Archive for May, 2012
This post is by Julian Rebera, Church Leader at New Life Church, Brighton.
Ok, so this is my first blog on the RTU web site, and I want to share my thoughts about estate discipleship in light of the Great Commission.
Actually, my thoughts are not really distinctive to estate discipleship – it’s just discipleship. But I think, on estates, only authentic discipleship has a chance of cutting the mustard.
Two points which have shaped my understanding of discipleship.
Point 1. Evangelism and the ‘Discipleship Process’.
Most people think of ‘discipleship’ as the process through which believers bring believers to maturity. But that falls short of Matthew 28:20, Jesus didn’t say, ‘Evangelise all nations and then make disciples of the converts’ as if ‘evangelism’ and ‘discipleship’ are two distinct processes. He said ‘Make disciples of all nations …’ which implies ‘evangelism’ is part of, not distinct from the discipleship process.
It follows then, that:
- If I am not evangelising, I am not being a disciple.
- If I am not teaching others to evangelise and helping them learn how to do it, I am neither being a disciple, nor making disciples.
Point 2. The distinctive of Christian discipleship.
The distinctive of Christian discipleship is not that we follow Jesus and His teachings rather than some other Rabbi. The distinctive is that we are to ‘teach to obey everything … [He]… commanded’ (Matthew 28:20). This implies, people (a) do not know Jesus’ teachings and so need to be taught them and (b) when they do know, they still need to ‘learn to obey’.
Consider Hudson Taylor. I reckon what made him a great missionary was his radical discipleship. For example, when he learned and understood the parable of the Faithful and Wise servant (Matthew 24:45-51) that he should always be ready to unashamedly give an account, he immediately went through his wardrobe and books etc. Anything he didn’t need, or could be better used by others he gave away. He learned to obey Jesus teaching. How many of us have books we will never read again, clothes we will not wear etc? In Romans 2:21 Paul asks, “You who teach others, do you teach yourself?”
We must teach people what obedience to all God’s commands actually looks like in our own lives and teach them ‘how to obey’ in their own lives.
Although we should make the most of the best discipleship resources available, in fact, the best or the worst audio/visual resource by far is that of our own lives. 2 Corinthians 3:2-3
Perhaps in another blog I’ll share how we try to work this stuff out in out church. What do you think?
Guest post by Nathan Davies, CAP Centre Manager in Torfaen, South Wales.
Almost every day a fire bell rings at the headquarters of Christians Against Poverty in Bradford.
It’s not an emergency, but a celebration of salvation.
“God has forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Col 2:13-14
Christians Against Poverty (CAP) UK are seeing many people come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour through their witness. They have over 200 centres in the UK that help nearly 20,000 people each year pay off their financial debts. And their workers also seek to tell those people about the God-man named Jesus who came to settle their spiritual debts.
The clients CAP work with faced a terrible time with debt before finding help. 6% attempted suicide with a further 34% seriously considering it. A scary 78% of clients faced health issues due to debts and 42% were prescribed medication! CAP is literally seeing lives saved physically and spiritually as God guides them to the most vulnerable people in society.
Almost every day across the UK someone comes to know Christ through their work, and when they do, the fire bell is rung at Jubilee Mill, the CAP headquarters in Bradford, and all the staff stop to pray and thank God! CAP works for local Churches to provide this service, and all of their centres are opened and run by local Churches and for the growth of local Churches.
This ministry is seeing thousands of Christians from local Churches enter unbelievers homes to show and share the love of Christ in word and deed. It is reaching the unreached people of the UK. The service is completely free for clients of any background, gender, race or religion. The Churches help pay all the costs to run the service locally.
Christians Against Poverty aims to open 300 more centres in the UK over the next few years to attain national coverage. Why not check out the website on Church partnerships to enquire about getting involved?
There are thousands of people in the UK in need of debt counselling and are currently going to good quality secular advice… CAP is the same quality as all the other secular organisations but unashamedly Christ-centred and helping build the Church while maintaining world class debt help.
If you know anyone in debt and there is a CAP centre by you get them to call 0800 328 0006 to find out if CAP can help them!
Let’s keep that fire bell ringing!
“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Matt 25:40
So a contemporary of mine was headed off to Leipzig to plant a church there, at the same time I was off to Dagenham. Because he was going overseas, churches responded enthusiastically to his requests for money and equipment, and to enter into gospel partnership with him for the long term. People assumed, because we were going somewhere in the UK, that that sort of support was unnecessary.
My observation is that churches in the UK think we are ‘Jerusalem’ – in other words, the gospel is going out from us to the ends of the earth. But actually we are the ends of the earth! We are the mission field, the place to which the gospel is going out, every bit as much as it is to Leipzig or Uganda or China.
The mission agency Crosslinks recently produced a pair of world maps. They showed the striking contrast of relative material and spiritual poverty in the world. Although materially wealthy, the UK and Europe are clearly among the darkest and most spiritually bankrupt places on the globe. A recent survey showed there were less Christians per capita in Yorkshire than in Japan!
My point is that we should view the pastor-evangelists in the UK as missionaries every bit as much as those going overseas. And where they’re going into under-resourced situations, there should be no less enthusiasm to respond to requests for money and equipment and long term gospel partnership. Most of the RTU churches we speak to are small in numbers, with members in the lowest income brackets. Gospel mission cannot be sustained there without support. I keep coming across pastors, their families and churches struggling to survive because the sort of support afforded overseas missionaries is simply not in place for them.
What are the chief enemies?
- An unhelpful ‘british’ embarrassment to talk about or ask for money. But we fail to ask because we mistakenly think this is about funding me and my family personally. Whereas it’s actually about investing in vigorous gospel mission right on the front line.
- The prosperity gospel causing us to hesitate. So many pastors have fleeced the sheep instead of feeding the sheep,that we’re afraid our request for money will be misunderstood, that we’re in it for the dosh. But this simply requires us to be transparent, & to have budgets that clearly meet our needs, not provide for our luxuries.
- The isolation of independent churches. For all the benefits of being free from denominationalism, independents have little experience, and an innate suspicion of networking & partnership. We’ve got to get over this and start connecting with churches of means. For generations this is how gospel mission has been funded and resourced overseas.
As a way ahead we need to explore:
- For long term resourcing – how to connect churches and individuals of means with pastors and churches on the estates and housing projects. For example, in Dagenham we have benefitted from long term gospel partnerships with 5 or 6 churches and 10 to 15 individuals, who have enabled us to sustain a team of 4 for over ten years. We have had some additional funding from charitable trusts, but that only lasts for 2 or 3 years at a time. We have close connections with our long term gospel partners, praying for each other, occasionally engaging in mission together, & taking a real interest in each other’s work.
- For short term resourcing – how to sponsor training. Is the way ahead to create an RTU trust fund to which men and women can apply, to see them through courses and residential training? It will take huge start-up donations to establish such an instrument but we believe in a Lord who can do more than we can ask or imagine.
We have several women in church for whom home is really bad news. Over decades, husbands, and sometimes the grown up children, have been very demanding and constantly rude, domineering, aggressive, hurtful. They can’t realistically escape because of poverty, fear, guilt, knowing that Christ would not want them to leave even if they could. Life for these women is miserable and, in practice, they are hostages in their own homes. This includes tight restrictions put on the amount of time they’re ‘allowed out’ at church.
For these hostages, church is like a refuge, and a thin slice of life which is their own. It is one place they can escape to where they are loved and valued, and find some friendship and joy. These are converted women who love Jesus, and love to sing his praises. But they can’t bear the thought of their ‘captors’ joining them, invading their safe and precious space. So they can’t bring themselves to pray for them. And they wont bring them to church because it would be like inviting their persecutors into the refuge. And they’re very reluctant for us to go round to try and build bridges or share the gospel, both for the trouble it will cause them, and because they can’t bear the thought of their captors being saved. The extent of grace is a really hard doctrine for them.
Have you come across this in your setting? How have you handled it?