in our own disappointment: consumed by what God has not done, so that our faith is effectively disabled from seeing what God can and may do! There are always going to be things we are never going to understand. Can we continue to believe in God’s power to heal and save when we feel personal, bitter disappointment and sorrow? Can we hold on, believing that God is good all the time, even when all is not well in our lives? Are we able to sing these words from Blessed be your name by Matt and Beth Redman: ‘When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord”’?
Enslaved but courageous
Can we honestly say with the prophet Habakkuk: ‘Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!’ (Hab 3:17-18)? All of us know people whose lives are in need of a miracle. Some of them are people we love; some are people who make life hard for us. Do we feel free to point them to our God who can help them, or do we feel gagged – constrained by our lack of faith?
An inspiring example
God wants us to be like children – to have childlike faith in a hard and unbelieving world; to have hearts that are what Christian writer John Ortberg calls ‘relentlessly responsive’. At times when we are feeling hardhearted or lacking faith, let’s allow ourselves to be challenged by this little girl. She lost her family but not her compassion or her faith. That is why despite one nameless mention in the whole Bible she’s a heroine who can inspire us. Naaman’s life was transformed. So was his family’s. So was the perspective of his servants and maybe even the king of Aram! Who would have thought that the faith of one little girl could have that kind of ripple effect? It’s a gamble, but maybe our faith could too?
Nadine Parkinson & Ruth Perrin Nadine and her husband Ian are the New Wine North and East Regional Leaders and work together in leading All Saints’ Marple, Stockport. Ruth is on staff at King’s Church in Durham. She has an MA in Theology and Ministry and has written a series of Bible studies on the men and women of scripture (www.cloudofwitnesses.org.uk).
How can we defend the violence in the Old Testament, which God appears to have commanded? In the first article in a new series exploring this question, Simon Coupland considers one simple approach ‘What about the violence in the Old Testament?’ is a question that comes up again and again when I visit small groups of Christians to answer their questions about faith. It’s also one of the charges that critics throw at us. In his best-selling attack on religion, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins writes: ‘The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving controlfreak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sado-masochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.’ Bible scholars similarly recognise there’s a problem. In his Tyndale commentary on the Old Testament book Joshua, Richard Hess writes: ‘Few of the many issues raised by the book of Joshua create more difficulty than the question of how a loving God could command the wholesale extermination of nations that inhabited the Promised Land. There is no easy or simple solution to this problem.’ So there is no simple answer. Yet I believe that there are some significant factors which can help us to say with integrity that these passages are Scripture. In this series
of articles we will consider three simple solutions that are sometimes offered, but which turn out not to be answers at all, then three helpful thoughts which are not complete solutions to the problem, but do offer a way of coping with it. SIMPLE SOLUTION 1: CUT OUT THE OLD TESTAMENT If my experience is typical, this is how many Christians operate, even though they may not be aware of it. It’s not that they reject the Old Testament as Scripture, but in their everyday Christian life they never read or study it, and in home groups they turn to the gospels and epistles or particular themes and issues, but rarely, if ever, open the first half of the Bible. Other Christians overtly say, ‘I can’t understand the Old Testament and I don’t know why it’s in our Bibles’, and consciously ignore it. Some have got the impression that there are two different gods – the jealous, wrathful God of the Old Testament who smites people with thunderbolts, and the loving, forgiving God of the New Testament.
An old dispute
This is nothing new; in the second century a church leader called Marcion argued the same thing. Marcion taught that there were two gods: the God of the Old Testament and the Father revealed by Jesus. He believed that Paul was the only true interpreter of Jesus and that most of the books regarded as authoritative in the church of his day were wrong. So he produced his own canon of Scripture, leaving out the whole Old Testament and also much of the New. But God has a wonderful knack of turning attacks on him to his advantage, and what happened was that
Is God homicidal? ‘Some have got the impression that there are two different gods - the jealous, wrathful God of the Old Testament who smites people with thunderbolts, and the loving, forgiving God of the New Testament’ Marcion’s attempt to distort the fledgling Christian faith led to the wider church agreeing its own list of accepted books, which became more or less the New Testament canon that we know today. The early Christians also agreed, against Marcion, that the Hebrew Bible was their Bible too, to be read, studied and quoted. Thus when Paul wrote to Timothy, ‘from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness’ (2 Tim 3:15-16), it wasn’t the New Testament Scriptures to which he was referring, as they were still being written, but the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament.
Splitting with Jesus
The fact is that if we reject or neglect the Old Testament, it has a series of unfortunate consequences. First, we are no longer following Jesus, because he clearly regarded the Hebrew Bible as the Word of God. See for instance Mark 7:13, where he criticised those who were neglecting the care of their
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parents, with these words: “You nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.” Or Matthew 22:29, where he told the Sadducees with regard to the resurrection: “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” Second, we have to cut out large parts of the New Testament too, as almost all books quote the Old Testament, many of them numerous times. So Jesus said in Mark 12:10, “Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’?” (Psalm 118:22). In other words, Jesus expected his listeners to know the Old Testament, to respect its authority and to see its relevance. The other New Testament writers likewise assumed that their readers knew the events described in the Old Testament, and built their theological arguments upon it. For instance, in a long passage about Abraham, Paul wrote, ‘What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness”’ (Rom 4:3).
As those two passages demonstrate, another thing we lose if we ignore the Old Testament is an understanding of the context into which Jesus came and the way he saw himself and his mission. So in the synagogue at Nazareth Jesus read from Isaiah 61 and added, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21). In effect Jesus pointed to the prophet’s writing and said, ‘That’s me!’ Or on the road to Emmaus, ‘beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself’ (Luke 24:27). Wouldn’t we love to have a fuller record of that conversation? But God leaves us to do the work for ourselves, which means immersing ourselves in the Old Testament, reflecting on it and making the connections Jesus made. Finally, if we cut out the Old Testament we deprive ourselves of much that even critics of the 20
Hebrew Bible recognise as worth treasuring: the riches of the Psalms, the ten commandments, stories like that of Ruth, the foreign widow who becomes David’s greatgrandmother and much more. I was fascinated to read an article in Good Housekeeping magazine in 2000 by the broadcaster Jenni Murray. She describes organising the funeral of a BBC colleague who had no religious faith, and how difficult it was to find something appropriate for the committal, when the mourners say their final goodbye. She eventually chose something suggested by the British Humanist Society: ‘To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose on earth...’ clearly unaware that she was quoting Ecclesiastes 3!
An unchanging God
It’s also important to emphasise that there really aren’t two different gods in the Bible, the angry one of the Old Testament and the loving one of the New. For a start, if we study the Hebrew Scriptures we discover that the God revealed there is the God of the Exodus, who rescues his people from slavery and demonstrates his character in these words: ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin’ (Ex 34:6-7). This description of God runs like a scarlet thread through the Old Testament: see Numbers 14:18, Nehemiah 9:17, Psalms 103:8 and 145:8 and Nahum 1:3.
someone suggested that I go through the gospels and highlight all the promises of Jesus. I did, and it was great! But a few years later I noticed that Jesus also gave many threats and warnings, so I decided to highlight those in a different colour. I was amazed and slightly shocked at the number of times Jesus warned people to sort themselves out and respond to God - or else! Passages like this one from the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant: “In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matt 18:34-35). So the Old Testament speaks of judgement, but it also speaks of grace, and the New Testament is exactly the same. The God of the Hebrew Bible is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and if we’re followers of Jesus, which for me is a pretty good definition of a Christian, then we should ‘read, mark, learn and inwardly digest’ (from The Book of Common Prayer) the Old Testament as well as the New. For as Paul says, these are the scriptures which ‘are able to make you wise for salvation’ (2 Tim 3:15); they reveal the Father to us and they point us to Jesus. In the next article we’ll look at two more false solutions and the first helpful thought. For further reading I’d recommend The God I Don’t Understand by Chris Wright.
Jesus clearly identifies his Father as the Old Testament God. See for instance John 6:45: “It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.” What’s more, Jesus speaks just as much of judgement as he does of mercy. When I was a baby Christian
Simon Coupland Simon leads St Paul’s Kingston Hill and a local New Wine Network, together with his wife Heather. He’d love to write a book on ‘Burning issues that preachers prefer not to touch’, of which this would be one.
CHURCH LEADERS’ NETWORK
Join a growing network of over a thousand church leaders and pastors • Connect nationally through conferences, leaders’ forums and training events • Connect locally with your Local Network Group • Connect intentionally with a Core Group • Connect online to our exclusive members’ resource area ‘A great source of spiritual refreshment and challenge; in fact, I would say it is a lifeline...I have often had significant encounters with God and received words of knowledge and prophecy that have either reminded me of my calling or challenged me to take further risks in ministry for the sake of the Kingdom.’ Danny Wignall, Surrey
Kids Work Training day
‘The Network has helped me to appreciate the value of ‘joined up’ and strategic thinking and praying.’ Keith King, Buckinghamshire ‘I have found the core group a safe place where I am challenged and equipped.’ Laura McWilliams, Yorkshire
The Network is for church leaders and pastors of any denomination who are in, or training for, significant positions of leadership within the church and Christian ministry. If the imagination, dreams, energy and talents of all the local churches in the New Wine Network could be harnessed, then I believe that together we could really contribute to changing nations. If you share our vision and values, I warmly invite you to join us. John Coles, Director, New Wine
Greater Things: Inner-City & Urban Priority Area Church Leaders’ Forum 1–2 March 2011 Hothorpe Hall Leicestershire Led by experienced UPA leaders, this forum will feature inspiring yet down-to-earth talks, practical seminars and powerful times of worship and ministry.
S Y A D G IN IN A R T S R E K R O KIDS W LEVEL REACHING THE NEXT
NORTH Saturday 7 May 2011 Holy Trinity Ripon Ripon
SOU TH Saturday 21 May 2011 St Michael’s Southfields London
EAST Saturday 21 May 2011 Fountain of Life, Ashill Norfolk
WEST Saturday 14 May 2011 Trinity Cheltenham Cheltenham
workers in your area, these training days As well as providing a great opportunity to meet other kids’ and youth hes and demonstrate great ideas that approac new se showca hip, present teaching dedicated to Kingdom leaders edge of youth and children’s ministr y. have been tried, tested and proven by practitioners drawn from the cutting uplifting worship and focused prayer time. Bring your team for an invaluable day of teaching, practical workshops, For more info go to www.new-wine.org/kids And don’t forget to join our New Wine Kids Facebook group!
Rural & Village Church Leaders’ Forum 1–2 February 2011 Hothorpe Hall Leicestershire With teaching, practical seminars and workshops, worship and invaluable time with like-minded leaders
Life to the full
How do we make sure our lives are bearing fruit? Jonathan Jee reminds us that it’s all about our connection to Jesus Kindness
t one of the morning meetings at last year’s New Wine Central and South West Summer Conference, Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi asked us what promise God had given us. In the quiet I sensed the Lord remind me of the seminar I was about to give on John 15; he said “Abide in me and you will be fruitful”. Jesus expects all his followers to be ‘fruitful’, but what does this look like? The fruits of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5 are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, and we are to grow these in our lives (Gal 5:22-23). Jesus also says we can tell those who are his true disciples because we will bear good fruit for him (see Matt 7:15-20). This fruit also includes the difference we make to others’ lives and to the world we live in. The more like Jesus we are, the more we will do the sorts of things he did (see John 14:12). God has been reminding me of this for many years. As an activist, the danger is that I can easily think that my fruitfulness comes from working hard for him, so I work harder – but then get tired and worn out and am not so fruitful. He has been telling me to do a bit less, to pray a bit more, and I will be more fruitful. It feels a bit risky to do less and pray more – but that’s faith. This was most impressed on me six years ago while on sabbatical. Of all the passages in Scripture that God spoke to me through, it was John 15 that was most significant. And of all the things I read about this passage, it was a little book by Bruce Wilkinson called Secrets of the Vine that said it best. In this book, Wilkinson describes the four levels of fruit we find in John 15: no fruit, some fruit, more fruit and much fruit, and how we can cooperate with the Father in being more fruitful.
From ‘no fruit’ to ‘some fruit’ Self-Control
John 15:2 had always felt a little strange to me. When Jesus says, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit”, this seemed to contradict other parts of his teaching, such as “Whoever comes to me I will never drive 23
away” ( John 6:37) and “My sheep… shall never perish; no-one will snatch them out of my hand” ( John 10:27-28).
too much time at work, maybe some church activities – because he has more fruit in mind.
We know from John 15:6 that if we do not remain in him, we are like a branch that is thrown away. But verse 2 is talking about every branch ‘in me’ – Jesus is talking about Christians. Why ever would he cut off a Christian? And how can a Christian bear ‘no fruit’?
The temptation is to resist or resent what God is doing; the devil whispers in our ear that ‘God is a spoilsport’. But we need to trust that he is a loving Father who knows what is best for us, and to cooperate with his pruning.
Wilkinson’s book alerted me to the fact that the Greek word (airo) translated here as ‘takes away’ or ‘cuts off’ can also be translated ‘take up’ or ‘lift up’. Suddenly the verse makes sense. If a vine branch is trailing along the ground, it will get muddy and bears no fruit. So the gardener will lift it up, wash it, wrap it around a trellis or tie it up until it is strong enough.
In verses 5 and 8 Jesus talks about us bearing ‘much fruit’. This comes as we ‘remain’ (NIV) in him – or in the older translations as we ‘abide’ in him. Eight times in verses 4-8 Jesus talks about us remaining or abiding in him.
‘Picture a branch attached to a vine. The thicker the connection, the more sap can flow into the branch and the more fruit it will bear’ Sometimes a Christian gets caught up in sin. Like a weak branch covered in mud, the sin prevents the branch from flourishing and bearing fruit. So the Father will intervene with discipline, with the intention of getting us to repent of our sin. He lifts us up, washes us clean, strengthens us, and then we can start to bear fruit again. If that is you, the best thing you can do is to cooperate with the Father as he disciplines you (see Hebrews 12:5-11). Repent of your sin, practice basic Christian disciplines (read the Bible and pray every day, be part of a small group as well as church on Sundays, and maybe ask a more mature Christian to meet with you weekly for a year as a mentor). Soon you will be growing again, and starting to bear fruit.
From ‘some fruit’ to ‘more fruit’
This is the part of John 15 we understand best. Verse 2 goes on to say, “Every branch in me that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be more fruitful”. Left on their own, vines will grow longer branches, lots of leaves and a few grapes. But if they are pruned, they will grow lots more grapes. If we are bearing some fruit for Christ, the Father will prune some things out of our lives so that we can bear more fruit. Most times the things he wants to prune are perfectly good in themselves, but they stop us bearing more fruit. The good can be the enemy of the best. This is undoubtedly painful. God asks us to stop doing things which we quite like – perhaps hobbies, perhaps 24
From ‘more fruit’ to ‘much fruit’
Picture a branch attached to a vine. The thicker the connection, the more sap can flow into the branch, and the more fruit it will bear. The Father is inviting us to abide deeply in Christ, and promises that we will bear much fruit. In our early days as Christians we derive huge satisfaction from our relationship with Christ. As we grow in him, we also start to get fulfilment from ministry for him. The problem comes when we start to get more satisfaction from our Christian ministry than from our relationship with Christ. The danger is that we put more energy into ministry and get burned out. Jesus invites us to abide deeply in him instead – and to trust that the fruit will come. It feels risky, but we know he’s right. The key thing here is that this is an invitation. The Lord won’t force us. If we are caught up in sin, he takes the initiative and convicts us. If we are bearing fruit, he takes the initiative and prunes us. But if we are being fruitful, he simply invites us to go deeper into him – but he won’t make us. He goes on to promise us that this is the way to joy as well as fruit (see verses 10-17). So what is stopping us? Maybe we have some false picture of God that means we would rather do things for him than spend time with him. Ask God what is stopping you from accepting his invitation to abide more deeply in him. Ask him what he would like you to stop doing in order to make more time for your relationship with him. And dare to trust that you will bear much fruit for him.
Jonathan Jee Jonathan has been Vicar of St Paul’s in Leamington Spa for 10 years. He is married to Juliet and they have five children.
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Special Needs Training: we’ll come to you!
How do you feel about including people who have special needs within the life of your church?
Maybe you’ve thought you should be doing something, but don’t know where to start? Or that you don’t have the knowledge or skills? Perhaps you’re scared of doing the wrong thing, or that if you start something you will raise expectations that you won’t be able to meet? Many people share these concerns, which can be a barrier to allowing all people to find a place where they can grow in faith and worship as a full member of the church family. Over the years, New Wine has developed a dedicated special needs ministry for children, young people, adults and their families at the Summer Conferences. Many people have seen this in action and have taken ideas back to their own churches, developing them further and applying them to different contexts.
for more specialised training. From Spring 2011 we will be offering a training resource that can be tailored to the specific needs of individual churches. Trained members of our Special Needs team will be on hand to support you in three ways:
• We can come to you and run a half-day training
session for your team, which includes all the hallmarks of a New Wine event – worship, teaching and prayer ministry – as well as discussion and practical ideas
• We can chat through a specific concern or question with you over the phone or by email
• We can put you in touch with people or churches near to you who can share resources and experience
We believe that including people of all abilities in our churches is an expression of the inclusive love that God demonstrates to us, and as we acknowledge this we are inspired to live it out. If you would like to know more, please contact us via the New Wine office or email firstname.lastname@example.org ‘Thank you for an exceptional day. I have picked up so many ideas that will be useful for my Sunday club and with the students I work with. I felt a definite presence of God and was greatly uplifted during the worship…Today showed me once again that there is a job to do reaching out to families and children with special needs, and particularly to those who have never heard about Jesus.’ Viv Binns Feedback from Highfields Church, Southampton Training Day
In addition, the annual Special Needs - Special Ministry conferences provide a place where experience and inspiration can be shared with a wider audience. But we would love to share more of our knowledge and experience with you, and we recognise the growing need
Heather Holgate Heather is a children’s occupational therapist. She has co-ordinated the special needs provision for children and families in her local church and at the New Wine Summer Conferences for more than 10 years.
IN NEED OF FUEL? TOP UP SPIRITUALLY AT A FILLING STATION NEAR YOU! Wanting more? Need a credible place to bring your friends to meet God? Feel like you are alone in your area as a Spirit-filled Christian? We can help.
THE FILLING STATION exists to
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help bring Spiritual renewal and evangelism to your area. Using informal mid-week monthly celebration meetings, we have seen many come to faith, healings occur and the Christian population of an area strengthened in their confidence and purpose. The Filling Station is not a new Church denomination, rather a group of Christians who want to help you live better.
DON’T HAVE A FILLING STATION NEAR YOU?
Contact the Filling Station Director, Rev Richard Fothergill about starting your own local meeting. We will be able to help you launch a relevant, accessible, informal meeting where people encounter God. The Filling Station currently has meetings taking place in: Somerset, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Bedforshire with more planned across the country. Find your nearest Filling Station using our website.
Contact Rev Richard Fothergill: 01225 832806 or 07835263706
In Safe Hands
What’s it like to trust in God’s protection when your job involves risking your life? A bomb disposal officer shares some of his experiences
e were working on a road in Sangin, Helmand Province, clearing it of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). I had just finished disarming a device and got back to the Mastiff armoured personnel carrier. The Company Sergeant Major (CSM) shouted that a soldier had been injured further up the road. We got in and drove but soon ground to a halt. There was something visible in the road ahead, probably another IED. The CSM asked my advice. I said it looked real. But we both thought it would take too long to get to the wounded soldier. So I asked the lads in the back of the vehicle if they were happy to risk driving past a bomb. They all said they were. The Mastiff vehicles are truly excellent but as we set off our hearts were in our mouths and we made sure we were strapped in tight. One of the team next to me started saying the Lord’s Prayer. Soon we all joined in and we drove past. We got to the wounded soldier who was by then receiving medical treatment and my team helped get him onto the helicopter. We later went back to clear the device. It turned out to be a hoax, designed to slow us up. For someone who wasn’t there it’s easy to write it off as a coincidence, but as the theologian William Temple said, ‘When I pray coincidences happen; when I don’t, they don’t.’
Courage under fire
A couple of days later we had to clear another point further up the same road. We knew there was an IED in a culvert. It was quite a big device and we decided to approach it from a different angle. Unfortunately we got pinned down by accurate automatic fire, and dust was thrown up as the bullets struck the ground all around us. One of the searcher’s metal detectors got a bullet through the handle. We knew we couldn’t dive behind a mound of earth because there were more IEDs there, so we had to manoeuvre backwards to safety. There was still the IED in the culvert to deal with, and luckily the Infantry had managed to get an Apache 28
helicopter gunship to wait overhead and keep watch. “You’ve got 13 minutes”, said the CSM. So with one of my team just behind throwing smoke grenades to screen me, we ran down the road and placed some explosive to disrupt (rather than detonate it, which would ruin the road) the IED. It was a non-standard technique that would have won me no marks back at the training school, but it did the job! That day didn’t seem to end. We were hit by an IED on the way back to base in the Mastiffs but no-one was hurt. We then found another device in the next road which I had to deal with. You need a lot of energy to do this work: physical, mental and emotional.
I have been on four operational tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. This last one was the toughest I have ever done. My job was to dispose of IEDs alongside the Infantry. I worked in a small team of four and with a seven-man search team of Royal Engineers. I think God works a lot through the people around you. Some of them are the reason I’m still here. Gunshot wounds and blast injuries from IEDs are daily occurrences and the feeling of vulnerability only continues the further you go in your tour. If I’m honest, the bravery starts to run out after a while. The mission is challenging but not impossible. The main aim is to train the Afghan army and police because that will ultimately mean we can go home. It takes immense patience but can yield staggering results. Like those days when the Afghan Security Forces get wind of an IED before a civilian steps on it or coalition forces walk past it.
Holding onto God
I am struggling with the fact that I am back safely and others are not. I don’t know why this is but I know that I have to live the best life I can in the light of their sacrifices and my experiences. As a Christian I also know of Jesus’ sacrifice made for me on the Cross and the challenge to live out that faith.
ANd IF OUr GOd Is FOr Us... NEW ALBUM OUT NOW British Army IED Operatives in Afghanistan
‘Gunshot wounds and blast injuries from Improvised Explosive Devices are daily occurrences and the feeling of vulnerability only continues the further you go in your tour’ If there was one place I looked in my darkest moments, it was Psalm 91: ‘If you say, “The LORD is my refuge”, and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent’ (9-10). I held onto this promise again and again, asking God to protect my team and those around us. I know that a lot of people were asking God on my behalf as well. I am writing this as a ‘thank you’, both to God and to those who prayed for us. I know that if I had lost one of my team then I would have found it hard to carry on. You form some really close bonds on operations and people are a lot more ready to talk about God. I got talking to one guy who said he wanted to get his dog tags (identity discs) changed as they said ‘atheist’ but he no longer wanted to be one. I don’t think the Bible says we should get it easy. But it does help us to express our fears, face up to them, and have them driven out through God’s ‘perfect love’ (1 John 4:18). I’d like to thank my team for looking after me – I owe them more than words can express. I’d like to thank my brave and beautiful wife for clinging onto hope day after day when I couldn’t use the phone. And I’d like to thank Jesus, for being my hope of hopes. He came through.
Chris Tomlin returns with his much-anticipated new album ‘And If Our God Is For Us…’, which features the new single ‘I Will Follow’ and a new studio recording of ‘Our God’.
Dan is an Ammunition Technical Officer in the Royal Logistic Corps of the British Army. 29 NewWineMag_x3.indd 2
EXPECTING MIRACLES God is healing people today through the prayers of ordinary people like you. Steve Morgan shares some exciting stories of what can happen when we ask God to act When I first arrived at my current church I started a monthly Healing Service at which there were a number of profound healing experiences. All seemed to be going well, until I realised that I was getting a reputation as a ‘healer’. The crunch came when a family travelled a considerable distance to come to Merthyr and offered me £10,000 if I would go with them to a sick relative who lived abroad. The mistake I was making was that I was doing all the public praying rather than training the church to do it. In hindsight, my mistake proved to be a blessing in disguise. The faith level of the church had grown considerably and when I set up a series of Saturday morning training sessions, a good number of people came with a high level of expectancy. God did not disappoint them, and several significant healings took place during the training sessions. Within a couple of years we had a team that ministered publically at the Healing Services, in twos and threes for private appointments and also in their everyday lives.
Hearing God speak
I knew we had turned the corner when a lady contacted me to offer her thanks to ‘whoever prayed for my husband’. The man in question had severe depression following a diagnosis of terminal cancer. The couple who prayed for him did not feel led to pray for his cancer to be healed. Instead, they invited him to put his trust in God and receive Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. The man was reduced to tears. After he prayed for Jesus to come into his life and forgive him his sins, he was reminded of a moment when he felt crushed by guilt. His mother had been taken seriously ill, but he delayed in going to see her and she died suddenly. He asked the couple who prayed with him why this powerful memory had returned to him. They explained to him that this was the key memory that the Lord wanted to heal and that further healing would now follow. As he asked the Lord to forgive him and take away his guilt, he felt a surge of heat penetrate the area of his abdomen where the cancer was located. A short while after this, he went to have a hospital checkup before commencing chemotherapy. He was told that the tumour had disappeared. He and his wife wept as the 30
consultant gave them the news. He told the consultant about the prayers he had received. She became distressed. The couple ended up consoling the consultant as she explained to them that her daughter had been diagnosed with cancer and that she felt helpless and lost. They had never prayed for anyone before, but ended up praying for the consultant and her daughter.
‘As he asked the Lord to forgive him and take away his guilt, he felt a surge of heat penetrate the area of his abdomen where the cancer was located’ Witnessing miracles
The Alpha Course is another context in which we’ve seen a number of healings take place. Michael had been persuaded by his partner Trudy to come to one of our courses. He showed little interest, as a result of prayers in the past that had gone unanswered. During the presentations on DVD he would not only nod off but snore as well. Trudy would often give him a kick to wake him up. Then, one evening, a lady in the group had a severe back spasm and we were unable to continue. Unfortunately, the ‘Does Jesus Heal Today?’ unit of the course was scheduled for a few weeks’ time. Someone jokingly asked if she could wait till then. The leaders prayed for her and within a few minutes the pain had left her and she was gloriously healed of a long-standing spinal problem. This drew Michael’s attention. Then a teenager in the group asked if she could receive prayer as she also had a long-standing back problem. Someone had a word of knowledge from God that described an accident the girl had had years ago while horse riding. Her hip was out of alignment and her right leg had not grown fully. Michael’s eyes were now on stalks as he pressed forward to see what would happen. Her hip was re-aligned and her leg grew to the same length as the other leg. I am unable to write what he said at the sight of the leg growing! The following day Michael was telling his friends at work what he had witnessed and that he had given his life to Jesus. A few days later he had a serious accident in which his left foot was turned 180 degrees and his tibia and fibula were fractured. He sent for the Alpha team to pray for him in hospital. Although his leg was in plaster, those who prayed could feel his bones moving in the palms of their hands. Michael could feel it as well as his partner
Trudy, who became quite emotional as she sensed the bones moving through the cast. One of the bones had multiple fractures and an x-ray the following day confirmed that they had come together like a jigsaw.
Holding onto hope
sOUL sUrVIVOr LIGhT ThE skY
NEW ALBUM OUT NOW
There have been many situations in which we’ve prayed but no healing seems to take place. It is vital to build doctrine and belief on what God has done rather than on what he has not done. We have discovered that mystery must take the place of disappointment. Joan was in the advanced stages of multiple sclerosis. She had asked for regular prayer for healing and this took place in her home. After one time of prayer ministry she felt a surge of energy and found herself standing beside her bed without the aid of her crutches. She walked around her bedroom with perfect muscular control and strength. Then she lay back on the bed, closed her eyes, and thanked God. She then had the sensation of doing bicycle kicks, but when she opened her eyes, her legs were motionless. This lasted for several minutes. Afterwards, she reverted to her full disability. Her condition continued to deteriorate and then she developed cancer. Shortly before Joan died she was asked what she felt about all the unanswered prayers. Her reply was remarkable. She said that she could not be happier, because her husband and children had all been unbelievers and were hardened in that stance as they saw her deteriorate. However, at a family gathering she asked her husband to write out the prayers that she wanted to be prayed at her funeral. Her husband and children wept as she composed a prayer that asked for God to be merciful to her loved ones and do whatever it would take to bring them to faith so that she would see them again. They broke down and gave their lives to Jesus right there and then. Joan said that all her suffering was worth it for that moment. She died a week later. Be encouraged to press on in the ministry of healing for it is God’s delight to be in the midst of a praying community of believers that expects to see him at work today with the same power and compassion that we read about in the pages of the Bible.
With worship led by Tim hughes, Beth Croft, Tom Field and Jamie rodwell, this live album is strong and as fresh as ever. Featuring the songs ‘Praise Overflows’, ‘Light The sky’, ‘Found In You’ and ‘Our God’.
Steve Morgan Steve is the Vicar of Christchurch, Merthyr Tydfil. He is currently writing material for a Healing Academy starting in May under the auspices of New Wine Cymru.
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y six-year-old son comes back from his group visibly upset. “Mummy”, he says, “they said at group that we can pray for poorly people and they get healed. But when I pray for you it doesn’t work. Maybe God doesn’t listen to me.” Here is the difficulty facing us as a church. Can a belief in God’s power to heal preclude a grasp on the reality that it sometimes doesn’t happen? Can we as a church find a way to be sensitive and loving to those who are sick while still pressing in for healing?
‘Come up to the front if....’
What’s it like to live with long-term illness in a church that believes in healing? Liz Carter challenges us to value people for who they are rather than what they can do
There is, rightly, much emphasis on healing in some churches. Sometimes, however, this can be alienating for the chronically ill. You can feel a failure when you are not healed, like you have let everyone, including God, down. Sometimes you may not want to go to the front for prayer – yet again – but may feel pushed to do so. It can be enough to sit in God’s presence.
‘You need to claim it...’
As a chronically ill person I have experienced a number of responses to my sickness from the church – some good, some less so. From “You must not have enough faith” and “Is there some unconfessed sin in your life?” to something that someone said to me recently, “You are not claiming your healing”. Well meant, but how destructive such words can be. I would like to explore something that I feel drives many of these types of responses, and which too often reflects the thinking of the world.
How useful am I?
In his book Where is God When It Hurts? Philip Yancey describes an underlying message throughout society that pervades ‘Get Well’ cards: ‘You are out of commission, useless. You don’t fit, at work, at parties. You are missing out. You are not okay. Only get well, and then you can rejoin life.’ It is an irrefutable fact that society values those who ‘do’, those who put things into life, those who work. What troubles me is that this message also underpins much of what the church says about a person. This was brought home to me recently. We were praying for somebody who had just undergone surgery. One person used the phrase, “Please heal him so he can be useful again.” As a sick person, I have had to face this concept of uselessness many times, when I have been forced to ‘simply be’. I wonder if we are in a church that values the doer. How many rotas are you on? How many churchbased events do you help out at? Is there room in church for simply being? I sometimes even wonder if there is an underlying assumption that only physically whole people can serve God. These sorts of questions lead to thinking about how God sees us. Does God see what we do, or who we are?
God doesn’t only value our usefulness
I recently witnessed a wonderful illustration of God’s view of us. I was in hospital receiving treatment, and lay wondering where God was in this place of despair and hopelessness. The answer came quicker than I expected. On my ward was a profoundly disabled woman. She couldn’t ‘do’ anything much at all, in terms of what may be seen as living life ‘to the full’. She could neither walk, eat, nor talk. But then I saw her mother stroking her hair and telling her how gorgeous she was and how much she 32
was loved. She sat for hours styling her daughter’s hair, painting her nails, dressing her in beautiful clothes. She sat reading her magazine articles and showing her pictures. So here was God. In the actions of this woman giving worth and love to her daughter, and expecting nothing back. Here I got a glimpse of how God sees each and every one of his children. It’s like God was there, stroking her head, telling her how much she was loved. This spoke powerfully to me of a God who sings over us and spends time with us, simply loving us. For someone with long-lasting illness it is so easy to feel useless, ultimately worthless and a burden. But God doesn’t see you in this light. He gives you worth, because he created you. You are his beloved child. It can be incredibly liberating to live in the freedom of this, to know you never have to earn God’s love and approval, just as you don’t need to earn the approval of others by doing.
God in our weakness
Paul even refers to weakness as being positive, talking about his ‘thorn in the flesh’ (2 Cor 12:7). God says to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (9). Paul goes on to say how he delights in weakness ‘for when I am weak, then I am strong’ (9-10). What a challenge to us as the church. Do we value people in this way? Or do we put too much value on what they have to offer us? I would love to see the church as so countercultural as to be utterly centred on love without strings. How refreshing would that be? What a balm to the sick and the well alike. A church that recognises we are all loved by God and can all serve God, physically whole or not. This to me would look more like a church serving a world in its brokenness.
NEW ALBUM OUT NOW
A church that suffers
It seems to me that we are getting there. Not too long ago there was a triumphalism in many churches which left no space for ongoing suffering. But as books like Pete Grieg’s God on Mute – written out of his experience with his sick wife – show, we are facing and engaging with a broken world without being so focused upon ‘mending’. Songwriters are increasingly writing songs that grapple with such issues, echoing the themes of Job. Pete James in I Built My Life Upon This Rock sings ‘Give me courage, give me grace to fight when all my faith is in retreat...when all the evidence I see wrestles with the truth that I believe’. He sums up something of the difficulty of believing in God’s power while facing the reality of brokenness.
Living in hope
Ultimately we know that God with amazing power can – and does – heal. Never let go of believing that, and let that hope live in harmony with living and loving in the midst of the hurting. So I say to my son, “Yes, when you pray for me, God does work. Just not always how we would expect or even hope.” God is in our hurting as well as our healing. You can be assured that God listens and God loves. And sometimes, that is enough.
From the writer of ‘Adoration’ and ‘Everlasting God’ comes a stunning brand new album that will strengthen and inspire the church the world over. Featuring songs: ‘Our God Is Mercy’, ‘Glorious’, ‘Joyful’ and ‘We Lift You Up’.
Liz Carter Liz trained as a primary school teacher but had to stop working due to the progression of a rare chronic lung disease. She ministers alongside her husband Tim, a curate in Stoke on Trent.
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What’s it like when going to work means putting your life in danger? Mark Vickers shares some of the joys and challenges of being a fire fighter
Where do you work? I currently work at Ilkeston Fire Station in Derbyshire. I worked in Surrey for five-and-a-half years before this and have recently transferred to this new fire service.
What do you love about your job? I love my job because no two days are the same. One day might involve teaching fire safety to school children, the next ensuring the safety of local premises, and the next putting out a big blaze! I love the camaraderie of working on a watch – training, tackling incidents and even eating with the same guys naturally brings you close together. And being able to play with all the equipment on a fire engine every day is a dream come true!
What are some of the challenges? For most people a mistake at work isn’t always a big deal but as a fire fighter making a mistake isn’t an option as it may be your last one! The only way to deal with this is to train hard with your watch to ensure that when incidents do occur you work well and safely. Obviously the great side of the job is when you save somebody or save their property, but the other side of that is when you go to a tragic incident, which is not always easy to deal with. The fire service offer plenty of support if necessary and usually you deal with it with your watch as the camaraderie helps in these situations. As a Christian, I have God to help me through tough times like these, and time and again I can testify that he has been my comfort and strength when I have needed him.
How do you try to live out your faith at work? I guess this is similar to a lot of Christians in their workplace. Although I’m always happy to speak about my faith, the majority of the time it is a matter of living it out. This may be by being the best I can at my job, by going the extra mile to help colleagues or by trying to keep my integrity as a Christian when a group of blokes start acting like a group of blokes! One thing I always do when we are on our way to a big incident is to say a quick prayer for those involved and for my watch’s safety. In my previous brigade there was plenty of banter and I got a ribbing to start with for being a Christian, which was fine and light hearted and eventually people just associate that with who you are. Obviously starting in a new brigade I am going through some of that at the moment and as I let people know or people discover I’m a Christian it creates some interesting conversations!
Are there particular times when you know that God is with you in your work? In so many aspects of the job I have known God’s presence and in general this is always down to prayer. A lot of the time at incidents the work is demanding, so I know God is helping me. At a number of incidents my role has been to assist the paramedics by supporting or protecting the casualty, and I always use this as an opportunity to pray in my head for both the casualty and paramedics. The nature of the job means there are often situations when it’s obvious that I need to pray. I once attended a gas explosion in a house and while we were making the property safe one of the firemen spotted a man in the garden who had been blown out by the blast. When we got to him he was in a severely bad way – in and out of consciousness and suffering from severe burns. We did what we could to stabilise him until the air ambulance arrived. Once the doctors were working on the man a few of us firemen made a shelter using some of our equipment to protect them and him from the rain. I was just standing there so it was an ideal time to pray. The doctors had to operate on him there and then and it was very much a life-or-death situation. It was a real opportunity to invite God into a very bad situation. The great news is that the man survived!
Reach your community with budgeting skills
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The CAP Money Course will EQUIP your church with a professional and relevant outreach tool CAP Money is a three-session course designed to teach people budgeting skills and a simple, cash-based system. ‘A valuable course that helps people take control of their finances rather than being controlled by them. It also provides a simple and effective strategy to help individuals become wise stewards of their money. A must for all churches!’
Malcolm Lamb, Pastor of Bridge Street Church, Leeds
For Regional Training Dates and FREE info pack visit www.capmoney.org or call 01274 760567 CAP Money is brought to you by the debt counselling charity Christians Against Poverty. Registered Office: Jubilee Mill, North Street, Bradford, BD1 4EW. Registered Charity No. 1097217. Charity Registered in Scotland No. SCO38776. Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered in England and Wales No. 4655175.
prison Second chances:
The national re-offending rate is around 70 per cent. The rate for ex-offenders in Langley House Trust accommodation is less than 1 per cent. Find out how resettlement projects with Christian values can turn lives around
Darren started drinking alcohol at 13 years of age to cope with his troubled family life. He moved on to heroin a year later and also LSD, amphetamines, crack cocaine and ecstasy for over 20 years. A prolific offender, Darren’s first conviction occurred in 1989, aged 18. Since then he has been convicted of 40 offences. Most of his offending was acquisitive, to fund his drug and alcohol addictions, but he also has one offence of ‘wounding’ and one of ‘assault occasioning actual bodily harm’. His last conviction was in 2007 and he found himself in HMP Armley at the start of a seven-year sentence. He described himself as suicidal when he arrived at the prison. After a rocky start, Darren started to see that there were other prisoners struggling to cope with their incarceration. It was a long haul, with many hard lessons to learn, but gradually things began to look up for him. He trained as a prison listener with the Samaritans, achieved his Level 2 Counselling Certificate and worked in the Jigsaw Project for families of serving prisoners who were struggling to cope. “When I first came to prison I was really down,” said Darren, “but it has given me a purpose... it always feels better when you are helping others.”
The road to rehabilitation
It was almost a year ago that Darren came to live at Langley House Trust (LHT) in Bradford. His aims were to remain crime and drug free, and to build on his counselling and prison listening experience. Successful rehabilitation also had an added edge for him, as being granted supervised access with his 36
14-year-old daughter, who had been taken into care, was dependent on positive reports from both LHT staff and his probation officer. Leaving prison after a significant time inside can be almost as daunting an experience as entering prison in the first place. Many ex-offenders have no family to turn to and their only friends are often involved in the very crimes they are looking to leave behind. For over 50 years LHT has been working to draw alongside individuals like this; those who the vast majority of people don’t want to know. The aim has always been to help people lead crime-free lives and, in so doing, to help protect the public. In fulfilling this vision, we work in partnership with a wide range of statutory and voluntary organisations – including many churches. We currently have 17 residential projects, including a drug rehabilitation centre, along with associated ‘move-on’ facilities and support services. Through our range of supported accommodation we are able to work with those who are hard to place and who have special needs. Our services are open to men and women of any faith or none.
Partnering with churches
Faith plays a key role in life at LHT. Each project holds a daily prayer time and many run Alpha courses. Each project also has a chaplain and seeks to have a positive and supportive relationship with the local church, who are often challenged by the need to be welcoming to those who have committed sometimes serious crimes, while having a responsibility to the wider congregation. The Trust
LHT is a Christian charity that has formed a Housing Association to help churches provide resettlement support for ex-offenders and the homeless. The Trust’s main aim is helping our service users towards crime-free independence and reintegration into society. We work with churches across the country, providing buildings and professional management services that enable the church to meet the challenge of working with those at the margins of society. Last year we were able to help almost 1,000 people make a fresh start in life.
‘Many ex-offenders have no family to turn to and their only friends are often involved in the very crimes they are looking to leave behind’ hard with him to achieve. He volunteered at a local Housing Association and offered support to vulnerable adults accessing day centre services in Bradford. He was also the elected Resident Representative at the Bradford Project, ensuring that other residents had a strong voice in the project and in other LHT forums regionally and nationally.
Darren has recently moved into his own flat. He has achieved so much, both in prison and in the community. Things haven’t always gone to plan, but he is now more resilient and able to use the skills he has learned to make better decisions.
helps with setting out agreements and contracts with offenders and churches that enable clear boundaries to be set and monitored.
We have a saying in the Trust: ‘My history does not define my destiny.’ It is loosely based on Jesus’ words to the woman caught in adultery in John 8:11: “Neither do I condemn you, now go and sin no more.” Our aim has always been to see people set free from a life of crime. It’s God’s work we’re about and we need you and your church to get involved by linking up with your nearest project and offering your prayer, financial and volunteer support. Steve Robinson
Darren has remained crime free since his release. He knows that he needs to be kept busy and this is something our staff have worked
Steve is the Chief Executive of Langley House Trust, a Christian charity that provides resettlement services for ex-offenders. To get in touch with your nearest project visit www.langleyhousetrust.org, email email@example.com or phone 01993 774075.
FAMILY TIME Conference
Family Time products
Mark & Lindsay Melluish
Paul & Christine Perkin
SATURDAY 19 MARCH 2011 ST. PAULS, EALING 9.30 - 4PM
Book online at www.new-wine.org
A conference for all who want to build family life
£20 including lunch
• Practical teaching on how to enhance your family life • Sessions on how to run both the courses • Sample sessions from the ‘Parenting Teenagers’ and the ‘Parenting Children’ courses For further information please contact us
020 8579 9370
All Family Time books, DVDs and other resources are available to buy at our online shop www.new-wine.org
The Arches Providing the bare necessities
t was the smell that hit me first; it was damp, cold and dark. Mould was growing up the walls; muck and dust covered the floor. It was a huge empty space. Two large enclosed arches under a bridge close to the city centre, disused and derelict. I wandered around feeling surges of excitement as I imagined the possibilities. The timing was perfect; I was available and was released to give a couple of days a week to do something, and so the vision was birthed to collect and store food, clothing and furniture to give away to those in need across the city of Nottingham. With the offer of doughnuts and drinks, decorating parties soon started happening, with all the small groups from Trent Vineyard getting involved with painting, cleaning and renovating. As the church got involved, the excitement grew at the possibilities and potential, but more than that, they began to own the vision and were the greatest asset in getting the project off the ground. The enthusiasm was contagious and the commitment from the church was vital as the early foundations were laid.
Ready and waiting
Eventually, with everything set in place, we opened! The first week, nobody came, nor the second, or the third. ‘Had we got it right?’ I kept wondering. Then, on the fourth week, the door opened and a social worker came in with a family from Romania with their four children. Their benefits had not come through and they were living on next to nothing. We pounced on them, giving them anything and everything we could! The scene was set and since then, slowly but surely, people started coming, organisations
Food, clothing, furniture and friendship are things that many of us take for granted. Helen Murphy shares how a derelict and disused space in Nottingham has become a place of great hope for vulnerable people who lack even these basics
began to refer to us and trust us, and people started donating items that could be given away. However, it soon became apparent that people wanted more than just practical provision; people craved relationship and community. Over the years we have been able to set up a number of additional services that aim to build and encourage ongoing relationship with the people who visit.
‘The team visited a pregnant lady who had been sleeping on the floor in a pile of rags. They were delighted to be able to give her a much-needed bed and some other essentials for her completely unfurnished flat’ Creating community
The Coffee Lounge was set up soon after opening as a place for people to relax, have a cup of tea, a toastie and a chat. The Arches Small Group was also created as a safe place for people to be real about their issues and struggles, be supported and explore what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Other groups and provisions that have been initiated over the years include men’s groups, women’s groups, toddler groups with English lessons for mothers, and Sunday lunch and Christmas lunch for people who would otherwise be on their own. The Arches Project now also has a drug clinic, providing confidential help and advice for those dealing with substance misuse. We recently opened the Arches Furniture Restoration Project, giving clients the opportunity to learn new skills that may eventually lead to employment. Through all that we do, we hope to provide a welcoming environment where people can experience genuine compassion and care, where they are accepted and feel that they belong,
and where they can build a sense of self-worth and confidence. We often find it is the small things, done with great love, that seem to have the most impact. We always offer tea and toast as people arrive. A client recently said: ‘My initial visit to The Arches was a special and inspiring experience. The people were so friendly and welcoming.’
It continues to shock us just how much poverty there is right on our doorstep. Recently, one of the drivers on the transport team went to the home of a father and his 16-year-old daughter. When he walked into the flat, he noticed that they had absolutely nothing other than two deck chairs and a television. They had been living like that for three months. On another occasion, the team visited a pregnant lady who had been sleeping on the floor in a pile of rags. They were delighted to be able to give her a much-needed bed and some other essentials for her completely unfurnished flat. We hear so many stories like this of such great need. It is wonderful that with people’s simple generosity of handing over some of their old belongings, we can make such a difference to those in need, and have the regular satisfaction knowing that tonight someone might be sleeping on a bed, putting food in a fridge and sitting round a table for the first time in a while. 39
As well as the practical tasks – sorting clothes, organising and delivering furniture, providing vital administrative support, hospitality and so much more – volunteers give of themselves with compassion, generosity, sensitivity and genuine care. It has been wonderful to watch the teams grow and develop, and really encouraging to see previous clients now joining the team as volunteers!
A humbling experience
It is a joy and a privilege to come alongside and build relationship with people from all walks of life, from different backgrounds and diverse cultures. It still amazes me that every time we open we have a long queue of people waiting to be seen. People come to The Arches Project because life is tough. We are presented with people’s lives, the pain, the past, the current situations, the brokenness, the hardship and the despair, yet at the same time we see such courage and hope. We have been met with openness and vulnerability as people have shared their lives with us. Over time, as stories are told, pain is expressed and emotions come to the surface, we so often see people’s lives begin to change and as a team we constantly feel humbled and inspired. We have met some amazing, resilient, beautiful people.
An army of volunteers
Currently The Arches Project has over 200 volunteers, mainly from Trent Vineyard. These volunteers enable us to reach out to thousands of vulnerable people and to support over 100 organisations in Nottingham that refer people to us. We are always looking for ways to be more effective in reaching those in need and are keen to connect and build relationship with the many health professionals, key workers and organisations we serve alongside. 40
‘We are presented with people’s lives, the pain, the past, the current situations, the brokenness, the hardship and the despair, yet at the same time we see such courage and hope’ Growth and development
Since the project started in 2001, it has become a thriving and vital resource and support centre. I have been constantly amazed by God’s faithful provision of space and team that has enabled us to grow. We started with two arches and we now have four. We also have a huge warehouse on the church site that has become our furniture storehouse, which has led to record numbers of furniture being collected and given away, and also enabled us to convert one of the arches into a furniture restoration workshop. This year we also acquired a small piece of derelict land outside project premises. The council gave it to us for free as it was in such a bad state. Over recent months, members of the small group have worked together to transform the space into a garden for clients, volunteers and local residents to enjoy.
Seeing lives changed
The Arches Project is a vibrant bustling place where people are
the priority; where people can be real, accepted and valued whatever their background or circumstances; where lives are shared, changed and transformed. As the project has grown and developed it has always been the longing and hope that the work we do world facilitate and give opportunity for people to meet and have a personal, life-changing experience of Jesus. As a team we prioritise, at the beginning of each session, worship and prayer. We want to see Jesus’ love demonstrated and communicated through all that we do, whether in the practical or relational. It is always a source of great joy and excitement to see people journey towards and discover faith in God. We have seen people healed, prayers answered, life circumstances changed and have watched as people’s lives have been impacted as they have experienced the person and love of Jesus. As a team we want to continue to follow in Jesus’ footsteps by investing our time and energy in those who are in need, for whatever reason; always serving, accepting and loving unconditionally. The people we have the privilege of meeting and working with are very precious.
Helen Murphy Helen is Associate Pastor at Trent Vineyard, where she oversees the Compassion Ministries and heads up The Arches Project.
HEAD OF FINANCE
We are looking for an enthusiastic and creative graphic designer to join our Communications and Marketing team. This role will support the team’s objectives by bringing creative and technical skills to all of our media activities. This will include magazine, brochure and web design, plus support with events, training and resources.
We’re seeking a replacement for our current Head of Finance, who will be retiring after the Summer Conferences in August 2011. Based in our Ealing offices, the role encompasses all aspects of the financial management of the charity and its trading subsidiary.
Ealing, West London
We are looking for someone with: • A creative and innovative mindset • Up-to-date knowledge of industry software and creative trends • Demonstrable experience of managing large design projects (e.g. magazines) and ability to work to tight deadlines • Good communication and influencing skills • Good planning and organisational skills • An understanding of web design/layout
Ealing, West London
Key responsibilities include budgeting for all conferences, the Church Leaders’ Network and all New Wine Resources, managing the budget throughout the year, the year end close, financial analysis and all the relevant accounting required to run the organisation’s finances. Reporting to the Operations Director and managing a team of two, the role requires attendance at the Summer Conferences, liaison with external advisors (banks, auditors, insurance brokers etc) and budget presentations to the Leadership Team and Trustees.
Negotiable depending on experience
£23,000 full-time equivalent (March-July full-time; August-February part time)
For more information and to apply, visit: www.new-wine.org/home/vancancies
For more information and to apply, visit: www.new-wine.org/home/vancancies
7 February 2011
21 February 2011 April/May 2011 (negotiable).
‘Is God responsible for natural disasters?’
Haiti earthquake aftermath, January 2010
In a new feature aiming to tackle some of the tough questions about faith, Barry Hingston explores the different responses to what are commonly known as ‘acts of God’ If ‘the heavens declare the glory of God’ (Ps 19:10), what do tidal waves and earthquakes say? Natural disasters shake our faith and can call into question two deeply held truths: God’s love and benevolence, and his omnipotence. Christians are accused of wanting it both ways: he either doesn’t exist at all, or we have got ‘the God of love’ wrong – he just isn’t the way we describe him. Even the Bible, in places, suggests he can indeed be held accountable. The Old Testament book of Job states: ‘He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble’ (9:6). Similarly, Psalms 104:32 states: ‘The earth trembles at his glance; the mountains smoke at his touch.’ The inference is that these occur as part of either his character, or his creative design. Another explanation is to simply ascribe everything bad to ‘the Fall’, asserting that natural disasters simply didn’t happen before Adam and Eve sinned, or even to ascribe such things to God’s judgment of people today, a sort of divine outburst of retribution. Maybe we can look at this in another way.
A natural disaster is called that because many people suffer, but is essentially a natural process, inherent in the Earth’s design. In the case of earthquakes, seaquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes, the global process at work is called plate tectonics. Plate tectonics is now known to be necessary 42
for life: creating the oceans and continents (the process behind Gen 1:9); enriching soil; regulating the planet’s temperature, playing a critical role in the ‘carbon cycle’; creating exploitable concentrations of precious metals and minerals; maintaining the sea’s chemical balance; and creating and sustaining atmosphere through the action of volcanoes (water vapour, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and other things, to which plants add oxygen). The Earth is believed to be unique in having plate tectonics insofar as none of the 70 or so planets and moons so far discovered in the solar system appears to have it. The evidence suggests that it has always been with us, and is a part of this Earth’s uniqueness. Its biproducts – quakes, eruptions and waves – devastate lives, but life could not get by without it. It would seem we need plate tectonics!
The scale of disaster (or human suffering) in the wake of many natural disasters can, to some degree, be traced to us.
Human greed, selfishness and simple indifference either tempts or forces many people to: live along dangerous fault lines (according to the BBC series How Earth Made Us, half of the world’s top 20 cities exist on fault lines); be hazardously exposed to dangerous coastlines; live in scandalously built buildings; or be mercilessly exposed to the impact of famine and disease. The Haiti earthquake last January was no more powerful than the one in New Zealand in September, or the many earthquakes seen in California where few people, if any, die. The huge death toll was due to bad building and poverty. The lack of love and common brotherhood among mankind is so often a critical exacerbating factor – and that is down to the Fall.
Plate tectonics don’t explain every natural evil, but it does seem that God has created a universe where suffering can result in accordance with the laws of nature. Those same laws underpin a knowable universe designed to produce intelligent life (Gen 1:26) that bears moral free will and choice. A foreseeable consequence of that design is the potential for pain, an unwelcome consequence of a good and glorious purpose. If I invent aeroplanes, seeing the possibilities of plane crashes, I do not thereby kill people, but I create the possibility, along with enormous potential benefit, that some suffering may occur. This view may imply a sort of ‘restricted omnipotence’ – God sets up a universe to be governed and ‘free’ and does not intervene all the time. But this is a traditional and widely held Christian view, and contains mystery and more questions than answers.
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I am always open to saying ‘I don’t know’.
If I assert that the way the universe is designed makes natural evil inevitable, I cannot explain why God could not have done it differently – I’m not clever enough. However, as believers, we affirm the true character and power of God, his benevolence and control of the entire universe, and his eternal loving purpose and passion for all of us (Col 1:17). It is important therefore that we speak what the Bible speaks, and remain cautious and humble where the Bible is silent. Attempting to explain what God has not revealed is always hazardous, as is, it seems, life itself. Do you have a tough question you’d like to explore further? Email your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org
Barry Hingston Barry is currently curate at St Paul’s Ealing, west London, following a 22-year career in telecommunications.
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There’s now a successful ‘Find a Job’ service on the New Wine website. Find a Job gives churches (and other organisations) a quick and easy way to advertise jobs, with access to a large target audience. You can use this service to advertise church leaders’ appointments, as well as all other roles within the church (including worship, youth, children’s and community work, internships, managerial, administrators and other support roles). And if you’re a member of our Church Leaders’ Network, you’ll receive a 50% discount on each advertisement.
For most Christians outside of the ‘West’ and modernity, suffering is not a metaphysical problem needing an explanation, but a physical challenge needing action. Faith does not explain everything but gives inspiration and direction to ‘do something’, as Jesus did (Matt 25:31-46). It is more important to save dying people than philosophically explain their plight. It’s critical to share our wealth and education, and until we know we have done all we can, how can we blame God?
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The humble house group
A recent survey found that half the British public know more about the daily activities of their favourite celebrity than those of their neighbour. James Mumford reminds us how small groups can offer genuine community and a place to belong I’m neither a vicar nor a pastor. I’m not an ecclesiastical professional of any kind. My parents are pastors, but I can hardly be blamed for that. My wife Holly and I have normal jobs but we’re Christians and we go to church and in that church we run a small group (otherwise known as a ‘pastorate’, ‘cell group’, ‘house group’ or ‘home group’). I’ve come to appreciate a number of things about small groups over the last year: they are unsexy, unglamorous, undramatic, artificial, lame, banal and absolutely awesome.
A need for relationship
Having been brought up in church, I know that church leaders are always talking about the importance of community. On the one hand we’re told, and rightly, that in the individualistic culture of the West, people are crying out for community. 44
In an age where family breakdown is endemic (there are around two million families in the UK headed by a lone parent – almost a quarter of all families with children), people are looking for second families to compensate for the failure of their first ones. In an age in which urban life is characterised by a high level of transience – following jobs, moving in and out incessantly – people are looking for regular contact with the same people. In an ageing society there are huge levels of isolation among older people. Half of all people aged 75 and over live alone, with nearly half of all older people considering the television as their main form of company. In 2006 over half a million older people spent Christmas day alone. And in the era of online social networking sites such as Facebook, people are looking for real relationships. In the New York Review of Books last November there was a brilliant review by the novelist Zadie Smith of an equally brilliant film The Social Network. In it she performs a demolition-job on the whole Facebook phenomenon. Social networking software, she feels, ‘explicitly encourages people to make weak, superficial connections with each other’ and to think that ‘the
exchange of personal trivia is what “friendship” is.’ ‘We were going to live online’, she concludes, ‘it was going to be extraordinary. Yet what kind of living is this?’
Artificial but beautiful
So we’re told about this deep cultural need for community. And then we have the church’s answer: small groups. Picture (or recall) the scene. It’s a hot Tuesday night in an overcrowded living room. I mean, crammed full. Grown adults sitting on the floor without cushions. Loads of ‘randoms’: people I’ve never met before, and (at first impression) don’t much want to. A disparate collection of people of all different ages; a motley crew, strangely subdued and, what’s more, all facing inwards in a circle! A few of them are striking up conversations – awkward, stilted, like a university Fresher’s Week, but happening every week! Meanwhile, one of their number is armed with a guitar. And, yes, he’s going to strike up a tune, strumming while his sidekick/girlfriend hands out sheets of paper listing 18th century song lyrics mostly about the patterns of the stars. The debris of dinner, leftover plates, is on the floor, about to be stepped on. And that is supposed to be our answer to the culture’s cry for community!
‘In an age where family breakdown is endemic… people are looking for second families to compensate for the failure of their first ones’ I exaggerate, of course. Yet in my experience, at face value small groups do often feel pretty artificial. They do seem banal. Yet rather than apologise for that, or pretend it is otherwise, I think we should celebrate it. In a celebrity culture the church is never more countercultural than when it breaks down into small groups midweek. For what happens there is definitely not dramatic, but it is profound. Let me justify this claim by borrowing a series of similes from John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard Movement. Small groups provide at once a home, a hospital, a school and a barracks.
Paul writes to the church in Rome: ‘Be devoted to one another in brotherly love’ (Rom 12:10). The first thing about a family is that you don’t choose it. So I turn up on a Tuesday night and find myself thrown in among misfits like myself; people whom in all honesty I wouldn’t choose to hang out with – people whom it takes energy to interact with. How many times have I come home from work on a Tuesday night, started getting ready to go to small group feeling I’d rather do anything else in the world? But I think about what Paul says about ‘struggling with
all his ( Jesus’) energy, which works so powerfully in me’ (Col 1:29). Because right then I don’t feel I have it in me. And I’m right: I don’t. I need a transfer of power. I need his energy even to talk to people. And yet looking back, a year and a half later, these same people are my friends. I love them, I belong to them and they belong to me. What I love about this is that it’s so different. Normally we flit in and out of social situations where you can ‘duck and run’. Someone you don’t like, someone who’s difficult or someone who offends you, you don’t have to deal with that; you don’t have to work through it. No. You just move on! Comedian Groucho Marx said, “I never want to be a member of a club that will have someone like me for a member.” The church is a community which will have anyone as a member! Last autumn a new girl started coming to our small group. She was shy. I felt terrible because she’d been walking around trying to find the house for an hour. She was a midwife, newly arrived in the church and someone had pointed her our way. There was this really rare, poignant moment at the end of the evening when she said to me, “Thanks for having me. You know, if I’m honest I don’t have many
friends.” This afforded me the huge privilege of being able to reply: “Holly and I are here every week, if you don’t mind hanging out with us!” So we say to people that we want to be their alternative family. As American singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen put it in his song If I Should Fall Behind: ‘I’ll wait for you. And if I should fall behind, wait for me.’
Recently I’ve been trying to picture myself in the famous scene which occurs, according to Mark, right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry: ‘Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralysed man was lying on’ (Mark 2:4). I imagine myself sitting on the floor inside the house. But as I’m listening to Jesus, suddenly there’s a gentle rubbing sound which distracts me. And then above Jesus’ head I see sawdust drifting down. Suddenly I see a streak of daylight. I watch as the roof is ‘dug’ open and a man on a mattress is lowered down. Talk about making an entrance! Yet even more than the paralysed man I’d be trying to catch a glimpse of the faces of the people lowering him in from the roof. ‘Who are these guys? 45
Who would go to such lengths to bring their friend to Jesus?’ Small groups are supposed to be places where you use all your creativity to find ways of bringing your friends to Jesus to be restored and healed. A small group is supposed to be a hospital. Don’t conjure up images of A&E departments, however. For most of the time the kind of healing and restoration which happens over the course of many, many weeks in a small group is, again, not dramatic but profound. Sometimes I think the danger of charismatic ministry is that we think about spiritual growth on the model of physical healing. That is, we think that the miraculous equals the instantaneous. Certainly, I believe there are key moments – miracles and healings and encounters with the Holy Spirit – but I also think that a lot of healing takes time, the kind of time which a small group, and only a small group, affords. In my life at least the most profound and lasting change is happening slowly, imperceptibly, in community.
Small groups are, crucially, about intellectual recalibration. Paul says, again in Colossians, ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom’ (Col 3: 16). Interestingly, the implication of what he says is that teaching and preaching (applying ‘the word of Christ’ to the multitudinous situations we find ourselves in) isn’t supposed to be the sole prerogative of vicars/pastors. As Christians we are all called to ‘teach and admonish one another with all wisdom’, all called to unpack the scriptures. In our small group we share the teaching and we open up discussion. As well as worshipping together and praying for each other we are called to think together. So we spend Tuesday nights debating and thrashing out what it means to follow Jesus in our moment and in our context.
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In his famous book The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis talks about the church constituting a very real threat to the devil: ‘the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners.’ One thing our small group (or battalion) has just started doing is serving our local community. Two weeks ago we visited a local care home. In a society fixated on youth, the 420,000 care home residents in Britain (four times the number of hospital beds, five times the number of prisoners) are among the oldest, frailest, most dependent and often most isolated people. It was there we were given the opportunity to fulfil our commission. Talk about the banal and unsexy – a group of Christians putting on a tea party for care home residents. It was awkward, a little artificial, but amazing! James Mumford James works at the Centre for Social Justice, a political think-tank in Westminster. He is part of Holy Trinity Brompton in Central London.
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Resource h s e r f Renew Re Activity weeks for all the family with teaching, and the use of The Beacon Outdoor Activity Centre art, performing arts, music and writing retreats Band of brothers: men’s retreats relational women’s events walking For more details of all of these other exciting conferences: www.leeabbey.org.uk 01598 752621 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Part of a Wider Family How good are our churches at including and supporting single parents and their children? Nicole Berberian shares her experiences and suggests ways we can ensure these families feel at home
How did you become part of a church community?
I have always been involved in church, but moved from my previous church for respite after doing too much. I was a young single parent of two young children, leading the youth group, leading worship, heading up prayer ministry teams and leading house groups. Clearly I had taken on too much. But when you are a single parent of young children you can end up with days passing without seeing or speaking to anyone else. Along with that I had just come out of a very painful divorce and being in the Lord’s house and doing his work was where I wanted to be. I found a place to rest, recharge, receive and be involved only as much as I felt able.
Have you found churches to be supportive of you as a single parent?
Not really. I don’t think people realise quite how much you carry as a single parent and the restrictions it 48
brings. Even hosting a house group can be challenging if you’ve got to tidy up toys and nappies and get the kids to stay quietly in bed for the duration while you host with smiles, teas and coffees at the ready. In some church contexts, being a single parent can feel worse than elsewhere. There are generally more married young couples and ‘normal’ families around, highlighting singleness and a feeling of shame of being a single parent. There are often different activities for singles, young couples and families, but it can feel as if you don’t fit into any of these, particularly if you are a young single parent and you can’t make it to the young adults’ activities either. Practically it can be hard to access the many wonderful things laid on at church as you may be unable to afford babysitters, the children may not settle or you are just too exhausted. And some kids’ church work requires a parent to take turns to sit in, so coming to
What are some of the challenges you face as a single parent? Loneliness, physical exhaustion and inability to get out due to child care needs are the three key challenges to overcome. Single parenting often comes out of a painful breakup or loss and that often means the loss of a whole network of friendships. Time with other adults can be hard to come by and the days long, with the nights longer still.
‘There are often different activities for singles, young couples and families, but it can feel as if you don’t fit into any of these, particularly if you are a young single parent and you can’t make it to the young adults’ activities’ As children get older the physical demands are less but the emotional weight of more complex teenage problems can be heavier on one set of shoulders. Relating to the child and guiding them through may be harder without the balance of views of a mum and a dad. Financial constraints limit life further, though that is not unique to single parenting. Getting practical DIY things done around the house was another issue – a blown bulb too high to reach, curtains needing fixing, a fallen fence in the back yard. The reality was I just got on with it but there were many times I wished for some practical help.
How do you think churches could better help with these challenges?
When my children were younger I would have loved to go to church in the evenings where the young people met up and where the worship was deeper and longer, but that’s a time when there’s typically no kids’ work. Some churches would ask me to leave if the children made
noise. But when the kids are small and in buggies a place to the side or the back with a screen and audio link where the baby can be fed or the toddler play around with some toys would be great. As they got older I wanted somewhere I could plug them into a laptop or game to play while I worshipped. Churches running kids’ groups should allow parents to get some quality time to worship and receive, without being extensively drawn into helping out with the kids’ work. I loved the way my church started the kids’ groups earlier than the main service, giving me more time to worship and rest in the Lord. If the parent can’t get out, see if it’s helpful to hold house group meetings in their home, but offer to take on the simple things like buying in biscuits, making teas, coffees and arriving early to help clear up and answer the door to the guests. All these little things can be very tiring if you’re in a rush to give children their tea and settle them before people arrive. Offer to babysit at a time when church events are going on. I had many people offer to babysit mid week, but it was never when there was a church activity, service or a home group night. So often we feel we can’t meet with others our age, or we aren’t asked because of the children. We don’t need any special ‘single parent’ events. If social events are planned or friendship groups meet up, invite the parent along just like anyone else, with an open invite for the children too. The kids often love going to new places and can entertain themselves. Pop by or ask if there are any practical DIY things you can do and prepare to get stuck in. I had one friend come by and help me clear my garden, along with my two children. We had such fun. It was
the only time I felt the church made me feel like I was part of a wider family. Sadly these times were far too few.
church can mean just looking after more children and leaving more exhausted than when you arrived.
If you see a single parent at the New Wine Summer Conference, offer to help unpack and put the tent up, or make dinner for the children. You could also offer to stay with the children to enable the parent to drive the car off site and walk back without having to carry or drag two children on uneven ground. Even without those practical jobs, just keeping us company while we do things is probably the biggest blessing we could receive, just to feel others are around us. With young kids the first few days of the summer conference have also felt like some of the loneliest, as everyone is busy with their families and jobs.
What do you think single parents and their children need most from church communities?
The children need to see other families in action, to see the modelling of working relationships, to have Godly male and female role models and have ‘cool’ young adults to mentor and befriend them, and show them Jesus through it all. For this to happen we need to be part of the social network of the church. When my children have gone through more tricky issues of the teenage years, I’ve needed youth leaders and people who can look out for them, talk to them and share some of the responsibility. Ultimately, single parents need friendship and companionship, people alongside them. It’s easy to feel segregated from others your age if you have parental responsibilities, so it’s important to be treated like you’re as much a part of church life as everyone else.
Nicole Berberian Nicole works as a freelance nutritionist and hospital dietician and is currently one of the service leaders at St Barnabas, North Finchley. She is a single parent of two children.
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Glory to You New Wine Worship 2010
Featuring songs by Eoghan Heaslip, Neil Bennetts, Nicole Brown, Brenton Brown, Nick Herbert, Nick J Drake and Nikki Rogers, Glory To You comprises 11 new tracks written for congregations, bringing worship down from the stage and into the churches.
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The Marks of Maturity Mary Pytches
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What Good is God?
I discovered this book last year. It seemed to echo a lot of what I was thinking and continue to think, mull over, and wrestle with: ‘A woman living a modern life, a Bible full of ancient truths.’ Feinberg explores the rural imagery, symbols and metaphors within the Bible and discovers their deeper meanings. It’s an adventure, discovering how different people – a shepherdess, a farmer, a winemaker and a bee keeper – read certain passages in light of what they do. It’s a relational book, about relational people and a relational God. It was a real joy to read a book full of ‘aha’ and ‘hmmm’ moments, which illuminated passages of the Bible in a whole new way and continues to deepen my journey with him. Cas Smith coordinates the Art Workshops at the LSE Summer Conference. She is a member of Soul Survivor Watford.
In this book Philip Yancey takes us with him on an amazing journey into some of the world’s most challenging situations. It is a travelogue of some of his recent speaking engagements. These are incredibly diverse and include Mumbai during the terrorist attacks of 2008, Virginia Tech after the college massacre in 2007, and a convention of former prostitutes and fractured South African churches. He introduces us to many characters along the way who have really experienced grace and who bring healing and forgiveness into these situations. In each of these places we can read the talk he gave, talks that are far from easy but speak to the listeners’ hearts about a loving, gracious God. This book shows us God at work at a level that is overwhelming. It shows us a Christianity that is so attractive, so real and so needed. It makes us want to be more gracious too and reminds us that we are part of something amazing. Ros Herbert is a GP and a member of St Paul’s Ealing, west London.
Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg
This book takes you into the day-to-day life of Jesus. You can almost feel the dust on your feet as you walk the roads with him. It is said that the goal of a Rabbi is to become a ‘living example of what it means to apply God’s word to one’s life.’ The most exciting part of that for me is that Jesus didn’t follow the traditional way of choosing disciples to follow him, he picked the most uneducated and least likely. This book encourages all of us to seek out the whole verse not just the well-known lines, the full meaning of forgiveness, the tassels on a prayer shawl and the importance of a meal together, plus so much more, but you’ll have to read it to get the whole picture. Tish Bloomfield leads Gems at the LSE Summer Conference and is a member of St Cuthbert, Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire.
The Illustrated ICB Bible: The New Testament Neely Press
As someone involved in children’s ministry I have long enjoyed and used the International Children’s Bible, which I find clear and easily understood. Some months ago I came across the Illustrated ICB New Testament, which uses the complete text of the ICB supported by wonderful illustrations. As far as I know this is the only actual text of the Bible that has been fully illustrated. It is trustworthy scripture and appropriate for casual reading and study for adults as well as children. This is clearly not just another children’s Bible storybook. The Old Testament has recently been published in two volumes and there are DVDs available containing PDF versions. As well as the Old and New Testaments it is possible to purchase the gospels and other single biblical books. Visit www. freeillustratedbible.com for more information. Philip Alston co-leads Groundbreakers at the N&E Summer Conference and coordinates the kids’ ministries at All Saints, Marple, Stockport.
The Fourfold Leadership of Jesus Andrew Watson
In this book Andrew Watson looks at the often quoted slogan ‘Don’t follow me. Follow Jesus!’ and compares it with Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthians to ‘Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ’ (1 Cor 11:1). He suggests that as leaders in the church we need to be encouraging those we lead to follow us as we follow Christ – scary though that prospect may seem, given how aware we are of our own faults and failings! He looks at four aspects of Jesus’ ministry, which he calls ‘Come to me’, ‘Follow me’, ‘Wait for me’ and ‘Go for me.’ He considers how Jesus fulfilled each of these types of leadership and then how we as church leaders can also fulfil them. It’s easy to read, challenging as well as encouraging, and very biblically based. I’d recommend it to all in church leadership. It’s a great resource to help us to lead more like Jesus. Kate Wharton is Priest-in-Charge of St George’s in Everton, north Liverpool.
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GIFTS CHRISTIAN GIFTS AND NOVELTIES – Crosses, jewellery, wristbands, badges etc. Also Sunday School supplies. giftsandnoveltiesonline.co.uk and giftsandnoveltiesonline.com
TROVE INTRODUCTIONS A social networking, events and introductions agency for single Christians in UK 0114 2460580 www. troveintroductions.co.uk
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Can we help your church with a new building or remodelling project? Wigwam Acoustics have over 30 years of experience in the design and installation of audio visual equipment in churches and commercial applications across the UK. Wigwam are committed to providing excellent technical solutions for churches and can manage the sound, lighting and video aspects of any sized project. This can range from a simple loudspeaker system for a 100 people to an advanced sound, lighting and video system for a 2500 capacity auditorium. Having all the technical areas covered by one design company allows the church to concentrate on the vision of the project rather than the wide range of knowledge needed for the different areas. Recent design projects include the Xcel centre in Newton Aycliffe and Champions Church in Dudley. Both of these were new church building projects and Wigwam were involved before a brick was even laid. Being involved so early on has many advantages and allows the final result to be the best solution possible for the customer. For any more information please contact Wigwam installations manager Tim Mortimer or Phil Goldsworthy on (01706) 363400.
â€œWigwam have done an outstanding job from start to finish. Their commitment to excellence and the customer is first class. Highly recommendedâ€? Mark Burchell senior pastor Champions church Dudley