‘The Money Mentor’

Getting to grips with your finances
By Ash Carter
IVP. 182 pages. £7.99
ISBN 978 1 844 744 909

An excellent and biblical book about managing your finances, but not for the faint hearted. It is both spiritually challenging and practically demanding.

The first chapter demonstrates that the problem with money is us. Our problem with money is a disease of the heart (Jeremiah 17.9), so we are seduced by an ungodly world-view. ‘We have got it badly wrong, and for the sake of the church we need to get God’s house in order.’ We need to change both spiritually (chapters 2-4) and practically (chapter 5-13). The book ends with a call to ‘radical church’; our use of money should set us apart from those about us.

The author suggests tracking our spending over a month or so as a practical starting point; then reviewing how much we have actually spent and on what. He encourages us to make a budget, and then review progress against budget. This takes time and effort.

I have not adapted my own method of budgeting and tracking of spending to those set out in this book, so I cannot speak of the detailed practicalities, but the book contains a large amount of sound spiritual advice and practical wisdom on how to manage your money. It is an excellent primer for a young person just starting out in employment and learning how to handle their money in a godly way; I have already recommended this book to a recent graduate in our church. If you wish to seriously review your use of money, then this is also a great book for you. Just how much does your spending reflect gospel priorities?

This book is well worth reading, more than once, and a very useful companion for your credit card and online banking security.

Marcus Watkins,
Head of Finance at Christian Medical Fellowship and member of Longmeadow Evangelical Church, Stevenage

Draw your sword with Luke 18:6-8

‘And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’

Luke 18:6-8

Minister’s wife

Julia Jones, of Bethel Church Liverpool, steers us through the pressures.

I have been known to say to my husband, ‘Couldn’t you get an ordinary job that you could leave at the office?’ Every job has its pressures. But the pressures of ministry life may come as a shock to those new to ministry. To the uninitiated what I share here will say, ‘These are the kind of things you can expect to handle’, and to the experienced it will say, ‘You are not alone’ and ‘It is not just you’.

Self-induced pressures

• The desire to please
This well-meaning instinct is overdeveloped in some of us and can land us in trouble. Especially when you are in a new pastoral situation, you will want to win people. This makes you tend to say ‘yes’ to all kinds of requests. Of course, it is excellent to help out where we can. But set your own reasonable boundaries, even write your own job description according to your current responsibilities and gifts, and learn to say ‘no’ in the gentlest and most encouraging way you can. We must not confuse serving people with pleasing people.

• The pressure to be perfect
Some ministry wives are keen to set an example. They therefore feel that their homes, their cooking and their children should be perfect. This is seriously bad news for your children. But it is also bad because of its impact on the church. Suppose someone achieved perfection in any of those areas. Would anyone ask parenting advice, for example, of the parent whose children have never seemingly misbehaved, who are wonderfully well-balanced and who know no grades below A* and no sporting achievement below a gold medal? I think not.

• Church obsession
Ask yourself this question: ‘What do I do that is not related to church?’ As ministry wives it is easy to completely narrow our focus to church. It becomes our whole world. No wonder then that little ripples of discontent threaten to engulf us. Those ministry wives who have some kind of external employment are less likely to encounter this pressure, but those who do not might do well to explore opportunities and outlets just to be members of the human race. I decided to become a rep for a well-known cosmetics firm in a few local streets. It only takes a few hours a week, but it is a great way to get to know the locals. Avoiding the pressure to be church-obsessed will help us to serve the Lord and his church better.

•The need to succeed
Whatever the size or state of the church, we are looking for growth: numerical growth by conversion and spiritual growth as members mature in Christ. Sometimes that growth can be painfully slow. Sometimes it can seem non-existent. That is when we start to beat ourselves up. Of course there may be some useful evaluating of the way things are done. But there is no formula for success in the ministry. The work of God is frequently hidden and rarely dramatic.

Circumstantial pressures

• End of weekending
If you were in some other kind of employment before the ministry, you might just start to remember weekends as they used to be: that Friday night ‘schools-out’ feeling when you throw off your work clothes and get ready to play. Other people in the congregation will go away for the weekend and, as a pastor’s wife, you will start to notice just how often that is. Meanwhile you remain at your post or in your pew. It is fine, but the realisation that you have to be there can hit you quite hard.

• The unspecified hours
Most pastors have no idea what hours they work, and when they have finished, of course they haven’t. There is always a bit more they could do. This can leave a wife wondering when, if ever, she has a right to a piece of her husband. ‘He is doing the Lord’s work’, she tells herself, and this, she unscripturally reasons, makes him kind of off-limits in terms of family demands. On the other hand, if he happily takes an afternoon off to help her with the shopping or the children, sometimes it is she who feels vaguely worried that he is not doing enough.

• The smaller income
There is a vast variation between the salaries of ministers, but most are paid less than their various qualifications would earn them in secular life. I remember when we went to our first church, we accepted the call before we found out what we were going to be paid — we thought we were being spiritual. However, having worked out the minimum we could survive on, we discovered that the salary was a couple of thousand pounds short. The only way forward was to be honest and explain our predicament; the church met us halfway, but it was still a struggle.

• The tied cottage
You may have been in the happy position of owning your own property before you entered ministerial life. But if not it can be difficult to live in church property. You will find that other members of the congregation are better acquainted with the house than you are. Such talk may make you feel that this is not your own home. Practically, it is important to understand the ground rules of the arrangement before you move in. Who is responsible for what? If you and your family are to make this house your home, not just a church annexe, you must not only understand the ground rules, you must accentuate the positives to yourself and to your children.

• The claims of fame
As a ministry wife you will not enjoy anonymity; you will be categorised by the congregation as ‘the wife’. In your neighbourhood, once people find out, you will be ‘the minister’s wife’, with all the misconceptions and expectations these bring, you will not escape notice: not your clothes, nor your shopping habits, nor your children. Interpersonal pressures

• Your husband
You are the only church member who goes to bed with the pastor. You are the only one who sees him at breakfast; you see him in grumpy mode as well as when he is at prayer. This is the man you love, but this is also a sinner. He is not as good a pastor as either he or you would like him to be. Resist the temptation to tell him what to preach on or how to spend his day.

• Church members
When I was a teacher and we had a staff training day, we would often joke that school was a great place without the children. Sadly, sometimes we can also feel the same about church. Thankfully, it is not usually all the people. Most are delightful — winsome, supportive and hard-working. But there are some identifiable types in most churches: the fault-finder, the unreliable, the demanding, the unlovely; these are just a few of those you will encounter after every Sunday service. It can be, to say the least, a strain. How do we handle all of this? The simple answer is that we must dress properly for church. ‘Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience’ (Colossians 3.12).

• Loneliness
The pastor’s wife can be the loneliest woman in the church. Because you don’t have weekends, the opportunities to meet up with close friends or family who live elsewhere may be rare. Perhaps your husband’s position sets you apart in the church and in the community, so that you are never quite one of the gang. Some ministry wives will say that it is either impossible or inadvisable for a pastor’s wife to have friends in the church. Such a mantra may be the bitter fruit of painful experience. I sympathise, but it still does not sound right to me. Jesus called his disciples ‘friends’ ( John 15.15). Who do we think we are? In any relationship worth having there is always a risk of being hurt. But we all need friends and are all called to be friends. Perhaps via inter-church networks you can meet up with other ministry wives formally or informally. These are great opportunities for honest sharing and the relieving of some of the pressure. We need others to make us laugh at ourselves, lest we take ourselves too seriously. So these are the pressures. Like them or loathe them, we must learn to live with them. And pray for grace to do so cheerfully.

This article is a heavily condensed chapter from The Minister’s Wife (edited by Ann Benton, recently published by IVP, RRP £8.99, ISBN 978 1 844 745 562), and is used with permission.

‘Fathering Leaders, Motivating Mission’

Restoring the role of the apostle in today’s church
By David Devenish
Authentic Media. 338 pages. £8.99
ISBN 978 1 860 248 375

The thesis of this stimulating book is that there are apostles in the church today, and that their service is vital to the health of Christ’s body and the effective worldwide spread of the gospel.

Working on that novel and highly debatable premise, David Devenish works carefully through the wealth of New Testament material about the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul and seeks to use it as a pattern for the ministry of those who are generally recognised as fathers in the wider church and pioneers in international mission.

The result is a book which has lots of wholesome insight and instruction. It evidences a healthy regard for the local church as central in all God’s work. It stresses the relational nature of leadership. It strongly affirms that God gifts some men to serve far beyond the confines of one local church. It speaks thoughtfully and with weight on many issues relating to the church and the service of Christ today.

The problem with the book is not any weakness in stating the gospel foundation of the church, the special nature of the original apostles, or the completeness of the canon. It is its insistence that the church in every age must be built on a foundation newly laid by contemporary apostles and prophets. While the author puts much weight on the fact that the New Testament recognises more apostles than the original 12, his key argument seems to be that, in Ephesians 4, Paul implies that no church can be brought to maturity without the full range of gifts mentioned there, including apostles and prophets.

David Devenish surely reveals the fatal weakness of his basic position when he tries to draw a distinction between apostles chosen by Christ as witnesses of his life and ministry, and different apostles who are the gift of the risen Christ to his church. Even more desperate is his attempt to draw from Paul’s heavily ironic words to the Corinthians (‘Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you’) the implication that congregations may choose the apostles they will recognise and to whom they will relate! In truth he never really answers the classic position that apostles are those who have seen the risen Christ and been specifically appointed by him, and that Paul was the last to be set apart.

This is certainly an interesting and thought-provoking book, but its basic thesis failed to convince this reviewer. Indeed, even though the book is written with real grace and humility, it still rings some alarm bells over issues of authority and responsibility in the church.

Graham Heaps, 
co-pastor of Dewsbury Evangelical Church, a Grace Baptist congregation

Contending for Christ in Dubai

Remarkably, great opportunities for the gospel have opened up in the Gulf State

Although Thabiti Anyabwile pastors a church in the Cayman Islands, he has had deep involvement with the growing church in Dubai. He has taken part in a number of Christian / Muslim debates there. Recently he spoke to EN.

EN: What is your family background and how did you come to Christ?

TA: I grew up in what’s commonly called ‘the Bible Belt’, the south-eastern United States, known for its culturally conservative nominal Christianity. Like most people, I considered myself a Christian simply because I grew up in ‘a Christian nation’. But I knew almost nothing of the Lord and his gospel.

Things worsened as a senior in high school. After being arrested for a crime, I began going to church with the hopes that the trouble would blow over and I could get a fresh start. The church didn’t faithfully and clearly preach the gospel. So, I continued with my moralistic view of things and my project of self-improvement. When I inevitably failed, I grew cynical about Christianity, believing it to be a delusion and false.

In my second year at university, I converted to Islam. The initial appeal included its simple claim of one God and the outward discipline of the religion. It was perfect for a self-righteous young man like myself. I became something of a Muslim apologist, an opponent of the cross, and an increasingly angry young man.

My heart grew more cold over the years of practising Islam. Until one Ramadan, up early for the fast to read the Qu’ran, I was suddenly aware that what I was reading could not be true. The Qur’an admitted too much on the one hand (the gospels as signs or revelation, the virgin birth, references to Jesus as Messiah, references to the Holy Spirit) and yet denied too much on the other hand (the deity of Christ, his crucifixion, etc.). That created a crisis for me. After a year of searching for answers, I threw my hands up in unbelief and rejected all religious claims.

I continued that way for about a year. Then a few months following a miscarriage, my wife and I attended a local church in the Washington, D.C. area. I’ll never forget the exposition of Exodus 32. It remains one of the most powerful sermons I’ve ever heard. It was law and gospel in the finest sense. By God’s indescribable grace, my wife and I were converted to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ on that Sunday morning.

EN: Tell us about the spiritual state of Dubai and how you got involved there.

TA: The Lord first granted me the privilege of visiting Dubai in 2005. I accompanied another brother as he interviewed with a church about the possibility of becoming their pastor. Originally, I was simply along to carry his bags and keep him encouraged.

But almost immediately Dubai enchanted me. There’s a strange confluence of Arab and Western sensibilities. The wealth of the region is well known. More building cranes are erected in Dubai than most of the rest of the world combined. Though things have slowed, when I first visited, Dubai was at the height of rapid growth materialism.

Dubai represents an important opportunity for the gospel. There exists an unprecedented openness as a result of the diversity of peoples and cultures and the influx of economic interests. With the great number of expatriates coming and going, the emirate represents a strategic sending station for the Good News into the wider region. Churches are being planted and God has been pleased to grant them growth. When I first visited six years ago, it seemed the church was in poor health, unfocused, and perhaps too insular. Now, there’s a fresh vibrancy, boldness, joy, and risk-taking zeal for the glory of our Lord. There is much work to be done there, but there’s great work already underway.

EN: Can you explain something of the debates in Dubai with Muslim leaders and how they came about.

TA: The Christian-Muslim dialogues in Dubai began through an amazing act of providence. When I first visited Dubai, the work among university students was just underway. Campus workers found there were perhaps two Christian students on campus. They began to reach out and disciple those students — both of whom were suspicious of the Westerners’ interest in them. But, in time, the campus workers convinced the students to risk something never attempted before in that region — apply to be an official Christian organisation on campus. The students were understandably fearful.

But, in the end, the Lord granted them courage to take a risk of faith. In God’s rich kindness, one of the area universities granted official permission for the Christian fellowship club to meet on campus. Those two young students became the nucleus of a new work and the first officially recognised Christian campus organisation on the Arabian peninsula.

Not long after they were granted permission to meet, they began hosting a Bible study through the Gospel of Mark. Normally sparsely attended, one day the room was filled to overflowing with young Muslim students. Uncertain about the change in interest, the campus worker simply continued the study through Mark. Part way through, two young women in full burkhas peered through the door. They eventually announced that a scheduling error had occurred. The Muslim organisation was scheduled to meet at the same time — originally in the same room — but had been moved. They asked if the campus worker could redirect those students to the Muslim student association meeting. He promptly apologised for the mix-up and made the announcement. Not a single student moved! They remained to hear more about the Lord in Mark’s Gospel. that began a relationship between the two groups which quickly grew into discussions about a possible Christian-Muslim Dialogue.

Again, in God’s unique timing and providence, I was slated to be in Dubai in a few months’ time. So, the organisation was kind enough to invite me to participate in the dialogue. Ironically, my counterpart was another African-American who had been raised in a Christian home, but later converted to Islam. He was now a resident Imam and something of a minor celebrity on college campuses. Here we were, two African Americans a long way from home on the east coast of the United States, discussing our respective journeys and the counter claims of Islam and Christianity.

The Lord blessed the event with peace and an opportunity to preach the gospel publicly for the first time ever on that campus. What an immense privilege to unfold the message of salvation in Christ alone through faith to an audience full of Muslim students and administrators who likely had never heard a Christian explain the faith at length. We distributed a number of Bibles and the work gained favour with the administration and momentum with the students.

Since that first visit, I’ve had the privilege of visiting Dubai to engage in such discussions every two years. At my last visit earlier this year, there were student groups meeting on about seven campuses and a leadership conference involving 70 campus leaders! That’s a long way from the two nervous and nominal Christian students just six years ago! The work there has advanced with remarkable depth as students have come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus and been discipled in his word.

EN: What is your take on how the church should best seek to share the gospel in the Muslim world?

TA: Well, honestly, there is no secret or unique way to share the gospel in the Muslim world. There are challenges and there is, in some cases, persecution. But the task of sharing the gospel is the same wherever one lives.

What Christians in the Muslim world —and everywhere — need is renewed confidence in the power of the gospel to save (Romans 1.16). Sometimes we’re too concerned about apologetics, contextualisation, and strategy. Those things have their place. But it seems to me that many people invest so much in those issues that they never really get around to building relationships and sharing the Good News. We seem to think that the power lies in persuasion and technique. But the power of the gospel is encapsulated in the gospel message itself. That means we simply need to be faithful in sharing it and prayerfully trusting God to make dead men live again. The gospel is enough if we’ll share it.

Thabiti Anyabwile is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Grand Cayman.