Saturday, December 20, 2008

Saturday Football

Out of the house at 8.30 this morning to take Zak to Twyford for a football match. One of the (many) mistakes I've made this year has been to miss too many things our kids have done. I can't change that now, but one of my decisions for the New Year will be to say no to some things in order to do better at this next year.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Last Weekend

I can't believe we're over half way through our Christmas Programme. We've tried this year to run events which will appeal to lots of different people, from the more traditional Sunday mornings through the Xmas Factor all the way to the Battle of the Bands. There has been good feedback from all of them, which has been very encouraging.

Thought you might like to see these photos John Mitchell took of the events over the weekend.

Don't forget to be thinking about who to invite on Sunday morning, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (and Sunday evening if you're fortunate enough to be young enough to be in the youth!).


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Serenje Update

Most of the church seems to be have gone down with colds, sore throats and runny noses in the last couple of weeks (me included). Well I thought that in the middle of all that (and in order to gain some perspective) you might like an update from Serenje in Zambia, where the HIV/AIDS project we are sponsoring is really starting to gain some momentum.

The photos are of a series of meetings which have been taking place to let the local community know about what is going on.

In the New Year I'm hoping to set up a Serenje blog, where every couple of weeks we'll add a report on some aspect of what is going on, as well as photo updates. Until then I'll use my blog to try and keep everyone updated.

As well as the photos I thought you might be interested in this email from Leah who works for the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) who are the partners we are working with, through Tearfund, in Serenje.

There ar trips being planned to Serenje for April and August next year. More details once we've got the exact dates confirmed.

Hope you're having a great (cold free) week.


From: Leah
Sent: 12 December 2008 09:06
To: Simon
Subject: Serenje Project Update

Dear Pastors Catrina and Simon,

Greetings from Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia.

I remember your faces often – on a weekly basis as we discuss the Serenje Project. You are very special because God has chosen your church to demonstrate the Kingdom and to be part of those that would carry Gods Agenda for the end time. I am so excited!

The mystery of God – It was in His HEART to establish His Name in Serenje communities – and so He sought for a people in the name of Kerith Church.

So what is happening in communities of Kankoso, Chilisha, Kashitu and Mwansankano? A LOT…
The implementation of the project has started and below are some highlights:
  • We have had discussions in each of the communities including a meeting with the chief!
  • Project plans have been discussed and communities have shared their challenges and action is taking place
  • Small scale farmers (vulnerable families) have been identified and are already planting beans and groundnuts, to be followed by planting cassava cuttings and sweat potato roots in early January.
  • Orphans and Vulnerable Children are being identified right now in target villages and communities.
  • Serenje Pastors Fellowship Project Committee are visiting schools to assess capacity of schools – and availability of school places.
  • The District Commissioner in Serenje was very happy to have EFZ go and share development plans for Serenje and is ready to offer all the help we need – he is a God fearing man.
  • The Field Officer and four teams are going round the villages and communities right now to ascertain implementation plans are going on schedule.

A detailed report will follow and PLENTY of pictures.
Greetings from Serenje to Pastor Ben and the team that visited!

In His Service,

Leah Mutala

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lead Elders Coaching

I'm off this morning to a Newfrontiers "Lead Elders Coaching" session in Catford. This is two days where the leaders of some of the larger churches in Newfrontiers are gathered by Steve Tibbert (who leads the church in Catford, where Mick Taylor who many of you will remember is now on staff) to look at how we can grow much bigger churches. We look at a whole load of different things including understanding our own personalities and leadership styles, the things that change as churches get bigger and the things that can stop or stunt growth. This will be the fourth one of these that I've been to (the coaching runs over two years and there are six sessions in all).

I have to admit that I really love it (even if I do miss being away from home). Many of you will know that one of my dreams is for us to be a church of thousands, so that bit of it all really excites me, but it has also been a great chance for me to get to know other leaders who are facing many of the same issues as we are and begin to build relationships with them.

This time round we've got a day with John and Debby Wright who lead the Trent Vineyard church in Nottingham. They're a church of thousands and although I've never been there I've heard great things about it from people like Colin Boyle and Ken Bothamley who have visited it. So I'm really looking forward to extracting all the information I can from them, especially as we move to our three meetings from January as they do a similar thing with the preach from the morning repeated in the evening.

I'll also be staying overnight with my sister Lucy who lives in Forest Hill. I don't get to see her often so I'm looking forward to spending at least a bit of time with her and her husband Simon.

Just pray that the 2CV lasts all the way round the M25!


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hampers in Kids2

You may remember last week me suggesting that as a 'random act of kindness' people might want to bring in items for the Christmas hampers we are giving away this Christmas. Well lots of people responded to that, and the children had a great time packing them all in Kids2 on Sunday morning. I thought you might like to see these photos of them all hard at work. We've also done a press release for the Bracknell News about what the children got up to, so you may get to see all the photos again there. Just remember that you saw them here first!


Sunday Photos

Thought you might like to see some photos from Sunday. Unfortunately I can't put up any with the school children in, but hope you like the rest.
Please be thinking about who to invite this Sunday morning as we look at "God's Dream Revealed Through the Silence", and in the evening for our final "Xmas Factor" event.
Also please plan to be at the prayer meetings this Wednesday and Thursday. We've got so much to thank God for, and so much to be talking to Him about and asking Him to do. We'll also be sharing communion together for the first time in a while. Lincoln is leading Wednesday night (I'm at a Newfrontiers caoching session for leaders of the larger churches on Wednesday and Thursday) and I'll be back in time to lead Thursday evening (2CV permitting!).
Hope you're having a good week,

Friday, December 5, 2008

Update on Lee

I've had so many people ask me about how Lee Layton-Matthews (our Youth Pastor) got on with his operation today that I thought I'd post an update here for all to see.

Lee went into hospital today for an operation to sort out some problems with his pace maker. I got a text at 6:30pm from Lydia (my wonderful PA), who had gone to the hospital to keep Lee's wife Linda company, to say that Lee had come round after the operation, was still quite groggy and in quite a bit of pain, but was cracking jokes which must be a good sign. We need to be praying for Lee, particularly that there won't be any infection as a result of the surgery which has been done. Lydia also said that Lee may be able to come home tomorrow, so knowing Lee that means he'll probably be in church on Sunday morning! In reality it's going to take Lee at least a week to recover from what has been fairly major surgery, so if by any chance you do see him in church on Sunday send him straight home :-)

So lots to be thanking God for there. That's a good point to remind everyone that it's prayer meetings next Wednesday and Thursday, where we're also going to be sharing communion together. I know we're in an incredibly busy time of year but please can I encourage everyone to make one of those two evenings a priority, as we seek to regain a little focus in the middle of the Christmas madness!

Hope you have a great weekend.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Random Acts of Kindness

I wrote earlier this week about us being the aroma of Christ, and one way to do that simply being kind to other people.

One idea for an act of kindness is to get involved buying items for the hampers we're going to be giving out this Christmas. There's a list of things we'd like to put in the hampers in last weeks bulletin - you can see the bulletin on our website if you haven't got a copy.

Catrina is going Christmas shopping on Saturday so Alice and I will be off to Tescos to buy hamper stuff, and then off to the garden centre to get a tree. The children are packing the hampers on Sunday morning so if you can get stuff to reception before 10 that would be great.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Smell of Christ this Christmas

Sunday morning I preached on 2 Cor 2:14-16 - "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?".

So what are you going to smell of this Christmas? I'm not talking BO or aftershave but your spiritual aroma. Is it going to be the aroma of Christ, the aroma of self or even the aroma of the devil. You see I believe every time we have contact with another human being we leave a little bit of our scent on them, and that scent will have an impact on them. And we need to make sure that aroma is the right aroma, even if at times that will provoke a negative reaction (the smell of death).

So how do we make sure we smell of Christ?

First the aroma we want is "the fragrance of the knowledge of him". So having the right fragrance starts with knowing him - knowing Christ. That shouldn't be such a shock to us, as all that we have comes from having a relationship with Christ. Not being religious or following a set of rules but having a relationship with him through his death on the cross.

So two ways to know him better. Read the Bible and pray. I'm reading a book at the moment about William Tyndale who first translated the Bible into modern English (John Wycliffe translated it into middle English) and the incredible battle which the Catholic church and the English establishment engaged in to try and make sure people didn't get access to it, which ended up with Tyndale being martyred. People could lose their lives for just owning a copy of Tyndale's translation, and yet there was enormous demand for it. It's challenging me about how I can have a "take it or leave it" approach to reading the Bible, when really having copies available is such an amazing privilege. So read the gospels as a great place to start knowing him. Then pray, taking moments through every day just to have a conversation with him, talking to him about what is going on and involving him in all of it.

And then how to spread that aroma to others. Well there are lots of ways, but it starts by being in contact with other people. Whether that's in the queue at Tesco's at work, at the office Christmas party or talking to the neighbours. And then when you're with those people taking them up in your lift. That can start as simply as being kind to them. Rom 2:4 talks about "God's kindness leads you toward repentance?". If God's kindness can lead to repentance then so can ours. So just start by being kind to people!

That's enough for one blog entry. I might expand on this later this week, but hopefully that's given you some thoughts on how to smell good this Christmas!


Monday, December 1, 2008

Xmas Factor Live - Part 1

Well I'm still buzzing from last nights Xmas Factor event. An amazing effort by all involved, from the car parkers who so magnificently made positive first impressions with all our guests, to the welcomers, the performers, the technical crew, the drinks servers, and those of our people who were just there being friendly to all the guests, it was an incredible evening. We had over 800 people in the building, and the feedback I got at the end, and in a number of emails today, has been so positive. From a school head telling me this is the best event they get involved in all year and could we do it more often, to guests saying they'd be back for the "elephant in the church" series in the new year, to our people saying now they know how good it is they'll be back next Sunday night with guests. We've also sold nearly 150 copies of the Simply Christmas CD which is great.

Oh yes, and thank you to everyone who complimented me on my singing in the "No Difference" audition video!

So please be thinking about who to invite next Sunday morning, when Sola is going to be speaking on God's dream revealed through the Old Testament predictions of Jesus coming, and to next Sunday nights Xmas Factor event.

If you have any comments on Sunday night feel free to leave them here as I'm sure others would love to see them.