Sp wh eak atâ€™s ing ins out ide .
. n o i s s e f n 15 Co
If in doubtâ€Ś How can we be confident if faith is the absence of absolute certainty? p.21
Summer 2010 Read about how God loves to meet, speak to, heal and encourage us. p.30
Fleeing Babylon Rejecting consumerist society and investing in a Kingdom that will last. p.40
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Autumn 10 Issue 50
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Our God at work.
Looking at our world.
Accepting people just as they are.
Being gutsy and wise about speaking out what’s going on inside.
Feedback, photos and stories from this year’s events.
Avoiding the lifestyle prescribed by a consumerist society.
A note from John Coles
Being real and relevant about our faith.
Helping kids encounter Jesus
Modelling ministry, providing training, developing resources.
Equipping 18-30s for radical Kingdom living.
We want to look after our environment so we’ve used a recyclable paper. Please recycle.
Disappointed with God?
When things don’t go to plan: lessons from Jonah.
If in doubt...
How can uncertainty help us to grow spiritually?
Mending Broken Britain Finding biblical inspiration to change lives.
Faith at Work Trusting God while experiencing unemployment.
Why are you a Christian?
Eleanor Mumford tells us why she lives with and for Jesus.
Defenders of the Earth
Are we called to be more than stewards of our amazing planet?
Easing the Pressure Top marriage tips: add love and reduce stress.
Adventures in prayer in one local community.
Mobilising a new generation to make a difference at the grass roots.
Loitering with intent
Gathering women of influence to strengthen bonds and increase effectiveness.
A million miles from the cosy nativity scene.
Some suggestions for individual reading or small group study.
Leading ladies PEFC/16-33-344
O troubled town of Bethlehem
A note from John Coles Dear Friends In a recent survey in the USA people were asked what they thought of the church. The three words used most frequently were ‘hypocritical’, ‘judgemental’ and ‘homophobic’. How true is this of the church in the UK? In order to answer this question it helps to ask why people use such words about the church. Given the power of the Media it may be because of a defamatory programme or article they have heard, seen or read. But it’s probably because at some stage they have come across an individual Christian, or a particular local church, that has given them that impression. None of us has much power to change the former, but all of us as members of local churches can effect the latter. I recently heard of a first-time visitor to a small church of 40 people. His Christian mother had invited him to a barbecue event, knowing that at some stage there would be an invitation for anyone who wanted to, to break into small groups to pray for each other. Her son, in his 20s, couldn’t resist the thought of food, and said he would come for a bit. Much to her surprise he decided to stay for the prayer time. After one or two Christians in his group had asked for prayer for things that were difficult in their lives, he asked for prayer too! He was one of the last to leave the gathering about five hours later! He said ‘it was amazing to be in a place without judgement’. That’s God’s longing for his church. For the church not to be thought of as judgemental, a few things are necessary. Firstly we need to recover and live out the dominant message of Jesus: ‘I did not to come to judge the world, but to save it’ (John 12:47). There was no finger-wagging from Jesus! Secondly we need to learn to accept people ‘just as they are’. Many of those condemned by the religious people of his day flocked to Jesus: ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them’ (Luke 15:2). This ability to accept and welcome people comes through appreciating how much God has accepted and welcomed us: ‘Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you’ (Rom 15:7). Thirdly we need to convey the truth that we are still on a journey ourselves. To be real and relevant Christians is neither to be ‘holier than thou’, nor to appear to know all the answers all the time. It is simply to point people to a Jesus who sympathises with us in our weaknesses, is longing to embrace us with his love, and to accompany us and give us hope for our future. It means there is nothing that God is not willing to forgive, and no behaviour pattern he is not able to change. If we are to truly be ‘local churches changing nations’ we need to become a people known by what we are for, rather than what we’re against, namely the all-forgiving mercy of God. 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.
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.
MONDAY 9 - WEDNESDAY 11 MAY 2011 London, venue TBC (non residential) WEDNESDAY 11 – FRIDAY 13 MAY 2011 Trinity Cheltenham (non residential) MONDAY 16 – WEDNESDAY 18 MAY 2011 Adelphi Hotel Liverpool (residential)
FEEDBACK FROM THE 2010 EVENT:
‘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 EARLY BOOKINGS AND FOR UNDER 30S!
I used to work with someone who described every event that he went to as ‘the best ever.’ I might just join his club regarding this year’s New Wine Summer Conferences! Each one was incredible: people found faith for the first time, others found emotional, physical, psychological or spiritual healing, and others found new hope or fresh vision. It makes you wonder what would happen if we could recreate that taste of heaven in our communities each week. Wouldn’t it be exciting if our churches became a talking point, not of anything negative, but because people could feel something of the power and presence of God in our communities? We believe that this really is possible, by working together as local churches with a common vision and commission. Part of the way in which we are going to see our nation caught for Christ is by being real about our faith; being honest in the way we speak and act about Kingdom things. Another is by being relevant in our approach; finding ways to share the good news of Christ with others in a way that they are able to hear and understand. I hope and pray that this magazine - the 50th edition! - will help equip you to be an ambassador for Christ in your community. Make a cup of tea, grab a biscuit and take some time to be inspired by what God has been doing. Think, dream and pray about what he could do through you and your local church.
With my love as always, Mark
WE’D LOVE TO HEAR YOUR FEEDBACK ABOUT THE NEW WINE MAGAZINE. FILL OUT A SHORT ONLINE QUESTIONNAIRE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A FREE TICKET FOR THE NEW WINE SUMMER CONFERENCE! www.surveymonkey.com/s/nwmag
Mark Melluish Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
One entry per person. Questionnaires to be completed by 30 November 2010. Winner will be selected at random and notified by email before 14 December 2010. Prize is full-week adult ticket for LSE, N&E or CSW New Wine Summer Conference 2011.
UPCOMING EVENTS Full details available at www.new-wine.org
Special Needs Training Day 13 November Stockport Prophetic Gifting Training Days 13 November Beverley, Hull Healing Ministry Training Day 6 November Manchester 27 November Emsworth, Hampshire
Retreat to Advance (18-30s) 7 – 9 January Center Parcs, Nottingham
Rural & Village Church Leaders’ Forum 1 – 2 February Leicestershire
Women & Leadership Conference 14 – 16 January Bristol 20 – 22 January Leeds 27 – 29 January Aylesbury
Healing Ministry Training Day 12 February Durham
Love Europe Day of Prayer 6 November Oxford
Kingdom Training Days 3 November Cheltenham 4 November Sale 5 November London
Kingdom Theology Taster Day 19 February Manchester 26 February London Women’s Day 26 February London
NEWS OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD TO SEND SHOEBOXES TO HAITI
CHRISTIANS IN OVER 70 NATIONS UNITE IN PRAYER FOR GLOBAL POVERTY
Over 15,000 children who were victims of the earthquake in Haiti in January will this Christmas receive gift-filled shoeboxes sent by children in the UK as part of Operation Christmas Child.
On 10.10.10 an estimated 60 million Christians all over the world prayed and promised to play their part in bringing an end to extreme poverty, inspired by Micah Challenge, a global coalition of Christians holding governments to account for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The shoeboxes are part of a massive response by global relief and development charity Samaritan’s Purse to the disaster in Haiti, which to date has seen them provide over 10,000 temporary shelters for families in Port-au-Prince, treat over 10,300 patients at clinics in Cite Soleil, as well as feeding over 30,000 people each day. ‘It’s our 20th year of sending shoeboxes to children in need overseas,’ says Simon Barrington, Executive Director of Samaritan’s Purse. ‘And what better way to celebrate than to send gifts to children in Haiti at Christmas. These children need our prayers and they certainly deserve our generosity at this special time of year.’ Last year over 400,000 children and adults wrapped, packed and sent nearly 1.2 million shoeboxes to children across Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The charity is calling on Christians in the UK to get behind the drive to provide 15,000 shoeboxes for children in Haiti as well as 13 other destinations. High Street outlets Shoezone and The Entertainer are also encouraging their customers to get involved in the appeal. The 20th anniversary year also sees Operation Christmas Child partner with the up-coming film, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. This includes Narnia actress Georgie Henley, who plays Lucy in the film, encouraging fans to take part in the shoebox appeal as part of a special video clip featured on the Operation Christmas Child website. Thousands of churches, schools, workplaces and community groups from across the UK will be taking part in the run-up to Christmas, filling shoeboxes with gifts and taking them to designated drop-off points between 1-18 November. To join in visit www.operationchristmaschild.org.uk or call 0870 011 2002.
Inner-City & Urban Priority Area Church Leaders’ Forum 1 – 2 March Leicestershire
Big 10.10.10 events took place in Australia, India, the UK and Zambia. Worship leader Darlene Zschech set the ball rolling with a packed worship event at Hillsong church in Sydney, Australia. In Chennai, South India, over 5,000 people came together to pray for vulnerable children. ‘We need to stand fearless before the leaders of our day when standing up for the poor and not just pray, but act’, said Joel Edwards, leader of Micah Challenge, who spoke at the big event in London. 2,000 Christians made their promises across five different services at Jesus House, a large Pentecostal church in Brent Cross. In Cornwall, Churches Together in the Penzance area succeeded in reaching their target of getting 10,000 local people to make promises. They then presented the promises to their MP, Andrew George. Parkstone Baptist Church, in Dorset, used the day as the inspiration for a whole month focusing on global poverty issues. Many churches used handprints as a symbol of each person’s commitment and at St Edmundsbury Cathedral, in Bury St Edmunds, children made a chain of handprints in sand and soil to symbolise their desire to end world poverty. Andy Clasper, who heads up Micah Challenge in the UK, said: ‘The number of people involved in this initiative shows the Church clearly cares about poverty. After the disappointment of the recent UN summit maybe 10.10.10 can convince the world that an end to poverty is possible.’ Visit www.micahchallenge.org.uk to get involved.
Kingdom Theology Taster Day 9 April Guernsey 30 April Ashill, Norfolk
Leadership Conference 9 – 11 May London 11 – 13 May Cheltenham 16 – 18 May Liverpool
Family Time Conference 19 March London
Kingdom Theology Taster Day 12 March Winchester 19 March Cheltenham
Women’s Day 5 March Harrogate
Joy to the World 27 November & 4 December 2010 CALLING ALL CHILDREN’S WORKERS!
This Christmas we want thousands of boys and girls throughout the nations to hear the wonderful story of Jesus and to have an opportunity to respond personally. New Wine will provide the raw materials for you to construct an extraordinary Christmas event, and the rest is up to you; it’s your event! The suggested format for the day, publicity and curriculum will all be available on one cracking Christmas praise and worship CD; simply add your passion to see boys and girls encountering Jesus! If you would like to be involved this Christmas, all we ask is: 1 You schedule your event for Saturday 27 November or Saturday 4 December 2010, as people will be praying for the events on those dates. 2 You advertise your event on our New Wine Kids Facebook page. 3 You take the time afterwards to add some photos and stories to the Facebook page. We want to encourage others by sharing what God gets up to at your church this Christmas.
Let’s not miss this glorious opportunity to present the Jesus story to countless churched and unchurched children in the UK and beyond.
• 10 pulsating Christmas worship songs (plus backing tracks and lyrics) • A comprehensive guide with suggestions of how to plan and structure your day • Graphics that can be used for your publicity • 60-minute teaching curriculum including: • Christmas games • Bible texts • Bible lessons • Object lessons and illustrations • Application stories Available now for just £9.99, or £8.50 if you buy more than one! Why not order in bulk to sell at your church’s event? Go to www.newwinedirect.co.uk
Special Needs Special
One-day Conference Saturday 13 November 2010 All Saints’ Marple, Stockport For parents, carers, workers, church volunteers and leaders; for all who have a heart for children and young adults with special needs.
NEW WINE KIDS MINISTRY IS MUCH MORE THAN CHILDREN’S GROUPS AT THE SUMMER CONFERENCES. MARK GRIFFITHS SHARES HOW WE’RE EQUIPPING KIDS’ WORKERS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD
ew Wine Kids Ministry continues to grow and develop. From children’s provision at the summer conferences, it now includes regional training days, a leaders’ retreat and networking happening throughout the country. As well as seeing a new generation of kids’ workers raised up with the launch of the North and East Summer Conference, we have also seen children’s ministry develop globally through New Wine International.
New Wine Kids Ministry encompasses three core areas: MODELLING MINISTRY
The New Wine summer conferences provide the opportunity to model high-quality children’s ministry. With thousands of boys and girls in age-appropriate groups, these are lively and vibrant places of fun and laughter where activities are as diverse as art and craft, field games, water fights, inflatables, videos, drama sketches, praise, worship and teaching. All children’s activities exist for one primary purpose: to give children the opportunity to encounter God. The communication of biblical truth is relevant and contemporary, worship allows children to develop an intimate relationship with Father God and, in the prayer and ministry times, we continually see young lives transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Helping kids encounter
New Wine continues to provide excellent resources. The worship CDs have been a major resource to churches for many years. The new ‘God is….’ series continues to feature contemporary praise and worship for children, but now also contains songs written by New Wine children’s workers which are far more reflective of the praise and worship that children experience at New Wine events. The new Christmas events will provide the opportunity to present the Jesus story to countless churched and unchurched children through a network of New Wine churches in the UK and beyond. New Wine is providing a suggested format, publicity, curriculum and CD of Christmas praise and worship, and the local church does the rest. Churches will invite children to hear the wonderful story of the incarnation, and give them the opportunity to respond. In some churches whole families are invited, in other cases one church becomes a regional centre for lots of churches to bring children from their locality. New Wine is providing the tools to build the event, which can be done in a myriad of ways, but at the heart is a passionate desire to see children encounter Jesus (see opposite page for more details). New Wine continues to help kids encounter Jesus through shaping and influencing children’s ministry across the globe, playing a vital part in equipping local churches and changing nations. You can connect with New Wine kids’ workers on Facebook, via the New Wine website.
Training for local church children’s workers is delivered in two main forums: Kids Workers Training Days, which take place in regional locations in the Spring, and the national Kids Leaders Conference in the Autumn. The Kids Workers Training Days are attended by hundreds of children’s workers every year, and combine inspirational teaching, key seminars delivered by proven practitioners, leadership development sessions and creative workshops, all against a backdrop of the intimate worship and ministry in the power of the Spirit that are the hallmarks of a New Wine training day. The Kids Leaders Conference is a place for hundreds of children’s workers to network together, be refreshed and ministered to, and to listen to high-quality teaching from some of the best practitioners in the world. The speakers at this year’s event were Mike and Marilyn Seth, former Children’s Directors at Bethel Church, California.
Mark Griffiths Mark oversees New Wine’s Kids Ministry. He is Leader of the Warfield family of churches, a church-planting community based in Bracknell. His most recent book is One Generation from Extinction.
Pressing forwards RETREAT TO ADVANCE IS A WEEKEND TO EQUIP 18-30S FOR RADICAL KINGDOM LIVING. PETE HUGHES EXPLAINS THE THINKING BEHIND THIS NEW EVENT
What’s this weekend all about?
Our aim is to gather 18-30s from churches in the New Wine network and beyond, to ask one simple question: How can we make our lives count for the sake of the Kingdom? At a time in life when many people ‘lose faith’ or give up on church, we want to provide a space and environment to dream and think creatively about what kind of church, and what kind of life, is best placed to see God’s kingdom extended in the world.
Why ‘Retreat to Advance’?
The first reason for the name is that the weekend will be a retreat: an opportunity to get away from hectic schedules to spend some quality time with God and with good friends (the fantastic surroundings of Center Parcs is obviously a big bonus!). Sometimes we need to get away and be with God before we can be effective in advancing his Kingdom in the world. So we retreat in order to advance. The second reason has to do with addressing the retreat that is going on within the church right now. Recent research suggests that only 6.3% of the UK population still attend church, and of that 6.3%, only 5% are in their 20s. The church is massively haemorrhaging (particularly 18-30s) and the temptation is to retreat from culture to the margins of society where things are comfortable and safe. But we don’t want to settle for comfortable Christianity that is powerless to engage in culture! The aim of the conference is therefore to address that mindset head on by encouraging our generation to move from a retreat stance towards that of advance: advancing the gospel and God’s kingdom in the world.
Who will be there?
We’ve got some great speakers already confirmed including Simon Ponsonby, Debby Wright, Mark Greene and Graham Cray, and worship leaders Nick Herbert and Ben Cantelon.
Why should I come?
Come if you fancy taking some time out to meet with God and be equipped to make your life count for what matters most: the glory of God and the extension of his Kingdom in the world.
What can I expect from the event?
Passionate worship, inspiring teaching and lots of space for ministry. Expect your vision of God to be massively expanded. Expect your vision of what God could do in and through you for the sake of the Kingdom to be enlarged. Expect to be challenged and stretched, inspired and refreshed and, of course, to have great fun enjoying the fantastic facilities at Center Parcs while making some new friends (and perhaps catching up with old friends) on the journey.
Pete Hughes Pete and his wife Bee are hosting Retreat to Advance from 7-9 January 2011 at Center Parcs, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire. They lead KXC, a recent church plant in the King’s Cross area of London.
T A E R T E R IT’S NOT TOO LATE!
THE DEADLINE FOR THE EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO 10 NOVEMBER 2010! MAKE SURE YOU BOOK BEFORE THIS DATE TO GET THE BEST RATE.
LEADING LADIES WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP FACE UNIQUE CHALLENGES. WHERE CAN THEY GO FOR SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT? ANNE COLES SHARES THE VISION BEHIND THE UPCOMING WOMEN & LEADERSHIP CONFERENCES
eborah, Ruth and Esther are just some of the amazing women in the Bible who worshipped God, obeyed his call on their lives and made a real difference. We love to read their stories, but as Matthew points out in the opening chapter of his Gospel, there were other women, such as Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba and Mary the mother of Jesus, who bucked the trend, drew the disapproval of many of their contemporaries, were labelled and judged and yet, despite all that, went on to pave the way for the Messiah. It seems there is no ‘one-size fits all’ for a woman who is prepared to stand up and stand out. All of these biblical women walked a lonely path humanly speaking. However exhilarating ministry is, leadership is by nature a lonely occupation. Following the call of God on our lives can be tough and draws the criticism and censure of others, in the church as well as outside it.
Ruth knew that commitment to another, in her case her mother-in-law, was the only way forward. Esther had her ‘maidens’ for support. Fellowship with other women in the same situation can be both encouraging and enabling. In March I led a small team of women leaders on a trip to Nepal, organised by the development charity Tearfund. It was exciting and inspiring to see how God is at work among some of the world’s poorest people, but there were also many challenges for us as a team, from having to speak without much preparation to living life ‘in the raw’ without running water and modern conveniences. As we faced these together we drew strength and support from one another and in the process became firm friends. That experience has, in part, shaped my vision for regional conferences for women who are living with leadership, whether leading churches in their own right, leading a church in partnership with their husbands, or supporting a husband who is leading a church. Each of us has particular challenges, many of which the women leaders in the Bible might have understood! There’s no point in making it more difficult for ourselves – there is a strengthening and encouragement in the company of others who can understand, empathise and pray in faith. If you’ve been coming to the Leaders Wives Getaways you might be wondering ‘Are these conferences still for me?’ The answer is yes! Karen Bailey, who is hosting the Women & Leadership Conference in Bristol, says:
‘We’ll be including all the well-loved ingredients of worship, teaching, listening to God for each other and fun, as well as exciting additions such as personal prophetic ministry.’
Facing the challenge
We want to build on the success of the Leaders Wives Getaways and broaden it out to include all women in church leadership. Some of the issues we face will overlap, for example, the pressure of living life under public scrutiny, facing criticism and growing spiritually while taking responsibility for others. In the main sessions we hope that we can learn and grow together as we listen to a wide variety of experienced and enthusiastic women speakers on a range of different subjects. Some of the issues we have to deal with are particular to our role and will necessitate small group discussions with others in the same position, whether it is, for example, leading a church on your own, leading from the second position, or balancing marriage, family and work. Penny Andrews, a curate in Liverpool, says: ‘I’m looking forward to the round table discussions where there will be opportunity to meet up with women who are in similar roles, or have similar responsibilities, to hear about what God is doing, to share the wisdom we’ve each gained through our experiences and to encourage one another in the challenges we face.’ Back in the early 80s, when John and I were trying to build a church that would embrace the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we discovered to our amazement that not everybody in our church was as excited about this as we were. In fact, some were defensive and even hostile towards us. It was a difficult time for us, the church dwindled, we wondered whether God could do anything
with us being so broken and if we would ever see the Kingdom come in our neighbourhood. But the one thing that helped us was meeting up with a small group of likeminded people away from our church, who would let us be honest, pray with us and encourage us to keep going. That is one of the things that I hope we can recapture as women together as we gather in small groups for personal sharing and prayer.
Taking time out
It’s also important to be able to laugh and relax together, so we’ll factor in space for that. All of the hotel venues have swimming pools, gyms and spa facilities, not to mention comfortable rooms and a choice of delicious food and drink. Nikki Groake, leading a church in north London, says, ‘Time to catch up over a drink and enjoy the spa is an attraction too – a little oasis in a busy month! It will be great to think about leadership issues with other women, as we come at some topics from a different perspective from men. I hope we’ll learn from the speakers and from each other about how to lead as the unique women God created us to be.’ I am excited about the Women & Leadership Conferences. I see them as a chance to discover and affirm the richness of gifting among the women in the New Wine Network. It is time to bring women of influence together to strengthen bonds of friendship and increase our effectiveness. If you are a woman living with leadership, I hope you will come and join us. Anne Coles Anne leads New Wine with her husband John. They are based at St Barnabas in Finchley, north London, where Anne is ministry pastor.
Women & Leadership Conference 2011
January 2011 Bristol Leeds Aylesbury
Three regional events for women leading in their own right, leading in partnership with their husbands, and supporting their husbands as they lead.
Scargill House Christian retreat, conference & holiday centre in Kettlewell, North Yorkshire
Live Worship from Northern Ireland’s Kathryn Scott
WE STILL BELIEVE
We don’t know whether it’s the stunning Dales landscape or the warmth of the welcome from our resident community, but everyone says there’s just “something very special about Scargill...” Visit us independently, bring a larger group, or take part in our programme of residential events. Whenever you come, you’ll find lots of laughter, times of quiet, really good food and new friends. Discover Scargill for yourself.
OUT NOW! Visit our website or call us & we’ll be happy to post one out to you
Scargill House Kettlewell Skipton BD23 5HU 01756 761236 email@example.com www.scargillmovement.org
Available in stores, from worshipwithintegrity.com and iTunes
WHY DOES GOD CALL US TO CONFESS OUR SINS TO EACH OTHER? WON’T SHARING OUR STRUGGLES LEAVE US FEELING HUMILIATED AND OUR LISTENER DISCOURAGED? COLIN BROOKES CHALLENGES US TO SEE CONFESSION DIFFERENTLY 15
ecently I had to prepare a Sunday sermon on the last two chapters of Ezra. I knew before I started that it was all about God’s people returning from captivity in exile back to Jerusalem. And I knew it included the account of how they rebuilt the Temple. I remembered that some of the returning Israelites wept when they saw the new Temple because it was much smaller than the first one. And I was aware that a man called Ezra, an Israelite of high rank, was charged with re-establishing God’s Law among those who had returned to Jerusalem. But I’d forgotten how it ends. I made the unhappy discovery that the book of Ezra ends with an extremely dramatic public confession of sin. Ezra, writhing in anguish, throws himself on the floor in tears and the sin of over 100 returning Israelites is publically named. Using this passage I somehow had to come up with a message that wouldn’t leave my poor congregation wishing they hadn’t come to church that morning!
Drama and distress
The situation at the end of the book of Ezra is that many of the Israelites who had returned to Jerusalem to make a new start with God had taken wives from the surrounding pagan nations. They had compromised their distinctiveness and merged their identity and posterity with people whose beliefs and behaviours were irreconcilable with the ways and values of Yahweh. When this trend of intermarrying comes to Ezra’s attention he erupts into one of the most dramatic and distressing examples of confession in the Bible. In Ezra 9 we’re told that he tore his clothes, pulled hair out of his head and beard (ouch!) and sat down appalled. His prayer of confession begins, ‘O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you.’ You can see why I was dubious about getting an uplifting sermon out of it!
No need for shame
As ugly and uncomfortable as the public confession of sin might sound, it is in fact a wonderful, life-giving, and generally impressive business. We just need to remember to keep shame out of it.
Proverbs 28:13 says, ‘Those who conceal their sins do not prosper, but those who confess and renounce them find mercy.’ The Hebrew word for ‘confess’ here is yadah, and it means to speak, to throw or to cast out. It’s the idea that we get something out by speaking it. That’s confession. It’s simply speaking out what is going on inside. And quite apart from being something we associate with feeling ashamed, it ought to be something we associate with being both gutsy and wise.
‘Confessing our sins to others, speaking out where we haven’t kept up with what God has called us to, should be something we associate with being brave and strong’ Falling behind
I learned this new take on confession from Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan. He tells the story of when he took his kids to a drawing class in his home town of Grand Rapids. It wasn’t just any drawing class, but one led by 3D animator and legendary teacher Mark Kistler, who trained the people who drew the Shrek films. The class was packed, mainly with kids and their parents, each of whom were given pencils and pads as they took their seats in the auditorium. When Mark came on the platform he launched into his presentation and began drawing on a large screen on the stage, while the audience copied on their pads. And because of the speed and enthusiasm with which he led the class, Mark said at the outset, “If at any stage you fall behind, just call out and I’ll give you a moment to catch up.” As soon as he said that, Rob’s instinctive reaction was, “There is no way I’m going to admit in front of a bunch of seven year-olds that I can’t keep up! I don’t want people knowing I’m falling behind.” And as the class went on, and Rob couldn’t keep up, he found himself missing out great chunks of what he’d wanted to learn, and the whole experience turned into an embarrassing struggle.
Admitting your struggle
Confession is, essentially, a matter of putting your hand up and saying out loud, “I can’t keep up”. Whatever area we’re struggling in - self-esteem, money, sex, caring for the poor - confession is saying to others, ‘I don’t know about you, but I’m not keeping up in this area of my life.’ Now, quite apart from being a shameful thing, doesn’t that sound to you like a courageous and noble thing to do? Far from being something we connect with feeling ashamed, confessing our sins to others, speaking out where we haven’t kept up with what God has called us to, should be something we associate with being brave and strong. When a man comes to me and confesses that he’s hooked on pornography or a woman tells me how she struggles with anger or a teenager confides their self-loathing, or a parent tells how, just at the moment, they hate their kids... I look at them, and I admire them. And whatever I thought of them before, they now soar in my estimation because they desire the things of God more than their pride or reputation. As Jesus put it in Matthew 13, they have seen a pearl of great value and will give up anything and everything to have it. They want to be free and have the guts to do something about it. They’ve decided, ‘I want the things of God’s kingdom and I don’t care what I have to lose to get them.’
If my reaction to confession is admiration how much more merciful and embracing is the reaction of our perfect Father in Heaven? Remember the Proverbs verse says, ‘Those who confess and renounce their sins find mercy.’ The Hebrew word for mercy here is racham. It means loving compassion or tender affection. It’s not the reaction of someone who’s remote (‘We’re letting you off with a caution this time’) or someone who’d quite like you to feel bad, at least for a while (‘I’m not angry, I’m just very disappointed in you’). It’s the reaction of an impossibly generous, tender, adoring Father who says, ‘Well done for being honest, now rest in my mercy.’ We walk around weighed down by the shame of our sins. Yet what Father God invites us to do, like the people at the end of the book of Ezra, is to confess our sins, to yadhar them, to say, ‘Okay, the truth is I’ve fallen behind and now I can’t keep up; there, I’ve said it, it’s out.’ And when we do, we find mercy.
‘When a man comes to me and confesses that he’s hooked on pornography or a woman tells me how she struggles with anger or a teenager confides their self-loathing, or a parent tells how, just at the moment, they hate their kids... I look at them, and I admire them’ Colin Brookes Colin is Associate Vicar at St Barnabas Church, North Finchley. His passion is to see people become whole in Jesus.
WHY DON’T THINGS GO ACCORDING TO PLAN WHEN WE’RE LIVING FOR GOD AND DOING HIS WORK? HOW DO WE DEAL WITH OUR DISAPPOINTMENT AND ANGER? THEOLOGY STUDENT KIM HARTSHORNE SHARES SOME LESSONS SHE’S LEARNED FROM JONAH
I’ve been studying and reading the Old Testament book of Jonah lately, preparing to deliver a talk. I hadn’t really paid serious attention to it before, reserving it in the file in my mind labelled ‘Kids Talk Materials’, but I’ve been on a journey with it and have ended up with a new perspective – on myself and God. Jonah has an important role to play as a prophet for the salvation of those who God plans to reach. But he is a successful Israelite with a reputation to maintain, and he doesn’t want to be involved in rescuing a load of Gentiles who worship every idol and god under the sun. So he tries to make a dash in the opposite direction. When God catches up with him, inside the belly of a fish, he makes a hasty prayer of repentance, perhaps motivated by a desire to avoid the consequences of his mistake! So God shows him mercy and sets him back on track to go and do the job. Then, in their next conversation, Jonah is spewing out anger and disappointment with God all over again.
All about us
It seems to have become all about Jonah and what he wanted: his view of the right course of action required, the programme he wanted to use, his judgements, convenience and reputation. When he didn’t get what he wanted, he threw a tantrum. In contrast, God continues on the course he had pre-planned to save the people 18
of Ninevah from their confusion. He is unfailingly merciful and reliable, carrying out his plan and working around Jonah or with him in order to reach his goal of the inclusion of the people of Ninevah in his love. Some of us find ourselves at various points on this continuum along with Jonah: sulking with God over disappointments we’ve had, failed mission initiatives we’ve been involved in, jobs we applied for and didn’t get, relationships we haven’t had, prophetic words spoken to us that haven’t come to fruition yet.
Plans and perspective
What I sensed God teaching me through this well-known story is how often I slip into thinking that this journey of life as a Christian is all about me. I move so quickly from genuine moments of worship and thankfulness to planning my next moves, attendance at my next conference, or displaying my spiritual gifts like a prize rosette. I sometimes treat God as the deliverer of my ambitions, my mentor in the ceaseless climb up the ladder of doing good or ‘bringing in the Kingdom’ as we like to call it to add gravitas! What starts out as a response of the heart to the Holy Spirit can over time turn into a ‘career plan’ which revolves around me.
Delusions of grandeur
While preparing my talk on Jonah I was reading US pastor Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love: Overwhelmed
by a Relentless God, which addresses this issue of our perspective. In it he describes someone who is an extra in a crowd scene in a movie, the back of their head visible for a few seconds in the final cut of the film. It would be fun for that person to point out the back of their head to their friends. However, if they rented out a cinema on the opening night and invited people to come and see this movie they’re starring in, that would be delusional! We can behave like this towards God, participating in the delusion that everything in our lives has to be positive, growing, moving forward, tidy and that it’s God’s job to package and deliver this, preferably in our favourite delivery slot!
Learning my place
I’ve been studying theology this year. When someone first suggested I do so, I thought: ‘Surely theology is just a load of thinking about things we can’t know answers to anyway?’ Then I expected the course to confirm all the ‘right’ doctrinal views I already held and give black and white answers on every issue. Then I expected it to be a good opportunity to get the answers to all those tricky questions and bits of the Bible I’d never understood! At the end of the first year I find myself falling on my face at the privilege it is to have carved out time to ponder the immense mystery of God and to wonder that he includes us in his plans, that he delights in our company and shows mercy as often as we get it wrong.
‘I sometimes treat God as the deliverer of my ambitions, my mentor in the ceaseless climb up the ladder of doing good or ‘bringing in the Kingdom’ as we like to call it to add gravitas!’ Keeping short accounts
So how do we remember where and who we are, in relation to where and who God is? We ask God, as the initiator of all things, to re-order the perspective of our heart so we serve and join in with his mission to the world. We can ask for repentance if we have slipped into a false pattern of thinking. If we’ve become angry, disappointed or disenchanted with God because things haven’t gone according to our plans, we can talk to him honestly and give the plan back to him. Disappointment can corrode our faith, and sometimes my own has come as a result of having unrealistic expectations of my own importance
in God’s plans. It’s good to keep short accounts with God, dealing with whatever could get in the way of our relationship with our Creator. Talking things through with a mentor or prayer partner can help us see a longer term view and get us back on track. Thankfulness and gratitude expressed through worship, service or giving to others will always help us to put God back at the centre of our universe and us at the foot of the Cross receiving grace we know we don’t deserve. And if you really want to deal with your ‘stuff’ and spend time glimpsing the broader perspectives of heaven, studying theology isn’t a bad place to start! The NWTP part-time Kingdom Theology course enables students to go deeper with theological studies while remaining in their life place. Currently there are students at six NWTP Hubs in Central London, East Anglia, Gloucestershire, Guernsey, Hampshire and Manchester. If you are interested in studying or would like to see courses running in your local area, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Kim Hartshorne Kim is studying Kingdom Theology through the New Wine Training Partnership (NWTP) at the Gloucestershire Hub. She lives in Cirencester with her husband and two children, where she runs a prayer room (www.hope-cirencester.co.uk).
If in doubt...
WHAT DO WE DO WHEN WE DOUBT? TELL OURSELVES TO HAVE MORE FAITH? ALISTER MCGRATH EXPLORES HOW DOUBT CAN HELP US TO GROW SPIRITUALLY AS WE’RE FORCED TO EXAMINE WHAT WE BELIEVE
e don’t know the name of the man who spoke the memorable words, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” in Mark 9:24. Whoever he was, his words capture perfectly the anxieties of many Christians. They have discovered in Jesus Christ something far more wonderful than they had ever dared to hope. God often seems very close in the first days of faith. Yet nagging doubts sometimes remain. Can I really trust in the gospel? Surely it’s just too good to be true! So how are we to deal with doubt? In this article I want to explore some of the issues that arise from the problem of doubt. Limits on space mean that there is much more that needs to be said. However, it is hoped that these brief thoughts will be of use to those who are thinking through these issues, or trying to help their friends to do so.
Let’s begin by thinking about faith. Faith is a complex idea which goes far beyond simply asserting or holding that certain things are true. It is a relational idea, pointing to the capacity of God to captivate our imaginations, excite us, transform us, and to accompany us on the journey of life. Faith goes beyond what is logically demonstrable, yet faith is capable of rational motivation and foundation. Faith is not a blind leap into the dark, but a joyful discovery of a bigger picture of things, of which we are part. Faith is about seeing things that others have missed, and grasping their deeper significance. It is no accident that the New Testament speaks of coming to faith in terms of the recovery of sight, seeing things more clearly, or as scales falling from someone’s eyes (Mark 8:22–5; 10:46–52; Acts 9:9–19).
‘Doubt is an invitation to spiritual growth, because it can be a sign of a neglected faith – a faith that has been taken for granted and not nourished and allowed to grow’ The limits of certainty
So can we be certain about our faith? Most people long for absolute certainty. We want to see the big picture, to know things with precision, and to be absolutely sure about everything. Yet life just isn’t like that. The great philosopher Isaiah Berlin once pointed out that there were three kinds of human knowledge. First, there is what reason 21
can prove with certainty. This turns out to be rather little! It’s absolutely certain that 2 + 2 = 4, but it doesn’t exactly give you a reason to live.
Nobody can prove what the meaning of life is. That doesn’t stop us thinking about it, or finding answers that we find deeply compelling and meaningful.
Second, there is what science can prove with certainty. Again, this proves to be rather less than many would expect. Scientific advance often means that theories that were once regarded as completely reliable are abandoned, and replaced with new ones. A century ago, scientists thought that the universe had always existed, and poked fun at the Christian idea of creation. Nowadays, the scientific consensus is that the universe came into being in a dramatic and sudden explosion often referred to as the ‘big bang’. The idea of creation has made a comeback.
The atheist and Christian face the same problem. Writer, poet and scholar of English literature C. S. Lewis, who abandoned his atheism for Christianity after a crisis of faith in the intellectual reliability of a godless worldview, summarised the atheist dilemma well: ‘A young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side.’
‘If something really matters, it lies beyond proof. In fact, the more important an idea, the harder it is to prove with certainty’ Making judgements
But what of Berlin’s third category of knowledge? Here we find beliefs that cannot be proved, but are nevertheless vital to human life. What is the meaning of life? Is democracy better than fascism? Why am I here? Is there a God? Is oppression evil? Should we work for the elimination of poverty? No absolutely certain answers to these questions can be achieved by human reason. We can’t be absolutely sure. Does that stop anyone from committing themselves to actions based on these beliefs? Of course not. As the great Harvard psychologist William James pointed out a century ago, most people realise that the important things in life can’t be proved. So they make judgements about what’s right, and get on with life based on those beliefs. They may not be able to prove them, but they trust them and live on their basis. This is true about any worldview, whether it is Christian or secular. Atheism, for example, turns out to be just as much a faith as Christianity. It can’t prove its core beliefs. The ‘New Atheism’ finds itself severely embarrassed by its inability to prove the non-existence of God. To believe in God demands an act of faith – as does the decision not to believe in him. Neither is based upon absolute certainty, nor can they be. To accept Jesus demands a leap of faith – but so does the decision to reject him. The decision, whatever it may be, rests upon faith. There is an element of doubt in each case. Every attitude to Jesus – except the decision not to have any attitude at all – rests upon faith, not certainty.
Doubt as a stimulus
But doubt can be useful. It helps us realise that we have not fully grasped the richness and depth of our faith. Many people skim the surface of their faith, without really thinking about it. They believe in the Trinity, for example, but what are the reasons for this belief? What difference does it make? Part of my own journey of faith was my realisation that I needed to develop a ‘discipleship of the mind’, in which I explored the reasons for faith. We need more Christians who think about their faith, especially in the light of the challenges we face from New Atheists. Not surprisingly, these atheists get a little annoyed when Christians challenge their beliefs and point out that they lack a good evidential basis. But that’s not enough. We need a new generation of Christians who know what they believe, and why they believe it. Doubt can be, as it was for me, the stimulus to think about faith and discover its riches. Doubt is an invitation to spiritual growth, because it can be a sign of a neglected faith – a faith that has been taken for granted and not nourished and allowed to grow. It points to a vulnerable faith. We need to work continually at all our relationships, consolidating and deepening them – and that applies to our relationship with God as well. Doubt signposts the need for spiritual renewal, growth and consolidation. So don’t get preoccupied with your doubts: instead, get to work on renewing, deepening and consolidating your faith in God.
So we need to see doubt in perspective. If something really matters, it lies beyond proof. In fact, the more important an idea is, the harder it is to prove with certainty. The British 19th century poet Lord Tennyson made this point rather nicely in his poem The Ancient Sage: For nothing worthy proving can be proven, Nor yet disproven; wherefore thou be wise, Cleave ever to the sunnier side of doubt. 22
Alister McGrath Alister is Professor of Theology at King’s College London, and president of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. His latest book is Mere Theology: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind.
Womenâ€™s Days 2011 Emmanuel Centre London Saturday 26 February 2011 International Conference Centre Harrogate Saturday 5 March 2011
Join us for a day of worship, teaching and ministry especially for women, with guest speakers including Celia Apeagyei-Collins, Ness Wilson and Ruth Perrin.
ritain has been declared a ‘broken society’. Many agree that the cause is the growing gap between the rich and the poor; the UK is a nation in which the richest 10% are more than 100-times as wealthy as the poorest 10%. Pundits debate the cause and point the finger at who is to blame, but what is the solution? The story of Jehosheba in 2 Kings reminds us of God’s call on our lives to be part of the solution to the world’s problems, to inspire us to do something, even if we can’t solve all the problems of which we are aware.
A wicked queen
Mending Broken Britain AMONG 21 DEVELOPED MARKET DEMOCRACIES, BRITAIN DOES WORST ON CHILD WELLBEING AND BADLY ON TEENAGE BIRTHS, IMPRISONMENT, DRUG ABUSE, TRUST, OBESITY, SOCIAL MOBILITY AND MENTAL ILLNESS. WHAT ROLE CAN WE PLAY IN MENDING OUR BROKEN SOCIETY? NADINE PARKINSON AND RUTH PERRIN LOOK TO A LITTLE-KNOWN OLD TESTAMENT HEROINE FOR INSPIRATION
‘When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes, who were about to be murdered. She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide them from Athaliah; so he was not killed. He remained hidden with his nurse at the temple of the Lord for six years while Athaliah ruled the land’ (2 Kings 11:1-3). Jehosheba lived in challenging times of intrigue, political machinations, war, murder and assassination. When Ahaziah of Judah is killed in battle, his mother Queen Athaliah, daughter of Jezebel, decides to wipe out the rest of David’s line so that she can become the undisputed queen of Judah. Like her mother, she worships the god Baal. Enter Jehosheba, a princess of Judah, sister of the (now dead) king and married to the chief priest. She is a powerful, wealthy woman who finds herself in the middle of carnage. Who will rule Judah? Who will defend them from enemy nations? What is going to happen to the line of David, God’s anointed? Will people be allowed to worship God at all now Athaliah is in charge?
An act of bravery
What can Jehosheba do? Like so many biblical heroes and heroines, she does what she can. She takes one baby along with his nurse and hides them from the queen. She saves his life. She must have regretted not being able to save more. What she does is reminiscent of German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who helped smuggle Jewish children out of Europe under Nazi occupation. He saved hundreds of lives but died wishing he could have saved more from the death camps. I bet Jehosheba would have loved to save more of her brother’s children, but in the crisis, as soldiers were rampaging through the royal palace slaughtering people, she somehow managed to smuggle one away and hide him. Can you imagine the fear? What if he’d cried and the soldiers had heard? What if they’d got caught? Working with her husband, a priest of God, they hide this little survivor away for six years; bringing him up in the temple, teaching him about God rather than Baal. Six years is a long time to keep a child a secret! The temple servants, priests and guards must have been in on it; 24
a secret society committed not just to save a baby, but the house of David, the worship of God, his people and a nation. If Athaliah had heard she would surely have come to destroy a rival to the throne she had stolen. Ultimately her husband called the people to overthrow Athaliah and crown little Joash king, which they did. Jehosheba is mentioned no more, but this doesn’t negate the significance of what she did.
‘Perhaps the greatest privilege in life is to play a part in the transformation of the life of another’ Individuals matter
What can we learn from this heroine? That protecting the defenseless, weak and vulnerable is what God asks of us. That doing something is better than doing nothing. That we have no idea what plans and purposes God has for each individual. There are so many young people growing up in Britain’s villages, towns and cities without anyone who is prepared to draw alongside them, join them in their struggle and help them get through. There are older people who are vulnerable for all sorts of other reasons. Perhaps the greatest privilege in life is to play a part in the transformation of the life of another.
Doing our bit
I (Nadine) think of Harry and Yvonne, who over 27 years have fostered 16 young people, opening up their home and sharing their family life with others. Of Joan, a retired midwife, who having built relationships over the last few years with many families on her street through craft activities, games and friendly neighbourliness, has been approached by the police, concerned about the area, and asked to facilitate a summer street party. Of Phil and Abby, just married, moving on to a council estate to immerse themselves in life there and see a church planted. Of more than 60 households in our church who have sponsored children through Compassion. Of Janice, organising English speaking lessons for Muslim women in Trafford who only come out of their homes that one time in the week. Of Michele and Andy, who provide accommodation for asylum seekers, who have no income or means to gain one, through the Boaz Trust. Of the dozens of people who, as part of Eden teams, have moved onto some of our country’s toughest estates, committed to seeing them transformed. Whether they are young or old, in the UK, India or a Brazilian slum, there are lots of ways to support vulnerable people. Everywhere we look there are people to inspire us, showing love and kindness inNadine a Parkinson Leadership Team million different ways. Britain may be broken, but let’s step up, like Jehosheba, and do something to help mend it!
Nadine Parkinson Nadine are her husband Ian are the New Wine North and East Regional Leaders and work together in leading All Saints’ Marple, Stockport.
Ruth Perrin 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).
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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
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
O troubled town of Bethlehem AT CHRISTMAS WE LOVE TO SING CAROLS ABOUT THE PLACE WHERE JESUS WAS BORN, BUT DO WE REALLY KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING TO CHRISTIANS IN BETHLEHEM TODAY? JEREMY MOODEY EXPLAINS WHY THE PALESTINIAN CHURCH NEEDS OUR SUPPORT
he time for carols and candles is rapidly approaching. This is when many churchgoers dig out the old carol sheet to sing their seasonal songs. Others take comfort in chocolate-box images of a young couple nursing their new baby in a manger, with the shepherds and livestock looking on. Then they reach for the TV remote and another mince pie.
A different reality
For the rest of the year, the Middle East is just a source of bad news, of unrelenting hostility between the faiths and a political impasse that has endured for over 60 years. Even Christians cannot agree what it all means, with some arguing that the Bible is on Israel’s side and others saying the opposite. It seems a million miles away from the cosy nativity scenes on cards and Advent calendars.
As we stumble from one extreme to another, from an idealised view of Bethlehem to a sniffy indifference to the realities of the Middle East today, it is easy to overlook the fact that in the midst of all this political and religious mayhem there is an indigenous Christian community. It is possible to pass through the Holy Land without ever meeting these believers – many tour companies deliberately keep them off the itinerary. Yet these ‘living stones’ (1 Peter 2:5), whose traditions are as old as the stones around them, struggle on amid intense pressures to maintain their presence and identity, seeking to build bridges between communities and expressing their faith through compassionate social ministry. Palestine’s Christian community has not always been small. Prior to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, as much as a third of Palestine’s Arab population was Christian, while in Bethlehem and Nazareth a significant majority of the inhabitants were Christians. Today the picture is very different. In the Palestinian territory as a whole, Christians number just one or two per cent; in Bethlehem and Nazareth the figure has fallen to barely 20 or 30 per cent.
Where have the Christians gone?
Emigration is the main cause of the decline, as Christians have fled from a land of almost constant violence, squeezed out in a conflict that is perceived primarily to be between Muslim and Jew. It is an astonishing fact, but not one that you will hear from the tour guides, that there are five times more Palestinian Christians in Chile than there are in Palestine today. Ramallah is the main town on the West Bank yet it is said that there are more Christians from Ramallah living in Dearborn, Michigan, USA than there are in Ramallah itself.
The heart of Palestinian suffering
The politics of the Middle East are complicated, and no side has a monopoly of truth or virtue, but what is clear is that 43 years of Israeli occupation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza have taken their toll on the Christians. At the end of last year the patriarchs, bishops and leaders of a dozen Palestinian churches endorsed a document called ‘Kairos Palestine’, which was subtitled ‘A word of faith and hope from the heart 27
of Palestinian suffering’. It spoke with sadness of the occupation’s impact on their communities: • ‘The separation wall… has turned our towns and villages into prisons’ • ‘Reality is the daily humiliation to which we are subjected at the military checkpoints, as we make our way to jobs, schools or hospitals’ • ‘Religious liberty is severely restricted; the freedom of access to the holy places is denied under the pretext of security. Jerusalem and its holy places are out of bounds for many Christians…’
‘The politics of the Middle East are complicated, and no side has a monopoly of truth or virtue, but what is clear is that 43 years of Israeli occupation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza have taken their toll on the Christians’ These indignities are most apparent in Bethlehem today. The main road linking the town to Jerusalem, a few miles away, is effectively closed by the security barrier. Historic Christian rituals, like the colourful Easter Procession from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, can no longer occur. Some 27 Israeli settlements, illegal under international law, have been built around the town, cutting it off from its hinterland and dividing families. The Kairos document finished with an exhortation to the world’s Christians: ‘Come and see’ in order to ‘understand our reality.’ Yet not all Christians welcomed the statement. Some, who believe the Bible supports not only Israel’s right to exist but also its right to settle its people in the West Bank, were highly critical. Many felt that the report overlooked Israel’s genuine security concerns.
A witnessing church
There is no simple answer to these deep-rooted issues but, meanwhile, the suffering of Palestinian Christians 28
continues. As Christians in the West we may not all be able to ‘come and see’, but doing nothing is not an option. The Revd Mitri Raheb, the Palestinian pastor of the Lutheran church in Bethlehem, has painted a bleak picture of the future if the Christian exodus continues:
and religious sensitivities in the region. Rather, they witness through a quiet but effective social ministry, through schools, hospitals and health clinics, special needs centres and refugee projects. Many of the beneficiaries of these projects are Muslims.
‘Many have started to ask seriously whether there will be any native Christians left in the Holy Land in the near future, whether this country will become a kind of Christian Disneyland or theme park, and whether all that will remain here to visit and admire will be heaps of stones which have ceased being witnessing living stones.’ (Taken from ‘I am a Palestinian Christian’, Fortress Press).
These Palestinian Christians need our help. As Mitri Raheb put it on another occasion:
It is significant that Raheb calls those Christians who have remained in the Holy Land the ‘witnessing’ living stones. Because what is most amazing about Palestine’s Christians is that, despite the humiliations and pressures heaped upon them, and the long-term decline in their numbers, they are still a vibrant witness to those around them. Their witness is not heavyhanded in a ‘Bible-bashing’ way – this would never work given the political
A call for help
‘One mission of the [global] church should be to encourage Christians who are in the Middle East and help them sense the importance of their calling. They need to be told, “Your presence in the East is not without meaning. It has a very powerful meaning, and what you can do there nobody else can do.”’ (Christianity Today, October 1995). As Christians in the West, are we going to continue our futile debates about which side is right, and which is wrong, or about what the Bible might or might not say about the restoration of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel? Or will we respond in love and fellowship to the cries of help from our Christian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land? Jeremy Moodey Jeremy is Chief Executive of BibleLands, a Christian development charity founded in 1854 which focuses on supporting Christian social ministry in the Middle East (www.biblelands.org.uk).
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Be equipped for pastoral care Join us for insightful teaching and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Waverley Abbey House in Surrey. Caring God’s Way Led by Mick Brooks and Lynn Penson Those involved in pastoral care and other Christians seeking to sensitively show God’s love to others will be equipped to effectively care for them.
Sat 20 November 2010
Introduction to Biblical Counselling Led by the CWR Counselling Training Team Gain a biblical understanding of human beings, learning why and how problems develop. Be introduced to the counselling process so you can help others.
Mon–Fri 22–26 November 2010 or 14–18 February 2011
Foundations of Biblical Care Led by Andy Peck Discover how to shape pastoral care so it fits with God’s purposes for church growth and development, and develop your skills and gifting for pastoral care where God has placed you.
Mon–Fri 28 March – 1 April 2011
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g God n i v i l e h t h t ple met wi o e p f erences. f o n s o d C n r a s e u m o Th w Wine Sum ear about some e N ’s r a e y at this t a s we h n e m e t i c x e e Share in th hanged. c e r e w t a h t of the lives ‘On the fourth day of the Summer Conference at Newark I felt I had to ‘get serious’ about prayer for pain in my knee, diagnosed this year with osteoarthritis. I decided I’d go forward for prayer ministry at any point that day when healing was mentioned. On the third occasion I ended up resting on the floor. Knowing that she has a healing ministry I also asked Rev Viv Eccles if she would pray for me and later that evening she did, despite having severe osteoarthritis herself. As she prayed I plucked up the courage to ask if she would touch my knee. She did, and it grew hot. I found myself thinking that if something physiological can enter a degenerative process, then surely by God’s grace it can also enter a regenerative process. I told God I didn’t mind having the condition but I needed to lose the pain. In the morning I had no pain. For the next seven days or so I kept putting my hand on my knee to remind myself of the prayer, and my knee grew hot each time. Now I hardly ever think of it. The pain has simply not come back. I bless New Wine’s pro-active healing ministry for this.’ Lisa Battye, St Paul’s Kersal and St Andrew’s Carr Clough, Salford
‘This was my first time at New Wine. One evening the worship leader encouraged everyone in the venue to spend a moment singing in tongues. This isn’t my normal church practice, but I try to be open-minded. I started listening to the man next to me, who was singing a beautiful song in tongues. I then realised I could recognise and translate all of the words. He was singing in a French or Spanish-based creole (I’m English mother-tongue but have studied French, Spanish and Italian). It was a lovely melody with the words, ‘sing of the love of God in the evening’. I also heard todos meaning ‘all’ and yellah meaning ‘celebrate’. That’s exactly what we were all doing: celebrating the love of God in the evening! The man and his wife were really moved when I gave the meaning. He said that he was given his tongue language 12 years ago and this was the first time it had been translated. We were encouraged by this time of worship and I went back to my little tent overwhelmed with praise songs.’ Ruth, South London
‘On the last night of the London and South East conference Mark Melluish asked people to raise their hands if they wanted to be used by God to lead someone to Christ in the next 12 months. My wife and I duly did. 48 hours later we were on the prayer ministry rota for Sunday evening at church and as we were about to finish a mother and her eight-yearold son came into the church. They were on their way home after a day out and having got lost, passed by the church. The mother said she simply felt compelled to park and come inside. She said she had heard about Jesus and wanted to know more. We welcomed them in just as everyone else was leaving and we sat with them. We talked about the gospel and who Jesus was and after an hour or so we asked her if she wanted to commit her life to Christ, which she did! Her son then asked if he could too. We checked that he understood what his mother had just done and then we led him in prayer to become a Christian as well. A day later, a friend who was also at the Summer Conference contacted us to say she too had just had the joy of leading someone to Christ! It is the most extraordinary of times. For us it has been such an encouragement to be reminded that God wants to use his people in this way and we are so excited and thankful to be a part of what he is doing. Our expectations of what God can do have never been so great!’
‘This year was mine and my three children’s first visit to a New Wine Summer Conference. We are regular churchgoers and after lots of fabulous reports from friends decided to see if it was for us. We went with a lot of baggage as my 12-year-old son Josh had been suffering from ME for nine months. He had double vision and had not been able to attend school for more than an hour a day for months. He was a national gymnast before he contracted ME. His illness was very debilitating and meant that he was physically exhausted all the time. When I booked for the conference I was not sure whether he would be able to handle camping but I really felt that this was a chance we needed to take. With great anticipation we arrived at the campsite. All three children loved it and fitted straight into the marvellous children’s groups. On the second day at Club One, Josh and his friends were taught about the power of healing though prayer. Two of his friends laid hands on him and prayed over and over for him to be healed. As they prayed Josh felt his eyes move together, improving his vision for the first time since he got ill. He came back to the tent that night ecstatic! But God was not finished with him, as his friends returned to their own tents that night and told their families what had happened. The next day six families gathered at our tent and prayed over Josh. As we prayed he felt tingles all over. He said: “It’s gone.” He could see perfectly and later managed to walk down the field on his hands! The first thing he did when we got home was tell all his internet friends he was healed by Jesus. Since then we have been to see his neurologist, who after an examination said, “Why are you here?” Hallelujah! Josh has continued to have boundless energy, his sight is back to normal and he is resuming his life as an active 12 year-old.’ Julie Brown, Exmouth Chapel, Devon
Ian and Suzanne Derbyshire, Christ Church, Virginia Water, Surrey 31
KIDS & YOUTH
‘One ministry time in Pebbles I asked the children to stand up if they wanted prayer. One three year-old stood up straight away, closed his eyes and put his hands out in front of him, ready to receive from God (I hadn’t told them to do this yet, he just did!). Another couple of four year-olds immediately stood up, faced each other, held hands and closed their eyes! It was so beautiful to watch them responding to God!’
‘Last year Club One began running Youth Alpha and some of the group who did it last year gave their lives to Jesus this year. It’s been great to see the change in their lives.’
‘Ben, who is mildly autistic, was in Rock Solid this year. His mum says: Ben LOVED it so much! He told me how much he liked praying more and going for prayer, then he said, “I knew God was good, but New Wine helped me to realise how GREAT he is too.”’
‘In Ground Breakers we prayed about eyes during the first half of the week and on the last night two boys gave their testimonies. One boy had had his squint straightened! The other boy no longer needed his glasses to read the words on the screens!’
‘There was a girl in Boulder Gang who had scratched her eye while doing sport. She was taken to the medical centre where she was given an eye patch. The next day she was prayed for by other children in her group. She shared on the stage that her eye was tingling that morning. Later that day she returned to the medical centre where they removed the patch and confirmed that her eye was completely healed!’
‘I have never known such peace in all three Gems marquees. There was the usual arrival and pick-up crying but there was something very special happening this year. After the prayer and praise in Emeralds (one year-olds), peace and happy play noises were all that could be heard. Also the two year-olds were joining in with prayer and praise like never before.’ ‘A young girl with autism, who has not been able to attend church for the past year, came to the Summer Conference with her mother. She found it very difficult to be in Our Place, especially when we were worshipping God. She became very distressed and wanted to run from the building. We prayed that God’s light would shine on her and that she would know his peace. We saw visible changes in her appearance as God’s peace became more evident in her being. By the end of the week she was able to stay in the venue, join our circle for worship and participate in prayer activities.’
INTERNATIONAL ‘We had an evening meeting where God started to heal dozens of deaf people. At the same time he started to heal people in pain from accidents and injuries. A co-worker of ours was healed of serious pain that he has had for 30 years following a major motorbike crash; on Sunday he literally came skipping up to us after church, no pain left at all! I prayed for a lady with multiple food allergies, in particular wheat intolerance. The Lord healed her so much that by the end of the week she was tucking into pies!’ Andy Hall, Clan Gathering, Scotland
‘The 50 young people at the Summer Conference in Sweden had their own camp. It was a whole new experience for most of them. They were able to get in small groups and pray for each other and they really believed that healing could happen. Ten of them gave their lives to Jesus and eight were healed while they were praying for each other. One girl who had scoliosis (curvature of the spine) couldn’t sit up straight. Her group prayed for her and could feel movement in her spine. She was able to sit in positions she couldn’t before. She was so excited! She wasn’t a Christian so it was a huge experience for her. At the end of the week she gave her life to Jesus.’ Stephanie Arkesten, New Wine Sweden
You can read lots more stories at www.new-wine.org/your-stories. And if you have a story to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org 33
Faith At Work: Craig Martin WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU CAN’T FIND WORK? CRAIG MARTIN SHARES HOW GOD HAS GIVEN HIM NEW OPPORTUNITIES AND TAUGHT HIM TO TRUST
What was your job before you were made unemployed?
I worked on the docks in Birkenhead, Merseyside, helping to load ships at the terminals. I did this for almost four years and it was during this time that I became a Christian.
How did you come to faith in Jesus?
My Mum is a Christian but I rebelled against it and as a young man I’d got into trouble and spent a bit of time living on the streets. When I met my wife Vicky I started to get my life together a bit. Then my daughter Olivia got meningitis when she was very young. While she was in hospital in a coma the local vicar came in to pray with her. Vicky was in the room at the time and felt like the whole room was filled with light. The vicar left and immediately Olivia opened her eyes for the first time in days. She was discharged a short time after. She had been healed. Vicky then started going to church, but I wasn’t sure. I started to see the change that Jesus made in Vicky and decided to go on an Alpha Course. That was where I gave my life to Jesus and was filled with the Holy Spirit.
So how did you end up unemployed?
I was on the deck of a ship one day and cracked my knee against something and broke my kneecap. This was in 2007. It took quite a while for me to get back to work but when I did the company decided that I was unable to carry out my duties, even though I still wanted to work.
How have things been for you since then?
Looking for work has been a real struggle. I want to work, I like to work, and I want to be able to provide for my family. I’ve been looking for any kind of job, but I’ve not worked full time since my accident. I am able to work for up to 4 hours a week while I’m on benefit, so I do bits and pieces for people.
How do you cope with the pressure that being unemployed puts on you and your family?
Keeping up with bills and payments has been difficult. You get used to living with a level of income and it is hard to then learn to live with a lower one. But we’ve been able to discover that God is our provider. People have blessed us with gifts and vouchers. Last year we were borrowing a car to go to the New Wine Summer Conference. We’d saved up for the petrol and insurance. When we went to pick up the car, the person we were borrowing it from said that God had told them they should give it to us. We were speechless!
How do you fill your time?
I now have more time to serve God in different ways. Over the past few years I have been able to lead daytime cell group and help with mentoring ex-offenders in church. I’m now the leader of a missional community. We aim to reach people who are marginalised in society, particularly the homeless, people with mental health problems and addicts. We try to befriend people who are finding life hard or who are lonely, and help them in any way we can. I’ve recently been working with a guy who is an addict trying to get himself clean. He started coming along to church and made a commitment to Jesus but then went on a complete bender. We managed to stay in touch with him and over a few months draw him back into a better place. He’s starting to get his life back together now and was baptised recently. He’s now a member of our community and is doing a great job of helping others. That kind of intensive ministry is something I wouldn’t have been able to do if I was working.
What would you say to someone else facing unemployment?
I would say that just because you haven’t got work doesn’t mean that you can’t be useful in the kingdom of God. Unemployment is an opportunity to serve God in ways that you wouldn’t normally be able to. I’m still looking for work and there is a possible job on the horizon. But until I get a job I know that I can be challenged and stretched doing the things I do now.
FAMILY TIME Conference
Hosted by Mark & Lindsay Melluish and Paul & Christine Perkin
Saturday 19th March 2011 St. Pauls, Ealing 9.30 - 4pm
A conference for all who want to build family life
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
Book online at www.new-wine.org
For further information please contact us on 020 8579 9370 or email email@example.com 35
Masters in Mission ONLINE The NEW online
The allnations Masters programme attracts Christian leaders from around the world. It is specifically for those who have some years of Christian ministry experience and are practitioners in contextual theology, leadership or development work. We are excited to be able to offer the MA and MTh at allnations through online and intensive modules. Over a period of 2 or 3 years you can study the 3 core modules during 2 week intensive summer programmes and elective modules online. By studying the MA you will be able to log in to the global nature of mission, download the latest studies and developments in mission thinking, and renew your skills and abilities to serve in specific locations and ministries. Just what you need to keep fresh in vision and ministry.
Masters Programme is due to start
We offer 5 exit awards: MA in Contemporary Mission Studies MA in Leadership with Mission MA in Development with Mission MTh in Contextual Theology with Mission MTh in Messianic Jewish Theology and Intercultural Studies
For further information: please contact admissions email: firstname.lastname@example.org tel: 01920 443500 www.allnations.ac.uk Charity details All Nations Christian College Ltd. A Company limited by Guarantee. Registered in England No 990054. Registered Charity No 311028 Registered Office: Easneye,Ware, Herts, SG12 8LX
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grew up in the countryside outside London. We were a God-fearing and church-going family for whom belief in God was never a problematic issue. My parents loved and served each other faithfully for 50 years and for that I remain deeply grateful.
I came to a personal faith in Jesus as a student at St Andrews University where I shared a room with the godliest of girls who prayed for me daily for five frustrating years! I went to chapel every Sunday, the place to see and be seen, and was on one occasion riveted by a sermon based on Philippians 1:21: ‘For me to live is Christ.’ This was no longer religion, this was something centred on the person of Jesus who made it personal, ‘for me’; practical, ‘to live’; possible, ‘is Christ’. I discovered the real, deep joy which comes from knowing you are in touch with the living God.
‘I found in the person of Jesus someone marvellous, magnetic, fun to be around, wise and pleasing in every way’ Until that point I had enjoyed my life hugely but in a two-dimensional sort of way. Only when I eventually became a Christian, put my faith in Jesus, took to heart all that he had achieved for me personally and embraced all he was offering me by way of ‘life in all its fullness’, did I discover that there was a third dimension to living which had so far passed me by. There is adventure in living with and for Jesus that nothing else can ever offer. I wanted this life of adventure that was worthwhile and would make a difference in the great scheme of things. I became a Christian because I wanted to know that my past was taken care of, my present fulfilled and my future
Eleanor Mumford shares how she discovered a life of adventure with Jesus
WHY ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN?
secure. I found in the person of Jesus someone marvellous, magnetic, fun to be around, wise and pleasing in every way. When Lord Hailsham, the longest serving Lord Chancellor of the 20th century, first found Christ he wrote in his autobiography of ‘a laughing, joking Jesus... this happy and glorious man whose mere presence filled his companions with delight.’ He came to the conclusion that we would have been ‘absolutely entranced by the company of one so irresistibly attractive as a man’, so attractive indeed ‘that people followed him for the sheer fun of it.’ I find that being a Christian helps enormously when I am faced with some of life’s dilemmas. There is a cry deep in the human heart to see justice done and righteousness prevail, and yet they so often seem far off and unattainable. ‘God does not pay at the end of every day, my Lord Cardinal, but at the end, he pays’, Queen Anne of France was reported to have said to Cardinal Richelieu. I have always hoped she did, for they are words that I have often found deeply reassuring. My certainty in the fairness of the Lord and his capacity to deliver absolute justice and judgment at the end of history is one of the facets of my faith I find most fulfilling. I am a Christian because I love and trust the Lord completely and have put all my faith in his sovereignty, his being in utter control of all things at a cosmic level and knowing what is best for me at a deeply personal one. That the Lord who made the heavens and the earth, and sustains them by his sovereign breath, would be that intimately concerned with the next breath that I breathe is deeply moving to me. Indeed, it almost takes my breath away!
Eleanor Mumford Eleanor and her husband John are the National Directors of Vineyard Churches in the UK and Ireland. They planted the first Vineyard Church in the UK in 1987 and, to their amazement, have seen the movement grow to 100 churches.
Be still, and know that I am God. Go to wordlive.org to enjoy a multimedia Bible experience
GILL BEARD SHARES THE POWER OF OFFERING PEOPLE PRAYER AND A LISTENING EAR n the past four and a half years our ‘ordinary’ Anglican church has prayed for approximately 5,000 ‘not yet Christians’ in the local community. We’ve seen people healed and others turn or return to God. Jesus has used us to show his love and compassion to people of all faiths. We’ve seen Christians being church on the street. Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ This scripture represents the heart of what we are trying to do. As the body of Christ, we are reaching out to the people of Reading at our monthly Prayer Café and Prayer Stop events.
More than cake
Prayer Café is a large, busy, exciting, challenging, yet wonderful adventure. It involves over 300 people in our church, including the individual prayer partners who cover our 50-plus team members. Others ‘pray and bake’ 120 cakes throughout the year. We range in age from 16 to 80-plus and there is a task to suit everyone’s gifting. There are groups who pray, welcome, offer hospitality, worship, distribute flyers, invite people in, prayer walk and write down the 100-plus prayer requests we receive each month. We love seeing the pictures and words given to us in our preparation times become reality as people respond when we say ‘God told us you were coming!’
Out on the street
Prayer Stop is a much quieter, simpler event. It can take place in a church, hall, tent, home, high street, pub, anywhere really. We approach people to ask if they need prayer for healing or for anything else that may be troubling them. We erect booths for their privacy when
appropriate. Very often we hear (sometimes months later) of answered prayer. A 72-year-old man living in India, whose son requested prayer, was healed of a broken pelvis. Another man was healed of inoperable stomach cancer. A lady who asked for prayer for a job later had three interviews and was offered the job that she really wanted. God is awesome!
‘We love seeing the pictures and words given to us in our preparation times become reality as people respond when we say “God told us you were coming!”’ Abundant need
These two prayer initiatives have changed the lives of many people in the ethnically diverse town of Reading and in the surrounding villages too. Forty people asked for prayer when my husband and I stood outside our village Post Office for two hours. Seventy-five people asked for prayer at our Village Fair. There are needs in abundance out there and offering prayer is a wonderfully simple way of making a huge difference. Three of us lead Prayer Café and Prayer Stop and we’re all over 60. If we can do it, anyone can! It’s never too late to start a new venture for God.
Gill Beard Gill was a worship leader for 25 years. She now ‘worships on the street’ co-leading Prayer Cafe and Prayer Stop at Greyfriars Church, Reading. To find out more email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
HOW CAN WE LEARN TO TRUST GOD FOR EVERYTHING WE NEED IN A CONSUMERIST SOCIETY? TONY CAMPOLO ENCOURAGES US TO TAKE JESUS AT HIS WORD
cross the USA an array of young men and women have emerged who call themselves ‘Red-Letter Christians’. They are Bible-believing but have chosen to be more than just believers. They are seeking to be disciples – people who take Jesus seriously and endeavor to live out the words of Jesus, which are printed in red in many Bibles. Consider what Jesus said about wealth and how he told us that we cannot love both God and money (i.e. material things) at the same time (Matt 6:24). Danish religious philosopher Soren Kierkegaard commented on this, “I wish that Jesus had said ‘should not’ instead of ‘cannot’. But Jesus made it either/or.” We can’t have it both ways.
Needs and wants
Jesus acknowledged that we have needs such as food, basic clothing and adequate housing, but we have become a people who are primarily 40
focused on securing things that we don’t need. Consider the problem we face at Christmas: what do we buy for people who already have everything? The answer to this question should be easy: Nothing! But few of us have the courage to say on Christmas morning, “Nobody is getting anything because everyone in this family has everything!” Instead we will search for something to buy for people who already have everything they need. Such behavior is absurd, yet it’s what we do. We work long hours, often at the expense of giving time to our families, just to earn enough money to buy too many things that nobody needs.
Asking big questions
You may be asking, ‘Am I required to take the words of Jesus literally? Does the Lord really expect me to live like the birds of the air, not thinking about my everyday needs?’ (Matt 6:26). As outrageous as it may seem, the answer is ‘Yes’. Jesus said, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear” (25). We have to ask ourselves why most of us who claim to be followers of Jesus refuse to take what he said at face value. Why don’t we trust in our Heavenly Father for what we need? Why is it that instead of embracing his plans for our lives, we have become conformed to the lifestyles prescribed by a consumerist society?
The answer to such questions is that we lack the strength to resist the seductive allurements of what the Bible calls ‘the powers of this dark world’ (Eph 6:12). The Media is one of the primary powers that lures us into buying a plethora of things that we think we need. It has the incredible ability to get us to spend our time and money getting what ‘does not satisfy’ (Isa 55:2). It deceives us into believing that some of our deepest spiritual and emotional needs can be met by buying what its advertisements promise. Notice how many adverts seek to convince us that if we buy what they promote we’ll have peace of mind, or friendship, or the partner of our dreams. How many are designed to stimulate desires which consumer goods could never meet, but which the ads claim they can? The red letters in the Bible tell us that we have to deny ourselves these consumerist seductions if we are to have the incredible blessings that can only come from paying the cost of discipleship (Luke 9:23). And if resisting seems too difficult, remember that Jesus promised that with God’s help all things are possible (Matt 19:26).
A biblical code
It is not that Red-Letter Christians ignore the black letters of the Bible or deem them less inspired by the Holy Spirit. As a matter of fact, they are convinced that the rest of scripture
validates the message of Jesus, especially his teachings concerning money. For instance, they find in Revelation some of the most valuable directives for living a countercultural, anti-consumerist lifestyle. Bible scholars tell us that when it was written 2,000 years ago, the early Christians had a code word that they used to describe the seductive society in which they lived: ‘Babylon’. Every first-century Christian knew that this word referred to the Roman Empire. Following their lead, Red-Letter Christians contend that to understand what the book of Revelation is saying to us today, we have to think of our present day Babylon as being the dominant society in which we live. Consider what Revelation 18 tells you about your Babylon: it’s going to fall!
The balance of trade
Sooner or later every Babylon falls, as did the ancient Roman Empire. There are two possible reactions to this fall. The first, according to Revelation 18:11, is that ‘The merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no-one buys their cargo anymore.’ Isn’t that what is happening today? Haven’t American and British merchants lost the markets for the products that they once sold around the world? Check the labels on your clothes. Your Babylon and mine no longer produce the merchandise that we buy or that is being sold to other nations. Our businesses and industries are closing
‘Does the Lord really expect me to live like the birds of the air, not thinking about my everyday needs?’ down because the ‘balance of trade’, as the economists say, is no longer in our favour. Our merchants are also slow to acknowledge that sustaining the consumeristic lifestyles of our Babylon requires the exhausting of nonrenewable resources of other nations: ‘Cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and bodies and souls of men’ (Rev 18:12-13). People in the developing world who once supplied these resources are now saying,
‘The party is over! You American and British Babylonians are going to have to pay a high price for those natural resources that you once took from us for practically nothing.’ Revelation 18:15 tells us that the merchants will weep and mourn aloud.
A heavenly perspective
There is, however, another side to this story. When Babylon falls, the Bible tells us there will also be a ‘roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries”’ (Rev 19:1-2). The destructive, consumerist Babylon that seduced so many is no more! Given these alternatives, each of us has to ask, ‘How will I react when my Babylon falls?’ Will you be weeping with the merchants because you invested your life in its consumerist values? Or will you be able to join the heavenly host who shout ‘Hallelujah!’ because you invested your time, energy and money in a Kingdom that will endure forever?
Tony Campolo Tony is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Eastern University, Pennsylvania, USA. He is the Founder and President of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education.
THE FUTURE OF OUR PLANET OFTEN SEEMS BLEAK. WE BELIEVE THAT ONE DAY GOD WILL RENEW THE EARTH BUT WHAT WE CAN WE DO TO CREATE HOPE HERE AND NOW? ANDY LESTER ENCOURAGES US TO CATCH A VISION FOR CONSERVATION
Defenders of the Earth
arlier this year I went fell running in the Lake District, and arrived on the top of the mountain Skiddaw, just as the sun set over the Solway Firth. The incredible beauty of the setting sun over the Irish Sea in one direction and the patchwork of villages, hills and emerald green fields in the other served as a reminder of just how incredible our world is. As someone who works full time in the Christian environmental scene, it is vitally important for me to get recharged through walking and looking. Climbing mountains is a wonderful hobby since it enables you to look down on the land with its noise, frustrations, troubles and hurts and believe again that there is an awe-inspiring God who made everything. His attention to detail is truly incredible; his passionate love for each one of us and for the whole of his created order is unfathomable.
‘We are more than stewards of this amazing planet. Genesis provided us with the opportunity to be imaginative creators’ What’s the point?
Despite this, we live in a time where many people look at the planet and wish they were no longer part of it. From the scientists who have given up hope that governments will ever take climate change seriously, to the banker who still feels that capitalism is the biggest tonic to a hurting world, to the church leader who cannot understand why the environment should matter – each need a valid reason for valuing creation. Persuasive argument is rarely enough to convince the doubter that there is purpose and reason behind caring for creation. It is easy to quote scripture, to explain the importance of the risk to future generations, to talk about simple, sacrificial lifestyles that acknowledge the damage caused by consumer society. But it always sounds like preaching – telling others how they should live. Most have heard it before, don’t want to be told how to live and would rather discover truth for themselves.
Without a sense of hope there is little point in trying to encourage others to live differently. Hope is what the gospel is all about. With no hope of salvation why tell people about Jesus? The same is true for the environment. The gospel message of hope-filled salvation is for the whole of the cosmos ( John 3:16); there is value in every part of his created order (Gen 8), even that which has no value for us as human beings. 43
‘Families have learnt all about the UK’s rich wildlife right in the heart of one of the most deprived, multi-cultural and urbanised areas of the city’ Hope starts with the belief that we are called to be ‘earth keepers’. We are more than stewards of this amazing planet. Genesis provided us with the opportunity to be imaginative creators. If we are called to be truly Christ-like and Christ-inspired, we are expected to think big. When scientist, environmentalist and futurologist Dr James Lovelock was asked why his science was so successful he replied: ‘Society calls us to think big and think out of the box. I simply decided that there was no box. Without a box my imagination could run free.’
Space to dream
The mission of Christians should be to think in this inspirational fashion. Certainly we are bound by our basic theological precepts, but beyond that we are expected to let our imaginations fly. For wildlife conservation that means two things. Allowing people the space to dream dreams and then providing the support to allow those dreams to happen. At the heart of this is a desire to regenerate local communities in the UK by encouraging people on the ground to breed hope where it seems to have been extinguished. At A Rocha we encourage individuals, churches, youth groups and community groups to look at where they live and develop hope-filled projects to manage local land for wildlife. That may be small scale such as an organic vegetable garden or church yard nest box project, or it may develop into something bigger. Some people don’t have the time or capacity to develop their own project, but like the idea of linking into something inspirational. I want to tell you about two local communities in the UK and how they are responding to the need for renewed hope.
From neglect to care
Dronfield is a small post-industrial town, not far from Sheffield. Six years ago, Norman Crowson and another local resident were taking a walk though an overgrown valley separating the town centre from a housing estate when they stumbled across a rare fungus called an Earth Star. Impressed by this and other species, the two set up a local project via Churches Together in Dronfield. Initially small numbers of local people joined Norman in litter picks and footpath clearance days. Very quickly more and more local people saw that the practical work was making a difference to the appearance of the valley. Today there are three dedicated volunteers 44
who are actively involved in weekly work managing the valley. There is also a wider team of 30 local people who come out each month to help on projects to clear the river of silt, to create ponds and wildflower meadows and to put up nest boxes.
Local and relational
The Dronfield project has won a number of local awards. In 2011 the local council intends to put up wildlife cameras in Lea Brook valley and relay pictures to flat screen TVs in the Town Hall and to computers at three local schools for the pupils to study as part of their environmental curriculum. It has also led to a growing relationship between the landowners, a property development company and local residents. The project has managed to keep the Christian faith at the heart of the work. Above anything else Norman thanks God for the chance meetings, the answers to prayer, the miraculous provision of funds, the inspiration of new friends and new ideas, and the extraordinary sense of local ownership. Together the people of Dronfield are finding a reason to be hopeful. On a cloudy winter’s day the flash of a kingfisher or a grey heron provide proof that ‘earth keeping’ in Dronfield has been a success. The starting point was one person with a vision and no box to contain it.
Power to transform
At the other end of the country A Rocha support Hillingdon Borough Council by managing one of West London’s largest green spaces, Minet Country Park. Here too, one man had a vision over 10 years ago to transform a piece of waste ground from a site for dumping cars and dealing drugs to a park filled with birds, butterflies and bees. The visitors centre has welcomed thousands of children from many schools and where families have learnt all about the UK’s rich wildlife right in the heart of one of the most deprived, multi-cutural and urbanised areas of the city. Much prayer and heartache has gone in to making Minet what it is today. But again, the inspiration was one person, with one vision and a desire to make things happen. How about you? Do you have a vision to develop a conservation project in your community? Hope-inspired vision is like a fire in dry grassland. Once it has caught, it is hard to extinguish.
Andy Lester Andy is the UK Conservation Director of the Christian wildlife charity A Rocha UK, seeking to network individuals, churches and communities to carry out practical expressions of caring for God’s world. For details of how you can get involved with any of the UK projects visit www.arocha.org
Financial Services Manager The Pilgrims’ Friend Society is a Christian charity with roots going back to 1807, when the Aged Pilgrims' Friend Society was founded to serve older Christians. We are a growing, progressive organisation and an Investor in People, currently caring for around 400 older Christians in 12 schemes in different parts of the country. Our ministry also includes publications and conferences. Because of our recent growth, we are seeking to appoint a Financial Services Manager (FSM) for our head office team in London. This is a key post in the finance team, taking responsibility for managing the finance staff team and overseeing the administration of all the finance processes. The post-holder reports to and deputises for the Director of Finance and you will need to be able to confidently produce monitoring information for the operational team regularly and promptly.
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Greater Things: Inner-City & Urban Priority Area Church Leadersâ€™ Forum 1â€“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.
LIFE’S DEMANDS CAN TAKE THEIR TOLL ON OUR RELATIONSHIPS. HOW CAN COUPLES HELP EACH OTHER DEAL WITH STRESS RATHER THAN ADDING TO IT? RICHARD KANE OF MARRIAGE WEEK UK GIVES SOME SUGGESTIONS
ome married couples seem blissfully happy and at ease with each other; they argue once or twice a year, cope well with in-laws, children, and even do fairly well camping for a week or two every summer! For the rest of us, our marriages go up and down in line with our stress levels. More pressure on the inside equals more pressure on the relationship. Removing stress from busy lives is fairly unrealistic. How then can we process pressure in a way that is non destructive, and actually builds the love and value we have for each other? Here are some top tips for adding love and reducing pressure.
1 / Soothe each other
Discuss and agree together how you want to help each other cope with pressure. Try to understand and respect the way you each function. For example, when my wife Maria is getting pressured I can give her a hug and try to comfort her; talk a little, hug a lot. I can do this because she has told me that this kind of intervention helps. A lot depends on your partner’s ‘love language’ and, for her, this physical touch works about 50 per cent of the time – nothing is perfect! If I’m away I can attempt to soothe her on the phone. When I am pressured, Maria stays out of the way because she knows I’m working on a solution and need to focus on the task.
‘Sacrifice in small decisions such as putting the lid on the toothpaste, and major things like a career, is fundamental to having high-quality, enduring love.’ If you have children in the house it is good for them to see you modelling a type of vulnerability that they will find compelling. There is something very positive about being intentionally and purposefully involved with soothing our spouse. This can be difficult to do at first and also hard to receive. In fact, it’s possibly harder to receive than to give. It takes work, but it’s worth it.
Easing the Pressure 2 / Choose to sacrifice
More than any other factor in your marriage, the level of mutual sacrifice for each other will determine the quality of your love. I recall discussing marriage with a famous radio DJ. He was amazed by the idea that anyone would choose not to pursue a career opportunity, even if it meant significantly neglecting your spouse, and therefore placing your relationship at risk. Since sacrificial love is at the centre of God’s heart for humanity, it would seem strange if it wasn’t also central to a healthy marriage. I am a great advocate of relationship skills training, and it is true that adopting certain approaches can really help. However, I am completely convinced that the heart attitude of sacrifice in small decisions such as putting the lid on the toothpaste, and major things like a career, is fundamental to having highquality, enduring love.
3 / Make each other laugh
We don’t have enough fun in our churches, families or marriages. People need to lighten up a bit! One of my favourite websites features ordinary old people standing in front of a camera telling jokes. As I watch I can picture them at home with their families, everyone laughing despite hearing the jokes many times before. Why not try to make your spouse laugh at least once a week? My wife makes me laugh without even trying very hard! Fun, humour and laughter is good medicine, and we should take it regularly.
4 / Have a vision
It may be that your world is very demanding and you see no end to the pressure. Your dreams might be buried under a mountain of laundry and bills. Why not sit together, pray and describe your vision for today and for the future? Write it down so that when you have some disposable time you know what you’ve been aiming for. It’s humbling to realise that instead of helping my wife deal with pressure, I can very easily increase that pressure without intending to do so. It’s not a question of trying to be radically different, just being prepared to change one or two things in a manageable way. Small things make a big difference.
Richard Kane Richard Kane and his wife Maria lead the Marriage Week International team. They have been married for 23 years. To find out more about Marriage Week UK (7-14 February 2011) visit www.marriage-week.org.uk
LOITERING WITH INTENT
FROM ITS ROOTS IN THE COUNCIL ESTATES AND INNER CITY STREETS OF MANCHESTER AND SALFORD, EDEN HAS STEADILY GROWN INTO A VIBRANT NETWORK OF PROJECTS ALL OVER THE UK. NATIONAL DIRECTOR MATT WILSON INVITES YOU TO JOIN THE MOVEMENT AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO A DISADVANTAGED COMMUNITY NEAR YOU
Photo by Alan Saunders. Eden team members Rob (back) and Susie (front left) McGibbon with friends from the street: Aaron (far left), Jack (centre), Paty and Leo (front right).
very weekday at about 5.30pm I’d turn my clapped out Ford Orion round the final bend into my street and wonder how I would be greeted on my return from work. The street was never empty. If it was too quiet I’d get worried that trouble was brewing! The typical scene would be three or four young lads waiting at my gate or sitting on my front step, hoods up. Loitering with intent. “You coming for footy in the cage Matt?” they would ask. No ‘How was your day?’ first, nothing like that. I figured they liked playing football with me because I was rubbish and they could run rings round me. But it wasn’t just that. It was clear that we dozen or so Christians who had moved into the neighbourhood were the only adults these teenagers knew who were willing to take an interest in them. It seemed like they felt safe around us. That was over 10 years ago now, when Eden had first begun and I was just a volunteer working a job in the day and giving my spare time to youth and community work. If you’d have told me then that I’d now be heading up a national movement fast approaching 20 projects stretching the length and breadth of England I would’ve found it very hard to take in.
No more hit and run
Soon after launching the first couple of Eden teams in an outer-rim Manchester council estate and an inner-city Salford warren of terraced streets, I was hi-jacked by The Message Trust founder Andy Hawthorne and asked to get involved in the organising of a big idea he’d been dreaming up with Mike Pilavachi of Soul Survivor. It was the year 2000 and the plan was to relocate Soul Survivor’s summer festival, including all 10,000 teenagers, to Manchester. I recall the headline on the brochure we produced outlining the vision: ‘No More Hit And Run’. It was of course a not-too-subtle reference to the style of ‘crusade’ evangelism of the late 20th century. The message was clear: turnout for big-name itinerant preachers was dwindling 48
Looking back a decade on, it’s apparent that over those 10 days of Message 2000, something of huge significance was going on. The church, particularly the evangelical and charismatic churches who had previously been very building- and meetings-oriented, had begun to get re-connected to the community. In the years following 2000, all over the nation, the mobilisation of short-term teams for ‘mission through blessing’ became the hot new approach. I wonder how many gardens have been improved, how many acres of graffiti have been scrubbed, how many faces have been painted. Millions possibly, and we’ve heard so many amazing stories of God’s love, grace and mercy as a result!
‘There’s a special buzz at the Sunday night services where the 40 or 50 adults will frequently be outnumbered by local teenagers encountering the goodness and grace of God’
Now don’t get me wrong, such ministry is a great start, and it’s certainly streets ahead of the old-style crusades, but I believe with all my heart that God’s call to community is much more radical. Didn’t Jesus say, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” ( John 20:21)? And how was he sent? He ‘became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood’ ( John 1:14, The Message). It’s a challenge that Eden and many other similar ministries are determined to take seriously.
Willing to submerge
There’s something else I’ve been encouraged by recently and I believe it’s a new thing that God is doing. There’s a growing sense of selfawareness within churches about this current state of affairs. Hardly a day goes by without one of our offices being contacted by a church that has realised it is loitering with intent, bungeeing in and out of its community. They are sensing the Spirit leading them deeper, from dipping a toe in the community to becoming ankle then knee deep, until they submerge. Lots of the churches I’m dealing with now are at that stage and it’s a thrill to help them work out their next steps and consider whether Eden could provide a model for them.
One such example is Firwood church, located in Westwood, a very poor and racially divided area of Oldham. They’ve been on exactly this kind of journey, steadily and consistently, one step at a time, over several years. In May 2009 we helped them to launch an Eden team and they’re now feeling the difference it makes to have 24/7/365 presence right in the heart of the estate. The core members of the team are now touching lives through a wide range of relational activities. The wider congregation have worked through the often painful issues relating to integrating large numbers of unchurched teenagers into their midst. There’s a special buzz at the Sunday night services where the 40 or 50 adults will frequently be outnumbered by local teenagers encountering the goodness and grace of God.
and their long-term impact was deemed questionable at best. This was about mobilising a new generation who would give themselves to making a difference at the grass roots.
All the evidence from the many Eden teams established over the last 13 years points to the unavoidable fact that real and lasting transformation only works in one direction: from the inside out. Isn’t that exactly how you’d expect God to work? And wouldn’t you like to be part of it?
This is where I throw in the deadly ‘but’. You see my new role as Eden’s National Director means I’m doing lots of travelling, networking and meeting new people. Every week I’m visiting the most disadvantaged communities up and down the country. And I’ve noticed something that’s started to nag at my conscience. I might describe it as ‘loitering with intent’. I use that phrase to describe the activity of churches who position themselves on the edge of a challenging community, close enough to get involved from time to time when it suits their schedule. Perhaps once or twice a year teams will be sent onto the estate to do a community clean-up or organise a fun day. There may even be a weekly group running for young mums or older people. But it’s bungee-style blessing, attached to an elastic cord, in and out, in and out. It’s stopping short of getting fully involved or putting down permanent roots.
Photo by Alan Saunders.
Matt Wilson Matt is National Director of the Eden Network, an initiative of The Message Trust. Eden is now becoming established in Yorkshire, Greater London and the North East, as well as its heartland of Greater Manchester. Find out more at www.eden-network.org
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This book lives up to its title! It’s provocative, and the provocation is evangelism. Books on evangelism have tended to encourage and discourage me in equal measure. Those crammed with insights and innovative ideas have raised my faith but also raised my feelings of guilt because so often I don’t, won’t, or can’t successfully utilise other people’s insights and expertise. This one is different. It asks hard questions such as, ‘Is my church worth coming to?’ It is incisive on the challenges, has no quick fixes, and yet is the most encouraging and edifying outreach material I’ve read in recent years. It has a strong emphasis on evangelism being the corporate activity of the whole church. However, any lack of action is not generally attributed to lack of motivation within a church but to a lack of the leadership. It’s a provocative message for leaders if we are to be passionate about the Kingdom. Martin Kirkbride, Holy Trinity Lenton, Nottingham
Cloud’s Boundaries material has had a major influence in our community. So when a leader put this book in my hands I read it. It is a word to leaders about how our character will limit the extent to which God can use us to extend his kingdom. It addresses things like authentic connection with those we lead, accessing truth, facing negatives and the need to commit ourselves to something far larger than ourselves, and building God’s kingdom and not our own. Nigel Juckes, St Agnes, Durban, South Africa
Intimate Moments with the Savior: Learning to Love Ken Gire
This book takes a look at people’s different encounters with Jesus. Each encounter is divided into a Bible passage, a meditation/reflection bringing the context of the encounter alive and taking the reader into the colours and textures of the text, and a suggested prayer applying the encounter to our own lives and using it to show us how we can better pray for others around us. I use it both for quiet times with God and as a springboard for teaching in church. Although each can be covered in 5-15 minutes you could take a lot longer. Even reading it quickly I find God often continues to speak to me through it for the rest of the day. It’s part of a bigger series, Incredible Moments with the Savior. It was recommended to me five years ago by a friend and mentor and I’m still using it today. Ben Beecroft, St Paul’s Addlestone, Surrey
Fear God (Basic series) Francis Chan
‘Could it be that when the Bible says we’re to fear God, it’s not just respect…that it really means we’re to be terrified of him?’ This one of questions posed on the cover of this first in a new six-part teaching series. Just 14 minutes long, the style and delivery is similar to the Nooma series by Rob Bell. Chan provides some brief but thought-provoking insight into the topic, and raises some pertinent discussion points. He begins by suggesting that the doctrine of fearing God has become unpopular, even an embarrassment, and as a result is either neglected or, more commonly, played down as simply an awe or respect for God. Using Scripture he goes on to illustrate why fear is actually a healthy part of our relationship with God: it’s the beginning of wisdom. ‘Without it’, he says, ‘we’d never understand the power available to us through the Holy Spirit.’ He concludes by looking at how our fear of God is met by an assurance and security from him. The accompanying booklet is a great resource with a recap of the DVD as well as questions for discussion. The DVD is well produced with an engaging soundtrack and imagery, and a useful teaching tool for small groups, especially those that like to talk! Lucy Williams, St Barnabas, North Finchley, London
The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond Bill Hybels
Like a modern day Eli for a young Samuel, Bill challenges us all to listen for and hear the whispers of God in our lives and to act on them. This book is very practical in directing us to ingest God’s word as a primary way of knowing God’s prompting but also to listen for the Spirit’s whisper in the different circumstances of life. It provides some practical guidelines in discerning the whispers, some of which could form a teaching series for a church. Best of all there are copious examples that touch the heart and challenge us to action. George Rogers, St Johns with Emmanuel, Werrington, Peterborough
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