More to Life…

I’m excited by the possibilities that 2016 brings.
one2one Church of Christ, has adopted a year-long theme, Fully Devoted, with a first term theme of More to Life…Because there really is more to life.
John 10:10 NIV
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
The first term sermon series will flow into groups, across the church and the community, engaged in Discovery Bible Study exploring each of the topics during the week.
I picked up a draft copy of the study booklet on Sunday. It is filled with people’s stories, Bible passages, questions, resources and instructions for group leaders. There is lots of encouragement for people to engage and discover there is more to life.

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Can anything good come from a local church that worships in a recycled industrial building surrounded by the SES, RSPCA Animal Shelter, Mitre 10 Home Hardware and a waste disposal centre? My answer is a resounding, “Yes!” The congregation has a long history, over 150 years, of God fulfilling His promises, the church is strategically located near growth corridors to the west and the south, and moreover it has a God-given heart to influence its community and beyond.
God will continue to fulfill His promises across 2016.

Luke 24:44-45 NIV
He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

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Discovery Bible Study Update

Since early 2015 we have met to have a cuppa, read the Bible aloud and respond to five questions, what do you like about this story or passage, what does the story tell us about people, what does the story tell us about God, what does the story tell us about and finally who needs to hear this story.

Ace took the lead and suggested, because it was a long reading, we could each read a section of the passage of Scripture assigned for the morning, Jesus, the Bread of Life, found in John 6:25-58. The previous week we had read the story of God’s provision of manna found in Exodus 16:1-12.

With two green teas, three cappuccinos and one flat white ordered Ace started, and moving anticlockwise the others followed each reading a section, Arthur next, then Rob, then me, followed by Shane finishing with Mohamed. While it was Mohamed’s first time in attendance he didn’t hesitate, and with some help from Shane’s completed his reading admirably.

It was Ace, who had extended the invitation to Mohamed to attend the group. They had met during English classes conducted by the local University the previous year.

We were an interesting group, two Aussies, two Filipinos, one Kiwi and one Iranian. Our waiter, Richard, who had just  returned after six months away completing a personal trainer course was pleased to see we were still meeting. And today we had come together once again to read the Bible, for Mohamed it was the first time he had read the Bible.

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Ace prayed for Mohamed and his success at an upcoming karate competion in Sydney. He also prayed for Shane, who was hoping his feet wouldn’t cause him any pain on his long walk home after our meeting.

Crossing the Bridge

Some time ago a young lady, Ella, who had been attending our local church was referred to me by the Coordinator of our Children’s Ministry.  She was very interested in the internship program the church was introducing the following year. I was the project coordinator.

We agreed on a time to discuss her interest. Ella told me her story and expressed her interest in the children’s ministry. I explained how we envisaged the internship program operating and the requirements of the candidates. During the conversation, while Ella proved herself to be a very good candidate, I had this sense of uncertainty in regard to her personal relationship with God.

So before we finished I asked, “Ella, can I run something by you?” After a short pause I then went on to ask, “Ella, let me ask, has anyone ever sat down with you and explained from the Bible how you can know God personally and be sure of your relationship with him?”

From time to time at church I sense the need to move a conversation to matters of eternal importance. It isn’t always easy to bridge the gap. However,  I have learned to respond and not quench the Spirit.

I have found appropriate questions, asked respectfully, are helpful in bridging the gap. The questions need to respect the person, encourage conversation around spiritual matters and yet leave room for either party to pull back if appropriate.

I recall being introduced to David by a mutual friend, Harry, inside the entrance to the auditorium a few minutes before the start of the morning service. Harry had just finished introducing me when another mutual friend, Andrew, arrived. On being introduced Andrew immediately asked David, “Are you a Christian?”

I spoke to Andrew later suggesting his question was rather direct. I might have even suggested blunt, to which he replied, “Where else but in church?” He was right! Where else but church.

My first question to Ella, “Can I run something by you?” seeks  permission from the other party, and suggests that I want to build a more meaningful relationship, and it opens the way for the follow up question that will cast light on what I am sensing.

In response to the follow up question Ella replied, “No.” Her reply wasn’t unexpected. We arranged another time where Ella confirmed her relationship with Jesus and received him as her Saviour and Lord. After studying the Seven Commands of Jesus with her mentor, Ella was baptised, and went on to successfully complete her internship.

David? Well after the morning service I followed up the earlier conversation and asked David similar questions to those I had used with Ella. By the end of the week, accompanied by his friend,  Harry, David too had confirmed his relationship with Jesus receiving him as his Saviour and Lord.

It isn’t by accident that people start attending church! Generally God is at work drawing them to himself. We have a duty to respond. Dare to cross the bridge and address the God-given opportunity regarding someone’s eternity.

2 Peter 3:9 NIV
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Leicester Mission Update…

From Steve…

Searching for Houses of Peace in Leicester

Early in July around 70 people went out looking for “houses of peace” around our home city of Leicester.

When Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem he sent out 72 disciples to prepare the way. They went, taking nothing with them except the offer of prayer and the good news. They went looking for “houses of peace”. Homes that welcomed the messenger and the message (Luke 10:1-11).

This is what happened in Leicester when we put Jesus’ instructions in practice.

On our first night Michelle and I walked up and down a whole street in an Indian area visiting every home. Many people were out. Most people we met thanked us for asking, but didn’t want us to pray for them. It was hard work.

At the last door we met Prema, a young professional woman from India. We asked her if there was anything we could pray for? Please come in she insisted. She was suffering from back pain and wanted us to pray for her. Half an hour later we left promising to visit again.

In another part of town Fred and Charles were visiting a “posh” neighbourhood when a woman answered the door and announced, “What is it? I’m watching the tennis!”

“We’re in the community to bless families. Is there something we can pray for you and your family?”

She stopped. “My husband just had a stroke this week. Would you pray for my husband?”

Charles prayed. The woman was apologetic.

“Thank you, that meant so much to me. I’m so sorry about the tennis stuff. This is way more important. That was a beautiful prayer. I’ll tell my husband.”

Fred and Charles left. Someone will visit that home again.

In the same wealthy area Dave and Hugo didn’t feel like knocking on another door. Most people answered, “Well fine thank you,” to the offer of prayer.

A young professional woman answered the door and to their surprise welcomed their offer of prayer. Soon Dave was drawing the “three circles”, a simple gospel presentation and Julie was ready to turn and put her trust in Jesus. The next day Dave returned with Michelle (Addison) to begin discipleship lessons in Julie’s home. Julie is learning how she can share her story and the gospel story with her friends.

Late at night one of the teams met up in a pub to debrief. At the pub Linda began sharing  the gospel with the waiter. The next day she was visiting homes. A young man answered the door, it was the waiter from the night before. He said, don’t pray for me. But pray for my mother she’s seriously ill. That night, back at the pub, Linda continued to share with the young man.

Many Muslim homes, Hindu homes and typical English homes that were happy to receive prayer and are open to a second visit to discuss stories about Jesus.

A team debriefs

In six days we visited 1,290 homes

In six days we visited 1,290 homes. Around one third of the people who answered the door wanted prayer — 424 homes. We went to be a blessing through prayer. We prayed for money troubles, for up coming weddings, health crises, decisions about careers, newborn babies and sick pets. We drew the line at praying for success in the lottery!

Four people gave their lives to Christ and are ready for discipleship lessons in their homes.

Over the next few weeks we’ll re-visit the most responsive homes and share the story of the woman who wept at Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:36-50), and the gospel story wrapped in our story. We’re expecting three responses:

Red light: Thanks for the prayer but I don’t want to take things further.
Amber light: I’m not ready to make a decision, but come back and we’ll look at another story.
Green light: I’m ready to turn and put my faith in Jesus and learn how to follow him.

We’ll be discipling people in their homes. Teaching them to follow and obey Jesus. Those new believers will become ambassadors who share their story and the gospel story with family and friends.

What have we learnt? No matter how resistant Britain is to the gospel, there are always houses of peace waiting for us to visit offering prayer and the good news.

You can hear the story of the Leicester Week on the Movements podcast.

Thanks for sharing the vision.

Leicester Mission

From Steve..

Pray for the Leicester Mission week

Last weekend we trained seventy people in our home city of Leicester. We taught them how to connect with people, share the gospel and train new disciples. On Saturday afternoon everyone went out in pairs praying for people on the streets and asking, “Are you near or far from God?” and “Would you like to be near?”

I met a Nigerian couple with a Muslim background. We had a great conversation and plan to get together and talk again. So many others had similar experiences.

From July 6-11 Christians from around Leicester and Britain will gather for a week of Mission. Each morning there will training. In the afternoons and evenings we will go out into the community searching for “houses of peace.”

When Jesus sent out his disciples he told them to look for God-prepared people who would open their homes to the messengers and their message (Luke 10).

We’ll be going out with a small gift of cookies and an offer to pray for any needs in the homes we visit. We’re looking for people in whom God has been working with the intention of starting neighbourhood Discovery Bible Study groups in homes.

We are planning for 40-50 workers to join us on this mission.

Background on Leicester

In AD 47 Paul and Barnabas were based in Antioch and had not yet set off on their first missionary journey. In that same year, the city of Leicester was founded as a Roman garrison town on the River Soar. You can still see the remains of that settlement.

Leicester lies close to the geographic centre of England, and the demographic centre of Great Britain.

Modern Leicester is home to two large universities, the Leicester City Football Club and the Leicester Tigers Rugby Union Club. Recently it has become the final resting place of Richard III.

Over the last half-century Leicester has been transformed through immigration of people from the far corners of the former British Empire. Leicester was the first city in England in which ethnic minorities have become more than 50% of the population of 330,000. In 2011 white Britons accounted for 45% of Leicester’s population (down from 61% in 2001), while Asian Indians (including British-born Indians) accounted for 28% of the population – up from about 26% in 2001. Most of the South Asians are Gujarati Indians who were expelled from Uganda and Kenya in the late 60s and early 70s.

Christianity has been declining in Leicester. Islam, and “no religion” are on the increase. Hinduism has remained constant.

Leicester is home to the largest Hindu Diwali festival (Festival of Lights) outside of India (photo above).

What to pray for ….

the 40-50 workers from Leicester and around the UKGod-prepared peopleopen doors to return and begin Discovery Groups in homespray that the fruit of this Mission would be new disciples who are learning to follow Jesus and share the good news with their family and friends

You can sign up to receive prayer updates.

Thanks for sharing the vision.

Sunday Evening

I greeted Anne when she arrived just before the start of the Sunday evening service. It was the second time I had met Anne. A few weeks earlier I had met her in the reception area to the church offices. Anne was leaving after attending a Woman2Woman craft activity.

It was good to see Anne again at the evening service. I was attending because my daughter was conducting the baptism of a lass, who was a member of the youth group.

After the service,  a friend, Amie, told me she would be conducting her first Discovery Bible Study Monday lunchtime in the food court in Central Square, and Anne, and another lady, would be joining in.

Monday morning I sent this text, “Hello Amie, You, Anne and Marg are in my prayers for your first DBS in Central Square today. Praise God, he is always at work drawing people to himself, through our Saviour Jesus. Bruce”

Monday afternoon I received this message, “Thanks Bruce. Anne came and we did knowing God  personally and she accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour. She wants to do the 7 commands before baptism. Marg didn’t show so we will keep praying for her and invite again next week.”
The Kingdom of God is here and it is Growing.

Bromeliads Part 2…

In an earlier post, January 2014, I mentioned that I had transplanted several pups from a bromeliad that my brother had given me. But, alas, I have to report the transplants failed!

I reported my failure to my brother anImaged he explained that the pups I had cut off were too small.

Fortunately another pup appeared, so I left it attached to the original plant until it had grown larger before cutting it off and transplanting. The good news is that it has taken and is happily growing in its new pot.

While the original bromeliad, given by my brother, has continued to produce pups, those I cut off too early withered and died, and the pup I left attached longer has not only survived but thrived. Again my experience with the bromeliad reminded me of the Parable of the Sower told by Jesus in Matthew 13.

Jesus wants to reproduce disciples many times over across the nations. We need to be about the business of sowing the Good News of Jesus so that God can produce the harvest. However, there will be those who fall by the wayside and seemingly wither away.

The other important lesson is that we need to nurture new followers of Jesus and give them time to grow into maturity so that they too can reproduce other disciples.