Dear Church Family
Greetings from Thirsk, and from the New Wine Inspire Conference! This is a weekend conference for our region and I'm looking forward to seeing many Belfrey folk here over the next few days, as well as meeting people from lots of different churches in our area.
New Wine is not really an organisation, rather it's a network of churches who share similar values of God's Kingdom. With the strap-line 'local churches changing nations,' New Wine's desire really is to equip people and their churches to make a big difference in their community. So whilst I'm praying that over these few days we in York are equipped to do this even better, I'm also pleased that many from The Belfrey will be serving on Inspire teams, seeking to equip others. That's what being a resourcing church is all about. It's all part of serving God's transformation of the North.
It was also great that so many from our church served at the New Wine United conferences at the end of July and beginning of August, down in Somerset. We had people serving in the areas of stewarding, music & worship, youth, venue hosting, venue leading, seminar leading, seminar speaking, main stage speaking and more. Thanks team! Thanks for all you hard work and for the many lives transformed.
If you're not able to join us at Thirsk this weekend, please do pray for us! Pray Ephesians 5:18 over us - for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The late John Stott was right, when he said: 'What we need is not more learning, not more eloquence, not more persuasion, not more organisation, but more power from the Holy Spirit.'
Dear Church family,
It absolutely amazed me the other day to realise that Emma and I had already been here a whole month! It has absolutely flown by and that is in no small part to do with the wonderful community that we’ve found ourselves in as part of the Belfrey, making our move back to the North so easy.
I’ve loved getting to know many of the staff team (before they all went to serve at New Wine!) and have had the pleasure of serving with some of them in various ministries already, as well as with people who are part of our wider church family who make our ministries possible. It’s also been particularly great getting to see so many cross-sections of our church intermingling and forming community together while we have our joint family services over the summer period.
Love and friendship are significant factors of what make a community one that you want to be a part of, and are often formed around shared experiences. It is for this reason - at least in part - that I’m really looking forward to going to New Wine Inspire next week in Thirsk. Emma and I are both incredibly excited for the opportunity to get to know some more of our church family, or to know you better, whether that be by worshipping together, learning together, talking together or moaning about how quickly our air-beds deflated overnight together!
I hope that many of you will be able to make it, even if it’s just as a day visitor.
I look forward to worshipping, learning, talking, moaning and most of all forming community with all of those who are able to be there. To those who aren’t able to come along, please do be praying for those at Inspire, that we would be blessed, that we would come back with amazing stories of God’s goodness and that our air-beds would stay comfortable!
I hope you all have a wonderful week!
Dear Church Family,
I hope you’re all enjoying the summer and that those of you who are going, or have gone, on holiday have a rest-filled and relaxing time!
It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for Emma and I and we wanted to take this chance to say a massive thank you for the welcome we’ve received so far! We have been totally overwhelmed by all the people that have been praying for us and welcomed us to the church family, and were especially grateful to those who contributed to our wonderful welcome hamper! We are slowly but surely remembering our way around York, reacquainting ourselves with all the roads named ‘something-or-other-gate’ and even got round to buying lamp shades for our house this week - no more exposed bulbs for us!
Moving back to York, and even more so coming back to serve at The Belfrey, has been a very unexpected blessing for both Emma and I. As I’m sure many of you are aware, coming back to your ‘sending’ church is very unusual and so when we were asked to talk with Matthew almost a year ago about the possibility of serving curacy here, we were very surprised to say the least, but it turns out God was very much at work in the process and we really feel we have “come home”.
It’s been wonderful to get stuck in with so much straight away, particularly with the Retail Chaplaincy team, seeking to serve and pray for those who work in our parish, and also at Never Give Up, serving some of the most needy in our city. This work is so valuable and so I would encourage you that if you don’t know what these ministries are, or would like to get involved but don’t know how, then do get in touch! I’d love to have a chat, preferably over a nice coffee!
There is so much going on at the Belfrey which is incredibly exciting, and so if you’re not serving on a team already, why not look into some of the ministries we are involved in? We are called to be a light in the world, and getting involved in the House of Prayer, or feeding the homeless, or evangelising in the city, to name but a few, are all ways in which we can shine the light of Christ into our local communities and beyond. I encourage you to look into it, think about it and pray on it - as Emma and I have learned, sometimes God’s plans are greater than we can imagine!
I hope you all have a wonderful week!
Dear Church Family
The Book of Revelation describes the prayers of the saints being like sweet incense that rises to heaven (Rev 5:8). What a wonderful picture, encouraging us to pray and lift our requests to our good Father!
Thank you for praying as we interviewed this week for the post of Associate Minister. The Archbishop has approved the candidate we recommended, and we look forward to introducing them soon, once the relevant checks have been done. We think they'll be a great addition to our team!
Here are a few other things to pray for in the life of our church in the coming weeks:
- the many serving at New Wine's 'United' conference (starting tomorrow, over two weeks) in Shepton Mallet, Somerset - especially those serving the youth, as well as worship, leading seminars and giving talks
- those who come to our worship services over the summer who are visiting, and especially that those who aren't yet following Jesus will be touched by the Spirit and stirred to make a start
- those taking holidays - that they'll get the rest they need
- those who are sick or ill, and those caring for them
Finally, please remember that over the next six weeks our worship on a Sunday morning is at 10.30am, followed by refreshments. Our 6pm service will continue as usual, with the exception of Sunday 5th and Sunday 19th August when there will be no evening service.
Thanks for your prayers. And thanks for being part of our church.
Dear Church Family
At this time of year we end up saying 'goodbye' and then 'hello' to all sorts of people in the church family.
We've just said goodbye to our New Wine Discipleship Year interns, who've had a great year with us. We'll miss them! They've given and received in so many ways this year. It's been great seeing them grow in faith, in character and in confidence. A few will be staying on in York, and volunteering beyond the year in various aspects of church life. We've also recently said goodbye to Elliemae Hammond who's been on youth team and has recently been appointed as Youth Worker at St George's Leeds. Well done Elliemae! Sam Hutchinson, who's been with us for the last four years is moving North to Durham as he marries Esther, an ordinand at Cranmer Hall. Sam has served so faithfully for the last four years on the youth team, as well as verging in church, and more recently been helping us with ChurchSuite. We've also recently prayed for Phil McKenning as he moved to Oxford, as he goes to be trained in apologetics at Wycliffe Hall and the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. This week we're also sending back to south-east Asia a wonderful family of much-loved mission partners, for their next season of service on the other side of the world. We thank God for all these people, and others too, whom the Lord is sending from us, into the North and beyond, in mission. It's great to be an overflowing church!
We're also saying hello to many too! We've recently appointed Izzy Pysanczyn to head up Belfrey Doors, gathering a team to open the church to visitors in order to share the love of Christ. (If that's an area where you'd like to serve, even if for just a couple of hours twice a month, do contact Izzy on: email@example.com). We already have a good number of people signed up to the New Wine Discipleship Year, who'll be joining us ready for September. We're also about to announce a new leader for St Cuthbert's House of Prayer who will start soon, so watch out for that! This Monday we're interviewing for the Associate Minister post (to replace Greg Downes), so please be praying for Monday and that appointment. And of course the Lord will be bringing many tourists and visitors to our city and church in the coming weeks, so do look out for them and welcome them. He'll also be bringing new Christians to our city, looking for a welcoming church family to join. And also there'll be people who aren't yet followers of Jesus who are hungry for good news and seeking a Saviour. So let's be attentive to the people God puts across our path and be praying that God uses ordinary disciples like us in his extraordinary plans and purposes.
As the Lord brings people and sends people it reminds us that the life of discipleship is never dull! As Bear Grills says, "it's the greatest adventure!" It really is!! As we follow Jesus we go where Jesus goes. We say what Jesus says. And we do what Jesus does. This may involve getting up and moving out of York (even to Newcastle!) but more likely for most of us it will involve going to the garden fence and showing love and care to our neighbour. Or going to hospital to visit someone in our small group who's unwell. Or going to work and doing a great job with integrity and diligence, taking a real interest in our colleagues and opening our home in hospitality.
The life of following Jesus is rarely a static life. Of course sometimes the Lord leads us into a place of rest and refreshment - and I hope many of us can enjoy that over these coming weeks. But following Jesus is mainly an active life. It's a life of praying. Listening. Caring. Sharing. Giving. Receiving. It's fascinating and fun. Character-building and challenging. Stimulating and stretching. To join in with God's purposes in the world is a wonderful privilege.
Have a great weekend, following Jesus.
PS. Thank you to those who've been praying for me, especially as I've done quite a number of external engagements in recent weeks. We had a wonderful time at St Barnabas Middlesbrough (for a renewal day) and then in Darlington (teaching on Prayer Ministry). Many people encountered the Lord and the young team that went from The Belfrey on both these days were just excellent! I also spoke last Sunday night at a New Wine Celebration in Hull Minster on 'God opening doors through prayer', and then yesterday in Whitby to a group of clergy from Durham Diocese on Discipleship and Mission. It was good to pray with them and anoint with oil, praying for the Holy Spirit's guidance as they serve the Lord in the North East.
Dear Church Family
The warm weather is lovely and I hope you're enjoying the summer. The lack of rain means that the grass doesn't grow and so the grass doesn't need mowing! But as we know, if you go too long without rain, things stop growing and even begin to die.
It's not just lack of water that stops growth. I recently read Mark's account of the well-know story of Jesus that's often called 'The Parable of the Sower' (Mark 4:1-20). Using the picture of a farmer planting seed, Jesus describes four types of people: 1) those where the seed of God's message doesn't take root; 2) those where the seed starts growing but withers; 3) those who grow nicely but are unfruitful, and 4) those who thrive and bear fruit. It was the third group that caught my attention - those who are unfruitful. God's word has clearly taken root but there's no fruit. They're unfruitful disciples. Not reproducing. Why? In verse 19 Jesus tells us specifically why.
There are 3 things, Jesus says, that 'choke the word' - stopping us growing and multiplying.
First: worry. Worry is a joy-killer. It disempowers us . It makes us introspective rather than outward-looking. It doesn't mean that we don't have to be concerned about things. It means that we don't have to worry, because Jesus is with us.
Second: wealth. There's a seduction to wealth which, if we're not careful will 'deceive' us, as Jesus says here. That's why followers of Jesus must pursue Christ before money. If our first priority is him and his kingdom, Jesus says in Matthew 6:33 that he will always look after us, including our finances.
Third: wants. Sometimes we desire and want things that we shouldn't. They're things that are unhelpful or unnecessary, but we pursue them anyway. Instead of submitting them in prayer to Christ we allow these things to dominate our thinking and they become longings. If we pursue and achieve them, we'll be disappointed that they didn't satisfy like we'd hoped.
All these things stop growth. They are distractions that we all face. It's not always easy, and we sometimes get it wrong. Which is why we need each other. We need the church family, so we can talk and share and be open and accountable. True discipleship is following Jesus in the real world, dealing with real issues we all face. True discipleship is always done in community.
So let's be encouraging each other. Let's be real with each other. If we think we're not being fruitful like we should, look at these three areas in your life. Talk and pray with people in your Belfrey Group and others you trust.
We've been made to be fruitful. So let's encourage each other so we can all live fruitful lives in the coming season.
Dear Church Family
Joy is often defined as a deep contentment that is not dependent on circumstances. This joy - this contentment - if it could be bottled, would be one of the most valuable commodities in the world! Of course it can't be bottled, but it can be found and known and experienced in Jesus Christ. That's why Paul says in Philippians 4:12 'I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.' And that's why Nehemiah, hundreds of years before, confidently says to God's people working in difficult times that 'the joy of the Lord is your strength' (Nehemiah 8:10).
I spoke at Belfrey Youth this week out of James 4. It was Tuesday - the evening of the England football game against Colombia. My talk became the half-time team talk, and I spoke on joy. We know we have joy by the way we react - not so much when things go well, but more when things go badly. When, for instance we lose at football! When get ill. When we're criticised. When opposition comes. How we react to difficulty is both telling and important.
Of course, I hope we win at football! And I'm not wanting me or anyone to be ill. I'm not seeking out difficulties or opposition. But they come. And they will come. Which is why much of the Bible's teaching - including James 4 - is about how we react to such hardships. James tells us that instead of quarrelling (v1) or being jealous of others (v4) or speaking badly of others (v11) or making silly plans (v13) we should do things like pray (v2). We should ask for more grace (v6). Resist the Devil (v7). Come close to God in worship (v8). With humility (v10). Doing good (v17).
Joy - biblical joy is evident in how we react.
I expect you're enjoying the warm weather. I expect, like me, you hope it continues. But if it changes and rains for the rest of the summer, how will you react?
I trust you're enjoying the World Cup and England's success. But if it all goes wrong tomorrow, how will you react?
The world is looking for a people who have a contentedness that's not dependent on circumstances. We have this gift - the gift of joy - given by Jesus Christ. So let's express this joy. Let's allow this joy to overflow - not just in the good times but when life gets hard. Let's give this joy. And let's proclaim the joy-filled life - found in and through Jesus Christ - who experienced great suffering, that we might experience great joy.
PS. Do join us at 1pm this Sunday at The Vicarage, Jubilee Terrace for a lunchtime barbecue. This is particularly for the 11am (XI) congregation and friends, but you'd be welcome to come, even if you don't regularly worship at the 11am service. If you've never been to The Vicarage before, do come. Or if you or your family just find yourself free, it would be lovely to see you!
Also, please pray for me and the team I'm taking with me from The Belfrey tomorrow as we lead a Prayer Ministry training day for churches in the Teesside area. Please pray for the Spirit to be at work, empowering and equipping. Thank you!
Dear Church Family
We had a good Welcome lunch last Sunday at The Vicarage. These take place each month and are an opportunity for newcomers to find our more about our church and to meet some staff and group leaders. At these lunches I share for a few minutes some things about our church, emphasising amongst other things how we want to be a church that equips people to be disciples of Jesus and to make a big difference in the world.
With that in mind here are some resources to help and equip you for discipleship:
1. Recent sermons
If you want to hear a stirring message, encouraging us in our vision, urging us to reach out with the love of Christ and to plant churches, then you need look no further than the message brought to us on Sunday night by Winfield Bevins. If you missed it, you can listen by clicking here. His word fitted so well with the excellent sermon on evangelists and evangelism, brought by Paul Myers at our morning services, which you can also catch-up on by clicking here.
2. Pray & Invite
The latest Belfrey Blog, published on our website this week, encourages us to 'Pray and Invite'. These two basic but important things will help us in our discipleship and enable us to grow into the kind of church we're called to be. You can read it by clicking here.
3. My Discipleship Blog
I also published a new Discipleship blog this week, entitled: 'When life feels like a battle, what should you pray?' Based on Psalm 144, this will help any who are going through the battles of life at the moment. Click here to read.
4. Belfrey Books
Our small bookstall at the back of church is managed by Cathryn Fergie and includes David Watson's classic book 'Discipleship'. If you've never read it, why not pick up a copy and read it over the summer? It's definitely not passed its sell-by date. If you want something simpler with shorter chapters on discipleship, and haven't yet read my 'A-Z of Discipleship' that is also available at Belfrey Books. If you prefer to read on kindle, you can purchase it through Amazon by clicking here.
This Sunday at our services we’ll be considering ‘teachers’ and ‘teaching’ as we continue to look at the five-fold ministry of Ephesians 4:11 through the lens of stories in the Acts of the Apostles. I will be in York Minster in the morning, supporting Mike Perkins as he is ordained deacon and begins his curacy with us. Mike will be introduced at The6 that evening and then at the morning services the following Sunday. Please pray for him and Emma and welcome them as you meet them over the coming weeks.
My prayer for each one of us in these summer months is that the Spirit of God will equip us more and more to be disciples of Jesus in York and beyond.
Enjoy the sunshine!
Dear Church Family
I hope you are finding the current Sunday sermon series helpful, as we look each week at apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. These are the five leadership roles listed in Ephesians 4:11, gifted by Christ to his church. Christ is of course the best example of all of these! And churches that seek to overflow with God's goodness should be churches that are similarly apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and communities of teaching. If you've missed any of the sermons so far, do catch up on-line. This Sunday we're looking at 'evangelists' and we're pleased that Paul Myers will be speaking at 9am and XI. At The6 we have a guest speaker, Winfield Bevins. Winfield is Director of Church Planting at Asbury Theological Seminary in the USA and passionate about equipping people for mission. We're honoured to have him with us on Sunday evening.
The day before, on Saturday, I'm leading a renewal day for St Barnabas, Middlesborough on the theme of 'Encounter.' I will be taking a few people with me, as we seek to encourage this church community in the mission the Lord has called them to. Please do pray for the day - for many to encounter the Lord. Two weeks later (on 7th July) I'm also taking a team from The Belfrey to Teeside to lead a Prayer Ministry training day for New Wine, and I'd similarly value your prayers for that day too.
The Lord is pouring out his Spirit in our day. But let's not be complacent. Instead, let's be praying for more. In our own lives. In our families. In our church. In our city. In our region. For nothing of lasting significance happens without prayer.
Dear Church Family
It felt like there was a particular grace for healing as we gathered last Sunday. Here are three testimonies that moved me, although I know there were more.
A child came forward to say that he'd been healed of leg pain in the service. He knew Jesus had touched him.
A man was left virtually speechless because his back-pain disappeared after prayer towards the beginning of the service. Before he left I asked him how he was and he said there was still no pain. I could tell he was surprised that the Lord had healed not somebody else, but him!
A young Iranian man from a Muslim background came to our church for the first time. He had to be dropped off outside as his painful ankle meant he couldn't walk far. The ankle had been injured during his difficult journey to the UK, escaping political oppression. He was now considering following Christ, having been to church elsewhere a few times. He watched the outside baptism on Sunday night and as a result decided to commit to Christ and that he'd get baptised at the next opportunity. He then went back into church to worship, and during the worship experienced God's powerful presence. He knew something was happening in his ankle. So he went to our toilets and began hitting it against the wall to check there was no pain or residual damage. There was none. It was well. Healed. No-one had prayed for him but Jesus had touched him. He was so full of joy! Since then he's been telling everyone about how Jesus has healed him, and is looking forward to being baptised.
Sunday evening's baptism was that of a young woman who, earlier that day had decided to follow Jesus. Baptising outside was particularly powerful and as we did that, combined with singing God's praise, it sparked quite a lot of interest from passers by! It was quite a time.
Our good Father is at work amongst us. The bible says 'let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story' (Psalm 107:2). What stories do you have to share of God at work in your life ... your Belfrey Group ... your church? If you're part of The Belfrey, these are your stories. Our stories. So let's share them. With those who believe and those who don't yet. As we tell the stories, faith rises and there's an opportunity for the Lord to do something similar again. It's the power of testimony.
PS. Please note that during the six Sundays in the summer (29th July - 2nd September) we will slow down and run our Sunday services slightly differently. Instead of 3 services, we will move to 2, with one service in the morning at 10.30am and one at 6pm (for four of the 6 Sundays). On Sunday mornings this will provide an opportunity to meet people from other congregations and we hope create a good sense of us being family together. Also, many people will be away on holiday too, so it makes sense to do this slightly differently. More details of this will appear in the coming weeks.