Alignment

I’m still buzzing from the baptisms last weekend. It alignment-featurewas such a joy to hear both Alina’s and Marissa’s testimonies of how their lives have changed through meeting Jesus. Both women were fairly nervous leading up to the baptism and both were so different afterwards: calmer, peaceful but also somehow more complete, more themselves. It’s as if by going through the water they have become more the person they were always meant to be; and as we were all created to be close with God, that makes sense to me.

This week I have been in conversations with three more people who are thinking about getting baptised, Easter Sunday is looking like a good time to aim for which would make it a very special occasion. We’ve already got the gospel choir booked for Easter Sunday morning – wouldn’t it be great to have the baptisms then as well? So, if the baptisms we’ve had recently have led you to think about being baptised, and Easter Sunday
appeals to you, just let me know and we’ll see what we can sort out.

In contrast to the size and excitement of the morning service last week, was the very different evening service. Our 6:30 PM service has been through many incarnations, currently though it’s a more peaceful, reflective service with music and worship to match. Dan Brown led the teaching as he expertly took us through the second chapter of 2 Chronicles.

The evening service has been a great opportunity to hear some different voices and for people to try out sharing a message in a smaller group. There’s a notice in the bulletin this week inviting any budding speakers to get in touch with me with a view to trying out and developing in this area.

Our current series ‘Alignment’ is exploring the questions: ‘what does it mean to be in alignment with God?’ and ‘how do we know if we are making wise decisions based on prayer and faith, or foolish decisions based only on our own understanding?’ 2 Chronicles is proving to be a fascinating book to guide us through this challenging topic. If you haven’t been to a 6:30 for a while – why not join us one week, I think you’ll like it.

Keep warm this weekend
See you Sunday

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20%

church-meetingI usually wake up the morning after a church meeting buzzing and today is no exception.  The meeting last night was encouraging, emotional and exciting.  Let’s start with the encouragement, we welcomed two new members attending their first meeting as members alongside commending another new person for membership. We affirmed the tremendous ministries of Anne and Rosy as we reappointed them as ministry coordinators for another term; the women’s ministries of the church are flourishing by the way:  clothes swaps, days of prayer and other brilliant stuff all in the pipeline. The 2019 church budget was unanimously approved which means we start the year positively and with the support to realise our visions and plans for the church.

It was also emotional as we honoured and ‘decommissioned’ John, Mark and Hilary from their excellent much respected service as elders to the church. John graced us with a very funny song relaying the highs and lows of the three retiring elders, and with an additional verse about Emily; and the church in turn honoured John with a song thanking him for his years of leadership, direction and service to the church.  I admit to feeling my voice crack and having slightly itchy eyes as we gathered around John and Mark for prayer at the end of the meeting.

We also prayed over Emily, Paul and baby Irving following Emily’s sharing of her sabbatical and maternity plans. Emily’s last Sunday before sabbatical is 10th February, after which she goes straight into maternity leave which means she will be off duty for about 15 months.

The excitement is thinking about the next few months. Emily shared the ‘Church Manager’ story which we started in 2011. The staff changes of the last year or so have led us to the point where we are ready to proceed with recruiting a church manager to oversee the premises, admin and organisational structure of the church. I’m reluctant to use the terms ‘streamline’ or ‘efficiency’ but this new role will enable us to be the best stewards of all the resources God has entrusted to us and to release people into their areas of ministry in which they and the church will flourish.

In terms of money, Andy re-emphasised that to meet our projected income for the year we’re asking people to consider raising their giving by an extra £6 a month (not £6 a week, as I mistakenly said in my sermon a few weeks back). I know you’re all tired about the cost of a cup of coffee comparison, so I won’t make it here!

We also got excited thinking about the baptisms this coming Sunday when I will be joined by the delightful Pastor Alonso Hinisy from the Bahamas in baptising his soon to be grand-daughter Marissa along with our own Alina.

One of the concerns I have about the church meeting is the support level from church members. We need 15 % of membership attendance to be quorate and last night we were at about 20%. This means 80% of members were not represented when we are thinking and praying about key visionary, strategic issues as we did last night.  There are many reasons why people don’t attend, and I know time is a big factor, but I also fear a level of complacency – maybe you’ve been to church meetings in the past and think you know what they are like. Read the above and think again!

I’m open to ideas about timings and frequency to engage more of you in these exciting visionary gatherings, maybe even changing the name would help.

A big thank you to the 20% that did come out last night – I hope you went home joyful, uplifted and humming the tune to ‘Great is thy faithfulness’.

See you on Sunday for baptisms

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Rumours

rumoursWhen I was in my teens there was a rumour going around that a certain man in our church wore a toupee. The poor man, I wonder if he realised how much we scrutinised and watched him, trying to see if we could spot the join between his real and artificial hair.  After a while the actual truth became irrelevant, the story we believed was that he definitely wore a toupee and thus he was forever known as the man with false hair.  To this day I don’t actually know the truth, I only know what I heard, and I chose to believe based on what I heard. My excuse, if it can be excused, is that I was young and immature at the time.

I hate rumours and gossip, they are dangerous and divisive and mature people should stay well away from them. In my years of ministry, I’ve seen rumours destroy reputations and run amok like wildfire in communities and churches damaging people indiscriminately.  I’m aware of how intoxicating the lure of a rumour can be; that shiver of delight when we know something no one else knows or have heard something before anyone else has. It draws us down and leads us into areas that are often absolutely nothing to do with us. Proverbs 26;22 recognises ‘the words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts’..

Rumours and gossip make us feel special and important but nothing good comes out of being involved in or passing on gossip or rumour. Knowledge is often power in churches and boy, doesn’t it feel good to know something no one else knows (the actual truth often being irrelevant), and then dropping little hints here and there to let people know what you know.

Rumour sharers are dangerous people and should be either kept away from or closed down immediately.  Sometimes they do it with the best of intentions, sometimes as a warning about a situation or person, but rarely are rumour sharers in possession of all the facts and that is worth considering when you are the recipient of a juicy tantalising piece of news.

The risk of me writing on this subject is that some of you will immediately be thinking, ‘what rumours are circulating at the moment ‘what is he referring to?’ I ask you not to go down that line of thinking it won’t lead to anywhere edifying or helpful. Churches will always be places of rumour and gossip.

Proverbs 26:20 gives us the antidote for spreading rumours: “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.” We can’t stop all rumours, but we can refuse to participate in them. We can refuse to pass things on. When we hear slanderous news, we should go to the source and check it out. If we are not part of the solution, and the person we are telling is not part of the solution, then the news is not ours to propagate.

I truly believe that communities of Christ followers should set the tone in lifestyle and behaviour and one our key distinctives that will set us apart from other people is our refusal to be drawn into the insidious whirlpool, of rumour and gossip and to model something different and more Christ like.

I never found out whether he wore a hair piece or not and I never thought to ask why he might wear one. What I do know about him is this: he was a follower of Christ, he loved his family and he served willingly and sacrificially in his church. And to this day I will happily spread that truth about him.

See you Sunday

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Changes

They say a week is a long time in politics and whilst I have never found a particularly fitting equivalent for church related activities, it does capture the sense of unexpected dramatic changes happening in a very short space of time.

December began with the unexpected news that Jo was moving on to a new job after several years serving in the church office.  We also received and celebrated the wonderful news that Emily and Paul Irving are expecting their first baby, and of course we are thrilled for them.  Emily has her first sabbatical starting in February which will lead nicely into maternity leave, further details will be shared at the church members meeting on the 24th January.

January has started with the surprising news that Alison is resigning from her role of Church Administrator at the end of February. Alison has faithfully served in the church office for the last 15 years. She has been the happy voice on the end of the phone, the smiling face for visitors at the door, the trouble shooter when the boiler doesn’t work, the organiser of rotas, the coordinator of many events, this list doesn’t begin to do justice to the length and breadth of Alison’s experience in the church office. What she doesn’t know about the practicalities of RBC life probably isn’t worth knowing.

e8277-photoThis is a big change in a short space of time, when I joined the church in September 2017 I joined a team of seven, by the end of February it will be a team of two – myself and Miranda! As gifted, resourceful and talented as Miranda is, we cannot do the work of seven people and inevitably there will be some glitches and gaps through this transitional time.

The Church Leadership Team (CLT) have not been inactive in this period. To cover Jo’s role, we have written a temporary part-time admin position that we intend to fill by the end of the month. If you are interested in this role, please let me know and I will send you the job profile. Emily has been working hard to arrange sabbatical and maternity cover – more of which on 24th January.  And overall, we are looking creatively at how we can arrange the administrative and organisational provision of the church to best serve who we are, where we are and where we are going. In a sense we have a blank piece of paper which is very exciting to work with. Again, we will be telling more of this story at the church members meeting on the 24th January.

When big changes happen in a short space of time, I’m drawn back to these wonderful verses I have on my study wall.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight

Maybe these verses are helpful to you if you are experiencing big, unexpected changes right now.

Before I sign off I must remind you of Carl Beech’s visit this Sunday 13th Jan and our baptism service on 27th January – there’s still time if you want to be baptised, come and have a chat with me.

See you Sunday

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What have you got to lose?

Happy New Year to you all

I hope your Christmas and new year festivities met all your expectations and some of you got a bit of a break during the bank holidays and time off.

For me 2019 looks like an exciting year with lots of good things in the diary to look forward to.

alpha_course_logoAlpha is starting on 22 January and it’s great to see how many people are already signed up.  Creating space to ask questions and explore answers is such an important part of developing faith and discipleship, my dream is that we always have an Alpha type course planned or in the pipeline to point people towards.  I know that many of you have friends or colleagues that are curious about your faith and lifestyle. Why not invite them along to Alpha, you’d need to come with them at least at first, imagine the joy of them discovering the truth of the transforming, lifechanging, redemptive love of Jesus? A moment that can’t be beaten. It’s just an invitation, what have you go to lose?

baptism-740x493We have a baptism planned on 27th January. I am so excited about this because it is a direct response to the example and challenge of our December baptisms. Please book the date in your diary and make sure you are at church to hear the testimony and story. If you have not been baptised yet and you believe and follow Jesus, then what are you waiting for?  Why not get baptised too on 27th Jan? Call me or email me and let’s talk further; it’s just a conversation, what have you got to lose?

I am super-excited by the prospect of next weekend though and can’t quite believe that we’ve managed to secure Carl Beech to come and visit us at RBC. Carl heads up Christcarl-beech-show-image-main_article_imageian Vision for Men. He is a very funny, down to earth speaker and we are looking forward to a night of entertainment, laughter, stories and inspiration. Carl was formally a financial advisor, church planter, youth worker and senior pastor of a large multi-congregational church.

Carl is the author of several books and founder of the Codelife movement. Carl is the founder and host of The Gathering, a major festival for men in the UK. In his spare time, he hosts the Shedtalk show on Premier Radio. He’s also a bit of a sportsman and enjoys sporting challenges: he’s run the London, Snowdonia and Chesterfield Marathons, cycled from Land’s End to John O’ Groats, Calais to Nice, the length of Italy and Port Elizabeth to Cape Town. Added to all that he’s an all-round top bloke who I’m sure you will enjoy meeting.

I was at college at the same time as Carl many years ago, but the difference is while I was struggling with theological terminology he was out evangelising Essex!

Carl will be speaking on Sunday morning, but on Saturday Carl is hosting a special evening just for men.  I would like all the men of RBC to come along, especially if you are a surf and camper, a gatherer, a footballer, a badminton player, a Dad, a single man… if you are male you’re invited. This evening, starting at 7pm is open to any man/boy connected to RBC over the age of 14 so feel free to invite anyone else along.

But please come, it’s one Saturday evening – what have you got to lose?

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