What is Relay? Relay is a discipleship program I'm doing this year and you can read all about it here. I'll be updating the blog from time to time with updates for all the people partnering with me during the year. And this is one of those updates!
It's been a while since the last time I wrote one of these. November was a monsterously busy month and I felt like December was spent just winding down from it. And then came Christmas of course. Before I begin a much needed recap I want to thank you all again for your prayers and financial support. Thanks to you guys I've made it through the first semester, something I wasn't always sure would happen! So again, thank you. Now to spill the beans ...
One of the exciting things about November in Christian Union life is that it is House Party season. I should probably clarify right? What House Party means in this context is different to what you'd ordinarily think it means! House Party is when a CU goes away together for a weekend to be encouraged and equipped to share the gospel on campus. There are times of teaching, worship, team games, and of course some relaxation and hanging out. In fact one of the most valuable opportunities that House Party provides is the chance for people to bond and draw close together as a missional community. I went to Stoke's House Party every year when I was a student and I always hated leaving because of how close everyone felt.
This year I attended three CU House Parties, Stoke's (which was a colaborative effort with Stafford and Crewe), Keele's, and Bangor's. Let me tell you, you are fairly done for after just one House Party, let alone three! They were all incredibly enjoyable though. The speakers for Stoke were a couple who'd spoken to the CU before and are both people I really respect. They challenged us to repent of sin in large areas of concern in the student world (y'know the suspects - relationships, drink and the like) and there was a great response to the call. Keele had a speaker who's been all over the world doing mission and boy did he have some stories to tell. But more than just having some impressive experiences he conveyed a deep understanding of the Bible and emphasised the need for apologetics in our witness (I am smiling as I write this). I think we all felt inspired by what he brought to us. Bangor's speaker was in fact Stoke's own Luke Cawley, my supervisor, hence the reason for my being there. He took us through some of the big themes of the Bible which was really useful for helping us to think from within a properly Christian worldview, something Christians often fail to do.
One of my favourite times from the whole House Party marathon has to be the plethora of DMC's me and Luke had with students at Keele's House Party (DMC by the way, stands for "deep meaningful chats" ... duh). There was hardly any stone unturned by the end of the Saturday night. We discussed everything from evolution to Biblical sexuality to how to interpret the book of Revelation. It was awesome to be able to address some genuine doubts as well as just hear people's thoughts. What was better is that it all seemed to be done in a manner that built people up rather than tear people down. Who doesn't love a good DMC right?
One new event added to the CU's calender in my region was "Convergence" a one day event where all the CU's in the area gathered together to get a sense of what God is doing through other CUs and to receive some quality teaching. We were lucky to have Mike Reeves, UCCF's theological adviser, come to talk to us on the uniqueness of Jesus. It was a very successful first time and we'll be having a Re-Convergence soon.
I also spent some time in Nottingham with the CU there before going to Keele's House Party. Luke was the speaker for their mission week (a week of events dedicated to proclaiming the gospel) and myself and fellow Relayer Jason pitched up to help out. I love how easy it is to feel at home among new CUs - the Nottingham bunch were lovely. I helped them to advertise their events, set stuff up and serve coffee to students who were heading to dreaded 9 o'clock lectures.
Besides travelling all over the place I was part of some exciting things back at base. Dave P, one of the freshers at Stoke who has an enthusiasm for apologetics, helped me launch 'Equip', the weekly apologetics workshop. We have a small group of people regularly attending and it's going well so far! We're just trying to learn how best to run it and how to make it the best possible service for the CU that we can.
I also had a few speaking engagements which made me happy as I love preparing talks (even though I nearly die of nerves every time I'm about to give one). I gave a talk on the so-called "doubting Thomas" narrative in John 20 at three CUs and got some helpful feedback after each one. By the third delivery, after taking the criticisms into account, I was quite happy with it! My initial thought was to make doubt the focus of the talk but the more I looked at the passage the more I considered that doubt really isn't the focus of the narrative at all. Instead I picked up on the "signs" theme that occurs throughout John's gospel and saw John 20 as presenting the final "sign", the final evidence of Jesus' identity and mission. I argued that our evangelism needs to focus on giving people these "signs"- on giving them the evidence of who Jesus is. I also got asked to talk last minute at a 3 course meal event aimed at non-Christians in Stoke on the question "Is Christianity Relevant Today?" I'd given a talk on the same topic the year before (with a fairly distrastous Q&A after!) but I decided to completely re-write it. To crudely characterise, the original talk was basically "Why are you asking why it's relevant? The question is, is it true?" ... this time it was "it's relevant because IF it's true, it means this." The feedback was very positive!
Sadly because of all the time away and time spent preparing talks I wasn't able to meet with the students individually and in small groups as often as I did in the first couple months. It was still really encouraging when I did though - these guys are really growing in their faith and some are stepping into leadership positions within the CU and elsewhere. Dead exciting!
My own personal study time has continued to be challenging. The core study modules on the nature of God's Word and God's sovereignty have helped me to clarify my views and my self-elected study on what the Bible says about evolution/the age of the earth has been very exciting. I'm starting to come to some conclusions and have begun writing up my findings. When I'm done I'll probably present the write-up bit by bit on the blog or in full to whoever wants a copy. I would appreciate it if you could pray for me that I would let my study impact the way I live and not just the way I think.
In fact allow me to suggest some things that I need prayer for:
~ that I would have the right attitude toward study
~ that the new Stoke and Keele committee leadership team would settle into their new roles and develop their CUs as MISSION teams
~ that I would figure out how to best spend time with the students I meet with this semester
~ that I would grow in purity
~ that the CUs would be used to bring people to salvation this semester
~ that I would be financially provided for
I have to be honest, that last prayer point is a biggie. At the moment I just don't have enough money coming in to live. If you could support me financially it would be amazing. You can download and print forms to do that over here http://www.uccf.org.uk/relay/give-to-relay-workers.htm If you could think about whether you can it would be most appreciated.
Much love to you all and God bless