How well do you know the Shepherds in the Bible… and some other great links.

Links Worth A Look

Enjoy the following links!

Christmas Carol Radio – An online radio station playing nothing but Christmas Carols (featured in the December issue of en)

9 Marks – How to survive a cultural chrisis

The Good Book Company – Friday Quiz – Shepherds…

Eric Geiger – Links for leaders

The Gospel Coalition – 4 dangers for complementarians

For monthly news updates and other feature articles subscribe to en online

Prayer fuel: News in the UK

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

Christians = terrorists?

Pro-marriage and pro-life Christians have been listed next to terrorists by a group of secularists and atheists in a manifesto calling for the establishment of an ‘international front against the religious-right and for secularism’, launched in mid-October.
Signed by homosexual-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, the National Secular Society’s president Terry Sanderson and prominent atheist A C Grayling, concerns have been raised that genuine concern about murderous terrorists is being hijacked to attack evangelical Christians. The Christian Institute

NI: against exploitation

The Northern Ireland Assembly voted in mid-October to criminalise paying for sex, and voted to support the introduction of statutory child trafficking guardians alongside statutory victim support.
In voting for these provisions Northern Ireland now leads the way in having the very best anti-trafficking and exploitation legislation in the UK. CARE

The Prince & persecution

Muslim leaders have a duty to warn their own followers about the ‘indescribable tragedy’ of the persecution of Christians around the world, Prince Charles insisted in November.
He said that faith leaders must not remain silent. His comments coincided with the publication of a new report which concludes that Christians are the ‘most persecuted religious minority’ in the world and that Muslim countries dominate the list of places where religious freedom is most under threat. The Daily Telegraph

For more news and prayer fuel from around the UK, visit our website or subscribe to en for monthly updates.

A Constant Gardener by Pastor Anonymous: Deep rest for deep ministry

Constant Gardener Trowel

(view original article here)

No pastor wants to ask for a sabbatical.

Sabbaticals are seen by too many as the refuge of the lazy, the weak and the workshy.

If a Christian minister is to leave his post for a period of time, he may think it confirms his church’s suspicions that he’s a sponger, exploiting his congregation’s goodwill.

I for one know very few lazy evangelical pastors. I know dozens who are worn-out, overwhelmed and therefore ineffective in their calling.

These men need a sabbatical, and they and their churches need to understand what that involves, and why it can be such a blessing.

Pastors need sabbaticals

Ministry is exhausting. If you are properly preparing and declaring God’s Word week in week out, it will exhaust you. If you are caring for people, really bearing their burdens, weeping with them as they weep, it will take its toll. If you are making yourself the servant of peoples’ deepest spiritual needs, you will pay the price. Sabbaticals are not luxuries; for most proper ministries they are essentials if the worker and the work will flourish long-term.

What is a sabbatical?

I see it as an extended time of paid leave, when the pastor has no responsibilities in the church he is serving. A month is a minimum, six months is certainly a long time in UK circles, three months is a good length. Ideally, the pastor (and his family) should aim to be away from the home and church for at least some of that agreed-upon time.

What should you do on one?

The answer is, whatever you need in order to get refreshed. Lie on a beach, if that’s your thing; do a course of study, whether that’s your own planned reading, or a seminary module; write an article, or a book; learn an instrument; go and be part of and study another congregation or ministry. Just work out what will refresh and encourage you for the next leg of ministry, and make your arrangements.

Arrangements are complicated.

If you are married, or have school-age kids, then you must think and talk these things through. How will your wife and the children benefit? Three months being dragged off after husband’s / dad’s pet ambitions is a recipe for family strain.

Talk, plan, pray, prepare. And don’t attempt too much. This is to be a rest, after all. The last thing you need on sabbatical is to feel frustrated at how little you accomplish – you’ve got ministry for that! Set realistic goals which don’t over-exert.

Arrangements for the church need time to put in place. The church needs to understand what the sabbatical is, why you’re seeking one, and what the implications are for the church’s life. This needs a series of leadership-level conversations held a minimum of six months before the proposed sabbatical. Pastors, expect the church to be surprised at the request and probably daunted by the implications. Take time to answer all questions from your fellow leaders and church members. At the end of the day your sabbatical must be something they’re enthusiastic about, too.

Never apologise for seeking a sabbatical, if you’re convinced you need one. And remember, it’s common in the secular workplace for employees to have courses, opportunities for exploring other work-experiences, or managed career-breaks. Asking for a relatively modest time away from the burden of ministry is not an outrageous request. It can also do the world of good to a church. The pastor is not the church’s Saviour, simply his servant. It can – and should – do without its Undershepherd for a season every now and then.

Policy in place?

Does your church have a policy of sabbaticals for your pastor? Have you discussed a sabbatical with him? And if not, why not? You and he could be missing out on a highly enriching experience.


Pastor Anonymous is in full-time pastoral ministry somewhere in the UK.

This article was first published in the September 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to en for monthly updates.

Anglican update: Locating Lambeth?

Anglican Update

(view online version here)

Transition of leadership is always a testing time for organisations.

This is certainly true for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), which came into being in 2009. Following the consecration to the office of bishop of a man who was in a samesex relationship, those who could not accept this within a Christian church formed a new church, faithful to Anglican teaching. It was recognised by the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GAFCON), which first met in 2008 in Jerusalem.

Not a proper Anglican

Their first archbishop, the Most Revd Robert Duncan, had been Bishop of Pittsburgh in The Episcopal Church (of the United States of America) prior to ACNA’s split from The Episcopal Church (TEC) and so was already a fully ‘recognised’ Anglican bishop. His elected successor, the Most Revd Dr Foley Beach, was not a bishop in TEC or anywhere else. So some could argue that he was not a proper Anglican bishop.

Archbishop Welby’s advisers appear to have taken such a view. Only days before Archbishop Beach’s investiture on 9 October the Church of Ireland Gazette published an interview with Archbishop Welby.

Welby pulls plug

In 2010 the Church of England General Synod had recognised and affirmed the desire of those who formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family. Since ACNA is not yet a member in the formal list of the churches of the Anglican Communion, the Synod agreed to explore what relationship ACNA might have with the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.

The smoke signals were thought to be favourable. But it appeared that Archbishop Welby held that ACNA was an ‘ecumenical’ partner and therefore closed the explorations. Some suggest that Archbishop Welby was misquoted and that there is more to say. ACNA was so ‘upset’ about this that Archbishop Welby’s letter of ‘greeting’ to Archbishop Beach was left unread at his investiture.

Instead Bishop Greg Venables, former primate of the Southern Cone of Latin America brought warm greetings from the Pope. ‘He wrote to me just a few days ago and said when you go to the United States please, in my name, give my personal congratulations and greetings to Archbishop Foley.

‘Assure him of my prayers and support at this moment and in the future as he leads the Church at this very important moment of revival and mission’.

This is, of course a greeting to an ecumenical partner and one of the ‘separated brethren’. Archbishop Welby’s view appears to be much the same. His statement may have been determined by lawyers for whom the question is whether ACNA clergy and bishops are ‘proper’ Anglican clergy.

Archbishop or Confession

To emphasise the point made in the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration that Anglican identity does not depend on recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury – but is rather a matter of biblically faithful confession – seven primates of the Anglican Communion (Kenya – chairman of GAFCON Primates Council, Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda Jerusalem and the Middle East – chairman of the Anglican Global South network, Myanmar, and Southern Cone) present at the service received Archbishop Beach ‘ as a fellow primate of the Anglican Communion’.

Following the installation, these primates issued this statement: ‘We, the undersigned primates, were honoured to participate in the joyful investiture of the Most Revd Dr Foley Beach as Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in North America, and to receive him as a fellow primate of the Anglican Communion … the heart of our calling is to share the transforming love of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. We celebrate that the Anglican Church in North America shares in that same mission and purpose. We and our Provinces will continue to share in gospel work together, and pledge our continued partnership with the Anglican Church in North America to pursue the work of Christ’.

Prebendary Charles Marnham, rector of St Michael’s Chester Square, London said at the investiture: ‘ACNA should be in no doubt that you have many friends in the Church of England who admire and respect your costly, courageous and principled stand in recent years’.

Archbishop’s real view

What is the real view of Archbishop Welby? He strongly affirms his opposition to same sex marriage. ACNA has stood for this Anglican teaching, in the USA, often at great cost to their clergy and to the loss of their church buildings. Yet institutionally Lambeth seems unwilling to recognise them as a Church which is a member of the Anglican Communion.

What might lie behind Justin Welby’s apparent uncertainty about ACNA? Membership of the Anglican Communion is not an administrative issue but a confessional one. The bodies that can make such a decision are the Lambeth Conference, or the Primates Council on its behalf. Due to the disfunctionality of both the Lambeth Conference (not being held in 2018) and the Primates Council, the Archbishop of Canterbury is the only current functioning locus of the Anglican Communion. He is trying to make it more collaborative by consulting personally with all the primates and until that is done he will not take these confessional decisions.

Right route

Vinay Samuel writes: ‘The GAFCON primates, as the only visible group at the moment, are following the right route in taking that decision. But more than ad hoc recognition is needed. The Anglican Communion Primates Council needs to be properly constituted so that such decisions can be made. The question is whether the Anglican Communion Primates Council can meet any time soon’.

 Chris Sugden

This article was first published in the December 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to en for monthly updates

Prayer fuel: News from around the world

Prayer FuelHere are a handful of news-bites from around the world included in the December 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.

North Korea: investigation

A UN report has called in late October for North Korea to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The report concluded that ‘a number of long-standing and ongoing patterns of systematic and widespread violations [meet] the high threshold required for crimes against humanity in international law’ and that these crimes ‘clearly merit a criminal investigation’. The report found that ‘grave human rights violations and crimes against humanity are ingrained in the institutional framework’ of North Korea. Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Thailand: wise proverbs

A new multi-media project has been launched in Thailand, it was reported in mid-October.
The Proverbs Project from Voice of Peace is designed to introduce modern, educated Buddhists in Thailand to the gospel. It consists of a book with 52 chapters, 52 radio and television programmes, a correspondence course, social and mobile media. In Thailand proverbs are used for teaching children and youth so it is therefore ideal as an entry point for presenting the gospel to the Thai people. Fellowship of European Broadcasters (FEB)

USA: ironic equality

It was reported in late October that Christian groups at California State University have been stripped of recognition because they refused to sign a policy which would require them to open their membership and leadership to all students, including non-Christians.
Groups that do not sign the new policy lose free access to meeting rooms, are barred from student fairs and cannot receive funding from student associations. The move has been heavily criticised by members of a nationwide campus ministry. The Christian Institute

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

Editors commentary: A different race


(view original article here)

I was visiting an older couple who had come along to one or two church events.

They told me a little of their own life in business and their travels. I can’t quite remember how the conversation turned, but suddenly the wife said something which took me aback but was very heartening. ‘The people at your church’ she said, ‘are like a different race – they are all so kind’. I quickly assured them it was the Lord’s church, not mine, and that despite God’s goodness to us we are far from perfect. But here a couple of outsiders had sensed something wonderful among us and as soon as I was able I related this comment to the church for folk’s encouragement.

Holiday at home

Where did this comment originate? This couple had first come along to a three-day ‘Holiday at Home’ hosted in the church during the summer. They had been thrilled by the fun and the love they had enjoyed. In particular they had been struck by the fact that during the school holidays many of our teenagers had been happy to get involved with older people and serve as waiters and waitresses. This had affected this couple so much that at the close of things, with tears in his eyes, the husband had got up and said how much they had both enjoyed themselves and that the way our society is going he had come to think that such young people had ceased to exist – but here they were. ‘I don’t understand why you do it’ he said, but then, probably with the short lunchtime messages he had heard about God’s love in mind, he concluded, ‘but perhaps I think I do’.

Hearing these comments about loving Christians seeming like a new breed of human beings, we are reminded of our new birth and Peter’s words: ‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation… Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God’ (1 Peter 2.9,10). And even hardened atheists and agnostics sometimes have to admit that there is something different about God’s people when they encounter Christian love.

George Eliot

In her Scenes of Clerical Life, the great doubter George Eliot grudgingly highlights this, concerning evangelicalism: ‘No man can begin to mould himself on a faith or an idea without rising to a higher order of experience: a principle of subordination, of self-mastery, has been introduced into his nature; he is no longer a mere bundle of impressions, desires and impulses. Whatever might be the weaknesses of the ladies who pruned the luxuriance of their lace and ribbons, cut out garments for the poor, distributed tracts, quoted Scripture, and defined the true gospel, they had learned this – that there was a divine work to be done in life, a rule of goodness higher than the opinion of their neighbours… that fitness for heaven consisted in purity of heart, in Christ-like compassion, in the subduing of selfish desires… Miss Rebecca Linnet, in quiet attire, with a somewhat excessive solemnity of countenance, teaching at the Sunday-school, visiting the poor, and striving after a standard of purity and goodness, had surely more moral loveliness than in those flaunting peony-days, when she had no other model than the costumes of the heroines in the circulating library’.

Often, so aware of the sins with which we battle and the missed marks which attend our lives, Christians can fail to appreciate who we really are by God’s grace. And sometimes outsiders can perceive more clearly than ourselves our true identity.

John Benton

Last month’s commentary mentioned the editor’s poorly mother. She went to be with Lord, peacefully, on 7 November.

This article was first published in the December 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit our website or subscribe to en for monthly updates

The heart behind Sainsbury’s Christmas ad… and some other great links.

Links Worth A Look

Enjoy the following links!

Desiring God – Risk is right, says Ebola survivor & missionary Nancy Writebol

CBMW – Wanted: Parents willing to get too attached

Tim Challies – Another practical useful post in the ‘How to get things done’ series – this one is on maintaining the system

Eric Geiger – The heart behind the Sainsbury’s Christmas ad

Gospel Partnerships – Union with Christ (part 1)

For monthly news updates and other feature articles subscribe to en online