call, challenge, Church, cost, Discipleship, Kingdom, Ministry, Mission, obidience, perspectives, priorities, vision, vocation

we don’t need more Churches, rather we need Churches doing what they are supposed too!

Recently I had a sad experience, we had started a small congregation meeting next door to the main Church in the Community centre, mainly to allow the children’s work to flourish but unfortunately it didn’t work as we had hoped. I remember doing the last service there, which was a damp squib, as I tided up and walked out the door, something of lump appeared in my throat, although only a very short era, it was still and end of an era.

I did in my spirit wonder if maybe we (as in the Christian Community) will be back here reaching out to the people of Kingswood.

Then as I thought more about this I began to ask myself the question “does Kingswood need more Churches” actually Kingswood is choc-a-bloc with Churches yet few that are reaching out beyond their four walls, few seeking to reach out with the good news of Christ Jesus, few trying to raise up discipleships that are ‘nation transformers’ and praying in the Kingdom of God.

We also have new Churches planted into Kingswood, and yet sadly, they come into Kingswood, people drive in and drive out, some don’t even get around to investing in a “welcome sign” by their front door. Yet all that happens stays within the walls, and they never even send the other Churches in the area a email saying “hey”.

Yet we know that God is wanted his deeply divided Church to be unified in him, and in seeing his Kingdom advance and grow, impacting local communities and transforming lives, as we think of the Pentecost season, we know the need of the Spirit of God taking his Church back, breathing fresh and new life into it and blowing open its door to reach the community for Christ.

We don’t need more congregations and Churches, but actually for the Churches to do -or at least try to do- that which we are called to do.

The challenge is that the Church, is not some faceless institution, but rather you and me, we need to be people filled with his spirit, living his way, and seeing as individuals to shape and transform the corporate body of believers to keep us following Christ in courageous obedience.

authority, challenge, John the Baptist, Leadership, prophetic

John the Baptist… The Campaigner

I was thinking about John the Baptist the other day, in many ways John as the last of the ‘Old Testament Prophets’ calling people to repentance and righteously living with his message of “Repent for the Kingdom of God (or Heaven depending on your translation!) is close at hand”.

A voice of challenge.

A call from religious nominal-ism into baptism symbolising death to an old way of life and resurrection to living life God’s way.

A call ignored by the religious establishment but a call heeded by the broken and the sinful.

John is a campaigner, especially at this time with the presidential election happening we hear the voice of the critic saying “it shouldn’t be like this”.

Many of you have seen the film with Robert Redford called “the Candidate” who wins an election and the last line of the film is “what do we do now?”

I have read Tony Blair’s autobiography (twice!) and the thing that struck me is how he writes about being the most successful Labour leader of the opposition to being Prime Minister. The call was still to see what was wrong, but now the call is backed by the authority of the monarch who asked him to form a government, now he has the authority to do something about bringing the changes that were needed.

A time of major transition for the disciples, Pentecost drove them from making suggestions from the sidelines to playing on the pitch on their own two feet.

A major time of transition for the Labour MPs as none of them had ever been in government (apart from an elderly Gerard Kauffman) and yet they had real power and authority that they had to learn how to use wisely. It was different being in Government from opposition, here is the opportunity to put it into practice, here there were consequences.

In the West Wing President Santos invites a feminist lobbyist to join the team, saying “it is easy to throw stones than to build the house”, the challenge is that of being given the authority not just to see what is wrong, but to build what is right.

The institution has made most of us feel disenfranchised and unable to change anything, often we feel like John the Baptists shouting in what often feel like the wilderness about the coming of God’s Kingdom, yet we actually are people who live after Pentecost, people ho have received power and authority from the King to be agents of change and transformation.

My friend Geoff Waters talks of the Lollipop person, wandering out in front of cars with nothing but a sign and a hi viz jacket, and yet the authority they have stops the traffic.

We often are so used to being ignored, belittled, attacked, overlooked, patronised that we forget God has given us authority to change the world and advance his Kingdom, and we end up feeling like we are shut out of the party, when God is inviting us in.

call, challenge, vocation

Some thoughts from the TV Remote.

We were at a car boot sale and my wife spotted two Sombrero’s “they’d be good for assemblies” she said (it is true I do have a big box of wacky fun stuff for assemblies) but I can’t recall Jesus meeting up with a couple of Mexicans from my reading of the New Testament… A couple of days later, the coordinator of our Café Tots group came bounding over to me with a massive TV remote and said “I thought you could use this for Elevenses (our messy Church).

It made me think, what could I say about life and faith with an over-sized TV remote?

As I looked down at the buttons I thought of a few things, so I thought I’d share them here…

The mute button!

How many times in life do we just wish people who annoy us would just shut up?!

Yet as I thought some more about it, often the people who annoy me most, are the people who actually teach me the most, challenge me, make me re-examine myself and my reactions.

If I had a mute button on my life, I would only listen to people who I already agreed with I would never have grown, matured or developed in my relationship with God.

Then I began to think about living life with the pause button… those important things we know we ought to do but are putting off, that person we need to apologise too, that conversation we need to have, that thing we need to do, that challenge we respond to, that act of compassion we should do…

What is on pause in your life?

Perhaps today is the day to press ‘play’?

The problem is that thing placed on pause, rarely gets played out…

If I had a fast forward button, how many life shaping incidents would I ‘fast forward’ and not learn those lessons learned in dark and uncomfortable places, which although painful have grown and developed me?

One thing I noticed was how young people longed for Soul Survivor each year (often to get born again, again each year) -full on for Christ for a week every year and yet not managing to ‘do life’ following Jesus the other 51 weeks of the year. The Christian life was not meant to be lived skipping from one mountain top to the next. Of course it is easy being a Christian when you are in a field with thousands of other Christians, or on Sunday night, but most of the Christian life is not spent in a festival field or perpetually in a Church bubble; following Jesus as Christian must work as well on Monday as Sunday night, it’s not about how high you feel at a festival mountain top but what you are like in the valley that really shows what your faith is made of.

Yet the button that made me think most was the rewind button.

I want people to believe that the Churches best days lie ahead of them, not behind them, the danger of living in the past, with your finger on the rewind nostalgia button.

There is an old Native American saying: “We don’t own the land, we inherit from our children and grandchildren…” Just as with the Church and Spirit, we don’t own them, but we are called to faithfully pass on to the next generation, but are we ensuring that our children and grandchildren are receiving something in a better state then we received it?

In fact, in the ordinal, ministers are called to “proclaim afresh to each generation” yet sadly we simply “proclaim again” pulling from our reserves, not looking for today’s bread of revelation. I remember as a teenager looking back whilst running for a bus, and ran straight into a road-sign, when you are looking back, you cannot move forward effectively and fruitfully.

You cannot live life with your finger on the rewind button.

My Grandfather would talk about giving his life to God in 1957, and tell his testimony of going forward at a Billy Graham Event, but the question I always wanted to say was “well, great, but what is God doing in your life NOW?”

You can’t live your Spiritual life in the past, the challenge is to press play and live out your faith with Christ without pauses, gutless fast forwards or unhelpful rewinds.