Eldridge from the Billy Graham Association called at the Jesus Centre to offer us some evangelism resources. Rob Halligan, one of the Managers at the Centre, showed him round the Centre after spending some time talking to him. Coming into the Bridge Drop-In which caters for basic needs, he was introduced to Abdullah from Afghanistan who was volunteering in the kitchen; walking through the foyer where students from the ESOL class was coming out, he met May from Iraq; going further down the corridor he bumped into another volunteer doing some cleaning – Reza from Iran. He then prayed for the Jesus Centre and commented “it’s a real melting pot here!”
Thought you might like to see some of the dresses we’ve been making at the Friday night creative evening. They are for a group called Dress a Girl Around the World who provide simple patterns and get the dresses to the girls who need them most.
We’ve been using old clothing, random fabric and even pillowcases can be converted! If you want to know when the next creative evening at the Centre is (usually once a month) you can find us here.
It’s not something I often do, stand in front of 200 people, talk and then be surrounded by my church family as they pray for me. But a friend and I had had an inspiration which seemed to catch hold of something in others and they wanted to support us.
Our inspiration? To go to the refugee camp in Calais and get to know some of the refugees there. We just got so sick and tired of a government and nation who were reluctant to welcome those in need that we had to DO something. (Thankfully the mood in the nation has since changed). Jesus gave dignity and affirmation to those who society most rejected and that’s what we wanted to do.
One of the main things that struck us in our time there wasn’t the awful sanitation or cramped and basic living conditions, but the friendliness of everyone there. We were welcomed into homes (wooden framed room with a mattress and chair), fed precious (but lovely!) Eritrean food and generally welcomed with a generosity of heart that puts most of us to shame! And as we worshiped with a group of Eritrean women we could have been in heaven.
The thing it has taught me most, seeing their hunger for family and home, is to value the family in Jesus that I so easily undervalue. What I was surrounded with on that Sunday morning before I went, the spirit connection, the care from people from all walks of life, that is something that so many are searching for and that I am so blessed to have found. I really haven’t got God all worked out and being a Christian can drive me to distraction at times, but I’ve been reminded that despite all that, God creates a depth of connection between us that can’t be found anywhere else, a true home.
Last week at our Saturday night celebration, 150 people witnessed a new Christian getting baptised. We clapped, danced, we sang praises to God!
But we’re not putting any photos on the internet.
Christianity is a Dangerous Business
In England, becoming a Christian is relatively safe. You may get a bit of opposition but you’re unlikely to experience any life-threatening persecution.
In some parts of the world, converting to Christianity is a criminal offence, punishable with imprisonment, torture or death.
The lady who got baptised on Sunday was from Iran. She’s proud to be a Christian but she’s also wise in not letting the whole world know.
What kind of persecution do people suffer?
Here are a few stories from friends of ours who have been baptised recently
When I discussed Christianity with some students, I was sacked from my job and tortured. I came to England to get away.
Sometimes, just learning about Christianity can put you at risk
I started attending a house church to find out more about Christianity. The police found out about the house church and arrested the people there. I fled for my life. I don’t know what happened to the people they arrested.
Those that may not have suffered persecution directly may still have to grieve for the loss of a loved one.
My father was killed for becoming a Christian. I want to follow Jesus like he did.
Often, the persecution backfires and causes people to question whether there might actually be something in Christianity
I started to consider becoming a follower of Jesus when a Christian in my town was hanged from a crane for telling others about his faith.
There are may more stories like these from Iran and many other parts of the world. Find out more on the Open Doors website.
Are they safe now that they’re in England?
I’ve sometime wondered whether there’s any real risk in posting photos on Facebook. Are we being a bit over-cautious? Surely a foreign government can’t harm them while they’re in England.
Last week, an Iranian friend told me that his family in Iran had received threats because they had found out that he’d become a Christian. The risk is real.
Standing with the persecuted
It’s an honour to welcome Iranians to our church. They’ve experienced a level of sacrifice and suffering that many British Christians will never have to face.
The Bible says, “Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.”
We may not have to go through what they’ve been through. But let’s stand with them side by side.
For many years, we’d been gathering together at the Coventry Jesus Centre for a cafe style event, known as Solid Rock Cafe. It had worked well for a long time and for many people, it was their main experience of church. It included all the right ingredients – worship, prayer, gospel presentation, coffee – all in the informal setting of a cafe.
Often, it was a chance to chat and catch up with friends.
The band would sing a mixture of worship songs and message songs.
Sometimes, we’d sing some deep, theologically rich hymns, like this one.
The aim was to bring people to new life in Jesus. On the first Sunday of each month we’d have a celebration meeting which would often include baptisms.
For many it was a great opportunity to serve.
Solid Rock Cafe was great way to express church in more accessible way.
However, we recently came to the conclusion that the event had run its course. It had served its purpose and it was time to try something different.
Most of our Sunday evenings are now ‘flexible outreach’. All of us in the church are encouraged to reach out to people in Coventry in a way that works for them. I guess it’s part of becoming all things to all men – doing outreach in a way that connects with different types of people. So far, this has included:
- Pancake party
- Basic bible study for seekers
- Music evening
- Contemplative worship
- Chatting to people on the street
- Prayer walk
- Acoustic evening
- Creative approaches to worship
- Visiting people we haven’t seen for a while
- Teaching about baptism
And for some people, they’ve just taken the night off to recharge their batteries!
So, no more Solid Rock Cafe. Like many churches in Coventry, we want to be open to God’s direction in reaching out to people. He’s doing a new thing.
We’re looking forward to baptising Reza, Fari and Roya on Saturday 31st January. All of them are Iranians who have found faith in Jesus in the UK.
God definitely seems to be at work among Iranians as the picture shows.
In case you can’t read the small print, it says
The plight of imprisoned pastors like Saeed Abidini make headlines, but the world’s number 9 persecutor of Christians is also seeing record conversions. Last year, 228 former Muslims took part in what Elam Ministries calls the Iranian church’s largest baptism in centuries. Elam expects thousands more as the Islamic government’s crackdown on Christianity backfires, making the faith more intriguing to Iranians disillusioned with theocracy. In other words, Jesus – the enemy of their enemy – is becoming their friend.
Our New Friends course is starting up on Wednesday 25th September through to the 6th November. Every week at the Coventry Jesus Centre we’ll be getting together on a Wednesday evening to explore the Christian faith, ask questions and discover what it means to follow Jesus.
It’s an informal evening with a free meal provided along with with videos and helpful guides with the opportunities to ask some of the big questions about life, God and the world we live in.
If you want to find out more call the Jesus Centre on 02476 550033 or email email@example.com and we’ll get back to you.
Here’s a short film taken from last years New Friends
Once a year our local church here in Coventry join up with the rest of the Jesus Fellowship congregations from across the UK to march through central London. It’s a day that we look forward to, over 1000 people taking to the streets, singing dancing and having a party in Trafalgar Square, not something you do everyday! This year we’re expecting even more folks than before and the weather forecast looks good.
One of the challenges for the church today is to break down the walls that we can hide behind. It’s easy for us to get together on Sundays or for our midweek church events and hope that people turn up. But that’s not what its about. Jesus tells us to go into the world and make disciples.
There were times of persecution when the early christians in the bible met in secret, behind closed doors. They were scared they’d be found by the authorities but even then there were men and women ready to tell the world about the saving power of Jesus.
We live in a society that allows us to speak out about what we believe and more than that, to celebrate in public the mind blowing fact that we can have a relationship with God. We’re demonstrators of the Kingdom to a world crying out for something solid to hold on to.
So come and join in. If you cant make it this Saturday, there’s plenty of other opportunities to get involved. Be part of something amazing! Join the revolution!