Month: February 2009

Trevolution Successfully Launched

trevolution grunge logoGuys just a super-quick post (cos I’m way too shattered to write much) to say thank you so much for your prayers for Trevolution. In a nut-shell – it was amazing!

  • Over 50 youth came, most of whom were waiting outside the gates for over an hour to get in! The manager said he’s never seen so many young people in the building on a youth night ever! Praise God!!!
  • It was high-energy, sanctified chaos all night, but the overall feeling was that it was an immense night and the youth seemed to love it!
  • It was nice to go back to my roots and do some youth work and DJing again. It’s been too long!
  • The Trevolution team are just class and did a fantastic job all night.
  • Our 2 Ministry Apprentices just came into their own! Heather had so much stuff sorted for the kids (and cooked an awesome lasagne too!) And Pete just did a great job leading the whole thing through and holding it together as he tried (against all odds) to give a short gospel talk to 20 odd bonkers young people!

So yeah, roll on next Monday! Please do keep praying for Trevolution, for our team and above all for the youth – that they would engage with the gospel and find true life in Jesus.

Right, that’s it – I’m off to bed…

Trevolution

trevolutionOK so we’re back to the serious posts now!

Just a really quick one to ask you to pray for our new youth event – Trevolution. We’ve been doing church on the estate for over a year now and have got to know lots of the local youth informally. However, tomorrow evening (Monday) we launch our brand-new weekly youth outreach event, which we’re buzzing about!

Trevolution is aimed at High school aged youth and we’ve got some pretty sweet stuff lined up for them, including DJing, Emceeing, Big Screen Wii, indoor swingball, beauty therapy (for the girls obviously), craft, games, munch and my own personal favourite – Trevolution Top Gear (racing against the clock with the chunkiest, beastiest petrol-powered radio-controlled car you’ve ever seen!) At the end of each evening will be the option to stay in for a gospel presentation, which we hope and pray most will stay for.

Please pray:

  • For the team (to be united, strong and full of grace and truth)
  • For the youth (to be blessed, behaved and saved)
  • For the estate (to see the change in the youth and give God the credit for it!)
  • For the building (to be respected and kept safe)

Thanks guys. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Funny Vids No.1

I’ve had a long, hard week, and haven’t really been up for writing long posts, so I thought instead I’d use the next few days to share some of my favourite light-hearted videos off youtube.

This is one’s only 4 seconds long and it seriously gets funnier every time you see it!

Back To The Old Skool

old skool dapsAs I answered the church phone yesterday, the voice on the other end of the line sounded chillingly familiar – my old headmaster had got in touch 14 years after I had left the school! Fortunately he wasn’t phoning to summon me to detention, or to speak to my mam about my unacceptable behaviour. Quite the opposite in fact…

He was actually responding to a letter that I had written to him a few weeks ago, informing him that I was no longer the obnoxious toe-rag that I had been for the vast majority of my school career, but had since become a Christian and had returned to the valley as a pastor. I told him that I was willing and able to take assemblies, R.E classes or to serve the school in any other way. Miraculously, he agreed (with some enthusiasm) and consequently I’m now lined up to take a series of assemblies after half term. I’m probably going to perform my latest rap ‘My Girls’ and try to tie it in with Mother’s Day.

It’s such a privilege to be allowed to go back to the old school and serve them in this capacity. I’ve NEVER been back since I left, so it’s going to feel pretty weird! I was a thoroughly unpleasant, malicious yob when I was there, and was no stranger to the headmaster’s office for all the wrong reasons. There may well be a few raised eyebrows amongst the staff when they see me back on the turf again too! But the reality is that Jesus has since redeemed my life from the pit, set my feet on a rock and actually given me something worth singing about! So I can’t wait!!

Your prayers for wisdom and grace would be greatly appreciated…

Happy Birthday Hill City Church!

birthday cakeYesterday was Hill City Church’s 1st birthday! An incredible 52 weeks have now passed since we opened up the doors of our house to anyone who was up for joining us on this mad little adventure of incarnating and faithfully proclaiming the gospel on a hill-top council estate in the valleys.

And what a way to celebrate…

Kept out our usual building by the snow, we had to go old school and find space in our little terraced house for 30 people (exactly 10 times the number we started with a year ago!) It was absolutely nuts! My mate Ben, being a brainy sort, pointed out that we have experienced a 1000% growth rate this year, which just sounds ludicrous (though apparently it is mathematically accurate!)

I’m so grateful to God for the growth of Hill City Church, both numerically (breadth) but also spiritually (depth). While this year has been incredibly tough in many ways for us, it’s also been immense. By God’s grace we’ve been able to engage this community both authentically and effectively. The lost have been reached and the prodigals have come home.

I can honestly say that pastoring this church is a privilege and a joy. For real! The love, life and laughter that characterises Hill City is unlike anything I’ve ever known in church before, and the passionate commitment from everyone to the vision and the mission that God has entrusted to us is both humbling and exhilarating!

Could we cope with 1000% growth next year? God only knows! All I know is that in these last 12 months my love for Jesus and for this awesome little church have grown deeper than I could have imagined!

Happy Birthday Hill City Church. I love you to bits!

Roll on year 2…

10 Good Reasons To Plant In The Valleys…

plant

So here we go – 10 good reasons to plant a church in the valleys…

1. The Call Of God: The best reason to do anything is because God has told you to. Obviously there’s a missional call on all Christians (Matthew 28v18-20) though we still need to work out the specifics of where our individual mission-fields actually are. The reason I’ve put this reason first is because if God hasn’t called you to the reach the Welsh valleys with the gospel, then you may as well ignore the rest of this post and go and have a cuppa. My concern, however, isn’t so much that God isn’t calling people, it’s that the message isn’t getting through!

2. The Scale Of Need: As highlighted in my recent post, there are massive needs in the valleys – social, emotional, physical, cultural and above all spiritual. The gospel and its implications is the only cure, but we just need a bunch of faith-filled missionaries who are willing to get out there and dish it out!

3. The Fields Are White: Not just cos it’s been snowing either! Jesus told His disciples “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” (John 4v35) It’s as true now as it ever was. Certainly the valleys are ripe for the gospel, with so many crying out for hope and mercy. Jesus also taught us to “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.” (Luke 10v2) The question is are we willing to be the answer to our own prayers?

4. The Gospel Works: Like Paul said – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1V16) If that’s true, why not take it to a region that’s gagging for power like that?!

5. The Culture Is Rich And The Beauty Is Inspiring: Another reason to plant up here is simply to engage an amazingly rich culture. There is literally nowhere in the UK, probably the world that has quite the same cultural DNA as the valleys. If you’ve sampled it you know exactly what I mean. Furthermore, you’re never more than 5 minutes away from natural beauty in the valleys that refreshes your soul, changes your perspective and causes you to worship God. 

6. The Doors Are Wide Open: There are so many gospel opportunities up here. Schools and service providers are desperate for active community involvement, kids are crying out for role models, buildings are two-a-penny and houses are just ridiculously cheap! Game on!!

7. Adventure Awaits: Deep inside we all crave adventure, and following Jesus was always meant to be epic! Like all good adventure stories church-planting has moments of excitement, challenge, adrenhaline, pain, laughter, fear, uncertainty and victory. The valleys are an amazing setting for that adventure to be lived out!

8. Community Spirit Prevails: I regularly cycle across the top of our local mountain to Blaenavon, then back down the valley along the cycle track. Literally every single person I ever pass says ‘hello’! There is a community spirit that still lives on in the Welsh valleys that has been eroded or eradicated almost everywhere else in the UK. Such openness is a huge doorway for the gospel to be presented relationally and authentically.

9. No One Else Is Doing It: OK, that’s an outrageous generalisation, and not strictly true. There are some cracking churches that have been planted in the valleys over recent years, such as Sovereign Grace Church, Merthyr. That said, however, there used to be attitude when I was growing up that the road out of the valleys was bigger than the one coming in. In other words, there was a steady exodus of young people going to university, or moving away for work, and never coming back. (Guilty as charged for 12 years!) The same can probably be said of young Christians. There seem to be more heading south and remaining in exile, than heading back north with missional intent. This trend must be stemmed and ultimately reversed if the gospel is to take root once again in the valleys!

10. A Statement Must Be Made: Firstly, to God – that we have faith in the transformational power of His gospel. Secondly, to satan and the powers of darkness – that their days are numbered and their grip on this region is loosening. Finally, to the people of the valleys – that they’re not forgotten or forsaken and that there is a living hope – His name is Jesus!

Salt Shortage

gritterRight I know I said the 10 Good Reason To Church Plant post was coming today (and it still might later), but after yet another massive dump of snow here last night (6 inches), and once again being unable to leave the estate, I thought I’d just write a few lines about a potential national crisis that has got me thinking about the church and the state of the nation. Basically the UK is running out of salt! Or grit, as some prefer to call it! Either way, it’s not a problem that’s unique to the highways of the UK, it’s becoming a crisis in the church too.

1. Salt – Jesus tells us that we are “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5v13). OK He probably wasn’t referring to salt as an ice-melting road redeemer, but more likely  as an agent for flavouring, preservation and purification. In other words we are meant to be people who, by allowing the gospel to permeate every area of our lives, enable others to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good.’ Our salt should also make those around us thirsty for the living waters of God’s grace. Furthermore, by pursuing holiness and letting the Holy Spirit make us more and more like Jesus we are to be people who effectively stand against sin and all its devastating effects in our society.

Christians with integrity, purity and missional priority. How much does our nation need shovel-fulls of those at the moment?

2. Grit – When the Forward Movement set out on a mission to take the gospel to the English speaking ‘ghettos’ of South Wales in the 19th Century, John Pugh distributed a poster that sought “to secure men of grace, grit and gumption” to join them on the mission. Grit in this instance clearly referred to men with courage, determination, strong resolve and balls of steel! It recognised that such a mission as this wasn’t for soppy church pansies, but rather saints who could take a punch, put in the hard yards and keep going with grace!

I wonder if such a poster went up in our churches today, how many Christians would actually fit the bill?

While our roads may suffer from an insufficient supply of salt/grit, let’s pray that the same will never be said of our churches!

Why The Cities?

cardiff city centreLast week I heard of yet another church plant lined up for central Cardiff, and was also made aware of the very realistic prospect of yet another church closing its doors in the Rhondda valley! While I readily acknowledge that Cardiff is a big old place and needs the gospel as much as anyone, it just feels like once again the valleys are getting overlooked!

So why do the cities get all the attention?

High profile pastors such as Mark Driscoll and Tim Keller (both of whom I appreciate greatly!) teach that if the church is to truly reach the masses and impact culture, we need to focus our efforts on church-planting and effectively engaging the major cities. They argue that these cities as the ‘source’ of media, learning, creativity and culture, feed and influence the rest of the population who dwell ‘downstream.’

Win the city and you win the nation.

There’s certainly a lot of merit to this notion and there’s definitely a case to be made for the Apostle Paul adopting a similar city-centric church-planting strategy to that endorsed by Driscoll and Keller. But there’s also the ministry of Jesus to consider…

Far from a Jerusalem-focussed urban strategy, Jesus conducted most of His earthy ministry in back-water Galilee, spending most of His time with a small posse of disciples, rejecting the limelight on numerous occasions and generally staying under the radar as He spread the gospel to the lowest and the least.

An entirely different approach!

Currently I’m church-planting in the valleys, which some might consider to be ‘downstream’ from cultural epicentres such Cardiff. Last year a good friend even questioned my wisdom in choosing to plant up here at all, arguing that I could be far more effective and reach far more people by staying put in Cardiff. Now hear me right on this, I’m in no way having doubts about what we’re up to! I know for a fact that God’s told us to plant Hill City Church and that doing anything else, anywhere else, would be disobedient to the clear call of God on our lives.

But what should the church’s missional priority be in Wales right now?

Should we keep sending to the cities at the expense of the valleys (and the rural mid, west and north?) Are there enough churches in the cities (except arguably in the rough inner-city estates)? Does God care more about the massive populations in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea than the rest of the nation whose souls are also perishing?

Your thoughts are welcome!

For what it’s worth, however, I’m going to keep banging the valley drum!

Check back tomorrow for 10 Good Reasons To Plant In The Valleys

Stuff I’m Thankful For When I’m Stuck In The Snow

view from our front gardenYesterday evening we tried leaving our home in Trevethin to drive a couple of miles down the road to have some tea with my parents. About 10 yards into the journey I lost control of the car on the ice, crashing into a neighbour’s car (at 2mph) and then sliding helplessly down a steep slope, only just missing a second car at the bottom! It was pretty sketchy to say the least! After sorting things out with the neighbour we tried leaving the street and this time made it about 5 metres up the road before again the tyres lost traction and we slid back down again.

We were literally stuck in our street!

So we went home and spent the rest of the evening together, and as we watched the snow piling up throughout the evening, I started to feel really grateful to God about all sorts of things. So for what it’s worth, here’s my list of Stuff I’m thankful for when I’m stuck in the snow:

God – David once wrote “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (Psalm 34v1) Learning to praise God in every season and circumstance of life is a discipline I think I’ll always be learning. After crashing what is now our only car, I’m choosing to praise God simply for being who He is because despite how stupid I am to even try and drive down a steep slope in the ice, He is unchangingly good, His love endures forever, His grace is sufficient and my salvation is secure!

Family – Being stuck in my house with my beautiful wife and my two gorgeous kids is hardly a trial – it’s actually a blessing. They’re all fit, healthy and happy and so I thank God for that! Watching Elen playing with her baby brother last night, then falling asleep with Michelle with a coffee on the sofa was pretty cool too (didn’t spill the coffee either!)

Dog – I love what snow does to Boaz, our hefty lump of a dog. He’s now 7 years old, but when I took him out for his walk last night he was like a little (7 stone) puppy – running, digging, pouncing and basically going nuts! Makes a change from barking, dribbling, scratching and generally smelling!

Home – Unlike many in the world, we have a house, it’s warm, dry, safe and we don’t take it for granted. Thank you Jesus.

Food – By God’s grace Michelle had been to Tesco just before the snow had come in. Again, many in the world don’t have enough food for a day in their home, let alone for a week. Couple that with water that’s still running from our taps and once again I count myself immensely blessed!

Technology – To be honest until recently I’ve been a bit of a Luddite when it comes to technology, preferring the old fashioned means of communication like actually talking to someone face-to-face (we’ve only been online for about 4 months!) However, here I am on my Mac, knocking out a blog, able to update the church website, able to research my next sermon, sitting next to my mobile with full signal, and buzzin’ cos I just read online that Cardiff City have re-signed Michael Chopra…maybe technology is a blessing after all!

Trevethin – There’s so much to love about this community that will probably be the material of another blog! However, living at 900ft above sea level when the snow comes in is something else – incredible views across the valley to the front, the Brecon Beacons a few minutes walk to the rear, and amazing local kids who sledge, dig and build in the snow in a way that reassures me that the innocence of childhood isn’t dead yet!

Snow – I’m 32 but I still love the snow and still get excited when it comes! In a crazy way it kind of reminds me of God – pure, clean, refreshing and able to transform even the most ugly slag-heaps across the valley into monuments of beauty.

My Bible – Right here by my side is my trusty Bible (ESV if you’re interested!) I’ve got 3 sermons to write this week on Freedom, Salvation for Gangsters and Relationships. This immense book is all I need because God still speaks today, whether it’s snowing or not! Love that!!

Coffee – One of God’s best inventions. We have a healthy supply here, so it’s all going to be OK…