view from my pew 6

Dear Internet

I read Nick’s article on the tennis courts at Wimbledon (for some reason he calls it a ‘bloggage’ – you can read it here). It made me think about my own sporting achievements which, if I am honest, were quite a few years ago.

When I was at Primary School I was entered in the flat race at Sports Day, when I was aged 5. My mother had said she would be there watching me but I had not been able to see her in the crowd of parents. I lined up with the other children and the teacher started the race. I started running as fast as my chubby little legs would carry me and, wonder of wonders, I was leading. I so wanted Mother to see me winning so as I ran I started looking in the crowd for her. Because I was looking around as I was running I was not watching where I was going and I fell over, tripping up the rest of the children too. Gradually we all got to our feet and the more enterprising of us ran to the finish. I sat there wondering what had happened until my teacher came and collected me. (Mother had been there and saw the whole thing).

On another occasion our Primary School engaged in a series of inter-school sports days with two other schools. I was not selected for anything in the first one and complained to my teacher. (I think they were worried I might look around for Mother again). My teacher tried to find something that I could participate in where I would not cause too much harm and noted that the tug of war team had not won anything. He put me in the tug of war team and I was thrilled to be able to wear one of our school’s gold-coloured sports t-shirts.

Tug O' War
(Not a picture of the actual event)

The next of the three sports days was at a school whose playing fields were on a significant slope and the tug of war was set up so that one team was pulling downhill and one was pulling uphill. In order to make it fair they tossed a coin each time to see which team would start off pulling downhill and we would swap places after each pull. I worked out that as it was ‘best of three’ it was definitely an advantage to start off pulling downhill. For some reason I was asked to call the coin toss each time and each time I called it correctly and chose to pull first downhill. Not surprisingly we won against both of the other schools (2-1 each time) but I didn’t care. I had won something as part of a school team! (As a post-script, the third sports day was at our school which had a flat playing field and our previously victorious tug of war team lost each pull).

As I reflected on these two occasions I thought that the first reminded me that God is always watching me, even when I can’t sense him there, so my job is not to look for him but to run life’s race to the best of my ability. I thought that the second reminded me that regardless of my ability God chooses to use me in his team and that I should be proud of that. There will be circumstances I cannot control, but all he asks is that I do my best.

Because his opening Devotions had been a reflection on England’s rather poor sporting performance in the European Football Championships I told Revd Phillip Inneck-Tucker (our Minister) about my sporting stories after the Church Meeting last night. He laughed and then he asked me to tell the stories in the first part of the service on Sunday, along with my reflections.

“No thank you,” I said, “I don’t want to embarrass myself in front of everyone.”

Revd Phil gave me one of his funny looks and asked me to think about my reflections again. I don’t know what he’s getting at.

Yours faithfully

Mr QR Grenville-Stubbs

Be blessed, be a blessing (as Nick insists I end these letters)

preaching to the preacher

plant growThe Eastern Baptist Association has an interesting tradition: the incoming Regional Minister (aka me) preaches at their own induction. I pondered this for a while and in the end felt led to preach to myself. You may have heard of ‘preaching to the choir’ but I was ‘preaching to the preacher’. This is an extract from the sermon I preached. I hope I was listening and that you will forgive the change in ‘person’:

There is one verse in this passage that really resonated with me. It is the verse that came to my mind immediately when I started thinking and praying about this sermon.

1 Corinthians 3v6: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”

The church in Corinth had become divided by allegiance to different preachers and teachers. Paul instead saw teamwork in the different leaders. His job had been to plant the church and see the seedling of grow. Apollos had come and watered the plant, tending it and helping it to grow strong. That is why an image of a hand holding a seedling was on the invitations for my Induction.

Just as Paul recognised that there are different roles for everyone in the church, he also recognised that these are best expressed when we work in partnership with each other rather than on our own or, worse still, in competition. He would not let the church in Corinth create a division between him and Apollos which did not exist.

Teamwork is incredibly important. I have been so privileged to have been part of amazing teams throughout my ministry – in Horsham, at Baptist House and latterly in Colchester. And now I am privileged to work in a new team in the Eastern Baptist Association.

But Nick, you need to recognise that you have already been a part of that team. For the past 6½ years as one of the Ministers at Colchester Baptist Church you have also been part of the Eastern Baptist Association team. The team includes Regional Ministers, yes, but it also includes Ministers of local churches and chaplains, and it also includes all those who are part of those local churches. And the EBA is part of a wider team: partners with the Central Baptist Association; partners with the other churches in the area and beyond; part of the national Union of about 2100 churches and of course the global family of believers – the Church.

Like you, Nick, Paul had moved from local church to a more itinerant ministry, but he still saw himself as a partner in the gospel with Apollos who was in the local church, and the local church in Corinth. Make sure you don’t lose sight of that and make sure you partner with others for the sake of the gospel.

Teamwork is really important. But it is important to recognise the whole team and play your part well. Paul described himself and Apollos as ‘servants’. The word here is used for those who wait at the table – waiters. And in a Michelin starred restaurant you don’t praise the waiters you praise the chef! All that Paul and Apollos were doing was serve the food which God had prepared. The key member of the team is the one who brings the growth: Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God brings the growth.

Growth has all sorts of dimensions. It can be spiritual growth as individuals as we follow Jesus more closely and his Spirit works in us. It can be growth in churches – numerical but also becoming more mature (moving from milk to solid food). It can be, and please God is most of all, growth through conversions – people coming to faith in Jesus. All of this is Kingdom growth. All of this is growth brought about by the King.

That should encourage us. God brings growth. Sometimes we can see it – perhaps it is under the surface. Sometimes we are looking for the wrong sort of growth – often we want to see more people in church on a Sunday when God might be bringing about another sort of growth altogether. But Nick never forget that it’s God’s task to bring the growth not yours.

That releases you from some of the burden and responsibility that you might feel. But it does not mean you can sit back and let it all happen. You are to plant, water, nurture, weed, dig and do all you can to help the churches you serve be places where God’s growth can take place.

Be blessed, be a blessing