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

 

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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.

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.

A Vast Majority: Part 2

 

In my previous blog I started some reflections based on Stuart Murrays book a Vast Minority. In this blog I ask some more questions inspired by that book. I find the questions so much easier than answers!

If our goal is a society that allows numerous minority groups to all live together without any one minority imposing their views on the rest, then…….

How do we speak out prophetically against injustice in society rather than just stand up for our own rights and preferences? My previous blog, I’m alright Jack also relates to this question.

In a diverse society made up of many subcultures what does it means to be counter-cultural? Where does the Christian community position itself among the many minority communities that in different ways are counter-cultural in relation to whatever is perceived to be the dominant culture?

I honestly do not know the answers to these questions, but know that these are the questions that we do need to find an answer to together as a Christian 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.

A Vast Majority

I recently read a book by Stuart Murray with the above title which I found helpful and challenging. It made me ask lots of questions which I don’t know if I have the answers to, but are important to ask.

The initial premise of the book is that Christians in the UK are a vast minority. We are a minority, yes, but we are not a small insignificant minority, we are a vast minority. He goes on to suggest that this hasn’t really 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. We therefore need to learn to function differently, rather than just long for things to be as they were in the past.

Accepting this it raises all sorts of questions and issues. One that I have been pondering is this.

The complaint that was directed at Christians from previous generations was that as a minority they imposed their view on everyone. I think there is some truth in the complaint. There is now also the complaint that in this generation some Muslims have a secret (or not so secret) agenda to impose their views on everyone else. Let us all agree that it is wrong for any minority to just impose their view on the majority. However, the very people making the complaint against previous generations of Christians and against Muslims today are doing the same themselves now!

It is claimed we are now a Western secular society, however secularists themselves are a minority in our country. The majority of people are people of faith, but no longer belonging to just one faith group. Yet secularists are seeking to impose their views on the rest of us.

The question is therefore what sort of society are we looking to create that allows numerous minority groups to all live together without any one minority imposing their views on the rest? I don’t know if secular society is ready to allow people of faith to enter that debate as equals. I think that people of faith need to challenge the imposition of minority secular views on the rest of.

 

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.

I’m Alright Jack

I’ve recently been stirred to think and ponder something that I don’t feel fully qualified to talk about but something that I feel could be a defining issue for the next few years. Something that I am increasingly feeling I need to have an opinion about, however controversial and difficult.

Our nation and most of the world are rightly concerned about terrorism, particularly terrorism in the name of Islam. As such various initiatives are being put forward by society as ways to combat it, many of which could be seen as curtailing the freedom of Muslims to practice their faith. Examples being proposed legislation which requires faith groups teaching children for more than 6 hours a week to be Ofsted inspected; schools having to raise concerns with authorities if they perceive children are being indoctrinated by religious groups.

As Christians we are rightly concerned about how these impact our freedom of expression of our faith. On the whole we are being reassured by the state that they are not directed at us but are directed at Muslim extremism but that Islam can’t be isolated out for special treatment in law.

This is what is causing me to ponder and think. What do I think about it?

I can’t get away from the famous quote attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer regarding life in Germany in the 1930s and 40s.

“First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”

 

I believe that as Christians we have to speak out strongly for our right to exercise our faith in the UK in particular but also across the world. There are examples in the UK where Christians are stopped from expressing their sincerely held Christian principles. We should speak out against this discrimination. The treatment of Christians in some countries around the world is outrageous and we should be outraged and speak out against it. Interestingly many Muslims I know are also outraged by the treatment of Christians in some countries that claim to be Islamic.

We should speak out against all forms of terrorism and seek to do all we can to stop it. However, shouldn’t we also insist on the same rights for others to exercise their faith as we expect for our own faith?

 

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.