Thursday, 27 June 2013

News

Hello!

So I haven't posted here for a long time, and here's one of the reasons:
















That's right. I've been slightly pre-occupied over the last year with, firstly, an increasingly pregnant wife and latterly, an incredibly lovely baby girl.

Carys Joy Lowe was born on 4th April 2013, weighing in at 7 lbs 7 oz. Lis and I are very blessed to have such a wonderful, special daughter to love and nurture.

Other developments during the blogging hiatus include:

- Being appointed as an elder of Hope Church, Shrewsbury. Earlier this month I was recognised as an elder of our church along with two other great guys. There is now a leadership team of four elders and one other pastor, which is encouraging, especially as we're a small church.

- Changes at Shrewsbury Youth for Christ. After a period of months where I was the only employee of the charity, we now have a director again! Hannah arrived in March and is leading us into a new phase where we'll be starting some great new projects. I'll be running a gospel choir from September, which is going to be ace.

- Finishing my degree! I started with the Open University in September 2008, so it's been almost five years of studying, and the last two have been pretty intense. But now it's all over. Whew! I had my final exam this month and it was a suitably challenging climax to a long and rewarding journey. Results due later this summer.

As for the blog, maybe I'll start writing again...

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Things that encourage me about evangelism: History

Tomorrow morning I'll be heading off to the Newfrontiers youth camp 'Newday' with some young guys from Hope Church. There will be several thousand people meeting together to worship, receive and serve. Big conferences are always encouraging, sometimes just because they are so big. Worshipping God with a few thousand brothers and sisters is a wonderful feeling - and it reminds me that the Church is by no means a small group of people (even in the UK!)


Which brings me to my third encouraging point: history tells a story of consistent successful evangelism. It's fairly staggering to think how Christianity has grown from a tiny maligned so-called 'sect' into such a phenomenally large family. I might be saddened at the thought that less than 10% of my country are regular church-goers, but there once was a time where the figure was more like 0%.

Waves of revival have swept the UK in the past, why not today?
The church is spreading rapidly in China, why not here?

We have the same Spirit, and the same gospel. Anything could happen.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Things that encourage me about evangelism: Stories

Of all the things that get me motivated to talk about Jesus, one of the most effective is hearing other people's stories of what's happened when they have. If accounts from the book of Acts seem a little distant, hearing about what happened to Bob last week has a more immediate impact.

Real life, personal stories have a lot of power. I've started keeping a private journal of noteworthy happenings at s-yfc, which is a helpful focusing tool.

The conversations with Christians I enjoy most are the ones where we talk about what God has done, and is doing in our lives and the lives of those around us. We often ask our friends "what are you up to?" but isn't it more exciting to ask "what is God up to?" The answers can be really encouraging.

So if you've got stories of witnessing going well, please share them.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Things that encourage me about evangelism: Jesus said...

Without giving you an exact figure, I can tell you that the list of "things that encourage me about evangelism" turned out to be longer than I was expecting. The difficulty comes in deciding where to start. I think it's fairly reasonable to begin with some things that Jesus said. So here we go:

"Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." (Luke 10:19-20)




“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

“This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:9-10)

If we fall into the trap of seeing evangelism as something we have to do, something that is awkward, embarrassing and won't really work anyway, it's useful to get Jesus' perspective on the matter.

Firstly, Jesus doesn't use the word "evangelism", which might be significant. I mean, the word does have a potentially off-putting archaic religious feel to it. The very word is a little intimidating, so it might be reassuring to remember that Jesus didn't tell his followers to engage in a programme of evangelisation. Nor did he say, "harken unto me, as I now bestow upon ye THE GREAT COMMISSION". Jesus never sounds like he's trying to establish a religious tradition. He gets to the heart of the matter without the ecclesiastical bumf.

So, do we have to? Well, Jesus did say "therefore go", which sounds like a command to me. But he also makes it sound pretty exciting with the whole stomping on snakes and scorpions stuff. The way Jesus presents evangelism, it's more like something we get to do. A privilege. An opportunity. An adventure.

Jesus also talks about evangelism like it really works - as if we might actually succeed. In fact, it seems like we should expect significant spiritual events to take place as a result of our obedience to Jesus.

Jesus didn't suggest we pray for God's kingdom to come because God was struggling with the process and needed our help. Isn't it because God's kingdom is coming, and he wants us to get involved?

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Ambassadors for Christ

Today I was at a regional conference called "Ambassadors for Christ", the aim of which was to train and equip for evangelism.

It seemed that every session was preceded by the phrase "you've probably heard most of what I'm going to say before", which didn't do much for the atmosphere, but is probably a good thing. I mean, when it comes to things like the theology of evangelism, our motivation for doing so etc. it's good to see we haven't deviated much. However, the fact that we went to a conference to re-hear stuff we already knew about evangelism suggests one thing quite strongly; we aren't very good at it.

Paul says this to the Corinthians:
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

If this is true, then why would living it out be such a struggle?

Would you go to watch this?

Well, I guess there are a lot of challenges. Getting the 'why?' of evangelism sorted is fairly straightforward, but when it comes to the 'how?' a lot of us get stuck. It doesn't help that there are numerous strategies advocated as being essential. It's no good just talking about Jesus, you have to also:
- Be culturally relevant
- Build a bridge of trust
- Be sensitive
- Pray a certain amount (not a specific amount, but at least a few hours more than you currently are)

Add in to the mix the minefield of political correctness, and top it off with the pressure of getting the message right first time or else it'll all go totally wrong and they will never come to faith ever ever ever aargh and you can see why some Christians baulk at the prospect of witnessing.   

So I've decided that the next few posts will share the heading "things that encourage me about evangelism". Hopefully you'll be encouraged too.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

IHOP's 24/7 Prayer room

I've been somewhat skeptical of some modern adaptations of the sacred - online church, drive-in church etc. So the idea of a 24/7 prayer room being streamed into your house via the internet didn't immediately strike me as a very blessed idea. However, as they often say in the more obscure sushi bars, "don't knock what you haven't tried".

Several months ago I made a brief investigation into the IHOP Prayer Room and now I think it's absolutely fantastic!

A little bit more information about it:
The Prayer Room is a centre for 24/7 prayer based in Kansas City (which, to my surprise, is not in Kansas). The focus of the Prayer Room, however, is worship. Worship bands are on a rota to play two-hour stints, so there is literally continuous worship happening day and night. There are also specific times of intercession. You can either watch a live video feed from the Prayer Room, or listen to the audio, as I am doing right now.

Don't actually click this - it won't do anything.

The first time I ever tuned in I was a bit underwhelmed by the amount of people that seemed to be in the room. I thought, "surely if IHOP are investing so much into this, there ought to be more people using all those chairs - I can only see about 40." And then I realised that due to the time difference between Kansas City and Shrewsbury, UK, I was watching worship taking place at about 5 am.

And this leads me on to the reasons why I think this is such a great thing:
- Any time of day or night, you can join in with other Christians worshipping Jesus. I know that it's not exactly "being a part of" the event to watch it on your PC screen, but there's something about knowing it's happening right now that engages me. It's better than just sticking a CD on.
- The Prayer Room is a good model of worship. Not that many churches can implement the same kind of 24/7 worship with bands of 14 musicians. But the whole ethos is, in my opinion, really admirable. It's easy to tell that their aim is absolutely not to get through a list of songs, but instead is all about encountering the presence of God. There is no pressure of "getting somewhere", but a real sense of waiting on God and enjoying Him in the moment. The Spirit looks to be in charge here. They use scripture, are spontaneous and creative.

Anyway, I hope you'll go and check it out now. 

Friday, 22 June 2012

Gram Seed in Shrewsbury

Last week I had the privilege of hearing Gram Seed speak to 800 young people in two secondary schools, as well as to a wider assortment of folk at two evening events. Gram tells an amazing story (I heard it eight times in total, and it didn't get tedious) of how he was transformed from a violent criminal into a compassionate follower of Jesus. (See a local minister's take on the first evening event).

I was thinking about the word "testimony" recently. It's a peculiar word, one that you either hear in court or in church. I was on the verge of consigning "testimony" to my Christian jargon bin, until someone pointed out that its more than a fancy word for "story". To testify means to bear witness about, to give evidence in order to establish a fact.

In other words, while my "story" is all about me, my "testimony" is not all about me - it is simply my account of the things I've seen. A Christian's testimony is evidence that points toward Jesus.

Hearing Gram's testimony, I wonder what those who doubt God's existence, love and saving power must think of it. In a similar vein to C.S. Lewis's 'Lunatic, liar or Lord' principle, they must think Gram is either deluded or deliberately lying to people. The only other option is that the story is true.

While we may not be able to satisfy the demands of some to see proof of God's existence, there is a lot of weight in a testimony.