Algeria: God has raised up His church


photo: iStock

 

‘God is enlarging our dream.’

Best Bible-reading plan!


photo: iStock

photo: iStock

 

There can be no daily habit more beneficial to the soul that to read the words of the living God…

Home service by Tim Thornborough: Sweating the hard stuff


photo: iStock

photo: iStock

We got around to 1 Timothy 2.8–15 at home group recently.

It was an educating experience for me as a leader. The passage has been a heated battleground for alternative interpretations over the last 30 years, so I was interested to discover how influenced my group members have been by these views, when our church’s preaching and practice has been uncompromisingly complementarian – women and men are equal, but have different roles.

Paul’s text says: ‘I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness – with good works. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.’

Confusing discussion

We had a great time talking about how men should pray, not fight. We had a good discussion about the particular issues the women in the group faced on the clothing v godliness issue. I spent a long time on these two questions, secretly hoping that the discussion over verses 11–15 would be squeezed a little shorter….(to read more click here)

Tim Thornborough is the Creative Director at the Good Book Company.

This article was first published in the October 2015 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, articles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to en for monthly updates.

The Syding Adventures 2 (book review)


Prize for our childrenTHE SYDING ADVENTURES 2:
Pirates and Prisoners
By Mary Weeks Millard
Day One. 108 pages. £6.00
ISBN 978 1 846 253 652

(view original article here)

This book is the second in a series of seven that are planned for future publication.

It is good, easy reading for young people (9yrs–13yrs) with short chapters and a wide vocabulary. The setting will be familiar and the attitudes of the adults are full of common sense!

Power of prayer

Mary Weeks Millard has been gifted to write good children’s books that are both exciting and full of gospel truth. The blurb says that she enjoys writing books to encourage young people to grow in the Christian faith and she achieves that in a way that cannot fail to impress her readers. Pirates and Prisoners focuses on the power of prayer.

This book will make an acceptable Sunday school prize or a good stocking filler at Christmas. We look forward to the rest of the series being published and also reading the author’s other books.

Val Maidstone, pastor’s wife from Dorking

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

Does it matter where you live?… and some other great links


Links Worth A LookHere’s a handful of links we thought were worth a look this week. Enjoy!

Thom Rainer – In this weeks ‘Notable Voices’ post he addresses topics such as Church Announcements, Email (I found this one particularly helpful!), Childrens Pastors, Church Plants, Introverts and Church Communications

Paul David Tripp – The Bible Has Power

Desiring Virtue – Women of the Word (book review)

Gospel Partnerships – How significant is your postal address? Does it matter where you live?

Off The Whale Productions – an outtakes video from the creators of the en advert

Richard Dawkins leading people to Jesus?… and some other great links


Links Worth A LookEnjoy the following links we thought were worth a look!

Sixty Guilders – Improving our Bible Studies

9 Marks – A short audio on Particular Redemption with John Piper & Bruce Ware

A Faith to Live By – Is Richard Dawkins leading people to Jesus?

Albert Mohler – God, the Gospel and the Gay Challenge (and a free eBook by Albert Mohler in response to Matthew Vines)

Girltalk Conversations – Carolyn Mahaney takes a look at how mums can deal with the distractions of social media

Buddhist Priest Meets Jesus (book extract)


Buddhist Priest Meets Jesus_1Matsuoka was born a son of a Japanese Tendai Buddhist priest in 1962.

The temple was in Yanaka, in the Taitoh ward of Tokyo. As a second son it wasn’t his duty to become a Buddhist priest.

Purpose of life?

However, when he took his university entrance exams he started questioning, ‘Why am I alive? What’s the purpose of living?’ Matsuoka says: ‘Until I found the answers I knew there would be nothing to life but a feeling of futility’. He tried reading books on philosophy but found he couldn’t understand them. He decided to take the path to priesthood and enter the Buddhist Department of Taishoh University. But there he found no one with whom he could share heart-to-heart and talk about his questions.

During his second year at university his father suddenly died of cancer. Just at that time his elder brother finished his university course and became a chief priest.

Matsuoka delved deeper into Buddhism and tried its ascetic exercises, such as reciting the names of Buddha 3,000 times while throwing your body to the ground. ‘You soon pass the level of muscular pain’, says Matsuoka, ‘your mind goes blank and you no longer know what you are doing.’ But the more he tried these exercises and the more he studied, the more disillusioned he became. Large doubts emerged about the authority of the sutras, which were believed to be the words of the Buddha (Gautama). After four years of study he felt he still had no idea about the meaning of life. But, nevertheless, he decided to stay on as a postgraduate.

A dream

At this time he had a strange experience. One day he and other postgraduate colleagues ordered a Chinese take-away. He says; ‘I was setting the table with the person who delivered the meal. He accidentally dropped a spring-roll on the floor but, perhaps thinking he hadn’t been seen, he quickly picked it up and put it back on the plate. I had seen what had happened, but felt sorry for him… The meal began. …I didn’t want to see anyone else eat it… Finally I decided the best thing to do was to eat it myself and that is what I did. After this, for some reason, the thought came to me, “Surely God is pleased”. Even now I don’t know why the word “God” came into my mind’.

That night Matsuoka had a dream. He was in the middle of a cloud. After a while, the central area parted and a cross arose out of it. It was beautiful. ‘The moment I saw this’, he says, ‘I had a great sense of “Ah, I’ve seen God.”’ He woke up because of the shock. He couldn’t get the dream out of his mind.

Christmas in Korea

Japanese Buddhism is considered perhaps the most advanced in the world. But Buddhism had first come to Japan from Korea. This led Matsuoka to decide to go and spend time as an exchange student at the Dong-Guk Buddhist University in Seoul, South Korea. It was just before the Seoul Olympics of 1988 and Korea was buzzing with expectation. However, in the midst of all the fun he gradually grew weary. His sense of futility remained as before. But just before Christmas he received an unexpected invitation. A Japanese student he was studying with at the Korean language school asked him to go with him to a Christmas meeting at a church. He wasn’t a Christian but had been invited by a Christian friend. ‘I’d never felt that I wanted to go to a church, but with Christmas drawing near every church was lit up. I felt moved to go along’, Matsuoka says.

He was shown into an ordinary house that had been remodelled as a church. His Korean was not good, so he couldn’t understand the message but he sat and watched. He says: ‘As I looked around I saw on the wall some large Korean letters. I read, “Rejoice. The ‘Kuju’ has come.”’ He couldn’t understand ‘Kuju.’ He asked and a young woman explained enthusiastically, ‘That’s the Saviour, Jesus.’ After some persuading from this young woman, Matsuoka agreed to come to church again the following Sunday.

Lunch and Bible Class

After the service the following week he was invited to stay for lunch. A deacon of the church, Mr. Jung, came and sat with him and from that conversation Matsuoka began attending a Bible class for young people. He felt it would kill two birds with one stone, getting to understand the Bible and improving his ability in the Korean language. Mr. Jung began inviting him to his home for a meal and he and his wife showed great hospitality. Matsuoka was often at their house two or three times a week. ‘For an overseas student living alone and starved of family life these times were more joyful than anything else’, he says.

He found he enjoyed Bible study. In the first study of Genesis he understood that God had created a world of wonderful order and goodness. ‘I found this teaching staggering’, says Matsuoka. ‘Buddhism teaches that the world is vain and empty and without substance, but the Bible was completely the opposite. I felt I’d caught a glimpse of a new world.’ The pastor of the church also guided him gently saying nothing critical of Buddhism but continually praying for him.

Matsuoka writes: ‘My study of the Bible went smoothly at first, but before long I found myself hitting a wall. I learned that the Bible says we are all sinners, but the wordtsumbito translated into Japanese is “criminal”, and I could not see myself in that way. Until this point in my life I’d put all my efforts into doing my best’. He knew he wasn’t perfect but he couldn’t see himself as a sinner. So, even when he heard that Jesus Christ hung on the cross for sins, ‘it seemed like a fairy tale with no relevance to me’.

A letter and a telephone call

He decided to write a letter to Mr. Jung to finish everything. He went to the post office and sent it express mail. But the minute he got back to his flat the telephone was ringing and it was Mr. Jung asking him to come to Bible study. He felt he couldn’t say no. The study was on repentance. But since Matsuoka felt he wasn’t a sinner he had nothing to say. He went again to Mr. Jung’s house on Saturday. There was no mention of the letter. He stayed to sleep overnight into Sunday and tried to think of something to write about repentance. Nothing would come. Soon it would be breakfast. Then it occurred to him, ‘If I truly repented what would I say? God, forgive me. I am a sinner’. As he wrote this on paper strangely, one after another, words of repentance came flooding out!

Buddhist Priest Meets Jesus_2

Unstoppable

Matsuoka says: ‘After the morning service it was time for afternoon meeting for young people to give feed-back on the studies. I stood at a small stand in front of the pulpit and opened my notes. At first I just read out routinely. I don’t think it sounded very interesting… Then I began to read the lines I’d written about repentance. “God please forgive me. I’m a sinner…” And then it happened. Suddenly the tears overflowed and I began to cry loudly. At the same time all my strength seemed to leave me… Even I was amazed and couldn’t stop the tears coming… When I finally finished reading I was filled with great joy, something I had never tasted before. I was embraced with an amazing sensation that God existed. Even if everyone else denied the existence of God, I could still insist that God existed… And at that moment, the truth I had been seeking for so long, the meaning of life, became clear.’ The date was March 10 1990.

The letter arrived some days later. Mr. Jung graciously said that he imagined Matsuoka wanted to forget about it. He certainly did!

Matsuoka is now married and ordained in Christian ministry, and serves the Lord in Japan.

This article is an edited extract from Buddhist Priest Meets Jesus by Hirokazu Matsuoka, translated by Roger Stevens, and is printed with permission. It is available from Loxwood Press (62 pages, ISBN 978 1 908 113 061, £7.95 plus p&p). To order, call 01903 232208 or email donald.banks2@tiscali.co.uk (bulk order discounts available for Christian organisations).

 

 

This article was first published in the December 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

A church steaming ahead


Ask a passer-by what they associate with Southampton, and, if the answer is nothing to do with a football team, it might well be one of its two most famous ships. The ship of doom — the Titanic. And the ship of hope — the Mayflower. Both set sail from Southampton Docks. But while one led to the death of thousands, the other led ultimately to a new life in a new world for millions.

Those who for years prayed for and laboured towards the launch of Christ Church Southampton hoped that God would give the church a fair wind and enable it to chart a steady course. They never dreamed that — on a simple diet of no-frills Bible-study and preaching — it would become one of the fastest growing churches in the country.

Just over a year

And yet, in just over a year since that group of pray-ers and labourers welcomed their first pastor last June, a stream of men and women of all ages have given their lives to Christ, large numbers of university students have flocked in to Bible study groups, and dozens have got involved in one-to-one discipleship relationships. In the same period, church attendance at Christ Church on a typical Sunday has more than quadrupled.

‘It’s been absolutely exhausting — but exhilarating too!’ said Orlando Saer, who moved down with his family to lead the church plant last year. ‘We just didn’t, in our wildest dreams, expect the work to take off like this. God is clearly doing something very significant here and we feel a great sense of responsibility not to get in his way!’

Half students

Christ Church is a young church, in every sense. Around half of its Sunday morning congregation are students, and — given the location of the Sunday morning venue, initially in a primary school hall, and more recently a secondary school hall, both on the doorstep of Southampton University — the student ministry has been an obvious focus from the start.

‘Most of the students will have just 90 weeks with us’, said Orlando. ‘And we want to make sure every one of them counts. We want to see every student grow every week in their love of Jesus, their understanding of the Bible, their desire to reach the lost and their ability to serve the body of the church.’

Connect groups

Instead of an evening service, the majority of the church’s ‘Connect Groups’ (Bible-oriented small groups) meet on a Sunday night, for a meal and then Bible study and prayer. This includes the network of five groups for undergraduates (‘Student Connect’), the 20s group (‘Cross Connections’) and the groups for international students (‘iConnect’).

And that ethos of serious Bible study has stretched into the one-to-one discipleship students are offered, as well as into what proved for many to be the highpoint of the year — MYC (‘Mid-Year Conference’), the church’s weekend away for students and 20s.

But Christ Church has not aimed to be just a ‘hothouse’ for maturing disciples. The culture is one of serious and prayerful concern to bring people into the kingdom. So of the 13 small groups that were meeting by the time people dispersed for summer holidays, three of them were devoted primarily to helping unbelievers understand and respond to the Christian faith.

That gospel-shaped culture has found its way into the families work too. As well as partnering with Christian parents in seeing their children grow up loving God’s word, there’s a real desire to reach out to local families, so there’s been flyering of the neighbourhood, a Christmas children’s party and a summer holiday club to provide a focus to this families outreach, with a Parents and Toddlers group kicking off this autumn for the same purpose.

‘It was tempting to wait until we had a decent, established children’s work before launching these ministries’, said Amanda Lansdowne, Director of Children’s Ministries at CCS. ‘But we realised that time might never come unless we saw families come to faith. So we prayed… and we got to work!’

Problems of growth

The year has not been without its hiccoughs. There have been choppy waters. Problems of growth are nice problems, but they’re still problems requiring solutions.

One of these has been how to retain a common heart and mind within the church family at a time of such rapid growth. A key element in addressing this need has been the development of the ‘The Christ Church Partnership Course’. Initially aimed at the church core, but subsequently offered to all those who join the church, the course takes ten weeks and covers key doctrines, church ethos, practical ministry skills and a look at how the Bible fits together.

‘The idea is to make sure we’re all singing from the same songsheet — and, if we find we’re not, to realise this sooner rather than later’, says Orlando. ‘If we’re going to be “contending together as one man for the faith of the gospel”, we need to check that we all share common gospel convictions.’

Practical issues

‘We’ve spent an awful lot of time this first year thinking and praying about where to go to accommodate new and growing ministries, wrestling with how to fund these ministries when we still have so few wage-earners in the church, pondering who could possibly lead this or that new group, and so on’, said Orlando. ‘But somehow we’ve got through this first year intact. We’ve got an army of prayer-partners around the country, faithfully committing the work here to God, as well as a culture of serious prayer within the church family, so we shouldn’t be surprised that God’s seen us through!’

Philip and Nathaniel

‘As we look to our second year, we long to have even more Philip-and-Nathaniel stories to tell. John 1 tells us about an enthusiastic Philip inviting an incredulous Nathaniel to discover Jesus for himself: “Come and see”.

‘That’s my prayer for the year ahead: that we’d be a church of Philips, dazzled by Jesus ourselves and longing for those around us to find what we’ve found in him.’

Christ Church Southampton meets at 10.30 am each Sunday at Cantell School, Violet Road, Southampton SO16 3GJ. To find out more, call 023 8067 7672 or visithttp://www.christchurchsouthampton.org.uk

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 0057B