Elizabeth and I have just returned from a brilliant weekend with the Salt and Light Community Church in Derby. We find it so spiritually refreshing and invigorating to have weekends in such churches, for at home we belong to our small village church where we much enjoy the people who are our friends. But the church is small and gradually declining which can be a bit discouraging. So Derby was wonderful. Before our first meeting there on Saturday one of their leaders prayed that we might not only give to them, but also that we should be equally blessed through our weekend together. God answered that prayer!
On Saturday evening we had a lovely supper together with thirty of their leaders who are involved in church planting and in their work among local Muslims. Then we both spoke and felt that the Spirit was with us in that ministry. It was so encouraging to hear of their new church plants in various other towns and cities in the area. Their new church in Leicester already has 150 people in attendance which is so encouraging. But we were specially fascinated to hear of their work among Muslims. On my previous visit I had been excited to meet with a group of some fifty Muslims and ex-Muslims, but now that has grown to about 95 – of which 74 are already baptised believers in Jesus Christ. They are largely Iranian and Afghan, but a small group of Kurds is also growing. Of course there are also one or two of other ethnic backgrounds. Having been in Afghanistan three times and seen how hard it is there for Afghans to become believers in Jesus Christ, it is wonderful now to see how Afghans are turning to the Lord in Europe, America, India and Pakistan. Once they are away from the militant and violent Islam in Afghanistan itself, their disillusionment with Islam can be expressed with slightly greater freedom and safety.
After lunch on Sunday we met with the 25 or so who are working with the Muslim communities. We taught through a variety of stories and then drew out the principles behind the stories. This led to questions and sharing together on their experiences.
The church had been having a series of talks on Giving and this Sunday was billed as the final talk of that series. I preached on the well-known John 3.16, seeing God himself as our model in giving. His love is based on the fact that he loves. Likewise our giving is not a task based on duty or even just the need, but stems from our love for the Lord and for his people and work. Of course his giving was sacrificial in the giving of himself in the person of his only son – what a challenging model for our giving! And his giving was for the world, not only for his own chosen Jewish people. And the world is waiting for us to give even our own lives to bring Jesus to them. In this we looked briefly at different areas of the world where people are still waiting to hear the good news of Jesus.
Let us also give all we have and all we are to the Lord for his glory worldwide – willing to do ANYTHING and to go ANYWHERE for him.