Links worth a look!


Enjoy some of the links we thought were worth a look!

Unashamed Workman – Find a good church by finding a faithful pulpit

Kevin DeYoung – ‘How God healed me from my abortion’

Trevin Wax – 4 Things a pastor should consider before engaging social media

9 Marks Online – 5 things all Christians have

The Resurgence – How do you know if you’re called to pastoral ministry?

If you come across something yourselves you think we’d like to share with our readers – let us know. We always love hearing from you.

Prayer fuel: News from around the world


Here are a handful of news-bites from around the world included in the March issue of EN. May these encourage us as well as spur us on to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world facing severe persecution.

Algeria: church growing
The Algerian church is one of the fastest growing in the Muslim world, it was reported in early February.
More than 100 testimonies have been broadcast through SAT-7 and church services are aired several times a week. The Algerian government gave an official licence to the church in 2011, so it can exist and worship freely. Fellowship of European Broadcasters (FEB) 

France: ‘family-phobia’
More than 100,000 people took to the streets of Paris and Lyon on February 9 to protest against the introduction of same-sex ‘marriage’ and proposals to legalise medical procedures that will allow same-sex couples to have children.
President Francois Hollande, who has suffered near-record low poll ratings, has postponed further social reforms, which demonstrators have described as ‘family-phobic’, until after next month’s municipal elections. Christian Concern

Tanzania: slaughter avoided
More than 100 Muslim extremists on Tanzania’s semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar stormed a church, following an evening worship service, on January 11 and beat a visiting preacher.
The mob, including suspected members of Islamic extremist groups, meant to attack the congregation’s senior pastor, Bishop Daniel Kwilemba, who was not present at the church. The men shouted that they wished to slaughter the bishop. Morning Star News

 

For more news and prayer fuel from around the world, subscribe to EN for monthly updates.

Youth leaders column from Dave Fenton: A Barnabas spirit…


We’re all quite good at structure these days.

We have our aims, objectives, values and mission statements and, generally, these have improved the way we do things. There is more training around, particularly in all these fields, but I wonder if our training stretches to, or even includes, the way we deal with people.

How teams operate

I have just returned from two weeks at Wimbledon, acting as a steward (someone has to do it!). That whole operation is done by nearly 300 people all in teams with people in charge of different groups around the grounds. It is fascinating to watch teams operate. Some leaders operate by chasing people up as soon they see them do something they shouldn’t — others operate by encouraging people with helpful advice. There are over 50 mentions of the word ‘encourage’ (or its derivations) in the Scriptures and it is more used in the New Testament than in the Old when the church was in its infancy and plenty of people were making mistakes.

Encouragers

Undoubtedly there are some us who need a word of caution or rebuke but I suspect there are many more who flourish when encouraged. I wonder if you’re’ feeling encouraged in your ministry with young people at the moment. Is there a culture of encouragement in your church — and that does not mean saying ‘you’re great’ when you’re not? Many people doing youth ministry are quite inexperienced and need encouragement in the way they do things. A critical spirit is often a product of insecurity and I keep hearing about people being discouraged by criticism. It can also emerge from jealousy, as a younger leader emerges with an amazing gift which appears to overshadow ‘the boss’. One would hope that would be a matter for great rejoicing, but, sadly, it often isn’t.

It can also emerge from inflexibility. A plan had been devised and nothing can change it — it is cast in stone. But it is obvious to most that it needs changing — the result is tension and criticism. How we work together is vital. Ministry is a team exercise and it works best when each encourages the other and rejoices in the gifts seen in that team. That is the way a team will flourish. I would love Barnabas’s name (Acts 4.36) as part of my epitaph (no plans to demise just yet!). If I could be remembered as one who encouraged others to flourish I would rest easy.

It may need a conscious effort — ‘love has given me great joy and encouragement’ (Philemon 7) — and we may need to evaluate how we build our teams and get them using their gifts in the wonderful patchwork of ministry that weaves together to make an effective team. It may need a change of attitude — it may need a change of leaders’ meeting style, so that meetings encourage rather than deflate. By all means evaluate and shape team members, but do it in a way that builds them up. They should not fear their leader — they should enjoy working under their godly leadership.

 

Dave Fenton – associate minister at Christ Church Winchester and Training Director of Root 66 which runs training courses for youth ministers across the UK. 

This article was first published in the August 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

Anglican update: Where are we now?


This month’s Anglican Update is a significant one – for me, anyway!
For, amazingly, it is now ten years since I started writing this column. But, before you rush to hang out the bunting or indeed to send congratulatory gifts of whisky or cheeses, I thought it would be worth taking a moment to review where we are now – one decade on.
In terms of the Church of England, in some ways little has changed. I could have cut and pasted most of the first column I wrote for EN in 2004 and reproduced it now – and probably few would notice, except, I am sure, the editor!

Ten years ago
In that edition I wrote: ‘At its heart, the battle over homosexuality is a battle between those who continue to believe, as Christians generally have, that because of humanity’s sinfulness and limited capacities, God must reveal himself to us – ultimately through the Word of God both written and incarnate – and those… who apparently believe that the Christian faith is primarily a matter of human cultural construct’. To all this we might say – plus ça change!
And what of Anglican evangelicals? Sadly it is fair to say that among those who claim the label ‘evangelical’ in the Church of England there has rarely been less harmony and understanding. The future of the Church of England Evangelical Council seems unclear. Different groupings – representing open evangelicals, conservative evangelicals and charismatic evangelicals – seem to regard one another with suspicion, sometimes hostility and often mutual incomprehension. Are we saddened by this?

Conservative evangelicals
When it comes to conservative evangelicalism specifically, my observation – for what it’s worth – is that in terms of doctrine it is strong, but in terms of devotion sometimes rather weak. Some of today’s conservative evangelicalism is a reaction against the evangelical pietism and charismatic excesses of earlier generations. But I often wonder whether, in seeking a better balance, some conservative evangelicals have become so suspicious of experience, so distrusting of emotion, so wedded to one particular way of preaching, and so committed to doctrinal purity that what we sometimes have is more akin to an ideology than a fully-rounded Christian life.
Such problems are not new, perhaps. Bishop J.C. Ryle wrote in 1879: ‘Cease to regard the gospel as a mere set of abstract propositions… Look at it as the introduction to a glorious personal Friend. This is the kind of gospel that the apostles preached. They did not go about the world telling men of love and mercy and pardon in the abstract. The leading subject of all their sermons was the loving heart of an actual living Christ!’
And J.I. Packer wrote in Themelios magazine in 1996: ‘The great Puritans were as humble-minded and warm-hearted as they were clear-headed, as fully-orientated to people as they were to Scripture, and as passionate for peace as they were for truth. They would certainly have diagnosed today’s fixated Christian intellectualists as spiritually-stunted, not in their zeal for the form of sound words but in their lack of zeal for anything else’.
As for me, I’m with the Puritan Thomas Goodwin who wrote: ‘I never yet took up party religion in the lump… I have found gospel holiness where you would little think it to be, and so likewise truth. And I have learned this principle, which I hope I shall never lay down till I am swallowed up of immortality, and that is, to acknowledge every truth and every goodness wherever I find it’.
Now you may hang out the bunting and send me whisky and cheese! Glory be to God.

David Baker
Rector of the churches of East Dean with Friston and Jevington, East Sussex

 

This article was first published in the March 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

Prayer fuel: News in the UK


Here are a handful of news-bites from around the UK included in the March issue of EN. May these spur us on to pray for our country and issues we all are facing.

Insulting end
On February 1 the word insult was removed from Section 5 of the Public Order Act after the successful campaign by the coalition of groups, ‘Insult me’.
The Home Office had been working with the police to prepare them for the change, where the word and its wide interpretation in law had led to arrests of people for calling Scientology a cult, or for religious discussion between a Muslim and a Christian.
The Christian Institute

Pass it on
The Bible Society is launching ‘Pass it On’, a campaign which will urge parents to read, listen to or watch Bible stories with their children, it was reported in late January.
Organisers are talking with children’s authors to release print adaptations of biblical stories. New apps for iPads and android tablet devices are also understood to be in the works. A ComRes survey revealed that 12% of Londoners think Santa Claus is in the Bible. The Christian Institute

Mary Jones world
Work has begun to turn a deconsecrated church in Bala, North Wales into a new £1 million visitor centre telling the story of the woman who saved for six years to buy a Bible and walked 25 miles to collect it from Thomas Charles.
The new centre will tell their story and give visitors the chance to learn about the Bible’s impact in Wales and the rest of the world. Bible Society’s Newswatch

 

For more news and prayer fuel from around the UK, subscribe to EN for monthly updates.

Editors commentary: God and the storms?


‘What do you think?‘ she asked me.

Someone in our congregation had been asked on Facebook about the accusation, which hit the headlines recently, that the heavy storms across Britain were God’s judgment for the government’s legalisation of gay marriage.
The question put me on the spot. My response was to say that as a nation we are guilty before God of all kinds of sins and already under his judgment. Whether or not the floods were related to that matter specifically was beyond my wisdom.

Atmospheric theology
But the question was a fair one. The Bible would encourage us to take God’s control of the weather very seriously. Though the original world was very good, the creation is under a curse because of mankind’s sin (Romans 8.19-23).
More specifically, Psalm 148.8 declares that the storms ‘do his bidding’. We see just that from Noah’s flood in Genesis, through the weather conditions of the plagues of Egypt, to the story of Jonah; right through to some of the visions of judgment in Revelation. At the same time both the OT and the NT tell us that good weather, especially for the growing of crops, is in the hands of God (Deuteronomy 11.13-15; 1 Kings 11.35-36; Matthew 5.45; Acts 14.17). Jesus commands the winds and the waves (Mark 4.41). We can’t duck the issue.

Defending God?
Some Christians would like to somehow distance God from natural disasters. I was sent a manuscript recently, from someone who had experienced the suffering of many Christian folk in Haiti, which pursued this line. I sympathised with where the author was coming from, but, in all honesty, the Bible does not dally with that kind of theodicy. It declares him to be sovereign, even over terrible disasters. Severe weather killed Job’s sheep and shepherds and all his ten children. His worshipful response includes the well known words: ‘The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away’.
‘But surely’, another point of view would say, ‘these storms are down to climate change, which is man’s fault rather than God’s.’ Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Past President of Chicago Theological Seminary, has stated in The Washington Post that ‘superstorms aren’t an act of God’, but the result of the ‘moral evil’ of continuing to pump fossil fuel emissions into the atmosphere, producing global warming.
But this either/or approach tends to be a little naïve. Often Scripture shows us God’s acts being worked out through human choices, both for good (Philippians 2.12, 13) and evil (Romans 1.24, etc.). The climate change approach may be true and, at the same time, the storms still acts of God.

The gospel
It is a fact that moving away from our Christian roots does seem to have been paralleled by steep decline in the nation. The financial collapse of 2008 has left us with very little money to play with even to address the devastation brought about by the storms; thus, it seems, the catastrophic delays in government help. And all this just as George Osborne was trumpeting the upturn in the economy.
But despite the gloom, under the radar of the media’s gaze – fixed forever on the confusion of Anglicanism and the continuing scandals of Roman Catholicism – ordinary local churches, faithful to the Bible, are slowly making headway as they hold out the gospel.
Our nation is indeed under God’s judgment, but, as I speak to Christians in churches across the country, it is evident that simultaneously many people are being saved. Don’t despair. Job met God in the storm.

John Benton

This article was first published in the March 2014 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

Links worth a look!


Enjoy some of the links we thought were worth a look!

Above Every Name – It starts with the heart

Between Two Worlds – 8 Strategies to increase your reading

Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood – Gaming, greatness and the perfect day

The Good Book – I’ve got a friend who struggles with… gossip

Out Of the Ordinary – Conceit and keeping in step with the Spirit

If you come across something yourselves you think we’d like to share with our readers – let us know. We always love hearing from you.