Notices for 25 Oct 2020

Tim Stephenson,

This Sunday

Women’s Bible Study

Study notes for the next meeting on 26th Oct, 7:30pm are available here. If you want to attend in person please remember to register.

The Ark

Next Saturday, the Ark will be on Facebook at 10am. You’ll also be able to collect resource packs from the church porch between 10am and 11am.

The Light Party

Also on Saturday evening the Light Party will be released on YouTube. Get your resource packs from the church porch on Monday between 3 and 4pm.

Men in a Barn

On Tuesday 10 November there will be a Men’s Ministry evening at the Prior’s Farm. There will be prayer, worship and a short address as well as a chance to catch up over fish and chips. Please register free via EventBrite.

Souper Friday – volunteers needed

Full details about this exciting and very relevant ministry can be found here.

Coming up…

Please remember bookings are needed for all events at the moment so we do not exceed capacity. You can do this by leaving a message on the office phone or use the contact form.

If your small group wants to meet in person and does not have enough space to meet at the recommended distance the Sanctuary @ Priory Street is available. This needs to be booked and virus-limiting precautions taken but we will seek to make it available to as many as we reasonably can.

Daily message – 24 Oct 2020

Eddie,

(quoting Bernard): We are under a yoke of voluntary bondage. As regards bondage, we are miserable, and as regards will, inexcusable, because the will, when it was free, made itself the slave of sin.

— John Calvin, “The Institutes of Christian Religion”

2 IN THE BEGINNING, GOD!

kathylarkman,

This post by kathylarkman was originally published at GRACE PLACE

Hi sisters!

Just a reminder that our second installment of our women’s bible study is coming this Monday, 26 October at 7:30.

We will be meeting live at the church with Covid restrictions in place. Please wear a mask! If you would like to come, click on the following link:

If you want to join by zoom, you will be given the information soon.

Hope you are enjoying Genesis where we consider the questions: Who is God? Who are we? Where is Christ in all of this?

Blessings,
Women’s Ministry Team

Daily message – 23 Oct 2020

Eddie,

While every individual needs to obey Jesus’s call to follow, we cannot follow Jesus as individuals. The proper context for every disciple maker is the church. It is impossible to make disciples aside from the church of Jesus Christ.

— Francis Chan, “Multiply”

Daily message – 22 Oct 2020

Eddie,
cover page showing image of lavender field

The source of my doubts about its (prayer’s) potency … was certainly not the Holy Spirit. It was the unholy spirit, the Destroyer himself, urging me to quit using the weapon he fears so intensely.

— Elisabeth Elliot, “Keep A Quiet Heart”

Daily message – 21 Oct 2020

Eddie,

Truth without grace is harsh and ugly. Grace without truth is sentimental and cowardly. The living Christ is full of grace and truth (Jn 1:14).

— Ray Ortlund, “The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ”

The Rule of Six and the Gift of God

Nigel Coles,

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.

 

The post The Rule of Six and the Gift of God appeared first on Seventy Two.

Daily message – 20 Oct 2020

Eddie,

We dwell perpetually in the presence of far more than we can see.

— Amy Carmichael, “Gold by Moonlight”

Church update – 19 Oct 2020

Tim Stephenson,

In the current circumstances church leadership felt that we should not attempt a ‘proper’ church meeting. However, there are some important things to share. No decisions will be sought at this stage it is just a question of keeping you all informed. Leaders recorded the update below on Monday 12th October.

There is also this written summary including links to more details in particular from Roger and about the church profile. If you or someone you know would like a printout, please leave a message with the church office and we’ll get a copy to you.

Questions & Answers

There will be an opportunity to ask questions on Monday night @ 7:30pm. If you could send questions ahead of time to the office that would be appreciated.

A Journey in Missional Leadership: Finding the Best Road Map

Joth Hunt,

This post by Joth Hunt was originally published at Seventy Two

I was due to write this article back in April of this year but then we were in lockdown. All of a sudden what I thought I was going to share was thrown up in the air and I was asking myself, “who would even read it in the unique circumstances that we now find ourselves in?” It has taken me six months to feel that this next article was worth writing and hopefully worth reading.

My main problem was I wanted to write about the importance of strategy in mission but COVID-19 seemed to throw this in the air and any strategy we had known or that made sense was suddenly thrown in the bin. Yet over this period I have relearnt that it is not so much that we need a strategy but more that we need strategic thinking. There are moments in the life of the church when everything does get thrown into the air. It is in these moments that we should not stick rigidly to the path we have known but instead find the new path that now makes sense.

Back at the beginning of this year I was driving back from a SCBA trustees meeting only to discover that the A34 had been closed. Believing that this couldn’t apply to me I ignored the warning signs and just headed on to where I was certain I would be able to take my normal journey. When arriving at the A34 I discovered that the warnings had been correct! I had to turn around and head back the way I had come. You will have thought I would have learnt a valuable lesson but instead I decided to ignore the diversions signs and headed off in another direction convinced that I could somehow find my normal route. Eventually after an extra 10 minutes of driving through tiny country roads in the dark I arrived right back where I started! It was time to take a new route and follow the diversion before I ran out fuel!

I have found that the word strategy is over-used and highly misunderstood or misinterpreted. In fact it only appears in the Bible once in Isaiah 8v10 (NIV) and the vast majority of translations use the word ‘plans’ or ‘courses’.  ‘Strategic thinking’ is never listed as one of the gifts of the Spirit we find in the Bible. So you could ask, “Is it Biblical?” Yet it seems to me that there are plenty of Godly examples of good strategic leadership[1] and the early church was not bereft of acting strategically. I want to suggest, therefore, that it is very much is an essential a tool of the Spirit to guide us in our missional leadership.

Let me suggest five characteristics of the gift of strategic thinking that I believe are of great value to the Kingdom of God.

  1. Strategic thinking first seeks God’s wisdom

Finding the right path/strategy must always start in prayer. Psalm 119v105 encourages us to look to him who is a “lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” The path or strategy that we seek must be His and therefore we must start patiently on our knees asking for His wisdom and His insight. He ultimately is our navigator. Personally, I would encourage sharing this with others. Discernment shared together is so much stronger than discernment alone.

  1. Strategic thinking values logic

Logic doesn’t sound very spiritual. I have noticed over the years that sometimes spiritual discernment ignores all logic. Yet, if God created a rational world we would be foolish to ignore that which makes sense. Many of the sayings in Proverbs are common sense logical statements and Jesus himself encourages rational thinking[2].

In terms of mission we need to ask the question, “What makes sense?”. By asking this question honestly of an activity, initiative or project I have discovered that sometimes the answer is “No, it doesn’t!” The missional team or leader must have the courage to accept that the answer might be ‘no’.

On one occasion at Eastleigh we invited a number of people to join a faith questioning group. We set the date and time with the expectation that this would work for all involved. We discovered that that was not the case. Not all could make a Thursday evening, not everyone was ready for the group dynamic and everyone had a different set of questions. Logic suggested that instead of running a group we should offer each individual bespoke opportunity that fitted their time, with people they could relate to and in an environment where they could ask their unique questions. It made sense to make the change.

  1. Strategic thinking recognises when it is time to change

I have found in the business of church life we rarely stop to ask the question, “Are we on the best path?” We often plough on regardlessly hoping that the route we have always taken is still the best route. The problem with this mentality is that the landscape has changed and society has moved on. People are asking new questions and right now COVID is having its own cultural impact. A different strategy is required and we need to be brave enough to embrace the change and to be willing to take a risk at finding a new way. Excellent strategic thinking is when a team realises that now is the time to find a new route.

The gift of strategy is that it recognises when something just isn’t working and that change is needed. This is invaluable in our mission today.

  1. Strategic thinking looks for the best routes

Over the years I have enjoyed playing the game Risk many times but I fear playing against my brother-in-law who seems to have the gift of winning! At the point it looks like he might lose he seems to find another way to win. He is always prepared to change his plan and to find a better way.

We need people in our churches who recognise when change is needed but who also are able to discern a better path for the present. COVID has taught us this. When everything is thrown into the air and everyone around us is panicking because the old norm has gone, it is the strategists that often step forward with possible new ways forward. I find that strategists are optimists and creative and prepared to think in new ways. They don’t give up but instead keep searching for the better way. They are risk-takers who are trying to work out which paths are the best paths.

In these times of COVID asking the question, “What is the best route now?” is an important missional strategic question. I’ve been amazed by how many churches have not strategically considered what the new missional path during COVID might look like. Many have focussed too much on how to do church and to keep pastorally connected to existing members. Many churches have continued to exist behind even tighter closed ‘virtual’ doors. Let’s face it, if you are just doing ‘Zoom’ Church you are closed to the world. At a time when so many people are asking deep questions about meaning and purpose now seems to be a time to open up the experience and message of the Church to the wider community. Credit to those churches who have managed to find new ways of engaging with their community or opening up a virtual experience of worship and hearing from God for both their members and the onlookers.

  1. Strategic thinking connects the route together

Lastly, but far from least, a strategic thinking does not just focus on the destination but on the journey. If you don’t have a road map (or SatNav) you probably won’t arrive at where you hoped to go. The road map for a missional church is crucial but so is connecting up the various stages.

I’ve always enjoyed doing mazes. I’ve even got a maze app own my phone. There are three ways of completing a maze; you can start at the beginning, you can work backward from the end, or if you are really clever you can start from both ends and meet in the middle. A strategic thinker considers the steps needed to be taken from both ends in mission. From where the church begins and from where the not-yet-follower of Jesus starts. From the church perspective work must be done to prepare people to go on a journey in order to meet them as they seek to discover Jesus. But great consideration must be made to understand the journey required for those who are seeking. From the seekers perspective we need to consider carefully what the paths are that help someone come to faith today. If you don’t know, go and ask someone who has recently come to faith.

I was speaking to one of our pioneers yesterday and she told me that a person she has met recently, who has no faith, had requested to come to their “Outdoor Church”. Apparently she admitted that she wasn’t religious but just “loved hanging out with you guys”. This is not just accidental. It is recognising the importance of relationship and belonging as important initial steps in strategically outreach in our times.

Personally, I believe that strategic praying, thinking, conversation and implementation is at the centre of good missional leadership. I think this is what Paul is hinting at in 1 Corinthians 9v19-23, when he says that to reach the Jews he became a Jew; to reach those under the law he places himself under the law; to reach those not under the law he became like those not under the law; to reach the weak he became weak; so that “by all possible means” he might save some. This sounds like strategic thinking to me!

 

[1] Noah’s Ark, Joseph’s management of the famine, The Exodus, Joshua, Gideon, King David, Solomon’s temple, Proverbs, Daniel, Nehemiah, Jesus’ public ministry, Paul’s missionary journeys etc…

[2] Matt 6v19-21, 7v9-12, 24-27; Luke 14v28-33, John 11v9-10

 

This is article 7 of 8. You can view the whole series here.

 

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