call, comparisons, vision, vocation

Let’s go up the Motorway to see this thing that has happened…

I’ll be honest I’ve quoted Mother Teresa’s line about people crossing the world to recieve a blessing but not crossing the road to be a blessing a number of times, and there  is so much truth in that statement, but recently I have been challenged by the first part of the quote.

Would I fly half way around the world to receive a blessing?

Would I  of my own volition have got into a car and gone to Reading or Cwmbran?

I used to have a very smug and slightly superior attitude of “God can come to me” I’m not going to some Church somewhere  to pick up a blessing, God’s everywhere so why do I have to make the effort…

It was a mix of pride, cynicism, jadedness and some heart-protection from disappointment.

I was listening to Pastor Yenka last Friday say exactly those words, I used to say “God can come to me”, but God was calling him to go and see what God was doing else where, calling him on a journey, often we need (even just for a short time) to sometimes come away from the familiar to hear, find and encounter God.

Sometimes, we need to connect afresh with the passionate as they fire us up.

Thinking, as the primary school kids move from being the big fish in the small pond, to being small fish in the big pond, it is constantly good for us to go to hang out with the people who are going to stretch, challenge and inspire us, those who have learned, travelled and gone deeper in various parts of the Christian journey.

Yet too often we sit in front of the telly like Victor Meldrew thinking “I’m okay as I am” whilst dunking our digestive biscuit into our tea and we think of our Church and our Christian life as “okay as it is”, and yet God reminds us there is more, so much more of him and from him.

I worked at St.  Michael le Belfrey in York, years after David Watson’s death, but heard  a lot about his revival in the 1970’s (although he never used the word revival) and he used to say that people turned up at St. Mike’s and realised they were a screwed up bunch who didn’t have it altogether but God was doing wonderful things amongst them, and people were taking back to their Churches that in God there is more, much more.

The song that really has resonated with me over the past few years here in Kingswood is “there must be more than this” the cry out of God for more of him.

I believe that our evangelism so often is ailing and failing because our faith is often so dry and parched, where our energy is used up fighting battles about trivialities whilst communities go through hell and to hell… We need to find those places which will revive and refresh us, that will revitalise us and restore us, and maybe that is Bethel California or Hillfields Friary, let’s be respectful about our brothers and sisters desire for more of God.

We need to remember that what we have experienced is not all that there is.

We need to remember too that God is not finished with us, with his Church or this nation yet, and whilst we have breath in our bodies we should be (to quote Rowan Williams) finding out where God is at work and joining in.

People often ask “is this transferable” which is entirely the wrong question, because this is putting all the thought into the current thing we are looking at, a better thing to ask is “what are you wanting to tell and show us here?”

Ultimately we are not chasing the manifestation, the hands of God, but we a chasing him himself -his face- and he is always wanting us to seek more and go deeper with him. I think our desperation for more of him brings joy to his heart. I think he loves seeing Christians getting into the cars and heading up motorways because they long to see themselves transformed and Christ made known.

So, lets say, God we want to hear from you, we want to go deeper, we want to see you transform your Church and our nation, the lives of ordinary people, and we want to pledge ourselves to that cause… and lets seek him as hungry people longing for the bread of life.

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Uncategorized

Evangel-elastic.

This might seem a bit of a funny subject to blog on…

I want to talk how we tell our stories to one another…
Sometimes the way we tell our stories can inspire, encourage and embolden those around us, other times stories can discourage, deflate and disenfranchized people.
I have heard stories that have left me feeling like “I’m such a rubbish Christian” and there have been other stories I discovered later which I had wished I’d heard earlier when I had been struggling with various things.
The Bible urges us to “be witnesses” and reminds us that (they) “overcame by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony” -in other words our story connects the events of the cross 2000 years go with right here, and right now.
It is good to tell our story. I wear a white band from just before the Archbishop came which has the words written on it “share your story” as a daily reminder to help me to remember to tell the story of his work in my life. It is my story, but it is much more HIS story.
As I read the Bible I see the Bible authors as very real and honest about their vulnerabilities and attribute the Victories to God, and he gets the glory.
The problem people often get this the wrong way around, covering our vulnerabilities and attributing the victories to ourselves, and trying to grab the glory that belongs to him.
And stories which steal Gods glory won’t advance his Kingdom.
Yet as human beings we can be insecure and competitive, and too often our stories and our talking becomes about us.
The danger is with this is our stories of God at work in his world and in our lives get taken with a pinch of salt, like the fisherman whose fish gets bigger every-time the story is told, the danger with the boasting pastor is what is termed “Evangel-elastic” work.
Let watch our mouths and our stories carefully that the stories of God are delivered authentically and honestly to the hearts and minds of those who hear them, knowing that we -and our words- can be trusted.
I heard about an amazing move of God, which is keeping careful records of all that God has done in bringing people to him, excluding the stories that can’t be verified, so that they can’t be accused of ‘evangel-elastic”… I can understand and applaud them doing this for God’s glory and honour, but it makes me so sad that it is necessary.
I do believe that Hyperbole is not a virtue of the Kingdom of God, nor an honourable trait amongst Christians.
So, my thoughts, are lets return real and authentic testimonies to our every day lives, lets share our stories, but make sure it glorifies Christ rather than ourselves and is delivered with authenticity and truth.
Yes, our stories may challenge our hearers to go deeper and push into more of God, but if delivered in the right way wont be condemning or belittling to those who hear them.
Let’s own our vulnerabilities and glorify Christ with his victory.
God will be at work in your life, perhaps he’s calling us to see and recognise him more?
Christianity  involves the mountain top and the valley, and it is okay to share both in our story, let us partner him in writing his story in our lives, a story that will bring glory to Christ Jesus, and a story worth telling.

 

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Ministry, Mission, Pastor Yinka

The Miraculous Catch of Fish…

Jesus and the miraculous catch of fish

21 Afterwards Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee.[a] It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus[b]), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. ‘I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you.’ So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’

‘No,’ they answered.

He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

In many ways this does feel like an apt picture of the Church… Struggling away fishing all night but with nothing, or at least not much, certainly not what we’d have liked or dreamed off, to show for our efforts…

These fishermen were professionals, they ought to be be able to fish, it was their specialism, their expertise… Yet today they probably felt a bit like frauds, fishermen who can’t fish.

Yet when they did listened to Jesus, his way worked, what is more it was more than they could handle and they had to ask the other boat to help…

I was at an event today with the leader -Pastor Yenku- from the Gate, a Baptist Church in Reading, who has seen the most remarkable number of people becoming Christians. 

He spoke of how as an experienced Pastor he had it all mapped out, with ideas for a mini mission, follow up, alpha and discipleship explored, a nice neat structure, yet God started showing up, and his structures were like the nets in this story that couldn’t contain what God was doing.

In fact containing what God was doing, wasn’t the plan, rather to steward it wisely, the Holy Spirit blows where he wills, he doesn’t want to be contained within the Church, or even within the confinement of one individual Church or congregation, but rather like the picture from the passage above, causes us to need to work together with a mindset bigger than just our own boat, thinking not just our congregation but Gods Kingdom, and this Kingdom wants to break out onto the street.

The Pentecost story starts with the disciples hidden away behind closed doors and ends up with the Gospel having reached Rome… The gospel explodes and is uncontainable and spreads like wildfire across the (then known world), yet too often much of today’s Christianity looks pre-Pentecost rather than post Pentecost.

Pastor Yenku said “the challenge isn’t getting Christians into Church, but rather to get them out of it”. John Wimber talked of the Acts 2 Church and the ethos for Vineyard the Church he founded and he used to say “everyone gets to play” -in other words all the stuff isn’t just for biblical characters and crazy vicary types, but for everyone who follows Christ. David Pytches, the founder and former leader of New Wine, talked of “The meeting place (Church) is the training place for the market place”. Pastor Yenku challenged us as Church, asking whether we have kept this to ourselves.

This idea, that evangelism isn’t just for the evangelists, or for a few enthusiastic members but actually for all, ordinary, every day Christians (which is actually what we all are!)

In Reading one of the greatest evangelists is one of the teenagers from their youth group, and the great and good news is that for these young people that being hands on in mission and discipleship becomes for them normative Christianity.

In fact there are stories of people who have become Christians going back out into the street the next day, which often feels wrong for us as Church, which normally when someone becomes a Christian we keep them in Church and get them all Institutionalised and out of touch before we let them back out.

It’s risky, it’s messy, but actually it’s exciting, it’s what leadership I’m Christ’s Church is like, where we all go out and seek the Lord and work to see him glorified, meeting and starting not where we’d like the, but where we actually are.

A move of the spirit which takes the church from the builfings and uses its people to share the good news with those we meet.

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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…

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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.
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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?

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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 …
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