So this is my first ever newsletter, and it has been very late in the making. So thank you for your patience and trusting me.
I’m in halfway through my third month working with the Navigators and it has been so much fun and I have learnt so much!
As all of you are probably aware, I am working with the Navigators whose calling is:
“To advance the gospel of Jesus and His Kingdom into the nations through spiritual generations of laborers living and discipling among the lost.”
How that plays out within the context of the University of Birmingham and their students is a main meeting once a week, when anywhere between a dozen and twenty students gather together in various houses in Selly Oak, and we study the Bible. This term we have been looking at different attributes of God (e.g He is Wise, He is a creator, He is ABLE to forgive, transform and heal, He BOTH just & merciful, knowable & mysterious, and His Kingdom is BOTH now & not yet.
Then once a week I gather with a team of 7 students, who have all volunteered to help lead this group, and together we are going through some training. This involves: reading a book of the Bible a week (we are just starting 1 Samuel), looking at various leadership/personality tools (such as Meyers-briggs and conflict management styles), and praying together (although we want to increase in this!)
Throughout the week I’m meeting with a handful of Christian lads individually and we are helping each other grow in faith. For some, this is reading a chapter of a Christian book a week and chatting over coffee, for others it’s a long walk and prayer round campus, for others it a small Bible study, and for some it looks a bit like hanging out together and seeing how we both live like Christ as we go about our day.
NOW…part of the Navigator called is to “live…among the lost”. I recognize it is very easy to live within a Christian bubble and there has been a lot of temptation to just stay within my Christian comfort zone. So there are a few things that I am doing regularly to keep myself among the lost.
- I have become a lot more deliberate about meeting up, texting, e-mailing, (in general pursuing some of my unbelieving friends). I want to be up close and in their lives, because they’re great friends, and I really want them to encounter Jesus.
- My wife and I have been committing to praying for people on the street, random strangers – and it’s very scary, after church once a week. Although we chicken out occasionally, and it’s getting darker earlier, we are both seeking to honor God in this and take this step of faith to grow and share the gospel.
- At the start of my work I joined a gym, and quickly made friends with two lads. I’m hoping that throughout my time here, we will get to know each other, and they will experience God’s love for them through me.
So the other side of my work this year is a training/internship run by Navigators called Connect. Their aim is to support us, give us a taster and train us in “Christian Ministry”. What does this look like?
- Studies and assignments: each term we get given a study to complete, based on the Bible and including some outside reading. Through this I am learning, and revisiting several basic ministry truths and principles.
- Books: anyone who knows me knows I love reading, so this is great for me.
- Supervision: There are so many people pouring their lives into mine this year, both within the Navigators and outside. These people check up on my studies, my admin (which I am slowly getting more competent in), my marriage, my heart and my struggles. This is priceless!
It is such a pleasure being married! Almost one and half years together and loving it! Thanks to everyone’s prayers, advice and support, we feel like we are reaping it all.
My wife’s job is really challenging and demanding. I know I’ll mention it later, but prayers for her resilience and joy in the workplace would be really appreciated. She wakes up early and leaves 6.30-7ish every day and gets home at 5, getting in early means she can leave work at work and not take marking or lesson planning home. To support her, I decided at the beginning I would be leaving with her in the mornings. This can make for a long day, if I’ve got a meeting in the evening or we’ve got community group, but we both feel it is a sensible decision.
We’d really appreciate prayers for us, to have a fresh vision of God’s beauty. We rarely get time to worship, pray and have quiet times together, which are all things we feel convicted by God to pursue as a way of putting Him at the heart of our marriage.
And also, practically, agreement over what next year (beginning September 2017) onwards will look like for both of us. Recently we’ve had a bit of peace over this, but just some confirmation from God over our decision would be great!
We are settling into Grace Church Dell Road, and really enjoying it. We recently joined their worship team, after it feels like two years, since we were last leading worship together. And their Pastor, Andy, has been meeting fairly regularly with me to give me some training with preaching. Which I highly value!
We have just joined a newly started community group and are making great, significant friendships there.
Please pray for us in this area, because we live quite far away from the Church’s location and therefore a lot of the congregation. It can feel like a massive effort to make the travel to Church on a Sunday, and this can leave us tempted to skip it or not be as involved as often. Thankfully we are surrounded by many servant hearted people, who both pray for our resolve that Church is a good thing and therefore we should be active partners in God’s work there, and also give us lifts!
But we are aware satan is trying to keep us from there, so we are deciding whether to move to a closer house.
What God’s teaching me
This is a long newsletter and so I’ll try and keep this bit brief.
- PRIDE – massive sin in my life, ongoing. But God has been revealing how destructive it actually is to me. How it is severely limiting friendships and the work God wants to do to grow and use me. Have been challenged by Nebuchadnezzar story in Daniel 4, but also by some great people.
- “Brothers, we are not professionals” – A great book I’ve just started by John Piper and I would recommend it to anyone in any pastoral/ “Christian ministry” role. At the beginning of my work with Navigators I was really challenged by my desire to make it a “professional” job. So I could show it off to other people, I could justify it to critics. I wanted to show people that I was working hard, like my other graduate friends…like my wife! But I felt God say to me that the only person I should be trying to justify myself to was Him.
That all my work should be for His audience, not my friend’s approval and recognition.
So when someone asks me what I actually do, I’m learning to say to myself and God:
“I am a fool for Christ’s sake. But professionals are wise. I am weak. But professionals are strong. Professionals are held in honor. We are in disrepute. We do not try to secure a professional lifestyle (or reputation), but we are ready to hunger and thirst and be ill-clad and homeless. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate…” –Piper
Not to say that I get all this persecution, but when someone else, satan or myself, attacks it (or even makes a slight joke that I’m not working hard enough) it certainly feels like this.
So to remind myself I am living for the audience of One, has been a major lesson in this year so far.
- To honor those who are pouring into me, and have done so in the past.
- People would love Jesus more, or even for the first time, as a result of God’s work through us.
- That I would be captivated by His beauty and serve Him with humility and self-abandonment.
- That we would discover where God is calling us to in the future.
- That my wife would be encouraged to serve God faithfully through her work, and see fruit.
- That He continues to provide financially for us.
- That I have wisdom in how best to serve the students at the University of Birmingham.