Monthly Archives: February 2008

Apologies

The reason my sermon summary has not appeared is that I keep forgetting to bring it into work. I can’t do it all from memory unfrotunately. It will definitely appear tomorrow.

This weekend saw mixed fortunes:

Pontypool drew 13-13 with Caerfilthy on Friday night after paying poorly.

Wales won (again!!!) against Italy – watched the match in 2 halves – over an hour and a half apart as I had to collect FW from work. Murder almost resulted as we also picked up Best Man who almost said too much and gave the result away.

After watching Wales I was ready fior the Ireland/Scotland match. Unfortunately the Sky box failed to record it and, after 10 minutes told me that I had now caught up with the match; only to find that the match had finished.

I then had the misfortune of watching France/England. How can a promising French side play so badly…..

Yesterday was the usual chapel in the morning. We had a visiting preacher who almost made want to practise murder. First of all he tried to say that the King James version is THE best translation, something I don’t agree with. I feel that you should read a selection of translations to get the best from it. It gives the opportunity to see what is sometimes missed in the different translation methods.

Then, as we were doing I Am The Door, he said that the “thieves and robbers” referred to in the text was obviously the Pharisees. I’ve always believed that Jesus was talking about the false shepherds who had gone before; those who had claimed to be the Messiah but were actually bandits and “freedom” fighters. At that point I lost interest and did what I always do at such times – read my bible.

After lunch, and dropping off Best Man, we managed to visit my sister and her family as we hadn’t seen them for a few weeks.

Setting The Scene

Just to give you a taste of what Sunday was like:

The chapel is a great old 19th century building with the old pews that have little doors on the end. Next door is the old Sunday School rooms which is a building on its own. It would definitely have held a few hundred people when it ws full. It is everything that you imagine a Welsh chapel to be.

The first hymn almost had me in hysterics. It was a case of guess the tune, the tempo and the pitch. Out of the 11 of us there I think we had 3 different going at any one time. I had to look down to hide the smile on my face. All the hymns that followed were played and sung well – it was just that first one.

I think that there were 3 of us who were under 60 – as I’ve said before this is normal in the majority of today’s chapels. The local young people actually travel 3 miles down the valley to a chapel with a more “modern” outlook. They would love to have children there but it would mean that they’d have to change their way of worship – something that the majority don’t want to do.

Thisn is not a new problem. Many churches across the UK are facing the same decision. The problem is that some are leaving it so late that the membership dwindles to nothing and the church has to close. Would it not be better to accept the need to change to survive. It doesn’t mean compromising your beliefs, just changing the content and introducng a chorus or two. Many of the elderly members of congregations where this has been actually enjoy the new songs.

I’m not saying that we all remove our organs and pianos and have guitar accompaniment of, horror of horrors, a “Worship Group”, complete with drums and electric guitars; I wouldn’t like to see this in every church at every service. A little give could be all you need to do.

I promise that tomorrow will see the message. As with my sermons, this came from nowhere and intruded.

The Message Begins

I’m one of those people who starts his sermon with a vague, or no, idea as to what will end up on paper. I always write down my sermon so that I don’t have to worry about my mind going blank part way through. However I use it as a basis and, when I feel led, extemporise.

Usually I end up with 3 partial sermons that are discarded and then the finished article. It’s also usual for sermon draft 1 to bear no resemblance whatsoever with the final one; even the text and content are unrelated. To FW’s amazement the draft sermons are all consigned to the recycle bin.

I actually believe that the message I end up with is not mine. It amazes me that I can begin with nothing and within 2-3 hours have 14 pages of sermon. It must come from God because 9 times out of 10 it has nothing to do with what has gone through my mind over the past few days.

I always make sure that I pray before I start and ask that He provides me with what He wants the people to hear. It can be most disconcerting when you stand in front of a church and think: “Is this message really for this audience”? As I watch the faces of the congregation you can see them change as the word unfolds; then, at the end, you see smiles, and hear a gladness in their voices, as they thank you for what they’ve heard.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you what the message ended up being about.

Grateful For The Word

Yesterday saw me preaching at another new chapel. This one is just around the corner from my current place of worship. One of the amazing things about the Welsh vallies is the shear number of chapels and churches in a very small area.

Within a 1-2 mile area of our chapel there are at least 4 Baptist chapels alone – I’m sure that there maybe 1 or 2 more I don’t know of. This is a testament to how important christianity was to the area. This doesn’t just mean 100 years ago but 50 to 60 years ago. You walk into these beautiful buildings today and can only imagine what they must have been like when they were all full for 3 services every Sunday. Now they try to survive with anywhere from 10-35 people.

To many of these chapels it is a victory for them to open for 1 service a week and to stay open from year to year. Congregations are declining now from death more than anything else. The average age of many congregations is 60+ and I’ve yet to visit more than 1 chapel with a Sunday School.

Yesterday I preached to 10 people. I’m not upset about this; I’m willing to preach to a field of sheep if it’ll further the kingdom. Yet, at the end, they seemed to be really grateful for the message that I’d brought. I actually left smiling because they were so happy to hear the message that God had given me to pass on.

More about that tomorrow….

Money Grabbing Bar Stewards

That is the best way to sum up the chairmen of the Premier League.

Their plan to play games abroad has come in for a great deal of flak from fans and senior administrators. They claim that the idea is about bringing the League to fans overseas, so that they can see the majesty that is the Premiership in the flesh. In one comment Arsene Wenger said that the idea was to allow 90% of Arsenal’s fanms to see them in the flesh. Does he really believe that the UK only accounts for only 10% of their supporters?

We all know that this has nothing to do with the fans. This is all about raking in money for the top teams involved, none of this will be used to reduced ticket prices at home or for the clubs lower down the pyramid who struggle to survive. Do they really believe that cities will bid to host the likes of Fulham v Derby or Aston Villa v Wigan? Maybe Man U. Arsenal, Chelsea & Liverpool will draw them in but not the rest of us.

Nor is it about spreading football as a whole to new markets. If anything it will just minimise those legaues that already exist in those countries. Unlike American football, who dreamt up the original idea, football is actually played in every country on the planet, even Liechstenstein and Andorra. How would playing Premiership matches elsewhere promote the game?

No wonder FIFA have said that they will not sanction these games. Even an organisation as money orientated as they are know that this is an unworkable idea.

Maybe its because many clubs are owned by overseas companies and people that this idea appeals to them so much. After all a game in Shanghai or Dubai looks far better than a cold, winter’s night in Oldham or Rochdale!!!

Ebbw Vale Requires Air Mail

I work on the edge of Bridgend. It’s not a particularly great place but it’s not that bad either. It’ about half-way from Cardiff to Swansea and, apart from the rugby team and suicidal teenagers, it isn’t famous for much.
However it is a largish town and not as backward as some small villages, hidden away among the Pringles packets of everday life.

Ebbw Vale is about 35 miles away at the top of a valley. It is windswept desolate and equally unfamous, apart from the rugby team, former steelworks and the reopened passenger line that seems to have taken forever.

Now I never knew that Ebbw Vale and Bridgend were so remote that you needed to fly post from one town to the other. I never even knew that Ebbw Vale had an airport. Yet that is what Royal Mail have told me.

I sent a letter 2 days ago to a customer in Ebbw Vale. Today it turned up on my desk with a label saying:

There isn’t enough postage on this Airmail item so we are returning it to you. To resend it take it, with this label attached, to a Post Office branch and pay the missing postage.

Now the envelope had no airmail stickers and the address clearly shows Ebbw Vale through the little window. So why can’t it be sent?

Maybe Royal Mail really are as a bad as everyone thinks they are…….

Change

I once lived in Woolwich for a few months, Shooters Hill to be precise, with my sister. For those who aren’t aware, Shooters Hill is the highest point in South London. In order to commute to work we needed to walk down the hill and get the train into the city.

On occasions when the trains weren’t working we’d have to catch the 53 bus. Now these were famous because you’d get feast or famine – either 1 or 3 at once. I have now experienced a similar thing with my preaching.

As I’m just starting out it has usually been a few months between bookings. Last night however I was asked to preach at another local chapel on Sunday morning, one I’d never been to but had been recommended by someone at my local church. I have now been warned to expect more of these as my name becomes more wll known.

Though Wales was the home of the 1905 revival it has been in decline ever since. Many of our chapels d not have a minister – either full or part time. In fact many weddings and funerals are conducted by lay preachers. Most congregations average 12-30 people per service and some even less. What you will find is that there is a great desire for another revival but, as is usual with such things, very little effort is actually put into it.

I think that everyone is waiting for God to do it on his own. They seem to forget that revival will only happen when people do something to make it happen. God could do it on his own but he wants us to help, to make the effort to expand His Kingdom.

When you want something to change then you make that change happen, not rely on it to change itself – unless you are a real Darwinian. So it is with God. You read the Old Testament and the New Testament and you will see that God requires input from us – whether it’s to request salvation, knockdown the walls of Jericho or preach the Good News. So why are we always surprised that things take so long to happen when we do nothing?

Thunder Box

FW is being investigated today by the hospital. I won’t go into the details, especially as I’m about to eat my lunch, but we’re hoping that they’ll finally discover what is giving her stomach problems. I personally think that it’s an alien but she thinks I’m being silly.

Of course I will have to make my own tea tonight as she will be unable to lift anything heavier than a pint of milk. I think that today’s NHS just molly coddles patients these days. In my parent’s day dad would have been home, stripped a few doors, built an extension and played a game of rugby an hour after the investigation. Mind you he did walk 200 miles to work every day and have to carry the pit ponies down the mines with a fully loaded train of coal wagons in the other hand.

People were much tougher then.

Which brings me onto a related point.

At the church on Sunday evening dad mentioned that he was a local lad and had grown up near the church. One of the ladies asked if he was related to Ted ******** as her first husband worked in the local steelworks with the man. It only turned out to be my grandfather.

She told us a story of how he had invited friends to tea one day. As they sat down at the table they found that the tea cup given was actually very much larger than those they were used to. In fact it looked very much like a chamber pot…..

FW is now very happily pointing out that I am descended from a long line of rogues.

Pancake Generosity

We finally had our pancakes on Saturday. What with missing ingredients etc it seemed to take forever this year. However it was a success.

Yesterday I preached an my first no affiliated church. I was not as nervous as I’d expected and it seemed to go very well. With FW and my foks there we managed to increase the congregation by 80% but we had a very good service. It always amazes me that there are people so faithful that, even with a congregation of six, they still want to meet every Sunday evening.

The only thing that concerned me was that my sermon seemed to be aimed at the wrong audience but they seemed to get something from it. I preached on 2 Cor, 8 v 1-15 & 9 v 6-15, all about giving generously. There was evidently something that struck home from the message.