Welcoming our first Commission church in Serbia!

Welcoming our first Commission church in Serbia!

Together with Doug and Duncan from Christchurch, Guy and I have just come back from a trip to the Balkans. The aim of our visit was two-fold. The first was to speak at the annual Balkan leader’s conference in Croatia, and the second to welcome our first Serbian church into Commission. We have been working with the leaders Miro and his wife Sneza for a couple of years now, although Doug has been faithfully serving in Serbia for much longer.

It is a complex area, as the former Yugoslavia now consists of six different countries broken apart after the war some twenty-five years ago. It is hard for us to appreciate how difficult this must have been, although evidence of conflict is obvious in Croatia with roadside fields full of unexploded mines and buildings in the city of Osijek pocked with bullet holes. The history of conflict makes unity difficult, but Miro and Sneza have gathered together about seven churches with leaders who would have been unable to sit in the same room previously.

Life is tough here, salaries low, the distance between the churches considerable and Miro spends many hours driving hundreds of miles between Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Slovakia. Between them, Miro and his wife Sneza lead the church, publish Christian books in the local language, run a Christian television channel and preach tirelessly. Their energy is inspirational and together they make a formidable team!

The conference was a real joy and one of the highlights was seeing all the leaders at the front of the meeting with banners flying, the shofar blasting and the congregation cheering and dancing. Even without understanding the language it was a powerful and moving time. Another highlight was meeting a pastor from Bosnia and hearing his story of growing a church in a country with a Muslim majority, where there are only about 400 Christians in the whole of that nation. What a challenge!

 It was amazing to see Siloam church which Miro leads, coming into Commission. It was packed with people and the atmosphere was one of joy and celebration. People there have seen denominations and foreign Christian leaders come and go, but we know that we will be able to commit for the long haul and see churches drawn together for corporate strength and vision. We are praying that it will be the first of many throughout that region.

21 reasons to church plant

21 reasons to church plant

Kevin Bartlett

Leader (Spain)

Kevin Bartlett, leader of Cristo Salvador Madrid, gives us his top 21 reasons why we should go church planting:

  1. Church planting is doing what Jesus told us to do – Matt 28:19.
  2. Church planting is a great way of producing new leaders.
  3. Church planting more effectively reaches new neighbourhoods and social groups.
  4. Church planting is a healthy way to create gaps in sending churches for other members to grow into.
  5. Go church planting, see the world and meet new people.
  6. Church planting is a sure way to learn what it means to depend on God.
  7. Church planting, being faced with new challenges & cultures, often leads to greater innovation.
  8. Church planting, statistically, seems to be the most effective form of evangelism.
  9. Church planting is essential simply to maintain the ratio between churches and an expanding population.
  10. Church planting creates a tight-knit community that is on a mission together. Church as it should be.
  11. Go church planting and watch your own children engage directly with God’s great mission to a fallen world.
  12. Church planting is key to reach people cross culturally.
  13. Go church planting and you will have an unforgettable adventure, both with God and with friends.
  14. Church planting means that every member starts to carry new responsibilities. The body in action.
  15. Go church planting and, when faced with new challenges, you will start to utilise dormant gifts and capabilities.
  16. Church plant is very New Testament. Acts 11:21-26.
  17. Church planting causes both sending church and the sent to look out to a fallen, lost world.
  18. Church planting is a great environment for Christians to grow and mature.
  19. Church planting can rejuvenate more established churches.
  20. Church planting is partnering with God to create something from nothing.
  21. Go church planting and leave behind a legacy.

Enough said! Let’s go to it … check out the church planting page for a list of where Commission is hoping to church plant next.

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Home For Good

Home For Good

Chris & Jo Kilby

Life Church, Southampton, UK

Exciting opportunities to get involved

For a number of years now, Life Church in Southampton have been developing their partnership with Southampton City Council and the national initiative ‘Home for Good’. It is a long term project, but is bearing fruit!

Our vision is simple –  a home for every child who needs one.

In the UK, there is an urgent need for more than 7,000 foster families and there are not enough people coming forward to adopt children who wait the longest for adoption – children over the age of four, with additional needs, from black and minority ethnic communities and who are part of a sibling group.

We believe that the Church can make a difference. Home for Good raises awareness of the need for foster and adoptive parents, encourages families to provide loving homes for the children in care, and equips the Church to offer welcoming communities for them.

Home for Good Southampton has inspired of a number of local movements, churches and individuals who are making our vision a reality.

Chris and Jo Kilby, who lead the Life Church team and Home for Good Southampton are adoptive parents themselves, and currently two more couples on the Life Church leadership team are also adopting. Each story is unique, and it’s a great thrill to see children finding families. We think it is something very much on God’s heart!

One of the initiatives from Southampton is their ‘Open Evenings’. These are opportunities for anyone to come and find out more about both fostering and adopting, and to hear some real life stories. The evenings are run in partnership with the council adoption and fostering team, who present something of the journey for those considering beginning the adventure, from the first nervous phone call, though to welcoming children home.

One key event this year, which we are encouraging all Commission Churches to be involved with is our ‘Children’s and youth Worker Training Evening’ on 5th June.

Children who may have had a difficult start in life don’t always follow the normal patterns when it comes to development. Part of our responsibility as churches is to make church life welcoming, accessible, safe and beneficial for everyone. With this in mind we want to be better equipped in the area of children’s and youth work in relation to adoption and fostering. You may not have fostered or adopted children in your groups yet, but this would be a great way of preparing your church to be ready to welcome them!

There are a couple of other things that we’d really encourage commission Churches to take a lead in:

Firstly, you could become a ‘Home for Good’ church. To find out more about what this means, get on to the Home for Good website, and have a look. Just making a few changes to the way we sometimes do things, can make the church more supportive of families and individuals involved in fostering and adoption. There are some fantastic resources available to use.

Secondly, you could have someone in the church who could become a ‘Home for Good Champion’. Once again there is information on the website, but we’d love to develop a nationwide network of individuals who will serve churches well by keeping the needs of the most vulnerable in society regularly in our thoughts and prayers.

Such small things really do change lives. Just this week I was at one of our church sites, and a beautiful newly adopted girl was snuggling into her mum during the worship, and was clearly feeling very much at home in church. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see that multiplied in every Commission Church?

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Thoughts from Texas

Thoughts from Texas

Heather Miller

 

If anyone thinks they would like to move to the USA, think carefully. The lure of large salaries, large vistas, large shopping malls and large food portions is alluring to some but the challenge of not just getting there, but staying there is huge. Simon and Kiralie have been battling to stay ever since they arrived and he is now in the midst of a master’s degree to make sure they can keep going. Despite the battle they are full of life and faith and the church is slowly growing. Guy, Tim Blaber and myself had the fun of living in their home for 5 days and enjoying warm hospitality and interacting with their friendly children. It has been tough for all of them, embracing a new culture always involves being able to adapt and work through issues and despite speaking the same language we might not mean the same thing. I was told in one shop “I don’t understand a single word you said”, so much for my accent!

We chatted over food, met a new couple who want to get stuck in, and spent time with some very disillusioned millennials. All brought up to go to church, they were totally turned off by the mega churches they had been part of. They saw a cookie cutter approach to discipleship, a tribal disdain for other streams and denominations, one talked of $900 spent weekly on microphone batteries! Surrounded by homelessness and poverty this had helped her to switch off from the excesses she saw around her.

On the Sunday morning we met the church. Despite the soft furnishings and relaxed decor of a cancer care charity lounge, it really felt like a church. Children were kept occupied at one end of the room and the adults enjoyed worshipping and praying together. Guy preached about the gospel, grace, the trinity, and the heart of apostolic ministry. Tim prepared us for sharing bread and wine together. People engaged and participated enthusiastically and then we all enjoyed an American brunch together. There were three first time visitors, so in total probably 34 people and we were thrilled with the possibilities in the room.

For me I loved the time we had praying and sharing with Simon and Kiralie themselves, they are so open, honest and wanting to press on. I think on the last morning we all had tears in our eyes as we said our goodbyes. They really need our prayers and there is a huge harvest field to be taken, changing the expression of Christianity around the world is as much needed in the Bible Belt of America as anywhere else.

Do continue to pray for the first fruits in the US.

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Christmas in Portugal

Christmas in Portugal

Michael Shore

Iberian Support

Christmas in Portugal takes some getting used to! Just about everybody here in the north of Portugal will be feasting on cod, boiled potatoes, cabbage – all swimming in a sauce made with some skill by each person on their own plate. The sauce comes first. Take a liberal helping of olive oil, mix in salt, pepper, vinegar, mash in a hard boiled egg and add chopped garlic to taste -use your fork to mix it all up. The cod has been purchased some days before. It’s dried and salted and so comes as a solid board of fish. Soaking over a couple of days soon  resolves the problem of what to do with it – it looks like a fish now. I think it’s all delicious but Jessica isn’t so sure and so we stick with the Turkey. We stick with the Turkey on Christmas day whilst our Portuguese friends will have been celebrating the evening before. So, despite all our cultural adaptations some family customs remain. Actually the Christmas Eve celebration works incredibly well for us. Our kids, married and with families of their own, spend the Portuguese Christmas with their Portuguese in-laws then all come to us on the day. Brilliant.

The Fonte will be eating together this week  – Cod and boiled potatoes for around 200 people – a fantastic night is in store. The white “vinho verde” accompanies the whole thing – well worth looking out for in England and served well chilled.

What’s one of the most beautiful things about Portuguese culture? – the art of eating and drinking together. The disciples must have learned a lot from Jesus as they relaxed with him over meals. He knew the simple things in life are often the most rewarding.

Happy Christmas!

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The Greatest Headline: A Christmas Blog

The Greatest Headline: A Christmas Blog

Kevin Bartlett

Leader (Spain)

“Brexit Breakthrough,” “West Bank Clashes”, “Breaking News”, “Live Updates”, “News Special” today’s headlines make every effort to capture our attention. Every word is vital, every phrase striking in order to draw us to its content. However, there is one headline, particularly during the Christmas season, that should impact every single one of us. The headline is this: ‘And the word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ (John 1:14)

Like any great distilled headline it manages to capture in just a few words amazing news that shakes us to the core.  ‘The word’, for example, refers not to a mere word or language, it means God’s unique, creative, word. A word that says, “let there be light” and there is light. We may find that a difficult concept to grasp but the discovery of DNA helps us understand that the reproduction of life itself is based on a code, a language, a word. DNA gives us something of a clue to the powerful eternal reality that lies behind all of creation: The Word. The Greeks in John’s day knew it as ‘the account which governs everything’.

‘The word’ hints at the mind behind all of creation; think of the size of the galaxies, the power of a supernova, the intricacy of a human cell, the beauty of a sun set and you will start to comprehend the wonder of the Christmas story. He who fills everything in every way, reduced himself to a foetus in Mary’s womb. He went from all-powerful to powerless, from the ancient of ancients to a new born baby.  He who holds the whole universe together by the power of his word had to relearn how to eat, talk, walk. Or as John put it, ‘the word became flesh and dwelt among us.’

Regardless of what the headlines tell us tomorrow, there is no news that will ever top the greatness of what happened when Christ was born 2000 years. It truly is the miracle of all miracles and it is our greatest privilege to announce this good news. In many ways it doesn’t matter how we package the headline it can be a simple invite to a carol service, telling the story to our kids or handing a flyer to a friend, there is no news that competes with our news. Lets declare it with all our might this Christmas.

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