IF I WAS GOING TO PLANT AGAIN… (PART 2)

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This is the second part of a short church planting mini-series. You can read the first post here.

If I was going to plant again…

1. I wouldn’t start with a vision for what the Sunday ‘event’ should look like

When I planted Hill City it’s fair to say that I didn’t have a clue what the dickens I was doing. The vision didn’t really go much further than “Love God and tell everyone about Jesus”. If there was one thing that I did have it was a clear idea of what the Sunday event would look like. Admittedly, I knew that our core team needed to grow beyond the the “2 adults, a baby and a pit-bull in the living room” phase before my “vision” could be realised. But I knew what the goal was – a windowless basement venue, dark walls, grungey artwork, a LOUD sound system, a smoke machine and a gnarly pulpit crafted out of solid Welsh oak (honest!) The church would consist largely of drug-addicts, criminals, single mothers and psychopaths (all of whom would be leading the church within a few years). I guess I envisaged a Sunday event that looked remarkably similar to Adullam’s cave.

But I really didn’t have much of a vision beyond that.

WHAT A PLEB!!

For those who’ve ever attended a Sunday gathering at Hill City, you’ll know that very little, if any of the decor I dreamt up has ever been realised (not even the pulpit!) And while we are blessed to have ex-addicts, single mums and former criminals in our church family, we also have those who are wealthy, married, professional, elderly and spiritually mature too! For what it’s worth, I think that God’s vision for our Sunday gatherings is far better than my plan. But I also acknowledge that I missed something MASSIVE in those early days – namely that there’s A LOT more to church planting than the Sunday event. In fact, the Sunday gathering should almost be an afterthought – the logical outworking and expression of the church whose DNA was already being established behind the scenes.

A few weeks ago my eldest son, Josiah, excitedly reported to us that he’d learned something important. In his own words, he had discovered that “church isn’t a building – it’s people standing on each other’s heads!” Not sure where he got that from, but he was probably closer to what church is really about than I initially was! Church is about Jesus and His people, not buildings, programmes or Sunday events! Certainly when Jesus said “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16 v 18) He was not talking about a physical building with staging and a smoke machine. He was talking about His people, His body – the church!

If I was going to plant again, I’d start with a vision of Jesus and His bride and let everything else flow from that!

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The Fellowship of the Unashamed

My sister sent me this yesterday, and I thought it was so epic, I’d share it here at the Rant.

Enjoy…

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An African pastor was overwhelmed by rebels who demanded that he renounce his faith. He refused. The night before they took his life, he wrote the following lines on a scrap of paper:

I am part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed.” I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I’ve stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals!

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by presence, lean by faith, love by patience, lift byprayer, and labor by power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought , compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, let up, or burn up till I’ve preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops.

And when He comes to get His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing me. My colours will be clear.

Biblical Manhood Conference, Cardiff

On Friday 3rd October my good friend Gavin Peacock is coming over from Canada to teach at 2 conferences for men that I am involved in organising. One is the Courageous conference on Saturday 4th October (more info about Courageous here). The other is a conference on Biblical Manhood that Acts 29 Wales is organising and that is being held at Highfields Church, Cardiff:

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Be great to see you there.

Tough Mudder in Photos

Done!I DID IT!!!

Incredibly, I managed to complete the entire 11.5 mile course on Saturday, completing every obstacle (apart form the Funky Monkey bars, that apparently 60% of people fail!) What’s more incredible is that of those 11.5 miles I ran at least 10 of them!!! (The furthest I’ve EVER run before is 6 miles!) Though, I did run SLOOOOOOWLY at points :-)

In truth, however, I only completed the course because of the support and encouragement of the guys with me. James Richards, Nathan Davies and Andrew Gwyn were solid friends and invaluable getting me to the finish line. Of the 20 obstacles there were 3 that I physically couldn’t have completed were it not for the boys dragging, pushing and pulling me over. I’m going to post more about that in a few days.

For now, I am glad to rest my smashed up ankles, reflect on one of the most exhilarating and inspiring days of my life and celebrate the grace of God in helping me to raise over £1,200 for Open Doors.

Here’s some of the photos of the day courtesy of my good friend Mr Caleb Jones:

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How should we pray for Iraq?

iraqui-christiansRecent events in Iraq have affected me very, very deeply.

The brutality being unleashed by the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (IS) in northern Iraq is unlike anything I have ever heard of or comprehended. Children decapitated and cut in half. Women raped and sold into slavery. Entire families being buried alive in mass graves. Christians crucified. Property seized. Churches burned. Hundreds of thousands of civilians fleeing into the deserts and hills to escape, many dying of thirst and exposure before ever finding safety.

It is sheer evil.

There is no other way to describe it.

Admittedly, not all who are suffering are Christians, as it seems that anyone who doesn’t hold to the same twisted ideology as IS is likely to be annihilated by the merciless Jihadists. However, many hundreds of thousands are Christians. They may look different, dress different, speak in a language I can’t understand and observe customs and traditions that are foreign to me, but they worship the same Jesus – and that makes them family.

Furthermore, the Bible tells us that when one part of the body suffers, we all suffer, compelling us to remember those who are suffering for the sake of Christ.

I have to confess that I have been struggling over recent days to know how to ‘remember’ them. I have had no problem remembering their suffering as it’s pretty much all that I can think about. The problem that I have is knowing how to remember them in prayer! Sometimes I am stunned into silence. Other times tears are all that I can muster! However, when I can bring myself to pray, here are some of the things I have found helpful to focus on:

1. Remember who God is
A phrase that I live by and that I have used to encourage others over many years is this: “God is good and He is in control.” I have to confess that when I look at Iraq right now I find it harder to believe those truths. But they are nonetheless true! God is good. And He is sovereign. The Bible proclaims these truths over and over again. The horrors of Iraq tell us more about the depravity of the human heart and the inability of mankind to make sense of, let alone a difference to, the chaos of this fractured world, than they do about the nature and character of God. So as you pray, do so secure in the knowledge that God is forever love and that He still sits on the throne. Nothing that is happening today is happening outside of His control or outside of His care. Remember also that we pray to the Father through Jesus – a Great High Priest who understands suffering, sorrow and slaughter from first-hand experience:

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
(Hebrews 4 v 15-16)

2. Pray for our brothers and sisters:

The saints of Iraq need our prayers. Here are some important things that we should be praying for our brothers and sisters:

  • Pray that they would receive the protection and provision that they so desperately need.* (Psalm 18 v 1-6)
  • Pray that they would know the comforting presence of the Prince of Peace. (2 Corinthians 1 v 3-7)
  • Pray that they would be filled with inexpressible joy in the midst of unimaginable pain. (James 1 v 2-3)
  • Pray that God would fill them with supernatural love for their enemies. (Matthew 5 v 43-48)

3. Pray for the terrorists
The story of the Apostle Paul reminds us that God CAN transform the heart of a terrorist:

“I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15 v 9-10)

However, the Psalms also give us words to pray for God to deliver swift and decisive justice to perpetrators of evil:

“O God, break the teeth [of the wicked] in their mouths;
tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord!”
(Psalm 58 v 6)

Therefore our prayer should be “Lord, Save them or stop them. Redeem them or remove them!”

4. Pray for the gospel to advance

We are currently studying the book of Acts in church and it is striking how the Lord so often used times of extreme persecution to spread the gospel further afield:

“And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria…Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” (Acts 8 v 1 + 4)

As we hear about thousands upon thousands of Christians being displaced by persecution, let’s be praying that the legacy would be the gospel preached more widely and more churches planted across the region.

5. Pray for global leaders

We really need to be praying for global leaders right now. Politicians both in Iraq, in surrounding nations and the western nations that are also involved in this mess. Pray that God would grant them both wisdom and courage:

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1Timothy 2 v 2)

Pray also for the pastors and other Christian leaders on the ground in Iraq. Pray that they would shepherd God’s people well, that they would know epic grace as they seek to lead their small, suffering flocks through turbulent times, and that they would model King Jesus with their words and actions.

6. Pray with eternal perspective

This is so vital! We forget in the comfortable west that persecution and death aren’t the worst thing that can happen to Christians. While we should certainly not be happy to see our brothers and sisters suffering as they are, and should be crying out to God for mercy on their behalf, we need to remember that they are blessed.

Yes, BLESSED!!!

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5 v 10)

Those who are paying for their faith with their lives are being sent home to Jesus. As we pray, let’s remember that heaven is the blissful reality that awaits all true followers of Christ. In heaven there is no more sorrow, pain, death, tears or terrorism. That’s why Paul could write:

“to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1 v 21)

7. Pray without ceasing

Finally, let’s not stop praying about this. Prayer is hard and unglamorous. But let’s not jack it in. Rather, let’s take a leaf out of a persistent widow’s book and keep asking, seeking and knocking until our God responds:

“And [Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
(Luke 18 v 1-8)

OK, that’s enough from me.

Let’s pray…

* If you want to become an answer to your own prayers and contribute financially to the persecuted saints in Iraq you can do so through Open Doors here. Alternatively you can sponsor me as I raise funds for Open Doors this coming weekend here.

Why I’m doing Tough Mudder

This post is gonna be a bit all over the shop, so let me give you the headline first, then try to unpack it a bit:

I am doing Tough Mudder On 16th August in order to raise much-needed support for persecuted Christians in Iraq – and I want your support!

nx_MiGVN_400x400As many of you will be aware from recent news reports, there is a militant Islamic group called ISIS who are currently unleashing hell in Iraq and Syria. Christians are being raped, beheaded and executed by ISIS (and it’s not only Christians either). Last weekend it was reported that Christians in the city of Mosul had their homes tagged by militants with the Arabic letter ‘n’ – which stands for ‘Nasrani’ – Christian). They were then given an ultimatum: convert to Islam, pay an extortionate tax…or die. Many have since fled, but the terror and misery continues for countless Christians across the region. (Please read this article to get a grasp on the scale of the crisis).

So what can be done to help?

There are people in the region who are providing aid, including Open Doors. Open Doors are an outstanding Christian ministry who work on the ground with persecuted Christians, including many of those who have been displaced in Iraq. I want to raise a load of money to assist Open Doors in their work, and I’m going to do it by doing Tough Mudder.

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“So what is Tough Mudder?’ I hear you ask. Well, in a nut-shell, Tough Mudder – a 12 mile assault course that involves ice cold water, fire, electricity, tunnels, walls, heights…and LOTS of mud! It makes the bold claim of probably being the toughest event on planet earth (which is obviously ridiculous, because EVERYONE knows that getting 4 kids to church on time on a Sunday morning is the toughest event on planet earth!) However, it’s probably fair to say that for an out-of-shape 37 year old pastor with severely arthritic ankles (that I’ve just been told need surgery) – it still looks flippin’ hard:

About half a year ago the Fight Club guys talked me into signing up for Tough Mudder. However, about 3 months ago I twisted both my ankles on a training run and was unable to run for a couple of months. I saw the doctor who told me that I probably need further surgery on my ankle, so I decided to knock Tough Mudder on the head.

But then I heard about Iraq – and that changed my mind!

Despite what it might look like, I know my heart and I promise that doing Tough Mudder is not a macho thing, neither is it a mid-life crisis.

IT’S MY RESPONSE TO AN EMERGENCY!

In all honesty I don’t even know if my body will hold up to the challenge, but if it raises money for my persecuted brothers and sisters in Iraq then I’m willing to give it a flippin’ good crack!!

But I need YOU to make it worth my while.

The target I have set is £1000, so please visit my JustGiving page and sponsor me if you possibly can – whether it’s £1, £10, or £1,000 – every bit will help.

Thanks and God bless you.

Dai