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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The quote shown below, though funny, is all too true! I have a copy of it on my desk and often chuckle when reading it. It reminds me of the stupid things we humans sometimes do.
Reading (and heeding) instructions can save lots of self-inflicted pain and heartache in life. Consider these instructions from the apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Thessalonica:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thess. 5:16-18 ESV
Practicing what he preached, Paul maintained an “attitude of gratitude.” At all times and in all circumstances, he remembered that God was always with him and for him, and so he gave thanks.
When I typed the phrase “attitude of gratitude” into a search engine, millions of results popped up. I read several of the linked articles – some sharing stories and others quoting Bible verses. Some noted the physical benefits of cultivating such an attitude. One put it this way:
Over the past decade, numerous scientific studies have documented a wide range of benefits that come with gratitude. These are available to anyone who practices being grateful, even in the midst of adversity, such as elderly people confronting death, those with cancer, people with chronic illness or chronic pain, and those in recovery from addiction. Research-based reasons for practicing gratitude include:
· Gratitude facilitates contentment. Practicing gratitude is one of the most reliable methods for increasing contentment and life satisfaction. It also improves mood by enhancing feelings of optimism, joy, pleasure, enthusiasm, and other positive emotions…. Gratitude also reduces anxiety and depression.
· Gratitude promotes physical health. Studies suggest gratitude helps to lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, reduce symptoms of illness, and make us less bothered by aches and pains.
· Gratitude enhances sleep. Grateful people tend to get more sleep each night, spend less time awake before falling asleep, and feel more rested upon awakening. If you want to sleep more soundly, instead of counting sheep count your blessings.
· Gratitude strengthens relationships. It makes us feel closer and more connected to friends and intimate partners. When partners feel and express gratitude for each other, they each become more satisfied with their relationship.
· Gratitude encourages paying it forward. Grateful people are generally more helpful, generous of spirit, and compassionate. These qualities often spill over onto others. (Dan Mager, Psychology Today, November 2014)
For Christians, an attitude of gratitude flows from rejoicing in the Lord – praising him for his goodness, love, faithfulness, mercy and grace. Since our Triune God oversees all things and works all things together for our good, we can give him thanks, no matter our circumstances. This grateful mindset helps us see more clearly how God is working in our lives. As noted by James, the half-brother of Jesus, the closer we draw to God, the closer he draws us in. James 4:8 As King David noted while thanking God, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy…”. Psalm 16:11 ESV
Being thankful to God in times of trouble and hardship involves humbly surrendering to him—acknowledging that we need him, remembering the words of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ:
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. Mark 8:34-35
As Paul noted in his first letter to the church in Corinth, part of following Jesus involves a willingness to “die daily”. 1 Corinthians 15:31 KJV We do that by following him in close communication – listening to his Word, responding to him in prayer and in other forms of worship. Then when we encounter difficult or troubling situations, we know that whatever suffering is involved, we can trust him to draw our burdens up into his sufferings on our behalf at the cross. He then redeems our sufferings, leading us to share, by the Spirit, in the new life of his resurrection. Throughout this process of redemption and transformation, we experience an attitude of gratitude, for the Spirit reminds us of our Saviour’s invitation:
Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 ESV
The more closely we follow Jesus, surrendering to him and trusting him, the more grateful we become as he takes our burdens upon himself and gives us his peace—his rest—even in the midst of life’s storms. This brings forth in us a life-giving “attitude of gratitude.”
Thankful for Christ and the rest he provides,
Mind The Gap
by Greg Williams (GCI Vice-President)
For visitors to England who travel on the London area trains, one thing you can’t help noticing is the ever-present “Mind the Gap” signs in the city’s “underground” (called the “tube”). These warning signs tell travellers to mind their step as they stand nearby or enter and exit the tube, lest they fall into the gap between the platform and train. When these warnings go unheeded, what seems like a minor gap can lead to a major catastrophe!
Recently I wrote to our US and international ministry to draw their attention to a gap in our practice of ministry that needs minding. I would like to share this letter with you because each of us, as we follow Jesus Christ, is involved in his ministry and work no matter where we live and no matter whether we are ordained. I’ve changed some of the wording of the original letter to adapt to the UK and Irish settings. The letter discusses the idea of Adaptive Leadership, which in turn implies Adaptive Congregations.
“We say we value being a healthy expression of church, actively following the Spirit in participating with Jesus in seeking the lost and making new disciples, but that is not what we always do. There is a gap between our aspirational values (what we say we value) and our actual actions. We need to close the gap, but how?
We need adaptive leadership and congregations. It starts with us – the leaders and the congregational members. If we don’t close the gap in our own lives and ministries, it will widen in the lives of those we lead (as go the leaders, so goes the church) and of those with whom our congregations come into contact. Closing the gap in a congregation between what it aspires to do and what it actually does requires…
…adaptive leadership [that] consists of the learning required to address conflicts in the values people hold, or to diminish the gap between the values people stand for and the reality they face. (Ronald Heifetz, Founding Director, Centre for Public Leadership, Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government)
Here are four steps you can take to become an adaptive Christian and leader— one who helps your local church turn aspirational values into concrete missional action:
· Practice intentional listening. By listening deeply over long periods of time, adaptive leaders discern the deeper systemic realities at work within their congregations. They then use those discoveries to develop strategies and plans to close gaps between aspirational values and actual practices. Listen deeply to discern what the “music” is that keeps your congregation on the “dance floor.” Then compare how that music resonates (or fails to resonate) with non-believers in your congregation’s target community. Through intentional listening in both your congregation and the surrounding community, you can learn new “tunes” that will bridge relationships between these groups.
· Include the people most affected. Are you the only one losing sleep over the challenge of becoming a healthy, disciple-making church? A common misconception among leaders is to think that, if they initiate a strategy, others will automatically fall in line. Rather than “flying solo,” let’s identify others who share our angst and are willing to join us in doing something about it. This means collaboration — helping others join with us in identifying and sorting out the issues, wrestling with us in dreaming, planning and executing. We accomplish more as a team!
· Engage the mature and motivated. A lot of a church leader’s work involves putting out fires, dealing with the resistant, attending to the cantankerous, and trying to placate the complainers. Though people are our greatest joy in ministry, they can also be a burden. But when it’s time to get serious about turning aspirations into consistent action, surely more and more of a leader’s energy must be invested in sharing the responsibility for the life of the congregation. Who can help with this? Do leaders recognize who those people are?
· Invest in growth. One of our core values in GCI is stewardship—protecting and preserving what we have. I know that in the UK and Ireland the church has a Mission Fund, which is accessible to all the congregations for local mission and evangelism. Some churches have accessed this fund whereas others have not. Our funds exist to help us invest in the growth of the church. If you would like to discuss the funds available to you, and what they could be used for, contact James email@example.com or the National Ministry Team firstname.lastname@example.org, which is planning already for 2019.
Let’s do this now!
The reality is that if we in GCI merely maintain what we have, we will gradually decline. Though some might view this letter as an effort to ‘rally the troops’ to rescue GCI, that is not its purpose.
This letter is my plea to GCI’s leaders, church members and contacts to remember that we are called and commissioned by Jesus to join him in making disciples (that’s our mission). It’s time for us to rise up together as adaptive followers of Jesus to lead our congregations in making the changes necessary to close the gap between what we say we value and what we actually do”.
SEP Because Update
by Richard Fowler
This month, SEP will welcome dozens of excited teenagers on a two-week adventure that they will never forget. It will provide them with many opportunities for personal development and reflection about the bigger questions of life. In a society where they are bombarded with messages about what choices to make and what person they should be, we believe that God has a message for them too. A message we share with them at SEP.
We share this message in many ways. One of the ways is by giving each camper a Because magazine designed and written with them in mind. This has been part of the wider development of the Because magazine: to be a real-time, bespoke response to the issues and questions people on the edge of spirituality are facing. For this reason, you will see a change in style and content for this SEP edition. This is to make the magazine engaging and interesting for the campers; something they can value and take home with them – a Christian message that offers them something very different.
You will notice that we have no At a Glance or Speaking of Life. This is so we can maximise relevant and topical content for teenagers. More importantly, we have gone for a highly visual experience. This is to stimulate and engage them. So much of what the information teenagers consume is visual – mostly from YouTube, or images on social media. By producing an edition that has an emphasis on the visuals, we hope to encourage engagement with the text – the message we are sharing. It has been said that the average person only reads 20% of text on a regular webpage, yet, apparently, we retain 80% of what we see. So, how can we use this edition? This may be an edition for teenagers but there is much we can do with it. Firstly, as you read through the content, notice some of the topics and the way they are being communicated. Understanding what and how to communicate with teenagers may help you navigate a conversation with a young person – using the things they are interested in is a point of entry for a conversation. Also, if you understand topics that are a part of their cultural capital you will instantaneously become more credible and able to relate to them, creating a context to help and influence them in a positive way.
And, secondarily, you may know of a teenager who you can share your edition with. If you do, then share it with them. Maybe they play Fortnite (a huge percentage of teenagers do), then you have an entry point to offer it to them. Also, if you are involved in children’s or youth lessons, some of the articles can be used as discussion points. Finally, maybe you know of a youth club or someone who works with youth, then consider giving them the magazine to share.
In this world of confusion and unhealthy messages, God still has a voice – He still has something to say. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”, Romans 10:17 NKJV and in this edition of Because there is a word from God to our younger generation – and in faith we believe this Word will not return to us void. Isaiah 55:11 It is a word packaged, angled and written in a language they can understand. Let us be mindful about how we can get this word to them.
Thank you for your continued support of the Because project – a project we are all a part of.!
by Corinne Robinson
On 30th June 2018 Barry Robinson, Pastoral Worker in Greater London and member of the 2019 National Ministry team, graduated with a First class BA (Hons) degree in Theology from the London School of Theology (LST).
LST, based in Northwood Middlesex, is the largest interdenominational evangelical college in Europe, and as well as theology has courses on worship and music, counselling and a distance learning programme. On a sweltering day the graduands walked in procession with faculty, family and friends through Northwood to Emmanual CofE church for the graduation ceremony.
A commencement address was given by Dr Deidre Brower Latz, Principal of Nazarene Theological College Manchester, who spoke on Phillipians 2 – that while we celebrate the student’s achievements, they should remember Christ’s attitude of humility, that the glory goes to him, and that they go forward in his service.
The Principal of LST has asked Barry to serve on a working group to examine developing a ministry stream in the BA theology degree for those students who want to enter into pastoral ministry.
by George McGowan
In June James Henderson, assisted by Barry Robinson, conducted three ordinations in the North London congregation.
Susan McGowan and Carol Armstrong were both ordained as Deaconesses. Susan serves in North London and Stratford. Carol is also the chair of the Pastoral Council in North London.
Gordon Brown was ordained as an Elder in the London Congregation of GCI. Gordon has served as a Deacon for many years and also serves on the Church Board.
Northampton Special Event 2018!
by John O’Donovan
The Northampton congregation would like to say a Huge Thank You to all who visited us in Raunds on Saturday 16th June! Also, Special Thanks to those of you who couldn’t be there but sent us kind wishes for the day and for the many prayers asking God for a successful day. Yet again those prayers were mightily answered, and we had over 150 in attendance.
We were honoured to have Jose & Helena Ribeiro with us from Portugal. Jose is the GCI National Leader in Portugal. He shared with us some of the church’s activities there and also gave the sermon. Following the afternoon service (including a children’s church led by Richard Fowler) we had many hours of wonderful fellowship. Howe & Co Fish & Chips were on hand again to serve us a fabulous evening meal and a local Ice Cream Van paid us a visit for those who still had space for dessert.
Because of the National Conference the next day in Northampton, we were delighted to welcome several new faces at our event, from as far away as Scotland, Ireland, other European countries as well as the US. We had several kind compliments again this year on our venue at Raunds which was most encouraging for us. We were also very blessed with really nice weather - God willing we can do it all again in 2019. No date firmed up yet but watch this space!
Stratford family fun day
by Sue McGowan
On the afternoon of Saturday 16th June, the Stratford Churches held their annual Family Fun Day for the community in the grounds of St John’s Church. 16 Churches took part providing free games, activities, refreshments and a prayer station for around 3000 visitors to the event. 700 burgers, 600 candy floss, endless cups of tea and soft drinks were given away over the course of 3 hours.
GCI Stratford ran a card making stall and as the next day was Father’s Day, many cards were made for the Dads. There was also face painting (very popular), a bouncy castle, sumo wrestling and lots more. The afternoon ended with a Christian rap artist.
All agreed it was a successful and rewarding afternoon with much seed sown into the Stratford community.
by Nancy Silcox
It is with great sadness that we inform you of the sudden death earlier this year of long-time member, Will Linton. Will began reading the Plain Truth in the late 1960s, and began attending Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland in. Several years later, when a new church opened in Ballymena, Will became the first Deacon there. He and his wife, Jean, served the Church faithfully and enthusiastically.
Will and Jean worked many years with the YOU, taking the Irish youth to SEP in Scotland, and were active in Spokesman’s Club and Ladies Group, as well as looking after and visiting members in later years, leading worship and facilitating the Church Services. Will’s enthusiasm and commitment will be sorely missed, and we ask that you remember Jean in your prayers.
2019 NMT commissioned
by James Henderson
The UK and Irish churches hosted a denominational conference on the 17th June in Northampton England with Dr Gary Deddo as the guest speaker. Dr Deddo’s two presentations were Worship and Witness: Life as if Jesus is Lord of the Church, and Worldview and Vocation: Life as if Jesus is Lord of All.
On the morning of the conference, European Director James Henderson led a prayer of commissioning of the National Ministry Team (NMT) due to lead the UK and Ireland from the beginning of 2019. The NMT comprises Gavin Henderson, Pete Mill and Barry Robinson. While James prayed, David Silcox, Tony Goudie and Gary Deddo consecrated the NMT for service to the church through the Laying on of Hands.
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