Thursday, 17 December 2009

Christmas 2009 @ RFC

It may seem that Christmas has been somewhat low key at RFC this year. We have for sure had a short Christmas series based on Christmas carols. This Sunday we will have a family meeting that will look at the carol Joy to the World. We will have some fun together and we shall celebrate Christmas across the ages. We shall also meet together at the offices at 10am on Christmas morning to remind ourselves of the reason we look forward to this time of year.

However we have done some community things. The Whitley cluster once again helped out at the North Whitley Residents Association Christmas party for the over 60's in the local area. It was a great success with 84 of our older neighbours coming out to enjoy food fellowship and fun. Phil the singer provided entertainment and an array of sandwiches the like of which I have never seen before, where devoured by the partying matriachs and patriachs of Whitley. It was great to have conversations with them and enjoy the richness of their experiences. There was an man who hadn't left his flat for 15 years, telling the organisers that this had changed his life, plus another lady who found that a friend from 20 years ago was still in the area and a friendship was reunited. It was truly a privilege to be there.

Another group went to Douglas Court - a residence for the elderly in Early. Sean and the team had a fantastic time singing carols, and talking to the residents. (Read here for more details.) Still another group went carol singing around Earley on Saturday afternoon. They went to some 35 houses and gave out mince pies at each after singing a verse of a carol.

We are going into this Christmas time taking opportunities to meet with our local communities and being good news to them as well as taking opportunities to share the good news with them. As we head into 2010, we can build on this momentum and we can become more involved with the areas in which we meet and live. this will, God willing, mean areas like the Oxford Road and Lower Caversham as we continue to see people coming from those areas. Who knows we may be even doing some town centre things as we embrace new people as a result of our Sunday evening meetings. Whatever God has in store for us we will be faithful with the message that he has given us and continue to seek to be good news to the town that we have been called to.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The bell rings again!!!

It is with joy that I write, after a months absence, to tell of a bell ringing in the church office. Alpha@CoffeeRepublic has just finished and it has been over the course of 10 weeks that we have seen our God do an amazing work in the life of one of the girls. She arrived on the first night on her own. She declared to me that she didn't think that she could be a Christian - not because of any anti belief system, but just because!

What then happened was, that she got involved into the social fabric of the church. She found that people just loved and accepted her for who she was. No hidden agendas or ulterior motives. She asked many questions and posted many objections. However over 5 weeks, her confidence was growing both in herself and in her new found friends. Twice she came close to accepting Jesus but something just held her back.

Then last night 0n the walk back from the coffee bar, she said that she wanted to follow Jesus and she wanted to commit her life to him then and there. We got back to the office and stood with her as she prayed a prayer of commitment and then we prayed with her. Following this the bell was rung to celebrate once again with the heavenly realms as one sinner repented and turned to Him.

Let's continue to pray that we will have more stories like this - not just through Alpha but also through our own personal contact with people.

Friday, 30 October 2009

A trip to Ascot

This weekend B, Rachel and I are off down to Ascot for church on Sunday. I shall be preaching and laying hands on the sick trusting that God will do immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine by the power of His Spirit at work within me, in order to bring Him glory. It's as you go out on these adventures that you grow in your faith because you know that it's all about Jesus and nothing about you.

I know that Ascot Baptist are a great church who are working hard to share the gospel in it's purest form by being as relevant to the town that they live in. Phil Rogers who leads the church is a man who has trusted God for many years and is now seeing some breakthroughs in terms of salvation and healing. I love his faith and I love his zeal and I know that I have much to learn from men who have walked the walk for a lot longer than myself.

Sunday I trust will be an immense day once more, as God shows up and does what only He can - heal and save - and I know that we will once more look in in awe and wonder knowing that we do worship the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Please pray for me as over the next day or two that I will speak clearly and that I will hear from God with regards to words of knowledge.

I hope to bring news of what God has done when I return from holiday in a weeks time.

Friday, 23 October 2009

1 Kings 7 verse 23

I am currently reading through 1 Kings. Today I was mulling over chapter 7 and in particular wondering what 'the sea' is that is mentioned in verse 23. Of course wanting to study the passage well and understand I looked to the trusty(?) internet to get an idea. What I found astonished me.

There is a whole theory that the Bible has been proved to be false because when you look at the ratio of the seas diameter to it's circumference, the result is not pi but 3!!! Pi being calculated by dividing the circumference by the diameter.

To counter this there are several apologetic websites (the best of which I have linked here) that argue the fact that cubits were not precise readings, with decimal places, they were in fact the measurement between a man's elbow and his fingertips.

I couldn't help but find this a little amusing that people so want the bible to be objectionable that they will scour the words to find these sort of alleged imperfections.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Gift Day Video

We watched this as a church on Sunday - great story, great mission, great God!!!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

8 months in...

8 months ago, we had not met our beautiful daughter. As Valentines Day happened, we were totally unsure when BT would be born. There had been no signs and B was already 3 days late - if you know my B, she doesn't do late!!!

Within the next 24 hours our baby girl entered the world. 8 months on and I am totally blown away, on a daily basis, at the privilege and the responsibility and the joy it is to be a father. For sure, it is not all plain sailing. There is much about me as a person that has had to change - I have become more of a morning lark than a night owl for instance - why? because making precious time to spend with my little girl is priceless. I will get other sleep, these moments will go.

It is as I have pondered on this first 8 months that the wonder of being in God's family has once again excited me. I am His child and He looks on me with even more love than I do Rachel. I know that He takes joy in the fact that I am His son. I know that no matter what I do wrong He will love me anyway. I know that my love from Him is unconditional, unfading and unfailing; it is for now, for the future and for eternity; it is high and wide and deep; it is free, unmerited and without strings.

My Rachel knows that if she topples over and bangs her head, then i will come and gather her in my arms and although unable to take the physical pain away, I can carry her until she is once again ready to try and crawl again (most of the time that is a very short amount of time!) She knows that if she cries out for long enough I will come to her. Our God is the same. He picks us up and carries us when we fall, if we let him, and He hears us cry out and responds at the time that He considers right.

This time tomorrow I would have been a father for 8 months; I am so enjoying my relationship with Rachel, and I am so thankful that through this little girl I am also growing in my relationship with my Father in Heaven.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Gift Day

In Oct 1998 I started going along to a church which started me out on a journey of discovering who Jesus actually is and what he has done by his grace and mercy in my life. Before this 'journey' began I had spent 5 years in the student bubble and had come out of that with eye watering amounts of debt in loans and overdrafts.

Why do I record this? As I reflect on the gift days coming up at our church on the 8th and 15th Nov, I realise how far I have come in my understanding of God's grace. When I first started the journey in 1998 the very thought of putting even a handful of change in the offering basket was a bizarre concept. Why did the church need my money? (the emphasis being my money). I would get cross when I considered the pastor was speaking too much about giving, after all didn't he know that I was in debt and didn't he know that I needed to eat and didn't he know that I was only on an entry level teachers salary. I had so many reasons to be cross that I felt totally justified in not giving money.

Then God broke in and He impressed upon me an amount to give. I argued with Him and I tried to ignore this nagging amount that I should put in. In the end I relented. I put the cheque in the basket as it passed me by. It wasn't the easiest thing that I had ever done. I was a new Christian, just knowing that I wanted to follow Jesus. The money I had put in meant I went deeper into my overdraft by the end of the month and there was part of me that was totally reluctant, but deep down I knew that I would be okay - if Jesus died for me to take away my sin, and I had trusted him to do that, I could trust him in money, right!?!

Indeed I could. At the end of that very meeting, the pastor of the church invited people with debt problems to see him afterwards. I did so and I met with him the following Saturday. We went through my budget and agreed on various cuts and caps on spending and at the end of that meeting he graciously and mercifully offered to clear my overdraft. This amounted to just over 10 times what I had put into the offering. To this day I have not needed an overdraft and I know that that is because of God's grace and mercy, not the grace and mercy of one man.

It is stories like this one and countless others that have left me knowing that I can trust God in the financial areas of my families life. B and I now have one salary and a baby girl to look after and as a husband I am starting to increasingly feel the weight of this. When the weight sometimes feels too much, I need to remind myself of God's faithfulness and ask myself the question: Who's money is it anyway? It was this question that was answered as a result of the story I have told. I came to the awareness that all I had was his anyway and when I am full of faith, He is faithful. This is no way a prosperity article, I want to make that clear. My giving does not obligate God in any way, it's not a formula, but there is something in trusting God above and beyond our means that enables Him to work miraculous things into our lives.

I for one, am looking forward to the gift days - not because I enjoy saying no to all the other good things I can spend money on - but because I enjoy seeing God in me and amongst his people. As I joyfully drop my money in on 15th Nov, I know that I will be joining together with brothers and sisters whom God is also stirring to trust him. If you are part of RFC then join with my family and I as we continue our faith adventure in this area of giving.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Great Song

This song is excellent...

We need to remember:

We are rebels against God, literally sinners, living with us at the centre of the universe

God knows this but sent his son Jesus to die for that sin so we don't have to pay the price

He does this becasue he loves us

He then allows us to receive this great truth, not because we do anything that earns it but just because!

Jesus did it all, does it all and will do it all - by grace!

This song helps us see it again a fresh.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Alpha has started!!!

Two weeks on and Alpha is now in full flow. We have almost as many guests as we have team which is absolutley fantastic, and those that are there are asking excellent questions that keep our minds sharp and help keep our hearts open.

I have already had the joy of meeting with one of the guests on a one to one basis to just talk through some wider issues and am looking forward to meeting with another next week.

In all of this I know that my confidence is not in me but is the One who has called us into His mission of bringing a people to Himself. The Alpha course is not about making people Christians, but it is about helping people have a greater understanding of what Christianity really is.

I do however pray that we will once again, as a church, join with people as they celebrate accepting the invitation to follow Jesus and all that entails. Please join me in prayer that all those on the course will know something more of Jesus and that ultimately they would know the greatest joy of being a child of the living God.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Only 5 days to go to Alpha@CoffeeRepublic

So Alpha starts in 5 days. The team are in place, the venue is secured and the resources are being prepared. I am so looking forward to gathering again at Coffee Republic to meet new people, drink great coffee and share opinions about Jesus. Although we do present an orthodox Christian view, the conversations are always varied and the views are always wide and from different points of view. I love leading Alpha because it feels like you really connect with people, regardless of whether they follow Jesus as a result or not.

If you are reading this and are from Reading or the surrounding area and you have never done an Alpha course then I would like to invite you to come to the first evening. It starts at 8pm next Tuesday at Coffee Republic in the town centre. If you are a member of RFC or another church and have someone you would like to invite then please bring them along. If you know already that you are coming yourself or know of someone who is coming, please could you let me know.

If you cannot make the evening then please be praying for relationships, conversations and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Bell ringing! Let's go again!

It's been almost a month now since we last rang the salvation bell here in the office. That said we have had he great joy of ringing it 13 times this year; that's 13 responses to the good news that Jesus came and died for our sin and rose again to declare victory over death.

This term will see Alpha once again run at Coffee Republic. This is one way in which we will corporately be involved in sharing the good news of Jesus. However for this to be successful we must all be taking the responsibility as individuals to be witnesses to who Jesus is and what he has done in our lives. We have the invite in our hands to give to our friends in order that they may know this Jesus and the hope that you have in him. Without our friends, work colleagues or family members, the Alpha course will comprise of a few Christians who already know about Jesus gathering to rue the fact that we didn't invite anyone!

This Sunday we will be looking at what it would be like to be in a church where we are seeing people who are being saved, added to us daily. We will also be putting an invite to Alpha on every chair. It is my prayer that both of these things spur us on, not just to invite to Alpha, but to continue to grow into a company of campanologists who are ringing the bell on a daily basis as we see those we respect, love, care for come to know the transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ through us living a life that reflects Christ in thought, word and deed.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Thoughts on the transfer window and football finance

So transfer deadline day came and went, the international season kicks off this weekend and the Premiership is in full swing. Football has definitely finished it's Summer Vacation! Who would have thought that in the midst of a recession, the crazy football world still manages to spend £450, 000, 000 on new players. The merry-go-round has been even stranger this year with Man City choosing to buy proven premiership players from other premiership clubs, with the likes of Arsenal and Man Utd not exempt from the lure of their money (although granted, Man Utd didn't get a penny from the Tevez deal as he still belonged to a third party!)

As we see all this happening we hear of Portsmouth who so very nearly went under and of course my West Ham who, according to the government, made a loss of £32, 000, 000 in the last year. They also managed to stave off collapse only because of the generousness of banks in not recalling all the debt due to late payments.

I'm sure these two clubs are not the only two in this situation in the top flight. Now I think both will come through it and will be okay, but surely the money thing has to stop and grass roots players will need to come through. I am proud of West Ham in the fact that it still develops and PLAYS, young talent that comes through the ranks. They take kids from around the area (and a few from other areas and abroad, but predominantly locals) and Tony Carr turns them into decent young footballers. He did it with the likes of Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Glenn Johnson, Joe Cole, Jermain Defoe (from age 15, Charlton before that!), and Michael Carrick all of whom now play for the England first team. Add to that the promising youngsters now of James Tomkins, Freddie Sears, Junior Stanislas, Josh Payne, Jack Collison and of course Mark Noble, and you have a fairly good side.

Will West Ham ever challenge for major honours, probably not, because to balance the empty books they will inevitably have to sell some of our better players at some point, however I for one, in this crazy messed up world of football finance, hope that we continue to be a team that relies on it's youth policy more than they do their transfer policy and that we develop homegrown talent rather than buying in players with big names and big wage demands. We tried that a couple of years ago and look where that got us - in the red big time!! The England team will continue to flourish as long as we keep producing!!!

Friday, 28 August 2009

New interns - an adventure with God

Over this past year, Samantha, Hannah and Andrew have served the church magnificently as trainees on our intern programme. Next week we welcome in our new interns. Joe and Claire are great people who arfe giving a year of their life to serve God by volunteering for the local church. They are both graduates with excellent degree qualifications, but are choosing to delay any career moves to serve Him.

Joe will be involved in students, film media and youth, whilst Claire will be doing the day to day media, worship and administration. They will both be extremely busy, have no money (it is in fact costing them money to do the year), and will need lots of support and encouragement.

I know that these two will have a massive impact on the church as they are both hard working and full of the Holy Spirit. They both love Jesus and want to do all they can to grow in Him. Please pray for them and maybe even consider supporting them financially in this coming year as they embark on their newest adventure in God.

Also let this be a timely reminder to us all that we are all on an adventure. Ours may not be volunteering for the church for a year, but it may be starting a new job, a new hobby or maybe starting a family or seeing the last of the children leave home. Things in life are always changing and we can embrace these changes with the knowledge that God is in control and although the adventure maybe harder than we thought, we can count on the fact that He is there for us. Alternatively we can shy away from the changes, reject them and stay in the status quo. Who ever grows in the staus quo? What adventure are you embarking on in this coming term?

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Lifegroups together

Last night B and I gathered the Whitley lifegroups together for a big joint lifegroup at the church offices. It was really good to see the groups well represented, although it is still Summer so it wasn't as big as it usually would be.

As an icebreaker, we played a game trying to guess what the 10 most searched verses are on Unsurprisingly John 3:16 was top! This proved to be more fun than it may sound, with people bringing up all sorts of obscure verses with different rationales for their choices.

During the worship time there were specific words for individuals and there were pictures and bible readings that really spoke to people. As we prayed for each other in response to these things you could really sense the presence of the Spirit. It was great to be part of it.

Tom and Nicola then divided the group in two and lead us in the word - which they did with skill and obviously lots of preparation. Finally we caught up about the fun day and had some feedback from Chris who had been on the organising group and we also prayed that we would be those who invite our friends on Alpha.

The evening was a great success and I enjoyed it immensely. It was refreshing to meet with people you wouldn't usually meet with and to worship Jesus in a bigger group of people outside of Sunday morning. As I looked around the room last night, the nations were represented, we had people from different age groups and people who ranged from being currently unemployed in the workplace, to being mums, to being IT people. A diverse group of people drawn together by one man, Jesus.

Me thinks we shall plan another evening like this at some point in the not too distant future.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Saddened and disappointed

As a West Ham fan of many years I am saddened and disappointed by the events that transpired outside and inside the ground last night. To see the people running onto the pitch was sheer lunacy, middle aged guys as well as teenagers just letting emotion run wild and not thinking about the consequences After all the trouble and negative press West Ham United has had to deal with through the Tevez affair, the banking collapse in Iceland and the constant rumours of us having to sell our best players to balance the books - what were these so called fans of this great East London club thinking of?

In what world does hooliganism on any scale seem right? That world is the world we live in. Somehow the bitter rivalry between the two teams 'firms' was such that they didn't spare a thought for the actual reason that the two sets of fans would be at the ground - a football match. These guys were not interested in football and cannot call themselves followers of football. You are not a more passionate supporter if you fight with the oppositions supporters or invade the pitch - why, because you bring the club into disrepute. You show no affection to the club whatsoever.

Hooliganism is selfish and shows one of the ugliest sides of our sinful nature. The sheer tribalism that these men would more than likely have shouted off about when the Kenyan elections went so disastrously wrong, is exactly what they are involved in. Only this could be deemed as even more mindless as they were just rioting for rioting sake, not to try to seize power or demand that things are done fairly.

Men ranging from early teems to mid fifties, becoming like our barbarian ancestors all in the name of a sport that condemns it. Actually our country has not only condemned it, but has also become the world leader in tackling it. My guess would be that most of those involved in last nights trouble would have been those who had previously be banned from grounds for many years, rearing up only because it is Millwall against West Ham.

As you can see this has struck a nerve with me. I hate the fact that football hooliganism happens at all, but when it happens at my club, it frustrates me. Two young lads who have been brought through the academy at West Ham played their hearts out last night and scored the goals that saw the team through to the next round of the cup. That will not be remembered. A great last breath comeback which wold have been hailed as a great achievement in different circumstances, will not be reported on. Only the actions of these mindless few who heap slander on all football fans. I pray that we will not see scenes like these again and pray that justice will be served.

Christs light is the only thing that will serve to transform the lives of men who are otherwise determined to damage each other all in the name of football, but actually it's in the name of violence and hatred. The rage shown last night makes me resolve in my heart all the more to stay hidden in Christ and endeavour to constantly choose to put off my old self and clothe myself in the Spirit of God and the Gospel of peace.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Photo Competition

As a church we have partnered with the Reading Chronicle to find talented photographers in Reading. The competition is to get interesting pictures of Reading whether black and white or colour, that offer an 'interesting' perspective of our town. You can find out more information at:

or on our church website:

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Good news...

I never did finish blogging on my Lithuanian adventure and that now seems such a long time ago. On reflection it was an outstanding three days with a man whom I respect and admire, but more than that, a weekend where I saw afresh the vast reach of the global church of which i am part. To go to a place that geographically I couldn't put a pin, and to be welcomed so warmly, helped me to see beyond the end of my nose. I am definitely one who focuses on the things that are immediate!!!

Since, B and I spent the week at a youth camp, joining with Newfrontiers churches around the country. We saw young people inspired by hearing about their God and seeing him at work, as well as going out and helping local churches in their communities. As a church we took 12-16 year olds with us and saw three of those respond to the invitation to follow Jesus. We also saw three of them healed of varying ailments. What a joy it is to see 350+ youth respond to the gospel, especially knowing that 3 of them are people you can share the moment with.

However God is not constrained to do things just at big meetings. Even yesterday, Darren, a new friend of mine from the last Alpha course came in to the office and committed his life to Jesus. He rang the bell with the understanding that his God was rejoicing at his turning to follow Jesus.

It may be the Great British getaway time of year, but God is not on holiday and He is still revealing his love and grace to people in Reading and He has a people here ready to respond in leading those he has chosen into a new life, birthed by the Spirit, lived for Jesus, to bring glory to the Father.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Reflections on day 2

After getting up early and writing day 1, I spent much of the time trying to remember how to send the post by email. I got there in the end!

Ben spoke for two and a half hours on faith for finance. He was speaking to a group of leaders and business people in the church here. As he spoke everything was seasoned with grace and faith.

In the afternoon we were invited to one of the elders 40th birthday celebration. This was held at Manna, which is the building the church have acquired (also where I am staying). It is a good size and has some land around it. It has a renovated room in an attic which serves as the meeting room for the summer period. It can seat around 150 people. There is still lot's of work to be done but that's what Ben is here for!

After eating and meeting people from the church we went into Klapida itself and walked with Solus and his wife.

It was a good day of meeting new people; seeing Ben right in the sweet spot of his ministry; and enjoying the fact that I can come to Lithuania and know that I can spend time with brothers and sisters who love Jesus and who are giving their lives to serve him, just as we are in Reading.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Reflections on day 1

What a journey. From the moment Ben and I got in his car to Stansted to the moment we touched down in Kaunas, we talked. What a privilege it is to have these few days with such an inspiring man.

We talked about family and church, preaching and pastoring, influencers and annoyances amongst many other things. I spent much of my time soaking up the wisdom of a man who has spent his years building a growing church for the glory of God's name.

In the lead up to these few days I know that I had the irrational fear of saying the wrong thing and of being thought of badly. The main thing that Ben impressed on me yesterday was be yourself and let God take you where he will.

On arriving in Kaunas we were picked up by the church leader and one of his team. We went to a restaurant for dinner where I ate and drank traditional food and drink including acorn coffee! We then drove 200 km to Kleipeda (I shall check that spelling again!). This is to be our base until we return on Monday.

This is the town where City Church is and I am staying in their church building in a very nice room. It is a five minute walk from a beach which sits on the Baltic Sea, and that is where I watched the sunset on a tiring but inspiring day.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Friday, 24 July 2009

Lithuanian adventure

Today I fly out to Kaunas with Ben Davies from Bracknell. He is a guy I deeply respect and I feel privileged to be spending 4 days with him. Although I am not entirely sure as to what we will be doing I intend to keep you up to date over the next few days.

What I do know is this - I will learn so much just by being around a man who led a church for 42 years and has travelled to many corners of the world preaching Christ and Him crucified!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Alpha@CoffeeRepublic: the countdown begins!

There is only 11 weeks to go until the start of the next Alpha course. We are looking to build on the success of the last course and see even more people come along to Coffee Republic to enjoy coffee, chat and the gospel.

On the last course we saw two people commit to following Jesus, others come and join us on a Sunday morning to serve and be part of the family; others are still searching but we will remain available to them in order to help them continue on the journey.

Alpha is not the only way that souls are won, but in our culture it seems to have an anointing on it and I for one will continue to promote and be part of these courses whilst people are still being saved. Who will I invite on the next course and who will you invite.

For more details on the course click here.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Enjoying fatherhood

Sean spoke today on fatherhood today at church. 6 months ago I would only have been looking forward to what it could be like to be a father. I would have been listening to Sean's talk and taking notes for the time that I would be a father.

Today I sat and drank up all that he had to say, knowing that I now have a little girl who is growing fast. It was great to hear about the fact that I need to love her and to think about the priorities afresh, however the most important thing I will take from this morning will be that I am my daughters priest. I am the one who needs to intercede for her before God. I am not her High Priest as that would be Jesus, but I am her priest. For her, as she grows up to see me reading the bible and praying, knowing that part of that is prayer for her alerted me once more to the great call of fatherhood.

There was so much other good stuff that Sean said this morning and I recommend listening to it here. I know that I have so much to learn but I know that I want to be the father that God is calling me to be and the one that my daughter needs me to be!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

The week that was at conference

Last week saw a whole bunch of us going to Brighton for the annual leadership conference. Once again, I found myself in the realm of new experiences. For the first time B was there and for the first time I was also there as a father. No longer were my first thoughts as to what books to buy or where to go for dinner, but they were now, where is the skyline (the creche type room provided for those with babies and toddlers) and how do I make this week a great experience for my wife.

This meant it was different but just as inspiring and even more fun. The conference is always quite hard work in terms of the amount of information that you are trying to process in a small period of time. I resolved this year to try and take only one thing away from each of the preaches, but to be fair I am still trying to process what those things are!!!

Some of my thoughts of the week were these:
  • Great to have the likes of Stuart, Mix and Dorothy and Becca with us, new faces from last year in our party;
  • Great to worship with 5000 other people;
  • Good to see new faces on the stage from within Newfrontiers;
  • Good to be part of something so much bigger than Reading;
  • Good to hear from Joel that being an armour bearer is really important;
  • Good to sing old hymns with new rhythms;
  • Great to hear what God is doing in nations that barely get any thought in my mind!
  • Good to hear from Stef that childlikeness does not equal childishness!
  • The call to be R.A.W. (take Risks, take Authority, be Wild) as Christians was refreshing from PJ.
  • Great to see Mark, Gavin and Martin really going for it for Jesus in dance on the thursday evening.

Overall I enjoyed the week immensely and really appreciate the fact that we are together on a mission with people we will never meet, through the family of churches that are represented by the name Newfrontiers.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Thoughts from three weeks ago!

Going away on holiday is always good and a week down in North Devon enjoying the company of B, Rachel and my parents was no exception. Holidays have now taken a different turn, they will now feel very different as I have come to realise, but it was a break none-the-less. Spending time together and doing things that you would not normally be able to do in the course of a working week.

Since being back, there is the small matter of catching up on all the things that have accumulated over a week and there is also new things to be thinking about. The new Alpha course needs to be planned for September; the current Alpha course remains on track and still has a great turn out; the new interns for next year are coming in for a visit and the current interns are nearing the end of their time working in the office; there are weddings to be celebrated and people who are ill or struggling who need prayer and care. There are baptisms to be planned and a fun day to be implemented.

Life is busy and long be it so, but in the midst of all of this I hear the voice of God saying be still and know that I am God.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

A company of bell ringers

Since the turn of the year I have had the joy of reporting of 5 people turning to Jesus. I have the joy of telling of at least two others.

On May 21st I had coffee with a young Lithuanian guy in our church. For 2 hours we discussed Jesus and what it meant to commit to following him. After 2 hours we returned to the church offices where he did commit his life to Jesus and he was wonderfully baptised in the Holy Spirit. To see him ringing the bell then and at the prayer meeting was immense. There was so much genuine joy that I couldn't help but worship God!

The second story came only yesterday. As I was getting ready to go to Alpha last night I had a phone call from Elli, a student in our church. She was extremely excited and it soon became evident why. A friend of hers who had been asking Elli questions deckared to Elli yesterday that she wanted to follow Jesus. Following a conversation Elli had the privilege of leading her friend to Jesus

God us doing a work amongst the people of Reading Family Church and I for one am looking forward to more bell ringing escapades!!!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Salvation and healing!!!

Necks, depression, knees, legs growing and back pain - all of these are healing stories that came out on Sunday evening at our prayer meeting to thank Gods for all he did on Sunday. They are an accumulation of stories from the past couple of weeks as well as an older one. What this shows is that God is at work amongst us.

Granted not everyone who is prayed for is healed but we are seeing people regularly healed of various ailments. The more we pray, the more God does through his people by the power of his Spirit. You would think that this would be enough to rejoice about. However the real rejoicing came when we rang the bell three times. There were at least three responses to the good news of Jesus on Sunday morning with three more still to be identified. Each time we rang the bell we put up a cheer to God not a short cheer, but a long sustained one, joining with the celebration of heaven over each of these three sinners saved.

Sunday night will sit in my memory for a long time. To hear testimony after testimony and to ring the bell three times felt like a glimpse of what God wants us to be as a church. A place where people can come to receive physical, emotional and spiritual healing.

Terry Hotchkiss spoke brilliantly on this on Sunday morning and would recommend you listen to it. If you were there on Sunday morning, then listen to it again and let the truth that he speaks change you and build your faith. (Link here)

Friday, 15 May 2009

Stories of healing keep coming

Last night there was a phone call to the church office as people were gathered here to pray. That phone call came from a lady prayed, for 6 months ago, regarding healing. When I visited her she found moving very painful due to osteoarthritis in her upper body, she would now say that all the tension from her neck, shoulders and arms has been released and the pain that she felt is no longer there. As a result of this she has now returned to church and is regularly reading her bible as she knows that God loves he and has compassion for her.

This is a remarkable story and is just one of a few from these last few weeks. Two Sunday's ago, one guy was instantly healed of a painful headache and another ladies thumb was pain free and back to full rotation in an instant - both spoke publicly of what God had done. Following that meeting I had an email to say that an 8 year old lad who was prayed for was significantly better and the healing seems to be continuing.

God is alive, He is interested and He is healing in our day. I know this has been the major theme of my blog for a while now, but it is so important to keep reporting what is happening. I know that the Holy Spirit is at work, pointing people towards Jesus by healing people. In our culture which is very much one of 'show me the proof', Jesus comes and, as he did in his day, he heals to show that he is alive and he continues to do what he said he would through us - that is heal the sick.

This Sunday we have Terry Hotchkiss with us. He is a guy who has a proven ministry in seeing miraculous things happen. He is also outstanding at preaching the good news of Jesus. My prayer for this Sunday is that many are healed and that people turn to Jesus as a result. If you have not invited friends, it's not too late - if you are looking in and are not part of our church but need healing and are in the Reading area, come and join us.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Jesus: Saviour, Healer and Deliverer

Preaching the gospel, laying hands on the sick and casting out demons - this is the work of the Christian. When Jesus sent the 12 he sent them to do these things in the villages that they came to. When he sent out the 72 he got them to do the same. He now also sends us, how do we know - because of the great commission found in Matthew 28. We also read this in John 14:12-14:

"I tell you the truth, anyone who who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. They will see even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."

When he says these things he is saying, I preached the good news, laid hands on the sick and I cast out demons - go and do these things - yes do this with love and compassion, without compromising or watering anything down, but go and do what I have been doing. Why? So he can continue doing what he has been doing, but all over the place by the power of his Holy Spirit as we step out in faith.

This weekend, I had the privilege of speaking at Sutton Family Church. On the morning there were 5 responses to the good news - 3 recommitments and two unsure whether it was the first time or not. Whatever the details were, 5 people stood and aligned themselves with Jesus asking them to be Lord of their lives and to relinquish the hold they have on their own lives.

On that same morning several people were prayed for for healing. One lady's neck was healed even before hands were laid on or a prayer was answered. Another lady sent this testimony to the leader of the church in Sutton on Monday morning:

"I felt very strongly that I was going to be healed on Sunday morning. In fact I quickly realised that I could stand with very little pain during the worship. I was leading the Whiz kids class so I’d asked Colin and Mary to come and collect me when the time came. I went to the front and Mary, Pete and Scott all prayed for me. At the time I cannot say that I felt totally pain free but immediately I walked away I realised that for the first time in months I wasn’t limping or dragging my foot.

During the rest of the day I was fine – I was climbing stairs without relying heavily on the banister rail and even ran up the top flight of four. By bedtime I made a deliberate decision not to take my nightly dose of painkillers. I did not wake up in pain during the night and when I got up this morning I was pain free and mobile! I still am! I have told three people at work so far.

Praise God - I am so elated I can’t stop smiling! "

There were other stories of an older lady who could march on the spot where before Arthritis had subdued her movement. Another lady was overwhelmed by the Spirit and we are awaiting news as to whether her thyroid problem has been rectified.

I tell these stories because Jesus is still doing his work through his people by the power of his Holy Spirit. At his name, people are saved, they are healed and at his name demons do flee. We truly have an amazing God and as we build up now for Alpha starting next week and our healing meeting on May 17th, let's be praying that our God will do extraordinary things here in Reading.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Husband lessons learned!

So I have finished "For Men Only" by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn. Out of all the helpful insights in the book I found 2 particularly helpful in my own marriage. (This is a longer post than usual but I wanted to share these things!)

The first was around 'windows'. The fact that women work with many different windows open, a bit like a computer, was in many ways revelatory to me. I knew that my wife multi tasked but hadn't thought about why. I know for me, that I have one thought processing at the fore of my mind at a time and will get to a place where I will close that window before having another one opened. It helped me to understand why B always has so many things to talk to me about at the end of the day - she is simply going through her windows. Also, when I haven't yet done something which she asked me to do, she will find it necessary to remind me because the window is still not closed for her.

The other useful thing on this was pop-ups. Another computer analogy (probably because as men we understand this terminology!!!) Just as computers have pop-ups (both helpful and unhelpful) so do women. Things can just pop up and that can affect how my wife feels at that particular moment. Since reading this, I have been able understand why my wife wants to talk to me about many things in the first 10 minutes that I get in and I have been able to ready myself for that in order to be a husband who is endeavouring to display my love for her. I have also been able to say 'was that a pop-up?' and have been able to help her close some windows just by doing the things she had expected me to actually do rather than procrastinate about!

The second thing was in the last chapter. The reminder to me that my wife needs to be affirmed of my love for her often. I know that I tell my wife I love her lots. There are even times when I will say it too many times and she will say that she knows that I don't have to keep saying it!!! After reading this chapter I will keep saying it, but I also realise that affirming my love for my wife is done in different ways and not just in words. I must keep helping around the house and with our baby daughter. n I must keep taking a lead spiritually and I must keep on tracking our budget, because I know these are all ways that she feels loved. I must also keep having conversation with her. I know she doesn't want that to be the same as when she meets up with her girl friends, but good time when she feels that she has my attention and that she feels heard and listened to. This helps her to know that she is the the only girl for me.

This is important to her. Just like when she was a little girl wanting her daddy's undivided attention, she now wants to know that she has my undivided love and attention. The second part of the chapter talks about the hammer that men hold that can shatter our wives; that being roving eyes. The whole thing around men and watching where their eyes go on a summers day walking through Reading, can destroy any of the words or even the gestures that have helped your wife feel she is number 1. This is sobering and has lead me to double my efforts in this area. I want to be like the basketball player who Jeff cites on page 174!

"In the mid-90's, Sports Illustrated did a cover feature, entitled, "St. David," on David Robinson, the MVP centre for the San Antonio Spurs. One segment described how Robinson, as a professing Christian, husband and father, in the midst of the NBA's intense temptations. For example, during television breaks, he would sit on the bench and stare studiously at the floor in order to avoid looking at the gyrating cheerleaders out on the court.

The article also mentioned that like all NBA players, Robinson was constantly approached by attractive women who wanted to talk to him...and were probably offering more than just witty conversation. Apparently, he would rather brusquely brush them off. When asked to comment on that seemingly "rude" practice, he said something like this: 'If any woman is going to get her feelings hurt, it's not going to be my wife.' A protector and hero in action!"

I want to see Robinson as an inspiration in my own marriage and make sure my eyes are only for my darling wife and I'm going to let her know often that that is the case!!! Now, with my marriage invested in, I turn my attention to Spurgeon's 'The Soul Winner," in an effort to not just be a man endeavouring to win his wife's heart day after day, but also to be a man that sees lost people won for Jesus.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

A week of stories!!!

One of the things that is important in life is to be inspired. There are many things that can inspire us, but I am someone who becomes particularly inspired by others. This week I have been totally motivated by the stories I have been sent on facebook, text and email. I shall outline a few of them below. If you are anything like me you will hopefully read this and hopefully feel that speaking to people about our faith or inviting people to meet Jesus is quite a natural thing to do.

Stuart works in a multi national company. He speaks to people around the world in the course of a day. He has acquaintances as a result in India. One of those got into an instant message conversation. The upshot of which gave Stuart the opportunity to share the reason for the hope that he has. He pointed the lady toward passages in the bible which surprised her but also enabled her to say that she had been to church when she was younger but had 'drifted away'. He writes this to conclude his mail:

"We have since prayed for her in our Life Group that she would find calm, patience, and peacefulness and although she had a very difficult weekend (28th/29th March), she was able to find strength through praying which is something she never would have done before."

Carol and Mike are a couple who have just joined our church. They are a fantastic pair and have really started to get their sleeves rolled up. At the end of last week, Carol sent me this:

"This is just to tell you that this morning I have had a long talk with someone who has some extremely complex and difficult circumstances in which she lives. I have invited her to Alpha. At present she's not sure she could really even fit Alpha into life (as she has lots of responsibility for others). I talked about her needs being met and that she needs God to take on her burden and see her through!

I know her well and we have had talks over a couple of years ... but today's was the most direct, with reference to God in my life! "

What a great email to receive!!! Carol is also going to be serving on the Alpha course!

Lawrence has been prolific this week. I have had three texts from him telling me of his exploits. The first of which was inspired by Karen's story that I told during my preach on Sunday morning (link here). He was sitting in the barbers chair and was able to tell his story to her. His second opportunity was to tell his geography admin lady (he's a student) what his mission trip to Poland was all about. He wrote this:

"The opportunities are there even though we think we don't make the most of them!"

Since those first two texts, he has also been able to share his story with a waitress and a ceroc dance instructor. He's on the front foot and loving it!!!

I share these with you as they have encouraged me to action this week. I made my first invite to Alpha in years on Monday night. There was no resounding "yes" but my good friend did say he would think about it. I am praying that he will come.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The bell rung once more!!!

On Sunday morning a young lady who has been coming on a regular basis prayed a prayer of commitment. As I lead a prayer during a time of response she said it quietly under her breath. She then approached me before she left and she told me that she had said the prayer once before but had said it again this morning because she wants to follow Jesus.

This is wonderful news. Jesus came to die for us, to set us free and to make peace between us and the Father. He did this because of love. That is now two people for whom the bell hath tolled this year. My prayer is that many others will come to know the saving grace of Jesus and respond to him.

We must be those who are loving and compassionate - looking for the lost as the Father looks for the lost - and to fulfill this we must be those inviting people to meet Jesus out of relationship, by showing them the real Jesus of the bible, by telling our stories or simply by taking every opportunity that comes our way.

Being bell ringers is what we are about, let's be expectant that we will all have that thrill!!!

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Life group and joy

We had a great life group meeting last night. Although it all felt a little relaxed and even dare I say, lethargic, I know we met with God. After a brief but enlightening welcome we delved into worship. B had organised paper and drawing materials for us to draw or write whatever our hearts were reminded about Jesus.

It resulted in some pictures, a poem and a page full of song lyrics that give honour to Him. There was a picture of an ocean; magnificent, enormous, full of life, with power in abundance, but the ability to soothe even the most troubled soul. A picture of dark and light, showing what we have been saved from and saved into, with a poem that said something similar. An easel with a picture being painted of the world reminding us that God did not create haphazardly, but he designed, he knew what it would look like; a picture of the cross already painted next to it, reminding us that the cross was always the plan. There was also a picture of lilies helping us to see that we should not worry but seek first the kingdom of God!

All these things helped us to concentrate and focus upon our wonderful Saviour. In the The Fruitful Life there is a chapter on joy and it reminds us that we are commanded to be joyful, not just be joyful when we feel like it. Jerry Bridges does unpack this and one of the ways that he says we can live this joy is to give thanks in all circumstances. When we consider all of the above, we know we have so much to be thankful for and it has challenged me to follow the command to be joyful - in all circumstances!!!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Learning to be a better husband

With the biography of Spurgeon finished I am now taking up a book recommendation of Sean and delving into the mysteries of the opposite sex. I have just started 'For Men Only' by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn. For me this is in an attempt to be a better husband to my wife. I know I have so much to learn and that I can never think that I have got it sorted.

God has given me my wife to love as Christ loved the church; to love as I love myself. I am committed to this and want to do all I can, to make sure that B stays the apple of my eye, continues to be the girl that I dream about and that I continue to be, and continue to develop into, the husband that meets her high expectations from scripture.

Friday, 20 March 2009

A quote from Spurgeon

As I have read through this biography of Charles Hadden Spurgeon I have been so encouraged challenged and wowed by a man who truly lived his life to bring glory to Gods name by seeing people saved. At the beginning of chapter 16 there was this quote from 'The Early Years':

"In Spurgeon's time London's streetlights burned gas but still had to be lit individually. It is to this practice that Spurgeon is referring in the following note:

Coming one Thursday in the late autumn from an engagement beyond Dulwich, my way led up to the top of Herne Hill ridge. I came along the level out of which rises the steep hill I had to ascend.

While I was on the lower ground, riding in the hansom cab, I saw a light before me, and when I came near the hill, I marked that light gradually go up the hill, leaving a train of stars behind it. This line of new-born stars remained in the form of one lamp, and then another and another. It reached from the foot of the hill to its summit.

I did not see the lamplighter. I do not know his name, his age, nor his residence; but I saw the lights which he had kindled, and these remained when he himself had gone his way.

As I rode I thought to myself, "How earnestly do I wish that my life may be spent in lighting one soul after another with the sacred flame of eternal life! I would myself be as much as possible unseen while at my work, and would vanish into eternal brilliance above when my work is done."

I can add nothing to what he has said other than to say what wonderful imagery and a reminder to me that this should be my desire. To see as many lights lit in my life time for Jesus as I can and to say with John the Baptist - Less of me and more of Him!!!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

The countdown is on...

It is only 38 days to go (April 28th) until Alpha@CoffeeRepublic starts. I have already had 6 people tell me that they are coming. Three of those are people who are not yet connected with the church, three are from Sunday mornings. Out of those numbers 4 of them are on a journey of discovery concerning the Christian faith.

It has been a very exciting start considering it is only this Sunday coming that will see us publicly advertise the course. The following week there will be a flier available that members of the church will be able to place in peoples hands. I am trusting God and praying that this course will literally be a life changing course for many people, more than those who are already signed up. Lives that could be changed are the lives of our own friends, neighbours, housemates, gym buddies, course or work colleagues.

The onus is on us to invite and introduce people to Jesus just as Andrew did in bringing Peter to Jesus and as the woman at the well did when she went back to her village and said come and meet the man that told me all that ever did.

Friday, 13 March 2009


One of my favourite places in Reading is Coffee Republic. Their hot chocolate with marshmallows is excellent, in my humble opinion! This week I met the guy who run the place and he has agreed to let us use Coffee Republic as our Alpha venue. (Click here for more on Alpha)

Alpha@CoffeeRepublic starts on Tuesday 28th April at 8pm. It is now time to start inviting friends to come and hear what Christians believe, in an environment where they can also ask their questions without fear of upsetting anyone or having any pressure placed upon them.

This course is for your friends if they have been asking you questions about your faith, it's for them if they have some objections to what you believe and you haven't got the answers. This course may also be for you. If you are not sure if you are a Christian or not or you know you aren't but you are looking in here today; then please contact me by posting a comment. I will get back to you.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Last Wednesdays quiz night

As some of you may have read in an earlier post (click here to read), we were challenged by another life group to a quiz night. This took place last Wednesday evening. It was a great night of fun, friendship and facts!!! Keith and Leslie had done a great job in organising everything and their life group had also been busy inviting guests. (As had ours I hasten to add!)

The evening saw 45 of us gather with over half of those being guests. I have been told by members of our life group that the evening was greatly appreciated by their friends and that just the fact that people saw that Christians can have fun and can enjoy life was valuable. The other positive thing from the night was that a few have also shown an interest in coming to other events as and when they come along.

In short, the evening was a fantastic success and would be something I would recommend to any other life groups who wanted to use the idea.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Back and raring to go...

I have now returned from paternity leave and am looking forward to posting more regularly again. Over the past few weeks I have been slowly working through the Fruitful Life by Jerry Bridges and Spurgeon: a New Biography by Arnold Dallimore. I have enjoyed both immensely and would highly recommend both as encouraging and challenging in living as a follower of Jesus.

However more encouraging still has been the fact that although only back in the chair for two days, I have already heard a couple of stories of conversations and opportunities people have had. I have just finished an informal chat with a student in our church. He was telling me about a housemate who is changing in her view of Christianity: she has come to realise that the philosophical questions that are often raised are nonsense when searching for a serious answer as to whether there is or is not a God. She is currently looking into the whole notion of Christianity because she doesn't just want to make broad weeping statements that cannot be backed up when sitting in a discussion arena, but she has also seen through this lad and others that Christianity is not a Sunday thing and is not a judgemental thing but is a lifestyle of love, acceptance and family, worked out through the loving parameters of the teaching of the bible.

Although this young lady is not yet a Christian, I greatly admire her for taking it seriously enough to at least explore what it actually means to live for Jesus and believe and trust in God. What ever the outcome, I know that this young lady will have good friends in the church who will love her and be part of her life for as long as she wants them to be.

I have also been invited to chat to another young lady on Friday morning with another student in our church. She has some questions around denominations and grace and law. I am so looking forward to this as I can talk about my favourite subject... Jesus, him crucified and resurrected!!!

Thursday, 26 February 2009

The joy of a father

I cannot stop speaking about my darling daughter. For some I guess I speak too much about her, but I want to tell the world about her. Every opportunity I get to tell some one and share my joy, I take it - and probably give more information than they are actually interested in.

As I realised this whilst standing in St Andrews bookshop a while ago, it made me think once more of Luke 15 and the parable of the lost sheep. It says that the shepherd lets people know about the finding of the sheep by calling to them and inviting them to rejoice with him. It then says that there will be more rejoicing over a sinner who repents - a person being born again.

The joy I feel about Rachel is only a shadow of the joy that our Father feels and expresses when someone gives their life to follow Jesus. When we rang the salvation bell for one 10 year old lad, we were just joining in that celebration. I long to hear that bell ring again or at least hear some stories of friends of our church moving closer to that time!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Our baby girl is here!!!

On Sunday 15th February 2009, Rachel Ruby Taylor was born into this world. It is an incredible feeling knowing that we are now mummy and daddy; the elation of meeting her married with the overwhelming sense of responsibility. Everything that I had expected from the length of labour to the first night were completely misunderstood.

My two girls are wonderful, beautiful and a gift from my Father in heaven. I know that over the coming weeks and months we shall start to develop as parents, but right now we are just loving the fact that she is here and that she is well. THANK YOU JESUS!!!

Off now to help change a nappy!!! How life has changed!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Stories from the field!

Coming in this morning I knew I would be blogging today to update on the challenge from last week laid down by the Holland cell group (catch the story here). That being that a poster arrived on our front door last night continuing the challenge and letting us know that they already have 12 signed up to come. As we went round our cell last night - we have 0 as of yet!!! So we prayed!!!

However, the bigger stories were awaiting me in my inbox. Jo, a girl in our cell, went home last night to invite her friends again to the quiz night. She ended up having an hour conversation about Jesus, where they ended up talking about the Alpha Course and expressing an interest in coming! This was an immediate answer to prayer as Jo had just prayed for them at cell!!! God is so good. She said:

"Am praying that we see that bell rung again!"

The second mail came from Tom Riches who was writing about the encouragement of his cell last night. Out of 11 of them almost all had a story to share about a conversation , an event or a new relationship that had been built. He said this:

"What was also really good about this was that some of the people seem to be getting close to accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour, obviously we don't want to be complacent but peoples' friends look to be searching for and seeking something and the cell seems to be on hand and very willing to point people in the right direction."

I love being part of a church who are so eager to love the lost and who are becoming more accustomed to putting themselves on the front line. After hearing the bell ring for the first time yesterday, as Ben rang it for his friend, I couldn't help but be excited; not because of a bell, but because we really are on a mission with Jesus to find lost souls and he is starting to use us again as a church to do that!!!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Quick update on BT

Still no sign of our little bundle of joy. I left B fast asleep this morning resting and letting God do His thing in growing our little one. Tomorrow is the due date, but as of yet there have been no signs of imminent arrival.

It's a bit like waiting for your birthday as a kid, only you don't actually know what day your birthday is you just know it's around this time.

I cannot wait to hold BT in my arms - please Lord, let it be soon!!!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Exciting developments...

News that has reached my ears over the last couple of days:

1) A text message came in on Sunday afternoon for Ben Butcher-Bigley to come and ring the bell. One of his friends who has been coming regularly on a Sunday morning and to youth on a Friday night prayed a prayer of commitment and repentance on Saturday. After speaking with Ben and hearing his excitement and zeal, I cannot wait to stand with him as he rejoices with Jesus as this one lost sheep turns to follow Jesus at such an early age!!!

2) We have our first guest confirmed for the Alpha course, although the venue is still TBC. This is fantastic as it doesn't start til Tuesday 28th April and we are only in mid Feb!!! We have a such great news to tell and Alpha is something that God has used mightily to save many, that we really need to get behind this in a fresh way.

3) We are seeing people who do not yet know Jesus come on a Sunday morning, which should not be a surprise as we have been praying for this, but is great because they get to see the people of God praising him, they experience His presence and they hear the bible preached. Keep praying for us to have unbelievers amongst on a Sunday morning.

All these things have been wonderful encouragements and I believe are just the first signs of something that God wants to do with us as individuals, as cells and as a church this year.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

STOP THE PRESS... Challenge issued!!!

After a great prayer meeting that saw us spending time praying for our nation and the lost, a gauntlet was thrown down, by Keith Holland and his cell group to our cell.

As the praying drew to an end, a bellowing voice cried out "Taylor Cell Group". Out stepped Keith backed closely by his cell group, quite an intimidating experience actually - Martin Craker, Tino Villa and Dave Simkin loomed large just behind the sturdy figure of Keith, as well as Joy, Leslie, Becca and Pamela. As he squared up in front of me I felt I had to call our cell over and so in the end we had a face off of the two cells.

What happened next was shocking but in line with gauntlets being thrown down through the ages. The leather glove in Keith's hand connected with first my right then my left check and was then thrown to the floor. Such scenes have never been seen in our offices!!! A reading of the challenge then followed, which in essence was to compete cell against cell in a quiz on March 4th.

The twist however was that 10 tickets had been printed up that were meant for our friends who are not yet Christians. Each ticket that was used would earn 10 extra points and each which was returned would see ten points deducted.

On hearing the challenge I turned to our cell and went to confer with them. Before I had the chance to even say a word, I faced a blanket of nodding faces with expressions such as 'bring it on' and 'we can do this' coming from their lips.

I stooped down and picked up the leather glove signalling our intention to accept the duel and the date is now set.

Why are we doing this? Is it because we are so competitive that we can't back down? Is it because we really enjoy doing quizzes? Well maybe a bit of the two, but mainly it's because we want to be a people who see building relationships with people as fun and entertaining. I want to invite someone (assuming everything is well with BT) because I enjoy spending time with my non-Christian friends and I know at least one of them who would really enjoy being a leading light on a quiz team.

Will we preach the gospel? Will there be an altar call? I don't think so, but we will have fun and we will be mixing with different people than we usually would and we will run the event in such a manner that will bring glory to God.

This seems like a good way to me of working together as cell groups to encourage, collect memories and stories and provoke each other to have a mindset that friends are friends and shouldn't be put in Christian and non-Christian boxes unhelpfully.

I shall tell the story of the evening in a few weeks, but until that time I shall be praying that this will be a door opening, fun filled, relationship building event, that all will enjoy and be encouraged by.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

The last piece of the campanology jigsaw...

The church together is the last piece of the bell ringing picture. We will be concentrating on Sunday mornigs and Alpha:

What about Sunday mornings? We want to ensure that a regular Sunday is somewhere that people who don't yet know Jesus will be welcomed warmly and will not be baffled by jargon that Christians in our church will understand but others will not. We will also be putting on Sundays that will lend themselves to us a as a church inviting our friends along: this will include Easter Sunday, a healing meeting (Front Edge) on May 17th and other events like it, but in all that we would love to see those meetings in particular busy with friends and family of those of us in the church.

What about Alpha? We currently plan to hold Alpha at Starbucks in the centre of town. We want to build on the success of using the Glo as a venue and meet in places where people would usually go and would be seen as mainstream. I went in today to speak to someone but the manager was not around, but my efforts shall not be thwarted I shall be going back!!! Pray for that eh!! Anyway, Alpha only works if we invite our friends along.

Alpha starts on Tuesday 28th April. Let's be praying this week, as we join together in prayer and fasting, as to who God would want us to invite and then go out there and do it!!! The worst that can happen is they will say no, but it could still lead to some great conversations. It would be great to have a course of 50 people and as we are not running Alpha this term it gives us a chance to spend times with our friends and get to a point where the next step is to invite.

It is great being in a church where stories are just beginning to fly around about the encounters that we are having as individuals, in workplaces, on campus, with neighbours and with pizza delivery men. Please keep stories coming in of conversations and opportunities that you have had. I have heard of two this morning and will post them when I have a bit more detail.

Let's be a church who are growing in our love and compassion for people who don't yet know Jesus, and let's invite them to be in places where they will hear the good news of Jesus and let the Spirit do his work in their lives!!!

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Community projects...

Cell clusters - what a funny old thing they have been up until now. Meeting every now and then to have quizzes, karaokes, even all gathering together to have one cell meeting as a whole group. However this year we are going to do something different with our cell clusters.

In December of 08 the cluster I am involved in decided that we wanted to do something for the local community instead of having some Christmas event. We had a couple of links with the North Whitley Residents Association and agreed that we would support them in putting on a Christmas party for the elderly residents. It cost us time. Kay Watkins did a great job in coordinating the cells and the local council provided funding to the association for food, venue and a singer (a very good crooner who was perfect for the job).

In all there were about 35 people in our cluster and only 7 of them were able to help out as it was during the afternoon. however the buy in was excellent. The people in the cells felt that they were all doing something to be part of the community whether in prayer or in actually being there, the residents association really appreciated the help, particularly the youthfulness and the one on one time that was able to be given to the people that came and lastly, the elderly people loved it, they felt warmly welcomed well served and many of them were full of praise for us as a church.

Why do I tell this story - because I want lots more like it. We are going to see a small restructuring of cell groups in such a manner that means that cells in Earley can cluster together and build bridges into their local community. The Whitley cells will continue to build bridges and work the links that we have already formed as a church in that local community and we will continually look to greet people and start new cells in other parts of town, so that we can be good news to the communities in which we live in this large town of Reading.

Many of these things will hopefully be long haul projects, but my prayer would be that we will start to see fruit as RFC grows in it's engagement with the town in which we live.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Immediate response

After saying I had had no new stories I had one from Rachel, I have put it on here by her kind permission:

'Just before Christmas, a few people from work were meeting to have a few drinks for my manager’s leaving do. I was a bit nervous about going as I could imagine it being an evening of drinking and gossiping; something that I did'nt want to get involved with. In the end I decided to go. To my surprise, I ended up having a really good conversation with one of the managers. We talked at various times throughout the evening about all kinds of things and it turns out that he has a history in church. Since then we have had some brief conversations at work, but I was really encouraged by how easy it was and how interested he was. It reminded me that God can use us in any situation and that it’s never too small a thing to have those conversations with people. Who knows where it will lead...'

I love the closing statement that she makes (in bold), particularly about how easy the conversation was and the fact that it's never a small thing to take the time to have a conversation. I look forward to seeing if Rachel will be ringing the bell this year celebrating the new life of this dear man.

Learning to bell ring together

Well it's been a week now since the last post. I have yet to hear any other stories from individuals, please keep them coming! Over the next three days I want to expand on the last three points that I made at the vision evening. The first of those is cell life.

As a church we have always gathered together as cell midweek. It has been a strength of us growing in community and learning to love one other, by challenging and rebuking, laughing and crying and enjoying worship and prayer with each other. This is the firm foundation which we can build upon in this coming year. Our cell groups should now become a place where stories are regularly told of conversations had with friends who do not yet know Jesus; where we encourage each other to meet people who are not Christians or like us; where we prayer for those contacts we do have; where we practice telling our own story of when we turned to Jesus; where we do socials that our friends will actually come to; where we get behind Alpha and pray hard that our cell will have at least one on the course.

Cell groups have such a valuable part to play in us growing in our witness to Jesus and I feel that I have overlooked that in the past. As B and I start a new cell this week, I fully intend to have the witness section of cell as an important part of each week. There is a whole town out there that doesn't yet know Jesus and if our cell group can play a part in seeing at least one of those saved, we will do all we can to do that. Why?

Let's never forget that our motivation is to be the same motivation of Jesus - not to have a great tally of salvation at the end of the year, but because we love people enough to let them know that good news that changed our lives.

There are things that only individuals can do, but as a group you can strengthen and support each other and grow in campanology together!!! I am always available to support cell groups when it comes to thinking about what witness looks like and I would love to hear the stories that are shared in cell.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Campanology for individuals

Yesterday I heard two great stories:

The first was from Tom - after Sunday evening he resolved that he wanted to be a bell ringer this year. With that in mind he went to work with the intention of asking some probing questions with one of his colleagues around evolution theory. He ended up having this conversation with a person who has a PhD in zoology! He wasn't threatening he just listened and posed questions and has left it in such a way that he is able to continue the discussion at a later date. For this woman her training and her world view is a big obstacle to her finding Jesus - Tom asking clear questions and gently getting her to question her own position is an outstanding way to start someone on their journey of faith.

The second was told by Andrew - the pizza man (that is the regular pizza man who now knows the family!) came to the door on Monday evening which started a conversation which both surprised Andrew and left him full of faith. The pizza man asked Andrew what he did for a living, Andrew was able to tell him of his work for the church and the fact that this is a year out for him. The conversation went from there culminating in the pizza man taking a way an RFC leaflet and asking if he could come back and find out more. A relationship built over time opens up to be an opportunity to help someone take the next step in their journey of faith.

These are two guys who are determined to be RFC campanologists this year. They desire to be those who celebrate what God has done in the life of an individual by racing to the church office and ringing the bell when they have the joy of leading someone to Christ. These two stories are replicable, we just need to be thinking this way on a daily basis.

Peter writes in 1 Peter 3:15:

'Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect...'

We have a great hope, we have a great God and he has given us a great gospel. We don't have to know all the answers to all the hard questions - we can be like Tom and ask questions about why people believe certain things or we can be like Andrew who was willing to tell a bit of his story in response to a question - but we must be those who are willing to tell what we do know. Each person who is a Christian has a story to tell of how they came to know Jesus. That in itself is the story of a miracle and is a story worth practicing and telling.

There are 232,662 people in Reading. There are 120 churches. If 100 people on average are in those churches that adds up to 12,000 people going to church. If there are also 5,000 backsliden or non-church attending Christians in Reading, that amounts to 17, 000 people. In which case there are 215,660 (at least 2 were saved last year through RFC) in Reading who don't yet know Jesus. Among that number there will be people that God had written into the lambs book of life and we are to be like treasure hunters in trying to unearth those jewels. Like treasure hunters we will have many disappointments, but we will hopefully strike gold as we keep trying.

Whether it's a colleague at work, a delivery man, a neighbour, a friend you have made at a club you attend, the person who you often share pleasantries with at the check out, whoever it maybe lets love them enough to see their lives totally transformed by the cross of Christ.

At the outset of this year let's resolve to be individuals who will ring the bell this year as we see people of our town find the hope, love, peace, joy and faith that we enjoy.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Campanology - RFC style

'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.' Rev 7:10

Salvation does indeed belong to Jesus, but he has entrusted us with the gospel that we may declare and share it, speak and leak it, talk and walk it; our remit is to emit the love of Christ and the good news that he has given us.

This year we are going to be a church that does just that. On Sunday evening I outlined the vision for the evangelism strategy this year. We basically want to become a church of campanologists or more simply, bell ringers. I mentioned Luke 15 in my last post and the fact that we should be those who rejoice when one person is saved.

Over the coming year, as we see people saved and added to the kingdom, we shall ring a bell and join with the angels of heaven who rejoice. If you have the privilege of seeing someone saved around you then it will be your joy to come and ring the 'salvation bell' to celebrate what God has done.

To see Dorothy's face on Sunday night as she rung the bell was fantastic. It's not about a bell, but it is about acknowledging the miracle of salvation!

What are we going to do then?

It starts with us as individuals, having non-Christian friends, loving them, loving them enough to tell them our story and about Jesus, then actually telling them. Campanology RFC style, starts with us individually.

Cell groups also have a great responsibility: our cell groups need to be a place where we share stories of chance meetings, conversations, acts of service, praying for someone - this encourages, it strengthens and it starts to help us see that reaching out to people with the good news of Jesus is something all Christians can do. Use witness time to it's full potential this year and lets see cell groups taking corporate campanology lessons!

Cell clusters will work slightly different this year. They are to purposefully start building links into the communities where they are based. Whitley cells will work together to work into Whitley, Earley cells to Earley - you get the picture.

Finally we get to the church as one together. As well as supporting the church in doing the above three things, I shall spend a lot of time, with Sean, in making sure that Sunday mornings are meetings to which we can invite our friends. On top of this we will be looking to run Alpha twice this year in a venue like Starbucks, building on the success of Glo. The course will be slightly different in format and in style but I know that we will see people saved through it.

Over the next few posts I shall unpack a bit more on each of these so watch this space but the overriding thing is that: yes-salvation belongs to our God, but let's get onto the part that we play in that and every time we see fruit lets celebrate it and become one of the RFC bell ringers.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Celebration... Jubilation...

Celebrations come in many different shapes and sizes. There is the 'full on party' celebration, there is the 'jump in the air as my team has just scored' celebration (I will probably be experiencing something like this in a few eeks time when BT arrives!), there is the 'quiet and sedate appreciation at the Oscars' celebration - I could go on but it would make this post too long!

What has got me thinking about this? Well I think that there are events that are really worth celebrating with a jump up and down type celebration, ones that allow us to become emotionally involved with the event that we just let ourselves go and reveal how we really feel. The death and resurrection of Christ is one of these and another is when one person turns to, and believes in Jesus. It's this second that has me buzzing. Last year we had cause to celebrate 2 such events that I am aware of. They are 2 fantastic trophies of God's grace, 2 who have a completely new life now, 2 that have hope, 2 that enjoy relationship with their Father in heaven. The only slight disappointment - only 2.

This year I want us as a church to be celebrating much more and on Sunday night I shall be unveiling one way in which we intend to do that.

Luke 15:3-7 say this:

"Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and losses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.""

I am praying that our lives will be interrupted this year by celebrations of salvation as we see friends, family, work colleagues, neighbours, old school mates, turn to follow Jesus.

Friday, 9 January 2009

10 years on

Oct 1998 I meet a girl in a bar. She started me on a journey towards the greatest discovery of my life. In Jan 1999 after attending church for a couple of months, I embarked on a 10 week course called Alpha; food, a talk and discussion time made up the evening - very pleasant. Over the first two weeks I was to have my opinions of Christianity totally transformed. Jesus was not someone who should only be wheeled out at Christmas and Easter, not just a story, but real and alive.

This discovery radically changed my life. It wasn't something that I thought would be good to try for a bit as a self help system or something. I realised that if Jesus' tomb was empty (and no one had a credible reason as to why it wasn't) and that Jesus really did rise from the dead (all other explanations did not seem to make sense humanly) then Jesus must be someone that I should follow whole heartedly.

That was coming up for 10 years ago (Feb 3rd). My life was one of binge drinking and pleasure seeking for my own fulfillment, looking for ways of being liked and accepted, desperately seeking the approval of those I considered friends.

When I accepted Jesus' invitation to follow him on Feb 3rd 1999, I found the approval and the acceptance that I had craved. I found it liberating to be able to say no to the next drink in the round, to say no to the next dare. I started to have friends who liked me for being me and not for the amount I could neck in one drinking session. I started to let people speak into my life without being all defensive, because I knew that they were speaking out of love rather than trying to bully me or tear me down. I found that I could make mistakes and they were forgiven. When I got ill people would come and pray and would help.

I found my own attitude towards people changing. From being someone who would do something if there was something in it for him, I started to look for opportunities to help others, because they needed help. Church was not a place I had to go to once a week to somehow remove any guilt from my life rather it was a family of people who came together to give thanks and praise to Jesus, the one who made us a family through his sacrifice of love and had already removed the guilt.

The discovery of Jesus that I made in 1999 totally changed my world view, my self perception and my perception of others. Christianity isn't something I do, a Christian is who I am, I belong to Jesus, I'm his follower and I do all I do because he first loved me.

This year I would love to see more and more people have this same experience as me. The details will be different, but the essence the same. Helping people to discover the real Jesus amongst all the nonsense should be something that we as Christians strive to do at all costs. You know you really love a friend when you are willing to share the gospel with them because it is the only thing that will make sense of their lives.

I need to constantly challenge myself, in this my ten year anniversary of being a Christian, to introduce others to Jesus as Jesus was introduced to me.