Archive for September, 2013

September 26, 2013

Attracting People, Keeping People

gestureAs a church planter I’m very interested in getting people to come to church. Every pastor is interested in getting people to come to church. But many of them have an existing congregation and can simply rely on a steady stream of new people who have connections with existing congregation members. They possibly don’t have to do anything deliberate in this area at all. In contrast, Catherine and I have no congregation at all (except for our daughter!) So we are 100% reliant on attracting new people. So how do you go about that?

In my experience of church life one thing that rings true is whatever you do to attract people is what you will have to do to keep them. So if we attract people by having the world’s loudest rock band, or the world’s greatest dance troupe, or the world’s greatest singer (and yes, that would attract people) then to keep them we will have to keep putting on those kind of shows. What you end up with is people who like the band / dancers / singer but are not the least bit interested in the Christian message. You have attracted people, but not the kind of people that care at all about what you have to say. We have both seen churches do this, and it is painful to see them then assess, why is no one responding? They don’t respond because they were never remotely interested. They succeeded in attracting non-Christian people, but not non-Christians who were open to the gospel.

I learnt this lesson from Tim Hawkins who trained me in youth ministry. Tim oversaw a youth ministry of 300 high schoolers – one of the biggest in Australia. Every Friday night the 300 kids would attend various groups according to their age. They would play games, have fun, enjoy each other’s company, hear a little bit from the bible and go home. The games were front and centre. If you liked the games you would like the youth group. The problem was not many of those kids cared about the bible bit at the end. So the whole approach was changed. The decision was made to put the bible message front and centre. If you didn’t care for what the bible said then you would not enjoy the youth group. A year or two later Tim was in charge of a youth group of 150 kids who loved God and wanted to hear from his word. It’s not easy to take one of the nations biggest youth groups and halve it. That requires quite some courage. To say in the midst of the decline, “No, this new strategy is right, we are sticking to it” was very bold. However after a few more years again the commitment that those kids had to the gospel meant that they brought their friends, and it was back to 300. However this time it was 300 disciples, not just 300 kids who liked youth group games. Of course making disciples is what it’s all about.

So Catherine and I are working out exactly what advertising we will do to attract people. But you can be sure that we will be putting the gospel front and centre. Not in “Christianese” that unchurched people can’t understand, of course. But we will be making it clear that we have a message that will turn your life around if you will pay the price.

What we need to do is attract people who are open to spiritual things, who are looking for new direction in life, and who are not put off by the thought that a church is a place that might have answers.

We would much rather 20 interested people than 120 uninterested people. Because from 20 interested people you are going to get many people committing their lives to Christ. You will get the start of a great church, a church full of people who love God and want to grow in Him.

The other argument is that if you attract 120 people then it could well be that some of them will happen to respond even though they began to attend because there were things on that have nothing to do with the church’s message. But here’s my view after seeing a number of churches do this over the years – it just doesn’t work. It’s a failing strategy, and yet it remains very popular. It is a huge amount of time and energy for a minuscule reward.

Jesus, meanwhile, simply went to synagogues or wherever people assembled and preached. People were taken by his message. His healings and miracles were the “show”, not a musical performance. Changing the lives of the people who do attend is going to do more to grow the church than anything else.

John

September 19, 2013

The Trip to Wetherby

wetherby

Catherine and I continue to have a strong sense that God has and is going before us here in England. This post is about one of many things that has happened to give us that impression.

We have been making use of Ebay to buy some of the furniture that we need.  Catherine bid on and won some bedside tables, which we then had to pick up.  The seller lived in a town called Wetherby which is a full hour or so from where we are. We possibly ended up spending more on petrol getting to and from Wetherby than we did on the tables themselves, but anyway, we got some bedside tables which are doing a fine job.

We headed out to Wetherby on a Sunday afternoon – the church we had visited that morning was kind of on the way.  All morning I was thinking why on earth did Catherine buy some furniture so far from home?  Why are we going all this way for just a couple of bedside tables that could surely have been gotten fairly cheaply closer to home?  Anyway, it was an interesting drive (perhaps not for our 6 year old little girl, but we enjoyed it). When we arrived in Wetherby we were struck.  It was a sunny afternoon in summer, and the place was just gorgeous.  The bridge over the river was first built in the 1200’s.  There were flower boxes everywhere in full bloom, there was a lovely relaxed feeling and the whole scene was stunning.  It’s not a big town – the population is just over 10,000 – and this is a part of the world where there is a substantial size town every 10 minutes in almost every direction.

I was thinking, wow I know we’ve been called to Halifax but wouldn’t it be great to be here?  Catherine was thinking the same thing.  In fact she was even thinking that we should be planting a church in Wetherby.

Now allow me to give some background. Part of what we want to do through the church that we will plant is plant more churches in Yorkshire.  We have a list of 6 more towns that we feel God wants us to go to eventually.  Right now we are yet to plant any church, so it might be getting a bit ahead of ourselves by planning where all our daughter churches are going to be.  However we want to dream big, and make no apology for having bold plans.

So sure enough just the day after we get home from the trip to Wetherby I find some of our church planning documents and I glance over the list of six towns and there is Wetherby.  I couldn’t believe it.  There would be at least 30 places in West Yorkshire more obvious than Wetherby, but there it was on our list.  And we were completely ignorant of the fact when we were visiting.

There’s a lot of water to flow under the bridge before we plant a church in Halifax, and then years more until we plant in Wetherby, but when things like this happen we feel so encouraged that God is with us and will empower us to do what he has called us to.

John

September 19, 2013

God’s Chicken Noodle Soup

God's Chicken Noodle Soup

I had a beautiful and humbling experience yesterday. It was an experience that had me bawling my eyes out in the stairwell of our apartment building. Poppy and I have caught some random low level English bug, nothing special – runny nose, sore throat and dry cough. I really wanted to make some of my homemade chicken noodle soup for us but I have no pots. The boxes we sent from Australia are clearing UK customs now and are due to arrive in Halifax next week. My pots are in those boxes. I am loathe to buy one given their imminent arrival. I have survived 7 weeks without my pots and I am determined to wait just a little longer. I went to the shops regardless and bought all the ingriedients for my chicken noodle soup except for the pot. When I got home I knocked on the door of several neighbors. No one was home. I was outside looking high and low for anybody – no one was around.  Out loud I sighed heavily and I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. I said out loud to God ‘I really need a pot to make soup for Poppy and I.’  There was no reply so I started to walk sadly back into the building. I then had a vivid picture/vision of a black sports car driving into one of the car parks. It was familiar to me – it is the car driven by a lady I have met once in the next building – Valerie.  As I looked back outside I noticed her car park was empty – she wasn’t home. I walked up the stairs to our apartment and as I looked out the hallway window I saw Valerie’s black sports car pulling into it’s parking spot. I ran back downstairs and hid for a minute as Valerie got out of her car. ‘Hi Valerie’ I called out. I explained my predicament and she was more than happy to lend me a pot to make my soup in. As I carried the pot back to my place I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I was so thankful to God for caring about me and the pot for my soup. I was filled with His love and I thought to myself  ‘God is my friend and I am friends with God’.

I wonder what it would be like to be God. In the movie ‘Bruce Almighty’ they try to give a human being God like qualities. The limitations of his humanity become evident quickly as the character is overwhelmed by the millions of prayer requests coming in from all over the world at once. Therein lies the problem – we always try to understand God through our own mind where our thinking is limited by our experiences, our beliefs and our predjudices. Imagine if you were to try and explain the internet to an ant. You wouldn’t succeed. I think we are an ant compared to God. He is infinite in his thinking – he has no limitations, no boundaries and endless capacity. But that is what makes the ‘soup pot’ thing he did so amazing. If God is so big – why does he care about my stupid pot,  why does he bother answering such little prayers? Because He is my friend and that is what friends do for one another.  He cares about everything that is happening to me even if it is a situation of my own doing. He’s not to big or too famous or too busy to care about the little things in my world. In fact he wants to share every moment with me. Sometimes I just forget to include Him.

I spent the next few hours making my chicken noodle soup. I don’t know what I did different but it was the best I have ever made. It tasted amazing. I think God put himself in that pot of soup. I took the pot back with two containters of soup for my lovely neighbors. And for you dear readers my very precious recipe for God’s Chicken Noodle Soup.

God’s Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe

Ingredients

Stock

1 whole chicken. Organic is preferred. (remove breasts. I am hopeless at doing this and sometimes have to buy one breast to top up)

3 Lemons

4 sticks of celery

1 whole onion

1 whole bulb of garlic

1 bay leaf

3 carrots

1 potato

Chicken Balls

2 Chicken breasts

2 Tablespoons of grated parmessan

1 Egg

Added Soup ingriedents:

2 fresh corn cobs

100g spaghetti

3-4 cubes of chicken stock or ½ litre of bought liquid chicken stock

Sea Salt

Method:

Roughly chop carrot, celery, potato and onion. Leave the skin on if not too dirty. Put all into pot.

  1. Break whole chicken apart. Cut breasts out and put aside. Discard gizzards. Put chicken legs, thighs and carcass into pot. (butchers will often sell you an extra carcass for $2 – add if you have a big enough pot)
  2. Break garlic bulb apart. Don’t skin each piece just throw into pot. Add bay leaf to pot.
  3. Squeeze the juice of one lemon over everything in the pot. Then cover generously with water.
  4. Bring pot to boil and then simmer with lid off for at least 2 hours. Stir occassionally. Top up with a little extra water or put lid on if you loose too much liquid. Strain entire pot keeping the stock you have now made – this is the base for your soup. I seperate all the vegies out and throw them away as their flavour and nutrition are gone – they are now in your stock. It’s the same deal with the chicken but I save that as it goes to making the soup look great.
  5. Pick chicken carcass clean. Chop up chicken into bite sized slivers.
  6. Return the stock you have made to the original pot. Add stock cubes or liquid stock,  juice of second lemon and a genourous pinch of salt. Add cut up chicken slivers back into stock.
  7. Take corn cobs and stand on one end. Run sharp knife down the edge removing the corn. Keep turning the cob until all sides are skinned. Put all the corn kernals into your stock. Throw cobs away
  8. Bring stock with added ingriedients back to a boil and then add spaghetti broken into 2-3cm pieces.
  9. Now make the Chicken balls. Take removed breasts and add one egg with parmessan cheese. Use food processor to finely mince ingriedients together into a fine puree. When your stock pot is boiling drop small mouth sized balls fashioned by hand into pot. They will cook quickly and rise to the surface.
  10. Stir gently and taste. Add more lemon juice if too salty or more chicken stock if too lemony. Enjoy with crusty bread!

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxo

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