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

“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.

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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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PGP 185.5One apartment, two stories. Way back, I had met “Tyrone,” a truly broken soul who has been in and out of jail. Now that he’s back in jail, I’ve heard from him and have gone to pay him a visit. I wasn’t able to take a Bible in, or anything for that matter. So for about an hour I preached the Gospel to him from texts in my head as we sat without privacy in a large, open room with others, seated in our little tête-à-tête. We were one of many, but here was conversation into which the angels desired to look.

Among other things, I spoke of our Lord being about His “Father’s business” from Luke 2. Who was His Father after all? Was it Joseph? No. Joseph had nothing to do with Jesus’ conception. He was formed by the Spirit, coming down upon upon the Virgin. He was formed as the God-man, with two distinct natures in one person. Why was this? The Savior who had come for him, to save Tyrone’s soul, had to stand on both sides of the equation. He had to reconcile. What is reconciliation? Bringing hostile parties together; and in this case, bringing offenders, spiritual criminals, back into a right relation with the offended God. O Lord, make this seed sown to bear forth fruit unto righteousness and praise!

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I’m heading to Grand Rapids to share about my urban evangelistic outreach in the greater Providence, R.I. metro. A meeting for the general public will be held at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary at 7 p.m., this coming Monday, February 17.

For those unfamiliar with the work, the Reformed Parish Mission (RPM) is an outreach effort of the Presbyterian Reformed Church (PRC) of R.I. A major focus of RPM is bringing the Gospel and a confessionally Reformed witness to South Providence through regular, neighborhood visitation, in the conviction that minorities, immigrants, and the less privileged are easily neglected and are often more receptive. This effort aims at the gathering of folks to the regular Lord’s day services of the congregation, their conversion and upbuilding, and the offering of practical and constructive life-help as we are able.

In my slideshow presentation, we’ll be talking about Thomas Chalmers, his parish mission vision and method, and my attempt to operate on these principles in 2020. If you are a confessional Presbyterian or Reformed believer with a passion for advancing the Gospel and live in the Grand Rapids area, please join us! And if you don’t live in the area, but know someone who might be interested, please pass this along.

More about RPM.

RPM Bulletin Insert

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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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