From David Todd
In terms of new church plants Church@theBarony is in a very vulnerable and fragile place. It keeps me awake at night. The statistics are not on our side, around 40% of church plants fail in their first three years, that’s without the serious and concerning challenges of lockdown. In fact right now, if it was just down to me, even with the amazing team we have leading Church@theBarony I think we’d be struggling to survive.
I love this church, I’m so proud of you all, of every person who’s part of this family, I love your grace, your passion, your desire for the community that we’re building. It’s not about me, it’s not even about the team, it’s about you and your desire for God, for his will for your life and for his church, for his Kingdom. It’s only God’s grace, worked out and reflected through you, you beautiful bunch of Jesus followers, that’s keeping us alive and it absolutely inspires and enthuses me. The stats might not be on our side, but God is and you are and whilst we uphold each other in prayer and seek God and whilst God continues to bless us, speak to us and guide us, the stats are just numbers that we’re not beholden to.
I think there are three things that are central to keeping us connected with God and with each other just now, three things that God is using to grow us, individually in our faith and I think perhaps even numerically, but it’s very hard to quantify that.
We’re putting out good content
I am excited and thrilled by the content that’s going out on social media. We’re doing, I think, all we can and we’re doing more than you would expect from a small church, in no small part because to some degree we’re all involved in that. Even if that feels meagre to you, when you like a post on Facebook, or comment on YouTube, when you share some content, when you do those things, when you engage with the content in any way, you immediately become a participant in it. It’s a bit like worshipping in church, you might not be on the stage with a guitar and a mic, but as soon as you even tap your foot, you’re part of that worship.
I think our online services are great, I hope that you’re enjoying them. They provide teaching, corporate worship, news and prayer together. That’s what a church service should do and I think we’re doing a great job and putting out content that’s relevant and engaging. I appreciate and am aware of every view.
We’ve had great feedback from these weekly blogs, it’s a great chance to reflect and go a little bit deeper with people, hearing where they are at. I hope that they inspire you and encourage you, hearing other people’s testimonies should be an encouragement to us all, it helps us to know and understand that we’re not in this alone, but that our feelings and experiences are shared and common.
There have been regular vlogs on Facebook that Mel and I have been doing. These short messages have sometimes been shared to other local Facebook groups as well as by individuals on their pages and they have been seen, some of them by two or three thousand people. That’s astonishing. These short vlogs, about three minutes each, are designed to cast some light into the darkness that we all suffer from from time to time and ought to reflect something of God’s grace and truth.
Since the end of February I’ve put out a verse of the day on Instagram (@church_for_everyone). As well as a pretty picture (I’ve tried to mainly use local shots, Judy is, as ever, the best of us) I’ve found a bible verse and tried to say something relevant about it, just a couple of lines. I really love doing these micro sermons! Sometimes just that verse and a little application and interpretation is all we can take and maybe just what we need. This past week, for the first time, I promoted one of the posts, meaning it would appear randomly on people’s feeds in a 7km radius around Bo’ness. That post was seen by over a thousand people and clicked on, liked, by 58, about ten times what I would usually expect. That’s an amazing opportunity and one that I’ll take again in a month or so, maybe with a little chat from me next time.
One of the markers of a church is that they are teaching and engaged in outreach and the content we’re putting out on social media is hitting those marks. It’s important though that we all appreciate that whilst it might be leaders making most of the content we are all part of it together, it only really works when you engage, when you click ‘like’, when you share!
We’re actively worshipping
One of the biggest challenges for us has been to engage in worship together. We can’t sing together (it doesn’t work over zoom, it’s a truly horrible experience; first week of lockdown the staff tried to sing Happy Birthday to Ruth and we couldn’t even do that, although that might say more about us than zoom) Having songs in the services, with words up, has helped, but so does other things we’ve been doing. Sharing songs on What’s App or to Facebook is great, not just songs, but readings, poems, even some of the jokes and memes can do that.
When we encourage one another we are engaged in worship. Worship literally means, to shape the worth, when we worship we are declaring the goodness of God, we are singing about his greatness, his majesty and might, his compassion and kindness, his love. We are forming a picture of what God is like.
When we encourage one another we delight Father, because it reflects his love for us, because we each carry something of the divine, because we are made in the image of God, because we are precious to him, when we are kind to each other, when we love one another we are loving God. If you’re a parent, it’s a bit like this; when your child is recognised, rewarded or given an award, you feel proud, you are pleased that someone else recognised how awesome you know they are! When we recognise and love one another we reflect the goodness of God, although we’re not worshipping each other, it’s an act of worship.
We’re also praying together, in small groups, but praying nonetheless. I would like to invite you to join in with that. We’ve been meeting on zoom before the service goes out on a Sunday and praying at half past four, you’re welcome to join us. The link will go on the What’s App group. I want to encourage you to press in in your prayer life, especially if you’re finding it a bit dry. Try to find things just to simply thank God for. It might help you to read a Psalm and pray through that; Ps23, Thank you Father for being my Shepherd, thank you for providing for me. Help me to lie down in green pastures, help me to know where they are. Thank you that you restore my soul, please restore the soul of my friends and family.
We’re talking and supporting one another
Last weekend I came home to a packet of homemade biscuits, tucked away amongst the one rose bush that Judy is managing to cultivate. It was a lovely gift and a blessing. I hear often of the phone call, the visit, the gift that’s made as you look after one another. I know that there are church members who have had shopping done for them, prescriptions picked up, dogs walked, cake shared. I love the way you are loving one another. And I hear too stories of how that love is being spread beyond the church to neighbours and friends. You are amazing! Helps is a spiritual gift, are you aware of that? We sometimes talk about spiritual gifts like it’s all speaking in tongues and miracle healings, but helping people, care and compassion is a spiritual gift!
It’s the smallest of things, but the Barony friends What’s App group is a wonder. Thank you for using it, for connecting. Even if you’re not contributing, you’re reading and you’re watching videos shared and encouragements. It’s a brilliant way to be sharing love and supporting one another. Thank you, please keep it going, there are people for whom it’s their best and maybe only way to connect, for some it’s the best way.
After the service on a Sunday Helen has been hosting a wee social zoom, it’s really nice to see friends and to catch up, again, you’re very very welcome to be part of that. The link is usually in the chat on What’s App or message me and I’ll sort you out!
You might not be accessing all of these ways of connecting, for some of you just the Sunday service is enough, although presumably you’re reading this too, so that’s at least two things you’re engaged with! It doesn’t matter, nobody is expected to do and like and be engaged with everything, but my hope, our hope is that through all of these things and because God is in this, because God brought us together, because God made us family we will not just survive as a church, but we will flourish. I want to see us grow, as unlikely as that might feel, I think God can use this time to help us as we love one another.