Holland Weekend Trip

Last weekend I was speaking at a church weekend in the fantastic Newfrontiers Church in Berkel, Netherlands.
Berkel is a small town just north of Rotterdam


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Berkel



I’d been asked to come and stirred the church evangelistically through envisioning and practical training. So it was a lot of preparation, prayer and excitement that I arrived into Amsterdam Schipol airport Friday. I was met by Gert Hijkoop (pronounced Hert Hicope!) for the train journey back to Berkel, where I met his wife Doreen and daughter Marijke. The Dutch have a great reputation for hospitality and they were great hosts all weekend!

Worship in Berkel
On Friday evening, around 50 adults gathered in the church for some great worship – recognisable tunes of popular choruses and translated into Dutch – most worship times I sang in tongues, or in English (where there was dual translation!). I spoke on the last words of Jesus in Matt 28, with the encouragement that making disiciples is a process best down in team as we help people become low hanging fruit! We then prayed for healing and saw a stiff back loosened and a locked shoulder released in measure.


Wijnstok Gemeeente Building
The church family was great – full of joy and relational ease. Over strong, strong black coffee and great biscuits, I got to know some lovely people!

Dutch breakfasts are pretty unique – sprinkles (think Hundreds and Thousands) on dutch biscuits/bread, followed by great tasting Gouda cheese on bread and more good coffee. Holland runs on coffee!

The morning was taken up with teaching the 7 styles of evangelism to encourage the folk that we are in this task of witnessing to friends together and that we all have strengths to play. After a good coffee break and more lively banter, we looked at the praticalities of getting conversations from the general to the spiritual to the gospel right through to crossing the line of faith.

In the evening the church family gathered for a Dutch Chinese buffet and more banter – after worshipping, I spoke on the baptism in the Spirit and saw a young man gloriously bathed in the presence of God before we prayed for those who wanted to be able to prophecy and prophecied over the young people.

Amsterdam
Amsterdam
It was such a joy to be with such a joyful receptive people, who were so encouraging and receptive. I spoke again on Sunday morning about “Blind Bart getting his sight”, which was again well received. In the afternoon, Doreen and Gert took me to Amsterdam for a canal trip, wander round and steak dinner. Amsterdam is well worth a longer visit!

What have I learnt?

  • Work hard to build deeper community and friendships in The Gateway – Wijnstok Gemeente had many long standing friendships in it, so it’ll take time!
  • Keep pressing on and praying for signs and wonders
  • Restart the pre-Sunday gathering prayer meeting 9.30-9.45am with time after to greet visitors!
  • Keep feeding my children sprinkles on toast for breakfast, although it does make them hyper for school!

Guys, man up and get stuck in!

I was struck in my reading of Mark’s gospel over the last few weeks that “For all the strong protestations of loyalty by the men (14:31) at the end it was the women who saw it through”. Ouch! William Booth who founded the Salvation army once said that his best men are the women.

Peter, one of my heroes, was a guy with foot in mouth disease. In Mark 14, Jesus predicts the guys will scarper and Peter as ever opens his mouth “Even though they fall away, I will not.” Jesus tells him he will deny three times before the cock crows twice. Peter answers again “If I must die with you, I will not deny you”. But in the end Peter does as Jesus predicts!

Why is that so many men talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. Why is that the women are more active in the mission of the church than the average man? Perhaps the church is too chick-ified! Mark Driscoll in typically blunt fashion writes “There is a strong drift toward the hard theological left. Some emergent types want to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a prize fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up. I fear some are becoming more cultural than Christian, and without a big Jesus who has authority and hates sin as revealed in the Bible, we will have less and less Christians, and more and more confused, spiritually self-righteous blogger critics of Christianity.” That’s the kind of quote that will upset people, I’m not sure I like it too much, but the sentiment that Jesus is a man’s man as well as being God is important.

Peter turned out all right in the end. He was the man most likely to stick his foot in it, he did run away and then swear that he didn’t know Jesus to a little girl by the fire, but he found grace, the power of the Spirit and a mission to die for.

Here’s 5 things for the guys to get manned up and get stuck in…

1) Receive the grace of God and don’t dwell in the past
Jesus poured out grace and forgiveness on Peter after the resurrection (John 21:15-19). Peter had blown it but Jesus forgave him, restore him and gave him a job to do. Receive the grace of God daily and forget the past, pressing on heavenwards. Thinking about past mistakes, hurts and failure will do you no good at all. In Christ you are forgiven. Start to think God’s thought – what He says in His word about you and you’ll be like Homer Simpson “Every time I learn something new the old stuff falls out”.

2)Don’t worry about whether the other guys are doing better than you.
In John 21:20f Peter turned and saw the disicple whom Jesus loved following them… he said to Jesus, “Lord what about this man?”. Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me?”
Peter wanted to know was going to happen with John – and Jesus’s answer was “What is that to you? You follow me?”. Don’t worry about how other men are doing and whether they are more successful than you. It won’t do you any good. Someone once prophecied over me that I was ploughing and field and don’t look left and right at the other ploughers, look ahead to Jesus. You turn where you are looking, so taking your eyes of Jesus and what He wants you to do, to compare with others, takes your eyes of what you are meant to be doing.

3) Be filled with the Spirit
Getting filled with the Spirit and staying filled was the game changer for Peter. Overnight he went from wally to world changer (Thanks Pete Cornford for that sermon in the 11-12s at stoneleigh!).

4) Lead yourself, your family and get active in your church
i) Lead yourself – Bill Hybels in Courageous Leadership reckons the hardest person to lead is yourself – he’s right. I reread 3 books to review how I am doing in the area of self leadership The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey, Ordering your private world and Courageous Leadership.
ii) Lead your family – that’s our second most important leadership job for those who are married- building a strong marriage on good communication, servanthood, romance, fun and sex. Nurturing your kids if you have them – encouraging them, praying for them, switching off from work and gadgets and the TV to be with them.
iii) Get active in the local church. The church is not a footie match where 22,000 people in dire need of exercise watch 22 men in dire need of a rest. It is the hope the world and exists for the benefit who are not part of it. Stop being crictical and gossiping about it and get stuck in!

5) Be a word and spirit guy. When was the last time your kids caught you praying or studying Scripture? I’ve recently gone through CWR’s recent freebie “Getting the Best from the Bible” on the art of biblical meditation – I’ve got an A4 page of the next verses I want to learn so I can ponder them in the car, on the loo and out for a walk/cycle (or you never know) a jog!

Guys – let’s be like the post Pentecost Peter – man up and get stuck in!

“Good to grow” review

"Good to Grow" on Amazon.co.uk*

I found myself enjoying Good to Grow far more than I thought I would. It was chock full of pithy principles that Steve has used to grow King’s in Catford and himself. I was surprised, because Steve is one of the most task oriented people I have met and I am relationally wired – probably the other end of the scale! One of the chapters is about knowing yourself and the book as a whole could be summed up as know yourself, build a team, grow a church. I found myself catching his heart for reaching lost people into a vibrant New Testament Church in greater numbers than many have done in recent times.

“Good to grow” reminded me of Mark Driscoll’s Confessions of a Reformission Rev as it would be written by a house-trained Englishman, so I didn’t find the phrase “nut-job” in Steve’s book! I nearly wore out a highlighter pen on the pithy principles. Steve has clearly grabbed the best wisdom from as many sources as he could AND put them into practice. My must buy book list has grown by five books!

Steve’s book is about growing Kings in Catford from 200 to over 1,000 and so as I first picked it up, I wondered how it would help a market town church planter who has around 50 people! There was plenty. I have two pages of A4 notes to discuss with our leadership team.

Highlights

  • The facilities,finance and team triangle to work out how to unstick a growth plateau
  • Don’t build a big church and loose your marriage
  • The future is new people – move the church from “Feed me!” to “Who can I feed?”, because Jesus came to seek and save the lost.
  • Principles for building a diverse church

for an easy to read helpful book.
Buy from amazon.co.uk or from iconnectdirect.co.uk (run by one of the elders at New Life Church North MK)

Just Walk Across the Room

The Church I lead has plateaued. It is pretty common with church plants. They grow rapidly at the start, because they are so hungry for growth they are the most welcoming and friendly church in the area. For eighteen months or so the growth is rapid and consists of those who are new to the area, those who had given up on church and are willing to have another crack at it and one or two who have left other churches. And during those eighteen months you feel like that speed of growth will continue, but it doesn’t and you need to grow through people becoming Christians.

We have been stuck around the mid 50s for a while and one of our guys, a Spirit filled, fiery retired Methodist minister challenged us to pray for one convert each this year. I’m taking it seriously! So, being the avid book reading type that I am, I grabbed a book of the shelf, one that I had read before, but knew was worth another look…

It’s “Just Walk Across the Room” by Bill Hybels. I was hooked quickly – see I’m tired of evangelistic fads – Evangelism Explosion, Contagious Christian, strategic level spiritual warfare, personal tracts and treasure hunting. Hybels is too – in the first few chapters he relates some of the fads and then tells us “Staying attuned to and cooperating with the Spirit” is the highest value for personal evangelism. I was hooked!

Keeping that central thrust in mind, Hybels exhorts us to live in 3D
1)Develop friendships – I have found that harder and slower in King’s Lynn than anywhere else, but we are getting there
2) Discover Stories – especially looking for commonalities, being sensitive and always asking good questions
3) Discern next steps – try to catch the often unintentional, but crystal clear, signals people send. Thus aim to be a resource provider for next steps towards Christ.

When we stay tuned into the Spirit and ask him for opportunities – we get promptings to “Just walk across the room” and put living in 3D into practice. Bill is such a visionary and he has a way with words and stories to get you to want to get up and out there doing it!

In later chapters he talks of the power of the story – coming up with a 100 word before and after of coming to faith by focusing on before and after key phrases that sum up your life. He then gives simple models for when you actually get to share the Gospel and exhorts us to pray for open doors.

In one chapter he reminds us about the “Matthew Parties” principle of having fun socials where you mix old-life and new-life friends together and trust God to do something mystical and miraculous as they mix together. We’ve always loved doing that and I’m filled with fresh faith for them, especially as we get to try out our new outdoor pizza oven!

“Just Walk Across the Room” is a fantastic book – quite the best on personal evangelism I have ever read. I’m looking forward to putting it into practice afresh over the coming decades!
– Buy “Just Walk Across The Room” from Amazon, if you don’t already have it!

Intriguing changes to the new NIV #4

Here’s number 4 in the list of the most intriguing changes in the new edition of the NIV (from Bible Gateway)

Death valley Dunes by John Bruckman on flikr

Psalm 23 is a majestic Psalm of beautiful language and comfort ever since it was penned!

Older versions conveyed its’ beauty with lyrical, rhythmic phrasing like the “valley of the shadow of death,” which the original NIV kept and my current favourite word for word translation, the ESV, uses.

The new NIV has gone with other modern dynamic equivalents and gone for “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
In doing so it widens our comprehension (by doing some interpreting as well as translating) and has used a simpler more modern phrase – darkest valley.

The beauty of Psalm 23 is that no matter who dark it gets – God is with us. We don’t have to fear evil because He is with us and will comfort us!

Next time we’ll look at how the new NIV is translating sarx – flesh/sinful nature!

Five most intriguing changes in the new NIV

There’s a fascinating artice at Bible Gateway about the five most intriguing changes in the latest edition of the NIV. They look good and I am in the main pleased!
Here’s number 5…

By Umpqua

5.) Philippians 4:13
1984 NIV: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
2010 NIV: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Phil 4:13 is the fourth most popular verse in the Bible by internet search and learned by lots of people! It is one of those power packed verses that can be taken out of context and used to say God will strengthen us to do what we want! The new version will make it less of a “grab a nice verse out of context to learn” and forces us to check the context – The “all things” that Paul could do in God’s strength was being content in any circumstance. God promises us peace that transcends all understanding – so He promises us strength and peace in our circumstances, not necessarily to change the circumstances.

 

Now an absolutely literal translation would be “All I am being strong in the one enabling me Christ” – which is a bit of a mouth full! The New NIV is a thought for thought translation, but in forcing us to look at the context for what we are being strengethened in Christ, it is being pretty helpful, even if it won’t sell too many posters with cuddly cats on! That has to be another bonus…

The Spirit-Filled Church

Terry Virgo’s latest book The Spirit-Filled Church is available for pre-order on Amazon. It’ll be posted out from the 20th May.

Here’s the description…
This is a lucid account of the function of the Spirit in the growth of the church. Through the history of God’s people the constant element has been the presence of the Almighty. The baptism in the Holy Spirit, which so galvanized the young church, equipped and empowered the believers, boosting courage, fostering fluency and granting insights to ordinary men and women. Terry Virgo was baptized in the Holy Spirit as a young believer, and delighted in the experience. ‘As we began to welcome the presence of the Holy Spirit, our church life was transformed’, he explains. ‘The presence of the Holy Spirit changed everything’. As the Spirit moves, so there are healings, often dramatic. But there is more: a discovery of God’s grace. As people discover grace for themselves a far more profound healing takes place, leading first to worship, then a recognition that we are a prophetic people.

The year planner

Why is it that most calendar software doesn’t use or give that most powerful of Church planning tools – the year planner? The answer is because a year to view would mean the text is too small.
So I’ve added an A4 pdf year planner to my WordPress church_admin plugin. It uses colour to show different events. Max one event worthy of year planner a day!
Simples.


Now to add some more things to the planner!

Online Church Management

A website is a powerful tool for churches to advertise who they are, where they are and what they do. It’s also a great medium for Church administration. The Gateway Church uses WordPress to drive our website and I’ve written a powerful administration plugin to help manage Church life.

It contains an address book with bulk email and sms facilities to keep in touch with people. There’s a powerful rota with unlimited tasks, attendance tracking and graphs, visitor tracking and a great calendar that allows “nth day” recurring that Church leaders love – “the prayer meeting is on the fourth Sunday of the month”.
The back end is for logged in administrators to edit what is going on. Here are some back end screenshots
Firstly adding or editing address details

When communicating to everyone – lots of people look at emails daily, but everybody looks at an sms straight away!


If your website is on a “shared host”, chances are there are restriction on how many emails a website is allowed to send an hour, to stop sites become spammers. My plugin allows a non-technical user setup email queueing…

The calendar section has multiple categories with a neat colour picker…

And viewing, adding and editing of events…

Keeping track of visitor followup is important to see how people are settling in – and what you measure improves.

The plugin also has attendance graphs to help with future planning and to help spot seasonal high and low spots.
The monthly average shows seasonal dips…

The rolling average, smooths the seasonal dips out…

For us at The Gateway Church, you can see the classic Church Plant plateau, which we are working hard to burst out by being thoroughly outward looking.

The latest version is available at http://www.wordpress.org/extend/plugins/church_admin. Enjoy

Who do you say I am

Peter’s confession of who Jesus is halfway through Matthew’s Gospel is amazing

Where

Jesus had taken his disciples north again, to get some privacy and teach them. They were 25 miles north east of the Sea of Galilee to a place that Herod Philip had named Caesarea after the Roman Caesar (teacher’s pet!). It was supposed to be the birthplace of the pagan fertility Pan, the source of the River Jordan with lots of pagan temples around. Towering above the city, was a huge temple to the emperor. An astonishingly dark and pagan place. Mixing different faith was as popular then as it is in our internet saturated global village. Claiming Jesus is the only way to God is as offensive to many now as it was then. What a place for Jesus to ask “Who do you say I am?”

What

Peter’s reply “You are the Christ, the Son of God”.

Christ is seen now to be Jesus’ surname! It’s a title – “anointed one”. It is the one who would coem and fulfill the hope of a nation. In Old Testament history three types of people were anointed with oil – prophets, priest and Kings. Jesus is the Perfect High Priest who puts people in touch with Father God. He is the perfect Prophet who reveals God’s heart . He is the perfect King who exercises God’s sovereign rule of God’s people.

An amazing place, amazing titles and amazing insight…

Who

Jesus isn’t just the anointed one – this carpenter/teacher is far more than that. He is, Peter now sees, the Son of the Living God. Once before they had called him Son of God when he rescued them from a furious squall. Now coolly, calmly, thoughtfully Peter sees who Jesus is. He is God’s final self-disclosure – the one who would fulfil 2 Sam 7:14 to establish David’s throne forever. The fulfilment of Psalm 2:7 the king who is really the Son of God.

Jesus acknowldges that the Father has revealed this to Peter – only God can reveal God and God has revealed it to Peter. It takes a revelation from God to see this Jesus, great craftsman, itinerant preacher, dismissed as batty by his family, illegitimate by many and who would be condemned to die, to see that He really is God whop has come to save us.
There are three confessions of who Jesus is. The first confession of Christ is an emotional reaction to rescue from a storm (14:33). This one is considered. The third one is from the High Priest at Jesus’ trial and is part of Jesus’ condemnation to death (26:63).
Who do you say Jesus is?

  • In a crisis many will cry out to Him and forget Him shortly after.
  • Many reject him as just a good teacher
  • How about you?