A Street Ministry In England (by Nigel Pink)

A Street Ministry In England (by Nigel Pink)

Street ministries, under such umbrella titles as ‘Street Pastors’ or ‘Street Angels’ have been around a few decades in England, owing much to the work of the Salvation Army. These Christian ministries take a middle way between evangelism and social action. There is a book to yet be written echoing the famous ‘The Cross and the Switchblade’, which could be entitled, ‘The Cross and Lollipop’. Because armed with lollies, chocolate bars and hot soup, street pastors are out in cities and towns, when there hundreds of (mostly) young folk ‘clubbing and pubbing’, that is going to nightclubs and public houses (bars). There are other people to be encountered such as the street homeless; men and women, some little older than children forced to sleep rough; and there are others making money from the night economy, prostitutes and drug dealers. Alton is a small, market town in rural Hampshire, we do not have clubs, nor street prostitution, nor open drug dealing; yet we have people sleeping in doorways and drugs are prevalent and ubiquitous – but come Friday and Saturday night, many people go to the pubs to drink and socialise. Since November 2014, the local churches of Alton, Hampshire, have combined to send a team of four or five people to mingle with Saturday night revellers. We are identifiable by our hi-vis vests, that have ‘ALTON TOWN PASTORS’ across the back and ATP (with the T written as the Cross) emblazoned on the front. We call ourselves pastors because we administer pastoral care, not because we need to be ‘Pastors’, ordained church ministers or priests. We readily identify ourselves...
God Gets To Choose

God Gets To Choose

     I am one of twenty people who take the message of hope to my home town in Hampshire, England. We call ourselves ‘town pastors’, although only a few us are professional clergy. Sometimes we meet people in Alton late at night who are open and receptive to the Gospel and, of course, we attempt to be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have with gentleness and respect (paraphrasing 1 Peter 3:15). At times it seems an awesome, if not daunting responsibility. What if we make a mess of things? Of course, we do have responsibility; we should know the Gospel that Paul summarises in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. We should demonstrate the Gospel by accepting and loving those people. But we can also be reassured that, as for Lydia, it wasn’t Paul’s eloquence that moved her to faith in Christ, but God himself. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia…the Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. (Acts 16:14) Paul says of himself that many thought him a poor speaker (2 Corinthians 10:10) but as Luke reports, the response to his witness, whether poor or not, was entirely up to God – and so it is with us town pastors. It is God’s choice to reveal himself through his mighty Spirit, and that is a wonderfully gracious act for those that would ‘be sent’ to bear witness to Christ, as we are therefore released from: Concern over knowing or choosing to whom we speak – it...
Preach

Preach

Preach Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. (1 Thessalonians 2:9) The Greek word that is most often translated as ‘preach’ is κηρύσσω – kérussó (Strong’s 2784). The word in the Koine has an uncertain origin but the definition is ‘to be or act like a herald’ or ‘to proclaim’. The role of a herald has changed with time. Coming to the English language from the Old French heraut from the Frankish via herewald, literally ‘war-ruler’, in other words a martial or commander, it has three distinct contemporary meanings: 1. A messenger 2. A harbinger 3. A steward (of heraldry -a rank/position at the College of Arms) All three meanings are relevant to the ‘preacher’ of the Gospel, who is entrusted (stewardship) with a message of the coming of the Kingdom of God. In the same passage to the one above Paul says: …we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. (v4) But there is another meaning, especially given to the verb ‘to herald’ and this is ‘sing the praises of’ – this is surely what all Christians, joy-filled with the fruit of the spirit, wish to do? However, sadly this is often not the case. Nowadays, the idea that a Christian should ‘preach the Gospel’, in other words, proclaim the good news of Jesus to those not in faith that he is the Christ, has become frowned upon. In conjures images of street corner evangelists ranting at...

The Tongue-Tied Evangelist

In his first pastoral letter to the church he established in Corinth, Paul moves to tackle divisions that have occurred over who baptised whom, and says this: For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the gospel – not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (1 Corinthians 1:17) Devoid of wisdom and eloquence, does this sound like Paul? However, we must believe the self-assessment of his own oratory for he makes this statement: When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.  (ibid 2:1-5) Paul the apostle to the Gentiles, arguably the greatest evangelist of the early church, was diminished by God to proclaim in weakness; moreover, the man who could dismiss as ‘light and momentary troubles’ (2 Corinthians 4:17) eight severe beatings, a stoning and being thrice ship-wrecked, shook with fear and trembling.  Such is God’s will on the matter; foremost He will be glorified; the comfort of the evangelist is subordinate. Also, we should note, the message was simple, ‘Jesus Christ and him crucified’.  Paul did not bring the complex doctrine – and there is good reason for this, as Peter comments: … our dear...
The Agency of Coronavirus

The Agency of Coronavirus

Throughout history, from the shut gates of Eden to the present, there has been disease. Disease literally means discomfiture, and each bacterium and virus, God-made and God-given, is divinely designed to discomfort men and women at ease with themselves. God says through his prophet, Amos: When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it? (Amos 3:6b) And through Isaiah: I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things. God uses many agents; he uses wind, rain and fire. He ignites volcanoes and shakes the foundations of mountains with earthquake. He commands disaster and calamity. To think otherwise, can only mean one of two things; either God is not omnipotent or that he is indifferent. Both positions would require us to find an alternative object for worship. With the former, we would necessarily seek the higher power; and for the latter, there can be no use for a careless deity. That is all very well, but to what purpose is this suffering? Unless we trust God there can be no good purpose. We must know: The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. (Psalm 145:17) Unless we trust God to act in our best interests, hardship is the product of an indifferent cosmos. It can only have meaning if God purposively directs the hardship: …do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves… (Proverbs 3:11-12) Any agent, however unpleasant, painful or inconvenient is visited on us by God, not randomly or cruelly but restoratively and redemptively. Regretfully for humankind, correction can only be achieved by agents...