Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Bullied


In a recent preach I spoke briefly about being bullied as a child. Lots of people commented on it afterwards, so I thought I’d write some more in the hope it might be helpful.

Most of my childhood was pretty idyllic. Some really good friends, the beauty and wide open spaces of Northumberland, goalkeeper in the school football team (the only one in the team not wearing black and white), scouts outings where we’d be left to fend on our own for several days (including one memorable trip camping illegally on Holy Island), sledging on the hills behind our house and much more.

But one particular season stands out in stark contrast to all of that, which was being bullied for the four years I was in Middle School (what in today’s system would be years 5 to 8).  

If I’m honest I’d almost managed to forget about it. It was after all over 40 years ago!  However, a comment Catrina (my wife) made a few months ago caused me to think about it again. She noted that whenever we were coming up with an idea for a day out, if I came up with the idea I’d be happy, but if she came up with the idea I’d often be grumpy about it, and would struggle to fully enter in to whatever it was she had suggested (I know you all find that impossible to believe about me, but you need to know it’s totally true!). 

The more I thought and prayed about Catrina’s observation, the more I realised the root of my behaviour was at least in part being bullied as a child. There was one particular boy who was responsible for pretty much all the bullying I experienced. Part of the bullying was that he got me to do things I didn’t want to do. Sometimes it was giving him my dinner money or letting him copy my homework. Other times it was being pushed, hit, or humiliated by him in front of my friends.

Let me say before I go any further that bullying is wrong, whatever age you are and wherever it happens, whether in school, work, in a relationship or anywhere else. If you are being bullied please find someone you can open up to about it. Until about two weeks ago I’d never told anyone about what happened to me at school (I never spoke to my parents or any teachers, and I guess my friends were just pleased it wasn’t happening to them). Please don’t make the same mistake. Confide in someone you trust right now, as the beginning of your journey to safety and freedom.

Reflecting on Catrina’s observation made me realise that being bullied, and being made to do things I didn’t want to do, means that I now have a violent internal reaction if I feel anyone is trying to control me. I realise that all through my life it has manifested itself in lots of different ways. In church if I get an email from someone suggesting we do something differently (even if it’s an entirely sensible suggestion), I will often feel it. If I’m in a shop and someone tries to sell me something, I feel it. And when Catrina comes up with an idea for a day out, I feel it too!

It was Pete Scazzero who first woke me up to how much our past (and our family of origin) shapes who we are today. His observation that “Jesus may be in your heart, but Grandpa is still in your bones” is one I reflect on often. The good news is that once we can see how our past is shaping our present, then we’re in a position to begin to invite Jesus both to begin to heal our brokenness, where necessary take us on a journey of forgiveness, and to do the miracle he so often does of actually using it for his glory and the benefit of others.

The negative for me from being bullied is the struggle I have if I feel someone is trying to control me, even if they aren’t, and like Catrina they actually have both better ideas than mine and my own best interests at heart. I’m now much more aware of that happening, and I’m inviting Jesus into that space to begin to heal it. I’m a work in progress but it’s going OK so far! Please be patient with me along the way. I also realise that being bullied made an already shy child even more nervous in big social gatherings, especially with people I don’t know. That too is still a big work in progress, although I’m getting braver!

But I’ve also come to realise that surprisingly there are positive outcomes to my being bullied, and the resulting fear of being controlled, one of which is that I love to create situations where other people can flourish. In some ways I love creating the reverse environment to the one that was created for me in Middle School, where rather than controlling people I want to do all I can to release and empower them. Catrina and I recently went to see that film “A Star is Born”. I cried lots, but not at the bit most people cry at which is towards the end. For me the hugely emotional moment was when the character played by Bradley Cooper first creates a space for Lady Gaga’s character to shine. I want to give my whole life to creating that sort of space for others (although probably not through song!). I don’t think I’d be like that without my experience as a child, so in a very real sense I’m grateful for what I went through. That may sound strange but it’s true.

I don’t know what your brokenness is. We all have some, although yours will be different to mine, and I realise that many of you will have been through far worse things than I experienced. What I do know that if we bring it to Jesus he can not only heal us, but like Joseph observes in the Old Testament, He can take what others intended for evil and use it for good. 

I hope in some way, shape or form that this was helpful for someone! If it was I’d love to know how, and if you feel able hear your story too. 

Simon

Monday, November 5, 2018

Vision Fund Gift Days - Final Reminder



On Sunday we’re going to announce the total giving from our October Vision Fund Gift Days. I wanted to send a final encouragement to anyone who would like to give but hasn’t yet done so to get your giving in this week so it can be included in the total. 

As an aside we would normally have looked to let everyone know the total more quickly, but our brilliant finance team headed, up by Mike Webber-Gant, have been changing over to use a new cloud based accounting package called Xero. This will considerably enhance our ability to monitor and control our finances, including allowing us to much more easily track income and expenditure on each of our sites, but has also entailed a load of extra work in the set up phase which have taken the team away from other tasks. 

The money we’re raising will give us the resources we need to move forward on all four of our sites. If you’d like to give then you can find details on how to do that here. It would also be really helpful if you could send an email to the finance team to let them know what you’ve given (and if your gift can be gift aided) so it can be included in the total.

Finally to say a huge thank you to everyone who gives into the life of our community, whether that giving is in terms of finances, time, wisdom or any of the many other ways people sow so generously sow into Kerith. As a result of your giving Jesus is being exalted, the kingdom of God is growing and you are storing up treasure in heaven in lives transformed by the gospel. 

Simon



Thursday, October 25, 2018

Who is my neighbour?



“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭82:3-4‬

The scriptures are crystal clear that part of our mandate as God’s people on planet earth is to stand up and care for those who struggle to stand up for themselves. Whether that’s those who don’t have enough food, who are caught up in modern day slavery, who are in debt, who need a foster home or to be adopted, who are refugees, who are homeless or find themselves in any other sort of poverty or oppression, we are called not just to pray for them or acknowledge their plight, but to take practical action to alleviate their suffering and stop others getting into the same difficulty. 

But if you’re anything like me, although I know what I’m supposed to do, actually doing anything is  much harder for a whole variety of reasons. So to help us all on Sunday we’re starting a new series titled “Who is my neighbour?”, where we’re going to spend three weeks looking at the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10 and asking ourself a different question each week:

Why would I? - Looking at the man who is beaten up, and how his story can motivate us to make a difference. 
Why wouldn’t I? - Looking at the Priest and the Levite, and what we can learn from their refusal to help.
How could I? - Looking at the Good Samaritan, and what his example reaches us about helping our neighbour. 

It’s going to be an inspiring series - please plan to be there for all three, or if you can’t make them all catch up on the podcast.

Have a great week and see you on Sunday,

Simon

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Half night of Prayer (and Day of Fasting) this Friday

This coming Friday (26th October) we’ve got our next Kingdom Come half night of prayer, running from 8pm until 2am on Saturday in the K2 building on our Bracknell site.

I realise that because it’s half term lots of people are away (and if you’re one of those I pray you have a brilliant time whatever you’re doing), but for all of us who are around I want to encourage us to make as much of the evening as we can, even if it’s just half an hour or an hour. Jesus makes it clear that the answers to our prayers depend not on how long we pray for, how many words we use, which particular words we use, or how many of us gather to pray, but on who we pray to. Come join me as we spend time with “Our Father who is in heaven” and see what He will do - what a privilege.

I also want to encourage you to join me in a day of fasting on Friday. I’m a big fan of food, but I know something powerful happens when we deny ourselves and place our spiritual desire above our natural desires, so if you’re able please join me in fasting for the day, whether you can make the half night of prayer or not.

Blessings,

Simon

Thursday, October 4, 2018

October Vison Fund Gift Days


Since we launched our vision fund in September 2016, the money that has been given (over £436,000 to date) has allowed us to do so much as a community in terms of growth and multiplication. Some of the highlights would be our site in Windsor now being fully up and running, a site on the Isle of Wight which wasn’t even in our thinking two years, and paying off the mortgage on the K2 House which means we are totally debt free as a church. 

And of course behind those headlines what really matters has been going on at all our sites: lives being changed with over 150 people baptised, hundreds growing in their faith as a result of small groups, growth track courses and encounters with God, thousands being served in the local community, the name of Jesus being lifted up, people experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit and the love of God being demonstrated. Bring it on!

Our next vision fund offering days are coming up on Sunday 14th and 21st October. We still have around £115,000 which we have yet to spend in the vision fund, but with all we have planned across all four of our sites that is going to go pretty quickly, and we want to make sure lack of resources doesn’t hold us back from all we believe God has placed in our hearts to do. We’d therefore like to raise at least another £100,000 to continue to resource all that we think we will be doing over the next 6 months. 

You’ll see the scriptures at the top of this blog, which come from the time when God commanded Moses to build a tabernacle in the desert where His presence would rest. Moses lays out to the people what God has commanded them to do, then asks everyone who is willing to give. We then read that “everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them” came and gave. I want to make the same encouragement to us. There is no pressure to give, no command to give, just an opportunity to those who are willing and whose hearts move them to be a part of this great adventure. For us to invest our treasure in a place where it won’t rust, be eaten away or be stolen but will produce eternal treasure in the form of lives being transformed. 

Here is some more detail on what has been going on, and what is planed, for each of our sites.

Bracknell
Those who came to the September vision nights will have heard that we’re not going to move forward with either of the building projects we were proposing on either the K2 of Kerith Centre sites. When we came to examine the cost of both projects versus the amount of extra space each would give us we (being the elders and trustees) concluded that neither represented value for money. In a future blog I’m going to explain in more detail quite what the process was to make that decision, as I realise this is quite a change from what we were talking about at the start of this year, and we didn’t give as much detail as we should have done at the vision nights.

Given we’re not about to all launch into a major building project in Bracknell, we are instead going going to focus on how we make the most of what we already have, which is a lot! We’d like to make improvements to our Bracknell site which we think will include:
  • Building a walkway through from the college car park to our site. Which side of K2 this goes will depend on whether we manage to buy the strip of land down the side of K2 from the cricket club - please pray for breakthrough there!
  • Renovating the toilets in the Kerith Centre and K2.
  • Putting in the facilities to allow us to more easily run a cafe in K2.
  • Upgrading the audio visual equipment in the K2 Hall. 
Money given into the vision fund will allow us to do this and more. 

Sandhurst
Discussions are still ongoing with Sandhurst School as to a possible joint project with them to develop some of the school site for our exclusive use. However, we are also beginning to examine what other options there are for both temporary and permanent homes for our Sandhurst site. The vision fund will give us the financial resources we need to progress these plans.
If you have some time please be praying for God to make our next steps in Sandhurst clear, and for us to have clarity around which doors and opening and which are closing. We really sense God has something new for us and want to step boldly into whatever it is.

Windsor
The vision fund has already given us the money we’ve needed to rent and renovate the gospel hall in Windsor, to rent the hall we use on a Sunday, and to buy all the equipment needed to get us up and running with meetings every Sunday. Through to then end of 2020 we will fund all of the site based costs in Windsor (including salaries, rental and equipment costs) from the vision fund, after which time they will switch to coming from our regular giving. We have a forward projection for giving which shows that given growth in Windsor equivalent to what we have seen in Sandhurst that will be more than achievable. 

West Wight
In a similar way to Windsor the vision fund has given us the resources we’ve needed to get our West Wight site to a point where we are now meeting twice a month on a Sunday with the same set of values in terms of excellence we’d have on all our other sites. It’s so exciting to see how things are growing there with over 60 people attending the last Sunday gathering. 
We’re looking at the possibility of the site starting to meet every Sunday from September 2019, with a paid site leader coming on board at the same time. As with Windsor we will look to fund this from the vision fund for an initial period and then switch to coming from regular giving as the site grows.

Where & What else?
God is a God of surprises, and we really have no idea what other opportunities are going to come along. Several people have asked me if we know where our next site is going to be, and I can honestly say we have no idea (although the wilds of Northumberland are always very tempting!). But we want to be able to respond to whatever God might do, so let us continue to pray for God’s kingdom to come and his will to be done and see what happens!

Thanks, and well done for getting this far! 

Simon

Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Debt Saviours - CAP Documentary



You may remember earlier this year when John Kirkby, the founder of CAP (Christians Against Poverty) and a good friend of Kerith, preached on a Sunday and brought with him a BBC film crew filming for a documentary about the work of CAP. 

Well the great news is that the documentary is finished, and is going to be aired on Friday 5th October at 9pm on BBC2. None of the footage filmed with us made the final cut (I’m personally relieved not to be appearing on national TV!), but from all I’ve heard from those who have seen the documentary it is deeply moving as it tells the stories of a number of clients who are not only working with CAP to get debt free, but also in the process have found a relationship with Jesus.  

Let’s make the most of this amazing opportunity, with such a powerful piece of television being making it to prime time TV. Please watch it yourself, and be encouraging friends and family watch it too. And let’s be praying for the millions of others who will also see it. Only this week there was an article on the BBC website titled “Debt killed my Dad”, which detailed the sad descent of one man into increasing debt, culminating in the tragedy of him committing suicide. Let’s pray that through the documentary people in debt will find hope, and the courage to admit they need help and contact CAP.

Simon

Friday, September 28, 2018

Our 12 New Academy Students



From the beginning of September our K2 building has once again become the learning and development hub for our Academy students.

At its core, Academy aims to help everyone to be a disciple equipped to make disciples of others. Starting with being intentional about growing closer to God, each student will have the opportunity to discover more about their identity and purpose, deepening their Bible knowledge, and developing leadership skills. Many will also study a distance learning Certificate in Applied Theology with  Moorlands Bible College.

Each one will be outworking course learning through serving in both the course and Church, so as a team they will support many Kerith ministry areas. 

We have twelve Academy students this year, including three from Europe. By way of introduction here are their names and the areas where they’re going to be serving (in the same order as they are in the photo):

Maria Ventsel (from Estonia) – Engagement team
Melodie Alcibiade (from France) – Monday Night Youth, Kids Team & Growth Track
Ro Cyril-Daniel – Alpha & Growth Track
Ayse Flack – Senior Management Team support
Padma Gurung – Kids Team
Georgia Christie – Youth Team
Samantha Gallotan – Sundays Team
Erika Kazdaileviciute (from Lithuania) – Social Justice Team
Nicole Bailey – Creative & Production Team
Mwamba Phiri – Creative Team & Youth Team
Damien Newman – Social Justice Team
Matt Dack – Youth Team

Please be praying for them to grow closer to Jesus as a result of this year, say hello to them if you see them around, and thank God for their willingness to give this time to deepen their relationship with him.

Simon