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.

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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