Monday, 27 September 2010

Relay Update: 27/09/10

What is Relay? Relay is a discipleship program I'm doing this year and you can read all about it here. I'll be updating the blog from time to time with updates for all the people partnering with me during the year. And this is one of those updates!

A huge hello to all my supporters!

Thank you so much already for any time you’ve prayed for me and for any gifts of money you’ve given me. I cannot tell you how much it’s all so very appreciated! I thought I’d now share with you some of the exciting things that have already happened during my short time doing Relay.

Before I actually returned to Stoke to work alongside the students, I attended two back-to-back conferences in Quinta Hall, Shropshire. The first conference was ‘Relay 1’, which you may have guessed, was catered specifically for Relay workers; it was designed to equip and train us for the term ahead. While the conference dealt with many of the practical issues we would be facing as Relay workers, what the entire conference truly centred around was the gospel. I was completely refreshed with a far fuller appreciation of what Jesus achieved on the cross. What really clinched it for me was Jesus’ parable in Luke 18:9-14. Give it a read. Examine the Pharisee’s words. Jesus criticises him for thinking that his own good works would make him right before God. But the Pharisee isn’t as blatantly self-righteous as we might think. Notice that he actually gave credit to God for his righteous behaviour! The Pharisee probably thought that he understood God’s grace. But for all his lip service to God’s provision for him, he was still trusting in his own ability to impress God.

As all this was unpacked for me, I knew that I had been making the very same error. I was thanking God for the good works I was producing, but I was trusting in those works to make me acceptable to him, rather than trusting in Jesus’ work on the cross. While I felt convicted of this error, I immediately felt joy at the wondrous freedom this knowledge provided. Throughout Relay and beyond, I need not feel that my ‘spiritual performance’ determines my worth before God. I need to keep beating this truth into my head as it does not always reside there naturally!

As Relay 1 ended, the next conference began (no, there was no break in between!) ‘Forum’ is a conference for Christian Union student leaders from all over the country. There were about 800 in total and us Relay folk got to spend the week meeting up with our respective CU leaders. I’m working with the Keele and Stoke CUs this year, and while the Stoke CU were unable to come, the Keele bunch were around, braving the annual Forum downpour. It was good to spend some time with them as I don’t know them as well as the Stoke lot. We got to meet up with the guy who is speaking at a week of gospel events the Keele CU have planned for after Christmas. He gave some very wise counsel and really fired us up for the coming year at Keele.

By the end of forum I was fairly conference-out and thankfully all the Relayers were commanded to take two days off the next week. I was happy to oblige.

The week just passed has been Stoke’s Fresher Week, where all the new students move in, and the University and its clubs and societies, put on a number of events to welcome them all into university life. Fresher Week is a very important week for a CU. The life of a CU is greatly affected by the number of freshers that join and stay committed. The first few weeks are crucial for making the new students feel welcome. In addition many Christian students can come to university with a young faith, either because they are themselves recent converts, or because they have simply been going through the motions with it, having been brought up in a Christian home where it is just normal routine for them. The CU can have a vital role in supporting these students as they grow in Christian maturity.

We are very thankful that our first CU meeting brought in a large number of freshers, a good portion of which were guys, which we desperately needed! In the week ahead, myself and my co-Relayer, Jason, will be keen to spend some time with the guys getting to know them better and seeing how they’re adjusting to university life.

Part of the importance of fresher week is not just finding the Christian students, but building relations with the non-Christian students. The CU hosted many social events during the week to get non-Christians involved in our community so we can love them and hopefully show them that Christians don’t all adhere to the unflattering stereotypes that the media presents! One of the definite highlights was conversing with two Muslim girls who were quality to chat to and were very open to discussing their faith with us. Myself and a couple other Christians spent a few hours with them inquiring into each other’s respective faiths and just enjoying each other’s company. I wish all inter-faith dialogues could be that engaging!

Keele have their fresher week this week so I get to do all this again! I would love it if you could pray for the following things:

- Please pray that the Stoke freshers stay on board with the CU and join a local church.
- Please pray that the Stoke CU would remain in contact with the non-Christian students we encountered during Fresher week.
- Please pray that Keele CU would draw in plenty of freshers.
- Please pray that I would feel settled in with Keele CU and that I’ll learn my way around their campus.
- Please pray that I would continually remind myself of GRACE.
- Please pray that God would provide for me financially.

If you’ve offered to support me financially and I’ve given you a form that you haven’t sent off yet, please send it! =) I know it is easy to forget to do these things (I’m terrible with forms), but I really do rely on your donations so please send it off as soon as you can. If you’ve lost the form or you want to start supporting me financially but haven’t got one, you can download it at www.uccf.org.uk/relay/give-to-relay-workers.htm It would be great if you could donate £5-20 a month to me.

Thank you for your continued partnership with me. I thank God for all of you and I’ll give you another update soon.

Much love,

Martin

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

What's going on this year?

I've not been particularly blog-busy during the latter parts of Summer. And I thought I'd let you in on one of the reasons why that is so.

This academic year just beginning I will taking part in a discipleship training program called 'Relay'. The program is ran by UCCF the Christian charity that supports Christian Unions in the UK - groups of Christian students on university campuses seeking to give every non-Christian student the chance to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.

During my three years at Staffordshire University I was actively involved in the Christian Union, serving on the committee leadership team for one of those years, hosting events, and co-leading Bible studies for skeptics while I sought to intelligently share my faith with my friends with honesty and integrity. I got a lot of things wrong during my three years as a student, but I also learnt a great deal about leadership and about God's underserved love for me and my friends.

The Relay program is in place to allow graduates to work with their university for a year after they graduate to pass on what they've learnt to the younger students as well as to continue growing in Christ-like character and leadership qualities themselves. I will be meeting with students in small groups to encourage them in their faith and to study the Bible with them. I will be giving talks at some Christian Union events, something I'm very keen to do and I have plans to start a regular workshop group to help equip Christians to think through and answer the objections to their faith that are common in the university environment. The aim is to invest in people who then in turn go on to invest in others.

During this time I'll be attending various UCCF conferences to aid me in serving the students better (it was because I attending two of these at the end of August and start of September that I haven't been very active in the online world). I also have some of my own study to be getting on with! I have some core modules to study on various aspects of central Christian theology and then some elective study where I can choose a topic of my choice to research.

This entire year is voluntary work. I shan't be getting paid for it, nor can I get a job on the side as this is a full-time commitment. Hence I'm relying on people partnering with me throughout the year to support me financially and in prayer. I've been blessed with a number of partners already though I currently don't yet have enough income to get through the year! I'd really appreciate it if you could think about whether you'd be able to give between £5-20 a month to help me live. If you'd like to sponsor me please download the sponsor form over here. And tell me that you have so I can make sure you're updated with what I'm getting up to.

If you can't support me financially please still pray for me and my work this year. I'd really appreciate that and I'd love to keeep you updated too.

Much love,

Martin