Saturday, July 31, 2010
At the workshops next weekend I shall be meeting a group of people whose main job is writing such material based on the weekly sermons. What an important job they have! And what other important factors should we include on the list at (3) and (4)? All suggestions welcome.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
On Saturday August 7th. I am leading two workshops in Milwaukee which will focus on leading small groups as the church develops some new patterns. I hope, since they are workshops (involving others sharing in work!) that I can brainstorm with the leaders about factors that make small groups work in their own experience.
One expert claims that the number one factor is:
Do have a clear covenant or contract of purpose for a group that is accepted by all members. Agree why the group is meeting and what you want to achieve in the life of its members.
I can think of many other factors. I am not sure which are the most important and in what order I would put them. Can any of you share out of your experience of small groups?
Sunday, July 25, 2010
One or two asked me today what was next for me! Thanks for asking. Well, Carol and I are looking forward to beginning our postponed visit to the UK in order to see family and friends. However, before then, in addition to a couple of writing projects to finish up I shall be at Northwest Baptist Church in Milwaukee on August 7th & 8th. They have received a grant from Lilly Foundation, through the Calvin Institute of Worship, to develop their Sermon-based Small Groups process (SBSG). I am leading two workshops on August 7th. one of which will engage with my preaching preparation for the following day, at the two morning services.
It sounds a very well-conceived project and I am sure that I shall learn as much as I teach! Perhaps I will have a chance to ask any of you who are small group leaders for your help on the way! Watch this space.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Q1. “Easy believism” makes you feel good because it doesn’t challenge your thinking, your culture or your relationships. What are some of the signs of falling into “easy believism”?
Q2. Christian claims do cause offence. Have you had any experiences of others being offended by Christianity?
Q3. In John 6:66, many disciples leave Jesus. When he asks “You do not want to leave too, do you?” what does that reveal about the kind of Lord he is?
Q4. How can we best help each other to remain “long-stayers” with Jesus?
I know that some of you have been stimulated by one or two of these questions in the past. They are only starters for thinking through what the Lord is saying to us today. Eventually I want to be able to include the best kind of questions in my bible study book on some of Jesus' questions! So any other ideas will be very gratefully received!
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Though its only Tuesday and much sermon work is to be done, it seems that my sermon impact is taking shape like this:
By God's grace, what this sermon will SAY: Jesus is realistic about the discipleship drop-out rate.
What this sermon will DO: encourage us as disciples to stay close as we go on growing into truth spaces with him.
Let's keep reflecting and praying.
Monday, July 19, 2010
I believe there is immense power in the congregation telling up-to-the-moment faith stories. Not just the preacher constructing a set-piece sermon but hearers directly contributing the pieces. Thank you for continuing to share.
My last sermon in this series focuses on the question "You do not want to leave too, do you?" (John 6:67) It's a question of loyalty. It's asked in some complex teaching on Jesus the Bread of Life, and the Scripture passage will run from John 6:53-71. However, I may also include Mark 4:13-20, the story of the sower and the seed because I see some strong connections.
I shall post some more of my preparation shortly. Thanks for preparing with me.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
These questions arise for me from this next sermon. Perhaps they will help trigger responses as we go on preparing together.
1. Our words reveal our character. Reflect on occasions when you have heard good words which showed Christian character?
2. Why do some say these words “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not do the things I say?” are some of the saddest words uttered by Jesus in the New Testament?
3. Only when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10) will our true character be shown. What practical difference does this truth make to our lives as individuals, and as a church community?
4. Are there ways by which we can encourage each other to be accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ in our daily living?
Looking forward to Sunday!
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
As I go on preparing Luke 6:43-49 I see strong parallels between the two sorts of tree and the two builders. My sermon impact is therefore shaping up like this:
By God's grace, what this sermon will SAY: Jesus questions how disciples respond to his words and actions by their own words and actions. What this sermon will DO: challenge each of us about our personal and corporate accountability in words and actions. Here is a profound check to character and behavior.
This is going to be demanding. Please keep praying and preparing with me.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Imagine my surprise when I received this photo montage just a few minutes ago from Jim Whitmer, who photographed a preaching sequence this morning (in the contemporary service at First Baptist Church, Wheaton). He said that he thought that showing a preacher in motion might add to the "listening experience" on-line. I am very flattered to think that he took all this trouble. I am not sure whether it will aid anyone's interaction (!) but I am so grateful to him. I have always thought that photographs of preachers standing still (with mouths open) fail to do justice to the preaching dynamic. I look forward to further motion for the last two Sundays in this sermon series.
Next Sunday (July 18th) we listen to another question - in Luke 6: 46: "Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not do what I say?" This occurs in some teaching of Jesus which immediately raises questions about how much of the context is needed here. The question in verse 46 clearly leads into the story of the men who built either on rock or without foundation. Yet, the preceding verses about a tree and its fruit (verses 43-45) also seem significant.
As I prepare to look at this question of Jesus I shall therefore engage with Luke 6:43-49. Perhaps there are parallels between the two sorts of tree and fruit and the two builders? The question itself seems to be a question about OBEDIENCE.
Let's spend some time listening to these words in this new week, preparing for worship, always remembering we have a Side-by-Side Lord Jesus who comes close and asks questions. Please let me know about any insights.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
This short story (Mark 4: 35-41) raises so many important questions for reflection:
1. What would you say to people who claim that God should look after believers and protect them from bad things happening?
2. What are the implications when Jesus stills the storm for us facing fears today?
3. In what ways can we “under believe” when faced by fears?
4. This story reminds us that Jesus provokes awe. How can we ensure there is awe in our worship?
5. It is part of being human that we have fears. Do you have a story about experiencing real fear recently? In what ways did the presence of Jesus make a difference?
Question 5 is particularly the one to which I hope friends will respond. Do any of you out there have a story about experiencing real fear when the presence of Jesus made a difference? Real stories make for powerful preaching - any help? If it's confidential then please use: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
It is still early in my preparation but the sermon impact is shaping up like this:
By God's grace, what this sermon will SAY: Frightening things happen to Jesus' disciples but he is with them to calm fears, yet he provokes greater spiritual fear! And what the sermon will DO: Allow God to help us deal with our natural fears and develop our awe.
Thank you for immersing in this story with me. All your responses continue to be welcome.
Monday, July 5, 2010
This coming Sunday we look at the questions Jesus asks in Mark 4:35-41. This story of the calming of the storm is the classic nature miracle, and raises massive issues about the kind of Lord Jesus Christ we worship. Just how much do we claim: "For by him all things were created (Col 1:16)?
Jesus' questions probe another TRUTH SPACE: "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" As we look at this short story together let's go on asking what God is saying to us and seeing to do with us! Any reflections will be welcome.