Don’t ask about our meetings

For many Christians church is an event. It is a meeting you attend or a place you enter. Churches may talk about being a family, but most of their resources go into the Sunday morning event. Acquiring a building. Preparing the sermon. Producing the bulletin. Equipping a venue with sound and light. Planning the show. Practicing the band. That’s were their money and their staff time go. We talk about being family and community, but when you look at how we spend our time and money it becomes clear that in practice we view church as an event.

People often ask me about our meetings. ‘When do you meet? Where? What do you do when you meet together?’ But if you ask those questions then you have completely missed the point! We’re not advocating a new way of doing meetings. Actually our meetings are not good! The music is poor and the teaching is nothing you’d go out of your way to hear. What matters to us is our shared life: sharing our lives, doing ordinary life with gospel intentionality.

The church will never out perform TV shows and music videos. But there is nothing like the community life of the church. There is nowhere else where diverse people come together. There is nowhere else were broken people find a home. There is nowhere else when grace is experienced. There is nowhere else where God is present by his Spirit.
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Missional Business

I recently put together some thoughts on ‘missional business’ arising out of discussions we have been having in The Crowded House …

Missional Business Vision

1. We like business
We like business. We believe business blesses the city by creating employment, providing services, generating tax revenue and resourcing mission. We want our network to have a culture in which business is affirmed and entrepreneurs are encouraged.

2. We like business people
We like business people. We want business people interested in Jesus to feel welcome and affirmed within our church communities. We want this to be reflected in our strategies, our application of the Bible, our prayers, the people we interview in meetings, what we celebrate and our talk illustrations. We do not want to warn against the dangers of wealth in a way that portrays business negatively, nor do we want to affirm the service professions in a way that business people find excluding.

3. Money is also mammon
We recognise that money is also mammon, a rival to God for our affections and a threat to our relationships. So we believe Christian business people need to be accountable to their church community for the way they generate wealth and the use to which they put it. We want people to be generous, avoiding excessive expenditure.

4. Free to rest
Work can be a way of finding worth, identity, fulfilment and security apart for God – an attitude that often leads to overwork. Our faith in Christ’s finished work of justification means we do not need to prove ourselves through work or business success. Our faith in God’s goodness means we do not need wealth to find fulfilment. Our faith in God’s fatherly care means we do not need to worry about our needs. So rest or sabbath is a sign and celebration of God’s provision.

5. Cultural profit
We believe the gospel shapes the methods of business. So we want a ‘cultural profit’ in which our products, our employment and management practices, the design of our premises, the conduct of our meetings all shape and renew the wider culture as well as pointing to the gospel message. Being in business gives us the opportunity to exercise authority in a way that reflects the liberating and life-enhancing rule of God. We will treat employees, customers and suppliers as partners. We will ensure our activities confirm with legal requirements and relevant codes of conducts. We will ensure our businesses bless the neighbourhood in which they operate and do not harm creation.

6. Gospel-shaped goals
We believe the gospel shapes the goal of business. Growing a business is not an end in itself, whether for power, prestige or prosperity. We believe Christian business people should commit their business to one or more of the following missional business models …

Missional Business Models

1. Lifestyle business
Developing a business to support a missional lifestyle. This might involve earning sufficient income in four days a week to release time for mission or working in a role that creates evangelistic opportunities.

2. Income generation
Developing a business to generate income to support church planting.

3. Economic and social renewal
Developing a business to bless the city by creating employment, providing services, generating tax revenue and facilitating the establishment of new companies.

All three of these models can be combined to some extent. But some people will opt for one instead of another. They may, for example, not invest as much time as they could to maximise income (model #2) so they have time for church planting (model #1).

Networking for Missional Business

The following are ideas for supporting the establishment and development of businesses within a church network.

1. A mentoring scheme
linking new entrepreneurs with experienced business people to help develop business plans, access resources, generate ideas and solve issues

2. A business club
business people meeting regularly for peer support and gospel accountability

3. Investment
linking investors with missional business opportunities

4. An investment fund
pooling savings to create an investment fund for missional businesses around the world

5. A holding company
creating a central company to create economies of scale for administration and legal compliance

6. A skills bank
providing free or low-cost start-up support (accountancy, business advise, design) plus a database of government and other resources for new businesses

7. Training
providing training in the vision and practice of missional business

Highlights from Hauerwas on Matthew

Yesterday I posted a review Stanley Hauerwas commentary on Matthew in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible series (Brazos, 2006) purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US. Here are some highlights from the book …

For Matthew, Jesus has changed the world, requiring that our lives be changed if we are to live as people of the new creation. Accordingly, the gospel is not information that invites us to decide what we will take or leave. Our task is not to understand the story that Matthew tells in light of our understanding of the world. Rather, Matthew would have our understanding of the world be fully transformed as the result of our reading of his gospel. Matthew writes so that we might become followers, be disciples of Jesus. To be a Christian does not mean that we are to change the world, but rather that we must live as witnesses to the world that God has changed. We should not be surprised, therefore, if the way we live makes the change visible. (25)

The Sermon [on the Mount] is not a list of requirements, but rather a description of the life of a people gathered by and around Jesus. To be saved is to be so gathered. That is why the Beatitudes are the interpretive key to the whole sermon – precisely because they are not recommendations. No one is asked to go out and try to be poor in spirit or to mourn or to be meek. Rather, Jesus is indicating that given the reality of the kingdom we should not be surprised to find among those who follow him those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek. Moreover, Jesus does not suggest that everyone who follows him will possess all the Beatitudes, but we can be sure that some will be poor, some will mourn, and some will be meek.’ (61)

When he called his society together Jesus gave its members a new way of life to live. He gave them a new way to deal with offenders – by forgiving them. He gave them a new way to deal with violence – by suffering. He gave them a new way to deal with money – by sharing it. He gave them a new way to deal with problems of leadership – by drawing upon the gift of every member, even the most humble. He gave them a new way to deal with a corrupt society – by building a new order, not smashing the old. (67)

Jesus’ use of wisdom to help us understand the character of the kingdom made present in his ministry is sometimes mistakenly used as a general policy recommendation. Jesus is not suggesting that we should not plant crops or weave cloth, but rather if we plant crops of weave cloth to “store up treasures on earth” we can be sure that our lives will be insecure. We can perhaps know that the desire to be secure is a self-defeating project without being a disciple of Jesus. But that wisdom is transformed through the recognition of him who has come to call a people into existence capable of praying for their daily bread. They are able to do so because their lives have been transformed through the call to be a disciple, making it possible for them to live in recognition that God has given them all they need … Abundance, not scarcity, is the mark of God’s kingdom. But that abundance must be made manifest through the lives of a people who have discovered that they can trust God and one another. Such trust is not an irrational gesture against the chaos of life, but rather a witness to the very character of God’s care of creation. So it is no wonder that Jesus directs our attention to birds and lilies to help us see how it is possible to live in joyful recognition that God has given us more than we need. (82-83)

The parable of the sower is not often considered by those concerned with the loss of the church’s status and membership in Europe and America, but it is hard to imagine any text more relevant to the situation of churches in the West. Why we are dying seems very simple. It is hard to be a disciple and be rich. Surely, we may think, it cannot be that simple, but Jesus certainly seems to think that it is that simple. The lure of wealth and the cares of the world produced by wealth quite simply darken and choke our imaginations. As a result, the church falls prey to the deepest enemy of the gospel – sentimentality. The gospel becomes a formula for “giving our lives meaning” without judgment … This is a particular problem in America, where Christians cannot imagine how being a Christian might put them in tension with the American we of life … It may seem odd that wealth makes it impossible to grow the word. Wealth, we assume, should create the power necessary to do much good. But wealth stills the imagination because we are not forced, as the disciples of Jesus were forced, to be an alternative to the world that only necessity can create. Possessed by possessions, we desire to act in the world, often on behalf of the poor, without having to lose our possessions. (129-130)

In truth, it is not easy to know how to read “the signs of the times,” but such a reading is required of those who would follow Jesus. Too often, however, Christians believe that we know how to read the signs of the times by reading the New York Times. But to so read the signs of the times is to be captured by the assumption that the way things are is the way things have to be. Pharisees and Sadducees read the daily newspapers and adjust. Followers of Jesus must read the same papers to show why Jesus offers an alternative reading of the times than that offered by the New York Times. Faced with such a daunting task, followers of Jesus can begin to sympathize with the Pharisees and Sadducees … Rightly reading the signs of the times requires a church capable of standing against the legitimising stories of the day. (147)

If we do not fear God our lives will be possessed by fears produced by our possessions. Jesus will command the disciples not to be afraid, but not to be afraid requires that we see, as they saw, no one but Jesus. To see Jesus, to follow Jesus, means that they too will be clothes in the bright white of martyrdom. (155)

It is not for us to try to create risk in Jesus’s name in the hope that we may recover some sense of what it might be to be a disciple of Jesus. To do that would only further our temptation to “play” at being Christian. To try to create risk would be an attempt to be heroic rather than to be disciple. (221)

Jesus’s command that the sword be put away is not a conclusive text, committing his followers to some version of pacifism. Arguments for Christian non-violence, just as arguments for the Christian justification of violence, depend on how the story is told and the kind of community that exists to tell the story. Jesus’s command that the sword be put away is but one expression that testifies to his willingness to be given over to sinners and crucified so that we might be made part of the new age inaugurated by his birth, death, and resurrection. Therefore, Christian non-violence cannot be a position separable from what it means to be a disciple. Rather, Christian non-violence is, in the words of John Howard Yoder, the pacifism of the messianic community. Such pacifism would “lose its substance if Jesus were not Christ and would lose its foundation if Jesus Christ were not Lord”. (224)

Jesus must be killed because Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus must be killed because Jesus has called into existence a new people who constitute a challenge to the world order based on lies and deceit. Jesus must be killed because he is a threat to all who rule in the name of safety and comfort. Jesus must be killed because we do not desire to have our deepest desires exposed. Jesus must be killed because we do not believe in a God who creates us and who would come among us after our likeness. So we have learned from Matthew. (235)

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Ten reasons why churches stall

Here’s a great article in this month’s Evangelicals Now from Marcus Honeysett on why churches stall.

Here are some highlights to whet your appetite …

1. The church forgets who we are and what we are for … When we forget that we are the community of disciples for declaring God’s greatness and making disciples, mission quickly becomes just one among many activities rather than the defining vision of who we are as a community.

2. The majority of believers are no longer thrilled with the Lord and what he is doing in their lives. When questions like ‘What is God doing with you at the moment?’ cease to be common currency, it is a sure sign of creeping spiritual mediocrity.

3. … In my view, the single biggest cause of stalled churches in the UK is the belief that material comfort can be normative for Christians. It is the opposite of radical commitment to Christ.

4. When [Christians]  see church as one among many leisure activities, usually low down the priority list. They are unlikely to see the Christian community as God’s great hope for the world and unlikely to put commitment above self-interest.

5. … Where people take no personal responsibility for their own spiritual growth a stalled church becomes more likely.

6. … When preaching, teaching and Bible study become ends in themselves rather than means to an end, something is badly wrong.

7. A church becomes afraid to ask radical questions … The danger is that people start to equate serving the church with living out the gospel. Few churches regularly evaluate every aspect of church life against their core vision.

8. Confusing Christian activities with discipleship …

9. Not understanding how to release and encourage everyone in the church to use their spiritual gifts for the building up of the church … There are two types of DNA in churches. One type of church says ‘we exist to have our personal spiritual needs met’, the other ‘we exist to impact our locality and the world with the gospel of the grace of God in Christ’. The first type is a stalled church.

10. … No church was stalled at the point that it was founded. At the beginning all churches were adventures in faith and daring risk for God. No one actively decided for comfort over risk, but at some point the mindset shifted from uncomfortable faith and daring passion for the Lord to comfortable mediocrity … The mantra of the maintenance mindset is ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. But just like buying shoes for growing children, if structures don’t take account of future growth then fellowships end up stunted and deformed.

Marcus leads Living Leadership and the author Finding Joy purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US and Meltdown purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US.

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Review: Corner – Nooma 23

Yesterday I reviewed the ‘Tomato’ (Nooma 22) purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US – one of the somewhat variable Nooma videos with Rob Bell purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US. Today it’s the turn of ‘Corner’ (Nooma 23) purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US – another one in the series which I am very happy to recommend.

Corner (Nooma 23) purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US

In Corner Rob Bell stands against the bright colour spectrum of cloth in a fabric shop. He talks of his delight in an old chair he was given when he was young. He talks about the delight he and his wife experienced when they could only afford to eat out once a month. In times of scarcity, you feel an overwhelming gratitude for the things you are given to enjoy. Our plenty makes us immune to this joy. ‘Success can be dangerous.’

Bell then cuts to a discussion of gleaning. It all seems so unfair – that others harvest that for which you have worked. But the command to glean is given because the people were once slaves in Egypt. In other words, God is saying that one day his people will be prosperous and the danger is that they will forget what God has done for them. So the command to glean is more of a warning not to loose your appreciation for the grace you have received. ‘When we empower others, when we extend grace to others in their oppression – whatever that may look like – we find out about the grace that God has extended to us.’ If we don’t find some suffering and do something about it then it may be that we become miserable. Our success will turn on us.

The visuals show various people cutting a piece of cloth from a curtain, their clothes, a bag – all leaving a hole. We then see those squares of fabric cut into heart shapes and sown on to a white dress which is parcelled up and given to a poor girl. At the end of the movie she dances out into the sunshine in her new dress. It’s a surprisingly moving finale.

Corner is a good application of gleaning and a powerful reflection on the imperatives of grace. It would be a great movie to watch with any affluent group of people.

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Review: Transforming the World?

Following my notes on David Smith’s address at the Reaching the Unreached conference on evangelicalism and social class, I thought I would post a review I wrote of his book, Transforming the World? The Social Impact of British Evangelicalism purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US. The review was originally published in Themelios, Vol. 25, No. 3 (June 2000), 130-131.

At the risk of gaudy dramatization, this book carefully sticks dynamite under a number of evangelical myths and then lites the fuse.

I have always thought ‘The Rise and Fall of the Non-Conformist Conscience’ would make a great title for book. In truth, if I was going to be the author, it was always going to be a title in search of a book. Now I think the book has been found.

In the heart of the busy Broadmeads shopping centre in Bristol is the first purpose built Methodist chapel. Sitting in the pews, imagining what it must have been like as people gathered, one is struck by the social impact of the eighteenth century revival. The working people who gathered to hear the gospel were leaving the Church of their masters, rulers and employers and organising themselves in alternative social bodies. It must has felt subversive to all sides.

Smith sets out to argue that the evangelicalism that arose from the Great Awakening of the 18th century was, what he calls, ‘world-transformative Christianity’. This was because so many of the movements leaders including those like John Wesley who rejected other aspects of Calvinism, traced their roots to the Reformation via Puritanism.

He describes how evangelicalism fragmented in the nineteenth century and the world transforming tradition was largely eclipsed, though with significant, if often neglected, dissenting voices.

The eighteenth century revival was largely movement among working people, usually despised by the privileged classes. Victorian evangelicalism, and especially the Clapham sect, sought to extend its appeal to the privileged classes. Simeon made it acceptable within the ecclesiological establishment while Wilberforce made it acceptable with the political establishment. Wilberforce, for all his social reform, argued against any change in the structure of British society. The Clapham Sect ‘were not just concerned to ensure that the form of the message would not be offensive, its content should assure the rich and privileged that they might attain personal salvation in Christ without the slightest hint of a threat to their ‘station’ in life.’ (17) In extending its appeal to the ruling classes evangelicals lost it world transforming vision. An elite do not welcome challenges to the status quo. While it thrived among the poor, evangelicalism, perhaps against its better judgment, was world transforming. When it sort acceptance among the powerful, it lost this vision.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that, in the form it took at Clapham, evangelicalism came perilously close to being a religious ideology in the Marxist sense of that term. If this conclusion is correct it has serious implications in relation to secularisation: in its Wilberforcian form evangelicalism may have achieved the success it sought in renewing the Establishment, but a high price was paid for this if, by identifying the Gospel with an élite culture and a deeply conservative approach to domestic politics, it alienated the growing numbers of people who were now challenging the patriarchal structures of British society and calling for radical social reforms. Without intending it, the movement associated with the Clapham Sect may have been a significant factor in the long-term decline of religion in the United Kingdom. (19)

The second generation leaders of Methodism fare not better in Smith’s hands. Despite Wesley’s political conservatism, Methodism had a profound impact on the social order. Gospel freedom led to calls of political freedom. But after Wesley’s death, the revival and moves for social change and were, demonstrates Smith, ruthlessly suppressed by the movement’s leaders in order to gain respectability. They boasted not only of their loyalty, but that Methodism made the poor content with their lot.

There were other voices. Evangelicalism had a profound impact on political dissent. (It is interesting to read the same story, as it were, from the other side in E P Thompson’s A History of the English Working Class.) But these voices did not prevail or were subsumed in frustration into the secular labour movement.

The best history is often polemic and Smith is no mere chronicler of the past. What he perceives as the growing crisis of Western culture offers evangelicalism a great opportunity for the renewal of mission but only if it can regain world-transformative vision. The Lausanne Congress of 1974 was a watershed, but evangelicalism faces other temptations: to retreat into an irrelevant fundamentalism or the easy triumphalism which mistakes numerical growth for genuine discipleship.

As we grapple with the challenges of postmodernity there are those who suggest that evangelicalism is inescapably a modernist expression of Christianity. What Smith shows is that, while much of evangelicalism has been high-jacked by the modernist relegation of religion to the private sphere, evangelicalism’s authentic voice offers a challenge to modernism and a biblical alternative to the vagaries of postmodernity.

If there is a disappointment in the book it is tha Smith asserts rather than proves his claim that the evangelicalism of the Great Awakening was world-transforming. He is good on its emphasis on personal experience. He demonstrates, although the books size prevents a satisfactory treatment, that early evangelicalism had profound social impact. But he fails to show the intentionality of this. Indeed he concedes John Wesley’s deep political conservative and oppostion to democracy. Indeed Wesley’s opposition to Calvinism, argues Smith, was motivated by his suspicion of the social transformative to which its all-embracing view of life led.

The work is enlivened by some lovely gems. Smith tells how a number of people left Charles Simeon’s congregation to join that of a brilliant, but poor, dissenting preacher named John Stittle. Simeon’s response was to personally give Stittle an allowance ‘for shepherding my stray sheep’. Or the Baptist writer John Foster’s description in 1802 of royalty ‘and all its gaudy paraphernalia as a sad satire on human nature’.
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Business for the kingdom – John Laing

Here’s another set of notes from New Word Alive. These are from Garry Williams’ talk on the twentieth century businessman, John Laing, who funded some much crucial gospel work.

John Laing died in 1978. Laing was a massive construction firm (which has now been broken up into smaller companies). The family business started in the nineteenth century, but it was Laing he oversaw its growth into a national company. By 1970 the company was 1,600 times bigger than it was seventy years before.

Laing joined the firm as an apprentice, competing to lay bricks faster than others. He was soon moved on. At aged 19 he supervised the building of the first power station in the north of England. The key to his success was his accurate costings. He knew how many bricks a man could lay in an hour. He had notebooks with many such statistics and this enabled him to provide accurate estimates so he could confidently compete with other tenders. World War One led to big growth for the firm with so much construction required. At first Laing enlisted, but was discharged because his building work was so important to the war effort. Realising bricklayers would be in short supply after the war, Laing developed a new form of construction using concrete. The firm grew throughout the twentieth century, building, for example, the first motorway in Britain.

What difference did it make that Laing was a Christian?

Things did not go well in his early career. One major project in Barrow involved laying sewage pipes having been told the soil was dry clay, but it was wet sand. The route was also changed. So the project went overtime and went to court.

During this crisis Laing threw himself on the Lord, saying he would make the Lord a partner in his work. At this point he wrote his ‘programme for life’. The first statement was that the centre of his life would be God as seen in Jesus Christ.

Laing could be tough on staff. But he was also generous. He knew them all by name. As the firm grew, he had lists of staff drawn up so he could keep up. He styled the company as a family. He once found a man looking tired and asked after him. The man told him he was looking after his children because his wife was ill. Laing disappeared and then returned to give the man two weeks off with full pay. The man discovered Laing had checked out the situation at home. So he was generous, but also careful and wise in his generosity. Laing began practices like sick pay, pension schemes and pay during poor weather lay-offs – all before they were law. When the firm issued shares, shares were given to employees.

Laing also kept his word. A client was told they would make a house with a garage. At the end there was no room for the garage so Laing ordered the workers to pull down the house to start again. Similarly, he ordered the approach road to a factory to be broken up and re-laid because it was a quarter of inch thinner than what they had said it would be.

Laing’s plan for life included a financial plan. He decided how much he would live on, how much to save (this was not saving for personal use, but for the security of the company) and how much to give away. As his income rose, the savings increased (though the interest was given away) and the giving increased. But once the earnings hit £500 his income remained the same.

Laing was a significant funder of IVF (now UCCF), London Bible College (now LTS) and Tyndale House. He would drop into the IVF offices for an hour each week and always his question was the same, ‘How many students have become Christians this week?’

Laing also used the business generously. He built Coventry Cathedral and then returned the profit. Many brethren churches were built at cost price. When the company built houses, they would built extra houses for missionaries.

When Laing bought a ‘radiogram’ he resisted also buying a new car because he felt one luxury a year is enough. When away on business he made sandwiches rather than pay for a meal or he would eat in the canteen with the workers.

Most of Laing’s giving was in secret. This we do know: he presided over a multi-million pound company, yet at his death his estate was valued at £371.

Laing also led Bible studies at church and led a Crusaders group, going on Crusaders camp into his seventies. He was also bold in his witness. When he was waiting to receive an honour from the Queen, for example, he asked the person standing next to him whether he was ready to be received in the court of heaven.

Points for reflections

Have you consciously resolved that God as seen in Christ should be at the centre of your life?

Do you care for staff in a distinctive way?

Do you keep your word in your work? Even if it costly?

Will you fix your eyes on Jesus? And so plan your giving, restrain your expenditure, and give joyfully?

Are you regularly involved in the local church?

Will you be a witness for the Lord Jesus?

Josh Harris on a good recession

Tony Reinke draws attention to two sermons by Josh Harris on a Christian response to the recession including a summary, quotes and audio links. Here are some quotes …

Is it possible for us to think something is the best for our kids, and we are just discipling them in covetousness?

This recession will not necessarily make you a more spiritual and godly person. God can use this recession for our spiritual good if we let it awaken us to the folly of greed and covetousness. There is a very big IF in this statement and I want you to be aware of this. This recession will not necessarily do you or me any spiritual good. In fact if we don’t guard our hearts it might be an opportunity for us to grow more greedy and more obsessed with money and financial security.

I’ll speak for the pastors, we don’t get a lot of phone calls of people saying ‘I’m greedy! Please, I need counselling.’ … Our schedule is not booked up with people who are awake at night aware of how greedy and covetous they are … Could it be that we have been lulled to sleep by a culture that is built on the lie that your life consists in the abundance of your possessions?

Our definition of need has been super-sized by our culture of consumption. So we think that we need not only to eat, but to eat food that we love, and preferably to eat out. We think that we not only need to be clothed, but to wear the latest fashion and have five of everything. We think we need more than just a roof over our heads. We want a bigger house, with a big yard. And the list could go on and on.

One of the spiritual benefits, potentially, if we seize it, we can gain during an economic recession is that as we tighten our budgets as we change our lifestyle, we can actually begin getting a clearer picture of what we actually need…Seize this as an opportunity to have your need-o-meter reset.

Money and children in household church

I had an email from someone yesterday asking about money and children in household church. Here’s what I replied …

We do ‘money’ is a whole variety of ways in TCH. A few principles. 1. We aspire to live for heavenly treasure not worldly treasure so there are lots of people living on much less than they could earn. 2. We make no distinction between supported and unsupported gospel workers. So among the leaders there is a real mix and leadership is not linked to support in any way. We have supported workers who are not leaders and leaders who are not supported. 3. We are committed to muddling through! In other words, there are whole variety of ways people do funding. One or two raise personal and grant support. More often people combine some support with part-time work. Others work in secular jobs full-time. And a lot of people work part-time and just live on less. Our family lives mainly of my wife’s income as a teacher plus some personal support and what I earn from writing.

I’ve raised my two children in household church. They were 6 and 3 when we started and now they’re 14 and 11 We have a chapter on children and young people in Total Church, but here’s the two minute version. I think household church is a great context to raise children. There are challenges – the challenges of integrating them week by week. But better that by far than postponing those challenges until a crisis moment somewhere in their teens when they’re expected to make a big jump to church. You do lose some peer opportunities (although you can address those by working as a network of household congregations). But you gain something more valuable – children and young people interacting with Christian community and, especially, having Christian role s who are older then them, but not as old as their parents. Lose you images of a youth club with 50 kids running around like mad things on a Friday evening and gain instead an image of teenagers hanging out with committed Christians in their twenties.

Giving

At our Sunday meeting this week we looked at giving …

The principle of giving

Matthew 13:44
‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.’

Did the man sell his possessions out of duty?
No, he sold them ‘in his excitement’.

Should we pity the man for selling his possessions?
No, because he getting a greater treasure.

What does this teach us about our attitude to money and possessions?
We should find giving exciting because we have a much greater treasure in view!

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