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Stay Connected this Summer

Summer’s here – it’s official. And this is a great thing! But as routines change, midweek bible study groups take a break and holidays happen, let me encourage you to take some Preventative Medicine in order to avoid Summer Drift (not a brand of washing powder. Read on.).

Summer Drift /sʌmə ˈdrɪft/ n Seasonal malady afflicting a number of Christians. Symptoms may include: spiritual lassitude, lack of bible reading/prayer, drop in church attendance, fall in spiritual zeal. Causes: disruption of routine; holidays may be viewed as ‘vacations from the Christian life’; reduced regular contact with other church family members. Possible outcomes: lower resistance to sin and temptation, cold heart towards the Lord and other believers, and in the worst cases, ‘forsaking your first love’ (Revelation 2:4) completely.

Without wishing to be alarmist, things can be tougher spiritually over the summer so let me urge us all to keep going. In summary: stay connected; stay close.

Stay close to the Lord and don’t be complacent. Be on your guard (1 Peter 5:8), put on your spiritual armour (Ephesians 6:10-18), ask for the Lord’s help and protection (e.g. Psalm 141:1-4) and ask a friend to pray for you.

  • Practically, it’s important to keep feeding on God’s Word, the Bible – if Jesus needed it, how much more do we, his followers?  He said: “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matt 4:4. You might want a break from your usual pattern of bible reading and prayer or you might be aware that the busyness of ‘normal life’ has meant you've had no usual pattern of late - why not see the summer as an opportunity to give your devotional life some CPR? Over the summer why not choose something different from what you were using or start again with something that will be refreshing and holiday-ish in a healthy way i.e. not nothing. For instance, a Psalm a day (maybe don’t start with 119. Or 117 come to that…). Or a little bible study booklet that covers a month such as The Good Book Guides on either a bible book (a good starting point is Galatians), or a topic such as Contentment or The Holy Spirit. I can’t recommend highly enough Spurgeon’s ‘Chequebook of the Bank of Faith’ –a bible promise for every day with a few encouraging thoughts from Charles himself.
  • Put a Christian book in your suitcase/on your e-reader, along with all the high-brow classics we’re sure you’ll be planning to read on the beach. It doesn’t have to be a deep and worthy (but stodgy and, frankly, heavy) theological tome. Take something you’re likely to read! How about ‘Perfect Sinners’ by Matt Fuller?  ‘Through Gates of Splendour’ by Elisabeth Elliot? ‘God’s Big Picture’ by Vaughan Roberts? ‘Loving the Way Jesus Loves’ by Phil Ryken?
  • Keep praying – wherever we are, a prayer of thanksgiving as we lay our weary heads on our pillows last thing at night and a prayer committing the day to the Lord before we open our eyes in the morning shouldn’t be beyond us at the least. For a bit of variety (and Ye Olde English), why not use a book of prayers such as ‘The Valley of Vision’? It’s, well, fab.
  • Download some sermons (ours are here) so that you can listen to one or two on the plane/by the pool/beside the seaside.

Stay close to other Christians We’re warned not to give up the habit of meeting together (Heb 10:25) – we’re pretty sure that includes summertime. Scripture tells us that as a church, we’re a body – we need each other to function properly and to help each other (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). So…

  • Keep making Sunday services a priority – it’s 10.15 and 6pm as usual at CCM and keep coming to the midweek meetings on Wednesdays in church. The ‘Summer Specials’ really are, erm, special.
  • Even if your regular midweek bible study group has stopped for the summer, it doesn’t mean your relationship with the members of that group is ended! Keep looking out for one another and having ‘holy conversation’– let’s not be embarrassed to ask one another how we’re going with the Lord/what he’s been teaching us about himself. Let’s resolve not to get the hump with one another if someone phones or emails to say ‘I haven’t seen you for a while and wanted to check you’re doing ok’ – it’s an expression of love and care among Christian brothers and sisters which is right and good. 
  • Got a bit more time over the summer? Sooper. Why not use it to invite some of the church family for a meal - it can be pasta and pesto for main and a yoghurt for pudding, it’s the getting together that counts.
  • Or, let’s be optimistic, why not arrange to meet for a picnic in one of London’s many beautiful parks (don’t forget your brolly. We’re optimistic but we’re not foolhardy).

It’s not rocket science, is it? But Summer Drift is a sneaky phenomenon that can creep up on us unawares so it’s worth resolving now not to be outwitted by it. Share concerns as well as ideas and Top Tips with other brothers and sisters. Let’s pray for one another as a church that we’ll come out of the summer in better shape spiritually than we went into it.

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Getting the most out of a sermon

In one ear, and out the other…

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Question 1

Can you remember what last Sunday’s sermon was about? Passage? Main point? What the speaker was wearing…?

Question 2

Why do we have a sermon in our Sunday services anyway?
a) to provoke some deep thoughts?
b) to give some time for a snooze? or
c) for God to speak to his people, seeking to shape and change them to be more like him through his word in the Bible?

No prizes for answering option c) to question 2, but it’s worth stopping to reflect on this from time to time, isn’t it? After all, we’d all hopefully agree that when the Bible is opened up and explained faithfully, it’s God speaking through his Spirit to us.

All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The God of the whole universe speaks to us every Sunday in the sermon! But more than that, he wants us to listen. James 1:22 says ‘do not merely listen to the words and so deceive yourselves, do what it says’. Our listening to God is to be active. God’s word requires a response from us; it should be shaping and changing us as this is how God makes us people who are ‘thoroughly equipped for every good work’. But lots of the time I know that the sermon just seems to go in one of my ears, and out the other, and all too often I’m more concerned with how the person next to me’s weekend was rather than engaging in God’s word and letting it dwell in me richly.

So, how can we help ourselves, and others, to get the most out of a sermon? Just as a starting point, here are 5 practical ways we might get ourselves into gear to hear from our God and how we can be helping each other as a church family to let his word shape and change us to live more for Him.

PRAY

The psalmist tells us that we need God’s help to understand his word; ‘open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.’ (Psalm 119:18). It is really important to be praying that God would be opening our eyes as we come to his word. It’s also a wonderful way to help the ministers. Use the CCM prayer diary on a Thursday to know who is speaking that Sunday and pray for them as they prepare. Pray that God would teach them so that they can teach us. It’s great to pray also that we would endeavour to cut out distractions on Sundays and listen to God. I find praying after Sunday the hardest, so often forget to talk to God about what I’ve learnt, asking him to change and shape me. I’ve found recently that it’s a good idea to have one thing I am praying God will be changing in me from the sermon in the week to follow.

PREPARE

If we were going to be discussing a paper at uni or going through numbers with a client at work, we would read up on what’s going to happen in that meeting. In a similar way, it’s a great idea to read the passage beforehand and think about what it says. Maybe on a Sunday morning as a quiet time – we can find out what’s coming up next in the term card, or on the website, or in Timeout, or on the previous week’s service sheet. Ponder on God’s Word before it is explained. I find it helpful to ask these type of questions:

  • What do I learn about God?
  • Anything I don’t understand?
  • What do I think the main point is?
  • What question would help someone apply this to their lives after the sermon?

PROCESS

This is the one where we will have the greatest amount of differences in how we respond. You might want to work out which works best for you if you haven’t already.  I did a quick survey of a few people in our church family who I know take in the sermon in different ways. Here’s what one person said:

I always take notes as it helps me to focus my brain at the time and makes me aware of the key points, however I don’t tend to look at my notes after. I try to have a conversation after the service with someone at the service (whether that’s the person I’m sitting next to or someone I get chatting to over coffee). My wife and I also chew over the sermon in the car home. Then we try to include what we’ve learnt in our prayers together at bedtime. As I start the week, I try to remember what encouraged/challenged me from the sermon as I see the week ahead of me. I find that my memory is very defective, and I therefore hope that this approach will, over time, produce a drip-drip effect on me.’

Others may prefer pictures over words. 

GRACE-OVERFLOWS

Still others may find that just listening is best for them or stripping it back and just writing down the main point. Whatever type of learner we are, as we think about how we process best, it may be helpful to ask ourselves: is the way I listen to sermons helping me to remember what was said and chew it over in the coming week? Is the way I process sermons helping to change my life to be more like Jesus, or is it just going in one ear and out the other?

PONDER

Linked to the point above, at the end of each sermon, rather than getting up and going to get a drink, it’s helpful to think about one main point I am going to take away. In what way has God’s word changed my life? If you write stuff down, what are you going to do with it? Sometimes I find it helpful to have a key verse stuck on a post-it note in my diary so I see it every time I open it up (which seems to be a lot!). It’s great to get into a routine of meditating on Sunday’s input in the week to come – maybe as a regular feature of your quiet time on Monday.

PEOPLE

God has given us a church family so that we can build each other up and shape each other. It’s a great idea therefore to chat to the person next to us, or someone we know well after the sermon and discuss, how has God’s word changed us today? It may be a good idea to find someone who is free in the week and meet for coffee/ lunch at some point to pray and mull over the sermon and help apply it to each other’s lives. Or we could ask a friend to ask us how our application of the word is going midweek at (S)KG.

You probably have lots of different ideas for how to do this – I hope these 5 Ps provoke some thoughts as to how we seek to have God’s word shape and change us. If you want to think more on this, I highly recommend a little book written by Christopher Ash called ‘Listen up!’ on the bookstall. Just 75p!!

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New Song: Now Why this Fear

At this Sunday's 7pm service we'll be introducing Now Why this Fear, yet another great song from Sovereign Grace.  Last week a gang of us from CCM went to (and hugely appreciated) their first Worship God UK conference.  They gave us plenty of great hints and tips to bring home, but far more encouraging than that was the way everything was so thoroughly centred on Jesus, and on his death on the cross for us sinners.  "Christ crucified" is what shapes all of their songs - as it should (1 Cor 2:2)

This song was one of our faves at the conference.  It updates some brilliant 18th Century words by Augustus Montague Toplady (gotta love that name) and makes them gloriously singable again today.

Verse 1
Now why this fear and unbelief?
Has not the Father put to grief
His spotless Son for us?
And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for that debt of sin
Now canceled at the cross?

Chorus
Jesus, all my trust is in Your blood
Jesus, You’ve rescued us
Through Your great love

Verse 2
Complete atonement You have made
And by Your death have fully paid
The debt Your people owed
No wrath remains for us to face
We’re sheltered by Your saving grace
And sprinkled with Your blood

Bridge
How sweet the sound of saving grace
How sweet the sound of saving grace
Christ died for me

Verse 3
Be still my soul and know this peace
The merits of your great high priest
Have bought your liberty
Rely then on His precious blood
Don’t fear your banishment from God
Since Jesus sets you free

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Midweek Weekend Away (#1!)

We've just returned from the first of our Knowing God (midweek Bible Study groups) weekends away, where our assistant minister Matt Banks gave us four wonderfully encouraging and challenging talks on the topic of 'the church'.  The first two talks focused on giving an overview of what the Bible says the church is.

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Matt challenged us to think about where the church fits into God's plans, specifically asking the question: is the church the way God accomplishes things in the world (a 'means to an end'), or is the church what God is building on the rock of Jesus' death on the cross (the 'end of the means')?  We touched on some images the Bible gives us for the church (Christ's Body, God's Household, A Temple for the Holy Spirit, etc...).  We had the chance to think deeply about where the church is, the emphasis the New Testament places on the local gathering, and investigated the way this challenges us to realign our own sense of identity not as individuals, but - collectively - as a community.

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Saturday always includes some great built-in time to relax.  We slept, watched football, went on walks and just had the time to hang out and chat to each other over meals and a drink in the pub.

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Sunday's talks helped us to think about some of the application of the theological truths we had seen the day before.  Matt took us through Ephesians 4:1-16, dwelling on the responsibility that each of us has to "speak the truth in love" to each other if Christ Church Mayfair is to continue to grow up into maturity in Christ.  We were also challenged to consider that being members of the church requires us to pursue a unity founded on humility.  Considering others better than ourselves.  Doing nothing out of selfish ambition.  And, at the heart of all of our activity, proclaiming a gospel founded on grace.

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As usual, the weekend went much too quickly for us, and we're rather envious of those who attend Thursday's meetings and have their weekend - with the same talks - to look forward to this coming Friday through Saturday.  We'll make all of Matt's talks - and their outlines - available via our talks page after then!

 

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Christianity Explored

Stepping into McDonalds doesn’t make you a hamburger. That’s just one of the many deep theological truths that we will be exploring at Christianity Explored! Stepping into a church building doesn’t make you a Christian any more than stepping into a fast food restaurant makes you a Big Mac. Over the next 7 weeks at Christianity Explored we are going to see that Christianity is not about going to church once a week, not about trying to follow an ancient set of rules, not even about trying to be a good person. Christianity is about the life and death of one man: Jesus of Nazareth.

mcdonalds

Who is it for?
Christianity Explored starts tonight and is for anyone. Maybe you’ve just had your first child and you are wondering whether there is more to life than climbing the greasy pole at work. Maybe you’re a student and you just want to get clear in your head about Jesus one way or the other: was he the Son of God, as Christians claim, or was he just a good man whom the institutional church later hijacked for their own agenda? Perhaps you’re someone who heard about Jesus in school assemblies many years ago but have never read the Bible yourself as an adult. Maybe you know someone for whom Christianity Explored would be the perfect place to look into the Christian faith: another mum at the school gate, a colleague you’ve been meaning to go out for a beer with for ages, a friend at the hockey club. It’s not too late to sign up.

What do we do?
There are three elements to a Christianity Explored course (well, four if you include food before hand!).

Talks
Each week we’ll have a talk about a key aspect of the Christian faith:

  • Who Jesus is
  • Why did he come?
  • Why did he die?
  • Why did he rise?
  • What would it mean to follow him?

And at the heart of it all in we have a talk on something called “Grace.” This is often the point when people really start to sit up and listen. Grace means that we can’t earn anything from God. Grace means that Christianity is not about trying to work our way up to God by being good. Grace means that anything we ever get from God we receive as a gift rather than earning it. Grace means that a Christian can say “there is nothing that I can do to make God love me more and nothing I could do to make him love me less.” Grace is a wonderful thing, and is something that sets Christianity apart from all other religions.

Discussion
The second element is a time for discussion. We welcome any question. We won’t judge you, we won’t take offence, we will just try and do our best to answer, from the Bible, to the best of our ability. You may have questions about sex, evolution, suffering, the reliability of the Bible. We believe that Christianity is true in the most robust sense of the word. It can stand being prodded and poked and asked questions of.

Bible study
The third and perhaps most distinctive element of Christianity Explored is that we try and put the bible into people’s hands. Over the course we try and read through all of Mark’s Gospel. Many people have made up their mind about Jesus based on hazy knowledge about him from Sunday school or school assemblies when they were young. We simply want to encourage people to read the bible for themselves and encourage them to ask and answer the question: “Who do you, as an adult, say that Jesus is?”

Details
So please, if you can, come along. There will be nothing weird about it. We won’t be issuing tambourines and sandals at the end, you won’t be forced to stand in a circle and sing kum-ba-yah! In fact no one will be asked to sing or pray out loud. It’s held in a pub, we provide dinner and you're welcome to grab a drink, and it's all very relaxed.

Really hope to see you.
Starts: Tonight, Tuesday 8th October, but you can come along any Tuesday for the next seven weeks (until Nov. 19th)
Where: Rose and Crown Pub, 2 Old Park Land, W1K 1QN
Timings: 7pm for food (no charge), 7.30-9pm for talk and discussion
To let us know you're coming, please email us!

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Recap: Annual Dinner 2013

We had a great evening last night at our Annual Dinner. The evening featured a two-course dinner, a testimony, and a short talk from Matt Fuller. The big news of the evening is that, from January 2014, we will be moving to three services on a Sunday (likely 10.15am, 5pm & 7pm). We'll be talking more about this over the next couple of Sunday services, so do bring any questions you have and find Matt Fuller or another member of staff.

In the meantime, enjoy some pictures from the evening below!

Annual Dinner 2013

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