Category: Pastor’s Pen

Overcoming cultural barriers

I am currently reading through the Book of Acts again. In it the author, Luke, tells the story of the Early Church, following on from his earlier description (in the Gospel of Luke) of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Acts is the story of the Church, which against all odds, marched on and took the 1st Century world by storm.

Not that it was easy! The early Christians and missionaries faced many difficulties and challenges. They travelled great distances by sea or land, faced persecution and rejection, had to overcome cultural and language barriers in different countries, while trying to convince both Jew and Gentile that Jesus of Nazareth is the Saviour of the world. After the first eight chapters, Luke begins to focus on the life and travels of the Apostle Paul – how he persecuted Christians, became a Christian himself, travelled to distant places to establish churches, and ended up in Rome, the capital of one of the largest and most successful empires in history.

The story of Paul ends with Paul in Rome where, although under house arrest, had freedom to preach the Gospel to all who paid him a visit. This proves both the far-reaching impact of the Gospel of Christ, as well as the fact that spreading the Gospel is still an unfinished task. Hence the “open-ended” ending of the Book of Acts.

And this is where we fit into the story…

As an international church we, in some sense, face similar challenges to that of the Early Church. Many of us travelled great distances to get to Bratislava, experienced culture shock, while we continue to face cultural and language barriers on a daily basis. But my encouragement from the story in Acts is that none of these things should prevent us from being effective witnesses in the places where we live, work and play. Just as the Holy Spirit filled and used the early believers, so we can trust Him to empower us and use us as instruments in his hands to spread the Good News that Jesus is Lord and Saviour.

May He make us faithful in shining the Light in our world!

Sharing with expats

As we already got full-steam into this new year it is good to know that we serve a great God, who exists from eternity to eternity. The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). With all the changes and challenges we face on a daily basis, as well as the fact that we don’t know what this year will bring or what the future holds for each of us, it is comforting to know that God is in control of our yesterdays and tomorrows!

Now that we are already a full month into 2018, I pray that the Lord would guide, protect and provide for you, as well as for our church in all that we need to bring Him glory throughout this year.

One of our biggest challenges and opportunities as a church is to reach the expat community of our city. More foreigners are coming to Slovakia each year, most of them to Bratislava. Many come to simply experience a different world, others to study at university, while some come to settle here for the foreseeable future, either because of a job offer or as a result of cross-cultural marriage. We need to identify these expats in our community, where we live, work and “play” to be able to invite them to join us as we worship the God of the Bible, the unchanging God who revealed himself to us through Jesus Christ. So, be on the look-out for people who speak English and are not fluent enough in Slovak to be able to join a Slovak church or be challenged to consider Jesus as Saviour.

Join me as we pray that God would open up opportunities to share the Good News of the Gospel with those with whom we rub shoulders on a regular (or once-off!) basis. Pray that God would use the website, Facebook and other forms of promotion to reach the many expats who live or visit our city.

Reflection!

Christmas 2017 has come and gone … always a great time of fellowship, family and (especially) an opportunity to remember and celebrate the greatest event in history – that “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14) to live with us and bring salvation to a dying world. I trust you had a great and joy-filled Christmas!

Christmas always reminds me that we are approaching the end of another year and that a new year starts soon. That time has arrived! Although some people feel sad and almost depressed, especially since it’s winter, cold and there is very little evidence of life in the outdoors, it can also be a great time to look forward to what will happen in the next season of our lives.

New Year gives us an opportunity to reflect on our lives, as we look back to what happened in the past year and then anticipate (plan) where we want to be in the next year. What did you miss or mess up this past year? How will you ensure that it will be better in the next year? New Year gives us a chance to make (and keep!) some resolutions, such as spending more time with God in prayer, Bible reading, church fellowship and sharing our faith. To give more attention to family, friendships and relationships. To pursue studies, career, health and fitness … and a host of other good things.

I encourage you to do at least the following:

  • Take time to reflect. Don’t rush the process.
  • Write down your wishes and dreams (be bold and “wild”!).
  • Identify only those wishes that would make a real difference to you and your world (personal, family, work) and prayerfully commit them to the Lord.
  • Write down a few simple resolutions, including how you are going to ensure that they are kept.

Silly Season

The month of December is upon us, indicating both that the end of another year is just around the corner, and that the so-called “Silly Season” has arrived! This is the season when so much is seen and heard about Christmas, Xmas, Santa Clause and all the characters and items associated with this time of the year. Trees, lights, Christmas markets, gifts, stars, parties, and much more…

For us as Christians there is nothing “silly” about this season. In fact, it’s the season when we celebrate the MOST significant event in all of the history of the world. The God of heaven left his heavenly glory to take on our human existence, being born in a humble stable as the first-born baby of a young couple, somewhere in obscurity where most of the world, even the people in his home country, did not even know or recognize this event. This baby would grow up to become the long-awaited Messiah who died in place of sinners like us to set us free, to be forgiven by the grace and mercy of God.

Most people in the world know about the Christmas tradition and holidays. Many (most) of them do not understand the true significance of the Christmas message. It is therefore our duty and privilege to let others know about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah born to save the world.

One way in which we can do it is by displaying the right focus of Christmas AND by living it out! We should do so by celebrating the Day and Season in humble submission to our Lord Jesus Christ, seeking in all that we do to bring Him glory We can “tone” down on the excesses in money, gifts, food and other celebrations, and show that we CAN enjoy Christmas, but for the right reasons. For us this is the most Significant Season! How will YOU celebrate Christmas this year? What kind of season will it be for you?

Wishing you a Christ-filled December and Christmas time!

Gerhard & Joan

Welcome back to all who have been away

While our (rather hot) summer is still lingering and we begin to see early signs of autumn (“Fall”, for Americans!), we are very aware of the fact that a new school year is upon us. With the new year and end-of-summer it also feels as if the church is getting back to some “normality” – if there is even such a thing as a “normal” church! It’s great to enjoy the warm weather, holidays and travelling, but life does need to go on and get back in some sort of routine.

Welcome back to all who have been away, making use of all the opportunities offered by summer-time in Europe. We also would like to welcome all the newcomers to our city. We thank the Lord for giving us the opportunity to be your family away from home.

Many expats pass through Bratislava – and more are coming with all the developments taking place and big companies opening operations (offices, factories) in and around our city. Please be on the look-out for newcomers and invite them to join us as we serve the Lord together as a family of believers.

On Sunday, 10th September, we are offering a unique and new opportunity to invite newcomers to an afternoon/evening of fun, fellowship, snacks, games and also a talk about what it means to live and work in Bratislava. This is your opportunity to reach out and participate in extending the Kingdom of God in our city.

Thank you for being our family-away-from-home. We pray for our church and for you as members on a regular basis.

Summer 2017

Summer is here in full swing with beautiful days, lovely sunshine and ideal weather to fully enjoy life outside, do some travelling and visiting new places. I hope that you are making the most of all your opportunities to enjoy this great gift from God.

As much as many of our members are travelling, we also are on the receiving end of people visiting our city. It’s wonderful to meet people at church who either just arrived or who are simply passing through. I am especially encouraged by the fact that people make time to find a place of worship when they are travelling, visiting or arrive to stay for a while. As people “stop by” it gives us an opportunity to reach out to them with God’s love. It’s great to see our members engage with visitors – something I want to encourage us to continue to do. In this way we not only share the love of Christ with them, but also provide visitors and newcomers with the “family-away-from-home”, so much needed when we are away from our home countries. Our church has a reputation of being warm and friendly. Let’s keep it that way!

During the month of August many new people will arrive in Bratislava in preparation for the new school year or to come to work on a contract basis. Let us keep our eyes and ears open to see those who are new, and who are open to be invited to come to church. If you have a new colleague or neighbour, bear in mind that they are in need of friendship and may be very open to discuss issues of faith with you. We are also planning to have an event for newcomers early in September to which you can invite them to come.

As you continue to enjoy the summer weather, please remember what we learned from Jesus about the Christian Way in the Sermon on the Mount. May He help us to live in such a way that our lives will attract others to Him.

With much love and prayer for you

Gerhard & Joan

New Year

January 2017

The change of one year to another brings interesting emotions, feelings, experiences and opportunities to us. The author of Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a time for everything (Eccl 3:1-8) – and I pray that this year’s “change-over” will also be a time to do some reflection.

It is a time to reflect on the past. What happened this past year (2016)? Do yourself a favour and list the events, good and bad, that happened this year. Thank the Lord for every gift and sign of grace that came your way. Confess any neglect or wrong-doings on your part. Ask questions such as: Did I grow spiritually? Do I have any regrets? Is there something I have learned? Is there something I should have done or someone I should have spent more time with?

It’s also a time to consider the future. Based on your reflection of the past year, surely you have certain resolutions for 2017? Where would you like to be in your spiritual life by the end of 2017? More Bible reading? More learning about God and His Word? More faithful to the Lord in attending church or sharing Him with others? Places you’d like to visit? People you’d like to get to know better or with whom you’d like to have more contact?

If these reflections and decisions are true for us as individuals, then they also apply to our church. We’ll have to create opportunities to discuss these reflections, otherwise another “change-over” happens without much changing! We are planning one such event for Sunday 22nd January. Please make sure you are able to attend.

As the year count changes from 2016 to 2017, may the Lord use this as an opportunity to reflect on his past gifts, grace and mercies. I look forward to our journey together in this coming year!

Gerhard