Friday, May 29, 2009

Johnny Cash on 'the sting.'

After yesterday's provocative post on death and it's sting, I thought I would let the great Johnny Cash drive it home with a force that makes it even more real. Listen to this man who knew God, ran away from Him and then realizes in 'the latter years' that there is so so much more to life than having 'it all.'


Thursday, May 28, 2009

The 'Sting' of Death

There is a biblical phrase that refers to the 'sting' of death. Having grown up in Zimbabwe and encountered African Bees on many occasions (real bees, not like their puny British cousins) I have a vivid sensory picture of what is meant by the word sting. The word refers to that which is painful, striking, certain, eye-opening in one sense. There is no way, when stung, that you can avoid the fact.

In our church over the past 4 weeks there has been two deaths that have deeply stung people that are dear to us as a congregation. I do not mean those who have been taken from this life, 'fallen asleep' as Paul would say as I am sure both were followers of Jesus, but those who are left behind.
Searching, aching, asking, longing, dreaming, feeling, hurting, STINGING!
I certainly feel words are pointless at times like this, more often than not people offer words that do nothing more than add to the sting, not bring relief.

Death is removed from our direct sight as modern people. Oh of course all our young people are killing thousands on video games every day, and there is not a thrilling box office hit without blood and guts and death strewn across the script. But not real death, not the death that STINGS. We have become desensitized to the power and hurt of death. We humans seem to do everything in our power to distance ourselves from what God's divine revelation is pointing us to.

Over the course of 24 hours my wife and I spent time with the two individuals most poignantly affected by death at this time within our church. It is heart-wrenching as you realize the scarring and tearing that has taken place emotionally, spiritually and psychologically. It, death, is the last great reminder of our frailty and finiteness. It is where we great conquerors of all are conquered. It is so final so absolute.

Certainly, if it were not for Christ's & Paul's beautifully reassuring words littered through the pages of the New Testament for those of us who have put their faith in Christ, death would be the ultimate thief and the rightful destroyer of any possible hope. (For those who do not believe, it is... isn't it?) But we do have these words, we must be reassured, we are certain of the great inheritance of those who have trusted in Christ. My hope is for those now suffering from the sting in our midst, and the many many more we will encounter as pastors here, they will receive from the Holy Spirit of God the marvelous assurance of life eternal for those who have gone 'to be with Christ' which 'is better by far!'


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ordo Amorie

Quite often in my brief journey of leadership I have found myself trying to explain things for which I just do not have enough insight or depth of wisdom to put as well as I would like. A case and point has just been proven to me again whilst doing some reading regarding Small Group leader- what you must look for in them.

I have always tried to intimate that at the root of all that can be said and done about growth in faith etc. the key is something seated deep in the heart, an absolute devotion to Christ. Well today while reading an author quoted another author who referred to something that St. Augustine (the great Western Church thinker) wrote of. Here is the quote

"Whatever its characteristics, every one of us has a spirituality, what Augustine called an ordo amorie, an ordering of our loves. What do we most cherish? What do we most desire? What is the treasure hidden in the core of our being? Our spirituality is not what we profess to believe, but how we order our loves." -- Margaret Guenther

Augustine had it spot on! Growing in faith, being a faithful servant to your church or beyond, touching this world for the cause of the gospel of the Kingdom is not dependent on input, who you hung out with, how much you read, who you knew (it is about each of these things yes but...) it is thoroughly dependent on the order of your loves. What is our first love?



Friday, May 22, 2009

Golden Nugget Moment

Lat night was what I call a 'Golden Nugget' moment of ministry. I say that because it was one of those moments that grow in worth and satisfaction the more you reflect upon it.
We have 21 men at our church above GCSE age and last night 17 of them were at my home enjoying a meal of fish/pie/battered sausage and chips and then watching a message that spoke very powerfully into 'men and marriage.' Church and men do not seem to mix any more; church has become quite effeminate in its leanings and true masculinity has been sidelined in culture, a deadly potion that means 'men don't do church!' Well last night at X1 men were doing church, and it was a fantastic thing to be a part of.

I want us to make a stand as a church right from the outset in the area of Biblical Masculinity. Now while we only have 21 I want the Spirit of God to quickly make Christ like manhood a real passion and endeavor for us. We watched a sermon by Mark Driscoll called 'Men & Marriage' part of his The Trial series from I Peter. I know every one of our men were convicted and inspired to pursue godly manhood with renewed vigor. That can only be good.
We need to call each other to stand for a masculinity that is dynamic and inspiring, we cannot and must not fail our God, our ladies, our kids and our church.

Bless you Xmen!


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gratitude in the 'Everyday'

My humble estimation is that someone has got this 'Christian Faith' thing when there is a massive RAMP UP in their gratitude towards all aspects of life, from the mundane to the exquisitely serendipitous. When one comes to see, through faith and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, that every moment is a gift from God there should be a change in the affections of the heart.

I had an example only last night. We have begun to shop online with Tesco and have found it an absolute treat. This week we needed tea bags and discovered while 'in' the online grocery store that Twinings Everyday tea bags were the best bet when bought in quantity. Twinings is normally above our spending bracket but we gave it a go. WELL... what can I say? The Tesco man (as we call the great men who deliver our sustenance on a weekly basis) arrived at about 9pm last night and we partook of a cup of 'Everyday' tea, it was sheer delight.

I am about to have one now, and so thought, "Tell them Simon, tell them that you really get this faith thing when your life is marked by gratitude for the every day."


A Bridge for the Good News

It was sort of our re-launch Sunday as a church this past week. We had used Sunday May 10th as a run through of how it would all go and then asked people to bring friends and guests to VUE for this week.
I have said to a few people already that it was a morning where I felt we could really use the word 'BUZZ' in relation to us as a church. There was energy and enthusiasm oozing from everywhere which is brilliant because it is very attractive for anyone looking in. People got to the tasks of setting up, welcoming, serving refreshments leading the worship and all sorts of other essential bits with fervor and vigor.

I felt it strongly on my heart to preach about moving to VUE out of a real desire to bridge the gap between church and culture. It was a fantastic opportunity and I finished off explaining how I hoped we would go about doing that. Here is the gist of it:

This is the mission we think we must proclaim and embody, we will certainly give it our best shot at least.
We must overcome that which has made the church invisible in culture, we must:


I finished off stating that if the church has a message that can transform the lives of 21st Century people, if the gospel is true than everyone should get a chance to hear it without having to leave their cultural reality to do it!

We want to make a difference, we must.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

This is just a pure Giggle!

So yeah, we discovered as a church on Tuesday evening that our church got a brief write up in News of The World (not a paper we would have expected). This is a national Sunday paper read by millions, and we just cannot get over that somehow the story of a small church launching in a Cinema in Watford made national news.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Major Preaching Challenge

If you are a regular visitor to this blog you should have noticed by now that again and again I refer us to other men and woman of God who seem to say things so much better than I ever could. I'll do it again now.
I have quoted this man several times before, his name is A. W. Tozer. His insights into a vast array of topics in remarkable, and here are some brief thoughts on preaching:

"Many of us who preach the unsearchable riches of Christ are often pretty dull and hard to listen to.
The freshest thought to visit the human mind should be the thought of God. The story of salvation should put a radiancy in the face and a vibrancy in the voice of him that tells it. Yet it is not uncommon to hear the wondrous message given in a manner that makes it difficult for the hearer to concentrate on what is being said. What is wrong?...

It is true that only the Spirit-filled preacher can be morally effective at last; but for the moment we are thinking only of the ability of a speaker to command the attention of his hearers. And if the speaker cannot keep his hearers immediately interested, his message cannot possibly have a long-range effect upon them, no matter how spiritual he may be

Why is that I know exactly what Tozer is referring to here? It is virtually heart-wrenching for me to sit under someone who has no ability to suck me into the glorious truths of the gospel because they are so boring.
We must stay far from this type of delivery if we are to see the hearts of people drawn into the great message of salvation.


We Did It!!

They arrived at 7.30AM, yes people that time does exist, they came in hoards. Men dressed in an assortment of colours jumping out of vehicles grabbing the equipment essential for their mission and accessing the pre-determined location to do what they had come to do.

Everything was gathered together as they descended into the dark hall that was to become their home. In a flash in the blink of an eye they set about their task. In what seemed like moments wires, cables, speakers, lights, cameras, PA desks and a vast assortment of items were arranged in their place. No sooner had these men succeeded in their mission, another platoon arrived. Quickly they slipped into their official orange flak vests and prepared for all that would be thrown at them whilst caught up in this endeavor. Young, old, female, male their team got to work.

10AM rolled around, there had been sounds and rumours of activity for over an hour now, the loud sound began. IT WAS TRUE! Church had begun in screen 7 of VUE cinema Watford. The noise, joy and unified mission took place for an hour and a half and then they rolled out (well of course they did, a movie started at 12PM in that screen so they had to). Beverages were taken, conversations were had, people discussed the crazy goings on of that morning.
Deep breaths were breathed in ad then it dawned on them, 'We did it! We just had our first Worship Gathering as X1 Church in a cinema. How amazing was that."

Yeah we had a great time. It was our run through on this past SUnday, and I just want to thank everyone and of course thank our wonderful Father for His glorious goodness to us. The adventure begins in earnest now...


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Moving Church...

As of this Sunday (10th May) we are moving our location for our Sunday mornings to a local cinema. It is an unbelievably exciting, yet demanding move actually. I do believe in many hearts there is a combination of excitement and ominousness. I preached this past Sunday about the 'Top 8 Things to Pack and Leave behind." I suddenly realized that it was not just helpful for our context of moving location but actually would be helpful for anyone moving church, moving home and joining another church, embarking on a church plant from a current church. Maybe they are helpful so here is break down of them.
The Gospel * Religion
Grace * Legalism
Faith & Hope * Negativity & Despair
Hatred for Sin * Comfort with Sin
Unity * Divisiveness
Function/Form * Form/Function
Passion * Apathy
Selflessness (servanthood) * Selfishness (Consumerism)

I may break each of these down in the near future, keep watching this space.


The Enormity of the Task...

Reading a book by Rob Warner based here in the UK. He is an extremely helpful thinker and seems to be caught up in a longing to see the church impact the 'new millennium'. He says some things quite bluntly; here is one of the things he says in relation to the task facing us as the church to 'identify' with current culture

"It is vital that we face the enormity of our task. It is simply not the case that the church merely has to do better what it is already doing or patch up a few minor problems in order to ensure a great advance. We are not in a situation where a little more prayer, a little more spiritual warfare, a little more door to door, or a little more care in the community will do the trick. We have allowed a chasm to open between surrounding culture and the internal church culture.
Today in the West, no less than among unreached people groups in the remotest parts of Africa, we need to learn to be a missionary church. And in order to become effective missionaries, we need to bridge the gap between the gospel and the world of the people around us. If Jesus and the apostles made strenuous efforts to live and communicate the gospel in ways that bridged the gap in their generation, it is simply not good enough today to pray for revival while changing nothing in the church.

Very true, it is our role to impact our generational-cultural-context and fulfill the mandate of Christ.