City

At SPC we don’t have an evening service. But it is in my family’s ‘DNA’ to go somewhere to worship. We have been floating around a little over the last few weeks, but last night we went to City Evangelical. City is blessed by being next the Birmingham University campus. Last night was the first influx of new and returning students. (As John Stevens, one of the elders, said to me once, they benefit from the faithful ‘home’ churches from which students come looking for a new church.) It looked like there were 120 present.

It was refreshing and the sermon from Neil Powell was one of the most encouraging I have heard for a while. Coinciding with the presence of these young intellectuals (!) was the start of a series on Genesis 1-3, starting with “In the beginning God…”. I tell you, if I had not been a believer already, I’m sure I would have been convinced!

Some other practical points:

  1. The church is really friendly. People sitting next to us introduced themselves after the service. If we are having coffee afterwards people come up and say ‘hello’.
  2. They are well organised. They rent space in a school. There are marshals in the car park, plenty of signs to show you the way, people making sure you have all you need, ushers to show you to a seat. Just what you want.
  3. The new location at the Octagon certainly has the feel-good factor. New, modern, clean, comfortable!

So, a pretty good night and much to be thankful for.

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City

Why Does Nobody Want Preaching?

I listened to a pastor at a fraternal recently make a loosely camouflaged attack on preaching. His complaint was that there was preaching at every meeting – two on Sunday, once midweek – and not enough ‘fellowship’. Why don’t churches have more fellowship? he asked.

It has been playing on my mind because I believe this is an indication of a much wider problem within the evangelical church in the UK. People in churches over the last few years have been asking for less preaching and the pastors seem more and more to have spinelessly acquiesced in this desire.

But the question remains – Why do people want this? Is it because they have discovered long lost parts of the Bible which show that the need for preaching is overstated? Hardly. The OT prophets preached, Jesus preached, the apostles preached. We could pile example on example. Preaching is mandated on pastors: Preach the word! says Paul. (2 Tim. 4:2)

So, why do people not want it? As a preacher, I have my heart in my mouth when I say this, but preachers generally do not model great preaching, for whatever reason.

I ran a preaching workshop with some lay preachers some time ago. I came up with the notion, which I kept to myself at the time, that a preacher could be measured by the length of time he could hold attention. I realised that some men are 5-minute preachers, some 1-hour preachers.

Sadly, the 5-minuters often seem to think they are 1-hourers and try and prove it time after time.

All this to lead to my sweeping, unscientific assertion: there is a lot – and I mean a lot – of bad preaching around. If my assertion is true, and it continues unchecked, with no oversight or follow up mentoring, then why should there be any surprise that people want less preaching! Lets have ‘fellowship’ instead!

Sorry, that’s dead wrong. And it is killing the church. If Scripture is authoritative revelation of God, by definition it has to be declared. The nature of the revelation demands it. In other words in must be preached. Preaching is the appropriate mode to bring that revelation to men and women. It brings faith. It makes dry bones live.

If there is not preaching then we undermine the place of Scripture and the gospel in the church. If there is not preaching we cut off our source of life and breath. The church dies. It is that simple.

So the answer is not less preaching, and more ‘fellowship’. The answer is better preaching, better training, better selection and discernment of gifts, better mentoring, all to bring forth better men fitted to the task. These men set loose on the world, who knows what would happen under God?

Let’s pray that God would bless the preaching of the word and that we would want more of it!

Why Does Nobody Want Preaching?

Everything depends on God

I expect by now everyone (or two) of you who read this blog knows how to give the perfect man-hug and are getting fed up with the tutorial below.

Good. Lets move on…

We Dancers have actually moved house and are very much settled in. The removal guys were magnificent, our land lord is fine and friendly, the neighbours are good. Susan is getting into her new job and girlie-wirlie-daughter is making new friends at her new school.

My work really starts now. The plant has been treading water, I think, over the last few months. Having got to know the people who have been coming along a bit better, it has come home to me how difficult it is for people to form relationships, and especially ones that have the gospel at the centre. People’s lives are busy, complicated and confusing. In the midst of this melee I continue to pray for ‘A Few Good Men’ who can handle the Truth.

It would be easy for me to get frustrated. There are things I would want to make happen. But I have to remember that the work required of and in people is only a work that God can do. Paul tells the Philippians to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. Yet this exhortation cannot be separated from the fact that “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Phil. 2:12,13). While this reminds me that I can exhort others, I must pray that God be at work. Everything depends on God.

Some good things over the Summer:

  • A break in Devon with the family. Restful. Fun.
  • Reading Letham’s The Holy Trinity. I realise now how much evangelicalism is missing in its neglect of this great subject. Difficult in places, but deeply refreshing.
  • Some amazing signs of God at work in some regulars at SPC. Amidst the grit of church-planting, some real gems.

Things to come:

  • Christianity Explored starts next week. But we need more people!
  • Midweek study/prayer/fellowship meeting has just started. This seems to be working well. It is good to study a few verses, pray, share our lives a little.
  • Second Anniversary Service – 7th October 2007, 10.30am. Nearly two years since the start. Really? I don’t believe it!

I covet your prayers for God’s glory to be known.

Everything depends on God