Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Preaching and Worship

We all know and believe that worship is a lifestyle not just singing songs - at least I hope we do! This morning we talked about where in the worship service should the preaching of the word fit in? Some traditions represented have the sermon in the middle of the service as its central. Some services have the sermon at the end of the service. I have tried, in the past with Mannafest, to have the sermon at the start. After all, that is when you expect peoples attention to be at its highest. They haven't had to sit through the announcements, the offering, the childrens talk, the hymn and prayer sandwiches....

But what does the Bible teach? And what it the theology behind the placement of the sermon. Ian took us to Exodus ch.3. Here we see God initiating Moses to come and worship. There is then self revelation from God. Then Moses responds to God.

So we could say that God's word comes before a response time which could include prayer, singing and/or communion.

Going back to Mannafest, the best times of response where in response to God's word. I felt anyway, that young people sang more and engaged more in prayer after the talk. Now to go straight into the sermon might not be the best practise. We did have a time of praise songs, or a time to prepare the heart.

I felt frustrated sometimes that after hearing a sermon on Sunday morning, the benediction was said and everyone ran out, leaving no time for response or reflection.

I think this throws open a bigger question - what is the purpose of corporate worship?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Castlewellan PS SU

Haven't been in this school for a couple of years, but its always a great drive down, seeing the Mourne Mountains and all. Katrina came with me, just to make sure I was working, no I actually asked her to come help as they are a lively bunch down here!

A couple of things to note. I have developed some lessons with Compassion UK, exploring the idea of giving thanks and sharing, the problem with money in the world and how to make a difference in the world. We gave out some sweets to show the distribution of wealth to particular countries. 12 kids, 12 countries, 12 gold coins. Enough for one each, but obviously to make a point some countries got more than one and some countries got none. At the end of this activity I asked those who had to share with those who had none. Some snatched, some begged, some huffed, but in the end there was 1 person with no gold coin! And could we find the lost coin...I thought I was going to have to use one of Jesus' parables. We eventually found that one boy had 2 gold coins, 1 hidden in his pocket! Even with something so simple as a chocolate coin, some people don't want to share with those who have nothing.

Secondly, before I closed in prayer, I left it open for any of the children who wanted to pray at the end, and one girl did. I love hearing kids pray. Such honesty and openness

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Preaching the Parables

We had an interesting discussion based around what we thought was the purpose of the parables. Where the designed to keep people out of heaven? Think about it - after dismissing this question allow it to provoke thought! I didn't ask it - it was Cameron!

William suggested that the Parables are like jokes - they are based around people, they have a twist in the middle and they finish with a punchline!

The Parables of Jesus were meant to shock and they were meant to reveal the mystery of God. Do the Parables teach doctrine and theology?

We looked at how Augustine interpretted the Parable fo the Good Samaritan - very interesting!

The man who was going to Jerusalem = Adam
Jerusalem = heavenly city of peace, from which Adam fell
Jericho = the moon (:p)
robbers = demons
sstripped him = of his immortality
beat him = by persuading him to sin
leaving him half dead = as a man lives, but he died spiritually
the priest and Levite = the priesthood and ministry of OT
the Samaritan = Jesus
bandaged his wounds = binding the restraint of sin
oil = comfort of good hope
wine = exhortation to work with a fervent spirit
donkey = the flesh of Christ's inccarnation
inn = the Church
the next day = after the Resurrection
2 silver coins = promise of life and the life to come
innkeeper = Paul!

I guess you can take things too literal and hear we see the dangers of using the Parables as allegorical!

Sweet and Sour

It was my time to preach at BBC. It was an interesting experience. I really enjoyed preparing something that I haven't delivered before. I wanted to take what I had learned and put it into practise. On the other hand, you are being assessed and that was like being on teaching practise again. You are always aware of the tutors writing (or not writing!) comments down at the back of class.

Anyway here's what I shared....

Sweet and Sour – an introduction to Ezekiel

If you ever have a Chinese, there is so much choice in what you can have. I am always drawn to ‘Sweet and Sour’. It’s an interesting mix. It’s a balanced combination.

I think as preachers our message has to be like SWEET and SOUR. We always have to balance out God’s grace with God’s judgement. Some preachers can focus too much on God’s grace – the SWEET, and forget about God’s judgement – the SOUR. I think if we are to proclaim the good news in its entirety we got to first address the bad news. I remember one gospel tract saying that the good news is so good cos the bad news is so bad!

Today I want to look at a book and a character who as a messenger has a SWEET and SOUR message.

The book of Ezekiel is split into 3 parts
1. ch4-24 – Judah’s judgment
2. ch25-32 – the heathen nations judgment
3. ch33-48 – the future blessings for God’s covenant people

The character of Ezekiel is an interesting one. The author, whose name means “GOD STRENGHTENS” is identified as “Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi” (1v3). Ezekiel was probably around 30 years old when these events are recorded. As Numbers 4 makes clear, the ages of 30 and 50 mark the span of the active service of the priests.

There are so many comparisons between Ezekiel and Christ. Both, it seemed, started their public ministry at the age of 30. The title “SON OF MAN” occurs some 90 times in Ezekiel. While the title is applied to Ezekiel himself, it was used by Jesus as well. In ch2v2, Ezekiel was taken up in the Spirit, just as we read in Matthew 4v1, how Jesus was taken by the Spirit into the wilderness after his baptism.

Although we shall hopefully learn form Ezekiel’s character it is his openness to God’s Spirit that we should try to emulate.

Ezekiel as a messenger can teach us as preachers key lessons. The passage we have read (2v1-3v16) has been entitled Ezekiels call and commission. (New Living Translation)

Ch2 v1 says “Stand up, son of man,” said the voice. “I want to speak with you”

The position is important to note. When Jesus sat down (Matthew 5v1)we understand that sitting down was a position of a rabbi and of authority. To stand then would signal a position of readiness and willingness in serving a master. As preachers we need to be in a position of readiness empowered by God’s Spirit.

Ch2v5 says, “And whether they listen or refuse to listen…”

Here we read of Ezekiel’s need to be FAITHFUL. God told him that he must give the message whether they listen or not. As a preacher it is hard enough to know that people are not listening to you during your sermon, but to know that they will not listen to you before you start would take tremendous faithfulness on the part of the messenger. As preachers we need to be FAITHFUL to God and God’s word.

Ch2 v6 says “Son of man, do not fear them or their words.”

As preachers we can focus our attention son pleasing people or pleasing God. We can fear what people will think or fear what God will think of us. Above all we should have COURAGE in who God is and what God is saying through us.

Ch 2v8 says, “Open your mouth, and eat what I give you.”

This is almost like a bush tucker trial on I’m a Celebrity get me out of here! You have no idea what you are going to eat. But in ch3v2 we read, “So I opened my mouth, and he fed me the scroll.” As Ezekiel was obedient to God so we as preachers should be OBEDIENT to God.

I would like to go a bit deeper and focus on the word ‘SCROLL’. We will look at the word SCROLL in this passage but also look elsewhere in the Bible to when SCROLLS are mentioned and see if we ca learn anything from the Bible teaching the Bible.

In ch2v10 Ezekiel comments that the scroll (which was SWEET) was covered on both sides with funeral songs, words of sorrow, and pronouncements of (which is SOUR). Apparently the reason for the scroll being covered on both sides would mean that the prophet had no room to add anything of himself to God’s message. Very often as preachers we like to add our own slant of things, but we should remember to be FAITHFUL and OBEDIENT to God. I wonder how we would respond when asked to deliver a SOUR message of funeral songs, words of sorrow and pronouncements of doom? I would much rather deliver messages of joy, hope and love.

Secondly, the scroll tasted of honey. (3v3) It was SWEET. So here we have SWEET and SOUR. In Scripture we have other references to God’s word being as SWEET as honey. Psalm 19v10 and Psalms 119v103.

In Jewish tradition when children where learning to memorise the TORAH, apparently they were given a taste of honey. So I want us now to taste some honey and let our senses reveal to us the sweetness of the word of God.

As preachers we need to have the taste and desire for God’s word. I’m reminded of some songs we sing in Church:
“Your name is like honey on my lips…”
“How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believers ear…”

If we approach the Scriptures as bees, as children or even as Whinny the Pooh does with honey it will show in our delivery and sermons. When we present the sweetness of God’s word to people, hopefully they should leave with a desire and taste in their mouths and their lives for more. One of the reasons, I believe, we preach is to motive and encourage and challenge people to go home and get into God’s word for themselves.
This brings me to my main point. In ch3 v10 we read, “Son of man, let all my words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully for yourself. Then go….”

As preachers we should be letting God’s word sink deep into our own hearts FIRST! The key word here is FIRST. Henry Blakeby says that God is more interested in the work he does in and than the work he does through us. But the more work God does in us, the more God will work through us.”

As preachers we cannot neglect our personal devotion to God. If we neglect the spiritual disciplines of meditating and memorisation we will not only suffer ourselves but our congregations will suffer. This is a SOUR and bitter reality. Normally in Christian Ministry the first area to be neglected is personal study and devotions. Here we see very clearly that God wants us to listen to Him for ourselves and then go on others.

The good news is that Almighty God actually wants to speak to little old us. That is SWEET!

The word SCROLL is mentioned between 35 and 65 times in the Bible depending on your translation. Mostly we find the word SCROLL in the books of Jeremiah and Revelations.

Revelation 10v10 says “So I took the small scroll and I ate it. It was SWEET in my mouth but when I swallowed it, it turned SOUR in my stomach.”

I believe the gospel is SWEET and SOUR. It is a balanced message which is full of contrasting imagery. Light and dark. Life and death. Sweet and sour.

As preachers we would do well to learn from Ezekiel’s example. We are to be READY to receive God’s word for ourselves and then READY to go and take that message to whoever God chooses. We are to be FAITHFUL in presenting God’s message whether people listen or accept it or not. We are to be COURAGEOUS in or delivery and not fear peoples angry looks or ridicule. And lastly we are to be OBEDIENT to God when God asks us to do something.

We finish with ch3v14-15. Ezekiel having tasted the sweetness of the scroll left with bitterness and sourness and ended up sitting among the exiles for 7 days.

Very often the sweetness of being in the pulpit can turn sour when we come down away from the crowds, the stage and the lights. I believe we can deal with this if we remember to let all God’s words sink deep into our own heart first and to listen to Gods words carefully for ourselves.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Comber PS SU

This was my first time in this school - and it will probably be my last!

We met with a great group of 34 kids, but I had technical problems with the powerpoint. What is it with computers? Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but with computers, projectors and anything to do with sound....

Anyway it got sorted, and thanks to Laura keeping them occupied by playing games with the kids, we were able to talk about the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. I've been listening to these talks from Open Door and it was good to make them applicable for young people. I used 'Finding Nemo' as a modern day parable to teach these kids about God's love for them.

I felt strongly that these young people need to know that as they get older and grow up, that they remember how much God loves them like a good shepherd and a crazy woman! Love that picture of God - as a crazy woman....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pastoral Care preaching

This was a very interesting morning. We looked at being human, and how as a preacher which should try to remain human. Some preachers change their voice, others change their whole personna. We were encouraged to try and be ourselves with a little polishing needed in delivery by clearer diction. Ian talked about how preaching as a vocation can dehumanise you. While the preacher is stuck in the office preparing a sermon, the rest of the world are slogging their guts out trying to make ends meet.

Another point made was, if you detach preachers form pastoral ministry, they are in danger of not knowing people. Being with people is never wasting time. Which is interesting, as I always thought the dream job would be to be a teaching pastor of a Church, and hacve no other involvement in Chruch affairs. I have always thought each person should do one thing and do it well. So expecting a pastor or minister to be a person with many talents, would not only be unfair but unrealistic.

A quote was read from Graham Johnstons book 'Preaching to a postmodern world', that "we don't preach the Bible but we preach the Bible to people. And we don't teach the Bible, but we teach people the Bible."

So a really obvious but challenging question I found myself asking was, I may love preaching but do I love people?

We also looked at John 3v8 inthe context of preaching. We hear a sermon but the Holy Spirit can take it to many different places and people. There is a mystery in preaching that we cannot predict. There are things that are unseen, like the wind, but we see reactions to the wind(spirit).

Monday, November 09, 2009


On Friday night we had the extreme pleasure of having Dave and Bonnie Johnson at our Bible Study Group. We normally meet on a Monday evening, but in order to accomodate the Johnson's schedule we readily and happily agreed to the change.

After going thru 'Simplicity, love and justice' last year, we wanted to get into the Bible a bit more. I suggested Dave Johnson, as I know no one better at teaching God's word (apart from God himself - or Ray!) So the group listened to Dave and thoroughly agreed. Whats great about the message every week is that is comes along with a message tool which you sign up for at their website and they send you out a set of questions and discussions as well as the occasional movie recommendation. Check out website. I had suggested to the group that I would email the Johnsons since they were coming over to Belfast in November. They thought I was joking but if you don't ask, you don't get!

Friday night was one of those surreal moments. We were all just sitting round chatting and laughing with the Johnsons. Dave is the same guy he is behind the pulpit which says a lot about him. He says himself he is goofy, and he is so animated and passionate. It was so relaxed and normal in a way but also a dream come true - to actually sit done and listen to someone you really respect and idolise in a non blasphemy type way.....

We also got to hear Bonnie's story and slant on things which was great. Behind every good man is a great woman! They even gave us some advice on marriage, which Katrina asked for!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

What is preaching for?

It was good to be back in college this morning. There is such a diverse group of people. I was sitting beside Maurice from Kenya, Tania from Brazil, Andy from Scotland, Cameron from England, Andrew from Belfast and a cow (who still remains nameless and is actually a cow not some ugly girl!)

This question is a good one to ask. YFCNI staff, yesterday, listened to a sermon by Jim Cymbala entitled "My house shall be called a house of prayer" - not a house of preaching or a house of music but a house of prayer. Who was it said, "If I could live my life over, I would preach less and pray more!"?

But preaching can be to spread the gospel, instruct, give direction, encourage and challenge. I think it has something to do with presenting Jesus to people. I think we need to glorify God in our preaching, by lifting up the name of Jesus, so that all will be drawn to God.

I still love the analogy of preaching being like an appetiser rather than a main meal. After we preachh are people in more in love with Jesus? After we preach will people go away and get deeper into the Bible?

For some reason we mainly have 2 services on a Sunday, nowadays. I always wondered why. Well apparently, the historical background shows that the gentry went to Church on Sunday morning and then the servants would go to Church on a Sunday evening. Some people still feel the Church should be taught in Sunday morning and the gospel should be preached on a Sunday evening.

The problem still remains that Sunday is normally the busiest day in the week for attending services, which raises the question about Sabbath rest. But back to the original question!

In Matthew 28 Jesus said, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel..." (preach to unbelievers)"...and teach them to obey..."(teach the believers).

Ian Dickson encouraged us to think about preaching being revolutionary. The best preaching should be disturbing. Jesus disturbed people by his revolutionary language and behaviour. When crafting a sermon, remember terms like revolutionary, beauty and gentle wildness!

Ian concluded with 4 points, that the preacher is spiritual, or should be a person under development. This spiritual person has a spiritual book, the Bible. We need the Spirit working in and thru us to bring ultimate interpretation of the Bible. We can use illustrations to bring light, but we need the spirit to bring life to what we are saying. And lastly the preaching event is unsafe, because we are open to a spiritual world.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

18 months

Every month we have a date night on the 22nd, since we got married on the 22nd April 2008. This month was extra special as we where in Lake Garda. Lake Garda is beautiful! Just like my wife...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What is Christian Ministry?

It is determined by God's own ministry
- which is revelation and reconciliation

Jesus came to do the ministry of the Father

- which is seen in servanthood, obedience and compassion

So every act of ministry should reveal something about God

Monday, October 12, 2009

St John's Crumlin

Got to speak in this lovely little church on Sunday night. I was given the text Matthew 16 v24"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

I struggled all week with this text. What does it mean? I have heard talks on this about sacrifice, denying yourself, fasting and the like but it didn't sit well with me.

What was Jesus saying here? Was he being literal or was he trying to teach something?

My mind went to Luke 18 v18-30 when Jesus has an encounter with the Rich Young Ruler. When Jesus said "sell everything you have..then coem follow me." did he actually mean it literally or was he trying to teach something different?

In the passage before (Luke 18 v15-17) Jesus says, "Anyone who does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." So Jesus was saying you got to live a dependant lifestyle rather than an independant lifestyle.

I believe that if the RYR had gone away, sold everything and come back to Jesus, Jesus would have sent him away again, to do something else, until the RYR would give up and say 'I can't do it Jesus, I give up, I need you.'

So getting back to Matthew 16, was Jesus giving this formula in order to make people realise that they couldn't deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow him? Was Jesus trying to produce brokeness and dependancy? Or does Jesus actually want us to deny ourselves?

Then I read the whole chapter, looking for some context and notices how Peter was a main character in the chapter. In verse 17 Jesus blessed Peter. In verse 23 Jesus rebuked Peter. So was verse 24 about Peter? Was Jesus predicting what Peter would do? Was Jesus stating what he would do at the cross?

So with these questions I wanted to take the words of the verse and explore them. Denying yourself - well Jesu spredicted that Peter would deny him in John 13 v36-38. Peter denied Christ in John 18 v15-18, 25-27.

In John 21 we have Jesus asking Peter to "follow me". I believe Jesus wants us to follow him, even when we mess up and even on the good days.

Methody CU weekend

This was me with the soldier, athlete and farmer. The athlete is Christine Murphy, who is now in Upper Sixth, and whom I have known since she was 4! Christine stills refers to me as "OSCAR", a character I played in a daily drama in Newtownbreda CSSM. Good memories but boy does that make me feel like I'm getting to old for this!

I've been trying to develop the DOC talk and turn it into a weekend. Its really interesting speaking to another group of young people on what they think a Christian is. Young peoples thoughts and beliefs have definately changed over the years. Seems to be more liberal in a way. The most interesting discussion was around the whole idea of 'clubbing'.

I had a great time with this bunch and as a Wellington College boy, they got me a tshirt stating "STEVIEP LOVES MCB" - delightful!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

John the Baptist

This should be the motto of every preacher.

Some other comments I heard today which stuck with me:
- "Be yourself sanctified!"
- Have confidence in what God has given you to say

When we come to a text or are given a text to preach we should:
- unfold the text
- teach the text
- return to the text
- look out for words that integrate

This can be best seen in John 6v31. Jesus takes a quotation from the OT,"He gave them bread from heaven to eat", and begins to unpack and teach it.

"He gave them" - found in verse 32-33
"bread" - found in verse 35, 40
"from heaven" - found in verse 38
"to eat" - found in verse 53

Also in verse 41 Jesus said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven"

So when you get a text you should look out for the words use and try to use the Bible to teach the Bible. I know this is a bit cryptic but its fascinating!

Monday, October 05, 2009

The older brother

Last week I was at Global Leadership Summit in Bangor Elim. Some great sessions, teachers, communicators, passion, advice, wisdom and insights. I love being in that environment where you can hear and listen and process and spunge.

One session that stands out with Tim Keller speaking on 'Leading people to the Prodigal God.' Now I've heard talks on the Prodigal Son before - loads of talks. Years ago I heard Dave Johnson speak on the older brother and it blew my mind. Tim Keller added to the insight by asking these questions:

"How do you handle criticism?" and "What should we do in response?"

Our reaction to criticism will be based upon what brother we are. He encourages the older brother to get a new level of repentance which will in turn get us to a new level of joy. The older brother is to look at the things we do right and repent for our right doing. The thing that separates us from God is not sin but good deeds.

Now my wife rightly pointed out that if ur doing so called good deeds with wrong motives, they aren't good! Anyway will try and get my hands on this book and read more about it

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Matthew 9 v35-38

I spoke on this passage at Orangefield Presbyterian today and you can download it here

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Exodus 24

So today I learnt about 3 types of preaching mentioned in the Exodus 24 - speaking, writing and reading.

(v3)Preaching is about speaking the words of God, given by God in a private place. We come from the presence of God and go into the presence of people (and God's presence is always with us!).

(v4)Moses then wrote down everthing that God said. One method to practise is to preach first, then write it down afterwards. Normally we write our talk before hand(don't we? yeah right!!), but actually no joke, I spoke at 1st Bangor BB last Friday night and did come home and write my talk out again. I have been chatting to McCready about this a lot recently, in that we should write out our talks before hand, just to make sure we give of our best and properly prepare. Clarity of thought happens when you write something down.

Ian Dickson(BBC) then asked "What is preaching? Is it for the moment?

So should we record sermons(on paper/online/audio/visual)?
Repeat sermons?
Are sermons an art form?
Can we craft a sermon over a period of time?
Does God have a specific word for a specific group?
Can we give the same message but change the application(for different groups)?

The third area(in v7)was how we can use reading God's word in preaching. We should not neglect the public reading of scripture as it promises to not return void(Isaiah 55v11) - thogh from experience i have learnt to never read out John 4 as it is too long and can ruin the whole service(just for you Andre!)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Jeremiah Lanphier

Read this story after listening to John Piper preach on Matthew 9 v35-38. Listen to it or download it here!

Jeremiah Lanphier's Example
I will close with a record of something God did 130 years ago in New York City. It illustrates how God has started every harvest time in history through the concerted prayer of his people. Toward the middle of the last century the glow of earlier religious awakenings had faded. America was prosperous and felt little need to call on God. But in the 1850s . . .

Secular and religious conditions combined to bring about a crash. The third great panic in American history swept the giddy structure of speculative wealth away. Thousands of merchants were forced to the wall as banks failed and railroads went into bankruptcy. Factories were shut down and vast numbers thrown out of employment. New York City alone having 30,000 idle men. In October 1857, the hearts of people were thoroughly weaned from speculation and uncertain gain, while hunger and despair stared them in the face.

On July 1, 1857, a quiet and zealous businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier took up an appointment as a City Missionary in down-town New York. Lanphier was appointed by the North Church of the Dutch Reformed denomination. This church was suffering from depletion of membership due to the removal of the population from the down-town to the better residential quarters, and the new City Missionary was engaged to make diligent visitation in the immediate neighborhood with a view to enlisting church attendance among the floating population of the lower city. The Dutch Consistory felt that it had appointed an ideal layman for the task in hand, and so it was.

Burdened so by the need, Jeremiah Lanphier decided to invite others to join him in a noonday prayer-meeting, to be held on Wednesdays once a week. He therefore distributed a handbill:


As often as the language of prayer is in my heart; as often as I see my need of help; as often as I feel the power of temptation; as often as I am made sensible of any spiritual declension or feel the aggression of a worldly spirit.

In prayer we leave the business of time for that of eternity, and intercourse with men for intercourse with God.

A day Prayer Meeting is held every Wednesday, from 12 to 1 o'clock, in the Consistory building in the rear of the North Dutch Church, corner of Fulton and William Streets (entrance from Fulton and Ann Streets).

This meeting is intended to give merchants, mechanics, clerks, strangers, and business men generally an opportunity to stop and call upon God amid the perplexities incident to their respective avocations. It will continue for one hour; but it is also designed for those who may find it inconvenient to remain more than five or ten minutes, as well as for those who can spare the whole hour.

Accordingly at twelve noon, September 23, 1857, the door was opened and the faithful Lanphier took his seat to await the response to his invitation. Five minutes went by. No one appeared. The missionary paced the room in a conflict of fear and faith. Ten minutes elapsed. Still no one came. Fifteen minutes passed. Lanphier was yet alone. Twenty minutes; twenty-five; thirty; and then at 12.30 p.m., a step was heard on the stairs, and the first person appeared, then another, and another, and another, until six people were present, and the prayer meeting began. On the following Wednesday, October 7th, there were forty intercessors.

Thus, in the first week of October 1857, it was decided to hold a meeting daily instead of weekly.

Within six months, ten thousand business men were gathering daily for prayer in New York, and within two years, a million converts were added to the American churches.

Undoubtedly the greatest revival in New York's colorful history was sweeping the city, and it was of such an order to make the whole nation curious. There was no fanaticism, no hysteria, simply an incredible movement of the people to pray.

Is there a Jeremiah Lanphier among you?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Biblical Theology of Preaching

So just started to go to BBC one morning a week to look at Contemporary preaching. Its a small class and there is lots of interaction and discussion, which I love. Really looking forward to this opportunity of reading and going a bit deeper. DC has joined me too which means a good laugh! Wanted to get back into blogging as a way of recording my thoughts on this expereince.

John Stott says," Technique can only make us orators; if we want to be preachers, theology is what we need."

Some questions that arise:
What are we doing when we preach?
What is God doing when we preach?
To whom are we preaching?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Some more thoughts

Discipleship is probably the most misunderstood word in the church today. Here's a simple definition: discipleship is 'people leading each other to maturity in Christ'.

Today's evangelical church has dicarded the discipleship model in favour of an academic model. Instead of discipling people, we teach them. We put people in classrooms and present them with Bible knowledge. We offer them a weekly lecture(sermon) from an educated person...that is why a man who has sat in church for 30 years without much life change will be suddenly transformed after going on a mission trip. men are changed by what they experience, not necessarily by what they are told.

At the conclusion of Matthew's gospel, Jesus gave his followers 3 responsibilities:

1. make disciples
2. baptize them
3. teach them

we have reversed this process. We teach a lot of people, baptize some, but produce very few genuine disciples.

page 33-35 Why men hate going to Church

Monday, March 30, 2009

Adjusting the thermostat

Chapter 5 of 'Why men hate going to Church' page 29

Every Church has a spiritual thermostat. Where it is set will determine whether that church attracts or repels men. Here are 6 common settings found in today's congregations:


The 3 settings atop the thermostat represent the methods of Jesus. Christ confronted the religious, and He comforted the needy. But he challenged everyone else...Jesus hated the bottom 3 settings - and so do men!

What you think?


We are trying to resist getting Sky +, even thought it sounds so good and easy. It would probably work out at an extra £40 a month. But not only for financial reasons are we resisting, we also want to make a statement.

Romans 12 talksabout not conforming to the standards of this world, and it got me thinking about what are the standards of this world and what ways do we conform?

This might come across as judgemental but hopefully it will get some response!

So the early church was characterised by having everything in common(Acts 2v44) and the children of Israel were told that their should be no poor among them (Deuteronomy 15v4). What does this mean for us today? How does this challenge us in how we live our lives? Most people are concerned with church attendance and daily devotions but what really matters?

If I look at my life it looks like this:

Car payments
Mobile phone monthly contract
Gym membership
Season ticket for Norn Iron

I wanted to determine what I need and what I want. I would also like to have an Iphone a Mac laptop and have Sky Plus, but how much more would that cost me a month?

And looking at most of my mates(and lets hope they stay friends with me!) they have most of this list as well. I wonder how many of us tithe? And should all our tithe go directly to our local Church? How much money should go to helping the poor? Is this extra than our 10%?

I was always told to put aside money for the Church and for the poor first - before all my monthly bills, as if I leave it to the end I'll probably have no money left!

So now I sit and think should I get Sky Plus or should I sponsor a child? If I do sponsor a child am I just doing this to easy my conscience? Are my motives right?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Romania Team

Back row from l to r: Richard, Ryan, Richard, William and me
Middle row: Katie, Una, Danielle
Sitting down: Danielle, Katrina, Anne

So this is the full team heading away with HABITAT to Romania at the end of June. We need to raise £1000 each and decided last night, apparently, that we will be doing abseils and even the fun run in May. I hate running, unless I have a football at my feet!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Toilet reading

So I have been meaning to blog about this book for ages. This is my toilet book at the minute, not because its cra or anything, just like to have a book sitting on the toilet so I have something to do...

Anyway its one of those books that you disagree with a lot, it has so many generalisations but it has some fair comments as well.

One thing it talks about is comparing attendance at the sunday service to the type of movie you like to go to watch. Women, in general like romantic, happy ending movies. Men, in general like action movies. Apparently the sunday service has become like a chick flick movie - which I thought was hilarious! But thinking about it, theres all this talk about intimacy and relationship, we expect people to behave and listen and know when to stand and when to sit. No wonder, the writer continues, no men what to go to sunday service!

On one hand, yes the Christian faith is all about relationships (loving God and loving others) but even the word 'love' and the term 'personal relationship' aint a manly concept!

Looking at the life of Jesus, was He more about adventure and risk? Denying yourself, picking up your cross and following Him. And will there be a nice ending, where everyone lives happily ever after.....

Friday, February 20, 2009

First Aid

Having to give CPR to little Anne wasn't the best way to spend an afternoon, but then I thought..."imagine having to do this for real"

You never know how you're going to respond until you are actually in the situation, but I just pray that if I ever am, I'll be able to help.

From l to r back row: James "loveboat" McAlister, Kim Cousins, Alan "scousescum"Cowan, Robyn, The Stitler, Jonny
From l to r front row: Laura Magee, Jamie Plant, Miriam "on the piste" McAlister, and me