Sunday, 21 November 2010

Time to pray and a time to plan

I managed a rare night away the other day

With the other church leaders we went to Shallowford House, a diocesan retreat centre,not far from Stafford, which I had first visited on the Fresh Expressions course. It makes an excellent venue because it is in a beautiful location,serves excellent food,has comfortable meeting rooms,and even its own bar.It must be said though that the main railway line is rather close to the house.

The purpose of the 24 hours we spent together can be summed up in 2 words Praying and Planning

It was good therefore , away from the demands of busy lives, to have the opportunity to talk about the joys and the challenges we face,and to be prayed for individually.It was good too, to share communion together and to experience Gods presence .There appeared, to me at least, to be an authentic hunger to know God better alongside an acknowledgment of our own weakness.

I wont go into great detail here about decisions we made, but we certainly recognised that 2011 is a vital year for our church.

The new town centre building is being built, and meanwhile we have the chance to lay solid spiritual foundations for our new church.

Among other things this means

We need to deepen our prayer life

We need to be prepared to be not just believers but disciples.

We want to put down deep roots in to the two communities we feel God has given us a particular responsibility for.

We are all totally determined to put mission at the centre of all that we do as a church

There is no doubt these will be big challenges but we feel they are not so much our priorities but Gods

We can so easily be distracted from keeping the main thing the main thing but we have not merged two churches and founded a new church in order to empire build, and we are not building a new church building to make ourselves more comfortable

This must be about building the Kingdom of God

We were very tired when we left Shallowford on Saturday afternoon but we sensed Gods leading,and aware aware of just how much work there is to be done, but also very hopeful for the future and determined to lay strong foundations.

These are challenging days for churches but also days of great opportunity

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Radio Shropshire Pause for thought Remembrance Sunday

Picture painted by Harriet Davis with a little help -from Trust website

I turned the key in the lock and opened the large wooden door which led into a bright and spacious hallway

Stepping inside my eyes were drawn to a photo, hanging on the wall, in an ornate gold coloured frame, in the the photo a happy young girl smiling; not just with her mouth or her eyes but with her whole face.

I had never seen a picture of her before, and there was no writing to identify the smiling girl but I knew her name was Harriet.

Turning away from the from the photo I saw firstly, a large lift with a glass door straight ahead, and then looking left down a long corridor with white walls I could see another wide doorway and through the glass in the door I could see a swimming pool

Exploring the house revealed not just wonderful views of the Pembrokeshire coastline and the autumn sun shining on the rough sea, but other more prosaic things, special baths and toilet seats and hoists and adapted beds -all things that are too familiar to those who inhabit or indeed knows someone who inhabits a world full of disability aids
And the smiling girl in the photograph is Harriet Davis. The trust we rented the property from bears her name

A leaflet lifted from a small wooden table tells us that Harriet had a rare degenerative disease , which meant she lost most of her motor abilities but that seaside holidays were a source of great joy to her until her death in 1992 at the age of just 11.

Inspired by Harriet’s memory her mum and dad founded the trust so that other disabled children could enjoy holidays too in this wonderfully adapted house

Memory can be totally inspirational!

Today is Remembrance Sunday a day when in small chapels and large churches and at war memorials throughout Shropshire and the United Kingdom these familiar words from Laurence Binyons poem for the fallen will be said as they are every year

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
we will remember them."
The British Legion do a phenomenal job They certainly remember and keep alive the memory of brave men and women who in conflicts as far apart as Belgium and the Falkland’s ,Burma and Afghanistan died in the service of their country
But they don’t just remember the memory spurs them to act to raise money to care for the survivors in a whole host of different ways from pensions advice to building centres where wounded service personnel can be rehabilitated to live lives to the full.

Like Harriet’s parents -the painful memory of the past inspires a future dream
What do you do with your painful memories?- do they fester deep inside or do you allow them to motivate you to build a better world- to inspire future dreams

At the heart of the Christian faith is a painful memory of a crucified man on a cross
Christians think about the cross often
Christians believe in the words of the old hymn that Jesus died "that we might be forgiven" and the memory of that death and the resurrection that follows should energise & inspire us to live for him- to love as He loved and serve as He served

Thursday, 11 November 2010

John Ortberg- The Life you have always wanted

Over the past 27 years I have been in loads of small groups.It would not be true to say I have enjoyed all of them ,(though I am sure I have learned something in all of them) but it is true that I have enjoyed most of them
There is something about being together to study and to pray and to learn.

Our current group has been together two years or so now and I think we have built a really good community, united by our common faith in Christ and our desire to be disciples.

At the moment we are working our way through John Ortberg's The life you have always wanted which has provoked some good ,honest discussion
Last night we thought about the need for solitude and talked about how hard( but how necessary) it is for busy people who rush from one thing to another, to make the time to pray and to read, reflect and learn from Gods word. Though this is essential if we are to grow spiritually

I cant speak for anyone else because (ironically!)I had to rush to another meeting at the end but despite that, I at least got a lot from the evening, though the challenge remains to live it out!

I do think there is another step we need to make as church (and as a small group) however and that is for our small groups to become more missional.

Discipleship is more than Christian relationships and knowing our bibles better, though ,of course, those 2 things are essential . A third ingredient is also needed action. We need to learn to live on mission.

This is the first shift that Reggie McNeal talks about in his book Missional Renaissance .We have to learn to shift from an internal to an external focus and small groups must be part of that shift,if The Kingdom is to grow and people are to come to faith.

I am not yet completely sure how to get there from here but its a journey I believe we must make.

Global Connections | Home | What is an Intentionally Missional Church?

Global Connections | Home | What is an Intentionally Missional Church?

Found this a useful article for those asking the question What is a missional church?

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

X Factor,secret millionaire

I am not keen on X Factor though I will admit to having watched Strictly Come Dancing, strictly in the interests of research, and mainly to enjoy Anne Widecombes effort -Though I am unsure that effort is the right word to use.

One piece of weekend TV, I do look forward to seeing is The Secret Millionaire on C4 on Sunday nights
It is certainly true its pretty formulaic.

A rich person turns up, secretly observes community initiatives, hands over thousand of pounds of his or her own money to worthy causes, loads of tears, and goodbye.

As a programme it has its faults, for example, it stretches credulity that sometimes the recipients of the cash have not clocked what is going on long before the cheque is handed out at the end.

The Secret Millionaire has also been criticised for being patronising and even demeaning to the recipients, who are filmed receiving charity . In truth though none of them ever seem to mind.In fact judging by the hugs and tears they are usually overwhelmed with joy.

To my mind it makes for gripping television, but there are 2 things in particular I love about this programme.

One is the chance to see the work of some completely unsung community heroes who seem to devote their whole lives to loving and serving others; whether it be a woman pouring her time,money, energy into helping parents of disabled children, or a guy in Nottingham who has single handedly -until the millionaire turned up- set up a large project to discourage children from carrying knives on the street,or the people who have set up a home near the sea so that terminally ill children can have a holiday.

Some of these people are Christians, some are not, but they are doing some amazing work.They also provide loads of great examples that churches who want to bless their local communities could follow, if they wanted.

The other wonderful thing the programme does is to prove the truth of Jesus words
It is more blessed to give than to receive

The people that are really changed by the experience are not the recipients but the donor millionaires- they appear to learn something of the value of community and the importance of deep relationships.In some cases they appear to have been completely changed

I am yet to be persuaded that X factor ever did that for anybody

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Blessing people

Our regular admin meeting was coming to an end and the conversation drifted from dates and publicity to people.We began to chat about some of the people we knew and the seemingly impossible situations they face. The single mum with a child with special needs who gets no respite care ,the parent getting beaten up by their own child, the man deeply grieving the loss of a wife and left to bring up children on his own.In one short conversation we identified so much pain in people we had met just in the previous 24 hours
Later that day I came across this video put together by Christian Associates

Every Life Has a Story from Christian Associates on Vimeo.

The conversation and the video are a powerful reminder that many people have very tough lives indeed. God loves these people every bit as much as He loves us and I long for our church to be a blessing to the communities which we are called to serve
Reggie McNeal in his book Missional Renaissance says
The missional church is an expression of God’s heart. God is a sending God. His mission began with Israel, which was to be a blessing to the nations. It reached its climax in Jesus, who came to die for the world. The Spirit is sent to empower the Church to be God’s witness to the world....The Bible is narrative, a guide for living and a call to action. People of God are charged with the responsibility to bless everyone

The church is of huge importance to God but looking back over many years of ministry I sometimes think I have spent too much time doing church and not enough encouraging the church to bless the world and show Jesus love to hurting people like the ones we chatted about this morning. In the words of an old song I sung in youth groups long ago ,which itself quotes Mathews gospel. Freely freely you have recieved freely freely give

Monday, 1 November 2010

A time to tear down and a time to build up.

Christians have been praying and thinking about the redevelopment of the former Claremont Baptist Church site for around 50 years.For various reasons it has not happened though huge energy has been expended,plans have been carefully made,a lot of money faithfully raised but despite all this redevelopment has remained a hope,an aspiration and a dream .......until now!
Demolition has begun at last ,rebuilding will follow that and hopefully within 14 or 15 months there will be a new building on the site. A building to suit Gods purposes.

Timing is everything and I strongly believe this is Gods time for this development to happen

Over the last few years Claremont and Crowmoor Baptist churches have merged to form a new church Shrewsbury Baptist Church .A new church,with a new culture but whose purpose is mission

At the time of the merger Tim ,one of our leaders, produced this video which tells you something of what the new church is all about

So this morning we met at the town centre site to pray and commit ourselves, the builders, our mission,and the new building that will emerge to God.

We reminded ourselves that God does not live in buildings made by human hands ,that we are not building a church ( God does that!) but a building- but it is a building that we believe will help us, and hopefully other Christians, minister to the town centre ,the people who visit it, and live in it, for many years to come.

Though some of those who gathered felt a tinge of sadness that a building that held some great memories ,was being demolished the overwhelming feelings were ones of Thankfulness, Joy and Hope!
Thankfulness that the prayers of generations were being answered.
Joy at seeing God work.
Hope that the future with God can be even more exciting than the past.
No doubt there will be struggles and frustrations ahead but it was good to be together today to stop, to reflect, to give thanks, and to recommit ourselves and our new church to a great God

May we truly be a people for His Glory and who love God and our neighbours as Jesus commands us to do