Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Catch the Vision....

An opportunity for church leaders in the West of Scotland to hear from Mez McConnell (Niddrie Community Church) and Andy Paterson (FIEC Mission Director) on a new generation of Church Planting and Revitalisation in Scotland and across the UK.

Get in touch if you'd like to come along and hear about these exciting developments.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Workers arise and put your armour on...

FIEC Hub Conference - January 2014
160 men & women in training or considering training options for vocational Gospel work.

Just over a hundred years ago Christian leaders met in Edinburgh to consider how to reach the nations for Christ. The following century was to witness a huge expansion of Missionary endeavour that took the Gospel to more of the world's population than ever before. The 1910 Edinburgh World Missionary Conference met in a city and in a nation that was a bastion of evangelical witness and activity. One hundred years later things could hardly be more different - the 'dark continent' spiritually speaking is no longer Asia or Africa - but Europe. While the gospel is flourishing in many parts of that once unreached world - it is now in 'Christian Europe' where the population is largely ignorant of Gospel truth and claims of Jesus Christ. The prayer for the Lord to 'raise up workers for the harvest field' - is no longer a third party plea for far off heathens - but for those on our own doorstep.

It is this context that makes the FIEC Hub conference both so encouraging and so vital. The Biblical template for Mission need is clear - people need to hear the gospel in order to be saved; in order for that to happen someone needs to tell them; and those who will tell others need to be sent (Rom 10). Simple! But of course drawing the lines between the dots needs initiative and planning. The Hub helps bridge the gap between potential workers, their churches and trainers - giving pathways for the various bits to be connected.

For a start how do churches identify the right people to send; how do individuals know if they should go - and can those 'going out' be supported and best equipped for that task? In response to those many questions the Hub provided a host of seminars including: 'The Call'; 'Will my family survive?'; 'Buy One Get One Free' (i.e. couples in ministry); 'The Small Print'; 'Mapping the Journey'; 'Working without Boundaries' (managing self and time).

For those ready to make a step into vocational Gospel service the Hub brings together a range of training providers (e.g. Cornhill, Porterbrook, LTS, Oak Hill, CMTC, PTS+). Along with this each delegate has a 'one to one' chat scheduled into the weekend with an experienced church leader to discuss their particular situation.

The main theme of the conference was 'Watch your life and doctrine closely'. The teaching from Mike Tindall was that while Gospel Work has at its heart the ministry of the Word - the context for that ministry is always the life of the worker - that is, underpinning any Gospel Work must always and indispensably be Christ-like character.

John Stevens and Andy Paterson both highlighted the vision of FIEC to lead from the front in the evangelisation of the nation through a network of healthy, growing and Mission focused churches - a call to the new generation of church leaders not simply to preserve the church but to seek the lost.
Yes, the task is gargantuan but workers are being raised up and crucially being well prepared for the great challenge of reaching the United Kingdom and beyond for Christ.

Next year's conference is planned for 16-18 January 2015. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Last Japanese soldier

Reposting this old piece from 2011 with the news that Hiro Onoda passed away this week.

The Gospel is a message – it’s news, ‘good news’. That is, it is something that needs to be communicated – to be told – to be articulated. This means that despite good works and godly lives being foundational to Christian witness – that witness will be incomplete and indeed ineffective without words. The need for the gospel to be heard, known, understood, comprehended as a message, a proposition – cannot be bypassed.

Carl Trueman describes words as the basic currency of communication - that for all the artistic alternatives cannot be substituted if there is to be concrete and clear transmission of God’s work in Jesus Christ. Serious people dealing with serious business understand this. When you apply for a mortgage the Bank Manager doesn’t power-mime or try to expressively dance out the basis of such an agreement. He doesn’t give you a candle and suggest you sit in the corner for 15 minutes and think about what a mortgage might mean to you. Rather he explains the ‘terms & conditions’ - 'this is what the Bank will do and this is what you need to do'. If you don’t understand he will explain it again – using perhaps different words, but like all serious business only when all the parties are locked into a common understanding expressed in words is there a basis for a meaningful relationship.

So we need to speak – we need to tell the gospel - proclaim, herald, announce, articulate, explain, verbalize it. Back in the 1960s & 70s there were occasional stories about Japanese soldiers discovered on remote Pacific islands. Cut off during the war and isolated they had been unaware that the war was over. They were ‘fighting on’ years, even decades, after peace had been made. The great news that hostilities had ceased, that weapons could be laid down, and that after the long years of conflict people could at last go home – was of no consequence to these men. It made no difference to their lives – because they hadn’t heard the news!

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:14)

Above: in 1974, Japanese soldier Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda, complete with Samurai sword, was finally discovered on a Pacific island. For 30 years he thought World War Two was still being fought.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Personal Happiness & The Trinity

Why service is more satisfying than soul searching.

Is there a danger of Christians looking in the wrong places for fulfilment in their Christian lives? I don’t mean looking to money, material gain, worldly status and success for satisfaction – some do of course, but we know our Bibles well enough to know they are ultimately blind alleys in that regard.

Rather I’m thinking of much more spiritual activities – Bible studies, discipleship groups, Christian conferences, and the like. The kind of ‘in-house’ Christian activities that we can spend large parts (sometimes almost all) of our church life being involved in. Now of course we need those type of activities – times when we get together with fellow Christians to encourage, teach, admonish, pray for and share with one another. Such fellowship is crucial to our spiritual growth and vitality. But there can be a danger of these types of activities squeezing out more ‘service’ orientated ones.

By ‘service’ I mean activities that are not based around my needs and designed primarily for my benefit. In fact, activities that call me to do things I’d not automatically choose to do and to spend time in situations that I could spend elsewhere more comfortably. For some that might seem a recipe for more dissatisfaction - perhaps a worthy sacrifice of personal preferences but hardly a route to great joy.

So often we feel restless in our Christian lives, we can nurture a sense a disappointment and boredom about our faith. We hoped it would make us feel fulfilled but actually we just feel frustrated. We get together in groups and can become quite introspective and soul searching as we seek answers to those frustrations and that sense of disappointment. But here’s the thing – when we spend time looking inside ourselves we often end up just more depressed - because what’s inside us is often fairly depressing stuff.

Alternatively, when we turn our focus to others – that is, proactively begin to serve others then things often begin to change. We no longer strain for personal fulfillment but become people concerned about the fulfillment of others. And you know what? We start to become liberated from self and find a joy and a satisfaction outside ourselves - in serving others.

Why should this be? Because this is how the universe is designed to work! It is how God works! The Trinity shows us a God who is ‘other person centred’– the Son loves the Father, the Father glorifies the Son, the Spirit directs attention to the Son and so on and so on. The whole orientation of the Trinity is to be concerned about another - and it is in this Trinity that there is purest joy, contentment and satisfaction. Jesus attained joy through giving Himself sacrificially for the Church (Heb 12:2). It is in giving ourselves sacrificially to others, in being ‘other person centered’ – that we find the pathway to greatest joy.

Why is service better than soul searching? – it makes you happier (really).