Transforming communities with the love of God

19 years on...

It was 1st November 1998, a cold yet sunny Sunday morning. We stood in the Watford Girls' Grammar School hall in the presence of God, starting the adventure of leading Watford Community Church. We were young, apprehensive, naive and full of faith. We stood with hands laid on us, holding each others' hand tightly, and in prayer taking hold of the hand of Jesus who promised to lead us every step of the way.

As we step into our twentieth year, a few thoughts...

Firstly, a million words of gratitude would not be enough to thank Jesus for keeping true to his ongoing promise - to lead us by the hand. All praise to His name! He has never let go and He never will. Through cancer and barrenness, grief and failure, countless disappointments and a few major successes, He has held us tightly in the past, and as we step forward He urges us to extend our stride and trust Him even more.

Secondly, over the last 10,585 days we have had to offer a fair number of apologies for our weaknesses and failings, misjudgements and mistakes. In our frailty, humanity and brokenness we have missed opportunities, said or done the wrong thing and inevitably hurt people. Leadership intrinsically involves disappointing people, and living with disappointment. Thank God for his grace and faithfulness in spite of all this, and for urging us to learn from mistakes and move on (however winding and challenging the path ahead). 

Thirdly, a thousand thanks to the hundreds who have shared the journey with us. Some we thought would be with us for the long haul have gone to be with the Lord, others have moved away and still others have left for other (often painful) reasons. Whilst there has been a bunch of pain mixed in along the way, ultimately joy overrides it. The joy of shared journeys and 'doing life together' is one of heaven's treasures. If you have been one of those who have let us serve you by leading, and have given your love, time, money and effort to see our vision take shape, thank you, thank you, thank you!.

As step in to this new day the eyes of our hearts are as full as ever with a burgeoning vision - to 2020 and beyond - joining the Holy Spirit in His loving work to see communities transformed, one person at a time. We have children and adults to reach, broken people to serve, stories of grace to share, powerful prayers to pray, vibrant churches to plant, and ministries to grow at home and beyond. For the glory of God, we embrace the massive challenges ahead of us. 

It's the first of November, 2017 and still this ancient truth leads us on:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.
(Lamentations 3:22-23)

May our faithful God bless you richly in this new mercy-filled day.

And, as He leads us into the future, let's hold on to Him and each other with a firm grip and wide eyes. Greater days still await us.

With love and thanks,

Tim and Helen Roberts

He Rules Over Britannia!

Some further thoughts, briefer this time, ahead of Thursday's vote. (By Tim Roberts)

In my previous post I was trying to make the distinction between the eternal kingdom of God, and its unique dimensions compared to earthly empires. Of course, as political entities both Great Britain as a state and the European Union fall in the latter category. They are empires of men. They cannot in and of themselves be expected to declare and deliver the Kingdom of God because the source and nature of its power is tainted by our human desire for dominance and control. 

However, as members of the Church of Jesus the King of kings, we can and should be confident of the overarching power of the Kingdom of God. The ‘Kingdom of heaven’, as Matthew loves to describe it, is everlasting. Unshakeable, in fact. God’s kingdom has not been fully established on the earth. It has been inaugurated, it is ‘now here’ because of Jesus’ incarnation, and it is being extended one soul at a time until such a time as He returns.

The Church, the truly united nations, is an eternal body of people that have been joined together with a covenant promise: God’s pledge to redeem, forgive, restore, and renew completely. Even now we see a glimpse of the powerful potential of the Church to unite people around the throne of God’s grace, as a foretaste of Heaven itself. Heaven on earth. The Kingdom of God, now. He is sovereign over us and we pray that his Kingdom will come on the earth as it is in heaven. We accept His rule over Britannia and we pray that those from other nations will do the same.

So, when it comes to the vote on Thursday we as members of the Church can and should vote with confidence that the King is on the throne and that the nations are under his feet. As Isaiah prophesied, the suffering servant’s government and peace ‘will never end’. So the kingdom expands daily around the world, one healed heart after another.

How should we vote? According to our convictions about what will be best for the Kingdom of God, for the proclamation of that Kingdom and for the freedom of the Church to be the primary agents of this Kingdom in Britain and beyond.

How should we pray? Confidently, for the Kingdom of God to come in Britain and Europe according to God’s rule. Lord, let your Kingdom come!

How should we respond to the result? Confidently, unshaken, knowing that the place of the Church is established above and beyond any ballot box. We should also respond by continually ‘making every effort’ to keep the precious, world-changing unity of the Spirit. 

EU: Kingdom or Empire ?

(By Tim Roberts - N.B. These opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views/policy of Wellspring Church)

Helen and I have recently been watching a series on Netflix dramatizing the book of Acts. 20th Century Fox’s ‘A.D. Kingdom and Empire’ has provided altogether different material to the books, articles and videos helping me decide how to vote on June 23rd. Historians like Jonathan Stark and James Davison Hunter, authors like Nick Page and the screenwriters of this TV series seem to agree on the subversive nature of truly world-changing Christian influence. A tiny group of people, filled with the Holy Spirit, faithfully present in homes and streets and workplaces, turned the world upside down in Jesus’ name. The Kingdom of Jesus Christ, and the essence of the Church as those declaring and demonstrating its coming to the world, is not like the empires of men. In most man-made empires, political systems of government and rulership that have evolved and grown over the centuries, the form of power is inherently flawed. That’s why we are urged in 1 Timothy to pray for those in authority, that there might be peace in the land. Political stability. Peace between peoples. Peace that allows the Church to be the Church.

However, in the Kingdom of God the source of power is altogether different (resurrection life flowing from heaven) and the nature of peace on offer is of a different quality altogether (renewed hearts and minds living in selfless, joyful community with God).

So what matters most when voting in the referendum? I am still working it out, but one thing I have decided already: I want to vote for the Kingdom of God. Here’s two questions and one conclusion:

Firstly, if the Kingdom of God is about freedom, liberty, dignity and honour, selfless love and purity how should we face the threat of Islam as an idea? I know this is controversial but it is one of my big questions. I have no problem with individual Muslims, of course, and I love my Muslim friends and neighbours. We have so many things in common and I thank God for our shared Abrahamic roots. However, and it is a big however, I am yet to be convinced that Islam as a socio-political idea, even an idea that (if given the space, time and room) is aiming for geo-political domination, is good for our nation. Or any nation, for that matter. From what I understand, in a majority of countries where the Islamist system of belief begins to dominate, human rights and freedoms suffer. Significantly. I can’t ignore the dangers that come from the rise of the empire of Islam because as far as I have studied it, that empire is powered largely by fear. I can’t find the selfless love of God in the Qur’an; but there is a lot of fear. And fear destroys community. And in this community (Great Britain) what happens for our kids and grandkids matters. I have repeatedly heard this stark warning from friends in East Africa and the Middle East: Don’t turn a blind eye to what the Islamic system, the Islamist law, and Sharia principles can do to those who won’t adhere, to those who choose another path. Resisting Islamism is risky to say the least. Even by writing this, in a free country, I am taking a risk!

So I am asking, when it comes to the EU referendum, when it comes to immigration principles and the openness of our borders, what is right for the Kingdom? For example, if there is a real prospect of Turkey joining the EU, should we be worried? Perhaps not by them as a ‘secular’ nation but by the wide-open door that could be created there to the damaging influence of Islamic empire. As parents and grandparents, what is the responsible thing to do?

 As parents and grandparents, what is the responsible thing to do?

One answer might be to say that ‘the Kingdom thing’ to do is welcome all and sundry into our homes and communities, from all backgrounds (including dedicated Islamists), without fear, and declare and demonstrate to them the selfless love of God in Christ. We have nothing to fear, so let’s show them love. In which case let’s maintain, or even weaken our existing border controls as part of the EU, expand our cities and be confident as the Church that, under a liberal government, we will see the Kingdom come as we welcome the ‘foreigners’ and ‘stranger’ into our homes and hearts, into our churches and ministries.

The other answer might be to maintain, even regain, some of our sovereignty as a nation and say to all those systems and ideas that might damage and weaken our already fractured communities, “Not here, thanks.” Can an empire made by humans (the UK Government and our Border Agency) be used to safeguard our nation and preserve the principles of the Kingdom of God? The Kingdom cannot by its nature entertain both love and fear. Love casts out all fear – there’s a thought. Love says “no” to fear. In a similar way, perhaps, to me saying “no” to someone who wants to raid my house or hurt someone I love. No. Not here, thanks.

So you see my quandary? That’s my question about immigration.

Moving on, whilst I could express concern about the economy, I have a feeling that a short-term anxiety about market and GDP fluctuations should not determine how we answer a long-term decision like a leave/remain referendum. My second question is about Europe as a man-made empire. Simple, really: Is the constitution, and the apparent aims and vision of European Union going to help or hinder the expansion of the Kingdom of God?  

Is the Kingdom thing to do as citizens of Great Britain, heaven-bent on declaring and demonstrating the gospel of Jesus Christ, to leave Europe and distance ourselves from the continually advancing enemy of moral liberalism? Should we be concerned about Europe’s treatment of the Church, particularly the insidious inhibition of religious freedoms to proclaim the Gospel as Truth or to uphold the harder-to-swallow standards and principles of the Kingdom of God? Might our liberties to express and uphold a biblical ethic be easier to protect outside of Brussels’ control?

Alternatively, perhaps the thing that pleases our King the most is to stay in Europe, re-form it from within where necessary and so vividly, so beautifully live according to Jesus’ standards that our light shines brightly and transforms the darkness from within. As we do this as a platform to preach the gospel with a missionary zeal that doesn’t give into fear and persecution, but actually is emboldened by it (as in the book of Acts), we could have a front-row seat to see the glory of God return to our continent.

For sure, The European Union is far from perfect and far from being truly democratic, so will the gospel be furthered all the more if we leave or we remain? A dilemma.

will the gospel be furthered all the more if we leave or we remain?

So those are two questions I have (amongst many others), We must use our vote on June 23rd. We must make it an act of worship, and vote according to our convictions about what is right for the Kingdom of God. If we seek that first, above all else we can rise over entrenched positions and muddied campaigns and declare over all man-made empires, ‘Jesus is Lord’. And his Kingdom will never end and is not decided through a cross in the ballot box. It was decided on a hill called Calvary some time ago. Hallelujah!

In Watford where we serve as leaders, instead of arranging a debate, Christians Across Watford (a unity movement including over 60 churches and charities) are holding a half-night of prayer on the eve of the referendum. And our prayer is going to be essentially this: “Lord, let Your Kingdom come in this land as it is in heaven.” Amen and amen.

One thing I know for sure is this: We are called not to look to the empires of men or seek them first. The power of governments and religious systems seem colossal, but then so again did the might of Rome and the Jewish leaders in the first century. However, following a leader who declared to Pilate “My kingdom is not of this world”, a rag-tag group of believers followed Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit and turned the world upside down with grace and truth.

We must prayerfully vote, encourage others to use their vote for the King too, and we do so knowing one thing: The Kingdom is more powerful than any empire!


Some other interesting articles that may help you:

Fellow AoG minsiter and friend, Stuart Mayho’s thoughts on this: http://www.twcf.org/media/blog/preparing-to-vote-the-eu-referendum/

Mal Fletcher’s article: http://2020plus.net/eureferendumchristianleaders.aspx

For Archibishop Justin Welby’s thoughts on this: http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/5734/archbishop-justin-welby-on-the-eu-referendum 

Thinking of others as better

Philippians 2:1-11 is today's Bible passage in our Wellspring reading plan and it is one of my all-time faves! It was the reading at my wedding, where we were given the challenge to love three dimensionally. We were taught that...

Continue Reading

Bringing out the best...

Last week I began our two part series called Shipwrecks & Snakebites (how to hold on when stuff hits the fan) and I’m looking forward to concluding the series this Sunday in both our Central Watford and North Bushey congregations....

Continue Reading

More Articles ...