Prayer triplets for men?

A suggested strategy for deepening manly fellowship.

He is a Christian of many years standing with huge talents in various areas. He has a high-flying job in local government. He attends an evangelical church. I met up with him not long ago. The conversation jogged along happily until…

‘How’s church?’ I asked. He is usually an upbeat kind of character so I was expecting a fairly positive reply. But that is what I did not get. The response from my friend was that basically he was struggling. ‘There’s simply no depth of fellowship among the men there. The preaching is sound, but the pastor is always in his study and the kinds of issues I face with my job are simply not addressed either from the pulpit or in personal conversation.’

Life’s challenges for my friend were deep and complicated while church seemed superficial and somewhat trite.

A possible solution

I suspect that this is the situation for quite a few men in evangelical churches. They don’t want to rock the boat, but they are in need. What are they to do?

One way of tackling this superficiality among male Christians is the encouragement of men’s prayer triplets or PTs. The idea is simple; a group of three (or not more than four) men get together outside the normal meetings of the church in order to chat, share what is going on in their lives and pray together for one another.

Different groups can do it in different ways. Some get together briefly before work in the morning once a week just to pray. Some meet up once a month on a Saturday morning for breakfast, with a strict finishing time of 9.00 am, so that they don’t abandon their wives with the kids for too long. Others get together over a curry on a week-day evening regularly and make a night of it. Retired guys can make it a week-day morning or afternoon and can include those who are unemployed who need spiritual support. It is not an opportunity to complain about your church. The main thing is to foster friendship which leads into supportive prayer.

How to take off

Usually PTs take time to really get going. It is a generalisation but women seem better at forming friendships and it takes men some time to overcome their guardedness with one another. So if you embark on a PT don’t expect it to take off immediately. A group of men usually need a longer runway to get airborne. You have to work at it and not give up.

PTs can’t be forced into existence. Pastors might feel that to join a PT is just what one of the men in their congregation needs. But you can’t push him into one if he doesn’t want to get involved. PTs will not suit all personalities. But the offer can be made. PTs have to be voluntary.

Supporting each other

A prayer triplet might provide the guys with an opportunity to spur one another on with respect to each one’s personal walk with the Lord. ‘How are your daily Bible readings going?’ ‘Let’s set some things to pray for each day and promise to do it.’

Closer fellowship can answer the feeling some men experience of facing troubles alone. They want a man friend to talk to. Single men may need a friend to bounce ideas off. Sometimes married men want to protect their wives from worrying about a big problem so don’t want to share the difficulty with them; but they need someone to talk to about their anxieties and to pray with about how they are thinking of handling the problem. Sometimes business takes men away from their families and there can be all kinds of temptations alone for a short stay in a foreign hotel. PTs can function as accountability groups for men for such situations. They have given their prayer partners permission to ask them on their return about late night TV and their use of the internet while they were away.

Jesus’s disciples

This kind of male prayer support group was something which even the Lord Jesus seemed to have around him. There were the twelve disciples. But you remember that within that twelve there are indications that Christ was especially close to three of the men — Peter, James and John. They were allowed to enter the house with him when he raised Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5.37). They were with him at the transfiguration (Mark 9.2). And it was them Jesus turned to, seeking that they watch and pray with him, in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14.33). Sadly, they let him down at that point, but the very fact that he looked for their help speaks of the advantages of friendship.

What’s it like?

What does being part of a men’s prayer triplet look like in practice. First, here are the responses of Hugh who has been involved in a PT for many years.

EN: How often do you meet?

Hugh: We are a bunch of guys in our 30s. We meet once a month.

EN: How long has your prayer triplet been going?

Hugh: Since 1996 in one form or another.

EN: What routine does the get together usually follow?

Hugh: Food, then chat, then prayer is the preferred format. Although, sometimes we ditch the food if that will make the difference (time constraint) between meeting and not meeting. For the chat, we each take time to talk about how life is, current temptations, any matters of agreed accountability, e.g. prayer happening or not, sexual purity, praying for and using opportunities to chat about Christ with friends, neighbours and colleagues, etc., how God is speaking to us through the Bible, current opportunities for ministry.

EN: Where do you meet?

Hugh: We take turns around each other’s homes.

EN: What have been the most helpful things which have come out of it for you?

Hugh: Spiritual friendships where grace is experienced in honest disclosure, compassion and practical encouragement and care consistently over time. Quality interactions with PT friends outside of our PT meetings, that don’t take half an hour to warm up!

Dave’s experience

Dave is involved in another PT which has not been going quite so long. This was his take on PTs.

‘I am in a triplet with Andy and Jon. They invited me to join them about five years ago when the third guy moved away. It has been helpful that all three of us have wives, kids of similar ages and all work in similar types of job. We are at approximately the same age and stage of life. The commonality between us helped at the start, and it still does. That’s not to say that prayer triplets with totally different men in are doomed to failure, but it has certainly helped us to bond well.

‘Our shared experiences have taught us a couple of specific things about making PTs work in the long term.
1) If you are truly able to share your inner thoughts and concerns (i.e. wear your heart on your sleeve), it enables you to build a proper closeness with each other. It’s often hard for men to do this, but this is something that we should generally be striving for in our relationships with men in the church.
2) Andy had been in three triplets before our one and they all eventually broke up. Andy’s view was that they all ceased due to either (a) different personalities that didn’t properly gel together or (b) issues with commitment and time scheduling.

‘In summary, to make a prayer triplet really work, it takes determination to meet regularly; an amount of wisdom with regard to who you join up with; and a willingness to commit to the long term in order to see fruit.

‘I would highly recommend prayer triplets. It’s a real encouragement to meet regularly with a couple of guys who you already know to some extent, with whom you have a rapport, and who struggle with the usual burdens of sin, hard work, materialism, discipleship, devotional dedication, desire to witness to others, and other things common in the lives of Christian men.

Prayer diary

‘Something we started doing recently was to build a prayer diary using the Google Docs online tool. This allows us to share one spreadsheet between the three of us into which we put our prayer items, including answers, updates and what we call the ‘ATP’ status! (I will let you guess what that stands for.) Other than allowing us to recall what we have prayed for in previous meetings, it is quite an encouragement to see ‘ATP’ listed against many of them.

‘Spiritually, the PT has helped me lift myself from several periods of spiritual darkness, feelings of regret, periods of low assurance. The PT also ensures that my prayer life is not too inward looking, and has helped me develop better habits at (a) praying regularly, (b) praying out loud in front of others.’

So, if you require a greater depth of fellowship as you face the challenges of your Christian life, PTs might be something to consider.

John Benton

When every day is extra time

An interview with Archbishop Ben Kwashi of Nigeria

(This is an edited version of Hugh Palmer’s interview with Archbishop Ben Kwashi of Nigeria at New World Alive in 2011)

HP: Tell us about the beginning of your Christian life?

BK: I came from a Christian background. A missionary called Max Warren came to Nigeria in 1928. My father was ostracised for accepting the gospel. But Max Warren ensured that my father got all the education he needed. My father passed on that education, which included the 1662 Prayer Book, Hymns Ancient & Modern and all that. So I grew up saying, ‘Thou knowest, thou wentest…’ and all those things.

By the age of 17 I wanted my freedom. So I left. I was now fed up with Christianity. I did not know that I was not a Christian. Two years down the road in 1976 I met someone on the streets of Lagos who was handing out tracts. I knew my Bible so I thought I would put him off. I said to him: ‘You are wasting your time. Jesus wants only 144,000 people in heaven; so only two from Nigeria will qualify!’ He said ‘no’, and gently, with certainty and conviction, led me through John 10.10, ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’. He assured me that God loved me. I went back to my room and for the first time I saw that it was filthy. I started crying. That began a journey, and I have never looked back since.

Church growth

HP: You don’t become an archbishop overnight. What happened?

BK: I was in the Nigerian Army. But then things changed. The OM ship, the Logos, was in Lagos harbour. I was taken there by someone following me up. We bought books and got groomed for ministry. God called me. But I didn’t want to go into ministry. All the ministers I knew looked unhappy and church was boring. But it was through this that God spoke clearly. I was to go back and help build up the young people in his church.

I went to seminary. Then after four years I was ordained and went to St. Andrew’s Church as the first black pastor. There I got married. But in three and a half years we grew from 60 people to 400. I was then given a leadership role in rural areas and we grew from 30 to 70 congregations in a short time.

HP: You became a bishop. How did you cope with all the committees?

BK: I abolished them all! As a bishop I am a missionary. By my third year we had grown from 85 to 190 congregations and I appointed leaders in the different areas. In another 8 years we were up to 315 congregations. People are perishing so we push on with the work. As we do that I find gifted young people who want to serve the kingdom of God.

Also I came to the conclusion that it was not good for them to be trained in the West, especially because of the suffering situation in northern Nigeria. If they come to the UK for three years of electricity, running water and no persecution, when they return to Nigeria they would be like fish out of water. So we do our own training.


HP: The Muslim / Christian divide in Nigeria runs deep. Is it just a geographic thing?

BK: No. Being born in the north, my first education as a little boy was in the Qur’an. My father was an education officer in the north. So we lived and grew up with Muslims. I still have many Muslim friends. The divide that has come in is something new. It began in the early 1980s, largely through the teachings of the late Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran.

1987 was the beginning for me. We were only about four or five years married. I was sitting in my living room, my wife was away, and some security officers came to my home and said I must be evacuated. They had information that I was about to be killed. I thought it was a joke. But the following day I found that both my church and my house had been burnt down. From 1987 on we have seen the steady rise in the killing of Christians. It is not all Muslims who are like that. Governments across the world have failed to identify this strand of violent Islam and they are now armed right across the world.

HP: Jos seems to be at the front line and it is often reported that both sides are attacking each other.

BK: No. Jos is a wonderful, fertile, welcoming place which attracts people from many nations, Christians and non-Muslims. There are HQs of many mission organisations in Jos. But next door there are shari’a states. So any dissatisfied Islamic group can decide to come into Jos and foment trouble. It got to the point where Christians were asking if they should defend themselves. I think none of the violence has ever been started by Christians or by non-Muslims. The non-Muslims (pagan, rural people, etc.) retaliate and are classified by the international media as ‘Christians’. So the church is paying twice. We are paying for persecution and for the sins of non-Muslims.

In my heart it is settled. I have forgiven. I am not going to retaliate ever in my life. I have seen the power of God to save me in difficult times. Whatever happens I will just keep forgiving.

Personal attacks?

HP: How many times have you and your wife, Gloria, been attacked?

BK: Specifically three times. In the first one I have already mentioned I received encouragement from Gloria. She was away and heard of the trouble, so she got a taxi. I took her to the house. There were many things stored there from our wedding and gifts I had brought back from the US. Now it was all burned. I was scared about how she would feel. But when she came she put her arms around me and said: ‘Ben, you preach that heaven and earth will pass away. If that doesn’t start with you, people will not believe’. I was blessed by that. The Lord seemed to say to me that after March 12 1987 every other day was extra time.

The second attack was like this. I was in England. The attackers somehow knew when I was due to return. For some reason I postponed my return. The evening I had been due back they came in after midnight. The mob was more than 40 people. They ransacked the house thinking I was there hiding somewhere. They tortured Gloria in unspeakable ways. She was left half dead, completely blind and with broken legs. It took nearly nine months, but, with some special treatment in the US, praise God she is now fully recovered.

Exactly a year later they came back. Again it was a huge crowd, this time prepared with a sledgehammer to break in. I told Gloria: ‘I think my time is up’. I asked God that they take me and nobody else. They took me out into the compound. They did not beat me. They said: ‘Man of God we are going to kill you’. I said: ‘Please let me pray’. One said: ‘Let’s kill him upstairs in the presence of his wife’. So we went back upstairs. They allowed me to pray. I got down on the floor and was praying. A few moments later I felt cold hands around me. I opened my eyes. It was Gloria. I said: ‘What are you doing there?’ She said: ‘Pray on Ben’, and we prayed. A few moments later my son came in. He said: ‘Daddy, they’re gone’. Now, what they saw, why they didn’t carry out their plan, only eternity will reveal.

HP: Ben, you have visited Britain. You know the culture is getting more hostile. What would you say to us in the UK?

BK: Listen to the Word of God. You must carry the gospel with your whole heart to your children, your relatives and friends. We must agonise in prayer and share the gospel. Inevitably, whether you do this or not, suffering will come your way. It is better to suffer for the gospel than to suffer for no gospel. Whatever is happening by way of Christians suffering around the world, do not think you will be insulated from it. This is going to come with time.

This interview is used with permission of the organisers of New Word Alive.

World news – Middle East: genocide?

In December, Christian Solidarity International (CSI) issued a Genocide Warning for endangered religious minorities in the Islamic Middle East.

Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs USA, agrees that persecution is high for one religious minority: Christians. He explains: ‘When you look at elections in Egypt where some 60% odd of the vote went to the Islamic parties, including, in one case, the Islamic party that has been attacking churches and Christians, there is fear among the church about what this means’.

However, he wonders at the use of ‘genocide’ to describe what is happening. ‘I think it is a very strong word. I have not heard that word used by our staff who work in the Middle East region. I haven’t heard it used by the Christians who are there. To say there is a threat against them I think is very real, but to say it’s “genocide” goes a bit beyond what we’ve identified at this point.’

That’s not to say believers are blind to the hostilities aimed at them. Open Doors USA uses the term ‘religicide’ to describe what’s happening in Iraq. Violence against believers has already created a remnant church there.

The greatest concern is what the future might hold with an Islamist government in charge. Nettleton says Christians worry that, if they have no way of getting representation at the ballot box because they are such a small minority, ‘What does this mean for us? What will our government do to protect us?’

Given the pattern in Iraq, could the Middle East be experiencing another exodus? Nettleton says: ‘Because these issues are across the region, you can’t necessarily go next door to find better treatment, protection and freedom. For many Christians, they feel like they have to get completely out of the Middle East region to have their religious freedom protected and honoured’.

However, Nettleton added that there remains a remnant church in the most difficult areas. Those Christians continue to live out the gospel and share their hope with others when given the opportunity, sometimes from inside a prison cell.

Mission Network News

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared on and is used with permission.

A Christian anniversary: Pliny

A famous letter was written in AD 112 by Pliny, the governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor, to the Roman emperor Trajan, asking for advice concerning the attitude to take in relation to groups of Christians in his province. This is a fascinating and vital piece of evidence concerning the activities of early Christians and the attitude of the Roman authorities to them.

(Extracts): ‘It was their habit on a fixed day to assemble before daylight and recite by turns a form of words to Christ as a god; and … they bound themselves with an oath, not for any crime, but not to commit theft or robbery or adultery, and not to break their word …The contagion of that superstition has penetrated not only the cities, but also the villages and the country.’ Pliny

by Joy Horn

World news – Kazakhstan: new restrictions

Churches in prisons have been closed and Christian literature confiscated from prisoners since restrictive new religion laws came into force in October.

The first known closure took place at the end of October in the Almaty Region. Work to build the church had been begun in 2008 by 12 volunteer prisoners, five of whom were baptised during the course of its construction. The Justice Ministry had approved the project.

On October 21, religious literature, including Bibles and New Testaments, were confiscated from prisoners at a detention camp in Zhetikara in Kostanai Region. The camp authorities claimed that the law banned prisoners from having such material, though the Association of Religions in Kazakhstan said it was allowed for personal use.

There have also been reports of ministers being denied access to prisons to conduct services, as well as the closure of a prayer room used by Christians in a home for disabled people in Almaty.

There are 63 Christian places of worship and prayer rooms in Kazakh prisons.

Barnabas Fund

Are we wrong when we worry?

Dr. Ruth Eardley, a GP for 25 years, looks at the problem of anxiety

Have you ever heard a sermon on Christ’s words in Matthew 6.25-34, ‘Do not worry’? And did the preacher conclude that worry is a sin?

As a family doctor for over 20 years, I struggle with that. The intention may be to comfort and exhort, but, in concluding that worry is a sin, we may inadvertently exacerbate the sufferings of those we are trying to help.

There are many anxious people out there — lots in the congregation — for whom worry is an unwelcome part of life. It adds to their guilt and grief to be assured that not only are they anxious, they are also sinful, faithless and maybe not even born again. As one preacher said: ‘Worry and faith are incompatible!’

Some try to define worry and distinguish it from fear, concern and anxiety but most people use these words interchangeably. So what exactly do we mean by ‘worry’? A simple working definition might be: ‘Worry is thinking about bad things and feeling anxious’.

Not a sin

This kind of worry is not a sin for a number of reasons.

The Lord Jesus was sinless, but in Gethsemane he experienced agony of mind, a fearful apprehension as he thought about what was soon to happen. He was ‘sorrowful and troubled’.1 The mental agony was proportionate and appropriate. It underlines the true humanity of the Saviour.

Worry is natural. It is normal for human beings to recoil from pain, natural to prepare the mind for an anticipated event, normal to feel anxious if that event may be painful or dangerous. Christ was ‘in anguish’ in the Garden of Gethsemane.2

Worry can be useful. ‘It is important to be able to worry in a way that is useful, for fear and anxiety can have a positive role. Worry is really about being afraid and there are times when it is lifesaving to be afraid. None of us would survive life’s dangers without some anxiety — it is part of a built-in signalling system which alerts body and mind to be thoroughly aroused to meet an emergency.’3

Feelings can be morally neutral. Although emotions like grief, anger and worry are a response to living in a sad and sinful world, they are not sinful in and of themselves. It is possible to be angry and not sin (Christ and the moneychangers).4 It is possible to be very sad and not sin (Christ at the tomb of Lazarus).5 It is possible to think about bad things and feel anxious (worry) and not sin (Christ ‘deeply distressed and troubled’ on the night of his betrayal).6

Gentleness and care

Sin involves intent. Sin means our will is in rebellion against God. Most anxious thoughts arise unbidden. Most anxious Christians would rather not be anxious. There is no intention to defy God, or to mistrust him.

Throughout the Bible, sin inevitably leads to punishment, but there is no suggestion of punishment for worry. On the contrary, there is gentleness and care. ‘Do not be afraid, little flock’, said the Good Shepherd.7

To punish a believer for worry is inconsistent with God the Father’s character. If your child woke crying in the night because she had been bullied at school, would you go in and punish her for being afraid? No, you would comfort her. And in Gethsemane an angel was sent to strengthen Jesus as he experienced the terrible anticipation of Good Friday.8

To punish a believer for worry is inconsistent with Christ’s character.

A woman ‘subject to bleeding’ for 12 long years crept up secretly behind Jesus and touched his clothes.9 She was afraid. Would she be recognised? She was unclean, a social outcast, planning to approach a man, even to touch him, rendering him also ceremonially unclean. When she was found out, she ‘fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth’.

Jesus comforted her: ‘Take heart (an encouragement), daughter (an address of loving concern), your faith has healed you (worry and faith are not incompatible!). Go in peace (a blessing); and be freed from your suffering’ (and don’t worry, your suffering is gone for good!)10 (parentheses mine).

To punish a believer for worry is inconsistent with the Holy Spirit’s character. Not only did Jesus comfort his anxious disciples when they understood he was going away,11 but he also promised them the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.12

Worry is an essential part of the experience of conversion. Think of our definition of worry: ‘Thinking about bad things and feeling anxious’.

When the Holy Spirit awakens us to our sinfulness, we think about all the bad things we have thought, said and done; we are anxious.13 We fear what may happen to us. We are ‘sinners in the hands of an angry God’.14 And this legitimate worry leads us to Christ.

Bad things do happen

Worry is not the same as distrust. When people claim that worry is a sin, they are usually talking about distrust. But anxiety is not necessarily about doubting God’s love, sovereignty or good provision, just an acknowledgement that bad things do sometimes happen. Would it be sinful to worry at midnight if my daughter was supposed to be home at nine?

Worry can be a positive attribute. Kind, caring and thoughtful people are often worriers. Timothy is a man in need of encouragement,15 but Paul writes, in Philippians 2.20: ‘I have no one like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare’. And it is interesting because the Greek word, merimnao, here translated ‘interest’, is morally neutral and has both negative (‘worry, be anxious’) and positive (‘be concerned’) renderings elsewhere in the New Testament. Think of Paul’s burden in 2 Corinthians 11.28: ‘Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches’.

Personality type

We cannot choose our personality type. It is possible for people to have precisely the same thoughts and yet one feels anxious while the other does not.

For example, two people have an early morning meeting and are thinking about what time to set the alarm for. ‘Now that meeting is at 9 o’clock, but there are road works on the main route and last time I went the other way I met a flock of sheep.’ Here the extrovert chuckles at the reminiscence, sets the alarm and sleeps like a top. The introspective person may have precisely the same thoughts, but with feelings (unwelcome, unbidden) of rising panic. Result: set the alarm, toss and turn half the night and try counting sheep only to dream they are blocking the road again!

Can we say to the extrovert: ‘Good for you! No sinful worrying disturbed your sleep! Well done!’, but to the anxious soul: ‘We know your thoughts were identical to the other person’s, but those anxious feelings made your thoughts sinful’?

No! Personalities differ and it is not your ‘fault’ if you have a predisposition to anxiety. Jesus made it absolutely clear that the man born blind was not being punished for sin in his life.16 Blindness is not due to personal sin, nor is cancer, nor clinical depression, nor an anxious disposition.

Worry as an illness

Worry, of course, can also be an illness (we call it anxiety) and it often goes hand in hand with depression. It may be caused by medication or stress or physical illness such as heart disease or cancer.17 It saddens me that Christians can suffer these agonies and feel even greater guilt and grief thinking that their worries are displeasing to God. As Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said: ‘We must not forget the existence of the devil, nor allow him to trap us into regarding as spiritual that which is fundamentally physical’.18

So the pastoral exhortation of our Saviour, ‘Do not worry’, is to me a reassuring arm around the shoulder, a reminder of God’s care for me, an appeal to my common sense: ‘Which of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?’19 It is also a warning that it is possible to distrust God, to worry as if he did not care.

So worry can be sinful then?

We can turn hunger into greed and thirst into drunkenness and it is easy to turn natural, normal worry into a sinful dependence on ourselves alone. It’s all a matter of emphasis: In whom do I put my trust? What do I do with my worry? To think about bad things, feel anxious and then chew them over as if God did not exist is a sort of practical atheism. ‘Seek first (God’s) kingdom and his righteousness.’20

Jairus fell at Jesus’s feet and pleaded earnestly with him: ‘My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live’.21 Was Jairus worried? Of course he was! And he took his worries to Jesus.

So take heart, anxious Christian. ‘Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.’22 And when you’ve done what is right and good to help your situation and prayed your hardest,23 yet find you are still fretting, remember this: God loves you — warts, worries and all.


1 Matthew 26.37. See also Matthew 26.38-39; Mark 14.33-36.
2 Luke 22.44.
Stress: The challenge to Christian caring, Gaius Davies, p.48, Kingsway Publications Ltd., 1988.
4 John 2.13-16. See also Ephesians 4.26, ‘in your anger do not sin’; Psalm 4.4.
5 John 11.35.
6 Mark 14.33.
7 Luke 12.32.
8 Luke 22.43.
9 Mark 5.24-34.
10 Matthew 9.22, Mark 5.34. See also Luke 8.48.
11 John 14.1-4.
12 John 14.26, KJV.
13 Psalm 38.18: ’I am troubled by my sin’.
14 Title of Jonathan Edwards’s famous sermon, 1741, Connecticut.
15 1 Timothy 4.12.
16 John 9.2-3.
17 Royal College of Psychiatrists 2010 website, ’Physical illness and mental health’.
18 Spiritual Depression, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, p.19, Marshall Pickering, 1998.
19 Matthew 6.27.
20 Matthew 6.33.
21 Mark 5.23.
22 1 Peter 5.7.
23 Philippians 4.6.

Dr Ruth Eardley

World news – Vietnam: house church leaders attacked

A gang of men attacked leaders of a Baptist house church network near Hanoi on November 13, leaving one pastor unconscious and seriously injuring several others, including women and teenage children.

Leaders of the Agape Baptist Church were participating in a spiritual renewal meeting at the home of pastor Nguyen Danh Chau in Lai Tao village, Bot Xuyen commune, My Duc district, when the gang attacked. Beating people and smashing property, the gang seriously injured more than a dozen and warned Nguyen Danh Chau that they would kill him if he continued gathering Christians.

The denomination’s top leader, Nguyen Cong Thanh, said on November 15 that he had met with the injured. ‘All they could do was weep, and I also could not prevent my tears from flowing’, he said. ‘Why do they gratuitously beat servants of the Lord like this – what crime have they committed, what enemies have they made?’

Compass Direct

World news – Kenya: two killed

Two people were killed and three injured in a suspected al-Shabaab grenade attack on a church compound in eastern Kenya in early November.

The explosive hit a house belonging to a church elder within the grounds of a church in Garissa late on November 5, killing the elder’s son and a member of the church choir. A woman and her two grandchildren were injured in the blast. A witness said that she heard the attackers say after the explosion, ‘It is just the beginning’.

National police deputy spokesman Charles Owino said that the attack in the predominantly Muslim town could be religiously motivated and al-Shabaab sympathisers may have been responsible.

Earlier that day, a police vehicle escorting a UN convoy struck a landmine at the Dadaab refugee camp, which is housing around half a million refugees from the war and famine-ravaged Somalia. No one was injured.

Kenya sent troops into neighbouring Somalia last month to fight the al-Shabaab militants, whom it accuses of being behind a spate of kidnappings and cross-border attacks. The Islamist group, which controls most of southern Somalia, had threatened attacks in retaliation for Kenya’s military operation.

Over 80% of the Kenyan population is Christian, while Muslims comprise around 8%. Tensions between the two groups are at an unprecedented level, and violent outbreaks are increasingly common.

Barnabas Fund

A pattern for evangelistic missions

In 1983 I left teaching in a large comprehensive school to work full time as a travelling evangelist.

Before then, evangelism had been my life, so that when God called me into this work, it was a natural progression from what I had been doing. In the last quarter of a century there have been huge changes not only in society and church, but also in methods of evangelism. Some of this has been rapid.

Event based outreach

One of the differences in evangelistic approach over recent years is the development of event-based and targeted evangelistic meetings. Undoubtedly, focusing our outreach for particular groups of people can be effective. So events aimed specifically at men, women, the young or the elderly, lawyers, students, sports people, diabetics, gardeners, etc., does seem to help to draw along a group of unconverted people.

As a schoolteacher I had been involved in preaching missions in tents and churches which lasted for 16 days or more, as well as barbecues, coffee bars and the like. The trend, though, was moving away from the traditional missions, and food-based evangelism was in vogue. In fact, there were whole missions based almost entirely on this style of outreach. Undoubtedly, these attracted good crowds of unbelievers because it was easier for Christian people to invite their friends to such events without embarrassment. However, they did not prove to be great reaping opportunities, and churches were often disappointed at the lack of fruit, even after much prayer and hard work.

Focus on afterwards?

The length of missions today would very rarely be more than eight days, for there is a feeling that the patterns of life for people vary, making it harder to keep up the momentum of a longer period of time. The style of missions today is often a hotchpotch of events, which are deemed attractive to different groups of people, followed by an epilogue explanation of the gospel. The aim is to get people enrolled into a follow-up course such as Christianity Explored, rather than the expectation of seeing conversions of real strangers to the church.

Abandoning mission weeks

But many churches have simply abandoned mission weeks completely. In January 1989 a Boeing 737 crashed at Kegworth in Leicestershire. An engine had caught fire and the pilot tried to get into East Midlands Airport. Unfortunately, it later emerged that he had shut down the wrong engine and didn’t have the power to get to the airport. Similarly, it seems to me that churches, recognising their weakness in reaching the lost, have shut down the wrong engine and stopped running evangelistic missions. There is an impression given that we have lost confidence in the power of the gospel being preached to bring people to Christ. Changing the metaphor, we have enlarged the bait and blunted the hook in our proclamation of Christ and Him crucified.

Most effective

I am convinced that the most effective missions are the ones where the focus is on the direct proclamation of the gospel, rather than a tag-on epilogue, or an after-dinner talk to a group of people who have really gathered for other reasons. Not that such events are of no value. Of course they are, but ideally they are pre-mission occasions rather than part of a week which is designed to proclaim the gospel to non-Christians in such a way that we can expect to see greater reaping.

Let me suggest an alternative mission strategy.
Main-event programme

The mission week could be called ‘Real Lives’ and last for seven or eight days. The main events begin each evening at 7.45 pm and last for about 75-85 minutes. The people who gather are not asked to join and do anything, but rather follow a programme that is presented to them. They may be seated in rows, or around coffee tables with drinks and snacks available on their table throughout. There may be a background jazz band or pianist, or just ‘piped’ music until the commencement of the programme. After the welcome, there will be a musical item or two from a soloist, or band, etc. Then we go into the first main ingredient of the evening, the 20-25 minute interview with the guest.

Throughout the gospels there are numerous conversion stories, each illustrating God’s power to save. Paul’s conversion is recorded in the Book of Acts and the Epistles, and he tells his testimony repeatedly, using it as a means of gospel proclamation. In this postmodern age, too, people love stories (think of magazines like Hello or OK or Rugby World). Publicity for the mission would have as its main title, Real Lives, but details of each event would be listed, so that the story of a Christian, with an interesting conversion testimony appealing to non-Christians, becomes a real attraction.


With the two of us sitting in armchairs (Michael Parkinson-style), I interview somebody to draw out their testimony. This may be a well-known character, such as singer and Radio 2 host, Paul Jones, or the Olympic rower, Debbie Flood, or it may be a local Christian or visitor who has a powerful story, such as Andy Cardy, whose daughter was abducted and murdered; or David Hamilton, converted terrorist. I have interviewed over 40 times John Mosey whose daughter was killed in Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie. Each evening will have a headline type title, so, on this occasion, it may be ‘Lockerbie father wrestles with disaster’. Then there would be another musical item, or PowerPoint presentation, before the preaching of the gospel, which would last for about 30 minutes.

There is no separate Bible reading as such, but I would incorporate this into my message. If the reading is from Matthew, John or Acts, I may show the DVD version of the passage being read and enacted. I would then preach the gospel for 25-30 minutes, trying to relate my message to the testimony. Again, we would have no opening prayer — the praying should be done before when believers are gathering together — but I would close in prayer, which will sometimes be a prayer of repentance, faith and commitment so that those who want could join in. After that, as refreshments are enjoyed, people who want may come to talk to me, so that I, or someone from the church, can speak, maybe pray with them, and give them literature.


Of course, there are local variations on this pattern, but my experience is that Christian people see the format, and have confidence to bring along their unconverted friends. I have found too, that non-Christians come repeatedly throughout the week, and are therefore repeatedly hearing the gospel and stories of God’s power to change lives.

On the Sundays, I think it best to meet in the normal church venue, more or less follow a Sunday service order, but also to include in it a shorter testimony. Both services will be evangelistic in aim.

During the weekdays, there can be targeted events, such as business or work place lunches, coffee mornings in homes or the church, school assemblies, etc. The aim is not just to fill the evangelist’s day, but to strategically reach people who may then come to evening events. I also make myself available to meet with people who want to talk further.

Follow up

Careful follow up to the mission is essential. Every Christian rejoices to see immediate fruit of people coming to faith in Christ. However, I refuse to manipulate people’s emotions to try to get instant responses. I tremble at the thought that I could damage someone spiritually by inducing a ‘new birth’ before it is right. I publicly urge each one to trust Christ, and expect some to do so. However, if instead a person enrols for a follow up course, I know that the church will take great care in regularly meeting with him or her. So I strongly recommend using Christianity Explored or The Stranger on the road to Emmaus course, which is suitable for those with less background knowledge of the Christian message.

Part of the value of a mission for me is to distribute good quality Christian books, so I bring with me on missions a bookstall which has many evangelistic books for both adults and children, as well as Christian biographies and literature designed to build up the believer. All these are sold at between 33% and 80% discount. I make no profit on literature.

I am absolutely convinced of this style of mission, and really do recommend it to you. It is being used in the winning of people to Christ, and I believe is honouring to the Lord because it is not based on gimmicks, but on a testimony and biblical, gospel proclamation. My promise is that in all my preaching I will seek to proclaim faithfully ‘Christ and him crucified’ to the glory of God alone.
Roger Carswell

Watching the web – Netspeak

It is said that ‘the past is a foreign country. They do things differently there’. One is painfully aware of this when reading Dickens or Austen — as characters have to worry about plague or propriety in a completely different way from us. But if the past is a foreign country, what about documents from past foreign countries? They can be doubly difficult to decipher.

The Bible is clearly in this latter category, as it was written long ago over the course of 1,000 years, with stories about plagues in Egypt, captivity in Babylon and battles in Palestine. Approaching the original text is something that most of us rarely do. We pack our would-be ministers off to college to learn Greek and Hebrew so that we don’t have to. But it’s worth having a look at the original Greek and Hebrew text (to say nothing of the Aramaic bit in Daniel). And, thanks to the glories of the web, you can see the first complete Greek manuscript at the which dates from around 350AD.

Reading the parchment

When reading the original text on the parchment, the distance between the inspired author and ourselves seems vaster than ever. We know that the stories are timeless and have resounded with billions of people throughout history, but critics and sceptics of the Bible like to enlarge the distances between ourselves and the author and sow as much doubt as possible. After all, they say, these are the writings of primitive people who did dreadful things to each other in the name of their god, and so basing your life on these texts is a very foolish thing to do.

No vowels

One thing they like to jump on is the lack of vowels in Greek and Hebrew scripts, giving rise to all kinds of ambiguities, they say, even though one wonders exactly hw mny vwls r rlly ncssry. I don’t know why vowels were deemed optional in ancient far off places (come to think of it, Eastern Europe is still playing catch-up with vowels and could use a few more). But they omitted vowels for reasons that seemed perfectly obvious to themselves at least.


Other ancient civilisations were more literal and drew pictures — hieroglyphics and the like. It seems so distant from our remote way of communicating with each. We use letters and words, vowels and consonants. We’re not primitive thugs who go round drawing pictures for each other and pointing (pointing and underlining being well established as techniques in Pictionary). We’re sophisticated 21st-century folk with laptops, 3G mobile broadband. We blog, we surf, we post, we link, we click, we comment, we tweet, we text, we update our statuses (stati?) and occasionally talk to each other on the phone.

But, as we do these activities, we gawp at videos, link to funny pictures and make faces our of punctuation. Hieroglyphics could never have bargained on such a comeback! I can convey joy 🙂 or cheekiness 😉 or gasping surprise 😮 with these little pictures. I can also save time and space by texting or tweeting v shrt mssgs with dozens of missing vowels and using all kinds of abbreviations. Almost enough to make you LOL. Broadband and 3G give us more bandwidth than we know what to do with, and yet we still compress everything (BTW, 3G= Third Generation Mobile, FYI).

Not so strange

Suddenly the Codex Sinaiticus isn’t looking quite so strange. IMHO, we are still primitive people who continue to do dreadful things to each other. We need to be rescued from ourselves and in the Codex are the very words of God himself, who wants to be known. Ignoring the Codex, then, really is a very foolish thing to do.

James Cary