Thanks again to all who have been praying for me over the last month - God is a gracious God who is worthy of praise because of who he is, and who has generously provided much to give thanks for in December.
I'm aware that there are some who have been added to this prayer list over the last few months who won't know exactly what I'm up to in Oxford. To make that clear again I'll end this prayer update with a bit of a reminder of what I'm doing here.
First, a few things to give thanks for:
A very snowy start to the Christmas period meant that sadly I wasn't able to get up to Hartlepool to visit friends and family! I'm hoping to go up this week though, so do pray that I'd get away for that! I did however manage to get off to Dubai for a week, despite the snow, and had to suffer the hardship of wearing shorts and flip flops in the middle of winter - someone has to do it! It was a busy week of seeing many (pretty unbelievable!) sights, but despite that it was a lot of fun and very relaxing - so thank God for that! Thank God that I do feel refreshed and excited about getting stuck into ministry again in 2011.
The most exciting part of my trip to Dubai, however, was my engagement to Cathy! On Boxing day I proposed to Cathy and I'm delighted to say that we're hoping to marry in July this year. I won't tell the story of how it happened here - talk to Cathy if you'd like to hear it (she tells it much better than I do!). Praise God for how he's brought us together and please do pray for the planning of the wedding as I'm busy with church stuff, and Cathy is very busy with finals and CU exec. Please pray that we'd enjoy the planning process, but that it wouldn't detract from the other things that we're involved in. More importantly, please do pray that we'd have a marriage that is centred on Christ and that God uses to bring glory to his name in the church and the world.
I mentioned in my last prayer update that I had my second preaching opportunity at Woody Road in December. I loved getting stuck into Luke chapter 1 and I was encouraged to receive some positive feedback. I really feel that God is graciously teaching me a lot about preaching whilst here at Woody Road, and I feel that I'm growing at a quicker rate than I ever have previously in preaching, for which I'm very grateful to God.
That's just a few of the many things that I'm grateful to God for over the last month. Now, a few things to pray for:
You might remember that I asked you to pray for 'Can we do without God?'. Last semester I enrolled on a ten week philosophy course which aimed to answer the above question. I did this to sharpen my own apologetic skills, and also to give me chance to get to know some who were asking this question and to grapple with the issues with them. I found it really difficult - there were some real encouragements but it was also very challenging. Nevertheless, I did get to know some people on the course and enjoyed some very deep and soul-searching conversations. I'm trying to think what's the best way of following up these friendships, so do please pray for that!
The South Central Ministry Training Course (SCMTC) that I attend is partnered with a similar course in Nairobi (read more below about what this course is). One of the alumni of SCMTC moved back out to Kenya and realised that many even of the pastors in Kenya had had poorer theological training than even we'd had on SCMTC. To do something about this he set up the Nairobi ministry training course. NMTC has three residential weeks throughout the year, to which ministry apprentices from around the region come to receive Bible teaching, teaching on how to better handle scripture and feedback on a talk they've prepared. This year, for the first time, we're hoping to send a team from our course to support their's. I'm hoping, this easter, to be part of a team of around 8 from SCMTC who are going out to help out on one of these residential weeks. Please be praying for this week - that it would be a real help to the church in Kenya, and that as a result the Bible would be preached more faithfully leading to God being known more intimately in that country. Also please pray for our team - that we'd work well together and that we'd manage to save/raise the necessary funds to enable us to go!
Last month I asked for prayer for some of the youth work I do. This month I'd appreciate if you could focus your prayers specifically on student work. Every Sunday evening we have a student gathering after the evening service, which I lead. During this we do a variety of things: engaging with popular culture (see my previous blog posts for some of the things we've looked at!), praying together, thinking about topical issues, thinking about application of the sermon, hearing from some different people in church, and so on. We've been blessed to see a lot of new students join us this year, making the group a decent size to work with. Please pray for me as I lead this, that I'd know what is the best thing for us to be doing to be most helpful for the students (any thoughts on this then do let me know!). Also please pray for the group, that they'd become close and feel able to be open with each other so that real, edifying, encouraging and mutually beneficial relationships develop.
Thanks! Please let me know how your doing - I'd love to hear from you!
As promised, here's a brief explanation of what I'm doing here:
Starting September 2010 I'm spending two years at Woodstock Road Baptist Church, Oxford, as a ministry trainee. During this time I'll have opportunity to serve the church here in a variety of contexts - at the moment that involves doing one-to-ones, preaching, leading youth and student work and doing some practical things. I also have opportunities to study - both through study that we do as a staff team here, as well as through attending for one day a week over two years the South Central Ministry Training Course. At the course we receive teaching on a range of different things. We go through books of the Bible and Vaughan Roberts is teaching us an overview of the Bible. We look at thematic things such as prayer, the cross, working with internationals, working with muslims and so on. We also, each week, split into workshop groups of around 10 people and have chance to deliver a talk and receive feedback from the group. It's a very helpful course!
I'm doing all of this with a view to, at some stage, possibly entering full-time paid Christian ministry (or whatever you'd like to call it - you know what I mean!). For a long time I've felt that, and have been encouraged to think about whether, becoming a pastor is something I could pursue in the future. As well as the privilege of serving a church in this way, I hope that these two years will make it clearer whether this is something that I should be pursuing - particularly whether I have the gifts and character necessary for such a role. So do pray that this would become clear!