Page 1

Magazine

Alive in Christ Spurgeon Michael Reeves, Union

Church Planting, Greg Wilson, Acts29

The Christian Life and Calm Dane Ortlund, Crossway

From Our Hearts to The World Justin Schell, Lausanne

4D Ministry Jonathan Thomas, UST

Issue 03


WWW.THEOLO.GY


SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY

PUBLISHING

MISSION

RESEARCH


2018

Belfast REGIONAL CONFERENCE

AF TER DARKNESS, LIGHT LIGONIER

with SINCLAIR FERGUSON, STEVEN LAWSON, BURK PARSONS, MICHAEL REEVES and DEREK THOMAS

OCTOBER 5–6, 2018 | PRICE: $49 / £37

LIGONIER.ORG/BELFAST


Contents 06

Editorial Michael Reeves, President of Union

08

4D Ministry Jonathan Thomas, Pastoral Dean of Union

Union is all about mission. We enable healthy church growth - by investing in leaders - so that churches can flourish in the gospel, and

12

Jonathan Edwards, the Christian life, and Calm Dane Ortlund, Executive Vice President of Bible Publishing at Crossway.

press forward in mission.

President of the Union Foundation US. Editorial Board Michael Reeves (Editor)

20

Daniel Hames (Associate Editor) Joel Morris Design

Michael Reeves, President of Union

26

There is Something More www.thereissomethingmore.com ÂŽ

Communications Officer

30

From our hearts to the world Justin Schell, Director of Executive Projects for the Lausanne Movement,

Twitter: @UnionTheology Union Publishing Oxford

Generosity & the heart of God Sarah Bennington, Development and

hello@thereissomethingmore.com Find out more www.union-mission.org Freephone: 0330 123 4446

Spurgeon: A man full of life

and Vice-President of the Union Foundation US

34

Student interview

Union Campus Bridgend

Matt Faux is a second year

Wales CF31 4DX

Student President

Union is a registered UK charity #517324

BA students at UST, and our

38

Union Foundation US is 501(c)(3) not-forprofit

Aims for students of the Old Testament Steffen Jenkins, Lecturer in Greek and Biblical Studies at UST

42

Serving the gospel in Oldham Stephen Kneale, Lead Mentor, Union Learning Community, Greater Manchester

44

Church Planting Greg Willson, Acts 29 Church Planter in Chorlton, UK

WWW.THEOLO.GY

5


EDITORIAL

From our President ‘Labour to be alive in all your duties... Brethren, we must have life more abundantly, each one of us, and it must flow out into all the duties of our office… Be full of life at all times, and let that life be seen in your ordinary conversation.’1 So said Charles Spurgeon to

more confident that “the joy

roles in Union’s ministry in the

the theological students and

of the Lord is and must be our

years to come.

ministers of his day, more than

strength, and that discontent

a hundred years ago. As we

and moroseness are fatal to

Jonathan Thomas is Union

will see later in this magazine,

usefulness.”3 This joy is, in fact,

School of Theology’s new

he was a man full of life – a

“the sign and symbol of strong

Pastoral Dean. From September

liveliness and sparkle that came

spiritual life. Holy vivacity

2018, Jonathan will be directing

from his spiritual life in Christ.

betokens spiritual vigour.”4 And

the spiritual and pastoral

that, quite simply, is because

formation of our students – both

Reading Spurgeon’s sermons

it is impossible to enjoy close

on campus and in Learning

and lectures, it’s clear that his

communion with the happy

Communities. He brings a

liveliness was not something

God without being affected.

wealth of pastoral experience

surface-level or purely individual

God’s presence is gloriously

as well as theological wisdom

to him. He believed that when a

transformative: his presence

to this important role and

person is born again they come

must strengthen the weak,

will continue as Pastor of

to be full of life: the Spirit of life

purify the corrupt, and cheer the

Cornerstone Evangelical Church

makes lively people. As the Son

gloomy so that they become like

in Abergavenny. On p.8-9, he

of God is dynamically and fully

him. “A man who walks in the

shares something of his heart for

alive in the Spirit, so he makes

sunlight of God’s countenance,

this ministry.

the children of God spiritually

for that very reason is warm

active and energetic. This is

and strong. The sunlight of joy

Dane Ortlund is Executive Vice

what life means. The idea of a

usually goes with the warmth of

President of Bible Publishing at

passive Christian, content in sin,

spiritual life.”5

Crossway. He has been a dear

content not to know God better, was simply anathema to his

Life and light

understanding of the Spirit. No,

friend of Union for some years, and serves as President of the Union Foundation US, our non-

“wherever the grace of God is, it

I am encouraged as I read

profit body in the USA. Dane is

makes a difference. A graceless

through the contents of this

an expert on Jonathan Edwards,

man is not like a gracious man;

issue of the Union Magazine to

and shares with us on p.12-15

and a gracious man is not like a

see such bursting, bubbling life in

an insight of Edwards’ about

graceless one.”2

brothers and sisters from all over

what life in Christ is like.

the world. I’m especially thrilled Spurgeon wrote that with

to introduce three contributors

every year in ministry he grew

who will play hugely significant

WWW.THEOLO.GY


Justin Schell is Vice-President

to see our students delighting

of the Union Foundation US

in God and captured by the

alongside Dane. He is also the

glory of Christ. For, gazing on

Lead Mentor of our Tulsa, OK

him, we are ‘transformed into

Learning Community, pioneering

his image with ever-increasing

Union’s ministry in the USA. He

glory’ (2 Corinthians 3:18), and

works as Director of Executive

it is his glory that shines brightly

Projects with the Lausanne

into darkness, and into the

Movement, with a strategic eye

hearts of lost men and women

on evangelicalism around the

(1 Corinthians 4:6). Enjoying the

world. Justin writes about his

God of glory in the face of his

work on p.30-33.

Son, we begin to shine with his brightness and go out with his

It is a great pleasure to share

gospel.

these contributions and many others with you. Everything we

Thank you for standing with

do at Union—not only our School

us. May the Lord bless you and

of Theology—is dedicated to

encourage you as you read this

raising up leaders who are ready

and as we serve you in this

to dedicate their lives to serve

ministry,

the church of Christ. Our vision is to see a growing and healthy

Michael Reeves is President of

church that can overflow in love

Union Theology

and life with the gospel, for the blessing of the world.   In all our academic programmes, our formation of leaders, and our training of preachers, we want

UNION MAGAZINE

Endnotes [1] An All-Round Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1900), 188–91. [2] Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 58:589. [3] Sword & Trowel: 1866, 34. [4] The Joy of the Lord, the Strength of His People, in MTP, 17:715. [5] The Joy of the Lord, the Strength of His People,in MTP, 17:715.

7


SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY

4D Ministry Jonathan Thomas I can still remember going to see

3D approach to ministry wasn’t

But we need to be aware of

my first 3D film in an Imax theatre

going to sustain me for the long haul.

encouraging a fourth dimension that

in Seattle. It was a U2 concert and I

Sure, it would make me orthodox, but

is like the 4D cinema – illusion. A film

thought I could reach out and touch

it was limited. The more I read, the

entertains and produces all kinds of

Bono. It was simply amazing.

more I realised I was missing the key

emotion, but it doesn’t change your

‘D’ in gospel ministry. And it is the

life. Only a true delight in the true

As a young leader I was encouraged

foundation, fuel, and fruit of the other

God, through his wonderful gospel,

and challenged by the 3D call to

three. What is it? Delight. We must

has the power not only to sustain us

‘declare, define and defend’ the

(and may!) delight in God himself.

in mission and ministry, but help us

gospel. To me, this seemed like the

say: ‘Whatever my lot, it is well, it is

clarion call my generation needed.

Just like 4D cinema introduces the

well with my soul.’ This is the reality

If I were to be both trained and

felt presence of a film, so delighting

that we need to encourage ministers

sustained for real, fruitful, life-long

in God and his gospel introduces

of the gospel to pursue.

ministry, I needed to be able to

the Scriptural offer of drawing near:

do these 3 ‘D’s. In many senses,

approaching the throne of grace

That is why I have been so grateful

Union’s Learning Communities are

in our times of need and knowing

for the ministry of Union over the

perfectly placed to help people

the love of God that is poured out

years, and am committed to serve

learn how to define, declare, and

into our hearts. This cherishing

here for the future. Here we have

defend the gospel. Through a mix of

and clinging to Christ is the fourth

a faculty that can teach us how to

biblical studies, church history and

dimension of Christian ministry that

define, declare, defend, and delight

systematics, you can grow in your

will make sure men are trained and

in God. At the end of a week of

grasp of the gospel and then be able

sustained, making them able to finish

lectures I was attending earlier this

to feed the sheep, share the gospel,

the race.

year, as the lecturer closed in prayer,

and shoot the wolves.

a student exclaimed: ‘I just want to In a letter to a young minster, John

praise God now!’. That is 4D ministry.

The entertainment industry has

Newton warns:

moved on from 3D cinema and

‘The ministry of the gospel, like the

Jonathan Thomas is UST’s

introduced 4D. This is where they

book which the Apostle John ate, is

Pastoral Dean

work on your touch senses, and

a bitter sweet; but the sweetness is

produce physical effects like wind

tasted first, the bitterness is usually

and rain. I’ll be honest: I won’t be

known afterwards, when we are so

going to see Titanic in a 4D cinema!

far engaged that there is no going

However, I love the idea of being

back.’

immersed in a film and feeling the environment.

Getting through those seasons of trial is vital for both the servant of

As I got to the end of my first decade

Christ and the Church. We need to

in ministry and started to spend

produce students who can serve

more and more time with old friends

for decades, and it is the ability, by

like Sibbes, Charles, Edwards and

God’s grace, to minister in 4D that is

Newton, I began to realise that my

needed.

WWW.THEOLO.GY


In a letter to a young minster, John Newton warns: ‘The ministry of the gospel, like the book which the Apostle John ate, is a bitter sweet; but the sweetness is tasted first, the bitterness is usually known afterwards, when we are so far engaged that there is no going back.’

UNION MAGAZINE

9


Resourcing the church and blessing the world with the knowledge of God. Our campus and our regional Learning Communities together deliver a widely respected theological education - from BA to PhD - that is both geographically and financially accessible.

Union

School of Theology ust.ac.uk

11


PUBLISHING

Jonathan Edwards, the Christian life, and calm Dane Ortlund What a deep breath does for your

How do you slow down the inner

Edwards liberally used two other

RPMs? How do you move through

synonyms when talking about calm:

life without feeling on the inside like

‘tranquil’ and ‘serene’.

your soul. A sinner being given

the wheel? How do you get your

But he especially loved the word

child being given an inhaler.

frantic heart (not just lungs) to take

‘calm,’ as evidenced by the fact

a deep breath? Haven’t you been

that it crops up 442 times in the

around someone, and find your heart

online Works of Edwards that Yale

slowing down? Have you ever been

University hosts.

But all the world’s strategies are

radiated outward and caused you to

Jonathan Edwards shows us that

tells us to go in. Edwards tells us to

breathe more easily just by being in

the Christian life is not only a matter

their presence?

of being justified and adopted and

a hamster running frenetically on

around someone whose inner calm

reconciled and purchased and

lungs, Jonathan Edwards does for Jonathan Edwards is like an asthmatic

The world has strategies for controlling our inner scurrying about. limited to self-resourcing. The world go out. Jonathan Edwards shows us how to walk into true calm, by being drawn out of yourself, and stepping out of your unsustainably fast-paced

Jonathan Edwards takes us into such

liberated and cleansed. It is also a

calm. Let me be clear that by ‘calm’ I

matter of being calmed.

mental universe.

Have you tasted this?

Definitive

What is ‘Calm’?

How does Edwards help calm us

Internally, we move from frantic

By ‘calm’ we’re not talking about

clear is that this blanketing soul-calm

hastiness to calm.

yawning indifference or stoicism or

do not mean working any less hard. Life in Christ energizes us in one way, and calms us in another. Externally, we finally get traction with being truly productive, fruitful, and active.

apathy or lethargy. Edwards wrote

down, then? The first thing to get is definitive of the Christian life. It is not peripheral. It is not optional. In Religious Affections he wrote:

Isaiah 28:16 says, ‘Whoever believes

that ‘lukewarmness in religion is

will not be in haste.’ Our evangelical

abominable.’ By calm Edwards had

and reformed instincts might cause

in mind a settled, inner, unflappable

us to expect that sentence to

repose of soul, beyond the reach of

conclude ‘condemned’ instead of ‘in

circumstance.

than in steadfastly maintaining a

be condemned.’ But the text takes

Like the eye of a tornado, it is an

benevolence of his mind, amid all the

trust in God in a different direction,

inner quiet when all around is chaos.

identifying a different benefit. And

It is deeper than simply not getting

as I consider all that God gives us

angry. After all, sometimes we should

through Jonathan Edwards, in living

get angry and are wrong not to (cf.

the Christian life, among the most

Eph. 4:26). Edwards has in mind

personally meaningful today—and

something more wonderful, more all-

at the same time most neglected—is

of-life-encompassing.

haste’ – ‘Whoever believes will not

captured by the little word ‘calm.’

WWW.THEOLO.GY

‘The strength of the good soldier of Jesus Christ appears in nothing more holy calm, meekness, sweetness, and storms, injuries, strange behavior, and surprising acts and events of this evil and unreasonable world.’ Do you think of the Christian soldier’s central battle as ‘maintaining a holy calm’?


Life in Christ energises us in one way, and calms us in another.

UNION MAGAZINE

13


Comprehensive

Supper he was embroiled in): ‘If

‘Oh, of what a sweet, humble nature

anyone opposes me from the

is holiness! . . . It makes the soul like

And this defining, transcending

press, I desire he would endeavor

a delightful field or garden planted

fairly to take off the force of each

by God, with all manner of pleasant

argument, by answering with calm

flowers growing in the order in which

our words, for example:

and close reasoning—avoiding both

nature has planted them, that is all

dogmatical assertion and passionate

pleasant and delightful, undisturbed,

‘In him who exercises the Christian

reflection.’

free from all the noise of man and

calm breaks out into all the different aspects of living the Christian life. In

spirit as he ought there will be no passionate, rash and hasty expression; there will not be a bitter exasperated countenance, or air of behavior, no violence in talk or carriage, but on the contrary, those words and that behavior which savor

beast, enjoying a sweet calm and Soul-calm is to pervade all of life for

the bright, calm, and gently vivifying

one united to Christ.

beams of the sun forevermore: where

Holiness

the sun is Jesus Christ; the blessed beams and calm breeze, the Holy Spirit.’ Who is winning people over

Those are some ways calm

to Christian holiness like that today?

of peaceableness and calmness.’

manifests itself in the Christian life.

In our pain:

the manifestation to the inner reality. The word Edwards used more than

How then do you get this holy calm?

‘The Christian temper is to be meek

any other in tunneling in to the heart

The first answer Edwards gives

of the Christian life is holiness. And

is the same answer Jesus gave to

when we go to his descriptions

Nicodemus: ‘You must be born again’

of holiness, we find him using the

(John 3:7). Inner calm is not the result

language of calmness. In 1740 he

of having a certain Myers-Briggs

reflected back on his conversion and

personality profile.

and calm and not easily provoked, to be undisturbed by affronts and injuries. The Christian is above these things; he is out of the reach of them; he does as it were dwell above the clouds, out of the reach of winds and storms, and enjoys a perpetual

But let’s go one step deeper, from

Regeneration

wrote that holiness at that time Before new birth, outside

serenity and tranquility.’

‘appeared to me to be of a sweet,

circumstances necessarily dictate

pleasant, charming, serene, calm

the pace of our heart inside us. After

In our relationships:

nature. It seemed to me, it brought

new birth, we are plugged into God

an inexpressible purity, brightness,

and reordered on inside, and an

‘Love will dispose men to meekness

peacefulness, and ravishment to the

imperviousness to circumstance

soul: and that it made the soul . . .

is now available to us. Edwards

pleasant, delightful, and undisturbed;

preached:

and gentleness in their carriage towards their neighbors, and not to treat them with passion or violence, but with moderation and

enjoying a sweet calm.’ ‘Men in their natural state Austerity and holiness are antonyms

[unregenerate] are like winter,

according to Jonathan Edwards.

perpetually disturbed with the

Holiness is not dreary, morose,

storms of lust and vice, and a

and will dispose to peaceableness.’

somber, plodding, shoulder-drooping.

raging conscience; their souls are

It’s bright, pleasant, serene. Calm. He

all beclouded with sin and spiritual

In theological debate (referring

wrote:

darkness. But when Christ comes

calmness. Love is altogether a sweet disposition and affection of the soul. Love will prevent broils and quarrels,

with his warming influences, things

to a controversy about the Lord’s

WWW.THEOLO.GY


PUBLISHING

are far otherwise: their minds are

The creation of the world seems to

calm and serene.’ New birth is the

have been especially for this end,

fundamental prerequisite to the inner

that the eternal Son of God might

calm every sinner is panting for.

obtain a spouse, toward whom

Drilling Deeper

he might fully exercise the infinite benevolence of his nature, and to whom he might, as it were, open and

But what does regeneration do to

pour forth all that immense fountain

give us this new fundamental calm?

of condescension, love, and grace

New birth makes God real to us.

that was in his heart, and that in this

God himself goes from black-and-

way God might be glorified. 

white to full color. From subscribed truth on paper to felt experience.

And if that just seems beyond what

We no longer see God like we see a

our messy little lives can really step

postcard of a Jamaican beach; we

into, Edwards understands. He said:

see God like we see that beach if we’re suddenly transported there,

‘Here some Christians may be ready

blinking, looking around.

to say, ‘How can it be that I may be so bold thus to have communion with

The one verse in the Bible that sums

one who is so great and glorious

up the way you get calm in your life,

when I am so exceeding little and

and the one verse in the Bible that

vile?’ I answer: the grace of God is as

sums up what Jonathan Edwards

great as his majesty. His mercy and

does for us, is Job 42:5: ‘I had heard

condescension are fully equal to the

of you by the hearing of the ear, but

height of his dignity and exaltation.

now my eye sees you.’

You may place yourself in the love of Christ. You may place yourself in his

You don’t get tranquility, calm,

divine embraces.’

peaceableness, by looking for these things in themselves. You get them

It’s not seeing greatness of Christ

by looking at God—when God

that will calm you. It’s seeing that

becomes real to you—and all these

being so great, he loves little you. As

things will be added unto you.

he put it in another sermon,

But what about God becomes real to

‘The love of Christ has a tendency

you? Seeing what? Seeing the glory

to fill the soul with an inexpressible

of God in the Son of God revealing

sweetness. It sweetens every

the love of God. If we ask how calm

thought and makes every meditation

sweeps over your heart, the answer

pleasant; it brings a divine calm upon

Edwards gives is that we see the

the mind, and spreads a heavenly

beauty of the love of Christ. In a

fragrancy.’

sermon late in life Edwards preached:

Conclusion Are you frenetic today? Hasty on the inside, despite being born again? Let Jonathan Edwards walks you into the green pastures and still waters of a calmed inner life. Labor today to be melted afresh into the love of the Triune God, receiving God’s love, and expressing love back to him. Then go to bed. And get up tomorrow and do it again. And many years from now, you will be looking back on a life that slowly moved ever more deeply into radiant calm. Edwards spoke of this calm as something a Christian can carry around inside him: ‘He who has divine love in him has a wellspring of true happiness that he carries about in his own chest, a fountain of sweetness, a spring of the water of life. There is a pleasant calmness and serenity and brightness in the soul in the exercise of this holy affection.’ Jonathan Edwards takes us by the hand, and walks us out of the frenetic chaos of a life consumed with our natural inveterate self-preoccupations, into the bright, tranquil meadow of a life invincibilized by the giving and receiving of divine love. Soul-calm is what real Christians exhale, having inhaled the love of God. Dane Ortlund is Executive Vice President of Bible Publishing at Crossway and President of the Union Foundation US

UNION MAGAZINE

15


extraordinary THE PRIVILEGE & PRIORITY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH 2018 Conference |  Bristol  |  18-20 October

2018.sguk.org

Bob Kauflin

Devon Kauflin

Tim Chester

18 October 2018

Leaders Day To freshly envision and equip church leaders for the extraordinary privilege of serving and leading the local church God has entrusted to them.

Jared Mellinger

Rick Gamache

Nathan Smith

19-20 October 2018

WorshipGod To freshly envision and equip everyone who plans, leads or cares about the extraordinary life and weekly worship of the gathered church.


THEOLOGIANS on the Christian Life

WISDOM FROM THE PAST FOR LIFE IN THE PRESENT

NEW IN THE SERIES: Spurgeon on the Christian Life: Alive in Christ Michael Reeves 978-1-4335-4387-6, £15.99

For more information, visit crossway.org.

17


Resourcing the church and blessing the world with the knowledge of God. As part of our commitment to grow leaders for sustainable and healthy mission, Union Publishing will provide quality theological material for our student-leaders and their churches.

Publishing uniontheology.org

19


RESEARCH

Spurgeon: A man full of life Michael Reeves Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a

and hands full of life, in fine, a vivid

man who went at all of life full-on.

preacher, altogether alive.1

He laughed and cried much; he read avidly and felt deeply; he was

We ought to be all alive, and always

a zealously industrious worker and

alive. A pillar of light and fire should

a sociable lover of play and beauty.

be the preacher’s fit emblem.”2

He was, in other words, a man who embodied the truth that to be in

We pray that the leaders we raise at

Christ means to be made ever more

Union School of Theology would be

roundly human, more fully alive.

pastors and preachers “altogether

Mr Great Heart

alive” with such “light and fire”!

A Life of Joy

It takes no great insight to see that Spurgeon in his ministry was a

“What a bubbling fountain of humour

big-hearted man of deep affections.

Mr. Spurgeon had!” wrote his friend

His printed sermons and lectures

William Williams. “I have laughed

still throb with passion. At times

more, I verily believe, when in his

the emotional freight of his sermon

company than during all the rest

would even overcome him, especially

of my life besides.”3 Few, it seems,

when it was about the crucifixion of

expected to laugh so much in the

Christ.

presence of the zealous pastor; but Spurgeon knew this and seemed to

Yet he was not simply a large

take an impish delight in springing

presence in the pulpit. In fact, we

comedy on those around him.

need to be clear that his liveliness of character, while expressed in

Spurgeon enjoyed telling the story

ways particular to him, was not a

of how, as a young pastor in Park

mere matter of unique or inherited

Street, he had complained to his

personality: it was a natural but

deacons about how stuffy and

wholly self-conscious expression of

stifling it could get in the building,

his theology.

suggesting that they remove the upper panes of glass from some

Spurgeon saw that this deep

of the windows to let in more air.

connection between a minister’s

Nothing was done about it; but then

affections and his ministry was vital.

one day it was found that someone

As he said to his students, training

had smashed those window panes

for ministry:

out. Spurgeon offered a reward of five pounds for the discovery of the

“We ought each one to be like that

offender, who would then be given

reformer who is described as… “a

the money in thanks.

countenance beaming with life, eyes

This money the pastor then pocketed, being himself the culprit.4

WWW.THEOLO.GY

Spurgeon saw that this deep connection between a minister’s affections and his ministry was vital.


Most essentially, Spurgeon’s sunny

make them in due time, they shall

manner was a manifestation of that also be perfectly happy… and it is our happiness and cheer which is found Saviour’s will that even now his joy in Christ, the light of the world. He

should remain in us, and that our joy

refused to take himself—or any other should be full.5 sinner—too seriously. Spurgeon held that to be alive in Christ means to

For Spurgeon, none of this meant

fight not only the habits and acts

being a triumphalist, cheerily

of sin but also sin’s temperamental blustering past all difficulty. sullenness, ingratitude, bitterness,

Spurgeon could never have done

and despair. To enter into Christ’s

that; we know about the extent

life entails entering into the joy of

of his suffering with bereavement,

being fully human, at peace with the depression, and persecution. “blessed” or “happy” God of glory (1 Experiencing life in Christ, the Man Tim. 1:11).

of Sorrows, must entail suffering. Yet life in Christ must also involve

A Christian has never fully realized

real cheer. Living as a Child of

what Christ came to make him until the Creator Spurgeon saw that in he has grasped the joy of the Lord.

Christ he was adopted and loved

Christ wishes his people to be happy. by an omnipotent Father who When they are perfect, as he will

reigns, sovereign over all things. It

Image: Spurgeon – credit to artist Mark Summers, Richard Solomon Artists, used with permission from Crossway

UNION MAGAZINE

21


RESEARCH

‘Spurgeon knew that Christ is the logic and the light of the world; the gospel is the sum of all wisdom; the Scriptures are able to make us wise—and not just for salvation.’ meant that everything fearful—all

of all wisdom; the Scriptures are

opposition and danger—tended to

able to make us wise—and not

shrink in his sight. When rightly

just for salvation.

viewed, nothing could cause despair, for everything exists under

Christians should therefore be

the almighty hand of God the

wise and omnivorous people of

Father, ruler on high.

comprehensive intellect. Once when I read books, I put all my

Seeing that all things are the

knowledge together in glorious

Father’s and have their being from

confusion; but ever since I have

him also gave Spurgeon a broad

known Christ, I have put Christ in

interest in his Father’s creation.

the centre as my sun...6

Brought up in the countryside, under the broad skies of East

Like us all, Spurgeon was uniquely

Anglia, he loved spending time

himself. Yet his big-heartedness

outside, often in his garden,

and joy as he walked through

enjoying trees, flowers, birds,

his Father’s creation displays

rainbows, and all the rich variety

exactly the sort of life that will

of creation.

always grow from the theology he believed.

He was also curious, and read extensively on horticulture and

Michael Reeves is President of

biology, the knowledge and

Union Theology

enjoyment of which leaked through into so much of his teaching. More than that, Spurgeon knew that Christ is the logic and the light of the world; the gospel is the sum

Endnotes [1] Lectures, 2:218. [2] Lectures, 2:221. [3] Williams, Personal Reminiscences of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 17–18. [4] Lectures, 1:139. [5] MTP, 51:229. [6] NPSP, 1:60.

WWW.THEOLO.GY


Like us all, Spurgeon was uniquely himself. Yet his big-heartedness and joy as he walked through his Father’s creation displays exactly the sort of life that will always grow from the theology he believed.

UNION MAGAZINE

23


Fuelling the church’s mission through theological excellence. Union Research will resource and fuel Union’s mission with the highest quality theology.

research.ust.ac.uk


PUBLISHING

Generosity & the heart of God Sarah Bennington Indulge me for a moment while

wanted to give of his own precious

It’s the same with our food. The

I dote on my child. Imagine the

bounty to make their Christmas

earth in all its richness provides us

scene in our kitchen as we started

happy.

with a multitude of colours, textures,

assembling a Christmas hamper for

flavours, and smells to delight our

a community programme at church.

In the hectic run-up to Christmas in

The sight of mummy wrapping up a

a household with small children and

big cardboard box grabbed our son’s

a husband in full-time ministry, why

We see a world absolutely dripping

attention: on the off-chance that this

has this short moment stuck with

in variety, beauty, splendour, and

box was for him, he wanted to get

me? Because, I think, it points me

majesty, because the One who

involved.

right to the heart of God. Our God

made it was generous. He didn’t

is a generous God: not a sensible,

cut corners, cut costs, or do it on

My husband and I explained that not

give-them-what-they-need kind

a budget. His world is lavish and

everyone in our city has enough of

of God, but a God whose heart

abundant. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy

what they need at Christmas, and

overflows with kindness, richness,

that God ‘richly provides us with

that this was a very small way for

and a desire to bless. When God

everything for our enjoyment.’2 His

us to help. So, we started to fill the

gives, He gives the best. And it is so

purpose in generosity is to bless us.

box with tins of soup, bars of soap,

good —so refreshing, liberating, and

breakfast cereal and all the other

challenging—for us to remember that.

Generous in salvation

Generous in creation

We see generosity in the ministry of

sensible things I had bought for the occasion. Our four year old son didn’t think this was good enough. He

eyes and our tastebuds.

Jesus during his time on earth. When

headed straight to the drawer where

We see God’s generosity in his

Jesus changed water into wine, he

his (sugar-averse) parents had

creation of the heavens and the

didn’t make just about enough, and

stashed all of the sweets he’d been

earth1, in the dazzling variety of

it didn’t taste just about ok. It the

given at parties and birthdays – the

valleys and mountains, beaches and

finest wine of the whole celebration

drawer from which he is occasionally

oceans, deserts, jungles, and glaciers.

– at the end of the ceremony when

allowed to pick one treat – and

That’s before we even consider the

a lot of the guests wouldn’t have

emptied all of them into the hamper.

shapes and sizes of all the different

noticed anyway. When he fed the

creatures who live in them. Did you

5000, he didn’t ration the food:

know there are more than 100 species

there were basket-loads of leftovers

of octopuses in our oceans? 10,000

after everyone had eaten and been

This box was no longer going to be

species of birds flying in our skies?

satisfied.

good for anyone’s teeth, but it was

25,000 species of orchid growing on

good for my heart. It was good to

the earth? Did you know that just one

And don’t we see generosity most of

see my little boy moved to lavish and

handful of sand has 10,000 grains in

all—most beautifully, most fully—in

heartfelt generosity when confronted

it – and would it boggle your mind to

the story of salvation? It’s not just

with a need. He didn’t know who

know that there are more stars in the

the ministry of Jesus on earth which

would get our hamper, but he knew

cosmos than grains of sand on every

gives us an insight into his generous

that they didn’t have enough. He

beach in the world?

nature. It’s not just his death on the

All of them.

WWW.THEOLO.GY


cross, either, when he breathed

and then by the will of God also to

to me—whether that’s my sweets,

his last and gave himself up for us,

[others].’7 When we give ourselves

my time, my money, or anything else

taking our punishment for sin and

first of all to our generous God, our

the Lord has given to me—I become

enabling us to go free. Before he

churches, too, can be marked by rich

a little bit more like my Saviour.

gave up his life on earth, he had

generosity to others – a generosity

When I reflect upon the generosity of

already given up his life in heaven,

which might come as rather a shock

God, I start to know the freedom of a

in order that he, ‘though he was rich,

to the world around us (as I suspect it

generous heart.

yet for your sake… became poor, so

did back in Paul’s day). Generosity in

that you through his poverty might

ministry and mission are key values

Sarah Bennington is Development

become rich.’3 Of course, Jesus

for Union, too: we want to equip

and Communications Officer at

didn’t act alone in this great act of

church leaders to love God, grow in

Union

salvation: we see the generosity of

Christ, serve the church, and bless

our Father in giving his one and only

the world. We want to invest in

son ; we see the generosity of the

leaders who—amongst many other

Holy Spirit in being given ‘without

things—will show the generous heart

limit.’5 And we see the generosity of

of God to the world.

4

Endnotes [1] Nehemiah 9:6 [2] 1 Timothy 6:17 [3] 2 Corinthians 8:9 [4] John 3:16 [5] John 3:34 [6] 2 Corinthians 8:2-3 [7] 2 Corinthians 8:5

God in what salvation means for us: not a get-out-of-jail-free card, but

I know that I have a pattern to

the warm, loving, eternal embrace

follow, too, in my own heart, in my

of a Father, who unites us with his

own diary, in my own wallet, in my

Son, gives us his Spirit now as a

own home. When I reflect upon the

guarantee of our inheritance, and one

kindness of our Father in giving us all

day will welcome us home to be with

things, and upon the richness of my

him in glory everlasting. In salvation,

salvation through Jesus, who at that

God gives us himself. In salvation,

very first Christmas made himself

God holds nothing back. 

poor that I might become rich, my

Generous in response

heart becomes a little more like my son’s. I remember that everything I have was given to me; I remember

When we think about the generosity

that I can trust him to provide what

of God, I think we have a pattern

he wants me to have. I remember

to follow. We have a pattern to

that in giving away what is precious

overflow with generosity; we have a pattern to give even when it’s at personal cost. I love to read about the Macedonian church in 2 Corinthians: Paul tells us that ‘in the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity… They gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.’6 The key for them, of course, was that they ‘gave themselves first of all to the Lord,

UNION MAGAZINE

27


We work closely with many churches, networks and agencies to recruit, raise and strategically deploy church leaders where they can be most useful.

union-mission.org


29


MISSION

From our hearts to the world Justin Schell James Hudson Taylor, founder of

might that mean for our mission to

But, again, what if that weren’t

China Inland Mission (now Overseas

the, nearly, 7,000 ethno-linguistic

true? We are excited to see the

Missionary Fellowship or OMF),

peoples who still have little to no

Union School of Theology network

once said, ‘There are three stages

access to the Gospel, those groups

of Learning Communities steadily

to every great work of God; first it is

we call Unreached Peoples? How

expanding over the coming year.

impossible, then it is difficult, then it

might the world look different in 20,

They are already developing in major

is done.’

50, or 100 years? And would it be

cities in Europe and North America,

worth spending 10, 20, or 30 years of

all led by local pastor-theologians.

In my work as the director of

your life working to see that become

As they become established we can

executive projects for the Lausanne

a reality? I think so!

begin to explore options that are

Movement, I get to see this reality play out on a regular basis.

How might…?

What if…?

But, of course, that brings us to the

appropriate for the majority world.

What if?!

second question: How might that be

I love it when my work with

I am blessed to have a job designed

accomplished. It seems impossible!

Lausanne overlaps with my

to ask ‘What if?’ and ‘How might?’

With denominational division, with

service to my local church in Tulsa,

For instance, in the last few months,

language challenges, with a spirit of

Oklahoma. In getting to know Union’s

in conversation with Union, we’ve

competition instead of cooperation

leadership, vision, and mission, it also

been asking, ‘What if robust

in the Church, how could this dream

spurred us in Tulsa to ask ‘What if?!’

theological education was available

become a reality – when it seems

to anyone, anywhere? Education that

that most are content complaining

As a growing network of like-minded

is beautifully biblical, foundationally

about the shallow faith they see

churches, with a passion for church

missional, as well as accessible and

around the world instead of doing

planting, revitalization, and global

affordable?’

anything about it?

mission, what if we had access to

Or asked another way, ‘What if

We wonder why it seems that

the global Church, and her leaders,

churches have the theological

What if we didn’t have to send our

had access to the best theological

depth of an 18-year old short-

potential laborers and leaders to

education possible without limitation

term missionary, not realizing that

another city for two or more years of

of location or money?’

the reason for this is that the only

study?

robust theological education in Tulsa?

theological education available to I don’t know about you, but when I

many church leaders around the

start to think about a world in which

world is being delivered by just such

that is a reality, I get excited! What

teachers and programs.

might that do for the health of the Church across the globe? What

WWW.THEOLO.GY


We are convinced that raising up leaders for Tulsa should happen in Tulsa, and so we are hosting a Union Learning Community in Tulsa starting in September of 2018. In the last few weeks I’ve met with a network of Presbyterian pastors in the area who see the Learning Community as a potential answer to their need for theological

There are three stages to every great work of God; first it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.

education for all the churches in their presbytery that spans through three states. I’ve also met with a network of 160+ Baptist churches in our city who have already begun to invest in the development of the Tulsa Learning Community. We have a

long way to go, but these first fruits are exciting.

UNION MAGAZINE

31


MISSION

Another ‘What if…?’

view of God was dramatically

What if the Good God and His good

skewed. What if I began to see Him

news were the shaping reality of

Finally, I love it when my global and

rightly?

the Global Church? I want to see

local ministry intersects with what God is doing in my own heart. Three years ago I remember praying in the midst of what seemed like a dry spiritual season. I was frustrated with what seemed like God’s distance from me. And as I prayed, before propriety could stop me, I said to the Lord, ‘I feel like you are just tolerating me… like you’re just putting up with me. I know you are supposed to love me, but I don’t think you like me.’ The Lord

theological education that is aimed If you ask me now about my walk

at the heart cover the earth with the

with the Lord, you are likely to hear

knowledge of the glory of God in the

something like, ‘The last two or so

face of Jesus Christ. From Asia to

years have been like a personal

Africa to Latin America and beyond,

revival.’ Seeing the Father, Son, and

what if we saw God clearly and as

Spirit more clearly has made all the

He truly is. What if our global mission

difference. Seeing the gospel as it

flowed out of the heart of this lovely

really is, amazing good news that I

God?

am His and He is mine, makes all the difference.

All of these partnerships flow from the same wellspring; namely, the

So, knowing that, it’s no wonder that

fountain of delight that is ours in

I am eager to partner with Union.

the one true, living, and Triune God!

I am thrilled to partner with Union

This is what I need. This is what the

personally, making their US board

Church in Tulsa needs. And this is

the only board on which I serve. I am

what the world needs! Just think of

eager to partner with Union locally.

the impact. Even now, ask yourself,

resources more than anything else.

For, what if what I have experienced

‘What if?’

As I listened to audio resources and

in Tulsa? What if our people, our

Justin Schell is Director of Executive

ministries, and our churches lived and

Projects for the Lausanne

moved and had their being flow out

Movement, and Vice-President of

of this gloriously, breath-taking good

the Union Foundation US

used many means to bring me out of despondency, from conversation with brothers at church to books that I read in that season. It’s not an overstatement, however, to tell you that He used uniontheology.org

read various written pieces, the Lord graciously asked me, ‘What if…what if I really am who I say I am. What if I’m really the good Father? What if Jesus really is your passionate

could shape the life of the Church

news! I’m keen to partner with Union globally.

bridegroom? What if Father, Son, and Spirit are ever working for your good?’ I saw that my subconscious

WWW.THEOLO.GY


What if our people, our ministries, and our churches lived and moved and had their being flow out of this gloriously, breath-taking good news! UNION MAGAZINE

33


SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY

Student Interview Matt Faux Matt Faux is a second year BA

Union: the range of modules and

with the lecturers, Union, for me,

student at Union School of Theology,

choices, the lecturers I’d heard great

has been a very embracing family.

based at our Wales campus. We

things about, a stunning campus,

That’s what it is, a family, where we

caught up with him in the middle

and a very welcoming community

are all working towards the same

of coursework deadlines and exam

atmosphere.

goal, the glory of Christ.

How has your first year on campus been - community, study, and spiritual life?

What has been your most valuable takeaway so far?

This first year has been fantastic!

so far.

revision to ask him about his time with Union so far.

What drew you to Christian ministry and then to study with Union?

The studying and the modules

Two valuable things stand out to me

Firstly, that I’m not just learning

Ever since I was a young Christian I

I’ve taken have been intellectually

always had in the back of my mind

stimulating but definitely not dry and

that I wanted to go into Christian

dull. I wasn’t expecting such a level

ministry. Over the years that desire

of devotion, or the spiritually heart-

to want to preach the gospel and

warming, challenging, but Christ-

care for God’s people full time

centred way in which the lectures

grew stronger and stronger. By

were taught and conducted.

and sharing together. I think some

primary school teaching while we

I was worried about getting back into

Greek revision was spent with

were in Southampton and started

academic study again, with exams

working as a ministry trainee at

and essays, but the college and

our church. It was there that I was

lecturers have been very helpful in

able to ‘test the waters’ to see if

giving advice and good constructive

the Lord had equipped me with the

feedback on how to improve. I have

sufficient giftings for ministry. It was

thoroughly enjoyed the modules

there, under excellent mentoring,

I picked and the way they are

teaching and by being given ample

arranged across the year means

opportunities to preach, teach and

that you get a good diet of history,

pastor, that the elders confirmed my

language and systematic theology.

Mission, Spiritual and Pastoral

One of my highlights this year has

the lecturers every time bring out -

God’s providence I came out of

call into ministry. Then I started to think about the

been the community life. One of

next step, Bible College, formal

the advantages of the college not

training. I happened to be working

being huge in numbers means that

alongside a former Union graduate

you get to know everyone well: staff,

who always spoke very highly of his

lecturers, students from other year

experience. So, with my family, we

groups. From sharing coffee with

went for an open day. There were

people from all over college to

a few things that attracted me to

playing table tennis at lunch time

WWW.THEOLO.GY

a lot from the lecturers, the wonderfully stocked library or even the preaching workshops, but also from other students by just talking things through together, praying of the most helpful moments of other students. Secondly, God is vast, and more glorious than I ever could imagine. Sometimes it seems that in every lecture I just want to say “WOW, how great is our God!” From studying the languages, Early Church History, Church and Formation to Systematic Theology, from Scripture - new and wonderful things about our God that I had not realised before.

This has

given me a great passion to not stop studying at the end of college, but to continue, because our God is 70,000 fathoms deep: you can never reach the bottom!


Our School of Theology has 150 students in the UK and Europe this year. From BA to PhD, studying with Union will equip you to delight in God, grow in Christ, serve the church and bless the world. What’s after college, and how do you feel Union is preparing you for this? Lord willing, I will be called to an assistant minister position at a church in our denomination. I feel Union is preparing me for future ministry very well. This is due to the mixture of academic study and

practical training and experience

my heart with a greater love for Christ,

that we get here, from discussing

to training my hands for practical

the mission of the church and

ministry, Union is preparing all of me

how that impacts everything

for a future of service to the Lord.

we do in church, to preaching workshops where we get and give

Matt Faux is a second year BA

constructive feedback to edify each

students at UST, and our Student

other, to pastoral groups where

President

we discuss what it means to show hospitality. From filling my head with treasure to preach and teach, to filling

UNION MAGAZINE

35


WWW.THEOLO.GY


“

One of my highlights this year has been the community life. One of the advantages of the college not being huge in numbers means that you get to know everyone well: staff, lecturers, students from other year groups.

“

UNION MAGAZINE

37


SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY

Why bother with the Old Testament? Steffen Jenkins And he said to them, O foolish

idea that Jesus is a different God

ones, and slow of heart to believe

than the God of the OT.

all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the

Another reason of course is the

Christ should suffer these things

drum-beating of the New Atheists

and enter into his glory? And

in their echo chamber. They point

beginning with Moses and all the

at passages in the OT (which

Prophets, he interpreted to them

t read very carefully, if at all)

in all the Scriptures the things

and tell us how nice atheism is

concerning himself. Luke 24:25–27

instead. Its niceness is a matter of

(ESV)

public record, thanks to the great atheist heads of state last century,

Jesus has a ready answer to the

like Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, and the

question why bother with the

chap with the Charlie Chaplin

Old Testament?, so why do we

moustache.

keep hearing it, or even asking it ourselves? There are some

Most importantly, it’s because our

understandable, if tragic, reasons.

own hearts are idol factories. Idols

Before we think about what we

turn us away from the true God

study the Old Testament for we

and his word. Abandoning the OT

need to think about why to study

is always going to be a danger.

it at all. The OT makes us uncomfortable Why is the Old Testament under

to the degree that Jesus himself

threat, in the church as well as

makes us uncomfortable. Were at

outside the church?

home in the OT to the extent that the Holy Spirit has reshaped our

You may have heard about the

affections into the likeness of God

first century heretical teacher

the Son according to the will of

Marcion. He rejected the OT

God the Father.

as being all about a God who was rather unlike Jesus. It didnt

Aims for you

take him long to realise he also needed to reject most of the New

What are my aims for my

Testament as well! He is alive and

students—or any student of

well. The way we read the NT,

the Bible—when we engage

and what we think it says about

in academic study of the Old

the OT, often reveals that our

Testament? There are five aims,

thinking has been infected by this

even six...

WWW.THEOLO.GY

Before we think about what we study the Old Testament for we need to think about why to study it at all. Why is the Old Testament under threat, in the church as well as outside the church?


1. Hallelujah! First and foremost, doxology: I want the Old Testament to push you off your chair and onto your feet to praise God! It is my unbroken experience that giving our minds a bit of time

they prepare for ministry? The Old

confident that the Old Testament

Testament will make you wise

is the sword of the Spirit and that

for salvation if you haven’t yet

the Spirit isnt frightened by the

grasped the gospel and handed

delusions of modern man.

your life over to Jesus.

4. Eagerness

6. Study And finally, because the Old

The Old Testament isnt just

Testament is at least as worthy

teaching material: we shouldn’t

of deep and detailed attention as

sing about how great God is.

view the Bible as preaching

any other body of great literature,

fodder, but as Gods word to me

and because it is Gods own word,

2. Devotion

personally. That said, as Jesus

we want to begin to equip you

shows us, it is worthy of detailed

for scholarly engagement with the

instruction to our churches, so you

text. We need you to begin to

need to be eager to teach and

feel at home in academic debates

preach and apply it to yourself

and discussions. That’s not always

and others.

going to be comfortable for you;

studying anything at all in the Old Testament will make our hearts

Once you let the point above happen to you often enough, you’ll be just as confident of enjoying a wonderful quiet time by opening a passage in the OT as you would be if you were opening a bit of NT. Overslept? Worked all night? Need a five-minute QT? You won’t automatically be opening the Bible

5. Evangelism A great deal of apologetics nowadays focusses not on the

from the back anymore.

question of whether God exists,

3. Salvation

Christians believe in is good or

If people can be converted once they’re ministers, why not while

but on whether the God who

it might not always bring out the best in you, but the skills that you learn about handling yourself in controversy are directly applicable to ministry more widely. Controversy, like the poor, will always be with us.

bad. That often puts the OT in the spotlight, so we need to be

UNION MAGAZINE

39


SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY

Yes, but critical scholarship’, really?! You might well be thinking that points 1–5 above are pretty obvious, but wonder whether it’s worth spending time engaging with some unedifying theories that seem to turn the Bible on its head. Let me assure you that if attending to even these areas of scholarship didn’t feed everything from Hallelujah! to evangelism, I wouldn’t bother with them. Everything we cover in any Old Testament course should prepare you to skip down the corridor with the majesty of God humming away behind your lips. Specifically, how will scholarly study, even engaging with critical methods and theories, help you? Firstly, for defending the faith against some of the unsavoury conclusions of those who want to undermine the OT. Your television set will keep pumping out documentaries about how unreliable the OT is; it’s handy to have an answer ready some of the time!

Thirdly, some of these challenges can very helpfully make us examine our own assumptions and point us to the fact that we ourselves have strayed from an evangelical view of Scripture. What they meant for harm, God can use for our edification, to paraphrase a beloved character from a beloved Testament. Finally, engaging in some of these controversies and coming out on the other side will increase our confidence in the word of God. We haven’t got time to enter the fray on every debate, but if we can manage some of them, then we know that we could have tackled the others too. Watching their efforts crash and burn shows you how strong and reliable the word of God is. Don’t take it from me! Here’s a current student reflecting on an OT course: “Who knew that engaging head on with critical scholarship would make you delight more in the Bible, or that the food laws have something to teach us about the mission of God to the nations?!”

Two virtues about Jesus: patience and impatience There are two attitudes we need to cultivate whenever we let the OT speak to us. Impatience to see Jesus, and patience to see Jesus.

Jesus insists the whole

of the OT—every page, every verse, every word, every syllable, every jot and tittle—is about him. So who wouldn’t be eager and impatient to see more of what the OT tells us about him—and soon! Then again, that would be much easier to do if we could get away with just seeing how the big picture and some major themes are all to be read in the light of Jesus. I’m convinced that every syllable is Christological, and yet not every syllable jumps up out of the page and immediately enlightens my mind and heart about the Son of God. So I’ve got my work cut out! There is a joyful discipline in meditating slowly over OT texts, whether large swathes of the canon or the tiniest section, knowing that eventually this little puddle will overflow into a tributary of the river of life. So drink, and never thirst again.

Secondly, any discussion of the

Steffen Jenkins is a Lecturer in

text forces us to engage with

Greek and Biblical Studies at UST

the text in close detail, and that is something that will always be rewarding. No question is so wrong-headed that it won’t eventually make you see something amazing (even if you end up putting the question itself in the bin).

WWW.THEOLO.GY


“

There is a joyful discipline in meditating slowly over OT texts, whether large swathes of the canon or the tiniest section, knowing that eventually this little puddle will overflow into a tributary of the river of life. So drink, and never thirst again.

“

UNION MAGAZINE

41


MISSION

Serving the gospel in Oldham Stephen Kneale Stephen Kneale serves as

workers from elsewhere who may

Minister of Oldham Bethel Church

consider planting into the borough

in Oldham, Greater Manchester.

of Oldham in future years.

In September 2018, Oldham Bethel Church will start a Union

This model of training will help to

Learning Community.

serve our own community as well as the wider church. It especially

“Oldham is the most deprived

means that we will not have to

town in England1, and is woefully

send our very best workers away

under-served by gospel churches.

for theological training, but may

The borough has 230,000 people,

keep them in-house throughout

and yet there are only two

their studies. Furthermore, it will

Gospel Partnership churches in the

help cover much of the cost

region. One of these is my church

associated with theological training

– Oldham Bethel Church (the

by allowing people to stay at

only FIEC church in the borough)

home and study alongside their

– where I serve as Minister. You

existing work. In offering this

could count on one hand the other

Learning Community locally, we

churches which could credibly be

will also be able to serve other

labelled as evangelical.

local churches in need of incontext training for their people.

We are excited to be partnering

It is our hope that this partnership

with Union in starting a Learning

with Union will lead to more

Community this September,

workers for Oldham Bethel Church,

offering their Graduate Diploma

more churches being planted in

in Theology. We were particularly

our borough, and more gospel

drawn to Union’s focus on closing

workers being raised up for the

the gap between academy and

wider work of the church.”

church, such that able theologians might be raised up to serve in

Stephen Kneale is Lead Mentor,

local church contexts.

Union Learning Community, Greater Manchester

It is our hope that the GDip may lead some to come to Oldham Bethel Church, and train practically in an urban context mission

Endnotes [1] Oldham had the highest proportion of most deprived LSOAs at 65.2% (43 out of its 66 LSOAs) dz: Office for National Statistics – Towns and cities analysis, England and Wales, March 2016.

alongside their academic studies with Union. We are also excited at the possibility of training

WWW.THEOLO.GY


More workers for Oldham Bethel Church and more churches being planted in our borough.

UNION MAGAZINE

43


MISSION

Providence in church planting: How God prepares his ministers Greg Wilson The call to plant a church is a call to

actually not engaging God. There

join King Jesus in making all things

are areas we tend to avoid, but it’s

new.  In  this moment, from His throne,

in these particular places that God

Jesus is building His Kingdom,

wants to reveal Who He is to us who

advancing upon the darkness we

need it so desperately. 

encounter in everyday life. When we follow Jesus we are saved from

There are two areas I’d like

our small missions and saved to His

to focus on, and they’ve been

mission. Planting a church means

instrumental to my calling and the

calling others to know Jesus and

planting of our church: suffering and

follow Him.

community. No two providences of God have been more important in

My specific calling to plant a church

my life and my family as we’ve been

wasn’t a lightning-bolt-from-the-

called to plant a church in a new

sky kind of experience. It has been

culture.

an increasing unveiling of His plans, where He provided the next step

Suffering

but not many after that. But even for those who do get the lightning type

Suffering was the major

call, there are many aspects to what

catalyst to our call to plant a church.

that call means. A calling by itself

We had been through a horrible

doesn’t automatically equip for the

trial—literally, a federal trial—and

work.

God delivered us in some amazing ways. I talk a bit about this part of

My experience of following Jesus

my life in the first episode of Church

in His call meant leading me from

Plant, a podcast I’m producing

being one of the pastors in a church

sponsored by Union. But here’s the

in America to planting Redeemer,

short version: My father used me in a

a church in Manchester, England.

mortgage fraud scheme to make tens

Through this process I’ve discovered

of thousands of dollars. He also stole

that the church planter type

my identity and maxed out two credit

personality (myself included) can

cards in my name.

easily use God’s call as a way of

WWW.THEOLO.GY


UNION MAGAZINE

45


MISSION

He ended up being the ringleader

guilty I was and how I was in it with

of an organised fraud scheme and

him. Eventually God opened his

created many fraudulent mortgages,

mouth and he told the truth: I didn’t

making hundreds of thousands, if

know anything and was completely

not millions, of dollars. The FBI went

innocent. Four long days later the

after him, and he went missing, but

judge threw my case out, and now

was eventually found. He pleaded

it’s as if I’ve never been charged.

guilty to the charges of mortgage fraud but falsely implicated me in

This was a chaotic time for us as

his crimes to get a better prison

you can imagine. I was on staff at

sentence for himself. That means the

a church at the time, and one of

FBI charged  me  with a federal crime,

my duties was to lead music each

one that could have meant four years

Sunday. My main prayer before every

in prison. As evidence was coming to

service was that I would  truthfully  be

light, I found out many of my family

able to sing about God’s goodness,

members were involved as well,

even though I often doubted it. Then,

some perpetrating the fraud against

when the veil was lifted and the

me themselves.

trial ended, we were ecstatic. Life felt new, the world literally looked

After two very long years my case

brighter, and though we were

went to trial and the star witness

exhausted by the previous two years,

against me in my trial was my

we were hopeful, truly hopeful, for

father. For two days he told the

the first time in a long time.

courtroom, the jury, everyone, how

What we found was that while we were in the suffering, we had no choice but to lean on God. We prayed to God. And when we couldn’t pray, we asked our friends to pray for us. We were desperate. WWW.THEOLO.GY


More often than not, they are part of the mission, part of the calling God is working out in and through us. So let’s not avoid the grace God gives when going through hard times, or the blessing that comes when His people live together in unity. It’s how God has created us, how He saves us, and How He continues to sanctify His people. It’s no wonder, then, that He chooses to plant churches in the same way. What we found was that while we

So we felt called to go, but knew

From our suffering to our calling to

were in the suffering, we had no

we didn’t know much about it. We

our location and timeline, the role of

choice but to lean on God. We prayed

wanted to learn how to plant a

Christ’s community in our lives has

to God. And when we couldn’t pray,

church without having the burden

been important. We’ve weathered a

we asked our friends to pray for us.

of doing it ourselves to begin with.

horrible trial, made sense of a calling,

We were desperate.

That led us to look for opportunities

and have been sent out to plant a

where we could test out our gifts

church.

After God had delivered us and

and calling. Ideally, a call is not

answered so many prayers, our next

merely individual or internal. As

The role of suffering itself has often

thought was this: what does it look

much as possible, there always

sifted our souls, shaking us up,

like to trust God in times of comfort

ought to be a community speaking

but leaving us stronger and more

just as much as in times of suffering?

into it, giving external confirmation

substantial than before. Through

During my trial we had no resource

or contradiction. We needed leaders

suffering, God has given us a grit and

but to trust Him. The reality is, this

looking in, giving us feedback,

strength that we wouldn’t have been

is the whole of the Christian life!

helping us along this path we

able to grow in otherwise.

The only thing we have to offer is us

believed God was calling us to.

Two areas (among many others)

asking Him to deliver us. This is what Jesus means by “poor in spirit” in the

Community

Beatitudes in Matthew 5.

ambitious church planters attempt to avoid are suffering and community. They can both be seen as inhibitors

The necessity of community continued

to the mission.

So what did it mean for us

to play out as we considered moving

to trust God, even when life

overseas to England to plant a church.

More often than not, they are part of

didn’t feel desperate? For us, the

We had the leadership of our US

the mission, part of the calling God

answer was church planting. Not

sending church and the leadership of

is working out in and through us. So

to talk about it, give towards,

our UK partner church all involved in

let’s not avoid the grace God gives

or resource, but to actually do it

the decision making process: the fit,

when going through hard times, or

ourselves.

the timeline, the location of the plant,

the blessing that comes when His

everything. I am so grateful to these

people live together in unity. It’s how

For me, this was an exciting thought.

people and can’t imagine making

God has created us, how He saves

Daunting and with challenges,

these decisions on our own. We really

us, and How He continues to sanctify

but exciting. Initially for my wife, it

aren’t meant to! The side benefit to a

His people. It’s no wonder, then, that

was more scary than anything. I tend

community involved in our calling has

He chooses to plant churches in the

to live in the world of big thoughts and

been a higher confirmation. We do

same way.

ideas, she tends to live in the real world

not doubt at all where God has placed

with concrete and practical realities.

us, and this is in large part because

Greg Willson is an Acts 29 Church

We need each other that way. 

of the sheer amount of people we

Planter in Chorlton, UK

respect working with us, in on the call with us.

UNION MAGAZINE

47


Publishing Union Foundation is a company registered in England and Wales. Registered number: 1987227 Charity registered in Wales number: 517324 Registered office: Union Foundation, Bryntirion House, Bryntirion, Bridgend, CF31 4DX

Union Magazine Issue 3  
Union Magazine Issue 3  
Advertisement