Monday, 21 November 2011

Because we’re eternal...

We said goodbye to 2 friends of ours today. Martin and Amanda Rider have been part of the Lusaka Church plant group for 6 months. Their story has been one of battling to get a permit to stay in the country. They had to spend 7 weeks in Johannesburg in the middle of the South African winter (which is cold!) waiting for permit problems to be sorted, they were then allowed back into Zambia, but ultimately permission was withdrawn and they are on their way back to the UK as I write. Why?

Marts and Amanda have become very precious to us. It helps that they are very nice people, but it’s more than that, we feel that God has joined our hearts to them, we share the same mission, we love the same God and now we feel their absence keenly. Why we do we make ourselves vulnerable to relationships which can get broken?

The answer to these questions is a simple one, we are eternal people. Eternity is not something that happens to Christians when they die; eternity broke into our lives explosively at conversion. Being eternal means we see the tree hidden in a mustard seed (Mark 4:31-33) We understand that the Kingdom of God begins small, but grows large, for this reason we are not discouraged by what we see: 2 Corinthians 4:18.
In Lusaka, we are gathering between 20 to 25 people, with the vision of eternity I can see the outlines of a City Changing Church.  The question that we’re asking is what sort of Church will change a city? We are becoming convinced that it is a Church where we lay down our lives for one another by the eternal power of God breaking out in us. We expect this power to be seen wherever we are and with whomever we are.
There is a risk in this. We are making friendships that will be broken when we return to the UK, we might take steps of faith and see no immediate return, we cling to risk taking because we are eternal.

The last fortnight has been eventful. We had a weekend in Kitwe which is a 5 hours drive north of Lusaka. I had my first experience of preaching in 2 morning services, the Kitwe Church is called Dayspring . It was a very exciting time, 6 people responded to the gospel and there was a good opportunity to pray for people. Whilst I was preaching a goods train went past the Church, its horn blowing. It felt like a trumpet call. The Kitwe Church has planted 9 other Churches and is a great example of what we are looking for in Lusaka. The Church in Kitwe runs 2 orphanages and feeding programmes for malnourished children. Whilst in Kitwe we had our first experience of deep fried eating caterpillars (surprisingly nice!)

Kitwe Feeding programme

We now have a car,which is making travel a lot easier. We are so grateful to the members of our Church in Bexleyheath for loaning us the money to buy the car.

Our car

In the remaining time before returning to the UK for Christmas, we hope to visit Christian Discipleship Church in Kabwe. The Church is hosting a conference in April when Terry Virgo and Stephen Van Rhyn are coming to speak. We are helping with the planning. For those of you who know me well, you will understand that by “we” I mean Elizabeth!
As December approaches and we celebrate the breaking in of eternity into the world in the person of Jesus Christ let’s remember that we are eternal and cling to risktaking even if it is reluctantly.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The rains have come

Zambia has 3 seasons: Winter, from May until August, and is cool and dry. From September until mid November it is hot and humid, I don't know what the season is called! Summer is from mid-November through the end of April and is warm to hot and rainy. The weather in Lusaka is moderated by Lusaka's height, it is positioned on top of a central plateau at 1300m. But the last few weeks have been very hot, this season is known as suicide month. The inside walls of our house were warm to the touch. Even locals find it hot and discuss when the rains will come. Last night the rains started, there was a loud thunderstorm and steady rain, this morning the temperature is refreshingly cool and there is a lovely smell in the air; the smell following the rains is called petrichor.
Coming from the UK it is difficult to get my head around the suddenness of the change in season. I am used to gradual transitions with unpredictable weather; feeling cold in summer and commenting on the unseasonable heat in April or October.
Last weekend we had Gary Welsh, Vuyo Gcilishe and Gavin Bingham visit us from South Africa. Gary and Gavin attend Helderberg Christian Church in Somerset West a town about 50Km from Capetown. It is set in a beautiful area, mountains, vineyards and oceans. Vuyo leads Uzuko Lwake Church in Khayelitsha a huge informal settlement (township) just outside Cape Town. We also had Jeremy Gibson and Norman Amey from Honiton Community Church UK. They came to Zambia to welcome a Church called Christian Disciple Centre (CDC) into the Newfrontiers family of Churches. CDC is based in Kabwe about 2 hours drive away from Lusaka. The Church plant group travelled up from Lusaka and managed to arrive (almost) in time for the morning service which was exuberant, loud, joyful and hot. It was a unique pleasure to be grabbed by Joseph Mwila, the leader of Dayspring Church in Kitwe and taken to dance at the front of the Church. (I think we will have to start building Churches with kitchens for me to hide in) I believe there is even video evidence, unfortunately my bandwith limits prevent this awesome display of my dancing inability being uploaded. My exploits do seem to have caused much amusement to some members of the Church plant group in Lusaka.
At lunchtime, pastors from the town were invited to lunch and in the afternoon there was the adoption service.  In pride of place at the centre of the Church was a wedding cake to celebrate CDC joining Newfrontiers. As part of the service, Newfrontiers vision and values were read out by various Newfrontiers leaders.
1. A gospel-preaching church that is loving, righteous in its lifestyle, involved in world mission and reaching the unsaved in its community by both public and personal evangelistic activity.
2. A church where regular teaching and preaching of the Bible holds a primary role and where Scripture’s authority is final.
3. A church whose people are assured of the grace of God in their lives and are clear about the full New Covenant benefits of being in Christ.
4. A church whose people are baptised in water and in the Holy Spirit, and brought into a genuine life in the Spirit.
5. A church where God’s presence is prized and where God is enthusiastically worshipped with genuine freedom for men and women to worship publicly in the Holy Spirit, to use spiritual gifts and to participate in ‘body ministry’.
6. A church which is a loving community, meeting both publicly and from house to house, sharing and caring for each other’s needs, both spiritual and material.
7. A church where Biblical family life is highly valued, where husband and wife embrace male servant leadership and joyful female submission, where godly parenting is taught and practised and where the special value of singleness and its unique opportunities are affirmed.
8. A church led by male elders (one of whom is clearly understood to be gifted to be lead elder) who are ordained by the Holy Spirit, recognised and confirmed through apostolic ministry. These men are to be helped in fulfilling their calling through ongoing fellowship with trans-local ministries.
9. A church where elders are honoured as servant-leaders, caring for the flock and providing appropriate spiritual disciplines where necessary.
10. A church freed from complacency and endeavouring to grow in gospel impact, faith, prayer, generosity, action and influence.
11. A church whose individual members are equipped for their role of service within the church and community, including the release and training of those called to trans-local ministry.
12. A church which is fully involved in our shared apostolic mission to extend the kingdom of God globally through the recovery of New Testament church life, making disciples, training leaders and planting churches by all means, including wholehearted financial commitment, welcoming trans-local ministries, regularly attending corporate gatherings, promoting our publications and communicating our news.
13. A church which is serving and empowering the poor within its own ranks and beyond.
14. A church which wholeheartedly embraces the New Testament teaching of the one new man, demonstrating love and respect between the races, cultures and sexes.
15. A church which is proving to be both salt and light in its location, impacting the culture of the community.
16. A church that is committed to excellent relationships with other Christians and churches in its community.
17. A church desiring and welcoming encouragement and correction from trans-local ministries in the fulfilment of these objectives.
Gary preached excellently and quite briefly, which whilst not explicitly a Newfrontiers value seems a good model, especially when the temperature was around 38 Celsius (in the shade, it was hotter than that in the marquee!)
Gary spoke to the Lusaka Church plant group the next evening, it was so useful to understand that Church planting is an apostolic activity. Gary is planting a church, we are working with him. He encouraged us to build strong friendships with one another and with those around us, to take opportunities to reach out to people and invite them to become friends with us.
Which brings me to a question some people have asked:"why are you planting a Church in Lusaka when there are already many excellent churches there?" We are here to share the New Testament values that God has shown us over the last few decades. The Church we plant will be recognisably Zambian. We are not here to turn Zambians English, we are here to form communities that are recognisably New Testament. This can only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit transforming ordinary lives by His presence.
God spoke to His people Israel in Zechariah 10:1 (ESV) — Ask rain from the Lord in the season of the spring rain, from the Lord who makes the storm clouds, and he will give them showers of rain, to everyone the vegetation in the field.
In the Bible, rain is often a picture of the Holy Spirit. It is time for Holy Spirit rain. would those of you who read this blog and know how to pray, pray for this? Church History is full of times where the season changed suddenly, this can happen to individuals, Churches, communities and Nations. Just as investment schemes carry the warning: past performance is no guarantee of future performance, we can pray in the confidence that our future is not defined by our past, but by the promises of God.
Next Monday I start teaching some revision classes at Chiamama College, and in a week's time I am visiting Dayspring Church in Kitwe where I will be preaching. The following week, I go down to Livingstone for a few days and spend time with the Church there. In between times we are trying to get to know people, studying and preparing for lessons and preaches.
I hope to blog more regularly as we now have an internet connection in our house.