Friday, 30 January 2009

Two Services

On Sunday morning we are distributing a questionnaire to the Church regarding going to multiple services sometime in the next 12 months.

We are averaging above 300 which is becoming increasingly uncomfortable in a hall that seats 360 at a push.

So the next month is pretty interesting really, as we ask the question, if the service times were like this, which one would you come to?

9.15am or 11.15am?
10am or 3.30pm?
10am or 7pm?

All the ideas have pros and cons, and we are also asking which would be best time to invite friends to.

When I have communicated it I put it like this. Many Christians find the scriptural imagery about the Lord preparing a feast for us, and inviting us to the table, incredibly encouraging.

Becoming two services rather than one is a difficult process, but in effect we are preparing places at the table for people who want to come and find out more about God.

I don't want a bigger Church that attracts lots of Christians and does not effect the kingdom of God. I want to make space for those who don't yet know Him to come and taste and see that the Lord is good. That is the burden we are living with, and so the next 12 months is a massive adventure we are embarking on.

Please pray for us.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

30 years: the low points

It won't take a genius to see the link with my previous post on things to be thankful for at reaching 30.

However, as promised, and for the sake of balance, as I look back at my life thus far here are some of the aspects which are not to be celebrated, but looked at soberly.

1) Tragedy: My 19 year old university friend, Jon, died of meningitis. I was out with him on the Friday night, by the Sunday night he was in a coma. I never said goodbye. My Cousin, Aidan, in his early forties, took his own life leaving a wife and 4 children. Sam, an old youth group member died aged 21 on a night out in Greece. Friends who have miscarried, or the loss of a small child. The raw sadness when people die "before their time" is the fiercest gut-wrenching sense of loss.

2) Gossip and misrepresentation: It is such a sad thing, to know a situation, to see how people have acted, and then to see how their actions are misrepresented to others. How loose tongues spread news and cause hurt. One of the key things I look for in anyone with any responsibility in Church is their discretion. If someone tells me something I should not know about someone else then I take a step back from letting them know much about me. Gossip is a killer, it breaks relationship and rots trust.

3) Marital breakdown: Broken relationships are so exceedingly sad, especially when children are involved. It is just so dark, and feels so hopeless. When someone dies you grieve and slowly move on. Relationship breakdowns are long term and can be an ongoing cause of real heartache for those involved.

4) Falling away: Very, very close Christian friends of mine have fallen away from an active faith. People I have prayed with and worshipped with. People who have cared for me and encouraged me. I would like to say some have just given up on Church but it appears some may have given up on God altogether, for now.

5) Differences: We hear so much about "unity" but is it a reality? My instinct is where there is relationship then the chances of unity are much greater. It feels like people say they "want" unity, but don't have space for you to believe what you do, express worship the way you do and do church the way you do. Therefore the joint expression of faith together becomes neutered to the lowest common denominator, so as not to offend other Christians, while the rest of the world walks by wondering who on earth we are. Real genuine unity: loving each other more than ourselves, sharing resources, engaging on mission together, praying for one another, standing with one another in times of trial, and engaging without our community together. That is something to live for. But I am content to just crack on with what God has given us to do here, and if at any point we can join with other people cracking on then brilliant.

6) Mission: There are 70,000 people in this town. On Sundays church attendance does not break 2,000. 68,000 is a lot of people. I know church attendance and faith are not always directly correlated, but even so, it gives an indicator. There is so, so much more to do.

God is good, all the time. Yet life can be a bit of a trial, so I am pleased to be on a journey with Him, and that His grace is sufficient for all these things, however tough they are.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

The Big Three Zero...

30 years ago today, I came kicking and screaming into this world, a bit early, very thin, and slightly yellow.

None of those terms would be used to describe me now!

I am going to have a look at some of the highlights, and then later some of the low lights.

1) Jesus: Yep, number one. Spring Harvest, early nineties, altar call at the youth meeting. The overwhelming joy of knowing I had been forgiven for, and set free of the eternal consequences of my sinful nature. Such joy.

2) Esther: I don't believe in karma. I can't. When a bloke like me finds such an exceedingly amazing lady then it must be grace in action.

3) Family: My family has quirks as all families do. I am one of them. But we do care for each other. We understand generosity and kindness. Mum and Dad have stayed together 40 years, the family home has been a place of safety, and my brother is a legend.

4) Friends: I have a birthday meal coming up, and interestingly, I have known many of my friends for ten years or more. That is pretty special. Last night we had a night in a local bar and 50-60 showed up, mostly my age group from Church. Some of my closest friends are like brothers and my brother is a closest friend. I am blessed.

5) Church: My Church experience has been both safe and life changing, challenging and caring. Newfrontiers, Vineyard, Soul Survivor, Spring Harvest all take their place in the patchwork quilt of development. Bible believing, charismatic, outreach, ministry to the poor. My values have been shaped by the various churches and movements I have belonged to.

6) Travel: Only South America and Antarctica remain as unvisited continents. I have been priviledged to see some amazing things and meet some great people. A network of friends around the globe is a priviledge, as is seeing the church function in different cultures and languages, and facebook helps too.

7) Education: Free education, a university place, (opportunities I received from my passport rather than merit) have given me a fabulous start in life and have helped to make me who I am.

Psalm 72 sums up how this all makes me feel rather well:

18 Praise be to the LORD God, the God of Israel,
who alone does marvelous deeds.

19 Praise be to his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Shrewsbury Baptist Church

We have a new baptist church here in Shrewsbury, called, unsurprisingly, Shrewsbury Baptist Church!

It was formed by an amalgamation of two baptist Churches to make use of the facilities of one of the Churches with the vision to reach both areas served previously by the congregations.

The Mission Shrewsbury united service last night was a celebration of the formation of this new Church, with much prayer for the new initiative.

It was also interesting that Martin, our lead elder was invited to preach. He spoke on the hallmarks of the Church at Antioch. I have heard versions of that talk many times and each time it grips me, and in this case it was so, so relevant for the situation.

Claremont Baptist Church planted Crowmoor Baptist Church. Barnabas (my church) started when Crowmoor outgrew its building at the time and a new congregation was formed (which did not join the baptist union, although twelve years later we joined newfrontiers).

Last night, the lead elder of the grandaughter church spoke at the joining celebration of the grandmother and mother church. I sat near Phil Whittall from North Shrewsbury Community Church. They are our daughter church - making that four generations of churches in one room!

In 1620 a group of baptist Christians started meeting in Shrewsbury. It is a rich heritage we are part of, and was a delightful display of unity with leaders and members of local churches standing together with a vision to reach of town with the gospel.

AND there was cake!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

I hate this advert...

That is right folks - forget the credit crunch and borrow money to buy shoes.

Borrow money you don't have to buy something you don't need.

That way you will really "save". Save time, save money, great deal, great rate, you switch, you save, you smile.

More like I vomit.

Monday, 5 January 2009

The "Pacifist "Bible

We have just started a series on the magnificent sermon on the mount.

I think there can be too much bias to Paul's work in Church teaching, and am greatly looking forward to lifting the lid once more on this lifechanging, disciplemaking, call to godliness that is the sermon on the mount.

But I did allow myself a wry smile, and a cheeky comment, when I wonder if some people's bibles look a bit like this...

Genesis 3-50
I Samuel
II Samuel
I Kings
II Kings
I Chronicles
II Chronicles
Song of Solomon

Matthew 1-4

Matthew 8-28
I Corinthians
II Corinthians
I Thessalonians
II Thessalonians
I Timothy
II Timothy
I Peter
II Peter
I John
II John
III John

Please consider this post entirely tongue in cheek. In many ways I have very strong pacifist tendencies. Although I don't struggle with the bible's use of military, or even violent imagery. Nor am I that concerned with its use, in context, in Church teaching, especially when the evidence of the life of the speaker gives a clear indication that they have embraced the sermon on the mount, such as David Wilkerson.

Welcome to Shrewsbury!

I sat down at my desk this morning to begin 2009 in earnest.

Then a visitor arrived who will be the new minister at our local apostolic church, called Wellspring Christian Centre. He informs me it currently has a congregation of around 30-40 people, and they meet in their own building about 300m up the road from here.

In our small area of Shrewsbury we have methodist, anglican, URC and apostolic churches. It was nice that he just popped in to see who was around and meet us. We had a coffee, shared a few ideas and stories, and then he left. He seems very passionate about the church becoming more outward looking.

I am looking forward to him leading another local church in this area that we can work with for the sake of the gospel, where people are saved and added to the body of christ and the community is served with love and compassion.

One interesting point was that at the apostolic world conference he had attended Terry Virgo was the guest speaker and he spoke very highly of him.

Welcome to Shrewsbury Marcus.