The Sunday Sample: 30th April 2017

Reflections on corporate worship

Date: Sunday 30th April

Locations: Lower Earley and Watford

Special occasion: none

Speakers

Barry Edwards spoke eloquently in Watford and I preached in Lower Early. We tried a mixed teaching/small group approach in Lower Earley and three people told me they enjoyed the interactive style. I know this suits some people, but not others, so I’ll not do it every week, but it was good to hear that it worked for some. Barry gave us some good insights from Luke 19 – I think it’s so important to have a variety of speakers. We all have different life experiences and perspectives, which, when brought to the Biblical text, enrich us all. The communion in Lower Earley by Richard Bailey contained a very striking mental image. It reminded me that painting a clear and compelling picture using words is sometimes just as effective as using an image or prop.

Today’s lesson: continue to have a variety of speakers. Consider using a mental image in my next lesson.

Music

The Watford service was relaxed and started just about on time. The Lower Early service started late, but there was not a lot we could have done about it. We prayed together before starting in both places. The singing in Lower Earley was helped by Rudie’s selection of songs which were varied in tempo and style. I especially liked his slower take on “Come, now is the time to worship” which led to a more reflective sense of worship. Some of the songs did not end well.

Today’s lessons: consider experimenting with different tempos for songs – faster and slower. Work on the end of songs in the practice session.

Connection

The connection in both places was good today, although Watford lacked a little energy. Perhaps some absentees and latecomers did not help.

Today’s lesson: consider how to inspire people to arrive on time.

Other Matters

  • The setting up in Lower Earley, for the most part, went well. We’re getting better at sticking to our tasks. The laminated set up sheet helped.

Today’s lesson: continue to work at making the set up slick so we can spend more time on the songs.

Last week I said we would prioritise:

  1. Involving children – happened in the welcome in Watford. Needs continued focus.
  2. Think through chorus repeats and write them down – again. Need to establish the habit. – needs more work
  3. Start on time – Watford, but not Lower Earley

This week I’ll prioritise:

  1. Ending songs well
  2. Children’s involvement
  3. Do one song at an unexpected tempo

Let me know your ideas. You can leave a message here, or send me an email: mccx@mac.com.

God bless,

Malcolm

The Sunday Sample: 23rd April 2017

Reflections on corporate worship

Date: Sunday
23rd April

Locations: Lower Earley and Watford

Special occasion: “Allotment” Sunday in Watford

Speakers

Mikko gave us a very encouraging lesson in Lower Early, while the Watford situation was a little different from usual. Joe shared some thoughts about God’s heart as revealed in nature. The outdoor service on Joe’s allotment was a very different scenario from usual – and felt very first-century! Scriptures like the parable of the sower sound very different when explained outdoors.

Today’s lesson: continue to vary locations so as to create different contexts for scriptures to be heard.

Music

The Watford service was very informal. Charl’s acoustic guitar was just the right accompaniment. The Lower Early service started on time, and we prayed together before starting. The atmosphere in Lower Earley was positive and led to some enthusiastic singing – helped by involving the children and adults with hand movements to the song, “Open the Eyes of my Heart”. A new song did not connect so well.

Today’s lessons: use hand movements more often with children and songs while they are in the service. Teach a new song before singing it.

Connection

The outdoor service in Watford made connecting harder, but song sheets, a loaf of bread for the communion and practical things to do on the allotment more than made up for that. The connection in Lower Early was helped by the Gouws family all welcoming us at the start, and by involving the children in the singing.

Today’s lesson: continue to involve children in the service

Other Matters

  • Watford: the physical work on the allotment drew us closer to some of the teachings of Jesus since many of his parables and illustrations were drawn from an agrarian lifestyle.

Today’s lesson: continue to be creative with physical tools, locations and activities

Last week I said we would prioritise:

  1. Think through chorus repeats and write them down – again. Need to establish the habit – got it right, but did not write it down. The habit is not secure, yet.
  2. Add a hymn to the service in Lower Earley – done
  3. Start on time – done in Lower Early, not in Watford – but that did not matter given the informal setting

This week I’ll prioritise:

  1. Involving children
  2. Think through chorus repeats and write them down – again. Need to establish the habit.
  3. Start on time

Let me know your ideas. You can leave a message here, or send me an email: mccx@mac.com.

God bless,

Malcolm

This Sunday the Watford church are decamping to Joe’s allotment for a special planting, sowing and harvesting spiritual experience. Come and join us if you can. Free dirt included!

Date: 23rd April 2017
Time: 10:30-12:00pm
Event: "Allotment" Sunday
Topic: Allotment Sunday
Venue: Bushey Allotments
Location: Bournehall Avenue
Bushey WD23 3BB
Public: Public
More Info: Click here for more information.

The Sunday Sample

Reflections on corporate worship, 16th April 2017

Date: Sunday 16th April

Locations: Bracknell and Watford

Special occasion: Easter Sunday

Speakers

Myself and Tony Heath spoke in Watford and Bracknell respectively. A change from the normal service pattern happened in both locations. In Watford we had a story instead of the sermon – with the children holding up pictures they had coloured as part of the reading. In Bracknell the communion followed the sermon and Peri read the lyrics of a song instead of the congregation singing as bread and wine went around. Children were very visible in both locations. The Wakefield family all spoke, read or prayed in Bracknell – very encouraging for us all to see.

Today’s lesson: vary communion presentation more.

Music

Both services started close to on time. We prayed together in both locations before starting. We sat in a circle and used song sheets in Watford instead of PPt. Not sure if this made much difference. The singing in Bracknell went very well. It was noticeable that some older hymns went downs well with a segment of the congregation, who sang more lustily than at other times.

Today’s lessons: include some hymns more often in Bracknell. 

Connection

As noted above, hymns made a difference for some. The physical holding of pictures helped the children connect with the story (see below).

Today’s lessons: consider the preferences of different parts of the congregation more carefully when planning a service.

Other Matters

  • Watford: we’ve done story sermons with the children in the past, but this one might have been the best so far, and I think it was because the children had pictures in their hands and felt like part of the story. The tactile nature of the pictures they’d coloured in gave them skin in the game.

Last week I said we would prioritise:

  1. Think through chorus repeats and write them down – went better
  2. Fewer chairs – forgot
  3. Start on time – done

This week I’ll prioritise:

  1. Think through chorus repeats and write them down – again. Need to establish the habit.
  2. Add a hymn to the service in Lower Earley
  3. Start on time

Let me know your ideas. You can leave a message here, or send me an email: mccx@mac.com.

God bless,

Malcolm

Are you within driving distance of Bracknell this Sunday? If so, why not join me and the Thames Valley churches of Christ at the leisure centre for a celebration of the resurrection. My good friend Tony Heath will be speaking, and we’ll have a special communion experience. Tea & coffee served at the end of the service, too. Hope to see you there.

Malcolm

Date: 16th April 2017
Time: 2:30 pm
Event: Easter Sunday in Bracknell
Topic: Resurrection celebration
Sponsor: Thames Valley churches of Christ
07973491021
Venue: Bracknell Leisure Centre
Location: Bracknell RG12 9SE
Public: Public

Come and join me at our Easter service this Sunday in wonderful Watford. We’ll be at Laurance Haines school, Vicarage Road. It will be an interactive experience for all the family including story, crafts and – eggs!

Date: 16th April 2017
Time: 10:30-12:00pm
Event: Easter Sunday in Watford
Topic: The Story of the Resurrection
Sponsor: Watford Church of Christ
07973491021
Venue: Laurance Haines School
Location: Vicarage Road
Herts WD18 0DD
UK
Public: Public

The Sunday Sample: reflections on corporate worship, 9th April 2017

Date: Sunday 9th April

Locations: Lower Earley and Watford

Special occasion: none

Speakers

Myself and Tim (on the left) spoke in Watford and Lower Earley respectively. Joe Cronje shared the communion talk in Watford, and his stand-out idea was to ask us all the feel our pulse, close our eyes and then listen as he read scrpiture about the blood of Jesus being poured out of his veins for our sins. A powerful illustration. The Culwocks had their children with them for the welcome and prayer in Lower Early, and the young girls both prayed. Very cute and encouraging. This also helped the children and families to be visible and valued – an objective from last week.

Today’s lesson: consider using more tactile illustrations like Joe’s.

Music

Both services started on time, which was an objective from last week. We also prayed together in both locations before starting. The set up in Bracknell was accomplished more smoothly than usual. The children joined in with one of the Watford songs, “Open the eyes of my heart”. It was not planned, but spontaneous – lovely to see.  The first song in LE did not go smoothly due to Mike & I not being clear on repeats. We need to write down the details of repeats.

Today’s lessons: when children are in the service, plan to be spontaneous when the opportunity presents itself! Write down the chorus repeats in songs.

Connection

Tim’s sermon connected well because it was about real life challenges and the congregation know he had personal experience. Joe’s communion connected (see above). My sermon on Lk 19 went OK, I think. We had a fair bit of group work, which was very interesting. On reflection, I wonder if the questions I gave the groups were precise enough.

Today’s lessons: tactile illustrating help; think through group questions more carefully

Other Matters

  • N/A

Last week I said we would prioritise:

  1. Keep children and families visible and valued – done
  2. Fewer chairs – forgot
  3. Start on time – done

This week I’ll prioritise:

  1. Think through chorus repeats and write them down
  2. Fewer chairs
  3. Start on time

Let me know your ideas. You can leave a message here, or send me an email: mccx@mac.com.

God bless,

Malcolm

“How to make sure God gets the glory in your ministry”, John 17

HOW TO MAKE SURE GOD GETS THE GLORY IN YOUR MINISTRY

Reflections on the prayer of Jesus in John 17 and what it means for those of us who have an area of ministry.

Introduction

“Ministry” is simply another word for area of service. It is about service, not title. The responsibilities God gives us can be a burden, or a thrill. Hard, yes, but exciting. Best seen as an adventure of faith, rather than a task to be done. Jesus carried more responsibility than anyone, and carried it out with enviable peace. His secret? How did the Gospels becoming Acts? He, “often withdrew” to pray, Lk 5.16, and his praying had an impact on the disciples, Lk 11.1ff. John recording his prayer, John 17, at least in part so that we could learn from him.

1. LOOK UP FOR A BIGGER VISION

“After Jesus said this, he looked toward heavena and prayed: Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” v1

Q: Do you have a vision as to how God will be glorified in and through your ministry? Pray for that.

 

2. ACCEPT WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN YOU

“For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” vv2-4

Q: Does anything stand between you and fully embracing the ministry God has given you? Pray for that.

 

3. OUR TASK IS TO REVEAL GOD TO PEOPLE

“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world.” v6

Q: In that way can people get to know God, and know Him better through your ministry? Pray for that.

 

4. GIVE THE WORD TO CREATE ONENESS

“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. …I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” v11b-15

It’s noticeable that Jesus does not use the word ‘unity’. Instead – “one”. This is more relational than structural. The goal in ministry is not to have the same goal, but the same heart and mind in pursuit of that goal. This comes through giving people the Word, v17. One hundred pianos all tuned to the same tuning fork will automatically be in tune with one another. Let’s tune people to Jesus through the Word.

Q: How is the ‘oneness’ of your ministry? Pray for that.

 

5. SEND PEOPLE OUT

“As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” v18 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” vv20-23

It’s not just about us, but the next generation.

Q: What plans do you have to send people out? Pray for that.
Q: Who are you praying for that will ‘believe’ as a result of your ministry? Pray for that.

 

Conclusion

“I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” v26
It’s all about love in the end. Was this prayer answered? Survey the book of Acts and I think you get your answer. God got the glory, the whole church embraced their purpose, God was revealed in His power, inclusivity and love, the church remained one despite challenges – in fact, made stronger by them – and sending was in the church DNA and continued into next generation.

When praying for your ministry, you could use this acronym to remember the points above:
God
Accept
Reveal
Oneness
Send

G.A.R.O.S. spells, ‘garos’, which, as we all know, is the Greek-Cypriot word for, “donkey”! Why not join me in praying the ‘garos’ prayer for your ministry this week?

God bless,

Malcolm

“What is the Primary Point?” Luke 19.10

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The story of Zacchaeus is captivating. I remember the song from Sunday school, “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he.”¹ We’ll be exploring its message this Sunday. But, just what is the main point? I can see lessons from:

  1. The character/heart of Zac (eagerness, humility, faith, generosity)
  2. The actions of Zac (effort, repentance, hospitality)
  3. The actions of Jesus (noticing, associating with sinners, pronouncing)
  4. The character/heart of Jesus (love, compassion)

But is there one main point? What was paramount in Luke’s mind as he recorded this incident? What might God want us to take away from what happened that day in Jericho? Perhaps there is no core message, but several interconnected points. What do you see here?

I’d be grateful for your thoughts as I prepare the sermon. Let me know what you think. You can leave a message here, or email me.

Many thanks, and God bless,

Malcolm

¹Zacchaeus was a wee little man,
and a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree
For the Lord he wanted to see.

And when the Savior passed that way
He looked up in the tree.
And said, ‘Zacchaeus, you come down!
For I’m going to your house today!
For I’m going to your house today!’

Zacchaeus was a wee little man,
But a happy man was he,
For he had seen the Lord that day
And a happy man was he;
And a very happy man was he.

“Today’s the Day”, Luke 19.5 & 9

www.freebibleimages.com / www.LumoProject.org

“Don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today.” An helpful phrase my parents repeated to me while growing up. “Carpe Diem” became popular after Robin Williams used it in, “Dead Poets Society”.

The significance of noticing and grasping opportunities goes back further. For example, here in Luke 19 – the passage I’ll be preaching on this Sunday.¹ The small man climbs a sycamore tree to see the Son of Man. Many lessons can be learned, but one that stands out is pointed out by the repeated word, “today” (vv5, 9). It’s the same Greek word both times, ‘semeron’, meaning, ‘now’, ‘at present’, ‘this day’, ‘the present day’, ‘until this day’, ‘until our times’, ‘the position today’.

Luke has a thing about ‘semeron’, recording it 11 times. Of the other Gospel writers, Matthew come closest with eight references, while Mark mentions it just once and John not at all. What is Luke doing? There is not space nor time to delve into all the implications in this short blog, but all the Lukan references are below for you to contemplate.²

Needless to say, Jesus knew his time was short. He is on his last approach to Jerusalem, but in a sense he has been on the road to that city since he became conscious of his mission. There is an urgency in ‘today’, and an opportunity. The world has been offered a ‘Saviour’, prophecies have been fulfilled, miracles have been witnessed, and we do not know how long ‘today’ will last. Therefore, let’s “make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:5 NIV11) while such opportunities exist.

Is there a decision of faith to be made today? A phone call, a confession, a prayer, a conversation? Let’s make the most of today. It will not be with us for ever.

God bless, Malcolm

 

¹Watford church of Christ, Laurance Haines School, Vicarage Road, Watford, 10.30 am, Sunday 9th April.

²Luke 2:11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
Luke 4:21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke 5:26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
Luke 12:28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!
Luke 13:32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
Luke 19:5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19:9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.
Luke 22:34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
Luke 22:61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.”
Luke 23:43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”