Friday, April 08, 2011

A Report from Grace Church, Bristol (SGM)

On Sunday February 28th 2010 I visited Christchurch in Newport (SGM head church) for the first time since my excommunication. It was a significantly encouraging visit and I wrote about it here. Last Sunday (as many know) in the UK was Mother's Day and I decided that it would please my mum and hopefully honour her to visit Grace Church, Bristol for the first time in almost six years or so. It wasn't an easy decision but I'm glad I did.

Here's what happened:


Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM).

The building:

A school in Fishponds, Bristol.

The neighborhood:

Fishponds, a not-so-nice area of Bristol.

The cast:

Nathan Smith (the Senior Pastor), Peter Bowley (other Senior Pastor) and an American chap called Colin who led worship.

What was the name of the service?

Sunday Morning.

How full was the building?

100 or so plus.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Yes I was made to feel really welcome being met (and hugged) by Peter Bowley, Nathan Smith and a number of other people I used to know well when I was in membership there.

Was your pew comfortable?

For a plastic school chair - not bad.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Lively and cheerful. They've just adopted a new logo that looks something like a Playstation control pad. There is a reason why they've chosen it - I got lost though.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Good morning everyone - shall we stand?".

What books did the congregation use during the service?

ESV Bibles made available helpfully to those who didn't have their own (like me).

What musical instruments were played?

A guitar, a keyboard, drums and a trumpet.

Did anything distract you?

A little old man sat right behind me on the back row snoring through the entire sermon and then awoke at some point and declared he needed to "piddle" and so left to do so. Then got back and promptly began to snore again.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

Lively with some hands raised and some clapping. There were no gifts of the Spirit present that I saw. Sadly I didn't know any of the songs having been out of SGM circles for years so I didn't find it that easy to enter in.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

Around 40-45 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

7. Loved the Lloyd-Jones quotes. Loved the emphasis on more of the Spirit and His vital role in taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. My perhaps only criticism would have been loving Nathan's urge to the people to be ready by faith to accept what God wants to do. And then not so loving him telling them to take with a pinch of salt if anyone suggests they may have seen the risen Christ. Who's to say that we can't see the risen Christ?


Acts 1. "Unstoppable Mission".

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

Hearing songs sung about the gospel - always good to hear truth spoken! And feeling welcome back at a place I'd feared for six years I was barred from. A closing of a chapter!

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

The pain of wishing I was truly part of a church family again.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

I didn't even take that chance - I left as soon as the final strains of the hymn were fading.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Not sure - didn't try it.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

3 - it's great to be able to visit but I'm still not sure I'm SGM at heart.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Yes - a reminder of the Cross/Gospel is always of huge encouragement.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?

God was working marvellously to make this day happen that I thought NEVER would - that I could revisit Grace Church again and feel welcome there and actually enjoy it!


Anonymous said...

Hello mate. You are so gracious in your dealings with a church group that shuns/ignores/judges/excommunicates and anathematises those who leave its 'family'.

May God grant repentance to all leaders of SGM churches who are blind to their own pride and sin; and may He grant a knowlege of the servant heart of leadership that the Lord Jesus desires.


Dan said...

Thanks ATC,

That is a really kind and gracious comment. Believe me - it hasn't/isn't easy to be gracious to them. I wrestle with anger the entire time!

Amen to your prayer - may C J and Dave Harvey et al, see what Jesus Christ wants them to see!