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Please note our blog has moved to our new website and future blog posts can be located here:

http://www.hopechurch.co.uk/blog-full/

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History Of Hope Church – Story of a Teen

 

My story of being involved with Hope Church started when I was 13 years old. I had been going to another church in Luton with my family all my life and was just about to transition from the kids work into the youth. I was excited to go hang out with the ‘big kids’ like my brother had done before me. However the midweek youth club was unfortunately closed and there was temporarily no youth leader to take this forward. A little frustrated I was also coming to the age where several of the friends I had grown up with in church were no longer attending regularly. My hunger to continue to learn about and serve God was there, but with this situation I was beginning to think why should I bother.

We saw an article in the local newspaper in September 2002 with information about a Newfrontiers church being planted in the area. We found out about the youth group they were starting, I went along and met Wayne Parsons and Linda Geevanathan who were leading it, as well as some of the youth including David May and Jen Williams. (For those of you who know Linda she was taller than me back then.)

After about a year of making friends and really enjoying the youth programme of activities I decided to make Hope Church my home. This was one of the best decisions I could have made for my Christian walk. 13 years later I have seen God use me and I have experienced so much within the church family as people have come, gone and stayed.

Hope Church and its leaders have been so releasing and encouraging which is part of the reason it is the church it is today. I’ve done things I’d never thought God would do with me and met people from varying walks of life, which is what is so great about a church family. Some particular highlights have included the floods of Newday in 2004, where heavy rain brought us together to form close friendships and encountering God in it. Getting baptised in a large tank. Watch night worship evenings, where dreams, tongues and spiritual gifts were released. Helping to launch and build our student and 20s work in 2011 named Breakout. The celebrations and worship times through the years especially at Christmas and many others. Ask me about them some time, but what I am most looking forward to is the future of Hope and what comes next, as we continue to be people obedient to God and living as family with our Hope in him.

Written by Luke Middleton

Luke

History Of Hope Church – Just a Normal Family…

Over the last few weeks we have heard testimony of the ups and downs of Church planting in Luton.  I just want to give testimony to what it means for a family to hear, trust and follow God. Through the years our family have discovered the faithfulness and steadfast love of God through the many and varied situations we have found ourselves in.  God has shown that He is faithful in all of His ways. From the provision of money to ensure the house we brought had safe lighting and hot water, schooling and the provision of accessible and affordable music services to ensure that our children were able to develop and grow beyond what we could ask or imagine.

When God asks you to do something he does provide the resources and abilities for you to complete what he initiates. We took a risk with God as we moved from a quiet Cambridge village with excellent schooling and a fantastic network of friends.  Our children (triplet boys aged 10 and a daughter six) were catapulted into the centre of Luton, they had to be educated in the problems of prejudice, poverty, foster care and drugs. They wanted to be able to walk to school and have their own bedrooms, God granted their desires.  He put us next to a park, so they could play.  We had an open home and many children found fun, food and shelter within its walls.

Creatively and musically they flourished.  Far from ’nothing good comes out of Luton’ Luton blessed us.  They had opportunities that we could never have imagined. Through the highs and lows (including muggers who gave things back!!) as a family we looked to God and he never let us down.

All four of our children are now involved in Churches in London, Southampton and Wales.  They help and inspire others in worship, youth work and support church planting. They did not see many of their friends become Christians (The boys married the girls that did!), but their friends still value their relationships and knowing our family.  The seeds continue to grow.

‘Train your children in the ways that they should go’ As parents we made loads of mistakes but we endeavoured to keep our eyes and ears on God and follow him. Our children are trying to do the same and we are thankful that we followed His call.

Written by Jane Reynolds

Jane is a member of Hope Church Luton and leader of the Welcome Team - you will meet them on the door when you first arrive at Hope Church
Jane is a member of Hope Church Luton and leads Welcome & Inclusion

 

History Of Hope Church – Kalla Tímea Story

 

 

Here is my story from 2005/6, when I was a member of Hope Church for 9 months. This is where I met Jesus and was baptised on the 10th September 2006.

When I met Yvette, the beautiful British lady, as I always saw her, at Central Baptist Church, I tried to refuse her invitation to Hope Church and convinced her (myself…), that I was a catholic and happy with that. However, I felt that I really needed to go to Hope Church, to a living church, where people talk to each other. (In Hungary I attended church, but no one ever talked to me). So, finally I accepted Yvette’s invitation.

Liz picked us up at the chaplaincy and on our way to Hope Church she asked me if I read the Bible every day and I said I did not. On the following Monday I went to a book shop and I bought a Bible (I often had no money for food, but still, I WANTED a Bible!). In my university hall room I had been reading my Bible for months… when one day I told God that He could come and do whatever He wanted to do in my life. He did so. I started to go to Ben’s cell group and my faith grew. In those days I had been in a relationship, used dirty words, had low self-esteem, and struggled with insomnia. By the time I moved back to Hungary, God healed and changed me from these problems and sins.

3 months later I went back to Luton, where pastor Tony baptised me in Simon’s outdoor pool. A Hungarian girl attended the ceremony and said that this experience convinced her that she needed to be baptised too (she was catholic as well), so she did so in Hungary.

Your examples, deeds and hard work for Christ at Hope Church echoes forever, I am the living example for that.

Written by Kalla Tímea

Kalla Timea

Looking Back At The History Of Hope Church – Part 4

The last 5 years worshipping in Hope Church Centre has been transforming, we are a very different church now than 5 years ago.

At one leaders meeting we were asked the question, if the church were a ship what type of ship would we be? A cruise liner, a battleship, a submarine? The answer we came up with was a flotilla of small ships. That is what we have become, lots of small ships, heading in the same direction, seeking to achieve the same thing.

There was also a picture given which described the leadership fort being burnt down replaced by a castle that couldn’t be burnt down. That has happened, we now have strong and established eldership and staff teams.

We have become very multi-cultural, not just in the congregation but increasingly in leadership. A few Sundays ago I suddenly realised I was the only white person bringing any leadership to that meeting, and I brought the notices.

We are established and respected in community. Our Open House drop in; our High Town community worker; our work with other both churches across the town and in the local High Town area; as well as in so many other ways, have produced this. It was because of this involvement that Luke and I received an Invite to Downing Street to help David Cameron celebrate Easter!

It feels like Hope Church is becoming something like the church God painted in my imagination many years ago.

  • We are helping people move from despair to hope.
  • People from different cultures are becoming friends and learning from each other, producing something of Kingdom of God culture.
  • We are involved and serving the community, not just gathering Christians but allowing many others to “touch the hem of Jesus garment”.

What are the major lessons I have learnt through God’s involvement in Hope Church?

Most of the time things take longer than you would like, but they do happen.

There are both birth pains and growth pains. It hurts when people leave. We get it wrong, I get it wrong. When I do, when we do, people get hurt. Forgiveness and humility are therefore essential. Not knowing everyone as we could when we were smaller is also difficult. We also hurt with those who hurt.

However, through it all I have learnt that God is amazingly faithful.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

– based on his sermon from 17th April 2016 – Click here to listen to it

tonyt

Tony Thompson is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

Looking Back At The History Of Hope Church – Part 3

God gave the growth but……..

We grew rapidly, but the core struggled. Some had personal challenges in their lives, for other Hope Church was not what they had expected, others it was Luton that was not as they expected. Some left, others were unable to carry weight in the church for a while. We were growing but sometimes it felt as if we would collapse under the weight of the growth. My prayer and the prayer of others was for reinforcements.

It seemed as if God answered our prayers when Kim Mc Caffrey, the prophet from Coventry mentioned previously, felt God was calling him to move to Luton. It felt right, he joined our staff team and brought a number of other families with him from his previous church in Coventry.

However, it didn’t work out. Tensions developed, relationships broke down. It was very painful for many people, not least myself. I felt terrible, questioned my ability to lead a church. I felt I had let people down. Eventually Kim and the others who came with him left, this time to join a church in Leamington Spa in the Midlands.

This whole episode set us back as a church and set me back as a leader.

Recovery – purchase of building – God’s provision.

It took a while to recover. Part of the recovery was to establish a formal eldership of myself and Wayne Parsons. This was September 2009. Just about the first thing we did as elders was look round the Polish Social Club on Villa Road which had recently been put on the market as a previous sale had fallen through.

It quickly became clear that whilst we could not afford it God was calling us to buy it. However through the provision of God, as had been prophesied soon after we started, we were able to buy it and eventually moved in 5 years ago.

The Miracle of the purchase included.

  1. Available at half the price it had previously been sold due to credit crunch meaning developers didn’t want it.
  2. We raised hundreds of thousands of pounds from members.
  3. Got a mortgage when they were hard to get. I still find it hard to believe a bank offered us the money. A private individual, not even part of the church, leant us the final £50,000 we were short!
  4. We were totally naïve about the size of the refurbishment task. It took a year, much longer than we ever imagined and then only because God provided a team of volunteers, some giving 2 days a week throughout that time and others giving up most Saturdays. It was tough, but we got there.
  5. Grants (money of the wicked as Kerry prophesied) we received that enabled us to furnish the kitchen, buy new chairs, upgrade the heating, purchase signs and many other things.

 

What an experience, what a joy when we held our first worship meeting in the Hope Church Centre in April 2011, 5 years ago. Click here to watch a video looking at that building project and the last 5 years.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

– based on his sermon from 17th April 2016 – Click here to listen to it

tonyt

Tony Thompson is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

Looking Back At The History Of Hope Church – Part 2

 

As described in my previous blog, Anne and I were called by God to start a new church in Luton, He gathered a team around us and we all moved to Luton to start something new.

Over a period of around a year we got to know each other better, started to imagine what the new church would look like as well as gathering some people who were already living in Luton who had heard of what we were planning to do.

Over this time, we came up with the name Hope Church, Hope being an antidote to the despair which we recognised as an issue in Luton.

We built up to a public launch of Hope Church which was to meet at Luton 6th Form College in September 2002. We got articles published in the local newspapers, delivered leaflets to homes and tried to get the word out as much as possible. Our first meeting was encouragingly large, in addition to our core there were well wishes and many visitors. A great start.

Our second meeting was even more memorable! It was held the following Tuesday, again at the college, this time with a healing evangelist from India, Ram Babu. This meeting caught the imagination of the local press, front page in one newspapers, and interviews on local radio prior to the event. As a consequence, massive crowds turned up, causing total chaos. As the college said they let out their facilities to a small church group and never imagined that we would fill their large hall and cause such traffic chaos. Some were healed, suddenly people knew about Hope Church.

Over the next year or so we grew quickly.

 

During this first year God established the foundations.

We were visited by two prophets, Kim McCaffrey from Coventry and Kerry Southey an Australian based in South Africa. They both brought prophetic input which helped shape us as a church. Key words included.

Hope for now as well as the future – something that built on what we already felt and has been a key aspect of us as a church.

Church planting – We have planted a church in Dunstable / South Beds, helped establish a region of churches around Oxfordshire, as well as plants in Valencia, Spain and Dublin. Not all our planting has been successful – we tried and failed to establish something in Hitchin. Over a number of years and with different leaders nothing really took root. This was difficult and painful. Somethings just don’t happen as you would like.

International gateway – people coming from other nations changed and returned. This has been remarkable. We have had people join us from China, Hungary, many African nations and India. They have met with God and then returned changed to their home nations. Most we are still in touch with.

Increasingly we have become a more diverse church, in the early days it was hard for those from different nations to feel at home, they felt a minority. Over time this has changed, and is no longer an issue. We owe so much to those early pioneers from other nations who stuck with us.

We have also seen original members move away to serve God in leadership in other parts of this nation and oversees. Original members of the planting team are now in leadership in churches in Harpenden, Southampton and Vancouver, Canada.

Community centre and God’s provision of resources – people and finances.

More of this in future blogs!

 

Written by Tony Thompson

– based on his sermon from 17th April 2016 – Click here to listen to it

tonyt

Tony Thompson is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

Looking Back At The History Of Hope Church – Part 1

 

Christianity is an historical religion, which means that God reveals himself in history. The Bible does contain wisdom and teaching from and about God but is mostly a history book telling the story of God’s involvement in the world He created.

God is still at work in his creation today. It is therefore very appropriate to look back at his involvement in Hope Church, 5 years after we moved into our second phase – worshipping in Hope Church Centre. Looking back an identifying his involvement with us and what we can learn about him through it.

Over this series of blogs I will share different thoughts of God’s role in our journey.

 

My first thought is that Hope Church was God’s initiative not man’s.

God spoke to me supernaturally, totally unexpectedly about starting a church in Luton. This would have been around 2001. I was in a meeting of church leaders from across the country when someone started praying for me that the church I was leading was too small a thing and that I needed to move to start a new church. I felt the presence of God very powerfully. Then out of the blue the person prophesied it should be in Luton, my hometown which I had left decades previously, but which he had no idea of.

Over the coming months God spoke in different ways to confirm the call. One time he brought to mind a time just after I became a Christian when I was walking around the streets of Stopsley praying for the churches and my friends, none of who knew Christ, that links would be made. Then as I recalled the incident I felt God say I was going to be the answer to my own prayers. It was another powerful moment.

It took my wife, Anne, a while to be convinced but she eventually came to the conclusion that she had been called to be my wife and that I had clearly been called to start a church in Luton. She therefore didn’t need her own call but should rely on mine.

We therefore declared that we would move to start a new church in Luton. The only condition was that God would supply others to join us. We knew we couldn’t do it on our own.

God answered our prayers for people to come with us. We asked very few, allowing God to be our recruiting officer. He called numbers of people, all willing to move in answer to God’s call. Some knew us from the church we lead in St. Neots; others were finishing University and wanted to get jobs where they could be part of a new church plant and hearing of what we were doing got jobs in Luton; others came from other contexts wanting to be part of a church plant.

Reasonably quickly a team was assembled made up of people willing to move to Luton to start a new church. God’s initiative, God’s church.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

– based on his sermon from 17th April 2016 – Click here to listen to it

tonyt

Tony Thompson is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

What Would Jesus Do? [Thoughts behind creation of a #foodisfree garden]

WWJDSo… What WOULD Jesus do?

It was at the height of the Occupy Movement… the demonstrations outside St Paul’s Cathedral from late 2011 to 2012 when the age-old question was asked both in media narratives and documented in banners during the protests… ‘What would Jesus do?’.

WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?

Home-made placards pinned to safety fencing and tent canvas drew from the Biblical quotations, “He that oppresses the poor to increase his riches shall surely come to want.” (Proverbs 21:16); “I was hungered and you fed me not; naked and you clothed me not.” (Matthew 25:42)

Jesus as the revolutionary. What an inspiration! And none of this peaceful camping and banner holding. NO! Jesus freaking out, and turning over the tables of the money changers and dove sellers. Jesus preventing people from carrying merchandise through the temple courts. Jesus driving out those who were buying and selling there… with a whip. (John 2:15) “My House is a House of Prayer, but you have made it a Den of Thieves.” (Mark 11:17)

Wow!

…No wonder they began to look for a way to kill him. (Mark 11:18)

I must admit that I didn’t ask myself ‘WWJD’ in so many words (or catchy letters) when I felt moved to create our #foodisfree front vegetable garden to share produce with our neighbours; but I certainly was motivated by the same injustice and human crisis that the protesters from the Occupy Movement to UK uncut were stirred to act on when they asked, ‘What would Jesus do?

I grew up and was churched in a patriarchal, post-colonial society that put great emphasis on ‘women’ submitting; and ‘slaves’ obeying their ‘masters’ to the point of the weaker more vulnerable parties always being the ones to ‘turn the other cheek’ because…

“What would Jesus do?” -we asked ourselves.

It was only at the point of belatedly starting to challenge the coercion, intimidation and bullying that came within this belief system that I found myself asking “What would Jesus do?” in relation to MY expectation of OTHERS towards myself and other vulnerable people. What Jesus would do was the only thing that kept me sitting in those church pews as I reflected on His treatment of the weak, the poor, and the vulnerable. (John 8:1-11; John 4:7-29; Matthew 19:13-15)

“What would Jesus do?” helped me respond with generosity and grace when faced with some of the coercion, intimidation and bullying I received working on this project during the past year whilst not tolerating that treatment to myself and others longer than said good grace permitted. (No, -not everyone involved in the process was nice.)

Having said that, “What would Jesus do?” helped me to ask much of people in my community too when I needed to step outside of my comfort zone and get help. There are, I can assure you, many, many more wonderful, open hearted human beings in the world than not. *insert smile and heart emoji here*

The lessons I learnt whilst undertaking the creation of our garden and the filming of the process are lessons I’ve had taught to me before, which I guess stood me in good stead when I essentially asked, “What would Jesus do?” of not just myself but of others as I rallied people in my community together to make our project what it is today.

Aletheia3

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Aletheia Mashiri

Click here to watch the BBC Episode of ‘Big Dreams Small Spaces’ Aletheia’s garden was featured in.

A Vast Majority: Part 3

 

I have been reflected on the premise contained in Stuart Murray’s book “A Vast Minority” that Christians in the UK are a vast minority. This hasn’t changed in a long time; we have always been a vast minority but previously within a context of “nominal” or “cultural” Christianity. We are now surrounded not by nominal or cultural Christians but people of different faiths or of no faith.

In this blog I want to reflect on the implications this has for discipleship, something that many are rightly raising as a major issue for today.

In the context where we were a vast minority in the context of cultural Christianity there was less of a gap between church and culture. An hour of worship and preaching on a Sunday seemed adequate to resource churchgoers for the rest of the week, especially when discipleship was understood as being compliant citizens and conforming to cultural norms.

We are now in a very different context, and many Christians have little knowledge of the teaching of the Bible and feel ill-equipped for life in the world outside of the church. Such equipping has to be a priority. We have to be equipped to participate in God’s mission within our families, neighbourhoods, workplaces and spheres of service.

We have to reflect on what a Christian lifestyle looks like in today’s context, sometimes it seems as if there is little difference between the lifestyles and priorities of those who claim to be Christians and those who do not. In doing so we need to avoid just laying down rules!

Human sexuality is an important aspect of discipleship for the Christian community, and especially for a minority in a culture that is experiencing rapid changes in its approach to sexual ethics. And if ‘the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil’, finding freedom in this area of life might help us to live freely in many other areas. Yet this cannot be simply tithe and do whatever you want with the rest of your money.

What if we invited others to join a revolutionary movement, a band of pilgrims, a community with quite different values and priorities than the rest of society? Discipleship only truly makes sense in such a context. Of course, this would mean at least aspiring to be such a community.

Written by Tony Thompson

tonyt

Tony Thompson is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.