Getting God’s people into God’s word

Over the summer we tried to tweak our service. We started a 10 minutes section where people worked in groups answering some basic questions about the passage we had read and which would be preached on later in the service. There were 3 or 4 questions, the last one of which started people thinking about application or questions they had about the passage we read.

There were a number of reasons behind trying this. Firstly we haven’t got the manpower to restart our Sunday school classes post COVID, so the children have been in the service with sheets that accompanied the sermon. But many have just been quite passive in the service. Partly I think that’s the result of lockdown online church, partly for some it’s a lack of discipleship at home, but also because listening to someone speak for an extended period of time isn’t what they’re used to. Secondly I wanted to encourage families to engage with the bible together, to ask and answer questions together and learn together. Thirdly I still feel like we’re missing some of the relational warmth and connections we had as a church before COVID and this is another opportunity for people to talk together and learn about each other and hopefully cement the place of the Bible and conversations about faith in those friendships .

It’s taken a few weeks but it’s great to see the vast majority of people engaging with the bible. There are print outs of the Bible passage available with crayons and coloured pens for those who think best as they highlight key words and can scribble all over things. There is always an easy observation question to get people started moving through to the more thought provoking, heart searching questions at the end. And then we gather together again and feedback answers to the questions and any questions we have about the passage. It has been encouraging to have a few people say how much they’ve loved it, how great it is to have their families talking together over the Bible. The children have really engaged with it.

We’re planning to carry on with it over this coming term though it may need tweaking as we return to our series in Deuteronomy. I’d love you to pray that families and friendships are formed through God’s word.

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Postponing sanctification

We all do it. We assume that when something changes then we’ll do what we know we should be doing. When the kids are sleeping better I’ll be able to get out to church more. When work isn’t so full on I’ll be better at engaging with the church family. When I’m not so stressed I’ll serve rather than just attend church. Once things are a bit less crisis to crisis or when my heads less of a shed I’ll pick up my Bible and pray. Once I get the new promotion, or the new boss, or change jobs entirely I’ll be able to disciple my family. But here’s the things, that never happens.

The bible warns us that our hearts are deceitful above all things. In other words we’re masters at fooling ourselves, and this is one of the ways we do it. We postpone sanctification while we wait for a change in circumstance. It may be a small thing like those mentioned above or it may be a big thing like moving location or getting a new job. We always default to thinking that situational tweaks will make a difference without realising that the problem isn’t out there it is in here.

It also reveals that we default to thinking following Jesus should be easy not a battle. Despite all of the Old Testament being a warning to us reminding us that the battle for spiritual fidelity is fought in the ordinary and everyday decisions that set our trajectory. Despite Jesus calls to deny self and carry our cross and follow him. Despite all the warnings in the Epistles that we are in a spiritual battle each and every day of our lives, we postpone fighting while we wait for circumstance change that will make it easier.

We all do it. Where are you doing it at the moment? What’s the ‘if only…’? Where are you believing ‘if I just had’ this, or ‘if they would just’ that, or ‘if only this’. Sanctification doesn’t only happen against a backdrop of ideal circumstances. Sanctification is the progress we make when we grasp our redeemed and recreated identity in Christ and full of the Spirit, humbly reliant upon him pursue following Jesus – obeying his commands – where we are right now. Otherwise the danger is that we’ll make it to the end of our lives and never have grown up, never reached maturity and we’ll look back on a life of putting off sanctification.