Learn2Lead in Cardiff – 2014

Learn2Lead is a ten-unit course which introduces the principles of Biblical leadership for those who want to be equipped to serve in their local church.

In January there is a Learn2Lead course starting in St. Mellons Baptist Church in Cardiff. The first Unit is an overview of how the Bible is put together. It provides a good starting point for any Gospel ministry.

The course is open to all and will be led by Peter Milsom. It will run once a month in the daytime on Monday mornings. The first session runs from 10.30am to 12.30pm on Monday 13 January 2014.

Attendance is free. To register contact Anthea using this form . . .

Evangelism Training from George Whitefield

In the Spring of 1740 George Whitefield was travelling and preaching in what is now the USA. Unimaginable crowds attended his preaching and many people were converted.

One of the people who came to a life-changing knowledge of Christ at this time was an Indian Trader known to us only as Mr M. His new found faith gave him a concern for the Allegany Indians among whom he had worked and he sought Whitefield’s help and advice in what he should do. In response Whitefield wrote him two letters. The first was to him personally advising him how to conduct himself if he was to be fruitful as a witness to the grace of God among these people. The second letter was to the Indians themselves. It contained a summary of the gospel and was designed to help Mr M communicate his new found faith to the Indians.

It seems to me that these two letters are still relevant. You’ve got to be willing to span the years and do a little translation work, but together these letters offer some foundational instruction in the work of evangelism to which every Christians is called and for which every Christian has an appetite.

So here is some evangelism training from one of the most effective evangelists that ever lived.

Letter 1: The fruitful Witness

To Mr M, an Indian Trader

Dear Mr M, Reedy Island May 19, 1 740.

I received your letter, and have been reading part of your journal. I think it your bounden duty to go amongst the Indians again, not as a minister but as a private christian, whose duty it is, when converted himself, to strengthen his brethren.

An effectual door, I would hope, is opening amongst some of the heathen. I remember, when it was first impressed upon me, that I should go to Georgia this promise came with such power as never will be forgotten, and that too, long before I had any outward call — “I have made thee the head of the heathen.” I speak this for your encouragement but desire you would not mention it to others. Who knows but that time may be now near at hand? However that be, it is plain God calls you, and I wish you good success in the name of the Lord.

Be sure you keep a close walk with God. Be much in prayer, and prepare for the greatest hardships. Your greatest perils will be among your own countrymen. The heathens will be stirred up by them, as the Gentiles were by the Jews; but the Lord Jesus will make you more than conqueror over all.

The word of the Lord will make its own way.

Beg of GOD to give you true notions of our free justification by faith in Jesus Christ. Bring your Indian hearers to believe, before you talk of baptism, or the Supper of the Lord. Otherwise they will catch at a shadow and neglect the substance. Improve the leisure you now enjoy, and see that you feel the truths you speak. Feed on this promise, “It shall be given you in that hour that you shall say.’ Your circumstances call for a fulfilling of it.  Tell them what God has been doing here, and how happy Jesus Christ will make them. Be sure to tell them that true faith is not merely in the head, but in the heart, and that it will certainly be productive of good works.

Frequently meditate on God’s free love to yourself, and that will best qualify you to speak of it affectionately to others. I could say more, but time will not permit. Pray for me. All with me salute you. My poor petitions you may depend on, as the Lord shall enable me. My love to all, and believe me to be

Your affectionate friend, brother and fervent in Christ,

George Whitefield

Letter 2 – The Gospel we Bring

To the Allegany Indians.

My Dear Brethren, Reedy Island May 21, 1 740.

For so I call you, because you, and I, and all, have one common father, one God, in whom we live, move and have our beings. We all came at first out of the dust of the earth, for after God made the sun, moon, stars, and everything you see, he also made a creature called man and breathed into him the breath of life. He then became a living soul. He could not only walk and speak, but he could also think, and reason, and was full of goodness, peace and joy.

This man, this happy creature, God placed in a garden which his own right hand had planted. He then call him into a deep sleep and out of one of his ribs made what we call a woman that she might be his wife. Their names were Adam and Eve. With these God made an agreement that they should eat of every tree of that garden except one; but if they ate the fruit of that particular tree they should die; they should return to the dust from whence they were taken, lose the comforts they enjoyed in their souls, and be unhappy for ever in another world. But if they did not eat this fruit, none of these things should come upon them.

A being, which we call the devil (and who for his pride had been cast out of heaven) envying their happiness, tempted them to eat the forbidden fruit. They consented. They ate. They died. Their bodies became mortal, their souls were deprived of the presence and love of God; and unless a way was found out to make satisfaction for what they had done, they must have been lost for ever.

These were our parents, and God made this agreement with us their children as well as with them. For they acted in our name – as a king acts in the name of his people, or a father in the name of a child. What therefore befell them, befell us. We died in them; and come into this world poor and miserable, blind and naked, as they were when they had eaten of the forbidden tree. Hence it is, that we are given to lust, anger, envy, hatred, pride, and malice, and all those troublesome passions which you all must feel in your own hearts, and cannot but see even in the hearts of your children.

If then, you only look into yourselves, you must confess these things are so. But God hath given us a book wherein he assures us of the truth of all this: and we know that book came from God because none but God could tell us the things therein contained. And I speak first of this, because ’till you feel and believe this, you cannot come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ; and without the knowledge of Jesus Christ you cannot be saved.

For after our first parents, Adam and Eve, had taken the forbidden fruit, and, with all their children thereafter to be born, became guilty before God, God out of his own free love sent his only begotten Son into the world, to die, and so to make an atonement for the sin of fallen man, and also to obey the law which man had broken; so that though fallen man had no righteousness of his own, yet upon believing in God’s Son, he should find a perfect righteousness in him.

This Son is called Jesus, “A Saviour,” because he was to save us from the guilt and power of our sins. He was truly God, and therefore could satisfy; he was truly man, and therefore could obey and suffer in our stead. He was God and man in one person, that God and man might be happy together again.

My dear brethren, (for so I must call you, though I never saw you) these are strange things, but if you are willing to learn, the Holy Spirit shall teach you. For Jesus Christ by dying, and obeying God’s law, hath bought for us the Holy Spirit, who shall change your corrupt natures, and fit you for happiness hereafter with the ever-blessed God, if you do but believe in your hearts.

Thousands of white people only believe in their heads, and therefore are no more christians than those who never heard of Jesus Christ at all. They call Christ, “Lord, Lord,” but they do not live as Jesus Christ hath commanded. No, they curse and swear, they break the sabbath, they get drunk, they play, they whore, they commit adultery, and have taught many poor Indians to do these abominable things as well as themselves. Do not you therefore learn of them. For true christians are sober, chaste and holy. They will not get drunk, they will not play the whore, they will not cheat, lie, curse or swear; but they will bless and praise God, keep the sabbath, and do all the good they can; for thus Jesus Christ, their Lord and master, lived when he was here on earth.

I say, when he was here on earth; for after he died, he rose again, and went up into heaven from whence he came, and there he sits praying for all that shall believe on Him to the end of the world. For as the world had a beginning, so it also will have an end. And Jesus Christ will come again in the clouds to judge all mankind; and then he that hath believed in Christ, and hath shown forth his faith by his works, shall be saved; and he that hath not believed in Christ, shall be damned for ever, and be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone.

But before he comes, he hath promised that the heathen shall be brought to believe on him, and therefore I write this letter to you. I would come myself, and preach the glad tidings of salvation among you, as the bearer of this could interpret for me; but my other business will not permit. I am a minister of the same Jesus, and once was as ignorant of Him comparatively as you may be. I once lived like other people; but the Lord Jesus hath brought me to believe on Him, and I now do so no more. I once was full of envy, hatred, malice, and such like cursed tempers; but now I have love, and peace, and joy. And because Jesus Christ hath shown such mercy to me, I desire that all others should be made as happy, nay happier than I am myself.

Hearken therefore now to the voice of the Lord. Pray to God that you may feel yourselves poor, miserable sinners, and come by a living faith to Jesus Christ. Then he will pardon you of all your sins, make you holy by his Spirit here, and take you into everlasting happiness hereafter.

Your traders, some of them at least, will tell you, that you must be miserable, if you will be christians. But these know nothing of Jesus Christ; for they are ungodly men, walking after their own wicked lusts. Whosoever will follow Jesus Christ, though happy in himself, must be looked upon as a fool by others. The spirit of the world, and the Spirit of Jesus are quite contrary one to the other; and therefore if you will live godly in Him, you must suffer persecution; you must have all manner of evil spoken against you falsely, and be called madmen and fools. But let not that daunt you or make you afraid. There is a world to come, there is a judgment-day, and then Jesus Christ shall crown all those with glory who have suffered for his name’s sake.

Once more, therefore, hearken to the voice of the Lord. For the Lord Jesus died for you as well as for the white men among you and that you might be taught the gospel. But they have made you worse than you were before, and therefore shall receive the greater damnation.

He who brings this, no doubt, will be despised amongst them, because he will, I hope, neither get drunk, nor curse, nor swear. But I trust the Lord will strengthen him, and cause him to show many of you the true way of salvation. I shall not fail to pray for him, and for you; for though I know you not, yet if I could thereby save your precious souls, I think I could die for your sake. May the Lord Jesus bless you, and bring you out of darkness into his marvelous light, for his infinite mercy’s sake.

This is the prayer of, dear brethren, your soul’s well-wisher and servant in Christ,

George Whitefield

Christianity & Culture in Wales

Here’s a stimulating article from  Mark Barnes about the interaction between Christianity and culture in Wales. It appeared in the Evangelical Magazine in January 2013 . . .

All of our churches, for better or for worse, are influenced by our culture. Yet when I read my Bible I find that the biggest cultural pull on the church is the local influence. Corinth was famously multicultural and permissive of sexual sin, both of which became problems for the church that Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians. Philippi was a Roman colony whose residents wanted to be good Roman citizens – a recurring theme in Paul’s letter to them (1:13, 3:20, 4:22). One of the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, the Ephesians, over-reacted to the local opposition (cf Acts 19:9, 23-34) and were strong on truth, but weak on love. The city of Sardis was famous for having been captured by King Cyrus. His troops attacked from the rear whilst the city’s watchmen only guarded the front; the church in Sardis had also fallen asleep on their watch and let the enemy in. The city of Laodicea was famous for its riches and its unpalatable, lukewarm water – and Jesus uses the metaphor of the local water to remind them that despite their apparent riches, they are spiritually poor.

Throughout the Bible, it’s often local culture that has most impact on churches. Since that’s the case, we’re not going to be greatly helped by American books about Christianity and culture. We need to think for ourselves.

Looking back

This lesson is reinforced when we look at Wales’ recent history. It’s no secret that the visible strength of Christianity in Wales has plummeted. What caused the decline? One major factor is that the Welsh church unquestioningly allowed Welsh culture to infiltrate. Let me give you three examples from the last century.

First, Wales is known as a land of song and poetry. This creativity has been used by God, not least in the compositions of Williams Pantycelyn and Ann Griffiths. But many churches in Wales valued music and performance over the simple preaching of the gospel. The Gymanfa Ganu became more important than preaching rallies, the Welsh ‘hwyl’ more important than simple truth. These were nails in the coffin of Welsh gospel witness.

Second, there was a resurgence of socialism. Given Wales’ industrial heritage, and the sense of oppression that still lingers in the Welsh consciousness, this was hardly surprising. Caring for widows and orphans, and standing for justice is a Christian distinctive, not just a socialist one. Yet socialist concern became entangled with Christianity itself. This didn’t cause socialism to become more Christian, but it did cause Christianity to become more socialist – and it led to the social gospel which wreaked so much havoc in Welsh chapels.

Third, there was a renewed emphasis on the importance of higher education. The Aberdare Report of 1881 led to an expansion of higher education in Wales, and to the formation of the University of Wales. The benefits for Wales were significant, but the impact on the church was mixed, at best. In some circles it was more important that a minister had a degree, than whether he was called of God. Instead of producing godly men wrestling with the theological issues of the day, this over-emphasis on education produced a secular clerical elite more familiar with F.C. Baur and Karl Barth than with Paul and Luke.

Looking forward

None of this is to say that poetry or social concern or education are bad, or should be shunned. Nor is it to say that Welsh culture is inherently anti-Christian. The point is simply that both the Bible and our history confirm that it is often local influences that most damage the church. When influences come from a distance, we are naturally wary, and exercise discernment. But when

they’re home-grown, they are harder to see. Most dangerous of all are those influences that are already part of us.

This means we need to ask ourselves a vital question. What are the local influences on us that could prove dangerous to the church?[1] As we look at our culture, there are some things we can all identify with. Changing attitudes to alcohol, sexuality and authority are a concern for us all, but these problems are more international than local, and there are many places we can go to get help on them. I want to ask a more specific question. What are the home-grown, distinctive aspects of our culture that could prove dangerous to the church? Let me suggest three.

First, in Wales we strangely combine wild optimism with a lack of confidence. There’s no better place to see this than at a rugby match. We’ll fill the Millennium Stadium with eager Welshmen and women expecting great things from their team – but with that nagging doubt that almost certainly in the final minute we’ll concede possession and the opposition will snatch the victory from us – just like Australia did in December. And in June. Twice. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. We see the same thing in church life. We’re proud of our rugby heritage, but even more proud of our Christian heritage. We emphasise the power of gospel truth, and the vitality of the Holy Spirit – but with the nagging doubt that, almost certainly, if we speak that gospel to our friends and neighbours, we’ll drop the ball and mess it up, and they’ll reject us and the gospel alike. That too is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Second, in Wales we tend to look back instead of looking forward. Welsh glory days are always in the past. Our best rugby players were from the 1970s, our preachers from the 1700s, and princes from the 1300s. This perspective can cause enormous damage in the church. Younger people can be hurt by the implication that their generation doesn’t make the grade, and frustrated that the problems and opportunities they can see are missed by their elders. It’s right we value our heritage, but if we only look back, we make the gospel irrelevant to today’s issues.

Finally, we Welsh can be inward looking and independently-minded. We value our homeland, we value family, and we are a proud people – but sometimes that means we fail to learn from others, or even be concerned at what is happening elsewhere. Sometimes those who are not Welsh can feel unwelcome in our churches, for example when we start to believe our own jokes about Welsh being the language of heaven. Welsh churches, like Welsh villages, often have a strong sense of family and community. But in church, we must ensure that everyone, particularly newcomers, feel fully part of the family.

Looking out

The danger we face in Wales is the same danger that all God’s people face – that, without thinking, we will be influenced by our culture, for good and bad. But that third characteristic – our tendency to be inward looking – makes us more vulnerable to the damaging aspects of our culture, and goes some way to explaining why church attendance has fallen more sharply in Wales than in the rest of the UK. If the trend is to be reversed, we need a more critical assessment of our culture and traditions than our predecessors were able to give. Let each of us pray that God would give us all the discernment we need for that task.

Mark Barnes is the pastor of Bethel Evangelical Church, Clydach, Swansea.

[1] Because of the emphasis on local, the answers I suggest may not be as pertinent to you as they are to me — but if that’s the case, why not post a comment below

All things made new

last page image_1I found this quote to illustrate Romans 8.19-22 where Paul talks about the renewal of the whole creation. Its from C S Lewis’s book on Miracles . . .

In the Christian story God descends . . . he comes down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity, down further still . . . to the very roots and sea bed of the nature he has created. But he goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined creation up with him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole lot swaying on his shoulders.

Idols and their Consequences

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Here’s an interesting list of common idols in a secular world, along with their immediate/medium term consequences. It comes from from the footnotes of ‘The Reason for God’ by Tim Keller . . .

If you centre your life and identity on your spouse or partner you will be emotionally dependent, jealous and controlling. The other person’s problems will be overwhelming to you.

If you centre your life and identity on your family and children you will try to live your life through your children until the resent you, or have no self of their own. At worst, you may abuse them when they displease you.

If you centre your life and identity on your work and career you will be a driven workaholic and a boring shallow person. At worst you will lose family and friends and, if your career goes poorly, develop deep depression.

If you centre your life and identity on money and possessions you will be eaten up by worry or jealousy about money. You’ll be willing to do unethical things to maintain your lifestyle, which will eventually blow up your life.

If you centre your life and identity on pleasure, gratification and comfort you will find yourself getting addicted to something. You will become chained to the ‘escape strategies’ by which you avoid the hardness of life.

If you centre your life and identity on relationships and approval you will be constantly overly hurt by criticism and thus always losing friends. You will fear confronting others and thus be a useless friend.

If you centre your life and identity on a noble cause you will divide the world into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and demonise your opponents. Ironically you will be controlled by your enemies. Without then you have no purpose.

If you centre your life and identity on religion and morality you will, if you are living up to your moral standards, be proud self-righteous and cruel. If you don’t live up to your standards your guilt will be utterly devastating.

IPN Swansea – 30 Nov 2013

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We have now had two IPN Fraternals – one in Cardiff and one in Swansea. Both were attended by 17 men (not the same 17!) and it does appear that this idea has some ‘legs’ as we say.

The next Itinerant Preachers Network Fraternal will be in Swansea from 9.30am to 11.30am on Saturday 30 November 2013. It will be held at at ‘Centrepoint’ opposite Libanus Church, Market Street, Morriston, Swansea, SA6 8DA. At the Fraternal Selwyn Morgan will repeat the talk that he gave in Cardiff in September and we will also present some plans for the future.