Transforming communities with the love of God

Why bother to gather?

It's another grey Sunday morning when the duvet is extra-warm and a lot of people are asking, 'why bother going to church?' It's a good question. 

I can think of loads of reasons not to:

Firstly, there might be people there I don't like or naturally get on with. they might be all 'needy' around me and by the end of the week I'm done with other people's needs.

Also, the service may be pretty much the same as last week's. I'm bored with the same old format. 

Thirdly, I'm not in the mood for all that happy-clappy rejoicing. I've had a tough week and the last thing I need is someone telling me I should be more grateful.

Fourthly, I can meet God wherever I am; I can listen to Christian radio and sing here under my duvet, watch a sermon on my phone and not have to find a parking space. Bonus!

Another reason to skip church is because I've been a Christian quite the while and I'm pretty mature, in fact I think I've heard every sermon our leaders have to dish up. It seems on a cycle and I've been around it a while. Give me something new!

Fifthly, what if the service isn't quite to my liking, and if I go today it might not 'hit my spot' - why chance it and sing songs I don't like, have to deal with other people's children and needs and come away feeling emptier as a result? 

Finally, I get the feeling the leaders only want me there to keep their jobs going and they always ask me for money. Don't they know how expensive my lifestyle is?

Well, I am one of those leaders and I completely understand this perspective. You could say to me, 'you are so enthusiastic about gathering as a church every week because you want me to be there (to make up the numbers).' I would say to you, 'I want you to be there (and not miss out) because I am so enthusiastic about gathering as a church!' 

We are not the first generation to wonder why we meet together, be tempted to opt out, or get distracted and discouraged by our disappointments with others in the church. 

Here are some simple and yet profound reasons why the duvet loses its claim on our Sunday mornings. 

Firstly, because it's hard to praise God on our own. The psalms are full of collective calls to praise, 'Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt his name together...' (Psalm 34:3). We meet to add our voices to the praises of our God. This is a communal experience and you have to get our of bed to do it justice. So the first reason has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with God's glory. Besides, your heart's song sounds so much better as part of a chorus!

Secondly, because it's hard to thrive in life on our own. We need each other - a community of God's chosing and not our own consumerist selection. When the early church was tempted to splinter off and neglect their gathering, the writer to the Hebrews corrected them: 'Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.' (Hebrews 10:24-25) Who knows who you can encourage today just by being there at church. A smile, a word of encouragement, a prayer could make all the difference to their week. 

Thirdly, because the Holy Spirit does His best work when we're together. There is something special about the way God blesses united gatherings of praise and prayer, visiting with words of prophecy and encouragement. In Acts 2 the Spirit came when they were together in one place, and I reckon that is His preferred M.O. over the ages. He came to anoint a people, not just a person.

Fourthly, because the last thing you need to be encouraged in is your selfishness. You and I need to be reminded there are people around us who have greater needs than our own. Not people on BBC News, but people sitting next to you. It's good for you. We do mission better, together. We intercede better, together. It's not about me!

Fifthly, because you can't take communion on your own. Jesus commanded us to remember Him in this covenant meal when we meet. It is a meal of fellowship in Him, and every believer should partake it in often. You can have some bread and wine on your own, but communion is a together thing.

Finally (though I could go on), because preaching is powerful. I still believe in the moment when God's word is illuminated, brought to life, applied and spoken with anointing and power in such a way that something awesome happens in the heart of those who gather. You don't know, today could be your day to receive a 'now' word from God. It could unlock your future. Why risk and miss it?

For sure, your salvation isn't complete because you go to church today. Your eternal fate doesn't depend on service attendance! However, your salvation finds full expression and makes more sense in community, and as broken and predictable as some aspects of our gatherings may be, in grace we can step over those things and believe for breakthroughs in our own lives but also in the lives of others.

I know life is hard, and I know how disappointing people can be. I know (too well) how weak and fallible church leaders are. I get it.

Beyond all that, though, is the ancient call of the Spirit of God who calls us together in unity and promises to visit us when we do. When we humbly meet in Jesus' name, He is in our midst. (Matthew 18:20)

Kick the duvet off and let's gather for God's glory!

- Tim Roberts 
(opinions my own)

 

I'm a Repentecostal

Recent events in the fellowship of churches I belong to have got me thinking, praying, wondering what has gone wrong. Because something has gone wrong, and the need for us all to humble ourselves before God and ask for Him to do something new among us has never (in my experience) been so acute.

I think my mind and heart have been processing this in the background, because when I woke up this morning I had come to realise something: I am a Repentecostal.

My theology and experience over the last four decades has grown deep convictions about the power of God's Holy Spirit alive at work in the Church today. I am a Pentecostal - meaning I believe the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 wasn't just for that age, but continues in every generation. Children filled with the Spirit prophesy; ordinary people are filled with extraordinary abilities because of the work of God in and through them. Still today there are gifts of healing and helps, casting out evil spirits and 'anointed' teaching of the Scriptures, prophecy changing lives and revealing mysteries. Spirit-enabled gifts flow abundantly in much of the Church today. And by that I just don't mean denominations that call themselves 'Pentecostal'. We need to humble ourselves and rejoice in what the Spirit is doing across the body of Christ (however old their traditions).

So the Spirit of God still gives His people Pentecostal power. However, with an openness to great power from God we can too easily get hungry for power over people. We can claim 'apostolic' anointing and then exercise autocratic control. We can hide behind spiritual gifting a whole load of rubbish we hope noone will see. We can spin out the language of 'movement' and be spiritually stagnant in our hearts. We can fail to celebrate what God is doing in churches unlike our own.

You see, in the book of Acts when the apostle Peter got up to explain the wild and powerful move of God's Spirit at Pentecost he preached an anointed 'home run' of a sermon and the people cried out, 'what should we do?' Peter's response was that those convicted of their need for God should each repent of their sin and be baptised in Christ's name, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. (See here). Repent and receive.

Whist Peter's call to repentance on that day was a call to be initiated into the follower-ship of Christ, is there something to see here in our 'Spirit-filled' churches today? Particularly because many of our prayers are for a fresh move of the Spirit? Have we been so ready to jump around on platforms and raise our hands in praise that we have forgotten how to kneel? Have we lost the Spirit-enabled ability to discern when things are going wrong and a spirit of pride is at work in our midst? 

Have we been so ready to jump around on platforms and raise our hands in praise that we have forgotten how to kneel?

I am wondering if we would do well to revisit the link between honest repentance and God's imbuement with power? Admission of weakness precedes a fresh filling of power. Before revival, we need renewal. Start with me.

This is not rocket science, it is the beginning of Christianity. And it is the continuation of the Christian life, too. On our feet praising and on our knees, humbled before God.

There you are, I think I'm a Repentecostal. I am as hungry for God's power at work through the Church as I ever have been. Through the whole Church, not just my own. I am hungry for supernatural healing and power in our prayers. I am also recognising more than ever our pride is a stench to God and we'd do well to hide it no longer.

Lord, forgive us and help us.

- Tim Roberts

(all opinions my own)

Happy New Day

What do you do when you stumble into a New Year with more of a cough and a splutter than a fizz, pop, bang?

I've been asking myself that, and I have some words of encouragement for you today. (They'll help you tomorrow, too.)

For the last umpteen years I have loved New Year celebrations and we've made the most of setting goals as a family, taking advantage of the opportunity for a new start. Somehow this year I see things differently. Maybe because of a lacklustre Christmas break, potentially precious moments spoilt by sickness and colds, fevers, exhaustion and rain... and a few family tensions thrown in. And New Years Eve all I could think of (between coughing fits) is how I regretted not having a Wellspring praise and prayer meeting to welcome in 2018. Happy <sniff> New <cough> Year <groan>?

So what now? Have I missed a moment?

No. And this is my simple, profound revelation: New Years is not a Christian festival, not a Biblical pattern we are expected to keep. January 1st is in itself a fairly random day on our calendar. Just another day. In fact, when it comes to festivals we are discouraged from celebrating the sacrifices of the ancient New Moon Festivals (Col 2:16-17) or in fact any ritual that distracts us from the simple and wholehearted worship of Christ and dependence on him, whatever day it is. He has forgiven us completely and what we are given is this: Every. New. Day.

In the context of deep groaning and pain, the writer of Lamentations proclaims: 

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning. (3:22-23)

Fresh. Each. Morning.

How much more does every Christ-follower, saturated as we are by his forgiving grace, simply need to live in that reality?

The writer to the Hebrews urges his readers to make the most of each day:

Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. (3:12-14)

So this is my New Year thought: You have missed nothing if you are not overflowing with hope for 2018! You don't even need to muster up some idea or Instagram meme of how great this year has to be. Relax.

You see, I do have a deep sense of excitement about all that will come in the coming year, but this is why: Every new morning we will wake up with fresh grace, enough strength for the day, enough power to walk and keep walking, to fight and keep fighting, to love and keep loving. Today we will win or we will learn, and we will wake up with new mercies tomorrow.

So, whatever the date, today is a good day!

Let's be faithful in it and revel in the mercies from heaven that Jesus lovingly offers us. 

Happy New Day. 

- Tim Roberts (Senior Minister)

 

19 years on...

It was 1st November 1998, a cold yet sunny Sunday morning. We stood in the Watford Girls' Grammar School hall in the presence of God, starting the adventure of leading Watford Community Church. We were young, apprehensive, naive and full of faith. We stood with hands laid on us, holding each others' hand tightly, and in prayer taking hold of the hand of Jesus who promised to lead us every step of the way.

As we step into our twentieth year, a few thoughts...

Firstly, a million words of gratitude would not be enough to thank Jesus for keeping true to his ongoing promise - to lead us by the hand. All praise to His name! He has never let go and He never will. Through cancer and barrenness, grief and failure, countless disappointments and a few major successes, He has held us tightly in the past, and as we step forward He urges us to extend our stride and trust Him even more.

Secondly, over the last 10,585 days we have had to offer a fair number of apologies for our weaknesses and failings, misjudgements and mistakes. In our frailty, humanity and brokenness we have missed opportunities, said or done the wrong thing and inevitably hurt people. Leadership intrinsically involves disappointing people, and living with disappointment. Thank God for his grace and faithfulness in spite of all this, and for urging us to learn from mistakes and move on (however winding and challenging the path ahead). 

Thirdly, a thousand thanks to the hundreds who have shared the journey with us. Some we thought would be with us for the long haul have gone to be with the Lord, others have moved away and still others have left for other (often painful) reasons. Whilst there has been a bunch of pain mixed in along the way, ultimately joy overrides it. The joy of shared journeys and 'doing life together' is one of heaven's treasures. If you have been one of those who have let us serve you by leading, and have given your love, time, money and effort to see our vision take shape, thank you, thank you, thank you!.

As step in to this new day the eyes of our hearts are as full as ever with a burgeoning vision - to 2020 and beyond - joining the Holy Spirit in His loving work to see communities transformed, one person at a time. We have children and adults to reach, broken people to serve, stories of grace to share, powerful prayers to pray, vibrant churches to plant, and ministries to grow at home and beyond. For the glory of God, we embrace the massive challenges ahead of us. 

It's the first of November, 2017 and still this ancient truth leads us on:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.
(Lamentations 3:22-23)

May our faithful God bless you richly in this new mercy-filled day.

And, as He leads us into the future, let's hold on to Him and each other with a firm grip and wide eyes. Greater days still await us.

With love and thanks,

Tim and Helen Roberts

He Rules Over Britannia!

Some further thoughts, briefer this time, ahead of Thursday's vote. (By Tim Roberts)

In my previous post I was trying to make the distinction between the eternal kingdom of God, and its unique dimensions compared to earthly empires. Of course, as political entities both Great Britain as a state and the European Union fall in the latter category. They are empires of men. They cannot in and of themselves be expected to declare and deliver the Kingdom of God because the source and nature of its power is tainted by our human desire for dominance and control. 

However, as members of the Church of Jesus the King of kings, we can and should be confident of the overarching power of the Kingdom of God. The ‘Kingdom of heaven’, as Matthew loves to describe it, is everlasting. Unshakeable, in fact. God’s kingdom has not been fully established on the earth. It has been inaugurated, it is ‘now here’ because of Jesus’ incarnation, and it is being extended one soul at a time until such a time as He returns.

The Church, the truly united nations, is an eternal body of people that have been joined together with a covenant promise: God’s pledge to redeem, forgive, restore, and renew completely. Even now we see a glimpse of the powerful potential of the Church to unite people around the throne of God’s grace, as a foretaste of Heaven itself. Heaven on earth. The Kingdom of God, now. He is sovereign over us and we pray that his Kingdom will come on the earth as it is in heaven. We accept His rule over Britannia and we pray that those from other nations will do the same.

So, when it comes to the vote on Thursday we as members of the Church can and should vote with confidence that the King is on the throne and that the nations are under his feet. As Isaiah prophesied, the suffering servant’s government and peace ‘will never end’. So the kingdom expands daily around the world, one healed heart after another.

How should we vote? According to our convictions about what will be best for the Kingdom of God, for the proclamation of that Kingdom and for the freedom of the Church to be the primary agents of this Kingdom in Britain and beyond.

How should we pray? Confidently, for the Kingdom of God to come in Britain and Europe according to God’s rule. Lord, let your Kingdom come!

How should we respond to the result? Confidently, unshaken, knowing that the place of the Church is established above and beyond any ballot box. We should also respond by continually ‘making every effort’ to keep the precious, world-changing unity of the Spirit. 

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