Shameless Plug

Been meaning to this for some time. My mate David Anderson has had a new blog since the new year. After successfully demolishing that august body, the British Centre for Science Education, with the power of reasonable argument he has moved on to wider topics.

So, without further ado, let me present, ladies and gentlemen, … More Than Words!

(Note to my paedobaptist friends – David is a convinced credobaptist and takes us head on in some of his posts. But he does us the service of directing us away from straw man arguments. So, have a go … if you think you’re hard enough.)

Shameless Plug

Excursion to Monyhull

I had an excellent time at Monyhull Church last night.

Monyhull Church has been around for nearly 20 years and is one of the very few evangelical churches in the south of Birmingham. As a result its reach is pretty far, with members and attenders coming from far afield. They currently have a building on what used to be the site of a now-demolished hospital. Presently they have some 600 new homes around them. This instant community presents its own challenges and opportunities for outreach. They are actively encouraging any of their members who are considering moving house, to move into the area.

Colin Tamplin the pastor, whom I have been getting to know over the last few months, invited me to preach and say a few things about the work here at SPC. I am grateful to him and the other elders for letting me do so. For me it is a great privilege to be asked. For them, it is a great risk to hand the pulpit over to a new guy! I preached on the wisdom of God in the cross of Christ, from 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.

Generally, I have been so thankful for the support and encouragement I have received from other evangelical churches in the area as we plant here in Solihull. I get no sense of rivalry or suspicion. Everyone sees the need for this great historic city to hear and see the gospel of Jesus Christ through many more healthy, vibrant churches.

Excursion to Monyhull

Music, Worship, Emotion

Interesting comments about music in worship by Greg Gilbert on the 9Marks blog:

I wonder if the whole “excellence in praise and worship music” phenomenon we’ve seen over the past few years—for all the good it’s done—hasn’t also had some less-than-desirable effects on young Christians. I wonder if it hasn’t created a generation of functional mystics who gauge their relationship with God by emotional experience rather than the objective reality of redemption.

Wow. ‘Functional mystics’? I love phrases like that!

Greg goes on to speak of the effect of excellent music at conferences had on his experience of worship. All good experiences. However, he goes on to say this:

But then I went back to New Haven, Connecticut. The praise bands were gone, I didn’t have a group of people who’d gone with me and shared that experience, and the churches had a piano and thirty people singing Isaac Watts hymns. That forced me to learn how to stoke the fires of worship with truths and words, and not just with excellent music. I’ve learned how to be emotionally affected by the excellent words of hymns whether they’re played and sung “excellently” or not.

This is a very important lesson. The truth of the gospel must reach us again and again, week by week. The experience of this must not be confused with mere emotional response to to music. This is not to say that worship is to be emotionless, but emotion in worship is to be gospel-driven.

…though, I wonder if I would make the same argument if I had an excellent band playing excellent music at my church (which I don’t)! The heart is deceitful above all things.

Read the whole thing. See what you think.

Music, Worship, Emotion

The Gospel in Solihull

I did some sums the other day.

In the UK there are 60 million people and 38k churches of all stripes*. That makes one church for every 1600 people.

In Solihull (including Olton and Shirley i.e. the town of Solihull, not the metropolitan borough) there are 99k people and 22 non-Catholic churches. I think there are two Catholic. In other words, including all stripes, one church for every 4100.

I don’t know if there is a right number. Would one for 1000 be healthy? Whatever, relative to the rest of the UK, there is a spiritual need in Solihull.

Furthermore, most of the churches are old and dying. SPC is 2 years old. There is a new Baptist church the other side of Solihull which is a year old. Then there are two, possibly three, that are less than 20yo, half a dozen that were formed in the 60s and 70s with the boom in housing. The rest are 100-200yo apart from St Alphege C oE which is 800+.

The picture is bleak. I did not mention the URC church that closed last year. Many others may well see the same fate if things continue as they are.

There is little genuine gospel preaching and ministry. And where there is, many hearers simply do not get it. One local pastor told me how, after speaking to a congregational meeting about the need to share the good news, one member came up to him and asked, “But what do we have that’s good news to share?” The pastor was ‘gobsmacked’.

We have a job to do here. Christ will build his church (Matt 16:19). He does it by planting churches (Mat 28:18-20). We need more.

May God help us, to his glory.

(* based on the figures in this CCPAS press release.)

The Gospel in Solihull

The Point of Preaching

I regularly hear people lauding the fact that some hearer of a sermon could accurately remember its main points at lunch, or the next day, or perhaps years later. The point being, of course, that it would be wonderful if preachers could preach in that way so that every hearer retained the main points. Indeed it would.

However, I confess to being suspicious of the thinking behind this desire. It does seem to suggest that the main point of preaching, is the educational benefit. While I believe there is educational benefit to be had, not everyone will receive it. The preacher may not be clear. The hearers may be at different intellectual levels. The preacher and/or the hearers may simply have an off day! All sorts of reasons.

Am I just being complacent? I don’t think so. The purpose of preaching is surely something else. Michael McKinley of the 9Marks blog (which is all I know about him) puts it like this:

…as I sat down after inflicting 45 minutes of Hosea on our church last Sunday, I was struck by how information retention is really a secondary consideration. Do I care if people in my church can outline Hosea from memory at this time next year? A little, I guess. I mean, it would be nice. Certainly I hope the systematic teaching of the Bible will help my congregation understand the Scriptures more fully over the years.

But something much greater and more important is happening in a sermon. We are holding up Christ from all the Scriptures, we are exploring the ways that he is beautiful, we are feeding on him by faith and celebrating his works together.

Do you know, if I could convey something, just something, in my preaching that could be used by God to stimulate a love for Christ in my hearers, I could die happy. I am relatively indifferent to whether or not they can remember my ‘points’. I just want them to love Christ.

Well written, Michael (whoever you are)! Read the rest here.

The Point of Preaching