Articles & News

Being a light in the community this 31st October

by Alice and Steve Wilcox, 17 October 2020

In the past at the Anlaby Churches we've held a Light Party on 31 October to celebrate the fact that Jesus is the light of the world who drives out the darkness, and he's transferred his people from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. (John 1:5; Colossians 1:13). Sadly this year it won't be possible for obvious reasons.

So how can we be a light in our community this year?

Here are a few thoughts – not just for families with younger children, but for the whole church family! As I write, it's not yet clear whether we'll be in lockdown and therefore whether anyone will be out and about “trick or treating”, so some of the ideas might not be relevant. But here goes:

> Make your house a house of light. Turn all your front window lights on and add extra lights in the windows – Christmas fairy lights, spotlights, candles – whatever you have!

> Put a poster in your window on the theme of “Jesus is the light of the world.” For the less creative there are lots of ideas on the internet.

> To those knocking on your door: Give out sweets and a tract sharing the good news that Jesus is the light of the world. For example you could try “Trick or Treat” available here. [If you're worried about answering the door then you could also try leaving them on your doorstep, and putting new ones out after one group has left!]

> Stay in and watch a film that celebrates Jesus's victory over the darkness.

Surviving and thriving in our faith at this time - Part 2

by Steve Wilcox, 3 October 2020

We're six months into the “new normal”. During that time, we've faced a three-month lockdown. We've enjoyed a minor relaxation of the lockdown rules. And now the number of cases is on the rise and we face the “Rule of Six”, oncoming autumn and winter, and possibly, another lockdown. Is it possible to survive and to thrive in our faith at this time? And if so, how?

Last time, we thought about some more obvious priorities. But what else is there? Things that perhaps this period in particular brings to the fore?

> Life groups – Many people are finding that they are craving community, and Life groups can provide that. Life groups are the main way at the Anlaby Churches that we meet together midweek (physically or online); that we grow in relationships; and that we support and pray for each other. And there's nothing to stop you being part of a group! There's no need to worry that you don't know enough; or that you'll be asked to do something you feel uncomfortable with. You're free to come as you are, to sit quietly and listen or to speak if you're comfortable to do that. And you'll be surrounded by people who care and are praying for you. What could be better than that?

> Phone a friend - We may not be able to chat after the service much, but there's no limit on how long we can spend on the phone! How about making a commitment to phone someone from the church family for a catch up and to encourage each other in your faith.

> Meeting in twos and threes – Why not get together with someone from church and arrange to meet every couple of weeks for a catch up and to pray for each other? The chances are that if you ask another person if they'd like to do that they'd be delighted to be asked!

> Hospitality – The Rule of Six makes it more difficult to have long conversations after church; but it makes it easier for many of us to invite others into our homes. Why not make the most of the opportunity and invite someone round for a coffee, or some food? Obviously some of us won't be comfortable with that, and we'll all have to take precautions. But what an opportunity to be a blessing to someone else, and to be blessed by them. Does your house need to be spotless and the cooking perfect? Not at all. In our experience, people are just glad to be invited!

I'll make a couple more suggestions next time...

Surviving and thriving in our faith at this time - Part 1

by Steve Wilcox, 19 September 2020

We're six months into the “new normal”. During that time, we've faced a three-month lockdown. We've enjoyed a minor relaxation of the lockdown rules. And now the number of cases is on the rise and we face the “Rule of Six”, oncoming autumn and winter, and possibly, another lockdown. Is it possible to survive and to thrive in our faith at this time? And if so, how?

Here are a few suggestions. First, some things which hopefully we already see as priorities, but perhaps need to kickstart or some extra motivation with:

> Daily Bible reading – There has never been a more important time to develop and continue in a habit of personal daily Bible reading. As I read God's Word each day, I find that my faith is sustained and fuelled as I encounter and am encouraged by the God who is in control of all things; the God who cares for me and loves me so much that he gave his Son to die for me; the God who lives in me and strengthens me by his Spirit; the God who blesses me in countless ways every day. How is your habit of daily Bible reading? If you're struggling with your current pattern, or if you'd like to start, then do look here for more ideas.

> Daily prayer – As we saw in our sermon series "A praying life" back in May, we can come to our heavenly Father messy, needy, helpless, and dependent. Isn't that wonderful to know! We don't have to come to him sorted; we come as we are. Why wouldn't we want to do that each day – and throughout the day as we do the gardening or the washing up?

> Meeting with God's people on Sunday – It is a huge blessing that we now have the opportunity to meet in a safe way Sunday by Sunday. If at all possible, I do strongly encourage you to join us for one of our Sunday services. If it's not possible, for whatever reason, then do make it a priority to watch the service on YouTube, or ask for a copy of the service sheet and sermon transcript.

There are a few less obvious things that I'll mention next time...

Doing your job well as a Christian

by Steve Wilcox, 15th August 2020

Do you ever wonder what difference it makes being a Christian at work? Or how you can do your job in a way that brings glory to God? Here's a helpful article giving "Five principles for loving our neighbours at work."

The Passing of JI Packer, and his classic book "Knowing God"

by Steve Wilcox, 10th August 2020

The renowned theologian J I Packer died and went to meet his Saviour and Lord a couple of weeks ago. An article about his importance and influence can be found here. A few months ago I recommended his classic book "Knowing God" - perhaps this would be a good time to get a copy and find out why Packer's ministry has been appreciated by so many.

UPDATE ON OUR PLANS TO MEET ON SUNDAYS

by Steve Wilcox, 15th September 2020

Our service pattern for the next few Sundays will be as follows:

Sunday 20th September - 10am at St Peter's Anlaby; 4pm at St Mark's Anlaby Common.

Sunday 27th September - 10am at St Peter's Anlaby; 4pm at St Mark's Anlaby Common.

Sunday 4th October - Harvest Celebration - 10am at St Mark's Anlaby Common

Sunday 11th October - 10am at St Mark's Anlaby Common

You are very welcome to join us on any Sunday but it would be helpful if you could please telephone the church office (355824) and leave a message, including details of how many people in your household will be attending. This is to ensure that we are able to arrange the seating in an appropriate socially distanced way.

There is also the possibility of holding a “quieter” service during the week for those who would like to attend church physically but don't feel ready for Sunday for whatever reason. If that's you then again do get in touch with the church office.

It may that you do not yet feel ready to meet physically – either because you are particularly vulnerable to Coronavirus, or because you are finding out more about the Christian faith and don't yet feel ready to come to church. If that's you, then don't worry – our services will be Livestreamed each Sunday, so you'll be able to keep joining us online via the website or our YouTube channel.Please note that the Livestream will take place at the service taking place at St Mark's on each Sunday.


Updates from the CoE

Updates on the advice direct from the Church of England, to whom we are under can be found below. There is guidance on what we can do to support those who are vulnerable and to continue being a blessing to the Anlaby Communities, whilst taking necessary precautions.

Coronavirus Updates

Chris F. 

A Message of Hope

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Serving the community at this time

Serving the vulnerable in the community

As one application of my sermon on Sunday 29th March, which I mentioned is that there are various ways in which members of the church family can serve the community at this time. Wonderfully this is already happening in lots of ways - people making phone calls, making deliveries, buying food; leaders of church groups keeping in touch with members of the group etc.

But here are a few other ideas for anyone who has a bit of time and is not vulnerable / at risk:

Deliveries to the vulnerable / at risk in the community -
Parish council scheme (covering Anlaby and Anlaby Common) - Either answering the phone, or making deliveries. For more information telephone 648566 / 648966.
NHS scheme - There is a temporary pause on applicants because they've had so many! Check the website again in due course if you're interested.

Foodbank hel
p
- https://hull.foodbank.org.uk/give-help/volunteer/
You can choose which location you'd like to help at - Central Hull (Jubilee Central); West Hull (St Martin's)

God bless
Steve

Resources for sermon - 29th March

I mentioned a few resources in my sermon today. Here are links to them if you'd like to follow them up.

God bless

Steve
Church history - How Christians have responded to plagues


Sermon on fasting -

To the church family of the Anlaby Churches & beyond

Dear friends and fellow church family members
This is the first of what I anticipate will be a number of emails to you in the coming weeks.

We have entered a period of great uncertainty, challenge, and potential isolation. Since the Prime Minister's announcement on Monday (or indeed the announcements before then), some of us have decided to self-isolate; some of us have been told to work from home; all of us are concerned about all manner of ways in which the current situation might affect us and our loved ones.

As Christians, our faith and our Christian fellowship is a vital support and encouragement for us - particularly in times like these. We know a God who is "our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble (Ps 46:1); who, as we heard on Sunday (and you can listen to the recording on the website if you weren't able to be there), gives us rest in Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:28-30); a God who is not taken by surprise by all that is happening, but is somehow working good through it (Psalm 93; Romans 8:28). And we have Christian friends and church family who support us, encourage us, and are there for us when we need them.

But over the coming weeks we are going to have to find new ways to express and grow in our faith, and to share fellowship with one another. On Monday, as part of a raft of measures, the Prime Minister announced that religious meetings would have to be put on hold for public health purposes; and yesterday the Church of England confirmed that this would be the case. And of course, we don't know how long this situation will last.

The good news is that our Christian faith, fellowship and service cannot be confined to meeting together in a building once or twice a week - nor should it ever be. Our Christian faith is expressed as we read the bible on our own or as a family each day; as we pray at home; as we listen to a sermon or sing along to Christian worship music online. Our Christian fellowship is expressed as we phone or text or whatsapp or email one another or communicate by video link; as we share prayer requests; and as we pray for one another. And our Christian service is expressed as we provide for our families; as we take care of those in the church family who are having to self-isolate; as we fulfil our responsibilities to our neighbour (including those set out by the government in recent days); and as we look out for the needs of our neighbours, friends, and the community. In fact, we have an opportunity over the coming weeks and possibly months to live as the body of Christ in a new, powerful and God-honouring way.

So let's commit together to continuing to grow in our faith, fellowship and service in the weeks ahead. And we'll be in touch in due course with more ideas and suggestions as to how we can do that.

In the short-term, it would be wonderful to hear from anyone who is in a position to offer to help support the most vulnerable, both in the church family and also in the community - for example through phone calls, or (if appropriate) delivery of food.

Please follow the link to see how we can engage in worship as a church family over the following weeks.
Do please pass the content of this message on to others who don't have access to email.

With love and prayers.
Your pastor
Steve
Steve Wilcox

Anxiety, Waiting and the Coronavirus

Here's a very helpful article about how we as Christians can wait in a godly way for the uncertain future brought about by the Coronavirus epidemic.

Bible reading idea for 2020

Are you looking for a new way of reading the BIble for 2020? For those with a bit more time, there's a great new resource here - a Bible reading plan along with daily devotionals and articles about issues relating to the passage.

Wearing the armour of God

Many of us are aware of the spiritual battle that we are engaged in as Christians. This article will help us to think rightly about the mighty resources that are available to us as we do so. May God help us to stand firm!

What to tell yourself every day

Here are some thoughts from Jim Packer's classic "Knowing God" on the most important thing Christians should tell ourselves every day.

We must fight hard for peace

Here's a helpful article about how to remain at peace with one another - at home, at church, and in other contexts where sinful-yet-redeemed human beings rub shoulders with each other. Lord help us to fight hard for peace!

Steve Wilcox

Invitation for the weary

by Steve Wilcox - 20 February 2018

We're all weary and burdened in one way or another aren't we. Some feel tired and over-busy and that we don't get enough rest; some are burdened with worries about a relationship, or our children, or uncertainty; some are burdened with regret – or guilt – or shame; some are weary with a physical or mental illness – or bereavement or loss – or old age. And we're not alone. There are thousands of people in the Anlaby Communities – and in the great city of Hull – who are weary and burdened like us.

At the Anlaby Churches we've recently been thinking about this wonderful invitation offered by the Lord Jesus - “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). In the early verses of chapter 12 Jesus goes on to show us something of what it looks like to rest in Jesus. Here are three quick lessons we learned, which I hope will be a blessing to you as they have been to me.

Come to Jesus the ultimate rest

In chapter 12 verses 1-8, Jesus is challenged by the Pharisees about his attitude to the Sabbath. During the course of the discussion, he shows that he is greater than the Sabbath. In fact, he is showing that he – Jesus - is the ultimate rest given by God, to whom the one-day-in-seven Sabbath rest merely points. He encourages us to come to him, to find our rest in him, and to depend on him for everything. When we do that, we find that his yoke is easy and his burden is light – he bears our burdens for us, he deals with our concerns in ways that we might not have anticipated but which are good and life-giving. But of course, in order to experience this we need to be willing to give up control of our lives to Jesus. Are we willing to do that, and find him to be the ultimate rest?

Come to Jesus who brings life

In chapter 12 verses 9-14 Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath and so shows that he, the Lord of the Sabbath, has come to give life. And we need to find our life in him everyday. How do we do that? By coming to him in his word: reading his word the Bible, and seeking to encounter him and gaze on him and be satisfied. And we can continue to be satisfied by him through the day as we meditate on what we have seen of him. I have been greatly encouraged over the last few weeks by continually thinking about Matthew 11:20-30 quoted above. Why not try this yourself, and see what a positive effect it has on you?

Come to Jesus who deals gently with us

In observing Jesus's response to the Pharisees, Matthew points us to the promised servant of Isaiah 42. He's saying “Jesus is the servant promised by Isaiah 42.” And the servant is a wonderful figure – who ultimately dies for his people (Isaiah 53). Amongst other things, we're told of this servant that “a bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.” (Matthew 12:20). I wonder if you identify with the image of a reed by a wind-swept river, blowing to and fro, bruised, constantly in danger of being broken? Or with the image of a candle that once had a bright flame – but whose flame is now flickering, smouldering, in danger of going out? The wonderful truth is that when Jesus sees a bruised reed he doesn't break it; when he sees a smouldering wick he doesn't blow it out. I heard recently this quote – that the need of every human being is “To be known completely, yet loved unconditionally.” Jesus knows everything about us – our weakness, our failing, our regret, our burdens – and yet for those who are united to him through faith he loves us unconditionally. We can come to him – we can open up the darkest parts of our souls to him – knowing that he will not send us away.

Three glorious reasons to come to Jesus – trusting that as we cast our burdens on him, he will give us rest. And as we find Jesus to be our rest, we'll be only too happy to point others to the one who gives rest to the weary – and we pray that over the years many thousands in our community and city who are seeking rest will find it in Jesus, just as we have.

If you'd like to hear more about the wonderful rest that Jesus offers, do listen on the website to the recent sermons on Matthew 11:20-30, and Matthew 12:1-21.

Pray for workers

by Steve Wilcox

At St Peter's and St Mark's we began 2018 considering some words from Matthew's gospel which I hope will help each of us know what to pray for in the year ahead:

'When he saw the crowds, Jesus had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”' (Matthew 9:36-38)

With these words, Matthew gives us a precious insight into the heart of Jesus. He has compassion for the people he sees. Think of the last time you felt compassion towards someone – perhaps someone you met who was in a difficult situation, or someone you saw on the news. Jesus has compassion for the whole crowd, because they are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” This is the need that Jesus sees – and it's the need that he wants us to see as well. What do you see when you walk about in Anlaby, or in Hull? Look beyond the self-satisfied smile that communicates “I'm alright thank you.” This person is struggling to make ends meet financially. That person is falling apart emotionally. Each person without Jesus is facing an eternity of separation from God. Do you see those around you as harassed and helpless, sheep without a shepherd? Do you have compassion for them? Ask God to give you compassion.

But that's not all Jesus sees. He also sees a harvest. “The harvest is plentiful.” Jesus knows that God is calling numbers of those people, and that numbers of them will end up being part of God's family. We don't know who he's calling; but he is calling people. And this should give us great confidence. But there's a problem. “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” The number of workers isn't enough to bring the full amount of the harvest – the full amount of people that God is calling to himself.

What is the solution to the problem? It is to pray. “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Jesus is the Lord of the harvest. He is more than able to send workers to bring in the harvest. And he tells us to ask him to do so. This is how God works – when he plans to act, he prompts us to pray first. As one person has written, “Before God enables his people to bring in a harvest, he pours out a spirit of prayer on them” (John Piper). This has always been the case.

And the encouraging thing for us as we start 2018 is that this is something all of us can do. Our motto this year is “In Christ we can do that.” All of us can pray that the Lord of the harvest would send workers. Perhaps you're housebound, unable to get out to church or to meet with others. Well – can I plead with you to do the most important thing, which is to pray for workers in the harvest field. Perhaps you're the only Christian in your workplace or your school and you'd love to have a colleague you can pray with. Then pray for workers in the harvest field. This prayer – for workers in the harvest field – has been called “the second Lord's prayer.” There are very few prayers that Jesus instructs us to pray – but this is one of them. So let's make it a priority this year to pray it regularly – perhaps daily.

Let's make 2018 a year of asking the Lord of the harvest to send workers into the harvest field. And he will!

Look up, not inside!

I found this article really helpful on how to face our struggles and our sins. Some of the words are long but it's worth persevering with. Don't look in at yourself; look up at Christ!

For those who fail everyday

Here's an encouraging article for those of us - like me - who know that we fail everyday.

Worship in your waiting

Here's a link to a helpful article about how to wait for things as a Christian.

The way forward 4 - Services and Buildings

by Steve Wilcox

In February, I spoke of the need to discern the next “stepping stone” for us as a church family on two sites. We have great opportunities – as set out by our Vision and Mission Action Plan. But we also have limited resources – particularly as regards workers. I said that we therefore need to discern the best way to use the resources available to us. With that in mind, John Truscott came to visit us. John is an independent church consultant, and is able to provide a wise, independent perspective on complex issues to do with church life. We asked him to consider some questions, including “What is the best 'next step' for the churches?” and “Any reflections on the best use of the sites available to us?”

John was very encouraged by his visit, and noticed a number of things that we do particularly well. However, there were also things we didn't do so well, and inevitably it is those things we need to focus on as we respond to what he said!

John made a number of recommendations, all of which have recently been approved by our Church Councils. I thought it would be helpful to write about some of those recommendations – to explain them, and begin to reflect on what they might mean for us as a church family, and for the wider community.

Recommendation 4: Keep both main services and both sites, but focus on St Mark's site for development

John saw no reason to change our current service structure. He wrote “It might be unwise to aim for a further change in service pattern until you see the results of your other changes forcing you to do so.” The other changes he was referring to were the changes in attitude – towards discipleship and mission – that were discussed in earlier blog posts. In other words, it may be that as we move forward in our spiritual growth and our witness to the community there is a place for further changes in service structure – but we haven't reached that point yet. Of course we might be forced into such a change (if, for example, we don't have enough people serving to enable us to operate the services) but, all things being equal, we should try to avoid it for the time being. Furthermore, John pointed out that there is plenty of scope for ongoing development in the existing services, to make them more edifying for believers and accessible for newcomers.

The question of service pattern is linked to the question of buildings and sites. It goes without saying that if we were to close a building, one of the main services would have to stop, or at least re-locate! But John's advice was “This may not be where you would like to start from but you have your two sites and to close either would surely distract you from your priorities above. One has heritage, one has flexibility. Two sites give you greater visibility even if one of them is not in an ideal location. I see no reason for making major decisions for change just at the moment.” In other words, let's give thanks for the buildings and sites we have, and focus on mission and discipleship rather than be distracted by discussions about which building we might close and all the effort that would entail!

However, following from his comments above - about the flexibility of the St Mark's site and the St Peter's site not being in the ideal location - John did also have this to say: “The more you can make St Mark’s fit for purpose, though, the better - although I assume that the cost of such changes could be prohibitive. I would focus your outreach strategy on this site, although work for occasional offices may need to be more St Peter’s focused.” In other words, because of the size and flexibility of the St Mark's site, it makes sense to focus on that site as regards future development. With that in mind, discussions have begun to take place about possible medium-term changes to the St Mark's site, which I hope to discuss with the Church Councils in due course.

The St Peter's site, on the other hand, is much loved and appreciated as it is; although that doesn't mean we can't make positive changes to it, which we hope to in due course.

Having said all that, it goes without saying that if we are to continue to operate both sites we need the finances and the people to enable us to do it. With that in mind, we are very thankful for the numbers of people who have helped in maintaining the buildings in recent years. In order to grow the numbers of people involved, we have recently formed three “Buildings teams” - one for each building - and we hope that members of that team will take responsibility for each building so that the wardens can take a more “high level” view, rather than being too “hands on.” Do let me know if you'd be interested in being involved in one of the teams, or in helping us to maintain or develop one of the buildings or sites.

The Way Forward 3 - Leadership

by Steve Wilcox

In February, I spoke of the need to discern the next “stepping stone” for us as a church family on two sites. We have great opportunities – as set out by our Vision and Mission Action Plan. But we also have limited resources – particularly as regards workers. I said that we therefore need to discern the best way to use the resources available to us. With that in mind, John Truscott came to visit us. John is an independent church consultant, and is able to provide a wise, independent perspective on complex issues to do with church life. We asked him to consider some questions, including “What is the best 'next step' for the churches?”

John was very encouraged by his visit, and noticed a number of things that we do particularly well. However, there were also things we didn't do so well, and inevitably it is those things we need to focus on as we respond to what he said!

John made a number of recommendations, all of which have recently been approved by our Church Councils. I thought it would be helpful to write about some of those recommendations – to explain them, and begin to reflect on what they might mean for us as a church family, and for the wider community.

Recommendation 3: Simplify decision-making structures

John observed that our decision-making structures as a church family were quite complex. We have two Church Councils (one for each church), the vicar and church wardens, and what was formerly named the Leadership Team. John noted that “What does need to change is your decision-making structures so that you have one church, one PCC (Church Council) and, as now, one Leadership Team.” John also observed the danger of overlap between the work of the Leadership team and the Church Councils, and therefore the need for the work of the Leadership team to be clearly defined. Finally, he observed that “Your key workers appear to be over-busy to an extent that is not sustainable in the medium-term.”

The main change we have made as a result of John's recommendations is that the Church Councils of the two churches have agreed to meet together in the future. This has now taken place three times, and I have already observed a huge difference: Members of the Church Councils are getting to know each other better, and to see things from one another's point of view. They are also being enabled to see the “bigger picture” of the ministry of the two parishes. Finally, it means that decisions only need to be made once, rather than twice as in former times!

As regards the role of the Leadership Team: The team's name has been changed to “the Ministry Team” to reflect the fact that leadership is shared between vicar and wardens, Church Councils and the Team. The role of the team has been defined as helping myself and the wardens to enact the decisions that are made by the Church Council, as well as advising me. [An analogy with the Cabinet and Parliament in UK politics is not exact, but is helpful nonetheless.]

Finally, as regards key workers being over-busy: This is not an issue that can be solved immediately. We are doing our best to work in teams, seeking to ensure that no-one is on too many teams and thus becoming overwhelmed. We are also committed to helping every member of the church family identify and develop their gifts, trusting that Christ has gifted his church in exactly the way he wishes so that she might be built up. And we are trusting for his grace in the meantime! I would close by asking that if you are currently wondering how you can serve in the life of the church family and feel that you have some more capacity to do so, do please have a word with me – you might be the answer to our prayers!

The Way Forward 2 - Discipleship

by Steve Wilcox

In February, in my “Vision” sermon, I spoke of the need to discern the next “stepping stone” for us as a church family on two sites. We have great opportunities – as set out by our Vision and Mission Action Plan. But we also have limited resources – particularly as regards workers. I said that we therefore need to discern the best way to use the resources available to us. With that in mind, John Truscott came to visit us. John is an independent church consultant, and is able to provide a wise, independent perspective on complex issues to do with church life. We asked him to consider some questions, including “What is the best 'next step' for the churches?”

John was very encouraged by his visit, and noticed a number of things that we do particularly well. However, there were also things we didn't do so well, and inevitably it is those things we need to focus on as we respond to what he said!

John made a number of recommendations, all of which have recently been approved by our Church Councils. I thought it would be helpful to write about some of those recommendations – to explain them, and begin to reflect on what they might mean for us as a church family, and for the wider community.

Recommendation 2: Make it a priority to develop a new passion for practical discipleship.

John observed that one of our strengths in our preaching and teaching at St Mark's and St Peter's is the correct handling of God's Word the Bible. This is fantastic, and something to give thanks for: sadly there are many churches around the country for which this isn't the case. Often the Bible is used by the preacher as nothing more than a springboard, giving them an excuse to say what they want to say rather than what God says in his Word! May God in his mercy enable us to continue to handle his Word better and better.

However, he observed that our application of God's Word into all of life is not as good as it might be. This is why he recommends “a new passion for practical discipleship” and a focus on “the practical application of discipleship.”

In other words, as God's Word the Bible is taught and preached, God is speaking to us by his Holy Spirit. He is speaking to us about our lives, our priorities, our thinking, and in particular how we can relate to him as our Creator, Saviour, Lord and Judge. How much are we aware of this? Do we go away having had our thinking changed, and therefore aware of what difference what we have heard will make to our lives on Monday morning or Wednesday evening or Saturday afternoon?

There is a challenge here for those (including myself) who teach and preach: It is right that we “correctly handle God's Word”, and ensure that what we are saying is what God is saying. But when this has happened, our work is not yet done. We need to help God's people to see the “cash value” of God's Word – the difference his Word makes to how God's people view God and themselves, and how they live Monday to Saturday.

But there is more to it than that. I think John's recommendation encourages every one of us to ask a fundamental question: Do we view ourselves as disciples? Do we see ourselves as those who have been called by God, into his family, and are being changed by him more and more into the likeness of his Son Jesus Christ? (see 1 Corinthians 3:18). Do we see being part of God's family not just as something for Sunday morning, but for every day? Do we see that our faith is not just for Sunday, but for every part of our lives? In terms of our Values as a church – do we see the importance of Deepening in our faith? If we do, then we will be constantly seeking to hear God speak to us through his Word, and we will be asking him to reveal how what he has said changes us and the way we live our lives. And then, of course, we will be asking him to empower us, by his Holy Spirit, to be changed.

What might this mean practically? It might mean meeting up with a Christian friend to talk about how God is working in our lives – and to pray for how we would like him to work. It might mean joining a Life group, so we can encourage others and be encouraged in our faith. It might mean asking to meet with someone to find out more about how we can read the Bible for ourselves, and put its teaching into practice (do have a word with me if you'd be interested in arranging something like this). It might mean listening to the sermon again on Monday morning (every sermon is available on our website), and praying that God would show us the difference it will make for us in the office, in our families, in our leisure time in the week ahead. 

What does it mean for you?

The Way Forward 1 - Reach Out

by Steve Wilcox

In February, in my “Vision” sermon, I spoke of the need to discern the next “stepping stone” for us as a church family on two sites. We have great opportunities – as set out by our Vision and Mission Action Plan. But we also have limited resources – particularly as regards workers. I said that we therefore need to discern the best way to use the resources available to us. With that in mind, John Truscott came to visit us. John is an independent church consultant, and is able to provide a wise, independent perspective on complex issues to do with church life. We asked him to consider some questions, including “What is the best 'next step' for the churches?”

John was very encouraged by his visit, and noticed a number of things that we do particularly well. However, there were also things we didn't do so well, and inevitably it is those things we need to focus on as we respond to what he said!

John made a number of recommendations, all of which have recently been approved by our Church Councils. I thought it would be helpful to write about some of those recommendations – to explain them, and begin to reflect on what they might mean for us as a church family, and for the wider community.

Recommendation 1: Make it a priority to reach out with the good news of Jesus Christ into your community through a well-designed outreach strategy.

John observed that we are very good as a church family at caring for each other, and at discipling one another in the faith. However, he observed that our outreach into the community is not what it might be. In particular, he observed that as a church we don't have an organised outreach strategy; nor, as individuals, are we as good at sharing the gospel with others, and inviting others to events, as we might be.

My own feeling is that John Truscott is right about this. If we are seeking to grow as a church, then we need to be attracting other people into the life of the church. And this will happen as we organise events that people would like to come to, and as we invite them to those events.

Since John Truscott's visit, we have been privileged to take part in the West Hull Area Mission. This was very encouraging in all sorts of ways, and I believe that we need to make sure we build on the momentum that the Mission gave us. We need to make it a priority to devise an “annual programme of outreach events”, so that we all have something we can invite someone to.

Some of us might say “I don't know anyone who's not a Christian.” But I'm sure when we stop to think about it we do – our neighbours, our family members, the people we meet at U3A or the gym. Others might say “I don't know how to invite them.” That's a fair point – but why don't we encourage one another, and share ideas, so that we're more confident. And of course, it all begins with prayer. Why not start praying for 3 people you know, that they might come to a living faith in Jesus Christ, and to see the wonderful difference knowing him makes to life. You never know what God might do in someone's life if you ask him to!