Episode 14, Sunday Sample, 3 December 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

 

Stefan Wolmerans in full preaching flow

Locations: Watford and Bracknell

Special Occasion: None

Here is the outline of the devotional I shared with the worship teams in both locations.


The Role of a “Joiner”

 Last week we focussed on the ‘why’ of leading worship

 Today we will think about our role in a specific way – that of ‘joiners’

Consider this passage: 

Luke 2:13-14 “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.””

Heaven and earth are joined together by the praises of angels

 How does this happen? Because heaven and earth have been joined together by the arrival of Jesus on the earth.

 Those who recognise this join with heaven in praise. That’s why we gather here today. 

We are the leaders that help the congregation ‘join’ in with the praise of heaven. By what we say and sing we ‘join’ the congregations of heaven and earth today

Let’s pray before we ‘join’ heaven and earth in a few moments


Speakers

We had visiting speakers in both venues. Ben Dannatt preached in Watford, and Stefan Wolmerans in Bracknell. London and Thames Valley were doing a swap. Both lessons were faith-building. Check them out on the Watford and Thames Valley YouTube channels or podcast feeds.

I especially liked having a younger speaker in Watford. Ben was the youngest adult in attendance, not counting a couple of teenagers. I sensed vision for their children from the parents in the room. It’s vital we give younger people a platform to preach and teach. Mistakes will be made, but that’s the learning process in action.

Are you enthusiastically promoting the younger preachers in your congregation?

Music Worship

We learned the new song, “Lord you hear the cry” in Watford. I was impressed that the worship leaders had taken the time during the week to listen to the mp3 I sent out. It made a big difference to the time it took to learn the song, and gave them confidence as we taught the congregation. Let’s make the most of technological aids to compensate for the lack of rehearsal time.

What technology do you find most helpful?

A word on keys. A debate happens almost every Sunday. It goes something like this. “It’s too high to sing”….”But that’s the original key”…”But it’s too high”…”But the bass line will be too low if we drop it”…… and repeat. Some of the songs were too high this Sunday. On reflection, here’s what I learned. One song being a little high is not an issue. Two songs in a row is.

Other Thoughts

Last week I said we’d do the following:

  1. Watford: Teach the song, “Lord, you hear the cry” – Done
  2. Both locations: Create enough time for a meaningful devotional for all the speakers and musicians – Done

Next Sunday we’ll do the following:

  1. Watford: deliver an interactive sermon on Luke 24, and do it all in 30 minutes or less
  2. Lower Earley: We’re singing carols. Some are long with many verses. Create variety in the carols so that they don’t drag.

Please comment on what you’re doing with your services. What are you trying that’s working? What is God teaching you?

Share reflections with us so we can grow and please God.

You can leave a comment below.

God bless,

Malcolm

How to stop your smartphone getting between you and God

Quiet Time Coaching Episode 16: Your smartphone isn't Satan's tool, but it can be his friend

When is your smartphone your friend and when is it your enemy? What does it do to your relationship with God? I have tips to make it a spiritual asset.
 
SmartPhones are not the answer to all ills. Neither are they the reason for any societal decay you care to highlight. They are here to stay. As with all new technologies they have the power to enhance or detract from our spirituality. I have found my phone a great help at times, but a distraction at others.
 
“But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” (Luke 10:40 NIV11)
 
Martha was not distracted by something evil, but something good. Hospitality is a Biblical command, after all. 
 

The “iPhone Effect”

Research illustrates the effects of a phone on relationships. The details are in the links provided. In summary, when a phone was visible the quality of the conversation diminished. People felt less connection, less empathy, less warmth. Even if the phone was not turned on. I know families who have a rule to counter this issue. No phones at the dinner table. 
 

Pause the Phone

We must consider the application to our walk with God. Especially our devotional times. Those moments we set aside for focused prayer and Bible study are precious. Will the phone help or hinder? Here are a few pointers.

When you want to avoid distraction

  1. Put the phone in Airplane Mode – vibrations can be enough to cause distraction
  2. Put the phone in another room – i.e. out of sight
  3. Leave the phone behind – if you go out for a prayer walk or into the garden

When you want to use it to help your prayer time

  1. Open a prayer app – I use “PocketPrayer” and “Daily Prayer” weekly
  2. Open a Bible study app – for praying through scripture
  3. Keep a notes app open for recording prayer thoughts – I use Drafts and save to Evernote
 

Conclusion

The key is to be intentional about your use or non-use of the phone. Where do you need to alter the way you use your phone? Remember, the phone is not the issue. The use of it is. You are in control.
 

Question

How do you prevent your phone from becoming a problem in your quiet times? In what ways do you find it helpful?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
 

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Episode 13, Sunday Sample, 26 November 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

Locations: Watford and Lower Earley

Special Occasion: “How to help a grieving friend” event in Watford

I was involved in services in Watford and Lower Earley this last Sunday. As you can see in the picture above, the Watford children enjoyed their class on tree-climbing like Zacchaeus!

Here is the outline of the devotional I shared with the worship teams in both locations.


The Power of Silence to Prepare

 Last week we focussed on: not ‘what’, but ‘why’ we are leading worship

 Today we will prepare ourselves for ‘who’ we are worshipping: God

Silence with God helps prepare us for work of substance – leading others in worship

Moses & David must have experienced much silence in the fields with their sheep. Jesus (eg Lk 5.16) deliberately chose quiet places to pray. Helped prepare them.

 Robin Daniels (in his book, ‘The Virgin Eye’), “If we do not keep attuning to silence, we lose gravitas, we become lightweight.”

Silence is praise and prepares us for praise: “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” (Psalms 62:1 NRSV)

 We will spend one minute of silent reflection on this phrase – “For God alone”

Then I will pray for us all

Let’s be silent together before our God …..


The minute of silence seemed to be appreciated by the teams. We gathered our thoughts and consciously placed them on God. Why not try it where you are and let me know how it goes?

Speakers

Our Watford service was different in that a large chunk of the sermon was spent in small groups. We discussed our experiences of loss and what it was that people said and did that we found helpful, and not so helpful. The results were profound. Some tears were shed, and the mood was sombre at the end. I guess there’s no way around that. The feelings evoked are powerful and not to be ignored.

Music Worship

As mentioned last week, I tried a revised song-sandwich in Lower Earley. The first three verses of “Soon and very soon” were followed by “Shine, Jesus, Shine” and concluded with the final two verses of “Soon and very”. All in G. It worked better than the previous week in Watford. However, another lesson was learned. Because we sang the first three verse of “Soon” slowly, it dragged after the first verse. We’d have done better to sing only one or two verses of “Soon” before going into “Shine” and then back to “Soon” at the faster speed. More helpful lessons learned!

Other Thoughts

Last week I said we’d do the following:

  1. Have a devotional for all the service participants that includes one minute of silence – “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” Psalm 62.1, (NRSV) Done.
  2. Have a second bash a the S&S song-sandwich in Lower Earley. Done.

Next Sunday we’ll do the following:

  1. Watford: Teach the song, “Lord, you hear the cry”
  2. Both locations: Create enough time for a meaningful devotional for all the speakers and musicians

Please comment on what you’re doing with your services. What are you trying that’s working? What is God teaching you?

Share reflections with us so we can grow and please God.

You can leave a comment below.

God bless,

Malcolm

“What does the New Testament teach us about preaching?” Part 2 – Parakaleo

Tuesday Teaching Tips: Episode 85

This is part 2 of a four-part series looking at some of the Greek words used to describe teaching and preaching. We continue with Parakaleo.

Here are the references to its use in the NT: Matt 2:18; 5:4; 8:5, 31, 34; 14:36; 18:29, 32; 26:53; Mark 1:40; 5:10, 12, 17–18, 23; 6:56; 7:32; 8:22; Luke 3:18; 7:4; 8:31–32, 41; 15:28; 16:25; Acts 2:40; 8:31; 9:38; 11:23; 13:42; 14:22; 15:32; 16:9, 15, 39–40; 19:31; 20:1–2, 12; 21:12; 24:4; 25:3; 27:33–34; 28:14, 20; Rom 12:1, 8; 15:30; 16:17; 1 Cor 1:10; 4:13, 16; 14:31; 16:12, 15; 2 Cor 1:4, 6; 2:7–8; 5:20; 6:1; 7:6–7, 13; 8:6; 9:5; 10:1; 12:8, 18; 13:11; Eph 4:1; 6:22; Phil 4:2; Col 2:2; 4:8; 1 Th 2:12; 3:2, 7; 4:1, 10, 18; 5:11, 14; 2 Th 2:17; 3:12; 1 Tim 1:3; 2:1; 5:1; 6:2; 2 Tim 4:2; Titus 1:9; 2:6, 15; Philem 1:9–10; Heb 3:13; 10:25; 13:19, 22; 1 Pet 2:11; 5:1, 12; Jude 1:3

I have three tips for us to consider from its use in Luke 3.18:

  1. Warnings
  2. Practicals
  3. Hope

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

Thanks again for watching. Have a terrific Tuesday, and a wonderful week.

God bless,

Malcolm

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Episode 12, Sunday Sample, 19 November 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

Locations: Watford and Bracknell

Special Occasion: none

I was involved in services in Watford and Bracknell this last Sunday. Our entry to the building in Watford was delayed due to a misunderstanding about parking, but we got in eventually. Everyone rushed around setting up before taking a deep breath for a pre-service devotional. We needed it. We were all frazzled.

We reflected on Hezekiah’s prayer, then God’s promise of healing, followed by the King’s poem of praise, culminating in this phrase:

“The Lord will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the Lord.” (Isaiah 38:20 NIV11)

He knew why he was singing. His fellow-congregants knew why they were singing. See the “we” word in verse 20?  We also know why we sing. The point is not “what” we are about to do, but “why”. Focussing on the “why” helped us to worship and to lead worship with a clearer mind and heart. It’s an important reminder to me that we need those few moments to pray and remember what it’s all about.

Speakers

Charl gave us a communion talk with a difference in Watford. You may see the table, tablecloth, vase and flower between Barry and Kate in the photo above. He asked for volunteers for a demonstration and then set up Barry and Kate as if on a date in a restaurant. Romantic music played through the PA system. Charl spoke about what makes meals special before going on to describe the extra-special nature of the communion. His points were sound and well-made. But what I especially appreciated was the creative thinking that went into preparing and presenting his talk.

Osagie is in action below preaching in Watford. He is another one never short of a handy way to illustrate his points. His use of children’s play tiles was masterful. You’ll have to click here to see him in action on the YouTube channel.

Music Worship

We tried a new song-sandwich in Watford. The first three verses of “Soon and very soon” were followed by “Shine, Jesus, Shine” and concluded with the final two verses of “Soon and very”. All in G.It didn’t really work. The problem was that we started too fast and had to slow down for “Shine” and then speed up again for the final part of “Soon”. It wasn’t a disaster, but the effect I was looking for didn’t happen. I’m going to try it again this coming Sunday in Lower Earley. We’ll sing the first half of “Soon” slowly, segue into “Shine” and then speed up for the second half of “Soon”. I’ll let you know how that goes next week.

In Bracknell, the stand-out musical item was a new song by Geraldine Latty, “Lord, you hear the cry“. I thoroughly recommend it. How many songs do we sing about the marginalised and needy? Not many. It goes well with the point in our services when we take a collection for HOPE Worldwide UK. Have a look at the lyrics and chord charts here.

Other Thoughts

Last week I said we’d do the following:

  1. Have song sheets for everyone in Watford. Done.
  2. Start the service in Bracknell with a 5-minute countdown video. Done.

Next Sunday we’ll do the following:

  1. Have a devotional for all the service participants that includes one minute of silence – “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” Psalm 62.1, (NRSV)
  2. Have a second bash a the S&S song-sandwich in Lower Earley.

Please comment on what you’re doing with your services. What are you trying that’s working? What is God teaching you?

Share reflections with us so we can grow and please God.

You can leave a comment below.

God bless,

Malcolm

“What does the New Testament teach us about preaching?” Part 1 – Kerusso

Tuesday Teaching Tips, Episode 84

This is part 1 of a four-part series looking at some of the Greek words used to describe teaching and preaching.

We begin with Kerusso.

Here are the references to its use in the NT:

Matt 3:1; 4:17, 23; 9:35; 10:7, 27; 11:1; 24:14; 26:13; Mark 1:4, 7, 14, 38–39, 45; 3:14; 5:20; 6:12; 7:36; 13:10; 14:9; 16:15, 20; Luke 3:3; 4:18–19, 44; 8:1, 39; 9:2; 12:3; 24:47; Acts 8:5; 9:20; 10:37, 42; 15:21; 19:13; 20:25; 28:31; Rom 2:21; 10:8, 14–15; 1 Cor 1:23; 9:27; 15:11–12; 2 Cor 1:19; 4:5; 11:4; Gal 2:2; 5:11; Phil 1:15; Col 1:23; 1 Th 2:9; 1 Tim 3:16; 2 Tim 4:2; 1 Pet 3:19; Rev 5:2

I have seven habits of a herald for us to consider:

  1. Knows he is sent
  2. Knows to whom he is sent
  3. Knows his message
  4. Knows the authority is with the one who sent him
  5. Knows to be humble
  6. Knows to be bold
  7. Knows the response is not his responsibility

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

Thanks again for listening and watching. Have a terrific Tuesday, and a wonderful week.

God bless,

Malcolm

Corporate Worship Matters, Episode 5: “Teach on the Trends”

Trends Part 3

Previously

  1. Find the trends
  2. Test the Trends

Teach on the Trends

The final step is to teach the congregation. Why should we speak to the congregation about which ‘trends’ we consider to be acceptable?

  1. Because otherwise members may be inclined to practice whatever worship trend suits them without considering the filters above.
  2. They may also cast negative spiritual judgment on others who act differently.
  3. Not only that, but they could become resentful if their preferences are not included in worship. It may be that they are not included for good reason, but a lack of explanation can be harmful.

Confusion is not conducive to God-honouring worship (1 Cor 14.26-33 – more on that in a forthcoming article). Uncertainty is a form of confusion. A member who sits in a service wondering why we have instruments (or no instruments), or why we have someone centre-stage leading worship (or not) is a member who is finding it hard to set their heart and mind on Christ.

Let’s be worship leaders who are aware of trends, but not with the goal of being trendy!  Instead, our aim is to know the trends, apply appropriate filters and teach clearly so that members and visitors alike have their best chance to hear the Spirit’s voice.

What are your thoughts on the significance of teaching about trends to the congregation? Leave a comment below so that we can all learn from one another.

Malcolm Cox

Sunday Sample 12 November 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

Locations: Watford and Lower Earley

Special Occasion: none

I was involved in services in Watford and Lower Earley this last Sunday. Both had their own special and unique characteristics.

I preached in Watford – with a difference. In one of his letters Paul tells Timothy: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:13 NIV11)

There is more than one way to apply this, but what we did this Sunday in Watford is an interpretation of Paul’s instruction. I printed out the text of the crucifixion account from Luke’s Gospel. Then assigned different people or groups of people to read the parts of characters in the story. On Sunday I asked everybody to stand, and then we read the account for the crucifixion together. It was especially gratifying to see everybody take part wholeheartedly, including one of our teenagers.

After this, we broke into small discussion groups to consider the experience of the crucifixion from the perspectives of the different people involved.  10 minutes later we had sharing about what the groups discovered, and I wrapped up with Romans 5:7, and we took communion.

As usual, the groups came up with very interesting insights. Although it was not a typical sermon, I believe this format helped all of us find a personal connection with the crucifixion of Jesus.

Jonty preached in Lower Early, taking on the tricky subject of humility and pride. What a courageous man! You did a super job, Jonty, preaching with honesty and conviction, but without hubris. Thank you.

Music Worship

The singing in both services was encouraging. In Watford we overcame my mistake of forgetting to print enough song sheets and a ‘pink’ projector! Something wrong with the socket, I think.

In Lower Earley we sang a ‘new’ song for us, “Days of Elijah” – Rynhardt led it very effectively.

We sang “Above all” in both services and it was interesting that both congregations struggled with it to some extent. I love that song, but it’s tricky for the church to sing it well. There’s something about the rhythm of the melody that confuses us. I’m not sure what to do about it. Any ideas?

Other Thoughts

Next Sunday we’ll do the following:

  1. Have song sheets for everyone in Watford.
  2. Start the service in Bracknell with a 5-minute countdown video. Here is the draft version:

Please comment on what you’re doing locally with your services. What are you trying that’s working? What is God teaching you?

Share reflections with us so we can grow and please God.

You can leave a comment below.

God bless,

Malcolm

“How to make the most of praying through a Psalm”

Quiet Time Coaching Episode 13: Scripture's Songs

Why do we have 150 Psalms? Why is there such a big poetry book in the Bible? Why did God think we needed this resource? How can the Psalms help our prayers? We will delve into this topic today.
 

Massive Manuals

Recently I bought a new camera. I like my Canon EOS M6 very much. It does what I want it to do. But I know it does far more than I realise. The manual is huge. 221 pages long! And, yes, the picture above is taken by that very same camera.
 

At the moment, I’m satisfied with what I know of the camera’s functions. It takes basic pictures and video. Excellent. For now. The ‘quick start’ manual has ben adequate up to now. 11 pages have supplied all I need. But I know as time progresses I will want it to do a wider variety of activities. How do I wirelessly transfer pictures to my laptop? How do I adjust for low light? And much more.  I will want to know what all those buttons and menu options are for. At that point I will need the full manual. It would be foolish of me to ditch the camera because I have not read the manual.

When we struggle in prayer or get stale, the solution is not to ditch prayer. Instead we can go back to the manual for advice, input and perspective. That is what the Psalms are for.

 

Psalmodic Inspiration

Psalms have inspired many hymns and songs. For example, 
  • Old hymns: “Praise my soul the king of heaven” – written in the 1800s by John Goss, based on Psalm 103.
  • Modern hymns: written in 1993, “Among the Gods” by Carol Owen, based on Psalm 86.
  • Recent songs: from the 2000s, “Forever” by Chris Tomlin, based on  Psalm 89.1-2.

Psalmodic Templates

Psalms have been used as a template for songs. They can also be used as a template for personal prayer. For example, here is the text of Psalm 130 with suggested prayer themes.
  • Vv1-2: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.” Expressing how we feel about our problems and challenges. Asking God to hear these prayers tonight.
  • Vv3-4: “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; so that we can, with reverence, serve you.Being open about our sins. Asking for forgiveness. Trusting God that He will forgive. Expressing gratitude for His forgiveness.
  • Vv5-6: “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” Wanting to be close to God. Expressing how much we love God. Telling God that His word gives us hope. Asking for greater eagerness to be with Him.
  • Vv7-8 “O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.” Telling God how much we love Him. Asking God to fill us with greater appreciation for His grace to us. Confidence that God will forgive us and take us to be with Him.
Of course, the above suggestions are ideas that are not meant to restrict our prayers. Add other areas of prayer that matter to you, or that the Psalm suggests by its content. Learning to pray through a Psalm is a good discipline and an enriching experience, so stick to the Psalm’s internal themes where you can.
 

Preparation

1. A quiet place
2. Read through the Psalm or section of the Psalm
3. Take your time – no rush
 

Practice

1. Read one verse or phrase – slowly and thoughtfully
2. Pray through it and over it
3. Allow the theme of the verse or phrase to take you to other places in the Bible, in your heart and in your life
4. Move on to the next verse and repeat
 
What themes stand out to you? Godʼs holiness? His generosity? What else? What is your response to this Psalm? Feelings of gratitude? Feelings of love? What else? What do you learn about the character of God? Record your observations and also read through the words of the hymn based on this Psalm.
 
In the video and podcast versions of this article I offer a brief demonstration of these techniques. If you would like to hear those, click the links on this page.

Conclusion

 Why not try praying though a Psalm for your next prayer time? How about tomorrow? We have 150 Psalms. That’s more than enough material to keep us going for a long time.
 

Question

Try it and tell me what your experience is with this. What difficulties did you encounter? What stood out to you? What helped you? Imagine encouraging someone else to practice this prayer technique. What would you emphasise to them?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
 
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How to Overcome Preaching as a Problem

Tuesday Teaching Tips, Episode 83

Is the word ‘preaching’ the wrong word? We have some challenges with that word – or idea …

I have three tips for us to overcome the stigma associated with ‘preaching’ and ‘sermons’:

  1. Style
  2. Substance
  3. Spirituality

Notes:

Rom. 14:10 “You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.”

“When you speak of heaven, let your face light up… When you speak of hell well then, your everyday face will do.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“Preaching with Humanity”, Stevenson and Wright

“I Believe in Preaching”, John Stott