Archive for the ‘Church Planting’ Category

God and his door opening…

July 17, 2009

I’ve been worrying too much and praying not enough over the past few weeks about what I’m going to do next year. Feeling a call to the ministry is one thing but seeing clearly what door God is opening to you is another matter! A good friend of mine, Derek Rees, is heading up a Welsh language church plant in Swansea this coming autumn and I’ve been praying for God to open a door if he want’s me to be part of that work. This week it has become clear that God is opening a different door so I won’t be joining Derek down in Swansea. It’s a hard decision, I have mixed feelings. Being part of the new work in Swansea would have been very exiting and pulling out now makes me feel as if I have let Derek down slightly. But the door just didn’t open for me to move down there, Derek understands this and both of us will still support each other in whatever way we can.

The door that God has opened to me this week was an offer from the Baptist Association of Arfon to a pastor in training post. They have offered me generous financial support so I can finish off my PhD then move on to do some courses in the Baptist College in Bangor and whilst I do my training I’ll be based working part of the week in my local church in Bangor and perhaps other shorter placements with other churches within the Association. I suspect it will be very much a different set-up to that if I were to have gone to Swansea – but I look forward to seeing the vision God will give me to work in the Arfon area.

I guess that the main worry I have about the calling to stay and work in the Arfon area is that I will be sucked in to keeping things going as they are. Please pray that the brothers and sisters I will be working with will be willing to listen to God’s guidance with me and not just use me as a “young man” who will keep the show going as it is for another 10 years! But most important of all please pray that Christ and his Gospel rather than tradition and chapel culture will be central to my ministry.

Noise

June 20, 2009

I’m preaching tomorrow at a small Welsh Church at Bae Colwyn. I’ve never been there before but I’m looking forward because a good collage friend of mine was bought up in that Church and as I understand he’s home visiting his parent this weekend so he’ll be there to hold me and my sermon accountable!

I must admit that I haven’t really felt all that great over the past few days. Start of the week I did a lot of meetings (one in Swansea in relation to the Welsh Church plant that’s happening there soon and the other in Llandrindod in relation to Gobaith i Gymru and Beibl.net) and traveling around then by the end of the week I had my head down stressing over my PhD. This time yesterday the last thing on my mind was the idea of going out to talk about the grace and faithfulness of God. Actually, for many years I refused accepting God’s call to go and preach his word and lead ministry because I didn’t feel holy and spiritual enough. But as I felt God’s calling getting stronger and stronger in my life I realized that, in a sort of way, the fact that I did not feel up to it on a personal level was the whole point. More of Him less of me, all of Him none of me.

We will never be good enough and if we think we are good enough then we’ve taken our eye off Jesus. I still don’t feel holy and spiritual enough but now I know that my shortcomings will always be dealt with by Jesus and his work. Being humble is hard work but when you discover true humbleness it’s such a great relief. To know that it’s not about you, it’s not about how spiritual you are, it’s not about how you can best be holy this week. Not at all. It’s all about giving up and just resting in God and let him lead and carry you. Getting to that point is the essence of faith and as I have been preparing for tomorrow God has lead me back to that place of rest and assurance in him. I am not ready to preach but God has lead me to be ready – there is a small but importance difference.

For Christians, like me, who are busy busy with lots of things I have come to realize that spending downtime in quietness is essential to reenergizing your faith. I was reminded of this twice tonight as I prepared for tomorrow. First of all you can listen to Tim Chester talk about his book The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness over at his blog. And also I watched NOOMA Noise | 005 for the first time tonight. It really helped me refocus and put my mind, thought and faith back in the right place, or on the right person, after a hectic week.

Enjoy the NOOMA:

Blog Dyfed Wyn Roberts

April 29, 2009

Dyfed, lost somewhere on Ynys Môn, he's honestly not as far out as this picture suggests!

Dyfed, lost somewhere on Ynys Môn, he's honestly not as far out as this picture suggests!

I first met Dyfed when I got my interview to be Warden of John Morris Jones two years ago. John Morris Jones is the Welsh speaking hall of residence at Bangor University. At the time Dyfed was Head Warden of Rathbone, the “English Hall” next door, and he also administrated the whole warden system of the University. During the interview I remember him taking a keen interest in two things. First of all he took a keen interest in my research field and secondly he took a keen interest in my faith – I think I must have said in the application letter that I was a committed Christian. All this baffled me as he hardly asked anything directly about the job and role I was being interviewed for!

When I got home to Aberystwyth that night I was intrigued so I turned to that post-modern god for answers, Google. I found out that Dyfed, in addition to his warden and student support services role, was also a part-time lecturer in the Theology Department and he had been in full time ministry and was planning to return to it at the end of the year. It would be an exaggeration to say that we are now best friends but as brothers in Christ I like to think anyway that I knew I had a fellow Christian I could turn to if the whole Warden thing got to me! He perhaps doesn’t know it, but he did have a sort of role in advising me what Church to go to when i arrived in Bangor. I very much enjoyed our short but frequent chats on the way to the laundry, at the Christmas dinner, and when he took his dog for a walk.

Dyfed has now left the University and returned, with his lovely wife Helen, to full time ministry on his native Ynys Môn. He has a very very interesting blog where he shares some of his vision for the work of the Kingdom on Ynys Môn. What is great is that Dyfed and Helen are really doing it, for example Helen has taken over the running of the Post Office in Brynsiencyn, the village they have moved to. The previous postmaster retired a few months ago and no one was willing to take on the service. Fortunately the office has been kept open by someone on a temporary basis, but now Helen’s time has come to take it over. Dyfed tells that ‘there is a lot of life in it for her and she is excited at the prospect of being at the heart of village life.’ It is a great opportunity to serve the local community. Brynsiencyn is a relatively poor village, with many elderly people depending on the post office to receive their state pension. Not having this service locally would have meant a bus journey to Llanfairpwll. This whole rooting in to the community for the Kingdom really excites me and is a huge encouragement.

So, keep a look out for Dyfed’s blog if you want to be encouraged and inspired.

Report from WalesWide conference (part 1)

March 16, 2009

Please forgive my neglect of this blog again. It’s been a busy few days, trying to finish a chapter of the PhD by next week, and was preaching on Sunday at Llanberis and I had to work on an article for an academic journal over the weekend too! So don’t you believe those who say that PhD students are lazy wasters who don’t want a proper job! If I worked any harder people might start calling me a Puritan! (if you don’t get that joke, don’t worry!)

Addoliad - Praise

Anyway, here is a chance to say a word about the WalesWide conference I attended last Thursday. It was nothing short of an honor to be there. I arrived a big late – it was quite a drive down to Newtown from Bangor. When I got there i was astonished to see the car park packed, i walked into the building and into the main hall and to my astonishment there were the three hundred strong crowd shouting praise to the Lord. God’s people who turned despair into hope. People who turned their concern for Wales into a hart opening intercede before God. There was a deep sense in this conference that God can revive his Church in Wales, even a belief that the renewal had already started.

So who or what is WalesWide exactly? Waleswide facilitates the planting of new churches in Wales and the strengthening of existing ones where appropriate. They sense urgency from the Holy Spirit for this being felt across the various Christian networks in Wales. Waleswide seeks a cooperative effort among Christians throughout Wales in order to encourage the multiplication of Bible believing Christian churches throughout the nation. They work with church groupings and networks that share their values and doctrinal distinctives whether Anglican, Baptist, Reformed, Charismatic, Welsh Language denominations or independent. They are not seeking to form a new denomination or church grouping of their own.

Elfed Godding a David Ollerton

Jesus is ever intent on building His church (Matthew 16:18).  We live in a day of opportunity, resources and freedom to spread the Gospel and start new churches without hindrance. As society fragments, lawlessness increases and secularism breeds despair the living church of Jesus Christ stands out for truth, reconciliation and hope. The world at its worst needs a church at its best. At the start of the twenty-first century many areas of Wales are rapidly becoming a spiritual wilderness with ageing congregations, closing buildings, the Gospel rarely preached and little expectation of an improvement. It is time for obedience to the great Commission. A hundred and fifty years ago the majority of people in Wales were listening regularly to Biblical preaching.  Seventy years ago the chapels had more members than ever in their history. Today less than 2% of the population can be described as evangelical. Dozens of towns and hundreds of villages have no Bible believing church, and many that do have are seeing relentless decline. Stronger churches in other parts of Wales are doing much in their immediate area, and overseas, but few have a clear commitment and strategy for their own nation. Waleswide believes that the Lord Jesus would see healthy, Bible believing churches established in all areas of Wales including the inner cities, valley communities, mid Wales and Welsh speaking communities.

That is the vision of WalesWide, and that was the vision that was shared during the conference. The post has gone a bit long now so I’ll reserve the rest of my say for the next post.

Pictures of WalesWide conference

March 13, 2009

Yesterday I went to the WalesWide Church planting and transplanting conference. It was an awesome day filled with inspiration from the Spirit. I’ll try and find time over the weekend to write a detailed post about the conference but for now just a post to share some brilliant pictures i took at the conference:

David Ollerton

The rest of the photo set

WalesWide and Church Planting in Wales

February 19, 2009

Church planting is a much talked about thing everywhere these days and Wales is no exception. There has been very few Church plants, those that came because of splits I don’t count here, in Wales over the past half century. The number of Welsh language plants have been even smaller. But planting is very much the vision, even the calling, of a man called David Ollerton who established WalesWide/CymruGyfan. I first heard about David through a good friend of mine who I met at University in Aberystwyth; John Derek Rees was bought up in his David’s Church, Rhiwbina Baptist in Cardiff. David has now moved on from Rhiwbina and is one of the leaders of a Church plant in Porthcawl, Grace Community Church, in addition to being visionary and director of WalesWide.

Here is a video of David sharing his vision:

WalesWide have got a conference coming up next month: ‘Church Planting and Strengthening Conference
 – Principles, models and examples
’; Thursday 12 March 2009, 10am to 4pm
Hope Community Church, Dolfor Road, Newtown, SY16 1JD. Speakers include Julian Richards, Marc Owen, Rob Jones and David Ollerton
. Seminars with Meirion Morris, Ian Parry, John Parkin, Darren Mayor and Mark Bennett with time for questions and answers.

It’s exiting stuff and I hope to attend the conference. Will I see you there?

Stop Dating the Church by Joshua Harris (Review)

February 18, 2009

Stop Dating the Church - Joshua HarrisRecently I read Joshua Harris’ book Stop Dating the Church (Multnomah, 2004). It’s a small book, pocket sized, and only 129 pages; you could easily read it in a day. In the book Harris argues that an unfortunate culture has risen in church circles where people casually “date” the church rather than commit to a serious relationship. Welsh language denominational churches are an obvious example of the phenomenon Harris talks about because church attendance at most churches are at best half it’s registered members. Members don’t even turn up to worship without mentioning further commitment. Harris argues that the Church is important because God himself sees the Church as important; so important in-fact that God the Father gave God the Son, Jesus Christ, the Church as his bride. Harris goes on to explain that Christianity is a faith that is meant to be lived communally in relationship with other Christians. The book also contains challenging chapters on how we should choose a church and how to spend our Sunday; one should treat it special he argues, but not in a legalistic way.

Although Harris has plenty of good things to say in his book there are a few weaknesses, especially reading it from a Welsh perspective. While you read the book you must keep in mind that Harris leads what would be classified by our standards here in Wales as a ‘mega-church’, he is the Pastor of Covenant Life Church, the founding church of Sovereign Grace Ministries, in Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA. It is obvious that Harris has never come face to face with some of the main problems we face here in Wales. This is no criticism on Harris, it’s just a warning to those who would be tempted to apply his words exactly as they read in the book to our situation in Wales. One must contextualize. He comes to the subject with a blank page and therefore gives no advice to those of us who’s got a page blotted already with nonconformist scribbles; i.e. the legacy of Welsh Chapelism.

Despite the weaknesses and the US culture-specific aspects of his narrative I would strongly recommend this book especially if your interested in Church renewal.

Stop Dating the Church by Joshua Harris (Amazon, £6.99)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Pietism, Part 2

February 11, 2009

This post follows directly from the last post seen below or by clicking here.

Inevitably when there is a split or a schism both sides look towards their leader for inspiration, counsel and advice on almost everything, and that explains in my opinion how Martyn Lloyd-Jones acquired an almost absolute intellectual influence over the conservative evangelical world. I find it especially interesting to compare Martyn Lloyd-Jones with the other leading evangelical figure in Wales during the Twentieth Century, R. Tudur Jones. Both were Evangelical Calvinists when it came to strict spiritual matters but they differentiate when it came to matters of public theology. On one hand R. Tudur Jones was Vice-President of Plaid Cymru and also the Editor of both their Welsh and English newspaper, he was a keen supporter and advocate of welsh language civil rights groups such as Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society) and UMCB (Bangor Welsh Students Union) and he also played a leading role in the pacifist movement in Wales. On the other hand Martyn Lloyd-Jones kept himself to strict spiritual matters only, limiting himself to the four walls of the Church, he was essentially a pietist. And i should note, at this point that I agree with Prof. R.M. Jones when he said that pietism is tantamount to heresy.

But was Lloyd-Jones really a pietist? His faithful followers would argue that he wasn’t a pietist by going on to explain that all he believed was that the clergy should not meddle with politics and social matters. Christians in general should do, Lloyd-Jones’ limitations was only directed towards church leaders. Until fairly recently I was happy and accepted that explanation of Lloyd-Jones’ thought towards the public sphere. But when I delved into his hagiography written by Ian Murray I soon discovered that Lloyd-Jones’ attitude towards public theology was fundamentally more different than that of R. Tudur Jones than what I had originally thought. I was lead to believe that the differences between Lloyd Jones and Tudur Jones’ were only minor differences, different emphasis and nothing more. But after a closer look I discovered that the difference between the two brothers stance on public theology was vast.

It was in 1980, when Lloyd-Jones was nearing the end of his life long ministry, he gave an interview to the magazine Christianity Today. The interviewer asked him “what do you think Christianity ought to say to the economic situation today?”, and he answered as follows:

I think the great message we must preach is God’s judgment on men and on the world… The main function of politics, culture, and all these things is to restrain evil. They can never do an ultimately positive work.

Lloyd-Jones’ emphasis here is clear to us all; he sees the things of the public sphere in a negative and in a sin restraining way – it’s a get our hands dirty and get the job done as fast as possible and then get out even faster type of mentality. Tudur Jones on the other hand enters the public sphere with positive overtones; he sees a Christians ingenuity and activity in the public sphere in positive and creative light and he even sees it as an act of praise to God.

Considering Lloyd-Jones’ almost absolute influence over the conservative evangelical tradition I was bought up in it comes as no surprise that on the whole the tradition that I was bought up in is a pietistic one. My parents, thank God, are not pietists and neither were great men like R.M. Jones, Geraint Gruffydd and the already mentioned R. Tudur Jones. But R.M. Jones’ anti-pietist remarks are heard, even cheered, but hardly have they been acted upon unfortunately. So on the whole the current young generation of evangelical Christians in Wales are still pretty pietistic and this is to the detriment of Welsh public life and also contact points for mission. Much of this, I would argue is down to the influence of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, not the man himself, but the lasting influence of his miss-emphases in relation to the public sphere.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Pietism, Part 1

February 10, 2009

To someone like myself who has been brought up in the evangelical tradition there is but one DoctorDr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He was the hero and he was the Moses like figure who led his people through the hard and lonely decades of the Twentieth Century. He was, it is said, the last Puritan. His influence on the conservative evangelical world was almost absolute and it all came to head in 1996 when he called on evangelical folk to a “call to decision”. He caused controversy when, at the National Assembly of Evangelicals organized by the Evangelical Alliance, he called on all clergy of evangelical conviction to leave denominations which contained both liberal and evangelical congregations. As a significant figure to many free churches, Lloyd-Jones had hoped to encourage those Christians who held evangelical views on subjects such as the atonement, regeneration and the inspiration of Scripture to withdraw from any churches which did not share these beliefs. Many evangelical people in Wales including the dear brothers and sisters in Aberystwyth at the Church where I was bought up followed the Doctors marching orders. New Welsh evangelical congregations were established at Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, Carmarthen, Llangefni, Colwyn Bay, Waunfawr and Talsarnau. But not all responded positively to his call.

At the crucial meeting in 1966 when he gave his address John Stott, who was chairing the meeting, was supposed to give a word of thanks to Lloyd-Jones after the address and then bring the meeting to a close; but instead John Stott went straight into a reply explaining how he disagreed which portions of Lloyd-Jones’ address. The leading evangelical Anglican John Stott, refuted the stance of Lloyd-Jones by stating that his opinion was against history and the Bible. This crucial meeting in the history of the Protestant Church saw the seed sown of a sort of cold war type schism within the evangelical world, a schism we here in Wales still have to cope and deal with today.

In the next post I hope to discuss the implications of this event on the churches of Wales, and specifically its influence on Welsh evangelicals’ attitude and stance towards politics and social action. Also, from the outset here I should note that of what he did, mainly exegetical preaching, he did it like no other, my words are not to be read as an attack on the man but rather an honest discussion about his lasting influence on the Welsh church scene today.

Contextualization is about language and not just waring Jeans

December 9, 2008

 

Rev. Griffith John (1831-1912) from Swansea, Wales who spent his life as a missionary in China. He translated the Bible into Mandarin Chinease. Respect.

Rev. Griffith John (1831-1912) from Swansea, Wales who spent his life as a missionary in China. He translated the Bible into Mandarin Chinease. Respect.

Little did I realize whilst writing my last post that I did two school-boy errors. I wrote a post that was (i.) too long and (ii.) that I also went all historical on you! Those are two mistakes I’m going to try and avoid in future for your sake and mine if this blog is going to be at all popular. In this blog post I hope to address the issue of bilingualism and why I think that it is not only common sense but also that it is Biblical for the Church to do mission and to preach in Welsh in addition to English in Wales. What prompted me to discuss this now is that I attended the so-called “bilingual” Carol Service arrange by the Christian Unions of my University here in Bangor earlier tonight.

 

 

There are two schools of thought regarding languages in the Christian missiology tradition. The two are as follows:

1. Colonial: it is believed that the best thing to do is use the most spoken language of any given nation or region so that you can reach the largest amount of people in the shortest amount of time. In many regions and nations the most commonly shared language amongst people might not be a local language or dialect at all and would perhaps be the colonialists tongue; most probably English or Spanish. Missiology therefore is conducted in the colonists language. With this approach the missiology is perhaps wide spread but shallow in depth.

2. Contextual: it is believed that the best thing to do is learn and immerse your self in the local culture, customs and language. In the short term this might put direct mission work on hold as the missionary learns the peoples language and gets to understand how the people think and feel. It might also mean having to learn more than one language and even give a go at translating Christian books and even the Bible itself into the local tongue. With this approach you might not have such a wide influence in the short term but the mission and the virtue of Christianity that will follow in the land will be much deeper in depth and have a longer lasting effect on the people and the nation.

Tonight, in Bangor, the “bilingual” Carol Service was not truly bilingual. It was an English service with tokenistic use of the Welsh language. There was one reading in Welsh and you had the option of singing the carols in Welsh but that was it. The narration of the service was all in English, the word of welcome was all in English, all the prayers were in English and the address by the speaker was in English. I found this particularly painful as I personally knew plenty of Welsh speakers in the congregation tonight and I know that it won’t have been the gospel itself that stirred them and tickled their deepest emotions tonight but rather the down trodden attitude shown towards their language and culture. This colonial approach to mission serves no purpose in Wales and it is a relic of a bygone age.


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