The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘faith community

Serving schools and saints

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It has been a busy few days, with various opportunities around a load of catching up and administrative bits and pieces.

The first particular opportunity was last Tuesday.  Every so often we host several classes from the local Junior School who, as part of their Religious Education lessons (I think) visit local ‘faith communities’ in order to learn about who they are, what they believe and how they live.  They visit, I believe, a high Anglican building, a mosque, perhaps other places, and ourselves.  We have the advantage of being three minutes’ walk from their school, so we at least have the virtue of convenience.  We have developed a reputation with the teachers – more or less happy, depending upon with whom that reputation resides – of giving straight answers to straight questions.  Once or twice a teacher or parent has got a little steamed up with us, but that’s OK.  Lots of people get steamed up because they don’t like the truth.  However, we have a very good relationship with the key teacher in the system.

On this occasion we had two groups of perhaps 60 to 70 children each, with a few teachers and parents to herd them.  We have about 45 minutes to an hour to do our bit.  The children come with lots of questions, often to do with the differences of appearance and equipment between what they have seen elsewhere and what they see in our church building.  We open the baptistry and put out the plate and cup for the Lord’s supper.  Then, I have ten or fifteen minutes to explain what they are seeing.  I normally explain the pulpit, placed centrally with a Bible on it, declaring the primacy of the Word preached, declaring Jesus Christ.  Then, the baptistry, where all those who – having heard – have believed are baptised as a public testimony to their identification with the crucified but risen Jesus.  Finally, there is the Lord’s supper, where – in remembrance of his atoning death – those who have heard, believed, and been baptised as a means of entry to Christ’s church, gather to feast by faith upon him.  I emphasise the centrality of Christ to all that is important about our life as a church, explaining briefly who our Lord is and what he has done.  It’s a brief sermon with three points and one application.  We always invite the children and adults to attend our services and to see and hear ‘for real’ the people of God gathered to worship.

Then it is over to the children for questions.  Sometimes they are more tame – as they were on this occasion: why don’t you have a bell/stained glass windows/a crucifix or cross?  What is a pastor?  What’s that (organ, offerings box, hymn board, internal CCTV camera)?  Why do you do . . .?  However, often – and this is where things get crunchy – the kids suddenly twig that I will answer any question they ask, and I always try to do so from the Bible.  This can often get pretty wild.  The closest we got this time was when one girl asked, “So, why did Jesus die?”  Naturally, that got the plainest gospel answer I could give in the time I had available.  In the past, we have had some of the following questions:

  • Who made God?
  • What does God look like?
  • What does it mean that God is a spirit?
  • Where does God live?
  • How is God everywhere?
  • Is God the air?  Is God nature?
  • How can we know God if we can’t see him?
  • How can God see everything?
  • Where did the world come from?  Did God make it?
  • Why are some people different to others?  Why did God make them that way?
  • Did God make space?  Why did God make black holes?
  • Did God get baptised?
  • What is a pastor/vicar?
  • Where does the word “pastor” come from?
  • What does a pastor do?
  • How much do you earn?
  • Can ladies be pastors?
  • Must a preacher/pastor/vicar be a Christian?
  • What is a disciple?
  • When you become a Christian, do you have to do what the Bible says?
  • Do you have to be a Christian to come to church?
  • If you belong to another religion, can you become a Christian? [and vice versa]
  • Does God love people who aren’t Christians?
  • What happens when you become a Christian?
  • Is the baptistry a birth bath?  A swimming pool?  A bath?
  • Can you go for a swim after you’ve been baptised?
  • What do you wear to be baptised?  Can you wear goggles?
  • Is there something special about the water in the pool?
  • If baptism uses ordinary water, why is it so important?
  • What does baptism mean?
  • Can children be baptised?  Can girls/ladies be baptised?
  • What’s the difference between christening and baptism?
  • Is baptism safe?
  • What is the church?
  • If the church is people, why do you need a building?
  • Why don’t you have stained glass/statues/pictures?
  • What happens when we die?
  • What is the difference between burials and cremation?
  • Why don’t you have a graveyard?
  • Why are other churches different?
  • Can disabled people be baptised?
  • Can you worship God outdoors?
  • How can deaf people hear sermons?
  • When is the church open?  How often do you meet?
  • How long has the church been here?
  • If you stop being a Christian, do you get “unbaptised”?
  • Why does the Bible talk about “drinking the cup”?  You can’t drink cups.
  • How do you know that the Bible is true?
  • How do you know that Jesus is real?
  • If God is good and in control of everything, why do we have tidal waves and earthquakes?
  • What is sin?
  • If you have sinned, can you still get to heaven?
  • How do I escape from hell?
  • Doesn’t God give you a second chance?

Needless to say, this is a great opportunity to explain the truth as it is in Jesus in a variety of different ways to a captive audience, from a variety of different backgrounds.  Often the teachers and parents get involved.  One once took me to task for our Christian ‘exclusivism’ which gave me an opportunity to declare Christ as the one Saviour of sinners, but also to explain that anyone who comes to him will be saved.  He didn’t seem happy, but they come on our turf on our terms to hear what we believe and practice.  After two or three hours of this, I am usually pretty whacked out, but we hope that it lays a foundation for further opportunities with the children both within and without the school, and we have in the past had several of them come to services afterward.  As yet, grievously, we are not aware of any conversions.

Then yesterday I was preaching at Grace Baptist Church, Portsmouth.  They are a delightful and warm-hearted people with whom I have a very pleasant relationship.  They are themselves seeking a pastor, and pray earnestly for God to send the right man.  They are situated right in the middle of a housing estate, so they are well situated for gospel ministry and – despite their limited numbers and resources – they labour hard to preach the good news.

I ministered in the morning from Romans 8.34 on the Christian’s uncondemnability in Christ, grounded in his death, resurrection, session and intercession.  It is a truth in which I delight, and I have enjoyed encouraging and challenging God’s saints in two or three places with this material.  My family and I had a delightful afternoon’s fellowship with several of the members, and then in the evening I preached from Colossians 2.6 on the Christian’s abiding relationship with Christ: the past experience of receiving him in all his saving fullness, the present activity of walking in him (growing in our likeness to him and deriving all grace and strength from him), and the permanent connection between the two, as we cling to Christ as urgently, readily and entirely now as we did when first we came.  It was a good day, in which I believe the Lord helped in all our worship, and not least in the preaching and hearing.  For various reasons they were a little down in number, but it seemed that the most important guest was present.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 29 September 2008 at 11:12

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