All posts by chris

Here I Am / Me Voici

A song fragment which is in my heart this morning:

Here I am, Lord
Seeking Your presence
Here I am, Lord
Seeking Your power in my life
Here I am, Lord
I just want more of You in me
I just want more of You in me

And a French version (not a direct translation):

Me voici, Seigneur
Je cherche Ta présence
Me voici, Seigneur
Je cherche Ta puissance en ma vie
Me voici, Seigneur
Je veux plus de Toi en moi
Je veux plus de Toi en moi

In song: English, and French.

 

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Voici Le Jour / This Is The Day

One of the devil’s not-so-subtle tricks to get Christians off course, which still seems to work surprisingly well, far too frequently, is discouragement. Often tied in with getting us to look at ourselves and our human situation, not at God. Which causes us to stop listening to God.

Yesterday I was getting back to the preparation of some training and teaching material which is destined to be reworked in French (when my French is good enough!). As I took the pile of notes off the shelf where they had been languishing (for too long) I was overwhelmed by a massive feeling of “This is a total waste of time.” It was like someone had plonked me in the middle of a huge, thick, stifling grey cloud. I immediately began remembering all the Christian things I’d ever done which didn’t go quite as well as I’d hoped.

“See,” said the voice inside “no-one will be interested and it won’t achieve anything. Just forget it.”

It’s easy to say now that there was absolutely no logic in what was happening, but logic and feelings don’t always play nice together!

Fast forward to this morning and a scheduled prayer time at Church. “What time? Are you stupid?” Needless to say it was a very encouraging time. As we were leaving a fragment from a French worship song came into my mind: “Voici le jour.” In English, “This is the day” is how it’d be usually translated, but voici really means “here is.”dawn

So, here is the day that God has made, a brand new day. Here it is, God has made it and given it to me and you. What will I make of it, what will you make of it? Voici le jour.

If my feelings scream out “It’s a total waste of time!” what does God say? This is what was in my heart this morning: “Let Me worry about that, you just do what I tell you to.”

God calls us to be obedient. Not to worry about working it all out and feeling it’s all going to be OK, but just to be obedient, to do what He tells us to. He will work it all out, that’s His job; it’s not ours.

So, I’ll be picking up the pile of notes again later, telling the devil to get lost, because I’m just going to do what God tells me, to obey.

This is the song, sung here by Dan Luiten (though I’m more familiar with Paul Baloche’s voice singing it). It’s a bit rocky, hope that’s OK with you… 🙂

Who, Me?

who-me

When God’s people were in a desperate situation and cried out to God, who did God send? A man who considered himself the least in the weakest family in his tribe. Gideon. Least: smallest, perhaps youngest, of least value. In his eyes. But not in  God’s eyes:

The Lord is with you, mighty warrior … Go in the strength you have … Am I not sending you? (Judges 6)

L’Eternel est avec toi, vaillant héros! … Va avec la force que tu as … N’est-ce pas moi qui t’envoie? (Juges 6)

Who, me? Are you kidding, God? No, He isn’t. “Go in the strength you have” says God, His strength, not ours. “But God, I’m just…” No, in God’s eyes we are each His mighty warrior, if we trust in His strength.

Click here for a song snippet.

Broken Chains

On 3 December 2013 God gave me a picture or vision of France covered in piles of rusty chains, binding the people.rustychains

But Christians were breaking the chains and cutting them into pieces by the power of God, all over France. Lines of people were then carrying the pieces of broken chain to the coast, from all over the country, and throwing them off the cliffs into the sea, so the people could not be chained-up again.

It was not just a few chains here and there being broken up and taken away, but a very significant amount, leaving lots of areas of clear ground where there were no chains remaining.

Then people were dancing in the rain of the Holy Spirit, free from their chains, with the rain washing away the sort of “rust dust” that remained on the people and the ground. This was happening all over France.

Releasing, Sending, Accepting

Returning briefly to the mission agency subject… You may think that we’re just a couple of rebels who don’t like dancing to someone else’s tune… and there is a grain of truth in that! But, we wrestled and struggled over looking for an agency for 7 months, from October 2013. Looking back through my prayer diaries reminds me of the difficult times over that period, feeling discouraged and downhearted, whilst at the same time feeling more and more burdened about France.

It wasn’t until 19 May 2014 that we finally had peace that God did not want us with an international mission  agency, after exhausting all the possibilities (and nearly exhausting ourselves!).

I look back on this as a time of testing: it was important that we could know from experiences of disappointment, frustration and discouragement that we weren’t just being starry-eyed dreamers but that this thing was from God. So, thank you, Lord, for testing us, though it wasn’t fun at the time…

What’s with the Releasing, Sending in the title of this post? Our heart is that the Church planting teams we work with are as much training teams as they are planting teams. (I’m using teams in the plural here in faith!) We want to see French Christians trained in discipleship, evangelism, disciple-making, teaching, leadership, Church planting. Some will go back to their home Church and help push God’s work significantly forwards in that location, some will become Church planters themselves, others will do different things.

For this to become reality, Churches all over France will need to be willing to release some of their very best people for a time of training (and perhaps further ministry elsewhere) and to send them. Sending means supporting in prayer, pastorally, and financially. This is a big ask, especially for Churches who are already struggling with people resources and financial resources. But the only way that France can see a spiritual breakthrough is if Churches release and send those God is calling to work in the harvest fields. We believe God wants to use many more French Christians in this harvest, in a new way, to radically increase the effectiveness of outreach work in France.harvest

Where does accepting fit in? We want to be able to accept as many French Christians as possible into training opportunities on Church planting teams. To accept the young and the older. To accept the experienced and the inexperienced. To accept the University graduate and the one with no exam passes. Think of the 12 rag-tag misfits that Jesus dragged round the Middle East for 3 years and you’ll get the picture.

We want to be as flexible as we possibly can in our training. Rather than ask trainees to fit around our rigid schedules and dates, we’d like to try and fit around them. Jacques can come for 12 days? That’s fine. Amelie has 4 months beginning in February? Great! Pascal and Maryse can only come for a weekend? We’ll help them as much as we can. Michel would like to train for 15 months? Super!

We want to remember our struggles to find a home for the vision God is giving us and make sure that it’s much easier for our French brothers and sisters in future.

Prayer Changes Things

PrayWe had a great time last night praying with friends from four different Churches in the Bromley area for France. Thanks so much to everyone who came! We prayed for the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks, for friends Church-planting in various areas, for workers in training and preparation, and for the lovely but oh-so-needy Département of Mayenne in Western France.

I had an incredible feeling of satisfaction, like you get after a good meal, after we’d prayed; knowing that God would be changing things all over France because of our prayers. Not because we’re anything special, but because He is truly special!

If you live within striking distance of Bromley, do come to our next prayer evening for France, which we’re scheduling for May. Contact us for details (see the  About page for how to do this).

Finding A Mission Agency, Part 2

OK, so let’s pick up where we left off! Our friends who’ve worked in mission for a while will probably have looked at our “What were we looking for in an agency?” list from the Part 1 post and thought “Hmmm, they are maybe a bit over-optimistic!” Well, quite possibly we were: we know that mission agencies are incredibly stretched nowadays and in some cases at least they can’t provide the help to their workers which they’d ideally like to.shops01

As you will know or have guessed, we didn’t make a tie-up with a mission agency. Actually, we do believe this was God’s plan all along. However, if He’d said that to us right at the start, we may just have run away in fear!

Why do we think being without an agency tie-up is God’s plan? We believe very strongly that training of French Christians is a vital part of the Church planting vision God is unfolding to us. In this context, we feel it is better that our organisational link (and we do think it is important to have one!) is with a truly French organisation, not an international mission agency. In addition, the vision God has been sharing with us (more about this in future posts) is ideally suited to being worked out within the context of a French evangelical denomination.

So what was our experience of checking out mission agencies, and what conclusions can we draw? My intention here is to help others who feel called to mission work. Also it may be that people involved in mission agency leadership may find useful ideas. I don’t want to “bash” anyone and won’t be naming names!

forestedhills

Communicate! Mostly we were able to make useful contact with agencies. With the one agency which we had thought was the “go-to agency” for Church planting in France we were unable to establish any useful contact, after a lot of trying. Please, make it easy for potential workers to contact the right person…

Talking Before Forms. Typically we were asked to complete what were to us fairly detailed forms at a very early stage. What we wanted to do was talk face-to-face with someone “in the know.” The forms could then follow if relevant. I understand the desire to collect information, but would make a plea for putting talking before form-filling!

Mature Workers. Although agencies may say they are happy to accept candidates of any age, in practice younger people are likely to find it a lot easier. Mature people will have work, family, home and other stuff to sort out, and a reasonable degree of flexibility is needed on the part of the agency. A 21-year-old who’s just finished college, with no ties, can much more easily fit in with an agency’s ways of doing things. I would make a plea for more flexibility and more mature worker-focussed thinking.

Training. This was a biggie for us. Some agencies said “You must do our training of x months, no exceptions.” This is often around a year. Whilst we don’t at all feel we have nothing to learn (entirely the opposite!), we want to make use of the experience we have gained over many years. A year’s training eats significantly into the time we have available (not being youngsters…). More importantly, our heart is to see French Christians trained on-the-job in a very practical, approachable, hands-on way, not in an academic college-style way. We feel that it would be hypocritical of us to say “We think it’s best that you learn this way, but actually we didn’t.” This is a subject for deeper discussion at another time, but I would make a plea for a fresh look at training, with a more flexible and practical approach.

Church Planting? Although a number of agencies may say “Church planting” on the tin, it seems to us that few (maybe only two) are actually actively planting new Churches year-on-year (as opposed to developing Churches that were begun some years ago, which is a perfectly valid ministry, of course!). We believe God is calling us to be planters, not developers. I would make a plea for agencies to look again at involvement in planting new Churches, not just helping the ones which exist.

Distinctives. Some agencies have doctrinal distinctives, which is fine. But not all agencies are good at making these clear! I have no problem with an agency saying “Actually, we specifically believe X” or “We do not agree with Y” but it’s frustrating when you have to read between the lines of a subtly written doctrinal basis to try and guess. I don’t want to get into discussions of specifics, but you will I am sure know the issues that evangelical Christians may disagree on. When signing up for a multi-year commitment you need to know if you are truly in sympathy with your colleagues (it matters a whole lot less for short-term work, when there is every reason to put our distinctives on one side and all work together). I would make a plea for complete clarity on these distinctives in doctrinal statements.

Strategies. Mission agencies need strategies and need to plan forwards. We are unusual (it seems!) in that we feel God has given us at least the beginnings of a specific vision and outline for our work. The downside is that it’s hard to find an agency with the flexibility to consider altering their plans to incorporate a new vision. I would make a plea for more flexibility and openness to new ideas, even if they come from outside the organisation. Some very well-known agencies started because existing organisations did not accommodate what God wanted to do…

Infrastructure. A significant part of the usefulness of an international agency tie-up is help with logistical things in the worker’s target country, such as healthcare, tax, finding and renting accommodation, moving finances from the home country and so on. Most agencies are very good at this. At least one does not provide any infrastructure support at all, which makes no sense to me, in all honesty.

Working Together. We believe passionately in team Church planting: much more to say about this in later posts! But a team has to come from somewhere, so we had hoped that a mission agency would provide significant help in recruiting a team. Even though someone else’s work may not be so team-focussed, it is still very important to know you are part of a bigger picture. There didn’t seem to be an agency which was able to provide the team-finding help we wanted (and maybe our desires were over-optimistic in that respect), but there appears to be less working together than we thought there would be.village02