Category: Inspiring Discipleship

People of Hope in Challenging Times

This post by Peter Morden was originally published at Seventy Two

We’re called to be people of hope, living differently in challenging times. How might we do this practically? And how is such countercultural, ‘hopeful’ living to be sustained?

An alternative to consumerism

A good place to start is by asking the question: What happens when people lose hope? Part of the answer is we live only for the present, often in selfish ways. The ‘advent’ of the shopping frenzy which is Black Friday reflects this. It’s a day alien to British culture, originally flowing out of Thanksgiving Day in the US. Yet it invaded our lives in 2013 as yet another day when we were encouraged to consume more and more. Then Cyber Saturday was added. Now there’s days and days of ‘Black Friday Deals’. We are consumed by consumerism and mired in materialism. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, the earth gets depleted. And we are never satisfied. We always need just that little bit more.

So let’s be people who reflect our hope by living for the future and for others. Instead of the shopping trip, contact a friend and go for a walk. Instead of buying more and living cluttered, complicated lives, let’s buy less and enjoy what we have. Let’s be generous. Let’s share. Let’s show where our hearts and our hopes are truly set.

An alternative to darkness

Something else happens when we lose hope: we live in darkness. There’s been much darkness recently, but news that Covid vaccines are here, or at least on the way, is wonderful indeed. Announcing this, our Prime Minister talked about how the ‘searchlights of science’ had triumphed over the darkness of the virus. The ‘scientists have done it’ was the headline. As Christians we will want to question the exaltation of science to an almost godlike position and look behind it to praise the creator and sustainer God who is the source of all positive scientific and medical endeavour. But the point of talking about this is not to be critical. It’s to notice the use of light in such a ‘hopeful’ way. This has deep biblical resonance. At the beginning of creation God said let there be light and it was so. At the end of Revelation the new heavens and the new earth are full of sparkling precious stones that dazzle in the brilliant brightness. The darkness has been dispelled – for good. All this wonderful light is refracted through the person of Jesus who, in his own words, is the light of the world. And light is so closely linked with hope. The old cliché – light at the end of the tunnel – is freighted with hope. It’s tough going now, but there’s light ahead, things will get better, we can see it, let’s keep going… It may be a cliché, but it’s a very attractive one.

So let’s be people of hope-filled light, asking ourselves the question: How can I bring light to others walking in darkness? The answers can be simple. A word of kindness and calm in the midst of bitterness and anxiety. A word of wisdom in a situation of confusion, to people overcome with emotions such as anger or despair. A food parcel dropped off, a food bank supported, that Zoom call made when the last thing you really want to do is go online and talk to a friend when you’ve been in virtual meetings all day. Simple answers but profound. Answers that are full of hope and light. Whatever our frontlines are, let’s live differently. Let’s reflect the light of the world.

An alternative to secularism

Above all, let’s share Jesus, the embodiment of hope. It’s easy to be sad about what you can’t do this year, especially if you’re a church leader, especially if you’re in tier three! But are there things we can do now which maybe we couldn’t before? Invite people to the virtual carol service? Send people the link? Might it be that people this year are more open to a message of peace, more open to community, more questioning about the way they live, more open to the hope that is only found in Jesus? The British church has long prayed for revival: a time in the life of our nation where there is a great turning to God accompanied by real transformation. Some have hoped and prayed and prayed and hoped. But it seems – to quote Pete Greig – that God is ‘on mute’. Might this be the moment he breaks his silence? What a hope that is! Are we ready? God is stirring people’s hearts to seek him. Is he stirring yours to point the way for them to Jesus?

An Alternative to Despair: Sustained by Hope

How is such hopeful, light-filled living to be sustained in the midst of the ‘tunnel’ of darkness? It’s easy to think the answer is ‘Jesus’ or, perhaps, ‘Jesus and the Holy Spirit’. Of course both these answers are right! But I’m increasingly convinced there’s something more to be said. Let’s reflect for a moment. When Jesus tells us not to worry how does he encourage us? When the Bible urges us to look to Jesus to sustain us in our discipleship, what further detail is shared? The answer? We are told to look to the future. Don’t worry, says Jesus, instead build up ‘treasure in heaven’. Don’t be anxious, says Paul, for the Lord ‘is near’. Look to Jesus, the writer to the Hebrews tells us. Yes, ‘fix your eyes on him’. But look to him expressly as the ‘pioneer and perfecter’ of our faith who has run his race and ‘sat down at the right hand of God’, encouraging us also to run for the finish line. Know your future, the Bible says. In passage after passage, in the Old Testament and the New. The marriage supper of the Lamb is coming; the new heavens and the new earth are coming. The light at the end of the tunnel is no myth. The searchlight will become a floodlight. Look up the passages. Look to Jesus for present help, yes, for he shines a light in the darkness today. Allow the Holy Spirit to fill you with power. But look forward too. Let the Christian hope so capture you that you live in the light of its coming reality right here, right now. In the end it shouldn’t really surprise us: hopeful Christian living is sustained by drawing on the Christian hope itself. And what a hope it is.

 

This is part two in a two part series for Advent. Click here to read part one.

 

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Advent Hope in Challenging Times

This post by Peter Morden was originally published at Seventy Two

Psalm 25: 1-11

The Christopher Nolan film ‘Tenet’ has been one of the movies of 2020. I went to see it with my son in a socially distanced cinema experience before the second lockdown began. It’s full of great acting, with John David Washington especially good value. It’s fast paced with some breathtaking scenes. There’s just one problem: I didn’t understand any of it. It’s important when talking about a film to warn about possible spoilers. Let me assure you there’s no danger of that here: I have no clue as to what was going on. Central to the film is the concept of ‘time inversion’. I think that means people go backwards and forwards in time. This leads to scenes being repeated over and over in subtly different ways. At one point, the John David Washington character ends up in a fight to the death with himself. Or is it with someone who just looks like him? Who knows! The film left me confused and disorientated, with a sense of being swirled around, unable to get my bearings. ‘Big, bold and baffling’ said one review. For me that just about sums it up.

Actually, that’s a bit like life sometimes. Especially now, in these Covid-19 times. This year has been relentlessly difficult. In lockdown or semi-lockdown loneliness and fear have so often been compounded by confusion.  What are the different rules for different areas? Are we to stay in or go out or a bit of both? What tier are we in now and what does it mean? The questions are endless, the answers are hard to understand. Alongside this, there’s the loss of hope. We ‘hoped’ it would be over after the first wave, then by September, then by Christmas. But each time we’ve been disappointed, and as the book of Proverbs reminds us, ‘hope deferred makes the heart sick’. It’s a bit like my two hours at the cinema with Tenet. We can’t follow the plot, we don’t understand what’s going on, it’s like being swirled around…

What we need as we enter the season of Advent is a strong dose of real, biblical hope. Wonderfully, this is just the time in the church’s year that speaks of such hope. Psalm 25 is not often cited in connection with Advent but it deserves to be, for it speaks of finding bright hope in the midst of deep darkness. I encourage you to read it.

The Psalmist, David, does not find holding onto hope easy. You catch a sense of this in verse 2: ‘Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.’ This is an urgent plea. He essentially says, ‘Lord I trust in you but I’m struggling here. Don’t let me down.’ We may feel like this ourselves. Life is difficult and disorientating right now. We feel like hope has been repeatedly deferred. If this is us, the Psalm tells us we are not alone.

And, amazingly, the Psalmist not only stands with us but points the way forward. The urgent cry gives way to the confident affirmation of verse 3, ‘No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame.’ How is such hope discovered and how is it maintained? By focusing not on hope itself, but on the character of God and his promises of the future.

As to character, he is faithful, gracious, forgiving and good. Search the Psalm for these powerful truths, all of which are fulfilled for us in Jesus who is God our Saviour (v 5). No wonder the Psalmist holds onto his hope in such a God.

And what about his promises? Verse 13 is the antidote to my confusing Tenet experience. For we are not just being swirled around in life, and we are certainly not going backwards and forwards in time. No, rather than being in a never-ending loop, history is heading somewhere. Those who live their lives for the living God, will ‘inherit the land’. This promise is ultimately fulfilled in the new heavens and the new earth. At advent we eagerly anticipate the return of Christ and the ushering in of our sure and certain future. I invite you to say with David, ‘In you, LORD my God, I put my trust’. Our God will not let us down.

What will this mean for us right here and now in these difficult days? Will it mean we won’t get sick or won’t get made redundant? Will it mean my family will definitely stay well and that I won’t have financial difficulties? Does it mean my business won’t fail? For the asylum seeker, will it mean my application will be upheld?

The answer to all those questions is ‘not necessarily’. Sometimes God will spare us sickness, for ourselves or our loved ones, and will answer our prayers in other ways too. One of the asylum seekers we work with as a church in Leeds has just been granted leave to remain quite unexpectedly, even though hope of a good outcome for his case seemed lost. Our hopes for tomorrow are not always deferred, for we have a prayer answering God.

Such deliverance does not always come though, and we should not be surprised at this.  We follow Jesus who entered a world of pain and then journeyed to the cross to win us the salvation of which this Psalm speaks. He calls us to take up our cross and follow him. But the Christian hope shows us he is someone who can be trusted and who will ultimately see us through. We have a future and a hope which is ‘steadfast and certain’. God clearly doesn’t mind too much about spoilers, for he has told us what is to come. The future is actually ‘big, bold and brilliant’. Hope in such a God and such a future makes everything seem different. Try it. If such hope truly grips us it will transform the way we live today.

 

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The Rule of Six and the Gift of God

This post by Nigel Coles was originally published at Seventy Two

The rule of six. Are we being offered a gift or is our activity simply being constrained?

I am a bit of a weirdo when it comes to number patterns, I kept daily stats on my computer throughout lockdown, and I’d already been having conversations with whoever would listen, about multiplying small groups and how six seemed an ideal number on Zoom, even before social gatherings of more than six people became prohibited by law.

Physical or virtual, the UK church can maintain a focus on the seed of the word of God taking root and flourishing in the lives of a growing number of people, even and especially in these times. Whether you’re a church leader of many years’ experience or a day one follower of Jesus Christ, we all have a part to play and some responsibility to take.

Step one: Determine to be shaped by faith, not by fear. It’s a heart thing. The virus is revealing the object(s) of our passion. If we over focus on our circumstances, whether good or ill, our relationship with God and the character of God will become blurred.  The virus has brought into focus the reality of the spiritual health of the UK church. I wonder what you’re seeing as a result. At the end of the day the ‘church’ is made up of individual followers of Jesus, we are the ‘living stones’ being built together. Let none of us be under any illusion; we are all a part of both the problem and the solution.

Step two. Pay attention to the core spiritual disciplines. ‘You can trust the word of God and you can trust the Spirit of God’. That’s the mantra I keep repeating to groups, especially those starting or leading them, when they get concerned about the shape not looking like their traditional Bible study. My counter-question: ‘how have people’s lives been shaped to become more like Jesus by how you’ve previously operated?’ tends to make the point.

Alan Hirsch highlights five things as ‘core spiritual disciplines’ in “Forgotten Ways” (is the virus revealing what we’ve forgotten?):

  • Engagement with Scripture
  • Prayer
  • Worship and service
  • Stewardship
  • Community

I’ve been a Baptist Minister for thirty-four years now, which means I’ve been a regional Minister longer than a local Minister. Consequently:

  • I’ve come to see our main Sunday gathering more through the eyes of a member of the congregation than as a provider/leader
  • I’ve not been reliant on whatever my local church serves up on a Sunday morning, to sustain me.

I realise I have a myriad of opportunities to engage with other Christians every day, which help me deepen the roots of my faith and relationship with God, which is both unusual and an immensely enriching privilege. However, lockdown brought no new challenges to my growth as a disciple, because I have been in the habit for many years of taking responsibility for my own life in God. Sadly, the virus has revealed a large slice of the UK church have become reliant on someone else opening up their Bible for them.

For anyone who’s not aware, we’ve developed The Discipleship Cycle as a mechanism to help individuals engage with God’s purposes through their lives by engaging with scripture. The app will be released in the new year, so watch this space.

Step three. ‘Do not give up the habit of meeting with one another, as some are in the habit of doing’. My hunch is, when the writer to the Hebrews first penned these words, our small group was more what would be brought to mind, than the typical Sunday gathering I attended pre-March 2020.

For me, our small group has been the most significant source of spiritual encouragement and rootedness out of anything, since the pandemic hit our shores. At no point over the last twenty years have I succumbed to the temptation to believe I can do this alone.

If I’m tempted to despair, it’s when listening to the desperation in people’s voices to return to meeting as they once did. Please don’t mishear me; I’ve no issue with meeting on a Sunday. I love being a part of the large gathering, vibrant worship, big-scale encounter experience. Yet I have to say honestly, being part of a small group enables and nurtures life in God, in reality, day-to-day, more than anything.

If you’re in a position of leadership my plea would be: maintain your focus on making and growing disciples, but think smaller not larger, for your delivery slots. If you don’t have any formal leadership responsibility my plea would be: ask to join with a few others to engage with scripture together and pray the life of God into one another. If you can’t find a group to join, start one.

The rule of six is a gift.

 

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How Can We Sing The Lord’s Song In A Strange Land?

This post by Michael Shaw was originally published at Seventy Two

All around the country many pastors are constantly checking with Government guidelines to see how and if they are able to meet them. While there are moments where we are having to try an interpret the rules each week, there are some things that remain consistent, one of those is congregational singing. Some people are enjoying new a creative ways of doing worship, (we have been doing reflective “not sung” worship services for a few years  now – so we have got used to it) while others are finding it much harder, one minister said on a facebook group “I have never ever led worship without singing”.

But it is not just pastors, churches are having to get used to services without sung worship and some people just don’t like it. Someone I know said this to me, on why he will not be attending, “with no singing I doubt I would (come)…. (I can’t) understand how your church like virtually all the rest are  not bothered about singing”. The criticism is a little unfair, as I imagine most church leaders are bothered, but just know that the guidelines are clear.

Now I do not believe that God caused the pandemic, but I think that God can use the Pandemic to teach us. We are a church in Exile,  we are in a strange land, because we have lost the familiar of what our worship used to look and be like, whether that is hymns or choruses, choirs or guitar and drums, most worship involved singing. We are learning to not sing the Lord’s song in a strange land. See Psalm 137.

So what is God trying to teach us? I think we have become too reliant on worship as an activity we do “in church” together, we have become used to doing worship rather than, as Paul writes in Romans 12 offering our bodies, our lives, as worship.

Amos 5 (and we have to be careful not to assume that Amos is talking to us directly) says that the worship of the people of God had become detestable because unless worship led to an outbreak of justice, unless it radically changed our perception of the world, then worship was something that God “despised”. Has our sung worship become so detestable to God that he needs to force us to stop singing?

Author Stephen Mattson said this on Facebook recently “Worship isn’t always a hymn or song or sermon. It’s often a protest, an act of civil disobedience, a march, or a night spent in jail.”  People have told me that God needs our sung worship, maybe God doesn’t need it at all, maybe the point of worship was to break the chains of injustice. Maybe what  God wants from our worship is not what we think he wants.

Jesus said in Matthew 25 that when we feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, house the homeless, clothe the stranger or visit the Prisoner, we do it for him. Maybe this is exactly the type of worship we should be offering to God. Maybe this is exactly what Paul was talking about offering our bodies.

When people said that the churches were closed, I refuted that, we never did close and yes many went online, but many also discovered that the church could be a place for real good.

During lockdown many big “worship” led churches have found themselves becoming food banks or clothes and food distribution centres. Pastors were walking dogs and doing shopping. The Youth Worker connected to our church was cycling around the local area delivering food. My fear is, that when things eventually go back to normal, when Exile ends, we will just go back to singing the old songs in the old ways. Will all the efforts that have helped so many people just cease?

 

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Twelve Steps Towards Freedom: Live

This post by Dave Gregory was originally published at Seventy Two

He sat down in front of the young adult group one Sunday evening.  An Australian whom our minister had got to know.  Let’s say his name was Roger.  “Hello”, he began, “my name is Roger, I am a Christian and I am alcoholic”.  To the ears of a very naive young Christian in their early twenties (nowadays that would make me a Millennial) that seemed odd.  It got my attention.  But the combination of those two things – Christian and addict – didn’t seem to fit.  But over the next hour or so, Roger unpacked with some honesty his journey into addiction and faith.  It opened my eyes.  That for Roger, each day was a battle to find freedom.  The desire of the addict was never fully going away.  But each day he stayed off the bottle was a victory, one that he asked Jesus to give him, one more step towards freedom.

I don’t know if you have been following each of the twelve steps as we have journeyed towards freedom.  Freedom from our addiction to fossil fuels that are driving climate change and rubbishing our environment.  Towards freedom for the natural world that God’s redemptive heart is to “liberate from its bondage to decay” (Rom 8v21).  A journey recognising our powerlessness and seeking a deeper conversion to God’s purpose.  Going deeper than “greenwash”, confessing our climate sins and being ready and willing to change.  Listening to the voice of so many vulnerable people around the world facing both a COVID and climate emergency just as acute.  Willing to take practical steps to mitigate the impact of our lives on theirs and the life of the natural world, whose myriad forms of life face extinction at one hundred times the natural rate.  And not just for a moment, but to endure in a new way of living as disciples that shares God heart for his good creation.  Goodness perhaps you have increasingly been aware of through lockdown and over the summer as we have enjoyed more time outdoors.  I’ve taken to sitting in the garden over the summer for my daily prayer time reflecting upon what its plants and wildlife, and the wideness of the sky teach me about God, sensing the divine presence.

But this journey is not about ticking off the steps.  Nor does it end here.  Looking ahead, these steps need to inspire us to a new season of renewal in how we live as disciples.  I guess this is one difference from the journey to being addicted to alcohol and being addicted to climate changing fossil fuels.  With alcohol, the only solution is to stop using it and engaging in a daily battle for freedom.  Our addition to fossil fuels is more difficult to deal with.  Having shared this journey, have you stopped using fossil fuels?  Not by a long shot!  On the day I write this on September the 12th 2020, Carbon Dioxide makes up 411 parts per million of the atmosphere.  A year ago, it was 408 parts per million.  The global COVID lockdown has had little impact.  We are all trapped in this addiction because our lives are embedded in a global economic structure reliant on fossil fuels that seems beyond our control.  Already one degree warmer than 200 years ago, the Earth will warm by up to 4 degrees by the end of the century if nothing is done, when even the Gen Z’s will be old never mind the Millennials!

Perhaps you know all this.  But has it brought spiritual awakening?  The last of the twelve steps is Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”  So, how are you going to do that?  Is your spiritual wakening to climate change enough to make you think how to include the issue in your ministry as a leader?  To encourage the church to take it up on their agenda.  To let it reshape your sharing the gospel, and joining with God’s mission to your neighbourhood and the whole Earth?

Perhaps you are already doing this.  A lone voice struggling to heard among all the other demands that face us as Christians and churches.  Seeking growth to stem continual decline.  Reaching out to Millennials.  Pioneering.  Speaking up for economic and racial justice.  It can be hard to keep on alone.  It can be hard to be released from addition and when you don’t have others to support you.  That why the Twelve Step programme of AA and other groups is worked out in community.

At the start of September, to coincide with Climate Sunday, BUEN was launched.  The Baptist Union Environment Network.  Gathering people across the Baptist Together family who share a concern for God’s “buen” – good – creation, over climate change and the environment.  Connecting within our Associations people who want to share their concern and passion to inspire others.  To share in God’s mission to care for creation.  Enabling Baptists Together to work for justice for creation and people impacted by environmental change.  And releasing and listening to the voice of children, Gen Z and Millennials whose future world is being shaped by our lives today.

A community of people, seeking to be free from addiction.  Supporting and encouraging one another, sharing the invitation to share in God’s mission to care and redeem creation with others.  You can discover more and how people and churches are already responding on the BUEN Facebook page, on Twitter and in the Baptist Union website – http://www.baptist.org.uk/BUEN .  Or you can read about in the latest Baptist Together magazine.  To get involved, you can email BUEN at BUEnvNet@outlook.com .

This year is an important one for responding to climate change.  In just over a years’ time, the UN Climate Conference will convene in Glasgow.  It’s vital that the nations of the world accelerate their response.  We need a 4-degree shift in the way our global society works if we are to counter a 4-degree shift in our climate.  And if we are going to play our part, raise up a shared prophetic voice, we need a 4-degree shift in our discipleship too.  It’s going to take a while, but we don’t have long.  Finding freedom from this addiction is urgent.  The world is already 1-degree warmer, and we and creation are feeling the impact of that.  We need to begin a journey of 1 degree shifts in our discipleship to bring us towards loving creation as God does, will all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  A daily battle towards freedom.

And despite all the doom and gloom that we hear about climate change, there is hope.  Remember the power of the butterfly.  Something I learnt as a meteorologist.  It’s the way the weather and climate works.  A butterfly can flap its wings over South America, and 5 days later you can have a tornado in Texas.  Small things matter.  Didn’t Jesus say something similar.  Yes, I think he did.

“‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.’”  (Matt 13v31-32)

This blog is the final part of a series of 12 from Dave Gregory. To see previous blogs in the series, please click here.

 

 

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150 Days is a Long Time!

This post by weba_admin was originally published at Seventy Two

Nick emailed me in March, “Surely this isn’t going to last that long, I mean Glastonbury is still on!” How naïve this sounds after months of lockdown and coronavirus – but at the time it made sense. I’d announced that I was writing 300 words every day on each of the 150 Psalms in the bible. This would take until August 13th – nearly 6 months. Surely this virus thing would be over before that.

It seemed a good idea at the time. Four of us were trying to grab 5 days of ski-ing in France in early March, just as the French president announced the closure of all resorts, hotels & restaurants. As we sat on a ski lift, realising that our skiing was coming to an early end and we’d be heading home, I had an idea: “I think I might write a daily blog during this coming lockdown.” My fellow skiers encouraged me and asked what about. “How about the Psalms” I suggested? And the idea was born.

So, on March 17th 2020 I embarked on a daily discipline of writing and recording a 300 word reflection on each Psalm under the title “Love in the Time of Corona” (the name inspired by the novel by Gabriel García Márquez). It was designed for people who knew the psalms, and for those who have never read any of them – and may not believe in God. The purpose was to provide a daily diet of something biblical for people who were now stuck at home or whose routine was significantly disrupted. Some inspiration, encouragement and challenge in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty.

So off I went. The writing came easily (to quote Robert Louis Stevenson). I simply read the psalm and asked God for an idea – which popped into my head – and I was away. The Psalms are awe-inspiring, challenging, awkward, honest, brutal, gracious – and at times I didn’t agree with the writers. They need wrestling with – they are not always easy – and at face-value they can cause a problem or two. But as I have for years read a psalm every day anyway – they seemed a good place to go – and to encourage this daily practice in others.

What was surprising was how many people read them or listened to the audio. Every day I had comments from a wide range of people – churched and non-churched. Some were reading every day – others just now and again – but loads of people were engaging – and many were finding a way into the psalms that they hadn’t before. It was something that worked in the moment. If I did it next year, I don’t think it would have anything like the impact. It was a consequence of the pandemic and the lockdown that gave it ‘traction’. Like so many things – they worked because of the coronavirus restrictions – online church attendance soaring, Joe Wick’s daily exercises, the clap for the NHS and so on.

Working through the psalms showed just how often the writers felt under pressure and were crying out to God. This was ideal for people struggling in the pandemic.

All my longings lie open before you, Lord: my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbours stay far away. (Psalm 38:9-11)

But, and it’s a big but [this was my catchphrase for the blog] – again and again the writers cry to God, and the answer comes. This was the theme over and over again.

So, which Psalm for the next phase? How about Psalm 18:

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

I am very glad I did it, but I was also glad when I reached Psalm 150 and could take a break.

Love in Him,

Matt Frost

The written blog can be found here: Love in the Time of Corona

The audio blog can be found here: Love in the Time of Corona

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Sharing Faith and Prayer Online

This post by weba_admin was originally published at Seventy Two

At Wotton Baptist Church we’re running our Sunday services on Zoom. It has been a good way to maintain fellowship for a church of our size, but the significant number of vulnerable children and families attending mean that we can’t publicly circulate the details of the service.  Consequently we have welcomed a few new folk along during lockdown but we have not seen the explosion in attendance that others using YouTube Premiere or Facebook Live have seen.

Our church’s not-particularly-original but nonetheless genuine strap-line is ‘good news people’.  We are very keen to find new ways to share faith at this time when Tearfund and others are reporting an upsurge of interest in prayer in the community during lockdown.  God independently poked two members of our leadership team about running 24/7s Prayer Course on line to connect with this need.  Tomorrow will see the last session of the course.

To advertise the church’s ongoing prayerful presence, we sent a postcard to all 2500 households in our small town.  The flip side of the postcard (see images) included an invitation to join in with The Prayer Course.  Off the back of this we started a small course (with just 3 seekers and 3 new believers) plus me on Zoom.  It’s been an absolute joy to take part in the course – they want to learn to pray and week by week all 6 of them seem to have grown in confidence and faith as we have prayed together. Despite being aimed at believers The Prayer Course is accessible for anyone who wants to pray and 24/7 are more than happy for it to be used on Zoom.

We’re following lots of other churches in launching an Alpha Course on Zoom in September and I’m hopeful that the three seekers will take the invitation to join in.  Five of the 6 prayer course attendees have already visited Sunday morning zooms on more than one occasion (two of them were Sunday regulars pre-lockdown).

In common with lots of churches, we’ve had a huge increase in local engagement through involvement with community care and in helping and being helped by our own neighbours.  I’m hoping and praying that we can use more Zoom groups like The Prayer Course and Alpha to build more of the good news of Jesus into these new bridges.

Wotton BC are on of the churches working through the Re:Imagine process together. For more information on Re:Imagine, click here.

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