Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Community Litter Pick-up

Thanks to all those who helped with last Saturday's Community Clean-up in Pollokshaws. A great time of fellowship and a really practical way to show God's care for the city.

Next Clean-up is planned for Spring 2011.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Quotes for Preachers

Biblical preaching is taking people to the Bible
and talking them through what it means

‘They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read’
Nehemiah 8:8

‘I take it for granted that we will have a text. For we are not speculators but expositors’
J Stott

Great Bible teachers have all been people of study

For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching
its decrees and laws in Israel’
Ezra 7:10

‘He who has ceased to learn has ceased to teach. He who no longer sows in the study will no more reap in the pulpit.’
CH Spurgeon

If I had only three years to serve the Lord, I would spend two of them studying and preparing’
DG Barnhouse, quoted by Billy Graham

Seeing that you cannot by any other means compass the doing of so weighty a work, pertaining to the salvation of man, but with doctrine and exhortation taken out of the holy Scriptures, and with a life agreeable to the same, consider how studious ye ought to be in reading and learning the Scriptures..’
CofE Ordinal, 1662 – Exhortation from Bishop to Candidates for Ministry

If a sermon looks easy and straightforward it’s because of all the work
that has gone into it.

‘cases are won in chambers’
JH Jowett, Judge

‘too lazy, to proud, too pious – all causes of poor preparation’
J Stott

Expect criticism

People will begin to take sides, objections to you and to what you preach, and how you preach it, will become increasingly plausible (but quite irrational when you consider them). Your manner, length and style of preaching etc, will all be torn to shreds’ …
…your quiet persistence will be a sign that you believe God has a purpose of grace for this people, and that this purpose will be promoted, not by gimmicks, or stunts, or new ideas, but by the Word of God released in preaching by prayer’
(W Still)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Dissecting Discontentment

Discontented about your church? Increasingly negative and critical about it? Has your church become a sore point in your life rather than a source of joy? Is the mention of your church a trigger for complaint rather than compliment?

Now I’m assuming here that it still preaches the Gospel and holds to Biblical truth, that it encourages and provides opportunities for prayer, worship, evangelism, service, that its leaders are men of godly example who have shepherd hearts for the flock. I assuming that things are generally done with ‘decency & order', that the means of grace are still administered, and that basic utilities in the place you meet are provided.

Yet despite all that, thoughts of your church still weary rather than energise you. If so, here are few points for reflection:

1. A lack of realism. You didn’t expect the church to be perfect did you? After all it’s full of recovering sinners just like yourself. It brings together the whole spectrum – new Christians, carnal Christians, struggling Christians, distracted Christians, over-burdened Christians, shy Christians, in-your-face Christians – all of whom you have to deal with, work with & live with – so things won’t always be done brilliantly or to your liking – and why should they be?

As frustrating as that may feel it’s actually a core part of your sanctification. De Young & Kluck observe the trend for customised spirituality – e.g. I left the church and have never been nearer to God. But this notion of only being part of something or associating with those people that I’m totally comfortable with is just a recipe for selfishness. That kind of ‘discipleship’ never sanctified anyone. It is the very process of having to compromise, accommodate, accept and forgo our rights & preferences that God uses to change us from self-centred people to Christ-like people. It's a sobering thought that the church you dream of is actually the one least likely to do you any good.

2. A misunderstanding of ‘church’. You think of church firstly as an organisation rather than an organism. This means you get stressed when things are ‘messy’. But churches tend to defy management (ask any pastor) – or else become so tightly managed that as one writer says, ‘the Holy Spirit could get up and leave and no-one would notice much’. But the church (that is, Spirit-filled people in community) is a living and dynamic thing. The fruit of the Spirit is a work of the Spirit – who blows wherever He pleases. In God’s providence the doors we want to open remain closed (e.g. Bithynia) and the ones we hadn’t planned for open (e.g. Macedonia).

3. Pride. We are not in control.

4. Envy. Others seem to be.

5. Believing the hype. You read the blueprint books on ministry (‘How I Built My Totally Awesome Church’) – and you think it all actually happens like that. At college a friend of mine did research on a mega-church’s Small Group Structure. He read the notes that talked about people in the SGs visiting each other in hospital, going bowling together at weekends - in short being amazing close-knit communities of day to day pastoral support. Impressed, my friend emailed a contact at said church to ask more – the reply, ‘in reality that virtually never happens’. A great aspiration on paper, one or two fleeting examples even. But people aren’t more spiritual because they go to a church with glossy leaflets.

6. Too much at the centre. Ultimately we will only be content when God is at the centre of our lives. Just as a pay rise, a new pair of shoes or even a new partner won’t ultimately make us content – neither will running the church a bit better. Ministry itself can be an idol – it can start to define our identity rather than our relationship with Christ. Discontentment can also arise when other things crowd the centre of our hearts – materialism, worldly ambition, bitterness etc. Are we really discontent because of the church or just with our lives? The ‘Oprah-isation’ of culture encourages us to believe that any problems or shortcomings we have must be someone else’s fault. So spiritual dissatisfaction can easily lead to the thought – ‘this must be my church’s fault’.

Usually when I’ve written blogs on such matters – the reaction has been ‘cat among the pigeons’ stuff – whereas my blog denying the Trinity went unnoticed! (that last bit is a joke by the way). I read an article recently about the temptation to divert attention away from your own faults by hitting back against some perceived weakness in others. Well God knows my heart and I hope that is not the case here. Because this is not a blog about the value of good practise or organisation in churches – all of which I endorse. Rather it’s a blog about the danger of loading too much spiritual significance on such things – and the danger of unbiblical expectations than can needlessly rob us of the joy we should have in being part of Christ’s body on earth – the church of the living God – the community of saints. How bad could that ever be?!