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.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009


So we are now 7 days into this new year. As always I am interested in speculating as to what position West Ham will be in at the end of the season (hopefully we will avoid a relegation dog fight but that depends on the financial situation I guess!); I have made great plans as to how many books I would like to read this year; I am wondering where we will go on holiday.

But this is no ordinary start to a year, in fact I don't even feel like the last year has ended yet due to the awaited birth of Baby Taylor. At this time, amongst the futile things that my mind ponders on, there are three major thoughts on my horizon which easily surpass everything else:

1) What will it be like to actually be a dad?

I have dreamt about it, prayed about it and thought about it for years now, but now the time is almost upon me - I am going to be a dad. Things like will the baby and B be well, how do the finances all work, how much reading will I actually get done!

I have many more questions that don't need to be aired here, and I am also aware that my questions are different to B's (evident from our midwife appointment on Monday). All I know is that I want to be the best husband that I can be and the best father that I can be, because I know that those two things bring glory to God.

2) What does God have for me and B in this coming year in terms of spiritual growth.

I could never imagined that last year would have panned out as it did. God did and he had used the events of last year to grow me in ways that I wasn't expecting. All this leaves me in a sense of excitement and and righteous trepidation as to what is to come in 09. Being a dad will change my out look on things of this I am sure, however I know that it is God who actually will do this that I might be able to display His love and grace more and become more like Jesus.

3) What will our church look like at the end of 2009?

In this year I would love to see more salvation in our church whether through programs, Sunday mornings, cell groups or through individuals leading their friends to Jesus in their work places, over the garden fence or at the school gate.

I would love to see more of heaven invading earth in healings and signs and wonders.

I would love to see a greater outpouring of His Spirit that we may be a people who walk in step with His will and we like Jesus will do what we see the Father doing.

I would love to see new people added to us and new people stepping up into different responsibilities in church life.

I will not list everything that I would love to see that could take a while but what I do know is that we will only see these things when we start to earnestly seek Him and expect Him for these things. I need, to pursue him for the desires that he has given me, that His will will be done here in Reading.