December 2017

Sunday 26th November 2017 15:25

Sausage rolls, Outrage and Jesus

Greggs the bakers made national news recently for a picture (below) in which they had put a sausage roll in the manger instead of Jesus. You may have seen some of the headlines. Apparently people were outraged and called for a boycott of pastries and cakes until Greggs apologised, which they did quite quickly.

As someone who believes that Jesus’ birth was one of the most profound things to have ever happened in the universe I have to say that I wasn’t offended in the slightest, but I was left a little bemused. Why is anyone surprised that Jesus isn’t part of Greggs’ nativity scene? Christmas is about all sorts of different things for all sorts of different people. Many people who think Christmas is important, who love this time of the year, are not followers of Jesus. Even if they know the story they have not yet understood the significance of the baby in the manger for themselves. So Christmas is about family, its about watching Elf and Home Alone and (for some reason) Die Hard, it’s about the joy of giving and receiving gifts. For some its about eating a little too much good food and drinking a little too much of something to wash it down, its about trees and lights and funny paper that’s and that’s OK.

As much as I would love everyone to know the significance of an all-powerful God become human baby I understand that everyone doesn’t. And if those that don’t want to use Christmas as an excuse to sing and dance and have fun, to spend more time with family and friends and put up coloured lights when the weather is grim and the nights are long, good for them. And if, in the spirit of trying to do something fun Greggs put a sausage roll in a manger I’m not too fussed, because for most people Christmas isn’t really about the baby that is normally pictured there anyway. I’m not offended, just maybe a little sad. Sad that more people don’t understand how amazing that baby is. Sad that more people don’t understand that the real problem with the picture is that the wise men were never at the manger-side anyway. Sad because if people really knew, the fun and family times, the movies and mistletoe and lights, would all come with an extra dose of joy. Because that day, in Bethlehem the King of the World was born, a baby who would bring us hope and joy and show us how to love.

So whilst I’d much rather an accurate depiction, with Jesus in the manger and his parents gathered near, I’m not offended by a sausage roll. I wonder how you feel about it?

November 2017

Monday 30th October 2017 15:47

I don’t know.

I knew this day would come. from the moment I had children I knew the day would come when they would know more than me, when they would comprehend things I could not, when they would have a firm gasp of technology that I struggled to understand. I just thought that they might be a little more than 6 years old when it happened.

Many of us have experienced the moment when our child, or grandchild, relative of friend, has come home from school full of information and questions: ‘Why isn’t Pluto a planet anymore?’ ‘What is it if it isn’t a planet?’ ‘How many dwarf planets are there?’ Or ‘my teacher says that…’ or ‘Don’t be silly daddy, that’s not how it works.’ I guess I have to resign myself to the fact that as time goes by there will be more and more things that my son is better informed than me about. Fortunately I am still way ahead of my three year old daughter (for now).

Part of the problem is, as adults we feel like we should know, we should have the answers, we should understand the questions, it should be us teaching the children and not the other way around. There is something in built about the idea that the more power and authority a person has the more they should know and understand. that is why we don’t like our politicians to say ‘I don’t know.’ We prefer them to bluff, to pretend to know so that we feel comfortable having them in change.

As a minister I sometimes feel the pressure to know in church. I’m the one who is supposed to know what to say and do in all circumstances, both in praising God and when praise is the last things on our minds. I’m the one who is supposed to know where that obscure bible reference someone just made comes from. I’m the one who is supposed to know exactly what is happening in everyone’s lives even if no-one has told me. And I’m supposed to know everything there is to know about God. I guess this is often the pressure I put on myself rather that coming from anyone else, bit its just not possible. The bible reminds us that it is OK not to know everything:

I tried to understand all that happens on earth. I saw how busy people are, working day and night and hardly ever sleeping. I also saw all that God has done. Nobody can understand what God does here on earth. No matter how hard people try to understand it, they cannot. Even if wise people say they understand, they cannot; no one can really understand it.
Ecclesiastes 8:16-17

In fact I think there is something quite freeing in not feeling like we have to have all the answers. Sometimes God baffles me, it’s Ok for us all to be baffled by him from time to time. Sometimes details that I should know escape me, my memory really isn’t that great, and sometimes no-one told me in the first place. Sometimes I dint know what God thinks about something or what the bible says. And that’s OK. We don’t need to know all the facts, we just need to know Jesus. and as we strive to know him more we’ll either get the facts too, or they’ll start to seem less important.

So please don’t be disappointed with me when I say: ‘I don’t know’

Joel Mercer

October 2017

Monday 2nd October 2017 14:18

Lighthouses, rivers, and arms open wide.

Over the last few months at PBBC, during prayer times and discussions, we have felt a real sense of God speaking to us about what sort of church he wants us to be. During our week of prayer, as we sung everyday about Christ being a lighthouse that guides us safely to the shores of his Kingdom, we thought about what it might mean for us as a church to be a lighthouse shinning into our community. We had visions of arms flung wide to welcome in every and anybody who would come, and of arms wrapped tightly around those in need of comfort and care. As part of the Leadership Team away-day at the end of July we talked together about the vision that Ezekiel describes in Ezekiel 47. There we find a trickle of fresh water that flows from the house of the Lord, a trickle that becomes a stream and then a river, that flows into a salty sea and makes the water fresh. Ezekiel 47:9 tells us that; ‘Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows.’

All of these things have been feeding into the sense that God is speaking to us about the fundamental purposes of Potters Bar Baptist Church. I feel like he is calling us to be like a lighthouse in the community, a place where everyone knows they can come and find safety and care. Calling us to be those arms flung wide in welcome and arms wrapped around in comfort. I feel like he is calling us to be this sort of place and that from here light will shine and living water will flow.

In some ways I think we are already doing a good job of heeding this calling. We have increasing numbers of people coming into the building each week to participate in one of the many groups that run. And I trust that as these people come they experience the love of Jesus through the welcome and the care they receive whilst here.

But I think God is calling us to more. Over the coming months we are going to be considering how we can be even more welcoming to any who might wish to come, how we can express the love of Christ even more deeply to those who do come. We’ll be thinking and praying about our buildings; are there things we can do to our premises that will help with this calling? We’ll be thinking and praying about our activities; do we need to start anything new? Do we need to adjust some of what we already do? We’ll be thinking and praying that God will continue to guide us in the days ahead so that we might see our church and our community transformed by his living water flowing through us.

So please be praying, pray at home in your quiet times about the next steps for our church. Come to prayer meetings and let’s pray together about where God is leading us. Think about what we might do, dream and have visions about how we can fulfil God’s calling and come and share your inspiration with the rest of us.

I for one am very excited about the next steps we will be taking as a church. I hope you are too.

Joel

September 2017

Wednesday 30th August 2017 15:53

God Given

I sometimes get given gifts that I have no idea what to do with. Sometimes these gifts are for me; books that I know I won’t ever read or items of clothing that are never going to fit, and sometimes they are for the church; Half broken children’s toys, Roman Catholic art-work or bits of old furniture. Either way I am left with a conundrum, what do I do with these things? Sometimes before I can decide what to do with something I have to work out what it is, what it does. I’m forever finding odd things which I cannot fathom, I cannot discern their purpose, and if they might be useful to me or not. Obviously whoever has given things to me, or to the church, has done so out of generosity, wanting the gift to be appreciated and used. So what does one do with such gifts?

The bible has a lot to say about gifts, mostly about the gifts that God gives to us. One of the best things about the gifts that God gives is that they are always useful. The bible tells us that every person in a church family has a part to play, gifts, given by God, to use. However sometimes it is hard for us to use them. Some of us struggle to identify the gifts that we have; we don’t know what they are. Some of us have no idea how we can use the gifts that we do have; we don’t know what they are for. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 says this:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

The first step then is to discover our God given gifts; we can do this by praying, asking God to show us, we can ask ourselves, what am I good at? What am I passionate about? Sometimes it helps to ask these questions of someone who know us well, others often see things in us we might miss. Another fantastic way to discover our gifts is to get stuck into things, to have a go at serving in different ways, sometimes we find that we are good at and enjoy things we never thought we would.

Once we start to uncover some of the gifts that we have the next question is; what do I do with these God given gifts? The answer comes in the passage of Corinthians above; our gifts are to be used for the common good, for others. How can you benefit others with your gifts and talents?

This Autumn at Potters Bar Baptist Church we are going to be thinking together about the gifts that God has blessed us with, looking particularly at those mentioned in Romans 12:4-8. Do come along to our Sunday morning services expecting God to show you what gifts you have and where he wants you to put them to use.

If you can’t make it on Sunday mornings you can always find recordings of our services on www.pbbc.org.uk

Joel Mercer

Wednesday 30th August 2017 15:43

Week of Prayer 26 June to 2 July 2017

Tuesday 30th May 2017 06:48

PBBC Week of Prayer 26th June- 2nd July
What next? – Seeking God’s will for the next steps in our life together

Monday 8pm – What next for our Church?
• Praise God for:
o Years of growth, both in number and in the depths of our relationships with him and each other.
o His faithfulness to us and his provision of resources.
o Those who have served the church for many years.
• Pray for:
o Those in our church who are unwell
o Members who are no longer able to attend
• Seek guidance about:
o What sort of church does God want us to be?
o Where should we focus our energy and resources?

Tuesday 1pm – What next for our Outreach?
• Praise God for:
o Relationships being built with many people who don’t come to church through mid-week groups
o Events at church which have bought the community in.
• Pray for:
o Continued development of relationships with those in our community.
o That more of those we see mid-week would join us for Sunday worship
• Seek guidance about:
o How can we show our community the love of Christ in the coming years?
o Might there be a way to invest some of our resources into meaningful outreach to our community?

Wednesday 10am – What next for our Worship?
• Praise God for:
o An increase in the number of people from our church involved in our worship. From leading services to being part of our singing group.
o Those dedicated people who help lead our worship, morning and evening each week.
• Pray for:
o More musicians to join our worship group.
• Seek guidance about:
o What might we do to engage more people in our worship?
o How can we encourage other to join us in worshipping God?

Thursday 8pm – What next for our Small Groups?
• Praise God for:
o More small groups that have started this year with a good number of people now attending.
o Small groups hosts and leaders.
• Pray for:
o More people to attend small groups
o That God would bind us together in our small groups so that they are places of learning and worship and mutual support.
o That we might not give up meeting but rather meet together and encourage each other.
• Seek guidance about:
o Ways in which our small groups can motivate each other to lve and good works.
o How we might encourage those who do not currently attend groups to join.

Friday 2pm – What next for our Premises?
• Praise God for:
o The wonderful space we have to worship him and serve our community with mid-week groups.
o The ability to let our premises and derive extra income.
o That the repairs to the wall are in hand and the cost has not been exorbitant.
o Those who work hard to maintain our buildings.
• Pray for:
o Our buildings, that there might be no-more major problems that need to be fixed.
o All those who meet on our premises during the week.
• Seek guidance about:
o Are there things that we might do with our premises to better extend the kingdom of God?
o Should we spend some of the churches money on updating parts of our building, if so which parts and what impact might this have on our mission?

Saturday 9am – What next for our Children and Young People?
• Praise God for:
o Increased numbers at Tots in Tow since partnering with the children’s centre.
o Leaders and helpers who give up their time to plan and work with our children and young people.
• Pray for:
o Those children we do see each week. That they would be happy and healthy and grow in their relationships with Christ.
o That we might see more children and young people in church, both on Sundays and at mid-week activities.
• Seek guidance about:
o Are there things that we might do to encourage more families to join us each week?
o Should we look to be hosting more children’s and young people’s activities during the week? What might these be? How would this work?

Sunday 10am – What next for PBBC?
• Praise God for:
o A special week of speaking to us!
• Pray for:
o Those things that he has been saying to us this week
o Discernment for our future
• Seek guidance about:
o How we might implement some of the things he has shown us

June 2017

Tuesday 30th May 2017 06:45

Is there something you can’t do without? I often tell people that I’m not good for anything before my first cup of coffee. I know people whose brains don’t seem to function until they have had a shower in the morning. Some people might need food regularly to keep them going or just the right amount of sleep.

There is something that the church cannot do without, something that makes everything else in the church work. That something is prayer. Prayer is a fundamental part of everything the church does. Whenever I hear of churches growing in number or experiencing true depth in their relationships with God and each other or impacting their community for the Kingdom of God, a common theme is always that these churches are steeped in prayer.

At the end of this month we will be having a week of prayer for our church. I’d encourage all of you to do your best to come and meet with us, as often as possible that week to seek God. If you can’t make it to the meetings for any reason please pray for the church in your own quiet times and if you feel God is speaking let us know what he says.

Details of what we will be praying about and the times of each meeting can be found in the following pages. I’m excited to hear from God about what the next steps in our life together might be.

Blessings,
Joel

Its Party Time!

Wednesday 26th April 2017 15:18

On the 14th of this month Potters Bar Baptist Church is celebrating its birthday (don’t ask me how old we are, I got it wrong last year!). To celebrate we are throwing a party. That Sunday our service will start a little later at 11am. After the service there will be a buffet and BBQ (around 1:30pm), a bouncy castle, games and activities culminating in the life and mission choir preforming Spirit Songs at 3:30pm.

The idea is to celebrate with our whole community another year of faithfulness from our God. You are probably now asking yourself, ‘What do I need to do?’ the answer is threefold:

1. Turn up and have fun (or at least pretend to have fun!)
2. Bring a friend so that they can have (or pretend to have) fun too
3. Consider offering your service to help (I have a list of jobs that need doing and I’m sure there is a suitable one on there for you (and your friend))

That’s all I have to say this month, look forward to seeing you on the 14th!

Joel.

Thursday 6th April 2017 19:07

April 22nd

Saturday 1st April 2017 19:02

Come and join us at our Attic Sale on Saturday, 22nd April. Open from 10.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m.

Free Entry

Tea and Coffee available.


April 2017

Wednesday 29th March 2017 06:58

It’s what’s inside that counts

How many times have you been told that? Don’t judge a book by its cover; it’s what’s inside that counts. How many of us I wonder do just the opposite all the time? How many of us buy things in the shop based solely on how nice we think the packaging looks? How many of us would hesitate to go into a restaurant where the outside was filthy, with unwashed windows and little visual appeal?

And yet deep down I think we know that sometimes the toilet cleaner in the plain white bottle, the one without the cartoon duck on it, is just as effective. We’ve been to little restaurants that look unloved from the outside but are clean and full of wonderful smells and great food when you venture past the door. We know these things, we have experienced the fact that it is indeed what is inside that counts. Which makes me wonder why we keep on buying Easter eggs year after year. Someone reminded me just last week that a bar of chocolate is cheaper and that you often get more actual chocolate for your money. Easter eggs are literally hollow, they look good from the outside, some of the look huge, but there is no substance to them, just a shell. I guess in this way they do a good job of reminding us of Jesus tomb because once the stone was rolled away that too was found to be empty. But that is not really what this message is about. This message is about how God sees us.

God knows us inside and out and he loves us. He doesn’t take a look at the packaging we come in and decide that we are too boring, to big or small or old or young. He loves us. What is even better as far as I am concerned is that even when he looks on the inside, he still loves us. Because I have to admit sometimes what goes on inside my head is not always that nice, I’m grumpy and get angry, frustrated and tired and God see’s all that and still loves me.

The world around us says that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, that we should judge people by what’s inside, well sometimes what is inside isn’t always nice. But God still loves. What’s more he wants to help us work on what is inside to make it less grumpy or angry, to make it better.

So this Easter as you tuck into your eggs (or bars of chocolate if you have gone down the cheaper, more practical route) Remember God knows what your packaging looks like, and he knows what is inside and he still loves you, he loved this world so much that he sent his son to die for us at Easter time.

Every blessing,
Joel

March 2017

Monday 27th February 2017 20:31

Have you given up on your New Years resolution yet?

Maybe you didn’t make any this year, knowing that it was futile, knowing that your best intentions for 2017 wouldn’t last for 365 days. Often I think our resolutions are about giving things up, no more chocolate or alcohol or takeaways but the temptation of these things are just too great. I’m not here to berate you, I don’t make resolutions for exactly this reason – I’m no good at keeping them.

However, I want to challenge you (and myself), to resolve to do something over the next month and a bit. Because the 1st of March is Ash Wednesday, or the first day of lent. Lent is a time of preparation, for those forty days we remember stories from the bible of preparation and prayer. We remember the rain at the time of Noah for forty days and forty nights to prepare for the re-birth of the world. We remember the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years before they were ready to enter the Promised Land. We remember Jonah preaching for forty days to Nineveh to prepare them for God’s judgement. We remember Jesus’ forty days and nights in the desert, being tempted, to prepare him for his ministry. We remember that these times often meant going without for the people involved, fasting or struggling to find sustenance, relying on God. We remember that in each case blessings came out of the end of this time. Dry land and rainbows, entry to the Promised Land, salvation or fruitful ministry.

And so this lent, from March the 1st to April 13th I want to challenge you to journey with me in self-denial and focus on God. Let’s all make a Lenten resolution. This doesn’t mean running off to the desert for the duration, it does mean giving something up and it means focusing on God.

I’m going to do this by giving up alcohol and by reading Dethroning Mammon: Making Money Serve Grace which is Archbishop Justin Welby’s book for lent this year. So instead of settling down to a whiskey and Match of the Day on a Saturday evening, I’ll be doing a bit of light reading about God and money (and then maybe I’ll watch Match of the Day). The principle is simple, make a sacrifice – give something up and then take up something each day, a book, a prayer time or reading part of the bible maybe.

So this lent, let’s prepare ourselves for our walk with God by denying ourselves – giving something up and spending just a bit more time with him.

Joel

Have you given up on your New Years resolutions ye

Monday 27th February 2017 20:29


Maybe you didn’t make any this year, knowing that it was futile, knowing that your best intentions for 2017 wouldn’t last for 365 days. Often I think our resolutions are about giving things up, no more chocolate or alcohol or takeaways but the temptation of these things are just too great. I’m not here to berate you, I don’t make resolutions for exactly this reason – I’m no good at keeping them.

However, I want to challenge you (and myself), to resolve to do something over the next month and a bit. Because the 1st of March is Ash Wednesday, or the first day of lent. Lent is a time of preparation, for those forty days we remember stories from the bible of preparation and prayer. We remember the rain at the time of Noah for forty days and forty nights to prepare for the re-birth of the world. We remember the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years before they were ready to enter the Promised Land. We remember Jonah preaching for forty days to Nineveh to prepare them for God’s judgement. We remember Jesus’ forty days and nights in the desert, being tempted, to prepare him for his ministry. We remember that these times often meant going without for the people involved, fasting or struggling to find sustenance, relying on God. We remember that in each case blessings came out of the end of this time. Dry land and rainbows, entry to the Promised Land, salvation or fruitful ministry.

And so this lent, from March the 1st to April 13th I want to challenge you to journey with me in self-denial and focus on God. Let’s all make a Lenten resolution. This doesn’t mean running off to the desert for the duration, it does mean giving something up and it means focusing on God.

I’m going to do this by giving up alcohol and by reading Dethroning Mammon: Making Money Serve Grace which is Archbishop Justin Welby’s book for lent this year. So instead of settling down to a whiskey and Match of the Day on a Saturday evening, I’ll be doing a bit of light reading about God and money (and then maybe I’ll watch Match of the Day). The principle is simple, make a sacrifice – give something up and then take up something each day, a book, a prayer time or reading part of the bible maybe.

So this lent, let’s prepare ourselves for our walk with God by denying ourselves – giving something up and spending just a bit more time with him.

Joel

February 2017

Monday 30th January 2017 14:11

‘Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grub.’

If you already know what I’m talking about you are probably slightly older than I am. I suspect that the United States of America are unlikely to demand all of their firemen change their names to coincide with a half century old BBC children’s program but we do now have a real life TRUMPton. President Trump, famous for silly hair, promising to build a wall between the USA and Mexico and a cameo in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, is now the leader of the free world.

Now you may be of the opinion that, as a minister, I should be politically neutral, never advocating for an individual or party, staying out of politics and sticking to what I know best, Jesus. If that is what you think then you labour under a misconception. The bible, and Jesus, has plenty to say about politics, about the sort of people we should be and the sort of world we should strive for.

President Trump wants to build a wall to keep out people he doesn’t like. He wants the US to be about taking care of themselves and preventing others from taking advantage of all they have. The bible has plenty to say about how to treat foreigners, or what to do about those who have less than you:

‘The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself’ Lev 19:34

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me … whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:34-36, 40

We are called to care for those who are different, for those who have less than us. We are called to care for those in need, in this nation and across the world. I am proud to be part of a country that, rather than build a wall to keep people out, dug a tunnel to connect ourselves to others.

Let me leave you with the words of another Baptist Minister, one a little more famous than me:

‘Let us build bridges rather than barriers, openness rather than walls. Rather than borders, let us look at distant horizons together in a spirit of acceptance, helpfulness, co-operation, peace, kindness and especially love.’ Martin Luther King Jr.


Blessings,
Joel

Small Groups

Thursday 29th December 2016 11:10

Potters Bar Baptist Church Small Groups

When Where Who
Mondays 7:30pm Rushfield Cliff and Chris Eaton
Tuesdays 10am Hatfield Road Gladys Platts and Vera Eccleshall
Tuesdays 2:30pm PBBC Mike and Linda Winter
Wednesdays 7:30pm Barnet Road Joel and Vicki Mercer (Starting March 2017)
Fridays 2:30pm Furzefield Court Julie Gale and Pam Murphy

Please contact 01707 840538 or minister@pbbc.org.uk for further details

Unless otherwise stated all groups launch 3rd week in January 2017

Its 2017! Happy New Year!

Thursday 29th December 2016 11:04

A new year at Potters Bar Baptist Church means a new verse for the year:

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but meet together and encourage each other. Hebrews 10:24-25a

We are going to start 2017 focusing on meeting together. ‘Easy!’ you might say ‘I already do that, I come to church each Sunday to worship.’ That is fantastic; it is good to come together on a Sunday to worship God together, but as a church we want to take this one step more. So our thoughts in the early part of the year are going to be about why we meet together and exactly what sort of things each one of us should be doing when we meet together in order to encourage one another as our verse for the year says.

Coupled with this we are re-launching our small groups from the third week in January. These small groups will gather together to pray and support each other, to praise God and to study his word. Each week our small groups will look together at the same theme we’ve had the previous Sunday morning, seeking to go deeper and understand it better. Hopefully someone will be in touch to ask you which of our small groups you’d like to attend.

I truly hope that 2017 might be a year when our meeting together moves a step closer to being exactly what God wants his body, the church, to be. That together we might make and effort to motivate each other to love and good deeds, to encourage each other. I find that prospect incredibly exciting, I hope you do to.

December 2016

Sunday 4th December 2016 14:52

Joel and Vicki invite you to drop into the Manse on Saturday, 10th December between 1 and 4 p.m. for light refreshments and a chat.

All welcome

December 2016

Sunday 4th December 2016 14:49

'O come all ye faithful…’

It’s December! And in church that means only one thing, Christmas. Actually it’s not just church that goes all out for Christmas in December, the lights come out in the High Street, the shops all morph into red and green sweet and present filled gauntlets and what was once a peaceful garden centre becomes a Santa’s grotto filled with screaming children. What a joyous time!

At Christmas we remember Emmanuel, a name for Jesus that means ‘God with us’, God come down to live on earth. At this time, as we remember Jesus and his first moments on earth, I want to remind you of his last moments. As Jesus stood with his disciples, about to leave, he made them one promise and gave them one task. His promise was that just as he had been Emmanuel, God with them, he would continue to be with them, even after he had gone. The task was to share his story with others, to make disciples of all people that they too might know the comfort of the presence of God.

This is still our task today. So I want to encourage you, as we start the downward plunge into all things Christmassy, take the opportunity this year to share with just one other person, what ‘God with us’ means to you. Maybe start to think if there is someone you would like to invite to church this Christmas to hear, not just about the baby Jesus, but about a God who loves us and is always with us.

Joel Mercer

Message from Lynn Green General Secretary of BUGB

Wednesday 9th November 2016 21:51

Beacons of Prayer – See I am doing a new thing

I have this deep sense that God wants to do a new thing and he is calling us to prayer to 'make space' for him to speak and move.

Let me share with you how I have become convinced of this ...

God has been speaking to me from Isaiah 43,
'forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland'.

This sense that God wants to do a new thing, the sense that HE will do it, has been growing. Others have also given me this verse along the way; it just keeps popping up in all sorts of different settings.

But on Sunday 31 May 2015 God gave me a breathtaking vision of his glory; it was awesome, powerful yet beautiful. Then I saw fires being lit and spreading out all over this country and I felt that God was saying he wanted to light beacons of prayer right across the UK. Beacons of prayer that were people who were inspired to pray and seek the Lord, not with our own agenda but simply that we might draw close to Him and open ourselves and our churches to him so that he would have the freedom to move amongst us and through us by his Spirit. The next morning I prayed that if this was the Lord he would confirm this to me. Since then, in so many different ways, there has been this common sense of discernment that, yes, this is God speaking to us.

I believe this is a word for the church in the UK but my first role is to devote myself to prayer for God's new thing and to call Baptists to join me in lighting and stoking beacons of prayer.
In these last two days I have shared this vision with the Baptist Steering Group and together we share this sense of God's call to prayer. Last night we knelt together in humility and prayed that the Lord would be at work in and through us as individuals and as a movement of churches...

So what next?? Quite simply, pray!

For more stories and information see the Beacons of Prayer page on the Baptists Together website (www.baptist.org.uk).

I have no idea where this will lead but I am being obedient in taking the first step and trusting the Lord for what comes next.
Lynn Green
General Secretary, Baptist Union of Great Britain

November 2016

Thursday 27th October 2016 06:38

♫ ‘I AM A ROCK, I AM AN ISLAND’ ♫

The Poet John Donne, in his 1624 work Devotions upon Emergent Occasions wrote ‘No man is an island, entire of itself.’ Some time later Paul Simon sought to disagree singing ‘I am a Rock, I am an island.’ John Donne claimed that all people are linked, that we need each other. Paul Simon’s song says ‘I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain.’ I wonder which you agree with, can we manage on our own or do we need other people?

You might be able to guess what I think. The story of the bible shows us that we were created to be in relationships: in a relationship with God and in relationships with one another. As Christians we are called to infuse those relationships with love.

Another thing that is clear from the biblical story is that life is not easy, particularly as we struggle to follow Christ. So our relationships with other Christians should help us as we walk through life together. We should be able to encourage and assist one another, to challenge one another when we see others straying from Jesus, comforting one another as we weeping, learning together what it means to wholeheartedly follow Jesus. Colossians 3:15 & 16 says this:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

We can’t be Christians alone, and sometimes Sundays isn’t the best place to open up, support each other and share, it isn’t the best place to ask about things we are confused about. Sometimes there are just too many people about. So what do we do?

In 2017 we are launching small groups. Small groups are exactly what they sound like, small groups of people who meet together to encourage, support, equip, admonish and comfort each other. They are also places where we can worship together and get to know others better. I think they are pretty integral to Christian life. Soon there will be some information about what groups are going to be meeting where and at what time. I’d like to encourage you, start praying now that God would help you into a small group where you can find support in your walk through life and where you can support others.

Small groups are open to all, even if you don’t come to church on a Sunday. If you want to attend just get in touch!

Every Blessing,
Joel

October 2016

Thursday 29th September 2016 15:16

Underdogs, low expectations and a God who can do anything!

I know what it is like to be an underdog. I finished secondary school weighing about eight stone, only a shade taller that 5ft and with the all the co-ordination of a dizzy octopus. I remember turning up to one sports day to find that my classmates had entered me into the 800 meters race (thanks!). I wheezed my way twice round that track finishing dead last, a whole minute behind the geeky kid who came to school with a briefcase. I’ve never been the fastest, strongest, funniest, cleverest, best looking or most accomplished at anything. Generally this has meant that much of the time I have very low expectations of myself.

The same could be said for a number of sports stars over the last year or so. Leicester City went from being rock bottom of the premier league in January 2015 to winning it the following year. The Welsh football team cruised to the semi-finals of the European Cup, far outstripping the success of some of their much bigger, better-financed rivals. An almost unknown Sam Querrey broke Novak Djokovic’s 30 consecutive grand-slam win streak to dump the world number one out of the tennis at Wimbledon. All these had low expectations, started as underdogs, but rose to the occasion and upset the odds.

I wish I could tell you that I too rose to the occasion and upset the odds but as yet my greatest sporting achievement is not collapsing in a heap whilst running the micro marathon with Caleb and his four-year-old classmates at school. And yet I still believe that I can do great things, that I am destined to do great things. Not because I think I’m going to get any clever, faster, funnier or more handsome, but rather because I work alongside a great God.

We can get inspiration from the life of David a shepherd who, with the help of God, defeated a giant and became king. Jesus told his disciples this:

‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’
Mark 10:27

So whenever you think you can’t, when you feel like an underdog, that things are too much. Whenever God is leading you somewhere you don’t think you can follow or life seems overwhelming remember this:

I can do all this through him who gives me strength
Philippians 4:13

Joel Mercer

Sunday 4th September 2016 10:44

September 2016

Thursday 25th August 2016 15:04

‘When I grow up I want to be…’ words that almost every child says at some point in their lives. Sometimes what they want to be is serious, sometimes funny, sometimes impossible, ambitious or mundane. Some children insist that they want to grow up to be elephants or dinosaurs. I wanted to be a Police Officer, Caleb tells me he wants to be an astronaut, footballer and singer on the radio. We’ve told him that if that’s what he wants to do he will need to study hard and train hard (and maybe see a vocal coach).

I wonder what you wanted to be when you were a child? Did you achieve your ambition? Maybe like Caleb those ambitions required a lot of hard work, maybe you succeeded or maybe not. I’ve been watching lot of the Olympics over the last month and am really looking forward to the Paralympics starting, in these competitions we seek people who are giving everything they have to achieve their goal of a gold medal. Those people devote years, decades of their lives to training, it effects everything from what time they wake up in the morning to what they eat. They are wholehearted in devotion to their ambition.

Many of you, like me might have said, (or thought) at one time or another ‘I want to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus.’ If you have I wonder how devoted you are to that ambition. Is your faith in Jesus, you relationship with God something you are truly wholehearted about? If you’re not a follower of Jesus already maybe its something you have thought about from time to time. Someone once said:

Just going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.

Being a Christian is about far more than skulking into church occasionally. It’s about being wholehearted in your relationship with God. The same way an Olympian or Paralympian’s ambition effects everything they do, requires great effort and devotion, so to Faith in God impacts everything. This autumn, starting in September on Sunday mornings, we are going to be studying what it means to be wholeheartedly devoted to God by looking at the life of David. I’d encourage you to come along, or listen to the recordings and find out what it is that God looks for in our hearts and how we can devote ourselves, wholeheartedly, to him.

Every Blessing,
Joel

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

July August 2016

Monday 27th June 2016 19:08

As I write this article for our summer magazine the rain is pouring down outside the window, I’ve just had to put an extra jumper on to keep me warm and balmy days seem far away. And yet today, I’m told by the internet, is the first day of summer. Summer, that time of year we associate with holidays, barbecues and perpetual disappointment about the weather (it’s either raining or it’s ‘too hot’).

Many of us head off on holiday in the summer months in search of some sun and a chance to ‘get away from it all.’ We know that every now and then all of us need some time to relax, time to put aside all the responsibilities we have at home and do something different. Jesus also made a habit of taking time out from his busy schedule. He got away to be with Father God, Luke 5:16 tells us:

‘Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.’

Periodically Jesus would disappear off, sometimes with just a handful of others, sometimes on his own, to get some space and pray. He would go to reconnect with God, to allow God to speak to him and to instruct him on what was coming next. Jesus needed to be refreshed and revitalised by Father God in order to carry on with the work he had before him.

I have no idea what your plans are for the summer (though feel free to let me know when you see me next) but I want to encourage you this year to make some space for God. Take some time out of the all the things you usually fill your days with to have some quality one-on-one time with your creator. If nature is your thing spend a day walking through woods or fields, praying about whatever comes to mind. If you like old churches why not visit a Cathedral for a day and be inspired by the art and architecture. Maybe you just need to be like Jesus and find a lonely place to go and be. Whatever you do give God a whole day of concentrated time this summer. Speak to him about any and everything, read his word and ask him to speak to you. Ask him to refresh you, ask him to fill you anew with the Holy Spirit so that you are equipped to continue to live for him.

And if you’d like, after you’ve done all that, come and tell me about it. I’d love to hear your experiences of spending some quality time with God.

Every Blessing for whatever you do this summer.

Joel

June 2016

Thursday 26th May 2016 06:31

The American Declaration of Independence includes this famous sentence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Whilst I have no disagreement with the idea that all people are created equal I do take exception to the idea that the pursuit of happiness is a God given Right. In fact I’m pretty sure that the pursuit of happiness as a concept is probably not compatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The impact of such a thing being enshrined in American history, law and philosophy is widespread. It permeates our culture in TV programs and films, in song and advertising. The idea that we all have a right to pursue happiness influences so much of the information we take in.

So what is my problem? Surely it is good for people to be happy, and therefore the pursuit of happiness is a positive thing?

I’m not so sure. I think ultimately the pursuit of happiness is unfulfilling and the results are depressing. The pursuit of happiness is about striving for something, always wanting something more. Pursuing happiness means pursuing a better job and a pay rise in the hope it will make us happy. It means wanting more authority or status or power, it means grasping after more than we have, in the hope that we will find happiness. Ultimately all this is unsatisfactory, for everything we gain there is always more we could have, the pursuit becomes the thing. We end up living in a place where everyone is pursuing but almost no-one is really happy.

I don’t think happiness is something that can be pursued. Apart from anything else our emotions (of which happiness is one) are not stable enough, what makes us happy today won’t necessarily make us so tomorrow.

And maybe more importantly, the message of our faith is one of self-sacrifice rather that self-serving-pursuit and of contentment rather than of happiness. Jesus command to that those who wish to come after him should deny themselves, take up their cross and follow, (Matt 16:24) doesn’t seem to sit well alongside a pursuit of happiness. In fact the end of Matthew 6 seems to suggest a better way:

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matt 6:31-33)

There is a contentment that comes with knowing the God is in control. A contentment in giving the future and all our desires over to him. So I say to you, don’t strive after happiness. Be content with all that you already have and instead seek the righteousness and kingdom of God.

Joel

Wednesday 4th May 2016 07:48

May 2016

Friday 29th April 2016 21:12

‘Jesus seemed to think that evangelism was an important part of being a disciple. He told Simon and Andrew that to follow him would mean fishing for people. He told those of his friends who stuck with him in Jerusalem that when he sent the Holy Spirit they would end up being his witnesses. According to Matthew, his parting words make it clear that to be a disciple is to make other disciples. It all seems pretty straightforward. If we call ourselves Christians we are meant to evangelise.’
The above is from Baptists Together Summer edition titled Everyday Evangelism. Did you know that one of the three principals that Baptist Churches in the UK sign up to is about evangelism? It says this:

‘It is the duty of every disciple to bear personal witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to take part in the evangelisation of the world.’
Evangelism can be a scary word. Maybe it conjures up in your mind ideas of standing on street corners with megaphones condemning people to hell. This really isn’t what evangelism is all about. Those who regularly come to our evening services have been hearing, as we work through the Gospel of Mark, that Jesus came to share the Good News of the kingdom of God. Everything he did was about this Good News. Evangelism is really just sharing Good News with people, we might do this in the way we act, in the grace, generosity and forgiveness we show, both as individuals and a church. We might do this by sharing a bit about how the Good News of Jesus has affected us. There are a thousand ways we might do this.

One of the important things I think for us to remember is that we are not called to bring people to church, or even make converts of them. That is the Job of the Holy Spirit. Our job is simply to be Good News for our community and to share Good News with others.

As we journey together through 40 days of Daring Greatly on Sunday mornings we have all been encouraged to share this Good News with friends, family and neighbours, we have all been encouraged to embody Good News. On Sunday 15th May at midday we are throwing a church birthday party, with food and games and all sorts. We want this to be a day where we share some Good News with our community (even if that good news is only that there’s going to be free food.). So who are you going to invite to our birthday party? Who are you going to share some Good News with? How are you going to take part in the evangelisation of the world?

Joel

If you have time I would encourage you all to read this month’s Baptists Together, it is full of inspiring stories and ideas for sharing our faith. There are three copies at church that you can borrow and return. Alternatively you can download a copy from the website below.

http://www.baptist.org.uk/Articles/465298/Baptists_Together_magazine.aspx

Wednesday 13th April 2016 07:29

Ephesians- Being the Community of God.

Monday 28th March 2016 10:16

April 2016

Monday 28th March 2016 09:57

Did you know that at Potters Bar Baptist Church we have both a 10:30am service and a 6pm evening service each week? I guess you probably did know that. In our evening service, since last September, we have been very thoroughly working our way through the Gospel of Mark. To give you some idea of how thorough we are; we’ve been at it for 5 months and we’ve got as far as chapter 6.

A few weeks back I was preaching on Mark 6:6-13 where Jesus sends out the 12 Disciples to do all he had been doing. To preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God and to show people what that Kingdom is like by preforming miracles. This started me thinking, scripture tells us that the reason Jesus appointed the twelve in the first place was in order to send them out. I ended up asking the congregation a lot of questions that evening but the first one was this:

Why do we come to church?

Now I’m aware that many of you who read this don’t actually attend church, you may connect with us in other ways. I guess for you the question is different:

Why don’t you attend church?

These questions are pretty fundamental and really important to not just what happens on a Sunday but our whole lives. Essentially I think there are three basic reasons to attend church.

1. For God – We attend church to praise and worship our saviour, to deepen our relationship with him by learning about him. It doesn’t matter what we sing but the attitude with which we sing it. Church is for God.
2. For Ourselves – Learning is part of this but also our need to feel supported by other followers of Christ. We come because we have a need for God, we come as individuals to be equipped and empowered by the Holy Spirit so that we can live for God and share what we have. Church is for us as individuals.
3. For Others – We attend church in order to have fellowship with and support others who are part of our church family. We come to pray to God for those we know and love and for this world that he made. We come to learn and be equipped for the sake of others that they too might come to know our great God like we do. Church serves a particular role as the place from which we are sent out to bring love, compassion, healing, joy and hope to others. Church is all about other people.

I think it is important that we keep these three things in balance. If church becomes more about me than it does about God or others I end up navel gazing, I no longer allow God to shape me. When I get bored of the preacher or the worship isn't to my taste I simply stop going. When church is all about others I spend so much time trying to help people I neglect my own relationship with God. I burn out and become cynical. If church is all about God, all focused on praising him and learning about him we find ourselves disobeying his commands to properly love one another.

Isaac, Samuel and Sacrifice

Sunday 13th March 2016 22:04

Do you remember the story of Abraham and Isaac? One day God says to Abraham: "Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain that I will show you." Now this was a bit of a shocker as Abraham had waited many years for Isaac. Isaac was the chosen one, the child of promise, Neo to Abraham's Morpheus, Anakin to his Qui-Gon Jinn.

The story goes that Abraham was obedient, he didn't know what God had planned but he took his son, the most important thing in the world, to a mountain with the intention of sacrificing him to God. Eventually God provides a ram to be sacrificed instead of Isaac, because after all, our God is one that doesn't really approve of child sacrifice.

When we tell ourselves this story we sometimes tell ourselves that Abraham should have known that God was not the sort of God that wanted human sacrifice. We tell ourselves that our God wouldn't take away the child of promise, the most precious thing in Abraham, and his wife Sarahs lives (I often wonder what Sarah might have thought when Abraham finally told her that he had taken their son on a camping trip with the intention of sacrificing him before they came back).

And yet, fast forward 1,000 years or so and we find another parent and child in a similar situation. Its not exactly the same, Hannah has begged God for the one thing she wants most in the world, a son. She says this: Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life. Hannah gets her son but when the time comes to give him up, to sacrifice him to the Lord there is no ram, no other to take his place. God takes Samuel, takes his life and uses him. Though her son is alive and she sees him very occasionally (once a year or so) Hannah really did have to sacrifice the most precious thing in her life, the thing she had desired above all others, to God.

So when Paul writes in Romans 12 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. We shouldn't kid ourselves into thinking that, like Abraham, we might be let off the hook at the last moment. The demands of following Jesus are such that he may require us to give up, not only our own selves, but the things in life that we desire most, that are most precious to us. We are called as his people, to submit, to sacrifice all we are and have. This might sound like a bit of a rubbish deal but I truly believe that not only does God deserve this sacrifice from us (after all he did create everything, not to mention his own self-sacrifice for us), but he also promises us something far better in return.

March 2016

Monday 29th February 2016 19:58

Sneaky, sneaky.

Have you ever played the game statues? On person will stand at one end of the room with their back turned. Everyone else sneaks forward whilst that persons back is turned but when they turn around the sneaker must freeze, staying as still as statue. If you move, you’re out of the game. The aim of the game is sneak right up and touch the person at the other end of the room on the shoulder

Some things have a way of sneaking up on us, we don’t even notice them moving and before we know it they are tapping us on the shoulder. People’s birthdays, anniversaries, growing older, expanding waistlines, all these things have a habit of sneaking up on us. Before we realise it they are there.

Easter has snuck up on us a bit this year, it’s really quite early, the end of March rather than the middle of April. I have to confess I still have no idea how the date of Easter is calculated. I think though we are probably not alone to find Easter sneaking up on us, it came as a bit of a surprise to Jesus’ disciples as well. Though the signs were all there and Jesus had spoken about what was going to happen they just didn’t understand, they weren’t prepared for his death or expecting his resurrection.

At PBBC were don’t tend to make very much of lent, a time of preparation, but maybe this year, to stop Easter surprising us, we can make the most of this month in the run up to our particular remembrance of Jesus death and resurrection. Let me encourage you to open your bibles and read John’s account of the events leading up to Jesus death. If you start at chapter 12 and read 2 chapters a week for all of March you’ll cover it. Remind yourself of what Jesus did and said in the weeks before he died. Think about the implications of those things for how you live.

If you plan to take up my challenge please come and let me know. If you have questions about any of what you have read or God has been speaking to you through it I would love to talk with you about it. Let’s share this month in the story of Jesus together and prepare ourselves properly for the celebration of Easter.

Jesus spoke again […] he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12

Every blessing,
Joel

Do you believe in Fairies?

Tuesday 2nd February 2016 16:53

According to Peter (Pan that is, not St. Peter), when the first baby laughed that laugh split into a thousand pieces which each went skipping about and became fairies. He also mentions: "Every time a child says, 'I don't believe in fairies,' there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead." And did you know the only thing to do to revive a fairy that has fallen is to clap your hands as loud as you can?

Sometimes we have to have the courage of our convictions. So as you read this if, like me, you don’t believe in fairies I’d encourage you to speak it out loud and proud without fear that you might be responsible for the death a tiny fictional people with wings and wands. If however you do believe in fairies feel free to start clapping in the hope you might undo some of the damage the non-believers have done.

Truly trusting in God is all about having the courage of our convictions. In his letter to the Romans Paul writes:

‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes’ Romans 1:16

I sincerely hope that this is how we feel as well; unashamed of the good news of Jesus Christ. And if it is we need to have the courage of that conviction. What does this mean? It means not being timid about our faith, it means sharing it in word and deed all day everyday. It means living out our trust in God. God says he will never leave or forsake us, he commands us to go and make disciples, he tells us to love God and one another. The truth is that if we trust God, if we are not ashamed, then we should be declaring it.

I wonder how many people reading this were willing to declare to the world they didn’t believe in fairies. I wonder how many clapped for all to hear. I wonder how many will be inspired to share the difference that Christ has made to their lives.

Trust in God is all about having the courage of your convictions. So what do you believe?

Every Blessing,
Joel

January 2016

Thursday 31st December 2015 08:21

Trust. They say that trust is the most expensive thing in the world; it can take years to earn but mere moments to lose. In 2016 at Potters Bar Baptist Church we are going to be thinking about trust, thinking about a God who inspires our trust and how we, as his people might live lives dependant on him. Our verse for the year comes from Proverbs 3:5-6:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you the path to take".

So as we start the year together let me ask you a couple of questions: Who do you trust and why do you trust them? Maybe you are the sort of person who finds it hard to trust others, to rely upon anyone else. You would rather cut yourself off and just depend upon yourself. Maybe you think you are too trusting, you believe everything anyone says even when you have been let down in the past. I wonder if your experience of trusting other people has an impact on your ability to trust God.

In the first few months of this New Year we are going to explore together the stories of individuals who have trusted God. We will be thinking about what God did to deserve their trust and what the results of trusting God are. My hope is that each one of us might be inspired to trust God more, to depend upon him, to seek his will in all we do.

So as we start this journey of trust together let me leave you with the words of Corrie ten Boom:

‘Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.’

Every blessing,
Joel

Monday 7th December 2015 20:42

Table talk for Christmas

Thursday 26th November 2015 17:06

In our Church Members Meeting this November we had the opportunity to play a game. This was a game all about having conversations. We had conversations about who would win in a fight between Wise Men and shepherds, what our favorite Christmas Carols are and why and what super powers we might want for the new year. The game is called Table Talk for Christmas.

Table Talk for Christmas is an all age family game that explores the spirit and meaning of the Christmas story. The idea is a fun game through which we can share our own beliefs and feelings about Christmas and how our faith influences us particularly at this time of year.

If you are seeing friends or family this Christmas, if there might be time to play a game or two, why not try one that might help you share a little of what you think the true meaning of Christmas is. Table Talk for Christmas is available free now on iOS and GooglePlay for smart phones and tablets or can be purchased from table-talk.org

December 2015

Thursday 26th November 2015 17:04

One of the things I love about Christmas (aside from the wonderful story about God becoming a human baby) is the opportunity to watch some wonderful TV. I am sure that most of us have some things that are ‘must watch’ over the Christmas period. It might be the Dr Who Christmas Special or finding out who, on your favourite soap, you thought was dead but isn’t really. It might be the Queens Speech on Christmas day or reruns of Only Fools and Horses. I like the opportunity to watch some Christmas films.

One film that will almost certainly be on at some point this year is Home Alone. There is a scene near the start of the second Home Alone film where the star, a young boy, is racing with his family through the airport to get a plane. He stops for a moment to sort something out and when he looks up he can only see the back of his Father’s long brown coat. So he follows dad through the airport and boards the plane only later to find out that whilst his family were on their way to Florida he had followed a complete stranger, with the same coat as his dad, onto a plane to New York.

This Christmas at Potters Bar Baptist Church we are going to be thinking about who and what we are following. We are going to journey with the Wise Men as they follow a star in search of a king. And, though they get lost on the way, as they end up finding the Light of the World.

I wonder who we think we are following: Is it following our own path, doing as we please? Is it following the baby Jesus meek and mild? Is it the crucified Christ who showed distain for the religious and political power?

Who do you think you are following?

Who should you be following?

Let’s find out together this Christmas.

Joel Mercer

November 2015

Friday 30th October 2015 14:42

‘Tonight, Opportunity Knocks for….’ If that phrase reminds you of Saturday nights in front of the TV, or even the radio, you are probably a little older than me. And I mean that most sincerely folks. Opportunity Knocks was the first in a long line of talent shows that invite the audience at home to vote for a winner. Today we have the X-Factor and Britain’s got Talent. On all of these shows there are people trying to make the best of the opportunity in front of them. They have a goal: to make it big, to be famous, to sing or dance or make fools of themselves in front of royalty and the world.

I sometimes wonder if we as Christians are as good at making the best of the opportunities before us as the hopefuls on these talent shows. Ephesians 5:15-16a instructs us:

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.

We are gearing up for a time in the year when we have many opportunities to share our faith with others. At the end of this month we have our Christmas fayre when we will see many people in the church who would not normally come in. Into next month Christmas will be all around us and this can be a great opportunity. People are more willing to speak about Jesus, there are plenty of things happening to invite others to, and lots of ways we can show the love of Christ.

We need to be ready for these opportunities. 1 Peter 3:15 says:

In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

The answer we should be prepared to give doesn’t need to be complicated or clever. It needs to be sincere. Why do you have hope? What does Jesus mean to you? I want to encourage you all to begin, today, to think about who you might share your faith with over the next few months. Who does God want you to speak to or invite? Pray that God would give you more and more opportunities to share his love, in word and in deed. And pray that we might all be able to make the most of these opportunities as they come our way.

Blessings,
Joel

Tuesday 29th September 2015 18:59



October 2015

Tuesday 29th September 2015 18:53

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:8-10

As a minster I do my best. As a human minister my best is somewhat less than perfect.

I love you, I believe that God has called me to be your minister because he wants me to love you, to show you hospitality and to serve you with the gifts he has given me. But I know that sometimes some of you feel a bit unloved. Sometimes you feel a little neglected. For this I am sorry and I hope that together we can solve this problem.

From now on if you are feeling unloved or neglected. If you are thinking that I, as the minister haven’t spoken to you recently, if you are concerned because no-one in the church has popped in to see you recently then this is for you. Every Friday, whilst Coffee Morning is on, I will be available at church. If you want to chat to me about anything at all this is the one time in the week you know where I will be, to talk to, to pray with, to listen. I will be there to show you love and provide you hospitality.

I need to ask you all to do something for me though; this is a joint responsibly, to love each other, to be gracious with each other. So please don’t get too upset with me if I haven’t spoken to you in a while, take the initiative yourself to speak with me, either on a Sunday morning (though these can be very busy times) or at these Friday sessions.

So please be gracious with me when I am not perfect and above all love each other deeply, just as Peter instructs us all to do.

Blessings,
Joel

September 2015

Tuesday 1st September 2015 19:08

This month marks the start of a new phase in my life and in the life of this church as I begin working with you full time. We seem to have been talking about it for ages and now it is here I wonder what expectations we all have of it. Maybe you are expecting hundreds of people to start flooding through the doors, maybe you are expecting me to pop in to visit each one of you every week, maybe you are expecting my preaching to dramatically improve. Maybe you are not expecting anything to change at all (If these are your expectations be prepared to be disappointed).

One of the things I have been doing over the summer is praying about expectations: my own expectations of myself and God’s expectations of me and us as a church. While focusing on these things my mind keeps coming back to Matthew 5:16:

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

God expects us to shine. God expects us to show others him in such a way that they will wish to glorify him. This must be our primary concern. So I will be encouraging us all to shine, there will be opportunities to share God’s love with others. But I cannot do all the things that God has planned for this church alone, God wants to work in and with every one of us.

So let me start this new phase with a challenge. Will you shine? Will you let God work in your life and transform you? Will you let God work through you to show others who he is? Will you step out and do things that make you uncomfortable to extend his kingdom? Will you journey with me in sharing our Lord, his love and power, with this town?

Remember the light that shines through us is not ours alone but a reflection of the one whose power is at work in us.

With God’s Power working in us, God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

Rev Joel Mercer

Joint statement re Calais

Thursday 20th August 2015 07:15

A joint statement on the situation in Calais from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church of
Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church
Dr Jill Barber
Vice-President of the Methodist Conference
The Revd Lynn Green
General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain
The Revd David Grosch-Miller
Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church
The Rt Revd Angus Morrison
Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
The Revd Steve Wild
President of the Methodist Conference

As churches with members directly involved in assisting the people in Calais seeking sanctuary in the
UK, we believe it is important that public debate is grounded in values of compassion and that
decisions are made on the basis of facts. In recent weeks discussion has increasingly appeared to be
based on the principle of self-interest. Our faith instructs us not to fear the stranger, but to love our
neighbour. We view the situation with growing alarm and anger.

We are compelled to speak out on this issue. As Christian churches we follow One who was himself a
refugee and who demonstrated that all people have an inherent, God-given dignity.
Our Scriptures teach the importance of love and compassion for all who are destitute, including
people of other nationalities who come to live in our communities.

We do not speak out as detached, comfortable observers but as leaders of churches who are actively
ministering to those involved. In east Kent our churches have publicly offered practical support and
help to teenage asylum seekers due to be housed in their town. Through our international links with
Baptists in France, we are also supporting work amongst unaccompanied children in Calais. St
Andrews Scots Church in Malta, a joint Methodist-Church of Scotland congregation in Valletta, runs
the Out of Africa into Malta project to assist migrants. However we cannot play our part effectively
without a political backdrop that seeks a sustainable and just solution in the longer term.
And we stand in solidarity with the remarks made recently by the Rt Rev Trevor Willmott, the Bishop
of Dover, the Jewish Council for Racial Equality and in support of the pioneering work of the
Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe.

We welcome the affirmation by the Home Secretary that Europe will ‘always provide protection for
those genuinely fleeing conflict or persecution’.
However, the language in which the Calais situation is being discussed tends too often to demonise,
denigrate or dehumanise the individuals seeking refuge in Britain.

To talk of those gathering at Calais as a ‘swarm’, or ‘marauding around the area’ encourages people
to see those in desperation as less than human, and so less deserving of sympathy, respect or dignity.
To incite fear that by offering the hand of friendship and welcome we may damage our own standard
of living implies that British lives and well-being are somehow more valuable than those of others.
We share the concern of all involved to see a peaceful and humane solution to this particular
expression of a far broader catastrophe. While we recognise the need for security to be increased at
Calais, to better ensure the safety of all involved, we cannot see that more guards, sniffer dogs and
fencing will alone bring such a solution.

We therefore call on the Government to promote a more informed and higher level of debate on the
issue – one which acknowledges, for example, that:
* many of the migrants congregating at Calais are people genuinely fleeing repression who have
real stories of suffering and hardship to tell – and that some are unaccompanied children;
* the numbers involved do not warrant talk of an ‘invasion’ or ‘flood’ of migrants;
* the people at Calais represent a tiny fraction of the overall number of migrants who have
entered the EU in the past year
* in 2014 Germany took three times more asylum seekers than the UK's 14,000, and Sweden
twice as many; France, Italy and even Switzerland also granted asylum to more people than
the UK;
* the disruption caused to travellers is also a consequence of issues unconnected with the
situation in Calais, including industrial action by ferry workers;
* historically the UK has welcomed people fleeing persecution, including Jews escaping from
Germany during the Second World War;
* the UK has been militarily involved in some of the situations that have given rise to the
persecutions from which people are fleeing;
* contributions to this debate should always adopt language which better reflects the British
values of compassion, hospitality and respect for human dignity.
We also call on the Government, in its response to this emergency, to:
* recognise that most migrants cannot be returned to their country of origin: in many cases it is
not even possible to be certain of an individual’s country of origin due to a lack of
documentation;
* promote the establishment of proper, EU-run processing centres at key entry points in Europe
(such as southern Italy and Greece);
* accept the need for the UK to take its share of migrants as other European countries are
already doing.

And we ask all our congregations and members to respond to an urgent call to prayer, to remember
in our churches the importance and equal value God places on every human life, and to seek wisdom
that we can challenge injustice and work for peace for the whole world. Let us seek direction and
discernment for ourselves and for our leaders for solutions to this ongoing crisis, for the sake of all people.

July 2015 - Ordination

Tuesday 14th July 2015 07:50

We are going to have an ordination this month at PBBC. It probably wont look anything like the photo here. No-one will be wearing a funny hat and I’m pretty sure I don’t get a gold throne to sit on (though if you wish to get me one I wont protest).

Ordinations don’t come around very often for most Baptist Churches so you will be forgiven if you don’t entirely know what its all about. Essentially Ordination is about recognising a person’s call (in this case mine) to serve as a minister in the church. In ordination that call is publicly recognised and the individual is set apart and commissioned to serve. Ordinations only happen in the Baptist Union when one of its churches recognises God’s call on the individual and invites them to minister in that church. When you all agreed to invite me to become your full time minister you were also affirming my call to Baptist Ministry and commending me for Ordination – did you know that?

A good, simple example of what we will be doing in the ordination service is found in Acts 13. The church in Antioch had been praying and…

The Holy Spirit said. ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed hands on them and sent them off.

There is something else happening this month at church that is far more important. Rosie is going to be baptised. Again it probably won’t look a lot like the picture. We will do it inside and Rosie probably won’t have a beard. Baptism is similar to ordination in that it involves being set apart. In Baptism a person is setting themselves apart for God and committing to follow his calling on their life.

Not everyone who follows Christ is called to be ordained but everyone is called to be baptised. Not everyone is set apart to be a Minister of a church but everyone is called to serve God in whatever capacity he may choose for us. I wonder; what have you been called to? What does God wish to set you aside for?

Please come and celebrate with us my ordination and induction 3pm on 18th July and Rosie’s baptism as part of our worship 10:30 26th July.

Every Blessing,
Joel

Week of Prayer 1st to 7th June

Saturday 30th May 2015 15:03

Potters Bar Baptist Church Week of Prayer 2015

A couple of years ago at PBBC our verse for the year was Philippians 4:6 which says:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Prayer is an integral part of our life together as a church. By praying we lift to the Lord those things that make us anxious. By praying we ask for God to intervene in the situation in which we find ourselves. By praying we discern together God’s will for our community. By praying we ask for God’s guidance and listen for his response.

Last year we set aside a week to specially pray for God to speak to us and we feel it is important to discipline ourselves to pray together in such a way again this year. The week of prayer will be launched by Joel during the morning service on Sunday 31st May

Throughout the first week of June there will be daily opportunities to join together for prayer on specific areas of the life of our church as we look to the future. During these sessions we will be making a special effort to seek God’s guidance and take time to hear from him

The sessions will be at different times of the day to enable as many as possible to attend at least some of the prayer-times if not all of them. If you are unable to come to pray together at church please remember to pray for the church on your own and let us know if you believe God has been speaking to you.

An important biblical discipline when seeking God’s leading is to fast and we would encourage you, if you are able, to fast the meal immediately before each time of prayer.

Monday 1st in the afternoon from 4pm to 5pm
- joining with the Bible Study Group to pray about discipleship in the church

Tuesday 2nd in the morning from 8am to 9am
- praying about the way we worship and particularly our Sunday services

Wednesday 3rd in the morning from 10am to 11am
- praying about our work with children and young people.

Thursday 4th in the evening from 7pm to 8pm
- praying about our outreach
Also a room at the Church will be open from 9am to 9pm so that people can pop in and pray as convenient to them

Friday 5th in the afternoon from 2pm to 3pm
- praying about the church fellowship

Saturday 6th in the morning from 9:30am to 10:30am
- praying particularly for God’s guidance and the future of our church

Then on the morning of Sunday 7th June, we will be reflecting on what God has been saying to us in the week.

June 2015

Saturday 30th May 2015 15:00

As I write I’m feeling a little melancholy. Having spent the last three years working towards Baptist Union accreditation and a Masters degree in Theology I have handed in my last assignment and it is coming to an end. Those friends who I have spent a part of each week with at college are dispersing to churches across the country and things are going to be different.

I guess we all come to ending in our lives. Times when things, for one reason or another can no longer carry on as they have. And endings can be hard. They often mean saying goodbye to people or things that we have loved.

The Gospel of Luke ends with the disciples saying goodbye to the master and friend that had been the centre of their lives for three years or more. Luke 24:50-35 says this:

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

There are two things I think we can learn from this ending. The first is that though endings can be sad, there is also Joy to be found. The disciples returned to Jerusalem with ‘great joy.’ I’m quite joyous that I will no longer have to travel across London every week and spend a night away from my family. Even at the end of our lives, as God’s people, we can find joy in knowing that our eternity is safe with him.

The second thing that we might learn is that this is not the end of the story. Luke picks up where this leave off in Acts 1. Whilst Jesus ascension marks the end of his time on earth it also marks the start of something else, the beginnings of the church and of the whole world getting to hear about him. Even in the sadness of something ending God can grow and new and wonderful beginning.

Maybe I will write more on beginnings next time but for now let us look forward to all the future holds, the new things that God has for us and endeavour to take joy in all things, even life’s endings.

With every blessing,
Joel

June 2015

Saturday 30th May 2015 14:58

As I write I’m feeling a little melancholy. Having spent the last three years working towards Baptist Union accreditation and a Masters degree in Theology I have handed in my last assignment and it is coming to an end. Those friends who I have spent a part of each week with at college are dispersing to churches across the country and things are going to be different.

I guess we all come to ending in our lives. Times when things, for one reason or another can no longer carry on as they have. And endings can be hard. They often mean saying goodbye to people or things that we have loved.

The Gospel of Luke ends with the disciples saying goodbye to the master and friend that had been the centre of their lives for three years or more. Luke 24:50-35 says this:

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

There are two things I think we can learn from this ending. The first is that though endings can be sad, there is also Joy to be found. The disciples returned to Jerusalem with ‘great joy.’ I’m quite joyous that I will no longer have to travel across London every week and spend a night away from my family. Even at the end of our lives, as God’s people, we can find joy in knowing that our eternity is safe with him.

The second thing that we might learn is that this is not the end of the story. Luke picks up where this leave off in Acts 1. Whilst Jesus ascension marks the end of his time on earth it also marks the start of something else, the beginnings of the church and of the whole world getting to hear about him. Even in the sadness of something ending God can grow and new and wonderful beginning.

Maybe I will write more on beginnings next time but for now let us look forward to all the future holds, the new things that God has for us and endeavour to take joy in all things, even life’s endings.

With every blessing,
Joel

May 2015

Thursday 30th April 2015 20:58

There is an election taking place this month, I’m sure most of you will have noticed. Politicians have been doing the usual rounds of kissing hands and shaking babies and trying to tell us what they think we want to hear. I’m guessing we are all fed up of the whole thing by now. Some Christians will say that we should separate faith from politics, that a minister should avoid speaking about it at all costs. I don’t believe that, nor do I believe that it is my place to tell you who to vote for. Though I hope you do vote and I hope you do so considering the values of your faith rather than just which party would make sure you had the most cash in your pocket.

And this is really what I want to think about here, it is clear that the politics of this country are all about cash flow. The assumption from our politicians is that their ultimate goal is to increase wealth. Implicit in this is the belief that if we have more money we will all live happier better lives. Now of course the politicians disagree about exactly how to make us all richer and the way that wealth is best distributed and choosing between their ideologies is a task I will leave to you on polling day.

Instead I want to remind us all that the Kingdom of God is not judged by economics. A good, joyful, contented life according to Jesus has little to do with how much money one has. In fact Jesus said that it is more difficult for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter God’s Kingdom (Matthew 19:24). As Christians our political priority should not be economics, our priorities should be based on Kingdom values. What we want for our country should not be about money but about people.

The most important thing in the kingdom of God is love. Love the Lord your God and your neighbour as yourself (Luke 10:27). Rather than being primarily concerned about money lets try and be concerned about loving others. All others not matter their sex or race, social class or sexuality. By all means look at which political parties have policies that might fit with loving God and one another. But more importantly let us encourage our politicians and one another to change our priorities. Let’s love first.

Joel Mercer

Teaching Series

Sunday 29th March 2015 15:09

April 2015

Sunday 29th March 2015 15:02

As Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a Donkey the crowds sing “Hosanna to the Son of David” they praise him as the King that they had been waiting for. A week later the people of Jerusalem are demanding not just his death but also his torture on a cross.

What had Jesus done in this one week to upset people so much? Had he gone on a killing spree in the city? Had he been stealing from all the citizens? Had he been racist or sexist or homophobic? No, he’d done none of these things. He had upset some people in the temple when he was angry about how they were using it but surely that wasn’t enough for the crowd to be demanding his death. So what has he done?

I think probably, the thing that upset the people in Jerusalem the most was that Jesus had disappointed them. They had expectations of him, they wanted a king that was going to kick the Romans out of the city, they may well have all been sharpening their swords for the fight ever since they saw him on his donkey. But this wasn’t the sort of man Jesus was. When instead of inciting rebellion he started to heal the sick and teach about morality and God, they were disappointed, they felt he had let them down.

I wonder if you have ever felt let down by God, if you have felt like he has failed you, not done what you expected him to do. Sometimes our expectations of God are wrong, we expect him to be the sort of person that we want him to be rather than understanding who he is. And then, when he doesn’t act in the way we want or expect we feel disappointed with God.

One thing we can always rely on from our Lord is his love. Jesus tells us in John 15:3 ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ Jesus didn’t’ fail to meet expectations in Jerusalem, he exceeded them, he made an ultimate demonstration of the love of God for man, of the love of a man for his friends, he died for us.

So if you ever feel disappointed by God remember, he is not the person you want him to be, he is who he is and he has already given you the greatest gift he ever could, he has given his life.

Joel Mercer

Guess what? I do do some studying!

Friday 27th February 2015 21:47

The end of my studies are in sight and my graduation and ordination are starting to feel very close now. I have a few assignments left to hand in but the most important, the one that I will have spent the best part of 9 months working on is my Masters Dissertation. 15,000 words on a topic of my choice.

For those that are interested the rest of this article is going to be a brief description of my dissertation. For those that are not interested (Let’s face it even I’m getting a little bored of it after so long) just let me express my thanks for your continued love and support.

The aim of my research
Essentially my dissertation is about Baptist Unity. My title is this: ‘Unity in Diversity: What baptistic convictions might enable the Baptist Union of Great Britain to maintain unity in the light of divided views on human sexuality?’

Sounds exciting doesn’t it? I should clarify; I’m not writing about the theology of sexuality or gay marriage, my assumption is that most Baptist churches and indeed the union itself will inevitably have people with a range of views on these matters. My interest is what things there are in Baptist life and thought that can bind us together despite our differences.

My solution
Just like any good sermon I’m using three points to try and make a case for unity, three things that Baptists look at in a unique way. These are: Ideals, Authority and Purpose.

I argue that as Baptists we share a set of ideals that are unique. A major aspect of this is the way in which we have covenanted together, promised to support one another under the BU declaration of principle.

I also suggest that the way Baptists uphold the Authority of Christ is profoundly important. His is the ultimate authority, we appeal to scripture as it reveals Jesus and our churches are governed by the community of God’s people coming together to try and discern Christ’s will rather than any individual imposing his or her own.

Finally I discuss the centrality of purpose to Baptist belief. We are bound together not just by a pension scheme but in order to achieve something. As Baptists our priority should be missional, sharing Christ’s love with others, bringing the kingdom of God. As a union of churches, sharing resources and supporting each other, we can achieve this task better than we could on our own.

I hope to be able to conclude that these three things that unite us are more important that theological arguments about sexuality or many other debates that distract us from what we should be about.

More info
If you’d like any more information about my dissertation (or anything else you think I might be able to help with) please do contact me – but maybe after my deadlines have passed at the end of May!

With every blessing,
Joel

March 2015

Friday 27th February 2015 21:45

Vision

Over the next few months (and maybe years) from time to time we at PBBC are going to be talking about vision. Vision could be a reference to what you can see, it might refer to a supernatural experience – a vision from God, in business vision is predicting future trends and planning to make the most of them. I think that when we talk about vision in church its really all of these things.

It’s about looking to the future and working out what sort of church we need to be to meet future tasks. It’s about a supernatural experience, discerning what God wants us to do, hearing his voice. It’s about sight, about seeing what sort of church we are and what sort of church we could be and then working out how to bridge that gap. Mostly its about thinking about what our mission is, what God wants us to do, and then getting on with it.

We probably all know these words from Jeremiah 29: ‘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… You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.’

Our job, as we think about vision, as we think about our mission is twofold. We need to trust that God has great plans for us, plans to prosper us and we need to earnestly seek his will, get to know his plans and then get on with them.

With every blessing,
Joel

February 2015

Wednesday 11th February 2015 22:14

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Ephesians 6:13-17

We are in a battle, make no mistake, we have been commissioned into the army of the Lord to fight for his kingdom. We fight not with weapons of destruction but with weapons that transform, with the power of the Holy Spirit. We fight not to kill others but to enable them to live. This is our task as God’s people, to bring the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of love and hope and life into the places that are dark.

As Paul writes about putting on the armor of God he was probably imagining a Roman solider dressed for combat. Did you know that the metal Jacket that Roman soldiers wore, made up of iron strips, was so heavy that they had to help one another to put them on? It is important the remember that as we live the Christian life, as we try and spread the good news, bring the kingdom of God, as we fight this battle, we do it together. No one of us can fight this battle alone, or even get ready for it on our own. Just like the Roman soldiers we need each other.

So two things to leave with you: Firstly, don’t try and go it alone, when life gets hard, when the enemy seems overwhelming, when things are hard, seek help. We are put in this family of believers together in order to support and care for each other. Part of that means allowing others to care for you. Secondly, look out for each other, pray for each other, read and study scripture together, build each other up and help get each other ready for the battle to bring the Kingdom of Go to our community.

Blessings,
Joel

Happy New Year - January 2015

Saturday 27th December 2014 12:34

Happy New Year! 2014 was a wonderful year for us as a church. We have grown in number, we have grown in our relationships with Jesus, we have been challenged to share the good news of the love of God with all of creation.

All of these things are still important; we need to keep doing them, to keep growing to keep sharing our faith, our relationship with the living Jesus with others. But there are other things that are important in our relationship with God and our relationships with one another as well and this new year see a slight shift in our focus as we move forward together as a church.

Our verse for the year 2015 is from Ephesians 3:20 from the NCV:

‘With God’s power working in us, God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine.’

We really want to focus this year on the amazing God that we worship, the amazing God that we have a relationship with, the amazing God whose love we are seeking to share with others. Our themes on Sunday mornings for the first part of the year are going to be about God being much, much more than we can ask or imagine: Much more powerful and loving, gracious and merciful, Just an righteous. We are going to think together about what our amazing God is like and what that might mean for us.

So let me encourage you this year, come along, find out what God is really like and join us as we worship the amazing Father, Son and Holy Spirit who love us. And let’s pray that 2015 is even more wonderful than last year was.

Blessings,
Joel

In Unexpected Places

Friday 28th November 2014 22:08

Have you ever done that thing where you are wandering round Tesco (or Sainsbury’s, if you’re that way inclined) and you look up to find someone smiling at you as if they know you. You smile back but at the same time you are racking your brain trying to remember who they are, they are certainly familiar, but you cannot work out why. This happens to me a lot, I think the problem is finding people in unexpected places. If you are used to seeing someone in just one place, church maybe or outside the school gates, it can take a while to place them when they turn up somewhere else. The unexpected can throw us. Your brain thinks that people from church should stay in church, how dare they be shopping in Tesco? That’s just confusing!

This Christmas at PBBC we are going to be joining the Shepherds and the Wise Men as they go looking for a king – a king that they will eventually find in the last place anyone would expect a king to be. We are going to be thinking about finding God in unexpected places.

Anyone who has had children will know that sometimes things turn up in unexpected places. From remote controls in toy boxes and crockery in children’s beds to peas in nostrils and mobile phones in the bath, expecting the unexpected is part of being a parent.

As we find it more and more difficult to see Jesus amongst the trappings of Christmas I want to encourage you this month to go looking for him in unexpected places. With God we should always be expecting him to work in the unexpected, to turn up in the most unlikely of places. Keep you eyes and ears open for God and what he is doing. Seek him, join with him where you find him at work. Don’t be surprised if you bump into him in Tesco.

Merry Christmas,
Joel

November 2014

Saturday 1st November 2014 00:00

‘What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in apricot? What have they got that I ain't got?’


Courage. Be strong and have courage. That is what God tells Joshua at the start of the book we are studying together on Sunday mornings. Joshua has a task to complete, has has a land to conquer, he has a nation with a history of grumbling and dissent to lead. God says ‘It’s OK, I’m with you, we can do this together. Be strong and have courage’ (I’m paraphrasing a little!).

Last year we held our first ever Christmas Fayre, we didn’t know how it was going to go or what was going to happen, in some cases we didn’t really know what we were doing. But through a lot of prayer, working with God and having courage to go ahead it was a great success. By the time you read this the chances are that we will have had a second successful Christmas Fayre.

Stepping out to do something new can be scary. Trying to share our faith with others can be scary but knowing God is with us, working with us, we need only one thing: Courage.

So in parallel to the quote I started with by the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz I ask:

What made Joshua work with the Lord to conquer the Promised-Land? Courage! What makes this church continue to do new things for God? Courage! What do we need in order to share our faith with others? Courage!

And so, in the power of God, working with him, be strong and have courage.

With every blessing,
Joel

Making Plans - October 2014

Sunday 28th September 2014 14:59

In Matthew 6 Jesus tells the people that they shouldn’t worry about what is to come but instead focus on today. They say the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. It is possible these two things mean we shouldn’t make any plans for the future.

If we at Potters Bar Baptist Church had been making plans for the future when I arrived as a minister in training two years ago I wonder what we might have said. If we had made plans this time last year I wonder what they would have been. We may well have begun to make plans for another minister in training once my time was up, or a part time minister. I’m not sure that any of us were sure of what God was going to do. In Jeremiah 29, speaking to a nation in exile, God speaks through the prophet:

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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 19:11-14a

The key when looking to the future is not to refrain from making plans but rather to find out what God has planned and get on board with it. As of the church members meeting in September Potters Bar Baptist Church has made a plan for the future. Or, to put it another way, we have acknowledged God’s plans for our future and decided to follow where he leads.

So once I finish college next summer I won’t be leaving to pastures new but rather I will loose the ‘in-training’ part of my title and pick up a few more hours each week.

Vicki and I are delighted that we can continue to be part of the family here. Thank-you for all the support you have given us in our first two years here and we look forward to what God is going to be doing among us and through us in the future.

So let us all look forward to the plans that God has for his church in Potters Bar to earnestly seek what he is doing and when we find out what those plans are, let us continue to jump on board with enthusiasm.

With every blessing,
Joel
Minister-in-Training (for now!)

September 2014

Thursday 28th August 2014 10:14

Bbllliiinnngggg dum dum dum-dum dum dum dum-dum dum dum dum-dum dum dum dum-dum DUM DUM DUM-DUM DUM DUM DUM-DUM Baa Daa

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

For those unable to decipher my dum-dumming the above is supposed to be the theme tune to Mission Impossible a show which had a team of US agents taking on missions that no-one else could do, missions that seem impossible, and always coming out on top at the end of the day.

This autumn we are going to be studying together the book of Joshua. Joshua was a man that had been given what seemed like an impossible mission. Take over from the great Moses and lead the Israelites into the Promised Land, defeating all the mighty armies within.

We also have a mission from God; our verse for the year reminds us that we should be proclaiming the good news to all creation Matthew 28:19 puts it this way: ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’

Making disciples of all nations may seem like an impossible mission, far too big and daunting for us to achieve. However, just like Joshua, we have a God who goes with us into our mission, enabling us – by his spirit to succeed.

And a part of that great mission from God is a part only you can do. Just like James Phelps and his team in the TV show took on missions no-one else could manage, there are people in your life that no-one is able to share Christ with.

So let me encourage with you, as we journey with Joshua, think about your mission from God, trust that he goes with you and step out in faith to share his love and spread his kingdom.

Joel Mercer

July 2014

Friday 27th June 2014 21:01

Let me remind you of our verse for the year:

‘Go into all the world and proclaim the Good News to all creation.’
Mark 16:15

This instruction may seem a little daunting at first, all of the world is a big place and all creation is an awful lot of people to proclaim good news to. But as we face this daunting task we should remember something else Jesus said as he was leaving them to go to his Father in heaven. He told them in Acts 1:8 to go to Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth. Their mission started in Jerusalem, with those people nearest to them.

So this summertime I have a challenge for all of those who are part of our family here at Potters Bar Baptist Church. I want to challenge you to start sharing the love of Christ with those nearest to you. Invite your neighbours to something. I intend to invite those who live in the houses on our block to a BBQ this summer, to get to know them, spend time with them and begin to express the love of Jesus to them. Why don’t you do something similar? If you don’t have the same love of BBQs that I do why not have a tea party, a meal or bake cakes and distribute them to your neighbours. Do something to build relationships and share Christ.

So there you are, a special mission for the summer months: make friends, build relationships, share Christ.

Blessings,
Joel

June 2014

Tuesday 27th May 2014 16:04

Last year our verse for the year reminded us that we should do nothing without giving over to the Lord:

‘In every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’
Philippians 2:6

We start June this year with a week of prayer. Specifically we are going to be praying for the future of the church. Praying about our mission and ministry and finances, praying about the whole life of this family of faith. Every day that week (2nd-8th June) there will be an opportunity to meet together and pray with others, also all day on Thursday, from 9am-9pm the church will be open for people to drop in and pray.

The idea is that we give the future of the church over to God but also that we expect him to speak to us. We are going to be listening for his voice and anticipating his guidance. We are moving into a key time in the life of our fellowship as I, and the Elders and Deacons, begin to plan for a time next year when I finish my period as minister in training at PBBC. Details of time of meetings can be found in this magazine of at the back of church.

Please, if you are able, meet with us at church this week to pray for our future. If you cannot make it to one of our meetings please pray in your own quite times and if you feel God might be saying something to you get in touch.

Many blessings,
Joel

Happy Birthday!

Wednesday 30th April 2014 20:20

The church is 225(ish) this year and part of our building celebrates its 50th birthday. You will know, I hope, that the buildings themselves are not what make a church but rather it is us, the people that are the church. So therefore I think we can legitimately claim that it is our birthday. So again I say, Happy Birthday.

Details of what we are doing to celebrate our birthday should be appearing elsewhere so rather than repeat them I just want to spend a few moments thinking about what these landmarks mean for us as a community, a family of believers.

1 John 3:1 says: ‘See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!’ For 225 years on this site children of God have worshipped their Father. I think that we are still here worshipping him now is a wonderful testament to just how much he has lavished his love upon this church over the years. We praise our Lord and God, he has sustained us by his spirit, been faithful to this family through good times and struggles and continues to walk with us and guide us today.

As we look forward to the next 225 my prayer for us is that we will be a church that reflects this passage from Ephesians 4:15&16:

‘Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.’

So as we celebrate and praise God for his faithfulness in the past we also look to our future. We ask him to help us to grow in love, to become a mature family of believers with Christ at our head, doing the work that he has for us; sharing his faithfulness and love with others.

So happy birthday to us, and may we have many more.

Blessings,
Joel

Baptisms of Sharon and Davie

Sunday 20th April 2014 23:00

The baptisms of Sharon and Davie took place on Easter Sunday 20th April 2014 at Potters Bar Baptist Church.

April 2014

Sunday 30th March 2014 13:42

The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptised and wash your sins away, calling on his name.
Acts 22:14-16

It’s April and this year (as in most years) that means Easter. Easter celebrates the dramatic last days of Jesus’ ministry on earth. It’s a wonderful story with elation and betrayal, touching moments of friendship and court drama, wrongful imprisonment and anger at injustice, someone even looses an ear.

Ultimately though, amongst all this, is the story of Jesus who was both God and man being put to death on a cross even though he had done nothing wrong. It is the story of Jesus dying in order to re-establish humanities relationship with God, your relationship with God. It is the story of Jesus being raised from death after three days, breaking the power of death and providing us a route to eternal life with him. It is the wonderful story of a God who became human and suffered to bring us hope and joy.

On Easter Sunday at PBBC, in the midst of celebrating all of this, we are going to have some baptisms. For us this means baptising individuals who have made a decision of their own to follow Christ, to recognise what he did for them at Easter and commit to him. For our fellowship this is a wonderful time, where we celebrate the power of Jesus, we remember what he has done for us and we rejoice with those being baptised in obedience to him.

I would like to encourage you all, whether you normally come to church on a Sunday morning or not, come on Easter Sunday. Come and find out about the power of Jesus death and resurrection and what it means. Come and see adults being baptised, not with a sprinkle of water but by immersion. Come and celebrate the fact that Jesus died and rose from the dead for you.

With every blessing,
Joel

Talking the talk and walking the walk.

Saturday 1st March 2014 11:17

Talking the talk and walking the walk.

Most preachers, myself included, hope that members of the congregation listen to a sermon, take its main points on board and go away and do something about it. Most of us understand this is not always the case, but it is always our hope. Rarely do we have the opportunity to see the effect of a preaching series in action.

So I am excited this month, that having spent six weeks in our morning services learning about Sharing Christ, we now have the opportunity to do it. We have talked the talk and now it is time to walk the walk.

James tells us that without appropriate action our faith is useless:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead … You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
James 2:14-17, 24
We do not truly have a living relationship with Christ is our relationship with him is not reflected in the lives we lead, in the things we choose to do and say.
So this month Potters Bar Baptist Church is seeking to Share Christ with our community by offering to pray for our neighbours. This means that some of us will be going out onto the estate to drop off and collect leaflets and talk to people. Some of us with stay in the church praying for those who are out and for the people they might meet. For full details see the back page of last month’s newsletter. Please consider if you might be able to commit to one of these roles.
Above all remember that we are called to share Christ with others, this is an important part of a living relationship with God. It doesn’t matter if you cannot join us in our prayer initiative. What matters is that your relationship with Christ is reflected in what you do.
Blessings,
Joel

Praying for our community

Saturday 8th February 2014 17:12

This March Potters Bar Baptist Church is seeking to pray for the needs of individuals within our community.

Why are we doing this?

We want to engage with our community, to build relationships with those who live close by, we want to share the love of Christ with people and we feel a good way to do this is by offering to pray for them.

When and where will it happen?

Sunday afternoons in March from 4pm for a couple of hours on the Ashwood estate.

How will it work?

• Week One: Prayer walking the estate; asking God to take charge of what we do, asking him to begin working in the hearts of those we will come into contact with, asking him to give us strength and courage for the task.
• Week two: Dropping leaflets through doors that explain who we are and what we are doing with space on them for people to fill out their details and prayer requests.
• Weeks three & four: Collecting prayer requests, possibly praying for people in their homes or gathering up leaflets for prayer later.
• Week five: Praying! Following up contacts where necessary.

These timescales are estimated; they are largely dependant on a good number of volunteers!

What do I need to do?

Consider what role you might play. Could you:
• Be out on the estate each week, delivering and collecting leaflets in teams of two or three, praying for people.
• Be in the church while this is going on, praying for those who are out and for those they will meet.
• Commit to on-going prayer for any requests that we receive.

Please remember that it is our responsibility as a church and as individuals to share Christ with others and that a wonderful way to show his love and concern for people is to offer to pray for them.

Money, money, money.

Saturday 8th February 2014 17:09

Many of you, like me, may have come to the Baptist Church from another denomination. You may have arrived wondering what was different between Baptists and Anglicans and Methodist and Catholics and everyone else. You may still be wondering!

One of the major differences between denominations is about how they are governed, about who is in charge. For the Roman Catholics ultimately it is the pope, for the Church of England it is the General Synod, for us as Baptists it is the church members of each individual congregation. Whilst we are part of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, it is there to support and encourage us but it imposes very little, we get to make our own decisions about most things.

This has an effect on our finances. We choose how we spend the money that comes into our collection each week. We don’t have to send most of that money to the Baptist Union, the church membership can discern for themselves what they believe God wants our income spent on.

This also means that we do not, in the normal course of things get money from the union or anywhere other than what comes into the offering each week. Unlike the Anglican, Roman Catholic or Methodist churches the upkeep of our buildings and the cost of our ministers are our responsibility to pay.

The conclusion of all this is that for Potters Bar Baptist Church, as we seek to grow and hopefully to employ a full time minister in the summer of 2015, the only way for this to happen is an increase in giving. This may come through those who already attend our church prayerfully increasing what they give, or it may come through new people joining our church over the coming months.

So let me challenge you:
• Pray: That as the Lord guides us into the future he will provide all we need; physically, spiritually and financially
• Consider: Increasing your giving to the life and work of the church
• Talk: As always share your faith with others that they might find the life that is in Jesus and that they might share, with all of us, the continuing work of God’s in this town.

Joel Mercer

February 2014

Friday 31st January 2014 20:19

As I write we have just spent Sunday morning thinking about being strong and courageous in sharing Christ, just as Joshua was to be strong and courageous as he led the people into the Promised Land. At that time Israel was in transition; the people had got used Moses leading them and now he was dead and Joshua has taken over. It may well have been a confusing time for them as they got used to a new bosses way of doing things.

It’s like the current situation with Manchester United football club, they have been used to Alex Ferguson’s way of doing things for so many years having a new manager is a bit of a shock to the system. David Moyes is not a bad manager at all but he is different and so United are struggling a little this season.

For those of you who have been at the church for a number of years the last 18 months may have seemed a little like a whirlwind, a new minister coming in with new ideas, new ways of doing things and making all sorts of changes. Some of you may have experienced this from time to time in your work, a new manger with new expectations throws everything into an uproar.

Amid all this we should remind ourselves of the words of Isaiah 58:11

‘The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail’

It is the Lord, not our manager or minister, who should be our guide. Though human expectations change the Lord’s plans are steadfast. All we do, as individuals and as a church, should be done under the guidance of our Father in heaven because he wills it not just to satisfy our own fads and feelings. This being the case we need to remember that Jesus was very clear about what his church should be doing. It should be loving and it should be sharing him with others.

I have been clogging up your magazine this month with articles, please particularly note the article on praying for our community and think about how you might be involved in the plans the Lord has for us as he guides us all into the future.

Blessings,
Joel

January 2014

Saturday 28th December 2013 13:05

At the end of his time on earth, after he had died for us and been raised to life, just before he ascended into heaven Jesus gave his disciples one final instruction.

‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to all creation.’
Mark 16:15

This instruction is to be our verse for the year in 2014. As we begin a fresh year we, as a church, are going to be hearing and thinking about how we can possibly go into all the world and proclaim the good news to it.

It sounds like a daunting task doesn’t it? How ever let me put it into some perspective. Out of about 7 billion people alive in the world today approximately 650 million of them are Christians. This job of proclaiming the good news is not one we do on our own but rather a task we share with all our brothers and sisters across the globe.

However not all 650 million Christians live in Potters Bar, or on your road, or have your friends and family. Though it is a task we all share, there are some people whose only contact with the good news is you, people for whom the only way they will know about Christ is if you tell them.

I sincerely hope that you believe that the news we have of Jesus Christ, his birth, death, resurrection and his coming again, is good. This news is fantastic, it’s life saving. So let me encourage you, as we think about sharing this wonderful news in our morning services, think for yourself; who should I be sharing this with and how can I do it?

As we go into the New Year make it your resolution to share the great news of the love of Christ with those you love.

With every blessing,
Joel

Potters Bar Baptist Church

Barnet Road

Potters Bar

Hertfordshire

EN6 2RB

01707 840538

hello@pbbc.org.uk

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The mission of Potters Bar Baptist Church is to make fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ, creating in Him, His community in the heart of our neighbourhood.

© Potters Bar Baptist Church 2015