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View from a stage, we see the back of a preacher raises his hands on a stage in front of hundreds of Burundians also raising their hands with eyes closed

As I look around, I think it’s fair to say we lack gospel confidence in this country. For what it’s worth, I want you to know that yesterday, more people came to faith in Jesus than any other day in the history of humanity. The kingdom of God is advancing!

So, last month I’m preaching in the bush in Burundi to about 3000 people, and we’re very clear in the appeal, only come forward if it’s your first time to choose to follow Jesus… and that night, 224 people responded. That’s one outreach in the middle of nowhere. I pray for the Palau Association. They were in Uruguay this week, and they have seen several thousand people come to Jesus at multiple outreaches. Folks, Kingdom fruit is exploding across the world!

It happens that in this country, we’re seemingly on the back foot. But we don’t need to be. I am not – and I hope neither are you – ashamed of the gospel!

This sermon was preached at Living Rock church near Leicester a while back as part of their sermon series on the first Epistle to the Corinthians. My passage was 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, and I spoke about ‘the Fragility of the Messenger but the Power of the Message’.

Watch or take a listen here:

A few quotes/anecdotes:

Tony Lambert observed the extraordinary growth of the church in China through seasons of intense persecution, and came to the following conclusion: “The reason for the growth of the church in China and for the outbreak of genuine spiritual revival in many areas is inextricably linked to the whole theology of the cross… the stark message of the Chinese church is that God used suffering and the preaching of a crucified Christ to pour out revival and build his church. Are we in the West still willing to hear? The Chinese church has walked the way of the cross. The lives and deaths of the martyrs of the 1950s and 1960s have borne rich fruit.”

If you’re a good preacher, be careful, or particularly talented in whatever field, you don’t want to get in the way of the gospel, you want to be a servant of the gospel. A good preacher can obscure Jesus by their preaching, either in the presentation or the message. Like the little girl who used to attend a church with a big preacher with an even bigger personality. One Sunday, when a smaller man was guest speaking she could finally see the stained-glass window of Jesus behind the pulpit said, “Where’s the man who usually stands there so we can’t see Jesus?”

Moody’s encounter with the Holy Spirit in New York transformed his ministry. After one service, two old ladies called Mrs Sarah Cooke and Mrs Hawkhurst approached him and told him, “You are good, but you haven’t got it… we have been praying for you… you need power!” Moody, an already well-respected minister, was surprised. “I need power?” asked Moody. “Why, I thought I had power!” The ladies poured out their hearts that he might receive the anointing of the Holy Ghost and soon there grew a great hunger in his soul. “I felt I did not want to live any longer if I had not this power for service.” There began a period of six months’ pleading with God for more. Then God visited him as he walked down Wall Street in New York; he was never the same again. Although his sermons and doctrine had not changed, his effectiveness in winning thousands to Christ was evidence of this new power.” The same sermons that previously might see 5 now saw 50 come to the Lord, endued with power…

This man was born in a gypsy tent, of humble origins, and yet ended up being invited to the White House by two presidents. Rodney ‘Gypsy’ Smith came into the world in 1860 in Epping Forest, just outside London. Forty five times he crossed the Atlantic to preach the gospel to millions of people on both sides. His passion was almost unparalleled, and there was great fruit in what he did. What was his secret? Private prayer. His praying was even more powerful than his preaching. A delegation once came to him to enquire how they might experience personal and mass revival as he had. They wanted to be used the way Gypsy was. Without hesitating, he said: “Go home. Lock yourself in your room. Kneel down in the middle of the floor, and with a piece of chalk draw a circle round yourself. There, on your knees, pray fervently and brokenly that God would start a revival within that chalk circle.”

One young Zimbabwean man wrote the following before he was martyred: “I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit’s power. The die has been cast. I’ve stepped over the line. The decision has been made – I’m a disciple of his. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still… I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity… I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till he comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till he stops me. And, when he comes for his own, he will have no problem recognizing me… my banner will be clear!”

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A vicar was too busy to help a desperate homeless lady needing help. He fobbed her off with a promise to pray for her. She wrote the following poem and gave it to a local Shelter officer:

I was hungry,
And you formed a humanities group to discuss my hunger.
I was imprisoned,
And you crept off quietly to your chapel and prayed for my release.
I was naked,
And in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance.
I was sick,
And you knelt and thanked God for your health.
I was homeless,
And you preached a sermon on the spiritual shelter of the love of God.
I was lonely,
And you left me alone to pray for me.
You seem so holy, so close to God
But I am still very hungry – and lonely – and cold.

We sympathise with the vicar. The challenge is, we are all so very busy. Is it the right kind of busyness…? Have you had a similar experience? 

Greetings folks! 

The above and below are some of the notes from the questions I wrote up for discussion in home-groups this week, having shared the message yesterday at my local church, Holy Trinity Combe Down.

A little fellow in the ghetto was teased by one of the older street kids who said, “If God loves you, why doesn’t he take care of you?  Why doesn’t God tell someone to bring you shoes and a warm coat and better food?” The little lad thought for a moment then with tears starting in his eyes, said, “I guess He does tell somebody, but somebody forgets…” 

Let’s not be that person who forgets…

“I was talking to a friend who runs a national youth ministry. He told me about the Scouts in this country. They have a waiting list of over 50,000 kids, which puts paid to the lie that kids don’t want to go to a youth group. Many really do want to. They simply can’t. Why? Because there aren’t enough adults volunteering anymore. Where are they? They’re at home in their living rooms bowing down at the altar of Netflix (or Amazon Prime, etc).”

Discuss.

How would you answer the question: What did you do during lockdown? And, what did you learn during lockdown? And what new habits would you like to take out of lockdown moving forwards?

Evening options instead of just vegging in front of the TV watching lame programs (still on the TV though!):

8 sessions of the Prayer Course, free online:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eO1WIawSAkQ

The Alpha Course videos have likewise been posted for free, I’ve loved doing a refresher, high quality: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBMMD5C0k-s&t=521s

Or how about Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage, we really enjoyed this:

Do sign up for praying for Muslims during Ramadhan – prayercast.com They send you a daily 4-min beautiful prayer video.

Ed Walker’s book A House Built on Love is well worth reading. Could any life-group get excited about coming alongside ex-cons/sexually-trafficked ladies/those wrestling with addictions etc in the context of buying a house and loving these precious wounded people to life? Hope into Action have seen stunning fruit, and as a full-on Christian organisation have repeatedly won secular industry awards for their approach. The social capital and potential of the Church is unparalleled in addressing such needs.

In Rocky 3, there’s a scene where he’s going soft, getting cultured. He’s achieved boxing fame, and he loses his fighting fire. Manager Mickey says to him: “The worst thing happened that could happen to any fighter – you got civilized.” I wonder if that is exactly what Jesus would say to us. You got civilized…

Have you been ‘civilised’? Is it wrong to be ‘civilised’? What is the point Simon was making? Do you agree or disagree, and why?

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His brother rang to tell him their parents had been murdered and dumped down the sewer. He was about to run the most important race of his life…

Watch this beautiful short (4-minute) film to hear more of Charles’ story. It’s good to have stories of triumphant hope during these difficult days…

Deep peace to you, 

Simon Guillebaud

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At the height of the crisis in the 1990s, when he was a student at university, someone threw a grenade into Leonidas’ dormitory. Nobody was killed on that occasion, but amongst his many shrapnel wounds, the piece that lodged in his eye has caused ongoing issues ever since. Yet he is not one to seek revenge or harbour feelings of resentment or bitterness.

Leonidas is one of our turbo-charged evangelists, preaching forgiveness and reconciliation around the country through Scripture Union. He’s been greatly used, and continues serving faithfully through many constant challenges.

I love highlighting stories of hope when so often all you hear is the bad stuff. Keep it up Leonidas and SU!

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Emedi

…but still joyfully willing to pay the price.

In the West, in nations not obviously faced with severe constraints on freedom of religion, people can easily trot out the glib pronouncements that all religions are the same, that your truth is whatever works for you, that Islam is a religion of peace, etc. But our experience on the ground would suggest otherwise. Moza’s story is a common one in Burundi.

And it is as offensive to Muslims as it is to Christians to say their religions are the same, that whatever works for you is fine. They are fundamentally different. We are called to love and respect each other completely, but not dumb down our differences and compromise our belief systems. I think our approach is honouring to both sides, and this beautiful short film avoids inflammatory rhetoric that is easy to slip into.

If anyone wants to support our work in this area, there are many folks who are suffering for choosing the Truth, and they need support, having been kicked out of their families (like Moza), lost their chance to go to school, etc.

Please click here if you would like to help.

God bless you!

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kcc

My blog has crashed for a while so this should have been out ten days ago. Apologies if you’ve already seen it.

It’s alive!

Please watch this beautiful film, which tells some of the King’s Conference Centre story – it’s under two minutes. And then, I’d love you to read on…

Indeed, King’s Conference Centre is alive! Jobs are being created, profits are being made and sown back into the work in Burundi, training is being given to empower people.

So much more than a building project, these are living stones with an impact throughout the nation. Our teams around the country can reach so many people because this thriving social enterprise creates funds to plough back into outreach work. It’s a wonderful witness in the toughest of economic and security contexts!

Our mantra is excellence in Jesus’ name, and it’s called King’s Conference Centre because it belongs to the King of Kings.

In fact, if you go on Tripadvisor, we are the no.1 hotel in Burundi.

But we need to provide more jobs and reach more people, so we are in the final stages of expanding KCC. Once complete, much of our work will be beautifully sustainable, changing lives forever – it’s stunning!

The last big wedge of money is now needed to get us over the finishing line. The five storeys are built, windows and doors and electrical work are nearly complete. What remains is equipping this sizeable building.

Would you consider buying into KCC with its vision to create income which funds seeing many lives transformed? It’s already amazingly fruitful but the expansion will enable us to reach so many more lives and provide more jobs. On the top floor will be a 24/7 prayer room, uniting denominations in priceless prayer for the nation.

Could you pitch in? If everyone reading this gives $26/ £15 or more, we could finish the job straight away and change lives forever.

Every little (or large) bit helps. Please, if you want to sow however much, do so by clicking here £ or here $

Thank God they’re not just bricks and mortar, they’re living stones! And so are you.

Thank you for your prayers and support; without you, none of this would be possible.

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This is everything I love about what we are trying to do as GLO. It is utterly strategic in the nation; it models beautiful partnership across nationalities; it involves empowering and equipping leaders.

 

Meet one of our key partners, Antioch Africa, in this stunning short film, just 3mins+.

 

 

In years to come, I don’t doubt this will have a critically positive role in shaping a healthy Church in Burundi, and even beyond. Bring it on!