Saturday, 31 January 2009

Almost too busy to stop & pray

Today was the perfect day for a longer run - sunny, a light wind and 'Snow Patrol' & 'M People' on my mp3 player. I headed out for a 12 miler, through Whitley and down to the Kennet & Avon Canal.

It was here that I came to the point where, this week, Jonathan Marques body was retrieved from the water near Fobney lock. He went missing on 6th January on his way to school and it is thought he drowned in the canal (full story here).

His family are part of the Goan community in Reading and a small crowd of them had gathered to pay their respects. It was very sobering and brought into sharp contrast the different weeks that we all have.

On my return journey I stopped at the spot and knelt to pray for his family - they have a Catholic background, but I am not sure if they know Jesus.

I live in Reading and I want to engage with the people and issues of Reading. To be honest, I could have prayed for them as I ran. But I needed to interrupt my training schedule to stop and pray for them. It's only running.

The family lives about 200m from where the church meets on Sundays. If we should, and how we would, bridge that 200m, I don't yet know.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Another new initiative

Last term we started a toddler group for the Czech mums in our town. It is well attended and I think it is going really well (as I don't speak Czech I can't really tell!)

Today we started another toddler group but this one was English speaking! Several of the mums from the church met from 10 - 11:30 in the offices for what we hope will grow into an English speaking mums & toddler group.

I really get a buzz from new initiatives. I love the office space being increasingly used (although I suspect it may be noisy for the staff team!).

Let's prayer that in the next month English speaking mums, who don't yet know,Jesus, will be part of this new initiative.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

New Sunday venue

A few weeks ago I reminded us of our calling to be a Reading wide church and that is seems time to find a new Sunday morning venue that is more central.

I have had my eye on the Vue cinema in the Oracle shopping complex and have had a tentative conversation with them. To be honest, there are some considerable hurdles stopping us meeting there, but it is worth pursuing.

Meanwhile, Keith Holland emailed me to say that some large units in Forbury Retail Park are vacant. Today I went down there to look and the location & the space seem fantastic. Great parking. Very central. And very public! I am guessing there would also be some considerable hurdles, namely 'change of use' and the rental value ... but I love Keith's vision.

Let's keep praying and dreaming for a new home for our Sunday gatherings. Meanwhile, I have asked Keith to find a contact number for those units!

Monday, 26 January 2009

Defeated by one hidden book

At cell last week the ice breaker was to find 17 books of the Bible hidden in the passage below. I only found 14 in the allotted 10 minutes. 4 days later and I have now found 16 but can’t find the last one. It is really starting to annoy me ... so please help!!!

I once made a remark about the hidden books in the Bible. It was a lulu, kept people looking so hard for the facts, and for others it was a revelation. Some were in a jam, especially since the names of the books are not capitalised, but the truth really struck home to numbers of readers. To others it was a real job. We want it to be a most fascinating few moments for you. Yes, there will be some really easy ones to spot. Others may require judges to help them. I will quickly admit it usually takes a minister to find one of the 17, and there will be loud lamentations when it is found. A little lady says she brews a cup of tea so she can concentrate better. See how well you can compete. Relax now, for there really are the names of 17 books of the Bible in these sentences. (One preacher found 16 books in 20 minutes. It took him three weeks to find the seventeenth one.)

Thursday, 22 January 2009

More RFC heroes

When 15 of us first met to start this church we dreamed that we would gather different people together to worship Jesus.

Yesterday I met with Naissa Bougma to talk about her coming into church membership. She is from Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina Faso where her father (a Muslim) has four wives. Naissa is now thinking through how she can best serve the church with her God given talents.

Cameron is from Reading and is thinking about joining the Royal Marines. 20 minutes ago he popped into the church offices to say hello and asked if we needed any help. As I write he is now hoovering the meeting room having done a great job of my study!

I love the people of RFC. We may have different colour skin and different cultural backgrounds but we all love Jesus. This is the fruit of the gospel.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Trusting God

I am currently reading 'Trusting God - even when life hurts' by Jerry Bridges. It is one of those books you read slowly and highlight lots. I was tempted to blog my top quotes from the first few chapters but then reached his closing paragraph in chapter 3 ...

"A WORD OF CAUTION - the material in this chapter is "tough stuff". It should be read, studied, and prayed about when life is more or less routine. It should be stored up or hidden in our hearts (Ps 119v11) for the time of adversity when we must draw upon its truth.

Above all, we need to be very sensitive about instructing someone else in the sovereignty of God and encouraging them to trust God when he or she is in the midst of adversity or pain. It is much easier to trust in the sovereignty of God when it is the other person who is hurting. We need to be like Jesus, of whom it was said "a bruised reed he will not break". Let us not be guilty of breaking a bruised reed (broken heart) by insensitive treatment of the sovereignty of God".

If we can?

I really enjoyed Sunday morning and evening. There is a real buzz around the church which is evident in the meetings, conversations, texts & emails!

Dwight L Moody once said "What a difference in men who go into battle intending to conquer if they can, and those who go into battle intending to conquer."

Reading needs us to have an 'intend to conquer' mentality. There might be uncertainty in the economy but let's not have 'if we can' thinking in RFC church life:

  • We intend to get better at telling our friends about Jesus.
  • We intend to change our Sunday venue to somewhere more central, visible and give us room to grow (On Sunday we had 216 people = 85% of our total chairs!).
  • We intend to make church life easy to connect into.
  • We intend to 'lighten up' and have fun!
This is not a time for "if we can".

And if you haven't a clue what I am going on about then listen to my message from Sunday.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Axiom & Peasant Princess

I picked up Bill Hybels latest book 'Axiom - Powerful Leadership Proverbs' intending to read one axiom a day (there are 76). However, I devoured the entire book in less than two weeks. I had to stop myself reading on too far (I wanted to reflect on them) but found each axiom so compelling I wanted to read another. I like reading about leadership and I like Hybels style (his proven experience, candor and humour). Try to read it over 76 days ... if you can.


A friend gave me a DVD set he had downloaded for free from Mars Hill church entitled 'The Peasant Princess'. He suggested Liz & I could watch it together as a means to invest in our marriage. So far we have watched the first two sessions (of 10) and have really enjoyed the content and the ensuing discussions. I am not sure we want to tie everything down as tightly as Driscoll does but he sure is helpful and straightforward. If you are looking for fresh ideas for marriage investment, it is worth clicking through here

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Your help required

9 years ago, 15 of us met in Keith & Leslie Hollands' house with a plan to start a church in Reading. Last Sunday 185 people gathered to worship Jesus and welcome Cameron Duncan & Clair Whitney into membership.

This Sunday I plan to remind us as to why we started this church. I have always felt that my job was to sketch an outline and to help others fill in the details that give the picture depth and texture and beauty and colour and life.

To help shape my thinking for Sunday (and to capture more of what God has done throughout the years) could you please let me know:
  • Your thoughts on what kind of church we should become.
  • Stories that capture what we are about as a church.
  • What you like most about what we do.
  • The funny moments!

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Winter training

The triathlon race season starts around Easter so I am supposed to be in the middle of a 'rigorous winter training regime' ...

It's not quite 'rigorous' yet. I am training for the Reading Half Marathon in March and want a sub 1:35 time. It's an achievable goal - at least that is what I kept telling myself as I ran 9 miles this morning in the freezing cold.

Swim training with TVT has restarted after the Christmas break. The big news is I have upgraded my swimming trunks and ordered a new nose clip (yes I am serious). Apparently the new trunks should make me more streamlined and they have 'endurance+' embroided onto them (very manly). Better still the fabric is 20x more resistant to chlorine ... although I am not really sure how that will help.

Bike training is my biggest concern - it has been way too cold to sit on the silver rocket. Thankfully I do get to cycle to work & church meetings but it is just not the same as a ride with the boys.

I have booked into the Windsor Olympic Distance Triathlon in June with a view to dispel the memory of last year's terrible swim. I also plan to do a few sprint distance races as well, its going to be another tri-tastic year!

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Deacons

On Sunday morning both Kat Starling (for musicians) and Kat LaFontaine (for creche) were proposed as deacons and you were invited to consider their appointments over the next month. I thought it would be helpful to lay out some of my thinking on deacons to help you as you prayerfully consider the elders proposals.

A local church has two distinct leadership offices who work closely together: elders and deacons (Phil 1v1). To understand the role of deacons it is helpful to see how these two leadership offices compliment each other.

Elders: Elders are a team of men who are set apart by God to shepherd the church, the bible refers to these men as bishops or overseers or elders (terms used interchangeably). They have a biblical qualification as outlined in 1Tim3v1-7 and Titus 1v6-9. Functionally, I like to break what they do by the 4D’s:
Doctrine – elders govern, teach & guard the doctrine that the church holds to.
Direction – elders seek to shepherd the church in the direction that God is leading them.
Discipline – elders seek to ‘discipline in love’ wayward church members to win them back to repentance and restoration.
Display – elders seek to display a Christ-like character worthy to be copied.

Deacons: As a church matures so the two separate leadership offices of elders & deacons will emerge. The letter to Philippians was written to a church approx 10 years old and by then these two offices were in place. Deacons differ from elders primarily in that elders have preaching and teaching responsibilities. Deacons are a team of men and women who are set apart by God to serve alongside the elders to oversee areas & ministries of church life.

Deacons have a biblical qualification as set out in 1Tim 3v8-13. I don’t see age as a biblical qualification or marital status. The primary biblical qualifications centre on character. However, it is imperative that they can carry ministry responsibility which is the root of the word for deacon.

Both men and women can serve as deacons – I have found Grudem & Driscoll helpful on this and have listed the most helpful pages in the further reading. To keep the post short I won’t add my reasoning but will quote Grudem: ‘If deacons simply have delegated administrative responsibility for certain aspects of the ministry of the church, then there seems to be no good reason to prevent women from functioning as deacons’

Acts 6 may well be the appointing of the first deacon team, certainly they functioned as servant-leaders freeing up the early church leaders. Once the seven were in place the church powered on ‘So the word of God spread. The number of disciples increased rapidly …’ Acts 6v7. A great progress report and one that is linked to the appointment of the seven.

It is equally important to honour the biblical office of deacon as it is to honour the biblical office of elder.

I have no concerns that both Kat Starling and Kat LaFontaine meet the biblical qualifications for serving the church as deacons. I unreservedly recommend them for your prayerful consideration to join our existing deacon team.

Further reading on deacons:
The world needs more elders p50 – PJ Smyth
A book you might actually read On Church Leadership p50 – Mark Driscoll
Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth p263 - Wayne Grudem
Systematic Theology p918-920 & p944-945 – Wayne Grudem
Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood p219- John Piper & Wayne Grudem
Biblical Eldership p36,174-176, 283 – Alexander Strauch

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

True greatness

Today our youngest daughter started school and I thought that was today's big story for our family. That was until I read a card that a friend gave Liz, her words framed the occasion in a much nobler light:
Dear Liz (a RFC hero) - I wanted to congratulate you on 10ish years of parenting so far; your great devotion to the children through these early formative years and your steadfast commitment to seeing them through the next phases of their lives. Zoe, Lucy and Josh are lovely, WELL DONE! Mums like you are the true heroes of the faith, working it out in the day to day grind and joys of family life. Keep going by the grace of God!! With my love ...
I wish that today I had also celebrated Liz's accomplishment as a mum, but it took a card from a friend to help me see again the value of motherhood and how great Liz is at it.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Genesis 3

My bible in a year reading plan has a quote each day and the one linked for Genesis 3 was very provocative:

Satan gives Adam an apple (fruit), and takes away paradise. Therefore in all temptation let us consider not what he offers, but what we shall lose.
Richard Sibbes (1577 - 1635)

Equally provocative is God's grace evident in the passage. If it were not for God wisely ensuring mankind could not have access to the tree of life (v22) then we would all live forever as fallen human beings. God ensured we would die.

I don't want to die, death is, afterall, our final enemy. But because of His grace we will die, receive new resurrected bodies and no longer be subject to sin. In heaven, in contrast, we will have full access to the tree (Rev 22v2). God is good.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Books I read in 2008

I thought it would be helpful to post the books I read last year ... that way I can point friends to this post when I refer to a book but have forgotten the title!

On church leadership - Mark Driscoll
Worldliness - C.J. Mahaney
Foreigners: 3 English lives - Caryl Phillips
Wild Goose Chase - Mark Batterson
A12 to Heaven - Phil Stoddart
Sixty Minute Marriage - Rob Parsons
Silos, Politics & Turf Wars - Patrick Lencioni
In a pit with a lion on a snowy day - Mark Batterson
Charles Finney - Basil Miller
Praying successfully - Charles H Spurgeon.
When the game is over, it all goes back in the box - John Ortberg
John Newton - Jonathan Aitken
Good to Great and the Social Sectors - Jim Collins
Gracism - the art of inclusion - David A. Anderson
Salvation belongs to our God - Chris Wright
Coaching Church Planters - Steve Nicholson & Jeff Bailey
The Starfish and the Spider - Ori Brafman & Rod A. Beckstrom
Good to Great - Jim Collins
Sixty Minute Father - Rob Parsons
Xenophobe's guide to the Dutch - Rodney Bolt
Vintage Jesus - Mark Driscoll
Whatever happened to worship? - A.W. Tozer
The Pursuit of God - A.W. Tozer
The Master Plan of Evengelism - Robert E Coleman
Zion's Christian Soldiers? - Stephen Sizer
The Joy of Fearing God - Jerry Bridges
The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World - John Piper & Justin Taylor
The root of righteousness - A. W. Tozer
The message of the Old Testament - H. L. Elison
Dominion and dynasty- Stephen G. Dempster
Don't make me count to three - Ginger Plowman
The knowledge of the Holy - A.W. Tozer
The Puritan Hope - Iain H Murray
Ever Increasing Faith - Smith Wigglesworth
Humility: True Greatness - C.J. Mahaney
The NEW strong-willed child - Dr James Dobson
The Pursuit of Holiness - Jerry Bridges
Finding Joy - A radical rediscovery of grace - Marcus Honeysett
George Muller, delighted in God - Roger Steer
Shepherding a Child's Heart - Tedd Tripp
Suddenly they are 13! - David & Claudia Arp
The Gospel and Personal Evangelism - Mark Dever