Vote Sacrifice

Luke Briggs

Associate Rector

Snap! General election time.

I’ll be honest with you... I don’t know all that much about politics. I care about it and I have my own views, but there’s no point me claiming to be an expert in something I’m not. This post won’t go deep into parties and policies, because I would be speaking from ignorance.

What I am trained in, thankfully, is scripture and Jesus... and whenever I get stuck or stumped by anything, I go back to Him. So for me, when it comes to politics, I simply look to Jesus as my model.

A theological exposition of who Jesus would vote for would make fascinating research, but so nuanced and loaded is that question and so easy it is to reconstruct the Saviour in our own political image that I’m not sure how well it would work. What is clear is that Jesus stood for sacrifice. This stands out in scripture time and again.

God the Son come to Earth, born as a baby, laid in an animal’s trough.

God the Son who made the Earth and then washed it from his followers’ feet.

The Saviour who said that the last would be first and the greatest must be the least when it comes to His Kingdom.

The Saviour who told his people to be like little children, full of innocent faith.

The King who entered the capital on the back of a donkey, subverting the power of Imperial force.

The King who was crowned with thorns and hung on a cross, whose greatest victory was won by sacrifice of life itself.

And we are called to live the same way.*

So when it comes to this general election, here is our clerical advice. Yes, vote. Yes, get involved. Yes, use our democratic rights that so many through history have not been blessed with... but do so on the basis of sacrifice, not seeking what serves your own best interests, but what looks to the interests of others, of humanity as a whole.

In the midst of that, know that what unites us as Christians is greater than what divides us, and that, to summarise Archbishop Justin, 'how we disagree is more important than what we disagree on'.

We commend to you the video below, made by three committed Christians who are heavily involved in politics. They, and their content, are a living example of how to go about politics as followers of Jesus: fully engaged and yet learning to disagree well.


Happy voting. May you know the peace of God as you engage in the gift of democracy.

*Rom 12:1; Phil 2:5

Stand as One: Generosity

Luke Briggs

Associate Rector

We recently completed our 2017 Vision Series on the theme ‘Stand As One’. This being my first year at St G’s, I hadn’t really reckoned on how big a deal this annual season has become. Over the course of three weeks we used the story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10 to reaffirm our four point vision and look at how we ‘stand as one’ in Risk, Wholeness and Generosity.

 

All three themes go together in the Bible passage. Both Peter and Cornelius take a risk in meeting one another. Both have to step up into wholeness as a response to the Holy Spirit’s leading, and both exhibit generosity in their time, prayer and finances.

 

It’s the same for us at St George’s. Our vision is to Preach Jesus, Make Disciples, Serve the City and Send Out Leaders. That requires faith-filled risk, growth into wholeness and a marked generosity of time, money and talent. The only option is stand as one and give our best if we’re to see our vision achieved.

Preaching Jesus is everything from our accessible Sunday Services to large invitational events and ongoing initiatives like Alpha.

 

Making Disciples is part of everything we do, but especially prominent in Small Groups and Networks, courses like Follower and Academy of Life, and our work among children, young people and students.

 

Serving the City is an area with so much scope and opportunity, as well as the involvement we already have in supporting Lighthouse and the Crypt.

 

Sending Out Leaders is particularly exciting in this year’s vision series, as the Bishop has invited Mark and Kathryn Harlow to go with a team from St G’s and partner with a church in North Leeds. We had several independent prophetic pictures in a recent Prayer Gathering that line up with this and the church in question happens to be one that the Harlows have been praying about since they first drove past it two years ago. In many ways the timing seems bizarre as we are without a Rector, and yet it seems that God is in this. The PCC recently voted unanimously that in principle we want to go for this.

 

All this requires risk and generosity on many levels, but there’s no getting away from the fact that part of that is financial. In some ways it’s awkward to be writing about money, but it’s actually a great opportunity to move forwards in our discipleship. I firmly believe that when we get our heads around giving it often unlocks so much spiritually in our relationship with God. Many Christians struggle with this issue, and often what it comes down to is a ‘fear of lack’- the feeling that ‘if I give x% to God, I won’t be able to afford my overheads’. I empathise with that, but I do wonder, what does that say about who we think God is? When we flip that fear of lack on its head and commit to giving on principle, some ‘Kingdom Economics’ kick in and we are often left amazed at the ways our God is able to provide.

 

The biblical principles of Christian giving are twofold: sacrifice and joy. On the one hand we should give to the point that it actually changes our lifestyle, otherwise where is the sacrifice? On the other hand, it’s not supposed to be begrudgingly coerced; rather, our giving should be joyful and exciting. As Tim Keller puts it, though, that requires work not on our wallets but on our hearts.

 

Our hearts always follow our money*. What we spend on, save for or give to shows what we value, and over time will become what we care about. Personally, I’ve still got a lot to learn about giving, but I do know that it’s becoming more enjoyable as the years go by and I slowly grow in it. When I first started trying to tithe my earnings, I didn’t really want to- I just felt that I was supposed to... but over time our hearts soften and our capacity for generosity grows. We learn to do away with the tick-box mentality of getting away with as little as we ‘have to’ give, and instead we grow into a more true generosity.

 

As I say, I’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s really helped to learn this: 

God doesn’t want to take your money; he just doesn’t want your money to take you
— Andy Stanley, North Point Church, Georgia

Materialism can tether our hearts to the earth,** the temporary toys and joys the world might wish for. Giving to Kingdom vision is the alternative and the antidote. It breaks our hearts free from the shackles of worldliness and makes us more attuned to the things that last for eternity.

Practically, the way to do this is simple but profound: give first, save next, live off the rest. Many who have applied this actually find their overall finances grow rather than shrink resultantly... but the bottom line here is not about giving so that we can gain; it’s about the fact that we’re blessed in order to be a blessing. As we do that, as we stand as one in risk, wholeness and generosity; as we give to the vision to preach Jesus, make disciples, serve the city and send out leaders... I honestly think we’ll be amazed and inspired by what we see our great God do next.

If you missed our vision series talks, you can catch up on them below. If you would like to give to the vision of St George’s, please click here.

Stand as One: Wholeness

Mark Harlow

Curate

Politically we are living in fascinating times. If you had told me a year ago that America would have Donald Trump as president and he would have signed an executive order to build a wall, temporarily closed down the refugee programme and banned seven nations from entering the US for 3 months - I would have thought you were joking. Even the idea that we would be on our way to a Brexit and with Theresa May now as Prime Minister would have been a stretch for me to believe. But this is where we are.

 

I am interested that, as political vision has shifted, economics has moved and changed with it. Trump has proposed that the Mexicans will pay for the wall through a tax on imports. The Mexicans have pointed out that, through the price rise in goods, the American consumer will ultimately pay for it. As the landscape of politics shifts, across the world trade deals seem up in the air and renegotiation is the order of the day.

 

As we look at our Vision to Share Life and Love Leeds - that too has economic ramifications. As we long to Preach Jesus, Make Disciples, Serve the City and Send Out Leaders, there is a financial cost. We have laid out some of the detail of our current expected income and expenditure in the extended letter (click here to view). As a church we are predicting a deficit of £110,000 in our budget next year. Once we have accounted for the surplus from Church Centre income this looks more like £40,000.

 

In the book of Haggai, the returned Israelite exiles have started to rebuild the temple. But they have got distracted and become focussed on their own living conditions. They have lost sight of the vision of rebuilding the temple that was ruined when they were conquered, now they are throwing their resources into luxurious housing.

Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?

— Haggai 1:4

Haggai is bringing a renewing of the vision of what the temple is for, and a correct perspective on their finances.

““This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

Lottie spoke this week of the 'Shalom' peace of God (click to listen), and this is at the core of God’s vision for the temple. It was viewed as the place that brings the nations together in the peace of God and was was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The provision to bring that vision into being is already God’s, as all things belong to him. 

 

As we approach our Vision Gift Day on Sunday, we are encouraging members of the church to prayerfully (the risk starts with prayer!) consider their giving to the Vision of St George’s and come together to respond as an act of commitment and worship. We do this because we want to see the wholeness, fullness, peace and unity of the gospel in Leeds, in every life, community, and church across the city as we seek to Share Life and Love Leeds.

Stand as One: Risk

Mark Harlow

Curate

We are at a point of transition at St George’s; but Our Vision of Sharing Life and Loving Leeds continues in our four practices to: Preach Jesus, Make Disciples, Serve the City and Send Out Leaders. These points of transition can be challenging but can equally open up potential opportunities for us. As we move forward, it is important that we ’Stand as One’ in both the challenges and opportunities.

Last week, in our sermon series we talked about ‘Risk’ - that when decisive moments come which can change the future for an individual or a community they will involve risk. As followers of Jesus, these decisive moments come out of prayer because “the risk starts with prayer”. We pray that God will give us vision, as he did for Cornelius and Peter in Acts 10. This vision may lead us into risks of reputation and resource as we are called to see the Kingdom of God grow. As church we'll be 'starting with prayer' this month, gathering together to pray as a church family, on Tuesday 31st January at 7:30pm in the St George’s Centre. It is our hope that as each of us pray through this period that we will be open to the vision of God in our own lives, our communities, workplaces, and networks.

This is something St George’s has a long history in. When Don Robins opened the Crypt beneath the church in the 1930’s it was a risk; when Community Church was planted across the bridge it was a risk; when we were invited to partner with Wrangthorn it was a risk and when Lighthouse was established it was a risk. All of these required a risk of resource, and a risk of reputation, but started from a place of praying with eyes open to the opportunities around us. We have an opportunity for a new risk at this time as we explore a new partnership with another church in Leeds, but it is a risk that has started from prayer and we will be guided through the process in prayer.

 

However, we need not live in the fear of risk - because “the risk ends with Jesus.” It is not that we will not be afraid or wrestle with thoughts of success or failure, but that we will not be defined by that success or failure, fear or doubt, because we are defined by Jesus and it is his life that defines us.

For to live is Christ, to die is gain.
— Philippians 1:21

It is in the hope of Jesus that we 'Stand as One'. 

Mission Partner Update

Barbara Eykel and Andy Eaves recently visited Uganda to visit projects that are part of the Tearfund/ PEP programme.  St George's has supported this project since 2013

Barbara writes:

 My recent trip to Uganda to visit PEPprojects (participatory evaluation project)  with Andy Eaves and others was truly inspirational. Tearfund and the PAG church in Uganda are working together on a process that changes people’s mindset from dependency to one of realisation that they have God-given resources that they can use. A change from ‘if only someone would give us’ to a realisation that ‘we already have….’

We visited four churches in the Soroti area with Judith who is incharge of PEP for PAG in the Eastern area and led by Owen Crane from Tearfund. Transport was by Land Cruiser driven very ably by Moses. It was fantastic to go to Lale on the first Sunday after arriving there and I found it a place of such joy. There was a sturdy roof in place and an amazing welcome with much singing, cheering and dancing!! There are several churches in the Lale area and many had come from the other churches so it was very full with other denominations there as well, all working together.

After the service we went to see some of the local projects while lunch was being cooked. We visited Jimmy who has developed his mango plantation and has learned how to graft them to produce a better variety. He also had a field of tomatoes. He told us he used to only have one pair of trousers but now he can have more! We then visited a family who have a brick house which makes them feel safer and protects them against the weather. He has made the bricks from the ant hills which are plentiful and he can sellextras to provide for his family. It took quite a while to visit these two as the projects are quite spread out.

Lunch when we got back was rice, potatoes, cabbage, interesting pieces of chicken and sauce - and this was the pattern that followed on each of our visits to other churches. As a parting gift we were each given a chicken - a really precious gift to be given. We weren’t quite sure what we were going to do with them but they came with us for the rest of the week and Moses the driver ended up with them - probably eaten by now!

We visited a church where the project has not yet started and the difference was tangible. One man asked us what we had come to give him - no change of mindset yet. We also visited another project which has been going for twelve years and they are involved in successful advocacy as well as saving small sums of money, initiated by the women themselves So we can see how Lale might develop.


We met with the Bishop Sam of Soroti and he wanted feedback so we talked about the difficulty of communication as it was plain to see why there was little information coming from Lale. He and PAG and Tearfund are looking into  how this can be improved so that supporting churches have more up to date information .

There is a committed prayer group from St George’s who have met regularly for the last three years to pray for Lale, as well as the Nunn family who are in Ethiopia. It was therefore thrilling to be able to share up to date information as well as photos and see what a change has taken place since the process began.

1 Month On

Luke Briggs

Associate Rector

Well, we’re finally here. It’s been a fair few months since I came to St George’s on a snowy January Sunday to experience the 18:30 Service ahead of my interview. It’s safe to say the goalposts may have moved a little since then, through what I half-jokingly refer to as a ‘divine stitch-up’ that sees Jonathan moving on shortly after my arrival. This fact leaves me feeling sufficiently daunted, until I’m reminded that if God is who he says he is then he probably knows what he’s doing.

Anya and I moved to Leeds at the end of July along with our two boys, Micah (aged 2) and Nathan (now almost 6 months). I do miss my last church, who were hugely supportive of us, but as a born and bred Yorkshireman who’s spent the last 25 years in ‘exile’, it feels great to back on the right side of the Pennines! Since then we’ve had some fun exploring our new hometown- Tropical World, Ilkley Lido and what feels like every playground in the city (not to mention more Ikea trips than anyone should have to make in one month), but I’m really excited to actually begin the job as an Associate Rector here at St George’s, in which I’ll be mostly looking after the 18:30 congregation.

What makes the role so exciting is that this church feels rich with opportunity. I’ve already met so many amazing people both on the staff team and in the congregations, and I know there are so many more to meet. I’ve also found that when I get talking to people around here who don’t know Jesus, they do know St George’s. What’s more, they’re actually interested in hearing about what goes on here. Most of those I get chatting to (usually other parents that I meet in the park with Micah- he’s a great evangelism tool!) are pleasantly surprised when I describe the church to them. This feels like a church that it’s easy to invite people along to. That fact was abundantly evident in the recent baptism service at 18:30. The place was full of visitors, many of whom don’t know Jesus but are beginning to get intrigued about him.

I’m hoping for much more of that. From Sunday 18th September we launch a new series at 18:30 entitled ‘Just Jesus’. The idea is pretty simple... We’re just going to talk about Jesus- why he’s amazing and more than we might expect him to be. For a couple of months we’ll look at how Jesus treated people and why he was such a challenge to the cultural norms of his day. The aim is to shake up the naive ‘churchy’ Christian in all of us,  but also intrigue and engage those ‘not-yet-Christians’  and de-churched returners who are invited along or find themselves checking out church in this first term of the academic year. With Alpha also on the agenda, a new batch of students that we hope to be a home for and Contemporary Carols just around the corner, this simplest of ideas feels like the best move. Let’s just focus on Jesus, shall we? I, for one, can’t wait.

Header Photo by Rick Harrison

Mission Partner Update

Charles & Jocelyne Montagu, serve with Arab World Ministry of Pioneers in Media Outreach to the Arab World and are based in Worthing

Christian outreach through the Media is definitely changing! Thanks to the internet, wifi and phone apps, people are able to get in contact with Arabic Christian websites, Satellite TV and radio ministries more quickly and easily than ever before. It’s a great opportunity for Christian believers, whether they are full time workers or not. Witness this extract from a message we received from Yemen:

I felt a tremendous spiritual struggle… but then something very strange happened. I don’t know if it was from God, but I don’t think it was chance. I got to know someone through playing an internet game and we began to talk about religion. He said to me: ‘the God I know is not like the God you know.’ He told me he was a Christian and gave me a Coptic Orthodox website to look at. I visited it and I read there a proof from the Quran that Jesus is God. The whole direction of the battle turned right around and the light of Christ rose in my heart. But I still have struggles and sometimes I feel afraid. But I talk to my Lord and my heart is filled with his light.

This man has been in regular contact with us and after some exchanges he agreed to let us put him in touch with another believer in his city, who has since baptised him.

Charles’ role is changing to become one of coordination between our seven national workers, in Beirut, Cairo, Marseille and Brazil, and the friends and partners who make follow up visits on the ground. It is great to read reports of meetings taking place.

Jocelyne keeps busy as the office manager and receptionist. Her kind welcome to visitors is always appreciated.

Edward was baptised in June and will be working for another year as a youth pastor at Holy Trinity Hastings. Emily will be living with us at home for a year, studying at a college in Brighton. She is taking a one year access course, in order to be able to apply to university for biomedical courses (e.g. Dietetics) starting in 2017. Robert worked very hard for his ‘A’ levels and was rewarded with good results and a place to study Maths at Bath University, his first choice, starting on 26th September. He will be baptised on Sunday 11th September.

Thank you to all at StG’s for your prayers and concern for us!

Mission Partner Update

Sarah has lived and worked in the Middle East for the last six years.  She is now living in a stable capital city; a haven from the turbulence in the surrounding countries. 

Sarah leads the Primary school in an international school for expats living in the city.  There are 180 children in the school, from age 6 to age 18.  Almost all the families who attend the school are working amongst the poor and needy and helping to build up the growing local church. 

There is much transition involved in international education, with people coming and going all the time.  Sarah is very grateful that she has only three new members of staff in her department this year.  The school was set up over 20 years ago by some families who came together to teach their home-schooled children.  Sarah and the others in the leadership team have been working hard to help the school to become more professional and standardised.  This is a long process and there is much still to be done.  There is also the tension of desiring excellence and high standards when all the staff are volunteers. 

Sarah also enjoys teaching Art to all the Primary school students, filling the school with colourful and wonderful displays.  She has re-written and revamped the history and geography curricula in every grade level, as well tidying up and reorganising many areas of the school. 

Sarah has seen children and families struggle with transition in the past; moving from one place to another can very stressful, especially if the move has been sudden and has not been done well.  She runs seminars for staff, families and children to help them to leave her country well and to enter the new country well.  She is currently developing a transition programme which will support families by giving information, providing a place for people to share their experiences, thoughts and feelings, as well as practical tips on transitioning well.

Sarah is involved in her local Anglican church and is looking to extend her social life this year.  With a much stronger staff team this year, she is looking forward to having more time outside of school, both physically and mentally.

Please pray for a good start to the school year; that the teachers would not be overwhelmed with all that needs to be done; for a PE teacher to join our staff; for strong, positive relationships to be built within the school, for unity within the leadership team.  Please pray for the ability to mentally ‘switch-off’ from work to enable more capacity to do other things, like learning the local language.

Sarah says: ‘It is such a privilege to serve in the way that I do; meeting the needs of these families so that they can serve so generously.  Thank you for all your support and prayers - I’m so glad that St G’s is behind me in this!’

Mission Partner Update

Bible translation…from Leeds?

When I was nine years old I felt God was calling me to become a Bible translator. I imagined the future, that one day I would be living in a remote African village, working alongside a people group for many years to help translate the Bible into their language.

Little did I know that, 25 years later, my wife and I would be involved in Bible translation for a closed country,  working not overseas but right here in Leeds,  interacting with refugees from that country now living here, and working not with books but with computer software, websites, SD cards and Skype!

Some aspects of our world have changed so much in recent decades. One is mobility and its effect on identity. Through increased travel and migration, people of many nationalities – including those from minority language groups that used to be based in one geographical location - are now increasingly spread across the world, and people more than ever have multiple nationalities and identities. Another is the development of the internet and communication technology, which has hugely changed both the way people access information and the way we communicate with each other. Mission organisations like our own have needed to take these changes into account and they have needed to prayerfully adapt their strategies accordingly.

Since 2015, we have been serving a minority people group numbering around 2.3 million, from a country where the spread of Christianity is actively opposed by the government.  We praise the Lord that both developments mentioned above are really helping the Gospel reach this people. First, many individuals have left their country and claimed asylum in the UK or Europe, so some are coming to faith here, and then we can work with them as they seek to reach their families and friends still in the country. Secondly, our team is using computers and digital media both for the work of Scripture translation itself and for the distribution of our Scripture products. In terms of translation, it is wonderful that through Skype and translation software, the Consultant, Translator, Team Leader and the Consultant in Training can all be sitting in different places in the world, working together on the same text, and that changes and suggestions can be seen by other team members at the click of the button!  

And about what we’re creating? I had imagined as a teenager that one day I would spend 20 or 30 years working to produce the whole Bible as a wonderful printed book. This is still happening today. But now, alongside this, films of the Gospels, Acts and Old Testament prophets are being uploaded onto the internet for people to access from anywhere; and through Mobile Apps and SD cards people can have God’s Word in their heart language right there to read or listen to on their phones.

If you have time to pray, please thank the Lord for the ways He is working throughout the world. Thank Him for technology and the ways it can be used for good; please pray for His continued blessing and protection on it. Please also pray for our own team – that the Lord would continue to unite us across language and cultural differences and help us work well together. And pray most of all for the people we are working for – that through whatever means the Father wishes to use, many, many will come to know Jesus Christ as their Saviour and live their lives in worship to Him.

If you would like to pray for us more regularly, please contact us on jonathan.beatham@gmail.com

Thank you for reading!