Monday, March 30, 2009

Young Guns - Speechless

What a superb job the seven Young Guns preaching on Sunday night did. It really was a fantastic evening - if you weren't there I encourage you to listen to the podcasts of all seven, which should be on the website in the next couple of days. They all showed a level of maturity, as well as a speaking gift and an ability to be themselves, which quite amazed me - fantastic.

I know it's dangerous to pick out individuals, especially as they all did so well, but two moments particularly stuck with me.

First Amy Mehta speaking on the story of the prodigal son, and in particular on the older son who is jealous because when his younger brother returns he gets the big welcome home party. She spoke about the five years after her younger brother was born, and how during that time her Mum and Dad had to devote most of their time looking after him because he was so ill. Yet despite that she still knew that they loved her, it was just that because of her brother's condition they were expressing that love in a different way. I thought that showed incredible maturity and understanding for somebody so young, and was an incredible description of God's grace.

Secondly to hear Ben Findlay speak was so exciting for me. Not long after I became a Christian I went to university and was in a church lead by Ben's Grandad Tom (if you were around on Christmas Day you may remember me getting Tom's wife Lillian onto the the platform and honouring her). Tom and Lillian had a huge impact on my life, and I know how hugely proud Tom would have been of Ben.

So all in all a very exciting evening, and one we'll be looking to repeat. If you were there, or listen to the podcast, and God speaks to you why not write a note to one of the youngsters as I know they'd so appreciate the encouragement.

The future is indeed bright!

Simon.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

At 2pm on Good Friday (10th April) we're going to have a free showing of the Walt Disney film "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" at The Kerith Centre. Refreshments will be on sale, but you'll need to bring your own popcorn!

I love this film on lots of levels.

First of all C.S. Lewis who wrote the book the film is based on is one of my favourite authors. In all of his books, whether books aimed at adults such as "Mere Christianity" or "The Problem of Pain, or children's books such as the Narnia series, he manages to unpack the Christian message in ways that makes it come alive and bring fresh insights. For those of you who have never read any of his stuff why not try "The Screwtape Letters" - quite brilliant.

Secondly it reminds me of when I first read the Narnia books when I was doing jury duty at the age of 22 (there was a lot of time sitting around doing nothing!). I'd never read the books as a child, so the imagery of Aslan the Lion as a picture of Jesus was totally new to me. It opened my eyes to Jesus and his part in creation, his sacrifice on the cross and his coming again in ways I'd never seen before.

Finally (and this is very nerdy!) the servers which I helped design for BlueArc (the company I work for when I'm not at church) were used to do all the special effects on the film. Those of you who are engineers will hopefully be able to understand how cool that feels!

This will be a very easy event to invite people to. I'm hoping that both young and old will want to come, and will invite friends and family too. There won't be a preach or an appeal, just a chance for you to explain to your friends afterwards why we would show a film like this on Good Friday.

Hope to see you there!

Simon.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

When you pray....

Wednesday and Thursday night this week are our monthly prayer meetings. As well as worshipping and sharing communion we're going to share in some detail about our church finances. We'll then pray into both that, and for those in our community facing personal financial difficulties. There are also some other things we talked about at the last prayer meeting I want to update everyone on and for us to pray in to. After Sunday we've also got lots to thank God for.

I'm in Catford meeting with some other NewFrontiers leaders on Wednesday, but am coming back specially on Wednesday night to be at the prayer meeting. Hope to see you either then, or on Thursday night!

Simon.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mothers Day Reflections

Well what an amazing day Mothers Day we had!

I was really pleased with how the Mothers Day celebration went in the morning. The song was hilarious, the sketch was superbly done, the photo shoot in the back corridor was doing great business and I thought Catrina preached really well, but most important of all there were loads of guests! If you had guests there I hope they had a great time, and that God spoke to them through all that was said and done.

Then in the evening Andrew White was every bit as inspirational as he's been in the past. He is a quite incredible character and it's such a privilege to be associated with him - if you missed him then the podcast should be up soon on the Kerith website. We've also got 24 copies of his new book "The Vicar of Baghdad" for sale at the bookshop for anyone who couldn't make the evening.

Across the three meetings on Sunday we had over 1,050 people attending - that's about 300 up on a 'normal' Sunday (if we ever have one of those!). It's interesting to see the logistic problems those increased numbers throw up, particularly with the car parking, and we've all got some lessons to learn about what it would take for us to gather 2,000 people over a weekend. I'm going to talk about that a bit more next Sunday morning as we finish our series on Galatians.

So all in all a great Sunday. A huge thank you to everyone who was involved in making it happen. From car parkers to stewards and welcomers to children's workers to youth workers to musicians to camera operators to musicians to singers to the drama team to drinks servers to the tech team to receptionists to people manning the bookshop to building administrators to preachers to the people who designed, printed and folded the bulletin to people praying before and during the meeting to people who invited guests (regardless of whether they came or not) to site pastors and to all those people I've forgotten in that list - you are all so appreciated!

Have a great week and hope to catch you at the prayer meetings this week.

Simon.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Finished Leviticus

In today's daily readings I got to the end of Leviticus. Although there are some great bits in this book, such as the principle of Jubilee and the idea of not harvesting to the edges of the field so the widows and the refugees can survive on what is left, I won't be too sad to move on. Although all scripture is God breathed and inspired not all scripture is equally exciting or applicable!

Leviticus leaves me very glad (a huge understatement) that we live under grace rather than under law, and that Jesus has removed the need for sacrifices because he himself has made the ultimate sacrifice for us.

If you're not in to a daily reading plan then why not head over to www.youversion.com and join me tomorrow in Numbers (as well as Psalms and Luke). Hope to see you there!

Simon.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Our New Office

For those of you familiar with the Spurgeon Room in The Kerith Centre you'll see from this photo that we've turned it into an office! No longer will the two year olds get to play on the ride ons in there on a Sunday morning, or the staff get to use it as a meeting room midweek.

In there instead are all the office based people involved with our community outreach, including Konnections (special needs ministry) and CAP (debt counselling). The scary thing is that there are eight desks in there and seven of them are already taken! It is exciting though that these are the sort of problems we are facing.

The admin team are now going to take over the main office, and Colin Boyle and his Creative Arts team will be moving into the Rochdale Room. I think I'm staying put in my office!

Simon.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Edward & Frida Buria

Those of you who were there on Sunday night will know that Edward and Frida Buria have been with us for a few days. I got to spend an hour with them on Tuesday morning and it was great to hear how God has been using Edward in putting Kenya back together again after the recent political unrest there.

It was also very encouraging to hear Edward's observations on developments here in Bracknell. He was particularly inspired by seeing the youngsters playing on Sunday night, and the way a new generation is being released to use their God given gifts.

We're so privileged to have people of the quality of Edward and Frida just passing through. Don't forget that Andrew White (the vicar of Baghdad) is speaking this Sunday evening - another event not to be missed!

Simon.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

All Change for Canon Andrew White

We had a phone call yesterday from Andrew White (the Vicar of Baghdad)
to see if we'd like him to come and speak next Sunday (Mothers day)
evening. We were due to be doing the Young Guns session that evening,
but we've decided to put that back a week as Andrew is so rarely
available to speak.Those of you who have heard Andrew before will know
this will be an evening not to be missed - he is one of a kind!
We'll have lots of people coming so we'll need everyone other than
visitors, those with car parking passes and women on their own to park
at Avis. We'll probably also take up an offering for Andrew's work, as
well as the normal church offering.
The coffee bar will start at 6. The meeting will start at 7. Hope to
see you there.
Simon.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Revolution Starts Here

This Sunday evening sees the first outing for our younger youth band
"The Revolution". It doesn't seem that long ago that Ethos first did a
couple of songs on a Sunday night, and yet now they're getting invites
to play all over the place. Well we're believing for the same for this
next group - very exciting.
This Sunday we're looking at Galatians 5. I'm preaching in the morning
and Lee in the evening, so why not try and read it in advance and come
prepared!
Hope to catch you some time over Sunday.
Simon.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Young Guns 2

Many years ago (more than I care to mention) there was a group of up and coming preachers, called the Young Guns, who got mentored by Mick Taylor, Ben Davies and others. We were a very raw group at the time, and got pulled apart by our mentors on a regular basis, but many of that group (myself, Sean Green, Craig MacKay, Dave Frodsham and others) are not only preaching regularly but even leading churches. 

Well it's time for us to be looking for the next generation. Not the likes of Lee, Ben Oliver and Zoe Hayes who already get to speak pretty regularly, but the people who are going to fill their boots (and mine). So on evening of the 22nd March (it's the Mothers Day celebration in the morning) 7 of this next generation are going to be giving it a go. They'll each speak for 7 minutes, and will each be speaking on a different story that Jesus told. It would be great to have a big crowd to support them, so why come along, grab a latte before the meeting and see how they all get on.

Simon.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Indescribable

We've got some exciting events coming up I want to talk about over the next few blog entries. The first is that on Sunday 5th April when in all three meetings we're going to be watching a presentation by a guy called Louie Giglio which is quite incredible. In order to give you an idea what it's like then watch the Youtube clip below, or see it on the Youtube website here.



This is not only going to be inspirational for us, but is a great thing to invite people to. It particularly deals with the wonder and enormity of God's creation and what it reveals to us about him. Great for anyone who would have been interested in the Evolution versus Creation talk we did a few weeks ago.

Simon.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Erwin Conference - Member Church Rates

As I've said before Erwin McManus is coming to us on Saturday 9th May - more details here. We are a Willow Creek Association Member Church which means you can save £5 on the conference booking fee. However, to do that you need to know our church username and password. I don't really want to post that to a public forum like the blog, so if you need it to book in then please can you email our reception and the wonderful team there will let you have it.

I really do want to encourage people to come to this conference. I sometimes think we're spoilt with the world class speakers we have coming through, and Erwin is right up there with the best of them. You can either come as a volunteer (where you get in for free but may miss some of the sessions) or as a delegate. Either way don't miss it!!

Simon.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Serenje Trip

This summer we're running a trip to the HIV/AIDS project we're supporting in Serenje, which is in Zambia. You can read all the details about the trip, along with lots more information on the project, on our website, so I won't repeat it all here.

What I do want to do is to really encourage people to consider going. We're looking for 10-12 people to go with a mix of people with building skills and teachers, but if your skills lie in a different area then please don't let that stop you applying.

Anyone who has ever been on a trip like this will know that they can be life changing encounters. I personally was 'ruined' when I went to Serenje eighteen months ago. Having seen what HIV/AIDS has done to wipe out an entire generation, to see households with a Grandmother supporting a dozen or more orphans, to sit in a hut with a mother dying of AIDS whilst her children watched on in desperation broke my heart. And yet to know that the solutions to these problems are not that complicated. That the ARV drugs which slow down the onset of AIDS are readily available but only work if people take them every day and have enough food. That it doesn't cost much (in our terms) to see a child through primary and secondary school education and give them a real future. That a few changes to the way people farm can move them from scratching an existence to generating an income. That now motivates me to want to do what I can to make a difference.

The trip isn't cheap, but please don't let that be a barrier to you going. Why not start to 'pray the money in', ask friends or relatives if they could help, do a sponsored event, or if you're a youngster apply for a grant. And don't let age be a barrier either. Anyone from teenagers to those in their 70's can go and make a huge contribution.

If you are interested fill in an application form and get it in by the 22nd March. If you do have any questions then please speak to me, or to Zoe Hayes who will be leading the trip.

Go for it!

Simon.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell - Outliers: The Story of Success

One of my "Christmas" books this year was Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. He's a sociologist (with crazy hair) who seems to have a gift for explaining things in ways which even an engineer like me can understand, and often comes to some very surprising conclusions as to why things are the way they are.

His first book, The Tipping Point, looked at how relatively small changes in peoples environment, or a relatively small number of people, can cause big changes in society.

His second, Blink, looked at how we often make our best decisions by going with our "gut reaction", rather than endless analysis of what is going on.

Outliers looks at the ingredients of success, and tries to challenge many of our preconceptions as to what it is that makes one person more successful than another. For instance how your date of birth can make a huge impact on whether or not you make it as a successful sportsman or woman. In particular I found the first chapter on why the American town of Roseto has so few health problems resonated with many of the ideas lots of us would have reagrding the power of community to make a huge differences on the lives of the individuals in that community. There's quite a chilling section on how the nationalities of airline pilots has in the past been a big factor in a number of major crashes and some interesting analysis on how hard work really does pay off.

Gladwell isn't a Christian, so obviously there is no God dimension to what he writes. However, that doesn't mean there isn't a load of stuff we can learn from his observations. For instance there's a great section in The Tipping Point where he talks about an experiment done on some Bible students to see whether they would live out the story of The Good Samaritan which they'd been studying. Basically it was whether or not they were in a hurry which decided whether they would help the person in trouble - that alone has something to say about the pace we all try to live our lives at.

So if you fancy reading something a bit different why not give Outliers (or one of his other books) a go.

Simon.