When the elders say ‘No’… and some other great links


Enjoy the following links!

A Faith to live by – Some doors need to be kept locked – Steve Chalke, sexuality and preaching the negatives

The Good Book Company – Coming soon… a handful of exciting insights of what they’re working on behind the scenes

Gospel Coalition – How can the gospel be good news to gays?

Reformation 21 – When the elders say ‘No’

Desiring God – Top 12 videos of 2012

How to start a mercy ministry


How to start a mercy ministryIf you want your church to help poor people, just decide how you are going to help, find people to serve, start serving and tell them about Jesus.

OK, I admit that there is a little more than that to starting a mercy ministry. At Guilford Baptist Church, in Sterling, Virginia, USA, just two years ago, we launched a ministry that includes a food pantry and reaches out to homeless people and at-risk youth. Based on our admittedly brief experience, we have developed a long list of ‘things to do’ and ‘things not to do’ when starting a mercy ministry. Our three most important ‘to-dos’ are to decide how you are going to serve, find people and preach the gospel.

Decide how

Low-income people have many different needs, and people will likely ask for help you cannot give them, so it is important to decide how you are going to serve your community. You need to define what services your church will offer.

At Guilford, we have at times overextended ourselves trying to respond to too many needs at once. People became frustrated that we could not help them, and our main goal of sharing Christ sadly took a back seat. So we have found it helpful to create a referral list of other organisations and agencies in our community that can help in ways our church cannot.

To decide how your church can best serve the poor in your community, pair the strengths of your church body with the needs of your community.

Is your church full of families? Get the children involved in serving. Perhaps you can contact your local schools and ask how to serve needy children there. Or offer to tutor low-income students and then invite them to Bible studies.

Do you have great counsellors in your congregation? Start a Bible study for substance abusers or young pregnant mothers.

At Guilford, we started a food pantry because we are surrounded by Spanish-speaking people who do not qualify for food stamps. So we collect non-perishable donations and household products from local churches and grocery stores, and we distribute groceries on the third Saturday of every month after a brief evangelistic service.

Once you decide what to do, contact organisations who offer similar services to get ideas of how to structure your ministry. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

Find people

Probably the most important thing to do in starting a mercy ministry is connecting with people. A church can have shelves of free food and clothes to offer and still not have a mercy ministry. So find needy people by telling other organisations and agencies in your area what your church wants to do. Contact your local social services departments, nonprofits, community centres and schools. Send details about your services so they can spread the word. Note high crime areas in your city and drop off fliers there.

Finding people is not always comfortable. It did not feel comfortable when we went to day labourer sites to hand out fliers about our food pantry. It did not feel comfortable, at first, to hang out at the homeless shelter. It is sometimes awkward to knock on the doors of strangers to offer them free food and an invitation to Bible study, like one of Guilford’s Hispanic pastors does. But it is remarkably exciting when some of these people show up to church and Bible studies and we get to share with them the good news of what God has done in Christ to save sinners.

I remember getting a call one night from a homeless woman. She said that if we did not come to get her, police officers were going to take her to jail for the night because the shelters were full. Guilford’s friendship with that woman eventually blossomed into a whole ministry at our local homeless shelter.

Preach the gospel

Most importantly, use your mercy ministry to pursue the lost with the gospel. This is what distinguishes Christian mercy ministries from social programmes that anyone else can provide.

So push into broken lives with the healing message of the cross whenever you can. This means making the effort to really get to know needy people. Many of the people we serve at Guilford are illegal immigrants and live in fear of being deported. Several of them are single mothers who have suffered intense abuse. Some are addicts. A handful of our contacts live in tents throughout our community.

Because of the kind of lives the needy typically live, they are often uncomfortable walking into a church for help unless they are warmly invited. So encourage people in your church to lovingly welcome the poor into your midst by having them share specific ways church members can serve and pray for the needy people who come into contact with your ministry (with sensitivity to privacy).

At Guilford we use a database to regularly update files of people we help. We also keep lists of volunteers and donors. When needs or prayer requests come up, we email them to supporters. It may also be helpful to create an internet presence with a blog or Facebook page to help you keep people informed and excited about the ministry.

Worth the work

Although it poses many challenges, starting a mercy ministry can be a pretty straightforward process. And although the sin and brokenness of this world often make mercy ministry uncomfortable and challenging, praise God that he uses our efforts to provide for others’ needs and to the spread of the gospel which radically changes and redeems.

Layla Wilder is a member of Guilford Baptist Church in Sterling, Virginia, USA, where she serves as deacon of mercy ministries.

This article first appeared in the July/August 2012 9Marks Journal and is reprinted with permission.

© 9Marks. Website: http://www.9Marks.org. Email: info@9marks.org

(This article was first published in the December 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.

http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057)

St. Helen’s Bishopsgate Preaching Matters: Gavin Perkins and Paul Clarke


Here is the newest instalment of the video series from St. Helen’s Bishopsgate designed specifically to ‘equip, encourage and inspire those who teach God’s word.’

Gavin Perkins from Cornhill Sydney explains why preaching is central to the life of the church. Paul Clarke from St Helen’s shares his thoughts on preaching evangelistically.

How has this helped you as you teach God’s word?

Excellence in preaching (book review)


EXCELLENCE IN PREACHING Excellence in preachingLearning from the best
By Simon Vibert
IVP. 176 pages. £8.99
ISBN 978 1 844 745 197

Simon Vibert, Vice Principle of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, has written an excellent book about how good preachers communicate. Based on a short survey of preachers, theological students and congregational members, he has selected for his assessment a broad range of preachers that people enjoy listening to.

The author starts in the right place by introducing Jesus Christ as the supreme example of preaching. He follows this with 12 chapters that each analyze the particular strengths of a modern preacher — mostly names we know well, such as Tim Keller, Vaughan Roberts and Alistair Begg. Those that are part of this evaluation were only intended to be a sample of good preaching. The author freely admits that there are many other preachers who could have been added.

His method is to give the reader a brief introduction to the preacher and then to ask what makes him a good communicator. He then considers their particular strengths in preaching. It’s a creative way of ‘learning from the best’. This reviewer found the result both interesting and engaging. The practical nature of the book and the direct application of good principles of preaching are of particular use.

For the congregational member, this is a good book to buy for your pastor. You may find that his thoughts about preaching will be stimulated and his weekly preparations challenged. For anyone who preaches regularly, the lessons for preachers today at the end of every chapter are brilliant summaries that provide bullet points for improvement in specific areas. It also makes a great ‘go to’ book for anyone who is interested in preaching and learning more about those who do it well. The author deserves our appreciation for putting this material into print.

Rick Battenfield, 
minister, Eythorne Baptist Church, Kent

 

This article was first published in the June 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

 

Has the Bible been changed?


Has the bible been changed

This is a report on a discussion with local mosque leaders in the north of England.

The leaders of a gospel church in West Yorkshire held two discussions with the leaders of one of the local mosques over issues of mutual interest.

The theme on this occasion, ‘Has the Bible been changed?’, was suggested by our Muslim friends, but it was a subject we were very happy to discuss with them. That is because so many promising conversations with Muslims founder on their confidently held conviction that the Bible we have today is widely changed from the Scriptures originally given by God through the prophets to the Jews, and through Christ to his followers.

Muslims often deflect anything from Scripture that they don’t believe (or want to face) with the assertion that what the Bible teaches isn’t what God originally said, but is a corruption of it.

First meeting

The first meeting, with three mosque leaders and six leaders from the church, was held in the home of the most senior of the imams, whose wife provided us all with a wonderful Asian meal as a preparation to our discussion. Indeed, noticing our pastor’s great enthusiasm for Asian food, an Indian man present, his face wreathed in smiles, offered to find the pastor an Asian wife to cook for him regularly!

Thankfully, the church leader graciously declined the kindness, pointing out that he is very happy with the wife he already has! It was then explained that Muslim men can have up to four wives, so the offer still stood! The pastor replied that he believed that the ideal situation was to have but one wife: indeed that is at the heart of God’s plan for marriage, shown in the fact that in the beginning God created only one Eve for Adam. He also said that men in the Scripture who had more than one wife, like Jacob, Elkanah and David, generally reaped tension and disunity within their family, showing that God’s perfect plan was for the union of one man with just one woman.

Relevant questions

After the meal, eaten sitting on the floor — all the meetings, however long, are conducted sitting on the floor! — our pastor spoke for a few minutes on the subject. He explained that Christians are very puzzled by the Muslims’ assertion of the Bible having been totally corrupted. For example, the Bible has incredible stress on the death of Christ. As Muslims believe that his death never happened, they conclude that the Bible must be wrong (corrupted) on this matter. To us the claim that the Bible is hopelessly distorted not only runs totally counter to manuscript evidence, but makes no sense. The pastor asked the Muslim leaders if they could consider, and then reply to, three questions which explain our puzzlement at their belief:

* Would God allow his book to be changed? (Muslims are adamant that Allah would never allow the Qur’an to be changed!)

* Would Jews and Christians, who loved their books and believed them to be the word of Almighty God, either be very careless in copying the Bible or allow other men to distort it?

* Would Muhammad have encouraged his followers to look to the Bible — the law, the prophets and the gospel — to confirm both the Qur’an and his teaching if he knew it to be hopelessly corrupt?

We anticipated that we would immediately begin to discuss these questions together, but the mosque leaders had another gathering to attend that evening. They had hastily arranged a meeting at the mosque, concerning a public meeting to be held in our town the next day by the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam. So we agreed to meet again a couple of weeks later to hear and discuss their reply to the questions that had been raised, and we left with warm handshakes and thanks, with our pastor promising to produce full notes of what he had said.

Second meeting

The second meeting was quite different from the first. Sadly, there was no meal, though the welcome was once again very warm. This time there were many more Muslims present. It began with a couple of bits of Muslim ‘testimony’, asserting that the Bible must have been changed. Two reasons were given. Firstly, the Bible says such terrible things about God’s prophets: it presents Lot as committing incest with his daughters, and David as an adulterer and a murderer. Secondly, the Qur’an has been passed down from generation to generation by men who have memorised the whole book verbatim, giving a total confidence in its unchanging text, whereas, they asserted that no Christian has bothered to learn his book.

These assertions were followed by the beginning of an answer to our pastor’s first question. They said that God could have preserved his book, but doesn’t always do all he can. From then on the discussion was largely conducted at great speed and in Urdu, sometimes with considerable vehemence! That left our one Urdu speaker to say most by way of answers, though we did have some success in returning to English, at least by translation. It is surprising that a number of the men who have been long in the UK can speak little English, though they invariably understand more than they speak. Sadly, we failed to keep our Muslim hosts to the questions we had posed to them, but there were very striking opportunities both to defend the Christian position and share the heart of the gospel with them.

Inspiration and examination

One key aspect of their approach was to raise portions from the Bible that they believed showed that it was not a revelation from God. So they took us to the opening verses of Luke’s Gospel, where Luke writes of his painstaking research, working with eyewitnesses of Christ’s life, which enabled him to write accurate history. To the Muslim, research is not compatible with writing under God’s inspiration. That is because they believe that true Scripture was dictated by God, whereas the Bible presents a far more sophisticated and wonderful view of God as the one who so prepares and works with his chosen scribes that they naturally write from their hearts and experience exactly what God wants them to say (see 2 Peter 1.20-21).

We have seen before that the Muslim leaders delight in quoting to us the views of unconverted Bible ‘scholars’ who love to parade their scepticism about God’s book. We reminded them that we hadn’t quoted Salman Rushdie to them, nor the Ahmadiyyas, as authorities on the Qur’an! Interestingly, one man they tried to quote against us was the godly scholar Bruce Metzger, but our youngest participant was able to read to them the context of their quoted words which showed a very balanced and helpful presentation of how we got our Bibles.

Christ in the Old Testament

Another element in their challenge was that we should show them where the Old Testament spoke of Jesus Christ. Indeed, the key speaker, an imam from a mosque in Bradford, offered us £1,000 if we could show him where the prophets speak of Christ! So we read with them the extraordinary prophesies of Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, which speak so clearly and in such graphic detail of Christ’s death on the cross. The fact that we have not so far received the money is testimony to our need of a powerful work of God’s Spirit in these men if we are to see them embracing the God-given Saviour.

It was good to be able to clear away some misunderstandings, challenge prejudice and share the gospel of grace with these Muslim friends. It is for God to open their hearts so that they embrace the only Saviour for fallen sinners.

(This article was first published in the October 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.)

http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057)

Notes to growing Christians from David Jackman: Christ, the focus of unity


The visiting preacher was asked by the minister’s precocious offspring, over lunch: ‘And what abomination do you belong to?’

The wry smile produced by such an enquiry indicates how much we all struggle with the cultural expressions of ‘church’ in our society. Archbishop William Temple once suggested that the biggest hindrance to the spread of the Christian church is the Christian church, and one can see why, when the record of the past and the mistakes of the present are examined.

Of course, the Bible does not deal with the category of denominations. They did not exist in New Testament times, though the seeds may have been visible in Corinth, where the Christians seem to have been lining up behind their favourite leaders and forming separatist groups, or parties. ‘I follow Paul; I follow Apollos; I follow Cephas; I follow Christ.’ But Paul will have none of it. ‘Is Christ divided?’ (1 Corinthians 1.12-13). Then how can his followers be?

However much their ministry may be blessed and valued, no earthly leader can serve as Christ serves the church, by giving himself up for her. His person and work are the only ground of Christian unity, because they are the very heart of the gospel, which brings us to new life. ‘So then’, Paul concludes, ‘no more boasting about men!’ (1 Corinthians 3.21).

Universal

The Bible knows only two expressions of the body of Christ, the church of which he is the head. The first is the church universal, which is the total number of the redeemed both here on earth and already in heaven. The picture in Revelation 7.9 of an innumerable multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language is the Bible’s destination-point for the saving purposes of God through the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’ (Revelation 7.10). When we gather together as believers in corporate worship, here on earth, we are an outcrop of the greater heavenly reality of the worshipping church, already in the presence of Christ, so that our ascriptions of praise join with theirs, since we are one body.

But this universal reality is expressed in the local church, here in this world. This is why active involvement in a local gathering of Christians, however imperfect it may be, can never be regarded as an optional extra. When first we believe the good news of Jesus and receive his salvation, we are born again, made spiritually alive, as the Holy Spirit comes to live within our now redeemed personalities. So, we are all different, unique even; but we are all one in Christ Jesus, because the very life of God has been implanted in our souls. That is why the Bible talks about Christians as members of one body, each with differing gifts and tasks to fulfil (Romans 12.3-8, 1 Corinthians 12), but the same life energising us all. We belong together, because we each separately belong to Christ — and Christ is not divided.

Local

It is a mark of the new birth to join together with my fellow Christians (now brothers and sisters), to strengthen and encourage one another, in fellowship, by the participation in corporate praise and thanksgiving, intercessory prayer and sound biblical teaching, as a local gathering (congregation) of the one universal church. The local church is the fundamental unit by which the locus of God’s presence and the glory of Christ are to be revealed to the world. This point is clearly made in the opening of Revelation, where John receives an overwhelming vision of the risen Christ (1.12-18), whose location is ‘among the lampstands’. Later, we are told that the seven lampstands are the seven churches (1.20), which are then delineated as seven local congregations from Ephesus to Laodicea, in chapters 2 and 3. You find the risen Christ among the local congregations of his people, where his rule is exercised. They are the contemporary expression of the gospel.

Total

Most probably, the total congregation in a city would be made up of several house churches, and sometimes different city groups had links with other cities, as when Paul’s letters were passed around, or they received apostolic messengers. What did not exist were denominations, as we now have them, though they were not necessarily forbidden. What they must not become is the focus of unity or of our ultimate loyalty. That must be Christ alone at the centre of his faithful people, everywhere. But more about that next month…

David Jackman writes the ‘Notes to growing Christians’ column for EN.

This article was first published in the October 2011 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

The part played by hobbits


Part played by hobbitsColin Duriez explains how Tolkien came to write The Hobbit

People around the planet have been waiting. The Peter Jackson film of the first part of The Hobbit, based upon the children’s classic by J.R.R. Tolkien, which has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide, is imminent.

There may still be some who might ask, ‘What is a hobbit?’ But with the book’s readership so vast, and audiences of The Hobbit sequel film, The Lord of the Rings, so numerous, images of hobbits are familiar, in their colourful, rustic clothes. As Tolkien wrote, when he first introduced them to the world, hobbits ‘are (or were) a little people, about half our height, and smaller than bearded dwarves’. Hobbit identity is tied up with their home country, The Shire, from which the hero of The Hobbit, Mr. Bilbo Baggins, sets out on an adventure, in the teeth of long years of provincial respectability. Before the late 1920s, or thereabouts, however, the word ‘hobbit’ in the new familiar sense did not exist.

In the middle of marking exams

The name ‘hobbit’, in fact, had popped out of Tolkien’s head when he was a Professor of Old English at Oxford University, and was marking school exam papers for extra money to pay household bills. This was in the days before a free health service and good quality schools without fees and the Tolkien family were often short of money.

Tolkien tells us he came across an unused page and was delighted to have a little less marking. Suddenly, he scrawled across the page, he knew not why, ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit’ — which became the first sentence of the book. He then had to work out who ‘hobbits’ were, and that is how the stories about them really started.

The Shire near Birmingham

Later, he found that hobbits really belonged in a later age of the world he was creating, and that their home was The Shire, a rural part of Middle-earth which was very like the countryside near Birmingham in which he spent part of his childhood. In fact, he came to think of himself as a sort of hobbit. Tolkien wasn’t mad, or even overly eccentric, but rather was someone with an extraordinarily rich imagination — which is part of the reason so many people throughout the world love his stories.

In a letter he wrote of living for his early years ‘in “The Shire” in a pre-mechanical age’. He added that he was a hobbit in fact, though not in size. Just like hobbits, he relished gardens, trees, and farmlands that hadn’t been mechanised. He smoked a pipe and liked his food plain. In the grey mid-20th-century, when the popularity of his stories started to explode, he dared to wear ornamental waistcoats. Like hobbits, he was fond of mushrooms fresh from the field and liked expressing his very basic sense of humour, which some found tiresome. He also recorded that, as an adult, he went to bed late and, if he could, got up late. Like hobbits, he travelled little.

C.S. Lewis’s assessment

Before the publication of The Hobbit, 75 years ago, the only people who knew of Mr. Bilbo Baggins and his adventures burgling gold for a party of dwarves from a watchful dragon were the children of the author, J.R.R. Tolkien, his friend C.S. Lewis (who later wrote the Narnia stories, inspired by Tolkien’s creation of Middle-earth), staff at his publishing house, and one or two others. The first printing in September 1937 was a mere 1,500 copies, with a reprint becoming necessary before Christmas that year. C.S. Lewis, however, recognised The Hobbit as a classic of children’s literature from the beginning.

Tolkien added a number of illustrations, and designed the original book cover. He had written down the story after telling it in episodes to his children at bedtime. In doing this, the story had evolved and taken shape. When he started to tell it, he had no idea that the characters — hobbits, dwarves, a wizard, goblins, humans and many others — would become part of the world of Middle-earth that he had been creating since recovering from one of the bloodiest episodes of the First World War, the Battle of the Somme. His most famous creation in the book was Bilbo Baggins, who was a hobbit. Bilbo develops in character and moral stature through the trials he experiences in his adventures, where he constantly wishes that he were back home in his comfortable hobbit hole.

When Tolkien started to write down the story of the hobbit, Mr. Baggins, probably in 1930, he had already completed an early version of his cycle of stories, annals, and sketches of the elvish language, which eventually made up The Silmarillion. This was about the First Age of Middle-earth, and what went on before and after this Age. He went on for the rest of the years of his life (he died in 1973) developing and modifying his accounts of his invented world (or ‘sub-creation’, as he preferred to call such worlds), but never finishing it. It was left to his son, Christopher Tolkien, to draw together a summary compilation from the material his father left. It was published as The Silmarillion in 1977. Tolkien’s portrayal of the history and stories of the earlier ages provides a background hinted at in The Hobbit, and even more explicitly referred to in its sequel, The Lord of the Rings. To give some idea of the astonishing scale of Tolkien’s invented world, the events of the latter two books are set late in the Third Age of Middle-earth, and there are no trace of hobbits in the earlier ages.

Alternative history

All of Tolkien’s fiction concerning Middle-earth is set in a pre-Christian world. His is an alternative elvish and human history, set in a geography that roughly resembles north-western Europe many millennia ago. He writes consciously as a Christian, with the hindsight of hope in Christ’s salvation. However, as in the biblical book of Esther, there is no mention of the name of God in either The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. The reader has to go to the background of the stories, The Silmarillion, for the key to Tolkien’s theology. Here the presence of providence, and the guidance of prophecy, only hinted at in the stories which feature hobbits, is writ large. Here also are the keys to other biblical elements, such as the central importance of the humble and weak in the plans of God (who, by the way, is called Iluvatar — All-Father — in The Silmarillion).

Justifying God

Tolkien’s justification of God’s ways to human beings (to paraphrase John Milton’s purpose in his magnificent poem Paradise Lost) is rich and many-layered. It had a huge impact upon his friend C.S. Lewis (his arguments, upon which his construction of Middle-earth are based, helped to persuade him of the truth of Christian belief). Perhaps my favourite element in Tolkien’s rich tapestry of imaginative theology is his account of the creation of Middle-earth, which almost certainly influenced Lewis’s portrayal of divine creation in his own invented world, or ‘sub-creation’, of Narnia. In Lewis, Narnia comes to be as the creator-lion, Aslan, sings it into being. In Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, the picture of creation by music is more complex, but deeply beautiful. First God (Iluvatar) presents the idea of what is to be in music to the listening angelic powers he has made. Then he brings into physical being what was musically foreshadowed with the help of his angelic agents. However, he directly creates elves and humans. The ensuing histories and stories of the ages of Middle-earth are the outworking of his creation music.

Iluvatar’s music forms blueprints or patterns of the world (rather as Wisdom in Proverbs 8 represents the standard by which God works as he envisages the creation he is to make). These themes of the divine music express his care for those whom he creates, evident in providence and prophecy.

At the very end of The Hobbit, Gandalf says to Bilbo about prophecy and providence (and I hope this is kept in the film version): ‘Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine fellow, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!’

‘Thank goodness!’ said Bilbo laughing, and handed him the tobacco jar.

Colin Duriez has written a number of books on J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and the Inklings. His biography, J.R.R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend (Lion, £8.99) has just been published.

(This article was first published in the December 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.

http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057)

Trainers tied for action!


Headway for Christian FaithThough nominal Christianity is declining in Britain, Bible believing Christian faith seems to be making real headway.

The increasing suspicion that God has something special in store is epitomised by the transformation that has occurred at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology (WEST) in the last couple of years. As EN has previously reported, the theological college has received an enormous boost as the huge SaRang Community Church in Seoul, South Korea, has come alongside and begun to support and promote the College worldwide.

Unique alliance
Now a new and very exciting development is imminent. WEST is entering into a unique alliance with another enterprise with a rapidly expanding reach and vision, the Porterbrook Network. Both are involved in providing training for contemporary, Reformed church leaders. The new arrangement between the two organisations is designed to provide a flow of training for  church planters for projects in the UK, into Europe and beyond.
The home base of WEST is in Bridgend, South Wales. But the initial intention of the ‘marriage’ is to develop WESTPorterbrook campuses in Sheffield and London (offering a full raft of courses), as well as Porterbrook training sites further afield in other parts of the UK, Europe, Asia and the United States.
Porterbrook Learning and Seminary courses will be re-branded under the name WESTPorterbrook and Steve Timmis, Tim Chester and Jonathan Woodrow of Porterbrook will be appointed to the WEST Faculty for September 2013. Steve and Tim are widely read authors both in Britain and the US, with such titles as Total Church and the recently published Unreached: growing churches in working class and socially deprived areas. WEST Porterbrook are pooling resources in order to deliver an entirely new training track for church planters and those already involved in ministry.

Sensing the Spirit
Jonathan Stephen, Principal of WEST, told EN: ‘All of us at WEST have sensed the clear direction of the Holy Spirit. As WEST and Porterbrook became increasingly aware of all we share in doctrine, ethos, vision and true Christian friendship, there seemed almost an inevitability about the process. In fact, at times we have felt like mere spectators as the Lord has opened up the way’.
Porterbrook’s Steve Timmis agrees: ‘These are exciting developments. The prospect of partnering with WEST to further gospelcentred discipleship and church planting around the world is a blessing and opportunity for those of us leading Porterbrook and the 45 Learning Sites globally which will benefit. There’s nothing quite like partnership in mission to give a glimpse of what being God’s people is really all about!’

Expansion
Alongside this major step forward, God has provided for expanding the number of faculty at WEST in other ways too. First, Cornelis Bennema, a Dutchman, currently Head of New Testament at the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies in Bangalore, India, is joining in June this year. Also a new Pastoral Theologian, Phil Hill, a native of Wales, has been appointed for September. At present he is serving among Arab churches in Israel and as Dean of Students at Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary. Both of these appointments add to the sense that the Lord is opening up a worldwide influence for the new WESTPorterbrook alliance.

Valley commandos
But as international horizons open for this new initiative, Wales itself is not being forgotten. WEST is co-ordinating a team which is launching a major new church planting initiative into the needy areas of the Welsh Valleys. Originating in a vision of Dai Hankey, Wales Co-ordinator of Acts 29Europe, the project rejoices in the name of ‘Valley Commandos’. The aim is to place ‘Valley Commandos’ in every valley in South Wales. Jonathan Stephen told EN: ‘It’s time to take back the ground we have lost!’

This article was first published in the February 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.

http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057