call, challenge, Commitment, cost, Cross, Determination, Discipleship, Discipline, Endurance, faithfulness, Fruit and fruitfulness, Grit, obidience, pperseverence, steadfast

Grit, the missing Element.

I had a breakfast the other day with my friend ‘Pastor Benson’ it was great to catch up with him. He arrived in Kingswood with the instructions from his Church leader to “plant a Church in Bristol”, and that’s how I got to know him and become friends.

He tried planting in the conference room of the Soundwell Swimming Baths, before moving into the city centre into the Holiday Inn as a venue for their Church.

He now has a small fellowship meeting regularly there, interestingly I asked how his Church started and he had on e word “grit”.

Keeping on going.

Each Saturday they went out onto the streets and invited people to come (anyone doing much Street work knows what a hard and thankless task it can be!), each Sunday there were there, set up, with tea and coffee waiting for people, as they prayed, worshipped and sought God. It took 7 or 8 weeks before anyone other than his family to come and join them, yet they kept on going, they didn’t quit, and the Church was born.

He said to me on Saturday “it doesn’t say well done and gifted servant, or well done successful servant, but well done good and faithful servant” we just had to be faithful.

My mind wandered back to my Greek lessons at College (not exactly my finest hour!) and remembered a phrase (actually normally used of being filled with the Holy Spirit) which is “go on be being filled”, but wondered if “go on be being faithful” perhaps might have the same idea, faithfulness isn’t a one off, but something we are called to be in a continuous cycle of repetition, remaining actively faithful.

Yet as I thought about this, it is amazing how quickly Christians scarper from the battle-field, they may all be noisy in the barracks before the battle, and maybe be around for the first charge, but faithfully having the grit and determination to ‘stand firm’ or ‘stand fast’ keeping going with what God has called us to do. Holding the line in obedience not wandering off in distracting vanity projects, not fleeing the battle front-line for a safer-option.

Let’s be people of grit, of determination and perseverance.

Scripture is full of heroes that kept on going, that remained faithful, gritty characters that persevered, Noah building the Ark, Moses leading the people through the desert, Esther in prayer, Ruth in her commitment to her mother-in-law Naomi, Daniel in righteous living, Nehemiah in re-building the wall and Paul in the proclamation of the Gospel.

Yet our greatest example of grit and deterination is Jesus “who for the joy that was before him endured the cross and scorned its shame”. Jesus did quit on his Fathers Mission even when his sweat fell like drops of blood, even when it cost him everything he had including his life. Jesus remained faithful unto death “even death on the cross”.

I believe the “secret” to transformation in mission is not more courses, or new programmes and ideas but rather greater grit, more steadfastness, keeping going and pressing in to see the harvest.

Bill Wilson of metro-ministries the worlds largest Sunday School in New York said “Christians so often quit before the break through”.

So, a challenge for us all is to not just start new things but have the grit and see them through and come to fruit.

Patient endurance is tough, but often the key to fruitfulness.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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