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Why We’re Giving Thanks for Mike Ovey

"Your theological knowledge isn't like Gollum with the ring." That was one of Mike Ovey's warnings to me and my cohort as we started our time at Oak Hill CollegeHe went on to explain: "Theological knowledge isn't 'My precious', as if it's something you've got that no-one else can have. You are stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God, like Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:1 - and your job is to pass on what's been entrusted to you."

Mike Ovey's thanksgiving service

Mike had been Principal of Oak Hill for ten years, and died suddenly on 7th January, aged 58. All three of our current pastors at Christ Church Mayfair were taught by him, and four of our congregation are currently training there. We all considered Mike a mentor, an advisor and a friend. On 13th March we gathered with hundreds of other Oak Hill alumni at All Souls Church near Oxford Circus to give thanks to God for his life.

Many moving tributes have been shared, including Vice-Principal Dan Strange's Just Mike, and it's not our intention to add another personal tribute here. Rather, we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight why we believe in rigorous theological education for pastors, and why we invest a lot of time, prayer and money in sending people to train at Oak Hill.

The Best Possible Gift

At every Oak Hill open morning for prospective students Mike would tell them: "We want you to be God's gift to the Church."

That sounds like it was designed to puff potential pastors up with pride, but Mike would proceed to pop our bubble by pointing out that it was thoroughly biblical: in Ephesians 4:11-13 we're told Christ gave pastors and those with teaching gifts to the Church in order to build them up. "And I want you to be the best possible gift to Christ's Church", he would say. In terms of his Gollum analogy: it's not your knowledge. It's for you to pass on!

Shepherds Feed and Defend the Sheep

For Mike, passing it on meant pastors who were utterly faithful to the Scriptures. The word 'pastor' comes from 'shepherd', and this analogy is developed often in the Bible (e.g. John 21:15-17, Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:1-2). And a shepherds' job is to feed and defend the sheep.

Mike taught us to gently and consistently feed our 'flock' with the mysteries of God: all the broken-hearted, scattered, hopeful people of God, wherever we might find them, who needed to know God through the Bible. In his doctrine lectures he would often pause and enjoy something about God, and encourage us to pray and thank Him for it ourselves. Our habit of savouring the Bible and adoring God at Christ Church Mayfair was strengthened by Mike Ovey's example here.

But Mike also put steel in our spines and taught us to defend the flock against error. He knew that theological error isn't always flagrant and obvious, but often insidious and hard to distinguish. It never trots into church and announces itself as error, because it would never win a hearing that way (Acts 20:30). Defending against it therefore requires a deep knowledge of the whole Bible, an ability to think theologically and an understanding of church history.

Lay people simply don't have time to do that deep thinking and fighting, so it should fall to the pastors to take a lead on it. And Mike had a vision of churches across the UK and the world led by shepherd-pastors who could do that. He knew we wouldn't suddenly wake up one day with an ability to defend against savage wolves (Acts 20:29), so he trained us in it. He wanted us to be good at it, for the sake of the flock. He wanted all of his students, including Matt Fuller, Phil Allcock and Pete Snow, to be the best possible gift to Christ's Church.

We Grieve... but Not Without Hope

We were all shocked when Mike's death was announced, and the news has left us reeling and wondering about God's plan in it all. While we can't claim to fathom the riches of the wisdom of God, it occurs to us that Mike must be pleased with his legacy. In seventeen years at Oak Hill, ten of which were as Principal, he trained hundreds of students to be good shepherds. Last year 43 students graduated from Oak Hill in the class of 2016: that's 43 pastors or church workers last year alone sent out to minister to people. And Mike was at Oak Hill for seventeen years! Moreover, the College is in good health going forwards and looking to build on Mike's vision.

So we grieve for Mike Ovey, but not without hope. We'll see him again one day, resurrected and enjoying the God he taught us about, and we'll continue the work he trained us in: feeding and defending Christ's flock with the Word of God.

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He will hold me fast

We really enjoyed learning this new song on Sunday Night. It speaks of the assurance we have in Christ, that he'll never let go of those He's died for:
When I fear my faith will fail,
Christ will hold me fast;
When the tempter would prevail,
He will hold me fast.
I could never keep my hold
Through life’s fearful path;
For my love is often cold;
He must hold me fast.

He will hold me fast,
He will hold me fast;
For my Savior loves me so,
He will hold me fast.

Those He saves are His delight,
Christ will hold me fast;
Precious in His holy sight,
He will hold me fast.
He’ll not let my soul be lost;
His promises shall last;
Bought by Him at such a cost,
He will hold me fast.

For my life He bled and died,
Christ will hold me fast;
Justice has been satisfied;
He will hold me fast.
Raised with Him to endless life,
He will hold me fast
‘Till our faith is turned to sight
When He comes at last!
Words: vv. 1-2 Ada Habershon (1861-1918), Public Domain.
Alt. words, new words (v.3), and music: Matthew Merker
© 2013 Getty Music (BMI)/Matthew Merker Music (BMI) (adm. by Music Services)
All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Here's the story behind the song from it's author, Matt Merker (source: gettymusic.com)

A member of our church had sent the original words to “He Will Hold Me Fast” to me and our senior pastor, suggesting that this could be a good song for us to learn as a church. I forgot about the song for a while, but later pulled it out again when I was walking through a difficult personal season of doubt and uncertainty. I was wrestling with the hard questions of the faith and struggling to place my trust in the enduring power of God’s preserving grace. John Piper’s sermon from T4G 2012 on Jude vv. 20-25 was a lifeline for me, and Jude 24 became an anchor for my soul in that trying time: “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy...” It was at this time that I was beginning to try my hand at writing new tunes for old texts, mainly as a personal devotional exercise to help aid my own soul in seeking Christ. I pulled out “He Will Hold Me Fast” again and the words ministered to me deeply. I wanted to see the resurrection and return of Christ featured in the lyrics, since our hope is guaranteed by the reality that Christ has risen and is coming again.

I first shared the song with my wife and then with our pastor, and he suggested we should try singing it as a congregation. We introduced the song to CHBC early in 2013 and the church quickly owned the song and began singing it with joy (and really loud voices!) For anyone who is discouraged by the enormity of the work or by the apparent lack of fruit in any particular missions context, it reinvigorates us to know that God is in control and he will preserve us to the end!

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Giving thanks for the Bishop of London

16 years ago Christ Church Mayfair was born because a bishop backed a bold scheme to plant a new evangelical church in the West End of London. This month we say farewell to that bishop as he retires from 21 years as Bishop of London.  

Along with the rest of London Diocese we give thanks for Richard Chartres's living faith in the Lord Jesus, which has been clear throughout his ministry and has refreshed us whenever we have encountered him. We're also thanking God for his support for church planting, refusing to sell disused church buildings but instead encouraging new churches to be born in them - such as ours on Down Street, in Mayfair. We believe that this policy has helped make the London Diocese a place of Christian growth rather than decline in the twenty-first century so far, and we recognise it as a gracious gift of God.

Along with many others, some of us were at St Paul's Cathedral for the Bishop's farewell service on 2nd February. It was great to see Onyinye Udokporu, one of our undergraduate students, give the Bible reading. 

The Bishop said in his farewell sermon that he was 'concerned not so much to celebrate the highlights of the past twenty years as to look forward to the highlights of the next twenty years.' The Bishop's main immediate legacy is 'Capital Vision 2020', the primary call of which is for a church that is 'confident in living and speaking the gospel.' For this legacy we give thanks to our Sovereign God and look forward to the expansion of the kingdom of God in London under the next bishop. 

Please join us in praying for Richard and Caroline Chartres in their retirement, for the Bishop of Willesden as Acting Bishop, and for the appointment of the new Bishop of London in due course.

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New Year’s Revolution: The Big Read 2017

The most common New Year’s Resolutions are: get fit; spend less & save more; get organised; get a new job; waste less time on Facebook & TV; live life to the full. You don’t want to know how long they last on average…

As a church, we want to make 2017 a year not just of resolution, but of revolution, as we commit to reading the Bible for ourselves. Why do I say that will bring a revolution? Research into thousands of churches shows that two key factors are present in all healthy churches, one of which is that every member reads the Bible and prays on a regular/daily basis. (FYI, the other is healthy, well-attended small groups). Therefore each of us can contribute to the health of our church family as we attend to our own spiritual health. It really is a case of ‘one small step for me, one giant leap for us all.’

Why this year?

2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. What could be a more appropriate way to celebrate than a renewed passion for personal bible reading? The Bible fuelled the Reformation, and one of the key desires of the Reformers was that ordinary believers should be able to read God’s word. Tyndale (see image on left), translator of the first English New Testament based on the Greek manuscripts, wrote of his aims to a church official who viciously opposed his work:

If God spare my life, ere many years, I will cause that a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the scriptures than thou.

And the German monk Martin Luther who kick-started things in 1517 famously declared:

Let the man who would hear God speak, read Holy Scripture!

What one thing can I do?

Don’t set yourself up to fail. It is hard to go from five minutes once every two weeks to an hour every morning in the original Hebrew… So why not try to just take one serious step forward? If you read the Bible and pray twice a week for 10 mins, why not try to do it 4 times a week? Or increase it to 20 mins? If you manage to do a little bit most days, why not set aside one day a week when you spend much longer and perhaps even work through a book of the Bible with a commentary?

FAQs:

But I get the Bible on Sunday and at small group midweek…

The Bible is living bread, not ice-cream: it is daily sustenance, not a nice treat every once in a while! Moses taught in Deuteronomy 8:3 that in the wilderness God provided the food of manna each day to the Israelites ‘to teach that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ In other words, we need to feed on God’s word every day, just as we need to eat physical food each day.

Furthermore, Psalm 1 warns us that there are competing voices out there that are seeking to shape how we live, and that it is by listening to and rooting ourselves in God’s word that we will know the blessed life. Every day as we talk with colleagues and friends, read the news and watch tv, we are being taught and influenced by the world’s voices. It is wise to listen to God each day too (see also Rom 12:2).

I’ve tried this before and I always fail by the end of January

That’s no reason not to try again. Thomas Edison failed in his first 1,000 attempts to invent a working light bulb. If the project is worth succeeding at, then we should not let past failure to stop us from dusting ourselves down and trying again. Relationships take work! It is worth taking practical steps too that might make success more likely, such as seeking an achievable goal, and enlisting the help of one or two close Christian friends so that you can encourage and spur one another on in this.

If I’m honest, I just don’t enjoy it very much

There a couple of things to say in response. First, sometimes we should do things that we don’t enjoy because they are good for us (eating vegetables, exercising on a cold day, etc). Our Christian culture stresses authenticity and heart in matters of faith, and they are good things. But the Bible teaches that God also values our dogged discipline and perseverance (Col 1:11, Heb 12:1-2).

Second, quiet times can be a bit like golf. No, really. It’s not that it takes 4 hours and you have to dress like you chose your clothes in the dark… The point is that golf is not much fun at first. You have to spend hour after hour doing boring, repetitive drills to learn the basics. We work at sport or music because we know there is deep joy and delight to be had down the road. But so often won’t put in a little effort in deepening our relationship with the living God of the universe, in whom is limitless pleasure and eternal joy! (Psalm 16:11). Put in the hard work, and the Scriptures will increasingly become ‘more precious than gold’ and ‘sweeter than honey’ (Psalm 19:10).

What if mornings don’t work for me

That’s ok. There is no verse that says it has to be done in the morning. However, there is some wisdom in starting the day by grounding yourself in God’s truth, so it is worth trying to do that if it is possible.

Here are some of the great resources available. Why not talk to your small group leaders and others at church to find out what they use?

Smartphone Apps

Explore; ESV Study Bible; Olive Tree;

The most popular among our church is Explore which has the Bible text, notes, questions and suggested prayers in one app.  My wife and I use the Explore App. We love it – it’s the bible and questions on your phone in a very easy to look at way no matter how busy the tube.

Bible in a Year

30 students at CCM started doing this in September… The best known is the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan (4 chapters a day)Don Carson wrote a commentary on the passages in the M’Cheyne reading plan: For the Love of God (2 vols available). You can access this free online.

Accessible Commentaries:

For those who want to dig a little deeper, why not try one of these:

i. Dale Ralph Davies Focus on the Bible commentaries on Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, and on Psalms 1-12 (the Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life) and 13-24 (Slogging along in the paths of Righteousness).

ii. Job: The Wisdom of the Cross by Christopher Ash (Crossway)

iii. Any of the NT Commentaries in the Bible Speaks Today series.

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#Brexit

If we are roughly representative of London, then some of us will be relieved or even excited after Thursday’s referendum result.  Many more will be feeling anxious, fearful and even angry. So how should our trust in Jesus shape our responses to this momentous event?

emergencydoor

1. It is ok for us to be deeply upset /excited. This is a vote that has massive implications for us and those we care about. Our faith in Christ does not mean that we maintain a zen-like indifference to the things of this world. However, let's never give the impression as Christians that we place the same hopes in political and economic outcomes as those who do not believe there is. Our most valued treasure is in heaven, and our greatest hope is in the return and rule of Christ, not the result of an election. Let us pray through the words of Psalm 46 (below) and seek to live as if we believe its truths!

2. How we respond when things go against us, and how we treat people we disagree with, should mark us out as followers of Jesus. We follow a man who calls on us to love even enemies, and who prayed for the forgiveness of those who were crucifying him. I have been saddened to see that the social media contributions of many Christian friends fall far short of Paul’s command in Colossians 4 that our speech be ‘full of grace and seasoned with salt.’ Let us ensure that when we write or speak, we show love and grace to those on the other side of the political divide, and that we believe the best about the motivations of those whose politics are different from us.

3. Lastly, let us love the foreigners amongst us. There have been a sickening spate of racial attacks on foreigners (or indeed Brits who ‘look different’). Many foreigners who live and work here will be feeling alienated and unwanted. As Christians we should be going out of our way to show love, compassion and offer practical help to them. Dare I say that inviting a foreign national for coffee / dinner might be a more useful response to the vote than posting yet more comments / memes online?

Psalm 46:
For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth. A song.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.’
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

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Things we loved about Word Alive 2016

WA2016_Holidays

The CCM Music team were privileged to join over 4,000 believers being encouraged at Word Alive 2016!

Some particular highlights we enjoyed...

Singing with so many believers

There's something hugely rousing in singing the wonderful truths of the gospel in a big group. You can find the list of songs we sang in the morning sessions here. If you were there, thanks for belting it out - it was so encouraging!

Teaching on Job from Vaughan Roberts
We found the morning session talks on Job from Vaughan Roberts real and sobering, and yet gave us courage to cling to the gospel in the midst of suffering. It was clear that, as we began to respond through song to what God was saying to us, many were deeply moved and helped; they're well worth a listen.

Time together as a team
Despite a busy schedule, we did manage to get some time together as a team, which was hugely valuable. Having an extended time away together always helps deepen relationships and provides opportunity to talk, laugh, cry and pray together - and we certainly found that to be true. We've returned from Word Alive understandably knackered, but more thankful for each other and our unity in Christ!

Thank you to the many who encouraged us in our service - it was a huge joy to be with you all to gather around the gospel! Looking forward to hearing the Word Alive album when it's done!...

File 14-04-2016, 10 40 07

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