Bible, Commitment, consumerism, cost, Deep, Discipleship, expectations, Fruit and fruitfulness, Growth, pperseverence, prayer, Presences, relationship with God

Teaspoon hiding Vicars.

I read an article about a Churchy couple that invited the Vicar around for tea, it was all very pleasant and nice, but later that evening the couple noticed a silver teaspoon was missing. It was no where to be found.

A year or so later they had the Vicar around for tea again, this time they asked him why he had taken a teaspoon.

The Vicar said that he didn’t steal it, instead he hid it in their Bible.

One of the things that really worries me is the low level of Biblical literacy in the Churches. I remember a Churchy young person telling me the story of the elder wand (from Harry Potter) thinking it was a Bible story.

This book which cost people their lives to bring to us is barely flicked through by Christians, they key to discipleship is not more Church events or umpteen courses or bacon butties but for the men and women that want to follow Jesus to seek God in prayer, read their Bibles and invest in the most important relationship of all -their personal relationship with Christ Jesus.

The problem with discipleship in the UK, people say about “coming to Church to be fed” -a phrase that shows a complete misunderstanding of what Church or discipleship is actually all about, as though our walk with God has been sub-contracted out to someone else, we -before God- have to take personal responsibility for it, not expecting someone else to spoon feed us.

And perhaps with Bible study if we’ve been in the word ourselves, we can come to the group as a contributor rather than just a receiver.

So, if you’ve had the Vicar around for tea check your Bible for teaspoons.

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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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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.

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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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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.
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