I was on the BBC news website yesterday when I came across a tragically interesting article entitled Young more lonely than the old. In a nut-shell, the article explained that despite being more technologically advanced than ever before, in reality ours is a generation that has never been so fragmented and so lonely! In fact, while loneliness is a problem that is clearly affecting every element of society, it’s the young and ‘most-connected’ that are the most isolated and the most disconnected. The article states that:
“Nearly 60% of those aged between 18 to 34 questioned spoke of feeling lonely often or sometimes, compared to 35% of those aged over 55.”
60% of 18-30s are lonely! That’s nuts!! Nearly every single person in that age bracket has a phone in their pocket that can connect them to the rest of the world. The majority also have access to the internet and are registered with at least one of the thousands of online social networking sites that’s out there (Facebook currently has 450million users!!) They have more expandable income and more opportunity to socialise, travel and connect with others than at any other point in history.
Yet 60% of those connected to the world and surrounded by the crowd are lonely?
That’s so tragic! For me the greatest tragedy is that we were created by a God who is a community (Father, Son, Spirit) to be in community! When God stated that “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen 2v18) it wasn’t just about ordaining marriage, it was about establishing community! Adam and Eve weren’t just the first man and woman/husband and wife – they were the first community too! When sin entered the fray just a chapter later it shattered both our vertical relationship with God and also our horizontal community with each other. We’ve been suffering ever since. Every generation that arises is a generation further away from Eden’s garden, yet the craving for community has never left us!
We crave it.
We look for it.
But we can’t find it!
So what hope is there for us?
Answer: The Church!
God’s answer to a world that has been torn apart by sin was the gospel mission of Jesus to reconcile us to Himself by His death and resurrection. Vertical relationship restored! However, in His grace He also reconciles us to each other by making us a new people who belong to Him – His church! In responding to the gospel we become part of His body, living stones who are being built-up together as part of His glorious Kingdom! Horizontal relationship restored!
Church should therefore be a place where true community is experienced and enjoyed. A place where the lost and the lonely find refuge, hope and belonging in Christ. A place where we are connected to God and to each other in love. So much of what Jesus taught and Paul echoed was the corporate power of the gospel. The “one another” teaching of scripture is a huge subject! We can only serve, honour, bless, greet, consider and love one another if we’re in community!
I guess the challenge is how do our churches fare in this area? Faith has become such a private affair that it would seem many of the 60% are sitting in our midst each week – part of the crowd but not part of the community. If that’s the case, the gospel has not fully taken root! Church is meant to be so much more than a gathering of individuals – we were saved to be a worshipping community on mission together!
By God’s grace while my own church, Hill City, is far from perfect, we are a community. A girl from the estate was saved recently. Interestingly what got the ball rolling for her considering the gospel of Jesus was the dynamic, sincere and inescapable love that she experienced whenever she was around the saints of Hill City. It was, in her words, unlike any other sort of love she’d encountered anywhere else! It instigated a process that ultimately led to her crying out to Jesus for salvation! Who saved her? Jesus! How did He reveal His love to her? Through His people!
We got to be part of it!
I LOVE THAT!!!
The beauty is that now she’s saved she’s part of the family. No awkward “how do we help her get her head around the weird ways of church.” It was the church that attracted her, so it only makes sense that now she’s part of it – she’s loving it!
God please help us as your people to be the answer to the prayers of a generation crying out for community!
Simply had to share this little nugget from our family time this morning. We were all in the living room and chatting about the twins when Elen (4yrs) came out with this:
“I’m going to teach them about ballet, flowers and butterflies, and God!”
Loving how precious that was I asked her what it was about God that she would teach them. Check out her reply:
“That He is holy. That He is always with us. And that He died on the cross to forgive us for our sins!”
Blown away by that profound answer, Michelle asked her why she thought Jesus died on the cross, to which she replied:
“Because He wants us to be part of His family…because He loves us!”
Michelle then asked Elen how she would teach these things to the twins. Elen’s reply:
“With the Bible!”
I’ve got to confess that I was buzzin’ to to the max at my little girl’s beautifully simple grasp of the gospel. As I’ve expressed in Lessons I’ve Learned From My Little Girl, it’s been incredible as Elen’s dad to learn more about the Father-heart of God as she’s been growing up. But to hear her starting to articulate some of the big truths of the gospel in her own words at such a young age – that’s so much more thrilling!! I just pray that the truths she’s starting to understand will very soon drop from her head to her heart (if they haven’t already!!)
It’s literally one of the most special episodes of my life as a dad so far.
Thank you Jesus that “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise” (Psalm 8v2)
Today is my gorgeous daughter’s 4th birthday! We celebrated this afternoon by going on a trip to the Parc play centre in Cardiff where we spent several hours mucking around in the sunshine and eating hot dogs and ice cream! However, this evening I intend to celebrate slightly differently – I’m going to try to finish my Lesson I Learned From My Little Girl series!
Because I just got distracted from finishing the last 2 chapters last year and it struck me today that she’s growing up at a rate of knots! She’s still teaching me more about my God and myself than just about anyone else I know, but she won’t be my little girl for long. So here goes…
Just felt I needed to post this BEFORE this afternoon’s epic football match has kicked off! For those who have no idea what I’m on about – at 3pm this afternoon Cardiff City (the team I’ve supported since I was a kid) face Blackpool at Wembley for a place in the Premier League.
Should they win it will be the first time City have played top flight football for 4 decades. It’s also reputed to bring with it a £90m windfall that will more than pay off the club’s crippling debts. Should they lose, however, financial meltdown is a very real possibility!
No matter which way you look at it – today’s result is huge!
Unfortunately I was unable to get tickets to watch the match at Wembley, so instead I’ll be hooking up with some of my mates in Cardiff to watch it on the big screen in Cardiff Bay. I’ve got to say I’m nervous cos right now the result is a huge unknown. This evening I’m either going to be dancing home to Trevethin, or soaking my shoes in the floods of tears spilled by thousands of heart-broken City fans.
It’s crazy what football matches can reduce grown men too!
Which is why before I do a post-match blog entry I want to say this:
JESUS IS BETTER THAN FOOTBALL!!!
Whether City get promoted today, or face yet another season of financial uncertainty and playing mediocre clubs in the Championship, my salvation and my eternal security are secure! And that’s better by far than the heights of footballing success!
Unlike today’s match, I know the result already:
“It is finished” (John 19v30)
The cross and resurrection have delivered the perfect result and nothing can alter the outcome:
- My sin is atoned for.
- My debt is paid.
- My chains are broken.
- My death is died.
- My adoption papers are signed.
- My name’s in the Book of Life.
- My destination is heaven.
- My mansion is awaiting.
- My Jesus is supreme!
So as I’m biting my finger-nails with the blue-shirted City supporting masses today, the anthem I’ll be singing regardless of what happens on the pitch is this:
“thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Corinthians 15v57)
Another quick post to introduce you to Hill City’s latest outreach initiative – Beermats.
I’ve just taken delivery of 2000 customized beermats that have the Hill City Church logo on the one side, and the phrase “There must be more to life than this” on the other, complete with details of where and when the church meets, along with our web address and a description of oursleves as “A fresh expression of church that loves God, loves people and loves life.”
We intend to deliver these beermats, complete with a music CD, to every house in Trevethin in the hope that they will be used as what they are – beermats – by those who are sick of life as it is and hungry for life as it should be! I’d love to hear people testify in years to come that the turning point in their life came as they were drowning their sorrows one day when they took a second look at that random beermat that had been shoved through their letterbox…
Please pray for us that God would use these mats for His glory here in Trevethin!
There’s a proper blog entry coming soon I promise guys, but in the meantime I thought I’d just post up this video. We used it at the start of our service yesterday and I thought it was both quirky and encouraging! It’s basically good ole Louie Giglio doing what he does best – offering a fresh perspective on Scripture!
Hope you like it
I recently discovered this video and it moved me deeply.
I think it affected me because it’s about a 33 year old man with a beautiful family, just like I’ve got. It affected me because it’s about cancer – the vile disease that cruelly took my mam away last October. However, it’s ultimately about the grace of God and the hope of the gospel that belongs to all of us who are in Christ. May the incredible courage and faith that you witness here cause you to worship and cling to Jesus. May it also inspire you to pray for Zac and his precious family.
It’s Thursday afternoon and I’m chilling in Starbucks for the first time in ages. It’s also the first chance I’ve had to gather my thoughts and reflect on a weekend that was sensational on so many levels! Ignite Hope 2010 was a massive South-Wales-wide youth mission that saw around 800 young people hooking up in a huge tent in the Centre of Cardiff on the bank holiday weekend (30th April-3rd May). After a time of worship and teaching this righteous rabble charged out the doors to unleash hope in communities right across South Wales in the Name of Jesus, armed with nothing but the gospel!
My role during the week was to lead the teaching sessions each morning which was an awesome privilege. Using Philippians 2 as my text I taught 3 sessions on following Jesus example to Serve, Sacrifice and Shine. I have to confess that it was mentally, physically and spiritually demanding to get all the talks prepared and to get down to the tent by 9am each morning, but so worth it. By God’s grace the messages that God gave me seemed to resonate with many who were there and on Sunday morning I was filled with the presence and power of God in a very deep and very special way! As I literally preached my guts out that morning, I just knew that God was in the place, speaking loud and doing something significant in people’s lives (not least my own!) All glory to Him!
For me each of the afternoons involved whizzing back up to Trevethin to be involved in various community outreach events that my good friend Pete Evans had coordinated. This included a litter pick in the drizzle on Saturday with just a handful of local youth – heroes!
In the evening we then took 7 of them down to the gig in the tent where Mike Pilivachi preached the gospel. Being COMPLETELY unchurched – the service bit went over their heads, though I think they still appreciated it! After the event we set them loose in the Ignite Hope village and they loved it! The climbing wall was the most popular thing they were in to and I enjoyed a race to the top with one of the boys and was pleased to win (almost!!) The trip was definitely a success and strengthened relationships with the young people.
However, it was on the Sunday that things really started to kick off (in a God way!) We had organised a community fun day to follow on from our morning service at the Cold Barn Farm – and what a day it turned out to be! There must have been around 150 who turned out for the World Cup Footy tournament, the free BBQ and the face painting! The weather held and everyone had a fabulous time! It was great to meet loads of new people and introduce them to the love of Jesus and the life of Hill City Church. What blessed me most, however, was the phenomenal way in which the Hill City saints stepped up and just served their socks off! Literally EVERYONE was involved in serving, cooking, cleaning, face-painting, refereeing, befriending and testifying to God’s grace! As the pastor it was SO encouraging to see the church function like that. There was a real sense of passion, sacrifice and commitment to the mission that God has called us to.
It was beautiful!
So to all who got stuck in and served so passionately – thank you, you’re brilliant and I love doing the church adventure with you!
The real cherry on top of the day was that the love of Christ on display had made such an impression on one of the girls who was there that I later had the opportunity to share the gospel with her for 2 hours, amazed at the way that God had clearly used the love of His saints to soften her heart to His grace and how He was clearly now at work in her life!
Are we going to do another day like that?
After my last teaching session on the Monday morning it was back up to the estate for one last community project – the small matter of painting a mural in Central Park – a project that was being sponsored by Hill City Church. This was no small task for my old friend and graffiti legend, Bryce Davies of Peaceful Progress, as we had invited an army of high energy local young people to help out! The 3 hours that ensued were manic to say the least and I think I must have lost a few stone by the end of it, but the end product speaks for itself! The mural isn’t finished yet, but as the local councillor told me yesterday – what had once been a drab, weather-beaten wall now looks “a thousand times better!” Couldn’t agree more!
That evening I went back down the tent for the last time to see the pictures and hear the stories of grace, hope and salvation that had epitomised the weekend right across the region! It was great to just breathe out and let loose in worshipping God for all that He’s done! I have to say a huge, heart-felt “God bless you” to Gary Smith, John Lewis and all the Ignite crew for the vision, courage, commitment and excellency in coordinating and delivering a weekend that was both memorable and life-changing for so many! I pray you’ll know the pleasure of God’s smile over the coming days as you hear story after story of hope unleashed!
I then returned home to sleep soundly! The rest of this week has been all about recovering from the sheer intensity of it all and spending some long overdue quality time with my precious family who had so selflessly released me to do all that I had done that weekend! My family are awesome and I’m so grateful for the sacrifices they regularly make for the sake of the gospel. It’s been my joy to pour my life back into them this week!
Thank you Jesus for the hope of the gospel!