Friday, April 30, 2010

Bowled Over

Just a reminder that on Monday 10th May we've got our Bowled Over event at the Hollywood Bowl in Bracknell. It's all free - there will be a drink, food and ten pin bowling for everyone. If you vounteer in Kerith in any capacity then please book your place by either sending an email, phoning reception on 01344 862699 or giving your name, phone number and email address in at reception .

We realise that there are lots of under 16's who serve and for them we're going to leave it up to parents to decide whether they can come or not. If because of bed times you'd like them to just come for part of the evening then that's fine - we'd love just to have them there too.

Whilst I'm here in Albania I've been reading Bill Hybels book "The Volunteer Revolution" which we'll be doing a series on starting on 9th May. It's reminded me again of the incredible importance of all the volunteering which goes on in Kerith, and on the 10th May we want to celebrate the work of all of you wonderful people who make Kerith happen.

Simon (from an incredibly hot Albanian internet cafe)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Elbasan Internet Cafe

I'm with Ken in an internet cafe in Elbasan and having read the BBC news now feel in touch with the outside world once again! It's strange that the whole election campaign in the UK must be coming to some sort of finale with the final leaders debate tonight yet we have no contact with that world.

It's fascinating being in Albania. Under communism it was declared the world's first atheist nation, and any sort of religious practice was banned up until May 1990. Until then church leaders were killed and all religious buildings were either demolished or turned into shops. What that means is that pretty much every Christian you meet is a first generation Christian. My stock question has now become "how did you become a follower of Jesus" which produces some of the most amazing stories I've ever heard. From people going to the library during communism and asking for the best book in the place and being given an illegal Bible to people seeing angels to conversations with a Christian on a train to someone hearing a Christian band playing in the open air and being convicted of their need for Christ. God is at work here as much as He is in Bracknell or anywhere else I've been in the world and it's faith building to see it happening.

Ken & Ann are excellent guides and Andy Jackson is a great travelling companion. For some photos of some of the people we've met check out Ken & Ann's Blog. Tonight we're going to meet the leaders of another church, Ilir & Donica who I've already met in Bracknell, and then tomorrow off to another church to meet the leaders there.

Its' so useful for me to see first hand the work that is going on here, to meet many of the leaders I've met in Bracknell on their home patch and see some of the great things they are up to. The impact of Ken and Ann, the youth team we sent out last year and the money we have given here is tangible and so exciting to see. Please pray that we might be an encouragement to all the leaders here and be able to bring some wisdom into the situations they face, as well as learning from all they are doing.

I do miss Bracknell though, and for me being here just reinforces that my primary role is building Kerith at home so that it can be a resource base from which many others will go and impact nations.

I hope you're all doing well - I'm praying for you all.

Simon.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Albania Bound

Later on today I'm off to Albania for a week with Andy Jackson and Ken & Ann Bothamley. We're going out to visit five of the six churches we support in Albania, to encourage leaders and to learn from all that they are doing. There is some amazing stuff going on over there! We've already met quite a few of the leaders when they've been over for Willow events so it will be great to reconnect with them as well as making new friends. Please pray for us all that this will be an incredibly fruitful trip.

We're also taking out some guitars so that they can start to implement the Worship Academy material which Dave Betts has been developing and which is now going to be translated into Albanian (how cool is that). Andy and I come back after a week, but Ken and Ann will be staying out there to be joined by Lee Layton-Matthews who is going to be looking at plans for the Youth Conference which some of our young people will be going out to support at the end of July - all very exciting.

Also very exciting was the weekend we've just had. Not only did we see numbers of healings and salvations in all three adult meetings, but Yvonne Scott also saw salvation and healing amongst the children as they went back over to K2. We'll have to collate the figures this week, but at a rough count I think we saw at least 30 first time commitments over the three meetings - quite remarkable.

Adrian Holloway will be back with us on the 19th December when he'll be preaching at all three of our carol services - I'm growing in faith for us to break 2,000 across those three meetings and for us to see God break in spectacularly.

I'm not sure how much I'll be able to blog this week, but I will be tweeting (follow me on @simonbenham) and updating my facebook status (feel free to invite me to be your friend) so follow me on one of those if you want to.

Have a great week,

Simon.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hustings Reminder

Just a reminder of the hustings event at 7.45pm at Easthampstead Baptist Church on Tuesday 27th April (those with sat navs head for RG12 7NS). Please go if you possibly can, both so that you can be well informed and also to show the candidates that the church is interested and willing to engage in the world of politics. There is plenty of parking at the building and refreshments will be served half way through the evening.

I was also sent a link to an interesting article quoting J. John on the importance of Christians engaging in the political debate which you can read here.

Simon.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Haiti Update

You may remember earlier this year that we had an appeal for Haiti, and raised just over £7,500 which we gave to Tearfund. With so much going on every Sunday it's often hard to work out how we feed back how projects like this are going, so I thought you might be interested to see this video from Tearfund on some of what has been happening. Thank you to everyone who gave - it has made a difference.

I'm also hoping soon to feed back more about our project in Serenje. There are some amazing things happening there, I heard last week that there are 880 children now back in education because of our involvement, which is so exciting. Watch this space for more updates.

Simon.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Adrian Holloway - More Info

The planning team met on Tuesday to think through Sunday's visit by Adrian Holloway. There was a very strong feeling that we should have the 5-11 year old children (Konstruction Krew) in for the first part of the adult meetings, during which Adrian is going to be praying for healing. We want to both build their faith for healing and have an expectation that God will heal some of them.

All of this will be made clear on the morning, but for parents who get the blog I wanted to give you advance notice. These are the details from Yvonne Scott on exactly what will be happening:

"Parents need to register their children in the K2 hall as usual, and then bring them over to The Kerith Centre – The Konstruction Krew team will be in K2 before the meeting to greet and explain all this to parents
Children will stay in the meeting for the first 20+minutes and be brought over to K2 by their parents, or appointed adult if their parent is being prayed for – we will check them in on the registers again. Some children may still be receiving prayer, in which case they can be brought over either when they finish being prayed for, or when the youth leave the adult meeting.
We will give each parent an information slip of paper when they register so that they are aware of the changes – we will be encouraging  parents to encourage their children to receive prayer – and it may well be that parents stand with their children or indeed whole families stand together to receive prayer."

This is one of the things we'll be praying for at this weeks prayer meetings. Jesus was passionate about children, and often his healings involved children. Let's be praying for a powerful breakthrough for this and every other age group on Sunday.

Simon.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Consider the Planes

Jesus often told us to look at the world around us, and to learn from it about God's nature, and our relationship with Him. He told us to consider the ravens, and realise that as God provides for them He will provide for us. He said to look at the beauty of the lilies of the field and not to worry about our lives, about what we will wear or where our next meal is coming from.

On Sunday I encouraged us to do the same as we look up, and for a few days at least, see blue skies with no planes in them. What man (whether through terrorists, environmentalists or computer malfunctions) has failed to do, God can do so through a single act. It reminds me of Proverbs 16:9:

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps

People in the last week had all sorts of plans. I know of a preacher hoping to fly back from Nigeria, a honeymoon couple coming back from Mauritius, people on business coming back from Europe and the States, school teachers coming back for the start of term, a sixth former coming back for an exam, a band expecting to fly back to New Zealand, a Kerith team planning to fly out to Albania and many others. All of these people had plans, but it was God who has determined their steps. So this week, know this. God is in control and you aren't. He is the Lord of Lords and you're not. He is the King of Kings, who knows you better than you know yourself, and has nothing but good plans for your life.

You might not be about to board a plane, but you have got plans in your heart. That's not a bad thing. But keep checking that your plans align with God's plans for your life. Anywhere where they don't then decide to change your plans, it will avoid a lot of frustration, hurt and disappointment in the future. And when your plans aren't quite working out the way you hoped they were going to, don't get upset and disappointed, don't get disillusioned or angry with God, don't worry or get anxious about how things are going to work out, just have a conversation with God and trust Him that His ways and His thoughts are higher than yours.

Consider the planes.

Simon.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Vigil Photos

I thought you might enjoy these fantastic photos of The Vigil. It really was an excellent event, with well over 1,000 people attending and lots of great conversations as a result of what people saw and heard. Please continue to pray for ongoing fruit from all the different people who came to see it.

Simon.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Husting Update

Just to let you know that the Bracknell News have decided not to hold a town wide hustings event in The Kerith Centre (or anywhere else for that matter). The joint churches event on Tuesday 27th April is still very much going ahead though - there are more details in my previous blog here.

Simon.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Volcanoes

I got a phone call last night to let me know that Sola's flight back from Nigeria (where he's been all week) had been cancelled as a result of all the volcano dust in the air, so he wasn't going to be back in time to preach on Sunday. I've heard lots of different reasons for people missing meetings but it's the first time I can remember a volcano intervening! In fact as we went through the list of people serving on Sunday there were quite a few others stuck in various overseas locations. Let's be praying for all those people impacted by the cancelled flights (even those people from church stuck in Paris and Miami - sometimes these things can be a blessing!) and for their families (who might not be so excited by the Paris / Miami thing).

The result of all that is I'm now preaching on Sunday - which I'm really looking forward to. There are people being baptised in all three meetings, the 5-11's will be in for the start of the 11am as three children are being baptised, and there are some incredible stories of how God has changed lives. Please be praying for everyone involved that they'll know God's presence so powerfully, and that visitors will be challenged and respond to the life changing message of Jesus. And be thinking about who you can invite to come and experience what will be an amazing series of meetings.

Also this weekend is that restart of Life, Konnections respite, an EXP young adults event, then Ken & Ann Bothamley & Lee and Dave Betts off to Albania on Monday (dust permitting) and prayer meetings and the start of Captivating and Freedom in Christ during the week - see the Kerith website for more details on all that. Never a dull moment.

Hope to catch you over the weekend.

Simon.

ps - a prize for anyone who can pronounce the name of the volcano -Eyjafjallajokull - names like Vesuvius, Etna and Krakatoa are so much more proper names for volcanoes!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Adrian Holloway

On Sunday 25th April Adrian Holloway will be speaking in all three meetings. Adrian is not only one of the nicest people I've ever met, but is a powerful speaker and in recent times has been used increasingly by God in the whole area of healing. I really sense this is an area which God wants us to grow as a community, so was delighted when Adrian agreed to come and speak, and in particular to pray for the sick.

Part of me always wants to ask questions when I hear stories of healing, to make sure that they're genuine and medically verifiable. I've had the privilege of hearing first hand from some of the people who have been healed through Adrian's ministry, and have heard some of the most amazing stories of God doing what only He can do. Of peoples lives being permanently changed because of the healing they have received. You can catch a couple of videos of people telling their stories here and here - very powerful.

Please be praying for the 25th, that God will break in and do the most amazing things amongst us - we'll be praying for this in the all church prayer meetings on the 21st and 22nd April. If you're sick then come believing God for your healing. And please be thinking about who to invite to what I believe is going to be an incredibly powerful day.

Simon.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Freedom in Christ

A new Freedom in Christ course starts on Wednesday 21st April. I can't recommend this course highly enough. I see and meet so many followers of Jesus who are hampered, not just in 'spiritual' stuff but in their normal every day lives, by things in their past which they've never got free from. Often we've lived with these things for so long that we're not even aware of them.

I'd encourage every Christian to go on this course at least once. Even if you think you're free, there's always more freedom for you to know. You can get more details and sign up for the course here. There is a small charge to cover the course materials, but if in any way that's a problem for you then just let us know and we can cover that cost for you.

Jesus said - "if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed". Freedom comes from knowing Jesus, but we have to choose to live in that freedom and allow it to change our lives. Is there anything in your life you need to be set free from. If so then sign up now!

Simon.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Foodbank Shortages

The foodbank continues to go from strength to strength. Last month was our busiest ever, with nearly a tonne of food distributed. I'm regularly meeting visitors on Sundays who have been so blessed by the welcome they got when they came to pick up food on a Monday or a Thursday that they've come back on a Sunday to find out what it's all about - very exciting!

We've still got quite a quantity of food in the off site store, but the foodbank team asked me to highlight some items we are running short of. These are:
  • Milk (UHT or powdered)
  • Pasta Sauces
  • Cereal (smaller sizes)
So next time you're out doing your weekly shop, please buy one of more of these items and then leave them in the box in reception next time you're in The Kerith Centre. By doing that you'll have the words of Jesus affirming you - "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matt 25:40).

Simon.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Election Hustings - Tuesday 27th April

A number of Bracknell churches (including us) are going to be hosting an election hustings with the candidates for the Bracknell seat from the three main political parties at Easthampstead Baptist Church starting at 7.45pm on Tuesday 27th April. Chris Porter who leads Easthampstead will be chairing the meeting.

Nearer the date we'll give out an email address where people can send in questions. On the night each candidate will get four minutes to speak, and then the most popular questions will be put to each of them in turn. The aim is for it to all be over by 9.30pm.

Chris, Andy Bagwell (from the Warfield churches) and I have been talking about putting on this event for a while, as we felt it would be good to hear from the candidates on some of the questions which are of interest to us. Please can I encourage you to put the date in your diaries and plan to be there on the 27th as we all seek to take part in our local democracy.

The Bracknell News have separately asked us whether we would consider hosting a hustings at The Kerith Centre which would be for everyone in the town. They would chair this event, put together the questions and issue invites. We've said yes in principle, although haven't yet heard whether or not this is definitely going ahead or if it does go ahead what date it will be on - I'll keep you posted!

Hope that all makes sense,

Simon.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Which Christmas?!

OK, thanks to everyone who pointed out that I was out by a year on my last blog, which should have been (and now is) titled "Christmas 2010" and not 2011! That's what you get for writing blog entries in a hurry before having a break for Easter. I also had a couple of people worried that I hadn't followed through with my promise not to do anything electronic until the Thursday after Easter - the blog was in fact written before Easter but scheduled to be posted after Easter. So hopefully that clears all that up!

We had a great Easter break as a family. After the busyness of The Vigil (which was fantastic) and Easter Sunday (where we saw God do some great things) I had a really good three days off with email on my iPhone disabled! Long family walks with the dog, watching films I've been trying to find time to watch for ages, lunch with Catrina in Windsor and much more - I'm feeling so refreshed.

Actually I'm really looking forward to the next few weeks. A whole range of different people preaching, baptisms and then Adrian Holloway for the next three Sundays, then a trip to Albania to see all that is going on out there, followed by the half marathon (!) - should be fun.

I hope you've had a great Easter too.

Simon.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Christmas 2010

I know we've only just got through Easter, but wanted to give you an early indication of our plans for Christmas 2010, as well as to get any comments you may have.

The big change is that we're not planning to do the schools Kerith Relief evenings this year. We felt that these have run their course and that we should look for a different way to build on the fantastic relationship we have with the schools. Instead we're looking at doing a Serenje focussed series of events some time early in 2011. This will hopefully combine both primary and secondary schools, and will include going into schools to take lessons and assemblies as well as hopefully doing some big performance based events at The Kerith Centre. The next step is to pull a team together to think this through and come up with some more detailed ideas, but I have real confidence that we can do something great here.

On Sunday 19th December we'll be doing a traditional carol concert at all three meetings, complete with a choir for all the carols. We really want to build on the success of the event we did last year and are hoping to get an outside evangelist to speak at this event. If we do another 'alternative' Christmas event that will take place on the evening of the 12th December, but that's still to be decided. I'd like to aim on the 19th to break the 2,000 barrier for the first time ever on a Sunday - how cool would that be!

On Christmas Eve we're going to work hard on doing a genuine family service which will engage all ages at the same time as fully declaring the gospel. Then Christmas day will be in the same style as it has been for the last few years (unless we have any major new inspiration).

We won't meet on Sunday 26th December so will start back on January 2nd.


There will also be a watch night meeting in K2 on New Years Eve with a combination of prayer and welcoming in the New Year. 

I hope that's helpful. Please let me know if you have any thoughts on this, and even now begin to think how you could use these events to reach the people in your world.

Simon.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Thoughts on Persecution

I don't know if you saw the articles in the papers this week about Senior bishops calling for an end to persecution of Christian's in Britain. Interestingly the bishops didn't actually use the word persecution in the letter they wrote to The Sunday Telegraph, they spoke instead of disrespect and discrimination, but the word stuck with me when I read these words from Jesus in my daily readings this week:

But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. (Luke 22:12)

I was also reminded of His words from the sermon on the mount:

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:10)

Now please hear me right. I'm not looking for persecution! I want to live a peaceful life where I get on with everyone and everyone likes me as much as you do. But that wasn't what Jesus ever promised us, or what the book of Acts or the rest of Christian history teaches us as the norm for Christians or for the church.  Yes we should hope to be treated the same as everyone else, but need to recognise that we're in a spiritual battle and that if we're genuinely owning the name of Jesus we will never win any popularity contests. Whenever I meet with figures in the local community I'm always aware that the influence we have with them is as a result of what we do and has been earnt over many years of hard work, and not some inalienable right we have because we're Christians.

I'm not quite sure what I'm trying to say in all this. I certainly agree we should stand up for our rights and to be treated on a level playing field with everyone else. But I also think we need to have an expectation that persecution, and potentially things much worse than not being able to wear a cross at work, may be part of our future. Let's ready ourselves for whatever the future might hold, and be ready to embrace whatever God has in store for us, even if that included persecution.

Simon.