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All articles in category Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Article

January 2019
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

A view from the piano

Most people have probably never thought about what it’s like to be an accompanist, to play the piano or another instrument whilst we sing to God. That’s because most of us don’t have to do it. But even those of us who do play don’t always think carefully about what we are doing or trying to achieve. For most people, when first asked to accompany the congregation, it’s a terrifying prospect; your greatest concern is to get through without making any mistakes and embarrassing yourself. Nothing else is really on your mind except that. Perhaps as time goes by you get more comfortable and stop...

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Article

January 2019
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Are fallow seasons a normal part of the kingdom’s pattern?

Many of nature’s processes have phases to them: the timetable of the tides, the patterns of weather, the life-cycle of flowers, the four seasons. Human life has its phases too. There are those which form the overarching timeline of conception to death. There are also those which come round in regular cycles, as famously captured in the ‘Life is a hamster-wheel’ poem of Ecclesiastes 3, with its drumbeat of ‘a time to…’ Phases, however, are not limited to the physical realm. When you read of God’s dealings with Israel in the Gospels and Acts, you discover the spiritual realm has such features too: there were...

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Article

November 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Discerning and obeying God’s will

Many today seek guidance over such things as work, education, employment and financial planning. But Christians have an omniscient and omnipresent Consultant, ever ready to help us when we call on him. Paul warns us in Ephesians 5:15–17: ‘See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is’. Many issues Many have had distressing experiences after learning it is not God’s will for them to do something. There was someone who migrated to another country only to return in about a...

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Article

November 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

On His Majesty’s service

The Bible contains startling stories of slave girls and slave drivers, but what does it say about being a servant? My children are great, and generally do what they’re told. But there are times when, if I ask them to help, they sometimes say, ‘Not now, Dad. I’ve been working all day, I’m too tired!’ I think Christians can be a little like that. We all like the idea of being a servant, providing someone else is doing the serving! But that isn’t of course how it should be. Although Jesus took the nature of a servant and washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-11), he...

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Article

October 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

The ‘problem’ of unanswered prayer

‘Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies’. So states the Shorter Catechism, Q. 98. Its answer to the question ‘What is prayer?’ here is hard to better. Prayer is one of the Christian’s great privileges. Through Christ, we actually have the ear of God the Father, and may talk to him in prayer and spread out our needs before him. No subject or circumstance is out of bounds when it comes to prayer. The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians...

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Article

October 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

The number one reason youth leave the church

When churches find a dearth of young people in the congregation, it is never long before questions start being asked. The questions become even more pointed when children, who otherwise seemed engaged, drift off when they become teenagers. Were there not enough programmes available for them? Were they isolated from their peers? Did we just not pay them enough attention? The hand-wringing begins and the cries of ‘won’t somebody please think of the children?’ go up. The fact is however, the lure of the world is as great among adults as it is teenagers. Nor do teenagers leave the church because there are not enough...

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Article

October 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Treasures at Geanies House

A few years before the last battle on British soil fought at Culloden, a fine country manor was being completed. The owners may have heard the gunfire on that April day in 1746. Today the Jacobite cause is forgotten, but the old manor still stands and contains more treasures than it ever did in past centuries. Not only did I recently see them but I carried a number away, as any visitor to that beautiful corner of Scotland may do. Or, if that is impractical, the same result may be obtained by contacting the present owners at Geanies House, Fearn, Tain, Ross-shire, IV20 1TW. As...

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Article

October 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Deathly hallows: A Christian response to Halloween

Every Halloween, rubber skeletons, plastic skulls and various grisly, ghostly and ghoulish items appear in the windows of pubs, clubs, shops and shopping centres. But, strange as it may seem, they don’t — ironically — feature in the window displays of the local funeral director. I wonder why that is. Actually, I’m pretty sure why! Showing skeletons and ghosts rising from the grave is hardly a good advertisement for places where the dead are supposed to be prepared for burial or cremation. Doing so would, I think, be a little too close to the bone — no pun intended. In other words, it’s apparently okay...

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Article

September 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Writing for God: appreciating Christian authors

The reason for this article is to consider the subject of Christian authors and the writing and publishing of Christian literature. I recently submitted a manuscript to a Christian publisher who, in their acknowledgement promised to have a look at it later in the year and also thanked me for my support. Their appreciation for my submission, whether successful or unsuccessful, set me thinking about the Christian publishers’ need for a regular supply of work from Christian authors. Over the years in evangelical circles we have been blessed with men and women with the gift and ability to write edifying Christian books and also write...

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Article

July 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Missionary support: Let’s talk about money

Let’s talk about missionary support —  or, rather, let’s not. I think we have a problem with vocabulary and the language of ‘support’ is not adequate to describe the relationship between a church and the people who it sets aside for ministry. Friends and families support missionaries; they provide finance, they pray, and they send encouraging letters and bars of chocolate. A sending church should have a much broader relationship than this and while they do support their mission partners, I would much rather think of a church having responsibility towards those they commission for mission work (missionaries also have responsibility to their churches —...

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Article

July 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Sexuality: identifying Our identity

At present, two popular —  yet antithetical — positions about sexuality and identity exist within the orthodox Christian community. In their recent book Transforming Homosexuality, authors Denny Burk and Heath Lambert identify these as the traditional and neo-traditional positions. Both of these positions exclude from acceptable Christian behaviour sexual acts that are outside of scriptural marriage between one man and one woman. Also, both sides should acknowledge that even if they see the other side as wrong, they are Christian brothers aiming to work out a practical and biblical theology to minister to same-sex attracted individuals. So what is the major difference between these positions?...

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Article

July 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

How to be a successful church planter

With all due respect to the various people who write about church planting in the UK, I thought that it was time that I did everyone a favour by writing a short guide on how to be a successful church planter. The first thing to do is to define what we mean by success. Now some people measure church success by the number of people who attend the various meetings — behinds on seats. Obviously, that is not a good criterion by which to measure success in Christian ministry. No, a successful church planter is someone who has been commissioned to write a book, a...

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