“How to plan spontaneity in corporate worship”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 38

Today: the place for spontaneity as a worship leader

New Testament

Erickson: “the spirit moves through spontaneity. The spirit also moves through form and structure. Obviously, for Paul both dimensions are vital to the dynamics of worship.”

Erickson: “…a balance between structure and freedom is easier to attain in theory than in practice. The tension between the two can become a source of discord within a congregation. The pastoral challenge is to maintain a creative balance amidst these two constantly shifting elements”

Key Principle: “Everything must be done so that the church may be built up” (1 Corinthians 14:26)

Before you go spontaneous:

  • Discuss the place of spontaneity with leadership
  • Agree on principles and practicals as a worship team
  • Get feedback

Enabling spontaneity:

  • Do not abandon structure – it enables freedom
  • Give the service structure to your team as far in advance as possible


  • Extend a song
  • Add/change a song
  • Read/quote a scripture
  • Pray
  • Say a few words

What else can you think of / have you seen?

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.

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.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: www.malcolmcox.org.

Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.

“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)

God bless, Malcolm

PS: If you would like some coaching in spiritual disciplines, look me up here.

PPS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“Why the prayer of relinquishment matters”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 41

Is it possible to be surrendered to God’s will without feeling like a pawn?
I bring you a sixth look at the book by Richard Foster, “Prayer: finding the heart’s true home“. In the most recent chapter I’ve been reading, Richard talks about the significance of the prayer of relinquishment.
Richard quotes Andrew Murray, “..union with God’s will is union with God himself”. That being the case, how can we afford not to pray the prayer of relinquishment? In other words, the prayer that says, “not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 NIV11).
Easy to say. Not so easy to do. And even harder to mean it.
This week we explore why the prayer of relinquishment is so important. We will discover the correct motivation for the prayer. Next week we will look at how to practice the prayer of relinquishment.

1. The example of Jesus

Jesus is our inspiration in all things. No less in this prayer of relinquishment. Without this prayer – no cross. Without this prayer – no sins forgiven. In Gethsemane, Jesus prayed the prayer of relinquishment more fully, more powerfully, more painfully than at any other point in his life,
“not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 NIV11)
As Foster remarks, 
“To applaud the will of God, to do the will of God, even to fight for the will of God is not difficult . . . until it comes at cross-purposes with our will.” p51
Thank goodness for the example of Jesus!

2. The door to hope

The Scriptures tell an interesting story – if you are called by God, you will struggle with God.
Jesus is the ultimate example, but what about Abraham, Moses, David, Mary, Paul? They all struggled with God’s will for their lives. But, when they came to a place of relinquishment, they discovered that God’s will was better and more glorious than the choice they preferred.
When we struggle, and submit to God’s will, and discover his wisdom, it gives us hope for the next struggle. Because there will be another struggle. It’s how we grow. It’s how God gets his will done. It’s how God makes sure he gets the glory instead of us. But even though he gets the glory, we get plenty of joy.

3. The soil for fruit

When we pray the prayer of relinquishment we are offering God fertile soil for him to bear fruit. That’s why Jesus said,
“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24)
When we make ourselves available to God, he is able to produce the fruit of the Kingdom in us and through us. As Foster says,
“..we hold on so tightly to the good we know that we cannot receive the greater good that we do not know. God has to help us let go of our tiny vision in order to release the greater good he has in store for us.” p55
We don’t have to pray the ‘right’ prayer, we just need to pray the relinquished prayer.
Such a self-death brings us the freedom of self-forgetfulness which does not negate a person but sets us free to become all that we can be in Christ.


The Apostle Paul found himself at peace with the prayer of relinquishment,
“It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:19–20).
What a blessing it is to arrive here. A place of contentment, free from anxiety.


Do you have a prayer of relinquishment which needs to be prayed? In which areas in life right now do you sense a struggle? Have you prayed the prayer of relinquishment in those areas? How do you feel about praying such a prayer? What holds you back from doing so?
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 fulfilling quiet times.
God bless, Malcolm
Get coached on Coach.me

You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool“, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“How to help everyone participate in corporate worship”, part 3

The Sunday Sample: Episode 37

We want full participation – what to do when we don’t get it?

This is the third episode in a mini-series looking at some suggestions. This week: What’s wrong with ritual?

Please leave a comment and pass the link on.
God bless,
“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)

“The place of penthos in prayer”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 39

Is there a place for tears in prayer? Is crying a sign of indisciplined emotions? Or is it a sign of spiritual health? 

I bring you a fourth look at the book by Richard Foster, “Prayer: finding the heart’s true home”. Richard talks about the significance of the “Prayer of tears”, or, ‘Penthos’.

What is ‘penthos’?

According to the Mounce’s Expository Dictionary, it means,

“to mourn, grieve, bewail. This word is used in contexts of mourning over disasters or grieving the loss of someone. Mourning is often associated with weeping. While in classical Greek usage, penthos was a passion that a wise person must intentionally avoid, in the NT mourning is encouraged in contexts of sorrow over grievous sin and is acceptable and appropriate in cases of overwhelming disasters.” Mounce, William D., D. Matthew Smith, and Miles V. Van Pelt, eds. MED. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.3. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.

Not being the most emotionally demonstrative person, I question the appropriateness of tears in prayer. We will take a couple of weeks looking at this, but today let’s survey some biblical examples.

1. Old Testament

Some classic Old Testament crying personalities include Isaiah, “I drench you with my tears O Heshbon and Elealeh.” Isaiah 16:9. Jeremiah, of course, is often called the “weeping prophet” – “O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!” Jeremiah 9:1.

Several Psalmists spent time crying, “Every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.” Psalm 6:6. “Put my tears in your bottle. Are they not on your record?” Psalm 56:8. “My tears have been my food day and night.” Psalm 43:3

2. Jesus

Was Jesus a crying person? The writer to the Hebrews tells us he, “offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears” Hebrews 5:7.

He wept at the tomb of Lazarus, John 11:35.

He taught, “blessed are those who mourn”, Matthew 5:4. He was kind to Mary when she washed his feet with her tears, Luke 7:36-50.

3. Paul

Paul a tough guy. Was he someone who cried? 

He came to Asia “serving the Lord with all humility and with tears”, Acts 20:19. He warned “everyone with tears” Acts 20:31, and when he wrote to the church in Corinth he did so, “out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears”. He rejoiced that they had godly sorrow which led to repentance, 2 Corinthians 7:7-11.


If the Old Testament Prophets and Psalmists, if Jesus and the Apostle Paul were all people who cried in a healthy way, who are we to resist it?

Next time we will go on to look at the potential spiritual benefits to us of praying this “prayer of tears”. 

Between now and then, why not have a look at some of the other examples of spiritual men and women shedding tears. What do you learn about their relationship with God? 


Do you shy away from crying in your prayers? If so, why might that be? What do you think could be a spiritual benefit to you being more in tune emotionally with your sin, the broken heart of God and the sins of this world?

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 fulfilling quiet times.

God bless, Malcolm


Get coached on Coach.me

“How to be a human preacher”

Tuesday Teaching Tips: Episode 104

How do we keep our ‘humanness’ as preachers? You don’t have to be perfect, but you can’t be a hypocrite.

“Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” (2 Corinthians 11:29 NIV11)
Three tips for today:
  1. Share your sins
  2. Share weaknesses
  3. Don’t beat yourself up
Thank you for listening to this podcast and watching this video. You can find more teaching tips here and on the YouTube teaching tips playlist.
Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.
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,

“How to be ready for anything”

Tuesday Teaching Tips: Episode 103

What do we do when the circumstances into which we are to speak change unexpectedly? I have four suggestions – all starting with “A”.

I hope you find these thoughts helpful. What have I missed? What else is important?

Please leave a comment and pass the link on to one other person ….

God bless, Malcolm


Tuesday Teaching Tips: Episode 93

I was sent a QUORA question to answer. It was about how to start a speech strong. Here are a few ideas:

Start with something than gives your audience a reason to listen to you. While most audiences are willing to listen, it is unwise to take them or their attention for granted.
Some commonly practiced “do-nots”:
  1. Tell them all about yourself. Your audience are the point, not you.
  2. Say bland things like “hello…nice to be here…” Boring!
  3. Talk about irrelevant things like the weather, the price of fish etc. Keep the focus on the topic.
Some suggestions for good openers:
  1. A short anecdote which connects with the theme of your talk and a need in your audience
    • “I stayed up all night typing on a portable typewriter …. degree almost lost…..”
    • Acts 17.22ff
  2. A question – if you want interaction and can expect participation
    • “Do you like having a clear conscience?
    • “What are the signs you have a guilty conscience?”
    • Lk 13.2
    • Act 3.12 – “Why does this surprise you?”
  3. A statement which gets attention. Not too controversial (that will get some listeners on the wrong side of you), but thought-provoking and, again, connected to a need amongst your hearers.
    • There are more active phone connections in the world than there are people – 7.7 billion
    • Kim Kardashian has been significantly influential in helping Americans understand statistics
      • 69 lawnmower deaths
      • 2 Islamic Jihadi Immigrants
      • 21 deaths by armed toddlers
      • 11, 737 killed by another American
    • Acts 23.6ff
    • Luke 14.26
See my Tuesday Teaching Tips: “When does a speech begin?” – 14 Oct 2016
Enjoy your opportunity to speak – it’s always a privilege.
Leave a comment ….      Pass it on ……
Have a terrific Tuesday & wonderful week.
God bless, Malcolm

Solutions are often simpler than we think (and a significant beard)

Impulse SoundsI’m a bit of a self-confessed radio freak. Love radio. Always have. Queen’s song “Radio Ga Ga” resonates, “I’d sit alone and watch your light, My only friend through teenage nights, And everything I had to know, I heard it on my radio.”

My car radio stopped working two months ago. It’s been a trying time. Podcasts are great, and live streaming more or less fits into my monthly tariff, but it’s not the same.  Yes, I took the radio out, checked the power, the cables and the aerial. No joy. I’ve been putting off finding a remedy for the simple reason that I assume the fix will be expensive. Finally I could stand it no more. I heid me off to “Impulse Sounds” in North Watford today.

The beard behind the counter (and what a beard!) seemed reluctant to take my money and suggested I try checking some settings on the radio menu. “I’ll try it”, I thought, but without much hope. Five minutes later I was back in the shop thanking the beard profusely and giving him a bottle of my home-brew lager I happened to have in the boot. Radio restored. DAB delight. I drove off with disproportionate joy. The moral of the story (apart from if you have a car stereo problem go to Impulse Sounds) is the value of going to the right source for answers. I assumed the solution would be complex and expensive, but someone with superior specialist knowledge was able to deliver me.

I might not be alone in making the Christian life more complex than it needs to be. It’s easy to forget that God has all the answers I’ll ever need (and more). He might not give me all the answers I want, but that’s his prerogative. For example, Paul writes this to Timothy, “…from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15) Salvation is found through the scriptures, not through my ideas or anyone else’s. Not through traditions or the writings of learned men (helpful as they can be at times). And there’s more, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17 NIV11) Not only salvation, but the rest of the Christian life is provided for.

When I’m tempted to take my eyes off the Bible ball, I’ll have a think about Impulse Sounds and ask God, through His word, for the wisdom I need. How’s your devotion to the Word at the moment? Is it getting pride of place as your prime source of wisdom and strength? Let’s follow the beard, and keep it simple.


Searching to Persuade

Search for God“The Search For God and the Path to Persuasion”

Peter May; md Publishing, 2016

Dr Peter May has written a reflective but practical book on rethinking how we persuade people to take the Gospel seriously. This topic matters because firstly, it is hard to engage people to take the Bible and its stories seriously in this increasingly sceptical era. Secondly, many of us do not know where to start, and find our faltering efforts rebuffed – thus diminishing our enthusiasm to try again. This book provides inspiration, motivation, material and methods to help us in our evangelism.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to be more flexible and effective in their sharing of the Gospel. Every Christian’s desire is to be “all things to all men” – and this is going to take both humility and skill.


Jesus used questions all the time (Jn 9.35; Matt 22.42; Lk 16.5.11; John 5.44; Luke 7.41-42; Mark 3.33-34; John 8.46; Mark 8.27,29 – to mention only a few of the many!  If Jesus didn’t make assumptions as to people’s desires, hopes, motivations or understanding, why should we?

Question styles include probing, provocative, closing, socratic, engaging, rhetorical and profound. Which are you better at? I’m guessing most of us are good at one or two – Jesus was adept at all. We can learn to vary our approach, and we need to if we are to reach all people.

Paul’s preaching

Peter makes the invaluable observation that Paul’s approach to sharing the Gospel was less ‘lecture’ and more ‘discussion’. This becomes clearer when we realise the word translated ‘reasoned’ (Acts 17.2; 17; 18.19; 19.8,9,10) is the Greek word dialegomai meaning ‘to converse, negotiate, discuss, dispute’.  In other words, these were two-way conversations. Dialogue, not  monologue.

Paul was persuasive (Acts 17.4; 18.4,13; 19.8,9,10,26; 26.28), which means he was not one to ram the message home and depart in a huff if no one responded. Add persuasion to dialogue, and you have a healthy cocktail of apologetic power.


The section on testimonies appears in the appendix, and I won’t say a great deal here since I have written on this elsewhere. Suffice to say that the personal message of the effect of the Gospel is one of the greatest gifts we’ve been given. Let’s become skilful at sharing this gift persuasively.


“Search for God” contains some material that could be considered questionable in its apologetic value (inscriptions discovered in Pompeii, as an example). Yet there are vital lessons here if we want to be effective in communicating the Gospel. As a GP Peter has spent a lifetime synthesising the questioning methods of the doctor’s 10-minute consultation with the opportunities we all have to share the gospel with people. The chapters on Socrates, Paul’s approaches to preaching and testimonies are worth the price of the book alone.

Malcolm Cox

Footnote: click the links for my video and audio blogs on this book 

Tasty Testimonies

Ten Commandments for Terrific Testimonies

Here’s an excerpt from my recent article on how to give a tasty testimony.

“Testimonies also appear in the New Testament – most significantly in the Gospels and Acts. Take the man possessed by Legion: “Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” (Luke 8:38–39 NIV11). Or the Samaritan woman who, after having a transformative conversation with Jesus, went back to her village and invited the inhabitants to, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” (John 4:29 NIV11). You can probably think of many more examples.

Acts is interesting. Paul is the prime example of a testimony teller. He tells his to a lynch mob, Felix and King Agrippa (Acts 22:6, 24.24; 26.14-15). These testimonies had a profound effect. So can ours. In his book, Peter May (“The Search for God”) offers eight thoughts to help us prepare a compelling testimony. Here are mine.”

Email me if you’d like the full article before it goes on-line.


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