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Archive for the ‘Reformed Parish Mission (RPM) Posts’ Category

IMG_3797Yesterday I finished the last round through my parishes for the season. As the air gets chillier, my hands and ears get colder, so doorstep conversations turn less pleasant for all involved. For the winter, I turn to revisit folks who will likely have me in, reach out to other contacts outside the district, and resume and start up one-on-one Bible studies.

A few highlights from the last couple of outings. In my Warwick parish, I returned to a house where last year where I had a very interesting, long talk.  But it wasn’t ‘John.’ Instead, ‘Jake’ answered the door with his 10 year old daughter, ‘Emily.’ I asked about John and found out that he had moved and was renting the place out to them. But clearly they were friends and had been cut out of the same cultural cloth. Jake was a skeptic, a self-styled pagan. Since I had recently finished a book that addressed the case for the resurrection, I made a brief case for it as well as the reliability of the NT. What a privilege it is to communicate the witness of those who witnessed glory. “We have not followed cunningly devised fables.” Emily was pretty precocious. Clearly, she had been religiously catechized. A rather outspoken atheist, Emily was a believer in ‘science.’ Heartbreaking. O Jesus, make them as Saul of Tarsus. Arrest them by your grace! (more…)

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Music courtesy of Ernst Stolz, “Psalm 72 Genevan Psalter – setting by Claude Goudimel – viols & organ.” All images not my own are from the public domain (attributions here).

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IMG_4754Last year we held our first evangelistic outreach meeting within walking distance of my S. Providence parish, right on Broad Street in Providence. Last Saturday evening we had our second. As before, we recruited Pr. Luis Morales to translate for me. We sang Psalm 1 in Spanish and English, and we read and preached from Matthew 21:1-11 on the Triumphal Entry.

In addition to many of our own folks, as well as the Morales family, several African contacts in the parish and the larger community came out. These are all professing Christians, but definitely not Reformed. While evangelism is my top concern, close behind is the pressing need to raise the profile of biblical, Reformational theology and worship within urban evangelicalism. Please pray that God may own these efforts as well.

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IMG_4156“I will come by you into Spain.” (Rom. 15:28)

Ever since I turned my sights to South Providence, there was no looking back. While conversions have been slow in coming (O come, Holy Spirit!), yet there has been a striking openness, especially among the Hispanic community there. I have been invited into the homes of many families and sweet, little old ladies, proclaiming the timeless truth of Jesus with my rather flawed, Gringo-Spanish. I have many an open door to read Scripture, expound, exhort, and pray. And of course, I’m keen to introduce the richness of the Reformed faith where there is quite a range of sub-par ‘Christianities.’

The struggle, of course, has been that our regular services have only been in English. With our slender resources, we’ve done various things to bridge the gap. We’ve had special midweek meetings with translation. And we’ve attempted on and off to have our services translated into Spanish. But because I can’t predict when someone will take up the offer to worship with us, it has really put a damper on that project.

Well, in recent weeks, things have changed. One Hispanic family – we’ll give them the surname here, “Ortega” – has started coming. Last Lord’s day was the second time in three weeks, and they seem rather interested. A brother in our church and I had met them doing door to door a couple of years back, and they were quite receptive. Finally, something clicked. They came to our uber-Presbyterian, psalm-singing, KJV-reading church … and they weren’t scared away. They seem to track with and appreciate the preaching. It is a young unmarried couple with a little boy and a grandmother. The couple is evidently unconverted, whatever their opinions of their state might be. The grandmother seems to be a devout Bible reader, judging from her very used copy.

The couple is bilingual, but the grandmother is not. So we’re working on some kind of translation of my sermons, which is not straightforward. If you are bilingual, Reformed, and willing to help from a distance, please drop us a note!

And please keep these folks in prayer. They could easily lose interest and drift away. I’m quite prepared for that, as I’ve seen in my day many promising starts fizzling out. Please pray ultimately for a regenerating baptism of the Spirit of God, clothing the Word with power.

We were also struck that a Liberian sister who joined our church from the outreach saw the young lady and realized that they were good friends from high school. Perhaps I shouldn’t read too much into that. But a coincidence? I think not.

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In this video, I share about my efforts to evangelize and promote the Reformed faith in Rhode Island and especially in a multi-ethnic, working class area of Providence (read more here). At the end, I make an appeal for help.

I can be reached at 515-783-5637 or by e-mail at mjives dot refparish at gmail dot com.

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When I came to Rhode Island almost fourteen years ago, I inherited a small congregation, mostly of first generation Reformed folk. Because the core of them had become Reformed in the late 70s and early 80s, and because of the sound, faithful teaching of their minister, the congregation was solid and well-established. When I arrived, I was eager to evangelize and had been swayed by Thomas Chalmers’ (1780-1847) to attempt outreach on the parish principle. But there really was no residential neighborhood to speak of near the church building, and all of our folks traveled at least 15 or more minutes from various points of the state. While it certainly has accommodated our members, it has put me at some disadvantage to implement my parish vision. But there is no paradise this side of glory, so I do not complain. My attitude has been to work with what I’ve been given and trust the Lord to bless in His way and His time.

I began with a district in walking distance of my residence in Cranston, Rhode Island and approximately a 15-20 minute drive north of the church. When we moved to a different rental, I began working in that area. There, I had some greater success in making decent contacts. One lady came to church for a short time; and we rented a hall right in the neighborhood a few times with some small success. (more…)

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broken_glassA brother and I were making our way through a street in our district some years back. We came up to a black fellow in his 30’s as he was standing outside his apartment complex. We struck up a conversation and spoke to him about God, the soul, and the judgment to come. Out of nowhere – or so it seemed to us – this fellow broke down and wept. He confessed a deep sense of his sin, especially his sinful and violent anger. It was very touching and a more hopeful sign that God was not done with this sinner and was striving with him by His Spirit then and there.

He was soon in church, under the preaching of the Word, law and Gospel. He came with his girlfriend (something of a common law wife?) and two special children. Around that time, our family visited them in their apartment. We opened God’s Word, spoke with them about the “one thing needful,” and prayed with them. I came back frequently, as their door was always open.

“Charlene” was very engaged, hopeful that we could be of help to “Tyrone.” She explained that he would be gentle as a lamb when sober and was a very hard worker. But when he drank, the storm broke loose. He could be abusive and had been in and out of jail. It became clear to me that Tyrone had had a very troubled childhood and tried to drown his painful memories in drink. During this time, he was holding down a construction job and seemed to manage well enough. But eventually the wheels came off. Charlene had to call the police on him in one drunken outburst, and he ran. He was caught and thrown in jail.

Eventually, Charlene had enough. She left with the children and went to New York. Tyrone drifted along. Occasionally I’d reach out to him, or he’d call me. Thankfully his number never dropped, or I might have lost him for good. I learned that he found another girlfriend and began living with her. She called me one day a few months ago to tell me that he was in jail again, so I went and visited him. I spoke frankly with him about his soul and His need to get right with God through Christ.

This last Saturday, he was released. I went to visit and pray with him that night, then took him to church in the morning. I decided to break with my series in Exodus that Lord’s day to deliver a message that would be clearer for him, so I preached on the Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price. O that the Father would savingly draw this poor prodigal to His Son and begin to heal all the brokenness that sin and Satan have wrought!

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