Category Archives: events

Coffin

Funeral For The Church

A few months ago I was asked to come up with some sort of prophetic drama thing for one of our events, our annual Sheffield Praise Day. As I’m neither the world’s most natural thespian nor content with coming up with something shallow I spent a few weeks not knowing what to do, wrestling with ideas.

Last year has been described for my church as a make-or-break year. Years dim our vision and wane our energy and over time we can find ourselves short of the driving, fiery love which once infused everything we are. We started 2013 widely acknowledging our need of God (what better way to start a year?) and gave ourselves a theme of ‘hearts on fire’, looking to regain our first-love for God again. 

The year was ‘patchy’. Green spots sprung up and it seems like God has been accelerating the pace of change. Getting back to first love inevitably means getting back to our core mission, back to a spirit of pioneering, of movement, of adventure. We don’t really know where we’re going, but hey, who cares? We know who’s leading us.

It was because of that theme that I read Church Transfusion by Neil Cole, a book about transfusing old, stale churches with the life of Jesus, exactly what we need. One of the ideas presented by the book was that senior pastors could hold a funeral for their church, then a baby shower the week after! Sometimes our own ideas, bold or traditional, cynical or hopeful can get in the way of Jesus’ dreams for his church. Categorically central to the goal of bringing new Jesus-life into a church is the process of putting Jesus back at the centre of things. That means every individual has a personal two-way relationship with Jesus and that we allow Jesus to speak into (or against) everything we are and do, our systems, routines and modes of conduct.

‘Life out of death’ is clearly a core Kingdom-principle, and so the idea was born. The dramatic item was to be a funeral for our church, with a coffin carried from the back of the congregation (so it’s about ‘us’ rather than a stage-only item), and we were to bury it in the stage somehow. I wrote a script. However, complications with a lack of coffin meant I had to delay the dramatic demo to our next major church event, the New Year Celebration held on 28th December.

Between that time two things happened that made life oddly turbulent.

The first event was an encouragement. I’d been following Dr. Gary Thompson’s blog posts for a while because he’s an old boy who’s saying some cutting edge stuff that old boy’s rarely say. A post of his called The Church Must Die? caught my eye, not just because it has a provocative title but because it expressed exactly my thoughts. A quote:

The church has a choice: to die as a result of its resistance to change or to die in order to live.

I started studiously learning my script off by heart, more intent than before on communicating the message. We established we’d bury the coffin by submerging it in our baptistry.

The second event was not an encouragement.

I realised that for any major prophetic word to the church like this there’s a responsibility for the prophet to embody what (s)he speaks, and a testing of the word in their life. I wondered (and other guys had asked me) what kind of death I would have to go through as part of communicating this word to the church?

A couple of weeks ago my Dad admitted himself to hospital with stomach pain and sickness. A few scans and drugs later and we found out my Dad probably has cancer, and secondary (more advanced) cancer at that. That even hurts just to type.

I found this out just five days before the event, so the idea of walking in front of a coffin in front of a thousand or so people talking about our need to die in order to live wasn’t my greatest ambition right at that point, to put it mildly. I wondered if it was even appropriate and sensitive to do the demo, but the burning I felt inside when I’d heard from God and followed His train of thought gave me the conviction to still try.

Burying the coffin

I asked a friend to be ready to step in on the evening (reading the script live) if I wasn’t in a fit state to do it and I was very grateful to receive prayer offered for God’s grace for my mum & I.

God is faithful, and I managed to lead the item.

“All things work together for good for those who love the Lord”, and I hope my grief gave the delivery a poignant sincerity.

I’ve published the script below.

I’m calling us to cross a line.
It’s a very unpopular line, not often crossed.
I guess it’s the ultimate line that all others point to.
It’s the only way to life.
I’m calling us to die.
And really, death is unavoidable. But it’s up to us which kind of death we choose.

If, as a church and as individuals, we commit the sin of faithless self-preservation we will follow the way of many movements of God greater than us from movement, to machine, to monument. However, if we allow the death of Jesus to work in us, His church, our coming days will be brighter than our first.

We have a choice: to die as a result of our resistance to change or to die in order to live.

See this coffin? In invite you all to join in your hearts with what’s happening here symbolically. We’re going to bury this coffin tonight.

I want you to place all cynicism, all your disillusionment, all your grudges in this coffin… Place all your dreams in there too, and everything you desperately long for. Put in there everyone you love, your hobbies and the work that you do. What is of God He will give back to you with added blessing.

But more than all these individual things and more than just us as individuals, together as His church we must die.

God has taken us on an amazing journey. We found an incredible richness in the body of Christ when those who were formerly a collective of individuals were melted by Jesus into the colourful koinonia fellowship of ‘a people’ following Him. Everything we’ve done as a church has come from that, but for every step forward God has called us to die.

Of course God has led us to die to bad things: to die to our complacency, comforts, prides and sinfulness, but He’s also led us to die to good things too: to surrender our grasp on all we’ve accomplished, all that we are and where we think we should go.

A church that has died to what it has been or what it hopes to be is a church that can become all that Christ desires it to be. Our clever ideas will not produce the church. Our schemes, plans and routines alone cannot produce the church. Only the life of Jesus in his church brought through our joining him in his death, burial and resurrection will produce the church.

And so here at the Northampton Jesus Centre on the 28th December 2013 we put to death ourselves and all the work of our hands. Before God we surrender all our traditions, all our routines, our plans, our schemes, hopes and dreams. We lay them at the feet of Jesus.

We renounce the sin of self-preservation.
We renounce the sin of flogging dead horses.
We renounce the sin of working harder than we listen.
We renounce the sin of trusting in our schemes, plans and routines to produce life and growth.

Having entrusted our church into the hands of God, we now commit ourselves to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died, was buried, and rose again for us. To Him be glory for ever.

God, give us Your dreams.

Amen

Feel free to modify and reuse this text however you wish, so long as the essence of it’s meaning remains intact. Attribution is unnecessary.

Last Night’s Cell Group – "Pass the Power" and "Masks"

I co-lead a group for teenagers every wednesday night. Last week we decided we could do with a sabbath rest so we lit the first fire of season in our lounge’s hearth, prayed, worshiped, listened and chatted.

This week saw a bit of a relaunch with eight of us at my house (two absent):

  1. We played fox and hounds (group hide and seek) with a twist:
    The hunting team had a whistle. When they blew it everyone on the hunted team had to move at least 20′. The whistle could only be blown twice in a game. It was called the ‘ants in yer pants superpower’ and meant things were kept active, rather than letting people just go to ground and hide for ages. We got through two rounds.
  2. A cake and hot chocolate interlude.
  3. In the office at home we played Pass the Power, which was the name I gave to a game I’ve read about where everyone stands in a circle holding hands and when you feel your right hand squeezed you squeeze the hand of the person on your left, so the hand squeezing goes round the circle in a wave, like an electric shock. We tried to see how fast we could “pass the power” and we ended up with quite a fast rhythm.
  4. I compared the invisible but tangible wave of power to the Holy Spirit and we prayed together, still holding hands. A couple of the lads asked for prayer.
  5. We watched this video:
  6. We went into the lounge and discussed the theme of masks (from the video) around the fire. More prayer and cake followed.

Adventures 1 & 2 – Africa & Europe

Well well well, what an eventful year this is turning out to be.

Adventure #1- Sierra Leone

Friends Simeon and Joe are off to Sierra Leone in November to complete three pretty major charitable projects over there and I’ve been helping them with the online fundraising campaign. They’ve been working very hard getting kit together, building goat shelters, school benches, sewing tables, arranging shipping containers and all the logistics associated with such a venture. Very admirable, really. It’s been great to see how many people have got on board with the project with donations and help given from near and far, friends and strangers.

The guys building a shelter for 14 sheep and 14 goats,
 to be flat packed and assembled on site, Ikea style.

At the time of writing the Sierra Leone online fundraising campaign is nearing it’s deadline with just 34 hours to go. We’ve just received a single £500 donation, which is incredible! There’s still much kit that we could make very good use of. Fancy seeing if there’s anything you could spare?

Adventure #2- Romania

While helping Sim & Joe out behind the scenes a few weeks ago I was asked if I’d join a trip to Romania, run by the same Christian network behind their work in Sierra Leone- Multiply Network. I didn’t take much convincing.

We’ll be staying with Benny & Maria

After a full day of travelling we’ll be spending four days in the Bethel Christian Centre in Hunedoara. BCC has become well respected in Hunedoara for it’s work among the poor, and I’m sure there will be many opportunities for us to help out, make friends, work hard, relax and absorb the culture and coutryside.

Romania is pretty socially segregated with ethnic groups split into further xenophobic factions- rich Romanies who despise poor Romanies who despise Hungarian Romanies… I don’t want to be quick to point fault but I hear the church isn’t much better with little interdenominational dialogue, let alone cooperation.

Poor local family

However, this social distrust and extreme poverty leads me to see Romania (and probably much of ex-communist Eastern Europe) as ripe for the gospel. Whenever we come across stark divisions, darkness or deprivation there’s a very clear opportunity for the unity, light and generosity of the gospel to make an impact.

From Thursday to Saturday we’ll be at Casa Haruliu, The House of Grace, a secluded youth centre. We’ll be joined by an unspecified number of Christian leaders from across eastern and central Europe for a conference which we’ve given a theme of “Church is more than a program”. Consequently, we won’t be sticking to any rigid program (although we have ideas for a broad itinerary) but will seek to demonstrate some of what it means to share in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit together- laughing together, forgiving one another, moving naturally in spiritual gifts, serving one another, challenging one another, being devoted to one another etc.

Apparently for many pastors Church is seen as not much more than a Sunday lecture. Many of them are well educated theologically so our emphasis will be to try to demonstrate Church as a 24-hour spiritual family and to speak from our experience rather than just our heads.

House of Grace conference venue

My particular role on the trip will be to film bits and just to be a part. I’m sure I’ll end up doing more than that but it’s a little funny comparing my trip with Sim & Joe’s exhausting and ambitious Sierra Leone trip. While they’re completing marathons of capacity stretching preparations my task has been to get a passport, camera, European socket adaptor and some earplugs. Not too taxing.

Maybe I’m wrong and God’s going to really stretch me on this one.
Whatever. I’m up for any adventure He sends.

Later this week I’ll post about last weekend’s adventure carrying a 12′ cross across London with 18 guys, sleeping rough and trusting God for food.

50 On A Trip To Wales

Well well well, what a crazy few weeks.

Our lad’s trip to Wales from Wednesday 29th to Saturday 1st was an incredible time, to say the least. About 50 of us trecked off to Snowdonia with just under 40 12-17 year olds and 11 leaders to stay in an activity centre.

What happened well exceeded our three main aims- to meet God, to make friends and to have a ton of fun in the sun. We couldn’t have had enough faith to plan what happened.

Each day had a different theme (God, identity, adventure, then relaxing on the Saturday) and a packed schedule (including scheduled free time) kept us focused. Each daytime activity, night walk and mountaineering excursion in some way fed into the day’s theme. After tea on the Wednesday and Thursday evenings we split the lads by age group and had an hour long ‘Word’ session then all came together for ‘The Boiler Room’ (in the lounge, confusing, I know), in which we loosened up a bit with praise songs, worshipped and generally chipped in as God led us. Each evening was finished with a night walk or singing, hot chocolate & marshmallows around the campfire.

Friday’s Boiler Room was where it all really happened though. We’d been dancing, singing, speaking stuff that God gave us to say and about an hour in we called an optional response time for anyone that wanted to stay. The lights dimmed right down (to make it less daunting to step out) and us leaders went to the middle of the room, ready for anyone to come forward who wanted to pray or talk with us.

Some left and with about 30 of us in the room we started praying in twos and threes, some still quietly singing songs as it continued. It was after one lad who we wouldn’t have expected prayed out quite vulnerably that people around started crying, very gently and quietly. The presence of God was tangible; heavy, rich and beautiful.

And so some good christian teenage lads wept, convicted of their sin. Needless to say it was a time of breakthrough. I counted twenty that we’d prayed for or were praying for each other and the typically “cooler” lads were worshipping like they meant it. The fire fell, quietly and unmistakably. It really was a boiler room.

After nearly three hours in the Boiler Room we adjourned to a late campfire to continue, jamming around the fire. Jake got his saxophone out and others drummed, strummed or danced around the fire or just chatted.

Near the end of the campfire Chris (one of the leaders) pulled me aside, saying “hey Aidan, come check this out!” He led me back towards the activity centre and we looked in through one of the windows to a downstairs room. A group of lads were sitting in a circle talking. “I saw them in here and assumed they were up to no good.” Explained Chris. “So I stuck my head in and asked “what you up to lads?” John said he’d decided to get them all together for a prayer meeting!” Most of the lads he’d got involved had missed the long response time and he wanted them to experience what God had done in him. Amazing. That’s what I call movement.

Now there’s a momentum of teenage lads finding Jesus and praying for each other, with some getting baptised every few weeks, I know of 6 so far. We’ve started a Facebook group for the lads to keep in touch and their comments make for thrilling reading.

Love it.

Epic Weekend Report #2

Last weekend a few of my friends went to the curiously named Y-Not festival up in the Peak District. What they did was incredibly simple but they saw a constant stream of astonished people.

Other than tents and a camper van for accommodation they went with just a gazebo, four chairs, a sign saying ‘FREE HEALING’ and a confidence in the power of Jesus. None of them would mind me saying they aren’t particularly super heroes, by the way.

The following account is spliced together from a few texts sent by the guys on the ground at the festival at different points over the weekend and conversations since. It doesn’t read wholly chronologically as the texts were from different times but it’ll give you a feel for what happened.

“Amazing stuff happening here at the festival. They sold 10k tickets, so for a small festival it’s pretty packed. We’re camped next to some friendly travellers who look after us. The site is slowly turning into a mudbath because of the rain.

“We had around 70 people ask for healing yesterday and very nearly all of them were instantly healed. Many of them are really shocked (as are we although we’re beginning to get used to it, but it’s always special).
“One girl who we prayed for turned to leave saying “yeah, and I’ve still got a headach…actually…oh my God!” We’ve seen a broken arm healed (the girl really wasn’t too happy about it, she was on a trip anyway and it freaked her out), injured knees and elbows restored, arthritis healed and lots of bad backs and headaches healed. Earlier a middle aged lady was released from unforgiveness and then released from arthritis and pain in her hands. Just seen a very large swelling and immobility in a girl’s knee disappear.

“A very sceptical medical student was left quite bemused when the pain in his lower back disappeared. A guy called Lee who was watching him said he suffered from depression and asked for prayer. While we prayed he said he felt very dizzy which he thought was f***ing weird, then couldn’t remember why he felt depressed and felt detached from what had troubled him. We got a chance to tell him about God’s care for him.

“Just had a whole crowd of lads here with various pains and problems which were instantly healed one after the other and some were visibly shaken by it. The lads came back later to tell us that after they left they’d gotten really hungry but didn’t have any money at the time. They concluded that if they’d been healed by Jesus he should be able to get them some food, so they prayed together. A couple of minutes later a lady wandered up to them and started handing out free food! Whenever a group of friends come in together we get them to join in praying for each other.
“We prayed for a young guy called Max who had pain in his knee which clicked while we prayed. He came back to say the knee was completely fine and he was really blown away. We explained that it was the power of God and a sign of His great love for him. He asked for more prayer and we got to pray for his future. He says he’ll be back tomorrow.
“A handful of people who are open and have a lovely vibe have lingered or come back.

“Even the rain is in our favour- people come to shelter from it then ask what we’re doing, remember that they need healing, get healed and then listen to us talk about the kingdom of God until it stops raining.

“We decided to call it a night just before 2am after being on our feet for nearly 16 hours. It was a bit hard to drop off as we’re right next to a music tent, and they went on for a long time after.”

From Thursday to Sunday they prayed for about 160 people, with 3/4 of them instantly healed (about 120). The majority of the remainder were people who couldn’t tell if they were healed at the time (like the person had chronic back pain which didn’t happen to hurt when they started praying), and 4 or 5 people weren’t healed at all.

Over the weekend I showed a friend one of the texts from the festival and he wondered “why does that kind of thing never happen to me?”, which funnily enough reminded me of how one of the guys who was at the festival doing the stuff used to sound.

Possibly related to all these events two days ago someone called Sadie tweetedI just remembered Chaz tried to heal Rachel’s jaw “like the jesus army” last night. Oh life.” Yesterday the Jesus Army replied with “How’d it go? Did Rachel’s jaw get better? :)” to which Sadie replied “it did!

Over the last year I’ve seen videos of miracles on the streets in America, videos of Americans healing on Britain’s streets and now there’s folk I live with doing the stuff. 
 
Let’s be confident that when Jesus gave us authority to heal the sick and raise the dead he meant it, and he still means it today.

Epic Weekend Report #1

Wow, what an epic weekend!

I disdain the overuse of the word ‘epic’, but this one was pretty special.

What I’m calling ‘the weekend’ actually started on Thursday with 450 of us at RAW (Real And Wild), a Christian youth event at Coventry Uni. We camped, we ate, we laughed and worshiped together and we went on mad outreach missions between downpours. During the evening events one moment there would be enough energy in the hall to rival a nuclear power station but the next you could hear a pin drop, if the floor hadn’t been carpeted.

What I really want to talk about is what a few of my older friends were up to at the curiously named Y-NOT music festival in the Peak District at the same time, but as it’s quite a long one you’ll have to wait until my next post later in the week for a few of the incredible stories that came out of that trip.

In the meantime here are a few photos from RAW

Seasons – Life in Community

Life has seasons. Joy follows pain just as spring succeeds the waning winter.

This uplifting video featured at our recent End of Year Celebration, celebrating and remembering the life of the New Creation Christian Community, a deeply shared lifestyle.

We’ve decided to give away some seasonal wallpapers to remind us all of the message of the video – that throughout the best and the worst, living to be a people of one heart for Jesus is worth the cost. God is faithful whatever the weather.

Click the pictures above to download them for a widescreen monitor or for standard aspect monitors click the links below:
Spring Summer Autumn Winter