Nigel Ring on February 21st, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 8th 2017
As I arrived at the meeting place of Living Hope Church, Bath, one of the Regions Beyond churches in the Newfrontiers family, I received a WhatsApp message from Donna Bloomfield in Burundi.

“Yesterday we discovered that ‘army worm’, a devastating pest, has ravaged a maize crop grown by Albert, our newest team member. This pest has destroyed his whole crop .… and is already destroying crops across Africa. It is on the site next to the community of displaced people we are helping. It seems we therefore can’t plant maize with them as planned. We have prophetic words about fruitful farmlands and no more starvation … so we are on our knees seeking God for a way forward not just for us but for the nation. We are meeting this afternoon to pray and the whole team will meet tomorrow before we have to break the news to our friends. May God give us wisdom and a strategy right from his heart”.

God’s whisper
Earlier I had felt God whisper into my heart to share on prayer that morning. What an opportunity this presented for us, as a church, to stand with these dear people who were living in abject poverty and put prayer into practice!

While praying God led us to two scriptures:

I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. Malachi 3:11

Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham….. And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. Gen 26:1, 12 

I shared these with Donna. The following day she responded that these scriptures had been hugely significant. “God led us so clearly today that we are to proceed and plant the maize as planned, trusting God that it won’t be devoured”. She explained that the team had felt God had spoken to them and asked them, “What does success look like?” and that it was actually to serve the nation in finding a way to overcome the pest that could otherwise cause starvation across the nation by devouring the staple crop.

They decided to go ahead as planned using the Foundations for Farming technique (originally called Farming God’s Way) developed by Brian Oldreive in Zimbabwe and taught to the Burundians by Mike and Annette Derry from the UK, who had themselves been trained in Zimbabwe.

That afternoon the team received a message from a member of the Foundations Team in Zimbabwe that washing up liquid, watered down and sprayed on the crops should kill the army worm. They went straight to Albert’s plot to test it and it worked!

Now they could also serve their neighbours by showing them this method to save their crops.

Let me tell the rest of the story in pictures.

October 10th
The next day planting begins.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 26th – 16 days later

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 6th – a further 6 weeks
Faithful and diligent labour produces stands higher than the people! Some seeds have grown multiple stalks – previously unknown to the originators of Foundations for Farming.

 

 

 

 

 

January 30th 2018 – Another 8 weeks
Faithfulness produces abundance, with several stalks producing 3 cobs, but all significantly more substantial than those grown by conventional methods. The next field was planted a few days earlier according to traditional farming methods. Neighbours are now asking to be taught the new method.

God’s way                                                  Man’s way

February 2nd
Time for harvest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons to learn
1. God delights to answer prayer
2. God honours faithfulness and diligence
3. God blesses those who are poor and downtrodden

Give us this day our daily bread….

Thank you Jesus!

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A culture of Honour
Harmony and mutual honouring are vital ingredients for a successful working relationship between elders and trustees. Where there is tension, or competitiveness for authority or recognition, there is discord, which does not honour God.

I chaired the trust for the Church of Christ the King in Brighton for over 30 years and was an elder for about 25 of those years. Throughout that time I sought to lead the trustees with an attitude of support and honouring of the elders while not shying away from asking penetrating questions. I felt this was the best way to serve the eldership; we could be a sounding board on which vision and values could be developed. With our expertise we could enrich and strengthen their decision-making with knowledge and skills that would not otherwise have been available to them. But we were neither managers of the church nor merely ‘rubber stamps’ to the elders’ decisions.

Faith – not optimism
One of the areas in which I most enjoyed my time in these roles was in the exercise of faith for finances. As a trustee I saw my role as being one of ensuring that the elders fully understood the financial consequences of strategy they were setting and plans they were making. I did not allow ‘faith’ to hinder the presentation of facts – if the budget did not ‘add up’ I made that clear. However, once I was confident that the elders understood the financial challenges any course of action might present, and were genuinely in faith (not optimism) that God would provide, I loved joining them in prayer to exercise that faith and see the provision come about. We had a wonderful history we had of seeing God provide on many occasions!

Harmony
For elders and trustees to flow well together there should be robust harmony. This calls for spiritual maturity by all concerned to prevent opinions being expressed inappropriately and without humility. It must be acknowledged that all are moving in the same direction towards the same goal and the only discussion is around the route and resources to get there.

I like the analogy in the excellent paper “Guide to churches on spiritual leadership and trustees” produced by Stewardship. There the writer takes the analogy of a vessel at sea. The elders define the destination and then together they and the trustees chart the course and obtain the resources etc.

Division or Discord?
A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (Matt 12:25). That is a principle which certainly applies to the church. The relationship between elders and trustees must be carefully nurtured and safeguarded. Working in harmony and with honour one to the other is a recipe for a strong church which honours the Lord. The alternative is discord and dislocation.

Conclusion
Elders are the spiritual, God-anointed and God-appointed leaders of the local church, the Kingdom-demonstrating change agent in the community. A charity is the world’s system to ensure that publicly donated funds are used for the charitable purposes specified. These two over-lapping entities, the church and the charity, can either be seen as being in competition, or they can work together in harmony for greater fruitfulness.

Represented by the elders and trustees respectively, the harmonious working of these two legal entities can only be realised if there is a mutual determination to achieve the best-of-the-best from both. But there is a choice. They can either be in conflict or they can support one another. It is for the elders and trustees to choose by their attitudes and actions which path to take. I earnestly urge you to choose the latter. That will bring glory to God.

 

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Nigel Ring on February 7th, 2018

 

The primary roles of a trustee of a charity are legal and financial, specifically

  1. Safeguarding the charity by ensuring that the objects and purposes for which it exists are observed both inclusively and exclusively i.e. not operating outside the purposes for which it exists
  2. Ensuring good stewardship of finance

Trustees are not governmental over the ministry and direction of the church; that is the elders’ calling.

Listen
There is a third important role which I will deal with first; being an informal ‘sounding board’ of the church members to the elders. Sadly, people sometimes put elders on a pedestal, something I hate and something that no good leader would ever seek. Jesus put a towel around his waist and washed the disciples’ feet. But the people may nevertheless be reluctant to tell elders their true concerns.

Church trustees usually have less profile than elders and as a result may be more aware than the elders of any concerns. They can keep elders informed.

Protecting the objects of the charity
Much that a church does under the umbrella of a charity is assumed unless specifically excluded. For instance, a charity is usually directed in some way to helping those who are poor or in need. So, although this may not be precisely included in the objects it is nevertheless a part of a church’s work and ministry.

But there may be other objects that are more specifically defined – overseas mission, training etc. It is the role of the trustees to ensure that all the activities of the church falls under one of the objects stated and that it does not stray into other unstated areas such as business. (Business is, in fact, possible under certain circumstances, but it is beyond the scope of this short series and needs to be handled carefully with legal advice)

Legal
All legalities must of course be observed. Particularly, there are various procedures and protocols that are the trustees’ responsibility. These include ensuring that appropriate safeguarding policies are in place (eg child protection), risk assessments are carried out and regularly reviewed, health and safety matters are being dealt with, and so on. Stewardship have some helpful papers including some on trustees such as Frequently Asked Questions.

Finance
Much of the income of a church comes from the generosity of the members, often sacrificially. It is the role of the trustees to ensure that such funds are handled responsibly and accountably in a way that reflects the trust and the purposes for which such funds are given. They protect the interests of the donors by ensuring that finance is not mishandled.

Part of this stewardship is ensuring that there is good practice in all matters related to finance, from handling cash to budgeting, keeping records, producing management accounts and so on. Also, that where donations are made e.g. to an overseas ministry, there is good accountability and the trustees are satisfied that the funds are used for the intended purpose.

They should also ensure there is a ‘reserves policy’ i.e. funds available to cover any reasonable but unexpected eventuality. Typically this is expressed in terms of a number of months’ turnover.

Employment
One important application of finance may be the employment of church staff. In overseeing this it is important that the trustees protect the interests of the staff through providing for pensions, regulating holidays etc without turning the staff, particularly the eldership, into ‘hirelings’. The staff should be managed by the spiritual oversight; the trustees must just ensure that all good employment practice is in place. For example, it is not for the trustees to create job descriptions but merely to ensure that, where they exist, they are appropriate and permissible.

Who should be trustees?
It is tempting to think that the elders should also be the trustees. This would remove the ‘two-headed monster’ syndrome referred to in part 1. But this denies the benefits of additional skills being made available to the elders which they may not already have, particularly legal, financial, building management, human resources etc. A carefully selected board of trustees allows such professional skills to be available which may be invaluable to the health of the church.

In the final part of this series we will look at the ways in which elders and trustees can work together.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own. Legal advice should be sought appropriately before acting on any of these observations.

 

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Nigel Ring on January 31st, 2018

 

As we consider the relationship between elders and trustees it is important to know what the distinctives are of these two bodies of people.

God-commissioned
First, elders must be those who are recognised as being commissioned by God. One day they will stand before the judgment seat of God and be asked to give account for all the people in their care (Heb 13:17). If they have never been commissioned (ie maybe have just seen ‘elder’ as a title) there could be a few embarrassed faces! So laying on of hands for eldership is no light matter and should follow a period of serious prayer and seeking God’s mind. And this comes after there has been a thorough testing and proving of such men according to Biblical principles.

Job Description
You will not find a detailed job description for an elder in the Bible (nor for other leaders). Why not? It seems that God is more interested in the stewardship of his gifts and in character than in function.

First, God imparts gifting to potential elders and tests them to see how faithfully they use these gifts to equip, encourage and console the church (1 Cor 14:3). Second, he looks at character, as Paul spells out in his first letter to Timothy (1 Tim 3:1-7). Here are a few of the distinctives he specifies: ‘above reproach’ (v2), ‘self-controlled’ (v3), ‘manages his household well’ (v4), not ‘puffed up’ (v5), ‘well thought of by outsiders’ (v6), and so on. (This is not a complete list; I encourage you to study the passage.)

Once God sees mature character qualifications he imparts the skills and gifts necessary to fulfil the calling, which will vary from one person to another eg leadership, pastoral care, teaching, etc. and then appears to leave it to the individual to carry out the role in a suitable way. The ways in which these are outworked will be determined both by that person’s own spiritually mature judgement and also by the needs of the local eldership team working for the health of the church. That is servant leadership.

Tested first
Let me dwell a little longer on one specific character qualification, ‘well thought of by outsiders’ (1 Tim 3:6). This is similar to ‘tested first’ a few verses later when Paul teaches about the appointment of deacons (1 Tim 3:10). It is also echoed in ‘of good repute’ in Acts 6:3, referring to those called and appointed by the apostles to resolve a significant pastoral issue in the early church. Reputation and a good track record are vital for successful leadership. The people in the church need to have already demonstrated their willingness to follow these potential leaders before elders are formally commissioned to that responsibility. It is easier  and more comfortable to ‘commission’ than to ‘de-commission’, so it is wise not to rush such appointments.

Not democratic
Finally, there is one very important point to note. Having a good reputation does not imply that elders should be appointed by popular vote. Church is not a democracy. As already referenced above, in Acts 6:3 the early church leaders called for men of ‘good repute’ to be brought to them. These were ‘set before them’ (interviewed?) and then, after careful consideration, they prayed and laid hands on them (Acts 6:6). That is an important principle to follow for any leadership role.

What about trustees? We will look at the distinctives of these next time.

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Nigel Ring on January 25th, 2018

 

I am now returning to another of the questions I have been asked to address. This one is the most common of all the questions I am asked. It relates to the relationship between church elders and trustees. It is a good question and one that is important to consider seriously as, sadly, I have seen churches split apart because the relationship between these two bodies has been one of tension and disagreement.

Authority and the church
The core issue is ‘Who has the governing authority over the church?’ In order to answer this it is necessary to consider what, or rather who, the church is.

At its simplest the church is a community of Christ-followers who are seeking to live out their faith in total obedience to Jesus, led by the Holy Spirit and tenaciously holding to the authority of scripture, the inspired word of God. As such this community is a local demonstration of the Kingdom of God on earth, although I acknowledge that there is much about that demonstration that is imperfect; as some would say, ‘the kingdom now and not yet’ (ie we do not yet see the kingdom in all its fullness). It is for this reason that we still pray ‘Your kingdom come…’

From this definition it is clear that that church community is first and foremost a spiritual community led by God-commissioned leaders who hold the ultimate authority. For this reason it is vital that church elders understand the Biblical teaching on servant leadership; they are not there to lord it over the people but to serve them (cf 1 Pet 5:1-3). Failure to see this can result in autocratic leadership which is anything but Biblical.

But what about trustees, you might ask? Where do they fit in? Surely, as the guardians of the charity under which the church is constituted, they hold the ultimate authority? It is true that they certainly have an important role to fulfil which I will explore further, but the ultimate governing authority must rest with the elders if this spiritual community is to be led according to God’s order.

A two-headed monster?
Because there are two bodies who have a measure of authority into the church we have the possibility of a the church being a two-headed monster. This is because churches in many countries have to be registered with a legal instrument, such as a charity, and the trustees of that charity do have responsibilities, and thus power and influence, in the church. But if their roles are clearly understood the two-headed monster scenario disappears. It is not the inevitable result.

I have been an elder and a trustee – fulfilling both responsibilities simultaneously for much of that time – and it is possible to have such a high mutual respect that both bodies can function effectively and cooperatively to the health of the church and all its members. By working together the church can in fact be enriched since these bodies often exhibit different skills and giftings all of which can contribute to a more comprehensive view of leadership matters, and as a result they bring more strength to strategic thinking and the decision-making process.

In this short series I will seek to show you how these bodies can work together in harmony to the enrichment of the local church.

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Nigel Ring on January 18th, 2018

Regular readers of my blog will know of my love for and involvement in Burundi. We now have a need and I would really appreciate your financial help.

The Problem
Burundi is one of the poorest nations in the world and one that lives in crisis due to political instability. A few years ago a Burundian friend realised that one of the reasons for so many living in poverty was the cows. He felt God say ‘Cows are the problem – cows are the solution’. Since he implemented the ‘solution’ over 400 families have been lifted out of abject poverty and the number is rising steadily.

Why are cows the problem?
The traditional Ankole long horned cow is seen as a status symbol – the more you have the greater your status. Yet it is in fact bad news! It yields very little milk (max 2 litres per day for 10 weeks after calving), roams and overgrazes the land, keeps children out of school in order to follow them into the hills and so on.

Why are cows the solution?

  • The Friesian cow continuously yields up to 15 litres per day
  • It can be contained in a paddock, thus releasing the children to attend school
  • It can be fed elephant grass, a cash crop which provides income for the farmer
  • 15 litres are far more than most families need in a day so the surplus can be sold
  • All the milk is pasteurised so health is improved
  • Pasteurisation requires labour so provides employment
  • Families, especially children, get improved health through regularly drinking milk
  • Selling the milk provides others with employment
  • Income to the families from the sales allow for school fees to be paid, an improved diet etc

So this is a win-win good news story! Have a look at the video (don’t forget to turn on the sound!).

Milk for Transformation Enterprise 2018

Check out the new Milk for Transformation film and discover in just 2 1/2 minutes how a whole community has been transformed and lives are being impacted across Burundi through cows and their milk. In the coming days we will be sharing plans for scaling up this amazing enterprise so even more people can be helped and how you can be involved. Please like our page to keep updated!

Posted by Hope for Tomorrow Global on Tuesday, January 9, 2018

 

Milk for Transformation
This project has been running successfully for six years. During that time pasteurisation equipment has been purchased (some specially designed and built) to replace the crude method of boiling all the milk over charcoal. But, due to the current internal unrest it has been difficult to maintain the process; the equipment has had to be repeatedly relocated as it has no permanent home.

How you can help
Now land has been purchased and funds are being sought to put up a building. Are you or your church able to help this important initiative? I rarely use this blog to ask for money but I do so unashamedly now. Will you please help us? You can donate here.

For more information about this initiative please click here.

Thank you!

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Nigel Ring on January 10th, 2018

This is a remarkable Study Bible, a ‘must’ for every African or anyone who loves Africa.

Goal
The goal of the African Leaders who produced this study Bible was to ‘help us grow strong in Jesus Christ and to give us insight about God’s word to the continent and to the world as God’s word through African eyes’.

Why ‘African’?
As a study Bible this one is full of illustrations and teachings to apply the scripture culturally to everyday life in Africa. It includes excellent articles and ‘learn notes’ interwoven with the biblical text to help the reader apply what he or she has been reading to their own cultural situation. There are 130 of these.

Articles include topics such as ‘Caring for God’s Creation’ (following Genesis), ‘African Traditional Beliefs and the Bible’ (after the book of Joshua), Youth and African Society’ (after 1 Kings), ‘Missions’ (after Romans) and so on. They are written by Africans for an African audience. For instance, the article on Discipleship opens with a story about a Nigerian student who, post conversion, applied for a job and was expected to produce a bribe. What was he to do? His new found faith and discipleship led him to refuse and he ended getting another offer.

As well as the usual footnotes on every page there are also many application notes to show how the scripture applies in day-to-day life. Further, ‘learn notes’ follow relevant chapters. Examples, which directly apply the topic to an African context, include ‘Ancestors’ (after 1 Chronicles 10), ‘Proverbs in the Bible and in Africa’ (after Proverbs 6), ‘Angels and Demons’ (after Isaiah 6) and ‘Curses and Blessings (after Colossians 3).

Text
The text is based on the New Living Translation carried out by an international team of theologians and first published in 1996. It is claimed to be ‘both exegetically accurate and idiomatically powerful….the result of precise scholarship (by 90 Bible scholars) conveyed in living language’.

The version used here includes revisions ‘to increase the level of precision and…. easy to understand quality’ and dates from 2015. As such it is very accessible even for those for whom English is not their first language.

Presentation
The text is appropriately illustrated with maps, diagrams, line drawings, charts and timelines to help the reader contextualise the portion he is reading. These are not only informative but also help to lighten the presentation which in places is quite dense.

The following video helpfully summarises the features and benefits of this Study Bible.

 

 

Commendation
To review a book of over 2000 pages in 500 words is an impossible task! But I do strongly commend it to all believers who live in, are rooted in or have an interest in Africa. You will not only gain insights into the truth of God’s word but also into aspects of African culture. Personally, I have started to use this Study Bible alongside my ‘Bible in a Year’ daily reading scheme (McCheyne) and am finding it not only gives very helpful commentary on the passage but also, through the notes, it is  giving me more insight into African culture – a double blessing!

Availability
The Bible may be bought from many of the usual outlets but I encourage you to buy it from Oasis International who have taken a lead role in its production and have outlets in several African nations. Click here.

Finally, if you are reading this in a more affluent economy why not give a copy to a friend in Africa?

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Nigel Ring on January 1st, 2018

First, Happy New Year!

Church life tends to run in seasons which may involve changes in name. My personal history is intimately linked with some of these changes in Brighton.

In 1981 my family moved to Brighton to fulfil the calling God had put on our lives to draw closer to Terry Virgo and serve his vision. Those were the early days of what is now the worldwide family of churches in over 20 apostolic spheres of Newfrontiers.

Brighton and Hove Christian Fellowship becomes Clarendon Church
When we arrived we joined Clarendon Church, formerly the Brighton and Hove Christian Fellowship which was started in 1978, meeting in a primary school. They had moved to the Clarendon Church building in 1979 and, when we joined, the membership was at about 200. Due to growth we outgrew the building and in 1986 started two, then four, other congregations around Brighton and Hove, five in total. In 1988 God drew us together once again to meet at the Odeon Cinema for two years before he spoke prophetically that we should hold multiple services at the Clarendon Villas building in Hove as a step of faith that he would give us the larger building that we had been looking for.

In February 1991 he revealed that building to us, what is now the Clarendon Centre. We applied for planning permission but were turned down unanimously by the planning authorities. But we knew God had given the building so appealed. Some of that story can be seen by clicking on the picture. (Nb Only the BBC News report is relevant. Return to this page at that point.)

  

 

In December 1991, after much prayer, the planners’ decision was overturned – a previously unheard of reversal after a 100% rejection – and the outline permission we had sought was granted in the form of full planning permission, a significant upgrade!

Clarendon Church becomes Church of Christ the King (CCK)
As a church we set about converting the two-story building and started meeting there in 1993. At this time the name ‘Clarendon’ became irrelevant, being the location in Hove where we had been meeting. We took the name Church of Christ the King.

Then came the big push to add a floor to allow up to 1000 people to meet there. This was completed in April 1996 and the loans people had generously made to allow this to happen were paid off in the last week of 1999, as we entered the new millennium.

CCK becomes Emmanuel
On December 31st 2017 another season was launched. Many gathered to say farewell to the name Church of Christ the King and to take the name Emmanuel Church. Sadly I could not be at that meeting but have since seen the presentation that was made to the church. It is inspiring and full of testimonies of lives changed. That is what the gospel is about. I urge you to watch it and pray that you too will be inspired as you enter this New Year. Click on picture.

 

 

Happy 2018!

 

 

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Nigel Ring on December 7th, 2017

 

Saturday February 10th 2018. 10am – 4pm
St Peters Baptist Church, Eden Close, Worcester, WR5 3TZ

 

This day conference is aimed at those who either are thinking of or are in the process of planting a Church or congregation in a deprived area in the UK. The day will be hosted by Jim Harper and Colin Baron. The speakers are Martin Charlesworth and Nick & Christina Hoult.

Martin is the co-author of 2 books “The Myth of the Undeserving Poor” and “A Church For The Poor”. Martin will be speaking from his vast experience from being the senior pastor of Barnabas Community Church in Shrewsbury, to his role as team leader of Jubilee+ and his extensive research from his latest book “A Church For The Poor”.

 

Nick and Christina will be drawing from their amazing story of how God used them to plant a Church in their basement that has grown mainly with new believers on an estate in Birmingham to a thriving Church with 2 congregations. They will tell the Southgate Family Church story and share the lessons learnt along with principles acquired along the way.

Book here
I urge you to attend. There is no charge but it is necessary to book. Click here.

 

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Nigel Ring on November 29th, 2017

The issue of children being accused of being witches would be way outside the experience of most of us. Yet, in some parts of the world, this phenomenon is widespread.  What makes the situation worse is that the resultant child abuse through various ‘deliverance’ practices is often carried out by church leaders, although there are also many church leaders who are working hard to address and stop this form of abuse.

Susie Howe, wife of one of the elders of a Newfrontiers church in the UK, came across this practice while ministering to vulnerable children in Africa. A previous posting tells you about that work. Since she became aware of this practice, she and others she is working with have expended immense energy in trying to stop the practice and to teach church leaders who may be ignorant of Biblical truth, about God’s heart on such matters.

In this conversation with Susie, she shares some of the stories about such abuse and what she is seeking to do in partnership with others, through the coalition Stop Child Witch Accusations, which she helped to found. Parts of the interview are quite disturbing, but I urge you to watch it prayerfully and to be open to the Holy Spirit speaking to you.

 

 

Having watched the video you may have further questions. Please refer to the SCWA website where there is a Frequently Asked Questions section.

 

 

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