Church, Mission, Mission Shaped Church, prayer, Worship

The Kings Arms.

On Wednesday night we did something different with our on going project “Pints Of View” where we make ourselves available to chat to anyone who wants to chat in our community by sitting in Weatherspoon’s wearing a clerical collar!

We went along to the Kings Arms, pub next door to Trinity, and borrowed one of their rooms and myself and another guy prayed and worshipped for a bit (we did invite a whole load of other folk, but it was just the two of us who came).

Part of me felt why didn’t I just meet next door and pray and worship there, surely God doesn’t mind where we pray anyway? -And worshipping, especially singing, makes me feels a vulnerable and self conscious, especially when there are only two of you there!

Eminem’s lyrics rang out in the bar and a few “F&*$#!” rang out from the loosing team at pool, whilst we prayed and sung out prayers for Gods love to be made manifest in that place…

Wes lead us in an old worship song “Hallejuah my Saviour” which featured the lines “knowing we would bruise him and strike him from the earth”  -for some reason the image caused a lump in my throat. I then though of some of the guys they all have something in front of their name “Vicar Andy”, “Beardy Mike”, “Sleepy Al”, “Dancing Paul” and “bruised Christ” seemed to resonate yet in a way, being in the midst of real lie for many people, this felt more Jesus-like that hidden away on our own in some great religious building,

Humanly speaking prayer and worship don’t seem like very worthwhile or productive activities yet seen from heavens perspective they are crucial.

I have said many times about how all great moves of God are birthed in prayer, and it is true, in fact the Hebradean revival as literally a small group of elderly ladies praying. We all know this and yet trying to motivate the Church to pray has been incredibly difficult. Interestingly prayer before our services is the last job we do after set up is done and often people say “I can’t join you in prayer as I’m doing…” I know set up in important but is shows our hearts that often prayer is not as central to our lives together as it should be.

I have been challenged many times, and I still get caught with this, that I run around like a headless chicken and probably need to spend more times simply on my face before God.

We prayed for our area, we prayed for the city, we prayed for more of God in our own lives,

Before wandering over to Weatherspoon’s, and we had we were joined by a friend Phil, and we had a nice chat… We didn’t see mass revival, but I think God was doing something, and I think he saw our hearts and I believe this small step of faith pleased him, yet I think that the next step of faith is about ensuring that this happens next week, and the week after, something of Jacob wrestling with God “we’re not going till you bless us”…

This is a intentional seeking of Christ’s face, rather than going through the tick box of a prayer meeting often attended out of a sense of duty but limited expectation…

I believe, that as we seek Christ, out of our comfort zone, in the heart of the community, offering ourselves and making ourselves available, we will see him becoming more and more known in Kingswood.

And  as I think about my time in Kingswood, perhaps I have spent too long in the rock soil of religious people who don’t always realise their need of a Saviour… Perhaps to find good soil we need to be here the F words are flowing, Eminem is playing on the Duke Box, people don’t try to looked suited and respectable and often are very often about their pain and the mess of their lives.

Jesus said those who are well don’t need a Doctor, but only those who are sick, yet we spend our time pandering to “healthy” people in our Churches dealing with their coughs and sneezes whilst out from our Church walls there is horrific epidemics breaking out.

It sounds harsh, but I wonder if for to long I pandered to the spiritual hypochondriacs rather than going on an aid mission to they dying, setting up field hospitals and outposts and seeking to bring the healing, transforming, hope-filled love the Saviour to the streets.

I mused the words of Eminem in contrast to our worship songs, one told of anger, hurt, loneliness and rejection the other of hope, love and acceptance.

I remember a quote which said “to change the world you need to tell a better story” and felt that in one sense this is what we are doing, being a prayerful presence, living out and showing a different and better story than the rant of Eminem with the love of God who stoops down to reach us from gutter.

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Bible, Depression, Discipleship, Godliness, Journey, prayer, Spirituality, Worship

When You Are Just Not Feeling It.

Writers block… Normally I have 101 ideas I’m dying to share with the world about following Jesus, but today I can’t think of anything!

Sometimes we go through seasons when really feel Gods presence wonderfully close, other days God doesn’t feel so close.

Sometimes, when we read the Bible it really speaks to us and there is a wonderful connection, other times it can feel like a habit and your read some verses that aren’t bad but don’t really move you.

I’ve had times when I can’t put the Bible down, and I’ve had other times when I’ve struggled to pick it up.

Have you ever been in a church service of an event when everyone else seems to be connecting with God in a wonderful and deep way and we feel a bit jealous because we are just not feeling it?

Sometimes you sing some songs and you feel Gods presence and other times it just feels like you are singing songs, sometimes the words catch you, especially songs that are joy filled “…and I feel like dancing” which doesn’t always resonate with where we are at.

Sometimes it’s a choice, and in singing words it’s a faith filled thing, saying that the truth of God is greater than our current feelings, and I will worship despite my circumstance, mood, or whatever… Other times it’s a question of integrity, I can’t sing “I’m overflowing with joy” when God knows that I’m not, he knows I want to be, but for whatever reason today doesn’t feel like it.
I think there are times in our life when sometimes it isn’t easy being a follow of Christ.

I think that there is a false Americanisation of some worship styles that are often overly joyous and ‘sugary’ as though life is perpetually good and the only human expression the

Christian is allowed is a cheesy grin.

Yet in the psalms there are plenty of laments and even “where have you gone God?” Psalms, Jesus even quoted one of these (Ps. 22) on the cross, I long to see greater authenticity within our sung worship, that embraces rather than runs from pain, confusion and frustration.

I love (and am deeply challenged by) Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name, when the suns shining down on me and the world is all that it should be… Blessed Be Your Name when found in the Desert place, on the road marked with suffering, though there is pain in the offering, blessed be your name… You give and take away, but my heart will choose to say, blessed be your name”.

I don’t think God ever intended human beings to live perpetually on the mountain, he knows that in real life we go into real valleys, and maybe even real deserts too.

In fact it’s the deserts where the most beautiful and powerful growth occurs.

Just as a rose bud develops its best scent when it is tightly compressed.

Yet it is in the mundane we discover something deep in our faith, just as in our human relationships it is easy to serve your spouse when you are totally loved up, but harder when maybe its not all rose petals and romance.

Yet what an amazing act of truly beautiful Worship when we Worship even through the tears.

I think we need a spiritual life that  is robust enough that know,and can cope with highs and lows, and when things are tough we learn discipline and gain strength.
Yet it is easy to serve when your heart is full of gladness, but harder when your heart is full of sadness, but in a way more beautiful and authentic, for we are saying to God that despite our internal and external feelings and circumstances, even so, we are going to rely not on our feelings knowing they are fallible, but instead place our trust on God and his faithfulness, which -despite our feelings- remains steadfast.

Sometimes when you feel you have nothing to say, sometimes that’s the most profound message of all.

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prayer, presence, Spirituality, Worship

The Power of Presence…

I have recently been thinking a lot about worship.

I have suggested that those of us who regularly join together for Pints Of View ought to meet up and pray and worship first.

Something I am keen to suggest too for us as Street and School Pastors before we go out.

I think worship is the key to everything… yet when we worship because it is the key to everything we are missing the point, because to worship in order to get a key sounds more like playing Super Mario than living in a right relationship with God.

I think when we come to God in worship, we are reminded of who he is, he greatness and might, and also of our dependence on him, so often in our meetings although he is acknowledged with a prayer at the beginning our focus often remains very much on ourselves and our capabilities. When we worship we focus on him and his abundance, provision and power. His faithfulness to do all that he has called us to do through us is liberating, because we need to be reminded afresh that we don’t do what we are called ‘for’ God but rather ‘with’ him. The less we worship the more we get this wrong.

Worship is often an act of will, to be honest when life is tough, we are tired and stressed, often we squash our worship out of the agenda, yet often when we are feeling the least like worshipping, often it is when we need to worship the most. We discover that in worship there is a refreshing of the soul, a re-energizing of the will, a renewal of the mind that need, but don’t always need.

Yet not only does worship reminded us of who God is, and not only does it require us to shuffle of the thrones of our own lives and let Christ re-take his rightful place, it also affirms us in who we are in Christ. We are his beloved children.

I believe that because sometimes we live in worship poverty, that is a contributory factor in why so many Christians struggle with their identity in who they in Christ, and of the Fathers great love for them.

Worship shows us God, but as we worship God somehow we discover afresh something of God’s love for us, a divine exchange seems to happen, as we pour our love at his feet, he pours his love over us.

I’m struck by how we use our bodies in worship.

When our hands our  lifted up symbolise surrender, which is I believe at the heart of what worship is, even though we don’t understand what is happening around us, why it is happening, it is a surrender and saying to God even though I don’t understand, I still trust you with my life.

When come before the communion table with our empty hands, we are reminded that we come to God empty handed, but come before a generous God who will provide all we need as we seek to follow him.

When we are down on our knees we remember God’s might and majesty… his rule over our life, who he is, and us pledged to his service.

Yet worship isn’t just a need for us, but I do believe that when we spend time in God’s presence we become more like him, we become like those we hang around with, which is true when we are with God, we become like him, he shines from us.

I love the story of Moses coming down the mountain with his face shining because he had been in the presence of God, so much so he had to put a veil over his face… His encounter with God shone out to the people, who noticed the presence of God on Moses.

It’s a picture often picked up in scripture, the treasure shining from the broken clay vessels, gleaming out of the cracks, proclaiming “Christ in us the hope of glory”.

The presence of God with his people is so important and powerful that when God offers to let the people of Israel go into the promised land without him, Moses says “if you don’t go with us, how will we be different from the other nations of the world”.

God’s presence is beautiful… he’s the one who draws people to himself, but gives us the privilege of partnering with himself.

On twitter I came across a Catholic picture of the Communion Elements with the words above them “you are what you eat” -and although I’m not into transubstantiation-  I love the picture, the more you celebrate Christ in Communion, the more of him dwells within you.

I think that too often we approach God with functionality, e.g “we ought to pray”, rather than as a Father “I just want to be with you”… Yet when we are with him we are changed and the world notices. “They realised that they (Peter, James and John) were ordinary unskilled men who had been with Jesus”.

When we worship we realise that it is less about technique, or style and more about God’s love overflowing from us.

I believe that the “when Harry met Sally” quote “I want what she’s having” ought to be something that happens more regularly, that Christ is seen in us, not just that we have clever words, we have beautiful flyers or we inviting them to a great event.

If you were going on a long journey or doing something important most of us would charge up our mobile phone (if we had one) just as when we go out on mission (which is actually what any of us do the moment we walk out of our front door, or into work, or the kids playground) we can’t go out on empty, on drained and with the dreggs of God’s presence.

This doesn’t mean you have to turn up at Church all the time, it could just be encountering and worshipping God with CD in your car, or just taking some time out on a park bench before leaping into whatever situation.

My suggestion is that we need to be intentional about worship.

Worship not just when you feel like it, but actually probably more worthwhile when you don’t feel like worshipping that’s probably when you need to do it the most.

Work out times and places that will feed your soul with encountering Christ, engaging with the Father, rather than praying out of a understanding of its importance functionally.

God knows we need him, he loves to hear from us, but so often our prayer and our worship is often as a ‘warm up’ to doing something or for a sermon rather than simply because he is a good good father who loves you.

Sometimes I think we should stop all Churchy work, and just take time just to encounter Christ again, pursue his presence.

The key to it all is the presence of Christ, at times his presence has convicted and converted people without any words uttered, we carry the presence of God, but too often this wonderful light gets hidden under bushels.

I love the image of overflow, when we encounter Christ, the overflow of his presences in his people, splashes out to a hungry and thirsty world, who seem him in his people and the thirsty world is drawn to the one who quenches our deepest thirsts and satisfies our deepest hungers.

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Church, Community, community of grace, incarnation, Ministry, Mission, Simplicity, Worship

Simple Church, or Simply being Church.

I’m loving our time at New Wine, but as our opening night ŵhen all the lights, power, tech all went down really made me think.

As many of you know we are trying to seek where God is calling us to best impact for Christ the area he has called us too.

One thought I’ve been wondering about is “have we made Church a bit too complicated?”

I also heard some else this week talk about how hard it is “doing Church”, now apart from the dodgy theology here –you can’t “do” what you already are!- it got me thinking.

I have long time been thinking that our current view of Church is very different that found in the book of Acts.

Rowan Williams the former Archbishop said “Church is the intentional community gathered around Jesus Christ” and more recently I heard a genius quote by Paula Gooder “The plural of disciple is Church”.

Do we make Church too complicated? Do we really need all the “stuff” –sometimes car loads of it!

As I began to pursue this thought in my mind, I remembered some of my greatest corporate experiences of God, “Church”, and I realised (other than the night I re-dedicated my life to Christ), all of them were spontaneous times with other Christian friends, often on beaches, hills, friends offices’, mates’ sitting rooms, very rarely actually in a special “Holy” building.

I wonder too, whether we get to worried about DOING Church and not enough about BEING Church, ordinary Christians met together and intentionally inviting Christ by his spirit to presence himself with his people (“where two or three are gathered together there I am in the midst of them” –Jesus).

Often we feel like we are unable to Ŵorship without the screen, words and music –rather than the overflow of our hearts thankfulness and praise expressed corporately…

Or perhaps we feel like we can’t pray out loud because we haven’t been to bible college and can’t make our prayers sound “proper”, but we can share our hearts with God with others, we don’t have to be some special holy person to simply love, pray and stand alongside our brothers and sisters…

Often we think that we can only share what God is saying to us and our hearts if we have been to Bible college, utter rubbish, go for it, if you think God is saying it why not share t and bless one another…

To often we have made Church too much come and watch the paid professionals lead, and just join in the singing bit… Rather, than Church equipping you to be the Church where ever you are and whatever you do.

I love the idea of a Church to spread the DNA of Jesus as widely as possible, and equipping the saints to be stewards ushering in the Kingdoms reign and rule, where gathering together and encouraging one another is just what we do when we meet other Christians we acknowledge the presence of the Lord with us, and listen to his voice and be expectant for his encounter and blessing.

Church is not about putting on services, but intentionally meeting together expectant of the presence of God to meet with us.

Perhaps, we ought maybe to intentionally seek out times not just to be with God personally, not just be with people who don’t yet know Jesus, but also intentionally seeking out time to be with our brothers in sisters in Christ to build us up and sharpen us in our faith (after all “iron sharpen iron as one person sharpens each other”).

Wondered maybe we need to be people who get together, bless one another and seek God and his face with expectancy.

Let’s learn to make our encounters with each other more like how Church should be.

And to do this we need to put aside our differences and love one another.

Too often we often just think about our vertical relationship with God when we have a service together, and too much about our horizontal relationships with each other when we aren’t in a religious building, but perhaps we need to mix the two up a bit, more of Christ in our relationships with each other, and maybe more of our relationships with each other in our encounters with God.

Let’s learn to be simple Church organically happening intentionally when we met up with other Christians, stoking the fire in one another for the sake of the glory of Jesus where ever we are.

Let’s just do it.
let’s just be it, everywhere we go and whatever we do.

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Authenticity, Worship

When the lights go off…

At the first night at New Wine we were being led in Ŵorship by a great band with lights, smoke and the words on the screen, when suddenly the lights failed, the screens went blank and the sound went silent. After an awkward and unsure second or two, the song continued sing together but unaccompied, and just worshipped on our own without all the aides and props just us with what we had -our voices and each other… And what is more it w beautiful, precious and anointed.

In many ways this struck me as a great picture of Church… Often it feels like that first night at New Wine when we step out of an evening gathering with great times of Ŵorship, Teaching and ministry and you return to your reality of life, and you have that choice to carry on by ourselves without all the stuff to help us,

Recently we have been teaching my little girl to ride her bike without stabilizers, or without a parent running on behind, she has to carry on on her own.

I was thinking that this isn’t a bad picture of discipleship where from the place of security with scaffolding all around us, we step out of the comfortable and secure, we are moving out of the scaffolding, we haven’t got our stabilizers on and the team aren’t there, but the choice is to carry on ourselves when there is no band, no noise and no hype.

My great former intern Sam used to say how people found it so easy to be CHristians at Soul Survivor but didn’t manage it the rest of the year… And I can understand it us easy following Jesus for a week a year, but the value of that week is actually measured in the other fifty one weeks a year.

Is our idea of discipleship to give people what they want, if is it to train, trust and release them to do it themselves.

In the Christian life there I’ll be times when the band has packed up, and the structures give way, but have we learned and grown that when the storm hits and the technology fails we carry an with following Christ with barely a seconds pause.

I bet this must be how the disciples felt when Jesus ascended into heaven? Carrying on without him, doing it independently without the teacher like the first time you drive your car without the driving instructor sat next to you.

Yet the disciples did fulfil the great commission, they not only did what Jesus had taught them to do, they taught others to do likewise and so on until you and me now, trying to learn together how to do this stuff for real in our everyday lives.

Okay, let’s do it, let’s keep following Jesus, let’s keep speaking about him and sharing the good news of the salvation story, let’s pray for and heal the sick, speak prophetically and live a life of heralding in the Kingdom, not just in the crowd of a Chruch gathering, or even with just a churchy friend, but those moments when it’s just you and God and the caverlry isn’t imminently coming over the hill and the situation calls or the spirit nudges, what do we do?

Does all the stuff we do actually equip and empower us to live for Jesus?
Perhaps it is time to unscrew the stabilizers? -Paul said “by now you should be eating meat not still on milk” it’s scary riding without the stabilizers or the running parent but then the heart of faith is, I believe (and to quote John Wimber) is spelled R-I-S-K, but us risking doing the stuff ourselves in our normal everyday lives, and also God himself taking a risk on us.

Just like the baby eagle that is thrown from the nest by the parent to teach them to fly, only to be caught before they hit the ground, but the truth is they rarely hit the ground because they normally fly.

Is maybe Jesus encouraging/throwing you from the nest to see if you’d fly, just as he did when he called Peter to step out on the water? If so, remember that the Eagle does catch her young (but normally only just milliseconds before they hit the floor.

The parent runs after the child and catches them, picks them up, brushes down rh grazed knees, and puts them back on the bike to try again, and again.

Jesus put his hand out and caught/rescued a sinking Peter as he began to disappeared under the waves he was walking on.

Too often we are rather harsh on Peter in this story, because unlike the other eleven disciples, he at least got out the boat.

Peter is someone who in this instance was singing on his own without the band, the screen and the lights.

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Acts of Service, Bravery, Church, community of grace, Compassion, Discipleship, Giving/Generousity., Holiness, Kingdom, Ministry, Mission, prayer, self awareness, Unity, Worship

A Dream for the local Church…

I wrote this in 2012, which was a time when nearly all the Churches in Kingswood had different leaders, All Souls hadn’t been planted yet and nor had some of the more savage ‘sheep bites’, but even so, it is still the picture that I long to see God do in this area… Although now where it says Kingswood, I think we’d have to say BS15 as we now work in Hanham too… In places, there are signs of this vision becoming reality and in other places there is still a fair way to go… (Anyway, hope it blesses you!)

Kingswood High Street might be littered with church buildings, and true they do have their own congregations and their own unique quirks, habits, funny ways but in one sense they really are one Church because they are all sold out on loving Christ and making him known.

They are all wanting to be filled with the spirit of the living God, they cry out for the lost in their prayers, they seek to seize every opportunity that Christ gives to make him known -pray and proclamation go together here, woven together with a beautiful seemlessness.

The Christian’s here  are deep and authentic about their faith and uncompromising in Holiness but awash with grace.

They pray together with such love that which congregation they belong to is hardly noticeable, they pray so passionately, and listen intently, and as they worship Christ in spirit and truth, the Church in Kingswood carries the very heartbeat of God.

It knows its identity, it is a holy and pure bride, but it is salt and light, wise as serpents but innocent as doves, it holds out the word that gives life, it shines out like stars in the darkness…

The church is attractive, marked as distinctive because of the hope that we have, filled with vibrant life, and deep authentic life shared together, this isn’t an hour on a Sunday morning  and an otherwise disparate community, but these are the men and women of God, ambassadors of Christ, solider called to take the ground of Kingswood for Christ.

They are living sacrifices.

They chose Christ in all they do through out the week.

The seize the moment never missing an opportunity to bless and seek and see God’s Kingdom break in.

They are  Church that hears God and has the courage to follow in obedience.

It is growing.

Ordinary people are meeting with an extraordinary God all the time, Kingdom encounters are normal part of our spiritual DNA.

The Churches are good incubators, people are loved, encouraged, mentored and walked with, we make disciples together as we all learn what following Jesus actually looks like.

People take risks on each other, leaders rise up from unlikely places, discipleship is organic and indigenous, and yet real and authentic with people being truly them and truly shining out Jesus.

Church looks funny, choatic even, but it is growing, it’s a movement of God in relationship, with people following where God leads, and it snowballs, it doesn’t play it safe and get comfortable, instead every group and sub group in Kingswood can hear about Jesus in a way they can understand..

This is the Church of Christ in Kingswood.

It is good news for all who are lost, hurting, marginalised, disenfranchised, ostracised, broken, it is good news for all. It is a community that reflects Jesus to the wider community.

It is a loving community, filled with compassion, and it is by this that all people know we belong to Christ, that we love one another…

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Adoration, Worship

Adoration by Sarah Whybrew.

Recently the All Souls Home Group has been following The Prayer Course produced by 24/7 Prayer and Alpha. For the next 6 days we will share with you some of the ways we have been challenged as a result of the course so you can share the journey with us.

The Prayer Course is centred on the Lords Prayer. The disciples understood the importance of prayer, but also recognised that it was hard and that they needed help!  So they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1) and in his response Jesus gives us a model to follow in prayer.

ADORATION  – “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name”

Firstly we remember that Gods name is Holy – He is worthy of our praise. So often we are so busy dashing from one thing to another that we do not stop and be still and know that He is God, remembering all His benefits as the Psalmist writes (Psalm 103:2).

We often find it easy to list all the things we want God to do, but how often do we just sit and enjoy His presence? When we become focused on ourselves and what is troubling us we lose sight of who God is, how marvellous, faithful, kind and loving He is, how trustworthy He is.

Think about the people in your life who you love.  It’s important to spend time with them and share experiences together.  If you just turn up to speak to them when you want something from them they are unlikely to feel loved. How much more in our relationship with God!  We want to be people who show love to our Father, not to make Him just someone we send our daily wish list.

So how might we build the practice of adoration into our daily lives? Before bringing your requests to God why not start each day focusing on an attribute of God, reading a Psalm perhaps, or enjoying His creation and giving Him the glory or simply being quiet and still, remembering who He is. (This has the added bonus of giving us more space to listen to Him as well – something well cover another day.)

Let’s make it our aim every day to fix our minds on who God is, to rest in His presence and adore Him! 

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