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Summer is a good time to reflect, in a different environment, by the sea or in the hills.

I was at a leadership conference in February and one of the speakers brought a selection of searching questions. It is so good to be challenged about where we are in our faith, where our church is and to realise that times of reflection are vital.

 

Take time to ask yourself:

  1. What is the highest goal in my ministry?

  2. Where do I go to be refreshed?

  3. Where are my ‘deep wells’?

  4. How is my thinking stimulated and my soul refreshed?

  5. How does my ministry look to God in all things?

  6. Do I look to God in all things?

  7. What is church? What are the basics?

  8. What needs to be changed in my church?

  9. How do you connect with those outside the church?

  10. How do you train your people to speak the gospel to others?

  11. What voices shape me and my church?

  12. What voices aren’t I hearing and why?

  13. Does my church primarily exist for those inside it, not yet inside it or for those who will never be inside it? What do I think? What does my church think?

  14. Giving – money, time, prayer, faith. How joyful is your giving? How joyful is your church giving? What example do I set?

  15. What are we giving?

  16. What sacrifice is involved?

(Author: Edwin Penman, Baptist World Mission)

It’s quite a list.

We all need to take time out, away from the house, phone and computer and just be alone with God. Book yourself on a retreat soon.

 

I pray these questions would stimulate you and bring you closer to God.

Enjoy the summer.

When I visit churches, I often hear the people say ‘There are not enough people to do all the jobs.’

If this is the case, its time to have a review and look at ‘all the jobs’ and see how necessary they really are to being church.

We look at the Great Commandment from scripture:

Matthew 22:v37-39

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’

And the Great Commission:

Matthew 28:18-20

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

These should surely form the basis of who we are as Christians, as church and our prime activity. These passages suggest putting God first in worship and service, loving each other (ministry), loving the world (mission) and making disciples. If we are active in these 5 areas, there will be health and growth.

It is essential that the right people with the right gifts are involved in the right areas. Too many churches put ‘square pegs into round holes’.

The challenge

Have a look at your life and see how you are fulfilling your calling. Then have a look at your church and see how the current activities fit under these 5 headings.

I have been surprised in recent months as I have visited some small churches, to find people who don’t know each other very well. This is more usual in a large church where you can worship in a crowd but you can’t fellowship with one, hence the need for small groups.

Small numbers make it much easier to know each other well (work, family health etc.) and the opportunities are easier for practical and prayer support. One of the major strengths I have found in smaller churches is the intimate family nature of them. Where everyone knows everyone, maybe too well! But to find a congregation of about 20 people who didn’t even know first names was a bit of a shock!

To try and counter this, there is a simple format used by Neil Hudson in his Frontline work for the LICC. It’s called ‘This Time Tomorrow’. This can be used in a worship service in many ways.

One way is to get people to ask the person they are sitting next to, what they will be doing at this time tomorrow. After a few minutes, share the feedback to the wider group then use these answers as part of the intercession.

Another way is to ask one or two people to be interviewed about their life so that people can pray specifically and support each other better.

The church is supposed to be a functioning, loving, supportive Godly family, not a set of individuals who come to share the same space on a Sunday then go home.

I encourage you to try this format in church, large or small, and get to know each other better, then together you can fulfil Ephesians 4 v16:

“Under his control all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love.” TEV

 

We are, by and large, creatures of habit and like nothing better than a routine. This brings stability and a level of comfort, but it is a good thing to try something new on a fairly regular basis.

I hadn’t done much new since I wrote and published a book, then trained a guide dog, so last summer I embarked on a course of singing lessons. I had a great teacher who helped me to achieve my 3 aims in the six weeks of lessons.

This ‘something new’ was to enhance what I do already – sing in the worship group at my church.

2014 dawned and I wondered what I could do next which would be a challenge but add to my skill set. I chose to start 2 things fairly close together; one was to learn to play the guitar and the other was to embark on a preaching course. Both are works in progress but I am finding it exciting to have new challenges to stretch and enhance myself.

 It is well known that the age group buying the most computers and ipads are the over 60′s – the silver surfers!

You’re never too old to learn, so try something new today to make your ministry more effective.

 

Call to Mission

A friend of mine, Sandra Kimber, shared her passion with me, and i’m sharing it with you.

“Some 40 years ago God called me to serve in Nigeria. I did not see it as my ‘becoming a missionary’ at that point but simply changing the sphere of my service. However, it did mean sacrifice – leaving family and friends, my home, the culture and language that I knew – but it was a rich time of growth for me, as well as service. The following thoughts are written from that perspective of mission.

 In the UK there are a large number of small churches – small because they need to be, small because they are not moving or small because someone hasn’t heard the call to ‘come over and help us’. It may be easier or more comfortable to be in a larger church but is it where God wants them to be? Do they know that where they are at present is where GOD wants them? Has He called them to stay where they are? It is my belief that some churches are struggling because the call has not gone out.

This is not a call for an occasional preacher but a call to go – not to Africa – but just down the road where ‘the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few’! This is a call for a few to leave the comfort of their familiar surroundings and church friends, to go and put their all into a smaller mission. It may be for a set period – a year or two – or permanently.

At Hampton Wick Baptist Church, we have the following situations which we cannot take any further till more hands are available …

 Children / Youth

Our Toddler Group is bursting at the seams but we are only able to do it on one day. Even that is a struggle. We have developed good relationships with many of the Mums etc and would like to take it further – by providing an extra day with specific Christian input ie story time would be Bible stories, the craft would be based around that story and singing would be Christian songs. We would also like to introduce MessyChurch, or something similar, in order to bridge the enormous gap between Toddler Group and Church.

However, if more children came to church we would be in trouble because we struggle at present to provide a proper children’s programme on a Sunday morning. We have to have all age groups in together because of staffing which is not helpful to those now beginning to reach senior school age.

We have a wonderful group of 6 children (aged 8-10) plus one 6 year old and a baby. Most of the older group are Christians, who need a youth group in order to maintain their interest and help them to grow as future leaders of the church. One of these who is extremely keen has recently stopped coming because football takes place on a Sunday morning and that is the one thing he is good at. He needs a midweek group.

Discipleship

In the last 9 months we have had 3 baptisms and we have another one pending for Easter Sunday with two candidates. Baptism is only the beginning and each of these needs nurturing. Two of them are trained in dance and are seeking to get into the dance world. Most rehearsals happen on a Sunday morning and we only have a morning service. We would love to provide an evening of worship, prayer and teaching but we don’t have the resources to do it. If not a Sunday evening, then even a house group, but that is not possible either because of lack of such leadership.

We also have one who has just become a Christian, not yet baptised, who needs discipleship. At present all discipleship falls to the Minister. Those who may have the ability (with help) to do it are stretched and cannot take on any more without detriment to family.

 Worship

Our worship is restricted because we have no musicians. At present we use canned music which limits us in what we have available. Also machines have a tendency to go wrong at the wrong time which really doesn’t aid worship!

  Outreach

A door is opening to do the ‘Open Book’ in a local school and even though it is being done in conjunction with other churches in the area, it will stretch our already stretched resources.

We already have a working relationship with Richmond Housing Partnership to run activities for children and young people on the local estates during the school holidays. This has been done on a couple of occasions last year and is planned for the coming Easter and Summer. Again this falls to already stretched personnel.

Our work amongst the elderly, ‘Good Companions’ needs to step up a gear. We have been going once a month for nearly 14 years and reach around 35-40 each month. Some with church affiliation (but not necessarily Christian), a few Christians and the majority with no church link. A group called ‘Faith Rediscovered’ has been run on 3 occasions over that period but needs further development. It would be good to be able to extend the activities during the week. We also know that the area of Hampton Wick has a large elderly population and we need to make the work more widely known in order to reach out to our community.

The harvest is plentiful but will anyone hear the call and –

                        ‘Come over and help us!’

 

Sandra Kimber April 2014

We all need to think ‘Kingdom’ more and be prepared to be missionaries to wherever God calls us. Please comment on this and share your experiences.

 

 

Alexander Pope once wrote  “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”

There are Christians in many churches who go to church not expecting much. I had the opportunity of visiting our partnership church in India last year. The people come to church on Sundays from some distance ready for the 7am (!) meeting with great expectation that God is going to do something. Many people have been converted from a faith where icon and statue gods are worshipped but do not respond. They have discovered Jesus, a living God, who has touched them with deep forgiveness, healing power, joy and eternal life and who changes lives and circumstances. No wonder they praise with passion and expectation!

So, why don’t all Christians go to church saying ‘What are You going to do today God?’ Maybe it’s because some haven’t seen God at work in power, so are not sure that He can or will…? Or maybe some are comfortable in their routine and are not used to expecting anything?

Telling each other stories of how God has worked in our lives during the week will help to raise expectation levels in everyone.

What should we expect?

Expect to participate – bring something to build the church (1 Corinthians 14v26)

Expect the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin

Expect God to ‘inhabit the praises of His people’

Expect to be challenged by God’s word

Expect to have prayers answered

Expect to be changed to be more like Jesus

Start each day as David did in Psalm 5 v1-3

Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.

Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation hold 7 letters written by John but dictated by Jesus. Interestingly they are written in the order in which a postman in Asia Minor (Turkey) would have delivered them, starting at Ephesus and ending in Laodicea. The contents of the letters are varied but as someone pointed out to me, they each have a 7 section pattern to them.

We can see that the first section is ‘Who is it to?’

The second section is ‘Who is it from?’

The next 4 sections have been adapted more recently into a management training tool and described as a SWOT analysis!

The sections are:

Strengths

Weaknesses

Opportunities

Threats

The last section I would describe as a promise – ‘to him who overcomes…’

It is interesting to see what these sections held for each church in John’s day and reflect on how little church life has changed since. It is sobering to know that letters were written to 7 churches but only 2 of these towns have a living church there today, Philadelphia and Smyrna (Izmir).

I encourage you to do this exercise, either for you as an individual or for your church.

If Jesus wrote you a letter today, what would he say in each section?

IMGP0760

Ephesus (taken in 2007)

 

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