Here is an excerpt from our recent newsletter (sign up by sending me an email letting me know you want in):
“Our trip to the UK in October and November last year was a huge blessing. We returned home excited, inspired, encouraged and hugely challenged by all that we saw. We were particularly blessed by our time in Loughborough with The Crowded House (TCH) family there. We love the folks at TCH. We love their passion for mission, their willingness to ask the hard questions and their love for the gospel, the church and for us.
TCH leadership have, however, been re-evaluating how external church plants best affiliate with them and how best they can operate as a network. In short they thought that it would be best for us relocate to the UK for at least 2-3 years (probably more) for a time of training, assessment, gaining of experience, belonging to the church family and building of strong relationships.
While there was much to commend this suggestion and everything was been discussed in a spirit of love and grace towards us; we do not think moving to the UK for a few years will best prepare us for church-planting in Cape Town. So, it is with sadness that we will no longer be a part of The Crowded House network.”
“As a result we have begun work on developing a vision for what our own network (cue Four31) could look like.”
“More and more it feels as if God is calling us to pioneer something new. There is great value in partnering with more established overseas networks, but we all know that contextually Africa is a very different place. So perhaps God is leading us (read kicking and screaming) to take up the experience and the wisdom of our overseas brothers and sister and forge something new and highly contextual here. Perhaps it is time to stop looking at what others are doing and to start simply asking “what would it mean to follow Jesus here?” “What would church look like here among these people in this place?”
We find ourselves in Loughborough, home to the England cricket team’s high performance centre – if ever there was something badly named this would be it. Loughborough also has the distinction of being the destination for the first ever Thomas Cook package tour… for an evangelical conference to boot! A really old town (mentioned in the Domesday Book completed in 1086), with a beautiful parish church with the rectory dating back to 1288!
What exactly is a “jitty”? Anybody?
I left something rather significant out of my last post, mainly to give myself time to pray and process it. Almost as soon as arriving in Sheffield, taking a shower, having some coffee, I thought it would be good to let people back at home know that we have arrived. When I opened I email I discovered a letter from one of our biggest supporters letting us know that they will no longer be able to support us. Their reasons were completely legit and we wholeheartedly support them in their decision.
However I do not think it is an accident that we got this mail as soon as we arrived in Sheffield, thousands of miles away from home, all set for a time of encouragement, teaching and relationship building. The timing of it struck me immediately as something both sent to teach me to trust Him and his provision, preventing me from running around like frantically trying to fix it, and a time of testing, Satan desperately trying to derail our time here by making us anxious, preoccupied and unable to effectively engage and learn during our time here. Trusting our gracious Father has allowed us to be at peace and rest in his goodness and provision for us, even though the “answer” is far from clear.
What about the trip? I was hoping to post regular updates but travelling with kids is far more hectic than I imagined. And then I discovered I had not brought the right plug for charging our camera so went dark for a few days. But I managed to get what I needed from a really sorted electrics shop in the buzzing country metropolis of Boroughbridge (that’s sarcasm if those not in the loop).
On a totally different note here are a couple of interesting things we have seen so far:
The famous crooked spire of Chesterfield, snapped from the train.
If like me you wondered what that crooked spire was all about here is what Wikipedia has to say:
“The spire is both twisted and leaning, twisting 45 degrees and leaning 9 feet 6 inches (2.90 m) from its true centre. Folklore recounts that a Bolsover blacksmith mis-shod the Devil, who leapt over the spire in pain, knocking it out of shape. In reality the leaning characteristic has been attributed to various causes, including the absence of skilled craftsmen (the Black Death having been gone only twelve years prior to the spire’s completion), the use of unseasoned timber, and insufficient cross-bracing. According to the curators of Chesterfield Museum, it is now believed that the bend began when the original wooden roof tiles were replaced by heavier slate and lead. The bend in the spire (the twist being deliberate) follows the direction of the sun and has been caused by heat expansion and a weight it was never designed for. There is also no record of a bend until after the slate change. An interesting point is that the spire is not attached to the church building but is kept on by its own weight.”
Everyone thought Rippon cathedral was beautiful… well almost everyone!
And now some images from the absolutely breath-taking Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire. Built in the 12th century and abandoned in the 16th century, this ruin is a world heritage site and certainly one of the highlights of things we have seen on this trip.
This is my second trip to visit The Crowded House in Sheffield, this time Jo and the boys are with me. We have paid hardly anything for this trip, we are really excited and more than a little bit nervous about three and a half weeks in a foreign country (make that another continent!) with two very busy under fives.
Two planes, two trains, a taxi, a whole lot of waiting, being caught in rush-hour at King’s Cross Station and very little sleep we arrived in Sheffield Tuesday afternoon.
A much needed shower, pizza for supper and a very early night followed! Discovered though that our hosts only drink decaffinated coffee… going to be a rough morning!
Went for a walk in the Sheffield Botanical Gardens Wednesday morning, it was really beautiful and the boys got to run, shout, chase each other and pretend to be bears. This northern industrial city surprises me more every day I spend here.
Wednesday evening the mini-conference that Jo will be mainly attending while I look after the kids began. They call it a house party, but that just conjures up, for me, images of Tim Chester dropping some rhymes while everyone chants “throw your hands up!” Apparently it is acceptably understood by British Christians though….
And our hosts bought us some real coffee… true gospel hospitality
Wednesday evening I did, however, get the opportunity to go to a men’s event with Gavin Peacock (former QPR, Newcastle and Chelsea footballer and TV football pundit), who spoke on Biblical Manhood. Although as you can see from the picture below he was fascinated by my explanation of the 4-3-3 system in the modern game.
“God asked Adam, ‘Where are you?’, the Second Adam stepped up to answer and take responsibility.”
“A man can cry & be afraid but a man cannot whine, complain & blame”
“The call to manhood is not a call to be macho but a call to be mature”
“What is it to be a man and not a woman? A defining question of our culture”
“We’re called to be leaders by virtue of the fact that we’re male. It isn’t a competency issue; it’s a design issue”
“Be watchful, stand firm, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love”. (1 Cor 16:13,14). God’s Word to men”
“Overcoming sin in your life isn’t an effort thing so much has a faith thing.”
“Paul and his team, in their work and relationships, functioned as a ‘church’. As they engaged Jews and Gentiles in evangelism, and some became Christians, a new ‘local church’ grew up around them. The understanding of these new believers would have been shaped, not only by the apostolic message, but also by the apostolic method.”
“They understood what it was to be church by experiencing church at first hand. They had the gospel explained to them and they saw the gospel fleshed out in the lives of the team. The idea of the church as a body was tangible, and the reality of the church as a missionary body was self-evident. Just as a baby is, ideally, born into a family, so too new believers are, ideally, born into a family of faith.”
“In that context, they hear truth spoken, see life lived and absorb cultural values and norms. The benefit of this being a church planting team or new plant is that there will be a freshness and vitality that is often lacking when a church has grown beyond the planting phase and ‘normalised’.”
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This is a great little clip that the guys in Sheffield put together describing our life and vision.
Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … buying from local shops.
Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … frequenting a local coffee shop or pub.
Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … playing for a local sports team.
Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … always tipping generously in local restaurants.
Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … being the kind of neighbour everyone wants to have as a neighbour.
Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … volunteering at a local charity shop along with a couple of others from church.
Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … doing ordinary things in community.
Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … opening your home to, and sharing your food with others.
Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … walking the same route to work at the same time or catching the same train each day.
Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … we do EVERYTHING for the sake of the gospel!
What would you add?
We are hoping to be a part of this conference when we go over to Sheffield in June for a time of refreshing, relationship-building and talking about church-planting.
That is if our struggles with the Department of Home Affairs can be resolved in time… We would value your prayers if you could pray with us for this. Basically we need his amended birth certificate to be completed before we can get his passport before we can buy tickets before we can get visa… and we only have a month and a half left…
Having said that if you are able to get to Sheffield UK over this time this conference will be well worth it. Here is a bit of a blurb from Tim Chester’s blog
Discipleship can easily be forgotten when churches focus on mission. Or it can be reduced to a series of courses and programmes that fail to engage with every day life. The Trinitarian Life: Church and Mission in the Light of the Doctrine of God is a chance to explore the theology and practice of missional church. Together we will explore how we can root discipleship in the life of the Trinity.
How can we encourage one another to know God?
How can we make disciples who make disciples?
How can we shape church life for mission?
Whether you are a church member or in church leadership, this conference will equip you to think though discipleship in light of who God is, enabling our practice to be shaped by our theology.
Speakers: Steve Timmis and Tim Chester
Plus break out sessions lead by church planters within The Crowded House will provide opportunity to interact and discuss issues relevant to your church.
You can find more information here.