yet another shameless plug

An Electric Plug
This plug is extremely shameless

I am afraid this is another shameless plug for the magic show that I am putting on along with my friend (and wonderful magician) Richard Jones (see his Facebook page here and be amazed).

The show is on 23rd May at South Woodham Ferrers Village Hall, starting at 7.30pm. (There is a bar at the Hall so you can buy drinks during the evening.) If you are thinking of coming along you can buy tickets on the door, but to be certain of getting your tickets you can buy them beforehand by emailing social@swfvillagehall.org.uk or phoning 07969 733818.

wpid-fb_img_1426476114702.jpgI am sure it will be a great evening (I am biased) with lots of laughter and wonder. You’ll enjoy yourself – bring some friends. (It’s not a money-back guarantee!)

In case you are wondering, none of the illusions that will be performed are the result of Richard and I having special powers – we have not been to Hogwarts. There will be no television camera tricks, it is an entirely live show (we can’t say that the same will be true of the audience!) We are not in league with the Devil. Everything you see will be the result of practice, talent and skill.

If you are in the area (or could be) it would be wonderful to see you at the show. If you’re not, (or you can’t) thanks for reading about this anyway and wait for the world tour to come to a venue near you. If you want a flyer to put up to advertise the event please let me know and I will be happy to let you have one.

Be blessed, be a blessing

the effect of irritation

old phone 2I’d had enough. I couldn’t cope with it any more. I snapped.

And with vouchers saved judiciously over several years I bought a new set of phone handsets for our home landline. The reason was that I was fed up with the regular bombardment of unsolicited phone calls — recorded and live – trying to get me to sign up for house insulation (it’s well insulated), new windows (our house is rented), claim for payment protection insurance refunds (I have never had PPI) and all manner of other annoying scams. I have never, and will never, signed up for anything where I have been cold-called but these people don’t seem to realise that.

So I bought new handsets. They are special phones that intercept all calls and filter out any that are unwanted. This means that when someone calls for the first time (unless I have been able to add them to the ‘welcome’ list) they will hear a message asking them to identify themselves. We then get called by the system and hear the caller’s name. At that point we can choose to allow the call once, always, never, or send it to the answering machine.

If you call our house (other than to sell us stuff) I am sorry that you will get a message to start with – but it should only be the once. After the system knows that we want you to call us you will be able to call us as you usually do without interception or delay. It is the effect of irritation.

I think it’s brilliant that phones can now do this, and with a certain amount of glee check the system regularly to see how many nuisance calls have been intercepted.

I also think it’s awful that such phones are necessary. We are bombarded by unsolicited attempts to sell us stuff and sign us up for stuff that comes through the letterbox, knocks at our door, harasses us through our phone line, sends unsavoury emails, lobs unwanted text messages, stops us in the street and who knows what they will come up with next.

The suspicious part of me wonders whether all of the unsolicited phone calls are actually sent by companies that came up with a way of blocking phone calls and wanted to create a market for them. But that couldn’t be true. Could it? You see what this has done to us – we are suspicious and cautious about approaches by strangers. When I am stopped in the street I always try to be polite but start by saying that I never give out my details or sign up for anything in the street. That deters some, but the more persistent keep going and say that they don’t want anything from me… only to ask me a little later for some way of contacting me to get me to sign up later.

I do like approaching the people who are trying to gain support for charities that we already support. It gives me a sense of satisfaction to be able to tell them that we already support the worthy cause they are promoting. I got a high five from the last one!

The purpose of this bloggage is twofold. The first fold is to encourage you to persist, say your name when prompted, and wait for us to answer if you try to contact us and get the interception machine. Don’t be put off.

The second fold is to ask us to consider our approach when Christians are sharing our faith. Does it come across as an attempt to sign someone up for our cause, to get them to sign on the dotted line, to make a snap decision based on a ‘chance’ encounter? If so, perhaps we should not be surprised if people don’t want to listen – it’s the effect of irritation.

We need to reconsider, reimagine and restore our approach: instead of selling Jesus to people we should take every opportunity to offer people grace, acceptance, dignity, peace, prayer and so much more that our culture leeches out of them. We have good news to give away not bad news to sell. It might simply look like a hug, a listening ear, a free cup of tea, a Foodbank parcel, an affirmation of value, or any number of grace-rich encounters… [insert your own examples here]

It all sounds suspiciously like us being free samples of Jesus (see previous bloggages!).

Be blessed, be a blessing

intriguingly different

teaYesterday Sally and I enjoyed afternoon tea (little fingers raised) at Wivenhoe House Hotel – a wedding anniversary gift we thoroughly enjoyed. The picture here doesn’t fully do justice to it, but you get the idea…

I was fascinated by the hotel’s strapline: “intriguingly different”. That is an intriguing strapline, it’s certainly different. It is very understated. It is enigmatic. It is memorable (at least I remembered it). Where some hotels will promote themselves on the basis of their value for money, levels of comfort, quality or other desirable qualities by which potential customers will evaluate them this hotel has chosen something that doesn’t tell us anything about them except that the difference will intrigue.

It got me wondering about whether churches use similarly enigmatic straplines. Our church is Colchester Baptist Church and our stated purpose (on a lot of our literature) is ‘to follow Jesus Christ and make Him known.’ It’s not really a strapline, more of a statement but to non-churchgoers I wonder whether that is as enigmatic as ‘intriguingly different’. I also wondered whether (copyright permitting) any church would choose ‘intriguingly different’ as a strapline!

How would you promote a church?

Be blessed, be a blessing

MOTs and Posters – find a link if you can!

20140327_121204
Go on car, you can do it!

This morning I dropped my car off at a garage for its annual MOT test. I don’t think that there is anything major wrong with it, but I always leave it with a sense of apprehension in case there is something terminal or expensive hidden under the bodywork.

 

As I was walking home I noticed posters in peoples’ homes and cars supporting different political parties in the imminent elections (local and European). I wondered why people do that. Is it simply to declare their allegiance? Is it in the hope that if enough people do it for one party the resulting peer pressure will encourage others to vote the same way, or perhaps deter people who would support another candidate from bothering to vote because they don’t think they will make a difference? Are they hoping that the sight of a poster in a car in front of me will persuade me to vote that way? (And if so, why haven’t I heard more about the ‘Baby on Board’ party?)

It got me reflecting a little bit on how people perceive churches. Not the people, but the buildings. (Yes I know the church is the people, but we confusingly use the same word for our premises). Ours is currently clad in scaffolding as we have a new roof fitted. But it almost looks as if the building is being demolished. We have now put up a banner across the scaffolding that says ‘Welcome to Colchester Baptist Church’ to convey the message that we are still very much open for business. But ancient buildings (especially if in a state of disrepair) can convey a message.

And then there are the posters outside. I think that we churches may have cornered the market in cheese, for example: “CH–CH – what’s missing? UR”. But is it better that we have something outside the premises than nothing? It is certainly possible that God will use a poster to speak to someone, but I have not heard of it yet.

Do you advertise your weekly events? We have a list of the weekly activities in one of our notice boards at the front, which is changed weekly. We have also recently put a QR code* on it so that people can get linked directly to our website if the so choose.

And that then brings me to the virtual street front. Websites can attract or deter people. If they are visually unattractive or contain out of date information it conveys a different message to the well-designed and up to date website. I think our church’s website is rather good (have a look at it at www.colchesterbaptistchurch.org.uk). I know that we often have people come to our church because they found us on the internet. It does help that our website usually comes up first when you search for ‘Colchester church’ because two of the three parts of our name are in that search. If we slipped down the list I would be tempted to suggest that we change our name to ‘AAA Colchester Baptist Church’!

However, believe it or not, (and regular bloggists will believe it) I wasn’t going to write about how churches visually represent themselves. I was going to write a bloggage about the importance of regular maintenance for your car in order to keep it in good condition so it will sail through the MOT test. It is when a car is neglected that problems are more likely to get worse because they are not recognised and dealt with early. It is when a car is driven relentlessly and we don’t check the oil levels or other fluids that damage can occur to the engine.

And of course the same is true of our faith. If we take God for granted, if we neglect to feed on the Bible, if we don’t spend time in prayer, if we are not spending time being nourished in worship, if we are not taking care of our ‘soul’ we should not be surprised if God feels distant and our faith feels dry.

And that (tadaaa!) brings me to draw together the disparate threads of this bloggage and appear to be coherent. Because while the premises (physical and virtual) do speak about the church, it is of course the state of the church (ie the people) that will make most impact on those around us. Back to us being good free samples of Jesus I suppose.

Best not wait for an MOT to find out how we’re doing…

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*QR codes are those strange squares with a mixture of black and white blocks in them. They are a different sort of bar code – each one unique.

statistically speaking again

blog visits

I have noticed a trend with the visits you are making to my blog. When someone else advertises a bloggage lots more of you visit than on the other occasions. That’s what the chart above reveals. The significant peaks in views and visits coincide with the occasions when one of my bloggages was featured on the Baptist Times Daily News Sweep. This encourages those who are not normally bloggists on my site to have a look and see what sort of bloggerel I have generated on that day.

That is interesting in itself but what I also find interesting is that on the subsequent days the number of views and visits drops back to whatever is considered normal. Clearly those visitors did not feel sufficiently inspired to make return visits. Actually (and by way of making myself feel better) these statistics are slightly misleading because (bless you) over 130 of you receive my bloggages each day by e-mail and those stats would show up in the visitor stats because technically you have not visited.

Several reflections occurred to me as I considered the rollercoaster nature of the graph above.

  • word-of-mouth and recommendation are much better ways of advertising than simply being there and waiting to be found.
  • funny headlines and discussing relevant topics may well encourage people to take a look. However…
  • …unless you develop a relationship with your visitors they may well not stay.
  • in the pursuit of increasing the number of regular visitors it is easy to forget those who are already regular visitors and receiving from you.

Perhaps churches ought to learn these lessons too. And if we are unsure perhaps we should contrast it with how Jesus went about things.

Be blessed, be a blessing

Statistics joke:

Aunt Bessie loved to visit her nieces and nephews. However, she had relatives all over the country. The problem was that no matter how much she enjoyed seeing them, she hated flying. No matter how safe people told her it was, she was always worried that someone would have a bomb on the plane.

She read books about how safe it was and listened to the stewardess demonstrate all the safety features. But she still worried herself silly every time a visit was coming up.

Finally, the family decided that maybe if she saw the statistics she’d be convinced. So they sent her to a friend of the family who was an actuary. 

“Tell me,” she said suspiciously, “what are the chances that someone will have a bomb on a plane?” 

The actuary looked through his tables and said, “A very small chance. Maybe one in five hundred thousand.” 

She nodded, then thought for a moment. “So what are the odds of two people having a bomb on the same plane?” 

Again he went through his tables. 

“Extremely remote,” he said. “About one in a billion.” 

Aunt Bessie nodded and left his office. 

And from that day on, every time she flew, she took a bomb with her.