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Street by Street

Posted by Chris Mason
on 9th August 2020

As I prepared to lead our Sunday Gathering live from our building for the first time, I couldn’t get the image of an OS map out of my mind.  An OS map shows all the contours, streets, buildings and neighbourhoods in an area – specifically, I could see the image of an OS map of Leeds and Bradford.

I dwelt on the image and prayed. Some Bible verses began to come to mind; Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

With us beginning to use our church building for streaming it’s easy to think that we are on a track back to what was.  But God seems to be showing us that, whilst our building is helpful, it’s the houses, the streets and the neighbourhoods we live in that are what matters – bringing God’s blessing and hope to our cities house by house, street by street – He has a plan and it is good!

I felt God prompt me to encourage us to pray.  Not for a return to a building, but for the blessing of the cities we live in and the people we live around.  To take our local mandate - to see the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven - seriously over the summer and to begin to pray for our neighbourhoods. 

I've heard of other churches beginning to pray for their cities during August too – I wonder, is God doing something here?  One church particularly, King’s Arms in Bedford, have made a really helpful video explaining what praying street by street is.  You can watch it here.

So, I’d like to ask you to walk the streets around you praying for God’s blessing, for His kingdom to come, for our cities to be filled with hope.  Maybe you’ll get an opportunity to pray for people too. 

Please, if you can, make a record of all the roads you walk and pray along during August and to send them in to me in September so I can map out where we’ve prayed for.  You can send lists of roads, app routes (from MapMyWalk, MapMyRun, Strava etc), or pictures of maps coloured-in to chris@theoakchurch.co.uk .  Please also send me stories and testimonies of what God does as you pray!

I wonder what God will do!

Check out our progress here:

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The Heart of Summer

Posted by Lisa Mason
on 28th July 2020

It can feel a little daunting, the month of August looming ahead with no Oak community meetings. This summer we won’t be seeing one another in person each Sunday so there’s a great potential for many of us to feel isolated and alone. 

There are still ways to connect with one another over the summer, our Oak community Whatsapp groups, Facebook groups, the new doorstep diaries for our youngest members, inviting one another out for walks and picnics, life groups, zoom prayer twice a week, online Sunday gatherings, followed by zoom coffee and the Boxes of Hope project are all ways that many of you have been connecting and caring for one another that you can continue to access over the summer. Information about all of these things is available on the Oak church website. 

But, as we have been learning through our recent preaching series, being the church is not about going to specific buildings or events. We are the church, wherever we live and however we spend our days, each of us welcomed, valued and accepted into God’s family through Christ. How can we learn to be the church more fully this summer? 

Learn to be loved.

Everything we are and do as a church flows from a place of knowing and living as God’s dearly loved children. But life gets busy and we are easily distracted from our primary purpose. Before anything else fills your diary this summer, why not set aside some time each day or some extended time each week that you can spend in God’s presence, receiving His love for you and responding with your love for Him. If this is something you find hard, try starting really small with a worship song or your favourite psalm. Look for ways to enjoy God in His word, in nature, in the body that He gave you. If you are missing your Oak community meetings, why not set aside that evening as a time and space to be with God and show your love to Him?

Learn to lean in.

When we encounter negative thoughts in our hearts it is easy to try to push these away, to fill our schedules or scroll through feeds and messages as a distraction. Perhaps this gap in the church calendar has brought up some issues and struggles that you have been trying to ignore. Instead of trying to fill your days with busy distractions, try taking some time to bring these thoughts and feelings to God and asking Him to show you the fears and lies that live underneath. Search His word for promises and truth that you can speak over yourself, ask others to pray for you as you choose to encounter God in this place instead of turning away. 

Learn to listen.

As you spend time in God’s presence, He will fill you each day with His Holy Spirit. As God fills you with His Spirit, He will lead you to encourage and bless other members of our church family. The more you ask and listen, the more love you will feel for your brothers and sisters in Christ. Chris mentioned a couple of months ago that in nations where the church is persecuted, they are unable to publish times and locations of meetings so each member waits and listens to the Holy Spirit to find out where and when the church is gathering. Let’s tune in to God’s Spirit this summer to learn where He wants us to go and who He wants us to bless.

Learn to lead.

We can wait for others to lead us to God, to point out new disciplines that we might want to take up or to challenge us about aspects of our hearts that are resistant to God’s Spirit. But each of us have the resources that we need to lead ourselves to God in some way. Perhaps there are gifts that you have longed to ask for or new disciplines that you have wanted to pursue. Why not lead yourself to step out in these things, read a book that’s been sat on your shelf for a while, or take up a new discipline that might help God to soften harder parts of your heart and receive fresh life from Him. Maybe you can share this journey with others, be accountable with your life-group, encourage and lead them to Christ as you seek to live whole-heartedly for Him. 

Learn to let go.

Perhaps you are just exhausted, burnt out and weary. How do you know if this is the case? What are the signs that tell you that your body and mind are tired? So often we can try to push ourselves to keep going, or feel guilty that we are tired and need to rest. What gives you rest? What replenishes your body, mind, soul? Take some time to discern where you are weary and be intentional about putting life-giving, restful activities into your diary - no one else can do this for you! God desires us to rest and trust Him with the 101 things that feel as if they couldn’t function without us. When we rest in God He becomes greater and we become smaller as we accept our human limitations and remember again that only He can multiply the fruit of our lives. 

Our prayer for you is from Ephesians 3:14-21:

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

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We are the church

Posted by Dan Kingsley
on 18th July 2020

Last week I continued our series looking at One Church Family. Specifically looking at the part we get to play. I thought it would be helpful to post some of my thoughts here too.

What is the church?

A question that is often asked by many of our friends and colleagues, even ourselves. A question that we must answer and get our heads around before we can really dig into the part we get to play. Without us grappling with the church and all that God calls it to be, we’ll jump to all sorts of conclusions on the part we should be playing!

I’d like to firstly question, whether for us, this is even the right question to be answering. The word ‘what’ implies it is something, a building, an event, a thing. I’d like instead to argue a better question to answer is…

What Who is the church?

The Biblical definition of the church, is it’s a people. When Peter gives us his definition of the church in 1 Peter 2:9 he says: You are the people of God, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.

We take the word church appears throughout scripture it’s more about “the gathered ones” the ones gathered to Jesus Christ. The ones who have built their whole life around Him as King and Lord and Him as Saviour, and it’s Him who builds His church.

The church is not an event, it’s centered on THE event of Christ saving a people to himself, and so there are gathered people to Jesus in all of life. It totally changes our perspective.

Therefore Jesus is building His church every single moment of every single day, through His people, in the world. Therefore all we do counts. It’s not just a couple of hours when we are church. It’s all of life, where we live as His church, as His people, in the world, bringing glory to God in all things.

The second part of that verse in Peter says: “that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” We get to bring glory to God, that can’t and should not be confined to these couple of hours. The joy of being able to do that throughout all of our hours, days, weeks, our whole life.

We are all the church, each one of us matters, each one of us is welcomed in, and we are His people, His church.

It could be said this way: The church is the renewed people of God saved by the power of God for the purposes of God in this world.

You are the church, you don’t go to it, you are it. It’s not about a meeting, a gathering, a service. It’s not about what we do, or how we do it. We are the church, as individuals together. Full stop.

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