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We update our blog several times a week, with news and comment on ministry, theology, the Bible, liturgy and issues of the day.

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Posted by Ros Clarke, 7 Jul 2020

Service sheets and suggested hymns to accompany the summer sermon series are now available.

Editable service sheets, including links to suggested hymns, are now available to accompany the next three of our summer sermon series. Download the sermons on video and the service sheets as Word documents here. The sermon audio files are available here. The links below will download pdf versions of the service sheets.

July 12th
The Parable of the Sower: Matthew 13:1-23, Lee Gatiss
Service sheet
Suggested hymns: Creator God, Tell out, my soul

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Posted by Ros Clarke, 7 Jul 2020

This week's podcast discussion about theological education and the way technology is shaping our interactions.

Clare Hendry and James Cary join Ros Clarke for this week’s podcast episode discussing theological education and spiritual formation in the light of last week’s announcement of a new theological college for the northwest. They’re also reflecting on how the online platforms we’re all so dependent on at the moment are shaping our interactions with each other, and sharing some recommendations for reading and apps.

Mentioned in this episode:
Phil and Beth’s wedding
New theological college announced
Emma Ineson interview about the college
Ambition by Emma Ineson
Worship with the Wallaces
Live from the Lounge
Faith in Kids
Church Society podcast featuring Ed Drew from Faith in Kids
Lord of the Rings
“Side by Side” by Ed Welch
Sticky Terms
Song of Bloom
Interview with Azariah France-Williams, author of Ghost Ship
The Cosmic Trilogy by C.S. Lewis

Listen to the audio version here or subscribe to it via your usual podcast provider.

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Posted by Lee Gatiss, 6 Jul 2020

Lee Gatiss looks at the question of whether we can please the already perfectly happy God, in this half hour teaching video from a recent meeting.

The Bible says, “find out what pleases the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10). But can we really make God smile, or even perhaps grieve him and make him sad? Is he not already perfectly happy, and not susceptible to changeable emotional reactions as we so often are?

We chase after certain things because we think they will make us happy. Knowledge, power, wealth, respect, fame, relationships — these things fuel our ambitions and give us pleasure. But does God need any of these things? Does he seek after such pleasure? He knows everything. He governs the whole universe. He’s completely self-sufficient, and doesn’t need us or anything else to “complete” him. So what does the Bible mean when it says certain things delight him, or that he hates something?

In this video of a talk I gave recently for the Southwark Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship, I unpack the issues here to do with divine speech and the doctrine of impassibility (the idea that God is “without passions” as Article 1 puts it). There’s lots of Bible, and some help from Christians across the centuries, as well as application for us today. I hope you’ll find it an engaging half hour (perhaps with a coffee and a biscuit or two).

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Posted by Ed Loane and Alex Keen, 3 Jul 2020

Ed Loane and Alex Keen review two short books on evangelism.

Book cover of Have no Fear

This little book has been produced to help Christians have the confidence and tools to witness to those around them about Jesus Christ. Lennox, as a leading apologist, has written a simple and clear account of the why and how of personal evangelism. This is not a book that claims to give all the answers; rather its main aim is to encourage Christians to action. More than this, the book paints a picture of evangelism as a joy rather than a duty to be undertaken begrudgingly. The tone and anecdotal writing style add to this outcome.

Lennox begins by encouraging Christians to begin conversations with other people. This may sound simple, but I certainly found it a refreshing encouragement to take some initiative rather than just retreat into my own little world with earphones in and head in a book. Lennox illustrates with many ways he has begun conversations, for example with people he was sitting on a train with. He then demonstrates ways to turn the topic from general chit-chat to the Christian hope in a natural way which engages people and gets them thinking. Lennox discusses how to use Scripture in evangelism as well as the importance of behaviour in conveying the message. He gives simple demonstrations of ways he answers common questions like all religions being equal and he also gives a straightforward way to lead someone into taking the step of commitment to Christ.

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Posted by Jonathan Pountney, 2 Jul 2020

Jonathan Pountney shares some new apps designed to help Christians connect with old resources.

If there is one thing that the last few months have taught me, it’s my dependency on technology.

That might sound rather trite, but whether it’s the old-fashioned landline or state-of-the-art online video conferencing software, technology has made communication and human connection possible.  For all its flaws and frustrations – and, no doubt, there are many – the accessibility of technology has enabled me to keep in touch with family, work from home, and even – despite never having imagined this would ever need to happen – worship with our church family. Which is all to say that, along with the common graces that we regularly give thanks to God for, technology ought to be included.

Don’t mishear what I’m saying, there are some things that technology cannot compensate for, and I don’t mean to be an advocate for replacing the reality of human contact with virtual connection. But as the lockdown continues and, by God’s grace, begins to ease, let us heed the Apostle Paul’s direction in Philippians chapter 4 to avoid grumbling and reflect on the good things that technology is able to do to help make and mature disciples. For if we truly believe, as Colossians chapter 1 teaches us, that Christ has supremacy over all of creation, then doesn’t He have supremacy over our technology, too?

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Posted by Marc Lloyd, 1 Jul 2020

As new guidance allows for the possibility of communion in some form, Marc Lloyd continues his series of blog posts on the subject.

Some people have been looking at Communion services online. As part of our series on The Lord’s Supper, following on from our post on the Supper as a visible and edible word, when we are able to gather again around the Lord’s Table, where should we look?

We look back
As the Prayer Book and Common Worship both stipulate, the service of the Lord’s Supper will rightly involve confession of sin. We will want to look back over the last week and repent of all that we know to be wrong. As our parents taught us, we ought to wash our hands before we come to the table.

But above all in the Supper we look back to the great events of salvation history. They are the essential grounds of this meal. They celebrate a historical reality: the mighty deeds of God on behalf of his people.

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Posted by Ros Clarke, 30 Jun 2020

The Summer 2020 edition of Crossway is now published and on its way to members and other subscribers.

In the past few months, circumstances have caused many of us to reflect on the nature of the gathered church, the physicality of the sacraments and the authority of our bishops. The articles in this edition of Crossway were largely planned and written well before we had any idea of what was coming, but they speak into our current situation in ways that I hope readers will find at times both challenging and reassuring.

In my article, I look at what it means for the church to be the laos, that is, ‘the people’ or ‘the laity’. Articles from Lee Gatiss and Tom Woolford focus on specific kinds of church ministry: the ordained ministry of priests and deacons, and the oversight of bishops across multiple congregations.  Tim Ward reviews an excellent book on how to hear sermons well, while Tom Woolford highlights a guide to the BCP. We also take a look at the sacraments, with Eleanor Brindle’s impassioned plea about being unashamed of infant baptism, especially in working with children and young people, while Paul Darlington contributes the first of two articles thinking about what we’re actually doing as we celebrate communion.

At the moment, I find myself longing more and more each week to be gathered together again with my church family. Working on this edition of Crossway has reminded me of the theological significance of everything it is that I am missing. I hope it will do the same for many of you.

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Posted by Ros Clarke, 30 Jun 2020

Mark Wallace, Lee Gatiss and Ros Clarke chat about the issues of the day for the Church Society podcast.

This week we’re discussing the latest government guidance for places of worship, the implications of that for sharing communion, and the current state of Christian journalism.

Listen to the audio version here or subscribe to it via your usual podcast provider.

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Picture of a question from the Heidelberg catechism

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Posted by Lee Gatiss, 29 Jun 2020

Lee Gatiss considers the art of catechism.

It takes two to tango, they say. It also takes at least two to catechise. Catechesis is from a Greek word meaning careful religious instruction. It is used eight times in the New Testament itself (e.g. Acts 18:25, Romans 2:18, Galatians 6:6). Christians have always been eager to develop effective means of instructing people in the faith, and particularly recent converts (either children or adults) who were early on known as catechumens prior to their baptism. Catechesis has often consisted of basic training in the essential foundations of Christian doctrine, with an especial focus throughout all of church history on the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostles’ Creed as central items for meditation and memorisation.

Question and Answer
Protestant catechisms developed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as an aid to the basic biblical and doctrinal education of the laity (as opposed to the more clerical focus of the Tridentine Roman Catechism of 1566). They utilise a distinctive question and answer format, though this predates Protestantism itself and has been used as an educational method in other religions and even in secular contexts.

Several Protestant catechisms have attained the status of secondary or subordinate doctrinal standards (under Scripture) within denominations, most notably Luther’s catechisms and the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms. Protestantism emphasises individual responsibility before God for reading and understanding the Bible, and responding to God accordingly. This is why it was and has been a key driver of the two-step, “call and response” tradition of passing on the rudiments of doctrine, rather than a more sacerdotal form of spirituality where the priest with his sacraments are given greater centrality.

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Posted by Edward Bowes-Smith and Michael Hayden, 26 Jun 2020

Reviews of two books by J.C. Ryle, recently revised by Mary Davis.

What a powerful little book this is! This new edition of one of J. C. Ryle’s tracts is as refreshing as a citron pressé on a hot summer’s day. In three three short chapters Ryle gets right to the heart of what constitutes true happiness.

The first chapter focuses on the essential ingredients of true happiness. Ryle explains with succinct clarity that to be truly happy a person must have a source of happiness that lies outside of the material world—everything of this world is temporary and uncertain. Joy based on worldly distractions might be deeply felt but is short-lived.

The second chapter concerns itself with some of the common mistakes people make about the way to achieve happiness and it is striking how contemporary Ryle’s thoughts are at this point. Status, wealth, intelligence, leisure, and pleasure seeking are all examined and examples taken from Ryle’s day help to illustrate his point that human beings persist in seeking happiness where happiness cannot ultimately be found. Over each of these fountains God has written, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again.”

In his final chapter Ryle explains the way to be really happy is to join him in being a real, thorough-going, true hearted Christian. The Christian is in a uniquely happy position compared to the unbeliever. They have a clear conscience before God and a deep inner peace. The true Christian is happy because their heart is in the right place, not set on this world, but the next. Ryle ends with a plea to those who are not yet believers to come to Christ and to those who are Christians not to rest on old grace but to press on deeper into Christ and to find an even greater happiness in His service.

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