We Value Expectation

In our ‘Culture Shift’ teaching series we’ve been exploring our new core values at Rayleigh Baptist Church. Last Sunday we concluded the values with Expectation [you can watch the talk here…]

We value Expectation because God is always at work and we refuse to limit Him”

I don’t what last week was like for you, but for me it was insanely full. Lots of people to meet, conversations to have, a funeral to conduct, a prayer meeting to lead, risk assessments to read, review & approve, a video to record, edit & publish, things & people to organise, equipment to purchase, some leadership coaching to attend, a staff meeting to lead, a regional Ministers’ meeting with colleagues to participate in, a preach to prepare, and a service to lead which would include serving communion for the first time in over a year; discussions, meetings, preparation, emails, calls, orders, etc, etc, etc. I was due to have a couple of days off at the end of the week, but due to unexpected crises, I spent much of those days working. That’s not normal – in lots of ways it was an exceptional week. I try not to use the word ‘busy’ because that can means lots of different things. But it was a very full week with little time & space spare.

And yet God was at work through it all. I’m not sure I would say I was aware of it much of the time though. Until I stopped (well, almost stopped). As I led the monthly prayer meeting via Zoom, and encouraged us to listen as much as we speak. Specifically as I was quiet and others were praying, God spoke to me, and kept on speaking. During that prayer meeting I filled my notebook with small, seemingly unrelated thoughts/words/inspirations from the Lord. Now I see that my week had been so full I’d been drowning God out. I was so grateful for that time – that pause. Through it I had a growing sense of general expectation about what God was going to do during & through our service on Sunday morning. But I had no idea specifically what that was going to be. I had a sense that our first in-person Communion would be significant somehow, but beyond that I had to be realistic about the fact that we’re still learning how to do ‘in person’ services again.

On the day that I’d be preaching about how God is in the habit of exceeding expectations, I wondered if I’d be left wanting. But God didn’t disappoint, then or since.

The service wasn’t perfect or slick, but somehow had just the right amount of imperfection and reality. Though it was longer than anticipated, Communion was so powerful; serving people in person and sharing the meal together after such a long break, combined with the amazing song – so good. The Spirit was at work during our sung worship (though much of it was quietly spoken/mumbled behind masks). It was nice to be able to see the white’s of people’s eyes as I was preaching (and I’m looking forward to being able to read their faces too), but the preach kept to time (not what I expected!). And we had little Zeke Acquah in the building for his first service, exploring the space and playing with his toys. Wonderful!

But it was about more even than that…

After the service as I spoke to people (whilst maintaining appropriate social distance) I got a greater sense of what God had been doing. One person had been in tears as they were taken back to their Baptism service by one of the songs, and a reminder of the Bible story when brought them to faith. It was a joy to kneel by their side and pray for them. Since then I’ve had conversations with people who’ve expressed how God has been at work in them in recent weeks, how He’s been Ministering to them and bringing healing & wholeness; I’ve spoken to some who’ve been amazed at how God has answered their prayers in ways they had not even thought to hope. I’ve been part of pastoral discussions about identity which required the individual taking a risk and making themselves vulnerable, with a carer who has been losing their partner to Alzheimer, with someone who has hope & peace in the midst of inoperable Cancer progression, and been part of challenging conversations about addiction & prayers for transformation.

I went into last weekend with high expectations for a one hour service, and I’ve started this new week feeling like a Minister again. Because God is in the habit of exceeding our limited expectations.

It has been said that “the secret to happiness is low expectations” – but I’m not looking for happiness which is the result of circumstance, instead I’m seeking out joy – the deep contentment that comes from the Lord – seeing God at work and being invited to join Him. But whatever you’re expecting, be prepared for God to go above and beyond – because He loves you and wants the very best for you!

Now glory be to God, who by His mighty power at work within us
is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of –
infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.
May He be given glory forever and ever through endless ages
because of His master plan of salvation for the Church through Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 3:20-21 [Living Bible]

We Value Participation

In our current ‘Culture Shift’ teaching series we’re exploring our new core values at Rayleigh Baptist Church. Last Sunday we continued with Participation [you can watch the talk here…]

We value Participation because nobody’s perfect, but everyone’s welcome
and together we build God-centred communities”

Please indulge me for a moment, and join me for a journey through my Nan’s cutlery drawer. I remember when I was younger watching in awe from beneath the level of the drawer as she baked & prepared meals. Then, when I could be trusted(!), I was sat on the unit and got my first glimpse into the almost magical drawer. It was an interesting place, with some sections perfectly in order, and others seemingly without any kind or organisation whatsoever. There were more types of knives and spoons than I even knew existed – some for a particular purpose, but most were for general use. The forks were mostly pretty standard, ordinary even. Then there were the utensils, many of which to this day I still don’t know what they were for.

In 1 Corinthians 12 the Apostle Paul, the greatest Missionary and the most prolific New Testament writer, talks about Spiritual Gifts and presents a picture of the Church as a body. It’s such a rich image with an amazing depth of meaning which is helpful as we think about what it means to be Church (I encourage you to read it again, however well you know it). I want to suggest that we have a similarly rich picture as we venture into my Nan’s cutlery drawer (and perhaps your own) and reflect on what it might teach us about our fourth core value of ‘Participation’.

  • each piece of cutlery had a purpose: there was nothing useless in the drawer, in fact some items were were multi-functional
  • no cutlery or utensils were kept back for special occasions: everything in the drawer could be called on at any time
  • all of the items were well-used: some slightly bent or worn down, but could still be used
  • my Nan knew exactly where to go to find the right tool for the job: whatever the task, there was a utensil to undertake it (no gaps)
  • it appeared that nothing was retired from active service: in fact, we still have some of her butter knives in use at the Manse

 

(aside: how Nan managed to keep her tin opening in service I’ll never know – we’ve had more tin openers than we’ve had years of marriage)

What does this have to say about our shared life as a Church and our participation in a common mission? Using Paul’s picture of the body, we can immediately recognise that if a part of the body is missing or unable to function, we might just be able to get by but it would be more of a struggle. Back to my Nan’s kitchen, imagine you’re trying to eat a bowl of delicious soup. No soup spoon? No problem. A teaspoon would work, though it would take longer. A ladel would work too, though it’s like to be messy and miss some of the content of the bowl. In the unlikely event that there was no spoon with which to eat a bowl of soup, we might be able to find another piece of cutlerly to use as a stand in. But if you’ve ever tried to eat a bowl of soup with a fork or a knife, you’ll realise the value of having the right tool for the job. It would still be possible to eat the soup with a fork, but you’d waste an awful lot of time and effort, and you’d miss much of the enjoyment as the soup grew colder with each passing minute.

[and if you were thinking ‘just pick up the bowl and drink the soup’, that’s exactly the kind of attitude we want to foster! But it misses the wider point in this metaphor…]

Paul said there are different kinds of gifts & service, given by the Spirit as He determines for the common good; he also said there are many different parts of the body put together just as God wanted them to be, each with their own function, but each connected and called to work together.

If God has called you to/placed you in Rayleigh Baptist Church, He has a purpose in mind for you. Whether you are a pristine soup spoon, a slightly bent fork, wooden spoon that’s been worn down by years of service or a tin opener that needs a little oil or sharpening, God has a purpose for you here – you’re part of His plan for RBC and the wider community.

And if you don’t do the thing that He’s placed you here for, someone else might be able to step in or step up and have a go, but then they’ll be doing what God has called you to do, and they may have to leave undone the thing God has called them to do.

We all have something to contribute – and nobody’s perfect, so everyone is welcome as we seek to work together obediently following God’s lead and building according to His plans and purposes. As we start to regather, we’re excited to see people stepping back into their previous areas of service within the Church, and stepping up into new areas of service within and beyond the walls of the Church.

Whatever you do, please don’t be a soup fork

We Value Authenticity

In our current ‘Culture Shift’ teaching series we’re exploring our new core values at Rayleigh Baptist Church. Last Sunday we continued with Authenticity [you can watch the talk here…]

We value Authenticity because true discipleship begins when we are real with God and each other”

When I hear the word authenticity, I immediately think of certificates whose purpose is to prove that something is genuine; these are often produced for a painting or sculpture. The Cambridge Dictionary has a helpful definition, that something authentic ‘is what it appears to be’. But before we get too high-brow with a discussion of art, let’s first think about cheese. Yes, really.

You are probably very familiar with the wonder that is Mini Babybel. [If you’re a cheese connoisseur, think of a tiny Edam, though slightly more squidgy] A Mini Babybel is a small cheese, much loved by children & parents. It comes in a plastic wrapper which when removed reveals a layer of red wax (other colours are available). By pulling the provided tabs, the wax is parted and can be removed, further revealing the cheese. Any child will tell you that although the wax is fun the first couple of times, the real interest is in the substance beneath –  that’s what really matters. Back to art and sculpture for a moment…

In ancient Rome it was a common practice for sculptors & merchants to hide any flaws in their statues with wax. You may not be aware but the word ‘sincere’ comes from this practice, stemming from two Latin roots ‘sine’ (without) and ‘cera’ (wax). The more honest sellers would hang a sign outside their shops which read “Sine Cera” (without wax) so buyers would know that no flaws were hidden from them.

The wax on those sculptures was there to hide the imperfections. Whereas on a Mini Babybel, the wax is there to provide protection for the cheese beneath. These two images can be helpful as we think about what stops us from being authentic with God & one another. Which picture most resonates with you?

  • Are you like the sculptor, trying to hide away flaws and imperfections?
  • Are you like the Babybel, with a false layer trying to protect the substance beneath?

In Acts 24, Paul has been arrested and is standing trial. He is called a troublemaker, accused of inciting riots, and even having desecrated the Temple. His character was being publicly torn to shreds, and though he was far from perfect (he knew his record, and his flaws), he was totally confident in who he was and what he’d done, stating: “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (Acts 24:16). He knew his conscience was clear before the Lord.

Later, in Colossians 3, Paul & Timothy wrote to the new Church, “do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:9-10). We don’t need to lie to one another, pretending to be someone/something we’re not – we need to ‘put on the new self’, finding the confidence of Paul in doing so and seeking to be more like God in whose image we were created.

Authenticity is about being real, honest, & truthful – about who we really are (identity), and about how we really are (vulnerability). God already knows… and He still loves us. We shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed to be honest with one another. A friend of mine once said ‘the greatest act of worship is being who God created you to be’ (Tim Williams).

Let’s seek to be honest & open with God and with one another, even though at times that will mean we feel vulnerable. And when our face masks are finally permitted to come off, let’s not hide who we are with wax instead. [figuratively, or literally]

We Value Risk-Taking

In our current ‘Culture Shift’ teaching series we’re exploring our new core values at Rayleigh Baptist Church. Last Sunday we continued with Risk-Taking [you can watch the talk here…]

We value Risk-Taking because it increases our reliance on God as we partner with Him to build His Kingdom”

It seems so odd that at a time when we’re undertaking both general and Covid related risk assessments ready for reopening the buildings and regathering in person, we’re also beginning to think about what it means to be a risk-taking Church. But what does risk-taking look like for us as a Church and as individuals?

I remember well when Isaac, our son, was born. Tracy was still in theatre and I was sent back to our room on the Labour Ward (a room with which we’d become all too familiar) with a midwife and our brand new, still slightly icky, tiny boy. The midwife cleaned him up and dressed him. As I watched, I remember her manipulating his tiny arms and legs into the extremities of the babygrow, and my first parental instinct kicked in and took over as I raise my voice and barked at her: “be careful – he’s precious!” She understood.

Now fast-forward approx 10 months. By this time Isaac was pulling himself up and walking along the edge of the sofa, with all the grace of a duck waddling on ice. And those words came rushing back “be careful – you’re precious“. But it wouldn’t be right to stop him from learning, gaining strength in his legs and growing in confidence. Instead, we removed some of the more obvious dangers around him, and kept a close eye on him for when he got to the edge of the sofa and ventured toward the coffee table!

But in parenthood, as in Church life, you cannot eliminate every element of risk without creating complete paralysis and restricting progress. Risks are a necessary part of growth.

Our value of risk-taking is about relying on God & partnering with Him to build His Kingdom, and Jesus told a story which will help us think about risk-taking. It’s called the Parable of the Bags of Gold, and sometimes the Parable of the Talents (which was the name of a coin at the time). In the story (Matthew 25:14-30) a man calls his servants together and gives them some of his money before going on a journey. One servant was so fearful of the master that he simply buried the money to keep it safe, knowing that he’d be able to hand it back when the master returned. The other two took a risk and invested it & worked hard, gaining even more money for the master which pleased him enormously and he shared some with those two servants. But this story isn’t about money or generosity, Jesus told this story to give us a picture of what the Kingdom of God is like.

If we want to partner with God and see His Kingdom built, we need to take some risks. As this story shows, when we do that by investing what we’ve been given (our time, talents & resources), working hard and with the right motivation, we will see growth for the Kingdom. But this is not an excuse to be wreckless or foolish, nor for us to be motivated by greed for more. As we’re thinking about what might be appropriate risks to take as a Church and as individual believers, we should be consider who/what stands to gain most if those risks pay off. If it’s us, Rayleigh Baptist Church, then we probably need to think again (note that the two servants who invested well were not about enriching themselves). But if our risks-taking will benefit the most in need in our community, then we’ll see the Kingdom of God being built.

Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1:17

When the time was right, we encouraged Isaac to venture away from the sofa and directed him across the room with all the babbling parent-speak we could muster. The first few times, he excitedly took one or two steps before falling. Sometimes we caught him, other times we didn’t – apart from the shock the first couple of times, he was fine. Perhaps we’ve been tentatively walking around RBC, holding on to the chairs, walls and railings as we go, afraid to venture too far for fear of falling. Perhaps now is the time to let go, venture further out and take a risk…

We Value Generosity…

In our current ‘Culture Shift’ teaching series we’re exploring our new core values at Rayleigh Baptist Church. This week we started with Generosity [you can watch the talk here…]

We value Generosity because we want to honour God with all that He has given us: our time, our talents & our resources”

But what does generosity look like? When we were developing our values, one of the objections to includling ‘generosity’ was the worry that people might think that it was all about money; that those who didn’t have much might feel excluded, and that it was all about increasing our income. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. We want to be a generous people because it reflects our generous God in whose image we were created. We can express generosity in many ways, before we even think about money. Here are two simple examples:

#1

At the age of 17  I met a woman called Joy. If there was ever a person whose name didn’t fit their character, she was it. She was a very stern looking lady, with a very head-teacher type of character. I remember her well, because she was my Driving Instructor. Aside from here prickly nature, the thing I remember most about Joy is her generosity – which was expressed through encouragement. Even as I was crunching gears, clipping kerbs, brushing hedges (occasionally) and losing focus, she would be persistently encouraging. Of course she would correct me and teach me, she would point out my weaknesses (or as she would put it ‘you really need to work on…’) but she would always give more praise than I felt I deserved, and she would encourage even the slightest improvement. And her generosity with her encouragement helped me to grow in confidence, and to pass my test first time.

#2

I once had the privilege of leading a small group of young people into their town centre to practice generosity. We had been given a some money and told to find ways to bless people. Towards the end of the afternoon, having blessed people in a number of different an unexpected ways, with mixed results, as we walked back through town to our meeting point we noticed someone sleeping rough on the street. We all sensed God challenge us that this was another opportunity to be generous. So we counted the little money we had left and decided we could afford a burger or a coffee from McDonalds. We approached the rough sleeper and said we’d like to bless him but that we only had enough for a coffee or a burger, so we asked what he needed most. His reply practically knocked us off our feet, and I can still remember what he said: ‘the thing I have needed most and longed for is just to be noticed & acknowledged‘. We stood in silence for what felt like minutes as we thought about what he’d said, then in an attempt to break the awkward silence someone asked again ‘what would you like?’. Again his response surprised us. ‘Would you just sit and talk to me?’ We sat on the cold, wet floor alongside him and chatted for 20 minutes as he told us his name (Mark), how he’d ended up on the street, that he was beginning to reconcile with his family, and that the next day he had a place in a hostel which was a step toward supported living accommodation. He gladly accepted our offer to pray for him, then after smiles and hugs, we left with our loose change still in our pockets, but our hearts full to bursting. Mark said we’d been really generous with our time and our company, but we were the ones who’d been blessed beyond measure.

Remember the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.” Acts 20:35

Core Values

The arrival of the Holy Spirit empowered the early Church which brought about a culture shift which has shaken the globe. The new core values of RBC should do the same as we live them out, with impact within the church (each area of ministry) & beyond (each relationship we have as individuals).

In our current teaching series entitled ‘Culture Shift’ we’ve introduced our new core values, and will be exploring them together over the coming weeks with the help of some key passages from the book of Acts.

Our new values form the acronym G.R.A.P.E. , which acts as a reminder that by sticking to our purpose & developing these values we believe we will become more fruitful for the Kingdom.

Core Values:

  • Generosity
    • we want to honour God with all that He has given us: our time, our talents & our resources
  • Risk-taking
    • it increases our reliance on God as we partner with Him to build His Kingdom
  • Authenticity
    • true discipleship begins when we are real with God and each other
  • Participation
    • nobody’s perfect, but everyone’s welcome and together we build God-centred communities
  • Expectation
    • because God is always at work and we refuse to limit Him

 

Kids@RBC – 29th November

 

Welcome to Kids@RBC
our ‘Virtual Sunday School’ at a time when we can’t meet together.

Below you’ll find a playlist of videos with songs, activities, fun and time to worship, reflect and think. This edition of Kids@RBC looks at John the Baptist and how he had Courage to tell others about Jesus. The playlist will take you through the videos in order.

 

Please send any ideas, feedback or pictures of the activities you have done at home to children@rayleighbaptist.org.uk – we’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for joining us for Kids@RBC – we hope you enjoyed it. See you soon!

Kids@RBC – 15th November

November 15, 2020
by Ellie

 

Welcome to Kids@RBC
our ‘Virtual Sunday School’ at a time when we can’t meet together.

Below you’ll find a playlist of videos with songs, activities, fun and time to worship, reflect and think. This edition of Kids@RBC looks at Daniel and how he had the Courage to Go Against The Flow. The playlist will take you through the videos in order.

 

Please send any ideas, feedback or pictures of the activities you have done at home to children@rayleighbaptist.org.uk – we’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for joining us for Kids@RBC – we hope you’ve enjoyed it and found it helpful. See you soon!

Kids@RBC – 1st November

November 01, 2020
by Ellie

 

Welcome to Kids@RBC
our ‘Virtual Sunday School’ at a time when we can’t meet together.

Below you’ll find a playlist of videos with songs, activities, fun and time to worship, reflect and think. This edition of Kids@RBC looks at part 1 of Daniel and how he had the Courage to Live as God Said even when those around him weren’t doing the same thing. The playlist will take you through the videos in order.

 

Please send any ideas, feedback or pictures of the activities you have done at home to children@rayleighbaptist.org.uk – we’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for joining us for Kids@RBC – we hope you’ve enjoyed it and found it helpful. See you soon!

Kids@RBC – 18th October

October 18, 2020
by Ellie

 

Welcome to Kids@RBC
our ‘Virtual Sunday School’ at a time when we can’t meet together.

Below you’ll find a playlist of videos with songs, activities, fun and time to worship, reflect and think. This edition of Kids@RBC looks at Esther and how she had Courage to Help Others. The playlist will take you through the videos in order.

 

Please send any ideas, feedback or pictures of the activities you have done at home to children@rayleighbaptist.org.uk – we’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for joining us for Kids@RBC – we hope you’ve enjoyed it and found it helpful. See you soon!