An update from our mission partners: Compassion

Tim Stephenson,

You may have been wondering how our mission partners have been affected by the Covid-19 crisis? We have so far escaped relatively lightly in Wiltshire but what of some of the children that we sponsor collectively or individually in emerging economies around the world?

Compassion’s site has some updates about the delays in communications as well as lots of tips to help you find what to say and write sensitively about the current situation. Well worth taking a look here: https://www.compassionuk.org/blogs/how-to-write-in-a-time-of-crisis/.

Like so many other parts of life at the moment, Compassion has found the easiest way to minimise disruption is digitally. So whether you want to keep in touch with, pray for or give to Compassion you can do it all with the app available here: https://www.compassionuk.org/app/.

Finally, you can find out about who all our mission partners are on the Mission page.

COLOSSIANS 1:3-14 PRAYER

kathylarkman,

This post by kathylarkman was originally published at GRACE PLACE

Pray the Word photoFather God, we thank you for this prayer in Colossians. As we also pray it, we know that this is Your will for us in Christ Jesus.

We thank You for our church family; their faith in Christ, and love for each other because of the Gospel hope which You have reserved for us in heaven.

We praise You because this same Good News is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed our lives from the day we first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace–just as it did in Colosse so long ago.
Thank you for faithful ministers and the many resources You have given us on our behalf, like Epaphras in Colosse. Thank You God the Holy Spirit, for enabling us to have love for others more and more.
Compel us dear Lord to be steadfast in prayer for one another; that You would give us complete knowledge of Your will, spiritual wisdom and understanding. And as we pray this, cause us to live in the way that we will always honour and please You; that we will produce every kind of good fruit. Help us to grow as we learn to know You better and better.
We also pray that we will be strengthened with all Your glorious power so we will have all the endurance and patience we need. May we be filled with joy, always thanking You, Father. For You have enabled us to share in the inheritance that belongs to Your people, who live in the light.
Thank you for Your rescue from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of Your dear Son, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.
As we pray the Word, may it expose, encourage, and enlighten our hearts to what matters. Christ, You are everything! Change us into Your likeness. AMEN.

Daily message – 10 June 2020

Eddie,

Human beings are made in the image of God, which means we’re capable of amazing feats of discovery. But we’re also fallen sinners, warped by our selfishness, determined not to obey God. And so our knowledge is always flawed. Our understanding is biased against God.

— Tim Chester, “Galatians: Rediscovering Joy”

Leadership in Anxious Times – Part 2

Rick Lewis,

This post by Rick Lewis was originally published at Seventy Two

In my first blog I wrote about relating to God in prayer as the foundation for leadership in anxious times. The first leadership initiative I’m recommending is to remain calm, and prayer makes this possible. The next two initiatives on my list are about how we relate to the people who look to us for leadership.

  1. Communicate

In order to slow the spread of Covid-19, regulations have been put in place to drastically reduce physical contact between people all across society. Christian communities generally operate with significant physical contact at gatherings at which members of the group gain a sense of belonging and connection. That sense of belonging does not only come from hugging people or shaking hands; it comes from knowing what’s going on, hearing from others and relating things from our own lives. In short, communication is key to community. With the loss of gatherings, our communication must increase to compensate for that loss.

In anxious times, such communication must have four qualities in particular:

  • If you used to gather weekly, it will require more than weekly communication for people to feel connected when they are anxious. Consider how you can keep people in touch every one or two days. Remember that people are being bombarded by information in this season. There’s a lot to take in. So keep communication brief and simple.
  • Utilise multiple methods of communication and make it as easy as possible for people to stay in touch. Different communities have different levels of technical capacity and preferences. WhatsApp and TikTok might work well in one place while in another phone calls and letters through the post are better. Adapt to your own setting rather than trying to imitate what the church down the road is doing.
  • When using different communication platforms, ensure the messages you’re sending out convey the same content. If not, you’ll only increase anxiety when people discover that others knew something they did not. You will need to say the same thing several times before people will remember the core information. In my last blog I quoted Peter Steinke about how anxiety affects human functioning. He notes that ‘people cannot hear what is being said without distortion’ when they are anxious. Be patient and willing to repeat yourself.
  • This is possibly the most important quality of communication in anxious times. Anxious people need to vent, to express what is going on for them, to ask questions, give feedback and tell their story. Make sure you don’t only engage in one-way communication. Whereas in normal times it might be sufficient to send an email or simply post information on the church website, that simply won’t cut it in anxious times. More than half of your communication as a leader should be listening. Pick up the phone. Yes, it is time-consuming, but it’s absolutely worth it. Remind people of how they can get in touch with you and emphasise your desire that they should take advantage of those pathways. In addition, think about how to foster communication between members that does not involve you and the other appointed leaders. Communication is not just a leadership issue, it’s a systemic health issue. So do all you can to help people feel connected and in touch with one another rather than isolated.
  1. Engage Emotionally

When people are anxious, the rational content of their interactions decreases and the emotional content increases. Adrenalin gets pumping and people can’t think straight. Feelings rise to the surface. Logic is the first casualty of stress. The old saying, ‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care’ is never more true than in anxious times.

The first person to engage with emotionally is yourself. You are not immune from stress and anxiety and you know that your thinking and actions are going to be impacted by what you’re experiencing in ways that may not be self-evident until you stop and consider what’s going on. Practice the self-awareness techniques that you have no doubt picked up in your leadership training – take time to reflect, listen to your body, get feedback from others, and so on.

Be gracious in your interactions with others, patiently accepting that they might not be perfectly logical or balanced in what they say. Keep in mind that you are not necessarily seeing them at their best right now. Listen carefully for the emotions that are being expressed and acknowledge them gently and sincerely. No doubt there are points of fact that need to be clarified and perhaps decisions that need to be made. You will get there more effectively if you first of all deal with the emotional content of the interaction, then move to the rational content.

In the next and final blog in this series I will share three more leadership initiatives for anxious times that relate to vision and strategy.

To read the whole series click here.

 

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Daily message – 09 June 2020

Eddie,
Crazy busy: A mercifully short book about a really big problem

The antidote to busyness of soul is rest, rhythm, death to pride, acceptance of our own finitude and trust in the providence of God.

— Kevin DeYoung, “Crazy Busy”

Twelve Steps Towards Freedom: Endure

Dave Gregory,

This post by Dave Gregory was originally published at Seventy Two

I was supposed to be on sabbatical till the end of this month.  But the restrictions on travel as well as the pastoral and missional demands of the COVID-19 lockdown has meant it rightly needed to be delayed.  No, I’m not asking for sympathy.  As God reminded me a few days ago, waiting can be a part of his plan.  My last sabbatical was delayed two years!  And it proved to shape my life and ministry over the past seven years in a way that probably wouldn’t have been the case if it had happened according to schedule.

This previous sabbatical was rather full but wonderfully refreshing!  Ending with a journey to Peru with BMS World Mission with Carolyn to visit Laura Lee-Lovering who works in Nauta on the banks of the Amazon in environmental mission.  Beginning with another journey, a 100 mile walk along St Oswald’s Way.  Down the Northumbria coast from Lindisfarne, via the Northumbria Community, to Heavensfield on Hadrian’s Wall.

On that walk I was accompanied by Eugene Peterson.  Well not literally.  But each day I read and journaled a chapter in his book “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction”.  A series of reflections on the Psalms of Ascent.  Beginning with the line “I call upon the Lord in my distress and he answers me” (Psalm 120v1).  Ending with the last verse of Psalm 134; “May the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion”.  Songs sung by pilgrims approaching Jerusalem for the Passover festival, remembering God’s act of redemption of freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  A suitable companion to accompany my pilgrimage.

A suitable companion for these days too?  These last months of the COVID-19 lockdown might be described as a “Long Obedience in the Same Direction”.  We have all needed to endure in restricting our movements and social contacts among other things as we have played our part in bringing the infection rate down.  Many things have been delayed.  The launch of BUEN – the Baptist Union Environmental Network – but be assured it is still coming!  And delay in life while painful and uncertain has brought benefits.  As I mentioned before there has been improvement in the natural world around us, which the beautiful weather has brought even more to our notice.

But if we are to continue to enjoy this.  If we are to join with sharing in the mission of God who is the “the maker of heaven and earth”, we will need “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” to be the DNA of our discipleship and church life.  Our concern for the environment and the impacts of climate change upon people’s lives cannot be for a season.  It must be embedded into our individual, corporate and national life as followers of Jesus.

You see, we tend to have short memories.  While we may have enjoyed creation over the past months, how much of what we have experienced will stay with us in the longer term?  How much will be lost when life returns to normal?  Last Saturday night, I watched a film on Netflix – “Like Father”.  I won’t spoil the plot, too much.  Essentially a father and daughter find healing, redemption, perhaps even forgiveness on an accidental cruise they share together.  But at the end as they prepare to leave, the daughter back tracks on her promise to come and visit.  “This is vacation, you know, and I have to get back to real life?”.

“A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” is not just for lockdown.  Nor just for a long sabbatical walk.  It’s for life.  All the years of our life.  Every area of our lives.  Didn’t Paul say run the race “in such a way as to get the prize”  (1 Cor 9v24).  And “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me … straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal”  (Phil 3v12-14, part).  Caring for creation will require a marathon not a sprint.  And strangely is you are going to win in this race, you need to keep going back to the starting line.

The tenth step towards freedom is that we “continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it”.  And that takes us back to the fourth step last December when we were challenged to “make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”  I said then that was a hard call to dig deep.  Now we need to keep on digging.  But this return to the starting line is not a sign of our failure.  No, it arises from a desire for more of God’s life.  Of wanting more to keep in step with God’s mission to sustain and redeem creation.  We need to engage in the spiritual practice of Examen – Environmental Examen.

Examen is a moment at the end of a day to pause, turn and look back with God.  Recognising where you have been aware of the presence of God; and where you may have missed it.  Where you have walked in step with God; or been out of step.  A moment to recognise blessings and be thankful.  Also, to recognise where we have been less than God calls us to be in Jesus.

In our lives we need to build regular moments of environmental examen if we are to sustain “A Long Obedience in the same Direction”.  Back in 2019, the Baptist Union encouraged us to take part in “Living Lent – Creating a Climate of Change”.  In our household we tried to minimise the use of non-recyclable plastic and reduce the red meat in our diet.  They repeated the challenge in 2020.  In our desire for the new thing, maybe you think that is somewhat unimaginative.  But that misses the point.  After journeying for a year, we needed a moment of examen.  We found it helpful to revisit the challenges, particularly to move further towards a meat free diet.  Regular examen increases our awareness so that when you think about shopping, travelling and energy use you become more aware of the environmental costs of the choices that you make.

In church life too, we need moments of environmental examen.  As I write I am aware that it is Environment Sunday.  A moment to focus upon joining our Lord “the maker of heaven and earth” in caring for creation.  And coming up in September there is Climate Sunday – https://ctbi.org.uk/climate-sunday/.  From the 6th of September, churches are encouraged to hold a service focusing on Climate Change at any time over the coming year leading towards the re-scheduled UN Climate meeting in the UK in the autumn of 2021.

Hold a service, great!  But beyond a moment, think about how the environment is reflected in your on-going church life.  Maybe you have already started on the Eco-Church journey.  If so, then build in regular reviews at least once a year or perhaps to the major festivals through the church year.  How might the environment connect with Advent and Christmas, when we celebrate the God who affirms creation by coming to be a part of it.  And at Easter, do you recognise that Christ died to reconcile to God “all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven by making peace through his blood shed, on the cross”  (Col 1v20)?  More regularly, what about communion?  And baptism, a sign of resurrection life; what about the hope of new creation.  Think about the songs you sing in worship – do you include some with a focus upon care of creation?

All these might be moment of environmental examen through our church year.  Alongside theme moments, regularly include environmental concerns in your Sunday prayers,  bulletins and social media feeds.  Encourage people to talk about it in your small groups and ministries, in your leadership teams and church meetings.  Your youth and children’s groups.  Perhaps, with their seeming greater awareness of these issues, you can ask your children and young people to hold you accountable.  After all, it’s their future that we are gambling with when it comes to how our lives today are affecting the climate and environment.

“A Long Obedience in the Same Direction”.  If we are going to respond to climate change this is what we need.  Beyond a moment in our lives, individually or shared together.  Embracing all moments in our lives.  Regularly examined, corrected and re-energised.  Embedded into our discipleship DNA.  With the opening line of Psalm 120, calling out to God in our distress over a distressed creation.  Listening for his voice, that we may walk well with the “maker of heaven and earth” for the wellbeing of creation.  And hoping as the final line of Psalm 135 for the blessing and wellbeing of God for ourselves, for the planet and future generations.

 

This blog is part of a series from Dave Gregory. To see previous blogs in the series, please click here.

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Daily message – 08 June 2020

Eddie,
Profile photo of Sinclair Ferguson

Such contentment is never the result of the momentary decision of the will. It cannot be produced merely by having a well-ordered and thought-through time- and life-management plan calculated to guard us against unexpected twists of divine providence. No, true contentment means embracing the Lord’s will in every aspect of His providence simply because it is His providence.

— Sinclair Ferguson, “In Christ Alone”

Dwelling in the Word: June 8th

Alex Drew,

This post by Alex Drew was originally published at Seventy Two

Philippians 1:3-11

Thanksgiving and Prayer

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

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