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The Simple Church

March 14th, 2014
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If one has been a Christian for many decades you become aware that churches can go through various stages. In the early years there is a zeal to be doing things. Youthful energy keeps the congregation very involved  in church based programs and activities.

The church can easily become a a little community on its own apart from the rest of society. It provides its own sports, social life, good works all within its four walls. The pastor is the multi – tasked co – ordinator of this enterprise or mini kingdom. Obviously this even more pronounced if a Christian school and other church businesses is made part of the mix. Effectively people could live in a Christian ghetto and their whole world caught up only with the church.

As time goes on an increasing internal pressure can build up. People become burnt out. People have no escape from the pettiness or accumulated hurts or disappointments that inevitably flow from human relationships. There may develop social pecking orders, gossip about nepotism or even double standards how people are treated or even disciplined. This can be very sensitive involving families and their children. Some children perceived as in the elite group and the rest left to fend for themselves without any favours.

A lot of energy can be wasted on speculation about promotions and demotions, organizational decisions, how the money is spent, who gets paid what and even rumours of scandals. The more successful and bigger the organization, the more complex it becomes with fiefdoms and factions  developing.

We have been there. Our grapevine was a very alive around the world filled with this or that hot of the press news. For any group there is no way that they can escape this today with the advent of social media.

Now of course we are a much smaller outfit with far less resources than in the past. We are almost surprised that we continue to grow with various people coming to us around the world. Our basic approach is: ” Silver and gold I do not have, but I can share with you the name of Jesus.” It is true we do give of our physical resources to help needy brethren but we are not the wealthy church we once were.

This has meant a re examination of what we are trying to achieve as congregations. Our church motto is “All sorts of churches, for all sorts of people , in all sorts of places.”  This may involve just walking alongside other ministries as brothers as we do in Nepal.

The idea of Simple Church is identifying what gifts, resources and opportunities God has given to us and doing 3-4 things as well as we can, without trying to do everything or be a community that can serve every need. It is a more humble recognition of our limitations and where God has invited us to work with him.

It means we are sustainable over the long term: thankful for what is happening, and not comparing ourselves to other ministries or congregations. It also means that we can be flexible according to new opportunities and resources. We are not burning up people with ever increasing activities and programs or introducing new ideas in a panic to be relevant or to stop feeling inadequate.

Here are the four present main areas that have developed in our area:

1. Our weekly service

 This involves a lot of people’s commitment – whether it is in the speaking, the audio/visual support, the worship music, the set up and take down and the hospitality for our afternoon refreshments. So far we have been able to handle changes in personnel with others stepping up to contribute. We have sought to simplify here as well. But one thing we need to appreciate is that a lot of prayer and preparation does go in to the weekly service. This also includes the preparations for Ulladulla. Our services are shared with others through Skype, the cloud and CDs.

 2. In home Bible Studies

 These have been a feature of the area for many years. Some homes have changed but we do have a significant number of members who attend at least monthly, and some much more frequently than that, a 90 minute study and discussion of a book of the Bible. This requires the hosts to have their homes ready and refreshments for the after study fellowship. Some attendees are given transport as we live in a very large city and we are very scattered.

 3. Prayer Chain

 No one needs to suffer or go through life’s challenges alone. Praying for one another centralizes all the individual pastoral care so that we share our burdens and come together as a family before our heavenly Father. It means that we are not just being good folk who care but we go together to the very source of comfort, healing and life itself. This also includes prayer groups and intercessory prayer in our service. We particularly focus on the persecuted church.

 4. Overseas Mission

As an area we have now for many years supported Mark’s visits to PNG and been involved throughout South-East Asia and Africa and even Latin America. We have tried to economize our expenditures so we have more to give. Even when our income has fallen we have not dropped the amount we send to our brothers and sisters in the new areas God is working. This requires major accounting support locally and proper project feedback which is shared in our services and newsletter.

 All of the above involves the congregation in one way or another. These four areas have emerged as the dominant ones. And despite our ageing, or how scattered we are, each of the above remains vital and reveals commitment to Christian community.

Also it frees each of us to be involved with extended family, neighbourhood, local charities and organizations so that we are not sealed off in our church’s four walls. Most of us belong to many communities outside the congregation — probably up to at least 5-6. We want all of us to participate in these according to our priorities.

Over 60's

Disciple-making as spiritual parenting

December 5th, 2013
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Ted Johnston of the Surprising God blog wrote:

Disciple-making is often approached as if it were a mechanical process: insert person into a one-size-fits-all program and out pops a mature disciple. But that’s not how disciple-making works nor how it Jesus and his early followers practiced it.

 When Jesus called his followers “disciples,” (mathetes is the Greek word used by the Gospel writers and by Luke in Acts) he was using the word as understood in first century Jewish culture (for a helpful discussion about this word, click here).

 In Jewish culture discipleship was a close, life-on-life, mentor-protege relationship between a teacher/mentor (typically a Rabbi) and his followers, known as disciples. This relationship was not about mere information-transfer. Rather the beloved Rabbi shared his life with his disciples and in so doing, imparted to them his character (who he was), knowledge (what he knew) and skills (what he could do). You might say that he gave them his heart, head and hands.

 But have you ever wondered why the word “disciple” is not found in the epistles of Paul, John and Peter? Did disciple-making cease to be the mission of the church?

 The answer is “no”—disciple-making continued, though the terms used to describe it did change. This change is explained by Mike Breen in The Great Disappearance. Following is a lengthy quote from that e-book. As you read it, I encourage you to consider what Jesus, through the Spirit, is now doing in multiple cultural contexts to multiply his disciple-making followers.

Read more…

Over 60's

The Young Ones

October 10th, 2013
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Recently I saw the conclusion of a series called the The Young Ones.

 A description of the series::

 What would happen if we took six people in their 80s back to 1975? Could just one week of living their own past lives allow them to physically turn back the years? Could they become demonstrably healthier and younger?

 https://shop.abc.net.au/products/young-ones-doco-dvd 3 Episodes Costs $30

 What if it were possible to turn back time? Could it be that we have the power to think ourselves young again? That’s the extraordinary claim of an experiment first conducted 30 years ago and recently restaged with six of the UK’s best loved celebrities.

 What would happen if six celebrities in their 70s and 80s went back to 1975? Could just one week of living in the past make actress Liz Smith, dancer and entertainer Lionel Blair, cricket umpire Dickie Bird, the UK’s first television newsreader Kenneth Kendall, actress Sylvia Sims and newspaper editor Derek Jameson physically turn back the clock; could reliving their heyday allow them to think themselves younger?

 Six well-loved stars are sent back to the badly decorated time of fondue and flares to conduct an extraordinary experiment which will change how people see ageing forever. From the food to the clothes, the television shows to their day jobs, the group is immersed in the world of their heyday in order to discover the enormous power the mind has over the body, and to illustrate how people age.

 Presented by Mariella Frostrup and resident BBC scientist Dr Michael Mosley, this entertaining and uplifting five-part series provides a refreshing take on ageing, looking at how a person’s environment can shape the way that they think, and how, in turn, the way people think shapes how they feel.

 Their country retreat has been lovingly restored to be an authentic 1970s home, but it’s not just the house that’s had a ’70s makeover. The celebrities will be wearing the clothes of the 1970s, they’ll be cooking the favourite dishes of the time and their pastimes will include 70s TV, 70s video games and favourite LPs from the decade. Overseeing the experiment will be the BBC’s man of science, Dr Michael Mosley, and Harvard Professor Ellen Langer, who conducted the original experiment.

Episode 1, our celebrities settle into the past, hoping they’ll achieve their personal goals to turn back the clock – and within the first 24 hours there are already extraordinary changes.

Episode 2, each of the celebrity volunteers must come face to face with the lives they led in their heyday and take back control of their lives. For Lionel, the most resistant to the experiment, a trip to the London Palladium ends in tears, and for Dickie a trip to Lord’s cricket ground brings the man he used to be back to life. Kenneth is reacquainted with his beloved dogs, and Liz takes up painting again.

But just as the experiment seems to be working, a surprise visit from a group of carers shows Michael and Ellen just how far the volunteers still have to go…

Episode 3, in an emotional closing episode, each of the volunteers must say goodbye to 1975, and will discover whether they’ve really managed to turn back the clock. We’ll see how their lives have changed since the end of the experiment – has it given them a new lease of life, or are they back to being just another old person in 2010 Britain?

Read more…

Over 60's