Wednesday, 23 July 2008

SMC at New Wine North and East

Well a whole load of us from SMC are going to New Wine - joining the Harrogate encampment on Red 8 at Newark. Delegate numbers are heading towards 5500 and team members bring us up to over 6000 for this 4th northern conference/holiday. Penny and I are involved in helping to lead and have worked out that this is probably the 17th New Wine Summer conference we have been to. Wow! We love New Wine and how through it we have met with God, others and been able to be equipped to beter serve God in our daily lives. We have seen his kingdom come in our lives through new Wine and want that for our children and for SMC.

I was reading Mark 6 and 8 this morning and thinking about the miracles of 5000 and 4000 being fed by Jesus. I noticed 5 common areas in Jesus feeding thousands (there may of course be more).

1) Thousands had gathered - yes obvious I know - but in a culture that constantly emphasises the selfish individual need and undermines corporate community life it is important to remember that Jesus related a great deal to crowds and not just me! One of the reasons why New Wine is great is that it gives us the chance to get involved in something that is bigger where normally we are in our own little worlds doing our own little thing.

2) Jesus had compassion. In the feeding of the 5000 his compassionate response was to lead them as they were like sheep without a shepherd. There is a desperate need for leadership in our day which is why it is one of our priorities as a church - to lead like Jesus. This is a compassionate response to the need around us.
Secondly in the feeding of the 4000 his compassionate response was to feed them - there is of course a desperate need in our times for people to meet with Jesus who is the bread that satisfies.
If people are led without feeding they will collapse and if fed without leading they will become fat - neither of which are things that we want to encourage. Jesus knows we need leading and feeding and in his compassion he does this and calls us to partner with him in it.

3) Jesus did a lot with a little. We are, at present, a small church with correspondingly few resources to work with. The tendency for us is to think we can't therefore do much because we have so little. This is not kingdom thinking - Jesus did a lot with a little and will do a lot with the little we have. Where he calls... he equips.

4) There was food left over. I believe that the true merit of things like New Wine is that they give us food to be distributed after the conference is over. Because we come hungry we are filled, and the overflow is of blessing to others. We can, though, leave the baskets of left-overs sitting unused and we have to resolve to say that we will not let that which God has provided go stale.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Summer 2008 Text of a letter given out Sunday 20th July

SMC: A Community of Communities
Simply loving, living and leading like Jesus

Dear friends,

We are moving into a time of transition for the church that will be gathering pace from September onwards. In order to make the transition our focus has been very much on readying the church centre for reoccupation and doing the initial thinking regarding developing mid-sized mission shaped communities (MSC’s).
We will move from being based around a Sunday service at the Grammar school to meeting in a larger gathering twice a month (1st & 3rd Sunday). During the autumn term on the 2nd and 4th Sundays we will still be meeting together in the church centre to explore the dispersal into the MSC’s further. In January we will take the next step ‘out of the boat’.

Do look at my blog via the SMC website or this link and you will find some of my reflections on MSC’s amongst other things.
I expect that we could explore starting up some MSC’s with a specific mission focus such as:
1) Family MSC
Vision: Encouraging and Supporting Families
2) Footprints MSC
Vision: Connecting with the wider community
3) Life beyond loss MSC
Vision: Caring for those who have experienced loss in one way or another
4) (Younger Adults MSC?) (Cold Bath Community MSC?)
Vision: Building community of faith amongst those who are spiritual but not religious(?)
These are just thoughts at the moment but I wonder whether as you reflect on these kinds of things over the summer that you may feel you would want to be part of one of those areas. You may even have a vision for leadership in one of them. Over the summer I am most available during the last two weeks of August if you want to get together and talk this through. Simply phone me on 07841595203 or email me

We want to get the SMCentre redecorated over the Summer – please don’t leave it to the usual suspects – spare a morning or an evening to help out. Andrew Clarke can advise you.

Pioneer Children’s Leader.
Do pray that we are able to get the Cold Bath Road flat sorted out quickly for Rachel and Mark Turner to move into at the end of September. Some of us will be meeting Rachel at New Wine.
Until Rachel arrives we will be carrying on working together to support the children’s groups. Again, ‘transition’ is the word… Rachel will need help and support as she takes things on.

Parish Communion.
Our 9am Holy Communion service is taking shape. This service has a traditional feel with liturgy and hymns and is open to all (not just those who have been involved with All Saints). If you feel that the MSC’s may be a little hard for you to feel at home in why not see if the 9am parish communion is a better place to belong. The meeting room, to the surprise of some, makes a very worshipful chapel-like venue and I envisage services being held in there indefinitely.
Please pray for those who are making the transition from All Saints to this service and those who are making a transition to other churches after much prayer and reflection.

The Anglican Communion.
Do pray for the gathering of Bishop’s called the Lambeth Conference that is happening at the moment. The political game playing, bad press and absence of up to a third of the conservative Bishop’s will keep this in the public gaze. I’m not sure how much of it will be good news and I feel sad that things have come to this. As I write I am reminded of Hosea 6 and especially the first few verses – why don’t you look these up and use them as a basis for praying for the worldwide church and especially the Anglican Communion.

Here comes the summer! Keep an eye on the FYI and website for details of services.
A good number of us are going to New Wine and onto other holidays – have a great time wherever you are going.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Baptisms at SMC

Today we are celebrating! Matt (12) and Timmy (11) are being baptised and we are gathering with them to eat together and make a public spectacle of this important decision.
I will be speaking from Acts 8 - the bit where Philip meets the Ethiopian Eunuch (an important official of the Egyptian court). The encounter ends with the Ethiopian saying "Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptised?" He has heard, received and accepted the good news of Jesus - he believes and therefore the next obviously step is to fully identify himself, immerse himself in the way of the gospel. I will be speaking about the three commitments we see in Philip 1. to Christ 2. to the body of Christ 3. to the work of Christ in the world.

But it strikes me that there are other things to learn from Philip...

1) He followed instruction
An 'angel' tells him the barest detail - where to go and Philip goes. We tend to press for more detail and over complicate things... Philip trusts and goes. we have to prepared to go following Christ with less detail trusting that the detail will come. In the current outpouring of the Spirit this is one of the things that I see happening - a preparedness to follow instruction and be obedient.
2) Philip responded to opportunity
He knew he was in the right place but still had to wait for the opportunity - at one point Philip was instructed again to go to a certain chariot and 'stay near it'. We are not told how long he 'stayed near it' but being near it brought about the opportunity - he saw the man reading something he knew something about. Sometimes we are called to run alongside and observe, waiting for more instruction - don't be hasty... the opportunity will come.
3) He told the good news
With an invitation from the Ethiopian Philip launched into explaining the gospel starting from where the man was. Our starting point can be different - we have a tendency to start from where we are which is different from where a newcomer to the good news is. Sometimes where we start sounds anything but good news to someone else. For instance, we start with 'church' whereas truly the best place to start is Jesus. How are we at thinking and explaining the good news? is it good news to us? Have we got a reason for the hope we have?
4) He stayed until it was right to go
Philip baptised the Ethiopian and then, it seems, his job was done and the Lord took him to pastures new. Too often we over-stay, or go before it is completed often depending on our personalities and the things that drive us. But if our commitment is first to Christ and open to his guuidance by the power of the Spirit we will know the answer to the question should I stay or should I go?
I hope these thoughts will be helpful to you.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Don't look at the fog!

Last Sunday I told the story that the Evangelist Charles Inglis told of George Mueller - one of the great men of God in the 1800's.

Inglis said that on his first journey across the Atlantic to America he got to know the Captain of the Steamer he was travelling on. He was impressed by the Captains devotion to God and found that the state of the Captains faith was largely due to an encounter with George Mueller just five weeks previously.

He said that he had been on the bridge of the ship and received a visit from Mueller "Captain," said Mueller, "I have come to tell you that I must be in Quebec on Saturday afternoon." This was Wednesday. "It is impossible," said the Captain, to which Mueller replied, "very well, if your ship can't take me God will find some other means of locomotion to take me. I have never broken an arrangement in fifty-seven years."

The Captain expressed his helplessness and Mueller proposed that they go down to the chart room and pray.

The Captain said to Inglis that at this point his thoughts were along the lines of what lunatic asylum this man came from. He said "Mr Mueller, do you know how dense this fog is?"

Mueller replied "No, my eye is not on the density of the fog, but on the living God, who controls every circumstance of my life."

Mueller went down on his knees, and he prayed a most simple prayer something like this:

"O Lord, if it is consistent with thy will, please remove this fog in five minutes, You know the engageement you made for me in Quebec for Saturday. I believe it is your will." The Captain said that he was about to pray also when Mueller told him not to and said,

"First you do not believe God will do it; and, second, I believe He has done it and there is no need whatever for you to pray about it." The Captain said "I looked at him, and George Mueller said this: 'Captain, I have known my Lord for fifty-seven years and there has never been a single day that I have failed to gain an audience with the King. Get up, Captain and you will find the fog has gone.' I got up, and the fog was gone. On Saturday afternoon George Mueller was in Quebec."

Defining MSC at SMC

Medium-sized - 15-35 people but can start smaller

Mission-shaped - defined by a common vision

Community - building a shared life

"big enough to compete and small enough to care"

"small enough to have a common vision and big enough to do something about it"