Church, Commitment, consumerism, cost, Disappointment, Glory, Kingdom, Numbers

A Few Good (wo)/men.

I remember hearing a minister once say, I’d rather have 10 people passionately souled out and on fire for Christ than thousands of apathetic Christians.

Numbers do matter, we want to see lives transformed for Christ, and so the more people doing that the better, the more people hearing the gospel the better too.

Yet in another sense numbers don’t matter. I keep on seeing how Jesus took time out to talk to one individual, a cowardly scholar, a woman with a dubious reputation, it wasn’t all stage managed crowds. In fact Jesus was always leaving crowds where-as our leaders are always trying to milk them.

Yet I have noticed the weekend in particular with a couple of very small events, our 20’s & 30’s event only had 6 people, and our LATE SERVICE in Hanham was also numerically small, yet both had an intense sense of the Holy Spirits presence, and we shared openly real and authentic stuff as we prayed into stuff in a vulnerable way, but a way that felt beautiful and God honouring. A glimpse of what I believe Church can, should and could be.

we might like the anonymity of being part of a crowd, but I think it is in real community that we really grow.

we might like the fact that in a larger group your turn at serving on the (whatever) rota comes around less, but actually in serving we grow.

If I ever did a PHD I would like to do something on the corrilation between larger/smaller churches and discipleship, my belief is the larger the Church the more the risk of consumerism and complacency, after all someone else will probably do it, safety in numbers, yet discipleship is never meant to be safe.

As the five of us worshipped in Hanham on Sunday night, I shot a side-ways glance, and thought “is this my Gideon’s Army for taking Hanham?” just as the group of us pledged to seek God’s transformation is again a small group, but then I was reminded that although Gideon’s Army was tiny it still defeated the Midionites, in Corinthians Paul reminds us that “in weakness God is strong” after-all God reminds us that it is “not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit says the Lord of hosts” -maybe in a great team of mighty people we may see wonderful advances but the glory would go to the team leader, as a tiny bunch of ordinary stretched and broken Christians seeing God do wonders, the glory goes to God.

So, although the numbers may feel discouraging, I believe that with God we are always the majority, I’d rather have a small group of people committed to the Kingdom cause, than a great bunch that come and want to be entertained.

Yes it is nice to talk to a crowd, it is nice when they laugh at my jokes, but the Church is not measured by its bums on seats but rather on its fruitfulness,it’s Christ-likeness and its serving capacity. Yet it is interesting how often clergy ask each other “how big is your Church” which gages as a measure of your success, but if no one is becoming more Christ-like then you have just created a wonderful middle class hang out.

So, even if we are a small army, let us be measured by our hearts and our desire to be obedient to Christ, rather than our numbers.

Someone once said “its not the size of the guy in the fight, but the size of the fight in the guy” -even if we are small, we can still have a big vision. Let’s be people ahead of the curve where God is about to move, rather than hanging around where God has been working enjoying the aftermath.

Let’s not let the small number of fellow troops in the trenches deter us for we remember that the battle belongs to the Lord.

Commitment, Discipleship, obidience, Romans 12

The deliberate choice to be a LIVING Sacrifice for Christ…

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12.1)

Living Sacrifice is a funny expression, as well sacrifices are normally dead!
The dead animal is placed on the altar and it stays there because it doesn’t have any choice about it.
Yet a living Sacrifice, by nature of being alive, is on the altar by choice, and it chooses to stay there.
In other words it is saying that it is about giving God our whole lives, everything, all the time, everyday, 24-7, 365 until we die or Jesus comes again.
There are daft ideas going around too many Christians sub conscious of a ‘spiritual / secular divide’ the idea that God is more interested in Churchy activities with our normal everyday lives, it’s rubbish a much more Hebraic understanding of life is about a holistic life, something the early Church too had a better understanding of “the glory of God is human being fully alive” said St. Irenius and Ignatious said something along the lines of “the greatest glory we can give God is that of a transformed life” -although ironically it is actually God himself who transforms our lives-.
Yet in western thinking our lives are compartmentalized, and sometimes dualised (living totally different lives in the different bits of our lives)… This flys in the face of Christ’s promise in John 10.10 to give us “life in all its fullness” -He is talking about whole life, all our life, not just a section carved out for Church attendance or home-group, but everything. LICC have talked alot about our life on the frontline (where we are and where God has placed us) which is great, but its not far enough, because Biblically its not just the frontline that matters, it’s who we are -before God- when no one else sees us to. The Roman/Jewish Audience reading this epistle would know that to be God’s Sacrifice was an all consuming undertaking.
This means that God is interested in our time off, our family struggles, our marriages, how we bring up our kids, what are we like as a friend/colleague/employer or employee; following Christ means that every area of our life should be infused by him, Christianity is your life, not your hobby!
This leads me on to work out, how to actually put this into practice. As many of you know I struggle with wanting to be both boundaried and consciencious, surely they are not opposites but rather the same side of the same coin?
We all know the truth in the quote “that often the fruit of the Kingdom leads on the otherside of being inconvenienced!” I worry about when I was off sick people saying things like “sometimes you need to be a little bit selfish” -I know what they mean, and there is -like a lot of things a truth in that -how can you care for others when you don’t care for yourself (there was a powerful army advert about water distribution in the early 90’s) but the language and some of the thinking behind this worries me; also I have been told “sometimes you need to be ruthless” -again, I get something of the truth behind this, even if the word makes me really uncomfortable… but yet when I look at Jesus I don’t see selfishness and ruthlessness displayed in his life, and his is the life I want to live.
There was a quote which I find really challenging “The bigger problem is not about not succeeding, but rather succeeding at the wrong things”.
As I think about my life, the starting point is “who am I?” -Primarily I am two things (and to define ourselves as one without the other I believe will lead to a distorted Christianity) “A beloved child of God” and “a follower of Jesus Christ”.
Then think about that call to follow Christ, I am called to be a man, husband, father, son, friend and I believe God has placed within me apostolicy/evangelisticy calling ‘Encouraging Missional DNA and help build good incubators’…
My calling to be a good husband, good father shouldn’t be at the expense of being a good minister, but rather it should be being faithful to Christ in every area of life.
The danger is we short change one calling at the expense of another, is God honoured by being a great preacher but a lousy friend? Or a shoddy Church leader but a good family man? A great dad but a poor son? A good husband but a horrible employer? A diligent worker but not a nice person? You get the picture…
Somehow, and I haven’t got the answer to this, it is about living our wholes before Christ with integrity… Is our priorities the same a Christ’s. Is there a danger of either using the ‘spiritual secular divide’ myth to justify behaviour that we shouldn’t fall into? Or the other myth of “God, family, ministry” which doesn’t sound wrong (and in one sense isn’t) but is often a spiritual sounding way of blurring the boundries between callings and actual ends up with God moving from first to third place in our lives.
I talked last time about sacrifice and discipline sometimes being an uncomfortable part of the Christian life (and lets face it being a sacrifice here is not a fluffy image!). What is God’s calling on my life? Am I being faithful to one calling at the expense of another, is this a whole life (and remember God has a high view both of family and of work) or one bit out of alignment?
A good question to ask is who do I serve and who am I responsible/accountable too, and would they see Christ shining through my life as a whole, even the bits that aren’t the primary interaction with you.
A cliche phrase is about “if Jesus isn’t Lord of all, he isn’t Lord at all”…
Maybe take a moment and ask God to help each of us be faithful to all his callings not just the ones we prioritize. Learning to say no to the things he hasn’t called us to, and yes to what he has. Are we driven beyond the call, or not picking up that which we have been called too.
Ask the Holy Spirit to come and show us our lives as whole people, not just illuminate the odd compartment of our existence.