Hope and help…salvation

2016 was quite the year. Troubles and unexpected happenings across the world on multiple fronts. Whatever you, we, or others may or may not have suffered, regardless of the situation, there can be help. There can be hope. While we must still deal with difficulties and occasional or, in some cases, constant calamity in 2017, in looking to Christ for salvation, we will find strength. At the end of it all, Jesus wins. 

Here is a video with a reminder of this truth by Regan.

Happy New Year!

Test your knowledge!

 

What do the below men have in common?


lightLeonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519), Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Joseph Lister (1827-1912), Johann Kepler (1571-1630), Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Charles Babbage (1791-1871), Samuel Morse (1791-1872), Michael Faraday (1790-1867), Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879), Lord Kelvin (1824-1907), James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879), Sir Ambrose Fleming (1849-1945), and George Washington Carver (1860-1943)

Great inventors. Magnificent scientists. Fathers of modern science, refrigeration, electro-dynamics, and technology to name a few areas of influence. These men have for centuries been recognised as truly brilliant minds and pioneers of modern technology. This isn’t the only thing these men had in common though. They all believed one thing that many today, possibly including you, think only idiots believe. They read, studied, and believed the words of a book, the Bible that say God created the world, man sinned and brought death into the world, and that the only hope for man to be right with God now and forever is in Jesus Christ. They saw no inconsistency between their faith and the science they were coming to know – to the contrary they were directly inspired by their knowledge of God through the Bible and what they discovered in creation. Does this surprise you? I asked one man ‘What do you think about the Bible?’ He replied ‘I think it’s a load of s***’ I asked ‘What makes you say that? Have you read it?’ The man said ‘No. I don’t want to!’ Not exactly an informed opinion, but a route that many have taken. Have you actually considered the Bible and its claims? Are you missing out on the life-transforming truth that is found in Jesus? You don’t have to. 

To find out more please contact us through our connect with us page and we will arrange a time to meet up with you!

What do you need?

Life. Its a beautiful thing. It’s complexity is astounding. From the awesome order of the universe to the intricacies of human anatomy and nature, life should take our breath away (yes, a terrible pun!) and give us great joy. And yet so often life is anything but joyful. Bad choices and destructive decisions by ourselves and by every other person has made this world a dangerous and often sad place where life always ends in death.

Loneliness. Many if not most of us have been there. The world we live in can be an unfriendly place, but often if we are honest we haven’t helped much. We often have burned bridges with family and friends. We enjoy pessimism, cynicism, and skepticism in almost everything. We think we are entitled to the best life possible, but we want the best given to us. Some try and work hard, but money and status become the  focus and loneliness and depression wins. We feel alone and at times without meaning or purpose. What can fix it?

Love. Love can fix the loneliness. ‘Love is all you need’ sang the Beatles. It is the subject of songs, books, and plays a central part in most movies. And yet, love is so little understood. Think about it. What is love? Is it just hormones in action? That’s casual sex. Is it a feeling at first sight? More often than not that is attraction at best, lust at worst. The reason we feel like we lack love is because viewing love as purely romantic, or an attitude to family and friends falls short of a full understanding of love.

Light. If only we could know the right way to go in life. Enlightenment. A theoretical torch to shine the way in a world of death, depression, despising, and darkness – the opposites of what we need to have life to the full. If only…

Life, an end to loneliness, love, and enlightenment. We don’t like to admit it, but each one of us is needy. The good news is that those needs can be met. Ask yourself how well your own  attempts have worked. How has burning your bridges with family and friends helped? Has money and status satisfied? Have substances made life better and easier? If you are an atheist, has it actually made things better? Have you considered how in the past century, atheistic ideology was at the centre of up to 260 million violent deaths? How has turning to man to fix man’s mess helped anything? If you are religious what is your definition of religion? Occasional religious meeting attendance and going through rites and rituals helps no one. Religion, by the Bible’s definition is filled with faith and good works (James ) but for most people there is little faith and even fewer good works.

There is hope and help if looked for in the right place, which happens to be in the life of one, Jesus Christ. Here are His answers to our needs.

When it comes to life Jesus said “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
In a way that can end loneliness, people who follow Jesus’ teaching are tasked with forming  selfless communities that regularly meet together to stir one another up to love and good works – the proper way of ‘church’.
Jesus said that genuine selfless love would characterise his true disciples and assures us that ‘God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.’ For the one who comes to experience this love from God and lives it out, nothing can take it away or separate from it. As for enlightenment, we can find the right way of life through understanding God’s will as recorded in the Bible. It has been compared to a lamp that shows the way down an apparently dark path. Jesus said ‘I am the light of the world’. If we reject Jesus we are choosing to remain in the darkness caused by our own sin and that of others and will rather than experiencing Jesus’ new heaven and Earth will be in what the Bible describes as eternal darkness, hell. That doesn’t have to happen if you look for hope and help in Jesus.

To look further into Jesus and His claims or to arrange a time to talk visit the ‘Connect with us‘ page.

Church?

Church?

Have you ever wondered what church is about or why people bother going? Perhaps it seems like a waste of space to you. Perhaps you like the idea, but don’t really get the idea. Here are some importchurchant facts about the existence of ‘church’.

Who?

Jesus Christ is the centre of who we are and what we do.

Church is not just a building. It is a group of people who have turned from sin and believed in the good news of Jesus Christ.

What?

The Bible is God’s written word. It is the church’s duty to teach and practice the Bible.

Church is about meeting together to share in worshiping the One True God and inspiring one another to love and good works.

Why?

For Christians it is commanded that we not neglect meeting for worship with each other.

Church is about sharing and showing God’s wisdom in a thoughtless, dying world. It is about bring reconciliation and restoration to broken lives.

‘…so that through the church, the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities….’ Ephesians 3:10

Regan Reviews: Thom Rainer, Autopsy of a Deceased Church + 12 ways to Keep Yours Alive

Author: Thom Rainer
Title: Autopsy of a Deceased Church + 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive
Published: B&H Publishing Group, May, 2014
pages: 102

I believe Rainer hits the nail squarely on the head with this straightforward volume. While writing from an American context, much of the material is (appropriately) in reference to the American context. It is sad to read of hundreds of thousands of churches in the land of my birth and childhood that are showing signs of sickness, are very sick, or on their deathbed. Rainer outlines 9 characteristics of a dying church.

1. The Past is the Hero
2. The Church Refused to Look Like the community
3. The Budget moved Inwardly
4. The Great Commission becomes the Great Ommission
5. The Church is Preference Driven (as opposed to Christ focused)
6. Pastoral Tenure Decreases
7. The Church rarely prayed together
8. The Church had no Clear Purpose
9. The Church obsessed over the Facilities

As a church planting pastor and as the son of a church planting pastor, from the numerous deceased churches I know of in whose buildings new and healthy works have been planted and also from my current exposure to other churches that I believe to be sick and/or dying these points sum it up. How so?

In Britain’s dying churches, the past truly is the hero. ‘These are the days of small things’ is a common refrain, generally offered by an individual in a church where literally nothing is happening. ‘Oh that we had another Spurgeon or someone like Lloyd-Jones to set us straight!’ has been a helpless statement that has come to my ears. And yet, here and now, we have someone better. Jesus Christ. If people stop worshiping the past and looking to Christ then necessary changes will be made to better equip the church for serving in the present. I once was told by an older lady in a church, ‘I’m afraid we are very set in our ways.We don’t really like change’. It is no surprise to me that with many of that mindset, that church is on its way to death. And yet there is, as Rainer notes,  denial of the reality and angry resistance to the inevitable.

‘…more than any one item, these dying churches focused on their own needs instead of others. They looked inwardly instead of outwardly. Their highest priorities were the way they’ve always done it, and that which made them the most comfortable.’

Relating to the second point, it is all too common that I have visited, preached in, and/or helped in a church where the surrounding demographic is not reflected at all. An additional issue, that is even more common in Britain, I believe, is the refusal of churches to look like any type of community at all. Upon visiting some of the congregations I have been to, one would be forgiven for thinking that Christians are not supposed to like each other much less love each other (as Christ commands us). There is often a cold stoniness in receiving the message from God’s Word. People come in and they rush out. There is no flexibility in time or understanding when it comes to changing up the general order of service. If the chairs face a new way, there is a complaint. If the evangelist is zealous to get people involved in outreach, he is considered a nuisance. If there is suggestion of the need for more fellowship there are comments about busy schedules (after all, can’t miss the evening news or worse yet, Coronation Street.) The church is a family not a club. The church is a body not a bus. When a church is not what it ‘is’ by Biblical definition, it is dying.

The third point is interesting. I would be very keen to know the percentage of gospel churches in the UK that have a planned budget. It may be even more interesting to know how teach generous and faithful giving. A man attended a conference in my church, Grace Baptist Church (Angel, Islington, London) on the subject of Christian giving. He was convicted and challenged and said his pastor had never taught on the matter systematically in the Scriptures. Aware of the situation, I knew that there was not even an opportunity for giving an offering. He went to his pastor and shared what he learned. The pastor simply grunted and said ‘Yeah, its not something we’ve really done here that much. Might have to give it some thought.’ Without belabouring the point, Rainer gets across a point I have often sought to make – a giving church is a growing church.

As for points 4, 5, 7, and 8, one doesn’t have to look more than a second into the practices of deceased or dying churches in Britain to know that these relate. I believe in most cases the preferences of many church members as by Rainer are often what shape the neglectful attitude towards the Great Commission, prayer, and purpose. I have lived in the UK now longer than I did in the US and still hear comments on methods to the tune of ‘That is not the way we do it here’  when nothing is being done. I have sat in a meeting where at the close a pastor resisted a request from another elder to have a time of open prayer by saying ‘That’s not really necessary is it? We’ve gone on a bit long enough already!’. The sentiment was shared by many. It pretty much summed up the reason for that church’s decline and lack of purpose. In other churches, there has been such a pendulum swing reaction to some Christian’s falling to feminist ideology that women are not allowed to pray in public.

Points 6 and 9 are really the main points that need slight revision for a UK audience. While pastoral tenure can be linked to the decline in some churches, interestingly a recent census of Grace Baptist Churches indicated that an overly lengthy tenure could be just as detrimental. As I read Autopsy, it struck me that very small pastoral tenures are not as much a problem in the UK, but that in many cases pastors have fallen into the path Rainer notes from year 11 of a pastor’s tenure where he risks becoming resistant to change and the church grows complacent. Another, perhaps, more common problem in the UK is the hesitance of churches to call a pastor. Years and years go by with countless men preaching in the pulpit in a caring and challenging way, but without any call to the pastorate given. For some, lengthy absence of pastoral oversight in their church is worn as a badge of honour. These are churches that really, as much as they may whinge about their need, don’t want a pastor. At least, not one who will make any changes. Certainly not the one who didn’t wear a tie. Definitely not the foreign guy – he might attract other less than savoury sorts. The skubala you here from people trying to find a reason…

Point 9 relates to obsession with facilities. While in the past, even non-conformist churches in England would have fallen into traps of obsessing over gilding, memorials, and decorative fashion, most seem to have gone in the opposite direction in their treatment of facilities. In the 13 years I have lived in London, I have assisted in countless clean-up days in which a building of a deceased church has been made ready for the arrival of a new work. With many it is clear that not only has the building been systematically allowed to fall into dilapidation and decay, but little attention has been paid to basic cleaning. I remember cleaning one kitchen that contained products containing 1980s use-by dates! There really is no excuse.

Autopsy is not about doom and gloom. Its primary purpose is to show where we can learn from others’ mistakes and failures and prayerfully seek to see our churches grow from strength to strength for God’s glory. Rainer closes each chapter with a commitment to pray in a particular way toward to health of our local churches in the knowledge that the gates of Hell will not prevail against Christ and those who are truly His. The second part of the book gives sound, hope-filled, and helpful application to those whose churches are showing signs of sickness, are already sick, or are dying.I won’t spoil it for you though!
I cannot recommend this volume enough. Get a copy and prayerfully read through it, seeking to assess your own church’s situation and what you can do to make it better.

In Christ

Regan