Sunday, 14 June 2015

Where Does My Help Come From?

Psalm 121 is one of my favourite psalms in the Bible. 

Growing up in Cumbria – surrounded by mountains

Psalm that speaks of the God who loves, cares & protects us

It is part of a group of psalms known as “Psalms of Ascent.” This is a group of fifteen short, simple songs that people would have used as they made their way in pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Psalm 121 is known as “The Traveler’s Psalm,” and would have been used as the pilgrims travelled from their villages to to Jerusalem for the annual feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles.

It’s the opening question that catches my attention. 

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
     where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.    

It may be a bit of a cliché, but life is a like a journey.  And on this journey there can be good times and bad times.  Times when it may feel like we’re journeying through lush pleasant countryside, on a beautiful summers day without a care in the world, and times when we feel as though we’re slogging up a steep mountain path, where everything is conspiring against us – when the wind is howling against us & we’re frozen to the core.  When the ground is slippery and unsteady, and that for every step forward we feel as though we slide down, and when it feels as though the path disappears completely.

This might be when we face health concerns, are anxious about the future, facing relationship difficulties, or financial problems.  It may be when we’re feeling depressed, or when life is just a struggle.

It is very easy for circumstances to overwhelm us, and as Christian’s we may find ourselves starting to question our faith or even God. 

I think it’s important to first of all acknowledge that we all face times when life is difficult, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise.  Nor should we see it as a rejection or abandonment from God.  Whilst our love for God may blow hot and cold, His love for us remains steadfast.  God’s love for us in unmovable and unshakeable. 

So what should we do when times are tough. The psalmist is clear, we need to lift our eyes up to God

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
     where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.    

I find when times are tough, I can be totally consumed by my worries and concerns.  But lifting our eyes to God, is about making that conscious decision to say “My focus is not going to be on my troubles, but on God, on the one who can help me.” 

Example of Peter stepping out of boat – okay as long as he set his gaze on Jesus, only starts to sink when he starts noticing the wind & the waves.

What does this mean practically?

Prayer   -  prayer when times are tough can be difficult, especially when we can’t find the words to pray, or when we feel as though no one is listening.  But as in any relationship, keeping these challenges of communication open is important.

Be honest with God.  Tell him how you’re feeling.  We don’t need to pretend with God.  After all the Bible tells us that God knows our every thought and every word on our tongue (Psalm 139:1-4)

If we can’t find the right words, then it’s okay to use prayers that others have written.

Worship – example of Job "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." 

Trust -Importance of knowing Scripture, and allowing God’s word to speak into our everyday situations.  This helps build trust. 

Have not I commanded you? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be you dismayed: for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:0)

(Isaiah 43:1) But now thus said the LORD that created you, O Jacob, and he that formed you, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; you are mine.

(John 14:1) Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me.

Three promises in Psalm 121
  • He will not let your foot slip
  • He watches over you
  • He will keep you from all harm
Trust Him when dark doubts assail thee,
Trust Him when thy strength is small,
Trust Him when to simply trust Him
Seems the hardest thing of all.
Trust Him, He is ever faithful,
Trust Him, for his will is best,
Trust Him, for the heart of Jesus
Is the only place of rest.


In life we will face both good times & difficult times, whether we have faith in God or not.  But for those who do trust God, the promise is this, not that God allows us to escape the hard parts, but that he will help us through these difficult times, and no matter what we face, it can’t ultimately separate us from His love.

Monday, 8 June 2015

7 Marks Of A Healthy Church - Mark 6, Makes room for all

I do not claim any originality in this sermon, it is based almost entirely on the sermons preached at Barnstaple Baptist Church, which can be found at, and Robert Warren's 'Healthy Churches Handbook'.


Marks of a healthy church –
  •  Energised by faith
  • Outward looking focus
  • Seeks to find out what God wants, rather than following its own agenda
  • Is prepared to face the cost of change and growth
  • Operates as a community, rather than as a religious club
  • A healthy church makes room for all

Experience of visiting a church for the first time and being completely ignored.  Dad’s experience following retirement: visited church last Sunday, over 40 in church (from very rural area), only 2 people spoke to him. 

A healthy church … makes people feel welcome

It’s obviously really when we think about it, but how good are we at it really?

Former Archdeacon of Walsall, Bob Jackson Many churches think they are friendly because church members are friendly with each other but we may not realise that we are not that welcoming to outsiders. We are not openly hostile we just ignore them.’

Welcome & hospitality are important Biblical principles: do you remember in Luke’s Gospel how a sinful woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and then anointed Him with lovely perfume? When Simon, His host, started to have bad thoughts about what was happening, Jesus said to him:

“Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.”

If we are to be truly open to all, we have to be generous with our welcome and with our hospitality towards whoever comes to church. And yet it’s quite easy for churches to get it wrong, sometimes without even realising it.
  • Some churches are welcoming to people like themselves, but less welcoming towards those who look, dress, or sound different. Example of Afro Carribean’s in 1950s
  • Other churches provide great welcome at the door, but in post-service coffee-time, church members huddle in their own groups and ignore visitors.
  • Others give may welcome people at the door, show visitors to a seat, even introduce them to other people, and say ‘hello, it is nice to see you.’ But then don’t know what to say after that.  Real welcome is what happens after we have said hello.
  • A healthy church, seeks to incorporate newcomers.  When newcomers arrive at church, it’s not just a handshake at the front door that’s needed, it’s helping them to feel at home, to feel that they belong and have something to offer. Opening the door is one thing, but opening our hearts is far more important.
Research shows that 98% of newcomers who formed a ‘significant’ relationship with 6 members of the church in their first 6 months stay.  But of those who made no significant relationship only 2% stay. 

A healthy church … values children and young people and nurtures them in their faith.

When the disciples tried to stop people bringing their children to Jesus, he rebuked them, saying that they weren’t a nuisance or a distraction, but that “The Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

The Church today is called to welcome, value and nurture young people in their faith.

Many churches say they’d like to see more children & young people in church, but what they mean is we want children & young people to come into our churches and to appreciate, value and participate in what we are already doing and the way it is being done.

But the truth is that many young people come from a completely different culture to us and fail to connect with the way that we do church. If we want young people to come to and become an active part of the church, we have to be prepared to do things differently. Dare I say it? We have to be prepared to change! 

This means looking at the sort of welcome we provide to children (not complaining over noise) type of services we offer, ensuring that they’re not full of Christian jargon which people don’t understand, and that our worship is relevant to young people’s lives, addressing issues that are important and relevant to them.  It means providing groups where young people can come together, enjoy fellowship, ask questions, and nurture their faith. 

But we must not forget the older generations either, and consider how we might reach out to them, and make them feel at home amongst us, recognising that many of them may have have had little contact with the church. 

Being open to all means being accessible to all, and valuing people of all ages and nurturing them in their faith.

A healthy church… sees diversity within the fellowship as a strength

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he writes, “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. … There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Paul is saying that, when we come to faith in Christ, we are all one – it doesn’t matter what our backgrounds are, it doesn’t matter what gender we are, or age, it doesn’t how able or disabled we are, we must be accepting of one another and supporting of one another, because we are all children of God. There is no room for anyone to look down on another person because they are different.

In fact, God uses our differences for the benefit of His Kingdom. Remember another passage from one of Paul’s letters – his first letter to the church at Corinth:

“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptised into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. … All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”

Being open to all means being open to one another’s differences and celebrating them as a strength.

The challenge we face as a church is that we don’t reflect the rich diversity of the parish in which we live.  So what can we do to address this? 

Churches that are able to embrace people of different social and ethnic backgrounds, mental and physical abilities, and ages, are more likely to grow because there are more doors through which people can enter the life of the church.

What can we do to ensure that the doors of this church are open to all?


A healthy church is one that makes newcomers feel welcome, not just by a handshake at the front door, but also by helping them to feel that they belong.

A healthy church values people of all ages, and nurtures them in their faith.

And a healthy church views diversity within the fellowship as a strength.

May we take seriously the call to be open to all and may God’s Kingom be enlarged, as we are obedient to it. For Christ’s sake, we pray. Amen.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Congregational responses:

Does St Martin's make room for all?

  1. Weak & holding us back 0%
  2. Only a few signs 3%
  3. Some evidence of this 17%
  4. Making progress 37%
  5. Evidence of much of this 37%
  6. This is a strength 6%
(35 responses)

  • We keep asking this question – but I feel we are welcoming.  Many are spoken to when they come for the first time.  But if people have been coming for a while then I think they also need to make an effort to talk to people.  Some people may feel like they don’t know what to say to new people.  We are taking people to coffee so efforts are being made.  But it was a good point to challenge us to talk to someone not in our friend groups. Some people are better at talking than others.  Maybe we could give people opening phrases to help starting conversations.  We were made incredibly welcome even invited to a meal.  But then we started to engage with people and they then responded and we now have a new family of which we thank God for.  We need families but is it not our responsibility to teach our children and adults.  There are times for running around and a time for quiet – there needs to be respect for all and we need to cultivate this mutual respect.  Our young people need to understand what our older people need as well as their needs.  And vice versa. 
  • Involve the young people more in the services. 
  • Seeing diversity within the fellowship as a strength.
  • Involve young people in the worship on Sunday.
  • We all need to take responsibility for saying “hello”. The children’s work is getting very good in the way of Messy Church x 2 per month and youth group.  Thriving girl guiding, etc., parent & toddler.
  • Talking to visitors in the hall.  Many do but others do ignore people.
  • Simon you are the world’s worst at welcoming.  You merely say good day and walk past people as if they didn’t exist. 
  • We should all work to include everyone. 
  • Having services at different times in the week to suit busy working families. 
  • Getting to know one another.  Noticing those who haven’t been in church for some time – phone calls or visits to see if they’re okay.  Encourage people of all ages to use their gifts for the good of the church. 
  • Some at St Martin’s make people feel very welcome, some value children and nurture them.  Others do not.  Whether or not making everybody do this makes a healthy church is for me questionable.  St Martin’s certainly should be encouraging those people with these gifts – at the moment I am not so sure this is happening. 
  • We need to think of other people and then we won’t feel so shy
  • When we first came to St Martin’s 40 years ago, someone joined us in the pew and guided us through the service and took us into the hall for tea and coffee afterwards.  Does this still happen?  We need more than 1 welcomer at each exist to the church.  The welcomers need a pool of senior church members to call on to look after newcomers.
  • Learn everyone’s names – 1) use names when administering communion, 2) use names when sharing the peace, 3) use names when welcoming, 4) if you don’t know someone’s name ASK – no one minds being asked. 
  • Talking to new people after the service, including children in the service, they are not very involved at the moment. 
  • Take out some tables and chairs from the hall over coffee.  They inhibit movement, and not all of us need to sit down!  Perhaps shorter services, less songs, shorter sermons may be helpful.  Also trying not to turn your back to the door – welcoming – not.  The last 3 times I have been to church the welcomers/sidespersons had their back to me.
  • Recognising new people.
  • Direction of travel is good.  The sermon today gave some clear messages to our church – can it be circulated to all, so those who weren’t here benefit too. 
  • I think it is nice to sit by different people during the service especially those who are sitting on their own.  So many people sit in the same place out of habit and by the same people, their friends.  Sitting by different people is a good way of making people welcome.  Also when so many people sit at tables at coffee time it is much harder to mingle and chat to lots of people.  We do need a few chairs/table for those who are unable to stand but only a few. 
  • Not so many tables in hall – that people can mingle and talk to others more easily. 
  • Go out to the local population and tell them about St Martin’s and what we do.

7 Marks Of A Healthy Church - Mark 5, Operates As A Community

Sermon preached at St Martin's Church by Penny Wheble on Sunday 31st May 2015  

An elderly woman walked into a local country church. The friendly sidesman greeted her at the door.
‘Where would you like to sit?’ he asked politely.
‘The front row, please,’ she answered. (This can’t possibly have been an Anglican church!)
‘You really don’t want to do that,’ the usher said. ’The vicar is really boring.’
‘Do you happen to know who I am?’ the woman asked.
‘No’, he said.
‘I’m the vicar’s mother,’ she replied indignantly.
‘Do you know who I am?’ he asked.
‘No’ she said.
‘Good’ he answered and walked away.

The Gospels start with the birth of Jesus and go on to describe his life and works. Acts starts with the birth of the Christian Church and goes on to describe the life and works of the new Christians and congregations.

The Church sought to follow Jesus’ ideas and practice. He was a very different leader to the Pharisees. They had society divided up into different groups. Priests/lay, men/women, Jews/gentiles, healthy/sick, righteous/sinners. The Temple in Jerusalem was designed with all these separations built in. Jesus famously said he was going to tear this edifice down and rebuild it in three days. Jesus ignores these divisions amongst people and treats everyone with equal respect, responding to human need wherever he found it. He was famous for his care of those whom the Pharisees said were not worthy of Gods interest.

So when the Spirit came upon all the people in Acts 2, the church was born in power and purpose, which was to continue and extend the work Jesus had begun.

To some extent, the two words ‘community’ and ‘fellowship’ have similar meanings, but there is a richness to the word ‘fellowship’ that needs to be explored further.

The meaning of ‘fellowship’ is summed up by some of the ‘one another’ sayings of the New Testament. So, for example, the Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Roman Christians:  
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves.” (Rom. 12:10) In 1 Thessalonians, he writes: “Encourage one another and build each other up.” (1 Thess. 5:11)

And then , John urges the recipients of his letter: “Let us love one another, for love comes from God.” (1 John 4:7)
If a church doesn’t have this sense of fellowship, then it isn’t really a community at all, but simply a group of individuals that gather for for their own individual purposes, with their own individual agendas.

In a short reading from Acts 4, we find the most wonderful sense of fellowship amongst the early believers. It says this:“All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. … There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.”
May we here at St Martin’s Church enjoy this sense of fellowship here amongst us and love one another, as God has loved us.

The second feature of a healthy church is that it is A community of welcome

I personally feel that the people who meet and greet people at the front door of the church on Sunday mornings and evenings are incredibly important. They are the first point of contact that visitors have with the church and so often, first impressions count. When people receive a warm welcome on the door and from those inside the main part of the church, they feel more at ease and ready to worship. And it also makes it more likely they will come again the next week, as well! But being a community of welcome means more than just the greeting one receives at the front door – it also means making people feel accepted, giving them a sense of belonging and trying to address their needs.

One of the most important ministries of the ancient Christian monasteries was the ministry of hospitality. Now, a ministry of hospitality was a costly business for the monastery, because if you have an open house, who knew how many would come in? The Celtic Christian, Columba, founded a monastery in Ireland which is thought to have provided meals for up to one thousand hungry people each day! Just imagine the work involved in making food and drink for that many people! Monasteries would also have within their walls a guesthouse and the finest food and drink was always given to its residents.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matt 25:35-36)

The monks felt that, in looking after strangers, they might well be entertaining angels, or even Jesus Christ Himself. They practised what you might call radical hospitality and that came with a cost, but also with an even greater blessing.

As a local church, we too need to exercise a ministry of hospitality, accepting and valuing every person who comes through our doors, making them feel that they belong, whatever their circumstances. 

A friendly word will put someone at their ease, a listening ear will help them feel valued, a servant heart will make them feel loved.

They started taking the gospel to people like themselves and ended up taking the gospel to literally anyone who would listen irrespective of their race, language, background, gender etc. They did this not so much by big evangelistic meetings although Paul and Peter did do those, but more often the church grew as local Christians got together and invited their friends and received enquirers. 1 Cor. 14:23

This takes us back to the matter of welcome to visitors to our church. How do we know if we are a welcoming church? The fact that we in the church feel welcome isn’t proof that everyone else does. The fact that some feel welcome is no proof that all do either.
We may work hard to see that everyone gets a warm welcome, but does it extend much beyond a simple hello? Do we allow people to tell us their story or are we only concerned to tell them ours? Some visitors will come again and become regular attenders. Is this the goal? No, the welcome is only fulfilled when people join in and participate. As people are able to give and receive within the fellowship then the church has demonstrated its healthiness in that it welcomes all.

This should be the ambition of every Church. The point of its existence. The way it moves through history and through the generations. But we note that some within the church are very anxious about this process, because a true welcome involves change to the status quo, and not all change is for the better, so change is often resisted to be on the safe side. To be fair, the early church did encounter a lot of difficulties because of its growth policy. The letters written to the various NT Churches often contain lovely words of thanks, encouragement and joy at their new life together in Christ, but the letters were often written because many problems arose within the churches that needed to be addressed and sorted out by applying the Gospel to them. Just note that in churches, having a problem is not the problem. Being unable to solve the problem well is the problem.

The NT Christians and churches were amazing . They were made up of people who had been scattered against each other since Genesis 11 but were being brought together with God as Lord and King in churches. Jesus showed the way about treating everyone equally before God, and the church put it into practice giving dignity to lay people, the sick, women, gentiles etc, because a healthy church makes room for all, all are welcome here.

Today, as we continue to look  at what makes a healthy church, we recall how a healthy church is energised by faith, has an outward looking focus, seeks to find out what God wants, and faces the cost of change and growth.
The fifth mark of a healthy church is this:
It operates as a community, rather than functioning as a club or religious organisation.
It’s a place where:
Relationships:  are nurtured, often in small groups, so that people feel accepted and are helped to grow in faith and service.
Leadership: lay and ordained work as a team to develop locally appropriate expressions of all seven marks of a healthy church.
Lay ministry: the different gifts, experiences and faith journeys of all are valued and given expression in and beyond the life of the church.                    

It’s interesting to think about early monastacism, - how monasteries and convents were the major centres for Christian learning and mission. Following their examples, we as a church  can learn some important lessons.  In the monastic life, the emphasis was upon serving the Lord together as a community, not upon individuals going off to do their own thing. Everything – pastoral work, evangelism, worship and teaching – was undertaken by teams of men and women, the gifts that God had given to them complementing one another. The monastery was a centre, a hub, from which these teams went out to minister to the people in a whole multitude of ways.

Today, we are thinking about how a healthy church operates as a community! And as we consider this a little more closely today, let’s keep in mind the monastery idea.

“Healthy churches are communities and operate as such rather than as a club, or religious organisation” – so says Robert Warren, author of ‘The Healthy Churches’ Handbook.’ The focus of a community should, first and foremost, be to build and develop good personal relationships; whereas, an organisation will undoubtedly have other priorities and, by its very nature, is usually more impersonal and controlling. A church that acts as a community is better at relating to people - and, for many, is a more attractive proposition - than a church that styles itself as an organisation. Whereas smaller churches are naturally suited to being communities, larger ones can often feel more like organisations. The larger churches that thrive tend to have a flourishing small group structure that encourages and promotes a sense of community.

But what sort of ‘community’ might the local church be? I think that the New Testament gives some good indications.

First of all, the healthy church is A community of fellowship

So as you can now see, ‘fellowship’ is all about nurturing relationships, all about encouraging one another, all about making people feel valued. It’s about being willing to serve one another and to use the gifts that God has given each of us for the well-being and building up of others.

Those first believers in Jesus Christ put this idea of fellowship into practice in radical ways, with the result that they all felt valued and able to contribute – they truly were united in heart and mind. And, possibly most importantly, their faith was strengthened.

But, for us, a ministry of hospitality might also mean opening our doors even wider to let community groups supporting the most vulnerable people use our building. It might mean us opening up during the week to provide refreshment and friendly conversation to people in need of a quiet space and moment.

Generous hospitality will be demanding in terms of time, effort, money, and, of course, emotion, but that is what we are called to by Jesus Himself.

A healthy church is a community of welcome and it is also A community of disciples
Last Sunday morning, we had a reading from earlier in the Book of Acts, where it said: “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching …” (Acts 2: 42)

The church community always has been, and always should be, a centre for learning. Whether it be at a service on a Sunday morning or evening, or at house group on a  weekday evening, we should as a church be devoted to the written word of God – eager to hear what God wants to say to us through it. But so much Christian learning also goes on outside of more formal church situations – Paul tells the Christians at Rome: “I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them.” (Rom 15: 14)

The point I’m trying to make is that Christians can learn from one another whenever, and wherever, they meet – in each others’ homes, out socially, at work.

The word ‘disciple’ literally means ‘a learner’, ‘a pupil’, and the most important thing is that we need to be open to learning. We all know that, just because someone is in a particular lesson at school or university, it doesn’t mean that they are learning – I can remember plenty of occasions when I have been physically present at a  lecture, or conference presentation, but haven’t learned anything, because instead of listening I was concentrating on what I had to do in the following week, or daydreaming about something quite trivial.
You see, being a disciple is an attitude of mind – it’s about being eager to learn; it’s about being open to teaching, and unless we have that eagerness, that openness, we will stay exactly where we are and will not become the people, the community, that God wants us to be.

A healthy church is a community of disciples. It is also a community of prayer

Christian monasteries have always been communities of prayer, with monks or nuns gathering for prayer numerous times during the day, and sometimes the night, too! The life of the monastery revolves around prayer and so prayer brings a helpful rhythm to the lives of the monks. It’s quite comforting to know that monks and nuns around the world are in prayer around the clock – perhaps we could be inspired to try to pray three times a day using a book of daily offices, such as the Community of St Chad’s  Rhythms of Grace.

Even the Jews of Jesus’ time  gathered for prayer five times each day and we know that, to begin, the early Christians followed that same pattern. So, the early Church was also very much a community of prayer and their prayer times also gave them a rhythm to life.
They all joined together constantly in prayer… (Acts 1: 14)

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer at three in the afternoon.  (Acts 3:1)   
About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. (Acts 10:9)

Prayer must be the heartbeat of the local church – regular and persistent. Just as the heart is the powerhouse of the human body, so prayer is the powerhouse of the church. The famous Baptist pastor, Charles Spurgeon knew that to be true – before each service at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, he would have hundreds of people in a downstairs hall praying for God’s blessing on the service.

Prayer must be the heartbeat of this church, too. We have morning prayer most weekdays and  Prayer and Praise on the first Sunday evening of the month, - everyone is welcome. We also have a monthly Prayer Diary, telephone and internet prayer chains. Please ask if you’d like to know more.

Let us be a committed community of prayer – it’s a key to church health.

Finally, the healthy church is A community of mission

The truth is that the Celtic monks of about 1400 years ago wouldn’t think in terms of engaging in mission and evangelism. Instead, they practised what has been called a ‘ministry of presence’ – they saw their role “as simply being there in the midst of the people.” So they would go out from the monastery in teams of two or three to listen and advise people, to preach the gospel, and to offer pastoral care where needed.

The monks saw themselves primarily as ‘witnesses’, rather than ‘evangelists’ or ‘missionaries’ in the modern sense, and I think that this can be a helpful way of looking at it.
I imagine that few of us would think of ourselves as evangelists, or missionaries, but maybe we feel happier being called ‘a witness’, someone who is simply there in the midst of the people – whether it be at work, school, or in a social setting – bringing light and salt into that situation and being a channel for the love of God. We are told that, these days, ‘friendship evangelism’ is the most effective way of bringing people into the Kingdom of God – is this not what being a ‘witness’ is all about? And doesn’t the concept of ‘Street Pastors’ resonate with the monastic idea of a ‘ministry of presence’? If you wish to find out about Street Pastors in Walsall, do have a word with Simon after the service.

Ultimately, as a local church, we are called to be a community of mission. In the Great Commission Jesus commanded his disciples to “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28 . And so, we must work together as a team to reach our neighbourhood for Jesus Christ, by whatever it takes. The church building then becomes a centre, a hub, from which we go out and to which we return.

I love this church. I love the fact that I can be part of a group of people who are loved by God and love each other unconditionally.

I love the fact that I can go anywhere in the world and finding other Christians and being church with them.

I love the way churches are all the same at their core and yet very different in their packaging, from state of the art buildings to our partner churches in West Malaysia.
I love the history of the church, carrying out the same God-given mandate and activities from the birth of Christianity until now.

I love the promise that church growth depends on God, not us.

I love the fact that church is a gathering of people making their way together to God’s new creation.

McDonald’s use the slogan ‘I’m lovin’ it’. – and if McDonalds can say that how much more should Chrsitians?

I’d love it if we could encourage others to start loving it too. We all have our part to play.
Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 ‘I will build my church’ – what a marvellous promise! But have we lost confidence that church can be fun? I can’t think of a more fun way to spend my Sunday morning than meeting with Jesus and his people. Church doesn’t become dull with the passing of time – it can offer a freshness and vibrancy as when it first began. Millions of people across the globe still say, with Jesus, ‘We’re lovin’ it!.

We’re told by Robert Warren that a healthy church is one that operates as a community, and that is completely borne out by what we read in the New Testament writings and in church history. May we here at St Martin’s grow to become a community of fellowship, a community of welcome, a community of disciples, a community of prayer and a community of mission – for our own health and for the glory of God.

A healthy church operates as a community
A community of fellowship
A community of welcome
A community of disciples
A community of prayer
A community of mission 

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Does St Martin's operate as a community? 

1          Weak and holding us back     0%                  
2          Only a few signs                     0%      
3          Some evidence of this            11%    
4          Making progress                     22%        
5          Evidence of much of this        61%     
6          This is a strength                    6%      

Operates As A Community: what needs working on….

  • Drawing together, e.g. much prayer happens, but there is no official prayer group
  • Encourage all ages to mix more, i.e. have youngsters taking turn in the welcoming (have rota) so not the same people being relied on.
  • Continue to build on what we’re doing and seek more opportunities to develop church community.  Seek areas that can be developed more e.g. seek out visitors or individuals that can be made to feel more welcomed and encouraged to get involved.
  • Encourage more people to be a part and use their gifts.
  • All things seem to be working forward
  • Involve the whole church – know what the church needs to work as a community
  • Accept that everybody is different and not everybody will like change
  • Instead of talking about variety and meeting people on their level, do what we can
  • Have a process that allows the gifts within St Martin’s to be discerned and used
  • It’s very important to welcome people, but to be aware that some people to be quiet, and might be put off by what they might see, as fuss (they might want to be in the background)
  • One people, one vision, one Lord
  • Tweens group which will support older children to progress their learning of God.  Visit more schools more often in the community
  • Knowing people in order to know their strengths and what they can bring to the church/community
  • Some weakness still in pastoral care, e.g. following up absences from church.  Also outreach into the community could be more vigorous
  • We do welcome new people, we are friendly and kind.  We are a community of disciples, but need to encourage more.  We do pray, but could perhaps do more prayer ‘events’.  We need to share our experiences of the power of prayer.  Perhaps we need to encourage more on to the mission field both locally and further afield. 
  • Social activities to encourage people to meet informally and enjoy the community spirit which could encourage them to come to church. 
  • I think we are a welcoming church and many relationships are made and help and support is offered but it is not always shouted about.  Some people are better at talking to people than others, some are better at caring, some are better at organising.  The more I get to know people I find these things are happening just as the scripture is saying about different gifts.  Maybe we need to encourage people to found out where their gifts are. 
  • Mission needs broadening to avoid attracting only more evangelically inclined members
  • Welcome those who are not church members as well as those that are
  • Prayer & mission
  • It is difficult for me as a working mum to see exactly what happens at St Martin’s over the course of a week.  But I can see what is advertised on the newsletter so there is lots going on.  I was able to come to the cafe last Thursday which was great.  I have benefitted from the Pilgrim & Alpha courses and I see what joy Messy Church brings to so many children and adults.  The fact that so many other organisation use church building shows that we are in the community but not quiet in the centre of the community, AA, bereavement, girl guides, dance, kumon, etc.  The church weekend also shows a community feel.  Our prayer diary shows we are praying about others and the church.  Our prayer email is good too.  I have been able to use the chain and help the chain for prayer requests.   
  • We need to continue our efforts in all areas lest we become complacent