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 – 20th August 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

Date:  Sunday 20th August 2017

Location: Watford & Bracknell

Special Occasion: none

Speakers

I spoke in Watford. Ben Dannatt preached in Bracknell. The same line-up as last week. A coincidence – not planned that way! Both lessons are available via the Watford and Thames Valley YouTube channels and their respective podcasts.

In Watford, we had some Q&A as well as a discussion. This helped the congregation’s attentiveness, and I learned from the replies. The congregation were relaxed and we had quite a few laughs when parts of the service did not go to plan. It’s such a help that we’re good friends and can laugh together! My questions were more appropriate this time. It was interesting to use Noah as an example of the kind of faith talked about by Jesus in Luke 21. I don’t often dip into the OT in this way, and it was refreshing.

Ben spoke well in Bracknell. His application of what it means to have spiritual friendships was relevant and imitate-able. The warmth with which he shared about his friends Alex, Elliot and Heinrich was genuine and inspiring. I was reminded how important good friendships are. Luckily I was able to experience that straight away. Reinhardt asked if we could talk over a cup of tea in the cafe after church. Sweet fellowship!

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

Note to self: connect OT & NT more often in sermons

Music Worship

Old school: We went old-school this week in Watford and Bracknell. No instruments. Simple is beautiful. The change was refreshing. Maybe we should do that once a quarter or so. The vocal harmonies are clearer, and the songs that work well a capella are uplifting if led well. Talking of leading well, CJ gave us a thoughtful introduction to the service in Bracknell. He read a Psalm before starting the song, “I will call upon the Lord”. I noticed that the congregation started the song with great togetherness, & sang it more heartily. The connection between scripture and the song lyrics helped us to remember what we were singing about and who we were singing about.

We need monitors in Bracknell. The singers sang so much better this week without instruments because we could hear ourselves. We love singing with the instruments too, but we need monitors to help us to be our best.

Note to self: plan some dates for a capella services 

Other Thoughts

Last week I said I would:

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

The focus for next Sunday:

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

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

 

The Sunday Sample – 30th July 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

CJ in full flow

Date:  Sunday 31st July 2017

Location: Watford & Lower Earley

Special Occasion: None

Speakers

CJ Wakefield was our visiting speaker in Watford. Obi Abuchi spoke in Lower Earley. Both lessons were excellent. Personal sharing was vulnerable, application to real life was solid, and Biblical exegesis was sound. Video of Obi’s lesson is here. Audio available at the Thames Valley churches of Christ iTunes podcast. CJ’s audio is findable on the Watford church podcast, and the video is here.

Note to self: value personal vulnerability

Obi Expounds His Point

Music Worship

The song services went well in both locations. The stand-out success was the opening set in Lower Earley. Francois played the guitar on “I’ve been redeemed” for the first time in public – and a fine job he did, too. The atmosphere on “Wade in the water” was super – Rynhardt led the song with great poise. The songs had a thread of “father” as a connection to Obi’s sermon theme. This worked well and helped pull the service together. We learned a new song (“You’re the Word of God the Father”) as part of the service. An unusual approach, but it worked well.

Someone remarked to me afterwards that the congregation picked it up more quickly than most songs we learn. He felt it was because the congregation had got used to learning songs – fearing the process less. An interesting insight. If you’re in a congregation that does not like learning new songs, you may first need to teach them how to learn songs. Then persevere, and see the fruit come through in time – by faith!

Note to self: carry on teaching new songs

Other Thoughts

Last week I said:

  1. Involve Francois in the musical accompaniment – done
  2. Use the Psalm 100 devotional for all participating in the service in Watford this week – done

The focus for next Sunday:

  1. Prepare the first set well for Bracknell (we have house church in Watford)
  2. Add personal vulnerability to my sermon 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, 23 July 2017

Reflections on corporate worship

Date: Sunday 23rd July

Location: Watford & Lower Earley

Special Occasion: Outdoor ‘Bandstand’ Service in Watford’s Cassiobury Park

Speakers

II spoke in Watford. Johnson spoke in Lower Earley. I really enjoyed listening to him speak, and his wife Cicily sharing. It was good to hear about how God has moved in India.

I loved doing the outdoor service in Watford. The preteens got involved in my sermon in a similar way to the outdoor service at Wellington country park. It helped their attention and provided a compelling illustration for the adults present. An improvement on my lesson in Wellington was the addition of concluding illustration about a missing lottery ticket. I was struck by how much a powerful illustration at the end of the lesson made a difference to people’s reception of the point. Might be good to do something similar more often.

Video of Johnson’s lesson is here. Audio available at the Thames Valley churches of Christ iTunes podcast. My audio is findable on the Watford church podcast.

Note to self: put effort into illustrations. Don’t view them as a bonus, but essential.

Music Worship

The song services went well in both locations. In particular, the variety of songs old and new, more and less familiar, traditional and more modern in Lower Earley helped bring a freshness to the singing. One song we sang, which I wrote, needed more work. It was not helped by the fact that we do not mike up the women. Their part was important because it was only a two-part song. Next time we need microphones for the women.

I have discovered a hidden guitarist in Lower Earley – François. Good news! I shall send him chords for a song this week, and let’s see if he can take part next Sunday.

Note to self: consider whether the men’s and women’s parts need to be heard by the congregation

Other Thoughts

The projector at Lower Earley is not powerful enough. We need to buy a new one. I shall look into that this week. The text is fine on screen, but images are terrible. So much of communication is about images now. It is worth the investment to make sure the pictures are clear.

Last week I said:

  1. Agree in advance who is leading which song at Lower Earley – done, but not perfectly executed!
  2. Use the Psalm 100 devotional for all participating in the service in Watford this week – did not happen.

The focus for next Sunday:

  1. Involve Francois in the musical accompaniment
  2. Use the Psalm 100 devotional for all participating in the service in Watford this week – carried over

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, 25th June 2017

Reflections on corporate worship

Date: Sunday 25th June

Location: Watford (Dunstable Downs) and Lower Earley

Special Occasion: outdoor service for the Watford church

We’re continuing our run of experimental services in the Watford church. This week saw us make an expedition to the Dunstable Downs. It’s a beautiful spot (highest in Bedfordshire) and gives views of the three counties of Bucks, Herts and Beds. A wonderful location to remind us of God’s vision for all peoples. After singing and praying we reflected on Matt 28.16-20.  Jesus took his disciples up a mountain at least in part to give them a vision –

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:16–20 NIV11)

The location has added poignancy for me because my parents brought me to the Downs when I was a baby. At the time we lived in nearby Luton.

Note to self: research the Watford church members to find out if they have places of spiritual significance locally that we could go to for the purpose of inspiration. 

 

Speakers

Fabian was our speaker in Lower Earley. His youthfulness, combined with an exceptionally able mind, meant we were treated to a fresh and well thought-through exposition on the story of Zacchaeus. Hearing him preach filled me with hope for the next generation. It’s vital we give these young people opportunities to teach.

Note to self: don’t forget to ask members of the congregation for feedback on young speakers so that I can give the young people well-balanced feedback, and not just my own opinions.

 

Music Worship

The singing at Dunstable was good – if a little affected by the fresh wind! We’d have benefitted from one song that was children-friendly. The Lower Earley singing was good – especially in the second half of the service  – for some reason I cannot fathom. Rudie assigned leaders to the songs in advance which made for a more settled sense of leadership. Rynhardt led, “Ancient of Days”, and helped us to utilise it the best so far – largely because he interspersed the sections with guiding us as to where the song was going (repeat chorus etc.). This style of leadership is very effective when there are many ways to get through a song.

The Lower Earley singing was good – especially in the second half of the service (for some reason I cannot fathom). Rudie assigned leaders to the songs in advance which made for a more settled sense of leadership. Rynhardt led, “Ancient of Days”, and helped us to utilise it the best so far – largely because he interspersed the sections with guiding us as to where the song was going (repeat chorus etc.). This style of leadership is very effective when there are many ways to get through a song.

Note to self: encourage more song leaders to do as Rynhardt did when appropriate.

 

Other Thoughts

Last week I said we would:

  1. Focus on agreeing who is leading which song in advance (Lower Earley) – done, and made a positive difference
  2. Prioritise ventilation – not needed this week

Focus for next Sunday:

  1. Thames Valley has the annual outdoor service at Wellington Country Park.  I will emphasise to all speakers the significance of being ready to move up front to do their part. When outdoors it is especially important to avoid delays at transition points.
  2. I will not be at the Watford service this week, but I will ask the speakers and song leader (Danny) if there is any way I can support them in my absence.

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, 11 June 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship


Date: Sunday 11th June

Location: Watford and Lower Earley

Special occasion: n/a

I just love the look on this young lad’s face! The astonished joy etched on the face of Enitoni was a sight to behold. He is looking at his candle-strewn birthday cake (just out of shot). We had a good time in Watford in the morning, and likewise in Lower Earley in the afternoon. Here follow a few reflections on both services.

Speakers

Both services featured inexperienced speakers. It added to the atmosphere of the occasions in a very positive way since the congregations were willing the speakers to do well, and the speakers themselves brought fresh perspectives. Leon preached his first sermon (highly recommended viewing/listening – check the Watford church of Christ podcast and YouTube channels). It will not be his last. Michael shared his first communion talk since being restored two years ago. Wale preached his second ever sermon in the UK.

Note to self: don’t be afraid to ask people to speak even if they are inexperienced.

Music Worship

The song services went well in both places. The opening song was preceded by the scripture which inspired the song – which helped connect the spiritual point with our hearts and minds. I would say it helped the focus of the worship. The communion song in Lower Earley was led without a leader in a central position. I sense this helped people reflect on the words more than usual.

Note to self: agree who is leading which song in advance. 

Other Thoughts

Focus for next Sunday

  1. Agree who is leading which song in advance (Bracknell)
  2. Use scripture to help us focus

Please comment on what you’re doing locally with your services. Share ideas with us so we can grow and please God.

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

God bless,

Malcolm

Life is Risk

prison-001

Peter is released by the angel – James was not so lucky

Two weeks ago I went to a half-day seminar. Joel Holm was the speaker. I left refreshed. Partly a result of some excellent teaching and stimulating group work, but also because of a few words we exchanged at the end of the session. In fact, just two words. Those words were, “Take risks.”

The context to those words was a reply to my question which went something like this, “I heard you say you planted a church with five other people. What did you learn from that experience and what advice would you give me as someone who helped plant a small church earlier this year?”

His response was, “Take risks.” Be flexible, change what doesn’t work, spend money, teach faith, don’t try to be what others expect you to be but what you think God wants you to be, and so on. Reflecting on this I realised that starting the church was a risk, but that’s not the last risk we’re being called to take. Jesus took risks, but so did his Apostles. A disciple is not risk-averse, but risk-embracing. A Christian is safe with God, but his or her circumstances on earth are often not safe at all (Acts 12.2)!

I don’t know the origin of this poem, but I rather like it,

There was a very cautious man
Who never laughed or played
He never risked, he never tried
He never sang or prayed
And when he one day passed away
His insurance was denied
For since he never really lived
They claimed he never died.

This church needs to be a place of safety in the sense we love one another and God is among us, but it must not be a place where we get stuck in a rut. There is a precious path that avoids the folly of hastiness, and the danger of mediocrity. Where is that path? I hope we can find it. Pray for us to discover it’s whereabouts. In the meantime I’m making plans for risky church!

Malcolm

Malcolm’s Marvellous Monthly Magasine – September Edition

It’s time for the September magasine. Lots to tell about, but it’s better to let you click the link and see for yourself. Happy reading ….

Sept16

Feeding 5,000 – Luke 9.10-17


How did he do it? And what were the disciples meant to make of it? Loaves, fish and faith on display this Sunday at the Watford church of Christ, 10.30am, Laurance Haines School, Vicarage Road, Watford