Month: December 2013

My new role as Acts 29 Wales Director

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A few months ago myself and my two intrepid co-pastors were wrestling with the challenges of leading a young and growing church and considering how we should be using our gifts and prioritising our time in order to best serve and lead the church. We decided that Jeff is a genius when it comes to systems, structures, operations and logistics and Jim has been preaching like a ninja of late, so teaching the Bible and training saints was definitely his niche.

But what about me?

We kinda landed on this – that my passion is church planting and the advancing of the gospel, both locally with Hill City and nationally across Wales. So we began to discuss my primary role at Hill City being that of establishing our local gospel communities and pursuing our vision to be a church planting church (and that’s a dream ticket for me!) This seems like an appropriate step as we have recently launched a fourth gospel community in the eastern valley and are dreaming up plans for others being launched in the new year. Similarly, having sent 2 couples to go and plant in the Rhondda valleys earlier this year, we now have another 2 couples who have joined us with a view to being trained up and sent out to plant, and also have another family joining us after Christmas for the same purpose.

Suffice to say that this was a timely and exciting conversation.

And it was during the time that we were having this discussion that Steve Timmis (Global Director of Acts 29), told me he wanted a word. Despite the fact that I’m now 37 and probably more sensible than I’ve ever been (though that’s not saying much) whenever someone higher up the food chain tells me they want to have a chat I still get this sinking feeling in my guts like I used to in school when I was told that the headmaster wanted to see me! Thankfully, I wasn’t in trouble (this time!) Rather, Steve asked me to consider taking on a new role with Acts 29 Europe (the church planting network that I am privileged to belong to) – that of director of Acts 29 Wales. He informed me that appointing national directors was an essential part of Acts 29 achieving their goal of being a truly global network and that this was going to be a vital and well resourced appointment. Despite the conversations that I’d been having with the Hill City guys (that Steve knew nothing about) I didn’t give him my answer straight way, but rather came home to pray it through. However, I’m delighted to report that I have agreed to accept the role and look forward to getting stuck into it in the new year.

The exact specifics of what this new position will entail are yet to be finalised, but here’s what I do know:

  • From January I will be dedicating a day a week to networking with other leaders, planters and potential planters, seeking ways to strengthen, support and resource other churches, and do whatever I can to play my part in seeing gospel-centred churches planted across Wales.
  • I will be looking for a ‘Timothy’ – a man who is passionate about the gospel and the cause of church planting in Wales to come and work with me as an intern – to travel, to learn, to serve, to grow, to pray and to get tooled-up for future ministry. (Anyone out there interested?)
  • I will continue to play my part as a leader at Hill City as we seek to continue with our mission of reaching this valley for Christ, whilst also identifying, resourcing and releasing other men and women into church planting and gospel ministries across Wales.
  •  I will seek to track down every man and woman in Wales with a church planting pulse and get them fired up, trained up and unleashed on church planting adventures all over this principality! (I keep being made aware of exciting church planting opportunities that are popping up all over the place – just this afternoon I was told of 2 church buildings in needy parts of Cardiff that are abandoned and crying out for a church planting team!)

So that’s my news. I feel incredibly humbled and inadequate for the task. However, I’m also buzzin about the opportunity and so incredibly grateful for the clear guidance and grace of God. I would also really value your prayers. That this would be a strategic move for the cause of the gospel in Wales and that I would be wise in my use of time so that I don’t spread myself too thin and that my family and my church family still get the best of me. Thanks guys.

THE GOSPEL FOR WALES FOR LIFE.

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Reading the Bible with Josiah – beautiful and bonkers!

I staggered downstairs this morning in my usual early bird condition (shattered, bleary-eyed and slurring words) and sat on the sofa with my usual cup of strong coffee to help me come out of the coma. I can’t have been sat there for more than 20 seconds when Josiah came over with his Kidz Bible and asked if he could read it to me. Josiah loves his Bible and loves to tell us what he’s been reading and to ask us questions about what he’s read, but this was the first time he’d ever asked if he could come and read it to me. As you might expect I was buzzin that he’d want to do that and told him it’d be lush to hear him read. Now Josiah is 5 but his reading age is way more advanced than that – he’s ridiculously good at it, which his has come about due to possessing a natural intelligence (that he gets from his mum) and a strong desire to read (which I hope he gets from me!) However, he also possesses incredible creativity and a beautifully bonkers sense of humour.

So he cwtched up next to me, found Ruth chapter 4 and started to read. He started so well…but by the end I was in stitches!

Here’s what he read:

“So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the rootin-est, tootin-est cowboy in the wild, wild west!”

I flippin’ love being a dad!

Reflection Sessions Pt.5 – a time to act

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This will be by far the shortest post of this little series of reflections that I’ve been writing this week. The previous 4 have all looked back over the last 12 months, but this post is different. This post looks forwards.

18+ months ago the Lord laid a burden on the hearts of me and my wife. It was a burden for the trafficked, exploited and enslaved. Since that time we have been on journey of faith and intercession that has seen many tears shed, many prayers prayed and many searching questions asked. Each month, not least these last 12, it has felt like little steps have been made. It was my conviction to dedicate 2013 to prayer and raising the profile of trafficking through Redemption Sessions. I feel that I have been faithful in that. The question now is – what next?

  • I could just organise another year of monthly prayer meetings.
  • I could knock it all on the head knowing that I gave it my best for 12 months.
  • Or, I could dare to believe that it’s time to take it to the next level.

For what it’s worth – I’m going for option 3! I am persuaded that God wants more from me, and more from His people here in South Wales. I believe that this last 12 months have been hard and frustrating because they have been foundational. The foundations are always the hardest work to dig, the least glamorous part of the project and the unseen solid base upon which the house gets built. As I type this it’s late and I always tend to write crazy stuff when it’s late. However, this isn’t the late night ramble of an over-tired, highly-caffeinated disciple. It’s a considered, courageous declaration of intent. Mark my words – some exciting stuff is going to be kicking off in Cardiff in the next few months and I thoroughly intend to be playing my part. It’s time to start building.

You heard it here first…

“So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” (James 2 v 17)

“If not me then who? If not now then when?” (Rabbi Hillel)

Reflection Sessions Pt.4 – the call to persevere

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OK, so we’ve considered the need to be confronted by hard truth, the significance of networking and the power of prayer. Today I want to speak about the toughest yet the most character-shaping issue I’ve had to work through at Red Sessions – the call to persevere.

4. the call to persevere

Ours is a generation that wants everything NOW, that gets bored easily and moves on very quickly.

You hate your job?
Get a new one!

Church not meeting your expectations?
Find another one!

Marriage lost its spark?
Move on and try someone else!

Washing machine broken?
Don’t bother getting it fixed, just scrap it and buy a new one!

Need more convincing? Look no further than your mobile phone! How long have you had it? I’d be gob-smacked if it was more than 2 years old. Ours is a superficial and shallow culture that, to varying degrees, we are all influenced by.

With all that in mind, please allow me to share an observation with you:

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Reflection Sessions Pt.3 – The power of prayer

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My previous post was all about the significant relationships and networking opportunities that Red Sessions has opened to us this year. Today I will focus more on the role of prayer in these sessions.

3. The power of prayer

So yesterday I was reading the incredible (and hilarious) account of Peter’s arrest, incarceration and miraculous release from jail in Acts 12. What always strikes me is the role of the praying church in that story…

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Reflection Sessions Pt.2 – The strategic importance of networking

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Yesterday I shared how Red Sessions has taught me to pray with my eyes open. Today I want to share something about the strategic impact that they have had too.

2. The strategic importance of networking

One of the most precious highlights of Red Sessions has been the people that I’ve met. I have worshipped, wept and prayed with many brothers and sisters this last year who I never would have otherwise met. Many (if not most) have come from a totally different theological stable to me, which has been refreshing and exciting. When you’re pleading with God to have mercy on the bondslaves of India or the vulnerable young girls of eastern European who are being trafficked into brothels all over the globe, you haven’t really got the time or inclination to ask the guy you’re praying with where he’s at with Calvinism!

However, not only has there been a beautiful gospel unity in these meetings it has, I believe, been significant that many of our small band of prayer warriors have between them an incredible wealth of experience. So we have (in no particular order) advocates of International Justice Mission (IJM), members of Liberty (the team who work with prostitutes in Cardiff), one of the coordinators of the #NotOnMyWatch campaign, one of the leaders of Evangelical Alliance Wales (who do a great job in mobilising the church in Cardiff around the issue of trafficking), the boyfriend of a girl who is involved in frontline rescue work, and a lady from Eritrea who has been able to share extensively about the trafficking horrors faced by many of her compatriots. Furthermore, at our last event there were Christians involved in Cardiff’s political scene who are committed to the cause of eradicating slavery, as well as saints from Newport who are behind the fantastic Cymru Against Human Trafficking. Add to the mix the recent addition of a bunch of passionate students and a healthy handful of bods like myself who are simply hanging in there because God has arrested our hearts with this issue, and you have a band of brothers and sisters who I can’t help but think that God has brought together for a purpose.

I guess the question is, what is that purpose?

Is it for prayer and encouragement?

Most certainly.

However, as I sit here reflecting on how God has sovereignly orchestrated things in order to cause our paths to cross and bring us together for such a time as this, I can’t help but think that He might just be up to something. I’m not entirely sure what that ‘something’ is yet, but I am sure of this:

I’m not going to miss it!

Redemption Sessions has been a rallying point for a small, motley militia of gospel-hearted abolitionists.

Reflection Sessions Pt.1 – The need to be confronted by uncomfortable truth

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OK, the first Red Session lesson is this:

1. We need to be regularly confronted by uncomfortable truth.

On Friday evening Jade informed the gathering that “Dai told me not to hold back” regarding the information that she was about to relay. And she didn’t! She gave us the full, gritty, heart-rending picture of the situation she’s ministering into. People were moved to the core and many wept. And for what it’s worth I’m really glad that Jade didn’t hold back because you can’t sugar-coat this stuff! At Red Sessions we have sought each month to pray informed prayers. Not just prayers off the back of a news letter or email (though there’s nothing wrong with those things), but prayer requests coming from the lips of a host of stirring guest speakers who have come and shared about their first hand experiences of trafficking.

So whether it’s been the trafficking and tortures of terrified Eritrean refugees, the selling of Nepalese girls into Indian brothels by their relatives, the grotesque industry of child sex tourism in Cambodia or the exploitation of prostitutes working locally in the streets and parlours of Cardiff – each month it has been painful to hear. But HOW ELSE are we going to pray into these situations and circumstances? Scaled down, sanitised reports of this global epidemic will only serve to inspire half-hearted, lethargic prayer. Perhaps it’s just me, but every time I hear of another woman being exploited, another child being raped, another man bullied into a life of servitude, I can’t be half-hearted! I can’t be complacent. Rather, my heart gets smashed to bits, my soul cries out for justice, and faith rises as I am compelled to cry out to the God of justice, mercy and grace.

To that end, I’m grateful that Red Sessions have been brutal, because human trafficking is brutal.

I’m pleased that I’ve been made uncomfortable because slavery is uncomfortable.

They say that ignorance is bliss. Well that may be true for us, but while we twiddle our thumbs in ‘blissful’ ignorance, the vulnerable are still being brutally exploited in the shadows. I’m not willing to settle for that! William Wilberforce in seeking to bring about the abolition of the slave trade in the nineteenth century was a firm believer in confronting the public and his parliamentary peers with uncomfortable truths about trafficking. Indeed he is famously quoted as saying:

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

I love that! Well in the true spirit of Wilberforce we have regularly been exposed to the savage truth of slavery. In doing so have had our eyes opened to an issue that breaks the heart of God, and we can no longer say that we never knew!

Redemption Sessions has taught us to pray with our eyes open.