How do you make newcomers at church feel at home?


The experience of an unchurched non-Christian coming into church has been likened to that of a Christian going into a betting shop. Both are going into environments with which they are totally unfamiliar and therefore do not know how they should act.

Accordingly, it is a big challenge for Christians to know how to respond when strangers come into church so that they can make the strangers feel welcome.

Ruth was such an outsider when she came back to Judah with her mother-in-law, Naomi. She was a Moabitess, totally unfamiliar with how things operated in Judah. However, there was one person who went to great efforts in order to make her feel welcome. That man was Boaz. And from him we can learn lessons for ourselves regarding how we respond to strangers when they come into church.

Brought in by necessity

Necessity first brought Ruth into contact with Boaz. She and her mother-in-law had both returned form Moab without husbands (see Ruth 1). As a result, they had to find means for providing for themselves. Thus, Ruth, with Naomi’s permission, went to seek to glean grain from behind the reapers (see Ruth 2.2). And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz (Ruth 2.3b). This is often what happens as regards people who come into church. Generally, necessity brings them to us. They are either Christians who are seeking a church to attend or they are non-Christians who are seeking peace and hope. So how did Boaz respond to this unexpected visitor?

The first thing we notice about Boaz is that he operated his business in a spiritual manner. We note this from the greeting he shared with his staff. ‘The LORD be with you!’ And they answered him, ‘The LORD bless you!’ (Ruth 2.4b). When people come into your church do they come into a spiritual place?

The spirituality of the place is determined by the people in that place. Is each of us, through our devotion to God, contributing to creating a godly atmosphere in the church?

Being aware

Sad to say, so often in churches visitors are just ignored, but not so in Boaz’s field. Notice that he is aware that there is someone new around and it seems that this is Boaz’s first thought when he comes back to his field (see v.5). What about you? When you come into church do you make it a priority to welcome strangers or do your own friends come first?

Moreover, the question which Boaz asked indicated that he was immediately showing an interest in her. He asked his reapers, ‘Whose young woman is this?’ (v.5b). No doubt everyone is different, but everyone wants to be made to feel special. Without unnecessary prying, a gentle inquiry about where someone comes from or a little about their background can make people feel that someone is taking a genuine interest in them.

At home with us?

Having established who she was and why she had came to his field, Boaz was keen to go out of his way to make sure she was welcomed and received among the reapers. When strangers come into church, new people and new circumstances can feel very threatening. Ruth very probably felt threatened by the young men, but Boaz took action to counteract this and said to her, ‘Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you?’ (v.9b). Similarly, for newcomers in church, a little discreet help with finding hymn numbers or Bible passages may reduce their discomfort.

In all this Boaz was keen to make sure that Ruth felt at home. There were young women within his fold and he wanted her to feel secure with them (see v.8). As someone departs after a service, a simple ‘Hope to see you again’ can be very meaningful and an encouragement to someone to settle and find their spiritual food from the Word of God in our midst.

Following through

Having sought to make someone feel welcome, our failing sometimes comes at the next stage when we seek to consolidate our welcome. Good ‘follow-up’ comes when we seek, out of love and genuine interest, to find out more about our visitor so that we can be of specific help to them. Boaz shows us a good example here. It is recorded of him in v.11 that he said to Ruth: ‘It has been reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before’.

Boaz showed his love by obtaining further information about Ruth. She was not just a name on a list, but someone he cared about. Do we care about others enough to want to find out about them? Furthermore, he uses this information to make sure that Ruth’s needs are provided for. Accordingly, in vv.14-16, a strategy is put in place by Boaz to make sure Ruth’s needs are met. Let us endeavour to show our real love for visitors by providing practical help through hospitality or whatever is necessary.

Is yours a welcoming church? Let us take heed to the example of Boaz and make sure all visitors are made welcome and helped as they come among us. Who knows what great things may happen as a result. Remember that in due course Ruth is found in the genealogy of our Lord Jesus (see Matthew 1.5). It may be our welcome which leads to someone, in due course, being used mightily by God.

Philip Venables, 
Feltham Evangelical Church

‘Remember’


REMEMBER 
The things that matter when hope is hard to find
By Rhonda Watson
IVP. 188 pages. £7.99
ISBN 978 1 844 745 456

This book is about the author’s experience with Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

Rhonda Watson was in the prime of her life with a fulfilling career as a lecturer and consultant when, at the age of 55, she was diagnosed with MND. MND leaves people unable to walk, talk or feed themselves, but the intellect and the senses usually remain unaffected. A prolific communicator, now Rhonda found herself forced into silence, unable to speak. Yet inside she felt a ‘pent-up river of words’ and, to ease the sense of overload, poured them into her book.

Remember is a mixture of narrative, poetry, and quotations literal and scriptural. It is rugged, honest, painful and joyous, and grounded in Christ. A small caveat concerns Rhonda’s assertion that God specifically planned the disease for her, that ‘He purposed it before I was born.’ Readers who do not agree could skip pages 43 and 44.

There are eight chapters in this small book: Beauty and ugliness, Silence and speech, Fear and trust, Thankfulness and bitterness, Joy and grief, Delight and despair, Awake or asleep, Life and death. In each one you follow as Rhonda hacks her way with the Word of God through dark jungles of towering emotions, among them fear and grief, anger and bitterness. She comes through into the light of the Scriptures, into oases of acceptance and peace. In Thankfulness and bitterness she writes; ‘Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me ’
(2 Corinthians 12.9-10).

Remember tackles issues that affect all of us at one time or another. Who hasn’t known fear, or grief, or loss? Who doesn’t need encouraging to trust in Jesus? Remember is a good book to keep by you to dip into at those times.

Louise Morse, 
Media and Communications, Pilgrim Friends Society

King’s Speech?


In 2009, Pat suffered a series of Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs or mini-strokes). A few weeks later, a more serious stroke greatly affected her voice. This is her story of how she regained her speech fully.

We have had the privilege of running a Christian bookshop for 17 years in the village of Skewen in Wales. We’re not academic, but we love the Lord Jesus and felt this was what God wanted us to do.

When I had several mini-strokes I had a nine-day stay in hospital. I was very unwell. I could picture friends going into local shops to buy sympathy cards and something black for my funeral. During this time I had to push my writing hand into motion and concentrate hard on my speech. I worked hard and eventually over that nine days the able-bodied me was back. I could speak.

Exploding head
Then one day I went into the garden where my husband Alun was pottering about, thinking I’d help out. I just bent down to pick up a plant pot. I honestly thought my head had exploded.

That terrible headache lasted a couple of days. It left the tone of my speech high pitched as if I had a problem with deafness and my throat muscles felt like I was being choked. Despite the doctor’s doubts, I got a speech therapist, Sue, who was absolutely fabulous. I didn’t realise how bad my speech was. But one day I was in the shop chatting to a lady. She had a bit of a glazed look. I was enjoying myself so on I went. Another lady said to Alun, ‘I’ll come back later, Pat’s ministering to this lady, she’s speaking in tongues’. So you can imagine how bad my speech was!

Hope in God
Giants of men would cross over the road not to speak to me because they knew I was not aware of my lack of speech. I thank God he gave me a determined spirit. I would make people try to understand what I said. It never bothered me when I had to write things down, I simply got on with it. The blessing has been seeing these same people in tears because they are so thrilled at my measure of recovery.

Sue, the therapist, didn’t give up trying to help me speak, but seeing the scan evidence, didn’t hold out much hope of improvement. I had written down for Alun, ‘You tell this lady, please from me: I will do my best, she will do her best, and the others will be praying for me and (pointing to heaven) He’ll do the rest.’ From our address, Link Christian Bookshop, Sue knew exactly who I was referring to.

Sue taped each weekly session. She asked once if I would like to hear a tape. I heard a voice like a child’s trying its hardest to talk. It was me, Sue said. Again I was devastated to realise how bad my speech was. I was a grown woman with 40 years of marriage behind me, not this — sound!

My tapes are going to be used now to train students to pinpoint aspraxia, dysphasia and Foreign Language/Accent Syndrome. I went through the whole gamut until eventually my speech came back. I’m so grateful for the help I received.

Alun’s persistence was amazing in keeping me focused. I was left with no speech patterns in my head, so I couldn’t communicate even though I was trying to tell people, ‘That’s a television’, ‘This is a book’ and ‘I’m fine’. It’s a very strange place to be, you can’t explain yourself. I feel so sorry for people who’ve had strokes, they can see what’s going on but can’t express themselves. People were patient. I saw their sympathy and glazed looks.

The ugliest dream
I was having strange dreams that would turn ugly. Then one night I had the ugliest dream. Something — whatever it was — was in the room and targeting me. In this dream I was screaming at the top of my voice which I could not do in real life. During the day I could use the PC, or write, or rely on Alun to speak for me. But in the night with the lights off I was on my own. I couldn’t communicate.

Alun only knew something was wrong because I was shaking so much I woke him. He said, ‘Come on now, cwtsh up and go to sleep’. (Cwtsh is a Welsh word you’d use for cuddling a child; non-Welsh speakers use it.)

Assurance
I woke up next morning, knowing I’d slept well and I was so excited. That night I knew, as I’d never known before, that the Lord hears our silent groans and understands. I know now that in the screaming in my dream, I’d said to God, ‘If you don’t help me God, I’m in trouble’. Who else do you turn to when you’re in such a state? I had such peace. Somehow I knew I was going to be healed. I wrote down for Alun some of the night’s experience.
EN and the candle
And this is where Evangelicals Now comes in. I went into the shop that morning and on the counter was a bundle of |EN|s, the November 2009 issue. On the front page was an article about free speech and a picture of a man with a zipper across his mouth. What was on the cover spoke to me: ‘Now’ ‘speech’ and the zipper. For the article, the zipper was closing, but for me it was being pulled open. So on that I stood. It was confirmation for me that I would be healed.

Then, hours later, a candle-holder came in the post, one we’d ordered months before. We were told no way could the distributor get any more in. But it said on it, ‘Faith is not believing God can, it is knowing that he will’.

My scary nightmare, my peaceful sleep, the EN cover and that candle-holder! Well, no one could tell me different I was going to be healed. Alun and I were so excited. People would come into the shop and ask, ‘Can I pray for Pat?’ and he’d say, ‘Please don’t. She’s already asked the Lord and the Lord’s answered her’. They didn’t always understand, but they do now.

Who am I?
That was the biggest breakthrough for me: the expectation of my healing. In the shop I’m speaking to people all day (I do listen as well, mind you!). I need my voice not just to sell, but to pray and encourage.

But it wasn’t only that the Lord gave me assurance on. It was my name. My speech isn’t ‘me’. My name is my identity and I knew the Lord had called me into the kingdom by name. So when the speech therapist asked, ‘How can I help you, I feel such a failure?’, I’d written down, ‘I want to be able to say my name’. So in her wisdom she took me through breathing exercises. When God called Abram he became Abraham (with an aspirate ‘h’) for the breath of God was in him. And God showed that to me: ‘Use the breath I have put in you to be able to speak the words, the sounds will come’.

So I understood what was needed. I learned to breathe, roll my tongue to places we take for granted, and I was able to pronounce a ‘p’ and then on to ‘Patricia’, my name.

Breakthrough
To be honest, I never understood why my father, who named the other children in the family from my mother’s choice of names, chose my name himself. Well, when I found out Patricia means ‘born of noble birth’ and ‘called by name’, and the head of the household named me, I realised there’s a lot in a name. I broke through on ‘Par-trish-ah’, that was it.

It was a fabulous moment when the speech therapist rang one week to arrange an appointment and wouldn’t believe I was the one speaking to her. She remembered what we’d said about us doing our best, people praying and God doing the rest. She said, ‘We’ve had divine intervention here’.

When we went back to the consultant he said, ‘Have a look at this scan, Mrs. Williams, this is your brain’. There was no scarring, no evidence of damage after all the TIAs, no brain shrinkage with age. He said, and I quote (it’s so good!): ‘You have a Mensa brain’.

Our God is good and he gave you (EN) to me in November 2009 to confirm I was going to be healed and I hope you’ll be blessed with my story.

Draw your sword with Romans 10:6-17


‘But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.’

Romans 10:6-17

Top tips for managing money as a student


A godly approach to starting good financial habits

The government’s controversial raising of student tuition fees will put increased on the finances for students. Here is some solid advice.

In recent years the costs associated with higher education have increased, while the burden of paying those costs has shifted significantly towards the student. Many are leaving university with a debt burden at the point they are seeking work, considering investing in a property or wanting to save for other long-term goals. Many potential students are wondering if it’s worth going at all.

But don’t be discouraged. You can’t do anything about your tuition fees; they are a fixed cost of the institution you have chosen. But it is possible to assume a godly approach to the management of your living costs, to take steps to minimise your potential debt burden upon leaving university and to establish good money habits that will last a lifetime. At a time in life when your resources are limited, entrust your finances into God’s hands.

In ancient Israel, debt was associated with survival and a way for God’s people to assist the poor (Deuteronomy 15), but, in our society today, debt is seen simply as a way of having what we want when we want it, without having to save for it. Debt is not a sin, but the Bible often associates debt with a lack of wisdom (Proverbs 11.15, 12.9, 13.7, 17.16, 17.18, 22.7, 22.26-27). How we approach debt is a matter of the heart.

If we intentionally mount up debts with no intention of repaying them, then as God’s people, we have a heart issue. Instead, we should accept that God is the ultimate provider of all things, and we should intend to pay back any loans as soon as possible. As Jesus said, where your treasure is, there your heart is also (Matthew 6.21).

Framework

A good framework for approaching our finances is encapsulated in the Five Principles for Godly Money Management (from http://www.themoneyrevolution.net/):

* All that we have comes from God
* Be active in your stewardship
* Live within your resources
* Build up treasure in heaven
* Give generously

These principles are backed by the Word of God (Psalm 24.1, Luke 14.28, Philippians 4.11-13, Matthew 6.19-21, Malachi 3.10). Money is the subject of nearly half of the parables Jesus told (Luke 12.15, Matthew 6.19-21, Matthew 6.24), so how we manage our money is so important to Jesus that any notion of such verses not applying to ‘poor students’ can be quickly dispatched (see Mark 12.41-45).

Having made the decision to establish a godly attitude towards your money, there are several practical steps you can take. How you learn to manage your money at this stage of life will stick with you for the rest of your life, and good habits practised at university will continue beyond it (Proverbs 22.6). Here are ten top tips for managing your finances at university.

Top Tip 1: Submit your money to God
Remember that everything you have comes from God (Psalm 24.1), and remember to pray regularly for guidance and wisdom in how you use it (Matthew 25.14-28). As you show obedience in the area of money management, God will instruct, guide and provide for you.

Top Tip 2: Have a budget worked out
Luke 14.28 says: ‘Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he first not sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?’

Whether you have already started your study or not, take the time to sit down and work out your income and expenditure. If this sounds scary, then take heart. There are many resources available to assist you in this:

* A local church money ministry (which may have a Personal Budget Coaching team)
* The Stewardship website — http://www.stewardship.org.uk (a leading UK Christian money charity)
* Online Budget Builders, such as those found at http://budgetbuilder.stewardship.org.uk or http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/student-budget-calculator
* Other websites with guidance for students and sample budget spreadsheets, such as: http://www.creditaction.org.uk

Here are some guidelines for building a budget. Work out your income and your expenditure, being as thorough as possible. Include the non-optional outgoings (rent, food, utilities, clothing, university expenses, books and resources, telephone, etc.) and optional outgoings (car, magazines, eating out / drinking, coffees, gym, presents, holidays / outings, etc.). You should also ensure that you understand what benefits and taxes are applicable to you, if any (your local Citizns Advice Bureau can advise).

If your budget does not balance, don’t give up — analyse it. Work out how you might be able to reduce your expenditure, shop around for the best deals and don’t get what you don’t need. Assess all your outgoings one by one. Carefully consider the ‘budget killers’ (eating out, drinking and partying, running a car), and be willing to give them up entirely or minimise them.

Top Tip 3: Work out where your money is going
Taking time to work out where you spend your money can greatly help, but it can also be quite a shock. One way to do this is to track your spending with cards, cash, cheque book or online for a week and write everything down. There are spreadsheets to help you with such an exercise at the previously mentioned websites. Identifying areas of expenditure in which you could cut back will assist greatly in getting your budget to balance.

Top Tip 4: Live within your means
The Micawber Principle from David Copperfield (Dickens) states: ‘Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery’.

This principle is based on basic maths and yet is hard to put into practice. One practical thing you can do is to build a budget that matches your preferred result!

Surviving university financially requires a mindset of ‘short-term pain, long-term gain’. You cannot expect the standard of living that you were used to at home. At university, there will be those who have more money than you, and others with less who still appear to have more money than you (see Proverbs 13.7). Being content with what you have is fundamental to living within your means and, if you can develop this contentment at university, it will prepare you for later life.

Top Tip 5: Avoid credit and store cardsM
Plastic cards are one of the quickest ways to get into serious financial trouble. If you already have credit card debts, try to pay these off before other debts. Otherwise, stick to debit card products and an arranged overdraft (if absolutely necessary). There are many good deals for students with the major banks.

Top Tip 6: Remember the Latte Factor
The little things add up. This can be illustrated well with the Latte Factor concept:

* A Latte a day = £2.00
* A Latte a day for a month = £60.00
* A Latte a day for a term = £180.00
* A Latte a day for an academic year = £540
‘But it’s only a couple of quid a day…!’

You need to factor in some other Latte Factor items (e.g. buying lunches, having an extra pint, driving to town instead of walking) and you will have discovered one of the primary reasons why your student bank account is empty!

Top Tip 7: Actively manage your money
The usual term for this is stewardship. Your goal should be to regularly review how you are doing against your budget. Keep receipts and log them, or carefully review your expenditure online. Online and desktop tools may help, e.g. Wesabe, BankTree, Quicken (there are several others, some of them free).
Top Tip 8: Don’t be an ostrich!
This cannot be stressed enough. If you get into debt, don’t bury your head in the sand! Avoiding debt problems makes them worse, often exponentially. Do not let your shame or guilt prevent you from taking the right course of action. Help is available from many sources (local churches, CABs, Christians Against Poverty, CCCS, other debt advice centres).
Top Tip 9: Get a job!
Consider getting a small job to supplement your other funding sources.

NOTE: This option depends on the type of course you are on, and must not interfere with your ability to do your coursework.

A few hours a week at a part-time job can make a huge difference to your financial health. Alternative use of such time on activities like clubbing / eating out will give you exactly the return on your investment that you should expect!

Top Tip 10: Give generously
God’s Word speaks clearly about why and how we should give. Some key verses are Matthew 25, Proverbs 3.9-10 and Luke 6.38. In Malachi 3.10, God promises that he will bless you if you give the first fruits of your labours back to him.

Your giving should be driven by a response of obedience and thankfulness for everything that God has already given to you. God promises to bless you and provide for you when you give, and he remembers your giving (it’s one of your treasures being stored in heaven).

It is hard to give much when you are at university, so don’t feel obliged to tithe. Instead, work out what is sensible and affordable using your budget calculations. What you give and how you give is again a heart issue (2 Corinthians 9.7). If you give with a cheerful heart, your bank account in heaven will be in credit! (Philippians 4.15-19). If you take a godly and wise approach to managing your money while at university, perhaps your bank account on earth will also be in credit!

Dave Petch,
Guildford, Surrey