The Journey on. How do we grow the frontline?

If the links don’t work for you, here is John’s video presentation Babel and The Cheeky Pandas.

Todays reading is John 15:1-2Open Link in New Window

Here is today’s reflection by Richard.

Over the past few weeks our sermon series has been based on the book—Fruitfulness on the frontline by Mark Greene. If you want to catch up on the sermons, do go to our Youtube channel or the St Matthews website.

At the beginning of the book Mark Greene says that realistically most of us don’t spend more than 5 hours a week in church activities, which leaves 115 hours to be fruitful for God in our everyday lives—he calls the frontline. The frontline is where we interact with others around us, be they family, friends, colleagues, or others we come across.

In these 115 hours, this book and our sermon series gives us simple ways we can be Christians who reach out to those around us for Jesus.

But why do we want other people to know about Jesus?… because knowing Him in the words of evangelist J John ‘is the best life you can ever live’. That is why I want others to know Jesus, because my life has been transformed by Him. Why wouldn’t I want to share the greatest thing that has ever happened to me?

I am sure we would all like to adopt the 6 M’s into our lives and be fruitful by

  • Modelling Godly Character
  • Making good work
  • Ministering grace and love
  • Moulding culture
  • Being a mouthpiece for truth and justice
  • And being a messenger for the gospel

But we can only do this if we are connected to Jesus in a deep way.

In our reading today from John 15Open Link in New Window Jesus describes our relationship with him as he being the vine and we us branches. You never see a branch of a vine indeed any plant that has been cut off and left on the ground growing fruit, it has lost its source of life.

Jesus also describes a branch being pruned to bear more fruit. Now I am no gardener (Laura will tell you) but I have witnessed plants being pruned right down in the winter to become glorious in the Spring and Summer. My little bit of gardening involves a tending the Geraniums (strictly speaking Pelargoniums) and when the flowers go over they need to be deadheaded which encourages them to grow more.

So how do we stay connected? Mark Greene gives three pointers and I am going to add a fourth.

  1. By praying
  2. By being in fellowship with other Christians
  3. Reading the Bible
  4. And I add daily prayers for infilling of the Holy Spirit

These are basic disciplines of Christian life but when combined with a focus on our frontlines they perhaps gather more significance.

Praying

At the heart of our relationship with God is our prayer life. As many of your know I experienced many difficult years at work and I found the only way to survive was pray during the day for the situations I found myself in. However, that time of testing (or perhaps pruning if you like) gave me the habit of praying often during the day. Although I have a long way to go I have witnessed amazing answers to prayer. Relatively recently one of the social transformation organisations I am involved in was running low on cash. I was talking with is a Christian colleague and I said ‘let’s pray about it’. I felt moved to pray that God would not just supply enough money but an abundance. It was a bold prayer and a prayer that was answered—we received enough money to run the operation for well over a year. I was talking with one of the other board members and he said this was remarkable—I told him that we had prayed for the money and God had answered.

You too will have stories of prayer answered—why not share them with someone else, let’s encourage one another.

Fellowship

Which comes to the second point—we need to be in Christian fellowship and sharing our frontlines with each other in prayer. Prayers for our colleagues, friends, family, neighbours those we socialise with. Of course it has been so difficult for many of us to meet in this current Covid 19 crisis. However, we can still pick up a phone, meet via social media and now meet at church observing social distancing. Sometimes people ask me ‘do you need to go to church to be a Christian’ or state that ‘you don’t need to go to church to be a Christian’. My answer is always the same—yes you are a Christian if you have accepted Jesus Christ into your life, but it is very hard on your own to maintain and grow your faith without Christian fellowship. My observation is that Christians who do not regularly maintain fellowship with others drift away, lose the priority of Jesus being the number one person in their lives. The Rev Canon Ray Brazier a former vicar of St Matthews said something along the following lines: ‘People used to come church twice on Sunday, then it became once, for some they come once every few weeks and then high days and holy days, then not at all’ To be part of the vine you need to be connected. This isn’t a guilt trip thing—we should enjoy being together as part of God’s family.

Bible Reading

Studying the Bible and applying the principles of what we read to our daily life is another staple of the Christian walk. I currently use this book [“Reflections for Daily Prayer”] based on the Church of England Lectionary or Bible reading plan if you like. The key thing when we read the Bible each day is ask ourselves what this teaches us and how can we apply it to our lives. It is incredible just how relevant the verses of scripture are each day and how God speaks to us. At present I am reading through Acts and two days in a row the readings have been about Peter speaking boldly about the of the good news of Jesus; firstly to an assembled crowd and then to the religious leaders who had arrested him. This inspires me to be bolder for Jesus and not shy away from speaking about him. A good friend of mine has a great memory for Bible verses and he is always able to recall a helpful verse for someone. This is not just about having a good memory—he has really studied the Bible and the fruit is evident—he is a wonderful encourager.

Finally, we need to be praying for the Holy Spirit to help us be open to the opportunities to tell others about Jesus. A simple prayer each day can be ‘Lord fill me with your Spirit today’. Jesus promised his disciples the Holy Spirit—we read in Acts just how transformational that was, and this is open to us today.

If you are listening to this and you are exploring the Christian faith you might start by praying or reading the Bible. A good friend of mine found a Bible in the attic of her parent’s house and started reading it and as she read it, she knew instinctively that what she read was true. Her life was transformed through that encounter. She became a sister in the Church of England and supported many people through difficult times. I was one of those who was significantly helped by her. I thank God she made that decision all those years ago.

May you be close to Jesus the vine, and grow in love and boldness for Him.

There will be a video version of the service and a podcast of the sermon.

Share this on Facebook