“At” church vs “Being” Church

Yesterday I wrote on my personal blog about something I’ve been thinking about during lockdown: Being AT church is not BEING church. I think many churches focus on running lots of events rather than facilitating relationships. What’s happened during the lockdown is that this has been exposed.

Here’s how it begins:

Can you remember LBL – Life Before Lockdown? (It’s a new acronym, I hope it’ll catch on). It feels like life has changed so much in the past year, it’s hard to remember what it was like before. My days were full of activities and meetings – taking a look back in my diary brings back memories of having activities most days: groups, meetings, services, there was at least something on every day.

My life was in many ways centred around the church. The beating heart of this was the services, especially on a Sunday: in the morning I would go to two services (in our parish there are two church buildings, with a service at each one). Then there would be a service in the afternoon which I was at most weeks. Sometimes there would be an evening service. So each Sunday I was usually at church three times – even four, on occasion. That’s a whole lot of church!

So – what’s the problem with that?The problem is that I spent so long AT church that I forgot to BE church. Let me explain what I mean by that.

Do have a read if you’re interested. I am hoping to think more about this

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The Church and Forgiveness (Heidelberg 21)

In this session we take a closer look at the church – what is the church, and what does it mean for us to be part of it? We also think about forgiveness of sins and how struggling can be a good sign in the Christian life…

There are three questions in this session, focussing on the lines in the Apostles’ creed: “I believe in the Holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins”. These are the main things we look at:

  • Firstly – a note about the “Catholic” church. This just means ‘universal’ rather than the Roman Catholic church.
  • Q54: What do you believe concerning the holy catholic church? – what the church is, and what it means for us to be a member of it.
  • Q55: What do understand by the communion of saints? – how do we relate as Christians to other members of the church?
  • Q56: What do you believe concerning forgiveness of sins? – it feels a bit tacked on at the end but it’s fundamental! What is forgiveness in the Christian life, in summary?

If you enjoy this, you can do the whole series right here on the website, or on the app (see links on the right hand side of the page). Alternatively, I am uploading them regularly to YouTube and Facebook. All sessions on YouTube are available on this playlist.

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When church is meaningless | Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 Sermon

A sermon on Ecclesiastes 5:1-7, part of a sermon series on Ecclesiastes preached at our church.

In the first few chapters of Ecclesiastes we’ve thought about how life is meaningless without God. But can that even apply to church? How can we “do” church so that it’s not meaningless?

This is one of the passages in Ecclesiastes where the writer throws us a curveball, so to speak: he helps us to understand that the worship of God is not a tickbox exercise but must be from the heart to be useful.

Read the passage online via Bible Gateway.

You can see the previous sermon on Ecclesiastes here.

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How can local churches better use the internet?

Is the coronavirus situation the ideal time to start rethinking how we do church? Do we need to get out of the idea of the church being about a building? How can a local church make use of the internet without running into its pitfalls? In this article I explore how local churches might be able to make smarter use of the internet without endangering the face-to-face contact we need.

Over the last few months, many churches have been forced to rethink how they do church. Because many governments have closed churches (including those here in the UK), we’ve had to find new ways of doing things. A lot of churches have put services online via YouTube or Facebook. Every church has done it a bit differently, but most churches are now trying to make use of new technology in some form. Our church, for example, has made extensive use of YouTube and Zoom through these last few months. Even now, although we’re allowed to meet again as a church, we are still doing a weekly YouTube service as well. I think recorded services will be with us for the foreseeable future.

A lot of people have been wondering what the future is going to look like. It looks likely that the coronavirus restrictions are going to be with us for a little while longer at least. What does that mean for how we actually go about doing church? And what lessons can we take forward into the future?

One of the big things we all need to reckon with is, what place should the online tools have in our churches? Some people have heralded the internet as the answer that we’ve all been looking for; some people have simply been waiting to get back to normal so we can be rid of it. There are benefits but also drawbacks, and we should take account of both. Whether we love it or loathe it, it seems that the internet is here to stay in our churches.

Let’s start by considering some of the good and bad things about the internet and church.

Read more

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What is Christianity? Study Guide now available

Last week I announced that I was starting to write study guides for the What is Christianity? course. I’m pleased to say that this process has now been completed – there is now a group study guide for each video.

It includes a summary of the video contents as well as some questions which would be useful in a small group context. Each of the guides is available as a PDF.

Once I have completed the “How to Live as a Christian” video course, I am planning to write study guides for each of those episodes as well.

If you use them / find them useful, or if you’d like to suggest things which would be more helpful for you, please do get in touch to let me know.

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Course Study Guides

One thing I’ve been meaning to do for a while now is create study guides for the different courses. I want the courses to be accessible to church groups, but I know that many leaders don’t have the confidence to lead on their own without a study guide. What I will be doing over the next few weeks is working my way through some of the courses to add study guides, starting with the What is Christianity? course.

I’ve already completed the study guide for the first session on Creation. I’d love any feedback you have about the format, what kind of things would be useful, etc.

If you’d like to use any of the Understand the Bible courses as part of a church group, you can do that online. See the churches subscription section for more information.

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Attn Church Leaders! Using UTB in church groups

Over the past few months I’ve been working on a way of enabling churches to use UTB. I’m convinced that the internet is not a replacement for the local church. Lockdown has proved that – online church is not a substitute for real church! But nonetheless, the internet can be a very useful tool.

What I have done is enabled churches who register to create groups and meetings so that small groups can study the UTB courses together. A subscription will cost a little, but each church starts with a free subscription so you can try it out.

If you’d like to have more information, check out this page all about subscriptions. If you haven’t yet registered your church, it’s easy to do – just create a free account and then register your church. As soon as it’s registered you can start exploring groups.

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