Friday, September 23, 2016

Kerith Vision Fund

Helping people find their way back to God by generously giving our money to provide excellent meeting places where lives are changed

One of the things limiting our growth as a community is a lack of meeting places. That looks different on each of our sites:

  • In Bracknell we have run out of space to grow on Sundays, space for midweek activities including courses and social justice, and office space for staff, volunteers and Academy students.
  • In Sandhurst we need midweek space to run courses, parents and toddler groups, social justice initiatives and much more (in time as Sandhurst grows we will need a larger Sunday space, and eventually a permanent home for all that we do).
  • In Windsor we plan to start meeting on Sundays in 2017 (possibly once a month initially) which will require a Sunday venue (and in time Windsor will hopefully follow a similar development path to Sandhurst).

On Tuesday night we launched our Kerith Vision Fund, with the goal of producing the finances to provide the meeting places we need. For more details take a look at my presentation from Tuesday night. We'll be talking about this more on Sundays over the next few weeks, but please take a look as it will give you a good idea of what we're intending to do on each of the sites.

As a first step we're going to have gift days on the 30th October and 6th November, with a goal of raising £200,000. This would allow us to:

  • Significantly reduce the mortgage on the K2 house (currently around £180,000)
  • Provide seed finance to start to redesign K2, look for a Sandhust midweek facility and identify an initial Windsor Sunday venue
  • Give away £20,000 as a tithe which will go to churches we work with in other nations.

I'm asking whether there are ten people in our community with the gift of giving who could give £10,000 each, in order to give us half of the total, and then the rest of our community could take on the responsibility of giving the other half. I've already had one person come forward to give the first £10,000 which is brilliant, and would love to hear from anyone else who feels similarly inspired to give.

If you want to give before the gift days (always a huge encouragement to me as a leader) then you can do that online. We've already had people give both a one off gift, and set up regular giving, which is so exciting.

Prayer is going to be key to all this. As a first step we're going to have a week of 24/7 prayer from the 31st October to the 6th November, where we'll be praying for growth and health across every area of Kerith. We want to fill all 168 one hour slots across that week - I'll let you know when booking for the prayer room is open for November so we can start to fill those slots.

Hopefully none of us will feel anxious about this. Instead my prayer is that we'll be excited by the opportunity it presents for us to make a difference, not only in our generation but in the generations to come.

Much love,


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Curry Night and Magic

Several people have commented to me on us having a magician at our curry night on the 21st September, asking whether this is appropriate for a Christian event. That's a really good question, and I wanted to outline my thinking around it.

In the Cambridge Dictionary the word magic, as a noun, has three very different definitions:

  1. The use of special powers to make things happen that would usually be impossible, such as in stories for children: "The group is known for its belief in witchcraft and magic."
  2. The skill of performing tricks to entertain people, such as making things appear and disappear and pretending to cut someone in half: "He's a comedian who also does magic."
  3. A special and exciting quality that makes something seem different from ordinary things: "Although the film was made 50 years ago, it has lost none of its magic."

The first of these is demonic and not permitted for Christians. This is perhaps most clearly stated in Deutoronmy 18:

“When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practises divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD; because of these same detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 18:9-13)

There is no place for any of these practices within the life of a follower of Jesus. Anyone with a past involvement in any of these things should repent of them, and destroy anything they have relating to those activities. An example of this happening would be in Acts 19:

“Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practised sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.” (Acts 19:18-19 NIVUK)

However, this is not the sort of magic we are referring to when it comes to the curry night, which in my mind clearly falls under the second definition of magic. I don't know anybody who looks at a modern day magician such as Paul Daniels, David Copperfield, Dynamo or our own Iain Bailey and suggests that what they're doing has been achieved because they've got special powers. Everyone knows that when the magician predicts which card you picked, pulls a rabbit out of the hat, saws a person in half or makes the Statue of Liberty disappear, that what we're seeing is an illusion. Something which appears to be impossible but which we all know has a logical explanation, even if we can't work out what it is. That's why the people doing this are often referred to as illusionists rather than magicians.

I do realise that many people in our community rightly have a very strong aversion to magic of the first type, and want nothing to do with anything which has the word magic attached to it. It's highly unfortunate that one word covers both definitions, and I fully understand why people might be surprised by the idea of us having a magician. However, I honestly believe that when we step back and think about what we mean when we use the word magic in this context we haven't got an issue.

There is a question as to whether we should still avoid having a magician because of the confusion it might cause in people's minds - that some people might think we're condoning the first sort of magic. That is a legitimate question and one we should think about for the future.

As for the third definition of 'magic', we could all use a bit more of that in our lives!

I hope that makes some sense. I'm very happy to interact more over this if people have other thoughts or questions.


Ps - please be inviting people to the curry night - 7.30pm on Wednesday 21st September - you can get tickets here. We've already got around 80 people coming for what will be a quality evening and a great introduction to Alpha.

Pps - please pray for Iain Bailey. He's a committed follower of Jesus seeking to point people to Christ through his magic (of the second type!). If you have questions about what he does I'm sure he'd be happy to talk with you.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Smelling of Jesus

“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

(2 Corinthians 2:15)

I spoke last Sunday about us being the aroma of Jesus to the world. Of us carrying with us everywhere we go the fragrance of him - through our prayers, our actions and our words.

If you want to smell of something then the closer you get to it the more you will smell of it (I didn't get that science A level for nothing!). That's totally true when it comes to Christ. The closer we are to him, the more we will carry his fragrance into our world.

I spoke about two keys to us being close to Jesus:

  • Reading the Bible and doing what it says
  • Being filled with the Holy Spirit and following his promptings

Over the years I've used lots of different tools to help me in my daily Bible readings. Reading through the whole Bible in a year. Bible reading notes such as Every Day with Jesus. Bible pot luck where you just turn to a random passage every day and read it. YouVersion Bible reading plans. All of them (apart from perhaps the pot luck approach) have been very helpful. However, recently I've been doing something different which I'm finding really fruitful, and which I thought I'd share.

Tom Wright, who is one of the leading experts on the New Testament, and was for a while the Bishop of Durham, has written a series of commentaries on the books of the New Testament. (He has also written a number of other books, including the brilliant "Surprised by Hope" on how wrong we've got our picture of heaven).

In each of the commentaries he does his own short translation of a passage, then explains what that passage means in language that ordinary people like you and me can understand. It isn't exhaustive in that sometimes he'll pick up on one idea in a passage and not comment on another one (which can be a bit frustrating if it was the other one which really gripped you) but there's an incredible to depth to his understanding, not only of what the passage meant to its original audience but also how it applies to us today. As you go through you also really get the sense of what the whole of the book is saying, rather than getting stuck in the detail of a specific verse without being able to see the bigger picture.

So far I've worked my way through his commentary on the book of Romans, and I'm now about half way through his commentary on Revelation. If I'm honest the bit of Revelation between the letters to the seven churches at the beginning, and the picture of the new Heaven and the new Earth at the end, has always been a complete mystery to me. That's no longer the case, and I'm genuinely looking forward every morning to get to read the next section.

My plan is over the next few years to work my way though all his New Testament commentaries, probably reading a gospel next and then seeing where I go from there.

It may be that you've got an amazing Bible reading plan which is working brilliantly for you. If so praise God. But if not why not choose a book of the New Testament and begin working your way through it with Tom Wright at your side. I don't think you'll regret it, and you'll hopefully end up smelling of Jesus a whole load more!



Friday, September 9, 2016

Better by Half and a New Series

Don't forget that from this Sunday our morning meetings are starting at 9.30am and 11.30am (Bracknell) and 10.30am (Sandhurst). If you forget then you'll have more time to chat to people before the meeting, or for some you'll just be there on time! The evening gathering in Bracknell is still starting at 6pm.

This Sunday we're starting a new series, called "Things I wished Jesus never said".

There are some things in the Bible which I find it very easy to accept. That God loves me, that he wants to forgive me, that he chose me, that he's got good plans for me. I have no problem with those things.

Yet there are other things the Bible says, and which in particular Jesus says, which can seem very uncomfortable. What he has to say about hell and judgement, about persecution, his instruction to die to myself and take up my cross. When we read those we might wish that Jesus never said them, that he just focussed on the 'nice' things he had to say. But I believe that properly understood even the things that seem hard speak to us of the love of a good God, who wants nothing but the best for his creation. That's why we've called this series things I wished Jesus never said, because I do believe that when we understand why Jesus said the things he said, then we will actually be thankful for them.

We start this Sunday looking at heaven and hell in all three meetings in Bracknell, and Jesus call to obedience in Sandhurst, then next Sunday we'll swap - other than at the 6pm on the 18th September when Canon Andrew White will be speaking.

Three other dates for your diary:

  • Tuesday 13th September - 7.30pm in the Kerith Centre - prayer meeting for Alpha with a live stream from HTB London
  • Tuesday 20th September - 7.45pm in the Kerith Centre - Kerith Vision Night
  • Wednesday 21st September - 7.30pm in the Kerith Centre - Alpha Launch Curry Night

I hope you've had a great week - especially those feeling the impact of the start of a new school year. I've been on retreat the last 3 days in Oxford which has been incredibly refreshing. I feel so privileged to be part of a community that releases me to do this - my prayer is that all of us would find the space in our busy lives to connect with God in meaningful, live giving ways.

Hope to see you Sunday,



Thursday, September 1, 2016

Kerith Kids Team Gathering - Everyone Invited

Next Tuesday (6th September) Sonia Hopkin, our champion for everything to do with children in Kerith, is inviting all of our current Kids team along with anyone interested in being involved in the future to a vision evening which will start at 7.30pm in our K2 building on the Bracknell site.

The core of the evening will be Sonia and me (I?) sharing our heart and our vision for children and their families. Included in that is what we do on a Sunday, things we're changing to better support children with special needs and their families, ideas for how our kids work integrates more closely with what we do in social justice and other ideas to reach out into our wider community. I'll also be giving a sneak preview of some of what I'll be sharing at the vision night on Tuesday 20th September.

Wrapped around that we'll start with cake, tea and coffe, and have time too to pray together and for Q&A.

If you can possibly make it then it would be great to see you there.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sunday Meeting Time Changes

In order to create space for growth in Bracknell, from the 11th September 2016 we are changing the Bracknell morning meeting times to be 9.30m and 11.30am, and Sandhurst to be 10.30am. The evening meeting in Bracknell will stay at 6pm.

I'm going to talk about this in more detail next Sunday (4th September) but I wanted to put some of it in a blog before then.


Part of our history as a church has been creating space for new people to come. This has included:

  • Moving to Garth Hill College when we filled up the original buildings on the Kerith Centre site
  • Building the Kerith Centre and K2
  • Planting out Reading Family Church
  • Using cameras on a Sunday and improving the audio in the balcony to encourage more people to sit in the balcony
  • Going to two morning meetings in Bracknell
  • Making the evening meeting in Bracknell the same as the morning meetings
  • Moving staff out of the Spurgeon room and what is now the Unleashed lounge to make more space for children and youth on a Sunday
  • Sending out 100 people to start Kerith Sandhurst

Every time we've created space God has filled it.

We're now at a point that the 11am meeting in Bracknell is close to being full again, with every available room being used for adults, children or young people and several of those rooms at capacity. Longer term the plan is to redevelop K2 to both allow greater numbers of people to come, and to create dedicated spaces for children and adults with special needs (more on this at our vision night on Tuesday 20th September, 7.45pm in the Kerith Centre to which everyone is invited), but redeveloping K2 is going to take time, so we need to do something in the interim.

The core of our vision is "helping people find their way back to God", and we can't effectively do that when there is no space for new people to come. If we're serious about our vision then we can't stay 'here', doing nothing is not an option, so we need to do something in order to allow more people to come.

Looking at the numbers coming to the 9am and the 11am shows the following (the numbers are for Sunday 12th June):

(For the mathematical amongst you don't be worried that the adult, youth and kids totals don't add up to the overall total for each meeting - some of the people serving in kids and elsewhere outside the adult meeting aren't included in the figures for adults, youth and kids, but are included in the total numbers).


You can see that we had close to twice as many adults at the 11am in Bracknell as we had at the 9am, with around 50% more children. We have plenty of space to grow at the 9am, but at the moment it is clear that the majority of people prefer to come to the 11am. We're therefore going to move the meeting times back by 30 minutes in order to encourage people to come to the earlier meeting.

Upsides of the change are:

  • Hopefully we create space for new people to come by making numbers more balanced across the two meetings
  • Everyone gets to spend an extra half hour in bed!
  • The musicians can begin practicing as soon as they arrive, rather than having to wait until 8am which we currently do in order to be considerate to our neighbours

Downsides are:

  • Everyone at the 11.30am gets home to lunch half an hour later
  • There is a shorter gap between the end of morning meetings and the start of the 6pm

There is a possibility that in time all we'll achieve is making the earlier meeting the larger one. If we sense that happening we'll change the start times to be 9.15am and 11.15am.

At the same time we will change the start time of Sandhurst to be 10.30am. This will make it more straightforward when we need to stream the preach or move people between the sites, and will allow the Sandhurst setup teams to start work at a more civilised time.

I realise that lots of people don't like change, but in reality this is a small change compared to many of the changes we've made in the past. I want to encourage us to embrace these new times, and more importantly the vision behind them. We're not a club that exists for our own convenience, but the church of Jesus Christ which exists for the benefit of those who don't yet know Him.

See you next Sunday (at 9, 10, 11 or 6!).



Monday, August 1, 2016

Willow Creek GLS - One & two day options

In October we've got the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit coming up, and this year I want to encourage everyone who is part of Kerith to plan to come along as an investment in our personal growth. As every year there's an amazing line up of speakers with people from the church, business, charity and academic worlds - people we can all learn from if we are humble enough to hear God speaking through them.

In past years we've always run the conference on a Friday and Saturday. I've long thought that this gives us the worst of both worlds, in that there are a bunch of people who can't make a Friday because they can't get the time off work, and a bunch of people who struggle with the Saturday because that's key family time. Also for church teams wanting to come a Friday often isn't great because you're getting ready for Sunday. We're therefore going to try something a little different this year!

On Wednesday 12th and Thursday 13th October we'll host the full blown conference with the majority of the speakers from the live event which takes places in Chicago in August. You can book into that here. I'd encourage everyone who can get time off work, child care, college or whatever else you might do during the week to come to these two days. Also for church teams to book those two days as a key team time - staying in local hotels if you can in order to maximise the time you have together to discuss all that you're learning.

Then on Saturday 15th October we'll do a one day version of the GLS, showing what we think are the best talks from the two day event. You can book that here. I want to encourage anyone who can't make it to the two day event to come to this.

If you're not part of Kerith then until the 5th August you can use the discount code GLS16SO to get 25% off.

If you do regularly attend one of our Kerith sites then we have a host church discount code which will get you 65% off. You can get that code by emailing our Kerith reception, but only if you really do come regularly!

Either way the conference represents incredible value for money. I'm always amazed how we can think nothing of pay a load of money to go to a football match, the cinema or the theatre, but then question the cost of a conference like the GLS. Jesus told us that "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21). Be willing to invest in something which will do not only your heart but also your mind and soul incredible good.

See you there :)