Friday, 20 November 2009

Owen Hylton @ RFC

We are currently using Sunday evenings to help us engage with some of the issues that the current sermon series 'Crossing the Divide' throws up. Last Sunday night we watched the film 'Cry Freedom' at the church offices. Simply watching this film in a room with black Africans changed the way I viewed it!

This Sunday night my friend Owen Hylton will be with us to tell some of his story (he is married to a White British Girl). Owen will also be part of a panel to help answer our questions as we journey on embracing diversity.

Do try to get along 7:45 until 9:30pm at the church offices ... and come prepared to ask your REAL questions even if they are not politically correct!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

A Resilient Life

Last summer, Liz and I spent a day with Gordon and Gail MacDonald (courtesy of our friends at Kerith Community Church). We both thoroughly enjoyed their personalities, their teaching and their openness.

I have just finished another of his books 'A Resilient Life' and found it so helpful. Here is a man who in his early 70's is reflecting on his life and how he intends to finish well.

His honesty about his past mistakes and the lessons he has learnt is very refreshing. When people fail they have a unique perspective to bring. His reflections on the influences on his life has helped my journey into memories I have shut out for years.But most of all I like his idea of 'thinking big picture whilst doing the small things well'.

I think that this will be an important book for me, one that I keep revisiting as I journey into the second half of my life ...

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Gift Days & Faith & Healing

Sunday was one of those mornings.

It was the second & final Sunday of the Gift Days. The total for the two Sundays ended up being twice the amount we asked for - God was extravagant and His people are truly generous!

During our time of worship the faith levels were so palpable that I felt compelled to give a general prayer for healing. I told people to place their hands on their ailment and I asked God to heal them.

It was fantastic when Joe Smith came and testified to his knee being healed ... it was such a supernatural yet ordinary moment!

I have been pondering the connection, if any, between the outpouring of faith for giving money and the faith for healing. I do find it curious that when faith is being exercised in one area of life (giving money), God responds to faith in a different area of life (healing a knee).

Joe Smith is a engineer, logical, faithful and needs 'good knees' to better serve his internship with us. I don't know why God, in a moment, healed Joe's knees but and other ailments in the congregation remained.

There is clearly much mystery and no favouritism when it comes to healing. But this I will say, when faith is being exercised, whether for giving money or healing, there is no telling what God will choose to do!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

1 in 4

On Sunday I kicked off the new sermon series looking at embracing diversity. As part of my sermon preparation we conducted a brief survey of ethnic diversity at RFC and then compared that against the town.

1 in 4 adults at RFC don't come from the ethnic group White British which matched the stats for our town. However, we do have some work to regardings interns & deacons! (more data on Reading here).

75% of RFC are aged between 16-45 whilst Reading is only 50%. Interestingly, the 16-29 age group in Reading is at 25.3% whilst the South East of England is at 17.5% (more data on Reading here)

The series is based around Owen Hyltons book entitled 'Crossing the Divide'. Owen is with us on Sunday 22 Nov in the evening to be part of a Q&A session.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

A risk worth taking

Starting a Sunday evening meeting in the New Year has created quite a lot of discussion here at RFC.

Yesterday I had a great conversation with Gary Watkins about the danger of us creating a mono-culture evening meeting. Starting at 6:30pm isn't a great fit for young families and given we value the inter-generational & multi-ethnic feel of Sunday mornings, how does that work on a Sunday night?

A wise question that I don't think has one 'silver bullet answer' but here was my gut reaction to Gary's question:

There is a real danger we shipwreck our momentum in diversity and build a mono-culture evening congregation. Yet, simply knowing that this 'dangerous reef' exists help us as we navigate.

Whenever you pioneer a new work, 'values' are more important than initial profiles. Our values should shape who we become. When we started RFC we were 100% British White but now we are 80% British white! We are multi-ethnic and increasingly inter-generational because of our dogged commitment to our values and God given calling.

That said, I do think that each meeting will have a different feel to it. The morning will be more family friendly (kids work) whilst the evening meeting end with an invitation to go for drink together. The expression of our values can look different and different people will prefer the different expressions. All that we do should be underpinned by our high value on inter-generational, multi-ethnic, socio-economic diversity.

Lastly, the risk of building a mono-culture congregation is eclipsed by the need to reach the unchurched & backslidden Christians in our town. These people may find an evening meeting an easier door to enter than our 10am Sunday morning meeting. On this basis alone, the risk of a monoculture evening meeting is a risk worth taking.

Clearly this is a not an exhaustive answer but Gary thought it helpful if I publish this on my blog!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

7 reasons why preaching is not enough

John Piper recently addressed his small group leaders on the essential nature of what they do:

Last Sunday when I met with the small group leaders I tried to show them how essential their role is at this church by giving them seven reasons my preaching is not enough—seven reasons why perseverance in faith and growth in faith call for Christians to meet regularly in a face-to-face way to “serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10). God intends to do things in you which he will only do through the ministry of other believers.

7 Reasons We Need Small Groups - He has given pastors to the church “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (
Ephesians 4:11-12). I believe in what I do. And I believe that it is not enough. Here are the seven reasons I gave the small group leaders.

1) The impulse to avoid painful growth by disappearing safely into the crowd in corporate worship is very strong.

2)The tendency toward passivity in listening to a sermon is part of our human weakness.

3) Listeners in a big group can more easily evade redemptive crises. If tears well up in your eyes in a small group, wise friends will gently find out why. But in a large gathering, you can just walk away from it.

4) Listeners in a large group tend to neglect efforts of personal application. The sermon may touch a nerve of conviction, but without someone to press in, it can easily be avoided.

5) Opportunity for questions leading to growth is missing. Sermons are not dialogue. Nor should they be. But asking questions is a key to understanding and growth. Small groups are great occasions for this.

6) Accountability for follow-through on good resolves is missing. But if someone knows what you intended to do, the resolve is stronger.

7) Prayer support for a specific need or conviction or resolve goes wanting. O how many blessings we do not have because we are not surrounded by a band of friends who pray for us.

RFC in the news

"SOMETHING clicked for winners of a competition to find a photo that captures the spirit of Reading.

Keen amateur photographers roamed the streets hunting for an iconic shot that would win vouchers for photo shop Jessops and a place on display at Reading Family Church's refurbished town centre offices".

For the full story click here.