3 Must read books before Westpoint 2019

Westpoint 2019 features an amazing line up of speakers including Hannah Anderson, Andrew Wilson and Andy McCullough. Not only are they engaging speakers, but they have written excellent books too! We decided to ask some people within Commission to read and review them, and as you’ll see they’re well worth a read. Their books are available on Amazon and will also at our onsite book store at Westpoint.

 

“Hannah Anderson: Humble Roots” A review by Liz Blaber 

After Andrew Wilson described ‘Humble roots’ as one of the best books he’d ever read, I was keen to read it. I love to read something that feels fresh and different, and this book certainly is that. If you’ve ever felt a sense of despondency that the work you do is not quite as groundbreaking or world changing as you may have hoped, then this book is an antidote, and a genuine route to peace and happiness in the wonderful every day… 

Embracing the everyday call on my life has been particularly important for me as I’ve been parenting four young children for the past 7 years, where a feeling of groundhog day can sometimes creep in. By seeing the significance and beauty in the people and places around you, and realising the privilege of investing in even a small God-given task or person, can literally almost make you burst with pride.

I so enjoyed and benefited from Hannah’s wisdom speaking from every page. I was particularly moved and helped by her chapter on death ‘the ultimate humiliation’  – a subject often avoided and not easy to grapple with from an honest and creative perspective. To look death square in the eyes and to talk about what it is and what it isn’t and to reflect on the great, immortal God we love and worship brings hope and perspective. I applaud Hannah for managing this so well. 

This really is a book for everyone, it never sits on my shelf long as I’m always keen to share its goodness with friends and family – my 70 year old mother enjoyed it so much she read it twice back to back! – Can any book receive a higher commendation??!!

 

“Global Humanity: Andy McCullough” A review by Simon Walker

Our world is changing.  Where I grew up everyone looked similar to me, ate similar food, talked in a similar way.  Today my local high street is full of different smells, languages, colours and food.  I love it!   Global Humility helps us to make sense of what culture and worldview are and walks us through a biblical approach to understanding how to engage in serving the world with the gospel. 
 
Andy writes as someone who has lived as a pioneer working across cultures to present the claims of Jesus to people who hold a different worldview to his own.
 
Andy explores how different cultures find their identity, how they think and how they approach life.    He shows us how to listen and understand others before we humbly open our mouths to share the stories of Jesus.  Contrasting East and West cultures covering hot topics such as collectivism, honour and shame, and language, this book will equip you to go to the nations and connect with those that make their home in streets alongside you.  
 
Global Humility is a superb guide that will encourage you to live and serve the gospel at home or travelling to new nations.  It comes out of rich reading, thinking, research and practice and will serve its readers well.  A superb read and an outstanding piece of work that I think will be a key resource in mission for years to come.   Brilliant!
 
 
 “Spirit and Sacrament: Andrew Wilson” a review by Tom Davis
 

In Spirit and Sacrament Andrew Wilson lays down a simple challenge – are we as faithful to the New Testament ideal of church as we think we are? Regardless of our church affiliation or style of worship, it’s very easy for us to call out the biblical references to practices we put into place on a Sunday morning (gifts of the Spirit, weekly Eucharist, communal confession…) and glide over the references to those practices. This short book sets out the biblical reasons why we may want to expand our current practices, wherever we’re starting from, and gives suggestions as to possible places to start.

Wilson has a relaxed and engaging style of writing, equally likely to make you laugh out loud, or wince. And regardless of whether you end up feeling changes should be made to your Sunday morning or not, the early two chapters in this book on Gift and Joy, underpinning the later ideas, are ones to keep coming back to.

 
Thoughts from the Phillipines – Heather Miller

Thoughts from the Phillipines – Heather Miller

When I look back on our time with Open Doors Church, Cavite, Phillippines recently I am reminded of the words in Acts 2: “All the believers were together and had everything in common…they ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of the people.” As with the early church, there was a group of people who lived near to each other and were frequently in out of each other’s houses. They ministered together, attending the prison, school, youth and prayer times, as well as constantly preparing and eating food together. They did it with great cheerfulness and fun too. Vast tables were laden with fish, rice, vegetables, bread and fruit and we seemed to be constantly eating, feasting morning, noon and night!

Despite only being with them for four days we had a wonderful insight into the life of the church and its ministry. Being met at the airport we were greeted by a huge banner with ‘Welcome to Vinu and Julie, Guy and Heather’ printed brightly and hearty hugs and smiles. We quickly realised that we were part of this family too, not bystanders but each one of us joining in and playing our part.

The first morning we were taken to Bulihan jail where all four of us had the opportunity to speak to the 60+ male prisoners crowded into the hot rooms. Despite seeing photos from Andy’s previous trips we were still taken aback by the incredibly cramped conditions behind the steel bars and the quiet anticipation as row after row of men sitting cross-legged and waiting. The church has faithfully visited each week sharing worship songs, testimonies and food, earning the respect of the prisoners and the staff alike who have commented on how their presence brings peace and calm to the inmates, even if for a short time.

On the second day, we were taken to the local Burol Elementary school where each of us was expected to go and teach a class. It’s been a while since I’ve stood in front of a group of school kids but I thoroughly enjoyed my lesson about Samuel hearing the voice of God. I was amazed at the attentiveness of the children and their delight in the simple games and story I brought. The staff too although slightly more distracted, listening to Guy speak to them about leadership and we felt they really welcomed the input of this little church.

In the evening we all took part with our testimonies at the youth event where youngsters from 10-20 years old gathered for worship and teaching. The music seemed loud in the quiet neighbourhood where many of the church members live, but nobody seemed to mind and the youngsters were thrilled to receive prophetic words over their lives. Us older ones took
ourselves off to bed afterward but the young people stayed sitting out in the street, eating, chatting until gone one in the morning! Sunday was spent with the whole church with Guy and Vinu sharing the teaching together and Julie and I got a temporary rest and just listened! They spoke of the vision and values of the Commission family and then welcomed the elders and the church into that family. Guy likened it to a small branch on the bigger branch of Commission and the large tree of Newfrontiers. They were all very excited about this development. We then spent some time praying for the long queue of adults and children who patiently waited. Healing was anticipated as many had serious health challenges. It was a huge blessing to be able to partner with Vinu and Julie into this new nation. We shared stories, doubled up with the preaching and presented a helpful visual aid to the relationship and sense of family that works within our network of churches. Their perspective was very insightful too as the Indian and Phillipino culture has some overlap. I think we also challenged their perspective about hierarchical church leadership as they saw us laughing and teasing each other.

One woman admitted to being overwhelmed at being described as a sister and yet this is what we are, families together across the world, on a mission, each with their own unique call and culture, equal in our standing as brothers and sisters in Christ. We look forward with anticipation to seeing this relationship develop. Our prayer is for leaders to be raised and lives touched by the gospel among this warm and friendly community long into the future.

This is not fake news: journalists want to do good

Your church probably has two responses to the notion of engaging with the media. It’s either extremely nervous, or it simply sees local newspapers and radio as tools for promoting events.

That’s the typical attitude of most UK churches, according to Natalie Williams of Jubilee+ and Kings Church, Hastings. She led a media day for Commission churches in November, inspiring us to see the media, particularly our local newspapers, in a new light.

Natalie knows what she’s talking about. Having trained and worked as a journalist, she spent much of her career building positive relationships with the media and influencers.

One of her first post-journalism roles was getting the media to publish good news about crime, on behalf of a police force. (Just to be clear – she wasn’t trying to sell the virtues of crime, but to share stories that helped reduce fear of crime).

The result is a wealth of experience in working with the media to promote ‘good news’. Positive news has a positive impact on the community.

So, there’s a challenge for us: how can our churches work with the media to make people feel valued, respected and safe in the places where we live?

Journalists are not your enemy

As part of her introduction to the day, Natalie wanted us to understand that most journalists are keen to do good, especially at a local level. Most want to tell stories that inspire and encourage others. Surely our churches can be a rich source of uplifting tales of lives being changed for the better?

Don’t confuse the motives of journalists with those of their editors. Bad news draws a crowd and editors use shocking headlines to create sales, whether it’s in a paper, on radio or online. But this doesn’t mean journalists are always looking for a negative angle on a story.

I’m frustrated that lots of front-page headlines on my local newspaper include words like ‘chaos’, ‘horror’ or ‘crisis’.  But once you’re past that, much of the content is more upbeat. Local media thrives on the highlights of life in our communities: community group activities, school events, achievements by our near neighbours and more.

Natalie’s advice to churches is to start reaching out to local journalists. Find out who’s responsible for reporting church news and invite them for coffee. Open the conversation with the question ‘what can we do for you?’ and see where it goes.

Local media is more than a free publicity machine

The reality is, most people aren’t very interested in what your church has to say.

We can lose sight of this because the internet has made it really easy for us to publish our own announcements and stories, through our own websites and social media networks. But these messages only go to people who already like you and have chosen to listen in.

The challenge for us is to reach out to new audiences, to engage those outside the church’s own communication channels. Getting a message to these people means using the media they choose to consume.

Don’t assume that the so-called ‘traditional’ media is becoming irrelevant. Local newspapers and radio still speak to significant audiences and still command respect. The messages they broadcast have the power to influence many lives.

All of this means we should stop thinking of them simply as a route to free publicity. How about thinking of local media as potential partners in serving our community? While not all journalists will share our faith (don’t forget that some do), most will share some of our vision for shaping a secure, stable environment where people to live.

By coming alongside our journalists and providing them with stories, we can help change the tone of local news. At the same time, we can help people see local church as a force for good, and more importantly, as a source of hope.

You won’t often, if ever, get the chance to preach Jesus through local media. But you can help draw people to a place where they can encounter the power of the gospel.

Top tips for engaging with local media

Here are three takeaways for church leaders from the Commission media day:

  • Consider investing just one hour a month in talking to local journalists.
  • Ask them what they think makes a good story and use that to find stories from your own church.
  • Don’t ask what the journalist can do for you; ask what you can do for them.

This is the first of several articles based on the Commission media day.

It’s by Andrew Knowles of Weymouth Family Church, Dorset. Andrew is leading a team that’s helping Commission churches improve their engagement with the media.

 

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.

Working with refugees

Working with refugees

Stories from Lebanon

Karen Priest, Lebanon

God has continually shown His blessing and provision to us, and the team we are here with, since before we started preparing to come out.

A Muslim refugee family known to us have 3 young children. The middle child has leukaemia which has also spread to his brain and has been receiving treatment for many years. Although registered with the UN as refugees, and partially supported by an NGO, the family constantly have to raise money to pay for the little boy’s treatment and the time that he has to stay in hospital. By God’s amazing grace, often through the generosity of their families, they have managed to pay everything. The hospital bills are often at least double the father’s monthly wages, and no-one else in the family works. Many times God has provided at the exact time the money has been needed. Now they have been granted medical asylum in a European country where all of their medical bills will be paid for.

At one point the boy had a blood clot on his brain which he received treatment for, although this was necessary it also delayed his cancer treatment. After this he deteriorated quickly, growing more and more lethargic, unable to run around, not even walking, sleeping lots and not really responding to anyone. The problem(s) in his brain had also been making him fit. One of the doctors at the hospital said that he wouldn’t recover or improve from this state but would only get worse and would soon become fully paralysed. The Dad didn’t tell anyone but, remembering all the love he and his family have been shown by believers, decided to go to a place in Lebanon where Christians go to pray, although he didn’t know where it was or what it was, because he wanted to pray to Jesus to ask him for help for his son. He slowly made his way there and sat there
for hours because he felt a deep peace and as though God was hearing his prayers, which he had never felt before.  He saw that there were oils for healing and asked about them, so they gave him a bottle, praying over it in the name of Jesus.  He went straight back to the hospital and covered his sons chest in the oil, leaving the bottle there for his wife to do the same thing the next day, before leaving and coming back to his house. Two days later the doctor came and saw his son.  She was amazed and said that she couldn’t believe how he was recovering! The little boy could move smoothly, talk with people, and was even able to stand a little on his feet and so she released him from that stay at the hospital! Since then he has got even better and stronger, he can now walk and run, calls out and talks with people.  The doctor said he should be getting worse but
he is getting better! His dad has told our team that he knows that his son is getting better because of Jesus!

Another family

The Dad of a refugee family we know had a problem with his blood, and possibly his liver, needing regular blood transfusions to alleviate symptoms and prolong his life. The time between these transfusions got shorter and shorter until doctors refused to do any more as they weren’t helping him and were costing the family a lot of money. They sent him home to die within the next few days. His wife had been attending a local church for aid and asked the pastor to come and pray with the Dad. The pastor came and prayed, but also insisted that all of the family should also pray with him, including the children. The family waited for their Dad to die, but he didn’t. One month later they took him back to the hospital where the doctors tested his blood. When the results came back they were astounded, not only was there no illness, but the Dad’s blood type had also changed. He had completely new blood!! As a result of this, the whole family have now chosen to follow Jesus.

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One Way group

One Way group

Drop-in and support group

Harvest Church, Alton, UK

About 11 years ago, we were prompted to start this ministry because of unmet local needs. ‘One Way’ is predominately a Drop–in providing a place to be and somewhere to feel safe, receive practical, emotional or spiritual help, to set a direction for the future.

We do various activities throughout each day; CV writing, bidding for housing, form filling and administration, art class, craft, talks/testimonies, games, quiz time and jigsaw puzzles. We provide a hot meal for £2 on a Wednesday for those who require it. We signpost to other services including CAP and have an agency who work alongside us on a Wednesday providing professional support with housing and needs around benefits.

Many of the group members suffer social isolation, depression, anxiety, some have autistic issues, mental health struggles, learning difficulties and struggle to communicate effectively. A number have said that ‘One Way’ is the highlight of their week and is a place where they feel safe, accepted and valued.

We provide a drop-in between 10am to 4pm, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, for vulnerable people in the Alton community. We have an age range of 22-83 years old, with an average attendance of 12 plus 3 staff on Tuesdays and 16 plus 3 staff on Wednesdays.

  • We have seen 5 members of the group come to faith and be baptised
  • 3 others are attending Alpha
  • We hold a simple bible study each week which we have average of 4/5 attendees who take away hand out sheets.
  • One is now learning to cook with a volunteer chef and helps provide food on a Wednesday for those who require a hot meal.
  • One, who has major anxiety issues, is now volunteering in the Centre’s Café once a week
  • All attendees state that they feel safe and feel at home –it is like a family.
  • In 2016 the group grieved the loss of 5 members during the year.

If you are considering setting up a similar group, make sure you do your research, and communicate the project idea and consult with the community mental health team, doctors surgeries, support workers, social services, CAB and other local social housing support providers to find out what is the need.

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We want to hear from you. Maybe you have a story to share about serving as part of Commission, or you need some specific information, or you spotted an error on this page. Whatever the reason, get in touch.

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