Welcome! It's wonderful to see you here!

I'm a passionate writer - and therefore spend most of my time writing thriller novels. But I also live an interesting life in the nations. This blog is here for that aspect of my life - our life - I live with my wonderful wife and two daughters.

I believe in encouragement. I live for obedience. I believe in learning from our experiences, and this blog exists for both of those, and more.

So that you stay connected, getting every new update, please add your email address to receive all updates directly, or follow the RSS feed.

I was part of the leadership team in St Petersburg, Russia - which planted Hope Church in 2009.(www.hopechurchstpetersburg.com).
In March 2012 Hope Church sent my family to plant into Tallinn, the Capital of Estonia. I therefore lead this small but growing church plant team. Here is the website for Hope Tallinn (www.hopetallinn.ee)

For details on our journey here, read the series called Adventures of Faith which is linked for you on the right hand column, just below. That details our original journey to Russia and then onto Tallinn 4 years later.

Author for fiction novels - Cherry Picking (2012), The Last Prophet (2015), The Tablet (2015) and The Shadow Man (2016) are available on all major bookselling sites. Please visit: www.timheathbooks.com

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Prayer that Mia prayed

Mia Heath - my beautiful, darling little girl of nearly four and a half.

And yesterday, 23rd February 2010, she prayed with me the prayer to become a Christian. I felt this day couldn't pass, this moment couldn't move on without looking at the prayer that this wonderful four year old prayed, and seeing what impact the same prayer could have on your life.

It was the afternoon and we were watching Aladdin on DVD, after her full day in the nursery she's been attending this term. I don't think the DVD had anything to do with what she was about to say, but very much like Mia, and quite randomly it may seem, she suddenly started saying to me that she didn't want to be old, she didn't want to grow old, and then she didn't want to go to hospital. "When you're old you go to hospital...and you die. I don't want to die daddy," she said as I listened to what she was opening up to me.

I needed to respond. Pausing the DVD, I explained how she didn't need to think such things, but still she was saying the same thing. "I don't want to get old and die."

I then said how for me, I knew Jesus was in control. I knew Jesus promised life beyond death...how in heaven he was at that moment preparing a place for me, to welcome me home. I explained that I had no fear of death...had nothing to worry about.

I said that she might get to the age when she felt she wanted to know Jesus was doing that for her as well, that she could pray to Jesus and invite him into her heart.

She then said "I don't know how to pray that daddy, could you pray it for me?"

I sat down in front of her and got her to repeat each little bit after me, so that she was praying the same prayer herself, which went something like this;

"Dear Jesus. I know you are God. I know you came to this world for me, to take away my punishment. I know that you died on the cross and rose again, for me. I know that you are making a place, preparing a place for me in heaven right now. I know that I do not need to fear death, or growing old. I know that you have great plans for me.
Jesus, I invite you into my heart now. I want to follow you. I want to worship you every day (she said the every day bit in Russian!) Jesus, I want to become a Christian, to become a follower of you. I love you and know that with you inside me I never have to fear again. Amen".

And that was that. With that little prayer, repeated with a huge smile on her face that seemed to grow the further in we got, she had passed from death to life, from this earthly world to being seated in the heavenly world. She was now being rejoiced over in heaven by all the heavenly hosts!

Of course, for her this is the starting point, or better still, a clear moment in her life from which she can continue to learn, as she already has been since birth, about more and more of the love of God in her life. And it was after praying, almost as an after thought, that I remembered I was about her exact age when I first prayed that same prayer, asking Jesus to become my personal Lord and Saviour. And in me, from that moment, I knew I was saved. 100%, totally certain.

In my young years, which clearly hadn't been 'too' sinful (we are all sinners of course), my life was changed from being rooted in the world (which only leads to death) to being rooted in God, which leads only to life! I know I've grown more and more from that point onwards. Because it's not that you have to know all things (who in the world actually does know all things anyway!) before you can make such a decision. It's just the same childlike faith that Jesus openly encouraged in the Bible.

So I'm joining with the angels praising God over the life of this little 4 year old who has prayed the prayer of salvation.

Yes, she has more to learn, has many more questions, and that's what we are there for, to help her, to point her to the answers. But praise God that she has welcomed Jesus into her heart....Lord, fill her heart, help her become the worshiper she wants and desires to become. Be with her in mighty power that she may see you doing amazing things in her life.

And if this is what a 4 year old can understand, then it's certainly something you can pray as well. Is it that you also fear death? Do you worry about growing old? Do you wonder what awaits you? Do you want to know that there is life after death, and if there is life, don't you want to meet the person responsible for it?
Maybe it's peace you need? Peace in a situation you find yourself in at the moment? Fear over a loved one?

Jesus really is your answer as well. You too can pray the prayer highlighted in red above. You too can pass from death into life, knowing that the angels are rejoicing over you while Jesus is preparing a place for you. It really is that simple. It's certainly simple enough that a 4 year old can get it....so what about you?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Russian Traveller - Part 4 - The London Area

Last Thursday saw me leaving again from Oxford, heading to Sidcup to stay at my mums while I met with a few people in the area, in relation to the work we are doing in St Petersburg, Russia.

The big thing that I would be learning about was Welcome, firstly by meeting a guy in Catford, who heads up the Welcome side of the King's Church, Catford, and then also at Christ Church London (CCL), the city center church led and started by David Stroud 5 years ago but already at about 400 or 500 people.

I also had a few hours with a couple who know they are called to northern Europe, and feel that this could mean planting into Helsinki. I wanted to help them with this and get to know them a little more. It was really good to have been able to start a relationship that will continue long after they have moved. When Helsinki does get planted, it will be something that as a local church in St Petersburg, we have real involvement in. So I loved the time with the family.

But my first trip, a one hour lunchtime chat, was to Catford, just 25 minutes up the road from Sidcup, where I met with Ben Welchman, a leader at the church and the man responsible for all the Welcome team.

These guys do this particularly well, which is why I had come. CCL even based all they do on what happens here. So I was again blessed to be in such a context of excellence!

Any visitor coming here on a Sunday, for example, is met warmly on the door. There is a specific welcome area within the church for these people, clearly visible with a wonderful display board by all in the hall. They have their own drinks served, and their own places to sit after the meeting (very comfortable leather sofa's, no less!). There is clearly the message "We want visitors and we want to treat them well!"

Having chatted with the visitor, being warm, not pressuring them but also getting to know where they are at & what has brought them to the church, their details are given and this person is then called, by the same person, within 48 hours - usually on the Monday. They are also sent a post card that just thanks them for coming, and encourages their future involvement.

Each visitor is given a very good welcome bag (I was given one by Ben, and apart from going through the three cards that were in there, as I write this I haven't actually studied the rest yet!)

But instead of over-loading the visitor with loads of information, they are selective. There are just three cards - one is a response card for their details (phone and email), the other is an invite to their Alpha course, and the third, maybe a surprise one, is a card that shows how they are get involved and serve within the church. Because, aside from the obvious leadership/worship/working with children roles, they allow anyone to serve, even if they aren't a 'proper' member of the church yet. They know serving will draw someone in.

But over all these, isn't the faceless gathering of names on a spreadsheet, but the warmth and love of truly serving those that come to visit, to making sure every person who has come to meet God really gets the chance too.

Within the CCL context, it was good again to see this model outworked within a meeting basis, and to see how they have adapted it to meet the needs of a city center location in a venue that is not theirs, which is probably the case for all new city center plants. Through their website, I had seen that they invite their visitors to a local coffee shop an hour before the meeting, to have a free drink (they do a free lunch once a month as well). Here I met the first of 5 teams that work within the welcome context for every meeting. Five teams! The others are on the main doors, on the doors to the hall, within the hall looking for those people on their own (they then sit with them) and another team doing the same in the balcony area. The team on the main door also give out the church's in house magazine. This is probably posted or otherwise to church members, so anyone with one of these on a Sunday, in a rather clever way, shows to those around that they are most likely a visitor! How clever.

And without the church planning ahead (I had turned up unannounced), I was warmly greeted in the coffee shop, then again by a guy on the door (also another Tim), who gave me my copy of the magazine (clever!) and the coffee shop team then led me to the hall, where we sat together.

Now if I was someone who had no church experience, this was a very warm and safe welcome - I could better experience what would follow because I was safe and with people I had got to know (albeit only an hour before!).

Then after, using the facilities that meeting in a central London theater offer, they had a separate bar area just for visitors, and where the church leaders make an effect to go straight out to and chat to the visitors - again, having just spoken from the stage to the whole church, they show by their actions that its the visitors they want to meet first, over conversations with friends (which can happen anytime outside of the Sunday meeting).

As bonuses to my time in London, it was great to be able to meet the guy heading up the Mobilise Team coming to St Petersburg on the 2nd April - I really hope I can get out in time to help with and be part of the week. Only God knows about that one though!

Then it was back to Oxford, a late Valentines Day arrival to my very pregnant wife, and poorly little girl, who had come down with a sickness bug that morning.

I'm now largely based in Oxford, and will write a separate part, in time, about what I've learnt from this vibrant, student heavy church here. But not yet.

Thanks for reading - I really hope you have found this interesting - I want to serve those planting into the cities - whether you are going as the leader or just as a member of the team, whether its a capital city or university city, a big or small city, I would love to be an encouragement and source of information to you. If there is something I haven't covered but you want to ask, do get in touch.

I am working on pulling through my notes and starting a blog series that'll be a rough city church planters 'handbook' style reference - so watch this space!

Russian Traveller - Part 3 - The North of England

I've now finished my travels planned before the birth of our second child, due any time now. These travels have taken me to Dublin, Paris, Stockport, Manchester, Leeds, Matlock, Sidcup, Catford, London and of course Oxford, where I've been based in between.

In parts one and two I looked at the first two cities, and in this post want to look at my trip to the north of England, and especially the time in Leeds at Mosaic Church, led by Matt Hatch.

Arriving up at my Stockport base, I has blessed to be able to meet up for lunch in Manchester with Julian Adams, who was right in the middle of the process of actually moving to the city. Later that day he was waiting for confirmation about the house he was moving into!

And the main thing that came from that lunch, besides a great chat and getting to know him a little, was the opening to come to a conference he's speaking at in March that is gathering a number of prophetic people and should teach me, through practical action, everything I had come to learn. So more on that at another time.

My second day in the north was spent up in Leeds, at Mosaic Church, where Matt & Pip Hatch had moved up to a few years before to plant, as they had felt God leading them. I was there to look at, and see first hand, their whole mission group structure. These are their midweek groups that are as much church as their Sunday gathering is.

I learnt a lot more though.

They are a wonderfully warm people, so honouring like I have not really come across. They gave me their best time, all three elders in turn meeting with me, sharing with me, wanting to help. I felt like a royal visitor...their heart for people so evident in their actions towards me. That left a lasting impression!

As a church, borrowed ideas of course from other well established places, they work along the lines of being a community of Growth, of Care and of Mission. And within the mission area, they breakdown into the three P's - People, Passion & Places.

These three form the basis of their mission group structure, though structuring and naming something that in essence best works unstructured, is always a limitation. But for ease of understanding, I'll keep calling them mission groups.

The Places is easiest understood as being geographical within the city - groups built around specific localities. Passion outworks itself in what people enjoy doing - so they have football groups, performing arts, film groups. People means certain groups - so for example there's a group of women that work with ladies in the Red Light district of Leeds. Other groups work with the homeless.

The heart of mission groups is why should a group meet first and then go out and feed the homeless - in other words, doing 'the church bit' and then the 'mission' bit. This is so often how churches function in the UK. But without meaning to it separates 'church' from 'mission' - but they are, and this is the heart of what they are doing in Leeds, one and the same thing! They would say, go out on the streets first, and then do the 'group' with those you've met and gathered with!

As they are bringing this ethos into an already established setting, they are having to over-compensate in their language to challenge the preconceptions that 'church' is defined by a meeting in a hall on a Sunday.

They long for the day their 'church' is counted by how many people attend a midweek group, and not by the Sunday attendance. They long for there to be 500 in their church but only 400 attending on a Sunday.

They are bringing a fresh new look at what it is to be a people of God in a city like Leeds. Far from watering down the gospel, they are challenging the assumptions people now have, making the church far more accessible for the lost than ever before.

Under this structure, they don't really run anything separately, so even their mum's and tots group is actually a mission group and not a 'ministry' of the church. The one exception is their Alpha course (which they are reshaped and call 'Intro'). These people, once coming through the course though, are most likely to form a new mission group anyway, but it is done not entirely as one group to start with and is open to all.

It's important they decentralise - so that they are neither Sunday focused nor leader focused. The central hub of Mosaic is there to resource what's around it and not the other way round.

It's about putting community before a meeting.

Mission also needs to be a friendship group - it's seeing socials as OK, and nothing 'lesser' than a 'normal' meeting. When friendships are there, they also look within the group and breakdown maybe to 3 groups of three with three separate interests.

They want to become a House church without losing the shop front that is their Sunday morning. And I think that this is the perfect balance - Sunday's will always draw people, certainly those 'used' to 'church', and for these visitors, both Christians and non-Christians, to see lots of smaller focus groups working that can link them in is certainly a great thing. Sunday's are there to serve churches and are vital for that - depending on what culture you are in, they have varying importance as well.

So I came away very encouraged, having gone with Pip to one of their Thursday night groups, seeing first hand what goes on. And it was something that Pip said about the meeting night that also most stuck with me. They would, say for September to December, get the diary out and plan the term's group night based on the following: firstly, any birthdays that the group members have go in. Plus any events, like fireworks night (lets say it falls on a Saturday) - this becomes a big focus event to invite people too. So the night they actually meet on will vary from week to week, and only when there is nothing else will they meet on the default night of Thursday. This, maybe more so than anything else, is radically challenging to the perception that 'group' has to happen on the same night of the week (most commonly Wednesday).

In London, where I was at this last weekend, they have two groups that meet on a Sunday afternoon, before their meeting at the theater! But more on that visit in the next entry.

The Sunday visits to Stockport (in the morning) and Matlock in the evening (where Chesterfield were also present), where I spoke at both meetings, were personal catch ups on our own situation and experiences in Russia. We showed the new church DVD here for the first time - have a look on our new website - www.hopechurchstpetersburg.com

So I returned south, to Oxford, encouraged. Leeds had taught me a lot - going the mission group structure in St Petersburg will have its challenges, but we are small enough to get the correct mindset in place early on.