Reflections on Pastoral Care, Discipleship and Well-being Part 2

posted in: Hope Church, Luton | 0

The Maslow Hierarchy of needs says that unless of physical needs are met, food, water, warmth, rest, we are not able to focus on the other needs. We are serving an increasing number of the poor whose basic needs are not being met, and who view life differently.


In seeking to create a community that enables well-being we must remember the vulnerable/ poor – Galatians 2v10


We need to acknowledge and understand the differences between people, especially the vulnerable and poor. E.g. the driving forces of the poor are survival, entertainment and relationships whereas for the middle class, the criteria against which most decisions are made relate to work and achievement. For the wealthy, decisions are considered based on the effect on finance, political and social connections.

Using money for security is grounded in the middle class and wealthy. Those in poverty see money as an expression of personality and it is used for entertainment and relationships.

Words are used to resolve conflict by negotiation in the middle class and wealthy but what if you don’t have the necessary words or even respect them if you are in poverty? Violence is often the way to resolve issues.

There is a danger that a church which is mostly ‘middle-class’ will assume their hidden rules apply to the poor. They will create plans and strategies based on their rules and will only really accept people into their group that understand and conform to the hidden rules. If you really want the church to be for all, then something has to change…


From A Framework for Understanding Poverty Dr Ruby Payne 17/10/2016


Different ethnic backgrounds also need to be considered and valued when we are a Church from many nations.


There are many things already in place that contribute to well-being, shalom, some through community areas, others through Open House. We do not want to duplicate or reinvent the wheel as there are several Christian and non-Christian programmes and organisations that have expertise and can contribute towards well-being and shalom. It is important to work in

partnership where possible and sign-post people as appropriate and work to strengthen our relationships.


Examples of others we are working with.

Azalea; Noah; Signposts; Walk to Freedom; Lighthouse Ministries; Christian Counsellors; Foodbank; Red Cross.


Written by Theresa Middleton

Reflections on Pastoral Care, Discipleship and Well-being Part 1

posted in: Hope Church, Luton | 1

There are lots of different understandings of what pastoral care and discipleship should look like within a local church. This is an attempt to define this for Hope Church. Our preferred term is well-being (shalom).


Aim :- To create a community  that will enable church members and those we are serving, to grow and thrive in experiencing well-being and wholeness in Christ (shalom)


Primarily the context where this happens is within our Community Areas.


It falls within our overall vision to be –


A growing community of people – from different backgrounds, stages of life and experiences, including the vulnerable – who are one family in Christ Jesus


The concept of well-being encompasses the physical, mental and emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions of health. This concept is recognised by the World Health Organisation.



We need all 4 walls of well-being within our community; physical, mental and emotional, social, and spiritual in a healthy balance.


We have many biblical examples for this e.g.

Jesus helped people by looking at the whole person addressing physical healing but also spiritual issues and social consequences. In Luke 17, Jesus heals 10 lepers (physical) He sent them to the priest (social) so they would be accepted back into society and He told the thankful leper who returned, his faith had made him well (spiritual) but it also affected him emotionally as he was praising God. Jesus spoke about His followers loving each other well, forgiving well taking care of each other serving each other.


The early Christian church grew because the Christians took care of each other and others around them especially during times of plague.


As a community of Christian believers, we have a unique opportunity to demonstrate God’s kingdom by developing community area groups that help us all to grow and thrive as whole people, in physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social wellbeing. Each part impacts the other, so our communities need this rounded approach not just an emphasis on one wall.

We live in a world of broken lives broken relationships, loneliness and isolation, as people come into loving, caring supportive communities just like the early Christians we will show a different way, the way of Christ.


In a “small village/Church” setting people can be known so that when life traumas happen everyone can help and support. When it comes to overcoming life controlling issues like for instance alcoholism, it is recognised that if you have even 1 sober friend you are 30% more likely to succeed in changing behaviour. Add to that prayer, physical activity, someone to talk to, and the person has a much greater chance to walk free.



Written by Theresa Middleton

Alive with Worship?

‘My soul is Alive with Worship’ is the line of the chorus of a Simon Brading (Newday Worship) song that we have sung a few times in Hope Church. I often wonder how ‘Alive with Worship’ some people feel at 10:30am on a Sunday morning. Coming into worship on Sunday can sometimes feel like a slog. We have a tendency to bring our baggage of the week with us, our current mood or our preconceptions on whether our favourite worship song will be sung. Sometimes the delivery of style, approach and musicality can be off putting or a distraction. Perhaps you’ve waited the whole week to get to that half hour on a Sunday morning and it has seemed to slip away from you. We’ve benefitted from some great guest worship leaders this year to help us appreciate different ways of experiencing sung worship to God.

At the end of the day, we as Christians, are called to whole life worship by God, not just a 30 minute slot on a Sunday. Let this great scripture from Romans be something to try and live by in 2019:


So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognise what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. ROMANS 12:1-2 (MSG)


So maybe you don’t always feel ‘Alive with Worship’ but at least you can be ‘Living in Worship’ with all that you do. That said we, as Hope Church Worship Team, look forward to leading you and worshiping with you on a Sunday morning over this coming year!


Written by Luke Middleton

There won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime…

posted in: Hope Church | 1

Enjoying my day off, chance to drop off my daughter to school which I never get to do anymore, Christmas songs on Heart radio, all going well. Then the song ‘Do they know its Christmas? (feed the world)’ (Band Aid) starts to play, great charity song with good intent but some of the phrases in the lyrics! I seriously disagree with……..’there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime’- will everyone in our prejudiced and stereotypical understand its not literally meant to be so? …’do they (Africans) know it’s Christmas at all?’ – again, I so disagree with how it’s phrased. Yes they do, we do. Many people look down on Africans because they grow up to hear these songs and they think we live in some out of touch world. I love the British attitude to charity and I believe the rest of the world can learn so much from it but songs like these and programs about Africa in this part of the world can be so stereotypical and patronising. I have enjoyed many Christmases in the UK but some of my most enjoyable Christmas experience was in Africa (Ghana). Enough moaning for the day, I guess I can use the day to plan my Christmas!


Written by Abe Owusu

More fools – the troublemaker, the sluggard, and the complacent

posted in: Bible, Tony Thompson | 0

In my previous blog I introduced the concept from “The Way of Wisdom: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs ” by Timothy Keller, that if you want to grow in wisdom you have to stop being a fool! I introduced three types of “fool” Keller describes from Proverbs. Here are three more fools.


Another kind of fool is the troublemaker. The mark of this person is constant conflict (6:14). This is the opposite of the peacemaker (Matthew 5:9), the bridge builder whose careful, gracious answers (15:1) disarm and defuse tensions. The troublemaker instead stirs them up. This is not the person who disturbs the false peace with an insistence on honesty. Rather, this is someone who always feels the need to protest and complain rather than overlooking a slight or wrong (19:11). When troublemakers do contend, they do not present the other side fairly. Their corrupt mouths produce deceptive omissions, half-truths, and innuendo. Their body language (winking, signalling) creates a hostile situation rather than one that leads to resolution.

Troublemakers tell themselves and others that they just like to “speak truth to power.” But disaster will overtake the troublemakers (6:15). As time goes on, it becomes clearer that the troublemakers themselves are a reason that conflict always follows in their wake. They can be permanently discredited by events that expose them for what they are. But the ultimate reason for their downfall is that “the Lord hates … a person who stirs up conflict in the community” (6:16,19).

If you have been involved in a series of conflicts, is it because you have the traits of a troublemaker? Do you know any troublemakers you should confront?


Another kind of fool in Proverbs is the sluggard. The wise are self-starters, needing only internal motivation, not threats, to do their work (6:7). They also are not impulsive, instead practicing delayed gratification (verse 8). In contrast, the sluggard makes constant excuses for apparently small lapses (a little … a little … a little) but then is surprised when he is assaulted by poverty (verses 10–11). “He … deceives himself by the smallness of his surrenders. So, by inches and minutes, his opportunity slips away.”

In Hillbilly Elegy the author tells of Bob, who worked with him at a tile warehouse with his girlfriend. Bob missed work once a week, was chronically late, and took many breaks each day, lasting over half an hour each. His girlfriend missed work every third day and never gave advance notice. When they were fired, after many warnings, Bob was furious. The author concludes, convincingly, that too many today are “immune … to hard work,” and that what used to be thought of as good, reasonable jobs are now seen as demanding unreasonable standards. The result is social decay, as Proverbs warned. Contrast this with Jesus, who said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17).

Is there any area of your life that is “slipping away” because you are not getting to work on it?


As we have seen, the mark of the fool is to be wise in his own eyes. This leads to the deadly spiritual condition of smug complacency. There is nothing more foolish than to think you have life under control when it is not controllable. The classic example is Jesus’ parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:19–20). No matter what type of designer life you think you have put together for yourself, bereavement, illness, betrayal, and financial disaster happen to everyone. No amount of wealth, success, power, or planning can make you impervious to them.

Fools live in a dream of metaphysical self-sufficiency. They think they have everything sorted, and the complacency leads to disaster. But the opposite of complacency—anxiety—is no solution. We can lose our overconfidence and still be at ease, without fear if we remember that we have the omnipotent, sovereign Lord of the universe as our father. Christians also remind their hearts that if God did not spare us his own Son, how will he not give us whatever we need (Romans 8:32)?

If things are going pretty well for you, are you getting complacent? If things are not going well, are you getting anxious? How can you avoid both?


Written by Tony Thompson

Types of fool – the mocker, the simple and the obstinate

posted in: Book Reviews, Tony Thompson | 0

I have just started reading a book of devotions based on Proverbs, The way of wisdom by Tim Keller. I have always loved reading proverbs but found there is so much depth to the book I feel I am only scratching the surface. This book is therefore extremely helpful. Sometimes too helpful. Shining its light in dark places. As Keller says, “If the Bible were a medicine cabinet, Psalms would be the ointment put on inflamed skin to calm and heal it. Proverbs would be more like smelling salts to startle you into alertness.”

This is an example. Keller points out that Proverbs exalts the wise and encourages us to grow in wisdom. He points out that the opposite of the wise is a fool. He then unpacks different types of fool. It made me realise how foolish I am! Which do you relate to?

“How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?” (Proverbs 1:22)


Three kinds of fools are mentioned in this verse. The mockers prove it is not mental capacity but attitude that determines whether we become wise or foolish.  At the root of mockers’ character is a high pride that hates submitting to anyone (21:24). Their strategy is to debunk everything, acting very smug and knowing in the process. Mockers, though fools, appear to most eyes as worldly-wise and highly sophisticated. Some things, of course, deserve critique and even satire. Even God mocks sometimes. However, to “sit in the company of mockers” (Psalm 1:1) is to make cynicism and sneering a habitual response. Habitual mocking will harden you and poison relationships. “To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see.” We live in a postmodern age that encourages deconstruction and in an Internet age that makes mocking and scoffing easy and reasoned discourse difficult. So we must resist the enormous cultural pressure to become mockers. Contrast this with Jesus: “He will not quarrel or cry out. … A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory” (Matthew 12:19–20). When have you been tempted to roll your eyes and dismiss someone rather than engaging with them?


Every sort of fool is out of touch with reality, but each kind in a different way. The next fool in this list is the simple. This kind of foolishness is gullibility. “The simple believe anything” (14:15). They are too easily led and influenced. Like children, they may be over impressed by the spectacular and dramatic, or they may need approval too much and so be taken in by forceful personalities who give it to them. They will support dictatorial leaders who promise them peace and prosperity. They can be intellectually lazy, not wanting to ponder and think out a matter. They are also likely to fall for get rich quick schemes (12:11). The simple can change and learn sense (19:25) but they can also “inherit folly” (14:18)—graduate into being full-blown fools. Nevertheless, we should be careful not to equate credulity and naïveté with a lack of sophistication. We once pastored an entire congregation of somewhat unsophisticated people, but they were by no means simple. You can lack sophistication, as the world assesses it, and still be wise. And you can be sophisticated—well-off, well connected, and educated—but still be simple. Whom have you met who you thought was rather simple but turned out not to be so? What traits did they reveal?


The most common word used for fools in Proverbs is the obstinate. The main mark of fools is that they are opinionated, wise in their own eyes, unable to learn knowledge or be corrected. Child psychologist Jerome Kagan discovered that children are born with one of three basic temperaments that determine how they instinctively respond to difficulty. Some respond with anxiety and withdrawal, some with aggression and assertive action, and some with optimism and an effort to win through by being social and cordial. Each default works well in some situations. But Kagan argued that, unless parents intervene, children’s natural temperament will dominate, and they won’t learn how to act wisely in situations in which their habitual response is inappropriate or even deadly. In other words, we are naturally obstinate and unwise. Modern culture insists that we should let children be themselves, but what feels most natural to us might be disastrous (22:15). To become wise, the anxious must learn to be bolder, the bold to be cautious, and the chronically sunny to be more thoughtful. Only in Jesus do we see one who does not habitually assert or withdraw but always responds appropriately to the situation with perfect wisdom (John 11:23–25, 32–35). Where are you most opinionated and least open to new ideas or criticism?

Having read this, like me, do you realise you are more foolish than you thought? I think that is the first step to becoming wiser!


Written by Tony Thompson

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