Monday, December 2, 2019

Thanksgiving Service for Mike Barnett

Many of us will remember Mike Barnett who was a part of Kerith for a number of years. I wanted to let you know the sad news that Mike passed away on Thursday 7th November. Mike was a great servant to our church community over the years he was with us, amongst other things leading a small group and being one of our Sunday building administrators.

There will be a Thanksgiving Service for Mike's life on Friday 13th December at 1.30pm at Easthampstead Park Crematorium which I'll be taking. Everyone is warmly invited.

Please be praying for Mike's children George, Dominic and Amy and all those will be missing Mike. That they would know God's love, comfort and strength at what is a tough time for them all.


Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving Services for Joan Dunn

Our dear friend Joan Dunn passed away on Saturday 2nd November. Whenever I think of Joan I'm reminded of the two elderly ladies who through their prayer ministry were the catalyst for the Hebridean Revival. Joan was a prayer warrior with the same spirit and heart. Never seeking the limelight (I'm not sure I ever saw her on one of our platforms) she quietly interceded for our church community over many decades. Catrina and I received numerous cards from Joan over the years, each one thanking us for our leadership, telling us how grateful she was to be part of our church and assuring us of her prayers for us and our children. Even in her final days she would invite everyone who visited her to pray and share communion with her. As we recognise all God is doing in and through our community I am convinced that so much of it is the result of the prayers of Joan and others who share her anointing for intercession. She is hugely missed.

We are holding a Celebration of Life Service for Joan at 3pm on Sunday 8th December (what would have been Joan's 96th birthday) in the Kerith Centre, followed by refreshments in K2. Everyone is very warmly invited.

Please be praying for Joan's daughter Laura, and all in our community who are deeply missing Joan, her sense of fun, her smile, her deep trust in Jesus and her prayers. Let her life be an inspiration to all of to seek the deeper things of God.


Thursday, November 21, 2019

Kerith Buildings Updates

This week marked the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Kerith Centre. One of the comments visitors frequently make when I tell them the age of the building is that they thought it was new. That is in large part because of the design of the building and the quality of the materials used, but it also reflects the large amount of money we have spent over the years on both maintenance and where required the updating of the building. In the light of that I wanted to let you know about some of the ways we are continuing to develop our other buildings and sites.

The picture above is of the new kitchen in the K2 building on our Bracknell site. We were donated most of the equipment by a company who no longer needed it, saving us around £20,000. As well as installing the equipment we also took the opportunity to put a surface on the walls which is easy to wipe down, install a new wooden serving area and generally make the kitchen much more useable. The new kitchen is already making a huge difference to our social justice cafe which runs on a Tuesday and Friday, and I'm sure will prove useful for many of the other events which happen in K2.

Many of you will know that for a long time we've been trying to buy a strip of land down the side of K2 from the Bracknell Cricket Club. They have now decided that they don't want to sell the land to us. Although this is a shame, it is far less important to us since we made the decision a couple of years ago not to redevelop the K2 building, as that piece of land could have been crucial. The positive side of this decision is that we were waiting to know whether we could buy the land before moving ahead with building a walkway through to the Bracknell and Wokingham College car park which we use on a Sunday. The walkway will both reduce the time taken to walk from the car park to our site, and mean that children no longer have to walk along the busy dual carriageway which has always scared me. The college have agreed to us doing this, but have asked that we do the work in one of their breaks which hopefully will mean it being built during the spring 2020 half term.

Our Windsor site has seen rapid growth since we started meeting there every Sunday in September 2018. It has grown from an initial group of about 40 people to an average Sunday attendance of well over 100, which is really exciting. One consequence of that is that we have completely run out of space for kids work. To provide more space we have applied for planning permission to put a portakabin on the site of the hall which we rent, which has recently been granted. We hope to have the portakabin in place for early next year, creating space for the growth to continue.

We are also going to upgrade the toilets in the hall on our Windsor site, which at the moment let it down really badly. If you've ever been in them you'll know how much this needs doing!

One of our biggest challenges as we move forward is going to be finding spaces to do ministry in. Solving this problem is going to require a mixture of renting buildings, buying and building new buildings, and maintaining and improving our existing buildings. That will require a big vision, prayer for wisdom, breakthrough and favour, and sacrificial giving. All things that are part of our history and are also going to be part of our future.

Finally to say a big thank you to all who have given to the vision fund, which has allowed us to do all the things I've talked about here. You have stored up treasure in heaven in the lives that are going to be transformed in each of these spaces.

I'll finish with a few more pictures of the new K2 kitchen!


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Thirty Years Ago Today

Thirty years ago today (19th November 1989) the Kerith Centre on our Bracknell site was opened at a total cost of £3.1 million, 98% of which came from the congregation. On that opening day Catrina and I had been part of the church for about 10 months, and had the privilege of sitting in the balcony joining in the celebration. 

The name “Kerith” came from a story told in 1 Kings 17:1-6 in the Bible where God miraculously provided for Elijah in the Kerith ravine.  It was chosen to represent God’s miraculous provision of money to build the Kerith centre, and the vision of the church that the building would be a place of provision for all who came in.

For a congregation of 400 people to build the Kerith Centre at such a cost, at a time of recession, was remarkable.  People double tithed for years, came to early morning and all-night prayer meetings, gave on monthly gift days, raised money at table top sales, gave up holidays – they had a vision for a building that would impact the town, the nation and the nations for generations to come. A bank loan was needed to pay the final construction costs, but within four years, in November 1993, the loan was paid off.  The church was debt free! 

But it wasn't just the raising of the money that was remarkable. The Kerith Centre was built at a time when it was pretty much unheard of for UK churches to build new buildings. The perceived wisdom at the time was that large churches should break down into smaller congregations, meeting in schools or community centres, and that large church buildings were a thing of the past. Ben Davies, our senior pastor from 1964 to 2007, had a different vision which came from visiting large churches in the USA. He knew that he had heard from God, and had the courage and faith to lead the church into this amazing project. It was so revolutionary that I remember that for the first few weeks of moving in we had a different TV company filming each week, including BBC, ITV and Sky. It was always interesting to have friends and family contact you the week after to say they'd seen you worshipping on TV! Praise God we now live in an age where churches opening new buildings is commonplace.

I've just come back from the Kerith Centre where I've been at an all day training event attended by church leaders from the south of England and Germany. Foodbank was running in the building during the day, while our addiction recovery group and our Equip theology course were meeting tonight. Those who gave so sacrificially to pay for the Kerith Centre had a vision that they were investing for a future they couldn't imagine, and in people they would never meet. That has certainly proved to be true as I reflect on all the events we have run and lives which have been transformed in the Kerith Centre over the last 30 years. Sunday meetings, Prayer meetings, Alpha Courses, Marriage Courses, Willow Creek Conferences, Real conferences, Foodbank, Friday night youth, Songs of Praise, CAP Debt Counselling, Carol Concerts, Baptisms, Royal visits, Sparklers parent and toddler group, Who Let the Dads Out and so much more. Countless thousands of lives have been transformed and will continue to be transformed at events held in the Kerith Centre. 

So I want to say a huge thank you to all those who have left us with the gift of the Kerith Centre. To Ben Davies who was the visionary behind it all, Ralph Allen who gave up a well paid job to be the architect and design a building which has passed the test of time so well, Mike Owen who acted as the site manager to make sure it was built to such a high standard, Clive Challis who acted as the treasurer for the whole project, Melita Cullis who ran numerous table top sales and to all those who gave sacrificially of their finances and their time in prayer to see the dream become a reality. 

And to the rest of us let us realise we stand on the shoulders of giants. We don't worship a building, but we do worship in a building, and it allows us to do so much ministry and see so many lives changes. Let's be thankful for all who have gone before us, be inspired by their vision their faith and the sacrifices they made, make the best use we can of the legacy they have left us and be willing to follow in their footsteps.


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Living a Kairos Life in a Chronos World

One of my favourite films as a youngster (OK not quite so young) was Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Unforgettable elements include Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham, my favourite tree(!), some terrible geography as they travel from the South coast to Nottingham via Northumberland, but perhaps most of all some incredible scenes involving Kevin Costner doing amazing things with a bow and arrow. 

All that as an intro to my sermon from Sunday, kicking off our new series by talking about how to declutter our time. I spoke on how the greek language has two different words for time. 

The first is ‘chronos', which refers to a period of time; a second, an hour, a week or a year. The key feature of chronos time is quantity.

The second is ‘kairos', which refers to a critical or opportune moment in time. The key feature of kairos time is quality. 

Part of the origin of the word kairos describes the moment when an archer releases an arrow (hence the Kevin Costner references). It is a unique moment which requires both a particular set of circumstances (the arrow being in place and the string of the bow being pulled fully back), and once it has passed has a bearing on everything that follows (the archer can’t influence the trajectory of the arrow once it has been released). That kairos moment defines what happens in the chronos time that follows. 

That is a good picture for our lives. We live in a chronos world, defined by timetables, schedules and deadlines. But it is the kairos moments which give our lives direction, meaning and richness. For those of us who are followers of Jesus those kairos moments are very often the moments where we hear from God, sense his presence or seize a God given opportunity. 

On Sunday I suggested some ways we can cultivate and engage with the God given kairos moments in our life. Go and listen to the talk for the full list, but I wanted to highlight one, which is to start every day with God. I’m increasingly seeing that first thing in the day is a unique kairos moment where we set the trajectory for the rest of the day. If we start the day connecting with God and inviting him into our day, then there is a good chance we will take that into the rest of the day. If we start it on Facebook and twitter it is likely to be a very different story. 

I talked about one commitment I’ve made, which is every morning to aim to pick up and read my Bible before I look at my phone. That one commitment, which is rapidly becoming a habit, is proving to be transformational in my life. If that’s a habit you too would like to form we’ve created some tools to help you develop it - take a look here

I’d love to hear stories of people pursuing habits in order to engage better with the kairos moments in our lives, and the impact of those moments. You can always leave a comment on the blog, or send me an email. We may even share your tips or tell your story on a Sunday.

Don’t miss next Sunday where we’re going to look at decluttering our friendships!

Hope you have a great week.


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Ongoing Brexit Thoughts

As Brexit continues to rumble on I wanted to share some thoughts on our ongoing response as followers of Jesus.

We need to keep praying. Each time we see anything about Brexit on the TV, on social media or in the press let’s turn it to prayer. In the words of Jehoshaphat from the Old Testament “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12). Pray for our politicians, pray for God’s kingdom to come and his will to be done, pray for justice, pray for God to use the lack of peace to bring the true peace of Jesus. You know the stuff!

While we’re in this critical season I’ve started hosting an online time of prayer most weekday mornings from 6.45-7am. It’s on Facebook live on my Facebook page. I’ll start the stream a couple of minutes before 6.45am so people can connect in. You can either watch it live or the video stays up for a few days if you want to catch it later in the day. If for any reason there are days I can’t do it I’ll try and let people know, but if you get there and it’s not happening then just pray on your own!

This is a new idea for how we can gather to pray in a different way. I know that this doesn’t work for some people (which is fine), but I’ve also had feedback from others who have found it helpful, so I’ll continue it for now. I'd love to hear any ideas on how it can improved, but through that process please join me when you can.

Be informed
It was said of the men of Issachar that they “understood the times and knew what they should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32). Oh that we might have the same insight today. 

Let’s daily be reading our Bibles. The Bible is so full of insight on the times we live in. I’d encourage you to try my pattern which is to try and commit to picking up and reading my Bible every morning before I pick up my phone. What you do first thing in the morning will set the trajectory for the rest of your day (more about this in my preach on Sunday!) so get into the scriptures. 

Read the papers and watch the news. Read articles from people you agree with, and people you disagree with. There is a danger for those of us on social media or who only read one particular newspaper that we can live in an echo chamber, where we only interact with people who share our views, and assume that everyone with a differing view is either an idiot or a bigot. The Bible tells us to be slow to speak and quick to listen (James 1:19). Much of the disunity we see is people creating lazy caricatures of the people on the other side of the debate, rather than understanding their genuine concerns. Seek to understand before you seek to be understood.

All the time remember the advice of the theologian Karl Barth: “Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.”. Understand the times through the lens of the Bible, not the other way round. 

To understand the wider issues behind the rise of populism and much more of the times we live in I’ve found the “This Cultural Moment” Podcast with John Mark Comer and Mark Sayers really helpful.

Be Active
Although much of Brexit is confusing, particularly as we seek to discern the will of God on what should happen next, there are some things the Bible is very clear on. 

If you encounter racism, whether it comes from the mouth of your next door neighbour or the President of the United States, don’t be afraid to call it out. Every human being has unique value and worth as someone created in the image of God, and we are to affirm and defend that value. And reach out to people from other nations, letting them know that you are pleased they are in our nation and taking time to learn from them and the culture they have come from. 

Let's be models of what it looks like to disagree agreeably. We are told to "let our gentleness be evident to all” (Philippians 4:5). Gentle doesn’t mean weak.  You can be gentle and strong, gentle and challenging, gentle and prophetic, gentle and provocative. Let us help people rediscover the art of gentle disagreement. 

Be a force for justice, practically demonstrating the love of Jesus. That could mean donating food to the food bank, visiting an elderly neighbour or taking the time to talk to the homeless people we sadly see all around us. It is a fact that the Brexit process is having an economic impact on our nation, with those on the margins of society paying the greatest price. We as the church are called to be part of the solution. 

Our friends at Jubilee Plus have written some very helpful ideas (written for church leaders but relevant to all of us) on how we can practically begin to respond. Please take a look and think about how their suggestions might apply to you.

Proclaim the name of Jesus. Let’s not be afraid to “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). He is the one who one day will “reconcile all things to himself” (Colossians 1:20). He is our hope, our peace, our strength and our refuge. I was on a train to Yorkshire on Monday and had a long chat with the guy next to me about how I came to follow Jesus. Let’s take every opportunity to share the reason for the hope we have. 

And remember that prayer is activity. Praying changes things, and whether or not we immediately see the answer to our prayers, it always changes us. 

There’s much more I could say but this will do for now. Thanks for reading this far, and let’s commit to being part of the Christ centred solution.



Saturday, September 21, 2019

WTC, Equip & The Bible Course

Two weeks ago I was coming towards the end of my first Westminster Theological Centre (WTC) residential in Telford. This is my first step in taking a two year Graduate Diploma in Kingdom Theology. WTC allows anyone to study on a part time basis everything from a Certificate in Higher Education through to an MA, taking twice the time a full time degree or MA would take.  Each year half the teaching takes place at two residentials, and half at a local hub which for us is the Thames Valley hub which we are hosting.

It was a brilliant five days away, although the pace was intense with 7 or 8 hours of lectures every day, combined with times of worship, lessons on how to write essays (a whole new world for me) and a personality profile alongside meals, an early morning run, a trip to the pub and not much time for anything else. There are a number of people from Kerith studying with WTC, including two of our sites pastors Heather Pocock and Leon Johnson, and Judith and Andy who are part of our deaf community and the first ever deaf people to study with WTC.

The highlight for me was the lectures we had on the Old Testament. Our lecturer was Dr. Stephen Dempster who has spent his whole life studying the Old Testament and it showed! He wrote the NIV Study Bible notes for Deuteronomy, and started each of his lectures by praying a psalm over us first in Hebrew, then in English. Stephen lectured us for 16 hours, by the end of which we’d only got to the end of the book of Kings, but such was the depth of his knowledge and passion for the subject that he could have gone on for many hours more without it ever becoming dry or starting to drag. He made the Old Testament come alive in a way I’ve never seen it before.

I’m really excited by our partnership with WTC, and the theological depth it is going to sow into our community over the coming years. For many years in charismatic circles there has been a rejection of formal theological training, which has been unhelpful and I think longer term is dangerous for churches like ours seeking to be strong in both word and spirit. I’m therefore delighted by our growing relationships with WTC, as well as St. Mellitus College where a number of our youngsters are gaining BA’s in Theology, Ministry and Mission and with Moorlands College

If you’d like to go deeper in your relationship with God through getting a better understanding of the Bible, but don’t yet feel you’re in a position to study with WTC, I’d really encourage you to consider joining our Equip course which launches this coming Monday evening. Over two years you’ll get to work your way through the whole of the Bible, with the option of skipping terms if you can’t do the whole course in one go. The course is being certified by Moorlands College, and having seen the manuals I’m sure it’s going to be excellent. 

There is a termly cost of £75, which although much cheaper than WTC may still I realise be an issue for some. We don’t want the cost to stop anyone from attending so if that’s the case for you, or you have any other questions, please contact Karen Dack who will be able to answer all your queries. I’m going there on Monday to say hello to and pray for everyone starting the course, so I’ll hope to see you there :)

Let’s go deeper together.