“Help Us Buy a Home”!

Chris and I have just launched a fundraising campaign as we try to buy a home. In partnership with an amazing organisation that helps Christian workers live in London – Mission Housing – we are raising loans from friends, family and other interested individuals. We have to leave our accommodation in September so our time-frames are quite tight: currently we are looking to raise £85,000 in loan pledges by 16th May.

I am writing this in the hope that the campaign might get in the hands of the right people. Please share it with anyone who you know that might be interested investing money in property and at the same time enabling us to keep ministering here in East London. I also wanted explain a little about how we got to this point, so here are four lessons I am learning through this process.

1. God Can do Anything

I vividly remember walking along our road with my daughter when something made me stop and just ask the Lord: “could we keep living here?” It was, from my perspective at the moment, a silly, impossible prayer. I was in the midst of redundancy and pregnant with my second baby, my husband’s job was still up in the air and we hadn’t enough for even a 10% deposit. But for some reason I was moved to pray.

We have come to love our neighbourhood despite the fact it has maybe more than it’s fair share of fly tipping and drug-dealing. We want to see people here come to know Jesus and for the community to be transformed, not by gentrification but by the power of the Spirit at work. But we just can’t afford to pay rent in this area.

So, I prayed and then set about making plans to leave London for somewhere cheaper.

Fast forward a few months and God had provided us with a far more respectable deposit, I’d been offered a job and someone had pointed us in the direction of Mission Housing. I’d never heard of them before and didn’t know that they helped people to actually purchase property. I’ve always felt that these things aren’t really for us, we aren’t really who they mean, there are far worthier candidates out there. But Mission Housing reassured us that we are the kind of people they help. Even getting to this point has caused me to marvel all over again – God can do anything! He still might not provide us a home in this area, he still might close the doors we think might be opening but He CAN do whatever he wants: “ far more than we could ever ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20) and He likes us to ask.

2. Wanting a Home is Not (necessarily) Selfish, Idolatrous or Silly

I’m the first to admit that Home is a big deal for me. There was a brief time in my life when I was a teenager that my family was officially homeless. The Lord brought us through it and by the kindness and generosity of friends and family we were never in danger of falling through the gaps and ending up with, literally, no roof over our heads, unlike so many. Still, it shook me and since then any uncertainty about housing automatically feels like a disaster.

My favourite hymn contains these lines:

In life, no house, no home

My Lord on earth might have;

In death, no friendly tomb,

But what a stranger gave.

What may I say?

Heav’n was His home;

But mine the tomb

Wherein He lay.

Samuel Crossman, My Song is Love Unknown

Surely Heaven is my home too? Is the holy path, the most Christlike path, always to live with a certain level of housing insecurity, to detach my heart from the idea of a physical place that could be safe, comfortable and welcoming? I won’t go into all the complex layers that surround this question. Maybe in a future post. But I will say that I am seeing through this process that a desire for a home here in earth isn’t supplanting my desire for my final, wonderful Forever Home in Heaven. Instead, I would say that I am seeing more and more how a bricks-and-mortar place can be a beautiful, physical picture…a living metaphor even…of that real physical Place to come. Think for a moment: where is that one place where you feel truly at peace, loved, accepted, when you walk in the door you just think everything is going to be okay? It could be your own home, it could be someone else’s. Now imagine that feeling times a thousand and that’s a tiny foretaste of what it will be like to be in the presence of Jesus. Forever.

Of course we understand that owning our own home isn’t a right and to do so would be beyond a privilege, but it’s also good to know that it’s not wrong to want to.

3. Just Because Something is not Permanent, it doesn’t Mean it’s Not Valuable

In my beginning is my end. In succession

Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,

Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place

Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.

TS Eliot, East Coker

Like lots of people I’ve spoken to recently we’ve been anxious about some things. And these are not silly things: where are we going to live, will be be able to afford rent and groceries. If anything is worth worrying about these things are. Again, in my mind, the holier route is detachment; keep your eyes fixed on heaven and try not to mind about these mundane details. But that’s not how Jesus deals with our worries in Matthew 6. In this famous passage, he recognises that we need these things and that they have relative intrinsic value, not just to us but to God. He feeds the birds, and clothes the flowers because they are valuable to him. They are here today and gone tomorrow but they matter. He doesn’t say to the disciples “these physical things have no value. Escape your desire for them, detach yourself and focus on the spiritual.” Instead he points there gaze to the beauty of the physical world and uses that truth to direct them to the generous, beauty-lavishing heart of God. Worrying won’t help, but God can. He can do anything He wants.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?

Matthew 6: 25-27

4. Asking for Help in General (and Money in Particular) is Hard but Good

Whenever I have done any training on ‘Fundraising’ we are encouraged to embrace the opportunity to allow other people to partner with us in the Kingdom work we are doing. This is true, but it’s hard. It’s hard because I think that a lot of us, perhaps only just below the surface, feel like imposters; how can we possibly ask people to back us, to invest in our idea of what God might be doing? I can’t help thinking to myself: how could I ever repay this kindness? How many “thank you’s” could be enough?

Having a British cultural background that values self-sufficiency and doesn’t like talking about money may be a disadvantage, but I can’t just shake it off. We are all situated, embedded in the cultures that birthed us. So I find it hard to ask for anything, especially money. I worry that people will think I only see them in terms of what I can get out of them, or that I am only interested in financial support and not prayer support, neither of which is true.

But if I’d never asked anyone for money I would have missed out on so many beautiful moments of generous love, old friends getting in touch, people at churches we left years ago who still pray and remember us, missionaries who live on support themselves but who really believe in us…I could go on. After all, I love it when we have been praying about where to give some ‘set-apart’ money and the Lord gives us just the right opportunity. Or even one we weren’t expecting! My own experience also tells me that when I have invested in something, whether with money, time or emotion, I am much more likely to pray for it, and prayer really is the most valuable thing (because God can do whatever he wants).

It truly humbles me to realise that, when it comes to the impossible, God so often uses the kindness and faithfulness of the community He has surrounded us with to meet our needs. Even writing this post brings a small blush to my cheek because I wonder if it all sounds disingenuous, like I am using what God really is teaching me for a material advantage. I worry that, even subconsciously, I might be trying to sound better than I am so that I am a more worthy candidate for some imaginary millionaire to donate to. I am having to put myself out there and open myself to those accusations, to face my fear of man and to just simply ask.

So here goes: would you like to help us buy a home?

For info on how to to loan mission housing your money to invest in our house please click here

For info about how to give a one off gift towards Mission Housings costs click here.

The Persuasive Evangelist

by Chris

My wife’s favourite Jane Austen novel is Persuasion. Don’t worry, no spoilers here. As you can tell from the title, the art of convincing someone to follow a certain path, or hold a certain viewpoint is central. In it, persuasion itself is used for right or for wrong, for selflessness or for selfishness, for good or for ill. And, in our era of fake news, social media saturation and algorithmically-calculated targeted ads, we are necessarily wary.

When it comes to the relationship between evangelism and persuasion, we in the evangelical world (and even beyond) are often overly wary. Have you ever heard someone say, “When I speak to other people about God, I need to rely on Him not my own words or arguments”? Or what about this, “I don’t try to persuade people to become Christians, that would be deceptive”? Or perhaps even, “persuasion is coercion, just a nicer word”? When speaking to unbelievers about Jesus, what role, if any, should persuasion play?

Let’s look at three of aspects of persuasion and see how it is a wise and Biblical facet of evangelism.

1. Character: Winning Trust.

The first thing to say is that persuasion isn’t just a technique, but a lifestyle. It’s not just a logical argument, a pure presentation of consistent, linking facts that lead to a sound conclusion. In the Bible, Christians are encouraged to persuade people by the way they live:

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:12

1 Peter 2:12

Yet, when we do argue, when we do speak, when we must proclaim and communicate the gospel message, the way we do it matters. In order to honour Christ and love our neighbour, we must be gentle and respectful, not cocky and dogmatic. This is important on an individual level, but includes the witnessing, loving community of believers; the church. We mustn’t be those who hear (or argue) the word, but don’t do it (James 1:22-25). Our lives and characters enable us to have a platform from which to speak of the gospel. And the character of the gospel needs to be reflected in the way we persuade, in the gentleness and love we show, and the attentiveness with which we reason and listen (c.f. 2 Cor 4:2; Acts 5:33).

2. Captivation: Language, Words and Style.

One of the mistakes we make is mixing up persuasion with manipulation. Manipulation holds back truth, giving a blinkered view, and masks it’s nefarious intent in order to force someone into a corner. Manipulation is what the serpent used in Eden. That is not persuasion. Neither are we are to bludgeon people or bamboozle them into fearfully accepting what we want. That doesn’t honour God and doesn’t honour our humanity, the way we are made. But neither does no holds barred, pure, arrogant logic. When we engage with people, they’re not computers on legs, whirring away, micro-processing our bald logic and coming out with dispassionate calculations. They’re whole people, with all the body and soul that makes us such complex and fascinating creatures. We need to engage the whole person.

One of the mistakes we make is mixing up persuasion with manipulation.

Persuasion is not manipulation, but captivation. Why would people listen if we’re boring? Being bland and drab not only misrepresents what it means for us to be a joyful Christians – a disconnect between our speech and our lives – but isn’t a faithful communication of the beautiful gospel itself. The Word became flesh and used metaphors and parables, quoted poetry and prophecy, captivating whole regions not just through his content, but his oratorial form (e.g. the Sermon on the Mount of Matt 5-7). Jesus, the Word made flesh, communicated everything God wanted to say to humanity in glorious 3-D. The Word came to us as a whole person and communicated to us as whole people. In a blogpost on this topic, Peter May says: 

“We need to sharpen our word skills, increase our vocabularies, consider our sentence constructions and feel the force of poetry to find the words that connect with and stir the imagination.”

3. Convincing(-ness!): Sound Logic.

But we do need to be logical. If our explanations of the gospel, or our arguments for the God of the Bible lack clarity, mesmerising the listener with empty rhetorical flourishes or fantastical turns of phrase, then we in fact move towards manipulation. Persuasion is logical, not just artistic. We need both creative, captivating expression, and sound, robust rationale. The gospel is logically sound. The gospel is convincing. We need to work at displaying and articulating the inherent trustworthiness and rationality that is the bedrock of our faith.

But persuasion alone is not enough. It’s no good to be motivated by a desire to sound interesting or argue coherently. We need love. Our hearts need to be transformed by the Spirit to love the news that we seek to tell, to love the Saviour whom we offer, to want to glorify God and do good to others by proclaiming this great news, and be willing to learn how to do it better. If we want to be as good at speaking to others as possible, why would we not want to develop our ability to persuade?

But let’s remember, we can all tell the gospel to others, we don’t need fine sounding arguments or beautiful eloquence. We can all tell others about Jesus and we should all try; the Lord uses our weak efforts and magnifies them by his strength. The gospel itself holds all logic, all beauty, all glory, because the gospel is about our magnificent God. We can attempt to be persuasive, but it’s the Lord who convicts, saves and transforms.

Allowing Hope to Flourish: Life Coaching from a Christian Perspective

by Sarah

Philly asked me to write an article about life coaching – what it’s like, what it can mean for Christians – and for some reason this verse got lodged in my head. 

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Proverbs 13:2

How true this has been in a pandemic. We usually have things to look forward to and can be reasonably sure that those things will happen. Our day-to-day longings are often met. But this year, factors way outside of our control have deferred our hopes. And deferred them again. And our hearts have felt sick. 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

You can’t fail to see the truth of this verse in a year like 2020, but since training as a coach I’ve seen it show up in all sorts of ways in people’s lives. We are built to dream, to hope, but so many things get in the way of us even listening to what those fragile dreams might be. A good coach helps you uncover what it is that you are really hoping for, and what action you can take to move towards fulfilling that hope. 

Hopes come in all shapes and sizes. It might be for a vocation/job/calling (whatever language you prefer) that feels more like where you’re meant to be. It might be to improve a relationship, or get healthier or deepen your relationship with God. Or it might be very broad… just a sense that you want to get unstuck or feel more comfortable in yourself and who God has made you to be.  

Coaching provides a space where you can separate out the wood from the trees, challenge unhelpful perspectives, and remove the barriers that come between where you are and where you want to be. 

What they all have in common is that it can be surprisingly hard to make choices that allow those hopes to flourish and grow into a “longing fulfilled.”

Sometimes we know what we want to do, but we don’t do it. Sometimes we don’t know what we want. Sometimes we don’t even feel comfortable asking ourselves what we want. (Because we’re only supposed to do things out of duty and obligation, right? Wrong.) 

St Ignatius talks about making decisions from a place of consolation, where we’re moving towards the love of God, others and our truest selves, rather than desolation – where we’re moving away from God’s active presence in the world. 

I find this a really helpful analogy to describe what coaching can help with. Just like the contemplative practises St Ignatius developed, coaching can help us identify what’s driving our actions and whether we’re being drawn more towards God, or further away from him through the decisions we make. Coaching provides a space where you can separate out the wood from the trees, challenge unhelpful perspectives, and remove the barriers that come between where you are and where you want to be.  

We’re all unique, and we all have, within us, our own unique answers to the challenges we face and the questions we have. But it’s often really hard to hear that inner voice, that whisper, when there’s so much else going on in our heads and in our lives. Coaching is about giving room to that voice, so that we can understand what’s going on and make better choices.

What I love about coaching is the mystery of it. It seems so simple – all we’re doing is listening, talking and asking (the right) questions. But it works! There’s a point in every coaching session where someone suddenly has a light bulb moment, or sees things in a different light and, sometimes quite suddenly, things shift. It’s like the clouds part and this unexpected, surprising and semi-miraculous shaft of light shines down and lights the way. 

To me, those moments of revelation are golden. It’s why I get excited when people choose to give themselves space to do coaching. As a Christian studying biology at university, I had this sense that God was absolutely thrilled that we were discovering just how amazing he has made the world.  Now years later, I get that same sense when I’m coaching – it’s like he’s thrilled when we discover more of who he’s made us to be, and all wrapped up in that is a greater sense of who he is too. 

So that’s a brief intro – but I thought I’d jot down some questions that cover what coaching is not, as well as what it is. 

What’s the difference between coaching and counselling? 

They’re both what people call “talking therapies” – they use listening, questions and talking to help people their awareness and ability to change. Broadly, coaching will focus on a future goal you might want to achieve, whereas counselling might be more focussed on healing traumas you have experienced in the past or helping you cope with a mental health problem.  

Even within these broad labels, each counsellor or coach will have a different approach so it’s really important that you get someone you feel comfortable with, that you trust. 

Isn’t church/prayer/reading the Bible enough? 

They are all great! And they can all be difficult (in my experience). Coaching doesn’t replace any of these – just like it doesn’t replace good friendships, or enjoying nature, or good family relationships. But because coaches are professionals training in helping people work through issues and reach goals, it can help people to find new ways forward in ways that are different and complimentary to Sunday services, friendship or reading the Bible. 

Put differently, coaching meets a different need that church isn’t necessarily geared up to meet – just like a medical doctor helps you meet a physical health need. All these needs are valid, and sometimes getting space outside of your everyday Church context can be exactly what you need. 

Isn’t it selfish to spend time thinking about yourself and your desires? Shouldn’t we be thinking about serving other people and trying to find God’s will?

There’s a lot in this question but one thing (at least) to say is that we often imagine that all these things are separate. It’s like we think we can turn the “loving others” section while turning off the “loving ourselves” part and expect the two to operate completely independently. They don’t. Or maybe we think that if we love ourselves too much, there will be less love left over for others. The opposite is more true – when we take time to understand and show love and compassion to ourselves, we’re better able to receive and show love towards others – including God. I love that the second commandment Jesus gives isn’t to love your neighbour. It’s to love your neighbour as yourself. Loving yourself isn’t selfish – it’s part of the greatest commandments!

What if I’m [too young/ too old/ don’t like goals/ think I’ll fail/ not motivated enough/…?

There’s no “type” that you have to be to opt in to coaching. If you’re curious, try it out! You’ve got nothing to lose (especially as most coaches will offer an intro session free of charge). 

If you’re interested in exploring this with me, you can find out more on my website and book a free taster!

About the Writer: Sarah is a Life Coach based in North London. She and her husband are co-founders of Crux, a social enterprise seeking to bring mediation services to the community. She also co-hosts Unlocking Conflict, a podcast all about having better conversations. If you’re interested in finding out more about Life coaching visit her site: www.sarahhutt.co.uk.

A Poem for Mother’s Day

By Philly

Mother’s Wealth

Empty-laundry-basket silence.
I overheard incoherently lisped hymns under babbled breath.
Stormy eyes that look through and through me and hands that link behind my neck.
Clean white cuddles.
There’s a party every time I come into the room.
My love will add to your inches but sometimes I want them to slow down.
I’m caught up with the idea that if I had the time, I’d have time.
And here are hand-me-downs, in time.
And heartbeats.

Guest Contribution: Choosing God

By Hannah A from The Art of Chatter

One of the debates which is as old as time is about the problem of evil. Scholars and people going through trials or witnessing the hardship of others debate answers to this issue to this day.

Why do bad things happen in this world? In particular, why do they always seem to happen to loving, innocent people? Particularly during this time of loss and confusion, I’m sure whether a believer or not, you have pondered on something along these lines.

When we go through such times or experience such evil ourselves God sometimes feels distant, a frustrating feeling since we perceive these moments as when we need God most. I think it’s comforting to know, even in Biblical times, people were wondering the same thing. In the Book of Psalms, Chapter 10 (NIV), its author David writes in a desperate prayer:

Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

Psalm 10: 1

Similarly, in Psalm 13 he exclaims:

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Psalm 13: 1-2

From these we can see that even King David had low moments in his life – times where it felt God was silent and distant, David’s prayers falling on deaf ears.

Deciding to Believe

However, what I love about many of the psalms in the Bible, is that even though they start off with David outlining feelings of distress, they end with remembrance and reassurance about the promises and might of God. In other words, David makes a decision to believe, even in his lowest moments, consumed by anxiety and fear – he chooses to believe that God will come through and deliver him, as he has promised, and done so for his ancestors.

The decision to believe also plays a part in every Christian’s life. Contrary to popular belief you don’t just become saved at one moment in your life and then experience a smooth sailing life. No, you will have points when your overwhelmed with anger, with questions or doubts. Despite feeling this way in Psalm 13, David ends the poem (verses 5-6) uplifting God, saying:

But I trust in your unfailing love;
My heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise.
For he has been good to me.

Psalm 13:5-6

Can you imagine the strength and confidence it takes to say that in such a moment? When in Matthew 24 it talks about the man building his house upon the rock, perhaps this is what that looks like in person. Being rooted, and therefore comforted by the promises and character of God. We often fall into the trap of using our welfare or the state of lives as a litmus test of God’s goodness or love. Decisively believing is an important counteraction to this common mental trap – the goodness of God or his love for us doesn’t change depending on whether we are going through trials in our life or not. Similarly, a good God doesn’t equate to a suffering free life.

Living Out Your Decision

What does making the decision to believe daily look like in our lives you wonder? When you wake up in the morning and say a prayer to start the day – you make the decision to believe it’s in God’s hands regardless of how it may go. The decision manifests itself in your everyday actions too – when you uplift someone by speaking words of life to them, when you tithe in church or volunteer your time to help others. All these actions start and are evidence of the decision to believe. The wonderful thing about having a relationship with God is that the Holy Spirit is there to help us every step of the way, sustaining our belief. Wonderfully, this means we have a helper and don’t have to do all of these things in our own strength.

Some Scripture to Delve into for Further Reading:

Making the decision to believe doesn’t occur in a vacuum, over time it should be accompanied by the fruits of the spirit and an internal transformation that comes from the Holy Spirit constantly working inside of us!

Galatians 5
Colossians 3: 1 – 17
Titus 3: 1 – 9

About the Writer:
Hannah is a London-based, twenty-something year old Christian who loves blogging in her spare time. You can find her blogging at her own site The Art of Chatter where she posts motivational content and film and TV reviews. You can also follow her blog on Instagram at @TheArtofChatter