Dear Rosebank Union Church,

Next week Sunday we will be starting a new Teaching Series called ‘Coming Back Stronger’. It’s a series through the Old Testament book of Ezra, which we believe has particular relevance to our lives in these strange times.

This little-studied book of the Bible tells the story of the return from exile of the people of God, and how they sought to re-establish themselves in the land of Israel.

After seventy years of isolation God sovereignly orchestrated human events to allow the people to return, but even then the process was painfully slow- it took decades for the story to play out!

When I first heard this story it resonated so much with what I was experiencing during lockdown. Initially lockdown seemed like a temporary disruption, but it quickly became evident that this season of ‘exile’ would be a long one.

The good news is that eventually we too will return ‘home’, to a rhythm of life a lot more like the ‘normal’ we were used to. This Coronavirus season will end. But even then, the return journey may be painfully slow.

The significance of the story of Ezra is that whilst the period of isolation was long, and the return journey slow, God sovereignly used that time to shape the people in such a way that they would come back stronger. The book details people being shaped in resilience, purity, devotion to God’s word, worship and community.

It is our hope that as we journey through Ezra we will be shaped in the same way, ready to come back stronger, in our personal lives, families, community and as a Church.

When will we be meeting again?

Speaking of coming back as a Church, we have deliberately been taking our time to process the ruling allowing for religious gatherings of up to 50 people during Lockdown level three.

Whilst I was initially excited at the opportunity to be in gathered worship again, I quickly realised that our responsibility towards the health of our members, as well as our responsibility to the wider community, meant that we should wait and discern before making any attempt to return.

In some ways the decision to wait is made easier for a Church the size of RUC simply because there is no logistical way that we could fairly accommodate the approx 1000 people who attend a Sunday service.

Circumstances change so quickly these days that we feel it appropriate on a number of levels, to wait, and we ask for your patience and understanding in this.

Church Online Platform

This concession to religious communities also came at the same time as the launch of our new online Church platform (what we call ChurchAtHome 3.0), which we hoped would take us as far as we could go in terms of providing an opportunity for engagement with our Sunday services.

I have spoken much about the ‘macro’ and ‘micro’ interactions that we experience during gathered worship on a Sunday. At the beginning of lockdown the priority was to bring the ‘macro’ interactions online, such as worship, prayer and preaching.

Our priority in this latest iteration of ChurchAtHome is around engagement with the ‘micro’ interactions that take place during gathered worship, the weighty accumulation of all the little engagements you would experience on a Sunday.

The friendly hello from a parking volunteer, the nod of acknowledgement from a passer-by on their way into Church, the warm greeting at the door, the casual conversation in the pews waiting for the service to begin, the catch-up with friends over coffee after the service, the reassuring words of comfort or prayer before departing.

There’s no way we can replicate all of that online, but our new platform at least goes some way towards experiencing these interactions.

If you haven’t tried gathering around our live online services at 9:30 on a Sunday (8:30 for Kids Church) please give it a try, just log on here: golive.ruc.org.za.

What else is happening?

There are a few other ways that we are hoping to continue building our Church community during lockdown:

  • Prayer meetings: It has been so encouraging to me to see how the gathering for prayer has also become the primary fellowship platform for our Church. The best part for sure is the breakout room time, where people get to meet others, connect and pray.
  • ‘First Mondays’: a monthly webinar series dealing with practical topics related to life in this Coronavirus season. We kicked it off on 1 June with Dr Nat Schluter, who helped us think theologically and pastorally about the Coronavirus. If you haven’t yet watched it go visit our YouTube channel for the replay, it is well worth your time (and share it with others!). Next up in the series we have Jane Kratz, chair of Biblical Counselling Africa, who will speak on the topic of fear and anxiety in this season.
  • Fathom’ course: an online learning opportunity around the wider subject of the Gospel, on our brand new online learning portal. Click here for an overview of the course. It’s a four week course that you can do in your own time!

—-

One of the most moving moments in the book of Ezra occurs in chapter 3 (spoiler alert!):

All the people gave a loud shout as they praised the Lord when the temple of the Lord was established. Many of the priests, the Levites, and the leaders  – older people who had seen with their own eyes the former temple while it was still established – were weeping loudly, and many others raised their voice in a joyous shout. People were unable to tell the difference between he sound of joyous shouting and the sound of the people?s weeping, for the people were shouting so loudly that the sound was heard a long way off”

Ezra 3:12-13

I find that to be such a poignant picture of life at this time: a peculiar mixture of godly grief with faith-fueled hope. Most of the time they are so intermingled we can’t tell the difference between the two!

It certainly is creating the perfect conditions of heart, allowing us to be shaped by God so that we will come back stronger.

Waiting expectantly with you,

Richard

We are live in an unprecedented time in the history of the Church. Ordinarily, on Good Friday, tens of thousands of churches representing millions of people would be remembering the death of Jesus through the sacrament of Holy Communion. Now, in 2020, most of these churches will be empty.

Of course, we will still be celebrating what the death of Jesus meant for us by participating in worship, prayer & the Word through ChurchAtHome! But what about #CommunionAtHome? Is this something we can practice in our own homes, without the presence of clergy or without the gathering of other Christians?

In order to answer this question it will be helpful to refresh our understanding of the sacrament of Holy Communion.


The origin of Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper as some call it (1 Corinthians 11:20) goes right back to Jesus. Each of the synoptic Gospels records the last meal that Jesus shared with his disciples on the night that he was betrayed (Matt. 26:26–30; Mark 14:22–26; Luke 22:19–20):

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives

Matthew 26:26-30

The significance of the symbolism in this event is connected to the occasion of this meal, which was the Passover festival (Matthew 26:17). This important celebration commemorated the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, through the last of the ten plagues (Exodus 12).

It was on this last night in Egypt that the angel of death killed the firstborn male from every household (including livestock!), except for those in God’s covenant community, who identified themselves by painting the blood of an unblemished lamb on their doorposts. God commanded that on this last night a special meal be made to commemorate this event, a meal which included unleavened bread.

When Jesus then took bread and a cup on the night of the Passover, and connected it to his coming death, he redefined the elements of this sacred meal! He would become the passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7)!

What that means for us is that our ‘participation’ (1 Corinthians 10:16) in the ‘body’ (bread) and ‘blood’ (cup) of communion symbolically identifies us with those who have now finally, and fully, been saved from eternal death!


This leads us to an important principle that we hold to. We believe that Communion is for those who identify Jesus as their Saviour.

Just as the blood painted on the doorposts identified the Israelites as God’s covenant people, so our participation in drinking the cup (and eating the bread) identifies us as the ones who are members of God’s New Covenant (Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20). That is: it is one of the ways that we symbolically identify ourselves as Christians!

Note: participating in Holy Communion does not make us Christians, it simply makes visible, or identifies, declares, demonstrates, that we already are Christians!

The apostle Paul would later say that those who partake in the body/bread of communion are those who ‘discern the body’, that is, those who already recognise Jesus as their sacrifice (1 Corinthians 11:29).

This is why Augustine called the sacraments ‘visible words’, meaning that the simple act of eating and drinking in the Communion meal is a declaration of our belief. The means of our salvation will always and only be by grace alone through faith alone!

This has direct implications for #CommunionAtHome.

If we were at Church we would emphasise and stress this point: Communion is for believers! Don’t take this lightly in the less formal environment of your homes!

It also means that parents need to be discerning of their children participating in communion. We have provided additional communication for parents on this, but the bottom-line is that anyone can participate, so long as they themselves would identify as Christians, and ‘discern the body’ of Jesus (symbolically) in the bread, and similarly his blood with the cup.


Since there is such significance to Holy Communion, which perhaps makes it better suited to celebrating at Church, why then are we inviting you to participate at home?

The answer again goes back to the occasion of Jesus’ last supper, the Passover. Here God commanded this to be a sacred feast to be kept “throughout your generations, as a statute forever” (Exodus 12:14). Again, Jesus adds to this in his re-interpretation of Passover (and the institution of Holy Communion) by saying we are to “do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25).

This is one of the reasons God gave us this particular ordinance as an observance, simply as a reminder of what Christ has done. This is not so much because we are in danger of forgetting, but we are in danger of distancing ourselves from the central event of Jesus’ sacrifice to the point where it no longer functions as the controlling centre of our lives!

We don’t know how long lockdown will last, or how long we will be restricted from gathering. We take seriously Jesus’ instruction to ‘remember’, and realise that as believers we should never move far from refreshing ourselves with the truth of the sacrifice of Jesus!

There is a second reason why we believe it’s significant to participate in communion at this time.

After affirming Jesus’ command for us to remember his sacrifice through this meal Paul adds: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

This means that there is a ‘proclamation’ or ‘preaching’ element to communion: it communicates something! It communicates the gospel in ‘visible words’ to those around us.

For now that may only include members of our immediate household, some of whom may not yet be followers of Jesus. Don’t underestimate the ‘preaching’ effect that your participation in Communion may have!

And let’s not forget the effect that our combined proclamation under such extraordinary circumstances may have on a watching world. Perhaps more than ever the world needs to see people ‘participating’ in the hope of Jesus!

One more thing: sometimes we as Christians need this ‘preaching’ of the gospel more than anyone else! In these days of fear, doubt, uncertainty and the threat of hopelessness, we need to remind ourselves, ‘preach to ourselves’, the certainty of the victory of Jesus! The ordinance of Communion not only communicates to the world, but also to our own hearts, and provides much needed assurance.


How will this all work?

Since the elements and the procedure are normally all laid out for you at Church, what must you prepare in order to participate in CommunionAtHome?

Richard will explain more about how we will partake during the live communion event, for now all you need to do is get the elements ready. Some simple bread or crackers, along with any form of juice (preferably red!), is all you need.

We look forward to proclaiming the death of Jesus with you in this powerful way tomorrow!

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved

Acts 2:46-47

#Acts246 #LiftTheSail #ChurchAtHome #CommunionAtHome


Children & Communion

Our Children’s department has put together a great document on Children and Communion. Please read this to help you to disciple your children around the topic of Communion

Dear Rosebank Union Church,

This morning we all work up to the reality of a completely new way of living.

Last night as I listened to the president speak I was deeply moved by the concern shown for our fellow citizens, as well as for our economy. I was also encouraged by the call to pray!

Just like everyone else, we at the Church have been thinking, working and praying hard about what this new way of living means for us.

Last week our efforts were focused on creating an online platform for us to still gather for meaningful worship on a Sunday. I’m so proud of what our team created, and also so pleased at the response from you, the Church! Our estimates show that we had at least the same number of people worshipping online this past Sunday as we would on a normal Sunday, if not more!

Thank you for gathering in worship on Sunday, and I want to encourage you to continue meeting together for worship (in your own homes now, of course!). We will have the same online platform available, and will continue in our series. We will record from the RUC ‘studio’ one last time this week, and from next week be recording in our homes.

Our focus this week, and our call to action to you, is to pray!

I heard a story just this morning of farmers in rural America where there’s lots of snow. In times of a severe snowstorm the farmer would tie a rope from the door of his house to the door of their barn, to enable them to navigate from the house to the barn during times of heavy snow.

I initially thought that was pretty crazy! Surely the farmer would know how to navigate to his own barn after all the years of living on the farm, even in a snowstorm?

The reality of the story is that sometimes a sudden change of circumstances can be so disorienting, even though the surroundings are familiar.

That got me thinking: this morning we all woke up to a drastic change of circumstances, a heavy snowstorm, if you like. And despite the familiarity of still being in our own homes, the rapid change in circumstances has the potential to be completely disorienting. We need a rope!

That simple rope, is a daily commitment to the Scriptures and to prayer.

I realise that for some of you in the centre of this complex reality this ‘rope’ may seem so simplistic. Perhaps you are thinking more about action plans and contingencies.

That’s absolutely valid and true, but if we think for a second that we can get through this with our own clever thinking and plans, and without casting ourselves fully on God, we’re deluded. And we will find ourselves lost and disoriented in the snow pretty soon.

Rosebank Union let’s do this, let’s pray!


Here are three ways you can escalate your prayer starting this week:

246 Prayer:

Set an alarm on your phone for 2:46pm every day. When that alarm goes, pray right where you are, in the middle of whatever you’re doing, for your family, friends, business, church, country & world. Whatever. Just pray!

Why 246 Prayer? Because one of our theme verses for this period is Acts 2:46 – we want to be a church that continues to meet daily in our homes.


Prayer Portal:

Send us your prayer requests using the prayer portal on our #Liftthesail web page. Be as detailed as you would like, or as anonymous as you like. People at RUC are going to get sick, and we want to say: we love you, we’re ready to help you, and we want to pray for you!


Join our very first online prayer meeting!

I’ve got to say, I’m a little excited about this! Wednesday night, 25 march, 7pm, we’re going to have a good ‘ol prayer meeting, but obviously in our homes.

We’ll be using Facebook live, so simply join the #Liftthesail Facebook group , log in at 7pm tomorrow night, and pray with us!


I want to end by reminding you of what we learned from the Scriptures this past Sunday:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God

(Ephesians 5:1-2)

We prayed from Romans 5 that God’s love would be poured into our hearts through his Holy Spirit. The purpose of that prayer wasn’t just to experience a feeling, but to accept His love so that we could walk in it i.e. live in it!

And you know what? Perfect loves casts out fear (1 John 4:18). So live in His love, and walk in kindness and love to others at this time.

See you on Wednesday in my lounge for prayer. All 1000 of you 😉

God Bless

Richard

Dear Rosebank Union Church,

On Sunday I experienced the joy and privilege of being inducted at RUC. It was indeed a very special day for us, but in some ways, I was more looking forward to our first ‘normal’ Sunday together. Little did I know that it would be quite a while before that would happen!

Despite the various views on the precautionary measures taken by our government regarding the CoronaVirus, the church’s leadership agrees that it makes sense to be conservative early, in an attempt to curb the spread of this disease. As a Church we certainly don’t want to contribute to the propagation of a damaging disease on our community.

Therefore we will be abiding by the government restrictions placed on public gatherings, which will have an immediate impact on our Church gatherings, until such time as these restrictions are lifted.

This means:

  • The AGM scheduled for 18 March has been postponed.
  • All weekly Youth and Children’s activities are suspended.
  • Other weekly gatherings at the Church will be suspended.
  • We will no longer be meeting for worship on Sundays on our premises.

The wording of that last announcement is important! Whilst we will not be gathering in our hundreds on Sunday for worship, we will still be gathering in small communities across our city for united RUC-style and RUC-led worship! The Church that normally meets at Rosebank, will now be meeting in your home!

Our team has developed an online platform to easily enable small groups to gather and have a worship service in their homes. This will include all of the usual elements of an RUC worship service, including continuing with the preaching of our planned new sermon series, worship, prayer, scripture, community, and yes, even offering! The only part left up to you is the coffee…

Visit the platform

As we began planning for this extraordinary season in our Church we really started believing that this is an incredible opportunity for us, despite these challenging circumstances.

In a way we will be returning to the very roots of the Christian Church, which started by gathering in houses (Acts 2:46, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 2 etc). The advancement of the Kingdom of Jesus started in homes, and continued in this way at least for the first generations of the Church’s expansion in the Roman world.

Make no mistake: Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, moves as powerfully in small groups as when we gather together more formally as a large congregation! In fact, we believe and are praying that we will experience a new, authentic and more intimate encounter with Jesus as we temporarily move to homes. In small groups we are immediately confronted with the need to actively participate in the worship; it’s much harder to be a ‘spectator’ in a small group! As awkward as this may initially be, we believe we are going to see Jesus work in profound ways in this time.

Our exhortation to you at this time is simply this: commit today to continue in worship this Sunday.

That means:

  • Think about who you will gather with. This could simply be with the people you’re living with, or perhaps gathering with a couple more. This may be a great opportunity to reach out to others and make intentional connections.
  • Think about what time you will gather. Part of the opportunity in this season is to meet at any convenient time, so long as it’s on a Sunday. There’s nothing inherently special about one particular day, but we do want to maintain some sense of unity within our individual gatherings.
  • Think about where you will gather.

We want to take great pains to emphasise the COVID-19 precautions for everyone in this time:

  • Do not attend any gathering if you are ill in any way.
  • Have no physical contact.
  • Frequently wash hands.
  • Refrain from touching your mouth.

These must be enforced by everyone, everywhere, in every situation!

At the induction service I shared the strong impression that our emphasis for the Church at this time is to ‘lift the sail’. The picture is that of this great ‘ship’ of Rosebank Union Church being open and ready for a particular and special move of God.

I certainly did not anticipate that this would coincide with a pandemic! However I have firmly come to believe that in our return to the basics and innocence of Church, our sails will be filled. Indeed I look forward to the day that we will all gather together again as the RUC family, and anticipate that being an explosive worship service!

Remember, in all things God is sovereign, He loves us, is with us, and intervenes on our behalf. Please pray with us for our Church, our members, our country and our global community at this time.

Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Love,

Richard.

One of the TV shows that has been causing a stir recently is the Disney+ series called “The Mandalorian”. It’s a spin-off of the Star Wars movies and tells the story of a bounty hunter who becomes personally attached to an asset he is hired to find (enter ‘Baby Yoda’). 

Probably my favourite character in the series is an endearing little guy named Kuiil (voice of Nick Nolte) who helps out the Mandalorian. Whenever the Mandalorian speaks with him and tries to change his mind on some course of action, his regular, discussion-ending response is, ‘I have spoken’. This little phrase seems to carry such authority. It dismisses opposition and firmly asserts that he is unmoving on his position. 

My wife and I have been trying to use this technique with our kids… with mixed results.

The phrase “I have spoken”, or variations of it, are found frequently in scripture. Scripture is full of accounts of God speaking. In creation, God speaks, and everything comes into being. God speaks to individuals like Abraham, Isaac, Joseph and Moses. God speaks to his chosen people through the prophets, and finally God speaks through Jesus who is called the ‘Word of God’. In the opening verses of Hebrews we are reminded that “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son”. 

The whole of Scripture is the inspired account of the fact that we have a personal God who speaks to us. J.I. Packer writes “God’s friendship with men and women begins and grows through speech: His to us in revelation [Scripture], and ours to Him in prayer and praise. Though I cannot see God, He and I can yet be personal friends, because in revelation He talks to me.”

God has spoken. His words carry unsurpassed authority. They are unchanging and steadfast and trustworthy. Jesus says that ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.’ (Mat 24:35). So, if you want to hear from God, the place to start is scripture. God wants to speak to each of us, and the way he does that is through his word. 

God has spoken. He has spoken for our ultimate joy and his ultimate glory. Will you listen to him in 2020?

Click here to see some great resources for Bible Reading.

At our January staff meeting I broke everyone into groups and asked them to come up with a definition of what a successful team looks like. There were some great insights from our staff.

I then shared this definition that I had found: A successful team is one where everyone’s unique skills and strengths help the team achieve a shared goal in the most effective way.

You may have even heard the acronym for team: Together Everyone Achieves More!

The Apostle Paul describes the people of God, the church, as the “body of Christ.” He paints a beautiful picture of us.

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body …If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be … As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour … But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Selected verses from 1 Corinthians 12:12-27

As Rosebank Union Church celebrates 114 years of ministry in our city at the start of 2020, we need to remind ourselves that we are a team on mission working together in and for Christ!

I would like to highlight just a few traits that any healthy body (and team) experiences:

COMMON VISION & VALUES

If the body fights against itself it becomes cancerous. If one leg of your body walks one way and the other leg pulls in a different direction you won’t reach your destination (and it will look really strange!)

I’m told that if two tug boats are pulling a barge even 5% off from each other it will cause considerable damage. Alignment to a common vision is crucial!

Our common vision at RUC is to: Call, equip & send disciples for the glory of God. Everyone who comes into contact with our church is either a potential disciple or a current disciple of Christ.

We all have to own the vision. I know someone who used to work for Nike and it would have been ludicrous for him to wear any other brand of shoe to work – he would have been fired! He had to own and walk the vision himself.

How committed are you to the vision personally? Are you a disciple of Christ? Are you growing? Are you being equipped? Are you inviting? Are you modelling Christ? How are you serving? Are you involved and on board? Is our a church a place where God’s glory is our greatest aim and goal? How you live as an individual directly affects people’s view of Christ and the church. When people knock on my door and “blame the church” it is often because some part of the church is misaligned with Christ.

CONSISTENT COMMUNICATION

Motor neuron disease is tragic to see as it shuts down the muscles. The body loses the ability to communicate; the individual parts become cut off.

In 2020 we are working to continue to make our vision and values crystal clear so we can pull together and be excited about what God has done and still wants to do through us. Consistent communication creates health and life. It minimises conflict and opens the door to learning to listen to others.

James wrote: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

Don’t allow things to fester – deal with conflict. Don’t gossip – speak to the source. Be in community where you can learn to listen and be shaped. No body part can function in isolation from the whole. Most of all we want to be sensitive to God’s Spirit. We want to be quick to obey and respond to the voice of God. May our preaching continue to magnify Christ!

SHARING THE LOAD

What a blessing to have two legs, two arms, two hands, etc. What a blessing to be part of a large church like RUC – part of a body that is bigger than my contribution! So many churches do not have the resources, staff, volunteers, ministry opportunities that we have. What a privilege to share the load and have people to support and collaborate with. What a tragedy to just rock up on a Sunday and leave and not share the load of ministry.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecc 4:9-10)

MUTUAL CARE

We continue to celebrate diversity at RUC. Each part of the body is unique. We all come from different backgrounds and cultures. The body is so diverse in its makeup and functioning. It is a true wonder to behold how a healthy body functions. The gospel should have greater power to unite us than our differences have to divide us!

Paul reminds us in the passage that we should have equal concern for each other: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.”

We need each part and cannot despise any part. God has brought each of us to RUC and Paul tells us that God has arranged the parts of the body as he sees fit.

My deep desire is that in 2020 we would continue to function as His healthy body here in Sandton – that we may bring Christ’s presence and influence to bear upon our city as we work together – unity in diversity.

Go Team RUC!  To God be the Glory!

Photo gallery of our annual Carols by Glowstick event.

At the SGM on Wednesday 13th November, the church members agreed on four important decisions affecting the church for 2020 and beyond:

One of our core values as a church is our involvement in global missions most especially to unreached people groups. Paul writes in Romans that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved, but then questions,

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?”

(Romans 10:14)

The Rosebank Union Church Missions Committee is a team of people who support Jenni Kurten (our Missions Director) in the task of overseeing the missionaries that we send. This team of church members meet each month to assess the health of our missionaries and to help support them on behalf of the church.  

In order to fuel our passion for the need for gospel-centred missionary work in some of the least reached places in our world, the members of the missions committee, together with some of their spouses (and one son), travelled to Turkey with a local pastor.

This pastor had for a number of years served as a missionary in Eastern Turkey before having to leave the country. Turkey has historically been very hostile to any Christian workers with a number of missionaries and Christian workers being martyred in the not too distant past. Turkey is currently predominantly Muslim, with Islam being the state-sponsored religion. Only an estimated 0.2% of the population of about 75 million people profess to be Christian (with only a few thousand people in the whole country being evangelical Christians). 

Despite its proud history of Christianity over the last two thousand years, today Turkey is a distinctly unreached people group. An unreached or least-reached people is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize that people group. So, echoing Paul’s words, how then can they hear and believe unless someone is sent to proclaim the Gospel to them?

As a church this is why we want to prioritise finding creative ways of sending people to share the Gospel in these least-reached places.


Our Experience

Ancient Mosaics in Hagia Sophia

We spent one day in Istanbul exploring some of the incredible historical sites of that burgeoning city (Istanbul is currently the 4th biggest city in the world with over 17 million people). An amazing highlight was visiting the Hagia Sophia – originally a church dating back over 1500 years. Despite the Islamization of the city, it is amazing to see evidence of the pre-existing Christian heritage. 


We then flew to Eastern Turkey, and spent the remainder of our short week in Turkey exploring  some of the towns and places where our guide had worked while he was a missionary. We we able to meet people he had befriended and see and experience some incredible places. 

ishak Pasa Sarayi -Kurdish Palace

We visited Mt Ararat near the city of Dogubeyazit and explored an ancient Kurdish Palace on the Mountains bordering Iran. We walked through the ghost city of Ani on the border with Armenia (sometimes called the valley of 1001 churches). We stayed in the town of Erzurum, which is home to one of the oldest Islamic schools in Turkey. We drove through the Georgian Valleys and experienced the incredible beauty of the landscape and marvelled at the ruins of a 1000 year-old Christian church. We finally visited the town of Trabzon, which is home to the only functioning church on the Black Sea coast of Turkey. We sat in the pew where the previous minister was gunned down while praying by an anti-Christian nationalist. We prayed with the new minister – a Turk born in Tarsis (the same city where the apostle Paul was born). 

Ancient Church in the Georgian Valleys

Again, the historical evidence of Christianity was both amazing but equally disheartening. It is so sad to think that the Christian faith has been all but eradicated when it was once quite prevalent in these regions. 

The words of Jesus seem so relevant when thinking of this beautiful country of Turkey and her sadly unreached people, 

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

(Matthew 9:37-38)


Some Reflections from the team:

Merilyn and I found the trip to be amazing in so many different ways. The opportunity to experience such a different culture, to meet amazing people, and to experience many ancient Christian sites was all such a blessing. I think the thing that left us most impacted though, was how fervently and “religiously” people follow Islam. They work so hard to be good Muslim people, yet their work is in vain – good works can never get you into a relationship with God, and they don’t know this. It really burdened us and made us realize the work that is still to be done. Thank you to everyone for your prayers and the support that got us there and sustained us while we were away.

Brett & Merrilyn France

Turkey was an unbelievable experience – from the vibe in Istanbul in the West, through to the cultural heritage of Erzurum in the East. It’s a unique country with unique and friendly people. What struck me the most was the pervasiveness of Islam which is as much incredible as it is sad. Very few Christians walk the face of this country and most of them are not even Turks. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.

Steyn Bronkhorst (Missions Committee Chairman)

We were very privileged to be led through eastern Turkey by a Pastor who had lived among the Turks and spoke the language fluently. This opened up the country and people to us in ways that wouldn’t have ordinarily been possible. One of the most sobering moments was spent sitting in the pew of a church where the Pastor had been martyred as he was praying in his church. We were able to pray with
his successor who had taken up his post knowing fully the sacrifice of his predecessor and knowing well that he might be called on to do the same one day. We should treasure the freedom of worship we have and never squander it.

Helen Chinyanta

Turkey is a stunning country with amazing people. It was sad that most Turks will never meet a Christian. I’m more motivated than ever to live out my missional purpose for God’s glory. Turkey’s time for revival will come and I’m glad to be part of that story.

Ryan Reddy

I was deeply impacted by how easily the gospel of truth can be eradicated just over a few generations and can be taken over by another religion. Visiting all the historical sights in Turkey, challenged me to stand up unashamedly for the gospel and defend the truth where I live, play and work. The Turkey visit made me realize how privileged I am to live in the land where I can worship the one true God freely. But most importantly I was challenged about taking action towards cementing the gospel truths in the hearts of our children in a very unapologetic way. This challenge has compelled me to take steps in making our family bible study an integral part of our lives, so that the next generation who are our children can be firmly rooted in the truths concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sarah Njamu