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Friendship is a wonderful thing.

Over the past six years, we (The Oak Church) have had the privilege of working with A* and his team in Ukraine.  It’s been a real joy to send teams from The Oak to work with the church and to build friendship in a way that goes deeper than a ‘mission trip’.

I remember sitting in ‘A’s’ van, many years ago now, travelling somewhere discussing the way the west has often ‘gone to’ the east in some way that is reminiscent of our colonial days.  It was a difficult conversation because I knew there and then that my heart had a ‘we have the answers’ part to it too. 

When you’re in that sort of situation, sitting next to a true hero of the faith, recognising the darkness and sin in your own heart, the only response is repentance and the request of forgiveness both to God and to those who you have sinned against.  I remember sitting there, trying to hide my tears, as apologies for my heart and our nation poured out in some incoherent babble and then receiving such a warm reponse from ‘A’. 

Something lifted.  Work moved aside and friendship took over.

I would now consider ‘A’ to be one of my closest friends.  We don’t see each other much, maybe once or twice a year, but walking through the pain of that journey was probably the biggest paradigm shift in God working in my heart for His nations.

The apostle Paul once killed Christians.  He actively sought them out and killed them.  So when he became a Christian it’s no surprise that it took him the best part of a decade to gain the acceptance, probably through forgiveness and repentance of the Christian community, to gain their trust.  One of those leaders was a young man named Timothy who, whilst we only have a couple of the letters written by Paul to him and the replies are all but lost, ended up being a dear friend of this Christian killer.

I imagine many moments of Paul’s pleading for forgiveness for his heart and many moments of tears and joy as reconciliation took over and friendship began.

Paul writes at the beginning of his second letter (2 Timothy 2-5):

“To Timothy, my beloved child: grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.  I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.  As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy.  I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.”

I don’t know about you, but I hear a deep friendship with honesty, tears, joy and encouragement - on both sides of the friendship - i wonder what Timothy had to lay down in his own heart to accept Paul as his friend.  Sometimes the greatest friendships come out of the greatest of opposition.

Over these last few years, ‘A’ and I have been trying to work together in building the church in the UK, in Ukraine and now in another nation.  His life and work have shaped The Oak in unseen ways and he continues to invest himself in me, our family and our church.

For us at The Oak this brings new opportunities.  It opens up the way for us to bless the nations, with integrity, here in Leeds and Bradford, in our nation and in many others.  It means, as we put teams together made up of Ukrainians and Brits and go to love the nations – the opportunities are endless.  It means there is a softness to our heart and our actions that cuts through ‘work’ and seeks to forge long term friendship.

This last week I had the joy of being with ‘A’, his family and some of our wider church family from other nations.  It was a joy multiplied as I got to take a friend of mine, Rich (from the amazing KXC), too!  Laughing and planning together, trying to respond to what God seems to be doing in the nations – having seen a doubling of our teams work in another nation in the last 6 months.  Church Planting seems more and more to me about catching up with what God is doing rather than trying to kick start something.  

I am becoming more and more convinced that apostolic ministry, the ministry in the church of building gospel foundations in churches, is founded on friendship.  A friendship that is forged through the pain of forgiveness and a friendship that is forged through walking and talking together, praying and worshipping together, eating and laughing together.  Apostlic ministry is not an added extra or a 'nice way to see the world' but a fundamental gift of God of what it means to be the church.

At The Oak we want to love the nations.  Not because it’s a thing the church does but because God has made us that way – to be in friendship and be the nations.  

 

*'A' - Name changed for his safety.

Chris Mason
23rd May 2017

Friendship is a wonderful thing.

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Spring into Action!

This Sunday, 26th March at 1am the clocks will move forward by one hour, signalling the official start of British Summer Time.  Daylight hours will be longer, and dark nights will be shorter. Already it is starting to get warmer, there are buds of blossom on the trees and bulbs sprouting from the ground.

Spring is in the air!

I don’t know about you but I love it.   After the grey of winter, spring awakens our senses with bursts of colour, diversity and depth. Spring is a time of change, a season of welcoming in new life and restoring hope.

Spring seems the perfect time for us as a church family to be serving our local communities in new ways; to be reaching out and welcoming in more people.   

I hope that you will be as excited as I am about the changes ahead!

 

Connect Supper becomes Connect Lunch

Over the last 18 months many of us have enjoyed our Connect Suppers as a wonderful space to catch up with each other over a simple meal.  We are aware that there are people in our local community who, for a variety of reasons, are around during the day and would be blessed by having somewhere welcoming to go to for companionship and nourishment.   We want to provide a space for old friendships to deepen, new friendships to grow and a real sense of community to flourish.

To facilitate this there will be the following changes:

  1. Instead of Friday suppers, the Connect meals will now be Monday lunches – 11am to 1pm.  They are still drop-in during this time, no need to come for the whole time, but you are welcome to if you would like to.
  2. Connect Lunches will be weekly.
  3. Twice a month Connect Lunches will offer space for support agencies to host pop-up clinics to serve our communities with easier access to information and resources on a range of issues.
  4. Connect Lunches will be a Place of Welcome.

Places of Welcome is a growing nationwide network of hospitality run by local community groups who want to make sure that everyone in their area has a place to go for a friendly face, a cuppa and a conversation if and when they need it.   The primary aim of the Places of Welcome network is that “Every neighbourhood has places where all people feel safe to belong, connect and contribute.”  There are currently 7 Places of Welcome in Bradford, and we will be the first one in Leeds.

Dates for your diary
Connect Supper - Friday March 24th 5pm – 7pm.
Connect Lunch - Mondays from 24th April 11am – 1pm.

 

Body & Soul

Body & Soul is back!  

Following the success of the 4 week trial of this fit, well and social group for women affected by mental health problems, Body & Soul is going to be run weekly during term-time starting after Easter.

The positive effects of exercise, relaxation and peer support on mental health are well documented. Body & Soul brings all of these elements into one group!  There will be 45 minutes of fun simple dance aerobics led by a qualified instructor, followed by an extended cool down with lots of stretching and a guided relaxation session.  There will also be plenty of social time for peer support and encouragement with healthy snacks and drinks.  

The group is for any woman (age 18+) who feels they are affected by mental health problems of any sort, whether formally diagnosed or not.  Access to the group is by referral only either through support services, or by self-referral.  Contact Lucy Pitkin to self-refer.

The group is completely free.

There are plans for a men’s Body & Soul group later in the year.

Dates for your diary
Thursdays 11am - 1pm (exercise starts 11.30am) starting 20th April.

 

Counselling Service

We are in the process of setting up a small counselling service at the Oak which will support people within the church and the local community.  

The wonderful director of Wellspring Counselling and Training Centre in Harrogate, is part of Mosaic Church. Over the last year I’ve been consulting with her, in addition to the Association of Christian Counsellors, to gather the information and knowledge we need to facilitate a counselling service using voluntary qualified counsellors.  

We now have the foundational policies and a project plan.  There is still a lot of work to do to get the service off the ground including finding the funding to resource it, but we are hopeful that it will be started this year and have complete faith in God’s plan!

 

Foodbank

A huge thank you to all of our wonderful foodbank volunteers who are doing an amazing job at serving people on a Friday evening, and thank you to everyone who has donated food.  The session has been steadily busy with service-users, whose crisis would have been even worse without access to the emergency food parcels.  

 

How can you be involved in Social Action at the Oak?

Pray

  • Thank God for the good plans that He has for us to serve our communities, the people He has already brought and the resources He has already given.
  • Seek God to help us serve people in a way that restores hope, dignity, joy and faith.  And for us to welcome all people as Christ welcomes us to Himself.
  • Ask God for the resources we need to fund the services: financial, volunteers and everything else.

Serve
Many of us are already involved in social action, serving others naturally caring for them.  In order to grow in the ways in which we serve our communities, we now need to build a social action team in a more formal and intentional way.  We particularly need people who are able to commit to being on a serving rota for Connect Lunches, and women who are able to help with Body & Soul. If you would like more information about what this will involve, please email lucy@theoakchurch.co.uk.

Join and Share
Come along and join in!  We would love to see you.  Come along to a Connect Lunch, join in with Body & Soul (if appropriate to you).  And please let others know what we are doing.  Invite your friends, leave flyers at your doctor’s surgery, playgroups, work places.  Everyone is welcome.

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.  If you have any questions, feedback or would like any further information please email lucy@theoakchurch.co.uk or arrange a time to chat together.

God bless you heaps,

Lucy
Social Action Ministry Leader

Lucy Pitkin
21st March 2017

Spring into Action!

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The Secret Life of a Worshipper

We live in a public age.  We live in a connected age of social media, of public emotion and public presence.  Just a few years ago it was quite possible to grow up in England and know the people in your village or town you were surrounded in, a few friends know your personal life, and your family be the people you turned to in a crisis.

What does it mean to believe something so deep in your heart that the deepest, quietest, secretive parts of your life are transformed - transforming your public life?

Worship, the reverence and adoration for something or someone, is not, at it’s heart, something that is done - it is something you are - something has so transformed you worship - you are a worshipper.

Worship that is simply done is an act - it’s where we get acts of worship from but being a worshipper is something you are - someone or something has so profoundly changed your life that you choose to give your life to worship.

The apostle Paul got this.  His life was one of acts of worship.  He was a religious zealot - he believed passionately in his religion and it caused him to act in worship.  But on the road to Damascus, Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, writes how Paul converts from religion to Christ, Paul meets Jesus and is transformed so deeply that he ceases to act, he becomes a worshipper.

Paul, years later, writes eleven chapters describing God's grace, God’s unconditional gift of life to those who deserve death and then he writes a therefore (wherever there’s a ‘therefore’, ask what it’s therefore!)

Romans 12:1 - Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship.

Firstly, God has shown mercy to you.  Mercy, the greek word here is Oiktirmos, meaning compassion and pity - he has shown compassion - He the Lord of the universe has shown, declared and poured out upon you compassion - he sees you and his heart breaks - so much so he acts.

And Secondly, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.  Now, Paul's history was in the Jewish synagogue - he would have understood animal sacrifice as a means to receive mercy.  He then goes on to spend 11 chapters in Romans declaring that animal sacrifices are no longer needed to provide mercy because God has sent his son to be the sacrifice so that mercy is available all the time to anyone who chooses.  Then...he brings it all together - sacrifice is still needed - but not in order to achieve mercy but in response to it.  

The mercy is so great, the compassion so deep that it warrants not an act but a life - sacrificial lives given to God to be used by him - that is true and proper worship.  So..it’s not a sing a long or a liturgical service.  It's a sacrifice, it’s an offering of your life.

Sundays, public worship, joining with God's people in corporate worship is the outward, overflow of a secret life of worship, of devotion, of sacrifice.  

The secret life of worship requires the awareness of the holiness and magnificence of God

The secret life of worship requires the receipt of mercy for it to be true worship

The secret life of worship requires the life of the receiver to be given in the secret

Matthew 6:16-18 - “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

The secret life of worship requires the life of the receiver to be given in the public.  So how do we develop that kind of life?

Developing a habit - often described as a discipline - a means of receiving God's grace, is how we dig wells of life in our life.

Developing a habit of Regularity

Taking regular time to be with God.  Recognising and receiving His mercy

Developing a habit of Thanks

Making a decision to be the first to say thanks.  Developing a habit of thanks all of the time brings perspective and helps you recognise your need of others, most of all your need of God-  at the heart of worship is thanks - practice it everywhere

Developing a habit of Confession

Choosing to recognise God's kingship and his mercy over your self ability and then choosing to share with those you trust your struggles so the power of sin is removed and fruit grows - sin's power is broken when it is shared!

Developing a habit of Humility

Choosing to be honest with God about who you are.  Choosing to not be seen, to let others get the praise and to be the one lifts others up.  Choosing to not talk about yourself but others.

Developing a habit of Privacy

Choosing to build a private place of worship with God - your place of intimacy with Him.  Not a secret place of sin but a private place of worship that overflows into the public space.

In view of God’s extravagant mercy to you, offer yourself, your whole self, as a living offering to Him - develop the secret life of a worshipper.

 

Questions for Discussion:

1. Do you believe God's mercy is for you, is complete and is forever?

2. What is your response?  What does it mean to give your life?

3. How are you cultivating a private place of worship?

4. What does your public worship life in response to your private?

Chris Mason
31st January 2017

The Secret Life of a Worshipper

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