Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

51NWFZNKQNL._SL500_AA300_This question seemed to be one of the premises behind a book I read recently, although I am uncertain as to the author’s final answer.

Because I haven’t done a book review for a while I thought I would review this one which has been sat in my drafts box for a few months. In the course of researching housing scheme development and history in the UK somebody recommended this book to me and so I thought that I would give it a bash. The title seemed interesting enough and held out the promise of some practical insights into our (post) modern culture.

To be honest I am not sure what I really think of it. I wanted to be excited and stimulated but in reality it seemed like a pale version of (any) work by Francis Schaeffer. In fact, for anybody who has studied missiology at a basic level this is standard fare. I am still not sure what the author was trying to achieve when he wrote the book. It is a sort of historical (ish), philosophical and prophetic statement on his view (intellectual and middle class) of Christendom in the UK. He made very basic applications in parts such as the need to learn from Carey about his sensitivity to communicate Christ contextually (p13). Sadly, that is about as practical as the book got (in my opinion). However, there is a great chapter about Scotland as a case study for the decline of Christianity in Europe.

Hevdoes ask some interesting questions including:

Can traditional preaching survive in an era of multi-channel TV, the global spread of new information technologies, and a shift in public education from texts to images, from books to screens.

I think the answer is yes. But I don’t think he does. The problem is that I am still unsure how he answered the question or even if he did. He then goes on in the book to make other basic points about preachers having to engage with the peculiar pressures faced by people in our culture, particularly in the workplace. Again, it feels like this book was written by an older person because these seem like simple truisms rather than earth shattering insights in 2012. The book was published in 2000 and already feels dated (which partly proves his point above I suppose).

So, is it helpful? It is if you know nothing about history or the basic philosophy of missiology. It is definitely worth a read. It’s just that the book feels depressing, asks lots of questions, doesn’t provide any concrete answers and/or pointers and is lacking any real biblical punch. For a person arguing that we need to move on from old forms to engage with new he spent an awful lot of time engaging with old forms and even some dead philosophers, without making any real positive connection to the Twenty First Century. But maybe that was his clever postmodern point and I am just too thick to have realised it – which seems pretty plausible!

Happy New Year to one and all! Can I start off my thanking those of you who take the time to log in and read some of my thoughts from time to time. I am constantly amazed at the numbers who read this blog from around the globe. It is with this in mind, alongside the launch of 20schemes, that this will be my last week blogging as Niddrie Pastor. I will leave this site active as a place to log on and find archives but, as of the 7th January, I will be blogging from my 20schemes site. I will keep you posted over the next week as I make the change. Can I encourage those of you who subscribe to the site to consider following me over to this new site. Thanks so much!

Now, the blogosphere is awash with reading plans for 2013 and, perhaps, the most comprehensive can be found on The Gospel Coalition website. Please click on the link here to find reading plans galore! There is also a great blog post form Matt Smethurst on the dangers of being sucked into Bible reading Plans with the wrong motivations. Worth a read here.

The Ligonier blog always comes up with the goods! Happy hunting for various plans here.

The 19th Century Scottish minister, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, (sometimes spelled McCheyne) who lived from 1813-1843, prepared a plan for Bible reading to take readers through the New Testament and Psalms twice a year, and through the rest of the Bible once each year. His plans can be accessed easily here.

Tim Chester has some great words of advice on his blog and his reading plan(s) can be accessed here. What I like about Tim’s is that it has a communal element to it (although to be honest every plan could be communal if you wanted it to). Worth a quick look though.

For a helpful perspective on the whole reading plan thing, Garrett Kell offers some honest and wise words on his provocatively entitled blog post, “Why I Plan To Read Less Of The Bible This year”. Check it out here.

My own personal plan is snappily called: Professor Grant Horner’s Bible reading System. Google it or you will find it on most of the blog sites above. I have been using the system throughout 2012. Basically, I read 10 chapters a day from various parts of the Bible. I have worked out that I have read the entire Bible at least 3 and a half times this past year. That’s probably more than I did in the whole of the previous 5 years! I admit that the early weeks were a struggle but, with perseverance, I managed to stick to the plan with amazing ease. I have found it particularly helpful to be able to download the plan onto my iPhone. You can download that here. As usual, the great Tim Challies has produced a list of resources to go along with the plan. These can be found here. Finally, for mutual encouragement and accountability you can access the Facebook page here.

No, it hasn’t made me Godlier or holier and no I don’t think Jesus likes me better than  people who’ve struggled through their devotions this year. At times it has been a chore but after the first few weeks I really got into the groove. Now, I didn’t use it devotionally but instead just read the chapters through at normal reading speed. Like a spiritual shower if you will! Besides this reading I followed my own personal, spiritual routine which enabled me to soak a little longer in the bath! I just found the habit of constantly reading scripture daily nice – that’s all. What I found helpful, particularly when I went through a spiritual ‘dry patch’ in terms of my own devotions, was that I was at least reading huge chunks of scripture as a matter of coarse even when I didn’t really feel like it. Make of that what you will but the point is my head was in the Bible rather than in the TV when I was having some tough times. Remember our faith rests in Christ and not on how we do in these things. Let’s all guard our hearts and watch our motivations.

I hope that we will all grow in truth and grace in 2013 as we wait for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I haven’t posted to ‘Ordinary Pastor‘ (one of my favourite blogs) for a long while. So, here you go! A mini series on church planting. Enjoy it here.

Note: Re-posting doesn’t always mean 100% agreement. 🙂

Another great resource from 9Marks as Mark Dever delivers a sermon on the requirements for pastoral office. Download it here.

Here’s a bit of the silver (skipping) fox on “The Mission”. Always worth a punt.

Here are some resources from the Geneva Push 2011 Conference. As with all things, this is not a wholehearted recommendation for all of the content. But it is worth a perusal. Click here.

Here is a website that could be useful for those of us trying to plant churches and think through some issues.

www.churchplanting.com

As with all sites I am not claiming to agree with, or endorse, all that is written but it could be a helpful resource for some. I am currently thinking about whether I should be broadening this site for a UK context or developing a new church planting site for those seeking to work, plant and train in housing schemes. I will keep you posted.

At Niddrie we will be launching a new church planting initiative within the next month. We are calling it “20Schemes” and further details will follow. We are launching this project in partnership with a church in Kentucky called Bardstown Christian Fellowship, itself planted by a Scotsman, Matthew Spandler-Davison. We are also benefitting hugely from the support, partnership and advice of the 9Marks organisation and Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Just this week they promoted “20Schemes” at their annual Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Conference in front of almost 2000 people, in North Carolina.

The aim of 20Schemes is to revitalise and/or plant 20 gospel churches in 20 Scottish housing schemes in the next 10 years. We want to recruit 20 planters to train 20 church leaders, 20 women to train 20 female gospel workers and 20 ministry apprentices to each make 20 disciples. Our aim is big and bold and, ultimately, is about finding a long-term way to grow indigenous leaders in places we would never think possible.

The questions/criticisms I am getting in some quarters are :

Why go to America? Why not recruit and train people from this country? Haven’t we moved past this approach to cross cultural mission?  Surely, we should be recruiting home grown men for this endeavour?

My answer? Show me some home grown men with the cojones to plant and/or revitalise churches in housing schemes. I am all for recruiting and developing home grown people. In fact, our first planting intern in West Pilton is a Scotsman, but the sad reality is that there is a dearth of Christian men in our country willing to give their lives to this kind of ministry.

Many of the men I know who are at Bible colleges and/or on local church internships, whilst sympathetic to the cause, have no intention of going into housing schemes. They want to be youth workers, or pastoral assistants or missionaries but they certainly don’t want to be any of those things in areas of urban deprivation (not in Scotland anyway). Why is that? I think there are a several reasons: firstly, many churches and gospel ministries in these places are dying, often with aging congregations holding on to history and past glories, unwilling to change. In a world of options men would prefer to go elsewhere or plant their own church rather than have to deal with that kind of political battle. Secondly, almost every man I have spoken to recently about our ministry, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, have pointed to ‘family responsibilities’ as the reason they can’t seriously consider our kind of ministry. Thirdly, I think there is a problem with how middle class churches and institutions are training people. We have more seminars and conferences than ever before. We have more churches who are training leaders than ever before. Yet, still this shortfall. The problem, I fear, is in the fact that we lack the courage to take risks at local church level. Churches want the perfect CV, the perfect candidate and the perfect answers to theological questions (or not as the case may be). The pond we are fishing in here is never going to produce that (certainly not at the outset). Local men are not going to handle 40 hour a week lectures on Exegesis and Hermeneutics. They are not going to be polished speakers or have the finesse of fine apologetics. Unless I’m reading my Bible wrong, the early disciples weren’t University graduates either. They were common men with a love for the Lord, supernaturally endowed with the spiritual gifts necessary to build the church.

In all the talk of biblical manhood and being manly it seems that growing a beard and going to a manly type conference is as near as we are getting to encouraging entry into housing scheme ministry. Everybody agrees to its necessity and are wishing me lots of luck in what we are trying to do but that’s about it. Therefore, we need a new approach in how we tackle the problem of planting in our specific field. Scrap that, we need an approach full stop. Our aim here is to generate, at least initially, outside interest in order to stimulate inside growth and momentum. If we have to go the states and other countries then we will. It is better than sitting here wringing our hands at the dearth of young men wanting to step out in faith. We are certainly starting down a risky road. But I think it is necessary. I think that such is the problem in our country at this moment in history that, in God’s providence, we have little choice but to take these steps. I think we are not going to see local men taking responsibility unless we put steps in ourselves to ensure future growth and development. I think it is going to be a long, drawn out painful process. I think it is going to be a lot of growing on the job. I think it is going to be intuitive, a lot of making it up as we go along and maybe a few painful mistakes along the way.

Back to my original question: Where are all the men? Pray for us as we not only seek to answer that question but provide solutions that are both God honouring and sustainable. Superficially, it will look like a lot of outsiders coming in, but underneath we are working on a long-term, sustainable strategy to grow truly indigenous planters, women’s workers and ministry apprentices. But we need more than a good plan and a well worked strategy. We need God’s favour.

Here’s a web station from Ligonier Ministries that you will find helpful. It covers music, debate, sermons and lectures form a host of men including, OS Guiness, RC Sproul & Alistair Begg.

Listen here.

The answer is ‘nothing‘ until you throw Jesus Christ into the mix! Let me introduce you to the four new housemates at James Ramsay House. JRH is a Victorian house owned by Niddrie Community Church and is situated about 40 minutes outside Edinburgh, on the way to Glasgow, in a place called Shotts.

We bought the house several years ago as a safe, Christian environment for young believers from the scheme. The original idea was to use it as an intensive discipleship home but it never quite worked out that way! Instead, for the last year it has been home to Charlene, a young lady from Niddrie who was wonderfully converted and who needed a safe place to live. She is getting married this week and the house has once again become vacant.

So, I’d like to introduce you to our newest additions to the home so that you can keep them in mind and pray for their ongoing growth and spiritual development. I asked each man to answer the following three questions:

  1. What were you like before you came to know Jesus?
  2. What do you hope to learn in JRH?
  3. How can people be praying for you?

(from left to right) Rick, Ralph, Gordon & Mark

Ricky

I used to drink and take drugs and kept getting in trouble with the police. In May 2012 I became homeless because of my violence. I am in JRH and would like to learn more about Jesus and to become more stable in life and to stay out of trouble. Thanks to NCC for this opportunity. Please pray for me to grow as a Christian and to help me find a skill in life.

Ralph

I used to be a Heroin user for more than 10 years and I have spent most of my life in and out of prisons and institutions. I was in a children’s home from the age of 10 years old and my life has been mostly spent behind locked doors. I was always on some sort of drug or another. I have been a Christian now for just over a year and it is the first time in my life that things have been going right for me. JRH is a great opportunity for me to finally move forward in my walk with the Lord. I can have stability, friendship and accountability. I also want to learn more about Jesus and the Bible.

Please pray for me that God will strengthen me to last the pace and that I can learn good (sic). Also, that I can just keep growing as a Christian. I have a son in Dundee who lives with my mum. I looked after him for three years until I went to prison. He is 5 and has just started school. I see him every two weeks and would love to see him more. His name is wee Ralphy.

Gordon

Before I came to know Jesus I was violent, nasty, political and sectarian. I was a drug user, a heavy drinker and in and out of prison. So, in a nutshell, a vile person. JRH is one of those things that, for me, was a bolt out of the blue. I hope to grow in my relationship with Jesus and to glorify God. I hope to grow with my brothers who are there. I hope to see great growth in my prayer life and to extend my understanding of the gospel. I hope to find solid stability and to settle where I am now.

Pray for me as I am in charge of JRH (Gordon is the house steward) that the Lord would grant me patience, wisdom and love. Pray that I would be a solid witness and example to my brothers in the house.

Mark

Before I came to Christ I was a drug addict and a dealer. A very self-centred man! In JRH I hope to grow in my knowledge of the Bible. I hope to mature spiritually. I want to look to my peers for help and advice and to keep reading and gaining knowledge and wisdom. I would like people to pray so that I can grow into a better Christian and be a good witness to those around me.

The boys have moved in for a 1 month trial period to see how they get on. Please for everybody involved in this work. We believe that God is going to continue to save many from this background and, not only that, use them for His glory both here and further afield. We are praying that JRH is merely a stepping stone on to a full and productive life for the glory of God.