Acts of Service, Bravery, Church, community of grace, Compassion, Discipleship, Giving/Generousity., Holiness, Kingdom, Ministry, Mission, prayer, self awareness, Unity, Worship

A Dream for the local Church…

I wrote this in 2012, which was a time when nearly all the Churches in Kingswood had different leaders, All Souls hadn’t been planted yet and nor had some of the more savage ‘sheep bites’, but even so, it is still the picture that I long to see God do in this area… Although now where it says Kingswood, I think we’d have to say BS15 as we now work in Hanham too… In places, there are signs of this vision becoming reality and in other places there is still a fair way to go… (Anyway, hope it blesses you!)

Kingswood High Street might be littered with church buildings, and true they do have their own congregations and their own unique quirks, habits, funny ways but in one sense they really are one Church because they are all sold out on loving Christ and making him known.

They are all wanting to be filled with the spirit of the living God, they cry out for the lost in their prayers, they seek to seize every opportunity that Christ gives to make him known -pray and proclamation go together here, woven together with a beautiful seemlessness.

The Christian’s here  are deep and authentic about their faith and uncompromising in Holiness but awash with grace.

They pray together with such love that which congregation they belong to is hardly noticeable, they pray so passionately, and listen intently, and as they worship Christ in spirit and truth, the Church in Kingswood carries the very heartbeat of God.

It knows its identity, it is a holy and pure bride, but it is salt and light, wise as serpents but innocent as doves, it holds out the word that gives life, it shines out like stars in the darkness…

The church is attractive, marked as distinctive because of the hope that we have, filled with vibrant life, and deep authentic life shared together, this isn’t an hour on a Sunday morning  and an otherwise disparate community, but these are the men and women of God, ambassadors of Christ, solider called to take the ground of Kingswood for Christ.

They are living sacrifices.

They chose Christ in all they do through out the week.

The seize the moment never missing an opportunity to bless and seek and see God’s Kingdom break in.

They are  Church that hears God and has the courage to follow in obedience.

It is growing.

Ordinary people are meeting with an extraordinary God all the time, Kingdom encounters are normal part of our spiritual DNA.

The Churches are good incubators, people are loved, encouraged, mentored and walked with, we make disciples together as we all learn what following Jesus actually looks like.

People take risks on each other, leaders rise up from unlikely places, discipleship is organic and indigenous, and yet real and authentic with people being truly them and truly shining out Jesus.

Church looks funny, choatic even, but it is growing, it’s a movement of God in relationship, with people following where God leads, and it snowballs, it doesn’t play it safe and get comfortable, instead every group and sub group in Kingswood can hear about Jesus in a way they can understand..

This is the Church of Christ in Kingswood.

It is good news for all who are lost, hurting, marginalised, disenfranchised, ostracised, broken, it is good news for all. It is a community that reflects Jesus to the wider community.

It is a loving community, filled with compassion, and it is by this that all people know we belong to Christ, that we love one another…

Standard
sacrifice, Worth

The Quest For The Beautiful Pearl… (An Old Message I found)

“There was a merchant who collected pearls, when he found one of such beauty he sold everything he owned to buy it.”
Jesus is the pearl of great price.
I think the awesomeness of who Christ is and what he has done is best described in the final verse of that great hymn, “when I survey the wonderful cross” which ends with the beautiful lines…
“We the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small,
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul my life my all!”
Coming back from holiday today has made me think about how we view things, do I have a ‘work’ head on or a ‘holiday head’ on?
Which made me think about how we/I view the world.
Work life balance is a bit of an oxymoron, as if your not alive you aren’t working!
Just like the spiritual and secular divide, surely everything is spiritual as the Holy Spirit is everywhere and always at work within his world.
I do think sometimes we have too lower view of work, when I have not been working it has been really tough, I think as human beings we need to work, not just to pay the bills, but as part of being human, we need to DO something, we are at our most alive when doing what we love and are good at, which I believe brings the Father joy. One of the early Church fathers Ireasmus described ‘the glory of God is a human being fully alive’.
In the care industry we think of holistic care, looking after the whole person. A compartmentalised life isn’t biblical as God incarnate lived his whole life for the glory of the father.
Jesus Christ cares about every area of our lives, not just the ‘Sunday best’ bit.
Too often we make following Jesus all about propping up the institution of the Church rather that allowing the Spirit of God to work in and through every area of our lives.
What has Jesus got to say about how we are faithful to our marriage covenants (those of us who are married), or how we bring up our children, or the faithful way we care for elderly relatives, or (as I rediscovered whilst off sick) the importance of just being a good friend.
I have been massively challenged about the quote which says “don’t worry about failing worry more about succeeding at things that don’t matter”.
It made me ask, are my priorities the same as Gods priorities for my life, am I being unfaithful to some callings, vocations and commitments  because I am wrongly prioritising others. As Shane Claiborne once said “is my dream the same as he dream of God”.
Is Jesus lord of all, or just the bits that show?
Is my commitment to Christ have my vocation head on, to be forgotten when ‘real’ life kicks in, I want my faith to be more than my hobby.
Take a moment and think of your life, your callings and commitments, your character gifts and opportunities, and invite Christ to come in and surrender all to him, giving him access all areas.
Then take a moment and think is there any areas of my life which are a bit ballooned out of proportion, or others which matter to God which I have neglected and need to put right with his help.
Come Lord Jesus, and take your place.
Standard
Numbers 13

Biblical Bonds, Scriptural Spies…

(Numbers 13) The Lord said to Moses, ‘Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.’So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites.
 
These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land. (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua.)
17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, ‘Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.’ (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)
21 So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, towards Lebo Hamath. 22 They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)23 When they reached the Valley of Eshkol,[a] they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. 
 

At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.
26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: ‘We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.’
30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’ 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.’

Just to finish the story off, the people didn’t respond in faith and ended up wandering around a quite small dessert for 40 years before their next generation went into the promised land led by Joshua, who was probably about 20 here, and so would have been about 60.

So  when he’s used of an example of a young leader they’re not doing their maths right (although Samuel, Daniel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Mary and the disciples and Timothy are all still good illustrations of God using young people!)

Here the people are faced with a choice, to choose to live the life that God has for them, or to stick with the old, comfortable and familiar life. 

The choice is between a life in a fertile land of their own where they can settle down, or the nomadic life of a desert traveller.

Bishop Lee read a quote out about a woman who said “I know I live in hell, but I do know all the road names”, meaning she knows that her life was horrible, but she just couldn’t cope with the change.

The problem was the Israelites were faced with a choice, did they trust that God was able to lead them into what he had promised or not? The same God who had delivered them from the hand of pharaoh, and provided for them in the desert in some remarkable ways at yet they looked at this large fortified city with panic, rather that looking at our faithful God and pray!

The choice we all have on a daily basis is do we panic or pray.

What rules our hearts, faith or fear?

Faith is being certain of what we hope for and confident in what we do not see (Heb.11.11), as Christians we live/walk by faith and not by sight  2 Cor.5.7… 

Faith is putting it into practice, living it out…

I was thinking too about faith and fear being cultures… 

The Israelites created a culture of fear, defeatism which caused them to walk away from the promised land and die in the desert.

Imagine the bravery and social awkwardness of Caleb and Joshua saying after a long diatribe of negativity to stand up and speak out that they believed that God could do it. I am guessing many of us have been in that awful situation in our Churches where faithless defeatism sometimes runs rampant, and we have to stand up to a hostile (and often quite patronising) group and say actually I believe if God is calling us to do this, then he will be faithful.

Sometimes too, the hardest people to speak a word of faith are those closest to us, these were Joshua’s tribesmen, relations, friends; and yet was called to say to stand up for his faith in front of them. Often Christians find the hardest people to talk about Jesus too our those closest too us. Yet here we see Joshua model bravery of speaking up a different and an unpopular view-point, but one that was right. Joshua was prepared to say the unsayable, because of his love and loyalty to God.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve tried to speak a word of faith only to get fobbed off with a line about ‘love your enthusiasm’ -which is normally code for “I think you’re a bit naive!” -Yet actually when we look at this from God’s point of view it is the  other way around, with God we are always in the majority, he is the God who is our provider, he is faithful and will fulfil all that he has promised, in fact even when we are faithless, he will remain faithful for he cannot deny himself.

There is a great phrase “God’s will God’s bill!” -in other words Jehovah Jirah is our provider.

Are we people who look at the size of the problem or the size of the God who is  our solution.

Too often our Churches can be places of pseudo-faith, where we pay lip-service to trusting in God, but our lifestyles and our life together says a different story. The problem with ‘lip service’ or ‘phoney faith’ is that scripture reminds us that “God is not mocked” and he reminds us that “Faith without works is dead”, to say “I believe God can do it, has to be backed up by our actions otherwise it is empty rhetoric.

I want to close with being a culture of faith, scripture talks a lot about taming the tongue, and all of us can probably remember the story when one person completely changes the atmosphere by what they have said or done. Faith snuffed out by unrighteous cynicism.

Or we could be a community which is filled with faith, spurs one another on in faith, encourages and nurtures faith, a community when faith sets the tone. 

This is the culture Joshua created with God, having first heard God speak “bold and courageous, do not be terrified, for I the Lord am with you where-ever you go” Josh 1.8; which led him to issue the Israelites a challenge,  ‘Choose this day whom you will serve, but for me and my house we will serve the Lord’ (Josh 24.5). They were clearly filled with faith, as wandering around the city armed with nothing more than a mouth organ seven times a day, was God seeing their hearts and they were obedient, he delivered the city into their hands, and brought them into the promised land.

So a challenge for us all, are we people who are shaped by fear or by faith?

When faced with adversity do we panic or do we pray?

Are we people who inspire and encourage faith, or are will filled with cynicism that snuffs it out?

Standard
call, challenge, Commitment, Community, Discipleship, Discipline, forgiveness, freedom, Fruit and fruitfulness, Uncategorized

Making Disciples…

“Go into all the world and make them my disciples, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you, and surely I am with you even to the end of the Age”-

Very famous verses from Matthew 28.

It’s an active word, we are called to “Go”, we are called to “make” disciples, we are called to “Baptise” and we are called to “teach”.

It is a command of Jesus not his final suggestion.

It is a word not just to the disciples standing there but actually a word that echoes through the ages to us.

Earlier  in the Gospel narrative Jesus Jesus says “I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” Slightly paraphrased “My job is to build my Church”… The problem is we often think that this bit, his bit, it our bit.
Our role is “go and make disciples” -yet too often we try and build Church rather than make disciples.
Church actually is all about making disciples.
In fact that is what Church is “The plural of disciple is Church” says Alison Morgan.
Mike Breen reminds “If you make disciples you get Church, but if you aim for Church you might not get disciples!”
So what is a disciple?
Disciple comes from the word Mathetes, one who learns as they follow.
Have we aimed to low?
Have we settled for attenders rather than discipleship?  Had (and still have) an on going battle with my Church about the whole argument about “bums on seats” -we could fill our Church buildings if we offered free beer and lap-dances- the challenge has never been just to get people into the building, but rather to see people come into relationship with Christ!
Maybe we have just settled on producing believers? Shane Claiborne talks a lot about the difference between a believer and a follower, his great quote is “there is more to being a Christian than believing all the right stuff”.
Have we strives to make ‘dutiful church members’ which is different from our call that is to make real life authentic and engaged disciples.
People will live out their discipleship not just within our buildings but rather on their front line where God has called them, whole life discipleship.
We need, and need to be, people who are model the life of Christ…
Discipleship needs to be seen lived out, with flesh on, as St. Paul said: “Imitate me as I imitate Christ”.
“All members of the community have a responsibility for enriching and contributing to the up building of others” Sylvia Wilkey Collinson.
Our Discipleship is something we ourselves need to take responsibility for, our discipleship is not received like spoon feeding consumerism, but is something we all have responsibility for, both a responsibility for our own faith and growth, but also a responsibility to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
 
“All of this (the Missional life of Jesus and the discipleship) is more like an action movie than an initiation into Philosophy” Roger Wilton.
Too often we  have made discipleship all about our own head knowledge, rather than about our lives as we follow Christ, looking like him, and we will be more like him the more we hang out with him, the more time we spend with him.
Rob Bell talks about being covered in the dust of your rabbi, as you follow them you are close enough to get covered in the dust from the dusty paths they walk on…
God bless,
Andy

Check out more great resources at http://vergenetwork.org Francis Chan – How Not To Make Disciples
YOU CAN SHARE THIS VIDEO! I must note that although programs and events are useful they can easily create an inwardly focused atmosphere to where the body is …
Standard
Gideon, Numbers, perspectives, Pioneer, Pioneers, priorities, ready

The Power Of The Few!

I love the West Wing and one of the great lines comes from President Bartlett when he quotes Margaret Mead and says “never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world, because it is all that ever has”.

Recently with Jeremy Corbyn seeing many people desert him politically, yet leaving him with actually I think the best shadow cabinet we possibly have ever had, with people actually saying stuff that sounds like they really believe it rather than saying it because they think you want to hear it.
Better to be a small group of committed people of shared vision than a disperate and disunited large gathering of factions who loosely tolerate each other.
Bigger does not always mean better.
It made me think about popularity and keeping everyone happy, which is the surest way of not achieving anything (you will never manage to please all of the people of time).
It reminded me of something a local leader once said “I would rather have 5 people on fire for Christ than a congregation of 500 who were apathetic about Christ”.
The important thing is not numbers of attendees that come to our events but the depth of discipleship that is happening in their hearts and lives.
Christ’s strategy was not trying to steer a ship of thousands when he was on earth, rather h invested in the 12, a small group who went on to change the world with the biggest movement in world history.
Gideon fell for the numbers trap with IIs huge army, which Hod whittled down to a small group of guys.
Invest in the few for the sake of the many feels paradoxical, but yet that is the way of nthe Kingdom.
I remember a quote from Rick Warren who said “to impact a moment send a tweet, but to impact a generation mentor a leader”.
I worry sometimes that over the years I have been in Kingswood I sometimes have been a mile wide, and yet an only an inch deep, yet call of the Kingdom is for “deep to cry out to deep”.
As I think back over the prayer room, we haven’t had the place full all the time, but we have had the wonderful flow of faithful people, to often we think about quantity and God thinks about quality, we like breadth and God is into depth.
We are not called to entertain the crowd, but tend sheep, too often we can loose the individuals in the big projects… Or feel disappointed at a small turn out.
Yet I believe Kingswood and Hanham could be turned around and transformed by just a few of us on fire for God.

The question for each of us is will we be those people who are on fire for God? The souled out disciples. We may be the few in the eyes of the world, but from this small underdog can once again transformed the world by the power of the spirit within us.

I’ll end with a quote from John Wesley:
“Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on Earth.”
― John Wesley
Standard
Uncategorized

Space and Time…

Sat here on my own in the prayer room, somewhere I have spent quite a bit of time this week.

There is something about the busyness of the world, and the busyness of our own internal heads that makes stopping and silence a place of very real and somewhat uncomfortable challenge.
Suddenly when we stop those issues, pains, insecurities are that are pushed to the back of our minds sudden can come to the forefront…
I know people say, and have said myself, I’ll keep busy so not to think about X Y or Z.
Yet the problem is ultimately these monsters in our heads can’t be out run… They bide their time and creep out eventually when at last we do stop.
In fact they often manage to pull the strings, getting us to do stuff, when we aren’t aware they are there.
I think this is why as a people we are scared of silence, space, retreat, wilderness because we know when we stop these things will appear and need to be face.
A proverb says “until you face your problem you can’t put it behind you!”
We have problem all had times to when dwelling on something with too much time has made us feel much, much, much worse…
We often have this idealised world of the desert and wilderness but the truth is the desert was an inhospitable place filled with jackles, wild animals and the burning sun…
It is also a place where we end up confronting ourselves, not as we like to think we are, but as we actually are… Perhaps the scariest of all desert animals.
I wish that the desert wasn’t a place of pain, but sadly I think it is, but I also think the desert is a place of healing and restoration.
The problem is we often go into the desert but forget to invite God into the experience with us,  and to face the monsters with him. Sometimes we we pray through this stuff, it can feel like we are shouting at the wall “are you there God?”, “what do you say?”, “What should I do?” And sometimes these answers don’t come easily.
Yet I was thinking a good counsellor doesn’t jump is and break the silence but rather waits for you to find th words.
When I was at college one of the lecturers once said of Holy Spirit’s ministry and pastoral care that sometimes we need to wait for longer that we are comfortable with, after all we all love to fill an awkward silence… Yet it’s in the awkward silences that God often shows up.
And at our wits end, after the tears, we hear Gods still small voice.
After all our usual baggage, our greatest hits, have had their air time, often we break the pain barrier, we play the B side (if you are old enough to remember vinyl) and suddenly something happens there is a change, we tune more into the still small voice.
When we come to the end of ourselves we discover our Heavenly Father waiting for us.
So, although the call to the desert is painful, remember to go inviting the risen Christ in there with you, even in the silence know he hasn’t left, listen for that still small voice, tune in to him and listen, and there waiting in the desert is your Heavenly Father who loves you no matter what baggage of whatever toxicity has spilled out of you, you remain loved passionately by him and his feelings for you don’t deminish.
So in a world of busyness, let’s embrace silence and space, rather than living lives of distractions and avoidance, let’s face it all head on knowing we are held in the everlasting arms of love, knowing that despite it all he is faithful and good.
So, I’m putting down my iPad and am ready to meet you Lord…
Speak Lord for your servant is listening…
Standard
IT?, presence

“IT”

It is a funny word really, don’t you think?

People talk about people really having “it”?
Or loosing “it”?
Or discovering “it”?
The X factor, is just a way of trying to define “it”, it is non specific and hard to define, yet when we see “it” we know “it”.
In our current political climate everyone is debating whether Jeremy Corbyn has “it” the MPs think he hasn’t got “it” whilst others of us think he’s got “it” but they haven’t…
Although we don’t know what “it” is people have been saying Boris has it but we know Michael Gove is missing it.
Blair used to have it, and perhaps he had too much of it, that’s why today with the publishing of Chilcott we see things more as they are rather that amid the spin that used to make “it” work for them!
We have also been in Churches where they seem to really have “it” and others where we just don’t feel “it”.
I think at the heart of defining the “it” is understand what we are looking for? For example the IT Corbyn has is authenticity and integrity when people are fed up of being lied too, here us someone who has struck to his beliefs even when they didn’t do him any advantage (in fact his protest about apartheid got him arrested). Yet the “it” the political party wants is someone who can schmooze with style spinning and grinning to election victory…
The “it” of personal charisma has swept many people to power…
And the “it” in Ŵorship or church isn’t to do with the giftedness of the preacher or the skill of the musicians but the presence of the living God.
I am wondering what it is we are really seeking as people?
What is it we are looking for?
For me “it” seems to be about happiness, fulfilment and security… The thing we know we need that makes life work, we all deep down believe that there is an “it” and “it” can be found, but where to find “it” is the key question?
Many people try and tell us they gave found “it” and can help us get “it” but most of these things, these “it’s” aren’t really IT. Not properly it. Short term it possibly, but not an “it” that actually really works and satisfies.
Jesus talks of himself being the bread of life in whom all our hungers are satisfied, the one who gives us life in all its fullness and abundance (that sounds like it could be “it” to me).
Yet Jesus says that how to find it and get it is completely different from everyone else… It is not found in good looks, fame or fortune, it is not found in the persute of pleasure but in picking up our cross and following in the way of Christ.
Whoever wants to keep his life will loose it and whoever looses his life for my sake will keep it, Jesus’ it is completely upside down and back to front.?
The ultimate question is “what’s it all about?”
Actually the real question is “who is it all about?” -Jesus.
Standard
Presences, visible

Unlocking the Invisible Church….

This week I have spent yesterday and today in a Church hall hidden in the back of a graveyard, trying to do a 24-7 style prayer room.

Yesterday lady popped into the prayer room to ask about getting her baby christened, and I thought had she have come another day, she’d have probably found locked doors and eventually been able to leave a message on an answerphone…
It made me think too, as have been joined in prayer this morning by two wonderful prayer warriors from the Sanctuary Church, and often find that people just want to pray, have space and haveca quiet moment to just “be” in churches… but yet too often we as Church literally “shut up” from Monday to Saturday. Or we hire someone else’s building so ‘disappear’…
What struck me, is how often are churches are locked up, and the vicars “hidden” away from our communities.
Last week I was(talking to one lady a fortnight ago and described me as “under cover” because I wasn’t wearing my dog collar as  I thought about it, “undercover” was the last thing I wanted to be. My dad’s favourite bible verse is “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe…” I began to think the Church was birthed behind closed doors with the disciples locked in the upper room, scared of the religious authorities, and yet when  the Holy Spirit came, they unlocked the doors and went into the city centre market place proclaiming Christ.
Too often our Churches look like we have come from before Pentecost rather than after it, we have often become a hidden minority retreated from the world we are called to impact and transform, yet I pray the Spirit will once again fill us and cause us to share Christ with those we meet. Let the Spirit be unlocked in our Churches, and lets not keep him to ourselves like a ‘private party of the exclusive members club”, but go and share the good news of Christ with those who are in the cit, in the market place.
This made me wonder in our context whether:
… Too often we are invisible in the communities we are trying to reach.
… Almost locking the gospel, the good news, behind closed doors.
I thought about all these locked up Churches in darkness. This image really struck me, when God called me to plant Street Pastors in Salisbury (my previous parish, the auto correct changed it to my precious parish) I saw that the Churches were in darkness when literally hundreds of young people were pouring into/out of the pubs, bars and clubs all around them and yet the only thing the Churches offered was odd shaped buildings to urinate against!
I don’t want the local Church to be invisible, but visible, and I believe God doesn’t either.
I don’t want the local Church to be a faceless institution, but a loving approachable one… I love the Foodbank where people are welcomed with warmth, and a coffee and a cake, thinking this is putting a loving human face on the faceless institution of the Church… Welcoming in for practical help, love, compassion and reflecting Jesus to his community.
Just like street pastors, when choosing in Salisbury what to do about mission to the night time economy there were a number of projects we could have signed up for, but when I went on line to check out the web page I came across the line for Street Pastors which said “Church in Action on the Street”… This literally made my heart beat faster.
Church, not a faceless institution behind closed doors, or a soul-less answerphone message but Church that comes to you!
Church, that meets you in the gutter, rather than when you have spruced yourself up for a Sunday morning,
Church that is not about the building but rather the mobiles spirit filled Missional people of God living out their faith in everyday life.
It has been often said the challenge is not to “go to Church” (although attending some is challenging) the real challenge is to BE the Church.
Be accessible.
Be where real people are at (so often it is a real fight to try and get our Church people to turn up to big community events, in fact trying to stop them putting on a rival event is a challenge!).
Often we walk in to Church and the building and the welcome have the same lack of warmth, when people come to Church they are told they can’t park here, our Church kitchens are mass of messages telling you to keep your hands off their teabags etc… We think we gave made the Church for sinners and broken people feel like a we weekend at the mother in laws… Businesses pay millions to think about their shop window and the message it sends to the community, at yet if they do notice us and wander in do they encounter the extravagant grace-filled welcome of Jesus?
Thinking too of our Church buildings, locked up most of the time, if made me think are we more scared of a vandalism than people meeting with God?
I can’t remember who but some bishop somewhere once asked a PCC (who are the local custodians of “their” religious building) asking “why have you stolen this building from your community?” This idea that our building are tools,  given to the community to help the community hear and follow Christ… Resources the Church has to connect with their community and lovingly introduce people to their Saviour.
So, let’s be the Church, let’s be visible, welcome and loving, discovering both hospitality and meeting people where they are at with love.
Let’s unlock to doors.
Lets inviting people to “Come and See” whilst reaching out with “Go and tell”.
Standard
Uncategorized

A funny old strategy… #Prayer!

So this week, we are mainly, er um praying.

We’ve booked the Colin Bailey Rooms hidden in the graveyard at Christ Church Hanham and we are inviting people to come and pray…
That’s it.
That’s the strategy.
8:00am until 10pm come and pray.
Basically I’m a bit at my wits end… We have tun courses, put on events, brought in wonderful speakers, prayed on the street, had a million services to inspire the faithful… And yet to be honest in 7 years heartbreakingly we’ve not seen anything close to what we have dreamed off.
I know God wants to grow his Kingdom.
I know God wants to see his children come into relationship with him.
God has made his strategy pretty clear in his word “if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray, and turn from their wicked ways, and seek my face, then I will hear from heaven and come and heal their land”.
Too often we try and work out ways of trying to smuggle God into the conmunity, too often we are so busy, stressing with our limited resources, that we forget to be still and know that he is God, we look at our resources and forget that Gods resources are infinite.
And yet I’m sat here on my own in a prayer room, with a worryingly empty sheet and the sound of “that” conversation rining in my ears from my wife whose worried I won’t be at home much this week…
I believe that the heart of our failure in mission actually has its heart in the Western Churches apathy towards Christ, the call to pick up the cross and follow him is often met with the response “I’m a bit busy at the moment”.
From our Church diary and the numbers at prayer times together is often the message to all who hear that we aren’t as into this prayer stuff as we probably should be…
At the risk of offending people, I’ve been at large charismatic gatherings where people are appearing to go for it big time, and yet to sign up for an hour to pray, or do the acts of service stuff has a different response.
The truth is people like Ŵorship and the fuzzy Ŵorship feelings, more than they like to disciple and the sacrifice of setting their alarm clock, rolling up their sleeves, or getting down on their knees.
But as I type this, maybe too I need to rediscover prayer, the presence and power of God afresh, maybe I rush around too much and need to fall to my knees more… Maybe to be fruitful I need to spend less time sending emails about things, and more time connected with Father God.
So, for this week, we will mainly just be praying… And if it’s just me (and God) that’s okay, as he is the all sufficent one…
Why not come and join us and pray too.
Standard
Journey, Leadership, legacy, Life in the Spirit, Life styles, Life Together, obidience, ordination

Ten Years on…

Thinking about the guys being ordained this as and last weekend reminded me that for me and cohort we are coming up to the tenth anniversary of our ordinations (actually mine is in September).

Looking back, the first thing struck me is the number of people I have lost touch with (other than the odd ‘like’ on facebook).
Yet as I think back, a few things struck me about the 10 years was…Thinking of some of the guys I trained with one thing struck me, two guys full of charm, charisma and great gifting both ended up in prison due to dreadful behaviour…
A real shock.
And a real tragedy.
Glittering prospects ended up crashing and burning.
So important to be people of integrity and appropriateness in all our relationships, and to hold ourselves to account with trusted people to have those transparent relationships… Perhaps if my former colleagues had done so, perhaps they might still be in ministry and real people wouldn’t have been hurt and the cause betrayed.
Made me wonder too whether we put too much store on people’s competence, charm and charisma and not enough value on character.
Another thought struck me comes from one of my prayer triplet, who was very doubtful and anxious about future fruitfulness, yet 10 years later he had achieved amazing things and now chair of the committee for mission for the Church in Ireland amongst other achievements.
I guess as I think of my cohort I guess I am reminded of the verse of the bible which talks of God opposing the proud but lifting the humble.
I remember having to write a letter to some emerging leaders as part of my arrow course and I remember writing do keep the most important thing (Jesus) as the most important thing, as it is so easy to get distracted and diverted. I have found that clergy can be like the government ministers in Yes (Prime)Minister who actually go into parishes and Churches full of vision and fire and end up becoming “native” being “house trained” by the congregation acting like the civil service in the aforementioned comedy programme. We want to tell people about Jesus and somehow we end up filling in forms about drains, and trying to pacify arguements over trivialities.
Ten years on I still love Jesus but feel as though I am only managing to hold into his church by my fingertips, the temptation (as with many people my age) is to embrace being ‘post church’ partly due to just seeing how unchristlike churches can be, sometimes behaving worse than the people who aren’t Christians in the world… This shouldn’t be so.
Sadly too often it feels like trying to lead the charge onward for mission only to find some unprincipled parishioner had left down your tyres… How do we challenge and change this culture? The challenge to challenge people who have been here decades and are twice our age, but people need to know that such behaviour jepodizes the community coming to Christ and coming to fullness and to be that salt and light of truth telling is painful, uncomfortable and difficult. We all want to be liked and yet the call has often been to be the grit in the oyster, the bringer of challenge, and to show and tell a different story, one of a different future.
This future is one of hope, and yet being caught in the middle of challenging churches, it is easy to allow our vision of hope to be deminished and to become jaded and cynical. How do we keep our hearts soft, our minds open and expectant for God to act, this is not nativity but rather remembering the greater story of a God who reigns on high and longs to partner with his people to turn this broken and upside down world the right way up for him.
And finally to end all, the last thought I want to share is the call to change and transform is a call to the long hall, it’s not glamourous, often it is hard to get back up after being knocked down and after disappointments, but even so it is worth it.
So to conclude, the challenge of the heart, the challenge to invest in character that lasts rather than charm and charisma that are pretty tempory,
To keep out edge sharp and keep the most important thing as the most important thing, keepin going even when the “home team” let us down and hurt us, and to keep going even amid the on going challenge to still be here and fighting, to still be remaining in the game is an achievement.
I’ll close with a verse that has blessed me over the last 10 years “Do not become weary in doing good for at the right we will reap a harvest if we do mot give up” Gal. 6:9.
Standard