Sunday, 30 November 2008

Getting Connected

This weekend saw us host yet another ‘Getting Connected’ event at Kings. Basically this is an event for those who enjoy coming to Kings and are now thinking of moving on to get involved and become part of the church family. I just love these weekends because it gives me yet another chance to get excited about God’s great plans for the church! Basically I paint a picture of what I believe the Bible teaches about the local church, what it should look like, how it is God’s instrument in the world, and how vital it is for every Christian to take that step & find their place.
You see, the church really matters – and so does the connection and contribution of every individual Christian. Why? Because it’s God’s Plan A – and there’s no Plan B!
Michael Eaton puts it like this: ’The Kingdom – the royal activity of God uses the church as it’s channel of influence out into the world… it means that God’s way of reaching people & extending the Kingdom’s influence is through using the church… the life of God becomes visible in us.’

This weekend has also been dominated by the awful scenes of sheer terror in Mumbai. As I write, just short of 200 people have died in the atrocities and a whole city terrorised. And that’s not the only story in the news lately that make one deeply concerned about the state of our world. Whether it’s violence in a major city that fills our TV screens, or domestic violence hidden away behind closed doors, it acts as a stark reminder that the human condition is very sick indeed and is in need of the transformation that only Jesus can bring about in the human heart. And it is the church that has been entrusted with this Gospel, to speak it & live it.

That’s why it is so important the church, your local church and mine, functions the way God planned it to, with everyone playing their rightful part. In his excellent book Courageous Leadership, Bill Hybels writes: There is nothing like the local church when it’s working right. Its beauty is indescribable. Its power breathtaking. Its potential unlimited. It comforts the grieving and heals the broken in the context of community. It builds bridges to seekers and offers truth to the confused. It provides resources for those in need and opens its arms to the forgotten, the downtrodden, the disillusioned. It breaks the chains of addictions, frees the oppressed, and offers belonging to the marginalized of this world. Whatever the capacity for human suffering, the church has a greater capacity for healing and wholeness.

This is what we have been called to give our lives to – and it is so worth it! So go on; Get Connected!



Monday, 24 November 2008

Preaching to the heart...

I had the privilege of hearing Tim Keller this week. He was at Oak Hill Theological College speaking on the subject ‘Preaching to the Heart’, and it was well worth the journey to hear him. Tim Keller moved to New York in the late 1980’s to plant a new church for a largely non-churchgoing population. Today, Redeemer Church has grown to over 5,000 and has spawned more than a dozen other congregations. Tim Keller obviously knows something about communicating with our generation and preaching to the heart – which leads me back to what he said this week.

Basically his point was that the whole of the Bible is applicable to our lives, and in fact, unless you know how a text is to be used in your life, then you don't understand it yet. He went on to say that the Bible is basically an invitation from our covenant (promise making & keeping) God, inviting us to a life with Him. Wow – no more dry, theoretical sermons please!
A day or two later I picked up a copy of Mark Driscoll’s new book, ‘Death By Love’ which is an extraordinary collection of very real (and mainly painful) life situations that Mark has helped people through by showing them how the Gospel, what Jesus has done for us, is very applicable and totally sufficient for every situation we may face.
Written with Mark’s usual directness and wit, this is a very helpful and compelling book for anyone who ever struggled with the issues of pain and suffering, and how to resolve the difficult stuff of life as a Christian. Buy it! It will be in the King’s Book Shop at around £10. I leave you with quotes from a couple of the stories:

Hank, Jesus knew you were going to end up in the mess you are in. While hanging on the cross, Jesus prayed that your debt of sin would be forgiven, and then Jesus answered his own prayer by dying in your place for your sin……

Mary, Jesus is the only way out of the mess that is your life and marriage. Jesus relates to the disgrace, shame, and defilement that you have suffered. Jesus was betrayed by someone he loved and considered a friend…..


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Sunday, 16 November 2008

Let's be Frank

Last Tuesday evening was scary! It was billed as a men’s evening when, over a meal together, we would dare to be very frank about things that men only usually think about. Around 100 guys came along, maybe because we had made it clear that we would be frank about .. you guessed, sex. And us church leaders were going to lead the way, with the lead guy going first – yup, that’s me! Now you know why it was scary! You see, us men just aren’t used to talking about the private world of our feelings, fantasies & failings. We’d rather go fix something practical like a burst tyre before trying to fix some of those private things inside. We’re hunters, fighters, sorters – we’d rather do things than talk about them!

A couple of evenings later we had a ‘Grill the Elders’ evening when once again, us leaders would be put on the spot and asked questions – a piece of cake after Tuesday evening! Anyway, one of the questions I got was: ‘How come there’s so few men in the church?’ Well I kind of answered it, but it’s been on my mind ever since.
I have a book in front of me that has the title: ‘Why Men Hate Going to Church’, by David Murrow, and he makes some interesting points, mainly along the line of how men & women are different, and how a lot of the things we do in the church setting are, how can I put this.., easier for women to connect with. For instance, us men might not mind singing along with a few thousand others at a football match, but in someone’s front room at Home Group???? Ouch! That may be OK for Ned Flanders but not for a lot of men. Lee Strobel admits having had this fear: ‘I’d think to myself, “Boy, I never want to end up like that.” In other words, If Christianity requires a person to become a social misfit who has no social life, count me out. I saw Christians as being boring, out of touch and living a plain vanilla lifestyle that’s devoid of excitement, challenge, or fun.’

So what about the heroes of faith in the Bible – David, Sampson, Joshua, Daniel, the disciples, Paul etc? You can’t say they were wimps; they were warriors, men of courage & daring, endured beatings & prison and often laid down their lives.
So a belated answer to the question at ‘Grill the Elders’ as to why there are so few men in the church, is probably that churches have all too often lost sight of the compelling mission that arrested and energised Christ followers in the New Testament. Or if they haven’t totally lost that vision, they have just spiritualised it into words and pictures instead of doing the stuff and getting practical, applying this Gospel calling into every-day-living.

Toward the end of the week I attended a meeting with a number of Newfrontier’s leaders from across the UK at which Dave Stroud spoke on the subject ‘Changing Society’. He reminded us of men like William Wilberforce, William Booth, John Cadbury – Christian men whose devotion to Christ and His Cause was very practical and showed itself in actions that changed society.
I am challenged to make sure that I put before the men (and the women!) at Kings, a vision of Christ and His Cause that will grab their attention, and energise their abilities & giftings, making sure that there is every opportunity to be practical and take action & responsibility to make a manly difference!



Monday, 10 November 2008

Keeping in step

A number of people picked up on an illustration I used whilst preaching yesterday – rowing. No, not the recreational round the lake type, the real thing that we did rather well at the Beijing Olympics. Several years ago (more than I care to remember) I used to row, and I have a good selection of pewter tankards to prove it. That’s what you get presented with when you win a regatta, and of course, they have to be tried out!

Anyway, back to yesterday’s preaching. The context was Acts chapter 4 where I was exploring the attributes of authentic church life from the very exciting dynamic of those first Christians, and one of my points was that they were A Community of Friends. I must say that I do love this attribute of New Testament Christianity that comes across so clearly in the book of Acts, where we see believers opening their homes, their lives, their resources to one another. Anyway, I then spoke about the way the church, the Body of Christ works, and said: it’s no good being powerful if you can’t keep in step. This is where I used the illustration from rowing, that a number of people commented on.
You see, when rowing, it is absolutely vital that you all move together, that you all slide forward on those sliding seats at the same time, and that you all make your contribution, pulling your oar through the water at the same time, being very mindful of everyone else, keeping in step with them. Otherwise, not only will the effect of your contribution be lessened, it can actually frustrate and work against everyone around you, injuries happen and the boat quickly grinds to a halt. I hardly need to draw out the parallel with church life.

The point is that Jesus, now risen and ascended, gives gifts to his church, to build up the Body, not to individuals to build up their egos. (Ephesians ch4) How often do we hear of highly gifted people getting into trouble and causing pain to those around them because they failed to keep in harmony and submit their giftedness to those around them?
How special to hear the great apostle Paul say that although he found a great door of opportunity open to him at Troas, because his dear brother Titus wasn’t there, he didn’t feel able to continue, and moved on. (2Corinthians 2v12).
I for one, am delighted that this is the way Jesus intends his church to be built – not through superstars parading their talents, but through a community of friends, indwelt by the Spirit, and submitted to one another and the Lordship of Christ.

What an enjoyable and safe way to build!