acceptance, brokenness, community of grace, Compassion, ethics, grace, Holiness, inclusion, LGBT, love, truth

It’s a SIN?

I recently blogged about the Church needing to be loving in its attitudes towards people especially those in the LGBT community.

I deliberately didn’t blog about where I personally stand on the issue, as normally that normally means that only the people who agree with you read your post!

I long for all sides of Christ’s Church to become more loving, to read the Bible together in loving, God-honouring, humbling, respectful exchanges.

People talk about grace and truth being held together, and I think much of our Christian theology is about holding some difficult things intension in a Godly way (which is hard at times).

For some this is primarily a debate about the authority of scripture, what authority does scripture have over how we are followers of Christ live our lives? Does scripture say what we think it does, are we reading things the same way? Let’s talk and seek God together about authority of scripture and then about what it says within it?

For some this debate is about pastoral theology, how do we live out our faith together in community?

For others it is about how people make sense of their story and the story of God that captivates us, and the fundamental question of “who am I in Christ?” And for some, how do I make sense of “who I have discovered I am” with “who I have discovered I am in Christ?” and is there a tension with the two, and if so, how do I authentically deal with this under the Lordship of Christ.

The question people often say is “is it a sin?” as it seems be saying “if it is a sin, then the gloves are off and we can treat them how we like”, pastorally, even if it is a sin we are still called to love people and to “love our neighbour as our-self”.

Some think unquestionably the answer is yes.
Some think unquestionably the answer is no.

Some distinguish between desire and inclination and the practice.

I think the problem is we want a ‘clear cut’ discipleship and yet I have discovered that most pastoral theology is often complicated, messy and often not as clear cut as we’d like it to be.

I know many people in different places on the spectrum.

One Christian I have spoken about this, is an amazing Godly person and this person has chosen to be celibate rather than living out her sexual desire.

I know other Christians, gay and straight, who genuinely have really studied, prayed and sought God and believe the opposite.

Much ink has been spilled in the “nature/nurture” debate, yet irrespective of this Jesus is a God that meets us where we are at, and this is true for all people regardless of gender identity, and yet loves us too much to let us stay that way. we all need transformation, and we are all fallen, broken people. The straight person is not superior to his gay neighbour, as before the foot of the cross it is level ground, we all come from any and all walk of life, empty handed before a loving God who died for us.

I worry we have re-written the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector to the “straight and the gay person”, and I don’t want to be on the wrong side of the parable.

Christ’s grace and love extends to every area of our lives include our sex lives and inclinations, as does his Lordship too.

As I said in my previous blog, the only way we can see these rifts within the wider Church and individual fellowships be healed, is in love journeying together prayerfully, seeking God and seeking him honestly through scripture (which can be immensely challenging for us all whatever perspective we hold, as scripture always shapes and challenges us profoundly to the core of our being).

Even if we don’t agree and may never read the Bible the same way as someone else our challenge remains to love them and to ensure that our conduct towards them reflects the Christ we serve.

It is a difficult call, and groups like synod will make stands some of which we will applauded and others of which leave us perplexed, yet rather than walk away, lets keep engaging, praying and seeking God with those who see things differently by reading his word together.

It is hard being in conversations about things that are deeply personal and important with people that don’t agree with us, and the Bible can feel incredibly sharp on occasion, yet even though it is difficult it is the cost of being a disciple to be a loving community, gathered around Christ and his word, and to seek together to follow Christ, which is often more complex, messy and ambiguous than we would like it to be.

As we seek to share our journey of faith with our brothers and sisters from many different walks of life, we need to let God work in us and shape us, and these things are often costly, “Iron sharpens iron as one person sharpens another”.

The Church in the U.K looks like it might split over this issue, which would be a tragedy for us all. There have been many big and important issues that have threatened to tear the Church apart, but we need to remember the heart of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane that prayed “let them (the Church)be one as you and I are one”, Christ wants his bride to be united. To stop fighting and prayerfully gather around scripture takes bravery from all sides, and even more courage to stay praying and sharing around the Bible when it gets challenging, but worth it, to show the world that Christians can disagree in a Godly and honourable way.

The Church needs to heed the words of murdered MP Jo Cox that said “there is more that unites us that divides us”.

I believe the Church can and should be an outpost of the Kingdom of Heaven, and I believe it is worth fighting for, because you are worth fighting for, because we are the Church of Jesus Christ and we will not let’s not allow Satan to divide us.

Keep loving.
Keep meeting with people who we disagree.
Keep praying.
Keep sharing.
Keep reading scripture.
Keep on seeking God together.

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brokenness, cost, Dreams, Evangelism, Gospel, Mission, Try?

word on the street 3.

Over Easter we had a mission across the city “The Turning” where we went out and talked with people on the street about Jesus(using a simple script).

Yet we now have the new challenge, rather than just putting a load of effort into a short term event, we are trying to be missional people doing this as a normal part of our usual, normal life together.

we are being ‘intentional’ about keeping on going out together regularly onto the streets to tell people about Jesus, this months there have been three Friday worship sessions followed by three Saturday mornings in different parts of the city.

At the beginning of the month a load of us met up and worshipped, soaked in God’s presence, as someone that is an activist normally with multiple diary clashes prioritising God’s presence was a wonderful thing to do, although I must admit that just turning up for the Saturday outreach did creep into my mind. So glad I didn’t.

Today however I just came to the outreach on the street, we were in South Bristol and I felt convicted if I wanted people to come and share their faith in Kingswood area, then I ought to be prepared to bless other parts of the city too.

Both times on the Street were very different, lots of busy people in a hurry that wouldn’t stop. Yet on both days some people did stop and listen and have conversations with us, on both days we got opportunities to pray for people, and this morning we saw three people pray a prayer of commitment.

All things that wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t gone out.

Today we prayed for a woman who said he life had been “ruined by God” as she suffered a stroke, but prayed for her and she prayed a prayer of commitment. Last time a lady we spoke to couldn’t pray that prayer of commitment as she was so angry with God for the way her mum had suffered before she had died.

Realise that in sharing our faith people are giving us privileged access to their hearts.

I wonder how many opportunities I miss by doing something “important” that actually from an eternal perspective might not have been that important at all!

Yet, I believe the Turning Mission is bigger than just the events with the label “The Turning” on it, just as “healing on the streets” and other initiatives should be bigger than just the teams going out, mission and evangelism should filter through to our Churches, our homes and work places.

The Turning has increased our expectancy for God to be at work, helped us see those potential Kingdom encounters. Recently an older gentleman shared about he was at Lidl and the lady at the front of the queue didn’t have enough money and was getting worried, he gently asked how much she was short by (32p) and paid the cashier. The lady asked him why he did this and he said “God loves you” and se began to well-up with tears.

Little things can make a big difference.

This last month, I have been reminded afresh of the pain of so many peoples’ lives.

This month of June I have had a student Dan with me, learning about being a Vicar. The first week he was here we wandered around the local shops giving out mini chocolates just as a gentle blessing from the local Church. The first shop we went into -a sweet shop- the woman declined the sweet but ended up talking about shutting her shop as it was loosing money. we were able to pray with and for her, and as we prayed she began to cry, just felt as though God had somehow touched her in that moment. Ironic as I toyed with the idea of not going into the sweet shop to give out some sweets as it seemed a bit cheeky. I am glad now we did.

Last Friday with the street pastors ended up spending a big chunk of the evening with a homeless couple, the girl of the couple just seemed really vulnerable.

On Thursday I had to help out for a couple of hours in the young peoples secure unit, seeing these young people who look both incredibly vulnerable and incredibly hard at the same time, one can only imagine what they have been through even though they are so young.

Recently as we do our weekly Pints of View (Church in a pub) I have seen us as a team becoming gradually more emboldened, one guy asking if he could pray for Annie (a regular) with her knees, next week she came in and said they were healed, and then began to complain about ankles. we prayed for her ankles, when I saw her a couple of days ago she said “you wont believe it but since you prayed they are ever so much better!”

One guy Jason, the week before heard one guy share most of his life story, but every now and then chipped in something really wise and Godly. People want to share their stories and want to hear what Christians have to say, we have fallen for the lie that people aren’t interested.

Also in our prayer time, we have been joined by a couple of guests, neither sure about what they believe, but both wanted to be there and came back next week, and we made the choice to carry on praying and worshipping in exactly the same way as we did when it was just Christians

Last week too tough lads smirking almost squared up to me and asked me if I could do “one of them gay weddings right there in the pub”… One of those things they didn’t teach me at theological college! It had the potential to be interesting (and by “interesting” I mean I could get punched in the face!). Yet with a bit of chatting and warmth the ice-melted and they admitted they both had girlfriends but thought it’d be funny to see how I reacted! From that my friend Harry began asking one of them if he had a faith, and ended up praying for him that he’d come to know Jesus -I thought Harry was pushing his luck and again expected him to be told to “**** off!” but instead the guy seemed genuinely moved shaking Harry’s and my hands warmly and thumping his chest in a “love you guys kinda way”.

It would be easy to read these stories and feel like we are sorted, but we are not, far from it, I still find even after the umpteenth time going out on the street that I feel nervous, and often wandering away I think of “what I should have said” -not what I did say!, but I believe we are gradually learning what it means to be a missional people living their lives everyday.

I know I and my friends still are far from sorted, but I know too that God is helping us be bolder and riskier in sharing him and seeing people respond.

I remember the line the overseer of The Turning Pastor Yinka says “the fields are white to the harvest and the workers are YOU” -what can we do?

Then we realise that God has gone before us and prepared the way ahead, opened doors and been tapping on lives already.

what an awesome privilege to partner this fantastic God.

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brokenness, Depression, Joy

Joy.

A friend of mine said that his ambition for last year was to “pursue joy”.

After-all Scripture reminds us that “The joy of the Lord is my Strength and my Song” and the psalmist prays that he would be “restored to the joy of my salvation”.

Yet I wonder if I am always a good advert for joy? So, often I feel like a struggling and not quite burned out, but certainly a tad singed at times…

Joy, from my understanding of the word, isn’t something hypothetical but something real and tangible that can be evident in our lives, like peace it is a real emotion that Christ promises he gives to us in our real and every day lives.

Do I enjoy God’s peace and joy, are they gifts from God which I embrace and experience, habitually in my normal everyday life.

I wonder too, when I do into Churches how rare it is to see any joy, in more traditional Anglican settings joy is often replaced by reverence (a word I find strangely missing in scripture, although I’m not saying there isn’t a place for some solemnity within our worship). Yet, however our worship styles look I believe joy should be within it for it to truly be an act of worship (I realise too that there is a place for lament within our worship, but even so joy should break through, when we read the Psalms we see the reality of everyday life, and yet so often they end on a note of faith and hope, an undercurrent of joy that God remains upon his throne even -or maybe especially- in our darkest moments.

It is easy to justify our absence of joy on our personal circumstances, but Peace and Joy are actually meant to transcend our everyday experiences, sometimes we hear these wonderful stories of God’s supernatural peace or joy in the midst of bleakness and struggle.

I realise too that there is actually so much around us all to praise God for, lovely people, family, friends, beauty of creation -yet when challenges come out vision becomes more narrowed- yet God never lets us go and is always with us, and often in the pain we can experience more of him in greater depth.

To worship, even when life is not as it should be, is a choice, and sometimes we really don’t feel it, yet there are times when I have pressed through in my frustrations and my deflated-ness and found in that place of brokenness and sacrifice something new and wonderful. As we worship, it is a choice to focus not on our problems and on our pain, but on the God who is the lifter of our head, “the one from whom our help comes from the maker of heaven and earth”.

So, my challenge primarily to myself, is where is my peace, where does my joy come from?

As I seek God more and more, aren’t these characteristics of him that perhaps I know I am somewhat lacking.

Perhaps, we need to seek to find God the source of peace and joy that transcends our understanding?

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brokenness, Depression, Falibility, love, Pain

Valentines’ Dilemma.

Today is a day when we remember St. Valentine, who was an early Church Bishop, who conducted many marriages to allow young men to avoid conscription (the Emperor at the time believed single men made better soldiers).

Whilst in Prison, he prayed for the jailers daughter who was blind, she was healed and her sight restored. He was brutally Murdered/Martyred, but his last letter was signed “your Valentine”, and so the tradition of sending love notes on valentines day has continued.

Ironic, that we celebrate romantic love from a man who kept a vow of celibacy.

Today can be a day of great joy, and that’s great, but just because we are in a good season, we realise this isn’t necessarily true for everyone.

Today is a day which brings up lots of pastoral issues, What about those who were married but are no longer through divorce or bereavement, today can be a tough day?

What about those who maybe wanted to be married and yet never has been, again today could be a challenging day.

What about those who are married but their marriage has become a really tough challenge?

Some people too in our Churches maybe in complicated relationships.

(A great book and blog about Singleness comes from my friend Kate Wharton -single minded https://www.amazon.co.uk/Single-Minded-Being-Single-Whole-Living/dp/0857214306 , http://katewharton.blogspot.co.uk/  ).

Sometimes we turn love and life into something unreal and unattainable, those of us who are married don’t live “happily ever after” marriage is something wonderful, but not always easy, and even the best marriages aren’t always sweetness and light all the time.

Single people might have freedoms and opportunities that we might envy when just getting a babysitter and getting out the house feels like a rare achievement, but when I was single I certainly didn’t feel lucky, in fact sometimes I felt lonely and sad about being single.

The truth is that we, especially in a facebook age, present one thing to the world and another thing is the reality in our hearts behind closed doors.

Sometimes Churches are good at joy, but less good with complexity and mess.

Sadly our Churches don’t always feel safe places.

Sadly our Churches don’t always feel safe places for messy lives.

Sadly our Churches don’t always feel safe for people with marriage problems.

Sadly single people often say our Churches don’t feel safe places where they are welcome and valued.

How can we be safe sharing both joys and sorrows.

I long to see Church become a place that can laugh with those who laugh and cries with those who cries, sharing the reality of joys and sorrows.

It is human nature to run comparisons, -normally unfavourable- yet the truth is the grass is not always greener.

Whatever our circumstances life always presents challenges.

God’s Church is made up of people who are married, and people who are not, people whose relationships are in a good place, and those whose relationships are tough.

How do we as Church, become a community of grace that supports and loves one another in our variety of different life stages and relationship status’? Where joys and sorrows are freely expressed.

Where we are loved and accepted for who we are now, rather than an idealised version of ourselves, or who we might be in the future.

The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus meets us where we are now, encounters us in our present, and as we really are, not how we’d like to be, or an idealised ‘facebook-esk’ version of ourselves.

The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus meets us where we are at, celebrating the joys and blessings, as well as the sorrows and challenges.

The good news of the Gospel is that as a Church family, people around you with a different story can really be a blessing to you, and you to them, together you can carry one anothers burdens and enable the local expression of Church to be more loving and authentic.

Our world is sex obsessed and tells us we are incomplete without the perfect life (and perfect partner)…  Jesus doesn’t agree!

Yet the truth is we are not perfect, nor will any partner we have  be perfect either.

We live in a world maybe obsessed by sex, and we are called to be holy, the world may tell us we are incomplete but the gospel tells us we are made whole in Christ, beloved and valued.

Paul tells the Church to not to let the world squeeze them into its mould (Romans 12 -the message) and yet sometime the Church as an institution moulds us as an institution where we either feel pressured to conform to the ridiculous stereotype, but the gospel actually should allow us the freedom to be ourselves, to be loved as us, single or married, in good times or hard times.

Perhaps as Church we lack the empathy to see how other peoples lives can be fully and wonderfully Christian but look very different from our own, and how we may be a blessing to them, and they to us.

Where we feel truly loved we can be truly ourselves, the problem too often with our Churches is that we all put up our guard and show the world a respectable veneer, rather than being real about what life is really like for us.

So, a challenge for us all, especially on valentines day, we are called to love, and be a community of authenticity and grace, where all who encounter it are blessed.

Jesus says of his Church “by this all people will know you are my disciples that you love one another”…

This is a call for real love in a real (but broken) world.

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brokenness, Christmas, incarnation, Pain, Servanthood., Suffering.

In the Poo.

At our nativity service I got everyone to come up and put newspaper headlines into the manager with baby Jesus as a prayer activity but also as a sign and symbol of Jesus coming down amid and amongst the brokenness of this world.

to illustrate this I really wanted to bring into Church a bucket of manure, a really stinky bucket, to show the smell that the Creator of the universe was born into, Jesus was literally born surrounded by crap.  Jesus was born how he lived, surrounded by the world at is vilest, messiness and most broken, and yet amid all that he wasn’t tainted by it, rather he overcame it, he brought beauty out of his brokenness, bringing hope to the hopeless, bringing salvation, restoration, tranformation from gutter right accross every stratosphere of human divide, with even the Roman Emperor, the most powerful man on earth came to bow the knee to the babe of Bethlehem.

As we think about the image of crap, I was struck by two images:

Firstly, from my time working in a nursing home, whereby if a patient soiled themselves we came in with rubber gloves, plastic aprons and air freshener… Arms length and trying not to gag.

Secondly, of seeing many babies and their mums at our parent and toddler group, dealing with horrific smells from down bellow, with crying babies held close, comforted and loved despite the stench.

Love does not hold back at arms length, but embraces amid the filth and stench and sees beyond it all the person who is loved more than anything.

Jesus is the latter, the second image, drawing close and loving even when the world was at its most vile and disgusting.

All the way through his life Jesus “touched untouchables with love and washed the guilty clean”… A women with “an issue of blood” ritually unclean, defiled, banned from the temple touched the hem of his garment and rather then her defilement tainting Christ as she touched him but she was both healed andcleansed no longer unclean, untouchable and defiled, instead purified, his holiness was bigger and greater than her condition.

We don’t need a lecture here to know the world is not as it should be, the newspaper headlines scream it out to us all the time.

Nor do we need a rant here talking about how people are screwed up and broken, we probably know this too loud and clear.

We know the problem.

We know the world is defiled and full of crap, our lives are at time much the same, the good news is that there is a solution and rescue amid the mess, the baby Jesus who grew up to take all the vilest depravity humanity could throw at him, and carried them on his shoulders as he was crucified for you and for me.

He took the crap for you and for me.

All my sin, the junk and the skeletons in the closet, brought into the light and washed away by his death and resurrection.

Jesus once spoke to a guy with leaprocy and asked him “What do you want me to do for you?” And the guy replied “I want to be clean” and with that Jesus reached out and touched him, again like the woman with the issue of blood, Jesus was defiled but rather his touch made the leaper clean.

In many ways we are like that leaper before Christ, he asks us “What do you want us to do for you?” Will we echo the leapers statement of faith and say to Jesus, I want to be clean?

In the book of Isaiah it talks of our sins being like scarlet but becoming as white as snow, let’s come to him afresh for cleansing, we can’t pretend there isn’t a problem anymore like the stinking teenager trying to mask a ton of BO by spraying their clothes with Lynx deoderant, instead it is saying “I know my need of cleansing for God, I know you are a God who meets me in the gutter at my lowest point”.

As I type this I am reminded of a old hymn which says “Foul I to the fountain fly wash me saviour lest I die”… Knowing that the stench of our sin is more than just a bit unpleasant, but is actually fatal, and our cleansing and purification is not just life saving but life giving and life transforming.

Yet Jesus’ decent from heaven to the gutter is I believe actual a model and a picture we as Christians are supposed the emulate.

Jesus called us to be people of salt and light, light that drives away darkness and most most needed in the darkest placesm and salt that combats decay. In fact the Romans used to put salt on their poo to combat the smell and the germs, so when Jesus is talks of being the salt of the earth, it is a call to the darkest, smelliest, vilest places that need the transforming good news the most.

So, Jesus descended into the worst of the world’s crap, we are called to do like wise.

Mother Teresa once famously challenged of us as CHristians to “find their Calcutta” -I believe there will be somewhere we are called to serve, to wash off the dirt -the crap- of the feet of that place, and rather than letting it change and taint us, instead lets be the ones bringing the change and the transformation, for the glory of God which is unstoppable despite the unmentionable things this world throws in our path and I’m our way.

 

 

 

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5 Fold Ministry -Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers (Eph. 5), brokenness, comparisons, Humility, inter-dependance, Leadership, Life styles, Pride, vocation

Too Much Testosterone…

“Which of the five-fold ministries are you?” I was asked this morning at morning prayer.

The Five Fold Ministries, are “Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teachers”, it is a fascinating question!

Are we all just one of these?

Can we be more than one or is that greedy?

Do I operate in all five on different occasions?

Or is that just vanity thinking I could be omni-competent?

Then I thought a bit more about each of these and think these words can mean vastly different things to different people?

I’ve blogged before about how I worry that I see too much of Christian leadership lacks humility and has a smugly superior swagger, something I don’t see in the ‘first shall be last’ Leadership, often looking more like Alan Sugars boardroom than Jesus washing his disciples’ feet in the upper-room.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase “hurt people hurt people” which is true we are all broken people and often our brokenness has jagged edges that cuts both ourselves and those who come close to the area of that brokenness.

Yet too often our brokenness doesn’t just manifest itself in sitting on our own in a coffee bar crying into our latte, but in all sorts of behaviours.

I was talking to someone who said something fascinating “I don’t think I am arrogant, but I know I am deeply insecure”, but the insecurity often shows itself in massively competitive ways.

We often forget that a wise person once said “comparison is the thief of joy” and yet particularly the apostle, prophet and evangelist can end up engaging is a silly one-upmanship, which actually discourages all of them, talking themselves up and others down, because they want to appear successful.

Yet as Mother Teresa said “we aren’t called to be successful only faithful”.

It is a bit like running a race, if you can’t run forward when looking back.

The Pastor often can be guilty of ‘needing to be needed’ they need me, the danger to run in as a ‘Saviour leader’ where we want to come in like James Bond and save the day, forgetting that we already have a Saviour that doesn’t need replacing. The danger is for those of us with a Pastors heart is that we can fall into the trap of thinking “I’m important because I’m needed” rather than knowing we are valuable simply by being a beloved child of God.

Again, the teacher is often guilty of the same ‘needing to be needed’, yet like all teachers the kids graduate, they want to not just know about stuff they actually want to be doing it themselves. The teacher can fall into the trap of thinking “I’m important because I know stuff you don’t” and yet it often is a matter of time when they over-take us and they know stuff we don’t and suddenly our roles become reversed and we become the pupil.

If you are the Apostolic type, how do you react when someone else has a better and an easier idea?

If you are the evangelistic type, how do you feel when someone else discovers their gift and has great chats about Jesus.

If you are prophetic, how do you feel when someone else has a ‘spot on word for someone’.

If you are a Pastor, how do you feel when someone goes to someone else and not you?

If you Teacher, how do you feel when your pupil teaches you something?

The interesting thing I think is what we ‘ought’ to feel and what we ‘actually’ feel can be two very different things.

Often our insecurity ties us down and limits both our gifting and our effectiveness and fruitfulness in that gifting.

The heart I believe of ‘losing the testosterone’ is knowing our true identity in Christ, knowing our dependence not on our abilities but on his provision and grace, knowing that we are unique and our calling is different from those around us.

It is about an understanding of being part of God’s team and about building a Kingdom not our own empires, it is about Christ at work in us not just through us.

Let’s see ourselves as precious and part of the wider team of God, where our gifts and our weakness combine together with other peoples’ gifts and weaknesses to create something beautiful.

The heart of much of our problem is our self-sufficiency, this idea that ‘we can do it on our own’ which is actually not only unbiblical but a complete fallacy.

We need one another, and they need us, we are not created for independence but interdependence.

The question actually at its heart is asking about how we can work together where we maximise our strengths and minimise the weaknesses so that we can see the most fruitfulness of the glory of Christ in the lives of those we serve.

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5 Fold Ministry -Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers (Eph. 5), Authenticity, brokenness, Uncategorized

A Grubby Sad Church, A PEST!

(Taken from the talk by Howard Jameson’s talk yesterday, the wise and profound bits are from Howard, the less wise bits are from me!).

Doesn’t sound great does it? -but let’s look at it a bit closer!

How grubby is Church?
This isn’t how effective the cleaning rota is… although sometimes we can value the cleanliness of our buildings above blessing the community.
I wrote recently about how buildings are useful tools but sometimes our thinking around buildings has got confused and sometimes in some cases almost idolatrous!
Holiness is a word that makes people think that people like them aren’t welcome (when the truth is none of us is Holy, only Jesus).
At the heart of Gods character is Holiness where all the other traits of his characters stem (his love, grace and goodness) from this…
Jesus was so Holy that he knew that touching the grubby would make them Holy, Infecting with his Goodness rather than being contaminated by sin.
Jesus risk his reputation by engaging with the messy of hurting and broken lives, eating and visiting the home of sinners and tax collectors.
Whilst listening to Howard, I was reminded of a cracking quote from Pope Francis who said: “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”
I drifted off for a second thinking of Bonhoeffer two fellowships the superficial “fellowship of the righteous” and the more real and authentic “fellowship of sinners” where people were real about life and its pains and struggles. Bonhoeffer reflected that if meeting with other Christians could (and did) cost him his life then when they met together in these dangerous conditions Church had to be “grubby” -real, worts and all Church.
How SAD is your Church?
Where is the songs of lament?
Do we give space for our culture to truthfully express what they feel, including the bits they feel frustrated and disappointed in?
Are we a Church that can cry together? Then when one part hurts every part hurts, rather than the “I’m alright Jack” attitude we see from time to time.
Where is the outlet for us to protest and express our pains and frustrations and disappointment about life?
Superficiality and dutiful obligated joy feel fake to our generation, as we long for authenticity and want to be heard.
Again, a Church that can be real and broken, is paradoxically a Church when we can celebrate the real joys together too.

How much of A PEST is your Church?

A PEST actually stands for the 5Fold ministries, Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds (or called Pastors) and Teachers.
Apostles take something out from the Church to the people, Prophets say the uncomfortable things and are the friends who lovingly challenge us, Evangelists bring people into Church, and the two roles we really value in the west is Pastoral Care (we want you to sort our problems out and visit us) and Teachers (we want you to ‘do Church well and not be too boring”). Yet Church when it is healthy and functioning is operating in each of these areas of gifting.
The leader can’t be all of these, no one person cam, but a leaders job is to identify those with the gifts and liberate them, to be able to serve.
Need to be where the people at.
Howard left us with a few questions, including:
Do we allow people to play artistically, liturgically,  theologically and Spiritually? -Do we allow
Or do we expect them to conform to our inherited model?
He explored the theme of new wine skins, a picture used by Jesus, which talks of old skins bursting with the new wine…
Asking is the ‘wine-skin’ we have able to cope with what God is doing, and what he is calling his people to be?
Are we ready to be a sad, grubby Church that’s A PEST? -I hope so!
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