Sunday, 29 June 2008

Church Planting in St Petersburg

Church planting can seem very romantic. The call to forsake everything and start over sounds like something every follower of Christ should do and thoroughly enjoy it.

Dave & Hanna Henson moved their family to Tver in Russia a year ago and this July are moving to St Petersburg for another year of language & culture, before they start to plant a church there.

They are currently in the UK however all there earthly possessions (apart from a computer & photographs) are in a steel lockup garage in St Petersburgh. All their possessions in garage #257.

I find the photo strangely inspiring. Much of the Henson's earthly treasure is in that garage, and yet by definition as Christians, nothing that garage could ever contain could compete for the reward they will receive.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Overcoming Jesus

"Yes Lord" she said "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table" Matt 15:27.

On this verse Spurgeon writes: She believed great things of Him and thus overcame Him. She won the victory by believing in Him. Her case is an instance of prevailing faith; and if we would conquer like her, we must imitate her. (Day by Day with CH Spurgeon - June 27)

Overcoming Jesus does not sound like language any follower of Christ should ever use. And yet Spurgeon's use of language grabs my attention.

This verse and Spurgeon's encouragement must compel us to persistent, prevailing prayer. I want to like the Canaanite woman whose faith in Jesus prematurely opened a door that seemed closed in the purposes of God.

Our great faith might just get our request granted and we see an outbreak of healings and see many saved & added and see RFC surging towards 400.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Another RFC hero

Today is Ed's last day in the office and we are marking it with pies from Sweeney & Todd's.

Ed has been on staff for the past 10 months as a Church Worker and has hoovered the office, put out chairs, run Alpha, discipled students, prayed & fasted and preached on a Sunday.

He has lent me books, help developed my thinking for sermons and amused me with his dry sense of humour!

He is moving to Washington, North Carolina to invest in his marriage preparation to Rachel. They plan to get married next summer, meanwhile Ed will work for his future father-in-law who is a pastor of a Southern Baptist Church. Once married they will attend a missions college in Nashville and from there move to a Bulgaria to support a church plant there, hopefully summer 2010.

Ed is a RFC hero because he is following the call of God on his life regardless of what it looks like to his peers. Ed is a RFC hero because he loves Jesus and is trying to put Him first in all he does. Ed is a RFC hero because he is laying down his life as best he knows how.

For these things alone, Ed is a true RFC hero.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

The sublime ...

Sublime: a lofty thought, impressing the mind with a sense of grandeur.

"Before faith came we were held captive under the law, we were imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed - in essence the law became our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.

But now faith has come and we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus we are all sons of God through faith (and faith is a gift from God).

We have now 'put on Christ', we are now one 'in Christ', and 'in Christ' we are heirs to Abraham's promise". (Paraphrase of Gal 3:23-29)

May those who love your salvation say evermore "God is great!" Ps 70:4.

The ridiculous ...

BBC website today:
"A council has suspended a streetlight replacement programme after a man went on hunger strike, chained to a lamppost, in protest at the work.


David Cemlyn, 66, was outraged that the Victorian-style cast-iron columns in St Andrew's, Bristol, were being replaced with more efficient, modern ones.

The council said it had suspended work pending further talks with residents".

I am speechless. I am sure they are great lampposts but of all the things to go on hunger strike for ... meanwhile 200,000 unborn children a year are killed in the womb.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

News from Sibs in Harare

Sibs sent an email this morning. RFC supports Farayi & Cora by wiring out money each month which must be then converted to Zim dollars:

"I have just been informed that the gentleman who was sorting Farayi out with Zim Dollars is no longer able to continue due to cash flow issues arising from the exchange rate. One US Dollar is now worth in the region of 20 billion Zim dollars - so you can imagine the cash shortages and general mayhem.


Just so you know, the phone cables at home and at the office have been stolen so I have no ready access to email at the moment. This means that it will take time for me to correspond with you on this matter. I am reading through a biography of Hudson Taylor - it has helped me greatly to come to terms with the increasingly frustrating conditions under which we are trying to work..."

Lets keep them all in our prayers.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Lunch with a Dutch man

Yesterday I had lunch with a Dutch man and his family (Gerke & Maxine and their 4 kids). It all felt Dutch-tastic although I didn't quite get round to practising my new found Dutch vocab. However, I did feel duty bound to pry into Gerke's mind (pronounced herrrkkerr) in preparation for our Dutch adventure.

Apparently Dutch people like order and punctuality. They like canals to be straight, they like to speak straight and always like to get straight to the point with little fuss.

Apparently when visiting people it is rude to help yourself when the tea & biscuits are set before you on the table - you have to be offered them!??

Best of all if you get two Dutch men together you can start a church, get three together and it will split ...

I have therefore resolved to do a little more cultural study.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Enough is enough

Last week I attended a days teaching entitled "A healthy theology of healing" by Phil Moore, based on a paper he had written for the newfrontiers Theology Forum. Whilst talking about Jesus' righteous anger against the devil, and the sickness he brings, Phil said:

"The sad truth is that the reason why so much sickness remains around us is that we acquiesce to its existence and bring no godly challenge to its pretended authority".
This is a challenging and timely statement. Too often have I accepted with quiet resignation the sickness around me and was not inwardly churned up about it as Jesus was (Jn11v33&38).

I have much to learn in the area of healing but settling for sickness without challenging it, that must end!!!

Friday, 20 June 2008

Unborn children

We must never tire of being stirred on the plight of the unborn child:

  • The number of abortions among girls aged under 16 rose by 10% to 4,376 in 2007, official figures for England and Wales show (full article here).

  • In the under 14s, abortions rose by 21% from 135 in 2006 to 163 last year.

  • The number of abortions in all women rose by 2.5% to reach an all time high of almost 200,000.

  • In the past decade, the number of abortions in the under 16s has risen by 27%. But at the same time the teenage pregnancy rate has fallen.

  • Gill Frances, chair of the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group, said: "We know what works to reduce abortion amongst teenagers. We need high quality sex and relationships education at school and at home and effective contraception".

Whilst trying to be measured, these are nothing less than horrfying statistic that shame our nation and mock our Holy God. We must get engaged in these issues, if only in prayer and giving to Reading Lifeline.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

For sale

On Monday a 'For Sale' sign was put up on our front lawn by our estate agent. Liz are I were not expecting it that day so it was a bit of a surprise!

Having a 'For Sale' sign makes our planned move even more public and reminds us again as to what we are about as a family.

As a family we love our house - we love the green outside where Joshua, Lucy & Zoe learnt to ride their bikes - we love our neighbours (who are great people) and the kids who play with ours - we love the local schools and being able to walk to them - we really love the suburban life we have here.

It's just we love Jesus more and He has asked us to move to another country to make another house our home ... so our house in leafy Earley is up for sale.

As a family, this 'For Sale' sign means so much more.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Royal Windsor Triathlon - race report

It was a perfect day for racing: sunny, light winds and warm. On the Saturday approx 1800 people had racked their 'rocket bikes' ... it sure had a more serious feel compared to the other races I've done this year!!!

Sadly I found the swim worse than I expected - as was the current in the Thames. I had a horrible swim, resulting in a horrible 'swim time' and cramp in both my calf muscles. On exiting the river I had to hobble the 200m to transition where someone thankfully stretched out my legs enabling me to continue.

From there it all started to improve. The bike leg went well, as did the run but I was unable to push too hard for fear of another cramp attack (excuses, excuses). All done in 2:40:30, 636 out of 1624 finishers.

That said, Craig beat me by 18 seconds and had Richard not stopped to pump someones tire up, I am sure he would have beaten us both (Morally he already has!). Kirk had a flawless race getting just under 2:35 ... the boy did good.

We all really enjoyed watching the elite men and women race - it certainly tempers post race banter when you see how fast they are! No more races planned this season ... yet.

Friday, 13 June 2008

A tale of two cities

All week I have had two cities on my mind, Windsor and Amsterdam:

This Sunday is the Royal Windsor Triathlon. First is a 1500m swim in the Thames, followed by a 40km bike ride, then a 10km run around Windsor castle and Eton. I am really nervous about the river swim - I start at 6:40am with 100+ other 40 year olds all thrashing about furiously, trying to get upstream as quickly as possible, only to turn around and swim back again. Triathlon makes so much sense...

The other city on my mind this week is Amsterdam. In particular getting a team crazy enough to come over and plant with us. If you love Jesus and have made time to read my blog, please also make time to consider coming with us. Do prayfully consider this ... we need a strong team to go and establish a church for the nations, that goes to the nations!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Joining the dots, listening to His whisper

This is my first attempt to write down an outline of the dots that, when joined up, pointed to God calling us to Amsterdam. In essence, this is how we listened to the inner voice of the Spirit guiding us. I am sure our perspective will change over time but the events speak for themselves. Needless to say I have omitted our bible readings, prayers and my many 'knots in stomach':

July 2006 - Rob Rufus prophesied a number of things over me, one of which was that I was going to be parachuted into situations and the team at RFC would keep the plane on course. He also said that I am in a testing pattern; that God was going to open up my ministry; and this was a gift not my wages.

June 2007 - Naomi Pendle sent me a prophetic picture saying the current battle is drawing to a close and that God was calling me to a new terrain but still fighting battles for His church.

January 2008 - Naomi has a picture of us as a family; that God had planted us in a circle so that we could support one another as we grew.

February - Dave Stroud asked me & Liz to consider moving to Amsterdam to plant an international church. It 'just happened' that I was in the middle of a teaching series on Jonah, who coincidently was commissioned by God to go preach to a foreign city. Jonah’s issue was not hearing the calling but being obedient to it. For Liz and I the first big question that we needed to answer was ‘is this God speaking?’ If so, then we needed learn from Jonah and be obedient.

Initiatially I had determined to pray with Liz about it for two weeks, then say ‘No’. The day to send the ‘No’ email came but I 'just happened' to meet an old friend (Tony Thompson) who helped me to reconsider! Tony helped us plant Reading so know us and is involved in church planting into Europe.

Liz and I met with Dave Stroud to discuss it more formally. We also attend an elders & wives weekend with our team and it is here that we all surrendered our lives afresh to Jesus.

We had lunch Sean & Nola Dooley, for the first time ever (it 'just happened' we booked a date in months before). They moved their family from South Africa to plant their church and they were very encouraging & helpful. He also serves churches in Amsterdam & Holland.

March - Naomi has another prophetic picture for our family – that we were on a roller coaster with many ups & downs but God has us well strapped in and we would enjoy it.

April – Liz & I travelled to Amsterdam. On the flight over God spoke to Liz about perspective and His bigger picture. We both came back feeling there were no giants in the land.

Ben Davies, on talking it through with him, thought that this was not of man but of God.

Whilst at New Word Alive, I kept remembering John Piper’s teaching on ‘Don’t waste your life’. I also saw for the first time Rom 12v1 that ‘spiritual act of worship’ can also be translated as ‘reasonable or rationale act of worship’. I felt God say that in light of the cross, this was a reasonable act of worship – it is not foolish.

11 April – We decide to go and both feel God’s peace. We each have a deep sense of God’s pleasure and calling. Nervously excited.

21 April - I moan at God that we were going alone and that we had no money to spend when we take the children on a now planned visit to Amsterdam. The next day I 'just happened' to receive a cheque in the post from a fellow pastor in Reading ‘to bless our family’ and also received an email about a family wishing to join the Amsterdam church plant.

May - Jacob Johns (the father of one of the students) 'just happened' to be at the Sunday meeting and said to us "you know God is going to move you on, this is a training ground".

June – We took the children to Amsterdam for 3 days and they loved it. A week later we told them our plans. Although it was a very difficult time, within a few days they had bounced back and now we are having fun listening to a ‘teach yourself Dutch’ CD. We then tell all the leaders and then the church, many are suprised but a great rise of faith by all.


Through all of this process, the eldership team at RFC and other close friends, have helped us work it through “in the council of many there is wisdom”.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Dates

16 November hosting an Amsterdam day here in Reading for all those interested in planting with us.

15 June is the Royal Windsor Triathlon.

11 June currently 2 days behind in my 'bible in the year'.

10 June purchased 6 volumes of Matthew Henry's commentary on the bible for £15!

7 years since I applied for redundancy at Dell computers (in order to work for the church).

18 years since I was baptised in the sea.

19 years
following Jesus.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Joshua gets some air

Here is one of the first pictures of Joshua getting the hang of his bmx bike.

Only one big crash to date ... thankfully, according to Joshua, the bike was OK.

Come plant with me ...

Sunday was a strange but exciting day for our family. Six months ago we could never have imagine announcing we feel called to leave Reading and plant a church in Amsterdam.

If asked, I would have said I would be leaving Reading in a box, having had a long innings at RFC. Clearly the Lord had other steps in mind for our family:

Pr 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

At some point I will post a more detailed reflection on how Liz & I ‘tested the call’ – if only to further harden the decision in my mind. Faith is about grasping the invisible promise or calling of God. But because it is as yet 'unseen' (the church or the team!) I know there will be days when Liz and I will need to stand on a 'robust defense of our calling' - hence the blog posting!

But for today I want to say again how loved & valued we feel as a family. Loved & valued by God to give us a such a task – loved & valued by our fellow eldership couples & friends as they have helped us reach this decision – and loved & valued by the church as we have talked in through with you.

I do believe there will be greater kingdom advancement by us going than by us staying. It just feels sad when thinking about leaving RFC.

But it is also very exciting starting over in a beautiful place like Amsterdam. It will be fun proving that God can move our family (and others) to a major capital city and out of nothing bear MUCH fruit. Do prayerfully consider whether you should join the team then talk to one of the elders before you talk to me – because I will simply say 'yes'!

To listen to my message on Sunday morning click here.

To watch Terry’s teaching at Prayer and Fasting in May on our values for church planting click here.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Ants

The church office is being invaded by black ants ... or at least the kitchen area is. Ants & food preparation is wrong and is therefore an opportunity to express mankind's God given dominion over creation.

These ants are clearly unaware that I have a long history of ant extermination: we have now deployed my preferred instrument of persuasion 'Nippon Ant KILLER liquid'.

As we speak 18 unsuspecting worker ants are feasting on this delicious nectar which will lead to a long, long sleep ...
I shall keep you posted on our progress.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Vision morning this Sunday

This Sunday morning will be a milestone for us as a church. Not only because we will be reminding people of what we were dreaming of when the church was planted, but also because we will be outlining something of our future that we could not have guessed!

It is very humbling serving a King who is not tame and is so big in His plans. He is going to use people like us to do great things for His glory.

Don't miss this Sunday morning!!!

Terry & Wendy Virgo

Here are two clips of Terry & Wendy from New Word Alive, which is a conference a group of us went to in April. Adrian Warnock (the interviewer) is a friend of mine who is both a blogger and on the leadership of a newfrontiers church in London (Tope his pastor preached at RFC last year).



Part 2, Wendy talks about family life and then the conversation moves on to "apostles".

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

When will I be famous?

This morning in my readings I got to 2Cor8v18: "we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel." The NIV states that the brother is "praised for his service to the gospel".

Here is a brother known for his service / preaching of the gospel but Paul sees no point in indentifying who he is.

There is something very appealing about being famous for your preaching of the gospel, because the gospel needs to be preached well. There is something very appealing about being well known for your service to the gospel, because Christ came to serve.

But what is even more appealing is being commended for your preaching & service but not having your name elevated... that is reserved for Jesus.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Caption competition

So here is a photo of my good friend and fellow elder Sitho, a photo just begging for a caption ...
Here's mine: "Sitho's opening line on door-to-door evangelism still needed working on... "

In Whitley roundup

IN:Whitley is all done and now comes the hard work of the follow up of the contacts. Sadly, no-one turned up for the 'Just Looking' course last night, which was a disappointment. That said, overall it was fruitful time:
  • We served in the heart of a community and the footpath we built will be there for a few years to come.
  • The conversations with people on the doors are like the seed sown by a man "night and day whether he slept or got up, God made the seed grow".
  • 15 young people asked for more info on our youth activities and Sunday saw 5 responses to the gospel and many healings.
It's good to be in God's Kingdom.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

In Whitley day 4

This morning we baptised Tim and Nitin who each had a compelling story as to how they met Jesus.

Nitin is studying for his PhD and Tim is a recovering alcoholic: different backgrounds but the same God.

Phil Moore preached with clarity & faith and there were 5 responses to the gospel and many reporting healing. We will follow up on these over the next week.

From what I could tell there was a good number of visitors - with at least one from a leaflet!

Miranda and the team did a great job in leading us in our worship and the children's' workers served so well by going the extra time ... A great morning meeting with God.