Tearfund Northern Ireland

At Tearfund, we believe the local church is central to overcoming poverty and transforming lives. We’re part of it, along with others around the world and with each and every one of our amazing supporters. Together, we make up the global church. Tearfund has operated in Northern Ireland for more than 40 years and continues with a strong network of supporters and churches.

We have a vision to see 50 million people released from material and spiritual poverty through a worldwide network of 100,000 local churches.

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Reflecting on

Transformational Church

On the 21st September, Tearfund hosted an event in Fisherwick Presbyterian with the exciting topic of “Transformational Church” featuring Andy Hickford, Senior Minister of Maybridge Community Church, Worthing as keynote speaker. Elizabeth, Roger and myself headed along to see what this was about.

Bill Hybels says, “The local church is the hope of the world.” Governments don’t like it, but it is true.

The Christian Church is always in the process of becoming. It is never stationary. God delights in revealing Himself to us and deepening in relationship with us. Philippians 2:12-13 tells us to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” and John 16:13 tells us “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.”

Over the years there have been many different streams of thinking regarding mission, but these are now starting to come together. We understand the task now. It’s for the whole church to bring the whole Gospel to the whole world.

If we look at the whole life of Jesus, we can see the whole mission:

Incarnation                                                    [social & political]
His Death                                                      [evangelistic]
Resurrection                                                  [defeat of the powers of darkness]
Ascension                                                      [the Earth is the Lord’s]
Outpouring of the Spirit                                [the church]
The second coming                                       [“Your Kingdom Come”]

The Gospel is bigger than we thought! This is why organisations like Tearfund now talk about Integral Mission, drawing together those previously separate strands of relief, evangelism, etc. – uniting those things that should never have been separated to begin with, as William Booth (founder of the Salvation Army) said, “You can’t tell a man about the love of God if he has an empty stomach.”

Where do we start?

1.     Make yourself available

Andy told us about a visit he made to a silver mine in Potosí, Bolivia with Tearfund. The mining companies have pulled out of here years ago but the locals are still mining, as it is the only way for them to make money to survive. Children as young as 11 are chewing Coca (an anaesthetic) and going into a mountain to mine. Experts reckon this mountain is so heavily mined that it will implode some day! There is a statue of the Devil here too. When Andy saw all this he was moved to ask, “God, where are you!?”

Later that day Andy met with the local church leaders – 11 people all called by God from separate places. They are working among the people here and they are seeing fruits of the Gospel. Their vision is that no-one will have to go into this mine again but the first step was for each of them to make themselves available to God for Him to use.

Closer to home in Andy’s home church of Maybridge, they were thrilled when a woman who had been coming to mums and tots, etc. came to faith. She attended the church regularly but suddenly stopped one day. When they went round to see her, they found her front door stoved in and her stuff all gone. It turned out that she had been drug dependant and had to flee from her dealers one night. The church realised that they had failed her and they then knew that they had to get alongside people. It was not enough to just preach the Gospel.

2.     Find Simple Ways to Talk About the Gospel.

In Maybridge they use the mnemonic www.com - Word Work Wonders in Community.

3.     In traditional contexts anticipate conflict.

People will be expected to step out of their comfort zones and may resist. Some may also have a sacred / secular divide and like to keep their lives inside and outside of church separate.

4.     Make friends with people in the community.

Don’t think projects – think people! The Gospel is always relational. Listen to people outside the church. Eugene Patterson says we should assume God is already at work. Andy gave an example of attending a council meeting in Worthing to protest about the opening of a hard-core sex shop. During a break in the meeting, he was the only one to go and talk to the lady setting up the shop (her sixth). You’d imagine someone like this would be very far from God but it turned out that she was brought up strict Brethren and claimed that she still believed. She said, “I know one day I will be judged by Jesus and the older I get the more I think.” God was already working!!

5.     Ask questions about what the community need and listen prayerfully to the answers

He gave the example of Christians in the slums of Calcutta. They listened to the people who said the children needed schools. They setup schools, but then children were at home while their mothers were working as prostitutes, so they opened after-school care clubs. They then talked to the mothers and setup micro-enterprises for them. In one generation, generational prostitution has gone from 100% to zero!!! How great is our God! As the church intercedes, God leads.

6.     Ask what does “good news” look like?

Andy described good news from the point of view of two different people in need. One was a man who came to the UK, after fleeing Zimbabwe and leaving everything he had worked for behind, and whose wife died within a week of their arrival. He was in a council flat and only 2 people had spoken to him since his arrival – both from Maybridge. His immediate need – grief counselling, a sofa, some friends to talk to and go out with.

The other was a young mother who had lost her home. One of the men in the church went to the council on her behalf and got her re-homed, then they got her to come to mums and tots, then an Alpha course.

7.     Start Small

8.     Review and Learn

9.     Discover the ‘gattered’ church

A church that is not gathered or scattered. An example in Maybridge was a man who campaigned for prison reforms being supported prayerfully by a group in the church. He won an award for his work.

10.  Make Discipleship the Key to Everything

There is no transformation without transformed people. When you have truly experienced the mercy of God, you cannot help but do good. When you focus on discipleship, transformational mission happens. God says, “Go into the world and make disciples and I will build my church” (John Piper speaking on Matthew 16:13-26). For too long we have got it the wrong way round! We do not build the church. God does.

 Guest blog post By Neil Jordan

Tearfund Rep, Wellington Presbyterian Church

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