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As a church, we have just completed a 6 week course called ‘Paraclesis’ by Trevor Partridge and published by CWR. (see www.paraclesis.org.uk) The Greek word means to come alongside and journey together.

The course is designed to lead small groups through a series of bible studies with great personal reflection built in. There are resources for sermons and small group leaders available online as well as a participants guide for everyday use. As the guide only costs £5, our groups were happy to buy a personal copy for study at home. There are useful communication tips to use everyday and also a set of Kindness Cards to nudge the group into actions they may not have thought of yet.

The idea is to intentionally love one another in the church more than we do and this will then spill over into life in the everyday, at home, school, work, college, gym and supermarket.

It also encourages us to look at our lives and see how we have journeyed since birth. Nothing is ever wasted in the Kingdom so all our experiences can be used to come alongside people who are struggling in those areas.

The church needs now more than ever to be a ‘paracletic’ community, to be a hospital for broken people to get well. The church has historically reached out to the broken and provided pastoral care. Think of the Salvation Army, the Samaritans, Relate, Alcoholics Anonymous, the hospice movement, YMCA, chaplaincy services etc etc ALL began with Christians getting involved in the community reaching out to broken people with the love of Christ.

Ephesians 4 v1-3 from the Message

‘I want you to get out there and walk – better yet, run – on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline – not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love’.

 

Have you noticed how character traits are passed down from parent to child? Some are good and some not so good.

I used the phrase ‘I am my father’s daughter’ recently when speaking to my brother about a situation which deeply frustrated me. He laughed, recalling how our dad was an intelligent and generous man, but one who did not suffer fools gladly.

The phrase stuck in my mind as I went about my day. I mused that although being true, how much more being a Christian, am I my heavenly Father’s daughter. I am loved and valued by Almighty God. I am accepted by Him, I am significant to Him and I am secure in Him.

He calls me to be faithful and He makes me fruitful. He encourages me to grow the fruit of the Spirit in my life, including patience (!) which I was lacking in my frustrating situation.

We need to remember that we are now children of the King, princes and princesses and show the world that indeed, we are our Father’s children by the way we live, speak and behave.

New Disciples

  • Join a church
  • Pray to be empowered by the Holy Spirit
  • Tell your family and friends about Jesus
  • Get Baptised in water
  • Be part of a small group for teaching, friendship and support
  • Read the Bible starting with a gospel
  • Use some daily Bible reading notes to help you – see resources chapter
  • Be a prayer partner or part of a triplet
  • Find a basic Christianity course – see resources chapter
  • Talk to the pastor or other mature Christian about being free from your past
  • Explore your gifts, talents and abilities
  • Discover your passions
  • Follow the guidelines on Christian living in the Bible
  • Find an opportunity to serve in your church – get involved!
  • Don’t worry when you have a bad day
  • Get involved with mission, at work, with your church, at school
  • Worship Him wherever you are and thank Him for all His provisions for you. This will become a daily routine
  • Ask yourself if you would do your usual things if Jesus was physically with you.
  • When a tough decision comes, ask what would Jesus do? (Remember, he did some pretty radical things!)
  • Ask God for His direction in all aspects of your life – involve Him in all decisions
  • Mix with Christians from other denominations and appreciate the breadth of his kingdom
  • Take an opportunity to go on a short-term mission abroad.

I was at a leadership conference recently where some deep, and searching questions were asked. See how you get on with answering them…

What sort of church do you want to lead?

What kind of leader do I want to be?

Do I desire intimacy with Jesus?

Do I cherish worship?

Do I enjoy serving?

Am I still amazed at the gospel?

Do I love what Jesus loves?

Reflect on Ephesians 3:17-19

Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. NLT

Be encouraged!

Chocolate and Brussel Sprouts!

I used the rather weird combination of chocolate and Brussel sprouts in church one day to illustrate that we often get surprises that we were not expecting! I wrapped up both round truffles and Brussel sprouts in wrapping paper. They looked identical as I gave them out to the children. I had a mixture of reactions!

          I asked the congregation what they were expecting as they came to church that day? I had a variety of answers.  There are Christians in many churches who go to church not expecting much. But what should we expect?

 1. Expect to participate – bring something to build the church

Worship is active, not passive as it says in 1 Cor 14:26

“What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church”.

Each of us can bring or do something – make the tea, welcome people, play the music, drive the technology, pray etc

  1. Expect God to move

I had the opportunity of visiting a church in India last year. Many people came to church from some distance ready for the 7am (!) service. They arrived with great expectation that God was going to do something. Many people have been converted from a faith where statue gods are worshipped but do not respond. Now they have discovered Jesus, a living God, who has touched their lives with deep forgiveness, His healing power, joy and eternal life. He changes lives and circumstances and answers prayer. 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? Do not underestimate the power of praise and worship.

3. Expect the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin

We come to Him, confess our sin (not just saying sorry but saying I did it), receive forgiveness and be free.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Unforgiveness is a major problem for Christians, but forgiveness brings freedom

  1. Expect to be strengthened and challenged by God’s word

Colossians 1:3-6 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints — the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.

  1. Expect to have prayers answered

Share answers to prayer with each other and start each day as David did in Psalm 5 v1-3 “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”.

  1. Expect to be equipped for the week ahead

Gods promise threaded through the Bible ‘I will be with you’ (Ex 3v12) That’s HUGE. Also Heb 13v5 I will never leave you nor forsake you’

What are YOU expecting this Sunday?

I was having a conversation recently with Paul Griffiths, Charity Director of ‘The Ugly Duckling Company’. He was reminding me that most people in society know very little about God, but they do like several things. They like to talk to their friends, they like coffee and they want to be happy. On the Engel Scale (The Engel Scale was developed by James F. Engel as a way of representing the journey from no knowledge of God through to spiritual maturity as a Christian), -10 is where people know nothing about God, 0 is where there is interest in God, and +10 is where there is commitment to God.

Many of the well-used and effective tools such as Alpha, Christianity Explored and the Y Course, sit on the scale at roughly the -3 to +3 position. However, a large percentage of people are actually at the -10 to -3 level.

The Ugly Duckling produce resources for this group who are “pre Alpha” to get them thinking about life generally and towards spiritual things.

There is the ‘Happiness Lab’ which is designed to get people talking about their pursuit of happiness. An example of how to do this was a lady who invited a group of people she knew from her local town who worked in various shops, banks, schools, playgroup etc to an evening to have a conversation about happiness. A six week course is to be released soon to facilitate this where you are.

There is a 6 week course of ‘Puzzling Questions’ such as

Who am I? What is God like? What happens after death?

How can I be happy? Why is there suffering in the world?

(see puzzlingquestions.org.uk for more info)

Then there is ‘Table Talk’, a box of questions tailored to suit various groups of people and designed to stimulate conversation over a coffee or dinner in a relaxed and informal setting. There are boxes of questions for children, young people, men, women, third agers, friends, etc and 2 are designed for celebrations, Easter and Christmas. They are non-threatening to invite people who come into the church building for non-church related groups, for taking into the community to a coffee shop or just chatting with friends at home over dinner. (see table-talk.org for more details)

Explore these exciting resources for your church and introduce people to Jesus through them.

1 John 3 v17

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?

 

Give to people who are in need

James 2 v14-17

Dear friends,

Do you think you’ll get anywhere if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it?

For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say

“Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ. Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or cup of soup – where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? (The Message)

 

We have plenty of people in want in our country – refugees, families on the poverty line through redundancies, broken relationships, sickness and lack of employment etc. Churches have been in the forefront of helping people with the setting up of foodbanks which give out not only food, but share a coffee and a listening ear. To find your nearest foodbank, see www.trusselltrust.org. Volunteer or set one up at your church.

 

Matt 5:42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

 

Lending – Try this – take a straw poll in your church about stuff – who’s got…

Lawn mower, Strimmer, garden tools

Saw, screwdrivers and other tools

Ladder, paint brushes etc

Slow cooker, fondue set, cool box etc

Baby equipment – pregnancy clothes etc

Expertise – computers / tax returns / filling in forms

 

Have you discovered streetbank.com yet? There are 77,000 people who have signed up to share stuff in their street – this is what the world is doing!! What is your church doing?

Do we feel it is OUR stuff? OR God’s stuff? Take your old stuff to charity shops, furniture projects etc NOT THE TIP!

 

2 Corinthians 9:6

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

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