I don’t know about you, but I often wonder how current world events and even my actions and decisions will affect the generations and world of the future. Some refer to this as the butterfly effect, a seemingly meaningless event (like the flap of a butterfly’s wings) having enormous subsequent effects. Where should I go for lunch? Should I take this job? Should I move there? Should I marry her? Should we have a child? While the butterfly effect is only a theory, we do know that God sovereignly ordains every event (minuscule and massive) in history and has an intricate plan and chain of events that He is unfolding (Ps. 139:16; Prov. 16:33, Acts 4:27-28). Outside of God’s revelation in His Word we cannot know the specifics of the future, let alone how our actions will affect the future. But we can rest in the comfort that we have a God who knows all things (Ps. 139:1-6), is in control of all things (Eph. 1:11), and knows the beginning from the end (Is. 46:10).
Rewind about 1,000 years: in the green hills of Devon in Southwest England someone decided to build a small, stone, hump-back bridge across the river Erme. This became the only crossing point of the river for travelers between the cities of Exeter and Plymouth for at least 800 years. The builders of this bridge were meeting an immediate need—a safe path across the river, however, God’s divine agenda was at work.
After the bridge was built settlers came, an inn was built opposite the bridge, and as the centuries have passed this once empty part of England is now the home of approximately 12,000 people. From it’s earliest days the town has been know as Ivybridge, named on account of the Ivy that grew up over the bridge (full marks for creativity).
Fast-forward to 1987, now with about 7,000 residents, Ivybridge became the home of a fully funded, recently married, seminary graduate, missionary who planted a Christ proclaiming church in the town. A couple of years later my parents chose to move to Ivybridge because my dad’s work was moving away from expensive London to the South-West.
Though I never had any church upbringing or Christian influence, in the late 90’s the Lord connected me with this church plant (Ivybridge Baptist Church), where, as a teen, I heard the gospel for the first time, was saved, and baptised. I attended the church for the first 10 years of my Christian life, and have remained connected with the Church even while we have lived in America.
My wife Claire and I met at a Bible school in New York in ‘05. After our marriage in ’07 we lived together in England serving the Lord in local church ministry with young people. The Lord led us to Faith Bible Church in 2010 to pursue ministry training, and come under the leadership of the elder team. Through our equipping the Lord has given me particular interest in preaching, teaching, and ministry among men; my wife is a great discipler of women, loves families and hospitality. Now our time in America is drawing to a close— the Lord has opened up the opportunity for us (plus our 5 kids!) to return to where it all started for me, Ivybridge Baptist Church.
No main industry exists in Ivybridge today. The town is mainly houses with one main high-street in the centre of town with individual butcher, and fruit and veg type family businesses. The racial demographic is 99% Anglo-Saxon Brit’s, with immigration not significantly affecting the town. There is a broad age demographic with the average age being in the mid 40’s. Ivybridge is an expensive place to live as it has become a commuter town in the last couple of decades. People live there with their families but work somewhere else. There are 6 schools in the town including one community college (ages 11-18) which has over 2000 students.
Plymouth is the closest major city with a population of approximately 235,000. Plymouth is a sea-port city and home of the largest naval base (Devonport) in Western Europe. It is 9 miles from Ivybridge, and accessible by train or car in 15 minutes. The University of Plymouth has 23,000 students, 5% of whom come from countries outside of the United Kingdom.
After a visit to Ivybridge with Walt and Pam Takisaki last summer, I accepted the invitation of Ivybridge Baptist Church to be their Associate Pastor in Spring 2018. This is thrilling for my wife and I, we have a deep-seated devotion for the people of England stemming from our previous years of ministry and my upbringing there. There is a huge need for Spirit-empowered transformation! My responsibilities will include shepherding the younger families already attending the church, preaching and teaching, I desire to minister to the men, encouraging them toward Biblical manhood, with long-term dreams of training men for pastoral ministry. After a couple of years working alongside the current Pastor he plans on semi-retiring and moving up country.
Ivybridge Baptist Church, where Ian Rush will soon be associate pastor.
In a recent census, 7,800 of the 12,000-population claimed to be Christian. Between the 4 churches in the town it would be generous to say that there are a combined 200 attendees. This begs the question, where are the other 7,600 Christians attending church? A common problem in England is that people assume that their nationality determines their religion. There is much work to be done!
The church is largely made up of retirees with only 2 families with at-home-children. Claire is excited at the potential of connecting with unchurched mums at a weekly group for toddlers. This could become the foundation of something similar to MomLife at FBC. Please pray for us as we seek the most efficient way to reach the lost in Ivybridge, pray that we and the church would have hearts for these people who are in desperate need of the Saviour.
Another difficulty in Ivybridge is that people do not have any interest in speaking about Spiritual things, they won’t even argue with you! Most families are comfortable, usually both parents work, they make a good amount of money, the kids go to good schools. Please pray that the Lord would make their need for the Saviour known to them
In the last decade at least 5 couples have started attending Ivybridge Baptist Church because they are unable to find a theologically solid, Bible-preaching church in Plymouth, a city of almost a quarter of a million. This presents a potential future opportunity of planting a church. Please pray that we would be wise as we consider this and seek the Lord’s will.
We are excitedly expectant of what the Lord might do through our family as we serve Him in Ivybridge. As I look back on the Lord’s sovereign work in the past, it is amazing to consider myself as a part of that ongoing chain of events in the present. Please pray that He would use us in this generation to positively shape the future of this region, country, and even the globe for His glory. Thank you, FBC, for your ongoing service and leadership in our lives.
In this sermon we hear from Proverbs 31 about four enduring qualities of a woman who fears the Lord: Industry, Economy, Dignity, Exemplary. This passage has some surprises and a unique structure. Introduction ...