Tuesday 28 August 2018

What should a student look for when seeking out a Church?

This is a crucial question! It may be a question that you have never considered. You may be going off to university, just simply assuming that the church you desire will be waiting for you, when you arrive. However, this may not be the case. Perhaps you can ask yourself, what criteria are important in choosing the right church to worship in? Your answer should be based on more criteria, than simply personal subjective taste.

For example, as a student you may want a church that is the same as the one you knew back home, but what if the church back home did not display a biblical basis for a church? Sometimes it is sad to see professing Christians wanting a church with the largest band, no matter what the the content and quality of the preaching is like (Did New Testament churches have large bands to attract people? The answer is a firm no.). So let us look briefly at some biblical criteria for choosing a church.

"Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve".
(1 Corinthians 15:1–5).

1. The church should be Gospel focussed. This is sometimes a slogan about being "gospel focussed", but what does the term mean biblically? The gospel is to be preached and to be centred around the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. Is Christ and this message spoken of during preaching?

2. Pastoral care. Does the church desire to pastor people? This can be a difficulty with large churches where you come and go without accountability. We need to be pastored as sheep of the Lord. You need to be planted where elders will watch out for your soul, especially during a time of ferment and temptation which can happen, while being at university.

3. Warm-hearted. A biblical church should be serious minded in its worship (not entertainment driven), but also warm-hearted. Welcoming should not be a method run by a well organised team, but part of the life of the church.

4. The Lord's Supper must be administered properly if a church is to be a true church. Feel free to take time to ask the elders some questions before you make your final decision.

5. Do not just follow the crowd and necessarily go where all the other students go. A church needs a robust statement of faith in order to defend the faith. I am a Reformed minister and we hold to the Westminster Confession of Faith, which is our guide for preaching and for the church.

6. Hopefully, the church where you will worship will have a prayer meeting and that you will go to it regularly.

7. Above all, pray for the LORD to direct you, but do not look for mystical confirmations of guidance. If you pray for a doctrinally sound and godly church, we can be confident that our Lord will answer, even if it means you have to travel a little bit further on Sundays.

Monday 20 August 2018

Are you a student coming to Sheffield and looking for a church?

We would like to invite you to come and worship with us at Sheffield Presbyterian Church. Our website is: www.sheffieldpres.org.uk

Our aim is to be warm-hearted and serious minded. We have students every year from Sheffield Hallam University and Sheffield University, both undergraduates and post-graduates. We have a car park and we are a few minutes from the Sheffield Arena tram station which is only around 9 minutes ride from the city centre.

This year we have a ministry intern who would be delighted to meet with you. Just go on to the church website and send us an email through the contact page. Why not listen to some of the sermons on the website also? This will give you a taster before you come.

Monday 13 August 2018

Hearing Sermons Properly!

We think much about sermons because if we go to a church that is committed to preaching (Is there any other kind of church?) then we will hear sermons often. So the question is, how do we listen to sermons? My wife and I sat in an excellent seminar recently on listening to sermons and this theme needs emphasising. I am preaching from Mark's Gospel currently in Sheffield Presbyterian Church and yesterday I preached from Mark chapter four on the parable of the sower.

What title do you think I gave that sermon? It was a single word from Mark 4:3 where Jesus gives an imperative "Listen". However, when we examine this passage note the stress is placed by our Lord Christ on hearing. Look at the list of verses.

Mark 4:3 "Listen" (second person plural imperative).
Mark 4:9 "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (this is a third person singular imperative).
Mark 4:12 "so that they ... may indeed hear but not understand".
Mark 4:15 "when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown".
Mark 4:16 "When they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy ... and they have no root".
Mark 4:18 "They are those who hear the word, but the cares of this world ...".
Mark 4:20 "But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold".

Seven examples of teaching on the importance of not just listening but "hearing" the word taught. Letting the Word of God address you as it is, God's word. Then we need to accept what it says. For some people reading this blog, you may be going to a church that is not committed to preaching. Therefore, you need to seek a church that is wholly committed to preaching sound doctrine. The high point of biblical worship is not singing, but sitting under the preaching of the Word of God.

May we listen carefully and diligently. Mark 4:24 "Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you".

Saturday 4 August 2018

Lincoln: Exploratory Church Planting Studies

Lincolnshire has around one million people across a very large and mainly rural county. The capital is Lincoln with around 100,000 people, with two universities. Lincoln itself is a beautiful city and well worth a visit. With the magnificent castle housing the Magna Carta and the splendid architecture of the cathedral.
Sadly, the gospel is not seemingly flourishing in this large county. It takes around 2 hours to drive from north to south in the county, from Grimsby/Cleethorpes in the North to Boston and Spalding in the south. It is very flat in many parts of the county, one with a huge coastline. And there is even an area in the south of the county called South Holland. However, there are parts of Lincolnshire which have some of the lowest church attendance rates in England. What a spiritual challenge!!

Sheffield Presbyterian Church (www.sheffieldpres.org.uk) have been enjoying people coming to worship with us regularly from the Lincolnshire area. As a result, we began in early 2018 exploratory church planting studies. These are on Friday nights each month from 7.00pm for 7.30pm at the following venue.

Bud Robinson Community Centre,
Maple Street, Lincoln, LN5 8QT.

The dates for the remaining of 2018 are:

Friday 7th September
Friday 12th October
Friday 9th November
14th December

Please forward this blog post to all who may be interested and pray for this church planting work. Please pray for the Lord to raise up labourers for Lincolnshire. A dry and spiritually needy county, one with historic towns, such as Boston, Louth, Market Rasen and many others.

Zechariah 4:6-10: "Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’ ”
Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel".