Posts Tagged ‘church’

I saw this video ages ago and I may have even posted it before but I am still deeply challenged in many different ways every time I watch it. How little we really know about the people we sit next to in our churches each week. May God help each of us to live lives that are more transparent, accountable, consistent and holy for His glory. Not only is He watching but our children too.

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There’s a great new resource coming out from Tim Keller on doing and being church in the Twenty First Century. The book, entitled, “Center Church” will be out later in the year but, for now here is a little promo video (look out for Niddrie!).

click on the link here.

By Andy Constable

Last week we started by looking at some of the things we need to know when we are discipling drug addicts who have come to Christ and are rebuilding their lives. We looked at some of the things that you the discipler will need to look out for. This week I want to look at some of the things we need to teach our new converts. What do they need to know from God’s Word? What do they need to learn quickly? This is key in our discipleship because what we teach can really give them a foundation to walk with the Lord.

The first thing we need to teach former drug addicts are the tools to say ‘no’ to temptation and the reminder to run to God’s forgiveness when they mess up. Every Christian is faced with temptation and a drug addict’s temptation is very prevalent with drug friends and dealers all over the place. We need to be teaching that they can say ‘no’ to these temptations because the Holy Spirit is now living in them. The good news for a drug addict is that Jesus Christ liberates them from bondage to sin. He gives them a new heart and desire to love God more than anything else. This is a great encouragement to someone who has come to Christ and has been heavily addicted to drugs for a long time. Jesus Christ sets us free and gives us the tools to keep us free from slavery to sin.

Alongside this, we need to teach our disciples a deep thankfulness for the grace of God when they do mess up. This is inevitable because we all fall, but the problem is that we often don’t teach people how to come back to God after a slip up.  We teach our new Christians that the bar is high for every Christian as God calls for total devotion and obedience to him. He says ‘be perfect as I am perfect’. But, we also teach that when we mess up to run to the grace of God. We teach them not to hide sin with religious works and language but to flee to the forgiveness that is found in Jesus Christ.

Secondly, we need to give our disciples the doctrines that lead to godliness. One of the things that we find in housing scheme ministry is that people working in these areas often ignore teaching people the doctrines of God’s Word. They say: “just give them Jesus not all that dusty theology stuff.”  When Paul is leaving his church in Ephesus he says this to the Elders that: “he did not shrink from declaring to them the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27) Paul didn’t just teach them the bits of the Bible he enjoyed or thought they could grasp but he taught them the whole counsel of God. Sometimes there can be a presumption that people in housing schemes are not bright enough to learn the doctrines of God, but that is not the case at all. I find that it’s often the s0-called ‘mature’ Christians who don’t really understand the doctrines very well and so can’t explain them properly to new believers. We should not shrink back from teaching the whole counsel of God to people. New Christians are thirsty for the truth.

The main reason for teaching doctrine is that Paul says in his letter to Timothy that it leads to godliness. The knowledge of the truth of the Bible empowered by the Spirit helps us to grow. For example, if we are teaching about the need to be selfless then we can teach them about the Trinity. We can show our new Christians how that selflessness is rooted in the very being of God. We can teach them how Father, Son and Holy Spirit selflessly serve each other and bring glory to one another. It’s a doctrine that leads to godliness. We want to give them as good a foundation from God’s Word as we can!

Thirdly, we need to teach our disciples that we are there for them. One of the things that new Christians find in schemes is the lack of community. Many churches meet on a Sunday and then on a Wednesday. This is not enough community for a person who has a lot of time on his/her hands. Many former addicts find it difficult leaving their drug addict pals behind because they were constantly there for them. The drug community often do community better than Christians. They look after each other, they listen to each other, they are eager to help and spend much of their lives together. When we are discipling former drug addicts it’s going to be important to give them care, support, and friendship. Not once a week, but regularly. In Niddrie we try to have regular meet ups and have lots of community events centred on food. This gives a natural arena for new people to come into and get to know their new Christian family.

Let me end with a challenge from Paul. He says this in Acts 20:24: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me- the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Pray for us as we continue to minister amongst drug addicts on the scheme. It is a joy to see them saved and leave their lives of addictions behind. But, remember in your ministry, to teach them the tools to say no to temptation and run back to Jesus when they get in trouble, to teach them the doctrine’s that lead to godliness and to be there for them in constant loving community.

Speaker: Mark Dever

Text: 1 Timothy 4:16

Title: False Conversions: The Suicide of the Church

This was more a talk than an exegetical message. I have to confess that I didn’t stay for the whole of this message (give me a break – I stayed for an hour!) but I will record what I heard. Mark is a great guy but the control he exercises over the timing of every part of his services, he doesn’t actually model himself (I suppose he doesn’t have to – being in charge and all!). Anyway, my observations.

There were three main points:

1. The Plan. God’s purpose is to get glory for himself through a people (Ps. 86:ff). This plan for his glory comes, ultimately, through the Lord Jesus and the gospel. This people are now the church of Christ.

2. The Problem. God’s people in the Old Testament were continually unfaithful (Ps. 106). They worshipped idols (Ro. 2v24). We read of how God exiles Israel for bringing shame to his name. They forgot just how important the honour of his name is to the Lord. Their holiness was directly attached to His reputation and glory. Similarly, our good deeds (in NT terms) reflect on God and His character (1 Pt. 2v12).

3. The Source of the problem. Why do we suffer with so many unbelievers and false converts in our congregations?

  • Teachers. Are we faithful to the truth?
  • Doctrine. Wrong teaching is disastrous! False teaching only produces false converts. We will be judged by God for this (2 Pt. 3). We SHOULD be judged for God for slackness in this area. We must feel our own helplessness and we should throw ourselves on His mercy. Our only hope is in Christ (1 Jn.). When we get this right we both attract and offend people.

His stand out quote is as follows:

We don’t see the fullness of our salvation in this life. Our basic posture as believers is “waiting” for our Lord’s return (1Cor. 15v18ff).

Application

This is a timely and prophetic reminder to us to watch our lives and doctrine closely, thereby saving our hearers. The temptation in housing scheme ministry is to denigrate doctrine as being somehow unnecessary and yet nothing could be further from the truth. We must be faithful to teach our people the “whole counsel of God” no matter the difficulty we find in doing that.

Even more fundamentally, we must be clear in our evangelism. People need to hear the full message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The danger in the face of indifference and hostility is to water it down or to make excuses for people who have come from difficult backgrounds. But, all are sinners and fall short of God’s glory and God calls all people everywhere to repent of their sins and trust in the saving work of Jesus.

As believers we serve people, love them and seek to do good deeds as a sign of our love for Christ, the honour of God’s name and the love of all people around us.

Phillip Jensen gives his opinion here. I will say straight off the bat that I am not certain that I agree with some of his conclusions (or presuppositions) in this piece – but it gets the ol’ juices flowing at least!

by Mike Stark

Most of us are familiar with the terms  ADD or ADHD (attention deficit disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). We work with and know many local children who have been diagnosed as such, placing them in a box and giving them a medical label to help them understand their (so-called) deficiency. Closely tied to these conditions is the issue of “attention span(s)”. Much is said, and has been published, about the length of time young people can really concentrate on something. The average young person, apparently, has an attention span of around 10-20 minutes. In our local High School, lessons last 50 minutes. In the High School where my wife teaches, periods last 35 minutes. The theory being that young people can only concentrate on a topic for a short period of time before needing to move on to something else.

So, when we see these articles that pop up from time to time, telling us that children can only concentrate for short bursts, and that their minds are being eroded by TV and video games, we may naturally begin to think about our context within the church and, specifically, our preaching on Sundays. Are our sermons too long for our young people? Are our sermons even too long for the adults?

Since the start of the year, our average sermon length at Niddrie has been 29.5 minutes long (yes, I have counted!). We often have a group of people from the community coming along to services on a Sunday morning. In recent months, we’ve also had a few young people as a direct result of  our school’s work and the other activities we do, such as our Youth Café. These individuals are not Christians, they’re ‘un-churched’, and they’re generally not in the habit of sitting and listening to a 30 minute sermon.

Bearing this in mind, we’ve been careful about our preaching recently, and those that bear the bulk of the teaching responsibility take great care each week to contextualise their message, often meeting together to run through it on the Friday beforehand to share ideas. They’ve also been careful about the length, although I’m not even convinced that the length of a sermon is necessarily the defining issue. Many of us will have experience of 10 minute sermons that have bored us to tears within the first minute. My old minister always says, in preaching: “If you’ve not struck oil in the first few minutes, stop boring”. On the other hand, I’m sure we’ve sat through 60 minute sermons that seemed to fly by. So the length isn’t everything.

Recent experience has shown me that even a group of Niddrie young people can sit still, listen to, and learn from a 30 minute sermon. Without going into too much more detail about some of the technical and structural changes the preachers have made (that would be an other blog post), I’d like to share with you just a few things that have worked well for us in Niddrie with the young people who have been coming along each week.

  1. Sit with the young people throughout the service. Be deliberate and make sure other youth leaders in the church are being deliberate too. In our church, some of us have to get up to play instruments; we have to make sure that when we get up, the young person we were sat next to isn’t left by themselves. Young people don’t like being a Norman-nae mates – sit with them!
  2. Try and ensure young people have the freedom to make a little noise. They’ll need someone to help them find their way through the Bible, they may not understand something that’s been said and sometimes they’ll want to ask a question. This can be done quite easily and without being a distraction to the rest of the church if, (a) you’re putting into practice number 1 above, and (b) the young person is capable of whispering – which is never a guarantee. Hopefully whoever is preaching will be sensitive to the situation and not get too distracted and/or irate. I’ve tried to speak to whoever is preaching beforehand to be sure they’re aware. One young man who came for the first time last week (after a number of invites) needed to leave early to visit his dad. He told me beforehand, and so I told Mez beforehand; that way he wouldn’t be distracted when he got up to leave. Sometimes a short answer to a young person’s question isn’t possible, and will have to be explained further after the service. Be sure and remember what the question was!
  3. Finally, give them a notebook and a pen. This has been the most helpful thing we’ve done. Mez said that the best thing anyone did for him when he started coming to church was to put a notebook and pen in his hand. It gives them something to focus on and it helps them to process what’s said and even reflect on it later. Two of the boys that have been coming along recently will testify to the difference it has made for them. It helps that I also take notes, so there is a sense in which they’re watching me and doing as I do. So far they have been copying points that I’ve noted down, but that’s because they’re not used to note-taking. With time, they’ll be able to jot down their own thoughts and points that have challenged or encouraged them throughout the sermon. It’s a skill that needs to be learned, but it first needs to be put into practice.

None of these are particularly new or revolutionary ideas. There’s still much more that could be said on tweaks and changes that the preacher could make in order to help maintain young people’s attention; but perhaps these are a few helpful suggestions if you’re the one  sitting in the congregation each week, wanting to help your young people engage more with what’s being taught up front.

Incarnational Living | Church Planting | Urban Youth Ministry | Missional Community| Urban Church

Proximity 2012 is a conference happening this May (25th-26th) in Salford, hosted by the Eden Network. It aims to bring these five streams above together in one place for two days of vision, conversation, inspiration and celebration. If you’re a leader or practitioner in any of these five overlapping areas of ministry Proximity could be of interest to you. Our tickets are being booked this week.

Proximity will be light-hearted and yet intelligent; fast-paced and yet reflective; boundary-pushing and yet affirming.

For more information, you can download the programme here. Or visit www.eden-network.org/proximity

by Mike Stark (Children’s, Youth & Community Worker)

Historically, we haven’t had many ‘Christian’ young people in Niddrie Community Church. We have a vibrant and active work among children and youth in the community, yet this is almost exclusively evangelistic, rather than discipling. So, with a few exceptions, there’s a bit of a disconnect between a Sunday morning service, and the work we’re doing the rest of the week.

As we move forward as a church, with the long-term goal (10-20 years) of growing future indigenous leaders, we’re looking to focus on the children’s and youth work, and invest heavily in these ministries in the hope that God will bless us with young people coming to faith. Recently, we’ve signs of promise:

  • A small group of girls from our Youth Café are meeting up in our flat with my wife and another leader to go through the Soul DVD series and to talk about Christianity. One of these girl’s has been coming regularly on a Sunday morning.
  • One young person from the school, who is extremely keen, has been coming to Sunday services faithfully every opportunity he gets for a couple of weeks now.
  • Another school-leaver has been coming with me to the morning prayer meetings and studying the Bible with me afterward every day for over 2 weeks.
  • In addition to the one-2-one’s I’m doing with some of the young men, another group will be meeting up for the first time this Friday afternoon to go through the Soul DVD series.

Of course, we don’t measure success on the basis of young bums in seats on Sunday mornings; that’s not the way to gauge the spiritual temperature of young people. However, bearing in mind our context and the relative absence of Christian young people – the fact that the spiritual temperature of our average young person is… well dead – we’ve got to be encouraged by seeing young people coming to Sunday services and engaging in things like Bible studies and prayer meetings. Exciting things are happening and it’s apparent that God is at work in our children and youth ministry in Niddrie and we seem to be on the brink of at least a few young people coming to faith

The question is: are we ready for them?

God, in His grace, has stirred a bit of interest in the Gospel specifically, and spiritual things generally, in the hearts and minds of our young people. In anticipation of His goodness, and as we wait expectantly for young people to be saved, we need to be thinking about the next step. What are our plans for the nurture and discipleship of these young believers? Are we ready? I think, at the moment, the honest answer is no. As we’ve seen glimmers of hope with different individuals over the last 6 months, Mez has said to me a few times that perhaps growth is slow because the Lord is being gracious and patient with us. Knowing our limitations, He’s giving us no more than we can bear, yet stretching us and challenging us, leading us on in the way He will have us go.

Here are a few short thoughts I have, in no particular order, on how we can ready ourselves for the coming years.

1) Invest in the Children’s and Youth Ministry Team

Investment can take a number of forms. Leaders need to be trained to fulfill their tasks well, and communicated to, so that they understand why we are doing certain things and be made aware of different needs. I have plans in hand for training leaders and for stimulating growth in their different areas of responsibility.

As young people come to faith, like any baby, they’ll need constant support and attention. I simply don’t have the time/energy to provide that for every young person that comes to faith, all the while investing in new relationships with unbelievers in the community and running a number of key ministries. I will need leaders who are equipped and encouraged to do this alongside me. Initially, I’ll need to model this to them, but, eventually, they’ll need to actually follow my example and invest in young people. They will need to see me doing it, and follow suit themselves. So I  need to be inviting leaders to join me in doing some of the stuff I do with young people so that they ‘see me’ doing it.

2) Plan a ‘curriculum’ for Christian growth

Where do we go from the Soul DVD series? In the past, the church has used resources like Stranger On The Road To Emmaus, and The Cross: Finding Life In Jesus’ Death with some of our new believers. How appropriate are these for our young people? The Stranger series has a DVD companion, but it’s really cheesy! And I’ve ordered a copy of their youth version, so look out for a review soon… I’m also open to other suggestions if you have any.

The advantage for us is that, with a small number of Christian young people (on their way, we pray), we will be able to tailor material to suit the individual. Traditional Christian youth groups will not have this luxury and will normally decide on material to suit the collective as a whole. As our ‘collective’ grows, we will probably look to carve out a suitable time in the week where they can meet to grow together and encourage each other in their faith.

Eventually we WILL want to be encouraging each of them to come along to services on Sunday mornings because that’s where the bulk of our teaching is done. It’s important for them to engage with other members of the church, appreciate the diversity of Christian experience in the church and to realise how much they can learn things from other church members that they wouldn’t otherwise learn from their youth leader/mentor. Conversely, we mustn’t underestimate all that they’ll contribute to the wider church, initially in terms of encouragement of other believers seeing them engage and grow, but later in terms of their spiritual gifting and opportunities to serve and lead.

3) Start thinking 3 steps ahead

Unless we are looking to the future and asking ourselves: ‘Where’s this going? What next?’  then we’ll run the risk of idling as we slip into maintenance mode. To avoid stagnation, we need to be constantly thinking 3 steps ahead.

Take, for example, the work at our local High School. We have a really exciting work going on up there, but what happens if the rug is pulled from beneath our feet and the school is closed (as has been discussed!) – where are we then? What other schools are we investing in, or are all our eggs in the one basket?

We need your prayers as we move forward into this exciting new phase. Please pray for our many young people, that their eyes would be opened to the reality of the Gospel and their hearts transformed under the Lordship of Christ. Pray for us too, for wisdom, vision and foresight. And thank God for his patience with us!

by Mike Stark (Youth & School’s Worker for NCC)

I recently attended “Deep Impact”, Scotland’s National Christian Youth Work Conference in Aviemore. I came back refreshed, inspired and excited about all the work ahead. I’ve got a lot to reflect on over the next couple of weeks: the people I met, the things I learned, and truths I just needed to digest. Since I got back last Sunday, whenever possible, I’ve been re-reading my notes and musing, thinking about how to apply some of these things to our Youth and Children’s work in Niddrie.

Gavin Calver, YFC

The whole theme of the conference was to ‘Boldly go…‘ encouraging Youth and Children’s workers to be bold in their lives and ministries for Jesus. The main speaker for the weekend was Gavin Calver, head of Youth For Christ in the UK, who seems to be a bit of a ‘have-a-go hero’ in evangelism – the kind of man normal people don’t want to sit next to on a long haul flight. During one of the seminars, Gavin talked about the Three Stories model of evangelism as a particularly good way to engage post modern people in a biblical way.

Three Story Evangelism is about connecting stories… three of them as you have probably guessed: me and my story, Christ and His story, and finally them and their story. The idea is to find connections between you and them, therefore connecting an unbeliever’s life and story to Christ and His story.

Image: Long Green Baptist Church

The more these stories and lives connect and the more we have in common, the better. This model also stresses the importance of nurturing our ‘connection‘ with Christ in evangelism even more than we would look to nurture our ‘connection’ with a lost world. So, our relationship with Jesus is of first importance in evangelism.

I confess I’m not always the boldest in my evangelism. It’s tempting to buy into the notion that because I’m not a gifted evangelist, I can leave the evangelism to others. Ellis is, on the other hand, a gifted evangelist – he’s bold as brass when it comes to sharing his faith – and so his gifts are complimentary to my own. However, that aside, every Christian has a role in evangelism, in sharing the good news of Jesus with a lost and dying world, and the three stories model is a very simple approach to use. In fact, most of us have probably used it without even thinking about it because it’s an approach that Jesus used in the Bible.

In John chapter 4, we read the extraordinary story of the woman at the well. Here, I’m taking for granted Christ’s ‘connection’ with his Father, and we will look at how he engages with the woman and her story. Jesus is tired, his disciples have gone into town to buy food, and he says to the woman “Will you give me a drink?”

What does Jesus have in common with this Samaritan woman? Well, they’re in the same place at the same time: Jesus needs a drink and the woman is equipped to draw water. And so Jesus throws social conventions (v.9) out the window to establish a relationship with this lost individual. From a very simple conversation starter, Jesus goes on to share some very profound truths with this woman. He cuts to the core of the woman’s idolatries (men, relationships, sex and intimacy) and brings the gospel to bear in her life. She is so profoundly changed that she forgets her shame (v.6-7), returns to her community and shares the good news there (v.28-30).

I was up at the gym last week with Mez and Andy. As I sat in the sauna thinking about all this, I decided I’d give it a go, so I asked the man next to me a question about the gym (seeing as I was in on a guest pass). This developed into, admittedly, a relatively superficial conversation ranging from golf, TV packages, and the recession, on to my job as a church youth worker. OK, he didn’t repent of his sins and put his trust in Jesus, but it was a little conversation that could have gone anywhere. And it’s important to recognise that it could have gone nowhere: if people don’t want to talk (as most in a sauna won’t!) pursuing conversation isn’t going to do us any favours.

How does all this relate to evangelism among young people in a housing scheme in Niddrie? Nearly every single Gospel opportunity I’ve had in the past 4 years has come because I’m in relationship with a young person. Although I still get opportunities, especially through my chaplain role at the high school, to stand in front of a class, house, or an entire year group and share the Gospel, but the only conversation I can remember off the back of one of these was a little chat with a girl about bullying. Yet, when I’m involved in a young persons life, as they see me day after day, and hear little bits of my story, that’s where the majority of my Gospel conversations come – it’s at these moments that I’m striking gold.

There are some really exciting things happening in the youth work at NCC just now. There are lots of little pockets of young people interested in finding out more about Christianity because of conversations they’ve had with us. We have a little group of girls going through the Christianity Explored ‘Soul’ DVD series, one of whom’s been coming to church every week for about 3 months and it’s really cool seeing her understanding of the Gospel grow. I’m doing ‘Soul‘ with 2 young men in our one-2-ones. The Chaplaincy Room isn’t even officially open yet, but already we’ve had numerous conversations with a little group of boys who have been really keen to take away and read Gideon’s bibles – and not just to use as skins (for rolling joints)! In fact, it looks like a little group of boys up at the school will be doing ‘Soul‘ with us too. I feel as though, very soon, we’re going to have a little group of Christian young people to disciple. So we’re in the thick of planning beyond ‘Soul’ what we can do with these young people.

In all of this, the greatest lesson for me has been to stay close to Jesus. He’s the difference young people notice in our lives. He’s the reason why we’re doing what we’re doing. And He’s the one who has power to turn the hardest of hearts towards Him in repentance and faith. If everyone involved in our Children’s and Youth work are walking hand in hand with our Saviour in prayer and through His Word, if we’re living in dependence on God, in step with His Spirit (Galatians 5:25), then we’re in the right place to be of use to others in evangelism.

“I’d die if I didn’t have my BlackBerry.”

Recent comment from young person

According to the news, a UK survey shows that TV is being pushed aside by mobile internet devices in the lives of young people.

Among 7-16 year olds, 61% have a mobile phone with internet access, and use that phone for an average of 1.6 hours a day. Before and after school, young people are now more likely to play with their mobiles than watch TV. On the topic of social media, here’s a short, very well made, and interesting video I though would be worth embedding…

If you do any work with young people, you don’t need me or the BBC to break this news to you – I’m sure you’re already perfectly aware of how significant mobile phones and social media are in the lives of young people today. The above quote would be fairly normal in my youth work experience and I’ve become quite accustomed to having conversations with young people who are simultaneously holding umpteen other conversations with friends via BBM (BlackBerry Messenger), or Facebook.

I’m all for engaging with young people and communicating in ways with which they’re comfortable: I’m happy to accept Friend Requests on Facebook (so long as I actually KNOW the individual), and I’m comfortable having mobile numbers and texting young people.

In fact, there are lots of ways I could go with this post: we could talk about how, with 600+ Facebook/BBM friends, our young people are growing up with a more diluted concept of what friendship is; we could talk about the trend of sexting (sending revealing or explicit photos and/or video to others, sometimes with the goal of meeting for sex) and how, according to research, 80% of 16-24 year olds have used either a smartphone or the web for some form of sexual contact; or we could talk about some of the practicalities of using social media and the need for transparency and appropriate safeguards. As is often the case, it’s real life situations that lie behind these posts, and one of the reasons why I noticed this particular news article was down to the fact that for the past 2 hours, I’ve been having a text message conversation with one young person who’s in real need of pastoral support.

Though useful for certain things, BBM, texts and Facebook are simply no substitute for face to face contact. There’s no depth to the conversations you have through typing – even something simple like the tone of what’s being said is very tricky to read, and something intended to be clear and innocent can be easily misinterpreted. Even phone conversations are no substitute for face to face – although the conversation can flow more freely than through text, you’re fundamentally unable to ‘listen’ to what the person is not saying: in their body language and such like.

I’d much rather sit down with the young person I’ve been texting this afternoon and just listen to what they have to say. But for now, they feel most comfortable with text messages, and that’s fine. In the past I’ve had long email conversations with young people in need of pastoral guidance and advice, and often these emails have been the precursor to deeper, more fruitful face to face conversations about their situation and where the gospel speaks into that situation. It’s my hope and prayer that this will be the case here, and that this individual will get the support they need.