We are an elder-led church. Whereas in some churches the responsibility of leadership might rest on one minister, or there may be no recognised leadership at all, being elder-led means that the leadership is shared among a team. IN September we have the privilege of welcoming Luke into eldership.
A couple of weeks ago an article came out in The Atlantic which described the rapid expansion and subsequent decline of the Sunday Assembly. It's effectively a secular church. They describe themselves as "a godless congregation that celebrates life" . At their peak, they had launched nearly 70 chapters (i.e. congregations) in cities across Europe and North America. However, more recently, energy has fizzled out.
I’m very happy to confirm that we (as a church) are moving home at the end of September! Our new venue will be London Nautical School. We have shared little snippets of this with you at Upper Room, but we were not sure if it would all work out. Now, at last, we have signed the contract and set the wheels in motion.
Very often a Christian will approach doubt quite differently from a sceptic. A sceptic – particularly one who is new to the Christian faith – will often engage primarily at the level of the intellect. They will adopt a thinking posture in which they want to look at the arguments, read the Bible for themselves, weigh up the evidence. Of course, they will care about experience also, but experience is usually secondary. A Christian who is struggling in their faith very often struggles in a more intuitive, gut-level way…
The front page of yesterday’s Times declared, “TV’s golden age is closing the chapter on novels”. This year has seen a sharp decline in the sales of physical fiction books, partly attributed to the rise of the global monolith that is Netflix. I won’t deny that I enjoy an episode of Suits as much as the next man. But reading (particularly Christian) books has had a profound influence on my life in a way that Netflix never (ever) could.
Living in London distorts our view of this inter-generational flow. For many of us, we live in a single-generation millennial island, cut off from any meaningful interaction with grey-headed wisdom and the joy of little people. We walk, work, and worship with people who born within a narrow date range.
I’m looking forward to my first Father’s Day card this Sunday (although Caleb may need some help writing the card this year!).
I suspect the day will be greeted with a mixture of emotions. Some of you will have very positive memories of growing up with your father and will welcome the opportunity to express your appreciation. For others, the day will feel difficult. Perhaps because you didn’t know your biological father, or because he was neglectful or abusive. This is the painful reality for many.
In 2013, the Centre for Social Justice produced a report that estimated one million children were growing up without any meaningful relationship with their fathers. Christian Guy, then the director of the CSJ described the crisis, “For children growing up in some of the poorest parts of the country, men are rarely encountered in the home or in the classroom. This is an ignored form of deprivation that can have profoundly damaging consequences on social and mental development.”
As well as being a national tragedy (and part of the pervasive impact of human sin on family life), there is often an added difficulty for Christians, who, as a consequence, can struggle with the idea of God the Father. It leaves them feeling cold or confused. Sometimes Christians project the flaws of their own biological father onto God. God feels absent because their father was absent.
And yet, I think that is precisely the opposite place God wants us to end up. Of course, it’s absolutely right to recognise the limitations of your biological father and to go through the necessary business of forgiving him for the very real sins of failing to care for and love his family. However, this feeling of frustration and sense of lack should also drive us to our knees to approach the only perfect father who ever lived, asking that, by his Spirit, we might grasp the fullness of what it means to be children of the living God and to experience the joy, affirmation and security that comes with that.
No earthly parent will be perfect but we have a perfect father who is redefining for us what good parenting looks like. He has outrageous love and strong discipline. He comes with tenderness but is willing to rebuke us in love. He’s persistently faithful and wonderfully sacrificial (giving up his own son for us). Whatever our experience of biological fathers, we have a heavenly Father who is the answer to the deepest longings of our souls.
I am as prone to it as you are. When people ask me how things are going, I often respond by saying, ‘Busy!’ But I was provoked this week to stop using this word.
I went to a day conference in honour of the late Eugene Peterson. Various pastors were sharing the impact Peterson had had upon them, and a strong theme was Peterson’s opposition to busyness in pastoral ministry.
As we enter into what can euphemistically be described as the British summer, we will soon start to see the city beginning to slow down. Students are already finishing their exams and preparing to return home (we’ll miss you!). For those of us still in the city, life begins to take a slower pace. Work starts to be a bit quieter. Evenings are spent relaxing in the park with friends. And many of us will leave the city at some point for a short break. This is good news for our weary bodies!
There is a real sweetness and relief in being able to acknowledge your weakness before God. But the aim of the Christian life is to develop strength, to muscle up (spiritually speaking), and to grow mighty in God. We are wrong to think that aspiring to spiritual strength is somehow proud or unrealistic and unattainable. God has gifted us his Holy Spirit for the very purpose of strengthening us.
Our university campuses and social media feeds are increasingly full of accusations of injustice. From Germaine Greer to Peter Tatchell, Richard Dawkins to Brian Cox, no one is safe from contemporary society’s obsession with victimhood. So many of us are asking, how can we find peace in a world where everyone feels like a victim?
About three weeks ago, as we were going on holiday, I began to feel a strong sense of my own weakness. I was feeling very tired after a busy term. I was struggling with a cold and bruised ribs and was particularly aware of my battle against specific sins (impatience, selfishness etc.).
As the holiday went on, I began to reflect on this weakness…
The past couple of weeks, we’ve been thinking a lot about how we all respond differently to God speaking to us. A lot of the time when preaching, it’s hard to tell what’s going on in the people who are listening.
There are quite a lot of reactions you get to observe when preaching: Someone is yawning because they stayed up late the night before. Someone is looking intently, hanging on every word…
Christianity has moved from being near the centre to the very periphery of cultural influence, and nothing is more obviously distinct about Christians than their views on sex. We are simply speaking a different language when we try and articulate an ethic of sex that slams headfirst into so much of what is believed and practiced today.
We live in an age which has witnessed an explosion in the levels of anxiety. What’s causing this? How do we solve the anxiety epidemic? Join us for a thought-provoking evening as we seek to understand the sources of our discontent and consider whether Christianity has anything to say to this modern phenomenon.
7.30pm - Starting Wednesday 17th October
If you’ve been around Grace for a while, you will have heard of Salt, our online evangelistic publication, and our Salt Live events. Both are aimed at engaging curious Londoners on matters of life and faith.
Over the past year, we’ve had thousands of people read our articles, hundreds of people attend these events and a number have gone on to explore faith with us.
This autumn we’re adding a Salt Course into the mix.
It will be a six evening course for those who are curious to explore life's big questions in a non-judgemental environment. See more dates below.
We’re going to spend the first three evenings dealing with the biggest objections or questions that Londoners have about the Christian faith.
Pleasure: Isn’t Christianity repressive?
Proof: Isn’t faith irrational?
Pain: Why is the world so broken?
And then we’ll spend three weeks looking at the intrinsic desires that we all have and asking how much does Christianity speak to these desires?
Love: How can I find what I’m looking for?
Peace: How can I be free from anxiety?
Satisfaction: How can I experience lasting fulfilment?
We’ll have some good food together, courtesy of the folks at Costa, a short talk unpacking the question for us, then we’ll have discussion around tables in groups along with a Q&A at the end of the evening.
We look forward to seeing you then!
ChurchSuite. For more information, please keep reading!On the 6th October, we will be going as a church to the Advance Conference and would encourage you to come too. You can book directly with us on
What is Advance?
Advance is the partnership of churches that Grace belongs to, a global movement joining together to advance the gospel through planting and strengthening churches.
Advance is a practical way of describing our partnership, and expresses our primary purpose of taking new ground for the gospel in small towns, suburbs, cities and nations. We are fully committed to this movement, and see this conference as a fantastic opportunity to be encouraged by one another and get to know the churches we work with better.
What is the conference about?
This year, the UK conference is entitled ‘Leaders That Last’ and will be two days of cultivating sustainable and joyful leadership in the church. The Saturday is a day of celebration for all church members and will consist of seminars, sung worship, prayer, and updates on how we are continuing to advance together. PJ Smyth, who is the leader of Advance, will be teaching us on the Saturday. There will also be children’s work provided.
How can I book?
We would encourage you to come by coach with us, the cost of which is included when you book through our event page. All transportation timings can be found on the event page.
Where is it?
King’s Community Church Southampton have invited us to use their building, and we will travel there together via coach.
To find out more about who makes up Advance, and the shared values of the churches in the movement, you can visit the website.
If you do plan on travelling alone, you can book through the Advance website.