“Many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of men came to about five thousand.” (Acts 4:4) RSV
There is great emphasis these days on ‘Church Growth’. This is a false emphasis. It reflects the panic of shrinking churches. Jesus never told us to build the Church. He said it was his Church and he would build it. Our task was to go into all the world, to love, to serve and to preach. Church growth can become a selfish indulgence, whereas we are told to forget about ourselves.
Certainly we want and need church growth. But that will follow if we spend our energies on loving God and loving his world. The early disciples devoted themselves to learning, communion (hospitality), fellowship and prayer. They then lived out in the world bearing witness by their manner of life and being prepared to give a reason for the hope within them (1 Peter 3:15).
The result of this selfless activity was church growth! Exponential growth: 150 to 5000 (men – quite apart from women and children), and thereafter ‘daily’ growth.
In nature everything that is healthy will, as a rule, grow and propagate. The church which is made up of living people is no exception. People who are alive in the Lord and in the Spirit will, if they follow the above instruction, grow and develop.
David Watson once said, when as a raw young vicar he took on St Cuthbert’s in York: “I believe that if anyone really preaches the simple gospel of Christ, trusts in the power of prayer, and opens his life to the renewal of the Spirit, this church will be full in no time!” By the grace of God those words became true.
Heavenly Father, make us a people who love you with all our heart, soul and strength, and who love our neighbour, especially those outside the church, as ourselves. Thank you that you have promised to build your Church. May we trust you to do so. Amen.
1 If we trust and obey, does church growth always follow?
“I am delighted to announce the completion of the lighting of St. Andrew’s Chapel. It makes a great difference to clergy leading the worship in the chapel that there is now directed light on to the altar. Also the spot lights no longer shine in our eyes. They are now pointed upwards to show up the art work and Christian symbols on the ceiling. In a few weeks, the spotlight bulbs will be replaced with energy efficient ones. We have noticed already a financial saving with the energy efficient lights in the main part of the church. St Andrew’s Chapel was formed 100 years ago last year – I am sure the founders would be delighted to see how attractive it looks and that it is still very well used for services and as a quiet spot for personal prayer.”
The Courage to Sing Choir is for anyone who wants and loves to sing and have fun doing it. You don’t need to be able to read music, hold a tune or keep rhythm. The terrified and tone-deaf are welcome! There’s no audition and you won’t be put on the spot. You will find yourself in a group with people who, perhaps like you, have fears about singing or think they are no good at it. The emphasis is on fun, lifting our spirits and singing our hearts out, for the love of it! We will be singing Pop and Rock, also Gospel, Soul, World, Jazz, Musical Theatre and Folk Choir styles.
Additional benefits are improved health, an increase in self-confidence, and greater presence in all aspects of life.
Day: Thursday Evenings
Where: St James Church Hall, St James Street, Taunton, TA1 1JS
Dates: Start date for Spring Term April 18.
Contact: Lorrayn de Peyer
Who it is for: The Taunton choir is for anybody and everybody who loves to sing
Turn up and have a free taster to see if you like it.
Remember this Sunday that we are handing out £10 notes!. Yes, entirely free. The catch is, however, that when you hand it back in due course you will be adding more £10 notes to it, because you will have been supremely inventive in using the cash to make more cash. See the separate leaflet at back of church for more details.
“Vicar gives out £550, receives back nearly £10,000!” You may have seen the story in the national press earlier this year: Revd Richard Steel of St John’s, Kirkheaton made very effective use of the Parable of the Talents to generate funds for the renovation of his church. Their target is £448,000; our Father Willis organ needs under half that amount – £200,000 – and your ingenuity can help us to reach it. The Kirkheaton congregation built bird-boxes, decorated wooden trinket boxes and cord-pulls, made chocolate truffles, produced a recipe book, created original artworks and home-made cards, bought and sold on eBay, plus presumably many other ideas which the papers didn’t record, and there’s every reason to believe that our congregation is just as inventive. You undoubtedly have hidden and not-so-hidden talents, and we’d love you to put them to this very practical purpose.
This will be run by Tekna, and they are seeking donations of toys.
There will also be a Tombola. Thank you to everyone who donated bottles for the Tombola Stall on 1st June. It was a great success. Of course, more bottles will be needed for the 29th but they do not have to be expensive – any bottle will do. Donations should be put in the usual pews.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (v. 42) RSV
What is a church for and what should the members be doing? Their first effort is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, their second is to strengthen themselves and their third is to go out to love and serve the world.
Today’s reading describes the second of these great callings. Every Christian whether newly formed or of long standing requires regular input, nurture, challenge and strengthening. If we neglect to gather together for these purposes we will atrophy away and become weak and ineffective.
So, when we gather together it is not just for worldly tittle-tattle or a social rubbing of shoulders with those whom we naturally get along with. It is not for entertainment or because the church people are the only friends we have.
The reason for gathering is summed up in our verse for today. They ‘devoted’ themselves to these things. There was commitment and desire. This can take place to some extent at the Sunday service, but also in a midweek gathering. They did four things:
Learning – the apostles’ teaching (now recorded for us in the Bible)
Fellowship – talking, sharing and supporting one another
Communion – not only in Bread & Wine, but in hospitality (‘generously’) (v. 46)
Praying – set prayers, extemporary prayers, or silent prayers, yet together
A church that devotes itself primarily to these four things will be a church that glorifies God and loves the world for which he died.
Dear Lord, forgive us when we are too lazy or too distracted to meet with other believers. And when we do meet, forgive us when we have failed to use the time to strengthen ourselves in the faith. Thank you for the examples of those early disciples. Amen
On Saturday 22nd June, in support of the Bells of St Mary’s Bell Project, our bellringers are going to be at Nynehead Court for a fun…, fun…, fund-raising time. Cream teas, a raffle and all that Nynehead Court has to offer.
The Project plan is to melt down and recast all fifteen bells, to re-hang them in a lower chamber, and to replace the old carillon system.
The Project goal is to provide St Mary’s with a tuneful ring of bells on which the younger generation can learn to ring and a Carillon which will serve St Mary’s church and Taunton for many generations to come.
To learn more about this Project there is a leaflet available or go to our web site www.bellsofstmarys.org.uk but in the meantime join us at Nynehead Court. Bells start ringing at 2:30pm!
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