Sunday, 30 August 2009

Holiday Club - Finito

Well, it's over for another year. We had a great week, playing pirates as we taught the kids the story of Saul/Paul at Landlubbers.

This morning we had our Holiday Club service and were overwhelmed by the response. We had more than 40 kids in the service which is about 25 more than normal and many families visiting.

We had the team back for a BBQ at lunchtime today and everyone is very encouraged - and a bit tired. It was inspiring to be part of a team of over 30 who helped out throughout the week and who worked together so well.

The local website has a short report and a few pictures if you want to take a look:

Now for some Bank Holiday rest!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Not saving but droning

One of the blessings of being away on holiday as a minister is that you can go to a church and just be there. When the projector isn't working or the organist gets the tune wrong or the bulletin has numerous errors you can sit back and bask in the knowledge that not only is it not your fault but that no-one expects you to do anything about it either. Bliss!

You also get to listen to sermons as a bod in the pews. I listen to a lot of sermons at home or in the car or on headphones as I move around. But I don't often sit on a (hard) pew and listen to a sermon first hand these days. (I listen to others preach here but we have great chairs).

This has got me to thinking again about how long I should aim to preach for. I think I preach for too long. I am happy to preach for 40 minutes plus but I don't want that to be a barrier to people hearing the gospel. I aim for 25 minutes but almost never hit it. It's probably regularly between 35-40 minutes. And that isn't always good.

Any honest answers on what a good length for sermon would be for you? I'd appreciate your insights as I don't want my verbosity to get in the way.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Holiday Club - a quick update

Just a line or two as I download sound effects for tomorrow's drama. Things are going well and we had around 75 kids today, which was up on yesterday - always good when they come back! The team of thirty is working really well together and we're having as much fun as the kids. For myself, I am helping with the 10/11 year olds and as well as teaching this involves keeping a couple of the lads away from each other. So far, so good though. I am also Captain Book, coming on to explain a Bible story every now and then.

I love these weeks, partly because I can just forget the admin side of things and do what is important, and partly because it is such a buzz to be working as part of a team like this. I quite like not leading it as well - Lin is doing a great job of that - I am able to support different people in their roles instead.

Happy days!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

The set for Holiday Club

This is how we are set up for Landlubbers. All the chairs have been removed and everyone is making last minutes preparations. We have a retired signwriter who has produced our fabulous backdrop with help from his team. The fishing nets, treasure chest, palm trees and other things that you might just be able to make out are all real. The wall in the righthand foreground is where the puppeteer hides as she does her stuff. As always we feel excited and daunted. Please pray!

Now to look through my sermon on Ezekiel for tonight!

Stars on 45

Church was fun this morning. Tomorrow we start our annual children's Holiday Club - Landlubbers. We have 75 kids signed up and the set looks amazing - will post a photo later today.

With Holiday Club on it was appropriate to be preaching on 1 Corinthians 9.19-23, where Paul writes about being all things to all people in order to save some. In doing so he relates and lives differently when with the Jews compared with when he is with the Gentiles. The gospel always remains the same but the way it is brought to people varies tremendously according to your audience.

In the first part of the chapter Paul writes about giving up his rights as an apostle in order to communicate the gospel. As if that were not hard enough, Paul then tells us we need to be prepared to give up our preferences for the sake of the gospel too.
I illustrated this by talking about how we might prefer different musical styles but that we need to put these aside for the sake of the gospel. (This seemed appropriate as the new kids songs are loud and fast). So one way we can apply this is by putting aside our musical preferences for the sake of the gospel.

The first person I speak to on the door after the service tells me, "I didn't like the music today and nor did a number of others."
It made me smile.

PS - The reference to the title of this post? 45 today.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

A great illustration on unity

An old one but a good one. Can never find it when I preach on unity but here it is for your delight...

A joke from stand-up Emo Phillips ...
"Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, "Don't do it!"
He said, "Nobody loves me."
I said, "God loves you. Do you believe in God?"
He said, "Yes."
I said, "Are you a Christian or a Jew?"
He said, "A Christian."
I said, "Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?"
He said, "Protestant."
I said, "Me, too! What denomination?"
He said, "Baptist."
I said, "Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?"
He said, "Northern Baptist."
I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?"
He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist."
I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?"
He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region."
I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?"
He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912."
I said, "Die, heretic scum!", and pushed him off the bridge."

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Stupid but funny

Found this today via Nick Baines' blog.

I have a few people in the church here who pass me clippings from the Daily Mail which demonstrate the latest way that we are all going to hell in a handcart. Now they no longer need to, thanks to the Daily Mail-o-matic, which generates random headlines.

Have fun - and if you are so inclined there are links there to similar toys, such as Michael Howard sings the Smiths.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Finding it hard to get the kids to Church?

As a kid I would dawdle and stall for as long as I could to get out of going to church. I never went to the extremes that this 7 year old went to - taking the car and driving off to avoid the service but then Dad didn't have an automatic. The footage from CBS news is found below.

A sad time

I went to the funeral yesterday of a person I didn't know too well but who had came to our church for a while before illness stopped them.
From where I am coming from it was an odd funeral as they talked at length about the person and their attributes and qualities. Lots of lovely things were said, many of which were probably true. But there was no sermon. No opportunity taken to point to how we can have hope in the face of despair. Not much beyond, "they are in a better place". And Jesus was no more than a footnote throughout the proceedings.
A friend here has stipulated that whoever takes his funeral is not allowed to talk about him, only about Jesus and the work he did to open up heaven to us. I am probably too vain to go quite that far - it would be nice to have people exaggerate my goodness at my funeral!
But I think he's certainly on to something.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Four years on....

Either today or yesterday (not sure which) marks the four year anniversary of us packing up our stuff and heading west from Canterbury for the bright lights of Burnham-on-Sea. There have been times when it was a tough gig, as I dare say there will be in the future too. Big adjustments for us as a family and perhaps even bigger ones for the congregation here! But as I look at where God has brought us there are real encouragements.

I am in a church where there has been no opposition to my preaching long sermons as I go systematically through a book of Scripture. This is something that it is easy to take for granted but talking to an Anglican friend nearby who says that he couldn't get away with more than 10 minutes makes me realise what a blessing it is to be free to do what God has called me to.

I am in a church where they have allowed a great deal of change. The pews have gone, the pulpit and platform replaced and other structural changes inside the main hall. We have started a Kids Holiday Club - the fourth starts later this month. The Sunday School has increased four or five fold from the four that were here when we arrived. Earlier this year we had a holiday club for over 60s and there is enough excitement amongst that age group to organise another next year. We have had our first church weekend away. I've been able to introduce dozens of new songs and most importantly we've seen a fresh understanding of grace amongst us - both in terms of understanding it and exercising it.

We have seen a few leave us, through death, through transfer to other churches and - occasionally - they have been difficult ones for us as a church. Yet we have seen more join than leave.

I'm just counting some blessings aloud. Please don't think I am taking the credit for any of this. There were good foundations laid here already and there are many good people here who are faithful and hard-working in their ministries. Some of them have been serving for longer than I have been alive! And anyway, it can only be through God's grace that we see any lasting growth in Kingdom work. Easy to say that glibbly but I think I truly believe that to be the case from my small experience. If it's down to me we are all in trouble.

So, I was just spending some time thinking how good God has been to us here. At times it has felt painful to be obedient but I can see a little better what he's doing here. And there is still a lot to do - we are not the finished article! But as we step forward we do so confident in him.

Back in the saddle

The wettest July in 100 years and we camped in Wales - how clever are we?

We still had some good dry days though and it was a good time to eat, drink, sleep, read and catch up with each other again. More reflections to follow but here's something I liked from Douglas Coupland's novel JPod:

"TV and the Internet are good because they keep stupid people from spending too much time out in public."

Spending 16 days away from the Internet was a challenge at first and a blessing after that. Having spent time in public I am reminded it's good for me.