“How to Connect with the Heart”

Tuesday Teaching Tips: Episode 94

It is vital we connect with the heart when we are speaking. How can we do this? What do we see in Jesus?

Cliff Ravenscraft: “The Cliff Ravenscraft Show” episode 535. Interview with Ray Edwards.
“Stay in your head and you’re dead; speak to my heart, now we can start.”
“Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things?”” Mk 2.8
  1. Observe:
    1. Luke 14:7 “When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honour at the table, he told them this parable:….”
    2. What are you seeing? Hearing?
  2. Question:
    1. Luke 9:18..20 “Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”….“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.”
    2. What are you learning?
    3. What obstacles to your faith are you facing right now?
Conclusion
  • What do your audience need?
  • What are they hoping for?
  • What are they worried about?
Please leave a comment.
And please pass this on.
God bless, Malcolm

“HOW TO START YOUR SPEECH STRONG”

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

“It will be worth it. Hold on to your ticket.”

Quiet Time Coaching, Episode 22

Life is not always lived in the light. Not even the Christian life. Especially not the Christian life. What do we do when the darkness invades the light?
I’m deep into the Epistle to the Hebrews at the moment. We’re teaching through it in the Thames Valley churches of Christ (click the link for recordings).
 
One example of faith after another piles up in chapter 11: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses…and the rest. All are “commended for their faith,” (v39), but none “received what had been promised” (v39). At least, not all they were promised. They had a tough time of it.
 
It’s true that Abraham received his son, Noah saved his family, Daniel shut the mouths of lions and Rahab was spared her life.
 
But what of those who were “tortured..faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment..put to death by stoning..sawed in two..killed by the sword..went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated..wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” (vv35–38)
 
There is just as much darkness caused by doubt, fear, suffering and disappointment as there is light caused by victory.
 
What do we do when the darkness arrives?
 
Here are two thoughts for reflection to help us when the dark days arrive.
 

1. Darkness is temporary

“You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.” (Psalms 18:28–29 NIV11)
 
Darkness is not permanent. It will depart. It does not always feel that way, but no darkness can hold God back. Hold on to him and wait patiently by faith for the dawn to arrive.
 

2. Darkness is directional

“The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed….I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land.” (Psalms 143:3–6 NIV11)
 
When the darkness closes in we are left with only one direction to go in search of light. To God. Can you allow your darkness to direct you back to God? That’s what David did in this Psalm.
 
Corrie Ten Boom said, “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”
 

Conclusion

Are you going through a tunnel? Now is not the time to jump off. Now is the time to pray all the more.
 
Pray for the patience to hold on until you see the light. And pray for the confidence to approach God even while you are still in the darkness. After all, he knows what the darkness feels like (Matt 27.45).
 
Do not throw away your ticket. “Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” (Hebrews 10:35 NIV11)
 

Question

What does the darkness do to your relationship with God? How might it be 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 fulfilling quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
Get coached on Coach.me

“How to be confident your audience will remember your point”

Tuesday Teaching Tips, Episode 92

What has a piece of string got to do with your audience remembering the point of your lesson? We learn from my friend Barry Edwards, and the prophet Ezekiel.

“Now, son of man, take a sharp sword and use it as a barber’s razor to shave your head and your beard. Then take a set of scales and divide up the hair. When the days of your siege come to an end, burn a third of the hair inside the city. Take a third and strike it with the sword all around the city. And scatter a third to the wind. For I will pursue them with drawn sword.” Ezekiel 5:1–2 NIV11

Please leave a comment or a question.

Please pass this on to one other person who might benefit.

God bless, Malcolm

Episode 15, Sunday Sample, 10 December 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

 

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Locations: Watford and Lower Earley – in theory

Special Occasion: Lower Earley Carol Service

Heavy snowfall meant I never made it to my second service. Traffic ground to a standstill between Watford and the M4. The Carol service in Lower Earley went ahead without me.

I was bringing the laptop, and all printed materials. Luckily I was able to stop and send the order of service and song sheets via WhatsApp. The worship team accessed the song lyrics via their phones and iPads. The PPt was emailed over.

I was so impressed with the attitude of the worship team. No complaining, just a desire to make the service the best it could be, and make sure God was glorified. The lesson of the day for me was how grateful I am that the service did not depend on me. Others were willing and able to step in.

Question to you if you are the worship team leader: Could you miss church and be confident the worship would be God-honouring and encouraging?

We must plan for redundancy.

The service in Lower Earley was videoed. Some of the singing and the nativity play are below…..

Speakers

The snow also frustrated many from attending our service in Watford. Around half made it to the venue, and we were blessed to have some extras who live near us but were not able to travel to their normal places of worship. The snow brought us blessings as well as challenges! 

We adopted a more informal format as a result of the conditions.  The sermon on Luke 24 was conducted more as a discussion than a ‘lesson’. Small group work surfaced interesting insights as to the experiences of the people encountering the risen Jesus. Our theme was, “Jesus Turns Confusion to Joy”.

Here’s my summary to the session, as well as two years of preaching through Luke:


  • We end Luke’s gospel with the disciples worshipping Jesus.
  • He has taken them from curiosity to confusion and, finally, to clarity.
  • They started out thinking he was a military Messiah, and ended up discovering he was a suffering Messiah.
  • At the beginning they wondered what was in it for them, but at the end they realised the message was for the world.
  • They thought Jesus was a King come to establish Israel’s dominance over the nations, but found out he was establishing a bridgehead of the kingdom of heaven.
  • Luke’s gospel is full of shocks, surprises and revelations.
  • At the conclusion to this two years in Luke, what has helped you the most?
  • Take some time to review your thoughts and write down a summary of the main things you learned.

Music Worship

I’m a traditionalist when it comes to carols and their harmonies. However, I must admit liking this version below. I don’t know who put it together, but I suspect it may have been Tidu Mankoo. It’ll be messy if done with the tradional harmonies. But if the congegation sing the tune in unison, then this works very well. We did this version in Watford on Sunday.

GOD REST YE MERRY GENTLEMEN Dm

Other Thoughts

Last week I said we’d do the following:

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

Sunday we’ll do the following:

  1. Watford: It’s our “pop-up” Nativity service. I’m going to do a communion with a difference.
  2. Bracknell: It’s the carol service. The best thing I can do is to be calm! That’s my prayer.

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

Episode 13, Sunday Sample, 26 November 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

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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

Episode 12, Sunday Sample, 19 November 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

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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.

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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

The Sunday Sample – 27 August 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

Date:  Sunday 27th August 2017

Location: Watford & Lower Earley

Special Occasion: none

Both Watford and Lower Earley were empty! Seriously think we should consider having house-church on the August bank-holiday weekend. Not only are many away on holiday, but a bunch of Thames Valley folk are off at youth camp. We had a good time anyway, but a more intimate home-based service would be better.
 
The Watford service benefitted by us taking off from the school as soon as the service ended and popping across the road to the park. A new playground opened recently. The children had fun on the equipment while the parents picnicked in the sunshine. We must do that again. It rather looked as if some of the adults had fun too!

Speakers

I spoke in both locations. Not a common practice, but not a problem.
 
My lessons were OK. Not great, but not bad. Let me know what you think. The heat and small numbers made for a less energetic atmosphere than usual. But the engagement was reasonable. I know that my own assessment of my lessons is not always objective. I’ve often found that the lessons I think went well had little impact. The lessons I don’t like sometimes get the best feedback.
 
I aimed for 25 minutes in both locations and went longer. 29 minutes in both. Oh well, not far off. If you have any tips on shortening lessons, please leave a comment. See also this video on my YouTube channel.
 
Videos are here and here. Audio available at the Watford and Thames Valley churches of Christ iTunes podcasts.
 
Johan shared a deceptively simple, but profound communion talk. Here are his main points explaining the purpose of the Lord’s Supper using 1 Cor 10 & 11 as his source texts:
  1. Discernment – make sure we have a correct focus going into the Lord’s Supper
  2. Separation – from idols
  3. Communion – 1 Cor 10.16 – as in sharing together in something
  4. Remembrance – his name, works, life, exaltation
  5. Bond of Christian fellowship – 1 Cor 10.17
  6. Powerful proclamation – vital facts of the gospel
Note to self: keep working on succinctness.

Music Worship

Leon was awesome in Watford! Danny & Charl lead most of our songs, but they were away. Leon stepped in a led with passion and professionalism. He even got a round of applause for his leadership of one song. It’s endearing to see the way congregations warm to people stepping up to serve in faith.

Our song service in Lower Earley was super. Obi was majestic in his role as lead song-leader.

Other Thoughts

Last week I said I would:

  1. Lower Earley: confirm which person is leading which song well in advance – by Friday. Done
  2. Watford: keep my combined sermon and communion to no more than 25 minutes. Working on it….

The focus for next Sunday:

  1. Experiment with an opening set three-song medley sandwich in Bracknell. I’ll explain next week.
  2. Lead a devotional for all involved in the service in Bracknell.

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

 

The Sunday Sample – 13th August 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

A snippet from Ben’s sermon

 

 

Date:  Sunday 13th August 2017

 

Location: Watford & Lower Earley

Special Occasion: none

Speakers

I spoke in Watford. Ben Dannatt preached in Lower Earley. Both lessons are available via the Watford and Thames Valley YouTube channels and their respective podcasts.

In Watford, we sat in a circle – lots of people on their holidays. My lesson was on Luke 21.5-19 with discussion and interaction. The situation was a challenge. Lots of interruptions for seeing to the needs of babies, and latecomers. I wonder if we’d have been better off taking the chairs outdoors and sitting in the sun. The weather was good. Next time.

The discussion part of the lesson was helpful, but my questions were not quite on the mark. Next time I need to think through whether the questions are driving to the heart of the issue.

Ben spoke well in Lower Earley. His personal vulnerability was endearing, and his questions to our faith were probing.

I’d be interested in your feedback. Please leave a comment below.

Note to self: think through the questions more carefully

Music Worship

Watford: The depleted numbers gave their best, and Charl was rock-like. He showed a good connection with the congregation when acknowledging that one of the songs was not one we’d taught thoroughly. He led the song with stronger direction as a result which the church appreciated. The song was sung better than usual.

Lower Earley: the new projector is brighter. It lifted the mood of the whole church including those leading worship. Knowing all images and lyrics will be seen clearly was a boost.

We sang the “bread and wine” song seated, with no one up front leading it. A more meditative rendering of the hymn was the result. We’ll do that again.

Feedback was positive about the variety of songs, and the spiritually uplifting way they were led.

Note to self: vary the methods for songs to be led

Other Thoughts

Last week I said I would:

  1. Lower Earley: Double-confirm who is leading which song by Friday at the latest – done
  2. Watford: Add personal vulnerability to my sermon in Watford – not done

The focus for next Sunday:

  1. Bracknell: keep the song service simple. The PA experts are away.
  2. Watford: Add personal vulnerability to my sermon in Watford

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

 

The Sunday Sample – 6th August 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

Date:  Sunday 6th August 2017

 

Location: Watford & Bracknell

 

Special Occasion: Church service and barbecue at Debbie’s home in Watford

Speakers

I spoke in Watford and Bracknell. It was a busy day! Both lessons are available via the Watford and Thames Valley YouTube channels and their respective podcasts.

For the Watford service, we sat in a circle outside. The sunshine was a bonus! I taught a lesson on the calling of Levi (Luke 5) with discussion/interaction. I liked the informal atmosphere. It felt more like what Jesus did in homes and impromptu teaching sessions.

Bracknell was a different setting. I attempted to bring extra impact to the lesson using three methods.

  1. Good slides
  2. An interactive physical illustration (water, a colander and bucket were involved)
  3. Personal vulnerability

Whether that worked is a judgment you will have to make after watching the video. I’d be interested in your feedback. Please leave a comment below.

Note to self: consider different approaches to a lesson in different locations

Music Worship

Watford: We sang in Debbie’s garden. There’s something special about singing outdoors. I hope we didn’t offend the neighbours. As far as I know, no one complained.

Bracknell: the team gave their hearts. The PA was a nightmare! It was one of those days when you wonder if we’re getting it all wrong using amplification! Memo for next time in Bracknell – voices only. Until we get the PA experts back from holiday we need to cut our losses and go for the easy option – which means no instruments.

A practice that did go well was congregational reading of scripture. I had the church recite Psalm 130 twice. Once at the beginning of the service and again before the sermon. I hoped this would cement the text more clearly in the hearts and minds before I spoke on it. When I say it went well, I mean I think it was worth trying. The impact on the congregation is a little harder to judge.

Note to self: keep it simple when other factors make a service more complicated

Other Thoughts

Preaching and leading the worship team in Bracknell was too much. Next August I need to not preach when the other instrumentalists and the PA experts are away on holiday. It’s too much to think about at once.

Last week I said I would:

  1. Prepare the first set well for Bracknell – done
  2. Add personal vulnerability to my sermon in Bracknell – done

The focus for next Sunday:

  1. Lower Earley: Double-confirm who is leading which song by Friday at the latest
  2. Watford: Add personal vulnerability to my sermon in Watford

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