Archive for the ‘worship’ Tag

LONDON MEN’S CONVENTION

Saturday was my first London Men’s Convention. I almost feel it’s too late to post about it now. The blogosphere is festooned with reviews and highlight summaries; particularly regarding the contributions of Tim Keller. However, as suggested by the title, I’m posting about it anyway. I’m going to start with the statement that it was brilliant. I’m then going to suggest some reasons why.

 

1. It was brilliant because it meant quality time with blokes from church

Yes we see each other every week. But the time available around the biscuits immediately preceding or following a meeting is limited. What’s more, it is largely occupied with us asking out about each others’ week, sees people variously joining and leaving the discussion – dependent upon their biscuit needs, and is also populated by those of the fairer sex.

The time spent travelling to the Docklands, taking breaks, eating lunch and getting back home on the other hand was hours long in total, saw us captive in our proximity to one another, and allowed a more bloke-friendly realm of banter. This therefore enabled hours of uninterrupted chat – spent dispensing borderline abuse or considering football, workplace pressures, health concerns, preferred worship styles, ideas for talking to others about Jesus, film recommendations and much else that helps grow relationships. It’s sometimes nice to hang with the boys…

 

2. It was brilliant because the talks were brilliant

 

A confession: I fell asleep during the second Keller talk. It was still brilliant, or so I’ve heard, but I’m really lacking kip at present, and I blame the carb crash that inevitably results in following Pete Matthew to Square Pie for lunch… Anyway, regarding the talks I do remember – I was often struck by the little things I’d never previously noticed – skilfully pointed out in otherwise familiar passages regarding the person of Jesus.

Wes McNabb pointed out Jesus’ authority in ‘dismissing’ the large crowd prior to his walking on water – that and the fact he knew exactly where their boat was! It was pitch black!!

Tim Keller blew my mind by pointing out the significance of every little thing recorded in John whilst Jesus hung on the cross. A few folk more learned than I were open-mouthed at his linking the water from his side to that which gushed from the rock struck by Moses’ staff in the wilderness… particularly when it was pointed out that the rock too played a substitutionary role in taking the blow from the staff (usually a measure of punishment) prior to pouring forth the water of life.

His second talk (that which I was conscious for) was helpful in pointing out the lunacy of no-one expecting Jesus’ resurrection – following all his talk about the ‘third day’ – and then making clear that it’s because they were no more naturally inclined to expect the dead to rise than would we be! This was linked to prevailing ‘chronological snobbery’ in people assuming they would have gone along lightly with such a notion.

Mike Cain strengthened my belief, borne of Revive 2007, that he has rare gift of analogy. Whatever modern day scenario he picks to depict biblical concepts, he tends to stick with it throughout – anchoring the talk in the familiar whilst doing thorough justice to the passage. In this sermon examining Jesus’ return, it was the idea of him awaiting his wife’s return from a trip away; we progressively heard of the wisdom in him following those instructions she left behind and of the need for him to show his love by doing the washing-up before she return, and not waste his time watching football!

I would also like to ‘big up’ Richard Coekin, who looks admirably comfortable in front of a crowd of thousands and seems utterly authoritative in his role as chairman.

 

3. It was brilliant because the worship was brilliant

 

This is a qualified statement. It could have been more brilliant if we hadn’t assembled the most reserved 4,000 men in all London. That number of voices could truly have raised the roof… As it was, most arms were held vigorously at sides, but the basso tones nevertheless swelled my heart as they grew in confidence throughout various well-penned anthems, each pointing surely at the figure of Jesus Christ. Stuart Townend and his band are skilful indeed, but it is overwhelmingly the words, particularly of those penned by Townend himself (In Christ Alone, How Deep the Father’s Love etc), that leave me euphoric… He truly has a great line in triumphant last verses!

 

4. It was brilliant to see people from other churches

 

By virtue of a couple of years doing summer camp, I know a few faces about the place. There is also the constant anticipation of bumping into one of my blog heroes (someone please introduce me to Jam Carey – I never managed to spot him!) and the surprise of stumbling upon of couple of Year 11 students from my school! It is great to be reminded that this community of ours is larger than a corner of Balham. With so many faces, both familiar and otherwise, surely we can impact upon this capital of ours?!

 

So, there you go. It was also brilliant to buy a newspaper, but to be so busy chatting and listening that I never read a single page! That said, I want to add a proviso here – I know from posting a similar review of the Lads’ Weekend Away that not everyone does so enjoy this ‘sort of thing’. The large crowds can alienate those who feel less comfortable among their brethren, whilst the constant singing and hours of Bible-bashing may not be to everyone’s taste. However, there can be little real harm in hearing skilful Bible exposition, in getting to know other Christians a little better, nor in letting the many secular support staff about the place see the passion that exists for Christ. I would hope few ultimately regretted spending the time or money… For my part, I deem it to have been worth very penny. I very much hope I can return next year (along with a non-Christian mate or two – it’s the mission version next time as part of Passion for Life) and tell you again how brilliant it all was!

 

GOOD CHURCH, BAD CHURCH

Posted 5/1/09

Never ever underestimate the blessing of a good church. CCB is not perfect. No perfect church will be seen this side of the New Creation. But it offers clear Bible-based teaching; it upholds faithful and unadulterated doctrine, for instance regarding penal substitution or justification by grace alone, accessed by faith alone; it acts on a longing for the lost of Balham and the world; and the community it brings together works lovingly for one another’s growth and good. The churches I visited over the festive period put this into stark contrast.

I don’t wish to be too harsh. It is good indeed that anyone would see fit to give up time and resources in order that Christ be praised and His followers be encouraged. It is even better that they do so when so much of our world deems such a use of time as foolishness indeed. And yet… how much better if they could do so without wasteful diversions; and not under the yoke of misled incomprehension. I have sat through a sermon based, not on a biblical passage, but on the song ‘Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer’. Even worse, having heard this red nose equated with the sin that makes us, too, ‘a misfit’, I have then heard that God ‘doesn’t mind our red nose (eg sin!)’ but ‘loves it’ and will ‘use it’! I have then delved back into the charismatic ranks where I wanted to learn good lessons, still believing that we are probably too shut off from fruits of the Spirit and joyful abandon. Instead I witnessed a church with no Bibles to be found or opened at the front, with our sin glossed over, the cross neglected and rather the Spirit proposed as that thing we seek – an elusive ‘sometimes near’ resource which we can grasp, given greater awareness and training, in order that we may be fulfilled.

How great then to return to Co-Mission. We are not ‘better’ Christians; my last post should make that abundantly clear. However, we are better taught, via a strict set-up of accountability, to the Bible and the scrutiny of those who know it well. This makes it far more likely that we will mature, by God’s grace, via the agency of those who diligently take responsibility for us within our congregations. To be at the Factory on Sunday was to be reminded of everything I’ve missed over the past chaotic month – to be reminded we’re a part of something growing and alive, to be told again of grace, true joy and of the cross… to have the Bible explained at the time I most needed to hear it. So yes, thank you God for good churches.