Whole Life Preaching

The DMin thesis I’m working on, arose out of the impact London Institute for Contemporary Christianity’s (LICC) Life on the Frontline had on me and our church. At the course’s heart is a very simple thesis, how can we resource the church to fulfill its every day mission serving God where each person spends most of their time, which for many who be at work. What does it mean to be a teacher for God, a rubbish collector for God, a parent, accountant, volunteer or friend? As they neatly put it, don’t ask what new members of the congregation can do for the church, but what the church can do to resource them.

On the back of that, I started looking around for homiletical approaches that specifically seek to support that view of frontline mission. I quickly discovered Anna Carter Florence’s Testimony Preaching, which claims to equip congregations to share their experiences of God in their daily lives by the preacher modelling this through sharing their experiences of God in the text and life. My research question is simple, does it work?

In light of this, I was delighted to be at the launch of LICC’s new resource, a suite of videos and handouts entitled Whole Life Preaching. I’ve not had time to work through all of them yet, but the taste I have had suggests they will be really useful for me as a preacher, and hopefully for my research too! Based on previous experience with their materials, I recommend then to you.


A Whole Lotta …Plums

For the second year in a row my little vegetable patch lies barren except for clumps of grass and a stray fennel plant that appeared from who knows where! I usually blame the busyness of Easter for my failure to sow seed on time, but if I’m honest, it’s more a case of having chosen to fill my spare time with other things. Next year perhaps… But all isn’t doom and gloom in terms of growth in the Quant garden this year. The rhubarb is magnificent, the apple tree the church gave us a couple of years ago is showing signs of a good crop and the plum trees are spectacular. In fact I have never seen the like, the plums are hanging like grapes in bunches. I fear for the effect of all this extra weight on the trees, but look forward to eating them! All this is the result of all the rain at the start of the year and the recent sunshine with heavy rain from time to time (like when Charlotte and I were doing her paper-round this week, grr…)
On Wednesday night the Bible Study group finished the follow up course to LICC‘s Life on the Frontline course, Fruitfulness on the Frontline. Like its predecessor this was great fun and made quite an impact on us, even if its contents were shaped around six rather contrived ‘M’s: ‘Modelling godly character’, ‘Making good work’, ‘Ministering grace and truth’, ‘Moulding culture’, ‘being a Mouthpiece for truth and justice’ and ‘being a Messenger of the gospel’. The aim of the course was not to pile on a whole load more things that we should be doing on top of already busy lives, but was to open our eyes to what God is already doing through and around us so that we can celebrate that and make the most of these opportunities.
The outcome of this 6 @M’ MOT? I’m glad to report that we passed. In fact to my eyes at times it sounded a little like our fruitful plum trees. One of us is making good work through running a business on different lines that purely making money, but trying to make a difference to people’s lives and create a good product. Another is attempting to mould culture through how they respond to workplace gossip and attitudes by patiently demonstrating godly character and showing love to their ‘enemies’. One has been late from time to time, but rather than castigating them, we have prayed for them as they have been held up by phone calls from those needing a loving ear; she has been ministering grace and love. Another has been doing the same to those she spends her spare time amongst, offering to help out with their gardening when it is clearly too much for them and being available to listen and support those going through hard times. Another has been praying for his colleagues, playing Christian music and planning to invite them to Paul Kerensa later in the year. Another has been speaking up for those he lives near whose thoughts might otherwise be overlooked and starting conversations on Facebook about the church and faith. There have been so many stories!
As a group we want to encourage others to share their stories of what God is doing in and around them so we can celebrate his love and seize every opportunity for him. Maybe you might also be tempted to join us on Wednesdays from time to time? This has become for us such a vital part of our Christian walk as we’ve found support, encouragement and challenge from each other and God together.

Happy Birthday Facebook

On Tuesday 4th February, mark Zuckerberg, one of the founders of Facebook, posted that it was Facebook’s tenth anniversary. Over those ten years Facebook has become a modern phenomenon, going from a small university community website to a globe spanning brand and social media site, that plays a part in the daily lives of many millions of people, maybe you included. People use it to stay in touch with old friends, share jokes, swap stories, play games, admire each other’s photos and find others with similar interests.

In his post, Zuckerberg wrote about the motivation behind his creation and development of Facebook. He wrote the following:

‘I remember getting pizza with my friends one night in college shortly after opening Facebook. I told them I was excited to help connect our school community, but one day someone needed to connect the whole world. I always thought this was important — giving people the power to share and stay connected, empowering people to build their own communities themselves. When I reflect on the last 10 years, one question I ask myself is: why were we the ones to build this? We were just students. We had way fewer resources than big companies. If they had focused on this problem, they could have done it. The only answer I can think of is: we just cared more.’

Facebook was developed in order to create a place where people could create communities. It fed into a fundamental human desire, which comes out of being made in God’s image, to relate to others. Like all communities, it has its good side and dark side. There is indeed great love and generosity shown between its members. Discussions can be profound and constructive. People can get in touch and maintain friendships that would otherwise be lost. News can be shared and celebrated or support offered when needed. There are times, however, when it becomes a place of gossip, slander, unfaithfulness in relationships and cyber-bullying. Alongside the profound and helpful you can find frivolous and destructive.

Like it or not, social networking online is part of life. For many of us it’s part of our lives, part of our Frontlines. As such the question we face is an important one, what does it mean to use it well, i.e. in a way that is in keeping with Col. 3:17?

‘…whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’

Men @ Work

Boy what a morning that was. The alarm went off, rolled out of bed, got dressed and stumbled down stairs to put the kettle on (always the first priority) get breakfast organised, make packed lunches for the children, feed the rabbit (got to be careful to feed the right things to the right people at the right time!) and have just about enough time to finally have breakfast myself before making sure everyone had left on time with the right bags and kit for the day. All done, more or less on time. Phew. Then went upstairs to have a quick wash, looking forward to a quiet hour before Toddlers to get myself organised, read my Bible and pray, and to write this newsletter column. That never happened…

Getting downstairs I discovered that I’d missed a phonecall and had a message from the company doing the church bell tower to say that the scaffolders had tried to deliver the scaffolding and to put it up only to find that the roadworks were in the way and there was nowhere for them to park. Could I go and negotiate with the foreman on the roadworks and let the scaffolders know when somewhere was organised. Charge outside, track down the foreman. Arrange a hole. Phone the builders back. Then hang around on watch looking out for a lorry which could be the scaffolder and lead them to the cleared space. Done successfully just as Toddlers was due to start. So much for the quiet start! Not the ‘quiet time with God’ I’d hoped for.

Or was it? Where was God in all of this? Surely this was a chance to serve God and those around me. The whole morning was in fact one long list of opportunities to see God and work and to share his love. I had a choice – I could get grumpy with the children, to be honest I’m naturally grumpy and uncommunicative first thing, or I could make their lunches as if I was doing so for God and put aside my desire for tea in order to ensure they had a good start to the day. And how about the mass of builders of one kind and another clogging up the road with all the resultant chaos? Plenty were moaning, and so was I to start with, but then I caught myself and sent out a cup of tea, had a chat with them and asked if the men on the road enjoyed the cakes that were left over from the Foodbank the night before. Have to admire their skill in doing what they’re doing, and the politeness and thoughtfulness in the way they’re doing it. People made by God, expressing something of the image of that God within them, regardless of whether or not they are Christians.

Quiet time with my Bible and prayer? Maybe not, but on reflection God was there, as was the chance to serve him.

Men at Work