Being a Pastors’ Wife – by the wife

C.S. Lewis  said “A woman’s heart should be so close to God that a man should have to chase Him to find her.” By God’s Grace my wife is such a woman. Below is the transcript from a recent talk she gave at Emmanuel in Newport for their “Ladies Meeting”.

Being a Pastors’ wife – Harriet Funnell

Nearly two years ago our removal van pulled up to the cottage at Noddfa Abersychan, the place that we now call home.

As I entered a new chapter in my life as “Pastors’ wife”. I had no idea what to expect.

What I did know was my priorities where to be a wife and mother and provide a happy Godly home for the family.

As John and I both entered into this ministry together, I often thought that he had it easier to some extent. John had weekly meetings with Bernard and attended the EMW Training Course, he was being taught how to be a Pastor. John also had two years experience of preaching in different churches, some he grew quite close to, so knew what to expect.

I, on the other hand had none of the above!

Linda (Pastor Bernard Lewis’ wife at Emmanuel) helped where she could and is always on hand when things get tough. But there was nothing formally set up to guide a Pastors Wife.

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The bible does teach us how to conduct ourselves as women (Eph 5:22-23) and equip us to go fourth and serve our Lord in marriage. The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Gen 2:18)

It is clear that my role is to keep John in His service to God! To keep him in the pulpit! And this is such an amazing way to serve God!

When I say “keep him in the pulpit” I obviously do not mean to prepare John’s sermons for him or pick the hymns. I mean by helping him behind the scenes like; staying up late with him whilst he does his sermon prep. I may be in the other room watching the TV whilst he does this, but I know how much he appreciates me being close. If he is on his own every night and I’m asleep in bed, he gets quite lonely. Giving John the quiet time needed before a Sunday Service or Prayer meeting (which can be quite challenging with four children in the house, as you can all imagine).

I remember one morning he was in tears in the kitchen, he felt the burden of what he was going to preach and saw himself to be a hypocrite and could not go into the pulpit, but we prayed together and by God’s Grace he gathered himself and followed his calling. (I have learned that this is common in the ministry; it is full of emotional ups and downs).

Practical things like making sure his shirt is ironed or that his tie matches his trousers, or that he’s at least wearing trousers! He is so forgetful this is a real possibility (he has often gone up in his slippers).

Neither of us come from Christian families, we are both relatively recent converts and are still ‘worldly’. When we are seen as Pastor and Pastor’s wife we feel a heavy burden, it does grip our stomach when we know how unworthy we both are for the role. We think of the sins we have committed and the hurt we have even caused each other over the years and often wonder what right we have to help others? But this brings us back to Jesus and His Grace. (1 Cor 15:10)

Because of Jesus I am a better wife, a better mum and our children are privileged enough to grow up in a Christian home. Something neither John and I had.

There is no perfect marriage, it is said that “the secret to a successful marriage is two good forgivers”. It gets tough at times especially having four children with John juggling the ministry with secular work. But we are reminded that God knows our limits and has blessed us with so much already.

Caring and Sharing

Keeping my husband in the pulpit is a great privilege! But sharing him with others is what I have found to be the biggest challenge. Bethan Lloyd-Jones talks about this challenge in the book “Far above rubies” written by Lynette Clark – Highly recommended. (Harriet went on to read sections from the book).

Now I am by no means comparing John or myself to these to wonderful Godly people but I find this such an encouragement that I would like to share with you.

God’s grace has taught me how to accept the challenges of being a Pastors wife, in time I have learnt how to manage the practical side of things like late night callers, random visitors at meal times and even official visits from police and social workers. (I must say, most of which are not from church members but people in the community who have never even been to Noddfa).

Remember! We are in a different situation in Abersychan than to Emmanuel. John is not just the pastor of Noddfa but being the only minister in a village of 10,000 people, we are, by Gods grace, the face of the wider church. We get all sorts knocking our door!

By giving my husband up to God it means that he can do God’s work, it means that we can talk things through; like preaching engagements, evangelistic meetings, like our look up services and holiday clubs and work together on them.

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My husband knows that he has my full support within the ministry.Just as he is submissive to God, I am to him, because of the love God has given to me.

Linda Lewis advised me at the start of this journey to learn with John and I have done my best to keep up. After each week of the EMW TTC we have gone through his notes together.John often shares quotes and books that he is reading and we study God’s word and pray together. (This can get annoying, when after a long days I finally get to sit down and relax on the sofa with a cup of tea and John excitingly summons me in to the study to tell me what a particular word means in Greek and how it adds a deeper meaning to the verse he was studying. This can be as boring as it sounds.)

We have such a lovely church family at Noddfa, the children have adopted new aunties and uncles. Everyone supports us as much as they can.I remember coming home once from Mothers and Toddlers and a member had hovered the downstairs and done the dishes for me! I could not believe it! Some help with the school run, or take the kids out during the holidays to give me a break. (You all know who you are – thank you).

Some of these adopted aunties and uncles know more about what our children get up to than myself or John.We often hear about Arthur’s escapades second hand from a member!

It is such a blessing to be of service in the Welsh Valley’s and I pray God keeps and strengthens us to continue his work. We are so grateful to God and we thank you all for your support and prayers and ask if you can continue to pray for us as a family.

If you are reading this as a “Pastor’s Wife” please be aware that the EMW are working hard to provide support and have a conference (that I am really looking forward to) here

serving with joy

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God Save the Queen

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Psalm 133:1

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Earlier this year I was approached by our local community Councillors; Gwyneira Clark, Wayne Tomlinson and Mayor Giles Davies about putting on a social gathering for the churches in Abersychan, to celebrate the Queens 90th birthday.

This was an answer to prayer!

I have longed for greater unity between the churches in our Village and was looking for an excuse to get us together! Yes we are in different denominations but we all have the same Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Throughout history the church has sadly been split by various secondary issues, we too often let politics get in the way of worship and sadly we divide into factions just like those of the world do.

What a witness it would be to the world if they could see “Christians” work together in the common ground of a shared love for Jesus.

This was not just my prayer, but the prayer of Jesus Himself.

I pray ……. that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23

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After brief introductions and prayer we shared some wonderful buffet food (all courtesy of Gabby’s Diner). Then our brother Terry Jones read some of his Gospel poetry for us. He provided a great mixture of humour as well as thought provoking rhyme – all of which was beautifully Christ centered.

 

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After dessert our sister Maureen from Trinity Methodist church lead us all in a “sing a long” with classic songs throughout the Queens reign, ending in Land of Hope and Glory, all on our feet with flag waving.

We finally came to the Birthday cake, where to our surprise; we welcomed the Queen and Duke who blew out the candles (I am pleased to report they were looking really well).

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It was a great day had by all!

A big thanks to Gabby’s Diner for all the food (including the amazing cakes), the Councillors, Mayor and Mayoress, Rev Martin Freeman, all at Trinity Methodist, High Street Baptist and all the gang at Noddfa!

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We continue to pray for the Queen and thank God for Her faithful service!

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people– for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” 1 Timothy 2:1-2

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Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice

I recently went on a rare trip to the cinema to see Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice. (a fitting end to our Superhero Training Academy)

I do enjoy the DC and Marvel films; they give me everything I want from a cinematic experience; however I do not take them seriously enough to delve into the myriad of back stories and cross-over’s between characters.

This nonchalant approach to the film could have caused some difficulties on the night, fortunately I went with a dear friend who has an extensive knowledge of such things and my son who is a Marvel/DC geek. They both kept me updated throughout the film so I did not miss a thing.

I am sure there are plenty of online forums filled with “comic book guys” currently critiquing the film, but with my limited knowledge on the subject, I must confess that I loved every minute of it!

(Before reading on, if you have not seen it yet – SPOILER ALERT)

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The film was filled with Christ symbolism, openly in the script and suggestively in various scenes.

If my memory serves me well, Superman was referred to throughout the film as the chosen one, the saviour, divine power, sent from above, the hope of the world. People would crowd around him just to touch his garment (Mark 5:27).

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At Superman’s ‘death’ we see him weak and lifeless cradled in the arms of Lois Lane with his dearest around him, mourning amidst the rubble of his sacrificial fight with evil (embodied in the monster called Doomsday).

At this moment on the top left of the screen, steel girders remain from fallen buildings that make the shape of three crosses on a hill subliminally reinforcing the Christ-like imagery. The scene reminded me of the below painting by Rogier van der Weyden (Pieta).

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This constant association throughout the film between Superman and Christ gave me mixed feelings.

Many watching may be inspired by the film to seek the realities of the historic person that it alludes to, God in the flesh Jesus Christ. Or, I fear, people will assimilate the clear fiction of Superman and apply it to the historic person, God in the flesh Jesus Christ and thus dismiss Him as such. I pray it is not the latter.

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There is a scene in the film where Lex Luthor (the villain) meets Superman face-to-face on a helipad overlooking metropolis. In typical Hollywood style Lex divulges his evil plan to Superman.

Lex shows Superman pictures of his kidnapped mother, the cost of her release, Batman’s head.

The film continues to its conclusion and I will not divulge anymore.

What caught me during this dialogue between Luthor and Superman was the below statement:

If god is all powerful he can’t possibly be all good, and if he’s not all powerful he can’t possibly be god.” Lex Luthor Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice

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This line resonated with me throughout the film as I feel it is a rather succinct way of putting across what many people have against religion.

What Lex is getting at here is essentially a point of view that many share.

“If God is sovereign He can’t be all good all the time, because at some point He will have to make an unpopular decision.”

What we have here is the ‘ye olde’ paradox of Love and Justice that has baffled unregenerate humanity throughout history. (1 Cor 1:25)

“If God is love how can He send people to Hell? If God is just how can He forgive sin?”

Mercy or forgiveness is the opposite of Justice, how can God be both? “If god is all powerful he can’t possibly be all good” Lex Luthor Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice

Religions throughout history have tried to deal with this conundrum by creating rites of passage or levels of; piety, status and wealth, alongside many other deeds that mankind can work towards to please said deity and thus remain just in their site. This way condemnation would be justly given to those that do not follow suit, so, it is argued that their god remains loving (but only to those who deserve it).

But this man-made, man-up ‘religion’ remains illogical in the face of the paradox that Lex Luthor puts forward so perfectly, as it limits the love of God.

If salvation could be earned there would be no need for Mercy, there would be no need for God’s Love.

If God only showed love to those who deserve it, then He is not a loving God.

Love is not based on a reward system (Matthew 5:43-48).

Love patient, love is kind, it is not self seeking, love keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Think about it.

If we had to meet the standards of an all powerful god, we would all fail, because none of us are ‘all powerful’ and if we came to that all powerful god that only rewarded us for his decreed works, then he would not be a loving god at all and because we could not achieve said works anyway (none of us are perfect), we would all be doomed. – Make sense?

So the question remains;

“If god is all powerful he can’t possibly be all good” Lex Luthor Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice

“If God is love how can He send people to Hell? If God is just how can He forgive sin?”

Well there is an answer!

An answer so perfect that it could only come from God Himself, because mere men could never have dreamt it up! And it is unique to Christianity (because Christianity is uniquely from God).

The answer to this paradox is found on the Cross on which the Prince of Glory died.

On this Cross we see God’s Love and Justice meet….and it all makes perfect sense!

On this Cross the illogical becomes logical.

On this Cross the paradox is perfectly fulfilled in God the Son Jesus Christ.

Why?

Well because on this Cross God remains perfectly just, because the sentence we deserve for our crimes was issued and the punishment was carried out in full.

And

On this Cross God remains perfectly loving because He sacrificially took the sentence (which we deserve) on Himself (God the Son).

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God” 1 Peter 3:18

In faith of this truth, you are saved.

“If god is all powerful he can’t possibly be all good”. Lex Luthor Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice

Well Lex, yes He can, in Jesus Christ.

Look to the Cross.

Christianity is not a religion of works, it is not a philosophy or a moral law, neither is it about what we can do to please God. Christianity is about having faith in the historic fact of what God has already done for us, so perfectly in the person of Jesus Christ.

This is the Gospel! Join us on Sunday to find out more

The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” Romans 6:10

Jesus

Image sources (in order)
From Google Search
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice/
http://comicbook.com/2015/12/01/batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-sneak-peek-detailed-analysis/
http://screenrant.com/batman-v-superman-zack-snyder-cut-dark-scene/
http://moviepilot.com/posts/2867036
http://www.comicbookmovie.com/batman/batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-a127760

Eastern Valley Superhero Holiday Club

But Jesus said,Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14

The Gospel witness in the Eastern Valley is close to extinction, in our own community of around 10,000 people it is safe to assume that less than 100 of them attend church regularly (1% of the population). The majority of which are elderly in small congregations (I hear as low as three people) across a handful of churches. Without God’s intervention, we can assume that most of this witness will not be with us in the next ten years. Now is the time to Sow with Tears!

When the Lord brought my family and I to Abersychan just two years ago, Noddfa seemed to be coming to an end. It had just fifteen members, all (bar five) were in their 70’s and over, some were even too frail to make church on a Sunday.

Regular readers will know that since then the Lord has blessed us. Last year we had six baptisms and the congregation has grown significantly made up of all ages, matching the demographic of where God has called us to serve.

The auxiliary ministries have also grown; Sunday School, Monday Club and the Mothers and Toddlers have welcomed a five-fold increase. By God’s Grace we are now in a healthier position.

We have tried many different activities to reach out to the community over the last two years, all with mixed results; family friendly services, BBQ’s, Firework nights and this week we put on a holiday club for the children.

Unlike the other evangelistic meetings (that I have forced onto the community), the holiday club was different, we were asked by the community (at the school gates) to run it, so we joyfully obliged.

The theme was a Superhero Training Academy and the lessons were based on Ephesians 6, the Armour of God.

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The children would register each morning before starting a ten minute sing-a-long. The groups were then split into two. One would stay in the chapel to learn the memory verse (Ephesians 6:11), then hear a story (relevant to the days piece of Armour). Then the children would take part in a treasure hunt, quiz, word searches or colouring in.

Meanwhile group two would be in the back hall building craft (the Armour of the day) and enjoying a drink and biscuit.

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Then after 45 minutes, the two groups would swap (via a conga line) and we would repeat.

For the younger children, we provided a crèche area for the parents who wanted to stay.

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At the end of each day we asked the parents to join us for a recap of what was taught and gave out the worksheets and prizes for the children to take home with them.

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(To avoid copyright issues) Monday was ‘flying-black-rodent-man’ utility belt of truth, Tuesday was ‘Viking-Thunder-god’ helmet of Salvation, Wednesday was Sword of the Spirit (there is no Superhero I know of with a Sword, so I wowed the children with a perfectly safe replica). Thursday was ‘Captain star spangled banner’ shield of faith and we finished on Friday with ‘Ferrum-man’ Prayer in the Spirit.

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On Friday the children all went home with their Armour of God (modeled below) and a keep sake book with all that they had learned this week.

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I have to admit that I did very little towards this week. I currently have to balance the ministry with secular work, so I could only be there on the Wednesday. All the hard work was done for God’s Glory by church members and some of the mum’s (you know who you all are – thank you so much).

The Wednesday Team

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I also want to thank Councillor Giles Davies for his support and promotion, Emmanuel Newport for their prayers and Ebenezer Cwmbran for all the Superhero decorations – the church looked great!

My wife is now looking forward to putting her feet up for a day or two after a busy week, but the fun has only just begun! We welcomed over 30 children over the course of the week and now we seek to build on these relationships with them and their families, so they can feel welcome to join our other activities and ministries and Noddfa.

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When we were planning this week, we wanted to get the parents involved as much as possible. We did not want to fall into the trap  of providing a drop off centre for children but give ourselves the opportunity to interact with their wider family as much as possible.

Teaching the Gospel should never be reduced to simply a children’s activity, parents need to hear about Jesus to, so we worked very hard to invite them in and get them involved as much as possible (even if it was just at the end). All in the hope that they will see that church is not just for the very young or for the very old, neither is it boring, but it is a welcoming place of learning and of family that radiates the love of God.

As fun as we tried to make this week for the children we need to remember that what we are teaching them is not simply moral lessons, but serious truths that have eternal consequences.

Our Valley is arguably ‘post-Christian’, we are back to an Acts situation. We can no longer rest on society to bring people to us, neither assume Bible knowledge on those outside the church – the Gospel is simply not getting taught anymore.

People need to hear afresh that there is a God and that He loves them, He is worthy of their time and worship, His Word is truth and that the Bible is not simply about good moral teaching but an important message of Grace needed to be heard by all, “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”  1 Tim 1:15.

A super huge big thank you for all those who helped and came along, you made it a very special week for us all. (We are hoping to do another in October).

We run a similar ministry every Sunday Morning during the service (11am-12noon) for the children feel free to come and join us for some quiet time under the teaching of God’s Word.

For more information visit our website: www.NoddfaBaptist.co.uk

 

Time Flies

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

I have just returned back from the EMW Theological Training Course (TTC) in utter disbelief that it was my final session. I have a summer of essay’s to write and then we are all done, the last four years have passed in a blink of an eye.

The course runs in a four year cycle (A-D) with the Systematic Theology and Biblical Studies working alongside the chronology of church history. I was fortunate enough to start in year A, so have had it all in order, learning from the revelation and mistakes of our forefathers to get my doctrinal ducks in a row.

This final session was most enjoyable as it brought everything to a rounded conclusion. We went through the 19th and 20th century church (with Roger Welch), covering world mission and (my favorites) Spurgeon and the good Dr! Stephen Clarke took us through an in depth study of Eschatology, Chris Bennett gave us great insight into Colossians  and both letters to the Corinthians. Phil Swann lectured Pastoralia where we discussed Cultural Context in Evangelism and Spurgeon’s sermons to win soul’s.

The evening discussions looked at the New Testament in the Old Testament and Dispensationalism, the Pastoral issues and battles with Pornography and we closed on the Thursday evening with the usual question and answer session  (a debate that usually continues to the early hours).

I went to Bala in the final stages of what was a bad bout of the flu, it had me bed bound for the week before. I was exhausted so had to manage my time better. I went to bed earlier and woke up later than usual and rested in the afternoon break, this included an advised Sauna in the local leisure centre (to clear my chest) in Phil Swann’s trunks that he kindly lent to me. This strategy paid off as I got to Thursday without feeling like my brain was in a cement mixer.

I have said this in previous ‘write-ups’; The TTC offers a study like no other I have experienced, in that it is not just head knowledge but also heart knowledge. This is tremendously challenging because as you grow in the knowledge of Christ, your failures and imperfections become clearer. The conviction you undergo at times can be unbearable, yet you leave feeling refined and strengthened in the Lord as His Grace overflows.

I have enjoyed the four years of the course; the challenge of the lectures, the fellowship with my brothers (and their families) I have made friends for life, the discipline of writing the essay’s and working through the quality reading lists.

The TTC has been a real journey, knowing what I know now, I can look back and see how young I was as a Christian when I started, how worldly and skewed my reasoning was. But by God’s Grace this course has knocked me into shape. These four years have given me a better understanding of Scripture which has had wider ramifications in both my ministry and in my home life.

As Harriet and I have grown in head and heart knowledge of Christ together, because of His love we love each-other more today than I thought possible and the children are also flourishing as a result.

With that all said, I must be clear the job is far from done, I am still a baby and need your prayers!

I started the TTC paddling in the shallows, still with dry sand from the beach life I left behind stuck to my knees. The course has done an excellent job in giving me the confidence to brave deeper waters and its lecturers and mentors have taught me the basic swimming strokes. I do now feel more at home in the water, but remain humble as I look out at a deep dark ocean of life long study, filled with dangers and threats. As I begin to think about leaving the shallows, in faith I go out to swim holding onto verses like Isaiah 41:10.

I want to publicly thank my wife for her love, support and grace as we have worked through the challenges of this course together, Pastor Bernard for his constant support and regular meetings, all at Emmanuel and Noddfa for your prayers, support and for all the book donations (you know who you are).

Please continue to pray for all the men that remain on the course and for their families, also for the hosts Gwydion and Catrin Lewis who have been so loving and welcoming in their service at Bryn-y-Groes.

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