How are you shaped as a Christian?
We all have our own stories of God in our lives, and we wanted to know a little more about those influences, experiences and ideas. We therefore asked a number of people “What shapes you as a Christian? What has influenced your faith journey?"
“Sharing the journey”
On reflection perhaps a life following Jesus alongside others has shaped me more than anything else. Growing up I was fortunate to be in a church where people of all ages listened and gave children and young people chances to be involved in, and even influence, church life. We felt valued and this helped confidence and gifts to emerge.
Over the years I have been encouraged by several individuals who took trouble to offer me significant opportunities to grow and develop. As a woman in mission and ministry I guess this may not have happened otherwise.
Living and working in various cross-cultural ministry settings couldn’t help but shape my world view and approach. For example, learning Albanian and worshiping together with Albanians helped develop a greater freedom of expression in worship for me than in English.
I also saw time and again that God is free to work in a variety of ways than I hadn’t previously understood, because of the richness of world-view and context in diverse settings. The frequency of healing in Nepal is a case in point, not primarily because of pressing local need but rather a different starting point in spirituality and expectation.
Margaret Gibbs is the minister of Perry Rise Baptist Church in London. She was previously the BMS World Mission Team Leader for Asia
Apart from Jesus and the message of the cross, one of the most important things that shapes who I am as a Christian is worship. Worship is important for me in that it brings me back onto my knees before God in prayer. We were created to worship God in order to glorify, honour, praise, exalt and please Him.
Worship is essential in creating an atmosphere for the word of God to flow and for God to move in our lives.
Worship is amazing because it can be done as a church, which is very important in stirring one another as a fellowship or as individuals (Hebrews 10:24-25) and can also be done individually. It’s like a spiritual exercise which we need to do regularly, otherwise we become complacent and get into the danger of spiritual starvation. Worship encourages prayer and reading of the word of God.
When we come to worship, it should make us reflect on the majesty and graciousness of God in Christ in contrast to our unworthiness. God doesn’t have to have our worship but we must worship Him to please Him. I believe our worship, praying, giving, and studying of His word bring us closer to Him and help us think more like He thinks, therefore, becoming more like Him and drawing closer to Him (James 4:8)
Jessie Muchena studied Medical Engineering at the University of Bradford, and recently completed an internship at the Global Café, a Christian-run charity. She was a member of the Younger Leaders Forum and attends Stoke Newington Baptist Church, London
Shaped by life
Friday 5 September, washing up after tea, the phone rings. I answer; our GP wishes to speak to my wife. A scan which at first had appeared to be innocuous is now causing concern. “Arrange to see a consultant at the earliest possible opportunity”. Numb, we make an excuse to cancel an evening visit from a friend, and phone the family.
Earliest opportunity is the following week. Cancer diagnosis confirmed, major surgery to take place as soon as possible. Surgery appears to be successful but a course of chemotherapy follows, just to be certain. Cancer blood test count falls dramatically. Oncologist pronounces “Total remission”.
But cancer blood test count refuses to disappear, then starts to climb again. More chemo. We ask for prayer in the church. Hair loss (again!), lassitude, nausea. We confess sin, ask the elders of the church to anoint with oil. We go to a healing service. My wife remains unfailingly courageous and positive. Medical treatment always impeccable, Hospice care beyond our expectations.
Tuesday 5 June, in the beauty of a summer dawn, a life less ordinary ends peacefully.
Then in the darkness comes the Word. In the presence of God ‘without fault and with great joy’.
And so the light shines and the darkness has not overcome it.
John Hermon is a deacon and secretary of his King’s Sutton Baptist Church in Northamptonshire. He lost his wife Mandy in 2007 after a long illness and subsequently wrote Sometimes I Write Words, an anthology of poems for various seasons of the heart, helping the reader find beauty in life amidst the pain of death.
“Connection is key”
What should be shaping us? A minister’s view from Adam Eakins
A few years ago a British Telecoms advert ended with these words: “The more connections we make the more possibilities there are.”
Today I carry with me a phone, tablet and laptop; my music is in a cloud and accessed almost anywhere; and I am connected to other people all over the globe via Facebook, Skype, Twitter, Google and others. Yesterday, even one of my Primary School teachers asked to be my facebook friend… I am so connected!
However, this word connection is a vital clue to how we grow as radical followers of Jesus.
Connected to Father God
The greatest commandment is to love God, but we connect to God by truly knowing Him not just knowing about Him. God desires intimacy with us – a deep connection. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai His face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord (Ex 34:29). Is our time with God seen in our lives by others?
Connected to the words of Jesus and His Spirit
I never tire of reading the gospels, but I wonder how seriously I take the words of Jesus. As I heard the other day, “If Jesus was the Pastor of your church, you wouldn’t go!” Jesus says some pretty wild things – it’s no wonder they had to try and get rid of him! So let us get connected to the red letters again and not just memorize, them but choose to live them. It will have a radical impact on your discipleship. We can do none of this without the Spirit who empowers us.
Connected to a church community
Our faith journey is not meant to be a solo sport. We need to be part of a church family. It won’t be perfect because it is full of people like you and me. However, be vulnerable with others, get involved and shape your life so that others are drawn to you.
Connected to culture
We are still in the business of being a witness. Discipleship is about making other disciples. So get involved in the community around you so that you can make a transforming difference within it. Play sport, join an art group, have a coffee or walk with friends. Just be around people who don’t know the Jesus story and if they ask, tell them.
Adam Eakins is minister of Broadmead Baptist Church, Northampton
How would we respond to the question: “What shapes us?” Are we truly shaped by Christ? What are the influences that particularly shape us? Are they those that help us become more like Christ? Are our values the values of God's Kingdom?"
This article first appeared in the Autumn edition of Baptists Together magazine