Recently, one of our supporting churches in the United States sent me a list of questions aimed at understanding our ministry in Wales more fully. After reflecting on my answers, I thought that others might be interested to read some of them and so I plan to post those here (slightly edited for a more general audience) over the next couple of weeks. This is the second installment of the series: click here to read Part 1.
Can you describe your primary strategies in fulfilling your role?
I will summarize my responsibilities at “church development worker” for Temple Baptist Church in the following way: (1) advising and working alongside the elders and wider leadership team in the local church, (2) intentional discipleship through teaching, preaching, & training believers, both formally and informally, (3) developing, implementing & overseeing a ministry internship program (two interns at the moment), (4) building a missional strategy that will enable and empower local believers to reach Continue reading →
Recently, one of our supporting churches in the United States sent me a list of questions aimed at understanding our ministry in Wales more fully. After reflecting on my answers, I thought that others might be interested to read some of them and so I plan to post those here (slightly edited for a more general audience) over the next couple of weeks.
What do you see as your primary role (in Wales)?
My wife and I view our role as missionaries to Wales, no different than any couple sent by a denominational mission board, except that we are self-fundedâ€”partly through our employment in local ministries and partly through the support of churches via Grace Church Planting Ministries (GCPM). When a church becomes one of our partners through GCPM, they are supporting a missionary family and not just one person. My wife is the full-time manager of a local Christian bookshop, Harvest Books & Crafts, and this has opened tremendous doors of ministry for me, both within local churches and Continue reading →
One of the highlights of this past week’s mission team was getting to meet John Waller and his band. We tossed some burgers and hot dogs on the Weber, hoping to provide a little American hospitality to these new friends who gave up their fourth of July to put on a free concert for the young people of our Welsh community.
We were really thankful to God that a contemporary Christian band would interrupt their concert tour to go on a mission trip to Wales. These guys and their tech crew traveled all over the valleys putting on mini-concerts in Welsh schools during the day and full-blown gigs every night, all for the glory of God and the extension of the Gospel message here.
Apart from short-term mission teams (STMT) parachuting into a foreign mission field for seven to ten days, what are the alternatives for Christians who want to explore other cultures and employ their gifts in service to our King? Shouldnâ€™t we demystify â€œmissionary serviceâ€ and invite people of every age to do their part in fulfilling the Great Commission outside their own Jerusalem? Some churches are still quite strong in educating children and youth about the work of missionaries around the worldâ€”Southern Baptists have been particularly strong (at least historically)â€”but there are many Christians who have never been challenged to â€œmake disciples of all nationsâ€ or, if they have, who wouldnâ€™t know where to begin the process of crossing cultural boundaries to make Christ known. Below, I offer a couple of thoughts to consider along these lines. Continue reading →
In spite of the weaknesses of evangelical Christianity in the United States, it does appear much more healthy and robust when placed alongside the average congregation in Wales, the only principality in the United Kingdom where this author has gained sufficient experience to make any credible observations. The average congregation in the valleys of South Wales consists of twenty-five adults: 75% of them would be over 60 years of age and the remaining attendees would be younger couples with infants and/or young children. Two generations are virtually missing from most congregationsâ€”teens and adults who are old enough to be parents of teens. Continue reading →
Many of my regular readers will be surprised and delighted to know that not all things are as gloomy as I sometimes portray them. I’m one of those “glass is half empty” types, but it’s amazing how God brings certain people into my lifeâ€”to speak a word of wisdom or direction or encouragementâ€”just when I need it most. Funny thing is, a lot of this comes from fellow Christians who live on the other side of the planet through this strange phenomenon we have come to know as “blogging.”
One of my new friends contacted me a couple of days ago via email in response to the news I shared about my recent diagnosis of a heart condition. Next thing you know, my phone’s ringing on Friday night from a brother I’ve never met who lives in another country, just because he wanted to be a tangible expression of the love of Christ in the midst of my weakness and discouragement. Thanks, friend! I know you’ll be reading this and I wanted to say how much I appreciate hearing your voice and getting to know you by phone. Love that accent, too! Several other friends left various comments assuring me of their commitment to pray and directing my attention to Father’s promises. Continue reading →
Man, I really miss my soul food, especially the typical Southern-style breakfast. Itâ€™s one of the huge sacrifices (according to me) that I made in moving to Wales nearly four years ago: no access to the sort of Southern-fried meats and vegetables that I grew up on my home state of Mississippi. No wonder heart disease runs in my family for generations! That may also explain why my cholesterol has dropped to a very healthy level over the past couple of years.
Rather than moan about all the Southern food shortages in the United Kingdom (that would require a book to do it justice), hereâ€™s a brief list of my favorite breakfast delicacies that you cannot find in the British Continue reading →
One Jewish carpenter. A hand-picked team of twelve working class Jewish men who were required to leave their occupations and follow the carpenter around the regions of Galilee. A message about the present reality of God’s kingdom. Miraculous cures of the sick: people raised from the dead. Spiritual eyes and ears opened by the life-changing message and the power of an unseen member of the Trinity accompanying them. Religious systems overturned and conservative theologians of his day unmasked as religious bigots, blind charlatans, imperialistic traditionalists. The weak, marginalized nobodies given priority over the powerful and wealthy elite of his day. Imagine being part of it all!
When Jesus asked the question of his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” he discovered that most people thought he fit the profile of a prophet. According to the disciples’ answers, some thought he was John the Baptist back from the dead (beheaded just prior to the above conversation) and others felt he was a modern-day reincarnation of Elijah or Jeremiah. The most important question, however, was directed at the Continue reading →
Edward Norris Kirk (circa. 1802â€“1874) was a Princeton graduate who served two Presbyterian churches in Albany, New York, before accepting a call to a Congregational church in Boston where he eventually retired. D. L. Moody was converted under his teaching there. He also become the president of the American Missionary Association; and it was his love for missionsâ€”although influenced by Charles Finneyâ€”that fueled much of his preaching and writing. In the following quotation we get a glimpse into Kirk’s passion for the missionary enterprise:
We who have embarked in the missionary enterprise, as a small minority of the civilized world, perhaps a minority even of the religious world. We have spent large sums of money, yea squandered wealth, if we are wrong; we are still doing it, and we are arousing the churches to intenser feeling and more liberal effort. We desire to consecrate our very selves to Continue reading →
I spent several hours in Her Majesty's Courts yesterday: my first glimpse into the British system of justice and a very interesting experience in comparison to the American courts. Monday I received a phone call from a desperate mother whose 22-year-old daughter—a serious heroin addict and prostitute—was facing serious charges. A minimum six-month prison sentence was the expected outcome of yesterday's court appearance; that is, until God intervened.
Those who have kept in touch with me since our arrival in Wales nearly four years ago might remember Steve, another heroin addict that God brought into our lives. We took Steve into our home for several weeks and eventually discovered Betel of Britain, a faith-based drug rehabilitation program in Birmingham, England. Through contact with Betel, I arranged for a telephone interview and he was offered immediate placement. He graduated their eighteen month residential program just a few months ago and has now become a member of their staff at a brand-new ministry location in Sydney, Australia. When I was speaking about God's True Fast (Isaiah 58) a couple of weeks ago, I used that encouraging example as an illustration of God's amazing grace.
Someone shared that sermon illustration with a close friend, the mother of a young woman that I will call Jessica. She asked if I would meet with her and Jessica later that afternoon. The mother did most of the talking, until the stepfather joined us, and I listened to their painful ten-year journey. Jessica faded in and out of conscious Continue reading →