Reflections as a Church Leader following the referendum on EU membership

posted in: In The News, Tony Thompson 0

There has been much written over the last few days both before and after the referendum reflecting on the issues raised. I am fully aware of the reasons not to add to this mountain of words. Despite good reasons to keep silent, I am convinced that as a church leader I need to bring a Biblical perspective on the situation as I see it, these really are unprecedented times and I feel compelled to say something. However, I am aware this can be controversial.

Let me start with the assumptions being made about democracy, what has even been called in some places “Christian democracy”.

As a Christian leader let me say very straightforwardly the Bible does not advocate one form of government over another. As Tom Wright says, God is not nearly so interested in how rulers get to be rulers as he is in how they behave as rulers.

Tom Wright goes so far as warning about idolising democracy, assuming it is perfect and that all the problems of the world would be solved if only everyone accepted it and that provided our leaders attain power by a popular vote, that’s all that matters, and that the only possible critique is to vote them out again next time round.

As Christians we need to be very careful about how much trust we put in democracy, how much hope we put in it. We must avoid idolising it, we must warn others about idolising it. We trust in the God of the Lord Jesus Christ, not democracy.

In truth there are a number of dangers in democracy. If the only goal is winning an election or a referendum we will use all available means to do so, include misrepresenting the truth, rubbishing of opponents using smears and innuendos, making promises that cannot be kept. This then leads to mistrust of those in authority and an alienation with the whole political system. However, as Christians we are called to honour and respect those in authority (Romans 13) whilst calling them to account when they abuse their authority. Let us be clear not all politicians are liars, most are honourable people who make massive sacrifices to serve their country. However, the nature of our democratic system can lead to abuse.

This leads into another key issue that needs to be faced.

Many have put their trust in an assumption that leaving the EU and taking control back from Brussels will solve all their perceived problems. Suddenly there will be more money for the NHS, more jobs for local people, more people like us around, more prosperity and so forth. This is highly unlikely to happen, at least in the short term. This is likely to produce even more disillusionment and alienation with the whole political establishment.

One of the major issues that has come out of the referendum result is how divided our nation is, not just that it is split down the middle. It would appear that most young people voted one way; older people another way. Those with university degrees voted differently to those without. Those in Scotland and London voted differently to those in other parts of the country. Most of our friends will have similar views to ourselves and will have voted the same way. We find it hard to understand why others have differing views as we don’t tend to know the people who hold them.

It is therefore very easy for us to caricature others, writing them of as racists and the like. For the sake of the future there needs to be a coming together, a listening an understanding of other people’s fears and concerns. We, the people of God, need to be actively engaged in this.

I have just finished a preaching series based on the Bible book of Habakkuk, in hindsight it has proven to be extremely relevant. One of the messages from the book that I brought out is that God is in control, but that doesn’t mean that he does things that we always like or even understand. I think that is an important point to remember at this time. We also have to hold on to the fact that God is bigger than the UK, bigger than Europe even! We need to be careful of the assumption that the UK, or England, is God’s special country and is loved by him more than others, has a special purpose that other countries do not. I have heard this spoken by Christians and feel it needs very careful weighing. Another point from this book is that our response must be in prayer. When things are confusing and difficult we have to talk to God about it!

I have come to the conclusion that as God’s people we need to stand up and be counted at this time, our country needs us, we have to be prepared to speak truth even when it is not popular.

That means challenging the idolisation of democracy; holding politicians and the media to account in their behaviour during and after elections whilst giving them due honour; helping people handle disappointment through unrealistic expectations.

It also means taking responsibility to pray for our nation; political parties; political leaders.


Written by Tony Thompson

Tony Thompson

History of Hope Church – A Year Out

posted in: Hope Church 0

Well, there is a lot to write but I guess I will talk about my Frontier Year Project year out with Hope Church. That year, to be honest, was a tough year, and it was the first for me to live away from my home town area. It was also the first time in my life I got mugged, which was a horrible experience, but I was thankful for the support I received from my housemates and the people at the church. It was a difficult year for many reasons. I was a very immature Christian with a number of issues relating to family and past negative choices. I was able to get a lot of help though from the counseling team at the church, and from the leadership. I must say, Tony, Wayne Nicky Parsons and others on the leadership team were a real blessing, giving me many opportunities to serve and bless the community of Luton. I was particularly thankful to God for the opportunities I had to work with the youth in the church and the local schools, and the opportunities I had. Nicky’s experiences in New York had added a real dynamic to the children’s work, and she is a very intelligent woman, who had fantastic ideas for Hope Church. Wayne, of course, made them the dynamic duo. His work with youth was awesome, both in church and with youth outside of church.

I am really thankful for Tony, whose vision for Hope Church was inspirational. He believed in church planting, He was seeking a multicultural church, right from the outset, which of course is necessary in a town as diverse as Luton. I believe his vision paved the way for the outreach to the Chinese students at the university. I was really excited to hear the news about Hope Church Centre at the old Polish ex-servicemen’s club. This is a central part of Luton and I believe will be strategic in reaching the surrounding areas, including beautiful Bury Park, where God is silently moving among the Muslims to bring many to Christ.

Hope Church people were truly a blessing. I know God wants to expand this church and I believe God has exciting things to come.

Written by James Suddrey (in South Korea soon to be back in England possibly)

History of Hope Church – “I met my husband”

posted in: Hope Church 3

I moved to Luton in 2002 and after trying a number of churches in Luton I saw a newspaper report on Hope Church. Keen to find a church where I could feel comfortable I went along to a Sunday meeting at the Sixth Form College. I was greeted by Dean Fryer-Saxby who quickly introduced me to two ladies, Ruth and Robyn. Fourteen years on I still consider the three of them to be friends.

I was invited to have lunch with some other people, I quickly realized that there were a number of people connected to the church in their twenties and thirties. It was very easy to make friends quickly. We would often meet together during the week, sometimes for food, sometimes to discuss more about God and our relationship with him, often to celebrate people’s birthdays.

It was at one of these occasions I met my husband, James. Ruth introduced James and I; Robyn was our bridesmaid and Dean with his wife Polly officiated at our wedding. We have been married just over twelve years which in many ways has gone really quickly.

During my time at Hope Church I have spent many a Sunday morning within Kids work. It is a pleasure and privilege to see children learn and grow. Most recently I have taught the Little Lights, our under threes, where we dance, tell amazing stories about Jesus and play with playdough. A lit bit more fun than my idea of the comfortable church.

Not only has it been a chance to see the kids grow in age and their relationship with God. The many friendships I have built up within Hope Church has helped me also continue to grow in my relationship with God. I have often read stories to the children about how much God loves them and my people within Hope Church have demonstrated God’s love to me.

Written by Sarah Hibbard

Sarah Hibbard

Sarah now works as our Open House Lounge Practical Manager

History of Hope Church – Family to a Travelling Kiwi

posted in: Hope Church 1

I discovered Hope Church on the internet as I was preparing to leave New Zealand, to move to the other side of the world.

I was researching for a place to base myself in the UK, and had come across this town called ‘Luton’. Having been so involved in my church growing up, I knew that I needed to find a place where I could be ‘at home’. Knowing I would not find a replica of what I was leaving, I instead looked at the possibilities where I was going, especially those that were different (in a good way!). Detailed story short, Hope Church was the second Church I visited once I landed in the UK, and there I stayed!

Hope Church became my home and my grounding for the two years I lived in the UK. Working as a Primary School teacher, and teaching in Hertfordshire, I was limited by time, and without Hope Church, I doubt I would have lasted as long as I did in my profession. Hope Church introduced me to wonderful people and I have great friends there, and many great memories. I was also able to get involved with a variety of different activities run by or in conjunction with the church such as Forte Voices, Open House, Breakout, and Newday, to name a few.

I had no spectacular revelation or moving event that God did while I was part of the Church, rather the biggest impact was through serving. I started out on the welcoming team which was great as a new person, getting to meet a whole lot of different people while they got to meet me. I don’t remember exactly what happened to cause the shift away from being a greeter (I think it might have been the recognition in myself that while greeting was great and I had been filling a need, it wasn’t utilising my passions), but I felt that the sound desk was where I needed to be.

I began learning the ropes of Sound Engineering under the capable tutelage of Nigel and Luke. Hope Church is so welcoming, caring, and centred on being/showing God to the community, I didn’t feel like I was standing on anyone’s toes when I expressed my interest in learning about it. When I started down this track, I knew my time staying in Luton was coming to an end, and while I only spent about 8 or 9 months serving Hope Church this way, the flow-on effect has been greater than I could have dreamed.

Planning on returning to New Zealand in September 2015, I instead found myself living in the kingdom of Bahrain. And it is here that I am currently using the skills God started training me with my time in Luton. Without my time at Hope, I wouldn’t have had the courage to volunteer for the Sound Team at my new church (a larger congregation), I wouldn’t have found myself being challenged musically and spiritually on the worship team, and I wouldn’t be my new school’s go-to person for audio requirements!

God knew what I needed, and he knew that I would receive it at Hope Church Centre in Luton. A step in my journey, a training ground for the future, choosing to visit, and then stay at Hope Church has blessed me. What is the best thing about Hope Church? It’s the people. The people prepared to serve, laugh and run events. The people who invite you to Sunday dinner the first day you attend, invite you to movies and games nights. The people who are God’s hands and feet, becoming a family to a travelling Kiwi.

Written by Anna Johnston

Anna Johnston

History of Hope Church – Story of a Teen

posted in: Hope Church 0

My story of being involved with Hope Church started when I was 13 years old. I had been going to another church in Luton with my family all my life and was just about to transition from the kids work into the youth. I was excited to go hang out with the ‘big kids’ like my brother had done before me. However the midweek youth club was unfortunately closed and there was temporarily no youth leader to take this forward. A little frustrated I was also coming to the age where several of the friends I had grown up with in church were no longer attending regularly. My hunger to continue to learn about and serve God was there, but with this situation I was beginning to think why should I bother.

We saw an article in the local newspaper in September 2002 with information about a Newfrontiers church being planted in the area. We found out about the youth group they were starting, I went along and met Wayne Parsons and Linda Geevanathan who were leading it, as well as some of the youth including David May and Jen Williams. (For those of you who know Linda she was taller than me back then.)

After about a year of making friends and really enjoying the youth programme of activities I decided to make Hope Church my home. This was one of the best decisions I could have made for my Christian walk. 13 years later I have seen God use me and I have experienced so much within the church family as people have come, gone and stayed.

Hope Church and its leaders have been so releasing and encouraging which is part of the reason it is the church it is today. I’ve done things I’d never thought God would do with me and met people from varying walks of life, which is what is so great about a church family. Some particular highlights have included the floods of Newday in 2004, where heavy rain brought us together to form close friendships and encountering God in it. Getting baptised in a large tank. Watch night worship evenings, where dreams, tongues and spiritual gifts were released. Helping to launch and build our student and 20s work in 2011 named Breakout. The celebrations and worship times through the years especially at Christmas and many others. Ask me about them some time, but what I am most looking forward to is the future of Hope and what comes next, as we continue to be people obedient to God and living as family with our Hope in him.

Written by Luke Middleton

Luke Middleton

History of Hope Church – Just a Normal Family…

posted in: Hope Church 0

Over the last few weeks we have heard testimony of the ups and downs of Church planting in Luton.  I just want to give testimony to what it means for a family to hear, trust and follow God. Through the years our family have discovered the faithfulness and steadfast love of God through the many and varied situations we have found ourselves in.  God has shown that He is faithful in all of His ways. From the provision of money to ensure the house we brought had safe lighting and hot water, schooling and the provision of accessible and affordable music services to ensure that our children were able to develop and grow beyond what we could ask or imagine.

When God asks you to do something he does provide the resources and abilities for you to complete what he initiates. We took a risk with God as we moved from a quiet Cambridge village with excellent schooling and a fantastic network of friends.  Our children (triplet boys aged 10 and a daughter six) were catapulted into the centre of Luton, they had to be educated in the problems of prejudice, poverty, foster care and drugs. They wanted to be able to walk to school and have their own bedrooms, God granted their desires.  He put us next to a park, so they could play.  We had an open home and many children found fun, food and shelter within its walls.

Creatively and musically they flourished.  Far from ’nothing good comes out of Luton’ Luton blessed us.  They had opportunities that we could never have imagined. Through the highs and lows (including muggers who gave things back!!) as a family we looked to God and he never let us down.

All four of our children are now involved in Churches in London, Southampton and Wales.  They help and inspire others in worship, youth work and support church planting. They did not see many of their friends become Christians (The boys married the girls that did!), but their friends still value their relationships and knowing our family.  The seeds continue to grow.

‘Train your children in the ways that they should go’ As parents we made loads of mistakes but we endeavoured to keep our eyes and ears on God and follow him. Our children are trying to do the same and we are thankful that we followed His call.

Written by Jane Reynolds


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