Sunday, March 25, 2012

25th March 2012

                GNU Free Documentation Licence 1.3 from here
Another busy day, although not with jobs this time. This morning my niece invited the whole family to her baby daughter’s church blessing, and that was great. She’s connected with a particularly lively Methodist church near to where she lives and I thoroughly enjoyed the meeting. Of course, a room hire at a country pub to continue the celebration left me a little tired… I’m thinking I’ll prep my motorhome first thing in the morning and go find a motorway! I need to switch off for a few days again though I’ll decide where to go tomorrow.

But for me there is nothing more important, especially when raising children, than acknowledging the place of God in our lives. And also the church. I spent my teenage years and beyond as a Methodist and have the happiest of memories of that period of my life in church. My picture is of that church in Mackworth, Derby where I spent ten years up to and including my wedding. Quite recently the place was closed and I believe demolished due to lack of attendance. In the sixties it would almost fill every week and was truly a centre of the local community. I was completely involved in all manner of social events as well as Sunday meetings, but unfortunately I did not tune in to responding to God. Although, retrospectively I can recognise that the Lord was there and even speaking to me, I never became a committed Christian. Just a faithful churchgoer. And there’s a world of difference. I stopped attending but have no idea why others did. It’s funny how some churches disappear and others grow and grow. This evening I visited Trent Vineyard which basically began with 4 couples moving from London to plant a new church in 1996. I didn’t count but perhaps with 600+ attendance in the main meeting and ignoring concurrent youth meeting elsewhere on campus that’s a totally different ballgame. I guess the morning meeting would be similar though also for young families.

I love the church, and for sure it has been so very important in defining and shaping my journey as a Christian. Indeed, I can’t really see how it’s possible to grow in a faith journey without regular attendance. But if that were all there were to it I can’t see how belonging to such a group of people would be much different from any other social activity. Maybe, debatably, a little more emphasis on personal morality though certainly the church has always had valuable work amongst the needy that can only be applauded. Yes, it has often been at the forefront of social action, pioneering work in health and education as well as engaging with disaster relief. But there are other people groups with great compassion for such needs doing admirable work as well. So whilst the church may seek to be first it’s certainly not alone in caring. There is one totally unique aspect though for many Christians… the claim to have a personal relationship with Almighty God. So, whilst my teenage church attendance was fulfilling on many levels, ultimately it wasn’t enough. Immediately after getting married I lost focus and just stopped going. And I never missed it, not one bit. For a whole decade. My life was full up in a very different direction. I had the most wonderful of personal lives counterbalancing a pretty horrid and challenging workplace.

But then, quite unexpectedly, a marvellous thing happened. Our 6 year old eldest daughter was invited to a holiday club at a Baptist Church not so far away. To cut a long story short, within a couple of months both Jane and I had a personal encounter with the Lord and we committed our lives to following Jesus. The best thing we ever did and we never faltered for a moment on our journey. That was almost thirty years ago and I doubt if I’ve spent much more than a handful of weekends away from a church meeting in all that time. I believe in God and I believe in the church. They belong together.

Hebrews 10:25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.’ (NLT)

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