Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pessimism, Optimism, Opportunism

The pessimist says that the glass is half empty.

The optimist says that the glass if half full.

The opportunist drinks up!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Wedding planning tips

Reflecting on our wedding day, I would encourage people who have to choose between inviting all the friends and family they'd like to be there and the lovliness of the food, venue etc. (due to cost, for example) to go for the guests. One of the best things for me was a church full of my favourite people rooting for us and spending some time with them afterwards.

I also wish we'd gone for a really good professional photographer. Some friends took some great photos, but the chap we paid was bellow average, I'd say, and I reckon that's not something to scrimp on.

We did the whole day on roughly half the average cost, I believe, and I'm not sure I wish we'd spent more in other areas.

Mrs Lloyd's 3 top marriage tips

I am about to see a wedding couple this evening. At supper I asked Mrs Lloyd for her 3 top marriage tips. They are:

(1) Talk (& listen!)

(2) Serve - be kind, helpful, considerate and thoughtful to one another

(3) Have a date night, ideally once a week, but less often if you have other things to do which would drive you to distraction on your date night!

P.S. date nights need not be at night! Any suggestions for a better name? "Dates" do sound rather as if they ought to take place in the United States of America

Oh, and Mrs Lloyd adds that it is good to pray together as a couple regularly, even once a day!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Olympic & Pentecostal Fire

Some jottings from a Pentecost sermon on Acts 2:


Fire (v3)

Bible story book
Ridiculous – tiny little pilot lights
No doubt an awesome sight

Olympic Flame
Apparently, commemorating the theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus by Prometheus
Torch doing the rounds!
Today it goes from Swansea to St David’s in the far West of Wales and then North to Aberystwyth
It would be a 5 hour drive, but you could still make it!

The Olympic torch is carefully avoiding us
I don’t know why they’ve neglected Bodle Street Green / Warbleton
But the flame will be going around us
Anyway, you can see it on:
Tues 17th July - Bexhill, Hastings, Eastbourne, Lewes, Crowborough & Tunbridge Wells

(This sermon has turned in to a public service information announcement)

In our passage:
A far more important flame

You don’t have to chase it round the country!
This flame is available here and now and everywhere.

Special process for choosing the Olympic torch-bearers.
For all, not for an exclusive few.
Cf. OT times – rather like the Olympic torch – a few special people, temporally
Every believer is a carrier of this fire.

Fire in the Bible the presence of God Himself
Burning bush
Pillar of fire by night
When the Law was given from Mount Sinai we’re told the LORD descended on it in fire (Ex 19:19)

Feast of Pentecost commemorated the giving of the Law
A new giving of the Law – a new Covenant
The Spirit would write the law on our hearts
As the law went out from Sinai and Zion so the Gospel would go out from Jerusalem

Fire à God

“Our God is a consuming fire” (Dt 4:24; Heb 12:29)

God’s greatest gift is God Himself
God the Holy Spirit is God

The Holy Spirit is a person not a thing
A “he” not an “it”
Not a human being but a personal being
Not just a force or an energy – not like divine electricity or supernatural liquid

God Himself comes to be with us, to be alongside us
Comfort – not a comfort blanket but like a fort to make us strong, to put strength in us

Fire à purity, refining, purifying, purity, perfection, holiness
The Holy Spirit

Fire in our bellies
Passion, courage, conviction
Too often the church is a bit sissy!

Apostles – testifying before Kings
Willing to die for Christ

Wind & fire – immensely powerful
(Wind at Camber sands – 20mph brisk to strong Easterly wind too much – Deluxe £17 6 poled windbreak is not much use)
The Holy Spirit puts winds in our sails
Energising

Acts 1:8 - “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The beginning...

If we take the opening words of Mark's Gospel to mean something like, "[This is] the beginning of [my account of] the good news of Jesus Christ", it strike he that's a very wierd way to begin a book. Relatively few of the books on my shelves begin:

"This is the beginning of a history of England..."

or

"This is the beginning of a novel set in 1950s New York..."

or whatever.

What might Mark be saying?

That here is God doing something new and decisive.

Perhaps (as with John 1:1) there is an echo of Genesis 1:1's "beginning" (LXX, arhce). The Gospel is about New Creation: new life for individuals and for the cosmos.

Also,


There’s an inscription from 29BC about the birth of the Emperor Augustus that says:
“the birthday of the god [i.e. Augustus] marked for the world the beginning of good news [gospel] through his coming.”
Maybe Mark is deliberately echoing those strikingly similar words.
Here’s the beginning of the good news, not about Augustus, but about Jesus.
Mark wants us to know that Jesus, not the Roman Emperor, is the world’s true king!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

What's the time, Mr Bible Translator?

I'm all for pretty literal Bible translations. Or at least, I'd want a as-near-as-possible word for word translation in my study. But I do think that, if you're ever editting or translating the Bible, when we get to something like "at the 6th hour" a footnote with an explanation would be helpful.

I'm told that the Jewish day started at 6am, so you can work out the time from then. "The 6th hour" would be noon, and so on.

Parish Magazine Item for June


From the Rectory

Our churches and villages, Dallington school and Punnetts Town are all busy planning how we’re going to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. You can find further details later in the magazine and I look forward to seeing you at some of the events.

Elderly Elizabeth with a smile 

Whether or not you’re a monarchist, I think it’s hard not to admire Her Majesty’s amazing life-time of selfless public service.

The idea of a ruler who serves is, of course, a Biblical one, and no doubt the Queen has often been inspired by her own deeply-felt Christian faith and the example of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Church of England has produced a prayer for the Jubilee which goes like this:

God of time and eternity,
whose Son reigns as servant, not master;
we give you thanks and praise
that you have blessed this Nation, the Realms and Territories
with ELIZABETH,
our beloved and glorious Queen.
In this year of Jubilee,
grant her your gifts of love and joy and peace
as she continues in faithful obedience to you, her Lord and God
and in devoted service to her lands and peoples,
and those of the Commonwealth,
now and all the days of her life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Now, it’s far above my pay-grade to quibble with the worthy ecclesiastics who penned that prayer! But I might not have put it quite like that.

According to the Bible, Jesus does reign as master. He is, after all, Almighty God himself. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, enthroned on high. He rightly claims all authority in heaven and earth. He made us and own us. We, his subjects, owe total allegiance to him.

If you ask me, it would have been better to say that Jesus reigns not only as master, but also as a servant.

The point is this: Jesus is the Servant King. He re-writes our notions of power and authority. Jesus came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Throughout history many people have laid down their lives in war for King and Country. King Jesus came to lay down his life for his people. Jesus shows us that true greatness lies in self-sacrificial service. His crown was a crown of thorns; his throne was a cross. His Kingdom is not from this world. He is a humble, gentle king. Jesus isn’t another Caesar. His rule is counter-cultural, revolutionary. He doesn’t lord it over his people. There’s nothing tyrannical or oppressive or exploitative about his Kingdom. Jesus isn’t jumped up or bossy. His service is perfect peace. Subjection to him is real freedom.

It seems to me that Her Majesty knows that, and that we would do well to follow her example, as she follows that of the Lord Jesus.

The Rev’d Marc Lloyd

Queen's Christmas Messages

The full text of all the Queen's Christmas broadcasts is available here. They might come in handy in writing a Parish Magazine item for the Jubilee month.

Monday, May 07, 2012

A day in the life

Tomorrow is Miss Lloyd's second birthday and a busy day for Daddy:

8:15am BCP Holy Communion at St Giles, Dallington

Dallington Church of England Primary School Assembly on "doing your best"

Toddler Group story - The healing of the paralysed man (Mark 2)

A funeral at Warbleton Parish Church, followed by the commital at Eastbourne Crematorium

A school governors' meeting back in Dallington

7:30pm a meeting at the Rectory with a couple who are planning to get married

Oh, yes, and the Parish Magazine article is overdue.

An Eccumenical Gag

Baptist preacher The Revd Stephen Gaukroger told this joke at Bible By The Beach today:

A Baptist preacher is preaching at the Baptist Assembly and celebrating being a Baptsit. He asks the members of the congregation to put up their hands if they're glad to be Baptists. Everyone raises their hand enthusiastically, except for a little old lady in the front row.

"Aren't you glad to be a Baptist?", the preacher asks her.

"Well, actually, I'm a member of the Church of England", the lady replies.

"Why?", the preacher asks.

"Well, my grandparents and my parents were Church of England", the lady replied.

The preacher challenged her: "If your grandparents and parents were idiots, what would that make you?"

"A baptist?", the lady replied.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Passion for Life (Easter 2014)

I understand plans are being made.

Towards Mission Action Planning (MAP)


Thinking about our overall aims, priorities, strategy, tactics and next steps
TOWARDS UPDATING OUR MISSION ACTION PLAN

Please can I ask you to make all this a matter for prayer in advance of our meeting. Ask God to give us all wisdom and (eventually!) a common mind.

Before we meet, it might be helpful to give some thought to some of the following. We won’t necessarily go through all this in detail when we meet, but I hope it might get us thinking. You might like to jot down anything you think you’d particularly like to mention or discuss when we get together.

I hope that we all basically agree on the big picture of what a church ought to be about. It seems to me we ought to be seeking to be disciples of the Lord Jesus and be seeking to make disciples of the Lord Jesus. Prayer and the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit are fundamental. Under God, we want to make disciples who will in turn be able to make disciples. So we are aiming for mission and maturity, evangelism and discipleship, conversions and nurture. And we want to encourage everyone to be using their gifts in the service of others and growing in their own ministries. We pray for growth in numbers and also in depth of commitment. Ideally, we want to reach all sorts of people of all ages and backgrounds. But we might be limited in what we can do. We need to keep in mind where we’d like to be, but start from where we are, and think about what the next steps might be. We may need to focus on some specific areas or activities or sorts of people rather than going off in lots of different directions. What might be right for us in our context at the moment might be very different from some other churches.

No doubt we won’t sort everything out in one session. And our plans always need to be open to change. At least in the early stages of our discussions, it is important for us to be open to any ideas or points of view. It might help if we try to suspend judgement and think hopefully about the possibilities. Depending on our personality and mood, some of us might see problems and barriers or be resistant to change. And realism does need to come in! But it can sometimes be all too easy to be defeatist, think something might not work and therefore not try it etc. “We tried that a few years ago and it didn’t work” etc.

It might be worth thinking about:

What are our:
(1) (Internal) Strengths
(2) (Internal) Weaknesses / Limitations
(3) (External) Opportunities
(3) (External) Threats

Think about your friends, relatives, neighbours, colleagues etc. who live locally. With whom do you have contact? How might they be helped to move closer to Christ? How might the church help (or hinder!)?

Could you list, “3 local people I am praying will come to Christ, and to our church”:

(1)

(2)

(3)

What might help or hinder them? If the church were aiming to reach them, what might it do / do differently?

We might think of local people as on a spectrum from “no contact with Christians and no knowledge of the gospel” at one end, to “being wholehearted church members engaged in fruitful ministries” at the other. How can we help people to take the next step in the right direction? What do we currently do as a church that might help with:

(1)    Pre-evangelism - Making contacts / building relationship with people
(2)    Evangelism – where there is some explicit deliberate exposure to the Christian message
(3)    Christian nurture / follow-up / discipleship / fellowship / pastoral care
(4)    Training in ministry, equipping others to serve and use / grow their gifts
(5)    (Admin / governance / practical support of all the other stuff we’re really here for)

How effective are we in each of the above areas? How can we be more effective? Are any of these weak / being neglected?

Given that time, energy and money are limited, are there things we currently do which we should stop doing or do differently?

You may recall Revd Richard Jackson (Diocesan Mission & Renewal Adviser)’s  recent Deanery Synod presentation, from which I circulated some jottings. He showed that over the last decade, some churches in the Diocese have grown significantly and some have shrunk significantly. No doubt there are all sorts of different factors affecting this and some places are much harder / more "stony ground" (Mark 4:5) than others. Nevertheless, with caveats and qualifications, he suggested that it is normally possible to identify the following important characteristics:

Characteristics of shrinking churches:

(1) self-preservation and guarding "our" tradition is paramount. There is a disdain for spiritual enthusiasm and a lack of spiritual energy. The great concern is to keep the show on the road / building open.

(2) an institutional rather than a Kingdom focus. We want people to come to church but we are not so concerned to make Disciples.

(3) a failure to recognise cultural change

(4) predominately Sunday focused (which does not suit some people who are already involved in stuff on Sundays such as taking the kids off to the rugby club)

(5) poor spiritual understanding. Essential doctrines are regarded as optional. e.g. the bodily resurrection of Jesus is up for grabs.

(6) dependency on the clergy, especially for anything "spiritual" - a kind of vicarious spirituality where the clergy do that stuff on our behalf. Unrealistic expectations of the Vicar.

Characteristics of growing churches:

(1) informality / humanity, a warm, welcoming, accepting atmosphere - not pressured or frosty. Whilst not irreverent, not a crippling panic about getting the service just exactly "right". e.g. tolerance of toddler noise, not reproachful stares

(2) leadership. A strategic plan / sense of calling. A Mission Action Plan (MAP).

(3) addressing and removing structural barriers to growth - e.g. confusing pattern of or awkward service times

(4) shared ministry - gifts of individual members are identified, encouraged and used. (The opposite of Vicar dependency)

(5) fervent intercession / corporate prayer. Specific focussed prayer for the life of the church. A sense of spiritual battle dependent on the Lord.

(6) community engagement

(7) driven by children and youth work (willing to adapt for the sake of it)

The Growing Healthy Churches people have got a list of 7 characteristics of healthy churches that grow. How do you think we do on these? How could we do better?
(1) Energised by faith
(2) Outward looking focus
(3) Seeks to find out what God wants
(4) Faces the cost of change and growth
(5) Builds community
(6) Makes room for others
(7) Does a few things – and does them well.
There are apparently some people who are in to a thing they call “Natural Church Development”. I gather they reckon there are 8 things that determine this, and that church growth is likely to be limited by whichever is the weakest.
The eight criteria are:
(1) Empowering leadership
(2) Passionate spirituality
(3) Gift orientated ministry
(4) Need focussed evangelism
(5) Inspiring worship services
(6) Functional structures
(7) Holistic small groups
(8) Loving relationships
Do you think any of these are weaker in our church and therefore holding us back? How could we improve in that area?

Are there things we should be doing as a benefice of 3 parishes or with other churches / Christians?

Any other suggestions or ideas?

Ultimately, our goals / Mission Action Plan ought to be SMART:
S - specific
M - measurable
A - achievable
R - resourced
T - time limited

Some resources:

http://www.diochi.org.uk/downloads/Resources/PCC/Mission%20on%20the%20MAP%202011.pdf – some of the above is cut & pasted from here!

http://www.churchmaps.co.uk/

Peter Bolt, Mission Minded: A Tool for Growing Your Ministry Around Christ’s Mission (St Matthias Press)

Colin Marshall & Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-shift That Changes Everything (Matthias Media)

Mike Chew & Mark Ireland, How To Do Mission Action Planning: A Vision-Centred Approach (SPCK)

Paul Baynes & Tim Sledge, Mission-Shaped Parish: Traditional Church in a Changing Context (Church House Publishing)

Any other useful resources?