Salt Course

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.

All dates:

  • 17th October 

  • 24th October

  • 31st October

  • 7th November

  • 14th November

  • 21st November

Sign-up here. Feel free to email info@salt.london if you have any questions. 

We look forward to seeing you then!


Advance Conference: Leaders That Last

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 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 ChurchSuite. For more information, please keep reading!

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. 

Helpful Information:

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.

  

The myth of the freethinking atheist

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Somehow we have come to attach the idea of ‘freedom’, and particularly freedom of thought, to atheism. Religious people are shackled to ideas that exert power of them, almost as though they are helpless victims. But the atheist is free because nobody’s gonna tell him what to believe or do.

Well, sort of. But no.

One of the greatest myths we live with in day-to-day life is the illusion of freethinking. For one thing, there’s the fact that most atheists do not arrive at that conclusion independently, but rather through a sequence of influences, books, ideas, often imbibed unconsciously; which is not all that different from how we arrive at religious conclusions. In other words, the so-called freethinking atheist would likely hold to some other belief system if raised in some other age or in some other place. You’re not as free as you think. You’re just as much a product of your time and circumstance as any religious devotee.

But freethinking is still more illusive than that. Scratch beneath the surface of ordinary life and you discover a surprising truth, which is that we’re all driven by religious impulses all of the time, especially the impulse to worship. This was never more aptly put than by the late David Foster Wallace in his famous speech, This Is Water:  

Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship… is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. [1]

Most of us won’t accept this on the basis that we have a pretty narrow view of what worship means – perhaps singing, definitely involving a higher power, and probably some elaborate rituals. But really, worship is much more basic and ordinary than that: it’s allowing something in your life to become in some way ultimate. When something becomes the underlying driver, motivation, goal, passion of your life, then that’s what you worship. That’s what Wallace meant, anyway, and that’s why most of the stuff we worship will ‘eat you alive’.

If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough… Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you… Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. 

All of this rings true. Whatever you want so much in life that to have it would be heaven, and to not have it would be hell – that is your god, and that god exerts control over you. If worship can be directed at all these ordinary pursuits and passions – money, the body, power, intellect – then it doesn’t take much thought before you start to see a place like London through new eyes. There are temples of worship everywhere, and devout worshippers scurry through life offering their sacrifices on the altars to their particular gods. And, yes, these gods eat us up. Every one of us has tales of the damage we have caused ourselves through our uncontrollable desires and ambitions. 

The most sobering aspect of all this is that so little of it is voluntary:

But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.

This means you did not choose to worship, and you did not choose what to worship. Instead, worship arises from inside us as something unconscious, instinctive, irrepressible. 

So, even if we like to think of ourselves as rational creatures, led by logic and evidence, most of the time the very opposite is true: we are led by the hidden drivers of the heart. [2] We are compelled by motives we can’t fully understand, in search of goals we can’t fully articulate, in hope of dreams we can’t fully express. 

Nobody is a freethinker. Nobody is a free agent.

Our humanity does not flourish in a spiritual vacuum when worship of something is so deeply hardwired into us. Without a sense of the greatness of the God who is over us we end up worshipping the material world under us. And that experience of being consumed and ruled by those lesser idols can awaken an awareness that running from God does not lead to freedom.

When you realise this you can begin to make sense of the impulse toward faith. Those who grow sick and tired of the endless pursuit of meaningless desires – who find that they are actually enslaved by their worship of money and intellect and sex and power – may at some point yearn for a different kind of worship, and may instead turn to God. To do so is not to surrender your reason, or engage in an act of mindless obeyance to some form of empty tradition, but rather to begin to be honest with yourself in recognizing that you are not as free as you think you are.

This post originally appeared at Salt.


[1] This Is Water, by David Foster Wallace, accessible all over the internet
[2] See The Righteous Mind,by Jonathan Haidt

14 things you probably didn’t know about Christianity, but really should

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Most people I talk with who are not Christians have a lot of deep misconceptions about this religion. In a way, this is odd, given our rich Christian heritage in this country. But it also provides some great talking points in this otherwise (often) awkward subject of conversation. So, here’s my list of fourteen things you probably didn’t know about the Christian faith, but really should.

1. Churches are not buildings, and the buildings are (almost) unnecessary. A church is the people; a particular group that has come together to form a family despite often having zero things in common. This means that you could knock down all those old church buildings in Britain and the actual church (the group of people) would not be wiped out; arguably, it would flourish.

2. Not all (male) Christian ministers wear dresses. This might strike you as a slightly silly point, but here’s why it matters to me. The early Christians were a rag-tag bunch of men and women, with a very flat leadership structure, and very little in the way of special outfits or elaborate rituals. Today we call this style of Christianity ‘low church’ (as opposed to ‘high church’). It’s important because it means that Christianity is designed for the ordinary guy in the street, and Christian ministers should look pretty normal too.

3. There are more Christians in China than the population of Britain. There is simply no way you can describe Christianity as a ‘Western religion’ any more (nor was there ever!). Christianity is exploding in secret in China, as well as in underground, hidden churches in places like Iran and Nepal. The Christian faith in general is growing fastest on the continent of Africa. We may be a post-Christian country here in Britain, but that says very little about the fortunes of this faith.

4. You will never encounter deeper diversity than you do in the global church. You may be able to think of some community that is more diverse than the church, but I doubt it. The reason is that Christianity advances by the power of its message, and that the message itself is one of radical unity regardless of natural divisions. The earliest Christians managed to bridge some impossible divides, with slaves and masters worshipping alongside one another, as well as Jews and Gentiles, and every other societal division that existed in the first century Roman Empire. That makes sense when you understand the core message of Christianity: it tells us that we’re all broken (so there’s no room for pride) and that we can all be forgiven and brought into God’s family (so there’s deep unity). In reality, that means that on any given Sunday I could be sat next to a Nigerian, a Malaysian, or a Ukrainian at church, and that would be pretty normal.

5. If Christians were less involved in social issues, chaos would ensue. It’s estimated that the volunteerism of Christians in Britain is worth about £315 million every year [1]. At the same time, there are a lot of people who think Christians are dangerous and don’t fit in modern society. I wish these people would understand the selfless kindness and generosity of so many Christians, and the reasons they do all this. Believing in Jesus changes you in a very basic way, and I have never encountered any form of belief as potent or effective in changing individuals and helping them to become more loving and kind.

6. Nobody gets to heaven by being good or moral. These good works are a result of being a Christian, not the means of becoming one. In fact, if you think you’re a ‘good person’ then you are totally unqualified to be a Christian. It’s counter-intuitive, and that’s why so few people understand something so fundamental. But Christians do not believe in being good, nor do they think that being good will get you any points. The only thing that matters is being forgiven.

7. Being christened as a baby is quite likely totally meaningless. Too many people think that if you’re splashed with ‘holy water’ as a baby, you’re all good. But of course, if it were that simple then we’d walk through the streets spraying the general population with specially blessed holy water from fire hoses. Far fewer would call themselves Christians if they realised how meaningless this ceremony is unless you also have some kind of genuine faith.

8. There are lots of other practices that don’t make you a Christian.Being British. Eating fish on Fridays. Going to church. Praying. None of these things make you a Christian. The only thing that makes a person a Christian is whether or not they have faith.

9. Faith is not a blind leap. While some of the New Atheists like to claim that faith is some kind of wish upon a star, the word ‘faith’ has a lot more to do with (1) being persuaded of the truth of something, and (2) placing trust in those beliefs. You exercise this kind of faith all the time in ordinary life. It’s much more like the experience of being persuaded that a 150,000 ton lump of metal can safely float on water, and exercising trust the moment you step on board. For Christians, the faith you need is faith in Jesus to save you. It’s nothing more, and nothing less, than that.

10. There’s much more evidence than you think. A lot of people assume that Christianity was debunked at some point by someone. But that has never happened. On the contrary, one of the most unique things about the Christian faith is that it is based on historical events, rather than teaching that can be separated from events. What I mean is this: you could take the teachings of just about any other religious founder and scrub out the historical story, and the teachings still stand. That isn’t the case with Jesus. If the events didn’t happen (especially his death and resurrection) then there’s no Christianity. Thankfully, there are heaps of evidence that attest to it being true.

11. The reason we’re not progressive on some issues is not because of any phobias. It’s true that we continue to draw certain lines in the sand on issues of morality, but it’s not because we’re afraid of change, nor is it coming from judgmentalism. The most basic belief all Christians share is that we’re all sinners in need of God’s kindness, and that precludes any allowance of self-righteousness or judgment. But we also believe that God has the best plan for our flourishing, and we don’t get to simply make up the rules (since that road inevitably leads to tragedy and oppression).

12. Most of your deepest moral instincts come from the Bible. The instincts we think are either common sense, or part of the very fabric of nature, such as equality, human rights, justice – all of these (and many more) have been embedded in our culture from centuries of exposure to the Bible. Now that we Westerners have largely abandoned our Christian heritage, we are like a jumbo jet suffering engine failure: we continue to glide, but it’s not long before this thing will plummet to the ground. Morality without a Moral Lawgiver is arbitrary and vulnerable. 

13. Jesus was not a good teacher. CS Lewis put it best:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to [2].

14. We really do believe you’ll live for eternity, the only question is where. Some people think that if Christianity is to survive, it must accommodate itself to modern sensibilities. That would mean no more talk of an afterlife, and definitely no hell. Besides the fact that this strategy doesn’t actually work (the more liberal a church becomes, the more empty it gets), we have some pretty formidable reasons to believe that eternity is real. The most important reason of all is the fact that Jesus came back from the dead, a fact attested to by hundreds of witnesses. That is the reason it’s worth listening to the only person in history who spoke with anything like authority on the subject.

This post originally appeared at Salt.


[1]  Cinnamon Faith Action Audit 2016
[2] CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

Sex is never NSA

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No Strings Attached. Few expressions better capture the modern view of sex. Which means that, despite their obvious respectability as philosophers and social commentators, the Spice Girls got it exactly wrong when they sang,

Are you as good as I remember baby, get it on, get it on,
‘Cause tonight is the night when two become one

They were (knowingly or unknowingly) articulating a very, very old view of sex as something that has deep soul-level power; the very opposite of No Strings Attached. And this is why Bloodhound Gang were much more in tune with the times with their immortal lines, ‘You and me baby ain’t nothing but mammals // So, let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.’ 

Both of these songs come from the 1990s when few could have predicted how much mammalian activity would be enabled by the onset of hookup apps, so that now, more than ever, sex is mainly about fulfilling your appetites. It doesn’t have to mean anything. It’s not much different from eating, drinking, or sleeping. Who you do it with is not of much consequence, provided they’re good.

How did our view of sex change so profoundly, and so quickly? 

For one thing, it was not so long ago that sex was inextricably bound up with making babies. If you were a man and you got someone pregnant, you’d have to take responsibility (especially in a world with no state support for single mums). Your community kept you accountable. But that has changed: it is hard to exaggerate the effects of widespread contraception available since the 1960s in separating the act of sex from its natural, biological consequence. This has had a profound effect on how we think about sex, at a deep philosophical level. It used to be the case that only the rich or powerful could bed whoever they wanted, for the simple reason that they could get away with it. But contraception democratised the seeming freedom of sex-without-responsibility, and turned sex into a momentary act rather than a life-changing decision.

Another reason can be given. The secularisation of the West has been a potent force here. If your religion says sex is a sacred act with the power to bind souls, that view might linger for a little while after you have cast off religious restraint, but eventually it dies. The new narrative is that we’re clever monkeys, and if monkeys can do it with whoever they want (bonobo chimps being a perfect example of a ‘free love’ primate society), then the social construct of sex being sacred need not hold us back any more.

And so, we have landed in a new era. It’s an era in which love is optional, and sex is easy. In fact, it’s only a few swipes away. And you don’t need any of the traditional skills of seduction, which means you can get away with being clumsy and cheap. Hit upon a match, exchange a few texts, and you’re done and dusted within the hour. And it’s free. Did I mention that? And you don’t have to speak again. And you can try someone else tomorrow. And there are no babies. And nobody else need ever find out.

All of this rests on the assumption that sex can be No Strings Attached. But can it? I’m not convinced.

First, there is the problem of ‘catching feelings’ and the consequent experience of rejection. The subject of so many sitcoms and low budget movies, we might be tempted to downplay how destructive this kind of rejection is for the soul. But consider, how many times can you get the cold shoulder from a hookup and not suffer some kind of erosion on the inside? I mean serious psychological harm. It seems we have more compassion and understanding for dogs abandoned on the street than we do for ourselves, since we are willing to subject ourselves to relentless and repeated experiences of being discarded. The simple reality is quite straightforward: if they don’t call you back, they don’t want you. They want someone new. And we might bury this truth and pretend that’s not the case since we’re both consenting adults entering into a kind of social contract for meaningless sex. But lying to ourselves doesn’t change the facts. You were yesterday’s choice, not today’s. Of course, rejection is a risk in any kind of relationship, but the nature of NSA sex is that you are deliberately exposing yourself to hurt. And if you’re the one with the bullet-proof confidence, how can you know that you are not causing immense harm to the other person?

Then consider the reality of jealousy. I know that the word is usually viewed as a negative quality, a mark of a deficient, weak, and insecure person. But jealousy is also hardwired into us as a fierce guardian of committed love. It can set a wall of fire around a relationship that does not allow casual invaders to maraud and steal what is precious. And jealousy proves that we don’t really believe in NSA sex. We get jealous in talking about our partner’s old lovers and past experiences; an irrational and inconsistent reaction if sex can be meaningless. We also insist on exclusivity as love grows. But why? If your partner can claim that sex with another person was just NSA, doesn’t that let them off the hook? Absolutely not. Every fibre in your being tells you that. Your jealousy contradicts your belief in NSA sex. (Which is why Ross’s excuse, ‘We were on a break’, doesn’t hold water for Rachel; sex is never NSA.)

Another proof of the lie of NSA sex has to do with our inconsistency when it comes to taboos around sex. These taboos are still deeply embedded in our minds and our society (though for how long, I am not sure), and reveal that we still understand the power of sex as something that cannot be as meaningless as a handshake. Think about incest. If sex could truly be NSA, then why sustain such artificial boundaries? By what logic do we say that it is wrong for siblings to sleep together, or a father with his daughter, if it is No Strings Attached? We can’t have it both ways, and our deep and intuitive revulsion towards incest tell us that sex is never NSA.

Finally, consider the painful reality of rape and sexual abuse. Why is rape so damaging? What is it about sex that it has such powers of destruction, so that a person can be changed forever by one brief, momentary act? Why can it make people feel so dirty, so defiled, so used? The answer must be that sex is inherently powerful. Of course, you might argue that the crucial missing element here is consent. But does the giving of consent render sex impotent, as it were? And if so, why do so many feel dirty and guilty after a mistaken fling, or a casual hookup? It seems to me that we are fighting against our very souls when we try to make sex a meaningless act.

Sex is a force of nature; a force in our nature. It goes down to the roots of a person. It involves the most hidden parts of our souls. Such have humans believed for thousands of years. There is accumulated wisdom in beliefs that have transcended all recorded history and most cultures, and we discard such beliefs at our peril. The modern dating scene is an anthropological test tube, an experiment we are running, and nobody knows the future ramifications of a generation raised this way. How will it affect our ability to make long-term commitments (essential for our own wellbeing and that of our children)? How will it affect our ability to simply be happy and content?

The flip side to all this is that if sex is powerful, its power can be directed and used well. Sex can actively restore ailing marriages, reinvigorate forgotten love, and repair the bonds of broken intimacy. In other words, sex attaches strings.

It is with good reason that the ancient Hebrews spoke about sex as knowing someone, because it is essentially a relational act. We all want to know and to be known, and we want that deeply. Perhaps that is the deepest need of all. They also spoke about sex as uncovering your nakedness; it was a euphemism that somehow captures the pure vulnerability, total openness, face-to-face and soul-to-soul intimacy that sex is meant to involve. To be naked with another – in both the literal and metaphorical sense – is to reveal your very soul. That is why the walls of commitment are so vital, since you are never more at risk than when you are totally opened up to another.

And all of this makes me wonder, if sex is really about intimacy, perhaps the modern view of NSA sex is a thinly veiled attempt to experience love, even transcendence, if only for a moment. If so, there is great tragedy in that. It is a misguided quest, a fool’s errand. No amount of hookups can fill this gaping void. But it also signals a deep disquiet in the soul of this generation. What are we searching for? And, what have we lost? God only knows.

This post originally appeared at Salt.

We’re hiring!


I’m very pleased to announce that we are hiring! Since last Summer, things have been gathering more pace at our church, and we have really felt the impact of having Jeremy Moses on staff and James Worringer as our volunteer intern. Gone are the days of me working all on my own, crying into my cup of java.

The benefits of having a staff team are huge, but I am particularly thankful that I get to work with such godly and dedicated individuals. It is also a huge pleasure for me to see the ways the church has been strengthened, and the growth that has come as a result.

As of this summer we are looking to recruit a third full-timer to work with myself and Jeremy, soon after James’ internship comes to an end.

In many ways, this is an unusual role. We are looking for someone with strong planning and organisational abilities, but also we hope to find someone who is an able communicator, with the grace and maturity for leadership – especially as so much of the work of the church is done by volunteers, and this role will include leadership of those volunteers. This means that the right person is going to have a broad mix of gifts. But, if you are tempted to disqualify yourself, we would encourage you to speak to us or, better yet, apply online and we can take it from there.

Over the years, I have witnessed the extraordinary impact this kind of role can have in churches, propelling them forward and releasing the pastoral staff to focus on their primary calling.

Please visit the Vacancies page to view the Job Description.

Applications close on 31st March, and the job is due to begin in July/August this year. If you have any questions about the role before applying, please feel free to contact Jeremy.

We’re starting an Evening Service


Over the past few years since Grace London began we have experienced some steady growth as a church which has necessitated moving venues – Coin Street is our third. 

The room we meet in has been fairly full on Sundays in the past few months. This is a wonderful problem to have, but creates limitations as new people continue to visit us each week. 

Therefore, as a leadership team, we are very pleased to be starting our new Evening Service on 28th January at 5.30pm (for a 6pm start). We want to create more space for growth to allow more people to find church family in central London, and we trust that many will come to know Jesus through our church.

Why not move venues again? There are many reasons, but primarily it comes down to three things: (1) We believe that it will serve our people best if we have another service so that we can continue to experience community in a transient city (something made more difficult in a larger, more anonymous gathering); (2) We love our current venue, and it serves us very well; (3) It allows another option for people who prefer to be at church in the evening rather than the morning.

Do continue to pray for us as a church, that we will be empowered by God to share his good news wide and far.

Carol Service – Sunday 10th December

You are very welcome to join us for an evening of carols, readings, mince pies and mulled wine. Our annual carol service is the perfect way to start the festive season!

Come to Coin Street Community Centre (5 mins walk from Waterloo station) at 5.30pm on the 10th of December.

You may be a sceptic or just undecided about Jesus, so please be assured that we want you to feel completely at ease to come and be part of the church and enjoy the event.

Facebook event
Eventbrite event

Salt Live Event: Is Faith Irrational?

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In a secular age, many regard faith as an irrational leap in the dark. Religion is increasingly seen as out of place in public life, and often exiled to the private domain. So, while many might think of themselves as ‘spiritual’ it is often viewed as eccentric to hold strong religious beliefs. But can we so easily dismiss religion?

Our next Salt Live event (on 29th November) aims to tackle these kinds of questions in a relaxed and informal environment. You are very welcome to come and enjoy a beer or a glass of wine, hear a talk, and engage with the subject in open Q&A.

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Our speaker, Dr Tanya Walker, is the Dean of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, and an Apologist for RZIM (Zacharias Trust).  Having completed her undergraduate degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Christ Church, Oxford University, Tanya worked in various political roles before returning to postgraduate research.  She holds an MA in Near and Middle Eastern (Islamic) Studies, and a Political Science PhD.  Tanya speaks internationally addressing questions around faith, philosophy, and life.

When? Wednesday 29th November, 7.30pm
Where? 
Coin Street Neighbourhood Centre, SE1 9NH

Link to the Facebook event page
Link to the Eventbrite event page

School of Faith

On Wednesday 25th we are starting a new School of Faith course. It is three weeks long, hosted in a home in Pimlico. The course is aimed at those who want to explore some of the basics of the faith, with questions like Who is God? What do Christians believe? How can I have faith? Jeremy Moses will be leading the course, and each week will begin with a meal leading into discussion.

Are you interested in going, or in bringing a friend? Contact Jeremy directly.

When? 7.30pm on Wednesday 25th Oct, 1st Nov, and 8th Nov
Where? Pimlico

Leadership at Grace London

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I gave a pretty big announcement on Sunday, and I’m sure that not everyone heard it, so what follows is the gist of what I said.

When does a church plant become a church? I believe it is when elders have been appointed (or ‘ordained’) through prayer, and given responsibility to shepherd the church. 

After Paul and Barnabas had finished their first missionary journey, they made a return visit to some of the young church plants and Luke tells us:

When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconic and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. (Acts 14.21-23)

Similarly, after Paul had planted some churches on the island of Crete he had to leave before the job was done. But he left his protégé, Titus, to complete the work, telling him:

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you… (Titus 1.5)

Elders are massively important to church life, because of their function as pastor-shepherds. They exercise a kind of fatherly role, making sure things are healthy in the church. A lot of people have summed up their role as Guard, Guide, a Govern. They guard, which means they are concerned to protect the church from harm and make sure the teaching is on point. They guide, which means they are always listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit and seeking to obey him as they set a direction for the church. And they govern, which means they make sure things are run skilfully and everyone in the church is given opportunity to serve.

So, how are we going to get elders at Grace? The first step is to form a kind of proto-leadership team, seeking to work with some guys to figure out if they are called and gifted for eldership. The second step will then be to call in some help from our wider family in Advance to help assess our guys, and ultimately (God-willing) pray them into service.

As of last week a team has been formed. They are myself, Danny Hutton, Eugene Chiam, Luke Boardman, and Jeremy Moses. I have huge respect for each of these guys, and consider them to be among the best men I’ve ever known. 

This team is not set in stone. It is possible that at any point one of these guys might step down, or another may join (or three others, for that matter). Neither does it necessarily mean that all five would be appointed elders at the same time. But it’s a start, and as such it’s one of the most important things that’s happened in the life of this young church.

What can you do? Please pray for this team to grow in love and wisdom, godliness and Spirit-filled anointing for the task. And please also offer these men the respect and honour that leadership ought to hold as they seek to serve the church with their time and talents.

No More Sermon Notes, I'm Afraid

 'Headphones' by Jake Bellucci, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jakescreations/69953132/

'Headphones' by Jake Bellucci, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jakescreations/69953132/

For the first 16 months of Grace I have been spending time on Mondays typing up the gist of what I preached the day before and posting these written summaries. The main purpose was to help our parents, who often could not listen to the message because of fidgety little ones. Now that we have our podcast reliably updated, I no longer see a need to write up these sermon notes. We may get back to something like this in the future, but no promises.