It’s one of the most popular verses in the Bible, bringing comfort to millions every day. It’s a wonderful, warm sentiment, which has spawned a veritable industry of bookmarks, posters and mugs. It is pinned to refrigerator doors all over the world, a source of daily encouragement that ‘God is in control.’ Most Christians will know it well:
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
There’s an awful lot of truth in this verse. God is absolutely all-seeing; he knows everything that has been and that will be already. He certainly has a plan for the world, and our privilege as his followers is to experience and join in with it daily. He definitely promises us a hope and a future. But that’s not really what we read into that verse, and it’s not really what it’s saying, either.
Nick Tatchell has blogged on harvest and how different it is from when he was a child:
It’s Harvest Festival time of year. The harvest festivals of my childhood saw the altar of our small village church laden with sheaves of corn, mounds of green beans, ripe-red tomatoes, carrots, apples, pears (was everyone an Alan Titchmarsh-grade gardener back then?). These days our church altar is more likely to be laden with tins of soup, beans or other ‘non-perishables’ that we pass on to our local food bank: all very worthy, but where are the vibrant hotchpotch of colours and the raw-earth smells of my childhood?
Scripture Union is offering a discounted subscription on their Light materials for CofE parishes. The discount which is being offered for a limited period is 20% off an annual subscription, plus a free copy of the accompanying children’s magazine and free delivery.
A special Church of England page has been set up on the Scripture Union website – Check it out!
One of the Church of England’s first female bishops is launching a campaign to tackle to negative body image.
Bishop of Gloucester Rachel Treweek has already visited a number of schools to talk to girls about the problem.
She said her experience as a teenager had inspired her to tackle the issue. She told the Sunday Times:
“I’m very aware that I did not fulfil what pretty girls are meant to be like. It’s got worse since I was that age. I wasn’t being bombarded by social media, I wasn’t using a mobile phone or looking at the internet.”
The campaign will use #Liedentity and show photo shopped images in the hope of allowing teenagers to accept themselves for who they are.
The fourth Renewal & Reform vision and narrative short film has been launched, looking at how in a world crying out for God’s love, we can once again become a growing church for all people in all places. Watch the film:
Read the Archbishop of Canterbury’s on the vision for CofE schools in this week’s TES:
Education is at the heart of the work the Church of England does for the common good. Through its 4,500 primary and 200 secondary schools, it educates around one million children a day. It is estimated that around 15 million people alive today attended a Church of England school.
The fundamental purpose of Church of England education is to nurture people to live life in all its fullness, inspired by Jesus’s message in the Gospel of John: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it abundantly.” Non-church schools also have inspiring visions, albeit articulated in different language; to inspire and educate the whole person, building them up to flourish in the world.
The second of four films themed on the vision and narrative of Renewal & Reform. The Bishop of Burnley is joined by Youth Council representative Alexandra Podd, and Archbishops’s Council member Rebecca Salter, in looking to a hopeful future.
More than 200 leaders of faith communities have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, Theresa May calling for urgent changes to the government’s refugee policy, particularly to allow families to be reunited.
The signatories are headed by Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, who will give a speech on Monday in front of an audience of faith leaders and refugees to reiterate the letter’s demands.
Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, the former lord justice of appeal, has added her name to the letter, which is also signed by leaders and representatives of the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist communities.
Over 500,000 children have accessed a prayer space in a school, enabling them to experience prayer and learn more about what it is.
3. THOUSANDS MORE PRAYER ROOMS…
Since that first prayer room, others have taken place in locations across the globe – from the Houses of Parliament in London to underground churches in Asia. And across the nations of Ireland and Switzerland, there has been a whole year of unbroken prayer.
6. A WHOLE ARCHIVE OF PODCASTS
Our Christmas and Lent devotionals get downloaded 1.5 million times a year and are watched all over the world, reaching number 1 on the iTunes video podcast chart multiple times.
7. PRAYER ACROSS NATIONS
24-7 prayer has taken place in over half the nations of Earth and has become a cross-denominational movement with Anglicans to Pentecostals to Baptists to Roman Catholics joining to pray 24-7.
8. OUR YOUTH PRAYER COURSE
Origins, our Youth Prayer Course for 11-18s has been used across the UK and has already reached America and Australia…
10. WHY PRAY?
Our short snappy video explaining prayer has been viewed over 100,000 times online – and in countless churches, youth groups and conference around the world.
11. A VIRAL VISION POEM
Words scribbled onto the wall of the first prayer room went viral across the world, and now a brand new film is going to be released to celebrate this monumental poem.
12. THY KINGDOM COME
Last year we gathered to pray and to worship in 5 cathedrals across the UK simultaneously in one of the biggest Anglican prayer events in England. And plans for next year are well under way…
16. MISSION TEAMS
As well as long term 24-7 Prayer communities serving in all kinds of places from Ibiza to Cape Town, we’ve also sent short-term teams to Turkey, Macedonia, Spain, France and Greece to serve pray, and encourage.
But (you knew a but was coming!) there is something Will said in his blog that I can’t not respond to, something actually quite dangerous: “Sadly some of these young people probably won’t still be walking with God later down the line [i]but these things are not for us to worry about; that stuff is all in God’s hands”[ei].
In my opinion, these are exactly the things we are called to worry about. These are the things God has placed in our hands as his body … We were never asked to make people into Christians or converts. We were commanded to go and make disciples, and how do we do that? Baptising and teaching… or initiating them into the family of God and helping them live out everything Jesus taught. That’s our call, that’s our commission and we absolutely must stick to it, and not get distracted with the easy, adrenaline filled, fast-food business of convert-making.
Let’s be honest, getting converts is actually quite easy. We all know the emotional persuasive power of a room full of thousands of your peers, away from home, with the lights, the music, the talks – getting hands in the air and bodies to the front is not that hard.
But while making Christians is easy, making disciples is messy and difficult and takes flipping ages. In fact it takes forever. Hear me right on this: I’m not dissing Soul Survivor. I’m not even saying that emotive music, lights and altar calls are bad things, but they are bad when they are isolated, when they are not part of a bigger plan, a more concerted effort, a strategy and passion for the ultimate goal of making lifelong disciples of Jesus. They are bad when that is what we aim for, when the decision is the end goal rather than the beginning of something amazing.
So let’s have a giant party, let’s laugh, dance, celebrate and rejoice. But let’s remember that while these moments feel good, they are just a small part of the bigger mission we’re called to …