Spent the day at a conference hosted by Willow Creek Association UK. I was privileged to listen to Nancy Beech, one of the Teaching Pastors from Willow Creek Church in the USA, present to us from her book "An Hour on Sunday."
Once again I was amazed at the clarity of communication and challenged by the humility and vulnerability portrayed by the leaders of Willow. They have made an incredible impact both in their home city of Chicago as well as 1000's of churches throughout the world. Looking at what they continue to achieve the first reaction can be to think that there is no way we can reach that dizzy heights but some how you leave with some simple steps to put into action and an understanding of the difficulties and struggles they faced in getting there.
One of the things talked about was recollecting a trip to Italy. On that trip she saw many great and famous works of art. It reminded me of my own recent visit to Rome and my trek through the Vatican and various churches. All these magnificent pieces of Art had been commissioned by the church or were now displayed in the church. The churches were home to and for the greatest artists of the time. How times have changed great artists would not see the church as the place to portray their masterpieces. Our churches today are by enlarge seen as boring, dull and irrelevant not a home to the innovative.
Lets try to claim back some of the words that should be used to describe what is God's greatest gift this world His Son Jesus and His followers the church. Maybe one day when asked what comes to mind when you hear the word Church the first word that pops into minds will not be boring. Maybe oneday it will be surprising, relevant, transforming, inspiring, fascinating, exciting and motivating.
Guess that's what I have to become.
Monday, February 27, 2006
Posted by Billy Ritchie at 8:42 pm
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Seems like "Jerry Springer the Opera" is finally coming to the theatre here in Milton Keynes. It has made the front page of our local paper the MK Citizen, or at least a handful of Christian's views have.
Having purposely tried to watch this show when it appeared on the BBC around Christmas I have to say in my opinion it is dull, boring and uninteresting. There was much publicity at the time with Christians picketing the BBC and sending various threats.
Do not get me wrong I think the message that the "opera" sends out we could do better without but I sometimes think that the message we send out as Christians does more harm to the message of Jesus than this production ever could.
One lady is quoted as saying: "God will be making His own judgments about this and that judgment could come down on Milton Keynes." It frustrates me that we continually talk about God's judgment on people so quickly. Jesus rarely judged people in this way. When he did it was the religious people that he was hard on. Why because they were hypocritical. The said one thing but did another.
To the rest of humanity he brought a message of Grace and Love. He was the friend of the common man was at ease in the company of those who may even have been looked down on by society. To the lady who was caught red handed in the act of adultery he did not condemn but said go and don't do it again. The the terrorist that was killed along side him he welcomed into heaven by His side.
Followers of Jesus were first called Christians because the people around them looked at them and said they were like Christ. Although Jesus never used the word grace he continually conveyed it in everything he did.
Lets not threaten people with Gods judgment lets bombard them with God's love. Fear will bring a short term restraint but love will motivate transformation for life. People will do things out of love that they will not do for anything else.
Posted by Billy Ritchie at 7:09 pm
Back home in Milton Keynes and Sunday comes round again. This is what we have worked towards during the week. Sunday starts early arriving at Church just after 7 am. By 7.30 am its a hive of activity.
The seats are being set out, PA plugged in, refreshments arranged, musicians tuning up. Our Early Bird service starts at 9 am with our second service following on at 11 am.
A couple of weeks ago we introduced a park and ride scheme. Our Car Park can not hold the number of cars we get to our second service particularly. We managed to secure the use of a nearby college and people then take a 5 min walk or catch our shuttle mini busses.
Today I joined some of the guys to assist direct the traffic and had a great time. I am also sure our neigbours in the surrounding streets are a little happier with the surrounding streets free from traffic.
Its a great problem to have and we need to continue to lift any lids that stop people coming to Jesus.
Posted by Billy Ritchie at 12:37 pm
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Just returned from a few days up in Inverallochy in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. I spent some time with my old pastor and friend Roger Blackmore.
I first met Roger back in 1976. I was 13 at the time. I was at a summer camp in Perth and Roger who had recently become Pastor of my home church, Cairnbulg Assembly of God. He had popped up to see a number of the young people who were away from ho,e at the camp. Unfortunately I was ill and needed to go home. That 2 hour car journey started a friendship that was to help shape my life.
Roger was to become the model and inspiration for my life. He introduced me to a life sold out for God. From then on I only ever wanted to be like Roger and serve God for the rest of my life.
I eventually went off to Bible College and Roger ended up moving to New York. It was great to meet up with him last week with a view to getting our respective churches involved in joining together to run a mission in our old home town. We met with many of my contemporaries of 20 years ago and we have started planning to do something together in the Summer of 2007.
What amazes me even more is even though my contact with Roger has been sparse to say the least for the last 15 years we seem to have developed a very similar outlook on church life. We see Grace as being the dominant force in the universe. Our churches have a very similar outlook and vision and we even seem to have similar favorite preachers.
Thanks Roger I am still inspired by you.
Posted by Billy Ritchie at 8:28 pm