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Thoughts

If things don’t change they will stay as they are

Change is always a tricky subject for a church and yet nearly every church I have ever encountered has a dream about how things ought to be. Most churches say they want more members. Nearly all would like to see more of the clergy person. Many say they would like better preaching or better worship. Nearly all say that they would like to make a positive impact on their communities. However nearly all of them also don’t want any change (even if they won’t admit this to themselves).

Yes they want more people, especially more young people, but they want all the new people to fit in with them.

Yes they want better worship but usually of a kind that fits in with their own idea of proper worship.

Etc.

I think I’m probably coming across as a little mean here and I don’t mean to be. I’m not bashing churches who think this way they are just being people and you find the same thing in all organisations.

However, the truth is that if you want something to be different then something, somewhere has to change. If you continue doing the same things then you will get the same results. So if a church continues to put on its round of social events and outreach events etc then that church can expect to get the same results. If we want a different result then we have to try something different, even if that is going to make us uncomfortable.

Same applies to a Christian life of course. If we want a deeper relationship with God then we have to change something to make that difference, we can’t expect to get deeper with God just doing the same things we are already doing.

Perhaps the first change to make is in the way we think. We need first to think that we need to do something different.

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Thoughts

Justifying ourselves over money

There is something in all of us that wants to justify everything that we do. Just recently I heard that a survey had shown that what most people think will make them happy is more money. However, the research suggests that money is not what actually does make people happy. I wonder if the idea of lots of money (or possessions) making us happy is an attempt to justify all the effort that we put in to try and get it.

I’m not against work, even hard work, in fact I believe that satisfying work is a great help in being happy, but we seem to spend nearly all of our time trying to earn more of it. It seems it really is money that makes the world work for us. Government, business, leisure, health, science, maybe even religion, seems to only work because of money. Without money we would be stuck for how to make things work.

Yet it isn’t money that really makes us happy. Perhaps we claim it is because the admit that money is not important would be to admit that all the effort we put in trying to get a good job and all the hours we worked to try and get more money, and all the time we spent trying to earn enough to treat our children, would turn out to be wasted time. Maybe we would start to think that our lives have actually been about nothing. So we persuade ourselves that more money is what we need for happiness.

I think Jesus wanted to break this idea. Money can be useful but it is not what we should worship. We worship what we think about the most and what we spend most time on. How many of us spend most of our time either earning or spending money? What is your life built on?

I encourage you to try and think a little more outside the box and put money in its proper place.

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Thoughts

Prayer is a funny kind of thing

Do you ever find prayer difficult? I don’t mean because you are angry with God or doubting your faith, but just ordinary prayer. One day it’s easy and another it’s really tough. I do.

I’ve also nearly always found it hard to pray. I don’t mean those quick prayers that you fire off in the hopes of getting something or just because something amazing has happened and yo want to share that with God – I mean the time when you settle down and pause to spend some time with God. What is really strange is that if I persevere then the praying gets easier and I usually find that in the end I have enjoyed myself as well as doing something meaningful. You would think that something I know I will enjoy would be something that would be easy to start but for me it doesn’t seem that way – at least not often.

In the past I’ve used all kinds of methods to help. I have found that discipline and a liturgy to use are both very helpful. I think there is no mistake that the more traditional churches developed such things as liturgies because they do help – the problems come when liturgy becomes the only way.

So I say to myself, as much as to anyone who reads this , that you need to persevere in prayer – it really is worth the effort.

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Thoughts

Frustrating Memory

Do you ever get frustrated by your memory? I do.

I’ve always struggled with names, for instance, and spellings for that matter. No matter what technique I use it just never seems to work. At school I hated spelling tests and did all I could to get things right but just could not succeed. I would know how to spell them for about an hour after practice and then in the test I couldn’t remember. The same thing with names.

One of the other things is when I know something but I can’t for the life of me remember why I know it. For instance at a Local Preachers day in the Circuit I was trying to explain that I thought the magnificat was like a desperate release – it all kind of gushes out of Mary. Of course trying to justify this from the bible is hard because Mary is told her own news when Elizabeth is 6 months old and then visits Elizabeth and 3 months later John is born. This doesn’t leave much time for thinking or getting frustrated (on Mary’s part).

However, Mary does travel from Nazareth to the hills of Judea (presumably avoiding Samaria as most travelers did it seems). This is about 70 miles I believe. This would have taken at least a few days and probably more. Ample time to feel frustrated in your own thoughts I think. But could I remember this detail that I had obviously noticed before? No! I wonder how many times this has happened to me? More than I can number.

There were several other things just like that which frustrated me as well.

So it’s back to the books and reminding myself of everything that I have forgotten – how nice it would be not to have to do this – perhaps this is something I can look forward to in the next life.

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Methodist Church

Spare bridegroom at a wedding but one that was welcome

Yesterday I was welcomed back into full connexion in the Methodist Church. No longer seen as a maverick rebellious type (I never was really) I’m now back in the fold of the Methodist Church.

The service itself was good and I enjoyed being around all the ordinands (those who were being ordained that day – I am already ordained) but I did feel a bit like a spare bridegroom at a wedding. They knew each other well and spent much of their time chatting with each other (this is a good thing by the way) but I felt a little bit left out of it all. Thankfully there were a few others who were being received into the Methodist Church from other churches and one of them was in a similar position to myself – so I had someone to share the experience with.

As part of the event I had to stand with the others on the stage for a standing vote. It was good to know that I was welcomed back by the church. It did remind me of my first time and subsequent ordination. It is always hard to say what an ordination means but it does mark a significant point in life and affirms the ministry that you feel God has called you to. In some ways it does make you feel different because it takes years to reach that point and getting beyond that point makes a difference. I also like to think that God sees you in a different way. The church lays hands on you and prays for God to help you in ministry. It’s an example, perhaps, of the importance of the physical in expressing the Christian faith.

Now I can get back to being a minister – even if I am one who is in an appointment over which the Methodist church has no control (Methodist talk for the job I do).

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Methodist Church

Back as a Methodist Minister

After a couple of years of trying I have finally been through the system and am being recommended to be received back in to full connexion at Conference in a couple of weeks.

It has been a long and at times painful process but at long last I’m back where I was (well almost where I was) 11 years ago.

This is the beginning of a new life as a minister and I trust God for all that is to come (as I’ve been forced to trust him for all that is past).

There are times when it is important to be patient and wait for God to show you what he is up to. I can honestly say that at times I have been very confused by what God has been doing with me but I’m sure it is part of a greater plan. It is important for any Christian to understand that it is important to remain faithful and allow God to shape us.

I’ll keep you up to date here on what I’m up to and how it is all going.

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Thoughts

God just never lets go

My life, since becoming a Christian hasn’t always worked out the way I would want it to.  There is a large part of me that would just love to have a very normal life. That is have a normal job ,  earn a moderate amount of money, sit at the back of a church during services, spend my time with my family, etc. Of course it is debatable whether anyone ever gets to live that kind of life but I guess there are quite a number of people who would like it.

But God always seems to have other plans for me. It doesn’t matter what I try or how hard I work at it I just can’t seem to avoid God calling on me to do something. I’m not complaining about God’s call because such times are usually what I find fulfilling and exciting but they do have their consequences.

I have pleaded with God to leave me alone at times (and I do mean pleaded). I have wept and agonised over all that God asks me to do. I’ve tried ignoring God in the hopes that perhaps God will let me be and leave me to get on with my life but God never leaves me.

I’ve come to know Psalm 139 pretty well over the years:

1 O Lord, you have searched me
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O Lord.
5 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths,a you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1984; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996 (electronic edition.) (Ps 139:1). London: Hodder & Stoughton.
Ultimately I’ve been forced to do what God wants me to do. I don’t say this because I think I’m better than any other Christian and I’m sure this is the experience of most, if not all, of Christians.
I’m reluctantly learning that it is far better and easier to co-operate with God than to resist. The funny thing is that although I think I want to resist I only ever feel happy when I don’t.
Categories
Methodist Church

What is a Methodist?

I think that one of the issues surrounding the Methodist church and it’s future is that we need to be able to answer the question: What is a Methodist?

One of the byproducts of the ecumenical movement is that the Methodist church starts to find that it is no different to many other churches. But if it is not different then why should we bother to keep it going. If the only difference is that our ancestors were Methodists then it’s high time we amalgamated with the church we split from.

John Wesley once wrote a booklet on the character of a Methodist and I’d like to suggest that this is still relevant to us today:

Because I didn’t fancy wading through all the stuff he said every time I want to think about this subject I condensed his thinking into some bullet points and thought s0meone might find it good to read:

  • Methodists do not always think the same (Wesley calls it having a particular set of notions). Of course Methodists are Christians and so believe the basics of Christianity as found in the bible but apart from that Methodists do not hold particular Christian beliefs.
  • We prefer to use plain and ordinary words when we speak about God – the only exceptions being to use biblical words when speaking about biblical things.
  • We are not distinguished by actions or customs. We do not abstain from anything that is not expressly prohibited by God.
  • We don’t live out our faith based on one part of the gospel message but instead on the whole. Salvation is about faith and the living out of that faith and not just a single act of being saved (important though this is).
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Thoughts

Cold stops blogger in his tracks

I find myself with a problem. I’ve written two different blog entries today (this is my third) and each one has ended up in the trash. My problem is that I have a cold and its making me a little grumpy. This resulted in a couple of grumpy attempts at blogging. I don’t want to fill up my blog with lots of negative comments so I’m going to let everyone know that I’ve got a cold and won’t be blogging until I can find something positive to say.

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Church

60% of people would visit church if asked

Flicking through the T.V. channels the other day I ended up watching a service from the Abundant Life church in Bradford. I’m never quite sure if I agree with everything said – but then I feel that way about my own church and only a fool would deny that they are being very successful in their work.

Anyway Paul Scanlon mentioned a survey they had taken on the streets of Bradford. The results were very challenging. They discovered (this was just a simple questioning, not a full blown survey or anything) that 90% of people said they had never been invited to church and 60% said that they would go it they were asked.

Now, even if the results are not entirely accurate they still point to two interesting things.

The vast majority of people in Britain have never been invited to church.

I think a lot of people don’t invite friends because they are a little embarrassed of what their friends will come to. I went to a meeting the other day where the question was asked about whether it matters if the music isn’t done very well in a church. Of course the answer most gave was no. This is right on the basis that God just wants us to offer what we can, it doesn’t matter to God if you are good at making music or not the important thing is that you offer it in the right way. However, people who don’t understand this (non-churched visitors perhaps) will notice if the music is badly done. We church goers understand this and I think this puts us off asking people (you can extend this to bad preachers, bad drama, bad prayers, bad worship leading, etc).

The majority of people would go to church if they were asked by a Christian friend

The survey had no connection with the ALM Bradford and so the question they were answering was an invitation to the image of church that most people have (boring, dusty, irrelevant, etc). This doesn’t answer the question of whether they would come again after being asked but simply that many would come if they were invited.

Lots to think about

There is lots to think about here but I see this as a challenge to the church. We need to take inviting visitors seriously and although it may make us feel uncomfortable we ought to start doing it.