Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Franklin Graham in Lithuania

Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, was recently in Lithuania, and Saulius had the privilege of translating for him. Here are some of his reflections on the event:

Lithuania has not seen such intense work toward an event where over 200 evangelical churches worked together to fill the Siemens Arena for two days. Lithuania has only 1,5% evangelical population and churches are very small, but this unity that we saw inspired many. We thank God for Billy Graham Association for making such a significant investment of time and money to our country. There were over 28,000 attending in two days. More than 1,700 made a commitment to receive Christ. All of them will be followed-up by churches. That is a huge number for us. We had great program too – 400 voice choir,  lots of bands including NEWBOYS. These guys were awesome. I got to eat a couple of times with them and here their stories. They are humble and devoted followers of Christ.

I got a chance to spend time with the Team of BGEA. I was very impressed to see that some of these men served together for 50-60 years. The official photographer Russ has been travelling with BGEA since 1956. He is 81 years old and still on the road.  Amazing. When Franklin worked with me at his hotel room to get the sermons ready I was very moved by his humble and gentle spirit. He said „I don’t understand, but when I preach a simple Gospel message all over the world, poeple respond the same.“ He just preached the Gospel to me and that was our prep time for the nights. These were sweet moments.

Let's pray for huge ongoing fruit from this event, and that we might know similar unity amongst the churches in the UK, for where there is unity God commands a blessing.

Simon. 



Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Decorations

On Wednesday and Thursday nights this week the Kerith Centre and K2 are being decorated for Christmas. If you're free the team would really appreciate your help to bring Christmas cheer to both buildings. I got involved last year and we had a real blast, breaking quite a few health and safety rules along the way (don't tell anyone in facilities I said that!). It's not only a good opportunity to serve, but also great time to get to know other Kerith people amidst the baubles and tree lights!! Arrive at 8pm with a pair of scissors/wire clippers if you have them!!!

Meanwhile to get you in the mood take a look at the video below of Christmas lights set to the the angry birds music - absolutely classic!

Simon. 



Monday, November 28, 2011

Kerith Willow Member Benefits

Kerith is a member of UK Willow Creek Association. That not only gives us benefits as a community, such as being able to book people in for cheaper rates at conferences, but it also gives online access to a whole loads resources for any individual who is a part of Kerith. The online resources include:

  • Their Developing Courageous Leaders Programme
  • Some brilliant Defining Moments talks and interviews
  • A growing list of other online courses and sermons
To get access to all of these then you just need to email willow at jude@willowcreek.org.uk, and they will fix you up with a login. There really are some brilliant resources on there so please do it!

Simon.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas Readings

Last Sunday Ben Oliver encouraged all of us to be reading the Christmas story over the next few weeks. Above is the reading plan Ben gave us. 

I'm planning on blogging on these verses with some observations and application through December, but can I encourage you to spend time meditating on these verses for yourself. Give time for the passsage to soak in rather than just rushing your way through it. I find it helpful to ask these three questions as I meditate.

  1. What did this mean to the people at the time? Actually try and put yourself in the story. Imagine being Mary, a shepherd, Zechariah, or Joseph and think how you would have felt and reacted in the same situation.
  2. What does this mean to me today? How does this store relate to my life as it is today. Where are there's similarities, what are the principles, commands or promises which I need to hear?
  3. What an I going to do with what I've read? Do I need to stop and thank God for something, repent of something, pray for someone, apologise to or encourage someone else, change an attitude, choose to trust God or something else? The Bible properly applied will always change us.
I hope you enjoy getting into the Christmas story this year.

Simon. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

British Sign Language Taster Course

The flier says it all really! If you're interested in taking some first steps in learning British Sign Language then this is for you. We have a growing deaf and hard of hearing community at Kerith, and it would be great for more of us in the hearing community to be able to communicate with them in their first language, even if like me all you can do is say hello and your name!

There will be a sign up table on Sunday, or you can send an email to the address above to let us know you're coming. 

Simon. 


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Serenje Car Wash

This Sunday 40 of our teenagers are going to be washing cars in the college car park during the two morning meetings to raise funds for the girls dormitory in Serenje. They'll be charging £3 a wash, although all tips will be gratefully received and will go to Serenje too!

Sunday will also be the final Serenje gift day this year (I promise!). The total raised so far now stands at just over £106,000, including pledges, meaning we've only got another £99,000 to go to get the money we need to fund year 4 of the project and build the dormitory. Please be thinking and praying about what you are going to give.

As if all that wasn't enough Lee Layton-Matthews will be preaching on Sunday on "Christmas, the Prequel". You won't want to miss it!

Hope you're having a great week. 

Simon. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lithuanian GLS

I thought you might enjoy these photos of the Lithuanian GLS which Saulius and his church in Klaipeda were instrumental in hosting. Saulius had this to say about the event. 

This past weekend we had the Global Leadership Summit. Last year we had 300 participants and this year 520. We closed the registration down two weeks before the event because we ran out of space.  We had to turn poeple down.  This conference is my dreaming coming true – church leaders, business and political leaders sit toghether and learn about the servant leadership. It is interesting to note, that many non-believering business found the most spiritual talks of GLS most invigorating and useful. It is becoming an evangelistic tool.  The Mayor of Klaipeda greeted all participants at the beginning of the event. The Chair of the prayer group of Lithuanian Parlament said that we should think about doing GLS in the Parliament and promised his full support in doing it.

I have never seen such diverse denominationals groups having so much fun together. The Holy Spirit worked deeply in the hearts of many. Many churches send their full elder boards and church boards. We laughed and cried together. That was very powerful. Over 100 of participants have already registered for next year’s conference. That is a very high number for Lithuania where most people don’t plan for tomorrow, let alone for next year. Praise God. Next year we are planning to do two sites – Klaipeda 16-17 Nov, Vilnius 23-24 Nov. 

It's such a privilege that we can partner with Saulius, and play even a small part in events like the GLS, and through it the kingdom of God, spreading around the world.

Simon. 



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Songs

One of my favourite Psalms is Psalm 40. It starts with these words:


I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.

There are many reasons I love this Psalm.  One of them is that when I became a Christian I was a big U2 fan, and it was only after I became a Christian that I realised that their song 40, which is on the end of their album "War", is these opening lines of Psalm 40 put to music. They used to finish every concert by singing this song, and I can still remember the only time I've ever seen U2 live being lost in a spiritual moment at the end of the concert, tears streaming down my face, singing Psalm 40 and thanking God that he'd heard my cry and set my feet on a rock.

Why, you may ask, am I telling you all this? Good question! Well it's because I think there is something powerful about new songs.  Old songs are great, but often new songs which are unfamiliar and fresh can help us engage with God in a way in which old songs can't. "Shout to the Lord" is an amazing song, but I've sung it so many times now that sometimes the words just become too familiar. And God is a God who is always doing new things, both for us as individuals and as a community, and we will need news songs to help us express those things.

So we as a community will be committed to singing new songs. Both great songs being written around the world, and great songs being written by the songwriters in our community. On Sunday we sang a new song, written by Dave Betts, based on King David's desert experience in Psalm 63 - you can read more about what caused Dave to write the song here. And for a real treat check out this acoustic version of the song "Drawing Near". We're aiming for our musicians to record two CDs a year of new songs, which we'll give away for free and put on the website. The next one of these, "This is Love", should be out around Christmas.

But I'm also encouraging our worship leaders to be singing what I call "old new songs". Helping us rediscover old hymns which many of us won't know, but which express some of the timeless truths about God in ways which will be fresh to us. Look out for some of those too in the coming months.

I pray that this week God will put a new song in your mouth!

Simon.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Listening to Sermons Online

Several people have said to me that they've been struggling to listen to Kerith sermons online. That's a real shame, as it's a great way to catch up if you've been away for the weekend, or just want to listen to a sermon again.

If you're on a PC then the easiest way to get to listen to a sermon is to go to our website, put your cursor over the word "Home" in the top section, then move the cursor down and click on Media. There you'll be able to find all the latest sermons, as well as media clips and songs.

If you've got an iPod, iPad or iPhone then the simplest way to get sermons is to got to iTunes (either on your PC or your device) and then in the iTunes store search for "Kerith". There are two Kerith podcasts there. The first is an old one which we need to get removed, but the second one should have all the latest sermons. The great thing about this is that new sermons will be downloaded to your device as they're added.

On a Blackberry, Android or Windows 7 phone I assume you're best off using the web browser and going to our website to listen to sermons. That won't work on an iPhone as it doesn't support flash (and the podcast is easier to use anyway) but should work on those other phones. Please leave a comment on the blog if anyone knows of a better way of doing it on these phones.

Finally to say a huge thank you to Geoff Hawke who week in week out edits and uploads the sermons to the website, often within a few hours of the meeting finishing. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Geoff, one of our many, many behind the scenes heroes.

Simon.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Social Media Musings #5 - Be Where You Are

The rise in popularity of social networking means that each one of us can now have two different presences. We have our bodily, physical, presence. The place where you actually are with the people who can actually see you and touch you. But we can also have an online, virtual, presence. I can send a text encouraging someone in our community, and have a real impact in their lives. Or I can write a blog which gets read by someone I've never met, in a country I've never been to, which can take that person closer to God without me ever realising it.

Someone asked me this week which of these two presences, physical or virtual, is the more important. My immediate reaction was to say that our physical presence is the most important one. That we can always have a bigger impact on the people we actually physically spend time with, than the ones we interact with virtually. But having reflected on it I'm not so sure.

Take preaching. You don't have to go far back in history to find a time when preachers would refuse to be recorded, or to even have their sermons written down and distributed. Their belief was that preaching wasn't proper preaching unless the people you were talking to were in the same room as you. Yet we now live in an age where events such as the Willow Creek GLS reaches far more people through DVDs, podcasts and satellite links than ever experience it live in Willow's auditorium. Is the preachers physical or their virtual presence having a bigger impact?

Or go back further and consider the writing of Paul. He had an amazing physical presence, planting numerous churches, seeing untold people saved, and keeping the apostles in Jerusalem on the straight and narrow. Yet it is his virtual presence, through the letters he wrote, which have I would argue have had a bigger impact, both on the people alive at the time when he was writing the letters, and certainly since. If he'd given all his time and energy to just being with the people he was actually with, his impact would have been far more limited in terms of both time and geography.

So let's not underestimate the power of our virtual, online, presence. In the first of these blogs I wrote about not being afraid of technology, but grabbing it with both hands and making full use of it's potential. You might not be a preacher, you certainly won't ever write a book of the Bible, but you can use your online presence to take people up in their lift, to take them closer to God and to see his kingdom grow.

I'll finish this series of blogs with one more observation. You can only be in one place at any one time (brilliant I know!). You're either interacting with the physical world around you, or the virtual one online, but you can't do both at the same time. Even if you're a girl and can multi task! So at any point in time choose which world you're in.

I was sat in a coffee shop a couple of weeks ago. There were two ladies on the table next to me. One of them was pouring her heart out to her friend, but as she was doing this her friend was constantly looking at her phone, reading and writing texts and making virtually no eye contact. I've seen the same scenario on holiday around a pool, with children pleading with the parents to come and play with them, whilst their parents send just one more email. At Kerith I've had to ban certain people from having their phones in staff meetings, because all their attention is on the phone rather than the topic we're discussing. By all means take every possible opportunity to make the maximum possible use of your online presence, but choose when and where you're going to do that, and don't ever let the people in your physical world feel that you're more interested in your iPhone than you are in them!

Simon.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Serenje Latest

I announced two Sundays ago that we are going to have two more gift days for Serenje on the next two Sundays (20th and 27th November), and wanted to let you know the latest Serenje figures.

We started out this year aiming to raise £205,000 for Serenje this year. £80,000 of that is  to support year 4 of the HIV / AIDS project we are involved with there, and £125,000 is to fund the building of a girls dormitory for 100 secondary school girls. You can find a brilliant video with details of the first three years of the HIV / AIDS project here, and another superb video about the girls dormitory here - please take the time to watch them both.

So far this year the giving has been amazing. We have:

  • £36,062 for the girls dormitory, raised by the youth through Project 125, Garth Hill College through their walk to school day and other direct giving to the dormitory project.
  • £35,242 given in the October Gift Days we have just had.
  • £29,814 which is made up of unclaimed Gift Aid, money left over from year 3 of the project and money which people have pledged to give over the coming year.
In total that comes to just over £101,000 - an amazing total, which leaves us with just under £104,000 left to raise. As someone who sees the cup as being half full, that is very exciting!

Somebody asked me this week if we should just go for the money required for year 4 of the project this November, and then look to raise the money for the dormitory next year. There's a lot to be said for that approach, but having been to Serenje and seen the conditions the girls have to live in, I'm desperate to get the money to build the dormitory raised as quickly as possible so that isn't what is holding the project up. I'm therefore encouraging every one of us to think and pray about what we can give over the next two Sundays.

Some may have already given all they can give, or want to give. If that's you then thank you so much for all you've already given, and please feel no pressure to give any more.
Some may have given in October, and feel stirred to give more. If so, that's brilliant.
Some may have missed the October Gift days completely and be giving for the first time, if so please be generous, even tend towards being sacrificial in what you give, but again don't feel under any pressure.

You can either give in the second offering over the next two Sundays, or you can give online. Some may also want to give a regular amount over the coming year, rather than, or as well as a one off gift. If so there are standing order forms available from reception to allow you to do that.

In all of this let's remember that God loves a cheerful giver, and that we will reap what we sow - we can never out give God.

Simon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Social Media Musings #4 - Be an Ambassador

Paul writes in Ephesians 5:20 that "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors". An ambassador is someone who no longer speaks only for themselves, but speaks on behalf of the government, the king or queen, the people and the country they represent. They have to think of everything they say and do in terms of how it reflects not only on them, but on everyone they represent, as an authorised messenger for those people.

Being an ambassador for a country is a huge honour, and carries with it great responsibility. But as ambassadors for Jesus Christ we have an even greater responsibility and honour, representing and being messengers for Him in all we say and do. We need to be aware of this in all of our lives, but I believe in particular with what we do online, as the things we choose to blog, tweet and put on Facebook are available for anyone to see, and once written are almost impossible to remove. That means they can leave an even more indelible mark than the things we say verbally.

So what does that mean for us practically?

First we need to make sure that everything we say online reflects well on God and honours Him, That doesn't mean that everything that we post online has to be bland, unquestioning, sugary or just plain "nice". It's possible to write about our doubts, worries, questions and fears in a way which is authentic but which still honours God - if you don't believe me just spend some time reading the Psalms! They manage to express some of the darkest human emotions, and biggest questions of life, in a way which still rightly recognises who God is. But let's focus on the incredible blessings of our relationship with God, answers to prayer, encouragements and verses which inspire us.

Secondly we need to represent our church, and other churches, well. If we have disagreements or questions about what is going on in church, let's not play out our disagreements in a public forum. And let's make sure we honour leaders in our community in what we say online (see 1 Timothy 5:17). There is so much positive going on for us to talk about, and so much to celebrate, so let's talk about those things, as people will be reading what we write online when making deciding what they think about the church. That's not to say we can't challenge other people online, especially if what they've made their comments publicly. For an example of how to do this well see how Dave Gilpin reviewed Rob Bell's controversial book "Love Wins", or take a look at what Vicky Beeching had to say about discussing theology on social media.

Thirdly let's represent one another well, always thinking the best of, and wanting the best for one another. Let's not pull one another down or criticise one another online, but choose to build one another up and encourage one another. And let's be aware of our audience when we write - there may be some things you'd be happy to say to an adult audience, but not to all the teenagers who may be your friends on Facebook.

The bottom line. As a Christ follower, when you speak you no longer just speak for yourself but you speak as a representative of God and His kingdom. That's an awesome privilege, but also an incredible responsibility.

Simon.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I mentioned on Sunday that I've recently read a biography of the German pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and that it has increased even further my appreciation for everyone who who fought to overcome Hitler and the Nazi regime, and added a deeper understanding for me this year in my observance of Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday .

I knew little of the life of Bonhoeffer before I read this book, but the more I read it the more I came to admire this incredible man of God. The author, Eric Metaxas, has managed to write a book which reads like a really good novel or a thriller, at each stage drawing you further in to the story and making you just want to keep on reading more to find out what happens next (don't start reading it late at night!).

I'm not going to tell you any of the story, as that could spoil it, but I will say that what you read of in this book is not some 'sinless saint', but a man who struggled with working out his faith, who wrestled with how to apply the Bible to his context, who was let down by the people around him, who knew both great joy and incredible sadness, yet through it all kept strong in his pursuit of God and all that God had for him to do, and showed incredible courage and bravery.

I've asked the wonderful team who run our bookshop to order some copies of Metaxa's book in, but if like me you're a Kindle devotee it is available on Kindle too. This book would also make a great Christmas present, perhaps even for people you know who have an interest in the Second World War, but wouldn't normally read a 'Christian' book. I think they'd find it very accessible and might open their eyes to an aspect of the war they've never considered before.

Finally I wanted to use this opportunity to apologise for the mistake I made at the 9am meeting this week. As I introduced the two minutes silence I spoke about our armed forces fighting in World War 2 against what the Germans wanted to achieve, rather than what the Nazis wanted to achieve. There were many Germans, like Bonhoeffer, totally opposed to what Hitler was attempting to do, and I would never want to blur the distinction between the people of Germany and the Nazis. I did apologise to two of the Germans in our community straight after the meeting, who very graciously forgave me. Please will those of you who were there extend the same grace to me.

If any of you do read the book I'd love to hear what you thought of it. Have a great week.

Simon.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Social Media Musings #3 - Be Kind

Much of the potential of social media to do good is not in the big things we do or say, but in our quick personal interactions. Social media gives us the ability to encourage and lift one another up, even when we aren't physically in the same place. Yet so much of the damage which comes from social media also comes from these same interactions - from unpleasant, destructive or unthoughtful things which get texted, tweeted and posted.

In the past I've spoken about the concept of lifts. That in every interaction we have with another person it's as though we take them into our lift, and what we say and do will either take them up or down, will leave them either encouraged or discouraged. I believe that's as true in our online interactions as it is in our physical ones. Everything we text, tweet, Facebook or blog has the potential to take people up or down, to take them closer to God or further away, to make them feel more or less equipped to face the world.

On Sunday morning I spoke about this in terms of kindness. You'll have to listen to the podcast to get the full message (including the drama team doing their "real life" Facebook sketch), but the short version was that it is God's kindness which has made it possible for us to repent (Romans 2:4, Titus 3:3-7, Ephesians 2:1-10Isaiah 54:8), and that God now intends us to show others the same kindness which we ourselves have received (1 Corinthians 13:4, Galatians 5:22-23, Colossians 3:12,  2 Peter 1:5-8). In fact true kindness isn't possible until we have been transformed and made new creations as a result of God's kindness coming into our lives.

So seek to be kind in all of your online interactions. Here are a some thoughts about how to do that:

  • If you know someone is going through a tough time, send them a text to let them know you're thinking of them and praying for them (and make sure you actually do pray for them).
  • Be open to the Holy Spirit prompting you to encourage someone with a text or an email.
  • Write blogs and tweets which will take others up in their lift. If you have something negative to say to someone then have the courage to say it face to face.
  • Don't use Twitter or Facebook to gossip about other people, to say what a terrible boss you have or to moan about how awful the people who work for you are!
  • If someone is negative about you online then choose to forgive them, and don't retaliate online. As someone once said "unforgiveness is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die". Practice Matthew 18:15-20
  • If you wrongly offend someone online then sort it with them and apologise as quickly as possible.
  • If you ever write an email or blog which you're not sure about, particularly if it's in response to something unpleasant someone has sent to you, then save it in your drafts folder and come back to it when you've calmed down. I can't tell you how many times this has stopped me getting into big trouble.


Someone did point out to me that the 13th November is, believe it or not, UK Kindness Day. Let's be people who don't just practice kindness one day a year, but make it a central part of our lives every day of the year, both online and in the "real" world.

Simon.

Remembrance Sunday

This Sunday we will be having two minutes silence during our time of worship in all three of our meetings, to remember those in our armed forces who have died in the line of duty since World War 1.  Please can I also encourage you to buy a poppy in support of the Royal British Legion, they are available from the Kerith Centre reception if you haven't got one from anywhere else.

We've also got baptisms on Sunday with people being baptised in all three meetings, and a different preacher for each meeting. Please come and support those being baptised.

It should be a great Sunday - hope to see you there!

Simon.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Social Media Musings #2 - Watch What You Watch


There are many positives to the whole world of the internet, but one of the huge downsides has been how it has made so much that is negative, and in particular pornography, so much more freely available. There was once a time when you would have to go to a shop to get hold of pornography, running the risk of being seen etc, but now if you've got access to a computer then you can get hold of pornography without anyone else knowing.

Paul writes to the church in Philippi "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things" (Philippians 4:8). Meanwhile Jesus sets the bar incredibly high when it comes to Christ followers, setting a grace standard which takes us way beyond the law when He says "I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28).

I know this is an issue which can affect both men and women, but I particularly want to speak to the guys in Kerith in getting us to set the bar high in what we look at on the internet or on TV. For the married men let's choose to delight in our wives, to honour them and cherish them in all that we look at. And let's have a generation of single guys who take purity seriously, and choose not to conform to the standards of those around them but are preparing themselves one day to be outstanding husbands. Sometimes this will take an active choice. I've said before that I've struggled in the past with what I watch on TV when I've been away from home staying in hotels, so I now make the decision that when I'm away in a hotel to put the remote control in a drawer and make the decision just not to watch it. I also hold myself accountable to the elders for what I watch and look at, and from time to time will ask the other elders how they are doing on this issue. You need to be in some similar accountability relationships, and if you're in a place where you're struggling right now you need to find a safe person you can share it with.

There are other ways the internet can pull us down. Simply wasting hours going from one YouTube clip to another isn't a productive use of our precious time. Similarly if you want to you can find huge amounts of negative stuff about pretty much any well known Christian figure you'd like to name. Don't rely on what some anonymous nutter has to say about Mark Driscoll, Bill Hybels, Billy Graham or anyone else out there - it's just a waste of time and will leave you discouraged.

So what is the alternative. Well make sure that you listen to and watch things on the internet which will build you up. Get the YouVersion app on your smartphone and sign up for a daily Bible reading plan, getting God's word into you every day. Listen to Podcasts, read Blogs and sign up for Tweets from some of the Christian leaders out there, and instead of reading what some nutter thinks about them make your own mind up. I recommend anything by Tim Keller, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, John Piper and Craig Groeschel, but there are loads of other people out there putting out great stuff. I particularly enjoyed this Q&A session between John Piper and Rick Warren - outstanding. Even some dead people like CS Lewis have Twitter feeds dedicated to them which are full of daily inspiration. And more locally you can follow my wife, our Act For Justice group, our CAP centre, Serenje developments, Ken and Ann Bothamley, Michael and Esther Ross-Watson and many of our staff on Twitter. Why not add some comments about who you've found it helpful to follow.

Tomorrow we'll get on to some stuff on how we actually use social media in terms of what we create, but before we can do that we need to be sure that we're taking the right stuff in. Hopefully this will have helped you to do that.

Simon.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Social Media Musings #1 - Don't be Afraid of Technology

I've had a lot of very positive feedback from Sunday's preaches on how we should make use of social media. For the benefit of all of you who couldn't make the evening meeting, I thought I'd do five separate blogs this week on the five thoughts I preached on at the 7pm meeting. I'd love to hear comments or thoughts on these, and experiences of putting them into practice.

So here we go with thought #1 - Don't be afraid of technology - use it! Historically Christians have been at the forefront of using new technology to spread the gospel and build the church. Whether it was Paul having a missionary strategy which depended on the roads the Romans were building, people like Tyndale and the reformers seizing the opportunity presented by the printing press or CS Lewis inspiring a nation with his radio broadcasts during the Second World War, our history is full of people taking 'new' technologies and using them to advance the gospel (OK I'm not sure the radio was that new in 1940, but you get the idea!). So let's not run away from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Podcasts, texting and blogs and the opportunities they give us. Let us as individuals and as a community grab hold of them and see that they are used for good rather than evil.

And let's make use of the opportunities technology give us to be creative. There was a time when the Christians were designing and building the most beautiful buildings, telling their story through breathtaking stained glass windows and composing and performing the music all of society wanted to listen to. Yet so often we are now reduced to taking pot shots at the output of Hollywood and MTV, or retreating into our Christian music / radio / TV cocoon. There was a time when without a book publisher, recording contract or backing of a TV or radio network your voice would never be heard. But now through blogs, YouTube and Podcasts, as well as the availability of incredibly cheap cameras and video editing software, anyone can be an author, musician, broadcaster or short film maker, and instantly have a potential audience of millions, all either for free or at minimal cost. We serve a God who is unbelievably creative, so as people made in his image let's unleash a wave of creativity using all of this new technology. I'm loving some of the creativity come out of Kerith at the moment. The magazine, the CDs, the videos and the posters around the building. But I believe there is so much more to come, especially as we see our creativity flow over into the secular world.

So get started today. I agonised for months over starting blogging. Would anyone read it? Did I have anything to say? Yet four and a bit years in it's been one of the best things I've ever done. If you have an idea for a short film get a load of people together and start writing. Start a blog and start blogging. Even just right now send someone you love an encouraging text - it can be as easy as that. This might even be the excuse to get yourself that iPhone you've always longed for (disclaimer - other brands of smartphone are available - they're just not as good!).
One final thought on technology. Let's be sure we are in control of it, rather than it controlling us. Don't be stressed out because you're checking your email from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. Have times in the day when you turn it off and get a life! Why not even every now and again leave your mobile phone at home. You know there was a time not too long ago that you could actually go on a car journey without a mobile phone and everything would be OK - why not give it a go and enjoy some technology free time!

I'd love to hear comments on this - feel free to leave them on the blog, Twitter or Facebook.

More tomorrow.

Simon

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Social Media Musings

This Sunday I'm going to speak on how we can use technology, and in particular social media (Facebook, Twitter, Skype, texting, blogs etc), as tools for good and as something which enhances our lives. Often the opposite is true. I read recently that in the US Facebook is now the primary source of evidence in divorce proceeding (I doubt the UK is far behind) so it is vital that we properly understand how to use these tools for good.

Normally on a Sunday I'll preach the same thing at the 9, 11 and 7. However this week I'm going to split the preach in two. In the morning I'm going to talk about an aspect of God's character which I believe, if mirrored in our own lives, would transform our use of social media. In the evening I'm going to give 5 practical guidelines to using social media for good, as well as doing some Q&A. If you can't make both morning and evening then please try and catch the one you missed on the podcast.

See you Sunday!

Simon.