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Archive for tag Langham partnership

Miscellanea

  • Jonathan Lamb's wife works as an executive assistant to support him in his role as International Director of Preaching for Langham Partnership. I find that kind of cool - a reassuring example that ministry and marriage do not have to seriously conflict. Feel free to support the work of Langham Partnership as they help train and equip churches and church leaders in the majority world. As in give them your cash. And pray for them.
  • I've recently started cycling to work - it's a delightful 10 mile commute which goes through a local nature reserve. It's amazing how much more visible bits of glass lying on the ground are when you're cycling. Oh - and passers-by and taxi drivers laugh at you if, unfamiliar with your brand new clips, your foot gets stuck to your pedal and you almost fall over. Just in case you were wondering.
  • Mushrooms can be peeled. Utterly pointless, but strangely fun.

LW08 - Evening 1 - The Costs of Christian Service

2 Corinthians 4:1-15

Michael Herbert (Cosham Baptist) is, as usual, introducing the evening sessions. Unless I missed a hymn as we were arriving, we started with “O for a thousand tongues” followed by “In Christ alone,” “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds” and “Oh to see the dawn (The Power of the cross).” Then the reading (2 Cor 4:1-15) and a final hymn (“Who is there like you?”). Where would we be without Church of Christ the King, Brighton?

Jonathan Lamb led off with a brief description of Langham Partnership International – describing how the global face of Christianity has changed in the last 50/60 years from being 75% in the northern hemisphere in 1950, to the opposite situation today where 75-80% of the world's Christians live in Africa, Asia or Latin America. Langham Partnership works in partnership with churches in these countries to help train leaders and equip the church. Jonathan is particularly involved in Langham Preaching – training bible teachers and preachers in universities, seminaries and churches.

Jonathan started by telling the story of a student he was interviewing with regard to a post working full time for a Christian ministry in Europe. Having determined that the student in question was a Christian, he asked him why he wanted the post. The students response was twofold: he wanted financial security and he wanted to travel Europe.

No-one reading Jeremiah or Paul would come to the conclusion that Christian ministry is pleasant, safe or fulfilling. The call of Christ is exceedingly costly. 20 churches closed in Algiers this year, due to persecution. Village in Indonesia attacked, 3 churches destroyed, 4 christians tortured and then murdered, 56 injured. Bishop murdered recently in Iraq. An apparent conspiracy of silence in Turkey meeting the team investigating the recent murder of 3 christians.

Paul's ministry is built upon a basic paradox: one which – humanly speaking – seems absurd, yet makes sense of both the gospel and of our service. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Just as God's power is seen in the apparent weakness of Jesus on the cross, so his power is displayed through our weakness in serving him: Christians are like teabags – their true strength is only drawn out in hot water.

v1-6 Ministry priorities

v1 Responsibility. We have this ministry by God's mercy. The perennial challenge faced by christians is discouragement; Paul served because he had been called. We serve not out of a subjective sense of our own ability, but because we have a God-appointed task to perform.

v2 Integrity. We renounce underhanded methods. Every aspect of ministry is to be above board - open & transparent. There is no spin; no manipulating the message to be different according to the audience. Our lives should help validate the message.

v3,4 Realism. We should not be under any illusions about the difficulty of the task: many people will simply ignore the message of the gospel. Paul was fully aware of the reality of spiritual warfare: he was neither obsessed by it, not arrogantly dismissive.

v5 Faithfulness. Ministry is not an ego trip - we proclaim Christ. We don't promote ourselves. Nothing is allowed to undermine this message: we lift up Christ because it is only through Christ that we know the glory of God. Faithlessness == fruitlessness - because the we rely on the power of God which operates through our weakness.

v7-12 Ministry experience

v7-9 Weakness & Power. Jars of clay could be a reference to an earthenware lamp where light shines through the cracks; might be a cheap container holding the spoils from a military campaign. Who knows? The significant point is the contrast between the relatively insignificant container and magnificent treasure within. The purpose: to emphasize the divine origin of the power.

v8-9 Series of greek word plays: cf. ice cream van slogan "Often licked, never beaten." Or "Hemmed in but not hamstrung."

Quote: Betsie Ten Boom in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp: "We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still"

v10-12 Union with Christ. A church is a community centred around Christ. A christian is a person united with Christ. We willingly identify with and carry the death of Jesus in our bodies in order that the life might show as well. Particular identification with Jesus on earth emphasised by the repeated use of his name.

We ought to be suspicious of any model of christianity which does not display this weakness.

Ministry implications

v13 It is worth preaching the gospel. cf Psalm 116, also written by someone who had apparently had a near death experience. The hardship and suffering makes preaching the gospel seem all the more important. We must continue to preach the gospel as long as we hope in the gospel.

v14 It is heading somewhere. Both our suffering and ministry has direction and purpose - just as Jesus who suffered & was raised. The hope of the resurrection is key.

v15 It is all for God's glory. All these struggles that Paul (and we face) are ok - because God's people benefit and God is glorified.

Ripple effect: God's grace impacts more people ... God's people rejoice in his victories ... God's glory is the eventual goal.

He closed by telling us of Graham Staines - a missionary in Northern India who was in his landrover with his two sons outside their church when they were attacked by a mob of hindu extremists who set the car on fire. All three died. Gladys, his widow, declared to press that gathered that she was deeply upset, but not angry, for Jesus taught us how to love our enemies. It was a message that the press relayed across India.

Seeing the way the gospel has spread in the years since that incident, it seems that the testimony of one middle-aged widow did more for the cause of the gospel of Christ than the millions of dollars worth of slick Christian television.

The meeting closed with the hymn: "When I survey."