Category Archives: General

General posts on my blog

How risk averse are you?

One of my observations over the past months is that how we respond to the rules and regulations regarding Covid 19 indicates a lot about how much of a risk taker people are, or perhaps how risk averse they are. There is a sliding scale of compliance with the regulations from those who pushing, if not breaking, the boundaries to those who go way beyond them, often for health reasons.

How do we as Christians respond to these rules and regulations? Is it OK to bend or break the rules or should we be careful to obey them?

As a Christian leader I believe that we have a biblical mandate to obey the laws of our land as long as how laws do not contravene core principles of our faith. In the case of Covid 19 I believe the Christians should adhere to the rules and be seen to do so.

It is with deep concern that I have seen Christian leaders and churches openly and brazenly break the rules. Some met during lockdown when all church buildings were legally closed whilst Others have had congregational singing. Whilst I long to be able to sing in our services I won’t do so for two reasons. Firstly it is against the regulations and secondly it puts our congregations at a high risk of passing on the virus.

But what about us individually. We are in Tier 2 and the regulations state:
You must not socialise with anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place.
You must not socialise in a group of more than 6 people outside, including in a garden or a public space – this is called the ‘rule of 6’.

How are you at keeping these regulations? Has anyone who is not part of your household been inside your home in the past weeks?

By it’s very nature a church services is a social setting. We are the community of followers of Jesus. And yet we are not to socialise when we gather. I know it’s hard, and I know it goes against our instincts. But socialising brings with it a greater risk of passing on the virus and we wouldn’t want to be the one to do that, would we? So don’t sit with someone who isn’t in your household or support bubble. And when you leave, and I know this is really hard, but keep distanced and follow the rue of six.

Oh – and a thought about support bubbles. These aren’t open and flexible for us to be in more than one and move from one to the next as we want to. They are fixed, and for good reason.

And then we come to Christmas. The regulations will be changing to allow us to meet in groups, or Christmas bubbles, of up to three households. But that bubble is also fixed and you can’t meet one set of family on Christmas Day and a different set of family on Boxing Day etc. It does however mean if you have formed a ‘Christmas bubble’ when you join us in our building on Christmas Day you can sit with that bubble.

Because you can doesn’t mean you have to. So the permission is there for wider gatherings, but please think very carefully before you do. Personally we could have had both our children and their families round for lunch on Christmas Day, but we won’t. Instead we will meet outside in some way. It will be difficult and it will hurt, but as an asthmatic I’m aware how careful I need to be, and the end is in sight now.

Please, please, please do your utmost to obey the regulations. I am incredibly fortunate that I haven’t yet been asked to take the funeral of someone I know who had died of Covid and I really don’t want that day to come. I may be verging on the very risk averse side but I’d rather be there and safe.

Chronic Pain Is Coming To The CofE

Is this a once in a lifetime opportunity to set the Church of England up differently for mission and growth rather than decline? It may well be but there will be a heavy cost paid by some.

The Church of England is not immune to the financial difficulties that have come from the recent pandemic. My own diocese has taken out multi million pound business continuity loan as well as receiving hundreds of thousands from central church funds. That will however only paper over the gaps for a short time. The bottom line is income to all churches and all dioceses is down significantly. With the second lockdown and no knowledge of when we will return to a semblance of ‘normality’ the institution of the Church of England has to plan now for the future.

Like most other organisations the greatest expenditure is on people. Unlike most other organisations it will not be quick to change that. The process for pastoral reorganisation that will result in redundancies is likely to take between 18 months and 2 years depending on who you speak to. So each diocese needs to look towards budgeting for 2022 and 2023 and estimating what the income will be! Not an easy task.

The bottom line is that many stipendiary clergy across the whole of the Church of England are likely to be made redundant. Think for a moment what that means and the pain that will be felt in every one of those households. It will mean not only losing the income of a stipend, but also the security of housing, as that will go as well. It means cutting themselves off from the community that they have been serving, in my case for 17 years. They will have to find new housing for themselves and their families outside of the parish where they serve. They may well apply for vacant posts, but as many are made redundant the ‘competition’ for these will become difficult. Some will not be able to find another post within the Church of England. That’s a massive ask, but it is now inevitable.

Will the pain be borne primarily be clergy and their families, or are our church communities willing to bear a share of the pain as well? If our church communities still expect their services to continue as before, if they still expect the vicar to be a governor on the board of the local church school and if they expect the same level of leadership and pastoral care as before, if there is an expectation that communion will still be the primary expression of worship then it will all have been in vain.

If we are going to go through the pain barrier it must be worthwhile. And the only way it can be that is if we reset our structures for mission, growth and evangelism rather than the maintenance of long held traditions and how things have always been done.

Are you prepared to share the pain that is coming down the road along with Vicars, Priests-In-Charge and Rectors?

I must also ask will the pain primarily be felt in the parishes? I was speaking to a friend a few weeks ago who said that since the 1950s the graph of Anglican Church attendance has been in a severe downward direction, however, he contended, at the same time the number of Bishops in the Church of England has been on an upwards curve! Will the changes impact on the senior posts in equal measure to parish posts?

I’m an Anglican Vicar and I feel like giving up!

One of the things that I have learnt through having depression is that so often it is a silent disease. But it’s only when we start talking about it that we discover that we’re not alone and lots of others are going through the same struggles. We are created by God to be unique, but, at the same time, others experience life in a similar way to the way we do. This reflection is very personal, it is about me, my personality, my situation and my struggles. However I strongly suspect there are lots more who experience life in similar ways.

As a church minister we don’t often talk about things that are difficult. Within the Church of England, and probably other denominations, there is a sense of deference to senior diocesan clergy and a fear of saying it as it is. The fear is that we won’t be taken seriously, that we could jeopardise future help and support from within our diocese and that our future prospects will be marred with a black mark against our name. And then there’s the totally wrong perception of competition with other local churches. I daren’t admit that I’m failing or struggling. So often we only hear the good stories and not the difficult ones.

Well I’m 62 in January, about four years off retirement. I’m not likely to move to another clergy post so I’m no longer worried about saying it as it is. Maybe my depression has changed me!

This is personal so a bit of background. In May 2019 I was told by my doctor that I was suffering from work related stress, depression and anxiety and he signed me off work. That came as a real surprise and a shock to me. After about 2 months I slowly began to feel better and started thinking about returning to ministry. However I was then diagnosed with possible cancer and was off until November with two operations under general anaesthetic, but in November was finally told the lump was benign. I returned to ministry in November and worked through Christmas and the start of 2020. By the end of February I was going downhill again and then – yes – the pandemic struck. And yes my depression deepened. I’ve struggled through but as I write this I’m just over a week on from a change in medication and my low moods aren’t as deep or as long which is great.

So yes, this comes from about 18 months of suffering from stress, anxiety and depression.

So why do I feel like giving up?

Firstly you need to understand what virtually no one who hasn’t been a full time church leader understands. That what we do is lonely and isolating. It is tough and difficult even when things are going well. You are aware that whatever you do you will always upset some. You also need to know that being a full time church leader takes a real toll on our spouses and families.

I am an introvert, and so I make few friends and the friendships I make tend to be longer lasting. At least that’s the theory. We moved church communities 3 times in 6 years, moving house twice in that time. Sadly the distance in time has meant those older friendships are hardly there at all for me. I’ve been in my present post for 17 years and, as most people in church leadership know, it’s next to impossible to have true friends within the church where you minister. There are challenges, difficulties and confidences that you simply cannot share with even the closest friends within your church community.

And then Covid struck. Almost overnight it deleted almost every setting of community for most of us. We weren’t allowed to meet, even our church buildings were closed. What had always been difficult but manageable became really, really tough as the feeling of loneliness and isolation deepened. I saw others leaning into their friendships and relationships both within and outside of the church. But for me those simply weren’t there.

Through this it would be amazing if I could say we were loved, cared for and supported. But, if I’m honest, we have only felt that rarely. You might think that we would be well supported and cared for by the senior clergy in the diocese, our Archdeacon and Bishop. You might think that but the reality is sadly different, although my archdeacon may disagree with me! One phone call in March and agreement to pay for more counselling, but nothing more despite them knowing I was depressed and having counselling. That is on top of receiving virtually no pastoral care when I was off sick for six months in 2019 and not even having the most basic of HR support when I returned to parish life. Not even a phone call after returning to parish ministry to ask how I was doing!

I was recently asked what would good pastoral care for church leaders from their institutions look like at the moment in Covid? It’s actually not a straightforward question to answer. I would say regular contact, at least monthly, by phone, card or email always making the open invitation for a conversation. True pastoral concern for who we are rather than what we do. And this needs to come from the senior church leaders. In the Anglican Church Ares Deans can and do offer support which is gratefully received. However it is entirely different to receive support from those in authority. I’m aware that our Archdeacons and Bishops have been impacted by Covid just as much as parish clergy have been. They too are stressed and stretched. However if they don’t have the time, or consider it isn’t in their job description to offer pastoral care and support to parish clergy then something has gone very badly wrong.

My support network has been with local colleagues with whom I’ve been able to share fairly openly as we’ve met, mainly virtually, every fortnight or so. And also a mentor who I’ve met with regularly.

I followed a recent thread in a closed group for vicars recently regarding APCMs. The questions was how often have you been thanked for what you do as the vicar? The overwhelming response has been only rarely, if at all. The impression of most is that while we lead the thanks for others in our church communities it’s rare for anyone to publicly thank the vicar.

Think about yourself, if you are not a church leader. When was the last time you sent a card saying I’m thinking of you, or dropped round a small gift, or phoned them up simply to ask how are you?

So I feel like giving up.

You know it’s incredibly tough to see 17 years of hard graft and toil decimated by the pandemic and my depression. What has kept me going for so long has been the opportunity to minister amongst families and children. Weekly Open The Book assemblies, school Christmas, Easter and Leavers services, our Tea Service for families which was growing a new congregation of the generation that are missing from so many churches. Through Covid and my depression all of that has gone for over six months, and most of this looks nearly impossible for at least the next six months as well.

So I feel like giving up.

For the past 17 years I have sought to preach, teach and lead in such a way that Sunday wasn’t seen as the centre and heart of church life. Yes, I probably didn’t do that as well as I could. But what is happening now is that church life revolves, once again, around Sunday. In fact the majority of time, effort and energy in almost every church I know of has gone into making Sunday the heart of church life again. Whilst this meets the desires and wants of most of those who have attended our churches in the past it will never reach the 95 percent who see church as irrelevant.

So I feel like giving up.

On top of all that the financial realities that have impacted so many others are just about to hit the Church of England. Our diocese will have to make massive financial savings and the only real way of doing that is to reduce the number of paid clergy. We are just starting conversations in our deanery (group of churches) that might lead to me being made redundant, or as the Church of England calls it, being pastorally reorganised so there is no longer a post for me. I enter into that process with no trust in the abilities of our senior church structures of being able to run a good process. I shared with our congregation that there may not be a post for me in 12-18 months time and went into more details with our PCC. Did anyone ask how I was, or how my wife was? Did anyone say ‘Are you OK.’ No not a single person.

So I feel like giving up.

But I won’t give up! Why?

Well firstly and formostely because I am absolutely clear that God called me to become the vicar of this church. He has yet to tell me that He has rescinded that calling. That may be me rather than God as my spiritual experience has been that God has been on mute for the past many months. But even If I’m deaf God is big enough to tell me clearly and I haven’t heard that yet!

Secondly because I can’t afford to. I won’t get my state pension until I’m 66 and that is still four and a bit years off. Until then I can’t afford to retire and finding another post for four years that is local to our children would be next to impossible.

Finally, and most importantly, because of the 95 percent. We used to have a notice up in the entrance porch of our church that said; “St Pauls’ is a Church for the Unchurched and a Church for Children.” One day a member of our church community asked me – so where am I in that statement? Good question. I wanted to say, you’ve been part of this church for many years, you’ve received teaching, support and nurture. You should by now be able to care for yourself as a Christian and start teaching, supporting and nurturing others who are not yet part of our church community. Yes it is important to care for those who are already part of our church communities, but what about the 95 percent who think God, Jesus and church are irrelevant to them. Early on in my time at St Paul’s I used to say my vision is to get to heaven and to take as many other people with me as possible, deep down that vision is still the one that drives me.

I still feel like giving up but I won’t because of the 95 percent.

Is this a cry for help – possibly. But it is far more a call for church institutions of all denominations to take seriously the pastoral care of church leaders who have been stressed, and stretched beyond imagination by the pandemic. It is a cry for ordinary Christians also to care for and support their church leaders who have been doing a nearly impossible job over the past six months, and the next six months aren’t looking much easier.

Generations and Church Life Part 1

In June and July we are hosting three evenings at St Paul’s under the title “Church – Past Present & Future.” The intention of these evenings is to explore some of the background to the nature of the church in the 21st century and how we as the church need to continue to adapt and change.

The first of these evenings is on the differences in generations. When you were born has a big influence on your values and priorities in life. This is the second in my series of post on this and I’m resurrecting something that I posted during my sabbatical back in 2012.


One of the goals on my sabbatical is to improve my physical fitness and last week, whilst at the gym, I heard a gentleman singing to himself, he was aged about 75-80 (I know guessing is dangerous), and the song he was singing was ‘The Sound of Silence.’ This was very appropriate as I have been reading some material in the last couple of weeks about the differences between generations and he was a member of what has been called the Silent generation.

I heard of a conversation recently between a member of that same generation and another member in their church. The member of the Silent generation was talking about all the changes in church life over recent years,”The church hasn’t changed for 2,000 years why does it need to change now, why can everything just stay the same, as it’s meant to be!”

Not too long ago I had a conversation with someone I know very well about songs that we sing in our Sunday gatherings. They were expressing how difficult it is to sing some modern worship songs and how the music doesn’t follow the rules they were taught at school for good music writing. Emphasis is on the off beat or between the beats and that makes them difficult for public, corporate singing.

At the time of each of these I had no idea how generationally effected each of these situations was. My reaction to the more elderly person who complains about change and wants everything in the church to stay the same as they grew up with can easily be to see them as stubborn and awkward, standing in the way of progress! What is happening behind the scenes is that the person probably grew up in a time of great turmoil and difficulty and the church was the one place of stability and safety and, for them, became a sanctuary and this is the root of their generational preference for keeping things as they are.

My natural reaction to music that is more modern and written to different rules and is therefore difficult to sing in public settings (especially when you haven’t got the strong and imposing lead of a worship band) is to say its not working, it wont work, it’s bad musically and therefore we won’t use it. What is happening here behind the scenes is that a generation has indeed rewritten the rule book for writing good music, their music is written on the off beat or between the beats and it isn’t intended for public, corporate singing in the same way that hymns or choruses are. It is a style of music where participation is not expressed by singing all the words with heart and gusto, participation is by joining in, supporting and enjoying the performance of the song.

It is also important for older church members to understand that the radical societal changes of the last twenty years have not left cultural expressions untouched. In particular, music has changed radically. For example, “youth today, for the most part, are not listening to music that they can sing. Most youth music is simply heard but that does not make it nonparticipatory music. The music still demands nonverbal participation” (Schowalter 1995:21). (Quoted from Graeme Codrington’s Thesis see below).

The work I have read is by Graeme Codrington. His presentation on generational theory was for me one of the highlights of the Portsmouth Diocesan Conference in September last year. Since then I have heard him gve the same presentation again and I have read his book, Mind The Gap, and also his MA thesis on multi-generational ministry in the church. His presentations, both in person and in writing are thought provoking and challenging and potentially effect almost every area of the lives of our church communities. The way we prefer to pray, learn, worship, lead and understand or experience the Gospel can all have significant generational overtones.

I write this having just led a Myers Briggs workshop for people in Winchester Diocese (I know I’m on sabbatical but the fee for the workshop will help pay for a small part of my sabbatical!). I am aware therefore that there are many different aspects to who we are. Our family setting, upbringing, experiences, gifts and abilities as well as our personalities have made us who we are today. What I had not realised to any real extent before was how much the era in which we were born has also moulded who we are today. We are all created as unique by God, and yet there are similarities between us. There are 16 MBTI types and I was reminded last weekend just how similar individuals with the same MBTI type can be. Just as those with the same type are unique but also have deep areas of similarity, so those born in a generation are unique but also have deep areas of similarity. All is well and good with one type or generation until they meet another type or generation, and potentially mis-hear and misunderstand the other. It is so easy to think that our type or generation has the ‘right’ values, worldview, understanding likes and dislikes. When one type or generation is the dominant one it can be difficult and uncomfortable for the other types and generations and within the church the option is always there to walk out of the back door never to return (and many sadly have done so!).

I’ll pick up this theme in my next post but in the meantime if you want to read Graeme Codrington’s work you can find it in his book Mind The Gap or by reading his thesis which you can find online here:



Reasons For Attending Sunday Services Less Often


I recently read the online article below and it made me stop and think. All church leaders are aware of the trend that even the most committed members are often not at their service every Sunday. We all speculate about the reasons and I found this article helpful. I was especially challenged by number 6: The Cultural Disappearance of Guilt. This coupled with a recent statement from our Diocesan Missions Adviser about the cultural disappearance of ‘Duty’ is challenging.

If you are one of those who isn’t at St Paul’s (or another church) each Sunday then why? Do the reasons below ring true? If so which ones? Are there other reasons not mentioned below?

I would be REALLY REALLY interested in your thoughts. Be honest, if we are to help lead the church in the coming years we need to better understand the cultural shifts that are happening all around us.

You can leave your comments on the church website, or on the comments for this post on Facebook. We really do want hear!


10 Reasons Even Committed Church Attenders Are Attending Church Less Often

It comes up in a surprising number of conversations these days. And no one’s quite sure how to respond to it.

The issue? Even committed church attenders are attending church less often.

Sure, the trend has been happening for years (gone are the days when people attended 50 out of 52 Sundays), but the issue is reaching a tipping point in the church today.

This isn’t a post about why people have left the church (that’s a different subject.) This is about church attenders who love God, appreciate the local church and are even involved in the local church, but who simply attend less often.

This trend isn’t going away…in fact it’s accelerating,

It impacts almost every church regardless of size, denomination or even location.

It probably marks a seismic shift in how the church will do ministry in the future.

Of course, church attendance is never the goal. But attendance is a sign of something deeper that every church leader is going to have to wrestle with over the next few years.

The first key to addressing what’s happening is to understand what’s happening.

So…why are even committed attenders attending less often? There are at least 10 reasons.

1. Greater affluence

Money gives people options.

If your church is at all engaging the middle class, the upper middle class, or a suburban demographic, an interesting trend is developing. The middle class is shrinking, but as this New York Times report shows, it’s shrinking (in part) because more of the middle class is becoming upper class. Both US and Canadian personal disposable incomes are at all time highs.

There are simply more affluent people than there were decades ago, which may in part explain why so many “average’ people indulge their obsessions with granite counter tops, designer homes and decent cars, even without being mega-wealthy.

Naturally, this leaves a huge theological void about ministry to and with the poor, but it helps explain what’s actually happening in the suburbs and increasingly with the re-urbanization of many cities as the affluent move back downtown. Please…I’m not arguing things should be this way. I’m simply showing that this seems to be what’s happening.

And again…people with money have options. Technology options. Travel options. Options for their kids. And, arguably, that affluence may be one of the factors moving them further away from a committed engagement to the mission of the local church. It’s perhaps fuelling some of the reasons outlined below.

2. Higher focus on kids’ activities

A growing number of kids are playing sports. And a growing number of kids are playing on teams that require travel.

Many of those sports happen on weekends. And affluent parents are choosing sports over church.

It’s as simple as that.

3. More travel

Despite a wobbly economy, travel is on the rise, both for business and pleasure.

More and more families of various ages travel for leisure, even if it’s just out of town to go camping or to a friend’s place for the weekend or a weekend at the lake.

And when people are out of town, they tend to not be in church.

4. Blended and single parent families

Fortunately, more and more blended families and single parent families are finding a home in church.

So how does this translate into attendance patterns?

Church leaders need to remember that when custody is shared in a family situation, ‘perfect’ attendance for a kid or teen might be 26 Sundays a year.

Similarly, while the affluent might not be in church because of access to reliable transportation, single parents (who, not always, but often, struggle more financially) might not be in church because they lack access to reliable transportation.

So here’s the strange twist. People who have a car are often not in church because they have a car. People who want to be in church are often not in church because they don’t have a car or because it’s not their ‘weekend’ for church.

Sadly, people who want to get to church simply can’t.

By the way, I lead a church that virtually requires a vehicle to get there. I love how we often see people with reliable transportation helping out those who don’t have a vehicle. That’s at least a partial remedy to this problem.

5. Online Options

Many churches have created a social media presence and many podcast their messages like we do at Connexus. Churches are also launching online campuses that bring the entire service to you on your phone, tablet or TV.

There are pros and cons to online church and there’s no doubt that churches with a strong online presence have seen it impact physical attendance.

But whether or not your church has online options doesn’t make the issue go away. Anyone who attends your church has free access to any online ministry of any church.

Online church is here to stay, whether you participate or not.

6. The cultural disappearance of guilt

When I grew up, I felt guilty about not being in church on a Sunday.

The number of people who feel guilty about not being in church on Sunday shrinks daily.

I regularly meet people all the time who haven’t been in months but LOVE our church.

If you’re relying on guilt as a motivator, you need a new strategy. (Well, honestly, you’ve always needed a new strategy…)

7. Self-directed spirituality

People are looking less to churches and leaders to help them grow spiritually, and more to other options.

We live in a era in which no parent makes a visit to a doctor’s office without having first googled the symptoms of a child’s illness and a recommended course of treatment. Just ask any family physician. It drives them nuts. (Google, doctors will tell you, is not a complete replacement for medical school.)

Similarly, when was the last time you bought a car without completely researching it online?

In an age where we have access to everything, more and more people are self-directing their spirituality…for better or for worse.

Similarly, another characteristics of the post-modern mind is a declining trust of and reliance on institutions.

The church in many people’s minds is seen as an institution.

I don’t actually believe that’s what a church is. I think it’s a movement…not an institution. But many churches behave like an institution, and the post-modern mind instinctively moves away from it as a result.

8. Failure to see a direct benefit

People always make time for the things they value most. If they’re not making time for church, that tells you something.

Even among people who say their love the church and who say they love your church, if declining attendance is an issue, chances are it’s because they don’t see a direct benefit. They don’t see the value in being there week after week.

That could be because there isn’t much value (gut check). Or it could be because there is value that they simply don’t see.

Either way, failure to see a direct benefit always results in declining engagement.

So what are you doing or not doing that leaves people feeling like there’s not that much value?

9. Valuing attendance over engagement

When someone merely attends church, the likelihood of showing up regularly or even engaging their faith decreases over time.

At our church, I find our most engaged people—people who serve, give, invite and who are in a community group—are our most frequent attenders.

More and more as a leader, I value engagement over attendance.

Ironically, if you value attendance over engagement, you will see declining attendance.

10. A massive culture shift

All of these trends witness to something deeper. Our culture is shifting. Seismically.

Church leaders who fail to recognize this will not be able to change rapidly enough to respond to the shifts that are happening.

Change is unkind to the unprepared, so prepare.

This article is from Carey Nieuwhof and can be read here: 10 Reasons Even Committed Church Attenders Are Attending Church Less Often



Christmas Letter from Prison

Pastor Saeed Abedini

Each year we write a Christmas Letter which we send out with some of our Christmas cards to friends we haven’t seen in the past year, you may well do the same. With that in mind I read the letter below which comes from a Christian Pastor in Iran. Pastor Saeed Abedini has been in prison in Iran since the summer of 2012. His story is long and heartbreaking, all attempts to secure his release have thus far been fruitless. In the midst of deplorable prison conditions, he has written this Christmas message to his family, it is both heartbreaking and challenging:

Rajai Shahr Prison 2014

Merry Christmas!

These days are very cold here. My small space beside the window is without glass making most nights unbearable to sleep. The treatment by fellow prisoners is also quite cold and at times hostile. Some of my fellow prisoners don’t like me because I am a convert and a pastor. They look at me with shame as someone who has betrayed his former religion. The guards can’t even stand the paper cross that I have made and hung next to me as a sign of my faith and in anticipation of celebrating my Savior’s birth. They have threatened me and forced me to remove it. This is the first Christmas that I am completely without my family; all of my family is presently outside of the country. These conditions have made this upcoming Christmas season very hard, cold and shattering for me. It appears that I am alone with no one left beside me.

These cold and brittle conditions have made me wonder why God chose the hardest time of the year to become flesh and why He came to the earth in the weakest human condition (as a baby). Why did God choose the hardest place to be born in the cold weather? Why did God choose to be born in a manger in a stable, which is very cold, filthy and unsanitary with an unpleasant smell? Why did the birth have to be in such a way that it was not only hard physically, but also socially? It must have brought such shame for Mary and her fiancé that she was pregnant before marriage in the religious society of that time.

Dear sisters and brothers, the fact of the Gospel is that it is not only the story of Jesus, but it is the key of how we are to live and serve like Jesus. Today we like Him should come out of our safe comfort zone in order to proclaim the Word of Life and Salvation though faith in Jesus Christ and the penalty of sin that He paid on the cross and to proclaim His resurrection. We should be able to tolerate the cold, the difficulties and the shame in order to serve God. We should be able to enter into the pain of the cold dark world. Then we are able to give the fiery love of Christ to the cold wintery manger of those who are spiritually dead. It might be necessary to come out of the comfort of our lives and leave the loving embrace of our family to enter the manger of the lives of others, such as it has been for me for the third consecutive Christmas. It may be that we will be called fools and traitors and face many difficulties, but we should crucify our will and wishes even more until the world hears and tastes the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas means that God came so that He would enter your hearts today and transform your lives and to replace your pain with indescribable joy.

Christmas is the manifestation of the radiant brightness of the Glory of God in the birth of a child named Emmanuel, which means God is with us.

Christmas is the day that the heat of the life-giving fire of God’s love shone in the dark cold wintry frozen hearts and burst forth in this deadly wicked world.

The same way that the heat from the earth’s core melts the hard stones in itself and produces lava, the fiery love of God, Jesus Christ, through the virgin Mary’s womb came to earth on Christmas to melt the hard heart of sin and wickedness of the world and removes them from our life. In the same process, the work of the Holy Spirit is a fiery rain of God’s Holiness and Mercy that flows into our body, soul and spirit and brings the light of Christ into us and through us making this dark, cold, wintry world into radiant burning brightness. He is turning our world into a world full of peace, joy, and love that is so different than the dark, cold, and wintry world that we used to live in. Hallelujah!

So this Christmas let the lava-like love of Christ enter into the depth of your heart and make you fiery, ready to pay any cost in order to bring the same lava love to the cold world around you, transforming them with the true message of Christmas.

Pastor Saeed Abedini
Soaking in the lava love of Christ



Matthew 4:17 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Repent – what does that word mean to you? In my mind it is normally associated with sin and confession. However in it’s original context it meant something wider. It is from the greek metanoeō to change one’s mind or purpose. The Amplified Bible renders this passage as: “Repent ( change your mind for the better, …), for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Repentance is not just about sin and turning from the bad things in our lives. It is about a reorientation of our mindset to realise that God’s Kingdom is at hand. The Kingdom of God is so close we can touch it, feel it and live in it today. But to do so we need to train our minds to be aware of it. Today all the resources, power, love, joy peace and goodness of God in His Kingdom are open to us if we will reach out our hands to embrace them.

The Gospel – As I've Traditionally Understood It

Cross Photo by Peat BakkeBack to my question: What is the Gospel?

As a starter it is the description given to the first four books of the New Testament, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John. These are the stories of Jesus, his birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection.

In Christian life and language the word Gospel is also used as a shorthand term to explain the reason for the story of Jesus. Jesus lived and died to be and the bring the Good News, or the Gospel, to mankind. What therefore is this Gospel that Jesus came to be and to proclaim?

It encompasses sin, forgiveness and eternal life in heaven. It is summarised in one of the best known verses in the bible John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

The Gospel starts with our sin. All of us have sinned and as a result are separated from God. The Gospel is needed because we have no way of restoring our relationship with God, only He could do that.

The Gospel is then about forgiveness. In the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross we have the possibility of forgiveness for our sin if we will accept him as our Lord & Saviour. Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

So, in Jesus, we are saved from our sin and the eternal consequences of our sin. We are also saved to an eternal destiny in Heaven. As those who have accepted Jesus and submitted our lives to Him as our Lord, Christians can be absolutely certain of their eternal destiny. When we die we will be with Jesus in Heaven, Halleluia!

So the gospel is about the forgiveness of sin and the certainty of eternity lived in Heaven. We know that we are forgiven and we know where we’re going.

The question I’ve started to grapple with over the past few weeks is whether what I’ve said above is it, or is there more to the Gospel than I’ve previously thought?

Next time I’ll be looking at the references to the word Gospel within the bible. After all the bible should be the first place that we turn to for our understanding.



The War on Christians

Thank you for the few comments and responses that I received to my last post. I’ll be returning to that theme soon.

Today I read an article in the Spectator that really made me stop and think and here are some quotes from it:





80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians. Statistically speaking, that makes Christians by far the most persecuted religious body on the planet.


An average of 100,000 Christians have been killed in what the centre calls a ‘situation of witness’ each year for the past decade. That works out to 11

Christians killed somewhere in the world every hour, seven days a week and 365 days a year, for reasons related to their faith.


Of the 65 Christian churches in Baghdad, 40 have been bombed at least once since the beginning of the 2003 US-led invasion.


The truth is that in the West, a threat to religious freedom means someone might get sued; in many other parts of the world, it means someone might get shot, and surely the latter is the more dramatic scenario.


‘When I hear that so many Christians in the world are suffering, am I indifferent, or is it as if a member of my own family is suffering?’ the Pope asked his following. ‘Am I open to that brother or that sister in my family who’s giving his or her life for Jesus Christ?’

In 2011, the Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, who leads a church with more than its fair share of new martyrs, phrased the same questions more plaintively during a conference in London. He bluntly asked: ‘Does anybody hear our cry? How many atrocities must we endure before somebody, somewhere, comes to our aid?


The full article from The Spectator can be read here: