Tag Archives: prayer

Growth groups (and why we need them)

Good morning and welcome to St Augustine’s! We are always glad to have visitors amongst us, and those who may be considering joining us regularly. Please let me know if I can be helpful in any way or provide you with any information.

Growth groups. What are they? What do they have to do with church? And should I join one?

What are they? Well, even though our congregation is small, it is also enormous. Far too big to be a place of deep, open and honest conversation. Of course, our goal is that the content of our services will be deep, open and honest! And yet to grow in our dependence on Jesus, and to deepen our knowledge and love of God, we need each other in a more intimate setting than a public worship service. Growth groups are there to help us to grow, as we build relationships of trust and openness with one another.

What do they have to do with church? Well put simply, our church (like any church) needs to grow. Of course, we want to grow numerically: all of us would love to see vibrant Sunday gatherings, full of new people exploring the things of God. But just as the growth of a garden requires attention to each and every plant, so too does the growth of a church.

I don’t think our faith should be an add-on to our lives, like a membership of an association or a hobby. Our faith is a core aspect of who we are as persons. Faith in God is only one of many “faiths” that we have in life. And I’m not talking about other religions! We put faith in the brakes and steering systems of our car when we are on the road. If we didn’t trust them, we wouldn’t get behind the wheel. We put faith in builders who put 20 tonne rooves over our heads, in doctors who prescribe chemicals for us to ingest or inject, even in chairs we slump our weight into. We put faith into more things each day than we care to consider.

The big question is: what does it look like for us to put our faith in God? Do I trust in the things or people he has created more than I trust in the One who created them? Well yes, often I do. And this usually doesn’t become apparent unless I have open, focused conversations about these very things.

Should I join a growth group? Another way of putting the question is, do I need to grow? Growth is intrinsic to life. No growth and we shrivel. Are you open to the idea of building relationships, studying God’s word, and reflecting with each other on what it means for our lives? And to committing the details of your life to him in prayer with others?

I’d love to encourage everyone to think carefully about whether you might join one. Would you consider it? No matter what our stage in life, I know that God will bless us if we humbly seek to grow in our knowledge and love of him.

The challenge of forgiveness

Welcome to St Augustine’s: it is our pleasure to have you with us today. Please let me know if there is any way I can help you out.

This week in our Lent Bible Studies we looked at chapters 11 and 12 of Mark’s Gospel. It’s a long section, with various accounts of Jesus words and actions, some of which seem confusing. Why did he curse the fig tree? Why is that story intermingled with him visiting the Temple and overturning the tables? And isn’t it odd that in the parable of the tenants in the vineyard, Jesus says that the owner “will come and kill” the tenants… how is that consistent with the message of love and forgiveness? Many great conversations about these questions.

But the hardest question wasn’t difficult because of its oddness. It was difficult because of how hard it is to do. Mark 11:25 says “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Perhaps you know someone who is hard to forgive? Someone who has hurt you or a loved one, and you just cannot imagine releasing them from that… We regularly pray “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”, but for many of us there are some situations that are seemingly unforgivable.

It is interesting though to see the links that the Bible makes between our own forgiving of one another and God’s forgiveness of us. The reality is: God forgave us “while we were enemies”. God forgave a debt far greater than the debt others have to us. And yet it says we can’t really claim God’s forgiveness if we’re not willing to forgive others.

This is a challenge indeed. And yet we must not put our own salvation in jeopardy, nor hold ourselves in bondage, by clinging on to other people’s sins in our hearts.

If ever there was a subject for prayer, this is it. If you’re not sure who you need to forgive, ask God to tell you. He may bring to mind a long list, or just one name. And if you feel that forgiveness is beyond you, then ask him for help!

“And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. Philippians 4:7.