Posts tagged ‘Christianity’

December 20, 2013

Second Service!

501px-Berchem,_Nicolaes_Pietersz__-_Paul_and_Barnabas_at_Lystra_-_1650“God sends to gather and he gathers to send.” Gerard Kelly

This month Northern Lights Church held its second “monthly service” in the lead up to our launch on February 16 next year.  It was a great time with lots of new people.  We get people to fill in a “welcome card” to give us there details, and on it we ask for people’s first impressions of the church.  The word that appears most often in that section is the word “friendly”.  I am so pleased about that – because we are building a community of people who love God and share in life with each other.  Our name comes from our location in the north of England, but also from 1 John 1:7 which says, “But if we live in the light, as God does, we share in life with each other.”  If we are sharing in life with each other then we will create a friendly atmosphere.  It won’t have to be forced or demanded, it will just naturally flow.  That’s already starting to happen, and it is fantastic to see and feel.

What God is doing at our church is gathering a congregation together.  We will reach out to our community and share the love of God with them.  God will call people to himself and build the church.  This is happening because God has sent Catherine and I out from Australia to do the work that he has called us to.

This is God’s pattern.  He sends to gather and he gathers to send.  I like the verse in Ecclesiastes where Solomon says there is a time for everything, for gathering and scattering.  In the early church they gathered in Jerusalem.  Then they were sent out because of persecution.  They gathered in Antioch and built a great church.  Then they sent Paul and Barnabas out on a missions trip as the Holy Spirit directed.  The process goes on and on throughout church history – God gathers to send and then sends to gather.

God has given me a picture of this church as being like a bowl tipped slightly on its side.  A tap is feeding a stream of water into the bowl.  The bowl is overflowing and a stream of water is spilling over the side and leaving the bowl.  That’s how I want the church to be – a bowl with a stream flowing in and a stream flowing out.  The stream flowing in represents new people who are finding faith in Jesus.  The stream flowing out represents people who we are able to send out to spread the word further and start new works, new churches, and do great things for God wherever they go.

My focus is not on the size of the bowl, it is on the size of the streams.  May God give us a continual stream of people finding out about Jesus for the first time.  And may he give us the grace to train and develop them as disciples so that they can accomplish great things when they are sent out, as the Holy Spirit leads.

If you want to pray for the work that God is doing here in Halifax then pray that people would hear and respond to Jesus, and commit their lives to him.  And then pray that God would help us train the leaders that we need to send out to further his kingdom.  Because that’s really all that we are trying to do.  I expect that it will take us the rest of our lives to do it!  What a wonderful calling – I am loving it.

John

P.S. The picture is Paul and Barnabas preaching on their travels in Lystra (Nicolae Berchem, 1650)

September 26, 2013

Attracting People, Keeping People

gestureAs a church planter I’m very interested in getting people to come to church. Every pastor is interested in getting people to come to church. But many of them have an existing congregation and can simply rely on a steady stream of new people who have connections with existing congregation members. They possibly don’t have to do anything deliberate in this area at all. In contrast, Catherine and I have no congregation at all (except for our daughter!) So we are 100% reliant on attracting new people. So how do you go about that?

In my experience of church life one thing that rings true is whatever you do to attract people is what you will have to do to keep them. So if we attract people by having the world’s loudest rock band, or the world’s greatest dance troupe, or the world’s greatest singer (and yes, that would attract people) then to keep them we will have to keep putting on those kind of shows. What you end up with is people who like the band / dancers / singer but are not the least bit interested in the Christian message. You have attracted people, but not the kind of people that care at all about what you have to say. We have both seen churches do this, and it is painful to see them then assess, why is no one responding? They don’t respond because they were never remotely interested. They succeeded in attracting non-Christian people, but not non-Christians who were open to the gospel.

I learnt this lesson from Tim Hawkins who trained me in youth ministry. Tim oversaw a youth ministry of 300 high schoolers – one of the biggest in Australia. Every Friday night the 300 kids would attend various groups according to their age. They would play games, have fun, enjoy each other’s company, hear a little bit from the bible and go home. The games were front and centre. If you liked the games you would like the youth group. The problem was not many of those kids cared about the bible bit at the end. So the whole approach was changed. The decision was made to put the bible message front and centre. If you didn’t care for what the bible said then you would not enjoy the youth group. A year or two later Tim was in charge of a youth group of 150 kids who loved God and wanted to hear from his word. It’s not easy to take one of the nations biggest youth groups and halve it. That requires quite some courage. To say in the midst of the decline, “No, this new strategy is right, we are sticking to it” was very bold. However after a few more years again the commitment that those kids had to the gospel meant that they brought their friends, and it was back to 300. However this time it was 300 disciples, not just 300 kids who liked youth group games. Of course making disciples is what it’s all about.

So Catherine and I are working out exactly what advertising we will do to attract people. But you can be sure that we will be putting the gospel front and centre. Not in “Christianese” that unchurched people can’t understand, of course. But we will be making it clear that we have a message that will turn your life around if you will pay the price.

What we need to do is attract people who are open to spiritual things, who are looking for new direction in life, and who are not put off by the thought that a church is a place that might have answers.

We would much rather 20 interested people than 120 uninterested people. Because from 20 interested people you are going to get many people committing their lives to Christ. You will get the start of a great church, a church full of people who love God and want to grow in Him.

The other argument is that if you attract 120 people then it could well be that some of them will happen to respond even though they began to attend because there were things on that have nothing to do with the church’s message. But here’s my view after seeing a number of churches do this over the years – it just doesn’t work. It’s a failing strategy, and yet it remains very popular. It is a huge amount of time and energy for a minuscule reward.

Jesus, meanwhile, simply went to synagogues or wherever people assembled and preached. People were taken by his message. His healings and miracles were the “show”, not a musical performance. Changing the lives of the people who do attend is going to do more to grow the church than anything else.

John

September 19, 2013

The Trip to Wetherby

wetherby

Catherine and I continue to have a strong sense that God has and is going before us here in England. This post is about one of many things that has happened to give us that impression.

We have been making use of Ebay to buy some of the furniture that we need.  Catherine bid on and won some bedside tables, which we then had to pick up.  The seller lived in a town called Wetherby which is a full hour or so from where we are. We possibly ended up spending more on petrol getting to and from Wetherby than we did on the tables themselves, but anyway, we got some bedside tables which are doing a fine job.

We headed out to Wetherby on a Sunday afternoon – the church we had visited that morning was kind of on the way.  All morning I was thinking why on earth did Catherine buy some furniture so far from home?  Why are we going all this way for just a couple of bedside tables that could surely have been gotten fairly cheaply closer to home?  Anyway, it was an interesting drive (perhaps not for our 6 year old little girl, but we enjoyed it). When we arrived in Wetherby we were struck.  It was a sunny afternoon in summer, and the place was just gorgeous.  The bridge over the river was first built in the 1200’s.  There were flower boxes everywhere in full bloom, there was a lovely relaxed feeling and the whole scene was stunning.  It’s not a big town – the population is just over 10,000 – and this is a part of the world where there is a substantial size town every 10 minutes in almost every direction.

I was thinking, wow I know we’ve been called to Halifax but wouldn’t it be great to be here?  Catherine was thinking the same thing.  In fact she was even thinking that we should be planting a church in Wetherby.

Now allow me to give some background. Part of what we want to do through the church that we will plant is plant more churches in Yorkshire.  We have a list of 6 more towns that we feel God wants us to go to eventually.  Right now we are yet to plant any church, so it might be getting a bit ahead of ourselves by planning where all our daughter churches are going to be.  However we want to dream big, and make no apology for having bold plans.

So sure enough just the day after we get home from the trip to Wetherby I find some of our church planning documents and I glance over the list of six towns and there is Wetherby.  I couldn’t believe it.  There would be at least 30 places in West Yorkshire more obvious than Wetherby, but there it was on our list.  And we were completely ignorant of the fact when we were visiting.

There’s a lot of water to flow under the bridge before we plant a church in Halifax, and then years more until we plant in Wetherby, but when things like this happen we feel so encouraged that God is with us and will empower us to do what he has called us to.

John

September 19, 2013

God’s Chicken Noodle Soup

God's Chicken Noodle Soup

I had a beautiful and humbling experience yesterday. It was an experience that had me bawling my eyes out in the stairwell of our apartment building. Poppy and I have caught some random low level English bug, nothing special – runny nose, sore throat and dry cough. I really wanted to make some of my homemade chicken noodle soup for us but I have no pots. The boxes we sent from Australia are clearing UK customs now and are due to arrive in Halifax next week. My pots are in those boxes. I am loathe to buy one given their imminent arrival. I have survived 7 weeks without my pots and I am determined to wait just a little longer. I went to the shops regardless and bought all the ingriedients for my chicken noodle soup except for the pot. When I got home I knocked on the door of several neighbors. No one was home. I was outside looking high and low for anybody – no one was around.  Out loud I sighed heavily and I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. I said out loud to God ‘I really need a pot to make soup for Poppy and I.’  There was no reply so I started to walk sadly back into the building. I then had a vivid picture/vision of a black sports car driving into one of the car parks. It was familiar to me – it is the car driven by a lady I have met once in the next building – Valerie.  As I looked back outside I noticed her car park was empty – she wasn’t home. I walked up the stairs to our apartment and as I looked out the hallway window I saw Valerie’s black sports car pulling into it’s parking spot. I ran back downstairs and hid for a minute as Valerie got out of her car. ‘Hi Valerie’ I called out. I explained my predicament and she was more than happy to lend me a pot to make my soup in. As I carried the pot back to my place I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I was so thankful to God for caring about me and the pot for my soup. I was filled with His love and I thought to myself  ‘God is my friend and I am friends with God’.

I wonder what it would be like to be God. In the movie ‘Bruce Almighty’ they try to give a human being God like qualities. The limitations of his humanity become evident quickly as the character is overwhelmed by the millions of prayer requests coming in from all over the world at once. Therein lies the problem – we always try to understand God through our own mind where our thinking is limited by our experiences, our beliefs and our predjudices. Imagine if you were to try and explain the internet to an ant. You wouldn’t succeed. I think we are an ant compared to God. He is infinite in his thinking – he has no limitations, no boundaries and endless capacity. But that is what makes the ‘soup pot’ thing he did so amazing. If God is so big – why does he care about my stupid pot,  why does he bother answering such little prayers? Because He is my friend and that is what friends do for one another.  He cares about everything that is happening to me even if it is a situation of my own doing. He’s not to big or too famous or too busy to care about the little things in my world. In fact he wants to share every moment with me. Sometimes I just forget to include Him.

I spent the next few hours making my chicken noodle soup. I don’t know what I did different but it was the best I have ever made. It tasted amazing. I think God put himself in that pot of soup. I took the pot back with two containters of soup for my lovely neighbors. And for you dear readers my very precious recipe for God’s Chicken Noodle Soup.

God’s Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe

Ingredients

Stock

1 whole chicken. Organic is preferred. (remove breasts. I am hopeless at doing this and sometimes have to buy one breast to top up)

3 Lemons

4 sticks of celery

1 whole onion

1 whole bulb of garlic

1 bay leaf

3 carrots

1 potato

Chicken Balls

2 Chicken breasts

2 Tablespoons of grated parmessan

1 Egg

Added Soup ingriedents:

2 fresh corn cobs

100g spaghetti

3-4 cubes of chicken stock or ½ litre of bought liquid chicken stock

Sea Salt

Method:

Roughly chop carrot, celery, potato and onion. Leave the skin on if not too dirty. Put all into pot.

  1. Break whole chicken apart. Cut breasts out and put aside. Discard gizzards. Put chicken legs, thighs and carcass into pot. (butchers will often sell you an extra carcass for $2 – add if you have a big enough pot)
  2. Break garlic bulb apart. Don’t skin each piece just throw into pot. Add bay leaf to pot.
  3. Squeeze the juice of one lemon over everything in the pot. Then cover generously with water.
  4. Bring pot to boil and then simmer with lid off for at least 2 hours. Stir occassionally. Top up with a little extra water or put lid on if you loose too much liquid. Strain entire pot keeping the stock you have now made – this is the base for your soup. I seperate all the vegies out and throw them away as their flavour and nutrition are gone – they are now in your stock. It’s the same deal with the chicken but I save that as it goes to making the soup look great.
  5. Pick chicken carcass clean. Chop up chicken into bite sized slivers.
  6. Return the stock you have made to the original pot. Add stock cubes or liquid stock,  juice of second lemon and a genourous pinch of salt. Add cut up chicken slivers back into stock.
  7. Take corn cobs and stand on one end. Run sharp knife down the edge removing the corn. Keep turning the cob until all sides are skinned. Put all the corn kernals into your stock. Throw cobs away
  8. Bring stock with added ingriedients back to a boil and then add spaghetti broken into 2-3cm pieces.
  9. Now make the Chicken balls. Take removed breasts and add one egg with parmessan cheese. Use food processor to finely mince ingriedients together into a fine puree. When your stock pot is boiling drop small mouth sized balls fashioned by hand into pot. They will cook quickly and rise to the surface.
  10. Stir gently and taste. Add more lemon juice if too salty or more chicken stock if too lemony. Enjoy with crusty bread!

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxo

August 25, 2013

Feeling God’s Pleasure

ukHere are three early impressions of life in the UK…

Firstly, it’s the same as Australia.  I think that I had asked so many people about the differences between the two countries that I was expecting it to be radically different. Since being in England what I have noticed is that so much is the same.  People are more or less the same, life is more or less the same.  I was thinking so much about what the differences would be I really forgot to consider what the similarities would be.  The differences between England and Australia are more at the margins than I thought they would be.

Secondly, I love living in a town the size of Halifax.  Halifax has 100,000 odd people living here.  For my Aussie readers that puts it in the same league as Ballarat, Bendigo or Albury / Wodonga.  I remember going to Ballarat for work once, and walking around the place thinking how much I would love to live in a town of this size but I wrote Ballarat off because (of all things) it is so cold there!  God is showing his sense of humour in sending me to the north of England.  Here there are plenty of people who would give their right arm for a winter as mild as what the people of Ballarat enjoy.  But being free of the congestion and intensity of life in a city of 4 million is something that I am loving.  Some of you could think of nothing worse than doing that.  Some of you might be pining to leave Melbourne, Sydney, or wherever and go to New York or some mega city.  But for me the move to a town that has all the services but not the congestion has gone down a treat.  Now I’m sure that Ballarat, Bendigo etc have their charms, but Halifax – wow. It has green, hills, history, beauty and character on a scale that Australian country towns could never hope to have.  I’m so lucky to have been called to this place.

Thirdly, and most importantly, God has gone ahead of us.  I feel that God is delighted that we have come here because of his call.  My sense is that God can’t quite believe that we’ve done it – that he would put such a big challenge in front of us and that we would embrace it.  It says in 2 Chr 16:9 that, “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”  Right now I have the sense that God sees Catherine and I and says, “Wow – I’ve got a couple here!!”  I feel that he and his angels are going before us and opening doors so that we will build a church that will love God and be used by Him.  I hope that this doesn’t come across as arrogant or proud.  I simply have a sense that that is what God is thinking.  It’s a bit like the Christian track runner Eric Liddell who said, “…when I run I feel His pleasure.”  Right now I feel God’s pleasure.  God made Eric Liddell to run fast.  God made me to plant this church.  That’s what he has called me to do and I feel his pleasure as I get ready to do it.

John

July 17, 2013

Leaving Australia

ozIn just under 2 weeks the Warren family will board a one way flight to the UK.  In recent weeks we have been consumed by the task of cleaning out the house and packing the things that we are taking with us.  The amount of stuff that a 3 bedroom townhouse can hold is simply staggering.

We have also just finished a sort of east coast farewell tour, having just spent time in Brisbane and Sydney.

Life right now is whirl of strong emotions.  It’s quite the roller coaster.  Here are some scriptures that I am conscious of at the moment, some thoughts that are keeping me grounded:

and I (Jesus) assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.” Luke 18:29-30

When I stop to think about it we are making a significant sacrifice.  On numerous levels we are launching into the unknown.  Being a lawyer in Melbourne Australia is a pretty good life.  From an external point of view it offers you a great lifestyle.  One of the most “liveable” cities in the world, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, at the most peaceful and prosperous time in history.  That is pretty hard to improve on. Of course on top of that there is friends and family.  But of course one day Melbourne will be dust.  If I truly believe the bible, if I truly believe that the eternal is more important than anything else then the only thing that I should trying to accumulate is treasure in heaven.  Because this earth will pass away.  The verse I have quoted above makes clear that God rewards those who make a sacrifice for him.  He sees what we are doing and he rewards those who sacrifice for the kingdom.  Right now, that is a huge comfort.

Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations…” Matthew 28:19

Jesus last command is our first priority.  When we have out first baptism service at Northern Lights Church in Halifax I will be in a mood to party.  What a sensational occasion that will be – having travelled all that way in obedience to the Great Commission we will get to baptise someone.  I cannot wait for that day.

Sell your possessions and give to the poor.  Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail…” Luke 12:33

The more I read the bible the more it becomes so obvious that Jesus simply does not care about wealth. When I do the sums I sometimes think about the implications of leaving our jobs here in Melbourne, but this verse reminds me that Jesus simply doesn’t care.  He wants our hearts.  The things of this world will all pass away.  He tells us to seek first the kingdom and not to worry about the things that the rest of the planet is obsessed with.  So this verse, one of the most stark about possessions in the bible, is helping me focus 100% on the kingdom.

In 13 days we will be at Melbourne airport.  Bring it on!

John

 

 

June 25, 2013

One Husband’s need for Unconditional Respect

Respect

In almost a year and half of blogging the most popular post that I have written was my one about submission in marriage.  Here is a further post on the subject.

What the bible says about marriage is pretty simple.  It goes like this: wives, respect your husbands, husbands love your wives.  It is laid about by Paul in Ephesians 5:21-33.  Of course that one simple rule takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to put into practice.

In the Western world at present the part of that command that says, “wives respect your husband” is controversial.  But for those of us committed to living as Scripture tells us rather than how the world tells us we have to grasp with putting it into practice.  If you think that the bible shouldn’t say that wives must submit, obey and respect their husbands then your argument is with the bible authors, not me.  I’m just trying to do what is says (as is Catherine).

The problem that we come up against is that in our culture we believe that respect must be earned.  Not so with love, mind you.  Love should be unconditional.  But respect is only given when we see behaviour that we think warrants respect.  This cultural mindset makes it hard for Christians to have a biblical marriage.

What it means is that Christians, and Christian wives in particular, have to make a decision to not do what they would do naturally (which is give respect only when they think it warranted).  Instead they have to commit themselves to giving their husbands unconditional respect.

Just think about those 2 words sitting side by side for a moment – unconditional respect.  What a radical thought.

It’s radical because what happens in marriage is that we see the other person’s faults, weaknesses and sins far more closely than anyone else does.  If there is one person who knows your failings in the most detail it is your spouse.  As the saying goes, “behind every great man there’s a woman shaking her head”.  She’s shaking her head because she knows what he is really like at home.

Yet a Christian wife is called to respect her husband.  Not just when he is loving and Christlike, but all the time.  Men crave respect.  If you doubt this then try this experiment – tell your husband that you love him, and see what the reaction is.  The next day, in a similar context, tell him that you respect him, and see what the reaction is that time.  Men need respect from their wives more than they need love.

Now I don’t know about you, but for me there is plenty of times that Catherine has seen things in me that she could disrespect if she wanted to.  There has been no lack of selfishness and failure that she could point to if she wanted to keep a record of my shortcomings.  But she gets this, so she does her best to show unconditional respect, even when it is really hard to do it.  Thank you sweetheart!!

As for the male readers of this post, your challenge is quite simple – you are to show unconditional love to your wife, despite the fact that you may or may not receive unconditional respect from her.  People are sinful, men and women.  For all married people, God calls you to show grace and forgiveness when you are wronged.  If your spouse has failings, welcome to the club.  I’m sure your spouse is a member too.  All of us are called to show grace, mercy and forgiveness.  That is unconditional.

Unconditional love, unconditional respect.  These are the basis for Christian marriage.

John

June 11, 2013

Secret Diary of a TV Addict

untitled

I love TV.  There’s no point trying to deny it.  When I was a kid I watched plenty of TV.  When I was a teenager I watched plenty.  Now that I’m an adult I watch plenty as well.  I like to think that I don’t, because there are not many shows that I make sure to catch every week.  But of course I do watch the news pretty frequently.  And I watch sport – lots of football of various descriptions.  There is even a soccer match on tonight (Tuesday the 11th) and this morning I have already been thinking about what I am going to have to do to be able to watch it.  And I watch the odd movie on DVD.  And those times that I just switch it on to see if there is anything good on because I have some time to watch it.  So when you add all of that up…I watch plenty of TV.

The average Australian adult watches perhaps three hours a day.  That’s a tricky thing to measure because it changes from year to year, and if you are doing a task but the TV is on in the background, does that count or not?  I found various figures suggesting how much TV people watch, and three hours a day came out about average.

The average child aged 5 and up watches perhaps a bit less, but not by much.  Our daughter, thanks to the super high quality parenting she receives watches none, ok, she watches an hour a day, ok two hours, hmmmm, alright, I confess she’s average.  She watches heaps.  In fact if the impressive DVD collection that is next to the computer that I am writing this on is any indication, if she’s not average then she’s above average in how much she watches.  And she loves it!

Before I met Catherine I was a bit of a snob when it came to reality TV.  I was too busy watching documentaries to go near all that rubbish.  However my sweet wife has changed me in that regard.  Reality TV is good stuff!  We have watched so much Survivor, The Amazing Race and various other ones together.  As for The Bachelor, I just want it on record that it was a COMPLETE COINCIDENCE that I was in the room for every single minute of seasons 1, 2 and 3.

Of course the problem is that you can spend your whole life watching TV.  We only have so much time on this planet and I intend to make as big as splash for the gospel as I can.  The bottom line is that I cannot reach my potential for Christ and watch over 3 hours of TV a day.  I will watch some – there’s nothing to be gained by a legalistic approach that says you can’t look at any.

It’s about balance.  There’s nothing new about needing balance in life.  Neither is there anything new about Christians who find entertainment options more interesting than serving God.  Back in 400 A.D. St John Chrysostom preached about the fact that too many Christians were spending time at the chariot races!

The reason that I know that I often get the balance wrong is because when I don’t watch TV I am simply so productive.  I get stuff done.  I read.  I call people.  I go out.  I meet with people.  I learn.  It’s great.  It feels so much better.  I could have that feeling every night if I wanted it.  So why don’t I?  Because it is so easy to switch the TV on!  The remote is right there, the couch is right there – what could be more enticing, especially at the end of the day?

Of course it’s a matter of rising above the temptation to crash on the couch and stay there once “the Eagle has landed”.

If you agree that you could indeed be more of the person that God wants you to be with the TV off, then don’t go cold turkey and make radical changes like some sort of fad dieter.  Just make gradual, sustainable decisions to watch less, and be with people more.  After all, who ever died wishing that they watched more TV?

John

June 4, 2013

Keep Calm and Carry On – Now Panic and Freak Out!

Keep CalmIn May 2012 I was having my morning prayer time with God. This day seemed like any other day except that God decided to speak clearly and at length to me about building a Ministry Centre in Moldova. Its primary purpose would be to house, counsel, train, educate, support and offer spiritual guidance to woman who had escaped a life of sex trafficking or were potential victims of it. It was an enormous project. I shared this all with John and he started to pray into it. In June of 2012 God spoke clearly to John and said ‘Go to England, plant a church and that church will be the base for the missions work into Moldova’. When John shared that with me, my first response was ‘I could work with that’. Together we said to God – we believe you have spoken to us so we are going to start to take steps toward what you have said to us about this.

Meanwhile life went on as normal, I got a job and after being long time congregation members of Yarra Plenty Church we felt God clearly tell us to leave and go to Manningham Christian Centre. We carried the vision for planting a church in England in our hearts but it all seemed a bit of a pie in the sky.  On the surface we had so much to lose. The move to the UK would involve both of us quitting jobs we enjoyed, selling most of our possessions and moving to a place we had never been. Foolish as that may seem our hearts were on fire and we prayed and prayed that it would happen.

The steps we started to take involved everything from getting Poppy a passport to buying boxes to ship some of our stuff over to the UK. The two most expensive steps were buying the plane tickets ($4,000) and applying for the Ancestral Visa’s – a five-year working permit for both of us.($1300). The application is tedious and complex and as we read through the documentation we realised that they required a copy of your travel itinerary  to be sent with your application and they also didn’t want your application till you were 3 months out from the date of travel. This meant we had to pay for the plane tickets before knowing if we had the visas to work and live in the UK.

We worked on the visa applications for months. It was a long and arduous process. We argued about the ambiguous questions and shelled out the $12 fee to speak with a UK consulate officer 3-4 times who were surprisingly helpful. The application included 5 birth certificates, 3 marriage Certificates and 5 passports. There were 17 pieces of supporting documentation and a stamped confirmation that our biometrics had been completed. That is fingerprints and facial recognition. On May 10th we sent the whole lot to Sydney whereby it was sent to the UK processing centre in Manilla, Philippines. We were told it would at least three weeks. Eighteen days later we received notification that we had been successful in our application.

Since that moment I have been on an emotional rollercoaster. It’s real. We are going. The only step left is to get on the plane. Recently it was my mum’s birthday and as I wrote in her card I got all choked up and bawled my eyes out. This is possibly the last birthday I will celebrate with her in person. I love my mum. Now when I see friends I wonder – is this the last time?  If that is the low point in the emotional rollercoaster the high point is best summed up by a scene from The Hobbit. If you haven’t seen it picture this – the movie opens in the idyllic Shire inside a young Bilbo Baggins House. Gandalf and a large bunch of boorish Elves come uninvited for a meal and discuss a dangerous quest they feel called to go on. Bilbo is invited by Gandalf to join the group. He doesn’t really even consider the request seriously but when he wakes the next morning to a quiet house he has this enormous realisation that he is missing out on something very important – an adventure of a lifetime! And with that he grabs his Hobbit back pack and runs after the others. This is the high part of the emotional rollercoaster for me – the adventure, the call – not wanting to miss God’s plan and purpose for my life. That is awesome, that is what dreams are made of. That is really grabbing life by the throat and living!!

And then I cry because I am going to miss my friends, my life, my church and my family. I’m sure it’s just another season in the process of moving to the UK but for me right now the journey is bittersweet.

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxo

May 29, 2013

The Underestimated Church

church-jelsa1As church planters Catherine and I have a vision to do several things beyond the planting of one congregation itself.  There’s three things that are on our hearts.  They are planting further churches, university ministry and missions in Moldova, specifically to the needs in that country related to orphans and young people at risk of being victims of the sex trafficking industry.

When we talk about the last one of those a lot of people get interested very quickly.  That’s great.  It is indeed a bold and remarkable ministry to get involved in.  Catherine blogged a bit about it here.

However I find that people tend to be a bit ho-hum about the thing that will start it all – planting a church.  After all, there’s lots of churches around.  It’s not as though no one has ever thought of that before!

I am immensely excited about starting the church.  I think that people underestimate the local church.  What we have seen in the last 30 years is a complete transformation in what the local church can accomplish.

It used to be that in the West if you had vision and you wanted to do something great for the cause of Christ then what you would do is start a missions organisation.  So in 1960 Loren Cunningham started Youth With A Mission, and a mountain of missions work has been done through this organisation since.  In 1951 Bill Bright founded Campus Crusade for Christ in an attempt to make an impact in colleges and universities.  Bright and Cunningham would certainly be two of the most significant Christian leaders in the West in the second half of the 20th century.  Back in that era the local church is where you went to pastor.  If you wanted to lead you went elsewhere.

The other way to have influence used to be through academia.  The likes of JI Packer and Don Carson sold huge quantities of books and were widely read by both church leaders and by lay people.

If you fast forward to today the most influential Christian leaders in the West are all pastors of local churches.  They are Bill Hybels, Rick Warren and Brian Houston, Bill Johnson and the like.  Those four leaders have had enormous influence by their conferences, writings, travelling and speaking.  They have set the agenda for the Western church.

In my lifetime there has been a re-rating of the importance of the local church.  The local church has overtaken missions organisations and denominational headquarters as the main tool that God is using to grow his kingdom and impact the world.  Let me be crystal clear – this is a brilliant development.  I praise God for all the wonderful work that missions organisations have done.  However the local church is far better suited to making a long term impact for the gospel.  Local churches have the mandate to be salt and light in their community as well as doing what they can to get the gospel to the ends of the earth.

So if there’s a problem that you want to solve – start a church.  If there is a need – the local church is the answer.  If you have a vision for doing something mind-blowingly huge for God then the local church is the place to work that vision out.  Do not underestimate what can be done through the local church!

John

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