Yes, it's only just finished, but here's news of the next Evangelical Ministry Assembly. We're moving, as you probably know, to the Barbican, which will allow for many more people to come. And our theme is driven by 1 Peter: Faithful – living and preaching in an alien world. We think it's a key issue. Here's the trailer. Pass it on and book the dates.
A call to empathy
Here's an email from a dear brother in Nigeria who's had to cancel his EMA trip because of the situation at home. I've anonymised the letter, but you'll get the main thrust.
My Dear Brothers, Its a pity that I am not able to make it to the EMA this year as planned. This is because of the following reasons: 1. Last Sunday, two Churches were bombed in Zaria. and one Church was bombed in Kaduna all in the same state. As a result so many lives were lost and violence broke out with more people killed. 2. The government therefore imposed a 24hrs curfew immediately. They tried to relax it on Tuesday and more killings happened so they re-imposed the 24hrs curfew. They relaxed it on Friday just for Muslims to go to the mosque. And they relaxed the curfew today Sunday just for the Christians to go to the Church. We worshiped today under armed mobile police guard. WE NEED YOUR PRAYERS BECAUSE WE ARE AT RISK DAILY.
"Continue to remember…those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering" says the writer to the Hebrews (Heb 13.3). Just think about what he's saying there. "Continue to remember…." OK, I can do that. But "as if you yourselves were suffering?" The Scriptures call me to empathy, not just sympathy. They call me to put myself in my brothers shoes and to let that shape my memory and praying. This is a hard calling, and I'm not sure one we take all that seriously. It's rare enough to find Christians concerned for those around the world who are suffering, let alone putting themselves in their shoes.
How does one go about this? I'm not sure I know. I sat down with this email this week (the original is a bit longer) and read and re-read it. I tried to let it sink in (there's family news too about how the troubles have temporarily split this family apart). I tried to imagine my own family spit apart by a curfew. I tried to imagine my own church members laid out on a slab following a bomb attack. I tried to imagine preaching to a frightened, angry congregation. What would they have made of last Sunday's sermon. As I did this, I felt tears well up.
I think that may be as near as I can get to the Hebrews injunction for now. It is a good discipline though. One that moved me and got me thinking about the church Jesus loved more broadly. It made me thankful for the freedom I do enjoy. It helped me "continue to remember…."
One of the joys of Thursdays at the EMA is our international reception. Sadly this year there will some missing (those who couldn't get visas, and some others from Nigeria who feel it is a bad time to be leaving their churches at the moment). Nevertheless, it is always great to meet folk from around the world who make the EMA part of their programme. Sometimes they are overseas missionaries who are brought back by their churches so that they can benefit from the spiritual food that the EMA provides.
It's a humbling time. Many of these brothers and sisters know in greater and sharper clarity what it means to take up their crosses daily. Few have the resources available to us, so we try to give them some good deals in the bookshop.
But they all have something in common. They love Bible preaching. They see this as the God appointed means for growing his church. For some, such preaching is decidedly counter cultural, even within evangelical circles. Others face different temptations, but temptations to neglect preaching nonetheless. Yet they want to invest in learning to preach and in keeping going in preaching. We've definitely something to learn….
EMA 2012 Day One
It's first day at this year's EMA. Here's what's happening.
- Christopher Ash is kicking us off with an exposition of Psalm 55
- In the second session, Mervyn Eloff is speaking on the connection between the heart and preaching.
Our afternoon streams cover connected topics:
- Paul Tripp will speak on the heart and biblical counselling
- Glynn Harrison will speak on preaching to masculine hearts
- Mervyn Eloff will speak about the heart and transformation
In our final session Paul Tripp will lead the first of three session on Dangerous Calling. Essentially this is about preaching to our own hearts.
Pray for us, if you can.
And here’s one of me with Paul….
As the EMA nears (and for us, it's already started), here's my plea. Let's fight against the celebrity culture. We've got some good speakers whom we've invited because they're, well, good speakers. Not because they're celebrities. So leave your cameras at home. Pictures with the speaker? What's that about? And for those who are feeling a little righteous and smug, can I suggest there is a bit of celebrity chasing in all of us. It may not be the speakers, it may be the pastor of this big church, the director of that useful ministry, the author of that book. What I mean is, all of us need to guard our own hearts against such hero worship at such events. One of the great things about the EMA is that, though we reserve seats for speakers so that they don't have to stand (that's just polite), we don't coral them off in a special gated area. So, yes, you may find yourself sitting next to someone whose ministry God has blessed. But guess what, he's just a delegate like you, just a servant like you, just as in need of the gospel as you. And the EMA exists to serve us all. So please do pray for tomorrow and the next three days. Pray for usefulness, pray for hearts to be encouraged and challenged, pray for us all to be stirred, pray for equipping for the task to which God has called us. And fight with us the celebrity culture.
For those who crave disappointment…
…wisdom from Mrs R: "Oh well, there's always Andy Murray…"
Introducing Introducing books
This EMA sees the launch of a new mini series from PT Resources. We've edited the opening chapters of three of our Teaching… series into little books called Introducing Acts, Introducing Ephesians, and Introducing 1 Timothy.* The Teaching books are ideal for preachers and small group leaders, but we wanted to produce a resource which was good for church members. Thus each little book introduces the Bible book, gives some background, some insight into the main themes and how to read the book and concludes with an opening study. It's like having a detailed study guide on each book of the Bible. At the EMA they'll be on sale for £1. Why not grab some? We've done them so that if a church is going through, say, Ephesians, the study leaders can get Teaching Ephesians and then the group members could buy Introducing Ephesians and build up a little library that way.
*Editor's note – this Oxford comma was inserted with the help of Mr LG of Cambridge, England.
This year’s EMA books
Our Friday selection next week are two crackers. First of all, we've got Carrie Sandon's Different by Design for £7. Carrie is the women's worker at St John's Tunbridge Wells. This is a book about gender. You may think you've heard it all before, but here is a British book written with our culture in mind and taking us through the whole issue of male/female biblically, warmly and clearly. I think it is well worth the seven spondoonies out of your wallet. It's also written carefully so you can give it to those who are thinking through these issues in your church. A good resource for your bookshelf in the "read and pass on" category.
Then we have Graham Benyon's new book on the heart and emotions. Get your tissues ready! No, seriously, this is a proper, well-thought through book on the emotions. It's very timely and fits in neatly with the EMA theme. I don't want to spoil it, but if you're a preacher you need to buy this book because (1) chances are you're a little repressed anyway and (2) there's a superb afterword for preachers. Clichéd I know, but it's worth the price of the book (£7). Enjoy.
This year’s EMA books
On Thursday of next week, we've got two more crackers. They're our two new volumes in the Teaching… series.
Simon Austen has written Teaching Ephesians for us. Simon is our Ephesians expert and this is reflected in his excellent handling of this well known book. I challenge you to read the book and not be moved to think about a preaching series through the letter. In particular, Simon superbly guides us through the way Ephesians speaks about the realities of the church being in Christ, not just as individuals. Plenty of us could do with this corrective.
Angus MacLeay had a heart attack. Then he recovered. Then he wrote Teaching 1 Timothy. True story. As part of his recovery process (for which we're all immensely grateful to God), his church leaders gave him time off to write and he wrote for us. Teaching 1 Timothy is a book written by someone with a pastor's and preacher's heart. You can tell. Again, it is a great insight into this important letter and moves us on from thinking it's all about church order….
Both are available at the EMA for £6.50 and even if you're not planing on preaching these books anytime soon, they're worth having on the shelf.
This year’s EMA books
The Evangelical Ministry Assembly is just around the corner, so it's time to tell you what books we'll have on special offer each day – these are our stage recommendations.
On Wednesday we've got The Gospel as Center, the collection of essays based on the Gospel Coalition's affirmations. It's a really great collection of short chapters. For the most part these aren't going to tell you much that is new. However, they will reinforce and remind you of the essential things, plus work through their application in church. I think this would be a great book to read, for example, with your leadership teams. It's a substantial hardback which retails at $23. We've got it for £8. Worth buying a batch for your church leaders.
Also on Wednesday, we're recommending Christopher's new book Pure Joy on the conscience. This normally retails at £9.99. We've got it for £7. It's got a nice cover. Oh, and it's a good book too. We don't tend to talk too much about the conscience and we're not really sure what we ought to think about it. This book should redeem that position. We've decided not to have a book signing table, but my top tip is to get it signed by Mrs Ash. 100 years from now everyone will have one signed by the author, but how many people will have one signed by the author's wife?! This is the way to protect your investment!
Two great reads. Good for your mind. Good for your heart.