Routine or Variety?
I believe that life is lived at its best when you have just the right balance of routine and variety, though of course each person’s balance will differ!
Routine can be great, it means you can switch off, don’t have to think too much or plan too much. You can know what to expect and there is something lovely about familiarity as it brings comfort and ease into our lives. This is not a bad thing, there is enough dis-comfort and dis-ease in our world to know that we need the opposite for it to be well with our souls.
However, a bit too much comfort, and a bit too much routine, well you will be on a one person destination to an unfulfilled life, the opposite of what Jesus promised us. They say variety is the spice of life (I thought it was coriander) and I think that ‘they’ are right, variety truly spices up our life and causes us to live in greater technicolour!
Throughout my life I have travelled throughout the UK and possibly preached in over a hundred churches in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I’ve even had the privilege of speaking or attending church in USA, Canda and Australia, and one thing that is clear is that comfort and familiarity wins over variety. Everywhere I went every church service was pretty much identical. Somehow the God who created millions of different species of insects had only one design for evangelical church meetings. Really?
So, it is with this in mind, and because we believe that variety and difference will be a better support to you as you journey with Jesus that we are taking first tentative steps in changing up our Sunday programme. Just small baby steps, but we are hoping and praying that by introducing difference it will help us achieve our goal of creating a more dynamic, participatory environment that will help us not only build family, but make stronger disciples.
Build your own programme (prayerfully!)
As we launch this, we do it with a heart to say that we want you our church family to be prayerfully considering how and when you engage with church meetings. We believe it’s good to meet together regularly, the bible is 100% clear on that, but we don’t think any of us need to be need legalistic about one meeting over another. And perhaps more importantly, we think it is really important that we don’t have a mindset that says ‘I’ve been to church I’ve done my bit for God this week.’ Church meetings are there to equip you to live out your life for God as you seek to bring his Kingdom presence and rule to every area of where God has placed you. It is not the end in itself, it is the means to the end!
So, be thoughtful and prayerful about what you engage with, and if choosing to only do every other Sunday so you can go walking with friends who maybe do or don’t know God, then go for it! If you want to blend home church with some deeper teaching and an encounter worship night, that’s fine too, if it’s how God is leading you. Just ensure it’s God that is leading you, not your very natural desire for comfort. Be thoughtful, be prayerful, and simply ask, what will equip me to love God with 100% of who I am and love my neighbour sacrificially.
Our new Sunday wineskin
So, all of that to say, here is what we are hoping and planning to do as a Sunday schedule going forward:
1st Sunday in a month
Morning - Celebration meeting
Morning - Encounter morning
Evening - Cafe Theology
Morning - Celebration meeting
Friday eve - Family church
Morning - Deep Teaching
Late Morning - Whole Family Communion meal or Home Church Meal
Evening - Encounter night
Home Church Meets or Outreach Sundays
Just to clarify the above….
Encounter meetings - strong focus on worship, prayer ministry and everyone participating
Deep teaching - as it says on the tin, some deeper biblical exposition, but with no live worship nor kids work, though kids space available
Whole Family Communion Meal - Like a church lunch but with elements of a church service and communion built into it.
We will be starting most of the above from now, and will work hard to ensure you know what is happening and when. For now, we can confirm the following:
Sunday 23rd Jan - Encounter Morning
Sunday 30th Jan - Celebration Meeting and Encounter Night
Sunday 6th Feb - Celebration Morning
Sunday 13th Feb - Encounter Morning and Cafe Theology Evening
Sunday 20th Feb - Celebration Morning
Sunday 27th Feb - Deep teaching and Family Communion Meal and Encounter Night
Sunday 6th Mar - Celebration Morning
Sunday 13th Mar - Encounter Morning and Cafe Theology Evening
Sunday 20th Mar - Celebration Morning
Friday 25th Mar - Family Church
Sunday 27th Mar - Deep teaching and Family Communion Meal and Encounter Night
Well this last week has reminded us that Covid is still very much with us (if the figures of 1.2m new cases per month managed to pass us by!) and with it a new variant that is rightly causing Governments and health bodies everywhere to stop and consider what should be done in response to Omicron and the continual high case numbers.
As you are all aware, as a church we decided to take a reasonably relaxed approach from September ‘21 onwards. This wasn’t done carelessly, but thoughtfully, and in response to what felt was the general mood of society and the church family. Whilst of course there have been cases amongst our church family these last few months, we’re grateful they have been minimal and we haven’t had to introduce stricter restrictions.
However, given the changing mood in the country and also the Christmas festivities coming upon us, which is rightly making people more cautious as they consider seeing family, travelling etc we have decided to implement a few changes. We hope these will help people to feel safer engaging in our church Christmas activities, and of course fully respect everyone’s personal decisions. So, the changes are relatively simple:
1. Christmas Party on Friday 10th December, is cancelled - we have had a reasonable bit of feedback that numbers of people will choose to avoid this, as it lands 15 days before Christmas. In light of this, and choosing to prioritise our worship services, we have decided to cancel this.
2. Face Masks Advised - We are making face masks on a Sunday morning ‘advised’ rather than the ‘optional’ stance we have been taking. No one will be excluded for not wearing one, nor made to feel bad, however this seems like a sensible precaution that could not only stop infection spreading, but also mean Christmases don’t get ruined. As leaders we will be leading by example. (Oh, and there are enough colds around to make this sensible, never mind Covid!)
3. Lateral Flow Tests Advised - along with schools and numbers of workplaces, it makes sense that if you plan to come to a larger gathering that you do a Lateral Flow test before you come. We would therefore ask you to undergo this rather unpleasant experience before you come to church, trying not to let it put you in a bad mood.
Along with all of this, just follow all the normal sensible guidelines of washing hands, avoiding physical contact and especially not coming if you have any symptoms. And along with that I’d say that includes cold symptoms - no one wants a cold before Christmas.
We have decided to put these in place for December and will then return to ‘as we were' from January unless you hear differently from us.
Thanks everyone, let’s do our best to continue journeying this with grace towards each other.
‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse!’ declared the prophet Malachi in Malachi 3:10, and church leaders ever since have interpreted this and preached that this means we should all give 10% of our income to the local church.
I’m sorry to do this to you, but if that’s what you’ve been taught, it might be time to think again. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still think giving 10% to your church is a great principle, it’s just not what the text is saying.
Firstly - interpreting it as 10% isn’t accurate - the whole tithe was a lot more than 10% (either google it, or read this), so if we’re going to be legalistic, let’s bring approximately 20-23% - anyone? Anyone?
Secondly - the concept of the storehouse alongside God’s temple to provide for a very different system of temple and society is a long way removed from the new covenant model of a priesthood of all believers we see in the New Testament. So equating storehouse with local church? Well, you can make the case, but it’s not black and white.
Tithing in the New Testament
Interestingly in the book of Acts, and through the epistles, we don’t see the word tithe mentioned at all, and Jesus only made a passing reference just the once that is recorded (Matt23:23; Luk11:42). What we see instead in the church is people giving abundantly and generously, quite possible at the level of the 20-23% tithe and beyond. But they do so out of grace, not out of law. Hearts and minds so transformed by the resurrection and the new life they found in Jesus, they gave and gave and gave.
Why tithing into your church is a good thing to do
So, you’d think from reading all of this, that I don’t believe in tithing 10% into my local church, well actually I do. I’ve been a 10% into my church tither for as long as I can remember, so on what basis do I do this? And perhaps more importantly, why do I want to encourage you and everyone in our church to prayerfully consider doing this if you don’t already? And why do I think this is more important than it ever was?
As I share my heart on this, please know that whatever I say here, I think it’s really important to avoid legalism. We live in an era of grace and this means we do everything out of a love response to Jesus, not because someone with 'spiritual authority' told us to. So I bring this as challenge, as exhortation, but not with any sense of coercion or ‘You must do this or God won’t be happy!' But I do believe you will discover that giving and sacrifice, which might initally seem like a burden often turns out to be a big blessing.
I believe the best reason we should give 10% to our local church is simply this - so that the local church can thrive. So that we as God’s people can achieve all God wants us to as we seek to be a family of disciples making disciples who, together, are loving Bradford into life, one life at a time. Oh, and 10%? It’s a helpful guideline not without biblical precedence.
The future of our church
As we are emerging out of the pandemic (yes I know Covid rates are still high, but we are emerging!) God is starting to build up some holy momentum in the Light Church. As we his people rise up from the ashes of the last two years, as many new people and families are joining us with fresh vision and fresh energy and as God is blessing us with an amazing building of our own - his plans are clearly for us to grow, to prosper and see our kingdom impact for him grow and grow.
To do this we need God to provide lots of things, to fill lots of jars of opportunity. As a leadership, we are bringing those empty jars before God and trusting him to fill them. The reality is that mostly that is going to happen through you and me. We need everyone who calls the Light Church hom, to be prepared to sacrificially give their time, their talents, and their treasure.
Our needs as a church
We have been so blessed by the ongoing generosity of our church family that with the amount of giving up until now we’ve been able to step out and appoint a Lead pastor, an Assistant Pastor and a part time Pastoral Care Coordinator. In terms of leadership staff this is probably a bit smaller than is usual for the size of church that we are in, but we’re ok with that for now. However, in terms of other support roles, we definitely fall short. To really thrive Rachel needs a kids and youth coordinator alongside her to fulfil the huge dreams she has on her heart for our 0-18s. As well as this, we have the gift of Jubilee Centre, which brings amazing opportunities, but with that, also increased expense and work, we will definitely need an Operations and Buildings manager if we, your pastors, aren’t going to get swamped in admin and logistics.
Over to you
So this is why we’d love everyone who doesn’t currently give 10% into the church to prayerfully consider doing so. Whether that is upgrading your current giving, or actually starting to give. For those on the lowest income, that might be a stretch too far, and whilst we should all be seeking to give money and time, maybe you can lean more heavily into giving your time and effort? Either way, we understand it’s sacrificial, but as with so much sacrifice, we end up finding that what we thought would hurt, actually turns out to be a great blessing. I know that has been true in my life.
Please take time to pray, hear from God and then act on however he leads you.
The bank account details are as follows:
The Light Church Bradford*; Bank: Co-Op Bank; A/C 67196407; Sort Code 08-92-99
*Put the whole name in so your bank doesn’t reject it
May God bless you richly, in every way, as you put his Kingdom first….
'Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.' 2 Cor9:10-11