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.

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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.