Small group update

January 21, 2017

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Here is a quick update on our small groups:

Our Monday evening group called Grow the Word for the young at heart and young in faith may be small but they are having a great time! We are looking at the stories from 1 Samuel and seeing how these stories connect with real life today. Looking at issues such as prayer, friendship and jealousy, we are learning so much about our faith and how it impacts on our everyday life.

Our Wednesday evening group called Live the Word group takes the theme of the Sunday sermon and asks the question, “OK, we’ve heard the words – now what?” Taking seriously Jesus’ call to make Him Lord over every part of our life this group is seeking direct, practical application of Scriptural truths to the issues that confront us daily.

Our Thursday afternoon group known as a GIFT Group (Growing in Faith Together) is at the moment tackling that most important of subjects – prayer. The disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” and this group is seeking to learn the lessons Jesus taught them.

Our Thursday evening group called Know the Word recently finished Luke’s gospel after two years! We learnt so much along the way, we have decided to plunge into the sequel, otherwise known as the Acts of the Apostles. We have grown so much by studying the word of God and we have seen so many answers to prayer. It is thrilling to see confirmation of the Scriptural truth that the word of God is alive and active.

Once a month (except this February) the groups get together for the Big Picture. The aim is to look not so much at a small chunk of Scripture but get an overview of the whole story of the Bible and see our part in it. We’ve looked so far at creation, at human sexuality and at sin. Plus we’re trying to learn the books of the Bible in order – who knew clothes pegs could be so useful?

Whether you are used to a small group or not, there must be something here for you. To find out more, just ask, and don’t be afraid to show up! Our small groups are there for you, to help you discover more about the life Jesus offers you, and to provide the support we all need week by week.

And if you don’t feel you are ready for a small group yet we also offer Christianity Explored for those who just beginning to look at the Christian faith.

Why not join us?

 

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What a journey!

December 10, 2016

Two years ago our little midweek group started looking at Luke’s gospel. Since January 2015 we have been on an amazing journey. We have grown so much in so many ways, leading to the planting of a new group, and real advances in faith. The Lord has taught us so much, and we really want to praise Him for all the grace and mercy He has shown.

So what have we learnt?

  • The challenge of obedience. In Luke 6:46 Jesus asks: Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? We all struggled to work out how we would answer Jesus question for ourselves.
  • The need for worship. Luke is full of people who worship, from Mary at the beginning to the disciples at the end. How full are our lives of worship and praise at all the Lord has done? Does the fact He has saved us thrill us and cause us to open our mouths in heartfelt thanksgiving?
  • Insert your name here. We found time after time we could put ourselves in position of the characters who met Jesus, and found God once again speaking to us through them.
  • Counting the cost. We love a comfortable kind of faith that makes no demands on us. But we saw throughout Luke’s gospel that Jesus does not give us the option. As He says in Luke 9:23:If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
  • We will get it wrong. Luke pulls no punches about the disciples. They frequently misunderstood Jesus, or missed the point. While Jesus was talking about His death at the Last Supper, they were arguing who was the greatest. If Jesus can use those kind of people, He can certainly use us.
  • The theme of journey. We saw how most of Luke’s gospel, from 9:51 onwards, is structured as a journey. The Christian faith is not static, but a movement. and we need to be willing to journey with Jesus.
  • It’s not just about God, it’s about Jesus. We reflected how the world is comfortable about us talking about God, and how easy it is as Christians to fit this agenda. But we are to talk about Jesus, no matter the offence we may cause. It is His good news we are called to proclaim, and in His name we are called to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47)
  • Honesty. Luke’s gospel is about real people living real lives. There is no room for hypocrisy or pretence in the Kingdom of God. Indeed, Jesus’ harshest criticism is reserved for those who play religious games.
  • Good news for the poor. Time after time Luke makes the point that the good news is not just for the educated, or the respectable, or those who have their lives sorted. Jesus’ concern was for those on the margins  – so why does His church so often seem to focus on almost anyone apart from such people?

In 2017 the group will move on to the second volume of Luke’s writing, the Book of Acts. We are looking forward to how the Lord will teach us through this remarkable book. And we are looking forward to others joining us – that could even be you!

We start back on January 12th – put that date in your diary as the journey continues…


The challenge of growth

June 4, 2016

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.
So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything,
but only God, who makes things grow.

(1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

It is wonderful and miraculous when growth happens. The Lord is doing something very special at the moment and there is so much to praise Him for.

I for one am not complaining, as I have been praying for growth for so long, and I am starting to see some real answers to these prayers. However to grow is to change. Looking at my garden, what began life as seeds in the greenhouse have become plants. They have had to be uprooted from their pots, put into the ground, watered, and (hopefully) protected from the slugs and pigeons.

Last Thursday we enjoyed close fellowship at the vicarage and we worked out that if everyone came we would be trying to squeeze seventeen people into our lounge. It’s not only the limits of the room that are a problem. A group that size becomes something other than a small group and it’s hard for everyone to contribute effectively. And if there is no room for newcomers, then that really is a sign that it is time to divide and replant.

In some ways dividing is going to be difficult. We have learnt and shared so much together that we will miss those who go to the other group. We will have to sort out the leadership and the material we want to look out. We will need to decide if from time to time we will want to come together as one larger group (perhaps in church) and if so how that will fit into our programme of events.

But then the church has always grown by planting new shoots. A plant that stays in the same pot will become rootbound and eventually die. Yet if our plans are of the Lord, then we can trust that He will honour and bless our decision. I for one can already see the potential that could be generated by having, say, two or three groups rather than one.

So over the next few months we will be preparing the ground for a new group to start in September. We will be looking for newcomers to join – could it be you? If you have never been part of a small group before, and maybe wonder why they are just so important, then this be a marvellous opportunity to join in. Let us know when you can meet, and even what you would like to learn more about, and we’ll see what we can do. And let’s go on praying that the Lord will continue to make His church grow here in this place, for His name’s sake, and that we will be ready for the growth He gives.

 

 

 


How do I give to the poor?

January 7, 2016

We had a really interesting and helpful discussion in our Bible Explored group last night about giving to the poor. I expect all of us have faced the situation where someone has asked us for some spare change or claimed they have run out of food. And particularly as Christians it can be hard to resist these requests. After all, we know that we have a duty to give to the poor, and we feel we are being hypocritical if we simply walk on by, or shut the door. After all, aren’t we supposed to be like the Good Samaritan and help those in need? What would friends and family who do not yet believe say if we told them we passed by on the other side of the road?

Nothing I am about to say negates the fact we are called to be generous and to recognise that one day we will have to give an account to God for the way we have used His money. That was the point of the passage we were looking at last night – Luke 16:1-15 (and do join us next week as we move on to look at the rich man and Lazarus). But alongside our duty to give to the poor, there are a couple of other considerations we have to take into account.

First of all, our primary duty is to love our neighbour as ourselves. If we give money to someone who we know is going to spend that money on drink or drugs, in what way are we loving them? There are other ways we can give generously to our neighbour without directly giving them money, such as buying food, calling a taxi, topping up their gas or electric. Such tasks are perhaps more difficult because they involve establishing a relationship with the other person – going with them to the shop, for example, or waiting with them for the taxi. But that time is in fact an opportunity to show them the love of Christ and maybe even to silently pray for them as we quite literally walk with them.

Secondly, the best way of giving is through the local church. That is, after all, how the local church operated. After the day of Pentecost a new community was formed where all the believers were together and had everything in common (Acts 2:44). So if anyone had a particular need, funds could be raised to be that need. Later on, we learn in Acts 6 how the church had a system of daily food distribution for the widows among them (Acts 6:1). When Jesus says, “give to the poor”, he is addressing the community of disciples (Luke 12:33). Our giving is so much effective when we pool our resources and we can set up ministries of mercy and compassion.

That’s why if anyone asks me for spare change, I point out how much we already give to Shekinah and to the Foodbank, and direct them to these organisations. That is not to duck my obligations, and I do buy food for those in need, but to me that seems the best way to heed the Lord’s call to give and to show Christlike generosity. But as we saw last night, the real challenge we all face is to recognise that all we have is not our own and the Lord’s. And there is much more all of us can do to heed the Lord’s call to use what He has given us for His glory, to trust Him enough to give generously, and to rely on Him for our daily bread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


How to take part in a small group

August 1, 2015

I think there are many people who are nervous or uncertain about joining a small group. What does the group actually do? What will be expected of me? Why give up an afternoon or evening any way? Will it make any real difference? Well, the short answer is come along and find out. Over the summer, the Wednesday evening group is continuing to meet, and the Thursday afternoon group meets again on 10th September. We are finding that week by week the Lord is speaking to us, and we have seen all kinds of answered prayer, and we would love to welcome newcomers, even if you are only coming to see what it’s really like!

But to help you understand exactly how we approach Scripture and why we place such importance on reading it, I have produced the following eight step guide which shows what might happen during a typical session. We begin in prayer, recognising the presence of the Lord, and we end in prayer, asking that the Lord will help us put all we have learnt into practice. The steps in between are designed that we read the Scriptures, faithfully, openly and honestly, so that the same Holy Spirit which caused the Bible to be written might apply that same word to our hearts.

These eight steps are, however, not rigidly set in stone. Sometimes we will spend most of the evening looking at a direct application, or particuarly focusing on how God’s word speaks to the situation a particular individual is facing. Sometimes we will come across something that is hard to understand, and although it may seem like hard work seeking to work out what the Bible is saying, by the end we usually find that we have all grown a little in our faith and understanding. Really what happens is up to Christ speaking through His Spirit (providing we don’t get distracted!)

One thing we have learnt is not to worry so much about the parts of Scripture we don’t understand, as the parts of Scripture we do understand! Because it’s often the most obvious commands or warnings we struggle most to put into practice … which is exactly where the support and fellowship of the other small group members come into play. The Bible was never meant to be read purely in isolation or on a Sunday morning. The early church was made up of small groups who shared their lives together – not as a tight clique, but as an outward looking network of people seeking to live out their faith in an often dangerous and hostile world, like us today. 

So here are the eight steps:

Pray Take a moment to be still, to recognise the presence of the Lord, and to leave your cares and concerns at the foot of the cross. What is it that you are expecting the Lord to do tonight? Are you ready to listen to His voice?

Read the passage If members of the group are using different versions, where are they similar? Where do they differ?

Set the scene No passage of the Bible stands on its own. How does it connect with what we read last time? How does it point forward to what we will be looking at next week? Where does this passage fit into the whole storyline of the Bible?

Interpret What type of passage are we looking at? Are we to take what we read literally, or are there figures of speech we need to understand?

Respond Is there anything about this passage that immediately strikes you? Are there any words or phrases you don’t understand? What questions would you like to ask the author of this passage?

Discuss What is or are the main point(s) of the passage? Could you express it in your own words? What does this passage tell us about God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Is the passage addressed to us as individuals or to the people of God? What are we called to do in response to His word?

Apply How does what we have just read apply to our own daily lives? How does it apply to the life of the church?

Pray that the Lord would write His words on our hearts, and that we would return with a testimony of how we have seen the Lord at work through all that we have learnt tonight.


GIFT Groups are good for you!

January 7, 2013

It doesn’t take much investigation to find out that church growth has always gone hand in hand with small groups of people coming together to read the Bible. When the Bishop of Thika came over here, one thing he taught us about the church in Kenya was the importance of small groups. Every church member belongs to a cell who worship together, read the Bible together, pray together and – perhaps a rather novel idea for us – raise  their part of the church’s income for the year. It is perhaps no coincidence that the Diocese of Thika has grown by many thousands since it was founded in 1998. But the experience of this diocese is no means unique. I can point to many examples around the world and across the ages where small groups have been key to revival.

So why are we so reluctant to embrace them here? After all, Jesus promises us that He will be there where two or three are gathered in His name (Matt 18:20). Luke tells us the early church was marked by devotion to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship (Acts 2:42). Paul exhorts us to let the word of God dwell in us richly (Col 3:16).  There is a good Biblical basis for meeting together during the week, so we can Grow In Faith Together. Yet my general impression is that so often GIFT groups are seen as an optional extra for the spiritually keen, and all the statistics of churches in this country show that on average less than half of church members attend a small group.

Now I am sure there may well be good reasons for this, and I know the pressures so many people face during the week. Yet the overwhelming evidence suggests GIFT Groups are good for you. We have a Wednesday evening group starting this week at St Michael’s and a Thursday afternoon group starting this week at St Barnabas. We are spending the coming term looking at the psalms of David and seeing how they arose from the kind of real-life situations we all face.  (If you want to see the exact programme, follow this link to Epiphany to Easter 2013)

So why not make it your New Year’s resolution to come along? You don’t even have to say anything, and you are welcome to bring a friend. But if we’re really serious about learning to be with Jesus* then I would like suggest our GIFT groups are one of the best ways of realising this goal.

*PS  I hope you spotted the reference to our Mission Action Plan! We’ll be looking at this again at our next APCM –  watch this space!