Christianity

What is Church?

Following a discussion with a learned friend recently, it became painfully apparent that my personal definition of "Church" was quite different from his.  He challenged me to explore this further, particularly to look at the New Testament to see Biblical evidence of Church.  This document is an analysis of this research, which will hopefully point me towards a Biblical definition that is also culturally relevant and contextual for today.

Personal opinions matter

Since this exploration started with a difference of opinion, I thought it would be worth asking a few more people for their opinions too, to gather as broad a range as possible.  The answers were not intended to be scientific or cleverly thought out, and most people I asked were not given much chance to craft their responses, and that was quite deliberate; what I wanted was people's gut feel, their immediate impression, a summary of what was most important to them.Those with theological training (perhaps unsurprisingly) gave the most Biblically-centred answers.  A common point of reference was Acts 2:42, "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer".  To them, this is Church.Interestingly, those with a less leadership-oriented perspective came up with very different definitions, centred more around community, family, people, personal experience, and spirituality.  Some highlighted the importance of the mix of believers and unbelievers, showing the importance of mission and being outward focused.  One person quoted Matthew 18:20, where Jesus says "where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them".  Another had a more timeless understanding of Church, including all believers throughout time and throughout the world, highlighting the nature of the breadth of corporate worship.As for me, I had my own opinion too.  I instinctively defined Church as the following:
The Church is the body of believers acting as a community within the community to worship and encounter Jesus.
However, as confident as I was of this definition when I first met with my learned friend, I recognised the importance of looking to the Bible first, and using God's Word to inform my definition, rather than just finding Bible passages that backed up my opinion. (more…)

By Matthew, ago
Life

Minecraft, RSI and indispensability

Minecraft This year I finally gave in.  I’m a creative sort of person, and I love Lego, and I love computer games, and I all too easily get lost in both of those pastimes.  So for the sake of everyone around me, I avoided Minecraft.  It combines many of the things Read more…

By Matthew, ago
Christianity

God you hear

In church this morning we used the following poem as our intercessions.  We split it between three voices (not highlighted below), and it worked really well, so I thought I’d share it here.  It’s taken from Engage Worship, so head over there for more worship resources! God, you hear the Read more…

By Matthew, ago
Miscellaneous

2011 round-up

Now that it's 2012, and I have a little spare time before I go back to work, I thought this would be a suitable opportunity to reflect on the past year and summarise what I've been up to.

Family

Ellie's operation

Ellie gave us a bit of a scare earlier this year.  What started off as just a niggling pain in the chest turned out to be gall stones, which was at times crippling and meant she had to avoid anything even remotely fatty for several months.  She found that change of diet difficult, what with not being able to eat cheese or chocolate.  Still, the operation went very smoothly and she was back on her feet and eating naughty things soon afterwards.  My biggest confession here is that I'm still ever so slightly jealous at how quickly she healed after her operation, compared to me and my hernia (which is mostly fine now, incidentally).

Peter leaving home

This year my littlest brother flew the nest, finding a lovely little church in Uffeculme to go and be a trainee youth worker at.  I went to his induction service, which was a great way to support him as he began his new ministry, and an opportunity to meet (albeit in passing) others like him and also the vicar he's working with, who seems very nice.  Unfortunately, despite booking a date in with him, we didn't get to actually visit Peter on-site this year (more on that later), so hopefully we'll reschedule that for early 2012.  It does leave Mum and Dad's house somewhat empty though; apparently their food bill has roughly halved now that Peter's moved out...Read Peter's blog.

France holiday

Apart from a weekend in Weymouth, we as a family have never had a holiday until this year.  Ellie and I have been married for 4 years, and that was all we had managed.  This year we took advantage of Ellie's Dad's holiday home in France, and had a lovely week with them.  We had a fantastic day on the beach, generally enjoyed chilling and not doing too much, and although it was short it was much appreciated.  The travel was an adventure - driving on the wrong side of the road isn't actually too hard at all, although the weather on our return journey made the ferry crossing quite uncomfortable (not that Samuel seemed at all bothered by that).

Samuel's visit to hospital

Not to be left out, Samuel also necessitated a trip to the hospital, following a very high temperature that caused him to have a brief seizure.  That was a huge worry for us at the time, but thankfully it wasn't anything to worry about in the end.  Apparently these things happen with young children, because their bodies aren't able to deal with the heat as well.  No lasting damage, I'm pleased to say.

Grandma's funeral

Ellie's Grandma sadly passed away this year.  It wasn't entirely unexpected, as she was very old and increasingly unwell, but it was still something unpleasant we all had to go through.  She had been growing increasingly senile, making conversation difficult, and although we'd managed to persuade her to move out of her bungalow and into a flat where she'd have people to help, she actually only lived there for a matter of weeks due to prolonged visits to various hospitals.  It was one thing after another, what with falls, blood pressure, infections, and so on.  In the end she had a fall while in hospital that led to a bleed on the brain which, in addition to everything else she was going through, was just too much.  Thankfully we happened to be visiting Ellie's Mum at the time, so we were on hand to support her through it.  A useful bit of planning on God's part, methinks.(more…)

By Matthew, ago
Christianity

Jesus your name is higher

This is a song I began to write at Spring Harvest last year.  On Sunday I included it in the worship songs and taught it to the congregation, as it seemed to fit well with the theme, and it seemed to go down well!  It was actually the first time anyone had heard it, my wife included, so it was good to get it out at last and being useful.  I even had a lady ring me up this evening asking for the words, because she'd found it really inspiring!  That's such a huge encouragement for a songwriter.  Not that I seek attention or praise, but that God is working through my offering and allowing my gift to bear fruit.  Halleluia!So, here are the words to the song, "Jesus your name is higher".  I don't have the music written out yet, but when I do I'll try and make sure that finds its way onto here too.   (more…)

By Matthew, ago
Life

No time like the present

Here's a confession - I've not been blogging as much recently as I should have been.  The reason?  Twitter.I use my blog to tell people what I've been doing recently.  My readers are usually friends and family, unless a passer-by happens to stumble across something via Google that interests them.  My posts are generally about things I'm interested in, things I've done, things I meant to do but didn't, or things that I want to rant about.But now I've fallen in love with Twitter, my Twhirl client always running on my desktop, ready to accept my latest status update as and when I feel led to bend the world's ear with my 140 characters of insight.  No logging in, no pressure to write unnecessary paragraphs of fluff, just a short blast of information.  No time like the present.  The result is that I feel like I've told the world what's going on, despite the noticeable absence on my blog.  So I apologise that I've not posted more here in recent weeks.  Blame Twitter for being so darn addictive.(more…)

By Matthew, ago
Life

What makes a friend

H is for "Hello stranger"

Second Life.  Remember that?  It was all the rage a few years back, when it pioneered the idea of a virtual reality platform for online community and economy, and if I recall correctly there was a lot of hype around at the time.  Of course, I'm no sheep, so I steered clear of it at the time.  After all, I wasn't a loner with no 'real' friends, so I had no need for an additional life to maintain.So why is it that I downloaded the software last week?  Why have I been wandering around the Second Life worlds, exploring interesting locations, listening to music, chatting to people, dancing...?  I guess part of the cause is how cut off I'm feeling at the moment, having moved away from my circle of friends.  Sure, we're living in a land of bliss, surrounded by beautiful countryside, the smell of cow dung floating on the breeze, and glorious hills to gaze at.  But we don't know anyone.  Well, not many, and not as well as our 'old' friends.  I miss AM and Sarah, and the Phil(l)s, and my youth group at church, and my badminton partner, and all those other ex-uni folks who dropped in all the time.Which leads me to an interesting muse.  What makes a friend?  And why is it important?(more…)

By Matthew, ago
A-Z

Time to settle down

G is for Guitar and "Get a life"

Many of you will know that I am a keen musician.  I blame this partly on my parents, who insisted on taking me to a brass band concert before I was even born.  I didn't stand a chance.  Church helps too, there's always music there.  And so it was that I started taking up musical instruments left right and centre, starting with the piano, moving on to cello, and not stopping thereafter.  The list isn't exactly endless, but it's fairly sizeable.  The main problem with this, though, is being able to afford the instruments themselves, which don't come cheap, especially if you want something decent.  So for many years I have had to get by without certain things, in some cases just the accessories, but in some cases the instruments themselves.  I've never owned a saxophone, for instance, much as I'd love to.My first bass guitar was a pink (probably used to be red, but faded in the sun) Squier with a warped neck, which made playing anything but open strings uncomfortable and bone-jarringly out of tune.  Still, for £100 it wasn't bad, considering it came with a whopping 80 watt amp.  The bass was replaced several years ago, thankfully, with a wood body Aria (I'd give the actual model, but since it's a "Research and Development" model I think it's more of a one-off, so comparing it to the mass-produced model that resulted from it might not actually be particularly useful).  The Aria is a dream to play, and has a lovely warm tone to it.  The amp, however, was always pretty ropey, so it wasn't a huge tragedy when it stopped working.  It was something electric, I know that much, and it just played a very loud humming noise while it was turned on.  So I left it turned off, gathering dust in the garage.  Until just before we moved, when I took it to the dump.  Sad, but somehow very therapeutic at the same time.(more…)

By Matthew, ago
Life

Ian and Lucy’s wedding

Ian and LucyFirstly, a big congratulations to Ian and Lucy! Welcome to the club of married-folk...It was a superb day, bathed in glorious sunshine and with not a hitch in sight. Other than that of Ian and Lucy, of course. Getting hitched, I mean. The service at St Botolph's church in Colchester was lovely, with plenty of warmth and a sense of the usual level of excellence that tends to follow Ian around. Everything had been intricately planned and was well executed from start to finish. Ian and his two best men looked very smart, though respectfully upstaged by Lucy's gorgeous wedding dress, and the bridesmaids' dresses were sumptuous too.I actually sang in the choir too, which was good fun. In the invitation to the wedding Ian and Lucy had asked whether anyone would like to sing in the service as part of the choir, and following my offer I was sent music for the two pieces we were to sing during the communion and signing of the register. They were both beautiful pieces, though both unknown to me. Thankfully my voice was in good nick that day, and despite not sight-singing anything for years I managed to get to grips with both by singing along to YouTube the day before. The acoustics in the church are fantastic, so the choir sounded superb.(more…)

By Matthew, ago