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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consumerism, Enculturation, incarnation, Post-modern-culture

Enculturation or Incarnation?

On Thursday we had our Mission Shaped Intro Course, and we had a debate “Is Consumerism a Friend or a Foe to the Church?”

In many ways it is obviously to say there are flaws in this culture, materialism is not something that sits comfortably with the God who had “no where to lay his head”.

Yet consumerism has at its heart people searching for something, there is a restlessness within the culture, knowing that they are not complete and happy as they are. I know my need of something that try satisfies is the ‘holy grail’ of this culture, which I think gives the Church an amazing opportunity to give people “the bread that truly satisfies” or “the living water when we never have to thirst again”…

Jesus’ conversation with the woman at Jacobs well resonates powerfully with 21st century culture wanting something more, and something real and something that satisfies.

Perhaps being part of a consumerist culture that promises so much but delivers so little has caused wide dissatisfaction, and a desire for something different and real, perhaps this is why we have seen the rise of things like the occupy movement in London, or Bernie Saunders narrowly missing out on being a Presidential candidate, and saw Jeremy Corbyn elected (and re-elected). The message of the Rich Fool -who built bigger and bigger barns only to die- begs us to ask “what does it profit a person to gain the whole world but loose your soul?”, instead I believe there is a real sense of people wanting to do something positive to make a difference, to make our lives count, the Bible talks of “building with Gold, Silver and Costly Stones not with hay, wood or straw which is burned up and does not last”, I think our culture knows that too much we do is fleeting and transitory and not permeant, lasting or significant.

Yet consumerism can be something of an enemy of the Church, I want everything done my way, “I want the things I like… give me great coffee and comfortable seats”, “I want old hymns that I remember from school” and I want a sermon not too long and not too challenging (and certainly not challenging my lifestyle too much!). You give me what I want and if I don’t like it I will go to a Church that does”.

The problem we become so used to being a consumer that we consume Church and spit out discipleship.

Church has become massively consumerist, just see how many books, music, conferences and silly tat like rulers and pencils etc get consumed by Churches, the Christian market is a multi million dollar industry. Ironic as its founder was so poor he had to do a miracle with a fish to pay his tax on one occasion.

The problem often with us and consumerism we have become some enculturated with it that we barely notice it. I remember hearing a guy attacking consumerism at a Christian festival with a brand-name hoodie on, with lights, smoke and a funky band, and I wondered whether we have a bit of a blind spot in this area. The same could be said for a Church where the Vicar is wearing expensive vestments and costly challis speaking in middle of the talk about living a life of poverty.

As I thought more of consumerist enculturation I thought this is the opposite of being incarnational.

We are called to be Christ-like where-ever we go, and to impact where-ever we go for Christ; yet I wonder if the reverse happens we become enculturated in consumerism and end up spreading this where-ever we go. I want to spread Kingdom DNA, to stand out in my culture, not to blend in, not to sell out or morph into the same as the world around us, consuming the Church.

Instead, Church of Christ arise, and know that what we have is a mirror to consumerism, “and the things of this world grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace”.

 

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apathy, Church, Compromise?, consumerism, Discipleship, self awareness

The Danger of Drift…

When I was young I was learning to swim on my back, and somehow when I was meaning to swim a width I ended up not seeing where I was going and being a few degrees out and suddenly realised I was right in the middle of the pool completely out of my depth. I have drifted into danger.

Sometimes we carry on as we are and not changing course we end up drifting into danger…

As Churches we carry on not reaching out or engaging with our community until eventual come to the place where we are no longer viable, and are closed.

As Christians we often drift in our faith only realising that we are just left with a series of habits and ideas that we have become familiar with, but the living dynamic faith that Christ wants for us is a long way away.

A challenge are we drifting as Christian Communities? Or are we drifting in our own personal walk with Christ.

Only a few degrees off from obedience over the course of time ends up as a long way of course.

Christians rarely just walk away from faith, often it is just a case of cooling off from God degree by degree?

It is not just about saying YES to God today, but rather everyday, each day, all the time…

Who or what is God calling us to be? Where is he guiding us, each step of the way?

The problem is we end up getting caught up in safe religion and comfort, lets keep fighting, keep on walking head towards the goad.

Forgetting what is past I press on to win the goal toward which Christ Jesus has called us.

Sometimes when we are together we need to show people where their current journey is heading… the realisation that if we keep doing what are currently doing we will keep getting what we currently have… Isnt it the definition of insanity to keep doing the same thing but expecting different?

Lets pray that we do manage to change paths from death to life… to new and dangerous, but Godly ways of life….

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Church, consumerism, Discipleship

Consumer Church…

“We are very happy at XXX Church” I heard someone say about the new Church they were going too, and in one sense there is nothing wrong in that, but something within me jarred a little.

I worry that Church is becoming more and more comfortable, and don’t get me wrong I’m all for being seeker sensitive with good coffee, comfy sofas  in the coffee area, and a heating system that actually works.

Yet Church  ought to be a bit like the gym, it is not meant to be comfortable, it is meant to stretch and challenge its members. The faithful preaching of scripture should induce challenge, accountable relationships and the call of Christ to serve him (whether within the ministries from the Church or on the frontline).

My worry is we are becoming so much of an individualistic society that we think Church is there to serve us, rather than to equip us to serve Christ, the danger is that we become consumers where the notion of sacrifice, service and cost seems to be much missing in many modern-mindset.

With the larger ‘more successful’ Churches growing I wonder whether this is because it is easy to creep into a large Church, and easier to be a bit lazy (not saying that great and faithful people aren’t called to successful Churches but sometimes is where those who ought to be serving are “doing a bit of a Jonah” being a bit anonymous in the crowd.

You can enjoy the Sunday  celebration without having any expectations made on you.

It is easier to spectate and sing a song or two whilst sipping a latte, whilst saying phrases like “the worship didn’t do much for me!” -er it wasn’t for you! ‘I enjoyed the talk’ -I’d rather it challenged or changed you than you simply enjoyed it (in fact if you disagree with me at least you engaged with it!!)

A challenge, is are you being challenged?

Does being with other Christians in your context stretch and challenge you?

Do you hear comfortable messages preached from the word or is there some bite to it?

Is there accountability there?

Who calls the shots? Is it you? Do you only do what you like doing?

(Interesting question, which might reveal your heart, how long have you been a Christian at your Church and do you know where the hoovers kept? Have you ever cleaned the toilet? Or done any act service that is ‘glamorous’)

Is there an expectation that you will be serving and using your gifts, skills and talents for the Kingdom or is it easy to come and go ‘under the radar’?

Are you a contributor or a consumer?

I don’t believe consumerism and true authentic discipleship can ever co-exist.

Does meeting with God’s people ‘spur me on towards love and good deeds’? If not, why not?

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