Covid-19: 12 steps for our church

On Sunday at Welcome Church I spoke about our response to the current Coronavirus Pandemic. This is a moment unprecedented in most of our lifetimes, but moments like this are nothing new historically; many disasters, plagues and viruses have come and gone over the years.

In 1854, the preacher Charles Spurgeon found himself pastoring a congregation during a cholera outbreak in London. You can read about his response during that time here. We need a response to this current crisis too.

Here’s our 12 step plan as a church:

1. Let’s have faith:man-walking-on-gray-stairs-677971

As I’ve said before, this is not a time to panic (read more here). The church is made for a time like this. We are people of faith and we will trust Jesus. We will trust him that our lives are in his hands, and we will trust that He will do good things in and through our church and our lives at this time.

2. Let’s make informed decisions:

We will listen to wisdom and follow official advice, combining that with our local knowledge of the state of play in our own town and church. We won’t be making changes simply for the sake of appearances.

Presently (2pm, 16th March) we’re allowed to meet together as normal, so we’ll continue to do so. If the official advice changes, we will change too. In line with official advice, if you have a new constant cough or a high fever – however mild – please self isolate, and do let us know so we can pray for you.

3. Let’s continue to meet together:

We need to seek God throughout this challenging season. If a point comes where the official advice is to cancel our main Sunday meetings, we’ll meet in other ways and by other means as appropriate. This could include smaller meetings, Life Groups, Facebook live, video recordings, podcasts, blog posts, links to worship songs, email updates and more. Make sure you connect to as many of these things as you can.

Obviously there are some who may need to limit social interaction, on the advice of health professionals, or due to underlying health conditions, but let’s not withdraw simply out of fear, after all – this could go on for some months.

Currently we have decided not to pass an offering basket or take communion. Let’s also be wise in how we greet people or pray for them. Beyond that, we plan to carry on with our diary as planned, in line with the current official advice. But because this crisis is likely to get significantly worse before it gets better, let’s be ready for changes, even at the last minute, and let’s be flexible when they happen.

*** UPDATE ***
This afternoon,
Boris Johnson briefed the nation on the latest measures that the Government would like us to take to help manage the national Coronavirus situation.

Amongst other things it was said, “now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and non-essential travel” and that we should all avoid all social gatherings and social contact.

He has also asked people to work from home wherever possible.

In order to comply with this guidance, with immediate effect Welcome Church will be cancelling all meetings, including Life Groups, and closing our office until further notice.

Over the next couple of days we will be looking at how things develop and what that will mean for us as a church, including using online and other resources.

As soon as we have further information we will issue an update via email, social media and our website, so expect to hear from us soon.

Let’s all be on the front foot to care for one another wherever we can.

Remember: none of this is taking our Heavenly Father by surprise.

He can use this time for His purposes in our lives, our church and our nation.

 

4. Let’s pray:

belief-bible-book-business-267559Let’s seek God for his protection on our church, our town and our nation at this time. Let’s pray for wisdom for our government, and strength and endurance for NHS workers and emergency services. If someone is sick we’ll pray for them in whatever way we can as well; just let us know the situation. Please also pray at home and in Life Groups.

We are Christians, not fatalists! We believe in prayer!

Right now the official guidelines tell us to wash our hands often, for at least 20 seconds. If you want to time 20 seconds, try praying The Lord’s Prayer; it works in more ways than one. 😃 We believe in the power of prayer, we also believe in the power of soap.

5. Let’s reject selfishness:

It would be very easy to just focus on ourself and our own family right now: buy what we can, pile it up, look after number one and batten down the hatches until it’s over. By doing that we could miss out on the opportunity of this unusual season we are living through.

Instead of embracing selfishness and fear, let’s show the love of Jesus to our world by responding with kindness, care and generosity to those around us. Let’s connect with our neighbours and those in need, and let’s offer help in Jesus name. And let’s ask Jesus for his help and strength to keep on serving, however tough it gets.

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6. Let’s be ready to care for others:

As a church we are God’s family, so let’s act like a family. This may get easier once some of us have had the virus and recovered, so we can step up in caring for others without restrictions, but let’s not wait until then.

If there comes a point when those who are over 70 are told to self isolate – which could happen in the near future – let’s be ready to help them. And let’s think more widely than just our church; let’s be ready to step up and help our neighbours and any vulnerable people we know as well.

7. Let’s look to pastor our town:

People are in fear. Let’s be ready to speak God’s good news to people, to offer prayer, to help our neighbours and to show a different way of living. Let’s not be selfish. Let’s not spread fear in person or online. Let’s speak faith and point people to the eternal hope that is available in Jesus, and let’s step up to help practically. Welcome Church is here in Woking for such a time as this.

8. Let’s be open to new evangelistic opportunities:

Let’s be ready to tell people the reason for the hope that we have. We have an amazing message of hope in Jesus; he offers eternal life and the promise of his presence with us. We can walk through this season without fear because live or die we can’t lose. And remember: the more you pray for opportunities, the more you get – so be ready.

9. Let’s be worshippers:

God deserves our praise at all times, so let’s live lives of worship in all circumstances. Worship is a spiritual weapon (see 2 Chronicles 20). We’re called to give thanks to God in every circumstance; so let’s be worshippers and not panickers; it’s hard to worship when you’re running away in fear!

10. Let’s lead our children well:

Teach the truth of the gospel to your children and grandchildren. Don’t leave them afraid and don’t model fear to them. Pray for them and pray with them. Remind them that Jesus cares for them. Teach them not to be afraid in life’s difficult circumstances. Teach them that death is not the end for any of us if we put our faith in Jesus. When Coronavirus comes up in conversation be ready to speak words of faith and point them to Jesus. Our kids need evangelism even more than they need soap!

As a family you could worship together, pray together and celebrate communion together. Let’s lead our children in faith, not fear.

11. Let’s entrust our lives to God:

When Esther, in the Bible book of Esther, had to go before the King on behalf of her people, without being summoned by him and in great fear of her life, she said, “I will go before the King, and if I perish I perish”.

This is a time to throw ourselves onto Jesus. Let’s go before King Jesus, ask for his mercy and leave our lives in his hands as we serve those around us. If we perish, it’s in his hands. We are not immune to disease, but death is not the end for us either, and King Jesus has us safely in his hands.

flowers-marguerites-destroyed-dead-200912. If people die, let’s bury them with faith, and care for their families well:

Death is not the end. We have a resurrection to come. If our faith counts for anything, it counts when we face a crisis like this, where people we love may die, or our own lives may be lost. God has not promised us immunity from sickness and death, but his word does show us that we’re immortal until our life’s work is done – so let’s trust him.

THAT’S THE PLAN!

This situation will get worse before it gets better. Jesus does not promise that we will never get sick or die. We may lose people we love to this and we may mourn … but we will not mourn like those who have no hope, and we will not walk in fear.

Jesus won a great victory for us at the cross: death was defeated; our resurrection is promised; victory is ours in Jesus. We can live in contentment despite the current crisis because our Heavenly Father is watching over us and even if we die we will live.

And perhaps this crisis is a good reminder for us all that it’s not wise to live our lives as though sickness and death were the least likely things ever to happen to us; they are a certainty for us all.

Covid-19: Don’t Panic!

Something unprecedented within most of our lifetimes is happening right now: a Coronavirus to which we have no herd immunity is spreading across the world and people have died. This kind of event is nothing new in history of course, it’s just new to us, and there is a lot of fear about it.

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Boris Johnson said this week that it was, “the worst public health crisis for a generation” and he warned that many families would “lose loved ones before their time”.

We’ve seen the impact of the virus on supermarkets, workplaces, international travel, stock markets, the budget, public events and more. I just received notice of the cancellation of a conference I was due to attend, and of our guest speaker for next Sunday too.

Sadly I’ve even picked up that there is fear among Christians. So how are we going to respond? The first thing we need to know is this:

The church is made for a time like this

CHRISTIANS: DO NOT PANIC!

Our faith is more than adequate for this crisis. Remember: “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1v7)

Christians are not supposed to hide away in times like this, any more than the army is supposed to run away and hide in a time of war. We’re called to stand firm and live out our faith. We are called to reject selfishness and care for those in need. We are called to share our message of hope with our town.

That’s not to say we’re immune from disease, but let’s keep perspective: most people who get this recover quickly and if the worst comes to the worst, that’s what our faith is for; we have a hope that goes beyond the grave!

We have a powerful message of good news at this time: This life is not the end.

We need to trust in what Jesus said, live out our faith and share it with other people through our words and our acts of kindness and love. If we’re going to do that we need to be prepared, so we will be talking all about this on Sunday, including details of how, as Welcome Church, we will be responding to this current crisis.

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Sunday Meetings

We are constantly monitoring the situation and listening to the advice of the British Government, Public Health England and the Commission Group of Churches. As it stands, we’re still 100% fine to gather on Sunday, and our diary is going ahead as planned.

(Even in Scotland where they have decided to stop meetings of more than 500 people, this is not being done on scientific evidence to affect the spread of disease; it is about ensuring that NHS resources are not drained by events. Churches were also specifically mentioned as NOT included in this)

If anything changes we will let you know. If we need to, we will find other ways to keep ‘meeting’ together, including online solutions, but at this point this is simply not necessary, so let’s get together on Sunday to worship God, to pray and to look at a Biblical response to this is as a church.

I know that some stayed away last week through fear.

I would encourage you not to do that.

After all, if we start down that path, when do we come back? This virus will be around for months or even years …

(Obviously there are some who may need to limit their social interactions, on the advice of health professionals, due to underlying health conditions – that makes sense. But what I’m referring to is acting simply out of fear)

Instead of giving in to fear, please follow government guidance: if you have a new persistent cough or high temperature, please self isolate at home, and let us know so we can pray for you. And let’s please keep washing our hands. We believe in prayer and we also believe in soap!

On Sunday evening at our Encounter evening we’ll be talking about being empowered by the Holy Spirit. If you’re thinking, “The virus is making me scared to go”, you especially need to be there! Let’s press in to receive the empowering of God’s Spirit of power, love and self-discipline, and to get free from fear!

And remember what the Bible says in Psalm 139v16:

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be”

Woking needs us firing on all cylinders, so let’s stop panicking, let’s put an end to fear, and let’s walk in step with the Holy Spirit. God has us in the palm of his hands, and live or die, we actually have nothing to fear.

I have much more to say on Sunday, so don’t miss it.

WE’VE LAUNCHED!! … What now?

Hi everyone. Dub Everitt here hijacking Steve’s blog again …

Wow!! What a Launch we enjoyed on Sunday!! It was an absolutely brilliant Sunday morning with hundreds at the 9am meeting and even more at the 11am meeting.

Our band led worship brilliantly, Mike’s Welcome Story stirred emotions across the room and Steve’s talk on the Prodigal Son, encapsulated by the video of Derek Redmond being supported around the track by his Dad, powerfully revealed the incredible heart of God to rush towards us.

And what amazing words we heard from our Architect Paul Ginever, who has been hugely impacted by working with Welcome Church on this project, as well as our Mayor Beryl Hunwicks and our MP Jonathan Lord speaking brilliantly on the impact Welcome Church is making. And then a presentation from Compassion topped it off so well, showing the impact we’re making on mothers and babies in Togo as well.

Oh, did I nearly forget … we were joined by hundreds and hundreds of guests across the morning in the adults meeting, as well as Kids Work and Creche also buzzing with guest kids having a great morning.

white-shuttle-spaceship-takes-on-39603The numbers …

At HG Wells recently we have tended to have roughly 560 to 600 people per week on a Sunday across both meetings, including kids and creche.

Our Launch Sunday saw 1,256 people filling the new building, more than doubling our usual numbers!!! And across the board, all of our guests LOVED IT!!!

What

A

Morning!

The question now is this: we’ve launched (BRILLIANTLY!) so what now?

That Launch Sunday has come, and the Launch Sunday has now gone. We’ve done all we can to invite and bring guests. Hundreds came, hundreds went away upbeat and impacted.

And three days later, our big Launch moment is now in the past. So, what next for us individually and as a church? Back to “business as usual”, whatever that may mean to us?

NOOOOOOOO!!!
I believe that what we’ve seen is something God wants to inspire us with. We CAN bring guests to church. They WILL love it. God WILL impact them. This can happen EVERY WEEK. Remember, this is about God changing people’s lives.

We’ve had a taste of what being an inviting church feels like, and the impact it has on those we bring. And God has a big encouragement for us:

“Do it again!”

So, as we look back on our Launch, and also look forward to “Welcome Stories week 2” this coming Sunday and the rest of this 6-week series, there are two encouragements I have for ALL OF US…

1. If you brought guests last Sunday, invite them again this Sunday!

This is an invite we can all make with confidence. We know they’re positive, and they now know what to expect.

But the reality is, only the boldest of our friends will contact us to say, “Please can I come next week?” Many, however, if they were re-invited, may well say “Yes!” So let’s re-invite them. And if they can’t make it this Sunday, see if the following Sunday works.

This doesn’t mean being pushy. But it does mean recognising it will take another invite for our friends to come, so it’s up to us to make the invite.

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2. If you didn’t bring guests last Sunday, the invite door hasn’t closed until our next Building Launch in another 40 years!!!

You may’ve invited people to the Launch and they couldn’t make it. Me and Tanya had 5 families who couldn’t come last Sunday but said, “We’d like to come another time.” We now need to follow up to say, “The Launch was amazing, a shame you couldn’t make it. What Sunday suits you? How about next Sunday?”

You may’ve not got round to inviting, or didn’t feel brave enough to invite. Well, after witnessing how brilliant Sunday was, and experiencing the incredible buzz of hundreds of new people thinking, “Wow! I wasn’t expecting church to be like that!” – I know you’ve now gained the confidence to think, “I can invite, because it’s brilliant!”

A second wave

Our Launch Sunday was a new ‘high water mark’ for us. In our Prayer Meeting on Tuesday morning, Tony Lynch brought a prophetic word about a 2nd wave, specifically of those who DIDN’T come to the Launch, but who we can invite again over the coming weeks and who will say yes!

I believe this is a word from God to nudge us and build our faith to go again.

You and I now know: if my friends come, they’ll really enjoy it. And God will impact them. So let’s make those invites.

God is at work

He’s working through you and me to reach out to our friends, and as they come to church with us over these Sundays He’s at work through His church as well.

I felt God remind me recently that a key role He has for us is to be door-openers – for us to open the door to introduce people to Jesus. From there, Jesus will do what He does – save and transform people! And that’s something we are all called to be a part of: leading people to Jesus, seeing lives changed, seeing Jesus get the glory.

Our invitations to church over these coming Sunday’s are us looking to open that door. So let me encourage you: let’s all make those return invites and those first-time invites, let’s pray and let’s see what God does!

Dub Everitt is Outreach Pastor at Welcome Church.

New Building Launch – It’s Time To Invite!

Hi everyone. This is Dub Everitt here, hijacking Steve’s blog to talk to you about our Welcome Church new building launch.

We’ve just had our first Sunday in the new building, and what an amazing time we had! I’m sure we’re all now thinking that if our friends joined us for the launch on 19th January they’d LOVE IT!

A warm welcome with delicious pastries and great coffee. Amazing worship, an inspiring preach and friendly people. And don’t forget: one of the most incredible Welcome Stories ever!

But here’s the thing, the thought of coming to church at all may raise lots of questions or nerves for people. But what if those fears were addressed so that many of our friends could say “YES!” to coming along?

So, what are these areas of uncertainty that they may be feeling, and what can we do to help?

As someone who has never been to a synagogue or a mosque before, here are the TOP 5 fears I would have if someone I know invited me to attend one:

  1. Where is it? / How will I get there?
  2. When I arrive, where do I go? / Where do I sit? / When do I stand?
  3. What will it be like?
  4. What should I wear?
  5. If I don’t enjoy it, will my friend be expecting me to go again?
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Feel the fear …

These fears are very real and understandable but a well considered invite can alleviate them all.

So here are the things YOU would be able to do to help ME to say “YES!” if you were asking me to come:

1. SHOW ME THE INVITE VIDEO: this would help me VISUALISE what it will be like. In the video I can SEE THE BUILDING, see the coffee & pastries, see the chapel, and I can see how amazing it all looks!

So I might say (or send) something like this: “Our Church has a new Building which looks AMAZING! Check out this 30 second fly-through video of what it looks like on a Sunday…”
Alongside you sharing this video on Social Media or messaging it to me, personally show it to me!

2. BE CLEAR: “It’s Sunday 19th January, there’s a service at 9am and again 11am and they’ll both begin and end with coffee and pastries!”

 3. BE HELPFUL: “I’ll pick you up”This will alleviate the fear of “How will I get there?” / “where will I park?” / “What if I don’t spot my friend?” / “Where will I sit?”

If you’re inviting lots of people, great! Come in convoy together!

4. BE REASSURING: “Come and give it a try. I think you’ll really enjoy it – but there’s no pressure to come again if you don’t enjoy it!”

5. BE POSITIVE: If I see that you think it’ll be enjoyable (which it is) it’ll help me feel confident about coming.

6. BE HOSPITABLE“Come back to ours for lunch afterwards!” / “We’ll head to the pub to watch the game afterwards” etc is the sort of thing that would clinch it for me! This extra act of kindness makes such a difference.

In summary, you could try something like this:

“Hey, why don’t you come to our church Building Launch on 19th Jan? It’ll be fun. I won’t be offended if you don’t fancy it, but I think you’ll really enjoy it! It’s 11am till 12.30. If we get there just before we can grab a coffee and pastry. I’ll pick you up on the way … oh, and we’ll head out to Nando’s for lunch afterwards, my treat!”

One final thing to say

81890862_10157620052203046_8693150692006690816_oOur Building Launch is something that would interest LOADS of people who are in our lives, our families, our offices and our streets. This is an invitation to a brilliant and inspiring morning!

EVERYONE IS WELCOME, so let’s spread our invitations wide so that lots of our friends can come and enjoy it!

Walk Humbly

We’re now entering the last few weeks we will have as a church meeting at the HG Wells Conference Centre. From January, after almost 12 years of waiting, we should be back at our own site, meeting in our brand new building. I’ve visited the building twice this week and it’s really starting to come together now. I’m getting excited!

Over the last few weeks at HG Wells, in the run up to Christmas, we’ll be enjoying a short preaching series called ‘Walk Humbly’. I’ll kick the series off this Sunday and explain what it’s about then.

513MjA5ds-L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_As we go through the series I want to recommend a book, and encourage as many of us as possible to get hold of it and read it; it will do you good!

The book is called ‘Humble Roots’ and is by Hannah Anderson, who many of us heard speak at Westpoint this year.

We won’t be ‘preaching through the book’,  but it has inspired some of my content and it speaks to the subject we want to address in far more detail than we will get to in a few short Sunday talks.

I would actually recommend this book to every Christian everywhere, and it could also make a great Christmas present (though do bear in mind it is written for Christians and is not an ‘evangelistic’ type of book).

Obviously you can buy a copy on line, or download it to your electronic reading device or get it in audio format to listen to during your commute … but if you do want to buy a hard copy then why not consider supporting our local, very excellent, Christian book shop – Origin Books – based at Christ Church in Jubilee Square.

And if you tell them you’re from Welcome Church they will give you a 20% discount on this book too …

Welcome Stories

Over the last few weeks at Welcome Church we’ve launched a brand new initiative called Welcome Stories.

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Welcome Stories are short videos from people in our church whose lives have been impacted for good by Jesus. You can check some of them out on our Welcome Stories website, or you can find them on our Welcome Church Facebook page, our Instagram account or our YouTube channel. There are lots more coming in the weeks ahead.

Sharing

As we launch these stories week by week we want to encourage people to share them to their friends via social media. Liking them is kind of you, but sharing them is actually useful for the gospel!

Please don’t use religious language when you share them, but do perhaps use the hashtag #WelcomeStories.

You can share them on Facebook and Instagram easily by sharing the posts we’ve already made on our Welcome Church pages. You can also share them from You Tube or from the Welcome Stories website onto Twitter and other media.

Why do it?

These videos are about helping people connect to Jesus … and that is already happening. We are already seeing fruit from these stories.

So far over 28,000 people have viewed one of our Welcome Stories. Just imagine the impact we could have in Woking if everyone in our church shared these?

And of course, this is all part of the run up to the launch of our new building on January 19th. It’s part of the invitation process. We will even kick off our new year with a preaching series called “Welcome Stories”.

So let’s get sharing, let’s get praying, and let’s expect God to do big things!

I’ve put a link to one of the stories here – Enjoy!

The video should be visible above, if it’s not then please click here to view it.

It’s an exciting new season … let’s do this together!

Life moves in seasons. We  go through different phases, such as child, teenager, parent, student, young adult,  grandparent, employee, manager, owner, retirement, engagement, bereavement, new babies, empty nest and so on.

Each season has its own blessings and challenges, and it’s important to recognise, embrace and enjoy the season we’re in. Sometimes we can be so keen to get onto the next season of life that we forget to enjoy the season we’re in.

Church life moves in seasons too

We’re at the start of a very exciting new season for Welcome Church with a huge opportunity ahead, perhaps the biggest  opportunity we’ve had for about 45 years. From January we will be meeting in our new, purpose built building in the heart of Woking, and we want to maximise this great opportunity for the church and the gospel.

What a moment this will create! I believe we could see hundreds or people coming to our big launch Sunday on January 19th; it’s a God given opportunity to create the most exciting Sunday morning we’ve had for years.

The season we are in now is all about that

The activities we will be doing over the coming year are all about getting us ready for that and making the most it; it’s our number one top priority for the year ahead. Let’s recognise the season we are in and make sure we embrace it and enjoy it.

To help us all to maximise the opportunity this new start creates, we’ve made some big and exciting plans, so let’s all be ready to get involved.

Welcome Church Fun Day

The first step in our big plans is the Welcome Church Fun Day tomorrow.  (Sat 28th September, 11am – 4pm, Schifano’s Field in West End).

This date also coincides with our church’s 140th birthday.

The Fun Day has something for everyone: BBQ, Ice Creams, Candy Floss, Teacup Rides, Inflatables, Magic with Peanuts the Clown, Live Music, Tractor Rides, Assault Course, Games, Competitions and more.

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Do pray that the sun comes out for us, at the moment it’s looking GOOD! 🌞

We’ve given the full details out lots of times on Sundays, so I won’t repeat them here, but if you have any questions please ask. And if you’re reading this and you’re not from Welcome Church and you want to come – you can. Just reply to this post and I’ll send you the details ASAP – we would love you to join us.

Just do one thing

For this event we  want everyone to do one thing: bring someone with you.

Bring a person, bring a family … just bring someone. It’s an easy invitation to make, so let’s all be on the front foot with it. And it’s absolutely not too late to ask people, you can even do it on the day.

Making a Triple Jump

The world record for the Long Jump is 8.95 metres. But the world record for the Triple Jump (also known as the Hop, Skip and Jump) is an incredible 19.29 metres – that’s a whole lot further.

We are thinking of this launch as a triple jump.

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Hop: bring people to the Fun Day

Skip: bring them to our Fireworks event (9th November)

Jump: invite them to the Big Launch in January

Of course we have lots of other things going on too, not least our Carol Service for Woking at HG Wells on 15th December with the Cobham Brass Band and our amazing new Welcome Stories initiative.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what God does through us all in the next few months!

Summer Reading

In case you have a bit of time over the summer to do some extra reading while you enjoy the sunshine, here are some books that I found particularly helpful this year and want to recommend:

1. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes

This book, by Kenneth Bailey, looks at the life of Jesus from the perspective of those who live in the Middle East. A special focus is given to the stories of Jesus’ birth, his attitude to women, the Lord’s Prayer, the beatitudes and several of Jesus’ parables.

I found it extremely interesting, easy to read and personally challenging. It was packed full of insights that were completely new to me. I will definitely be reading more by this author and I would recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in the life and teachings of Jesus.

2. A War Of Loves – the unexpected story of a gay activist discovering Jesus

Jo and I have had the privilege of meeting David Bennett, having dinner with him and hearing him speak. This book is his autobiographical account of how he came to faith in Jesus, and the implications of this for his life. It is an honest account and doesn’t shy away from some deeply personal and challenging issues.

I would recommend this book to every Christian … I would even call it “essential reading”. Read it with an open heart and let God challenge you; it brought me to tears several times. And if you want to know more, David will be speaking in two seminars at Westpoint this year as well.

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3. Developing Female Leaders

This book, by Kadi Cole, is the one I’ve read most recently and is an absolute gift to anyone in the church. It looks at some of the reasons why women have struggled to maximise their leadership gifts in the church context and gives eight, easy to implement, best practices to help turn that around. It contained truths that I can now see are blindingly obvious, but which I had simply been unaware of before.

I particularly like how the author doesn’t have a big personal axe to grind; she just has a deep desire to help churches live up to the fullness of what they say they believe. Regardless of where we might sit on the “egalitarian” vs “complementarian” debate (and this book is not about that) this is relevant, practical and helpful. I’m looking forward to putting these steps into the practice in the months and years ahead.

4. Sustainable Power

Simon Holley’s book is not new (it’s been on my shelf for four years) but I only got round to reading it this year … and I’m so glad I did. It looks at the ‘rocks’ in our hearts and lives that can prevent God from moving in and through us to impact the world around us. It’s full of relevant stories and examples and is easy to read whilst being personally challenging to read at the same time.

If you want to grow in faith, grow in expectation and grow in your walk with God, this is the book for you. Just don’t expect to reach the end unchallenged and unchanged.

Hope you have a great summer …

… and if you do take the time to read any of these, feel free to (politely) let me know what you thought of them in the comments section below.

 

Final Gift Day Results

On Sunday we announced the results of our final Building Fund Gift Day. Here is an update in case you missed it  – and it’s gone up a bit since Sunday morning too:

Our target was £300,000

That’s a lot of money and, along with a mortgage, that would enable us to finish the job – albeit our finances would be TIGHT! What we really wanted to do was beat that target.

After the first week we were just under the half way mark.

Following the second Sunday I have the privilege of announcing the final result.

The total amount raised consists of three parts:

  • Money given and now in our bank account
  • Money that people have pledged to give over the next few weeks
  • Gift Aid that, as a charity, we can claim on people’s giving – reclaiming the income tax paid on the money that was donated

Adding these three figures together gives us a total amount of

£498,287

Wow! That is a lot of money! It’s just under half a million pounds … given over two Sundays … following two other huge Gift Days this year!

And for the first time we actually beat our target. 😃

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Hooray!

This result means that we can do everything we planned to do, and perhaps (we cannot say for certain yet) we may be able to borrow a bit less than was anticipated, which would make a huge difference going forward .

Giving some away

Our plan has always been to give away a portion of this giving to  Compassion UK, to help fund a Child Survival Programme in Togo (for details click here) and the amount that is eligible for this is just over £40,000.

That money will be doubled under a matched funding initiative from the UK Government making it up to more than £80,000.

We received this short video from Justin Dowds, the CEO of Compassion UK and Ireland, saying thank you. Do give it a watch.

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Thanks

I want to take a moment, on behalf of the Welcome Church eldership team, to say thank you for all your faithful giving. What a huge difference this is going to make to us as a church and to the lives of mothers and babies in Togo.

Gift Day: Reflections & Building News

Last Sunday (16th June) we had our final Welcome Church Gift Day to raise money for our New Building project. At this point we don’t know how much was given – we’ll announce it when we do know – but ahead of that news I wanted to share some reflections and some building news.

Seven Reflections

(Yes. I restricted myself to just seven. 😃)
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Reflections

My first reflection is how incredibly generous people in Welcome Church are. We are a church that knows how to give sacrificially! Whatever the outcome of these last Gift Days, we have given well in excess of £2m in one year. That is incredible. Miraculous even. I feel humbled, thankful and incredibly proud of us all. It’s a privilege to be leading this church.

My second reflection is the sense of responsibility this brings. We always need to be responsible with people’s giving, but the sense of responsibility feels higher with such a huge amount of giving. We will use it carefully.

My third reflection is that people have given to the building because it’s part of our mission together. We have to remember this as we go forward. It’s going to be a church building! It will be a centre for worship; a place for ministry; a resource to enable our mission together; a facility to serve and bless our town and the wider Commission family of churches. It’s not built to be a source of profit making; that’s not what people gave for so sacrificially.

My fourth reflection is the deep sense of unity we have. Despite a huge amount of change in Welcome Church over the last 18 months, people have been so clearly on board with this project and I’ve loved seeing the excitement it has brought.

My fifth reflection is that everyone has been involved. Although I haven’t looked in detail at what individuals have given, I’m aware of just how many people have given. Some have given small amounts and some have given huge amounts; both can represent a big sacrifice. Even our Welcome Kids have been involved, with some even emptying their piggy banks. My prayer for them is that this giving sets them on a path of generosity and trusting God that will stay with them for life.

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Everyone has been included in this

My sixth reflection is how God has blessed people in response to their giving. I’ve heard testimonies all along the way from people who have given in faith and afterwards have been incredibly, undeniably blessed by God’s unmistakable provision for them; Jo and I can testify to this ourselves. BUT EVEN IF THAT HAS NOT HAPPENED FOR YOU, even if you’ve given and have simply found yourself poorer afterwards, your giving does not go unnoticed by God; it is worship.

My seventh and final reflection is on the exciting future God has planned for our church. He did not give us this building just so we could run our Sunday meetings more easily. The way God has blessed this project creates an excitement in me that He must have some big plans for Welcome Church. Let’s look forward to our future as a church with expectation and faith!

I am so grateful to God

God’s blessing on us all along the way has been incredible. He deserves our worship, praise and thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to our first meeting in the new chapel; what a time of celebration that will be!

And whatever the result of these last Gift Days let me say thank you to everyone who has given! Even if all we gave last Sunday was a button and some chewed gum (it wasn’t 😮) our church has still given amazingly generously all along the way.

Some Building News

The building news I want to share is about God’s provision for us for these next few months. We need to move out of the Welcome Centre altogether from July 1st until the end of the project. We had been looking for a small office facility to tide us over, but we’ve been blessed far more than we could have ever expected.

Yesterday we moved into what used to be the Job Centre, just a stone’s throw from the Welcome Centre. We will be calling it The Annexe. A huge thank you goes to everyone who came along and made the move happen.

The amazing news is that this building has been given to us and to the Useful Wood Company, rent free, for a year. (Useful Wood is one of our Welcome Works. It is a new social enterprise being set up by people in our church to help long term unemployed people learn new skills and find employment. It will also recycle a lot of old wood.)

The Annexe is vast. It runs over three floors and I keep finding new rooms. It will meet every building need we have as a church during this time (except for Sunday mornings which will continue at HG Wells for now). It even has parking for about 20 cars.

The most amazing thing is that we weren’t even looking for a provision like this; God has given us incredibly more than all we could ask or imagine; he really did know what we needed before we even asked.

In case you need it, the official address for the building is: Welcome Church, 15-29 Goldsworth Road, Woking, GU21 6JT.

And when we know the result of the Gift Days – soon I hope – we’ll let you know.

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Time to get the calculator out