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

A few updates from the parish mission since last time. I’ve had a couple of tag-alongs, even since Anderson’s internship over the summer. First, I was able to take Mason Chase and his wife, Christina, to take a short visit of the S. Providence parish. Mason is a theological student in our Des Moines congregation. Then just this weekend, James Hoffman from our New Jersey church plant, who is also interested in the ministry, stayed with our family.

Yesterday, we headed into Providence, hoping to get an invite inside from a more receptive contact due to the rain. We finally connected with “Henry,” a Liberian contact whom I hadn’t seen for quite some time–though I had stayed in touch with him occasionally by text. James and I learned about some harrowing medical emergences that both he and his wife experienced. Several months back, he took his wife, “Caroline” to the hospital with serious intestinal issues. After more than a day of waiting in the ER without any word, he brought her home, fully expecting that she was on the verge of death. Thankfully, he got her to another hospital, where she was cared for and in time revived.

After catching up, we read God’s Word. I took up the parable in Matthew 20 of the workers hired for the same wage at different hours of the day. From there, I challenged Henry and his wife with the sovereign reality of grace that ‘makes no sense’ to fallen men. “Many are called, but few are chosen.” He seemed to be tracking quite well with it. Sadly, we learned that he has been mixed up with Mormons. I warned him of the pernicious falsehoods of that system and appealed to him to return to church. Please pray that God would work in his heart.

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Last week, I had a Puritan Seminary student join me (Puritan alum, Class of 2005), for some intensive urban outreach in central Rhode Island. Anderson Oliveira, a Brazilian Presbyterian student, had sat in on my Reformed Parish Mission presentation in Grand Rapids last February and expressed interest in interning. So he flew out last Wednesday, and we logged many hours together over several days bringing the Gospel of the Kingdom to my Warwick and especially South Providence parishes. It was a joy to have him tag along and participate.

He started out helping me in the mundane task of printing and folding Gospel leaflets. Not glamorous, but ever-so-necessary. The particular one we used for most of the visits included the prophecy of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. We often used this text as a launchpad – as Phillip of old – to announce to sinners the vicarious Remedy. Each doorstep talk was a doorway to heaven, opened on earth. But alas! Though heaven’s door is set open to sinners, the Spirit of God must move them to take that vital step. And so Anderson and I frequently stopped to plead with the Lord, that He might send forth His irresistible Wind, who blows where He wills.

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I could use some helpers, from near or far. Here’s the situation.

I’ve been doing a series in our second services on “Reformed Biblical Theology” (or Covenant Theology, if you like), tracing the one unfolding plan of God to save His people through Christ. The original purpose – beyond edifying our own folks locally – was to build a distance learning course for Westminster Theological Academy, our denomination’s program to train Liberian pastors and theological students. Since then, opportunities to use it among Spanish speakers have developed, both at home and abroad. A theological academy in Latin America has expressed interest in it, and now I’ve been approached by a Hispanic pastor here in Providence who is trying to get a Bible school off the ground.

Because my Spanish is not yet at the level where I can preach and teach in it, I need to utilize helpers. I’m considering a subscription to a transcription service to render my sermons/lectures into English manuscripts. Before they are translated into Spanish, I just need a volunteer (or more) to listen to the original audio, edit, and perfect the English manuscript. Then, I could a bilingual helper – fluent in English & Spanish – to translate the English manuscript into a Spanish one. We can then take it from there, whether reading and recording into audio, or utilizing for video subtitles.

To give you an idea of what you’d be working with, this sermon/lecture has been transcribed here.

Interested in helping? Drop me a note: mjives dot refparish at gmail dot com. Or, 401-484-8089.

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“For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land” (Song 2:11-12).

As spring draws near, some RPM updates for praise and prayer.

For starters, Covid derailed my regular house-to-house visitation plan in 2020. In its place, I started up a couple of online Bible studies aimed especially at the lost and the unchurched. I recruited a small number of believers both from within and outside the church to form a core, into which I could invite these other warm contacts from the parish and elsewhere. We’ve been studying Genesis and the Pauline epistles. One Muslim woman, “Fatima,” has participated and was very interested to read about places in the Bible nearby her ancestral home! We’ve also had another African friend, “Lionel,” who has participated a good amount and has asked very thoughtful questions.

Sadly, “Leah” has fallen by the wayside. At some point, she dropped from the online Genesis study, and it became hard to reach her. And of course, no church. When we did get through, she said that her job had begun making her work on Sundays. Please pray that God would mightily draw her to Jesus, overcoming all barriers. I hope to stop by in as I resume the door-to-door rotation. Also pray for her live-in boyfriend “Mark,” and their two precious little boys.

After a year of this Covid-hiatus, I am now planning on a foray into my South Providence and Warwick parishes. One of my helpers from another church, “Ronald,” is interested in coming along. Since he is bilingual, speaking Spanish fluently, I anticipate that he’ll be a big help. I plan to get a couple of see-through facemasks just in case anyone is nervous about the spread of the coronavirus, but I’m going to guess that most folks who answer the door won’t care. Do pray for good success as we sow seeds – and pray that we’ll be surprised and find plants growing from previous seasons!

During the winter, I was also able to arrange and host several webinars introducing Thomas Chalmers, the concept of ‘parish mission,’ and my efforts in Rhode Island, the “Reformed Parish Mission.” It really is exciting to share what has excited me over the years. I hope to offer these every once in awhile. If you’re interested, do let me know. If I can cobble together a group of five, I’d be happy to schedule another. And, if you’re a church leader or preparing for the ministry), I’m thinking of trying to start a group that meets virtually 2-3 times per year to do readings in Chalmers, discuss parish theory, and even compare ‘field notes’ as we try to apply these principles where God has uniquely placed us. (e-mail: mjives dot refparish at gmail dot com)

Last, my good friend and fellow-laborer, Pr. Luis Morales, recently closed his small church of eight years. He has helped me several times with Spanish translation in my outreach to South Providence. Please pray for all his dear folks, that all may find spiritual homes and be embraced by new communities of believers. Yet while our hearts go out to them, it is with great joy to report that Pr. Morales and family have decided to worship with us at the PRC of R.I. This dear family is a very welcome addition to our congregation. Pray that the Lord would bless, renew, and use them among us. I am also very hopeful that Pr. Morales and I will be able to partner together more and more, both in the Spanish- and English-speaking spheres of our witness.

Want to learn more about our effort? Would you like to make a donation?

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Would you like to get a basic introduction to Thomas Chalmers’ parish mission theory? And are you up to learning about how I’ve been applying these principles in South Providence, a multi-racial working class area?

I’m offering another live video presentation tomorrow (Saturday), at 1:00 p.m. Eastern lasting about 25-30 minutes, followed by questions and answers. Because I will be showing photos of a number of personal outreach contacts from over the years, I’ll be doing this by invitation-only via Zoom. So if you’d like to be invited and participate, please drop me a note at mjives dot refparish at gmail dot com. Or reply in the comments below with your e-mail address.

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A few updates on the Reformed Parish Mission effort.

Leah. First of all, after some initial baby steps, there’s been some definite faltering. Church attendance has been more checkered (and that’s putting it nicely). She has been, however, a part of a Zoom Bible study I lead, where my wife, Leah, and a couple of other young single ladies join me for lessons in Genesis. She’s very attentive and an eager learner. I’m often struck at how on-point her answers and observations are, given her lower education and troubled past. A sharp cookie! But still, concerned about her spiritual state, as well as that of her fiancé.

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Just preparing for another Reformed Parish Mission (RPM) slideshow presentation, this time at my good friend Rob Ventura’s church, Grace Community Baptist in North Providence, R.I. Many thanks to him and the dear brethren there for allowing me the opportunity to share about the work!

As I’ve had to trim things some to make sure it fits in the allotted time, here is a segment that may be of interest to anyone who wants to learn about how Thomas Chalmers proposed for ‘general,’ non-local congregations gradually to transition to the parochial plan. I made this rough-cut video of the segment – maybe someday I’ll update with a cleaner version. For now, ‘What I have recorded I have recorded.’

Also, if you think your church or group would like to host an RPM presentation (30 minutes plus Q&A) drop me a note! I’ve also done it remotely by Zoom, so that is an option too.

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So, an update on “Leah.” Once COVID-19 hit and our services went online for a couple of months, connections with Leah became brittle. We had been helping her find a job, and she did get one. But during that period where we were no longer picking her up for church every week and visiting face to face, she and her live-in fiance “Matthew” hit a rough patch, and he left. Another fellow soon came in his place. Very sad indeed. Leah truly was a ‘Samaritan woman,’ in desperate need of the True Man to set things right.

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IMG_9458So a young lady, “Leah,” has come within our church’s orbit from our S. Providence outreach. Her story is shared here and here.

Leah doesn’t have a credible profession of faith, though she considers herself a Christian. In many ways, she is as the Ninevites of old, who did not know their “left hand from their right” in spiritual matters. But she has been encouraging in many ways. Since November, she has been faithfully coming to church with her precious little baby boy and eagerly participating in a Bible study. So far, we’ve tackled the first fourteen chapters of Genesis.

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المدرسة_المستنصرية_في_بغداد_(3)Some time back, my fellow elder and I met “Fatima” in my parish. Since then, I have had multiple opportunities to visit her with my wife and family, have her over to our house, and once she has come to church. As an Iraqi refugee, she’s experienced hardship; and things have not always been easy adjusting as a “stranger in a strange land.”  She is a very sweet, special lady, who is hungry for friendship. And our hope is that she will find that greatest of all friends, the Friend who laid down His life for His friends.

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