Blog, Articles & News

ACT NEWS - A COMMUNITY GARDEN FOR ANLABY!

imageReaders might know that our charity, ACT, has made a start with a great new initiative – a community garden and food growing project, using land next to St Mark’s Church, Anlaby Common.

imageACT hopes that the garden will be a resource for the community, somewhere for local people and groups to come together, grow things, learn and socialise together. A lot of work has taken place across the summer to transform the neglected patch by clearing it, and a small group of volunteers have planted a small area to start things off.

ACT would love to hear your views and ideas and invite you to take part in a short survey. You can do this online here.  Hard copies are also available in St Peter’s and St Mark’s churches. 

If you would like to know more, have a copy of the survey sent to you, or might want to help in some way – from advising to gardening to path-laying! – send a message through ACT’s FaceBook page @anlabycommunitiestrust, email acthu104@outlook.com or speak to Gill King or Katie Waltham at St Peter’s or St Mark’s.

Keswick Convention 2018

by John Telford

Summer in the Lake District

Summer’s a great time to recharge the batteries, or simply to get a change of scene.

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It’s fair to say that all of us who went to Keswick last summer had a great time. But why am I writing an article on the Church blog about our summer holidays? Well, this wasn’t simply a trip to a beautiful town in a gorgeous part of the country – although it most certainly was all of that. We went to the Keswick Convention.

The Keswick Convention has run every year for the past 142 years and is a large gathering of Christians. They come from all over the UK and a few from abroad, from different sorts and sizes of churches and they’re all different ages and stages. There are young single people, families with all ages of children, adults whose children have left home, and retired people in their 60s, 70s, 80s and probably 90s too!

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We all enjoyed ourselves so much that many of us have booked up to go again next year. The Walthams and Telfords will be staying in a rented holiday cottage all under one roof, and others will be enjoying the great outdoors under canvas. Why not join us in 2018? We’d love to have even more of us there.

The dates are as follows:

Week 1 - 14–20 July

Week 2 - 21–27 July

Week 3 - 28 July –3 Aug

For more information about each week click here.

Here's a few reasons why you might want to come with us in 2018:

It’s free. That’s right. The Keswick Convention costs nothing. Nothing at all. You can give to the Convention while you’re there if you like, but there’s no pressure to do so at all.

You can go to as much or as little as you want. Because it’s free you don’t feel you should go to the early morning seminars, the mid-morning Bible talks, the evening celebration and the various other events that take place. But if you want to milk it for all it’s worth then you can. We didn’t go to everything because we …

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… enjoyed relaxing afternoons out and about.

There’s loads of free time. You can use it exactly as you like. You could go for a walk in the flat town centre or along the river – no hills. Beautiful Derwentwater is at one end of the town and there’s a lovely park next to it and the option to go on a boat tour of the lake if you wish. Of course for the more energetic there’s hill walking too. Or you can spend it in your 

You book your own accommodation to fit your preferences and budget.

You can camp if you really want to, and lots of people do. It’s very affordable and there are a couple of campsites specially for Conventioners. You can book a B&B in Keswick itself or a bit further out if you’d prefer. Or you can rent a self-catering house or cottage. You get your own space and you can be as sociable or as solitudinal as you wish.

You don't have to stay for a full week.

Because the Convention doesn't charge you don't feel like you have to stay for a full week if you don't want to. If you've only got a few days to spare then you can come for only a few days.

The singing is amazing. If you love the idea singing with 3,000 Christians led by excellent musicians playing lots of different styles, then you’ll want to be at the morning Bible talks and the evening celebrations as much as you can. We sang old favourites and two or three songs that were new to us. I found the most moving songs a completely unaccompanied yet rousing All People that on Earth Do Dwell, and two brand new songs called You Love and The Lion and the Lamb.

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The talks are uplifting and informative. All of us who went this year felt so encouraged by what God said to us in the Scriptures through the various speakers. They were all excellent, easy to listen to, thoughtful and thought-provoking. We all felt confident that what all the speakers said was good and helpful.

The children and youth work is second to none. All the children and young people at the Convention were well catered for and taught the same as the adults but in a way that suited their age group. Joshua was thrilled to spend a week in a children’s church with 80 other 3-4 year olds – as I write, almost a month later, he’s still wearing his identity wristband! There were other groups for 4-5s, 5-7s, 8-11s and then various age youth groups.

The weather. It isn’t always bright sunchine and sometimes the air is a bit damp, as they say in the Lakes. But nobody minds a jot, and when the sun shines – and it often does – it’s glorious.

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Have a chat with a Wilcox, Miller, Waltham, Telford or Catherine if you’d like to find out more.


TIME TO PUT YOUR FEET UP WITH A GOOD BOOK

by John Telford

It's that time of the year when the curtains are drawn before tea and the nights stretch longer and longer. The heating starts to click on, and we want to put our feet up in front of the fire watching a good programme on TV. So we reach for the remote, press the red button and begin scrolling through the channels in a vain attempt to find something worthwhile.Why not pick up a good book instead?

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Books are great company because they take you off to places you've never been, and in them you meet people you'd never otherwise come across. They can help you learn things without feeling you've been taught, and they can broaden your understanding without making your brain ache.

Here are a couple of books that you might want to curl up with this autumn and winter. They're both factual books about the Reformation, the huge event in the Church that happened 500 years ago this year.

THE UNQUENCHABLE FLAME

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I read this book in the Spring. It's the stories of some of the main figures of the Reformation, people like Martin Luther, John Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli (try saying that with a mouthful of Pringles!). What was life like for them? What were they passionate about and why? What would it have been like to have lived through the Reformation in England? And what happened afterwards.

If you think that makes it a history book then you'd be right, but its so much more too. It's a fast paced, very readable trot through the Reformation as told through some of the most influential people God gave to the Church. You'll come away feeling like you've made some new friends. And you'll come away with a deeper understanding of what happened 500 years ago and why it happened as it did.

Here’s what the publisher says about it:

Burning pyres, nuns on the run, stirring courage, comic relief.

The story of the Protestant Reformation is a gripping tale, packed with drama. It was set in motion on 31 October 1517 when Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses on the castle church door in Wittenberg. What motivated the Reformers? And what were they really like?

In this lively, accessible and informative introduction, Michael Reeves brings to life the colourful characters of the Reformation, unpacks their ideas, and shows the profound and personal relevance of Reformation thinking for today.

The Unquenchable Flame usually costs £10, but we have copies in church available for just £7.

WHY THE REFORMATION STILL MATTERS

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This book looks at the Reformation from a slightly different angle. Today we might think that the Reformation is something from the past; that it's part of history and therefore doesn't really affect us today. Actually, the Reformation does still matter. Why? Because the truths that the Reformers fought hard for are still true today and are as much under attack as they were in 1517. It still matters that we're clear on massive issues like how we can be right with God, what the place of the Bible should be in the Church, what grace is, and what happens at Communion.

This book is again a fairly easy read, although there are one or two longer words in it (but they're mostly explained). I read it across the summer and found it a real help as I prepared for our autumn Reformation series

Here's what the publisher says about this one:

On 31 October 1517, Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses on the castle church door in Wittenberg. More than any other event, this has the best claim to be the starting gun that set the Reformation in motion.

Five hundred years later, the Reformation still has important things to say. In this clear, incisive and accessible survey, Michael Reeves and Tim Chester show how the Reformation helps us answer questions like: How do we know what’s true? Can we truly know God? How does God speak? What’s wrong with us? How can we be saved? Who am I?

That many people today find the Reformation strange and remote exposes our preoccupation with this material world and this momentary life. If there is a world beyond this world, and a life beyond this life, then it doesn’t seem to matter very much to us.

At its heart, the Reformation was a dispute about how we know God and how we can be right with him. At stake was our eternal future – and it still is.

Why the Reformation Still Matters usually costs £10, and again we have copies in church for just £7.

REFORMATION 500

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by John Telford

This year is one of the most important anniversaries for the Church. Arguably it marks the most important event in the history of the Church since the first Pentecost when the Apostles received the Holy Spirit. This year marks the 500 anniversary of when the truth of the Gospel – the good n

ews about Jesus – was rediscovered. That might sound odd. Hasn’t the church always known about Jesus? Well, you’d have thought so, wouldn’t you? But it went hundreds of years gradually forgetting the truth about Jesus and replacing it with something else. Here’s the story.

A CHURCH THAT NOBODY COULD UNDERSTAND

The early headquarters of the Church was in Rome. Rome was the political capital of the Roman Empire and so all the trade routes passed through. That made it the best place to have your headquarters if you wanted to reach to the ends of the known world with your message. In fact, Rome ruled most of the known world, and it set the official language that everyone spoke – Latin. So, the Church, based in Rome, also had everything written in Latin – Bibles, prayers, services, hymns. The whole lot was in Latin because so many people spoke Latin. That way everyone in the Roman Empire could understand the good news of Jesus.

That made for a good state of affairs for the first 400 years or so of the Church. The church was growing in number and in depth of understanding. However, by about 500AD the Roman Empire had almost completely collapsed. There was just a tiny bit of it left – Rome itself, based around the Vatican, what was still the Church’s headquarters. Europe no longer spoke Latin. Even Rome was beginning to speak Italian instead. But the Church still did everything in Latin. It’s Bibles. Services, prayers and hymns were all still written in Latin. It didn’t matter that hardly anyone understood anything; that’s the way the Pope demanded things stayed.

That wasn’t good news for anyone anywhere, including England. Over the next 1,000 years only the most highly educated – a few bishops, some monks and a tiny handful of others - understand the language the Church used for everything. Not even the Vicars in the churches knew what the words they were saying meant. Can you imagine going to church and not understanding anything, so you ask the Vicar what he was talking about from the front. He gives you a blank look, shrugs his shoulders and tells you he hadn’t a clue either? Well, that’s what church was like for the best part of 1,000 years for many people in England. People no longer knew what to believe. So, guess what? They made it up as they went along.

People in England – and throughout the world – began to believe things that the Bible – that Jesus – never taught. For example, they were confused about how to get to heaven. Was it through paying money to the Church? Or perhaps by being very, very good? Or maybe you got into heaven if enough people prayed for your soul after you’d died. Most believed that you spent centuries in Purgatory (a place of hard work and torture) until you’d paid for your sins committed on earth. All these beliefs were made up because nobody could understand what the Bible said to discover the truth.

When it came to the Lord’s Supper people were equally confused. They believed that the bread actually became the body of Jesus and the wine actually became his blood. They knew that it still tasted of normal bread and wine and still looked like it, but they believed that somehow, miraculously, as the ‘priest’ prayed, they turned into Jesus’ body and blood. They came to this understanding because the Latin phrase for ‘This is my body’ sounds a bit like ‘hocus pocus’ and other magic-making words. Again, this understanding of Holy Communion was wrong – it was made up because people didn’t know what to believe.

Most people prayed to saints – dead Christians whose official histories were full of half-truths, exaggerations and fantasy. Most of what people believed was just made up because they didn’t have the Bible in their own language to read and find out from it what Jesus had taught and therefore what they should believe.

All of this came about because the Church refused to allow the Bible to be written in anything other than Latin. The Church was hiding the good news about Jesus from the people. Of course, the Pope and his bishops loved it this way because it meant they had all the power. They knew that if the people didn’t know what the Bible said then they could tell them anything and keep the people under their control. They even had Europe’s Kings and Queens under their control.

Then, in the very early 1500s things began to change. A few people realised that it was really bad that hardly anyone could read or understand the Bible. It started as a small movement. But then a man called Erasmus, who lived in Rotterdam, learned the original biblical languages – Hebrew and Greek – and began to make copies available. Soon it became clear that the Latin Bible everyone had been using for 1,000 years wasn’t even a very good or accurate translation of what the original biblical authors wrote. Hebrew.

THE FIRST ACT OF REFORMATION

Soon people wondered what would happen the Bible was translated into modern day languages – Engliah, German, French, Dutch and so on. Well, it had a massive effect which the Church authorities and the Kings and Queens of Europe hated. Their power was crumbling as the people found out what the Bible really said, who Jesus really is, what he achieved on the cross and how to get to heaven. This was the Reformation.

The first act of Reformation was carried out by Martin Luther, a German monk. He didn’t mean to start anything really. But as he read the Bible for himself in a language he understood and could think in, he had some worries about the Roman Catholic Church and the way it was going. He was particularly concerned about the practice of selling indulgences. These were tokens that, allegedly, got you time off purgatory. The idea was that you paid the church some money and in return God would let you into heaven sooner, sparing you years or even centuries of torment in purgatory – depending on how much you paid. Of course, people paid handsome sums believing that the more they paid the better they’d fare after their death. The church was practising extortion, and they used the money to build St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, which is still today the Roman Catholic Church’s principal cathedral.

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Luther had 95 problems with the church and wanted it to get its act together. He was furious that it was getting money out of people in return for years off purgatory which, as he reads the Bible for himself, he discovered didn’t really exist at all. So, he pinned his 95 problems on the town noticeboard, the door of the Castle Church, in Wittenberg, the town in which he lived.


That act started the ball rolling. Luther read Paul’s letter to the Romans and discovered that we are saved from God’s judgment by grace alone through faith alone. Nobody has to pay the Church any money to get into heaven. Nobody has to be ever so very good to please God enough that he might let you into heaven. There is no such place as purgatory. How did Luther know? Because there’s not a single mention of it in the Bible anywhere.

SETTING OUT WHAT CHRISTIANS HAVE ALWAYS BELIEVED

imageOther great theologians followed in Luther’s footsteps. A few short years later John Calvin, who was a church minister in Geneva, wrote an enormous book called The Institutes of the Christian Religion. In it he set out the entire Christian faith, bit by bit, showing exactly how it comes directly from the words of the Bible. It’s a book that many ministers throughout the world still have on their bookshelves today.

Of course, none of this was new. As Calvin read the works of the earliest Christian writers – people like Augustine of Hippo (which was a place in North Africa) and Athanasius, he discovered that he was in agreement with what they’d said eight centuries later; it was just that the Church had obscured the truth and everyone had forgotten it.

Calvin was a remarkable man. He was an academic, a pastor and a preacher all rolled into one. He loved his Geneva congregation so much that he preached God's love among them several times a week for years. He was often seen visiting members of his flock, and he still had time to advise and guide the Geneva's city officials.

ON THE HOME FRONT

In England, Luther and Calvin’s writings became more influential. William Tyndale, who was a clever man with a God-given gift of understanding languages well, translated the entire New Testament into English. He had to do it in Antwerp because English Bibles were illegal in England. He smuggled them across the North Sea inside bails of wool. Eventually he was executed for his efforts, strangled and burnt at the stake.

imageThomas Cranmer was made Henry VIII’s Archbishop of Canterbury. Henry wanted a divorce from his wife who’d not borne him any sons. Divorce wasn’t allowed by the Roman Catholic Church for any reason, but Henry ordered Cranmer to find a way to make this possible. But Cranmer had higher designs. He had been reading Luther and Calvin was a friend of friends of his. So Cranmer wanted to open up England to the gospel. He worked hard on persuading Henry that English Bibles were needed. By 1539 every church had an English Bible in it, chained to the lectern so that nobody could take it away. Cranmer even sent a reader to every parish so that the illiterate ordinary people could hear the good news of Jesus.

Over the next couple of decades Thomas Cranmer worked on a new book of prayers for the newly formed Church of England. He called it The Book of Common Prayer, a book that’s still widely used today. With the help of others, he wrote the Thirty-Nine Articles, which still to this day define what it is to be a faithful Anglican. And to go alongside all of this he wrote two books of short sermons that had to be read in every church. He provided all of this because his vicars had been brought up in the Latin speaking church and desperately needed help in proclaiming the true Gospel from every pulpit.

A LIGHT THAT NEVER GOES OUT

It's thanks to God, working through these Reformers during the Reformation, that we have the possibility of hearing the gospel today. If it wasn’t for Luther, Calvin, Tyndale and Cranmer, we wouldn’t have English Bibles, English hymns and prayers, and we wouldn’t be able to know Jesus. They were bringing light into darkness, 500 years ago this year.

Many of them were martyred for their faith. Cranmer was burned at the stake as an old man in Oxford. Henry’s daughter, Mary, became Queen. She was Roman Catholic and wanted to return the country to its former Latin-based Roman Catholic faith. To do this, she rounded up as many Reformers as she could find and killed many of them. She became known as Bloody Mary. But after she died, Elizabeth became Queen. She settled the country as Protestant by bringing back Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer and ensuring that his sermons were once again preached from every pulpit in the realm.

Two of the Reformers murdered by Mary were Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley. They were tied to a stake back to back. As the fire was lit, Latimer said to Ridley, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” Moving words to thank God for and to pray in this, the 500 anniversary of the Reformation.

Vision 2018

by Steve Wilcox

On Sunday 8 October I set out the Vision of the Anlaby Churches for 2018. You can listen to the talk here.  For those who don't know, we are “a Christ-centred community existing to spread a passion for Jesus Christ across the Anlaby Communities and beyond.” We seek to do this by Making disciples who make disciples; Resourcing Mission in West Hull; and Sending disciples to bless the Anlaby Communities.

The Anlaby communities, and the city of Hull, are desperately needy. They are needy in many ways - but most of all they are spiritually needy. There are 13 parishes in Hull where between 1 and 8 in every thousand head of population attends their local Anglican church. Non-Anglican church attendance doesn't improve the figures very much. The situation in the Anlaby Communities isn't much better – less than 2.5% of the population of the Communities attend church regularly. What can be done to alleviate this catastrophic situation? “How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15).

We would love to work with other gospel-centred churches to help to meet this need – including by planting churches across the city. However, we are not in a position to do that yet, and so in 2018 we will focus on “Making disciples who make disciples.”

We all want to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ – knowing him better, and discerning how best we can serve him. To that end:

> we will continue to encourage one another to be part of a Life Group;

> we will encourage one another that 'In Christ, we can do that' - whether 'that' is daily praying, reading the Bible, sharing our faith, or serving the church or community in some new way;

> we will seek to equip people to serve God in the ways he is calling them;

> we will think and pray about how the whole of church life can be focused on growing as disciples. To that end, the Ministry team will work through a book called “The Vine Project”; they will feed back their findings to the Church Councils, to Church Family Night, and (from time to time) to the Sunday congregations. Do listen out for more on this! And do pray that the churches would be more and more geared towards Making disciples who make disciples.

There are also various things we hope to do with financial implications. Do ask for a copy of our 2018 “Giving to support our Vision” leaflet if you would like more information about this. And if you would like to start giving regularly, do pick up a leaflet at the back of church.

Please pray with us that we would grow as disciples, and be enabled to make more disciples, during 2018!

Look up, not inside!

I found this article really helpful on how to face our struggles and our sins. Some of the words are long but it's worth persevering with. Don't look in at yourself; look up at Christ!

Responding to God's overflowing generosity

by Steve Wilcox

Jesus has been invited to dine at the house of a Pharisee named Simon. As he reclines at the table, a woman comes in to the room and stands behind him. We're told that she “was a sinner in the town” - though we're given no more detail than that. She begins to cry – floods of tears, as she is overwhelmed with emotion at the gratitude she feels towards Jesus. Her tears fall on his feet, so she loosens her hair and wipes his feet with her hair before anointing them with perfume.

Jesus's host is not impressed – he cannot get beyond the fact that this woman is a sinner and Jesus shouldn't be relating to her. So Jesus tells him a story.

“Two people owed money to a certain money-lender. One owed him five hundred denarii (two years' wages today); the other fifty (two months wages today). Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave them both.” (Luke 7:42). It's easy to miss how remarkable this is. When was the last time you heard of a high street bank, let alone a loan shark, willingly and voluntarily cancelling a person's debts? And Jesus is using this as a picture of God's generosity towards sinners like you and me, in forgiving our sins.

Jesus goes on by showing that the woman's overflowing emotional response to Jesus is a result of her overflowing gratitude to him for the forgiveness she has found through him. (Luke 7:47).

We are left with a question, and a lesson. The question is – have we appreciated the forgiveness that is available to us in Jesus? Have we appreciated the depth of our sinfulness – the amount that we have been forgiven? Why not write down all the ways in which you have sinned “in thought, word and deed” over the past day – week – year – 20 years – and then give thanks that through trusting in Jesus it is all forgiven.

The lesson is – as we reflect on how much we've been forgiven by our generous God, we cannot help but respond to him (like the woman) with overflowing gratitude, love, and service. How will you respond?

Taking a stand on the teaching of the Bible: Same-sex relationships

by Steve Wilcox

You will no doubt have heard about the LGBT 50 events which have taken place in Hull over the past week. You may have attended one of the events. You may also have heard about growing confusion within the Church of England General Synod over what people should think about matters concerning human sexuality; confusion which is in danger of undermining the life-giving truths (built on the Bible) that all Christians have believed for the past two thousand years, and which continue to be taught in the foundational documents of the Church of England.

In a nutshell, the question we are all facing is: “Which will take first place – the Bible, or our culture? When their teachings contradict one another – with whom do we stand?”

In 2012 an organisation called the Evangelical Alliance (see www.eauk.org) produced a report, “Biblical and pastoral responses to sexuality.” A summary document was also produced, called the “10 affirmations”. The goal was to establish a mainstream evangelical (ie Biblical) position on human sexuality, combining the welcome we are to offer to all, the salvation that is available to all, and the shape of Christian living which Christ upholds in the Bible - a shape which is for the blessing and true freedom of those who follow him.* In an attempt to provide some clarity for the church family over where we stand on these matters at St Peter's and St Mark's, the Church Councils of the two churches recently adopted the 10 affirmations. The Church Councils also recommended these affirmations to the church family for further study – and I therefore include them in full below.

The Christian church has a glorious history of individuals and churches standing for what they knew to be true, good and eternally liberating. From Polycarp to Martin Luther to Dietrich Bonhoeffer to our own Bishop JC Ryle. May the Lord raise up more Christians who will stand for the truth of the Bible, no matter what the consequences.

EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE 10 AFFIRMATIONS

We are conscious that different evangelicals might apply certain of these points in different ways, but we believe that, taken together, they reflect an authentic, mainstream evangelical response to homosexuality in general and sexually active same-sex partnerships in particular:

1. We recognise that all of us are sinners, and that the only true hope for sinful people – whatever our sexuality – is in Jesus Christ. Our earnest prayer is that his love, truth and grace would characterise evangelical responses to debates on homosexuality, both now and in future.

2. We affirm God's love and concern for all human beings, whatever their sexuality, and so repudiate all attitudes and actions which victimise or diminish people whose affections are directed towards people of the same sex. We are encouraged many Christians now recognise and deeply regret the hurt caused by past and present failures in their responses to those who experience same-sex attraction.

3. We affirm that marriage is an institution created by God in which one man and one woman enter into an exclusive relationship for life. Marriage is the only form of partnership approved by God for sexual relations and homoerotic sexual practice is incompatible with His will as revealed in Scripture. We do not accept that holding these theological and ethical views on biblical grounds is in itself homophobic.

4. We encourage evangelical congregations to be communities of grace in which those who experience same-sex attraction and seek to live faithfully in accordance with biblical teaching are welcomed and affirmed. Such Christians need churches which are safe spaces where they are able to share and explore their stories with fellow believers for mutual encouragement and support as we help each other grow together into maturity in Christ.

5. We oppose moves within certain churches to accept and/or endorse sexually active same-sex partnerships as a legitimate form of Christian relationship and to permit the ordination to ministry of those in such sexual relationships. We stand prayerfully with those in such churches who are seeking to resist these moves on biblical grounds.

6. We oppose church services of blessing for civil partnerships and other forms of gay and lesbian relationships as unbiblical and reject any redefinition of marriage to encompass same-sex relationships.

7. We commend and encourage all those who experience same-sex attraction and have committed themselves to chastity by refraining from homoerotic sexual practice. We believe they should be eligible for ordination and leadership within the church, recognising that they can bring invaluable insights and experience to the sphere of Christian pastoral ministry.

8. We welcome and support the work of those individuals and organisations who responsibly seek to help Christians who experience same-sex attraction as in conflict with their commitment to live in accordance with biblical teaching. This help will involve counsel and pastoral support to live a chaste life and, as part of this process, some may seek and experience changes in the strength or direction of their same-sex attractions.

9. We believe both habitual homoerotic sexual activity without repentance and public promotion of such activity are inconsistent with faithful church membership. While processes of membership and discipline differ from one church context to another, we believe that either of these behaviours warrants consideration for church discipline.

10. We encourage evangelical congregations to welcome and accept sexually active lesbians and gay men. However, they should do so in the expectation that they, like all of us who are living outside God's purposes, will come in due course to see the need to be transformed and live in accordance with biblical revelation and orthodox church teaching. We urge gentleness, patience and ongoing pastoral care during this process and after a person renounces same-sex sexual relations.

*As Jesus himself said "if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31-32).

Debating Transgender

By Steve WIlcox

At the General Synod of the Church of England in York this week, a motion will be discussed: "That this Synod, recognising the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, calls on the House of Bishops to consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition." What are we to make of this? A helpful article, which points to other helpful resources, can be found here. I also personally found Vaughan Roberts' little book "Transgender" helpful, in beginning to think through the issues.

For those who fail everyday

Here's an encouraging article for those of us - like me - who know that we fail everyday.

Worship in your waiting

Here's a link to a helpful article about how to wait for things as a Christian.

MAKING THE VISION A REALITY - 3. SEND DISCIPLES TO BLESS THE ANLABY COMMUNITIES

by Steve Wilcox

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On November 6 I spoke on a vision for St Peter's and St Mark's for the coming year. I encouraged us to think of the church family as a vine - an image that Jesus uses in John 15. As it receives its nutrients a vine grows, spreading out across the wall or fence on which it is located. It bears fruit as it grows, bringing delight to the owner of the vine and to others. It seems to me that the image of the vine is a good image for us to remember this year, as we continue to work out our purpose to be “a Christ-centred community existing to spread a passion for Jesus Christ in the Anlaby Communities and beyond.”

In my sermon I presented 3 approaches we intend to take as a church, in order to fulfil our purpose. These 3 purposes have been agreed by the Church Councils. I'd like to explain a bit more about the three approaches. In this article I'll explain the third approach.

Approach 3 – Send disciples to bless the Anlaby Communities

As a vine spreads across a wall or fence, it bears fruit – delicious fruit which can be used for a great variety of purposes, bringing blessing to many. In the same way, we long to be a blessing to the Anlaby Communities. When God makes his great promises to Abraham, he says “All peoples will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). Later on, when God's people are in exile in Babylon, God tells them to “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for if it prospers, you also will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7). In the New Testament, Jesus tells his followers “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15). And in Galatians Paul writes “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10).

How do we “send disciples to bless the Anlaby Communities”? A great deal of this already happens quietly, behind the scenes. There are members of the church family who visit other needy and lonely people; those who serve as school governors, on the parish council, or on other community bodies. There are those who visit the schools and day centres. There are those who are salt and light in the local U3A groups and other community groups, not to mention in their workplaces. On 6 June we will be holding a day of prayer at St Peter's (more details to follow). In advance of that, I hope that those who serve in the community in different ways will be able to let us know, so that we can give thanks and pray for them.

Second, there are more organised groups which seek to bless the Anlaby Communities. Light lunches would be a good example of this – providing a meal and fellowship twice a month.

Third, there's the Anlaby Communities Trust (ACT). This was set up a couple of years ago, as a vehicle for St Peter's and St Mark's churches to serve the community, as well as providing a suitable means of operating the St Mark's pre-school. Already through ACT we have been able to provide food parcels to a number of needy people in the community, and to provide a forum for various community groups to meet together and share ideas.

On 10 June, the Anlaby Communities Day is being held at the St Mark's site. This is a fantastic opportunity for us to make connections with the community, as well as to bring the Anlaby Communities and their various organisations together on one occasion. A huge amount of work has gone into the planning of the day – in particular by Gill King, Katie Waltham and Sarah Haynes, who are all trustees of ACT. Do come along and support the day; do help in some way if you're able to; and do please pray for the day (not least that it doesn't rain!)

Does the Reformation still matter?

by Steve Wilcox
2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Lots more will be said during the year, but already the question is being asked in the media "Does the Reformation still matter?" This article gives a very helpful (and brief) response to that question.

MAKING THE VISION A REALITY - 2. MAKE DISCIPLES WHO MAKE DISCIPLES

by Steve Wilcox

On November 6 I spoke on a vision for St Peter's and St Mark's for the coming year. I encouraged us to think of the church family as a vine - an image that Jesus uses in John 15. As it receives its nutrients a vine grows, spreading out across the wall or fence on which it is located. It bears fruit as it grows, bringing delight to the owner of the vine and to others. It seems to me that the image of the vine is a good image for us to remember this year, as we continue to work out our purpose to be “a Christ-centred community existing to spread a passion for Jesus Christ in the Anlaby Communities and beyond.”

imageIn my sermon I presented 3 approaches we intend to take as a church, in order to fulfil our purpose. These 3 purposes have been agreed by the Church Councils. I'd like to explain a bit more about the three approaches. In this article I'll explain the second approach.

Approach 2 – Make disciples who make disciples

It's a few years since I took biology GCSE, so I thought I'd do some research into how vines grow. I discovered that there are two main causes of growth – cell division, and cell growth. That is, the cells within the vine (and its berries) expand, and at some point they divide to produce new cells, which then grow, and so on. (If there are any biologists amongst us they might be able to help us even more to understand this!) In the same way, the vine which is the church grows through Christians growing in their faith, and Christians helping others to grow in their faith. Jesus uses this very image in John 15, in which Jesus himself is “the vine”, and his followers – those who remain in him because they remain in his Word – are the branches of the vine.

Let's think of this through the eyes of Matthew, whose gospel we looked at in the autumn. For Matthew, every follower of Jesus is a disciple – that's what “disciple” means. If you call yourself a Christian, then you are a disciple. And what we find in Matthew's gospel is that the disciples grow in their faith as Jesus disciples them – as he teaches and trains them. So in some places we find him teaching them (eg the Sermon on the Mount); in other places we see him modelling the Christian life to them (eg Matthew 11:1, 8:18-20); sometimes he trains them (eg Matthew 10); at other times he rebukes them (eg Matthew 16:23); and at other times he encourages them (eg Matthew 13:16-17).

Then, at the end of Matthew's gospel, Jesus gives his marching orders - “Go and make disciples of all nations...” (Matthew 28:19). In other words, the disciples are to learn from all that he has shown them – and they are to do the same with others, in his name.

This being discipled and making disciples is the key ingredient to the growth of the church / vine / body of Christ. It is the engine, the driver, the cell growth and cell division. It is something that every member of the church family – every disciple – should be concerned about and keen to see. Which is why we have made it one of our key approaches to “Make disciples who make disciples.”

But we might be able to think of several objections at this point. Someone might say “But I don't want to take my Christian faith too seriously – it's just one part of my life after all.” But Matthew would respond that every Christian is a disciple; and we find out what it means to be a disciple in the Bible. We are not at liberty to define for ourselves what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ – we must allow him to define it for us.

Someone else might say “This makes it sound like I'm someone else's project – to disciple me.” Nobody is anybody else's project; rather, each of us are disciples and it's right that we seek to grow as disciples and welcome others who seek to help us in that endeavour.

Another person might say “I don't know how to grow as a disciple, let alone how to make disciples.” And it's fine not to know – but how about asking someone to show you what it looks like? There are a number of us who would be more than happy to talk to you about that.

How might we do this?

So how might we as a church family “Make disciples who make disciples”? In the vision sermon I set out a number of ways in which we might seek to do this.

> Sundays must be our starting point. We meet as God's people to encounter God, to worship him, to be changed by him, and to be sent out to serve him in the week ahead. In other words, we meet to grow as disciples, to encourage each other, and to praise God as disciples of the Lord Jesus. Let's go to church with that attitude, Sunday by Sunday.

> Life groups – Numbers of people are finding that Life groups are a fantastic way of growing as disciples, as they hear God speak to them regularly in a more intimate setting than Sundays provide. It also gives more opportunity to think about what God is saying to each of us personally, as well as to pray for each other.

> Meeting one-to-one – discipling one another – A number of people in the church family meet together in groups of two or three to read the bible, talk about living as a Christian, and pray together. This can be done formally or informally, but I recommend it highly. I've heard it said that each Christian needs a Paul (someone to disciple them), a Barnabas (someone to walk alongside them and encourage them), and a Timothy (someone to disciple).

> Discipleship in our DNA – The Ministry team are currently reading a book called “The Vine Project”, which makes suggestions as to how making disciples can become part of the culture of the church. Please pray for the leadership of the church as we seek to make this more and more a reality, for God's glory.

Making the Vision a reality - 1. Resource mission in West Hull

by Steve Wilcox

On November 6 I spoke on a vision for St Peter's and St Mark's for the coming year. I encouraged us to think of the church family as a vine - an image that Jesus uses in John 15. As it receives its nutrients a vine grows, spreading out across the wall or fence on which it is located. It bears fruit as it grows, bringing delight to the owner of the vine and to others. It seems to me that the image of the vine is a good image for us to remember this year, as we continue to work out our purpose to be “a Christ-centred community existing to spread a passion for Jesus Christ in the Anlaby Communities and beyond.”

In my sermon I presented 3 approaches we intend to take as a church, in order to fulfil our purpose. These 3 purposes have been agreed by the Church Councils. I'd like to explain a bit more about the three approaches. I'll explain the first approach in this article, then in subsequent articles I'll explain the other two approaches.

Approach 1 – Resource Mission in West Hull

imageAs we think about the vine, we imagine it gradually spreading across the wall or fence on which it is located. In the same way we long for the spiritual vine to grow across the Anlaby Communities and across Hull as more and more people come to a saving and life-transforming faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The need for the gospel in Hull is very great – as I set out in my recent post (see below). But it's not just about church attendance. It's about people's relationship with God, and the transformation that brings to lives.

The greatest need of every human being is a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Jesus warns us that hell is a real place, and because of the human condition of sin those who have not put their trust in Jesus will go there for eternity. But “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish (eternally) but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). People need to hear about the Lord Jesus and to put their faith in him in order to have life with him for all eternity.

But Jesus doesn't just transform our eternal life; he transforms our life now as well. We are aware of many social problems in the Anlaby Communities and in Hull; and yet the reality is that the single best way of helping a person's social needs is for them to come to a living faith in Jesus Christ. We see countless examples of this in the gospels – as a person comes to know Jesus Christ, their whole life is transformed for the better. (See, for example, Mark 5:15, 18-20; Matthew 9:22; Luke 7:36-50). I could tell more stories of how this has been the case in West Hull in the 21 century. To summarise then, people desperately need to know Jesus Christ for themselves – and this means people in Anlaby, Anlaby Common, Anlaby Park, Rokeby Park, as well as the rest of West Hull and the surrounding villages.

It may be hard to believe, but relative to most other Anglican churches - and most other evangelical churches - in West Hull, we at St Peter's and St Mark's are well resourced. And God has given us a vision to work with other gospel-centred churches. And therefore it is right that we should seek to work with others to resource mission in West Hull.

How might we do this?

In the vision sermon I set out 3 ways in which we might seek to do this.

> Annual programme of outreach – I have asked John Telford to help us to develop an annual programme of outreach, so that we have regular events to which we can all invite our family, friends, colleagues and neighbours to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

> Work with other gospel-centred churches – We will seek to work with other gospel-centred churches as much as we can, so that we can help one another in the vital task of mission.

> Plant churches – A church plant is a new congregation: for example, the 4pm service. The desperate need for the gospel compels us to find ways to reach whole new communities. There are currently communities within our parishes we are not reaching, and of course communities elsewhere in the city who are not being reached. We may not be in a position to plant a church just yet; but we can plan and pray to that end. It is much better to have a plan to plant churches when we are small, rather than when we are large and comfortable.

Do pray for the leadership of the church as we plan and pray more about these things. And if you have any ideas, or would like to get involved, do speak to myself, John Telford or a warden.

The way forward 4 - Services and Buildings

by Steve Wilcox

In February, I spoke of the need to discern the next “stepping stone” for us as a church family on two sites. We have great opportunities – as set out by our Vision and Mission Action Plan. But we also have limited resources – particularly as regards workers. I said that we therefore need to discern the best way to use the resources available to us. With that in mind, John Truscott came to visit us. John is an independent church consultant, and is able to provide a wise, independent perspective on complex issues to do with church life. We asked him to consider some questions, including “What is the best 'next step' for the churches?” and “Any reflections on the best use of the sites available to us?”

John was very encouraged by his visit, and noticed a number of things that we do particularly well. However, there were also things we didn't do so well, and inevitably it is those things we need to focus on as we respond to what he said!

John made a number of recommendations, all of which have recently been approved by our Church Councils. I thought it would be helpful to write about some of those recommendations – to explain them, and begin to reflect on what they might mean for us as a church family, and for the wider community.

Recommendation 4: Keep both main services and both sites, but focus on St Mark's site for development

John saw no reason to change our current service structure. He wrote “It might be unwise to aim for a further change in service pattern until you see the results of your other changes forcing you to do so.” The other changes he was referring to were the changes in attitude – towards discipleship and mission – that were discussed in earlier blog posts. In other words, it may be that as we move forward in our spiritual growth and our witness to the community there is a place for further changes in service structure – but we haven't reached that point yet. Of course we might be forced into such a change (if, for example, we don't have enough people serving to enable us to operate the services) but, all things being equal, we should try to avoid it for the time being. Furthermore, John pointed out that there is plenty of scope for ongoing development in the existing services, to make them more edifying for believers and accessible for newcomers.

The question of service pattern is linked to the question of buildings and sites. It goes without saying that if we were to close a building, one of the main services would have to stop, or at least re-locate! But John's advice was “This may not be where you would like to start from but you have your two sites and to close either would surely distract you from your priorities above. One has heritage, one has flexibility. Two sites give you greater visibility even if one of them is not in an ideal location. I see no reason for making major decisions for change just at the moment.” In other words, let's give thanks for the buildings and sites we have, and focus on mission and discipleship rather than be distracted by discussions about which building we might close and all the effort that would entail!

However, following from his comments above - about the flexibility of the St Mark's site and the St Peter's site not being in the ideal location - John did also have this to say: “The more you can make St Mark’s fit for purpose, though, the better - although I assume that the cost of such changes could be prohibitive. I would focus your outreach strategy on this site, although work for occasional offices may need to be more St Peter’s focused.” In other words, because of the size and flexibility of the St Mark's site, it makes sense to focus on that site as regards future development. With that in mind, discussions have begun to take place about possible medium-term changes to the St Mark's site, which I hope to discuss with the Church Councils in due course.

The St Peter's site, on the other hand, is much loved and appreciated as it is; although that doesn't mean we can't make positive changes to it, which we hope to in due course.

Having said all that, it goes without saying that if we are to continue to operate both sites we need the finances and the people to enable us to do it. With that in mind, we are very thankful for the numbers of people who have helped in maintaining the buildings in recent years. In order to grow the numbers of people involved, we have recently formed three “Buildings teams” - one for each building - and we hope that members of that team will take responsibility for each building so that the wardens can take a more “high level” view, rather than being too “hands on.” Do let me know if you'd be interested in being involved in one of the teams, or in helping us to maintain or develop one of the buildings or sites.

The Way Forward 3 - Leadership

by Steve Wilcox

In February, I spoke of the need to discern the next “stepping stone” for us as a church family on two sites. We have great opportunities – as set out by our Vision and Mission Action Plan. But we also have limited resources – particularly as regards workers. I said that we therefore need to discern the best way to use the resources available to us. With that in mind, John Truscott came to visit us. John is an independent church consultant, and is able to provide a wise, independent perspective on complex issues to do with church life. We asked him to consider some questions, including “What is the best 'next step' for the churches?”

John was very encouraged by his visit, and noticed a number of things that we do particularly well. However, there were also things we didn't do so well, and inevitably it is those things we need to focus on as we respond to what he said!

John made a number of recommendations, all of which have recently been approved by our Church Councils. I thought it would be helpful to write about some of those recommendations – to explain them, and begin to reflect on what they might mean for us as a church family, and for the wider community.

Recommendation 3: Simplify decision-making structures

John observed that our decision-making structures as a church family were quite complex. We have two Church Councils (one for each church), the vicar and church wardens, and what was formerly named the Leadership Team. John noted that “What does need to change is your decision-making structures so that you have one church, one PCC (Church Council) and, as now, one Leadership Team.” John also observed the danger of overlap between the work of the Leadership team and the Church Councils, and therefore the need for the work of the Leadership team to be clearly defined. Finally, he observed that “Your key workers appear to be over-busy to an extent that is not sustainable in the medium-term.”

The main change we have made as a result of John's recommendations is that the Church Councils of the two churches have agreed to meet together in the future. This has now taken place three times, and I have already observed a huge difference: Members of the Church Councils are getting to know each other better, and to see things from one another's point of view. They are also being enabled to see the “bigger picture” of the ministry of the two parishes. Finally, it means that decisions only need to be made once, rather than twice as in former times!

As regards the role of the Leadership Team: The team's name has been changed to “the Ministry Team” to reflect the fact that leadership is shared between vicar and wardens, Church Councils and the Team. The role of the team has been defined as helping myself and the wardens to enact the decisions that are made by the Church Council, as well as advising me. [An analogy with the Cabinet and Parliament in UK politics is not exact, but is helpful nonetheless.]

Finally, as regards key workers being over-busy: This is not an issue that can be solved immediately. We are doing our best to work in teams, seeking to ensure that no-one is on too many teams and thus becoming overwhelmed. We are also committed to helping every member of the church family identify and develop their gifts, trusting that Christ has gifted his church in exactly the way he wishes so that she might be built up. And we are trusting for his grace in the meantime! I would close by asking that if you are currently wondering how you can serve in the life of the church family and feel that you have some more capacity to do so, do please have a word with me – you might be the answer to our prayers!

The Way Forward 2 - Discipleship

by Steve Wilcox

In February, in my “Vision” sermon, I spoke of the need to discern the next “stepping stone” for us as a church family on two sites. We have great opportunities – as set out by our Vision and Mission Action Plan. But we also have limited resources – particularly as regards workers. I said that we therefore need to discern the best way to use the resources available to us. With that in mind, John Truscott came to visit us. John is an independent church consultant, and is able to provide a wise, independent perspective on complex issues to do with church life. We asked him to consider some questions, including “What is the best 'next step' for the churches?”

John was very encouraged by his visit, and noticed a number of things that we do particularly well. However, there were also things we didn't do so well, and inevitably it is those things we need to focus on as we respond to what he said!

John made a number of recommendations, all of which have recently been approved by our Church Councils. I thought it would be helpful to write about some of those recommendations – to explain them, and begin to reflect on what they might mean for us as a church family, and for the wider community.

Recommendation 2: Make it a priority to develop a new passion for practical discipleship.

John observed that one of our strengths in our preaching and teaching at St Mark's and St Peter's is the correct handling of God's Word the Bible. This is fantastic, and something to give thanks for: sadly there are many churches around the country for which this isn't the case. Often the Bible is used by the preacher as nothing more than a springboard, giving them an excuse to say what they want to say rather than what God says in his Word! May God in his mercy enable us to continue to handle his Word better and better.

However, he observed that our application of God's Word into all of life is not as good as it might be. This is why he recommends “a new passion for practical discipleship” and a focus on “the practical application of discipleship.”

In other words, as God's Word the Bible is taught and preached, God is speaking to us by his Holy Spirit. He is speaking to us about our lives, our priorities, our thinking, and in particular how we can relate to him as our Creator, Saviour, Lord and Judge. How much are we aware of this? Do we go away having had our thinking changed, and therefore aware of what difference what we have heard will make to our lives on Monday morning or Wednesday evening or Saturday afternoon?

There is a challenge here for those (including myself) who teach and preach: It is right that we “correctly handle God's Word”, and ensure that what we are saying is what God is saying. But when this has happened, our work is not yet done. We need to help God's people to see the “cash value” of God's Word – the difference his Word makes to how God's people view God and themselves, and how they live Monday to Saturday.

But there is more to it than that. I think John's recommendation encourages every one of us to ask a fundamental question: Do we view ourselves as disciples? Do we see ourselves as those who have been called by God, into his family, and are being changed by him more and more into the likeness of his Son Jesus Christ? (see 1 Corinthians 3:18). Do we see being part of God's family not just as something for Sunday morning, but for every day? Do we see that our faith is not just for Sunday, but for every part of our lives? In terms of our Values as a church – do we see the importance of Deepening in our faith? If we do, then we will be constantly seeking to hear God speak to us through his Word, and we will be asking him to reveal how what he has said changes us and the way we live our lives. And then, of course, we will be asking him to empower us, by his Holy Spirit, to be changed.

What might this mean practically? It might mean meeting up with a Christian friend to talk about how God is working in our lives – and to pray for how we would like him to work. It might mean joining a Life group, so we can encourage others and be encouraged in our faith. It might mean asking to meet with someone to find out more about how we can read the Bible for ourselves, and put its teaching into practice (do have a word with me if you'd be interested in arranging something like this). It might mean listening to the sermon again on Monday morning (every sermon is available on our website), and praying that God would show us the difference it will make for us in the office, in our families, in our leisure time in the week ahead. 

What does it mean for you?

The Way Forward 1 - Reach Out

by Steve Wilcox

In February, in my “Vision” sermon, I spoke of the need to discern the next “stepping stone” for us as a church family on two sites. We have great opportunities – as set out by our Vision and Mission Action Plan. But we also have limited resources – particularly as regards workers. I said that we therefore need to discern the best way to use the resources available to us. With that in mind, John Truscott came to visit us. John is an independent church consultant, and is able to provide a wise, independent perspective on complex issues to do with church life. We asked him to consider some questions, including “What is the best 'next step' for the churches?”

John was very encouraged by his visit, and noticed a number of things that we do particularly well. However, there were also things we didn't do so well, and inevitably it is those things we need to focus on as we respond to what he said!

John made a number of recommendations, all of which have recently been approved by our Church Councils. I thought it would be helpful to write about some of those recommendations – to explain them, and begin to reflect on what they might mean for us as a church family, and for the wider community.

Recommendation 1: Make it a priority to reach out with the good news of Jesus Christ into your community through a well-designed outreach strategy.

John observed that we are very good as a church family at caring for each other, and at discipling one another in the faith. However, he observed that our outreach into the community is not what it might be. In particular, he observed that as a church we don't have an organised outreach strategy; nor, as individuals, are we as good at sharing the gospel with others, and inviting others to events, as we might be.

My own feeling is that John Truscott is right about this. If we are seeking to grow as a church, then we need to be attracting other people into the life of the church. And this will happen as we organise events that people would like to come to, and as we invite them to those events.

Since John Truscott's visit, we have been privileged to take part in the West Hull Area Mission. This was very encouraging in all sorts of ways, and I believe that we need to make sure we build on the momentum that the Mission gave us. We need to make it a priority to devise an “annual programme of outreach events”, so that we all have something we can invite someone to.

Some of us might say “I don't know anyone who's not a Christian.” But I'm sure when we stop to think about it we do – our neighbours, our family members, the people we meet at U3A or the gym. Others might say “I don't know how to invite them.” That's a fair point – but why don't we encourage one another, and share ideas, so that we're more confident. And of course, it all begins with prayer. Why not start praying for 3 people you know, that they might come to a living faith in Jesus Christ, and to see the wonderful difference knowing him makes to life. You never know what God might do in someone's life if you ask him to!