Browsing articles in "church"
Nov 14, 2011
neil

Spare a thought for the minister’s wife says C.H. Spurgeon

‘If I was a young woman, and was thinking of being married, I would not marry a minister, because the position of minister’s wife is a very difficult one for anyone to fill. Churches do not give a married minister two salaries, one for the husband and the other for the wife; but, in many cases, they look for the services of the wife, whether they pay for them or not.

The minister’s wife is expected also to know everything about the church, and in another sense she is to know nothing of it; and she is equally blamed by some people whether she knows everything or nothing. Her duties consist in being always at home to attend to her husband and her family, and being always out, visiting other people, and doing all sorts of things for the whole church! Well, of course, that is impossible; she cannot be at everybody’s beck and call, and she cannot expect to please everybody. Her husband cannot do that, and I think he is a great fool if he tries to do it; and I am certain that, as the husband cannot please everybody, neither can the wife. There will be sure to be somebody or other who will be displeased, especially if that somebody had herself half hoped to be the minister’s wife. Difficulties arise continually in the best regulated churches; and, as I said before, the position of the minister’s wife is always a very trying one.

Still, I think that if I was a Christian young woman, I would marry a Christian minister if I could, because there is an opportunity of doing so much good in helping him in his service for Christ. It is a great help to the cause of God to keep the minister himself in good order for his work. It is his wife’s duty to see that he is not uncomfortable at home; for, if everything there is happy, and free from care, he can give all his thoughts to his preparation for the pulpit; and the godly woman who thus helps her husband to preach better, is herself a preacher though she never speaks in public, and she becomes to the highest degree useful to the church of Christ committed to her husband’s charge.’

So said C.H. Spurgeon at a wedding recorded in Sermons Preached on Unusual Occasions

Nov 4, 2011
neil

Why you could be the reason your church isn’t growing

Rick Warren on why Ministers can be biggest obstacle to change in a church:’You’ve decided we’re going to grow and you’ve set goals for growth but now;

The role of the pastor must change.

The role must change from minister to leader. Mentally you must (if the church is going to grow) be willing to pay the price for growth. You must be willing to have people that you are not the pastor of,that you don’t personally minister to. That’s a big decision. If you have to personally minister to everyperson in your church then the church cannot grow beyond your own energy level. That is a barrier. You become a bottle neck. The church must outgrow your personal ministry.This is called the ‘Shepherd Rancher Conflict’. As the pastor of a little church you know everybody, doall the praying, all the baptizing, all the teaching, know every family, every kid, every dog and cat and you shepherd everybody personally. But there’s a limit to how many people you can personally shepherd.As the church grows you must change roles from Shepherd to Rancher. The Rancher helps oversee under Shepherds. Everybody on my staff practically, does more weddings than I do and counseling andthings like this. You must be willing to let other people share the ministry. You don’t give it all up ifyou’ve got a pastor’s heart; you’ve got a pastor’s heart! But you’ve got to give up most of it becauseotherwise the church cannot outgrow you. You’re the bottle neck. The Shepherd must become theRancher. Ask yourself, Would I be happy being a Rancher? If you wouldn’t be I suggest you take on a goal that your church will sponsor new churches. Most of us God made with a Shepherd’s heart. God loves people with a Shepherd’s heart because most of the pastors in America have a Shepherd’s heart.

Can a Shepherd become a Rancher?

Yes, he can. If you’re willing to do three things:

1. Stay put and outlast the critics. You will have criticism in growth.

2. Give up part of the ministry and let other people minister and not have to be able to do it all yourself.

3. Learn additional skills.

The conflict that’s going to occur is the fact that if you go into an existing church realize this up front: They’re not hiring you to be the leader; they’re hiring you to be the minister. Actually they don’t want a leader, they want a chaplain. They want a chaplain who will marry and bury and preach and serve the Lord’s supper and do all of the holy things and let the people just handle the church. They’ll make the decisions and administrate. You just be the chaplain. When all of a sudden you start saying, “I don’t want to just be the chaplain, I want to lead this church to growth,” they say, “Wait!” They’re not saying itconsciously but inside they’re saying, “Wait a minute!” Most churches think that the congregation is the leader and the pastor is the hired chaplain. He does all the holy things and yet for the church to grow itneeds to be the exact opposite. The ministry needs to be in the hands of lay people. The pastor must be willing to let the people be the ministers and the people must be willing to let the pastor be the leader for there to be growth to take place.’

Nov 3, 2011
neil

Why we shouldn’t all be church planting

The latest IX marks e-jounal focuses on the why and how of church revitalization. At a time when church-planting is all the rage here is a reason to stop and think about the place and opportunity of renewing a church.

Including an interesting article by Mike McKinley on the relative merits of church-planting vs. church-revitalization. The article could have been even more interesting if he had discussed the third option of church-replant. What is replanting and how is it different from church-revitalization?

Oct 26, 2011
neil

Keller’s answer to every church’s question

The City to City Europe conference is getting off to a great start here in Berlin.

500 delegates from 26 countries representing over 100 nations all concerned to see churches planted across Europe has to be reason to rejoice and a reason for hope.

We’ve heard of God richly blessing planting initiatives and we’ve heard of God richly blessing faithful church-planters who’s work is hard because there is little fruit.

One planter of a church in Paris described ‘the privilege of ploughing where the ground is hard’, another in Frankfurt described the challenge of being a bi-vocational Pastor with a weekly congregation of 15 of so. Both stories are reminders of why we need to pray for our countries in Europe.

Tim Keller gave the first keynote address on the gospel-centred church and here’s one gem of an answer to  a thoughtful question that came out of his talk.

How can we know whether our church is either too accommodating to the culture of our city or not accommodating enough?

Keller’s answer: A church that is not accommodating, culturally, will be seeing no conversions because no-one will ever come through the door. A church that is too accommodating, culturally, will be seeing lots of new people attending but no changed lives because the church is only mirroring the culture rather than critiquing the culture.

So a gospel church in a city should be willing and able to flex on the negotiables making it’s meetings accessible to non-believers but not flexing  on gospel-living as the church challenges the culture by being an attractive and distinctive gospel-community.

Deciding when and how to celebrate the culture of a city and when and how to critique the culture of a city is the art of being a church-planter.

Oct 18, 2011
neil

Bringing your children along to ‘big church’ – why and how to worship as families in church

We have a 5 year old son who attends our church twice on a Sunday. In the mornings we spend the first 15 minutes together in the service before he heads next door for Kidz Sunday School but he also attends each evening service where he sits through the full 80-90 minutes. He’s not the only child there and as a church we are slowly developing a culture in which our children feel welcome and included in the evening service so that families can worship together.

Here are a couple of quite excellent posts by Jen Wilkin on why worship together as families and then how to make it work.

She writes of the excellent children’s work at her church;

We see it as a rich and relevant worship environment for a child, as a vibrant supplement for “big church”. But not as a substitute for it.

She also recognises that things are far from simple when you bring your kids to big church;

Together hasn’t always been easy. I recall long worship services with four elementary-aged children scribbling with crayons, begging for gum, and contorting themselves like miniature yogis in the pew. Just remembering it makes my eye twitch. But over time, with clear participation expectations, creative activities and the right cocktail of punishments and rewards our kids have grown to see “big church” not as a place they tolerate but as a place they belong.

But she is full of practical wisdom too on how to help your child sit through the service and participate in the service. Her tips on debriefing after the service are terrific too;

Debrief and reinforce.

After attending Big Church together, remember to talk to your child about how it went and what could go differently next week.

·     Ask your child for feedback: “What did you learn in church today?” “What was your favorite part of worship?” “Tell me about what you drew.” Talk about what you liked from the sermon in terms they can understand.
·     Affirm success: “I liked how you sat quietly and colored, even though the sermon went long today.”
·    Correct failure: “Next week I want you to try to wait to ask me questions until after the service.”
·    Reset/re-emphasize the expectation of Behave-Follow-Listen for next week.
·    Reinforce the sermon message: plan a family devotion or service activity to correspond with what the pastor talked about.

Why not read the two posts Worship together and Big church for small kids for the bigger picture.

In our service on Sunday evening  I preached on Exodus chapter 4-5 and we wrestled with the issue of who was responsible for the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart. I asked the congregation mid-way through the service  ’so who was it; Pharaoh or God?’ A five year old shouted out ‘God’ loud enough for the whole church to hear as she continued to colour her picture next to her father. That was quite possibly the highlight of our evening.

Oct 14, 2011
neil

Joan Bakewell on why we’re becoming more cruel…surprising conclusion!

A fascinating interview on the Radio 4 Today programme this morning led to this exchange:

James Naughty in conversation with Joan Bakewell, recently appointed a Government Champion of the elderly.

Naughty: What did you conclude about how are we beginning to look at people who perhaps need at lot of help, a lot of care, who perhaps can be difficult and require a different kind of approach from people who maybe 50 years younger than they are?

Bakewell: …On the whole our society is quite cruel. We care about money, we care about fame, success.

Naughty: Has it got more cruel?

Bakewell: I think the decline of religious commitment to charity, and kindness has declined.

Nobody learns that. They don’t learn it in their home, they don’t learn it in their school, it’s seen as soft, it’s not what you’re about. You’re meant to stand up for your own individual personality, make your way in the world and good luck to you.

Kindness, empathy, generousity are all in short supply and people used to learn it from the churches. I learnt it in Sunday school.

Where do you learn it now? I don’t know.

 

Sep 26, 2011
neil

The best Christian resource website I’ve seen in a long time

 

Thanks to Dan Steel for spotting this!

Sep 20, 2011
neil

Frank Skinner’s advice to preachers after having heard a 1000 sermons

Comedian Frank Skinner in conversation with the Archbishop of Canterbury is entertaining and suprising!

Listen in to part 1 at around the 15 minute mark for a fascinating perspective on preaching.

 

Sep 17, 2011
neil

why the missional church will fail

A thought provoking article by Mike Breen that highlights the fact that we focus on reaching the world NOT by neglecting the church. In fact, unless we we make discipleship the heart of church life our mission will fail. Like building a car without an engine, being ‘missional’ is not enough.

 

Aug 22, 2011
neil

Five sermons every Christian should read – No. 1

Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) was one of the most brilliant men Scotland has ever produced. Amongst his many achievements he was chair of moral philosophy at St. Andrews University and later chair of theology in Edinburgh. His influence and impact were truly massive and this short biography is well worth a read by way of introduction.

It is his sermon ‘The expulsive power of a new affection‘ by which he is probably best known.  It is based on 1 John 2:15 ‘” Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” and in the sermon Chalmers shows us how the gospel is God’s means not only of forgiving our sin but bringing about the heart transformation that God promises us in the New Covenant.

Chalmers demonstrates how the gospel alone has the power to truly set us free from sin. Where will-power and external religion are powerless to bring about the necessary change of heart it is the gospel that has life-changing power.

How does it work? Quite simply ‘the ONLY way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one ‘ because ‘what cannot be destroyed may be dispossessed‘.

As we strive for godliness and if we’re in ministry as we strive to lead others to godliness let us seek the beauty of Christ and let us nurture a new greater love, the love for Christ that delivers us from sin.

Below is an extract from the sermon:

The object of the gospel is both to pacify the sinner’s conscience and to purify the heart, and it is of importance to observe that what mars the one of these objects mars the other also. The best way of casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one….Thus it is that the freer the Gospel, the more sanctifying the Gospel. The more it is received as a doctrine of grace, the more it will be felt as a doctrine [leading to godliness]….

Thomas Chalmer's statue in Edinburgh

On the tenure of “do this and you will live”, a spirit of fearfulness is sure to enter; and the jealousies of a legal bargain chase away all confidence of intimacy between God and man; and the creature striving to be square and even with his Creator is, in fact, pursuing all the while his own selfishness instead of God’s glory. With all the conformities that he labors to accomplish, the soul of obedience is not there, the mind is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed under such an economy can it ever be. It is only when, as in the Gospel, acceptance is bestowed as a present, without money and without price, that the security which man feels in God is placed beyond the reach of disturbance. Only then can he repose in Him as one friend reposes in another…the one party rejoicing over the other to do him good…in the impulse of a gratitude, by which is he is awakened to the charms of a new moral existence.

Salvation by grace, salvation by free grace, salvation not by works but according to the mercy of God is indispensable…to…godliness. Retain a single shred or fragment of legality with the Gospel…and you take away the power of the Gospel to melt and conciliate. For this purpose, the freer it is, the better it is. That very peculiarity which so many dread as the germ of Antinomianism [lawlessness], is, in fact, the germ of a new spirit, and a new inclination against it.

Along with the light of a free Gospel, does there enter the love of the Gospel, which in proportion as you impair the freeness, you are sure to chase away. And never does the sinner find within himself so mighty a moral transformation, as when under the belief that he is saved by grace, he feels constrained thereby to offer his heart a devoted thing, and to deny ungodliness.

[Why is this grateful love so important?] It is seldom that any of our [bad habits or flaws] disappear by a mere process of natural extinction. At least, it is very seldom that this is done through the instrumentality of reasoning…or by the force of mental determination. But what cannot be destroyed may be dispossessed–and one taste may be made to give way to another, and to lose its power entirely as the reigning affection in the mind.

It is thus that the boy ceases at length to be a slave of his appetite, but it is because a [more 'mature'] taste has brought it into subordination. The youth ceases to idolize [sensual] pleasure, but it is because the idol of wealth has…gotten the ascendancy. Even the love of money can cease to have mastery over the heart because it is drawn into the whirl of [ideology and politics] and he is now lorded over by a love of power [and moral superiority]. But there is not one of these transformations in which the heart is left without an object. Its desire for one particular object is conquered—but its desire to have some object…is unconquerable….

The only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one…It is only…when admitted into the number of God’s children, through faith in Jesus Christ, that the spirit of adoption is poured out on us–it is then that the heart, brought under the mastery of one great and predominant affection, is delivered from the tyranny of its former desires, and the only way that deliverance is possible.

Thus…it is not enough…to hold out to the world the mirror of its own imperfections. It is not enough to come forth with a demonstration of the evanescent character of your enjoyments…to speak to the conscience…of its follies….Rather, try every legitimate method of finding access to your hearts for the love of Him who is greater than the world.

 

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