News and Articles
10 May 2014
Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. (Psalm 127:1)
Last night was our half night of prayer for the Refresh project – and what a great night it was. I don’t remember seeing so many people at a prayer gathering in Above Bar Church.
John reminded us at the start what an important gathering it was. The biggest battle, he said, is always is the battle for our hearts. We can plan and design and strategise and build and give all we like, but the Lord wants his people to be devoted to him above everything else, and to trust him above everything else.
During the evening, we considered some of the psalms of ascents (Psalms 121 – 134) as a stimulus for our prayers. They reminded us of some important things:
Psalm 121 reminds us that our help comes from ‘the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth’, and that he cares wonderfully for his people.
Psalm 126 reminds us that ‘those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy’ – there may be some tough times of sacrificial giving and hard work before the joy of seeing what the Lord has done.
Psalm 127 reminds us that ‘unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain’ – if the Lord isn’t at the centre of this project, we are wasting our time, energy, and money.
Psalms 130 and 131 remind us to put our trust entirely in God. It’s all too easy in a large church like Above Bar to put our confidence in our resources, including people with very significant expertise (for whom we are deeply grateful, of course).
May I never lose the wonder . . .
At the same time as many of us were meeting in the church building, the Cobden Bridge missional community was also meeting. Gregg Ramirez writes:
As we gathered for an evening of prayer and tapas in the Old Chemist Shop at Bitterne Triangle (the CAP centre in the east of the city, incidentally), we knew the dynamic of the evening would be impacted by the tragic news of bereavement in one of the families of our Cobden Bridge community.
But God just uses every facet of life in such amazing ways that I am mystified at times by the wonder of it all.
The power of prayer as we lifted that family to God was almost tangible. And it set the tone for the evening as we continued to cry out to God in thanks for his grace and mercy to us as a missional community, and with an openness as to how God wants to refresh the way he uses us in the part of the city where he has placed us.
The Refresh project seemed to have a greater focus for each of us as we prayed through the vast scope of opportunity that God’s new vision and step change for his church at ABC gives us to continue sharing the good news in word and deed.
Tomorrow is our gift day, when we will be particularly seeking God for the financial resources we need, but the half night of prayer was about seeking him for the spiritual resources we need. We need to keep doing so right through the Refresh project and beyond – just as God’s people have been doing on the corner of Above Bar Street and Ogle Road for generations.
We have reached the point of needing to refurbish the building as a direct result of what God has been doing here for nearly 140 years (see the church history page for more on this). In 1876, American missionary Henry Earl started a church in the Philharmonic Rooms (on the site of Waterstones and Barclays next door to Above Bar Church) with 33 people. Just 10 years later they built a large church building that lasted until 1979, when it was demolished to make way for the current building, which opened in 1982.
Those previous generations also had a vision for God reaching people in the centre of Southampton. They looked to God to provide buildings to fit their vision – buildings in which they could worship together and preach the good news of Jesus Christ to a city which desperately needs him. As we seek to do the same in our own day, let’s give generously tomorrow and continue to put our trust wholly in him as we pursue the vision he has given us.
our Gift Day tomorrow – that God would move us to give generously towards the vision he has given us
that the Lord would provide all that we need – both for increased regular giving and for the building refurbishment
that in all our giving, planning and ongoing activity as a church, the Lord Jesus Christ would be at the centre of everything, and that we would trust him for everything
Backing the vision
As someone who has seemingly made a career in ministry out of church building projects, I am delighted that the church which first taught me the elements of Christian ministry as a member of staff, has decided to refresh its bricks and mortar! This is much more than a cosmetic make over. Proper care of our buildings is wise stewardship. But more importantly, given the exciting future plans for ABC, this is part of a strategic missional vision to engage more effectively with the community. That’s a vision for which it is worth praying and giving.
Peter Baker, Senior Minister, Lansdowne Baptist Church, Bournemouth, and former assistant minister at Above Bar Church