Re-gathering

Capture d’écran 2016-09-03 à 10.27.05So, after six weeks of touring around England, tasting old favourite meals and telling stories of God’s work here in Brive-La-Gaillarde, we arrived back home. It was good to re-group with the team, with old friends, and to slowly immerse ourselves back into French life.

Over the summer, our colleagues have maintained a rhythm of connecting with whoever is around on Sunday mornings, around the table with coffee, tea, croissants and whatever people bring!

Last Sunday (28th August), we were blessed to have some guests attending:
– a couple, who are parents to kids attending a local school, who are keen to discover more about Jesus and the way we live out our faith.
– a Christian couple visiting from the North, who have heard about our church-planting and been supporting us through prayer.
– a dear Christian friend from Toulouse, who has served God in France and the Middle-East.

We kicked-off with a description of how we go to someone’s house, and meet them by opening the gate, ringing the bell, and using this as a launchpad to connecting with God, ‘entering his gates with thanksgiving and courts with praise’.

We then read from Luke 14:7-11, and demonstrated the way we honour others by imagining various scenarii with the children (parties, guests, imagining in the President turned-up, etc…!). Then we split into two teams, with three missions:

– Firstly, to order each team by height : recognising that our first impressions are primarily physical, but that God looks at the heart.
– Secondly, to classify various professions according to how society views them, and how God views them (artist, footballer, stay-at-home parent, mechanic, politician, …) with fascinating insights! Again, we are reminded that in God’s eyes, we are equal.
– Thirdly, our mission was to go away during the week, and bless someone that we wouldn’t normally interact with. We’ll see how that went!

LEGO-5003084-The-Hulk-Polybag-2015-Big-and-Small-Hulk-comparisonBut it was a great time of re-gathering. We’ve decided to intentionally develop these times as Connecting – Connecting with God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, Connecting with each other, and Connecting with the world.

So it now feels like: all systems go.

– The children have been back at school and really pleased to see their friends. Samuel’s been struggling having changed pre-schools and havin to make new friends.
– We had our first team meeting, revisiting vision and our mission within God’s mission.
– The nights are getting cooler, though the days are still hot.
– We look forward to all that God has in store of us over the next few months!

Pentecost 2016

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For many years, I’ve had a dream of lighting a fire at Pentecost: using a visible and tangible demonstration of the coming and outpouring of God’s Spirit. And of course, for many years, that dream had been put on hold, mainly for Health & Safety reasons…

…. until now !

One of the advantages of not having a church building is that we can experiment with space, and gather in people’s front rooms. So it was that we gathered at Pentecost in our house to celebrate the gift of the Spirit, and to renew our commitment to being sent out in God’s power.

So we gathered to worship God through song, to retell the story of Pentecost, through the lens of the tower of Babel.

And we lit a fire !

Using the fire, we lit candles, and went out to our balcony overlooking the town, laying them down as a sign of our prayers for God’s love, power and righteousness to flood this town, touching our neighbours, friends, colleagues, and those we do not yet know.

Come, Holy Spirit !

Pentecost Fire

Pentecost Fire

A kaleidoscope’s view of Paris

Kaleidoscope_2Just ten months after the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices, and in other parts of Paris, the eyes of the world are once again turned towards France as another wave of violence engulfed the capital.

The consequences of this action, and the impact of vicious attacks across Nigeria, Mali, Egypt will only be assessed by history. Much has written about France viewing this as a ‘declaration of war’, sadly with echoes of George Bush’s famous ‘War on Terror’ speech.

Our viewpoint from Brive-La-Gaillarde seems like looking through a kaleidoscope:
from the margins, it seems grey and fuzzy; we are not directly affected, but there is a cloud and climate of fear.

the bigger picture is of many shapes that are interlinked, yet not defining one picture. There are many reactions to such events: negative ones, such as increased fear, antagonism against all who ‘look like muslims’, a rejection of all ‘religion’, as well as other positive ones – muslims seeking to reject and reform radicalism, those who are seeking hope and peace, and a genuine desire for unity and community.

at the heart, a three-shaped figure, the Trinity. Through it all, we believe and trust that IMG_0448God is present, though we struggle to understand how. Locally, the greatest blessing has been a time of prayer, organised in over two days, with representatives from the Catholic church, the local Protestant ‘Réformé’ community, the Pentecostals (Assembly of God) and us baptists. Over 150 people attended and many others responded positively. May this be the beginning of greater unity among the people of God.

IMG_0446So, as the eyes of the world are on the kaleidoscope of France at this time, we pray for God’s Spirit to be poured out, to unite His people and let them rise up in faith and acts of love. May Jesus bring many to Him.

May He bring peace and justice to the world.

May His Kingdom come amongst us, as in Heaven.

 

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The dreaded “e”-word

Jesus said, as recorded by Luke in Acts 1:8, that the disciples would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them, and that they would be his witnesses… to the ends of the earth. In Matthew 28, often referred to as the Great Commission, Jesus tasks his disciples with making more disciples, involving baptising and teaching.

So at the heart of what it means to follow Jesus is the necessity (compulsion?) to lead others into an encounter of this Jesus, witnessing to all He has done in our lives, and pointing others to Him.

So far, so clear… But actually how to do that is the challenge. That’s why ‘evangelism’ is such a scary word: it feels like something we HAVE to do, but feel ill-equipped to do. We are experiencing just how alien concepts such as ‘sin’, ‘salvation’, ‘cross’ are to people who live in a secular, rational and prosperous society.

That’s why courses such as Alpha, and our recent experiment, MyLife Workshop can be so helpful. They provide a framework and a content, and all we have to do is to invite (‘all’?, I hear you say, as if this in itself is huge?!?). However, the course model can have downsides in that they can favour a consumer (“feed-me”) mentality, the content is prescripted and not necessarily tailored to the person’s spiritual state, levels of understanding or maturity. Also, they are one step (or more!) removed from the Bible, and can inhibit the guests wrestling themselves with Scripture, which is one of the key hallmarks of a disciple.

sharingWe have found that the most productive and fruitful way of ‘making disciples’ (or ‘evangelism’) is to build natural friendships, and to bring Jesus into those. Some things we have learned:

Be natural: get to know your friends, spend time with them.
Be prepared: (1 Peter 3:15) it’s difficult to share what Jesus has done in and for you, if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus. Think about what you’ve discovered in your day-to-day walk with Him, think back on times He has intervened, and shaped you. Think of some stories you can share, and adapt how you tell them to each situation.
Be listening: listen, listen, listen to what your friends are sharing, what they are going through. Ask them what their obstacles are to faith, what they understand, what their dreams and challenges are. But also, be listening to the Holy Spirit and what He is saying in each situation.
Be bold: do not hesitate, when the time is ripe to offer to pray with someone, to naturally bring Jesus into the conversation, to show genuine love and affection.

And above all, pray, pray, pray! For without the action of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives, our words are empty and futile. To help provide the framework, we have also found it helpful to simply get together a read a passage of Scripture together (e.g. a gospel).

The most difficult thing can be stepping out, and to learn from the experience. Why not test the waters? Think of a friend this week that you’ve been praying for. Invite them for a meal or a drink, and aim to bring Jesus into the conversation. Pray hard, listen to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And go for it… Let us know how you get on, and what the challenges have been.
—————— Remember, you are not alone!

“For you have not been given a spirit of fear (or timidity), but of power, love and a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7)

6-week prayer challenge

Launching a 6-Week prayer challenge for Brive-La-Gaillarde

We are thrilled to be launching our first discovery group for friends who are exploring life and faith. It is especially exciting as we will be piloting a new course, My Life Workshop, for the first time in France. This material was designed by a church-planter in Germany, Dietrich Schindler, and has been used to introduce many to Christ. We believe that it is appropriate and helpful for some of the people we have befriended here. Depending on the feedback, the plan is for the material to be rolled out across various denominations in France.

So, this is where YOU come in! We know that nothing is possible in God’s Kingdom without prayer, so we are looking for partners to join us in praying for this initiative and for the empowering work of the Holy Spirit.

Please get in touch if you would like further information.

The course is running for 6 weeks on Tuesday mornings.

Thank-you, and may God inspire, bless and encourage you!

Prayer challenge

Marginal Gains and Church-Planting

marginal_brailsfordTalking about the recent success of British Cycling, the main influencer, director David Brailsford often refers to ‘the aggregation of marginal gains’. He explains it as “the 1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief is that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement. These include technical improvements, but also ‘marginal’ areas, such as getting the right pillows and hand-washing techniques to avoid illness.

Recently, I’ve been observing how discipleship is forged through the small details of life: how I respond to family members when tired or irritable, whether I stop to speak to a neighbour when pressed or busy, what I watch on TV or invest in reading… The list is endless! As some have said, either Christ is Lord OF all, or He is not Lord AT all.

But equally, the same can be said for church-planting; we’re seeing how apparently small things have great significance in the long run. How an offer to pray for somebody leads to a searching of meaning in Christ, how going to watch a football match round a friend’s leads to in-depth conversation about faith, generosity and leadership.

So at this time of Easter, when the cradle of Christmas leads to the empty garden tomb, via a cross-shaped piece of wood, we remember how the small things changed history. And we remember that it really is worth paying attention to ‘marginal gains’ in our walk with Christ and our involvement in God’s mission.

We’d value your prayers as David has been invited to be one of six speakers at an ecumenical outreach initiative in Brive town centre on Saturday 11th April. There will be a flashmob every 15 mins, followed by a 15-min talk on ‘Finding the meaning of life’ in the main town centre church, the Collégiale Saint Martin. A fantastic opportunity to share the gospel through our unity as churches in the town!

Praying without ceasing…?

We all know the importance of prayer. We follow Jesus, who placed prayer as the heart of his relationship with His Father. We oscillate between glorious experiences of prayer, and feelings of abject failures at our prayer lives.

In these embryonic days of church-planting in Brive-La-Gaillarde, we wrestle with the tension between the need to bathe everything we do in prayer, seeking God’s leading and empowering, and the desire to share Jesus in many and diverse ways.

In light of that, we were recently reminded of the wisdom of Ecclesiastes in stating that there is a time for everything; and for us, we have felt this to be a particular season to be given over to laying foundations in and through prayer. But the natural activist drive in us, that seeks instant results, that needs to be busy often rears its ugly head. And so, it was a real encouragement when, during a time of prayer, I sensed God putting Isaiah 30 on my heart. A warning to not prioritise methods, programs and plans, important though they are, above being directed by God’s Spirit. A guiding light to hear that our strength is find in quietness and strength. And then finally, a blessing to be struck by verse 18: “Blessed are those who wait for him”. In doing so, God reassured us that we will hear and know exactly where and in whom to invest energy. Thank-you, God, for that sense of direction.

And so, during this season of preparation, of digging, and waiting, amidst the necessary activity, we are grateful for this opportunity to go deeper in prayer, and especially are grateful for all those who are faithfully praying alongside us!

——

NB: Claire-Lise and David will be on home assignment in the UK and available
to request as BMS Speakers from 18 July to 9 August 2015 Churches
wishing to request Claire-Lise and David as BMS Speakers should use the
online speaker request form at bmsworldmission.org/speakers or call the
Church Relations Team on 01235 517600. Please submit your request by 23 February 2015.

Weeping with those who weep

Much has been written about the tragic events of the last few days that invaded our daily lives. Pictures and Charlie Hebdo caricatures have been flying around. Many questions and opinions have been shared amongst friends, colleagues, family members and indeed with strangers. And many tears have been shed.

Here in Brive, a couple of marches took place: a spontaneous one on Friday, and a planned one to join in with the national initiative today (Sunday). Some friends have been profoundly distressed by the events, and have needed to talk. The boys’ schools along with all the schools in the country held a one-minute silence on Friday morning. We received enhanced security procedures for dropping off and picking-up children.

http://www.lamontagne.fr/photoSRC/bqUyVelNbWe1aAxBwXruFG8LIKncgI5EqzxysNngmzhLQqc95EY68d5L1WxH7gOSe4AgvLt9FhffSVHCrA9xuoG6bA--_/marche-republicaine-contre-l-attaque-de-charlie-hebdo_1903035.jpeg

France is mourning. Yes, because of the callous, cold-blooded nature of the crimes and loss of lives. But more so because those targeted were household names, journalists the French had grown-up with. Elderly journalists, predominantly, who were sought after by name. But also because of the way the attacks hit at the heart of French identity, expression and way of life.

So, we weep with those who weep. We listen, and where possible, with utmost caution and sensitivity, we venture to offer hope in the only place it can be found; in the arms of Jesus, the one who was murdered because he upset the religious status quo.

Above all, we pray: detecting behind these events many forces, both human, and supernatural. We pray for comfort for those grieving, for wisdom for those in authority. That the outcomes would be God-leading, and not God-forsaking. That the idols of division, racism and hatred would be toppled. But that the idols of humanism, self-sufficiency and aggressive secularism would also be rejected. We pray that God’s Kingdom of peace, justice and love would come, in Brive-La-Gaillarde and in France, as it is in heaven.

We urgently invite you to join us in prayer.