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Church… without the boring bits November 16, 2007

Posted by Andy in Reflections on Ministry.
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I thought my eyes had failed me, but on a recent walk-about through a town centre during some ‘time-out’ in October I walked past a church with the following words emblazened across its banner: ‘Church – without the boring bits’. 

What message were they trying to convey? And if I had happened to pop into one of their services what noticeable differences would I have spotted from other so-called ‘boring’ church services?

Perhaps this particular church have got rid of the sermon (or at least reduced it to a quick 5 minute sound-bite), or cut down on their amount of prayers, or got rid of moments of quiet in the quest for a noisier style of worship with more entertainment value.

If any of the above elements have been taken out of this (or for that matter any) church, then I think it’s a crying shame. Of course we all experience those moments in church services when we don’t feel particularly inspired or we fail to connect with a prayer or don’t follow the preacher’s words very clearly. However, I think that in the relentless pursuit of many churches that are seeking to present an entertaining service week in week out, with slick visuals, loud music, and so on – in order to make Christianity attractive – they are actually diluting the gospel message in the process and therefore doing the reverse of what they set out to achieve.

Why? Because to present our faith as something that gives you a quick buzz or eases the boredom of life for an hour a week before you have to return to the humdrum of our daily routines is not a full expression of the gospel and does little to nuture whole-life discipleship.

Of course, the gospel is a life-changing message and Jesus was hardly a boring person to hang around with when he walked the earth. And I’m not for one minute suggesting that God’s kingdom is a place of eternal boredom or that ‘boring’ church services are acceptable. But it reminds me of a question I kept thinking of while I was at college. Should the church mirror the culture around us or should we be distinctly different from it? Maybe it’s a bit of both. We need to be able to relate to those people that find church a big ‘turn-off’ but we should also be a place where people come into a group of people who view life differently and are therefore counter-cultural: ‘in the world, but not of the world’.

There’s much more I’d love to blog about on this issue and hopefully a recent lecture given by Eugene Peterson at a Pastor’s Conference will stimulate some more reflections! Watch this space… 


Befriending yourself November 2, 2007

Posted by Andy in Reflections on Ministry.
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I’ve been working my way through a book for pastors by a pastor called Peter Brain. The book is called ‘Going the Distance: How to Stay Fit for a Lifetime of Ministry’ and the author kicks off with an opening chapter on the importance of self-care. In it Brain suggests that pastors can easily fall into the trap of getting a ‘Messiah complex’:

‘An intentional self-care on the part of pastors is not a matter of selfish pampering, it is essential to maintaining an effective ministry over the long term… We want to honour God and to serve people, so we tend to work hard. Of itself, hard work is not a problem;’ but it can become one if we neglect our families, ignore the physical and emotional strains upon our bodies and minds, and become frantically busy’ (p10, 12).

He also makes the poignant remark that much work undertaken by a pastor is not seen by many people:

‘there is continual temptation to skimp on the core pastoral responsibilities of prayer and preparation for preaching. Why? Because people don’t see the pastor doing them… Prayer and Bible reading form the staple diet and are, together with church, a means of grace appointed by God for our growth’ (p18).

He then refers to the Sabbath principle:

‘It is God’s gracious provision, because he knows our bodies and minds need regular rest… Clearly God wants us to work creatively. It is part of what it means to be made in his image, but to do so we need to rest regularly… Self-care helps me engage in the art of being an “unhurried pastor”. This phrase, used by Eugene Peterson, has nothing to do with laziness, but everything to do with availability and freshness for the task’ (p20-21).

Walking the radiant path… November 2, 2007

Posted by Andy in Reflections on Ministry.
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These are the words of a prayer I read this week:

‘When mystery hides Thee from the sight of faith and hope; when pain turns even love to dust; when life is bitter to the taste and our song of joy dies down to silence; then, Father, do for us that which is past our power to do for ourselves. Break through our darkness with Thy light. Show us Thyself in Jesus suffering on a Tree, rising from the grave, reigning from a throne with all power and love for us unchanging. So shall our fear be gone and our feet be set on a radiant path’.