Blogroll: God Gold and Generals
I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading. There are currently 21 posts from the blog 'God Gold and Generals.'
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How to encourage Christians to read? Most Christians in the U.K. read virtually nothing: in fact, I gather that 95% of Christian books published are read by about 5% of Christians. Garry Williams, wondering about this and in particular why having a short book is seen as a selling point said “ We could do with a graded reading scheme and a clear sense not of 'Yay it's short' but 'This is short so it will be a great start, but you should aim to move along the road to this, which is longer and more difficult but will repay every effort you put into it tenfold'.
Herewith then is my humble suggestion of a “ three course meal“ for reading Christian books: starting with ones that are short and easy (first course) then more advanced (second course) and finishing with some real heavyweights. Ideally, your taste buds develop as you go along and you acquire a taste for the best prime steak plus a glass of chateau Lafite 1984 having started with a sandwich and a Diet Coke! Or if you like here is a ladder with easy steps to climb to start with and each step encourages you to take another.
Plenty of Christians never read a book but if you have the literacy and resources and time to do that you will find your faith is strengthened.
I have excluded all commentaries and reference books, statements of faith, catechisms, and specialised books such as those for pastors or on preaching of counselling or families, and so on.
I appreciate that there are many many books to choose from these of course reflect my interests and theological views!
Always try and buy through a Christian bookshop (sadly few in number these days ) or an online Christian bookseller such as 10ofthose if you can.
1. John Bunyan “The Pilgrims Progress.“
By far the best selling a Christian book of all time after the Bible. An allegory of the Christian life. Exciting!
2. CS Lewis: “ Screwtape Letters.”
We have an enemy, the Devil, and this is what he is up to
3. John Stott “Basic Christianity”
What do Christians believe?
4. Steve Kneale: “Being a Christian.”
The basics of being a Christian.
5. Word 121: the apostle John plus notes.
Great for sharing faith with a friend
6. Vaughan Roberts: “Gods Big Picture”
What’s the Bible all about?
7. Tim Keller: “Prodigal God”
What is God like? Based on the Prodigal Sim
8. JC Ryle: “Expository Thoughts on the Gospels”.
As with word 121, anything that gets you reading the bible and especially the gospels has got to be good
9 and 10. Corrie Ten Boom “The Hiding Place” and Brother Andrew “God’s Smuggler
Biographies are a great way of absorbing truth and these two (both by Dutch writers) are brilliant.
1. JI Packer “Knowing God.”
What’s the bible‘s teaching about God and our relationship to him?
2. RC Sproul “The Holiness of God”.
What’s God like? What does a “holy” God mean?
3. CH Spurgeon “Morning and Evening”.
Devotional thoughts from the Bible
4. John Stott “The Cross of Christ”.
The cross is the centre of the Christian faith and this book explains it so well.
5. JC Ryle: “Holiness”.
How to live as a Christian. So practical and so easy to read: yet so challenging.
6. Martyn Lloyd Jones “Studies in the sermon on the Mount “
This is perhaps the most studied yet least understood passage in the Bible.
7. Either (or both) Amy Orr-Ewing “Why Trust the Bible” and Pete Williams “Can we Trust the Gospels”.
This is the central attack today on Christianity and these books explain why it is trustworthy.
8. John Lennox “Has science buried God?”
Another key question we need to face
9. Tim Keller “Reason for God”
Why being a Christian makes sense
10. Rico Tice “Honest Evangelism”
How can we share our faith?
11. Sinclair Ferguson “The Whole Christ”
What does it mean to be united with Christ?
12. Thomas Boston “The Crook in the Lot”
An 18th C classic on how to deal with suffering.
13. Rebecca MacLaughlin “Confronting Christianity”
A great book to give to the sceptic
14. Biography: Jonathan Aitken “John Newton”
An amazing and true story of a slaver who ended up being a central figure in anti-slavery and one of the greatest preachers of the 18thC
15. Ravi Zacharias: “Jesus amongst other Gods”.
What does the Lord have to say to us in our Pluralistic and multi faith world?
I’m conscious here that as a non-pastor non-specialist non-theologian I’m out of my depth. There are many many books one could suggest but it’s first of all high time for some classics
1. Augustine “Confessions”.
A book like no other: the story of a young man coming to faith: written 1700 years ago reads as if it was written yesterday
2. Augustine “City of God”
This points the way forward to our heavenly home. Possibly the most important Christian book of all time.
3. Calvin “institutes of the Christian religion”.
One of the two most famous books of the Protestant Reformation. Make sure you get a good modern translation. An overview of Christian belief.
4. Luther “The Bondage of the Will”
Here is the other equally famous theological work from the Reformation: why we cannot save ourselves
5. Puritan writers. Others are better placed than me to recommend where to start In detail reading these giants of the past, but here are some good ideas https://www.beautifulchristianlife.com/blog/10-must-read-books-by-the-puritans-for-christians-today
The Banner of Truth is the “go to” place for these classics.
6. A systematic theology.
Others are far better qualified than me to recommend, but of the modern ones I have particularly enjoyed and found (fairly!) easy to read I suggest Grudem and Letham. Berkhof is slightly older and good. Bavinck is for the ambitious. You can I have found with profit read a ST from cover to cover but maybe not in one go!
7. JI Packer “Keep in Step with the Spirit”
In my view a balanced overview of the nature and work of the Holy Spirit.
8. Pascal “Pensees”
As with Augustine some of these could have been written yesterday. A profound thinker from the C17th.
9. Carson and Moo “Overview of the New Testament”.
What is the NT about and how is is written?
10. Biography: Iain Murray on Martyn Lloyd Jones (either two-volume or shorter one-volume combined work)
The leading figure of the 20th C (with Stott) in U.K. evangelicalism
11. NT Wright “The Resurrection of the Son of God”
While Wright has his evangelical critics, especially on justification, this is the “go to “ book on the resurrection.
12. John Murray: “Redemption Accomplished and Applied”
How are we saved? What does the atonement mean to us? (Or could choose “From heaven he came and sought her” edited by Gibson and Gibson, which covers some of the same ground)
13. Francis Schaeffer:
A major writer of the 20thC on apologetics and philosophy: I would recommend the published trilogy of perhaps his best books : “The God who is there” “Escape from reason” and “He is there and he is not silent”
14. Something on church history there are many but I suggest Justo Gonzalez “A History of Christianity”. Nick Needham 2000 years of Christ’s Power is also very good.
Afterward (provocatively being a teenager) I used to ask him “do you think the danger faced by reformed churches is too much emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit or too little”? Often in fairness, he would (which was I think very unusual and showed his openness to discussion and tolerance of his irritating teenaged son) allow an open debate about this amongst the many people who came in after church to the manse for coffee and cake.
My good friend Steve Kneale has followed up his article “Evangelism Uber Alles” with a second article on the same theme. I always look forward (I would even say eagerly!) to reading his excellent blogs which are well written and thought-provoking if occasionally provocative. And nothing wrong with that: it would be a dull world if we all agreed on everything. Steve makes you think which is great.
There are a number of things which are very helpful. Steve insists that he didn’t mean and was misunderstood or misquoted (by me I’m sure he meant amongst others ) to have said or implied that “some people are doing too much evangelism”. That’s not the case. Great.
He explains in more detail that there are places (unspecified but I appreciate he doesn’t want to start getting personal) who “insist that evangelism is the only priority of the church...that the only task is to share the gospel..their services are geared to unbelievers...and any discipleship that takes place centres around what is perceived to be the only task of the church... the church is for reaching the lost and no more”. He points out which I entirely agree with that we are called to “follow him and be faithful to what he asks of us in all areas”. Evangelism without discipleship is unbalanced and unbiblical. We must follow all the commands of Jesus.
I am left though with a feeling that something puzzles me in the good "Dr. Kneale's" diagnosis of the disease. It’s if you like that such an illness does exist but that personally, I have never seen it. Steve is insistent that this is a very common occurrence “plenty of churches take this view (that evangelism is the only priority)”. But strangely I have never seen it. Not once. Now Oldham is different from Sevenoaks and one of the fascinating things about the evangelical world is how richly varied it is. But I do spend a lot of time in a huge range of evangelical churches and I have honestly never met a church remotely like that. Not one. Even more so with the good folk who read EN: I would be amazed if there was such a church whose members regularly read that excellent paper.
The danger I see in our Conservative evangelical churches is rather the exact opposite one: - which in fairness Steve articulates briefly - “they (such churches) see no need for evangelism: we just preach the word we insist and He will do the rest”.
So I am puzzled by such a difference in perception. Such is life and this is why it’s always so interesting to read Steve’s wonderful blog as he brings such a fresh and stimulating perspective. We must leave it there I guess short of objective market research as we obviously must move in very different circles. Maybe Oldham and its surrounding environs are peppered with solid bible teaching evangelical churches who behave like this?
But of this I’m 100% convinced from my experience: that warning the good folk who read EN about prioritization of “evangelism Uber Alles” Is in the same line as my dear father's warnings on the excesses of the Charismatic Movement. In other words that such a danger exists but it’s not the one we face and we face the opposite danger
The danger for conservative evangelicals I believe is precisely on the other side of the warning: giving evangelism too low a priority, not to high. I don't think that's because any such churches don't know or ignore the commands of Jesus. Our churches know their bible and are well taught by faithful pastors.
I suspect it is because we know and try but struggle understandably to carry out that command. We know we should obey it but we don't know how to obey it. So we are tempted to give up. i want to encourage us not to do that.
Many thanks to Andy Murray, the son of my father's biographer, John J Murray. His father recently went to be with the Lord and Andy very thoughtfully sent me all the papers his father used in preparing the book. Among them was my eulogy from September 2003.
Dad's first name was John. There is another John in the Bible, John the evangelist. In his youth, he and his brother were known as "Sons of Thunder", men of strength, leadership, and action. Dad was all of those things. But in his old age, John the evangelist was known as the "Apostle of love". Dad to us all in the family was above all a loving wonderful father. That love came to him, as to his namesake, from God. In John's gospel, we read "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."
Dad loved his family
Hi family was strongly Christian, loyal and tight-knit, and loving. Dad was born to Joseph William and Amy Loveday Marshall on 18th November 1932. He was brought up with his brother David - also a minister - and his sister Margaret whom we are very glad is here today. From Chingford, where he grew up during the Blitz, he went to national service in the Royal Artillery and to Balliol College Oxford, where he read PPE. He was a highly successful oarsman, including being stroke of the Head of the River Boat. After Balliol, he then read Theology at Mansfield College. More importantly, Oxford was where he met Mum: or to be accurate they met in Plymouth where they were both on a mission with OICCU. Mum was taken aback when this newcomer, who hadn't bothered to take any of the training courses, started adding material (three points even!) to the perfectly good answer given by the missioner to a question.
Dad was a loving and caring husband to Mum his entire life. It was literally a "marriage made in heaven" as God it seems to me had designed the two to be together, for they were utterly complementary
Dad was arts, Mum science
Dad was the man at the front, on the stage, Mum supporting him ceaselessly behind the scenes
Dad was pessimistic, Mum optimistic
Dad was slow to make up his mind but utterly (indeed infuriatingly!) immovable once decided. Mum was quick to think and to speak.
Dad could be reserved while Mum was gregarious.
It was a wonderful heaven made partnership. Their marriage was 41 extremely happy years. I can honestly say I never heard an angry word.
Dad was extremely protective of Mum - truly like Matthew Henry's comment on Eve's creation which Dad liked to quote "Eve was made not from Adam's head to rule over him, nor from his feet to be trodden down by him, but from under his arm so that he could protect her, and close to his heart to be loved."
They were truly devoted to each other and loved one another's company. Everyday rain or shine they would go for what Dad called "their geriatric stroll" in Gadebridge Park. Dad always valued Mum's opinion and recognized what a great friend and "helpmeet" she was. Mum was equally devoted to Dad, both in sickness and in health.
Dad was a loving father
His love was unconditional. It was always there no matter what. Dad always had time for his children, even though he was a busy man. The phrase I most associate with him was "the number you are calling knows you are waiting" which was the phrase BT used if your call was engaged in those antique times. Once you eventually got through you could talk to him about anything. He was never too busy, but always deeply interested in others and what you were doing.
Dad was a man with strong biblical principles who based his whole life on the Word of God. For example the often quoted "Let not the sun go down on your wrath" meant that we never went to bed without having a dispute or a quarrel (of which there were not a few!) resolved. Dad "trained us up in the way that we should go" but always respected his children's freedom of speech and freedom of belief. "Arguing is the respect the young pay to the old". The Marshall family was built on arguments, but these were loving arguments where Dad let us debate with him and say what we liked as he loved us and wanted to win our hearts and minds. Finally, at all times he was intensely loyal and supportive of the family - "clannish" one might almost say
Dad was a loving grandfather. One of my abiding memories is of him surrounded by his grandchildren watching that classic "Gunga Din" and all cheering together as the British Army arrives just in time over the hill to rescue our beleaguered heroes. Time doesn't allow me to cover other aspects of his character but just to mention a few:-
He loved naughty boys as he once was one
He loved old ladies especially if they plied him with cakes, and best of all with cream-filled meringues.
He loved his country - GREAT (bold and underlined) Britain and as Iain Murray said he could have been a sea captain under Drake or a Cavalry Colonel under Cromwell
He had a special love and care for those on the outside. I think for example for his support and encouragement for black pastors in London such as Tom Tuitt in Hackney, experiencing racial discrimination.
He loved gardening and all things green. He used to embarrass us as children by stopping on the hard shoulder of the motorway and then sprinting up the embankment to plant daffodils, wildflowers and trees. Once a dear brother in the church was on the M25 and he saw Dads car (a Volvo of course) stopped on the hard shoulder. He pulled over next to him but to his surprise found the car empty. Where was John? Looking up the bank he could eventually see Dad crouching down among some bushes "Oh dear" he thought "He must be ill". He called out "are you all right John" to which he got the cheerful reply "Oh yes don't worry I'm just planting some trees". You can still see the results in spring on the M25 near Potters Bar.
Dad loved education and the pursuit of knowledge and this was reflected in how he and Mum bought up their children. He felt there is always more to learn.
Dad loved his work
Dad did not want to become a Christian, even though he always believed the Bible to be true. He refused to bow the knee to God, as he did not want to become a minister, which he felt was the calling to which God was summoning him. He would rather go to hell than become a minister.
He did not want to go to Hemel Hempstead and he certainly did not plan to spend his entire life there. It was a church with absolutely no evangelical tradition. If God hadn't sent him here the building we are in would certainly have been demolished or converted into flats 30 years ago. The reason I am sure of this is that this was exactly what happened with the other church which Dad jointly pastored when he came here, Box Lane Congregational Church. Dad at times, especially in the first half of his nearly 50 years here, had considerable challenges and considered resigning. Someone once asked him about this and if he had ever thought about quitting, to which he answered: "Yes, once a month for 30 years!"
Despite this constant opposition and challenges, he stayed here because as a good soldier he felt that was where God wanted him to stay. Or to use another biblical analogy, Dad was an ambassador for God and his job was to recommend the KIng of his heavenly country, the Lord Jesus. God must love Hemel Hempstead very much to put one of his best ambassadors here.
Dad also stayed as he loved the people here. He was a wonderful pastor. The front room of the manse often resembled a GP's waiting room as assorted "patients" waited for the Doctor. One of the last things Dad ever said to me was "Im not worried about the church": this was a very unusual statement as Dad nearly always worried about everything. The reason he didn't worry was partly the confidence he had in the wonderful eldership (Colin and Les) and diaconate but much more because ultimately it is not Dad's church but God's "and the gates of hell will not prevail against it".
I would like to talk about his wider Christian work. As many of you know, Dad had a great love of things military and naval and one of the favourite pieces of Britsih history he loved to talk and read about was Dunkirk. Any beleaguered, small, struggling pastor or cause with its back to the sea and hard-pressed and seemingly surrounded on all sides by the hosts of darkness, only had to call Dad and he would be on his way, like the captain of a little ship in 1940. He had a tremendous ministry of encouragement to pastors as he himself knew what Dunkirk experiences could be like. If you follow the image of Dad as a buccaneering sea captain then the ship can have no other name than "HMS (that's 'His Majestys Ship' ) Indomitable". For such he was - indomitable, unbeatable, great-hearted.
But he also commanded a different kind of ship, and that was a lifeboat. Dad wanted to reach others and win them over for his Lord Jesus. So every other Saturday for well over 30 years, without fail, Dad would push out the lifeboat of the gospel in the open air, however fierce the waves of opposition as he preached the good news of the forgiveness of sins, of a way home to God, in Hemel Hempstead market and Trafalgar Square.
Time doesn't allow me to cover all the many other interests that Dad encouraged and led. Two must be mentioned. Firstly his work in Eastern Europe. in July 1974, Dad packed up an Austin 1800 (one of British Leyland's most unreliable products) with a tent, masses of cans of beef stew, Bibles, lots of money to be given away, and finally his wife and four children aged 1-11, and pointed HMS Indomitable east. in the next seven years he visited many churches in Eastern Europe, survived many searches and interrogations by border police, and brought much needed spiritual and practical support to small groups of persecuted Christians.
Secondly, the Banner of Truth. Dad loved being a trustee and poured his energy into promoting its work, especially its international work. He loved the Puritans and was himself a living personification of those Grand Old Men of God, showing that the Puritan spirit was spiritual but also generous, compassionate, warm-hearted with a wonderful sense of humour and joie de vivre.
Dad's indomitable character made him very reluctant to retire. In one of his last sermons, he complained that "some people" (ie me) "have suggested i should retire and seek a wider ministry: I don't want to retire". He felt he was called to preach and that he never felt God wanted him to retire. Now we can understand that God planned things and summoned him so he could "die in harness" as he would have wanted.
Dad loved the Lord Jesus
Many people have written with various names for Dad from 'Pilgrims Progress':- Mr Holdfast, Mr Greatheart, Mr Valiant for Truth and Mr Standfast. I would like to give you a new name from the same vein. Dad loved illustrations in his preaching. I think the one I remember hearing the most often concerns an old lady in the church, Miss Vercoe. There is a memorial to her brother who was killed in World War I over there on the wall. Miss Vercoe did not know the Lord Jesus when Dad came here, but through her preaching, she came to know him as her Saviour. When she was dying in great pain in hospital Dad went to visit her. She told him "Oh, Mr Marshall, I had a wonderful dream. I dreamt I was in heaven and I was surrounded by thousands and thousands of people. There in the midst of us was the Lord Jesus and we were all singing "Stand up, Stand up for Jesus'. "
That is a wonderful name for Dad - "Mr Stand up for Jesus". There was one old lady who never knew Jesus and his ambassador in Hemel told her about him and won her over to him and now she is with him. Here no doubt in this church are many who never knew the Lord Jesus until Dad told them about him. Whenever and whatever the summons was from heaven, Dad would willingly volunteer to "stand up for Jesus".
Dad loved and spent his entire life serving the Lord Jesus. Always the Lord Jesus. And would this same Lord ignore the servant who had been so faithfully his ambassador, his sea captain and his lifeboatman? Absolutely not! As Dad lay dying in his hospital bed we asked Ian Hamilton who was with us "Does God send his angels to fetch his children to him?"
"Oh no," said Ian " When its important family business the Lord Jesus comes himself". I am absolutely sure that as i sat holding Dads hand at just before midnight on the 29th August (2003) the Lord Jesus himself came and called home his faithful servant. That when dad could no longer be Mr Stand Up for Jesus in his illness, as he couldn't stand, that the Lord Jesus himself came and carried him to be with him.
It wasn't that Dad was a naturally religious or holy person, and in some ways, he was quite the opposite. Like all of us, he had his faults. Rather it was that God reached out in great love and mercy and lived in Dad both in life and death. That same wonderful offer of God's forgiveness for sins and invitation to come home to him, which Dad spoke about, is also freely offered to us today. The faith that supported Dad in his last illness can also be ours. He knew what was ahead and that the only person he could lean on was the Lord Jesus, who would never leave him or forsake him. He was right. Each one of us here today will have to die as Dad did. I pray that for each of us in our dying breath the same thing will happen - that Jesus will come for us. The Lord Jesus himself speaks personally to each person here today and offers the same wonderful message of forgiveness and reconciliation with God so that we too can stand with Dad and billions of others in heaven and sing "Stand up stand up for Jesus".
Dads whole life was built on the love that the Lord Jesus had, not just for him but also for all of us if we place our trust in God. As John said, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." Dad was an ambassador and ambassadors represent and in a way should typify their countries. If in Dad you ever saw anything you liked, loved or admired, he would want you to look through him to the God who gave him those qualities. Certainly, the love that Dad had for us his children - strong, compassionate, selfless, loyal, speaks to my sisters and I of the love that the Heavenly Father has for us.
Finally, let me leave the last words to Dad himself. For his words, we have by Gods grace. You see, Dad's last newsletter to his church was prophetic. Dad wrote it about a dear friend of his, Ian Childs, who was dying of cancer. Although the words were written about Ian, by God's grace I believe Dad was also writing them about himself. I quote them
Firstly, he reflects on deaths seriousness. "It is a most solemn thing to sit beside a man whom one has known in the full vigour of health and usefulness and now his voice is weak, his countenance ashen and he stands at the very gate of eternity...for the Christian, the way to death is not always easy, nor for the Christian minister is the way to death always easy...we may reflect on the terrible predicament of those whose bodies decay and yet themselves have no glorious Saviour to lead them up to the gates of death"
Secondly, he speaks of the Lord "Let us reflect on the glories of our Saviour who never leaves us or forsakes us "Jesus loves me, loves me still when I'm very weak and ill". How glorious is the Christian religion. To know that not a hair falls from our head, nothing shall happen to us, outside his divine purpose. How good as his family and friends looked upon their dying husband, father, pastor that he was 'safe in the arms of Jesus'
Dda loved his family, he loved his wife, he loved their children and their spouses, he loved his grandchildren, he loved us his church and he loved his work, but most of all he was loved by and loved the Lord Jesus. And its on the mighty and everlasting promises of the Lord that we, his family, take our stand and on which I end Here is his promise, recorded by John the evangelist. "Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die."
The idea that the four gospels we have were imposed in a rich diversity of “gospels” by an autocratic church establishment in the fourth century is a staple of popular mythology, notably perhaps the single most unreliable historical novel ever written, the “Da Vinci Code”.
This book takes a careful and analytical look at the question “who chose the gospels?”. It is not a new book but I found it because it’s one of the books recommended in Dr Pete Williams excellent book “can we trust the gospels?” I have read the others he recommends as well and you can read my review of Lydia Mcgrew's book here https://jsjmarshall.blogspot.com/2019/02/book-review-hidden-in-plain-view.html
Hill is very readable on what is quite a technical subject. He points out that Egypt where most “gospels “ were found was the centre of Gnosticism. Making this typical of the early church would be like excavating Utah in a thousand years and declaring that in America the Book of Mormon was as equally valued as the Bible. Many of the “gospels “ date from far later than the four we know and are clearly mythical in character. Not all of them are heterodox many in fact we’re written by orthodox Christians as an attempt to fill in the gaps in Jesus life. Particularly in Jesus’s early life which was important as many Gnostics were not monotheistic and claimed that Jesus was inhabited at his baptism by the spirit of God (similar to what some sects believe today). This pious fiction (often aimed at children) about Jesus miracles as a child attempted to rebut such views. Some of the “gospels” are blends of the canonical ones with things added or subtracted. Only a minority are outright gnostic and it’s obvious which they are. Iranaeus states the obvious “The ‘Gospel of Truth’ agrees in nothing with the Gospels of the apostles. Not least as they “assume a plurality of Gods with the creator God at the bottom of the hierarchy as the one who had made Gnostic reclamation necessary by his dreadful cosmic blunder”
A central obstacle to the “church imposition” is the Famous declaration by this Iranaeus the bishop of Lyon in the second half of the second century that there are four and only four gospels. He was refuting heretics who denied not only the divinity of Jesus but monotheism and the entire Old Testament. Now the critics of the orthodox position then say Iranaeus was the forerunner of the dictators to come. Most churches had a multiplicity of gospels. But Hill Painstakingly shows by looking at Clement, Serapion, Theophilus, the Muratorian Fragment, and others that the fourfold canon was secure in the church by the end of the second century, in a variety of places and churches. “The four gospels were not foisted in them by Iranaeus or anyone else but has been passed on to them from their forebears in their local community”.
Hill next goes backward from around 200 to look at gospel harmonies (attempts to synthesize the four gospels into one book), apologetics material from people such as Justin Martyr, and from printed evidence. At an early stage, the church switched away from scrolls to something called a codex, the ancestor of the book. In all these media pretty much the only four gospels used and quoted are the ones we know.
In summary, I found this book highly readable and although it cites many academic studies it’s very accessible to the interested reader. The reliability and selection of the four gospels is under attack then as now from people without the church (which shouldn’t surprise us) and within (which is so sad). This book equips orthodox Christians to understand how we ended up with four. Far from being a late imposition, it was an early recognition of the four gospels handed down from the apostolic church.
Guest Blog: ‘The Great Unmentionable’ : The Generosity Project (Matthias Media/Good Book May 2020 by Bri Glenn
This time six months ago I was working in marketing for one of the world’s largest retail operators. An industry that survives on the materialistic mindset of our generation, and my primary job in it all was to try and get people to buy more ‘stuff’ than they really need. It certainly had its perks, but after 13 years it had begun to grate against my values, to the point where it was time for a change. Fast forward to July 2020 and I’m now working in the world of promoting biblical generosity. You perhaps couldn’t get two worlds more polarised. Whilst a Christian for over 20 years, my main discussions of money were over spreadsheets, building budgets, and setting salaries. I had never really talked much about money with my Christian friends or family, and certainly hadn’t thought too much about life generosity. But why? Why is it that we so often shy away from talking about money and giving when the Bible is simply not afraid of teaching about it? Why is it so awkward? How can we get to the point where we can openly discuss biblical generosity and giving in a way that’s relaxed, honest, and practical? Enter The Generosity Project. I first started reading The Generosity Project, in the final draft, on a PDF, as the resource was headed to the printer in the midst of a global pandemic. Whilst written primarily for small groups, I read it alone, in one sitting, utterly convicted and deeply encouraged, with a renewed understanding of God’s generosity towards me, and a realization that my heart was more aligned to the world than that of God’s purposes. The conviction underlying The Generosity Project is that the culture of generosity is weak in British, Australian, and even some North American churches. We don’t talk about it and we aren’t excited about it. We hear about being a joyful giver, but how do we get to that point where we gladly part with our resources for the sake of the gospel? It is a problem we can and should address— and not just to improve the bottom line of our church budgets. Generosity is a basic fruit of the godly Christian life. It is a glad and joyful response to the grace of God in the gospel. If generosity is weak, then something is weak in the spiritual heart of God’s people. In a nutshell, The Generosity Project is a new six-part teaching resource that stands at the centre of a larger strategy to shift the culture of generosity in our congregations and parachurch ministries. It’s an integrated resource that prayerfully applies the word of God to people’s hearts so that, by God’s power and grace, we might arrive at an obedient and clarified understanding of what generosity is and how it grows; a renewed, generous heart that longs to give to others; and a fresh language for talking about generosity within our congregations. Authored by Tony Payne and Geoff Robson, with contributions from leading Bible teachers including John Stevens (National Director of FIEC), Vaughan Roberts (St Ebbe’s, Oxford) and Jason Roach (The Bridge), The Generosity Project shares a framework of thinking that explores what generosity is; what hinders or blocks it; what facilitates and grows it, and what it means practically for God’s people to reflect his generosity. It models what a culture of generous, joyful giving could mean within churches and Christian organisations, as well as nurturing individual convictions about the joy to be had in giving. I may be biased but I must confess it’s a brilliant, biblically-based resource that comes highly commended by many church and ministry leaders across the country. My hope and prayer is that many will be deeply challenged and encouraged by what the Bible teaches on generosity and giving and not be afraid to talk about it. As Christians, our vision needs to be widened and deepened, starting with a more profound appreciation of God’s generosity to us in Jesus.
Find out more at https://www.thegoodbook.co.uk/the-generosity-projectAvailable now via 10ofthose.com and The Good Book Company
About 10 years ago my friend Julian Ide said “I’d like to introduce you to my father, I think you’d get on”. It was one of the best introductions I ever had for David and I got on like the proverbial house on fire. I ended up taking over from him as Chairman of the two charities he founded. David reminded me in some ways of my father (and as I shall explain they were connected).
David went without warning to be with the Lord on Friday 12th June and this is a personal tribute to a dear brother and a friend
David Ide was born in 1935 into difficult family situation, he mainly grew up with an absent father though amazingly enough David himself became a father figure to many . Family friends notably the neighbouring family the Snellers helped take care of David.
David’s family were Exclusive Brethren. As a young man he and a number of others left, and that inflicted painful wounds which lasted all his life. Many people going though that found their faith damaged or destroyed, but David’s faith was resilient and these troubled early experiences created a warmth and deep humanity about his life. Nothing was too much trouble and he was loving, kind and compassionate to all and especially those labouring with the difficulties of life, as I was to find out myself.
David made his career in building, via his father who had an existing business. For a while David's office was a Rolls Royce, in which he used to dictate memos to his secretary. Over time David became more interested in Christian work mainly through his church in East Horsley, Surrey. David was an elder here and was such a help to many, as Roy Proctor and others have said. He was very influenced in his enthusiasm for evangelism by the then pastor, Paul Bassett.
David met his wife Marion in the brethren, they had two children, Julian and Joanne and many grandchildren of which David was incredibly proud. Every time we met up he would regale me with their latest escapades. David was devoted to Marion, who passed away about 5 years ago and was such an encouragement to him, especially in her support for his travelling in Eastern Europe. They lived in a beautiful converted stables for about 60 years. Christian board meetings were therefore often held (appropriately enough!) in a stable, which came complete with a pipe organ and a grand piano (Marion was a fine musician). These meetings were provided with slap up breakfasts with the finest food served on bone china! The home was also used for wonderful hospitality to visiting international students. David was very involved in setting up Friends International in Guildford and he and Marion entertained up to a 100 students at a time at their home. One Chinese student kept up correspondence over the years. In the last few years as a retired government official he finally advised David and Marion that he was now attending a church in Bejing.
Davids enthusiasm and energy for Christian work was boundless. David started taking an interest in Eastern Europe even before the end of communism. As with my father this led to some “buccaneering” visits. On one occasion David took £20,000 in cash with him for humanitarian aid and was detained at the airport in Kiev for many hours. The officials accused him of being a spy and David after being cross-questioned eventually in exasperation said “yes I am “ and the policemen laughed, and let him go.
David was involved all over Eastern Europe, visiting Serbia with me many times to help set up a seminary there and also deeply involved in Macedonia. Many of his activities were also linked with a church in Mallorca which was a great retreat for him after the loss of Marion. David was an honorary elder at the church in Palma. Years ago he was caught in the middle of a furious argument. He suggested that they all took a break for 5 minutes to calm down. While the others left the room the one local left said to David: "Would you care for a cigarette?" This was the only time he said, he had such an offer in an elders' meeting: not quite in line with his strict Brethren upbringing!
He was particularly passionate about Ukraine which he visited nearly 100 times, his energy and enthusiasm undimmed even at 85! What an example! David would typically on his visits, which lasted for three weeks, travel for over 4000 km, preaching every single day especially in villages and more out of the way places. David was a wonderful warm hearted preacher and evangelist. Amazingly enough David was determined in his gospel enthusiasm to visit the front lines of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine -which is still ongoing. David was appointed an honorary chaplain to the Ukrainian Army to enable him to visit and regularly went to the front line to preach and heard shells sailing over head. Sometimes the two sides would arrange a cease fire while he preached. On one occasion the rebels sent a message saying they knew he was there at the front line, but wouldn’t fire. Often there was a great spiritual hunger. At one service such was the power of God that the English pastor accompanying him finally had to say “Stop, David, stop preaching, just let the Holy Spirit do the work”.
Another time David was driving with the same pastor and they saw a lady sitting on a doorstep in front of her house in the middle of nowhere, and as they drove past they both felt they directed by the Spirit that should stop, go back and talk to her. They turned the car around and did so and soon enough a mini impromptu preaching meeting was taking place. On another occasion a lady came up to David in church and said “do you remember me ?” David had to confess he didn’t, at which she told him she had come drunk to his preaching 7 years before and badly disrupted the service only to through that event eventually come to faith .
A Ukrainian friend of David, Svetlana, writes “When the Crisis began in Ukraine in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, many needs appeared - assistance to refugees, orphans and low-income people. Doors were opened for preaching in : boarding schools, a hospital for war veterans in Kharkov, educational institutions, the centre for social services for families, children and youth. Also, more people began to come to church to receive help, and many of them opened their hearts to listen to the gospel. David supported the work of the prison mission and the rehabilitation centre for alcoholics and drug addicts. The support of local churches was a special ministry of Brother David. He helped financially and in conducting summer camps for the disabled and children. It is simply amazing how much work was done with the participation of David. He was a special vessel of God and joyfully did what the Lord called him to do. Where David was, life was always "in full swing." He loved people and immediately became “an insider” for his listeners in a variety of places - both for children and adults. He was deeply dedicated to God and at the same time was simple, unpretentious, with a good sense of humour, open to everything new and good.“
Another friend of David, Ruslan Antonov, writes "I know this title may sound a little unusual for believers in England - Pastor David Ide - but for believers in Ukraine it became a common title to address Brother David. When Brother David started to come to villages of Chudniv and the other districts of Zhitomir region he preached the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ with passion and tears, inviting people to repentance. We recognized a strong gift of evangelism in him as well as spiritual leadership and care. So we decided to ordain Brother David as a pastor. Another pastor adds "David took an active part in my family life and trials. When our oldest son was born with severe disabilities he prayed over him and comforted me and my wife, he prayed a prayer of blessing in our family house. He called us from England, prayed for our family. He was a very positive and optimistic Christian man. He glorified God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in his sermons and it really inspired and built up the saints. "
Back to Ruslan to summarise "Pastor David had a vision and strategy on how to involve young brothers to the ministry and to work with the older generation. By his own example, he led us to deeper dedication to God and His people. He helped to continue the ministry when we faced difficulties, problems, and frustrations. He was an example of Christian activity, punctuality, leadership, and care. I would sum our memories and appreciation up with the words of apostle Paul "I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me." It could be fairly applied to our dear Brother and Pastor David!
Space simply doesn’t allow me to cover all the many Christian activities David was involved in. He helped EMF over many years. He started three different Christian publishing houses in the Ukraine, Germany and Spain, guiding them in their set up and finance. They are all going strong and each of them have produced hundreds of different books. Recently with the help of our dear sister Ksusha (pictured above), David arranged very large scale translations and publishing of both Life Explored and The Word 121 into the Ukrainian language. she wries " David’s dream was to pass the torch to the new generation, he always valued the time, he knew that this was one of his final chapters. David preached a lot of evangelistic sermons, sharing the message of Hope and Love, his favourite illustration was the Royal Gates, how amazing it would be in Heaven with Jesus Christ for those who believe in Him, and how sad it would be to be found on the other side of the gates. With the help of the Word121 and the Christianity Explored we are able to train local Churches to do effectively the evangelism and follow up programs with a total of over 50000 books printed. The opportunities are mind boggling, Ukraine needs Jesus today as never before. I would say that David was willing to "build a way" to the neediest, you can’t even imagine how bad Ukrainian roads are in the regions, but he was willing to go by potholed roads in order to build a bridge to the broken, searching hearts so that Jesus Christ could walk over it and stay forever as their Lord. David was the best "eternity focused project manager" you could imagine, we miss him a lot. The torch that he passed will continue to shine bright in Ukraine. "
Apart from Ukraine perhaps David’s most important contribution was to found and lead two “sister” organisations - PTI and CBW. David was originally approached by people who wanted to help train pastors in the majority world. David “fathered” the idea forwarded to birth as a new charity PTI in 2002, using a mixture of business people and pastors to get the new charity operational. David was the chairman and provided inspirational leadership. It now under the leadership of Simon Percy provides training throughout the majority world. Simon comments "I like many others was struck by his father like approach and am very much indebted to David for his support, encouragement and boundless enthsiasm."
As PTI grew the demands for books grew so in a similar way David had a second “child”- CBW, with the other “midwife” being Mike Taylor. David was also chairman of CBW and again humanly speaking with his godly wisdom and drive this also flourished. From his love of reformed evangelical literature David had a passion to give poor pastors overseas the treasures from which we benefit. (His passion extended to his hobby to buy rare volumes and first editions. He had his library at Dunsfold built with double depth, so he could make it look as if he had got rid of half his library.) His passion and strong sense of professionalism made him insist on translations being edited and checked after translation. CBW was able under his direction to extend into over 30 countries with simple books made available freely to untrained pastors in their heart language. Added to this work was the distribution of second hand English books obtained from retiring or promoted to glory pastors here in the UK. The number of books distributed by these means has nearly reached 700,000. David's own library has been donated to CBW for distribution or sale. He was also fully behind the recent major efforts of CBW to develop e books and I’m sad that he never saw its full implementation.
One could see he loved books when visiting his home, as his desk and coffee table were always stacked with volumes he was re-reading or hoping to read. Through his brothers in law Mervyn and Ian Barter, David had great contacts at the Banner of Truth and other Christian publishing houses and he was so grateful (as am I) for all the publishers' ongoing support for the majority world.
David was as well as a preacher and Christian entrepreneur a larger than life character. He loved motor racing and was fascinated by not only cars, but also by tanks and aircraft engines. His family had a motor yard where PTI started. Tanks would be hired out (working or not) to many war films. David loved driving and buying vintage cars. He noted recently with chagrin that he could have bought a vintage Rolls 40 years ago and only failed as he lacked £100 to close the deal, the car recently sold for over £1m. He even sold a Merlin aircraft engine to a friend who put it into his Rolls Royce. As with Christian matters David’s enthusiasm was infectious. A friend of David’s turned up late on a summer evening when his son Julian was about 7 in a powerful sports car. David woke Julian up from his bed (to Marion's displeasure) to take him out for a spin, thus giving Julian a lifelong taste for speed!
What was David like? For many including me he was like a second father. He was says Mike Taylor “Steadfast and righteous in the best sense of the word...he loved the Bible which pervaded his life and which he used as a principle for everything. Everything had to be thoroughly and efficiently done..a man of the highest integrity.“
David was for me always so encouraging and supportive and always getting alongside people to listen to them and help them achieve more than they realised they could. David was in appearance the epitome of an English gentleman: always very smartly dressed in a dapper suit and armed with his trademark bow tie. Something that as with my father no doubt helped in encounters with bemused Soviet era officialdom who were surprised to find these eccentric immaculately dressed English gentleman wandering around the USSR!
David like his Lord was full of kindness and compassion, especially for those at the bottom of the pecking order. He was for example passionate about helping the Roma community throughout Eastern Europe, as well as in the UK. He was also wise and a peace maker. Sometimes Christians can be very annoying, self righteous and opinionated (though f course I am very agreeable, humble and biddable!) and David was so good and wise at pouring oil on troubled waters.
We mourn with David’s dear family: we are very grateful for all that with Gods help we experienced from him: we look forward to seeing him again. “Jesus said I am the resurrection and I am the life”
The world was made by God and it was very good. There was no suffering or death. Suffering results from what Christians call "the fall" - human beings deliberately deciding, when presented with a choice, to choose evil.2. God allows suffering - bad things happen to good people. The book of Job is a mysterious book that deals head-on with the question of suffering. It shows us that God is in control of everything, including evil.Job’s friends argue like this:"You are suffering
God is fair and gives us what we deserve
Therefore you have done something really wrong" Job (whom we know hasn't done anything particularly wrong) is unsurprisingly not impressed by this and replies along similar lines but coming to a different conclusion:"I am suffering
I haven’t done anything really wrong
Therefore God is unfair" God eventually answers Job out of the storm, but he only gives him a partial answer. We can see the big picture behind God's purposes while Job can’t. Job continuously complains about what is happening to him and says, "if only someone had written down my words in a book". Which is, of course, ironically, exactly what did happen.But that wasn't any help to Job at the time and in that sense, we are all "Job" - we are in the suffering story and can struggle to see any rhyme or reason in it. When we meet God everything, I believe, will click into place. But how to live in the meantime? Job senses his need of a person to help with his suffering, a friend, an advocate, and a mediator, someone to represent him, someone to help him, someone to get alongside him.Now, finally, here comes the good news for all of us experiencing suffering. God didn't leave us (as we deserve) to the consequences of our own sin and to deal with suffering on our own, but decided to intervene, to come on a rescue mission to offer us a way out of suffering. And that rescue mission involved God himself suffering. 3. Luke says this 'Jesus just before he was arrested and crucified prayed this “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.’ (Luke 22:42-44).When we look at our own suffering there is nowhere else to go but the cross. We must always end up at the cross. We can’t make sense of our suffering without looking at God's suffering on the cross.Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor who protested against the persecution of the Jews. As a result he was sent to a concentration camp and was executed on Hitler's order just before the war ended. Shortly before this, he smuggled out of his cell on a scrap of paper these words: "Only a suffering God can help us". Now how can the infinite God who made the universe and is far above any change - what theologians call "immutability" suffer? God can suffer because he became human and he, therefore, can and did experience suffering. Truly, and this is mind-blowing, the infinite God who made the universe is also a personal God whom we may very reverently say "knows what it’s like" to suffer.God chooses to redeem the world through suffering himself. God, therefore, knows what it’s like to suffer, but he does it voluntarily because he is perfect. I have no choice over my suffering, it just happens to me. Of course, if I did I would stop suffering straight away and so would anyone sensible. But God chose, in the person of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, to suffer. Why? Because he loves us. God, also we should add, deeply sympathizes with us in our suffering. "Jesus wept" at the tomb of Lazarus.But he also does something about our suffering - he comes on a rescue mission and by suffering freely, he opens up a way of escape from the evil that causes the suffering. 4. Revelation. "God will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” (21:4,5)We can all picture a small toddler who trips up in the garden and who scuffs her knee and runs crying to her father. He sits her on his knee, takes care of the wound, and pulls a tissue out of his pocket, and wipes away the toddler's tears. The toddler is comforted and soon stops crying and runs back off to play. This friend is the amazing and indeed staggering image that we find right at the very end of the Bible. God himself will 'sit us on his knee' and wipe away all our tears and pain. All suffering and pain and even, I suggest, the memory of suffering will be removed. Everything that's gone wrong will be made right. Evil itself will be defeated and destroyed. How? Through Jesus's death on the cross.Why? Because he loves usWhat should our response be?. Trust in the suffering servant - the Lord Jesus Christ.Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, who in your tender love towards mankind sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature and to suffer death upon the cross so that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility, grant that we may both follow the example of his patience and also have our part in his resurrection, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Alleluia! What a Saviour!Prayer: Almighty God, through your only Son Jesus Christ you have conquered death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: by your grace put good desires into our minds and, in your mercy, help us to bring them to their fulfilment, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1. Openness to the Christian message
Survey after survey shows the very large number of people listening in to church services and Christian webinars. There has never at least in my lifetime been such a time for sharing the gospel as now. Will all of those become Christians? I assume not and actually that’s not our responsibility for only God can open the eyes of the blind (as we all are by nature). What we are responsible for is transmitting the message as best we can and God has massively widened our audience through his intervention
2. We must have confidence in the word and make it accessible.
What most Christians do? Without being opportunistic we must take advantage of the wonderful God given conditions we experience. We have I fear to some extent lost confidence in the power of our own message. I’m talking here about evangelicals who should surely believe in the attractiveness of our message and the power of God’s word. We say we do believe but then our lack of actions speak louder than our words. Perhaps we get too caught up in arguing with angry atheists to notice that most people are actually not antagonistic to Christianity but indifferent. We got too caught up in the culture wars too notice that the average person has no particular interest in them.
Five years of fairly Intensive evangelistic activity have convinced me of two truths
A. The "average" person is not hostile to the Christian message, they are indifferent, mainly because they have no clue as to what it is anyway
B. The average person knows nothing about the Bible. Nothing. And this is in a strange way a good thing because it presents us with a huge opportunity. For there is supernatural power in Gods word.
Yes, the power is in the word and not in us. But how to release it and make it available in an accessible format? The Bible looks daunting to our non Christian friends. It’s a big book and it’s not designed to be read as most books are from beginning to end
As many of you know I’ve been a particular fan of the Word 121 because it makes Gods word available in such an easy format along with such helpful notes, which make the process of sharing the word so conversational. Even if you prefer a different route I think the underlying principle of making the Bible accessible in easy to understand fashion is important. That can include re-telling bible stories in our own words or, if we prefer to, read the passage out. Today we can share a passage online together via zoom etc or in a simple booklet form rather than asking people to turn up a passage in a huge book they don’t feel comfortable with. In doing so however we really do need to be aware that these days most people’s bible knowledge is Zero. For example 25% of people in a recent survey thought that Harry Potter is in the bible. This means we may want to think about explaining basic terms (“Old and New Testament”) and being careful about cross references which can be confusing ( for example - who is Isaiah?)
3. Just connect and ask questions and tell stories.
We are too much in our Christian bubble. COVID has burst the bubble andf forced us out. We need to spend time and talk to people outside that and understand where they are “at”. Let them take the conversation where they wish. See how we can help them and love them in practical ways
Here are some great questions
Do you mind me asking do you have any particular beliefs?
Have you ever looked at the Bible?
What puts you off the Christian faith? (Which begs the discussion about what it actually is!)
Would you like to have a chat with me about it?
Can I pray for you? What would you like me to pray for? (If yes to the above) Would you mind if I read you a Psalm ?
There comes a time when it’s appropriate and kind for us to share something about what we believe - you can’t ask questions all the time . Then as Rico Tice says “we must cross the pain barrier”. The pain barrier is being willing to say what the gospel actually is. This includes talking not just about God’s love and hope in the face of death but also addressing our need to get right with God, the issue of sin and evil and the need for repentance
Here are some questions that I have found helpful:-
“I could never have got through x (eg Covid ) without Christ”
“For me I found this (Bible) story so helpful “.
Then tell in your own words a Bible story which one depends on the discussion! I love Jesus in the storm, Lazarus, the widow of Nain, The prodigal son, Gethsemane, the thief on the cross, the empty tomb, the road to Emmaus and many more. If you know them and use them you can almost word for word tell then from the Bible and certain phrases will jump out “when he was still a great way off” “were not our hearts burning within us” “Jesus wept” “don’t you care if we drown” “Father take this cup away from me but let my will but your will be done”
Imagine we were in management in the Premier League and we said to the general public that they can only access our games if you come and watch them at the stadium. No TV or radio or highlights. The same if we owned a Hollywood studio and said “no availability on Netflix or Amazon Prime, you must always come to the cinema”. In contrast to our old church going ways , using today’s technology there is now no reason why we can’t offer a hybrid model by which people can access services and especially evangelistic events either in person or via the Internet. In retrospect, especially for evangelistic orientated events, isn’t it staggering that we weren’t doing this already?!
Another angle is that clearly today people want to consume information on their own terms and when they want. I have found when I have done events that once they are loaded up on the web they typically eventually get 5-10 times the number of views than the number of people who attended. This also means we have to think about how to promote such content. One of the best routes is to get church people to share on their social media channels.
We should also Mobilise our youngsters for technology and experimentation. The reality is Evangelical churches can be highly risk averse. We can be always worried about everything. Sometimes I think we have by mistake adopted by accident Queen Victoria’s saying “change? Why would we want to change? Things are quite bad enough already!”
Especially to reach youngsters we need to let them experiment. I’m not suggesting in any way we depart from the core truths of the gospel but that the means of communicating that must change.
5. Local church based especially small churches
If we look at the Bible we see no such thing as para church ministries. Only the church which is God’s chosen vehicle to reach the world. I can see a secondary role for para church organisations in evangelism but only if they are supporting (which means genuinely doing that and not telling local churches what to do)
What would this look like? I’d see it like a menu in a restaurant where a range of choices are set out for the diner to choose from. The local church must own Evangelism and if it needs para church support it is there to support it, a waiter bringing dishes that have been ordered and determined by the local church.
Part of giving individual Christians boldness and encouragement is to give them a menu of choices of things that can work. Some may be able to do 121, some to just chat, some to give a book, some to invite. It really doesn’t matter just do whatever God lays on your heart.
In the last few months, people are more attached to their localities and even more to their real friends (who tend to be in the locality). Large churches have staff and resources but small churches need particular encouragement and help. One helpful thing is that on the internet every church is on the same level playing field. The large, medium and small church can all look the same.
Small churches can benefit from technical know-how and advice, for example in producing attractive videos to invite people along. Organisations such as “Go chatter” can help here.
Personally I have a real soft spot for such churches because my father was a pastor of one for just under 50 years and I know what it’s like. But today I think small and local is often more trusted than big and global. The local church (especially in areas with a strong sense of local identity and community has a real advantage in these strange times. .
6. Iceberg principle and living with normal Christian Joy.
Evangelism is if you like the piece of the iceberg sticking up above the waterline (The visible 1/10th) but it is part of our overall Christian life (the invisible 9/10ths)…and the two are indivisible and inseparable. You can’t have a visible evangelistic “bit” without a discipleship “base” to support it. Both are needed. Discipleship must involve evnaglism and vuice versa but i feel we tend to major on discipleship and minor on evangelism.
Christian joy unites the different parts of the iceberh. It is found as we look upward at all that Christ is and all that He has accomplished for us at the Cross. Christian joy is also found as we serve outwards - obeying Jesus and bearing fruit for Him in a world that for the large part rejects Him (John 15:11) It's counter-intuitive but true. My limited experience affirms this - the most joyful Christians seem to be those who are pro-actively reaching out with God's Word. They see God's Word in action. They are at the cutting edge of what He is doing in the world. They have discovered a small part in His great gospel project for the ages. They feel both the thrill of seeing spiritual eyes opened and the sting of rejection which takes them ever closer to their Master's experience. They know Him in His power and in His sufferings. It's not about God blessing their work or their life. It's about them finding a small part to play in what God is up to in the world today. It is a thrilling privilege and an adventure. And it is in my opinion a much neglected part of the discipleship experience of the majority of Christians in the Western world. John 4:34: "My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me" and this is part of his will
In my experience, both in general and especially in a culture that has very little inherent understanding of the Christian faith and Christian culture, nearly all people coming to faith have a Christian friend or a pastor or a church worker who helps them along. This can be someone encouraging them to go further, for example giving them books to read, but above all I believe this means answering their questions when they read the Bible.Ideally we read the Bible 121 with them. The Bible for our culture is not an intuitive book to read - for example that you don’t simply read it cover to cover. Even the gospels require a lot of explanation and people have all kinds of baggage to shed. I think of the Ethiopian eunuch saying “I need someone to explain this to me”.
8. Think of non Christians and what they feel …….And don’t cheat!
We often organise things for our own benefit at a time and place that suits us. I can assure you that’s not how the world works. When I was starting out in banking if I’d asked a prospect to come and see me at my office at a time that suited me I’d have been given “short shrift”.
Non-Christians understandably feel nervous about coming to a church building because it’s an alien experience. We would feel the same if a friend invited us to a mosque (or a betting shop!). We should find accessible time and places to meet which suit them and not us.
This is not to say that we should give up inviting people to church or to guest services but that our first thought should be to present them with invites to accessible, appealing and convenient venues for our friends ….and not just somewhere where we feel comfortable with what is going on!
This it seems is also highly biblical - yes the apostles taught sometimes in synagogues but, if we look at the book of Acts, the large majority are simply wherever people can be gathered. In the early church Christians would not let non-Christians even come to church.
When inviting, we must be very clear that this is a Christian event. There is nothing worse than deceiving people who are taken aback once they discover what they have signed up for. Also, even if our invite is clear as to the purpose of the event , we shouldn’t inflict things which will make them uncomfortable. Loads of singing is one obvious example!
9. Pastor: You don’t have to do everything
In our church, St Nicholas Sevenoaks, we recently launched an initiative called “2020 vision” which encouraged people to take their own initiative and “let 100 flowers bloom”. I felt it was a great success because it unleashed the creative energies of the congregation. For example one person did a murder mystery over dinner in their house with a short talk from me afterwards on “The greatest mystery of all time – did Jesus Rise from the dead?”. Others did other equally original events. The clergy are often very busy and it makes sense to let people try things within the overall guidance provided by the church.
...But you do have to model it! If there was one thing that I would put my finger on it’s to really encourage full time Christian workers to do more personal evangelism and not just discipleship training. I realise that this can be difficult for them because often they have no or few non-Christian friends. But that’s a function of how they and we allocate time. Most pastors and vicars I know are very hard working, so something has to give. If we really value evangelism as we should, then some other church activities are going to have to be reduced.
The reason it’s important is that it’s hard to encourage others in personal evangelism if you don’t do it , and be seen to do it, yourself.
10. Clear follow up
This is absolutely vital in my experience and is often the weakest link. What next? This should be very clear. At the end of the event what’s the next step if people are interested in going further? Try making the offer of looking at what the bible actually says a natural outcome of having created some interest in Christ through an event! After all – it’s always been about Jesus and His Word, and it always will be.
Lazarus (John 11:1-44)16th June 2020Audio: The writings of that godly man the first Bishop of Liverpool JC Ryle have been a great source of help to me in suffering. Here I share his reflections on Lazarus in italics and my thoughts below. 1. True Christians may be sick and die.Lazarus gets sick and dies. Why does God allow sickness and death to happen to some people and not to others? I simply don’t know. But this we do know; that “it’s given to man once to die and after that the judgement” (Hebrews 9:27). Being a Christian is no “get out of jail free card” we can play against suffering and death. What he promises us is not a bypass round suffering but his presence as we go through it. 2. Sickness is no sign that God is displeased with us. Nor is there normally a link between suffering and sin. What is important is that suffering can be redemptive (have value) if our hope is in Christ.3. Christ is the Christian’s best friend. The sisters brought it to his attention. He loves us as well, does he not! None can help like him. Oh, how slow I am to do as the sisters did. “None can help like him”. Yes the creator and ruler of the entire universe knows who we are and, if we are his, loves us with an everlasting and unbreakable love. The sisters bring it to his attention and how wise they are to do that. They don’t tell or ask him to do x or y. They "bring it to his attention" Why? Because "he is the one that he loves". And as Ryle wonderfully notes “so are we.”4. Jesus doesn’t say that Lazarus will die and I will raise him again. He says enough to stir up hope and faith and prayer, but not enough so that they wouldn’t seek God. Suffering is always hard and sometimes it crushes us. Why doesn’t God act? Why does he give us half answers or sometimes no answers? There is no final answer to that this side of the grave, but we may say gently that one partial answer may be because he is working his purposes out so that we may know him better and see his glory (see how amazing he is). 5. The pain of a few is for the benefit of many. Had Jesus just said the word (of healing) none of this would have happened. The pain of one, gloriously, is for the benefit of all (the cross).Let us always look at the cross. Whoever and wherever and whenever we are in the dark valley of suffering the light of the cross shines out. God had a plan to rescue poor, sinful, lost and abandoned humanity and it is a plan which involves suffering. Lazarus’s suffering and death prefigures and points us to the cross in the same way that Lazarus’s resurrection prefigures and points to Jesus’s resurrection. As the master so the servant - we are all called to take up our cross daily and follow Him. And God can use our suffering for his glory as he used His Son's suffering. 6. How tenderly Christ speaks of the death of believers! “Our friend Lazarus sleeps says the Lord”. Every Christian has a friend in heaven of almighty power and boundless love. Lazarus is the friend of Christ even when he is dead. Death is a solemn and miraculous change, but the Christian has nothing to fear. Let us never forget that the grave is the place where the Lord himself lay and that as he rose again triumphant from that cold bed so also shall all his people. We can boldly say, “I will lay me down in peace and sleep for you Lord alone make me dwell in safety."Friends this is simply breathtakingly true. Death is a terrible enemy, but it has been utterly defeated. It is owned by the Lord God Almighty who holds the keys of death. Then finally death itself will be emptied and death itself will be swallowed up and death in the end will be no more. So what of us? Shall anything separate us from the owner of life and death? Never! We are as much Jesus’ friends in death as in life - in fact far more so because in death we will be with him and see him face to face. 7. Martha and Mary are very much like us: they had mixed emotions. Certainly they believed, but they were also troubled and needed to see Jesus more clearly. Jesus draws out these two women’s faith. He fans into flame the smouldering embers of the sisters faith. Martha has good theology, but it’s not enough. She needs more of Christ. It is promised in the Old Testament that God does not put out a smouldering and feeble flame (Isaiah 42:3). That is so encouraging, for that is what we are even as Christians; a weak faith and labouring slowly with many doubts and fears. Martha has good theological understanding, but she needs much more and so do we. We need to know Christ and his resurrection power.Prayer: Almighty God, through your only Son Jesus Christ you have conquered death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: by your grace put good desires into our minds and, in your mercy, help us to bring them to their fulfilment, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.Recent Devotionals