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Category Archives: ministry

This Is Broken

I’m not the world’s biggest Seth Godin fan, but this is one of the funniest things I’ve seen on the Internet for ages. It raises questions about what is broken in our lives – and, given the focus of this blog, the church.

  • We have a broken understanding of church leadership that still thinks we are in Christendom, and all we have to do is call people back to their latent faith.
  • We have a broken understanding of ministry that thinks one person can be apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher and not have the first name ‘Jesus’.
  • We have a broken understanding of mission that thinks people will just come and join our club.
  • We have a broken understanding of organisation that thinks we can simply transfer secular management theories to the church and all will be well.

Add your own examples …

In the context of the video above, there are people who let these broken things slide, because it’s not their job. There is a lot of ‘I’m not a fish’ around – things designed by people who would never use them.

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Guest Post: Chris Lowe On House Groups

My treasurer at Knaphill is passionate about the importance of house groups. He’s just written a document in support of them in the church, and with his permission I share it with you:

What is a house group?

Probably the easiest way to define it is to regard it as a church that meets in someone’s home. That’s an interesting thought really!  “A house group is a church that meets in a home!!”

By ‘church’ we mean, of course, a bunch of people who are committed to following Jesus, committed to each other, and committed to the wider church.  The house group should have the same priorities that one expects in a church. These would include mission, evangelism, pastoral care and teaching so that its members can grow in their faith together.

Following Jesus involves

  • commitment to building the Kingdom of God; and
  • making disciples, bringing people to a more mature faith.

These can only be achieved if the members of house groups are prepared to share their unique God-given personalities and gifts for the benefit of the group in which they find themselves, as their mutual trust grows.

Although the main purpose of the house group is often regarded to be pastoral care, there is also a second purpose, which is discipleship.

All the members of the group need to be growing. They all need to be using their gifts, serving one another, discovering practical ways to express God’s love. Everyone has a real contribution to make.  People grow as they make these contributions and as they see God answering prayer.

Everyone also needs to be growing in their understanding, and the house group provides a unique and safe environment in which people can ask questions and explore issues which affect their everyday lives.

Why join a House Group?

Stripped image of John Wesley

Stripped image of John Wesley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People often ask “Why join a House Group?”   Is going to church not enough?  This is what John Wesley said:

“Look east or west, north or south … is Christian fellowship there? Rather, are not the bulk of parishioners a mere rope of sand? What Christian connection is there between them? What intercourse in spiritual things? What watching over each other’s souls? What bearing of one another’s burdens?”.

 If we are honest, we believe many people today echo Wesley’s comment.  Interesting expression, isn’t it? Are we not a “rope of sand”?  Many different little grains but none joined together?

So what is the answer? What did John Wesley do to rectify the situation? He sought to “introduce fellowship where none existed”   by the formation of class meetings. These class meetings, cell groups, house groups – call them what you like – were not to be seen as an alternate for church attendance but rather they were to

“complement the church and its ministry by offering a more intense and personal encounter of faith and grace within a context of mutual support, love and care”.

It is for this reason that we too need to go back to the roots of the early church and establish house groups, where we can re-discover wise principles laid down for true biblical fellowship.

What’s the real purpose?

There are various references in the Bible to how the early church started with small groups and we read how –

  • The early church were “one in heart and mind,”
  • They shared everything they had,
  • They honoured one another above themselves,
  • They practised hospitality,
  • They always kept on praying for all the saints.
  • They held that each member “belongs to all the others.”
  • Through every member ministry they encouraged one another and “built each other up.”
  • They spurred one another on “toward love and good deeds. They were committed to “go and make disciples”.

These things can’t all happen easily just by attending church services.

In Ephesians 4:12-13, we read “Christ gave those gifts [to be apostles, evangelists, prophets, pastors and teachers] to prepare God’s holy people for the work of serving and to make the body of Christ stronger. This is what we should do in our house groups – desire and endeavour to

“prepare God’s holy people for works of service  …… until we are all joined together in the same faith and in the same knowledge of the Son of God and become mature persons , attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”.

In the small group environment it is much easier to work towards these lofty goals than it is in the larger body of the local church. People grow to trust each other and become more willing to share and it is through this process of trust and sharing that we all grow in our faith.

What happens at the House Group?

Fear of the unknown can be a hindrance, so it is as well to mention what the house group meetings should be like.  It’s rather simple really.  There should be –

  • A time of welcome, friendship, laughter and a cup of tea or coffee together
  • a time of worship, listening to music, for example
  • a time of Bible study
  • a time of prayer, including intercessory prayer.

The format is often referred to as “the 4 W’s”

  • welcome
  • worship
  • word
  • witness

There need not be a particular set agenda but this is generally what would happen. There may be times when the group will watch a Christian video or listen to a teaching tape. Nobody should be expected to say anything, unless they wish to. Nobody will be expected to pray aloud – it’s a matter of personal choice.  Nobody will be “put on the spot” during the Bible Studies. What is said, and the extent of participation, is entirely up to the individual. The evening should be times of true fellowship in a relaxed atmosphere of mutual trust and care.

The wider church has for many years been putting great emphasis on the use of small groups for discipleship, outreach and other purposes.   How can we love one another as Jesus loved his disciples unless we create the environments in which close relationships can develop?  This is what small groups can achieve.

Jesus spent a lot of time with his disciples, because he loved them.  He trained and prepared them in a small group context.  The kind of relationships Jesus wanted for his followers can’t be built simply on the basis of casual contact, like about once a week over a cup of tea or coffee after church.   The early church certainly followed this example, and so produced mature and committed disciples who became effective both in evangelism as well as the other tasks they got from the Lord.

 This is what we need to aim for today – to create the right kind of environment in which trust can develop and grow, in which we can love one another, encourage one another, respect one another, watch over and care for one another – just as the Bible instructs us. This can’t happen if we limit our contact to Sunday church services and a brief chat afterwards – even if we do occasionally go out for a meal with others from the church and talk about things. House groups are vital if we sincerely wish to strengthen our church.  Just as the early church often met in homes, so too should we. It is interesting that the vast majority of growing churches today have some kind of home cell network in place, through which new people are added,   encouraged, strengthened and nurtured.  This is what God wants.

Healthy house groups should have as part of their vision the desire to increase in number. This requires two things. The first is the addition of new people to the group. The second is the training and equipping of existing members to lead house groups themselves.

Living With Broken Dreams

Taking my iPod for a walk the other morning after dropping the kids off at school, this great old song came on:

For one so young at the time, it was such a mature song, and I began to think about the disappointments that crush our dreams:

  • You dreamed of a long and happy retirement, but your spouse was struck down by a terminal cancer
  • You thought your work was going to change the world, but instead you clung on for retirement
  • Your children’s choices in adulthood broke your heart
  • You longed for children, but none came along
  • You expected to marry, but either the right person never came along, or they did and they were a disappointment, or they left you for someone else
  • You wanted to be a church leader, but the church didn’t share your conviction
  • Your heart ached for reconciliation with your family after those dark early years, but it never came and the parent who so let you down died before it could be resolved

Parents, teachers and church leaders all encourage children, teenagers and young converts to dream big dreams. “You can change the world!” Years later, many of those former young people are sat among the shards of shattered hopes. We could live differently.

We could sing the cynical words of ‘Always look on the  bright side of life’, – you know, ‘Life’s a pice of sh*t when you look at it’ – as the best an atheist, nihilist world can offer.

But I can’t accept that. Wouldn’t it be better to live with that Christian balance of Cross and Resurrection? The disciples thought their dreams had been destroyed at Calvary. ‘We had hoped he would be the one to redeem Israel,’ said one on the Emmaus Road. The discovery of an empty tomb and witnessing the One who blessed and broke bread changed everything.

A sermon I preached about three years ago and which you can find here on this blog was built on some personal experience of walking through such dashed dreams and darkened hopes. It was based on the last verse of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul’s great chapter about the Resurrection. His conclusion is not to sit tight and look forward to heaven, but to keep on striving, because ‘in the Lord your labour is not in vain.’ The God who will make all things new – even new heavens and a new earth – will make something good out of broken dreams.

Perhaps we can therefore encourage young people to dream differently. Dream on; dream about God’s kingdom purposes, which cannot be thwarted, even if he takes us on a detour to get there.

Nancy Duarte: Christian Values In Business Leadership

A while ago, I saw a great TED Talk video on ‘The secret structure of great talks’ by Nancy Duarte:

I didn’t need much persuading to buy her book Resonate, about improving your presentations. (It’s not a book of PowerPoint techniques, it explores the principles of good presentations instead.) I recommend it highly to all public speakers.

Now, I have seen an amazing interview with her on The Good Life Project. I wouldn’t normally sit through thirty-eight minutes of video on a computer, but this had me hooked. I had no idea Duarte was a Christian (that confession comes about twenty  minutes in). What is so wonderful about this interview is the way her Christian convictions have so permeated the way she leads and runs her business:

* She sees her job as to shepherd her staff. It is her duty to make sure the work is there so her one hundred employees can put food on their tables.

* She has a place both for the outgoing, quirky people who are good to put before clients and also the introverts who will hunker down and get a job done.

* Having been told by a coach that the two verbs applicable to her are ‘conquer’ and ‘liberate’, she uses these, not in what she calls an ‘Attila the Hun’ mode, but in terms of what she wants to do for others – again, specifically including her employees.

* When asked near the end what ‘the good life’ is, she emphatically rejects the notion of ‘bling’ in favour of generosity.

So put the kettle on, make a drink, and watch this inspiring video:

Violins For India

No new sermon this week: I led a communion service this morning, but we had a guest preacher, Patrick Coad from SCAT.

However, let me highlight something else: one of my former members at Knaphill, Ruth Pugh, recently left these shores for some missions work in India with a difference. She is working under the auspices of a bishop in the Church of North India to give music lessons to deprived children. It may not seem the most obvious of missionary causes, but this project will give increased dignity and self-esteem to these children. In the last few days, Ruth wrote to say that she needed three more small violins for younger children, who cannot cope with the full-size instruments. We held a retiring offering after this morning’s service and raised the money for more than two of them. The congregation didn’t know about this before arriving today, so I’m all the more delighted.

You can follow Ruth’s adventures here and sign up for email updates.

N T Wright On Worship Songs

Produced by The Work Of The People and found at Out Of Ur.

Guest Post, Gathering the Flock into the Fold Digitally: 4 Mobile Apps for Christian Clergy by Jessica McMann

Having just acquired an iPad, Jessica’s post is apposite for me. I confess I’ve had this on the stocks for a couple of weeks, but we have had major problems with our main computer, so it has had to wait. I’m grateful to Jessica for offering this post, writing it and then being patient while our PC was repaired. – Dave

As with any facet in our modern, connected world, mobile technology can help immensely in bringing people together and helping us do our jobs. And church is no exception. Check out the following apps to help you craft effective sermons, connect with your congregation, and keep learning about the faith:

Yap Tap

Yap Tap is a communication application that helps pastors stay specifically in touch with their youth groups, although it can be used for a variety of church-related groups as well. It’s essentially a social media, text messaging, and email system all rolled into one. Everyone in your congregation or youth group has their own preferred communication method. With Yap Tap, you have complete control in terms of who, when, and how you send communications to your church. Yap Tap is especially helpful for clergy members who find it difficult to communicate with so many different online mediums available. [Editor’s note: in a British context, there might be child protection issues around using this app with a youth group. You may need to check your Safeguarding policies. – Dave]

Not Just Words

Crafting a sermon is difficult, especially when you can’t quite remember the Bible verses you’d like to incorporate. Not Just Words solves this problem immediately. It’s a mobile Bible search application that enables users to search any word or phrase, after which it will generate search results for related words and phrases. For example, if you search the word “speak” it will find verses that use related words like “uttered.” Not Just Words also enables users to search for themes in specific Bible books. If you’d like to find out what the Book of John says about faith, just search “faith in John,” and the tool pulls up all mentions of faith in the Book of John.

Pocket Prayer Pro (Lite)

There are quite a few prayer apps out there, but this one I found to be most useful. It’s a great tool to help you manage prayer requests and maintain a prayer journal. The app also features more than 100 sample prayers that you can bookmark for later use. This is a great one to suggest to members of your church for their own personal use as well.

Create your own App

The Church App is a mobile app platform that enables church leaders to create their own, customizable apps for their congregation. The Church App will build a mobile app for you that enables you to do a variety of things, like share sermons in audio or video, create events with maps, integrate giving, and empower your congregation to communicate.

Of course, these aren’t the only helpful apps out there for clergymen and women. But they’re definitely a great start in getting your church and congregation to be more connected. Good luck!

Jessica McMann is a freelance writer whose primary interest is Christian education. She enjoys writing about homeschooling, Christian universities, and learning through a Christ-focused community. Check out more of Jessica’s writing at ChristianColleges.com

What Unites The Church? Martyrdom And Sacrifice

So often different parties in the church are at war with each other. Just like Jesus wanted. Not.

But here is a music project that links Catholics, Evangelicals and more Liberal/middle of the road Christians. It’s The Martyrs Project. The Catholic website Salt And Light Radio is featuring the video for their song about Oscar Romero. You can read more there about who is involved. It includes some of my favourite Christian musicians.

Alternatively, below is (just) the Romero video:

How To Write An Awful Worship Song

Stephen Altrogge has Seven ways to write an awful worship song. It’s funny in places, but also rather too close to the truth. Principle #1 put me in mind of all the ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ songs. #2 made me think about ‘the dove from above‘ in Reeves and Mortimer‘s ‘Shooting Stars‘. The ‘poetry’ of #5 reminded me of that strange mixed metaphor in ‘I could sing of your love for ever‘ – ‘Over the mountains and the sea, your river runs with love for me.’ (Ever seen a river run over the sea?) As for #7, I thought about the old story Murray Watts used to tell about people saying to him, ‘The Lord has given me a poem.’ It was usually turgid. Watts would tear up the poem, saying, ‘The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.’

Can you add to Altrogge’s list?

What would you nominate as an awful worship song, and why? (Don’t be nasty.)

How can we improve?

Remembrance Sunday: Swords Into Ploughshares

At Knaphill this Sunday we shall hold our usual all age worship parade service for Remembrance Sunday. Our Bible text is Micah 4:1-5, especially the famous words in verse 3, ‘They will beat their swords into ploughshares’.

With that in mind, we are using the video below, which has connections with Christian Aid, and which we found through Barnabas In Churches. It tells a remarkable story of putting this Bible verse into practice in a creative way in Mozambique. Watch and be moved.