Bonhoeffer uses a similar phrase 'worldly Christianity'. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.
These are interesting days in Childs Hill, with a continuing stream of new people and several of them staying. We were over fifty in the morning and a decent number at night. I made it seven or eight Iranians this last Sunday. I have heard of other churches experiencing such a phenomenon. One problem is that only two of these are very competent in English. We are having weekly English conversation classes to try and help. Not sure what to do next. and Nigerians still dominate but with Filipinos and West Indians well represented. I hesitate to categorise in that way but I'm trying to give some idea of the multi-ethnic make up of the congregations these days. It was nice to see an Indian lady back from India, although she had been ill most of the time she was there.
Our seminary friends read the Scriptures for us. Next week they will preach.
Despite the encouragements there were still one or two missing. I was sorry not to see our Dutch friend in the evening but a Brazilian man turned up. He had just moved from an AoG to a Presbyterian church back home in Sao Paulo and had various good books on his phone including Cinco pontos by John Piper. Encouraging. He had tried a URC church in the morning misled by the word reformed. Sadly, he only plans to be around for three weeks.
Another encouragement was someone asking me about baptism.
Also encouraging was the presence of seven children under 10. I am going through the children's catechism at the moment.
The preaching was on the second part of Acts 1 and Matthew 12:43-45.
We weren't a bad number last Wednesday, though we were two or three down for various reasons. We are really into the thick of it now with a long section on the sin offering, Leviticus 4:1-5:13. It probably was a little long and not as coherent as on week one - I think it is often like that. We also got on to the subject of apostasy, which is always difficult. Once we get through the next two bits we will have covered all the offerings so I am not too despondent. Although the prayer time was a little short it was very fluent.
Yesterday was a busy day and there were lots of people about. Unusually we had both lunch together (held over from its usual slot the previous week) and evening communion. Over 40 came to the meal. The morning congregation was quite full. Two of my sons were home with their brides (one is married, one is marrying in the summer). One of our members was back from a few months in Jamaica. There was another new Iranian (plus three others from Iran). Most of our other newbies were there (although one has written to me since explaining that she probably won't be settling with us). It was interesting to hear from my visiting sons of the new people they had been talking to.
Yesterday was the beginning of the seminary placements here so I got our Dutch student and Our South African one to read the Scriptures for us (from 1 Samuel and Exodus). Alexander also gave us a slide presentation on the religious situation in the Netherlands after our lunch together. In the evening an interesting Dutch lady came. She grew up going to church but has not been for years. She is now reading the Bible and attending church (she had 'phoned here beforehand to be sure of the time). Her English was fine (I gave her an English Bible as she said her Dutch translation was too paraphrastic) but she was glad to be able to talk in Dutch with Alexander's wife.
I began a new series from Acts in the morning. I have never preached through Acts. It is the only New testament book I have not touched. It was an okay start. In the evening we looked at the next bit in Matthew 12 (38-42). I started back on the children's catechism with the kids.
So there's a little bit of a buzz at the moment, which is good.
One of the delights of being where I am is the proximity of London Seminary. It is a privilege to serve on the board and to benefit from meetings there and at the John Owen Centre from time to time. I also get to preach there too from time to time. I was there again yesterday, just ahead of the students heading out for their three week placements, as the member of staff due to preach is recovering from a recent bicycle tumble. I was conscious that two of the students would have heard most of my material since last October and so I delved into the back catalogue and reworked a sermon from 1 Corinthians 3:1-9 on avoiding spiritual immaturity and having a proper attitude to preachers. It went okay I thought and I enjoyed speaking with students over lunch afterwards. You can check out the sermon here on my Preached Sermons blog.
(PS the picture is from last summer not from yesterday)
So we had a good turn out on Wednesday as we continue through Leviticus - this time looking at the peace or fellowship offering in Chapter 3. Our two new people returned and there plenty of others. We again had a short question time after the study itself. The prayer time went well too as we endeavoured to pray about various matters large and small, near and far. I had never really considered the fact that though Jews are not to drink blood we drink wine, symbolic of Christ's blood, at the communion.
1. Usain Bolt Jamaican sprinter
2. Igor Judge, Baron Judge Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales 2008-2013
3. Scott Speed former US Race car driver
4. Walter Russell Brain, 1st Baron Brain British Author and former neurologist
5. Marina Stepanova former Soviet athlete, the first woman to run under 53 seconds in the 400 metres hurdles
6. Vania Stambolova Bulgarian athlete, medal winner in the 400 m hurdles
7. Mark De Man Belgian Footballer who currently plays for Stade Bierbeek. He is most often deployed as a defensive midfielder but has also been used at centre back or right full back. He has been a regular player at Anderlecht and Belgium
8. Sara Blizzard UK Local Weather Presenter
9. Colin Bass English musician, record producer and songwriter, bass player with prog rock band Camel
10. Jules Angst Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Zurich University in Zurich, Switzerland
It's half term here and people were away in droves (some not well too). By the evening we were down to 10 (and two of those were people who hadn't got up for the 11 am service I think). One couple were with their little boy having an emergency op so I made a point of praying for that family early on. There were plenty of people early on - 2 or 3 Iranians (plenty missing though), a full compliment of Filipinos (6), a sprinkling of Nigerians (6), again a few missing). A trio looking for a permanent home arrived again. It was good to see them but that may mean there isn't a good Reformed church between here and Wembley (maybe we're wrong - let me know!).
I preached my closing sermon on Galatians (number 15) which was a whistle stop tour of some major themes here (the cross, grace, so-called replacement theology, etc) in the morning. The unaccompanied singing was okay although it was the first hymn so we took a little while. In the evening I thought about dropping something (a reading or a hymn) as we were so few but I pressed on. The sermon was not long.
My wife was away and it was just me and the boys. Doesn't quite feel right somehow.