The One About 100% Attendance

100-attendanceMy daughter came home from school with this certificate. I asked her f she was proud of herself and she said ‘I don’t know’.

As we talked further it became evident that she had no idea what ‘100% Attendance’ meant.

My daughter has just come to the end of her first half term at a school for children with additional needs. The school is excellent and my daughter seems to be thriving there for which we are very, very grateful.

It seemed ironic that she had come home with a certificate that she didn’t understand. She was being told well done but she didn’t understand (or had forgotten?) what it was for.

This got me thinking about how we explain things in church life. It’s so easy to (often wrongly!) assume that everyone has a really good background knowledge of church life and what the Bible says. One of the things that we try to do at Orchard Baptist is to lead services and events in such a way that we explain well in order to make it accessible and understandable for everyone who might be there.

I am glad that there are people who come to church to explore faith. They are on an important journey and we need to make sure that we don’t make them feel stupid for not knowing everything that we do.

Churches leaders often talk about what sorts of things that they are teaching about but we need to realize that it is really what people are learning that is the most important. We can talk at people and sound clever but that is pretty meaningless if people don’t learn anything. If sermons were prepared with the question of learning in mind then they would possible be very different and look a lot less like sermons.

If you are trying to create some communication to help people to learn in church then there are a few things that might help if you really want people to learn.

What is the main thing that I want people to learn?

Have you ever suffered from Sermon overload? A sermon that was packed with so much information that your head is spinning by the end?

If you looking at a Bible passage that does involve high information and it can’t be broken up into segments, then you might want to think about some key points that you emphasize. You could do this with visuals or a recurring phrase that reinforces the key points.

How can I give people space to reflect on what  am saying?

Have you ever suffered from a pushy sales person who bombards you with information and then pushes you for a quick decision?

Sermons can sometimes feel like this where you get talked at and then you are expected to respond instantly. One of the things that I have started to do in recent years is to build pauses into my communication in church. Sometimes we say things of such importance and then rush on to the next important thing without letting the first concept settle first.

How is this going to make a difference?

Have you ever suffered from being in a meeting where people seem to want to talk about everything except the real issue? Sometimes churches focus too much on theory and philosophy and neglect how the Christian faith is life changing.

There needs to be content in our communications about real life and what the Bible has to say about that.

What visuals/illustrations/examples/activities can I use to communicate well?

Have you ever suffered from being in a really long lecture where you couldn’t remember what was said a few minutes ago?

We all learn in different ways and so we need to think about how we communicate in a variety of different styles if we want to help everyone to learn effectively. Visuals and illustrations are common in many churches, but how about the opportunity for activities for people who learn best in a hands on way? How about space for discussion for people who will learn more effectively in that way? How about some pens and paper for anyone who would find it helpful to write notes?

How is what we are communicating ultimately about God?

Have you ever listened to a sermon that offered great self-help advice but that neglected to mention God?

In our attempts to apply the Bible to life, we need to make sure that we don’t offer help and advice which excludes or doesn’t keep God at the centre.

Anyway, back to my daughter’s certificate:

It’s possible that the school did explain really well what 100% attendance was but that she didn’t take it in.

If you are a Christian, how are you taking responsibility for learning more about and growing in your faith?

Do you make space to reflect on and talk about what you have learnt in church with others? Do you read the Bible yourself? Do you take time to talk and pray with other Christians about what they are learning?

So, do you know what 100% attendance means?

Simply put it means that you have been at something all the time it was open. In my daughter’s case she was there on every school day during this half term.

Churches need to realize that what people learn is much more important than what we try to teach them.

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The Church that does Glueing

glue-38201A mum described Orchard Baptist Church today us as the church that does glueing.

She was on her way to our toddler group and was bringing her 3 year old daughter who hadn’t been to the group since she had started pre school several months earlier.

As they drove along, her daughter was asking where they were going which is when her mum defined us as the church that glues.

Shouldn’t this be the description of any church?

We should be expecting the glue of God’s love, presence and power to fix things.

We can see people’s relationship with God and our relationships with one another fixed and restored when the church is acting as a place that glues.

Do we believe there are things that God can’t fix? Is anything too difficult for him?

Ironically we didn’t do any glueing at toddlers today but the toddler in question was happy to do the finger painting that was on offer instead.

God calls us to work with him to fix and restore things. Will we join him with what he is doing?

God, help us to be a people that glue for your glory.

Posted in Being honest about our faith, Faith, Following Jesus, Life experiences, Life in all it's fullness, restoration | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do you ever feel like life is too busy?

Do you ever feel like life is too busy?

Do you think that it is God’s intention that we are really busy?

Those of you who follow my blog will have noticed that I have written a lot less over the past few months and the reason for this is that I have been really, really busy.

In the Eastern Baptist Association, we are looking to appoint a new regional team leader. As part of the planning and preparation for this, a series of meetings were held to discuss how the team leader’s role works and how it could be done differently.

hamster-wheel-1014047_1920During one of these meetings we were discussing the way things are currently structured and the dominant image in my mind was of a hamster on a wheel.

Our current team leader is a great guy, he is vastly experienced and is immensely supportive but he is also extremely overworked.

As an association, we have asked him to lead us and then we have given him with a largely administrative and organisational role that keeps him very, very busy. His over busyness may have led to him being unable to lead us forwards in a consistently effective way.

Reflecting on this has reminded me that I am certain that God doesn’t want us to be constantly really busy and worn out (you can read more about this in Since when did serving God come to mean that we always have to be really busy?)

The trouble though is that many of us are too busy to stop and consider how we could be less busy.

The Bible offers us the Sabbath principle, which is a day of rest during each week. God wants us to rest well so that we can work effectively and joyfully from that place of rest. Beyond a day of rest, I also believe we can find mini Sabbaths (moments of rest) in our everyday lives but we have to make space for them.

If God wants us to rest, why do we feel that we have to be so busy?

Perhaps it is time to slow down?

If you want to think about this some more, you might want to read, Time to slow down? You’re not superman you know!

Posted in Faith, Following Jesus, Life experiences, Life in all it's fullness, Relationship with God, rest | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I am a priest so I’m afraid that I have to pray

i-am-not-ashamed-of-jesusI stood there in disbelief as I realized that he really had just said.

‘I am a priest so I’m afraid that I have to pray’.

These words were spoken at the end of a talk given in a school assembly and I don’t think that I have ever wanted to speak up and interrupt someone so much in my life.

I wanted to shout;

‘Noooo, prayer is the best thing in the universe. It is an opportunity to talk with the God who created and who cares for us. Don’t you dare apologize for praying’.

Instead I remained silent. I thought about going to speak to the priest about it at the end but there were so many members of staff and other parents about that I felt that it could be counter productive.

I remembered this happening like it was yesterday even though it was quite a while ago and it is not related to any of the schools that I work with in my current church.

I was really upset when this happened because for me, following Jesus is such an amazing privilege. It really is life changing and I believe that our relationship with Jesus provides us with the ultimate key to finding meaning and purpose in life.

How is it that we can find ourselves in the ridiculous position of having to apologize for the best thing in the universe?

Most of us find it difficult to be the odd one out in the crowd but sometimes being honest about our faith requires this.

How about you? Are you ashamed of praying? Are you ashamed of Jesus?

I want to be honest about my faith in any and every situation.

I am a follower of Jesus and I am proud to say that I pray.

Posted in Being honest about our faith, Faith, Following Jesus, Life experiences, Not ashamed of Jesus, Prayer, Relationship with God | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The One Where Someone Threw A Dog At Me

A year on from this and no one has thrown a dog at me since!

I still believe that the direction we are headed is more important than where we are. Read on to find out more.

Honest about my faith

Toy dogSo, we were tidying up after our toddler group and I noticed that there was a toy dog underneath some chairs. One of the toddlers was toddling (it’s funny how they do that) around and so I had asked her if she could pass the dog to me (that’s called working smart!)

She wandered toddled over, picked up the dog and came back towards me. I was really impressed with how helpful and kind she was being, but then when she was a few feet away she threw the dog at me. Fortunately, because she is so small her throw wasn’t powerful enough and so the dog didn’t have sufficient speed to reach (or hit) me.

Imagine the headline if it had?:

Baptist Minister Hospitalized by Flying Dog

I survived and so did the little girl whose mum was not impressed at all.

I was thinking about this later and it occurred to…

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But it’s only 20p!

20pAs the cashier in the shop handed me my change I could see it was 20p short. I thought about saying something but then decided not to, after all it was only 20p.

Later that same day I needed change for a car park machine and I realized I was just short. Can you guess by how much?

Ironic isn’t it!

The 20p that wasn’t worth much to me became what I needed the most later that day.

It is easy in life to dismiss things, people and situations as unimportant but the lesson of the 20p coin is that everything has value.

The Bible explains this by using the example of a body (1 Corinthians 12). In the analogy, every Christian is a member or a part of one body and each person has equal importance and an important part to play. Although you might think that the brain or heart is the most important, the reality is that without the rest of the body they can’t function.

Do you feel like a 20p coin or a million pounds?

I believe that each of us has great value and that God values us enough to give us a part to play in his work if we follow him.

If you would like to think more about how Jesus valued people, then you could look at She was so important but we don’t even know her name

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Should I have left the light on or not?

light-window-hope-honestaboutmyfaithSo, my girls were up at 3am shouting at each other. One of them had had a bad dream and she was worried about going to sleep again in the dark but her sister couldn’t get back to sleep with the door open letting in a bit of light.

It’s really hard being a parent in these sorts of moments because all you want to do is shout and treat your children harshly because they are being so naughty and inconveniencing you. The trouble is though that neither of them was being deliberately difficult. One of my daughters has special needs and part of this is that she can hear and see things that others of us wouldn’t notice and so she often struggles to sleep when there is any light. My other daughter was terrified by her dream and as most of us know, when you are scared it can take a long time to calm down.

I managed to get them to sleep again by leaving their door open a little so that it let a small amount of light in from the nightlight in the hallway. I also sat in the room for a while reassuring my frightened daughter that I was there.

As I sat there I began to think about the darkness and the light. I like the light, but in that moment while I was tired and sleepy I really wanted it to be dark.

Jesus is the light of the world and his light shines all around us, in us and through us.

As Christians we say we love the light, but do we always and consistently?

Living in the light means being changed and transformed. Do we want Jesus to change us to be more like him? (Don’t worry, I don’t think that a beard or sandals are involved!)

The light shows things up for what they really are. As a result, living in the light will involve us speaking up about what is really going on in some uncomfortable situations. The light will also show our imperfections and so we have to be secure enough in God’s love and acceptance not to feel the pressure to put on masks or to pretend that we are perfect.

I love God’s light and I want to live in that light but the reality is that living in it can be costly!

Will we choose to live in God’s light willingly and joyfully?

Whatever we choose, God our father sits with us in the dark and the light reassuring us that he is with us but he really longs to lead us into his light! I hope we will follow.

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Why does a reliable machine need an extended guarantee?

A story about a dishwasher (no, not me) and a really pushy salesman.

Honest about my faith

dishwasherMy wife and I recently bought a dishwasher and encountered one of the pushiest sales people I have ever met. We arrived at the shop knowing what we wanted, we just needed to pick it up and go. The sales person spent some time explaining why we would pay an extra £50 for a different machine with more features. He explained himself well and made a good case but on the basis that we wouldn’t use most of those extra features we decided to stick with our original choice.

He went to check stock levels of both our choice and his preferred machine and came back and said both were available. He then began to explain again why we needed to buy the more expensive one that we had already said we didn’t want. After trying to reason with him for a while I just said that we were going to stick with…

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The One About Trying to get Signal

there-must-be-signal-here-somewhereAs we walked down the path, my son kept holding his hands up in the air.

Apparently he wasn’t praising God or even trying to block the sun that was shining in his eyes, so what was he doing?

You have probably guessed that he was looking for a phone signal!

You really have to be pretty passionate about a phone signal to wander around the countryside holding your phone in the air.

This left me wondering about how passionate I am about maintaining my signal with God.

You see, God is closer than you think! God promises to be with his followers always and so we can never be out of his presence.

God’s signal to us is strong, but we have to be willing to be open to receive his signal and to respond to it.

Are we willing to do this, even if it costs us or it involves us investing time or doing things that might look out of the ordinary?

God wants to know us and he was willing to send his son Jesus to this world to show us the way to God. Jesus chose to sacrifice himself on the cross in order to open the way for us to know God.🙂

God really does want to know us! How much do we want to know him?

May we become more passionate about receiving God’s signal!

Posted in Being honest about our faith, creative communication, discipleship, Faith, God is with us, Life experiences, Listening to God, Relationship with God | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The One Where I left My Mark

How are we leaving our Mark?

Honest about my faith

‘You might want to look in the mirror.’ My mind raced as I tried to understand what she was saying to me and as I looked frantically around I noticed the ink on my fingers and the penny dropped (or you could say, the ink-stained!)

We have a new printer/copier at church and I had spent some time setting it up. The first instruction in installing the toner cartridge was to remove the piece of plastic from the back of it. The problem with this was that the plastic was covering a roller that was covered in toner and so it then was quite a messy process to install the cartridge. The good news is that now that I understand how the cartridge fits it will be less messy next time, but on this occasion the main thing that I was glad that I only had ink on my hands, or so I thought.

Emily was in…

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