Calling the faithful city back to the faithful God

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Counting Grains of Sand…

Counting Grains of Sand...

On Sunday I attend XS at St. Peter’s Baptist Church, which is basically ‘Sunday school’ for school years 7-9. It’s a place where we can explore the Bible, grow our faith and make new friends.

Last Sunday, we were talking about self worth. After discussing together what makes us feel worth something, we looked to the Bible. The verses that really spoke out to me were from Psalm 139:17-18:

How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them. If I were to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I am awake, I am still with you.

It really amazed me and made me feel special. If you stood on a beach and grabbed a handful of sand, and considered how many grains that is, then how many millions of sand grains you’re standing on, then how many billions of grains are on the beach as far as you can see… that’s how much God thinks about you and more! To think that we’re thought about and that we’re loved that much is such an amazing thought.

Becca

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Youth Cafe Reopens!

Youth Cafe Reopens!

It was an energetic start to the new term at SPBC’s Youth Cafe on Friday last week. We welcomed back many familiar faces as well as meeting new young people.

The start of the new term saw the start of a Youth Alpha course. We screened a fifteen minute Alpha video in the coffee lounge with questions posted throughout the church for young people to think about such as “If you only had 24 hours to live what would you do?” and “Assuming God is real, what single question would you ask Him?” We expected the video to clear the room, especially as we took away the youth’s source of music for the audio feed, but before long the room began to fill with casual observers and more engrossed watchers. As a result, we were able to engage with the youth and share our beliefs and life stories.

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Prayer of Examen

Prayer of Examen

In our morning services on 4th May Martin talked about the Prayer of Examen. It includes some questions to ask about your day, which are:

  • What am I thankful for?
  • What did I find most difficult?
  • When did I feel most alive?
  • What has God made me good at?
  • Where did I show love and receive love today?

This is followed by some questions to ask God:

  • What was important to you in my day?
  • When did I show the fruit of the Spirit?
  • Where did you want me to think or act differently?
  • What would you have me learn from today?

You may also like to use this “Hear I am” prayer when pausing during a busy day:

Here I am, Lord,
with all that I am,
and all that I’m doing;
with all my hopes and fears,
and all the pressure I feel.

And you say to me:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Magnify

Magnify

On Wednesday evenings, we young people normally gather for Equip, where we hear a talk, before splitting into groups for discussion. For a change, we had a youth led meeting called Magnify, and helping to lead was an amazing opportunity to discover all the hard work that goes into preparing an evening for us. The worship was brilliant, as always, and the reflection was equally powerful! In spending time writing the talk, I noticed the strong connection between learning and teaching; if someone is teaching you, they first must have learned, and they are empowering you to go help others learn by what you’ve been taught yourself. It reminded me the importance of sharing the things that we learn on Sundays and in our small groups, and taking that to people outside of the church community, because how else are they going to learn? It also showed me that, although learning from others is great, sometimes we need to take the time ourselves to learn from God; nothing can replace going directly to Him.

A youth team member

Risen with Christ

Risen with Christ

Every baptism is powerful. I’ve seen many people follow Jesus’ command to be baptised and each time I have felt the power of their testimony. Often it has moved me to tears. I don’t just mean the testimony they gave in words before being baptised. I mean the testimony of the baptism itself – when they act out the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and symbolically declare that they have died with Christ and risen to a new life with him.

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Bel Canto

Bel Canto

Our piano at home has been around for nearly forty years. It has a few scratches and chips but overall it is still shiny and more importantly sounds fine musically, to my ears at least. It is tuned every six months or so. After the piano had been tuned last summer the trusty piano tuner who has tuned the piano from new, said in passing, “the top notes are getting less distinct with age.” He probably thought no more about it, after all it’s all in a day’s work to him, but it certainly resonated with me and my thoughts flashed immediately to this forty-something human resident of the house and whether my ‘top notes are getting less distinct with age’. Is the music of my life, are the notes I am emitting drawing others to follow Jesus or am I playing a dirge no one wants to listen to? I wrote this poem as a result. See what you think.
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Up, in and out

Up, in and out

For many years housegroups (and similar small groups) have been a vital part of our life as a church. They play a crucial role in building supportive fellowship and creating a context for Bible study and prayer.

Many people have asked me if we would have to sacrifice these things if we have mission-shaped communities.

The answer is a categorical NO.

The church is a community and as it gets larger we have to form communities within the one overall church community. Our current small groups and housegroups are built on a two-dimensional model. That is to say, we focus on the UPWARD dimension (connecting with God through prayer and Bible study) and the INWARD dimension (loving one another and building honest and supportive relationships). These are vital and non-negotiable in Christian community.

Mission-shaped communities do not sacrifice these dimensions. They add a third dimension: OUTWARD. This means owning together a mission to particular people outside the community (and outside God’s kingdom) and acting together to love, serve, bless and share the good news with them. The community is not simply an ‘evangelism team’ who only think about the outward mission. The upward and inward dimensions of their life together are just as important. If they do not meet together to pray, study Scripture and share their lives in some way, they are not a community of disciples.

So mission-shaped communities have three dimensions: up, in and out. Think of it as a triangle: triangles come in many forms and sizes but all three angles need to be present in any triangle. I am excited about the many shapes and sizes for mission-shaped communities that we might establish; the thing they all need to have in common is up, in and out.

In practice these three dimensions might look quite different in different communities. Some might meet weekly for Bible study and prayer (rather like housegroups) and get involved in their outward dimension at other times. Some might pray and share the scriptures over a meal together and invite others to join them for that as part of their mission. Some communities will grow larger and have ‘small groups’ within the community, so for example they might meet fortnightly in small groups for prayer and Bible study and fortnightly as a whole community to develop their mission activity.

I don’t really know how God might lead us in this mission-shaped adventure, but I’m confident that if all our communities have a firm commitment to UP, IN and OUT we have a secure basis for taking some daring steps of faith together.

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What is a mission-shaped community?

What is a mission-shaped community?

Last year I visited St Thomas Philadelphia Church in Sheffield. It happens to be the largest UK church outside of London and the fastest growing church in Europe. The church took a group of us on a ‘mission bus tour’ of the city. Every two or three minutes our guide told us about a mission-shaped community (MSC) that met in that area:

  • this MSC is serving and reaching Somalian refugees
  • this MSC is serving and reaching parents and children in a troubled estate
  • this one is reaching students and clubbers (and meets at 3am on Saturdays!)
  • this one is supporting and reaching parents of teenagers
  • these MSCs are reaching young professionals… families who like to meet in the park… people in this wealthy area… vulnerable elderly people… Slovakian gypsies… mountain bikers…  people who love the arts…

The church has made itself a collection of mission-shaped communities. Everyone is part of a community that is loving, serving, blessing and sharing the good news with a particular group in the city. This is unleashing the God-given potential of the church. It is setting Christians free from the loneliness of trying to ‘do evangelism’ as a solo activity. It is reaching unreached people in the city (based on the church’s vision not just to grow but to reach and transform the city). It is growing deeper relationships and more committed discipleship among everyone who is part of an MSC.

Our vision is to see the potential of St Peter’s released in the same way. If we become a church comprised of many mission-shaped communities we will have a structure appropriate for a disciple-making movement.

The next few posts will look in more detail at what a mission-shaped community is.

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Designed for disciple-making

Designed for disciple-making

We currently have a model of church that is attractional. By that I mean that we are good at attracting people who are already looking for a church. Many people have joined St Peter’s because they moved to Worcester, were looking for a church and they liked St Peter’s. That’s great. Many others have joined St Peter’s because they felt there was something lacking in their existing church which St Peter’s provided, such as youth ministry, children’s work, biblical preaching or lively worship. That’s fine; I might well do the same if I felt my church was lacking these things.

Unfortunately, attractional church is driven by the need to keep Christians happy. When I look at Jesus I see that his focus was not on keeping his disciples happy but challenging them to get involved with the people around them who were far from God’s kingdom – serving, loving, healing, blessing and preaching. This was the mission he gave his disciples so when we design church around those priorities we can call this a missional church. It’s not about attracting disciples but making disciples.

That’s why we are proposing a new structure for the church based on mission-shaped communities. We need to organise ourselves for mission to outsiders, not just attracting insiders.

I’m sure virtually every Christian who has been attracted to the church (including me) does not just want this church to be a warehouse that shelves believers neatly until we go to heaven. We want a church that is good at making disciples – a church made up of crews that go out fishing for men and women with the right apparatus. And if we continue to attract people who are already disciples that’s fine, but let’s be attractive to people who want to join a disciple-making movement.

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Where Are We Heading?

Where Are We Heading?

If you could get binoculars to see into the future, what would St Peter’s Baptist Church look like in five years’ time? Would it be much the same with us all looking five years older? Maybe there would be a few new faces and a few new songs, but essentially would we be doing what we’re doing now?

In many ways the present situation is pretty good. The church has been growing and most of us feel encouraged to grow in faith and discipleship through our life together. We have a prominent place in the St Peter’s community and numerous visitors come into the church building every week.

So if it ain’t broke, why try and fix it?

Our church is not broken. But we’re not reaching the potential God has given us. Nowhere near. Jesus says this: ‘From the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.’(Luke 12.48). St Peter’s has been entrusted with a huge amount in terms of people, resources, premises, spiritual gifts, maturity, enthusiasm, wisdom, experience.

I believe Jesus is being true to his word and asking us for more.

Jesus has called us all to be disciple-makers. He sends us out to fish for people (Mark 1.17). He calls us all to ‘Go and make disciples…’ (Matthew 28.19). St Peter’s has become good at attracting and resourcing Christians. Now it’s time to discover together how we can be good at making new disciples.

When I imagine St Peter’s in five years’ time I see something quite different. I see a church that is seriously good at making disciples. I see us praying for a harvest. I see us committed to reaching our city with the good news. I see us serving and seeking the lost together in all kinds of imaginative ways. I see a network of communities across the city committed to making the saving power of Jesus known to different neighbourhoods, cultures and social groups. I see St Peter’s as a movement of disciple-makers with structures designed to send us out rather than keep us in. I see dozens of baptisms every year. I see a church that is known for bringing healing and hope because it is in amongst the hurting people in our city. I see a church that is seeing people freed from the curse of shallow materialism and discovering the liberty of being sons and daughters of God. I see a church that vividly reflects Jesus.

In short, I see us starting to reach our potential.

The following posts in this blog will be about the vision we (the church leaders) have been developing for a church that can see this dream realised.

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St Peter’s Baptist Church
Address: Eden Close, Worcester, WR5 3TZ
Telephone: 01905 767090
E-mail: info@stpetersbaptist.org.uk

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