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Sundays are here to stay!

Matt Barlow - 18 September 2020

I thought I’d just write a quick blog to clear up any misunderstanding from my ‘New Wineskins’ talk of last week about the future of Sunday Big Church. I’ve had one or two people ask: ‘So will we never be returning to Sunday church as we knew it then?’ Which made me realise that in setting out the vision for the priority we want to place on Home Churches, I’d clearly not made it clear enough re Sundays.

Firstly though, I would say that I don’t think Sunday meetings have to be sacred, that we should hold this form of gathering lightly and be open to whatever God wants us to do. That said, I do think there is real value in them, and whilst I think we perhaps need to reduce the importance level of them, I do think they are important. So, what exactly am I saying?

Will we have Sunday meetings again?

When we are allowed to meet in large gatherings again, we will be returning to Sunday meetings, where we will have a large crowd, worshipping, listening to teaching and enjoying community. I believe there is real value in larger gatherings for worship, and also believe that some preaching is best received from the platform, in a crowd. There is just something about the dynamic that makes this true. So, yes these will happen in the future. They are also a great moment to teach and grow our kids - the kids workers at the Light are some of the very best, and Sunday mornings is a great time to make this happen.

Will they be the same?

This I can’t say, because I do believe we should be open to God doing new things. But, chances are there will be many elements that will remain the same, however things such as length of items, variety of items etc will all need some prayerful reflection. Maybe God has the exact and perfect way for a church to run a worship service and we’ve discovered it (along with almost every other ’new’ church out there,) or maybe we have all just got into a rut? Openness to his spirit is crucial in all of this.

Are they going to be all about new people?

No, definitely not. When I spoke on Sunday about Sunday services being a great shop window to the Curious - be they far from God, or just looking for a new spiritual home, this wasn’t to say that the service / Sunday experience will be all about new people. But, it will be one of the big benefits of keeping Sunday meetings going, and that is crucial if we are to keep mission at the heart of who we are. Will we work hard to ensure new people feel comfortable? Yes, definitely. Will the service be all about new people? No.

How is the level of importance going to change then?

This is one of the key things that I’m keen to shift. I have observed an unspoken legalism that it is somehow your duty to turn up on a Sunday to be a good Jesus follower. I think church can be and needs to be more flexible than this. I do think it’s important to meet together, but I don’t think Sunday should trump Home Church. In fact I’d love Home church to become so good that we want that to be our main place of being community. We live in a very time poor world, and thus flexibility around which church meetings we go to is more important than ever. We need space to live the kingdom impacting lives God calls us to, and if this means that Sundays rarely work for you, but Wednesdays do, then I want that to be ok. Attending church was never the goal of Jesus’ mission, being the church and building the kingdom was, so let’s get it in its rightful place.

What was all that about not everyone coming every Sunday?

Firstly, I can see a future where maybe a Home church meets on a Sunday in a home, watches a service or a talk online and enjoys breakfast, brunch or lunch together whilst discussing the service and praying for one another. As our church grows it may be that on a given Sunday a few home churches meet in homes whilst the rest of us meet centrally. This would mean we don’t need a bigger and bigger building, and that we can be church in more flexible ways. It may be that over time Home churches from the north of the city, come one week, whilst those in the south come the next week (just an idea, don’t panic!), with maybe the occasional bigger whole church gathering in a different venue when size requires it. Whilst this stuff is some good way off, this is what I’m thinking that could help us grow the church without losing a sense of family and togetherness.

I hope this reassures you. As the Lead Pastor, I want to create the very best environment where you are both supported and provoked to live the best Jesus Shaped Kingdom advancing life you can. Where you can be loved, grow in God, live out your calling in the world, without burning yourself out. I’m hoping the above will help us with that and will be the fresh flexible and expandable wineskin God wants us to be.

Matt

#easylikesundaymorning

#tellmewhyIdolikesundays

#everydayislikesunday

#sundaybloomingsunday (Radio edit)

Lockdown survey feedback

Matt Barlow - 31 July 2020

Greetings church! I’d love to say it’s great to be back from holiday, but I’ll be honest, holiday was great, a wonderful break - camping in the Lakes and Cornwall - and I’d be more excited to be back if we knew this Covid thing was on its way out and could start planning with some certainty. However, the last 24 hours have proven we can plan nothing with certainty, and I bet we have all experienced some sense of frustration, upset or sadness that some of the small freedoms we had got back have now been taken away again. More grace Lord! More patience needed for all us and more resilience! Praise God that he’s got plenty of all that for us, we just need help receiving it, don’t we?

I’ve nothing to report in terms of changes, but I did think it would be helpful to report back on the survey responses we had a few weeks ago. This Tuesday evening we will be meeting as a leadership team, to prayerfully reflect and consider how we move forward after the summer holidays. Please keep us in your prayers.

Anyway, here is what you told us in the survey:

HEADLINE: Lockdown has not had a negative impact on the faith of most people! (yay!)

How has lockdown impacted your faith?
How has lockdown impacted your faith?


Comments:
  • It could easily be that those who have struggled were less likely to answer the survey, thus making this look more positive
  • We noted that young adults were more positive about lockdown being good for their faith journey.
  • We also noted parents with young families are those who have struggled most - something that wasn’t a surprise!





How people feel about returning in September
How people feel about returning in September

Comments:
  • Young adults were most likely to steer clear - 58% said they would stay away
  • Families with older children were most keen to return

We then asked you how you’ve found Sunday mornings and also how you feel the church has handled it. To summarise the general feel of the comments:

  • In general you’ve appreciated Sunday mornings, the feel, the content, the variety - thanks for the feedback!
  • Many of you are feeling more connected in a strange way!
  • Those in Home churches seem to have felt more connected and supported
  • Some feedback that the church could have done more to support some people

  • I’d like to say that I’m very thankful for such encouraging feedback. I was surprised by how positive it was. I know I’m probably being too hard on myself, but there is plenty that I would do differently if I had my chance again. Yes I know it was unprecedented times, and I’m very aware that I’d only been in the job for about 6-7 weeks when it all hit. So, please if you have in any way felt let down, be assured that as the leader I’m not sitting here thinking we’ve totally nailed it. We’re aware there is more we could have done, and we are sorry to have let anyone down. I guess all I would say is that if you do still feel unsupported, please let me know. Call me, text me, email me - it’s hard to stay on top of everything and everyone, but if we know we can respond.

Just a reminder, do pray for us as a leadership that we’d have great wisdom over area of church life, especially how we look to continue connecting with each other and connecting with God together.

Radical living starts with radical giving

Matt Barlow - 08 July 2020

Jesus never taught people to tithe - so why is it then that so many committed Christians do tithe, normally tithing into their local church?

When Jesus came He said that He had not come to do away with the law, but to ‘fulfill’ it. (Matt 5:17) i.e. take it to its fullest level. So, it was no longer good enough to not hate your enemies, you had to love them! No longer good enough simply to fulfill a set of religious laws, more than that He wanted us to love God with our whole being.

Interestingly Jesus never taught people to tithe, in a sense that was taken as a given, it was the law and people knew it. You couldn’t be a first century Jew without the words of Malachi ringing in their ears that to not tithe was to “rob God” (Mal 3:8). The one time that Jesus did mention tithing was when he was railing against the religious people who were being so fastidious in their tithing the spices, but ignoring justice! What he did say though was ‘don’t neglect the former (i.e. tithing)’ but do both – so you could argue from that one mention that he did teach tithing! Whilst never really teaching or even mentioning tithing, Jesus did talk about money all the time, in fact he spoke more about money than any other subject. But he didn’t come to do away with the law, no, but to fulfill it, or take it to its fullness. Thus, he called his disciples to go way beyond tithing and have a much more radical approach to finances, that they’d be prepared to give and give and give.

I love this great quote from an article by John Ortberg on tithing, he said “A tithe makes a great floor but a poor ceiling.” I even preached on that very concept back in January 2015. Ortberg also said that the tithe is like stabilisers on a bike that it’s to get you going in your giving, but God always intended for us to move on from it into so much more.

So, why is it that so many committed Christians give a whole tithe, the whole ten percent, into the local church? Well, it can be for a whole host of reasons - some theological and some practical. These can include:

  • Because you’ve been taught that Malachi 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple’ means you should give your tithe into the church. Whilst interpreting the ‘storehouse’ as the local church wouldn’t be a bad interpretation of scripture, it’s also not the strongest argument. The tithe was supposed to be given in different ways and different places if you look back at the Torah. Though Jesus did commend the poor widow for her giving into the temple (the closest thing to the early church, before the church was born.)
  • Because you’ve been taught that people of Israel gave their tithes into the temple – hmmm, yes they did, as God wanted to use this to take care of the priests and the poor in the community, but it’s a bit more complex than that, at times they were told to enjoy the tithes themselves as a feast!
  • Because the early church seemed to do their outrageous ‘beyond tithing’ giving through the local church. Now we’re getting onto some firmer ground – Acts 4:35 said that giving was brought to the feet of the apostles, who then decided how best to use it. So this is a very real example we should consider following.
  • Because you love what is happening in your church, that you think ‘whether or not the bible is 100% clear on this, I want to do it, because we’re building kingdom, reaching our city with the good news of Jesus etc etc.’ You love giving and you want to give to support everything that is happening – not to mention the fact that you benefit from being part of this church as do your family (if you have family.)
  • Because you can see that it’s a practice that has been proven by the older generation of our church. Seriously some of our most faithful tithers are those who have been following Jesus for decades, and each one will testify to how putting God first in their finance has shaped their faith. If you are younger or newer to the faith, you will do well to follow their example.

So, what about you? What sits right for you? I’m hoping you’re someone who is convinced that a tithe is worth giving into your local church, and either have been doing for some time, or you’re ready to start – brilliant! Thank you, and thank you God, for it is him moving in our hearts whenever we choose to be generous.

Maybe you’ve decided that the Light church is going to be your church. If that’s the case, then you really should be doing something around giving. If you’re struggling then don’t feel pressure, but I’d still encourage you to try and give something – the blessing of giving should be available to everyone, not just those with loads of cash.

Maybe you’ve been giving, but not giving a tithe. If you have studied the scriptures and reached the conclusion that your tithe can be shared beyond the local church, and that’s what you want to do – follow your conscience. I know that, for me, I would believe God would be fine for me giving some of my tithe outside of the church, as I do with other money. But I love this church, have always loved it, despite its faults, so am keen to see it well resourced so we can achieve all he has for us, so have always brought my whole tithe into the local church.

As we regularly mention, follow the advice of Paul in 2 Corinthians 7, Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’

Whatever happens, let’s not get legalistic, but let’s remember that Jesus consistently taught that grace went beyond the law it didn’t stop short of it. He called us to radical living, so let’s start with some radical giving.

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