Discipleship, expectations, Fruit and fruitfulness, Growth, Health, Life styles, Life Together, Spirituality, vocation

A Big Church of Little People.

I have been dipping in and out of this years New wine Conference, and this year the theme in everything seems to becoming back to the need to re-think discipleship.

The Church as a body employs lots of people, there are bookshops full of wonderful discipleship courses, many Churches run home groups, Bible Studies, prayer groups, preach biblically week by week -and yet often we just don’t see people actually changing, and if we are honest we probably aren’t changed much either by what happens in Churches.

Shane Claiborne jokes that we sing “just as I am” in worship, but yet we leave just as we were and we behave as we always have.

I was talking to a friend who is reading a book by a guy (whose name I can’t remember) but he said he realised he had “A big Church of little people” -consumers that turned up week by week, but not disciples, not the mighty men and women that change nations for Christ that he longed to see.

Anther expression I heard was someone talking of people who hide in big Churches, so they can “splash around in the shallow end” rather than be in the “deep end of discipleship”.

To be a disciple is a choice we have to make, discipleship is not something done to us against our will, but rather is an act of our own will, to seek to become more like Jesus.

I had a friend that said of discipleship “I am not here to spoon feed people” the understanding that if you joined the fellowship he led that you took responsibility for your own discipleship.

The silly lines like “I’ve not been fed” were met with comments like “why did you loose your bible?” “Can you not down load a sermon or ring up a Christian friend?” -Yet he had a Church full of disciples, who came bringing something to the table that God had been saying and showing them.

It is a Kingdom value that when you give you receive back more (although that’s not why we do it) let’s be generous in what we share with others, coming with full not empty hands and unread bibles, so that in coming fed we can feed others…

when we loose the egotistical nature of our consumerist mind-set we discover something of what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote to the Church in Rome about “being transformed by the renewing of your mind”.

No one else can live your Christian life for you.

The word for disciple can be translated as an apprentice, an apprentice of Christ, fashioned and shaped for his glory, to live our whole lives for him.

The problem is we commentate on discipleship, rather than participate in it.

Yesterday John Mark Comer said that he told his congregation, some of you don’t need to hear another sermon, you need to put it into practice in your lives.

The problem with western discipleship is not a shortage of material, we have more highly trained leaders than most of the developing world, we can access scripture and discipleship material at a swipe of our mobile phone… The issue is with you and I and our response to that call of Jesus to come and follow him.

what is stopping you being all that Christ is calling you to be? what are you/we going to do about it with him?

I remember when I made a re-commitment to Christ aged 19, I prayed an interesting prayer, I’d been half in and half our of Church for a while, and I remember praying “I don’t just want to play at being a Christian, I want to do it for real”.

Sometimes it can feel like we are just playing a game of being Church, but it isn’t a game, it is serious, deadly serious with eternal consequences.

Let’s take personal responsibility for our walk with Christ, and as we come fed and healthy, we are in a position to help others.

The army drink water first before helping those in famine relief, because if they pass-out no-one receives help, we need to grasp something of this ourselves.

Lets not be big Churches of small people.

Let’s be small Churches of big people, spiritually healthy as we seek to be the people that God is calling us to be, to win this world for him.

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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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2 Samuel 23 15-17, best and the worst., Extravagance, Giving/Generousity., Luke 21. 1-4 (widows mite)., values, Water

Value Church?

we have this wonderful person called Jo in our Church, she is homeless and lives in a bus shelter near the Church, and she is also a transsexual, which causes some in the Church to struggle.

I chatted to Jo as I was walking past and she asked me how I was doing, I laughed and said “nothing a beer and a holiday in Barbados wouldn’t fix, but not much chance of either!” we both laughed, and I forgot about the conversation and went off to lead a Bible Study in our Church Cafe (which is a converted toilet -write your own joke here!). Later on I spotted Jo’s wig by the window, and she had brought me up a tin of bass beer (Bass is Jo’s favourite, she hadn’t just got me a cheapy larger, but one she’s drink herself).

Although I love beer, that beer for me is too precious to drink. One of the most extravagant examples of grace and generosity I have come across. Sadly our Church has sometimes lacked both generosity and grace, and sometimes looked down on Jo too, and yet here she was showing something of the wonderful extravagance of God, a lesson and a challenge for us all.

For me, this story reminded me of King David and the well at Bethlehem.


13 During harvest time, three of the thirty chief warriors came down to David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. 14 At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem. 15 David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!” 16 So the three mighty warriors broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the Lord. 17 “Far be it from me, Lord, to do this!” he said. “Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?” And David would not drink it.

There is something wonderful and humbling about an extravagant gift.

I work most weeks at the foodbank, and it is interesting that some people bring along “Tesco value food” and others bring along “Tesco finest”. Any donations are gratefully received by hungry people, but I did think if I was having Jesus around for a meal would I serve him value food, or would I get the best I could afford? Jesus said: “whatever you do for the least of these you do for me?”

David refused to give God a sacrifice that hadn’t cost him anything, he wanted his worship to show God his worth-ship.

Another story that struck me as I was writing this blog is the story of the elderly widow with two copper coins, who gave what little she had to God, whilst the rich and the famous were giving large sums of cash in a showy way, she gave ALL she had. Although they gave a lot, they actually gave nothing at all, although she gave very little she actually gave more than them all.

what we spend our money on shows what we value. I had a job interview a while back in Portsmouth (the same Church that asked me 3 times about my opinion of LGBT people but not once about the cross). we went to their Sunday Supper for the homeless people of their area and they served up big saucepans full of instant soup, bread, and some cake. Then we went off to a meet the Church Council, we drank wine and had an extravagant spread of food. It is great that they are feeding the homeless each week, but the contrast between the two evening meals really struck me.

whilst I was at Salisbury I was involved in a project called Morning Star and they used to do a “Banquet run” giving out food to the homeless, but they made sure that is it was “food fit for a King” using their home-grown produce and serving food for the cities homeless that really showed them the extravagant love of Jesus.

I want to be a Christian that has a heart like Jo’s.

Jesus love for us is not “Tesco Value” love, but “Tesco Finest”, perhaps sometimes we need a little more extravagance in our love and our giving?

I’ll end with one of my favourite clips from the film Les Miserables where the Bishop gives the thief Jean Valjean not what he deserves but extravagant and amazing grace… Take a moment to watch this:

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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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“There is nothing remotely sissy about the women’s auxiliary balloon corps”.

A quote from Blackadder from Captain Darling, both trying to work out ways of avoiding death in the first world war by trying to escape the trenches, yet neither of the two men wants to admit that actually they are afraid of fighting and dying.

Captain Darling, manages to get a safe job behind a desk, and Blackadder tries (and fails) to be posted elsewhere.

This picture reminds me of uncomfortable (and maybe uncharitable) thoughts and conversations I have had with Christians about mission and evangelism.

The truth seems to be they’d rather be doing something nice and pleasantly Christian rather than the costly and sacrificial following of Jesus.

Interestingly, we were doing an outreach on Easter Saturday, and the Church was full of people doing flowers, but only one person came out onto the streets to do outreach with us.

I remember once we were desperately short of people to help with out teenagers and one person emailed to say she couldn’t do it because she was the only singer who could sing soprano (or something like that) in the choir.

The problem is this is it is majoring on the minor.

Prioritising the trivial over the transformative.

Our will being done, not Christ’s will be done.

Discipleship cannot be conditional discipleship, following Jesus only when we happen to be going in the same direction.

Christianity lite.
Decaf Christianity with extra milk foam.

when I was at college there was a cartoon that said “God I will go anywhere you call me too” and underneath it said “provided it is in Surrey”.

It made me think, is the problem with discipleship in the west that it is discipleship on our terms?

A phrase that often challenges me is “If Christ is not Lord of all, is he Lord at all?”

I think all of us find it easier to serve God when it is fun and rewarding, it is harder when it is seemingly making little progress.

Rather than being a backseat driver I fear when the call looks costly, or it is hard-work and a slog, we wrench the steering wheel out of God’s hand or pull up the handbrake and rush for the nearest cushy and consumerist gathering and end up seeking out roles of maximum kudos for minimum cost, the safest option.

The truth is following Jesus is either about obedience and faithfulness or disobedience and sin, the problem is that too often we try and give sin and disobedience a sugar coating of religiosity and respectability.

Blackadder sought glory but not the danger, wants recognition without risk, medals without cost, honour without achievement, and reward without sacrifice.

Yet Christianity has never been safe.

Jesus talks of picking up our cross and following him.

Following Christ will cost us everything we have, it is an “everything or nothing choice”.

As I thought about this blog, I wondered about getting David Beckham to make the squash at football matches. It is a job he could do, but it is substantially short of what he is capable of, and leaves the wider body deprived and should short.

Too many are full of potential that they leave deliberately untapped, because -as a proverb says- “many opportunities are missed because they come in overalls and look like work”.

Lets not give God the fag butts of our time, energy, gifting and resources rather than our first fruits.

So, let’s not be like Captains Darling and Blackader trying to slope off the battle-field, but instead bravely give all that we have, our best efforts and richest resources in the service of King Jesus.

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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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My First Ever Sermon…

Colossians 1:28&29. “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I labour with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me”.

It .was 20 years ago, I was 19, and working in wakefield and my boss, a dude called Tony vashington, asked me to do a talk on this verse to some youth and children’s workers in Darlington (top north east of England). I was very nervous…. here is (more or less from memory what I remember saying, although I think it was probably peppered with a million “you knows”, “er’s” “ums” and “sort offs”.

We are going to change a few words here and there, maybe tweak it a little.

Let’s change the first word… “We” -the idea of collective responsibility- its is assuming that those of us reading this have bought into the idea of living out the message of this letter. The problem is in our society is that it is always someone else’s problem, yet Paul is saying the work of the Kingdom is our responsibility… but I guess many people would like this verse tweaked to say:

“Keen Christians and leaders and anyone that isn’t me”

“Proclaim” er, um, here we have another problem…

Proclaiming sounds a bit um bold, people might not agree with us, or like what we are saying, lets change “proclaim” to “tentatively suggest”…

-Maybe we could addd in the phrase “it would be jolly nice if you might”

“him” – well that’s Jesus, Jesus is a bit controversial, you can just bout get away with talking loosely about God, or Church, or Spirituality…

The problem is Christianity is all about Jesus Christ, and if it isn’t about Jesus Christ, then it isn’t really Christianity…

Yet, I wonder is JC, well, PC?

Couldn’t we say, “think seriously about Spiritual stuff”?

Admonishing and Teaching “that sounds a bit bold too, implies that we have something to share, rather than just listen to their stories” maybe listen and nod enthusiastically and hope they pick up stuff even if we are not saying anything”

So, where have we got too?

“Church leaders and keen Christians and anyone that’s not me, would be jolly nice, if you could tentatively suggest thinking spiritually about stuff, whilst we listen and nod and hope you pick up stuff even if we’re not saying anything”

with all wisdom… Maybe change that too “with any luck”

“That we may present everyone mature in Christ” -maybe we could change that to “coming to Church reasonably regularly” or maybe if we are being a bit daring we could say “that they may have once pray a -or even (gulp at our bravery”)- THE prayer” or at least we could say “really nice people”….

Now, the last bit is difficult, because we know how important a work life balance is, so instead of saying “to this end I labour, struggling…” maybe I could say “as I’m sure they mean well and are doing their best (I mean what can you expect for the money we pay them!)”.

…and the last bit maybe could say “and I’m sure the good Lord is Jolly grateful”

“Church leaders and other keen Christians and anyone that isn’t me would be jolly nice if they tentatively suggest that people consider thinking about spiritual stuff with any luck they might come to Church, maybe even pray the prayer, but even so they’re lovely people, as they mean well and are doing their best (I mean what can you expect from the money we pay them) and I’m sure the good Lord would be jolly grateful”

Sounds a bit different doesn’t it.

Lets look at the proper passage again.

“We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I labour with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me”.

Personal responsibility to make Jesus Christ known and to see one another (and ourselves) come to maturitty in Christ as we seek to serve him and each other with wisdom, learning from each other, warning and challenging each other, wanting the best for each other that we might be all we can be in Christ. It is a tough battle, a real struggle, and yet in doing this, we have this awesome promise that Christ himself, the one who is greater than he that is in the world, is working powerfully in us and through us.

Yet how often does the conversation sound like the corrupted verse?

Or even if it doesn’t how much of the corrupted verse actually is want we may secretly think, or at least is a viewpoint within our Church communities.

So, let’s end with this fab verse…

“We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I labour with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me”.

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Discipleship, Youth and Children's Work

A Little Child Will Led Them…

On Wednesday Morning at the Turning Mission, I remember sitting there listening to the training ending with doing some ‘role play’ going the script with those around us. I looked around and everyone was partnered up, and then this little voice piped up with asking if I needed a partner, the voice came from a young lad, Joel, who is probably about 10 (I guess). He was the evangelist going through the script with me, and as part of the role play he went through the prayer of commitment with me, as I prayed that God would “give me a fresh start” and that I would “fulfil all that he has for me”, and felt the Holy Spirits touch, a real God encounter, ministered through a young person.

I was reminded that there is no junior version of the Holy Spirit.

As I thought about this, I began to think about the incarnation, I thought about Jesus being fully baby and yet fully God, fully toddler and yet fully God, fully child and yet fully God, fully teenage and yet fully God, and fully man and yet fully God.

Jesus was a normal human child, but also God in human form, God with skin on.

Therefore, children can be both child-like and Christ-like.

This became evident as we saw the kids on the mission telling people about Jesus, praying with people, giving testimonies and even being involved with worship.

I think too often as Christians we think that our faith is “adults only” and too often we try and provide a baby-sitting service whilst the ‘proper worship and teaching’ is happening, and yet any of us who engage in youth and children’s work regularly know that God can and does meet with young people, and they are some of our most courageous disciples living for Christ in their schools.

Children like adults will fall and sin, they might not have the same sophistication at covering up our sin or pretending to be Holy, I think there often is a danger of unrealistic expectations of perpetual holiness for children and young people that we know isn’t possible for us to achieve.

The Victorian era of children being seen and not heard, where they sat passively in Church and watched in silence all that went on is a really unhelpful model that still exists far too much in the Christendom mind-set but has no scriptural basis.

This is very different from the Jewish way of doing things were the children of the family are right at the heart of celebrating their faith.

The Christian faith is not a passive one, its not just meant to be witnessed but experienced, practically lived out, the call -like the Holy Spirit- has no junior version.

More over God has created us to learn by actually doing, there is an old adage that goes “I hear I forget, I see I remember and I do I understand” -why then do we just fob our kids off with colouring sheets? Why is Christianity in our Churches all about sitting in rows listening?

John Wimber having recently become a Christian asked his Church “when are we going to do the stuff?” -meaning the stuff in the Bible especially in the book of the Acts of the Apostles-… I think if we are meant to have a child-like faith, they roll up their sleeves and get involved, often with glee and gusto, rather than standing back and watching.

Francis Chan, spoke of discipleship meaning we memories scripture, highlight it in our Bibles, talk about it, maybe even learn it in Greek(!) but despite all of this we don’t ACTUALLY DO IT!

Our kids watch us, they see what really matters to us, they see whether we are living this stuff out (and I don’t mean just going to lots of Churchy meetings) and they see what difference Jesus makes to our lives. We have the responsibility of showing out children the great gift the world has ever known the transforming good news of Jesus Christ, the pearl of great price. They see us behind closed doors, they probably can tell what we are thinking in situations, they are like little sponges -picking up both our good habits and our bad habits too!

This week at the Turning we have seen children joining in with the mission of Christ, it is an adventure, they saw their parents/grandparents and Christian friends ‘actually doing the stuff’ with the adventure of following Jesus, and they want to join in, something they wont forget.

Also, they got involved and were encouraged, so often we fob off our children from the ‘real work’ and then wonder after years of being fobbed off when we want them to do it, they’ve lost interest. A leadership mantra is “go with the passion” -where is the fire- often our kids bring with them passion and enthusiasm to get involved but are fragile too, and too often I believe we squash and squander our most precious resource which is our children and young people.

I used to say as a youth worker, your most precious resource is sat on your back row, encourage them and don’t “tut” at them.

When I headed up the kids work whilst I was at theological college I remember saying “you may have in your group the next Archbishop of Canterbury so make sure you are nice to her!”

So, let’s see our kids not as people to “babysit” whilst we do the stuff, but as missionary partners in Kingdom business. Let us see their church experience as more than colouring in but the adventure of following Jesus as part of a family transforming their communities for Christ.

Often, like me at this mission, we don’t expect our kids to bless us and for God to minister through them, and yet I have found that often they astound us by their profoundness, depth and ability to hear and be obedient to the voice of God without the mental clutter that we as adults can cloud everything with.

Jesus said “let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for theirs in the Kingdom of God”

 

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Word on the Street 2

we are nearing the end of the Bristol Turning Mission Fortnight, and I am really tired, but I’m also excited, encouraged and also still feel a little daunted.

I started this mission, nervously excited (but secretly bricking it a bit if I’m honest!) with lots of questions, in fact my nervous excitement was worried about being excited as have thought many times that I had the keys to world evangelisation (okay slight exaggeration!) only to come away feeling a bit disappointed.

A while back I was holding a meeting about Church planting and mission and this amazing dude called Mark from the Salvation Army was saying NASA had invented a dart board that copes with 0 gravity in space that is computerised and moves so you always it a bullseye. Too often I’ve had to make encouraging noises for the team, “well it is good we are a positive and visible presence in the community”, “they might not have become Christians but we blessed them”, “we don’t know what seeds have been sown” (all of which are true) but masking the disappointment that “we had fished all night and caught nothing!

I wonder if as Churches we fire our arrows and then paint rings around them, and pretend we have hit the target -“…’cos I meant to do that all along!”

I was worried about being expectant for God to meet me in mission, even though I probably preach about the “missio dei” (God’s mission) and about being open and expectant from the Holy Spirit, disappointments had crusted over my heart like Lyme-scale in a kettle, but deep down within me was that ‘child-like faith’ that ‘voice of hope’ excited that God is going to do something wonderful.

I have discovered how debilitating disappointment can be, and how this limits our expectation of God. Over the past few months we have been meeting up on a Saturday morning to pray and share from all across the Churches (at 7:00 in the morning, I hate mornings!). Yet being with other believers praying and believing passionately that God is on the move, I felt something shift inside me and I was daring to dream again, I was praying passionately, but I had a few too many “yeah buts” going on in my head.

I have found the work in Kingswood so incredibly lonely, and yet feeling like part of a team of like-minded people has lifted my spirit.

Often when I have been in church and no one else is on the same page (possibly even a different book!) you begin to doubt yourself “Is it just me? Am I the only one who thinks this is important? why do we sing and pray for revival but not do anything to enable it to happen? And there is a wonderful ‘kinship’ in this, on Maundy Thursday worked with a retired guy in his 70’s, on Holy Saturday a young lad in his 20s, on Easter Monday took a team of people in their 50s out with me, yesterday I worked with a young mum and a fab older gent who a local Baptist Pastor, and today I got to work with my friend Jackie from Elim who (I’m guessing is around my age), we were also joined for a bit by a lady who has been through some very tough stuff and only been a Christian a short-time but she did a great job of opening up conversations too.

It was encouraging to see Christians from a variety of backgrounds, ages, Churches all unified together in the one thing -our Saviour Christ Jesus- than anything that divides us.

Very different people, but the same God, very different personalities which came through, but using the same script, yet  despite our differences we all had the one thing in common, God used us in sharing his amazing news with people.

I blogged in my previous blog about my worries about using a script and about my fears about talking to random members of the public that I didn’t know, and yet in stepping out the boat, leaving our comfort zone, God has been incredibly faithful and gracious to us and we have seen much fruit (500 people last week, and I’m not sure this week but probably in three figures by now!)

The fear of rejection, it’s not nice when you speak to people and they just walk past you as though you don’t exist, the occasional “**** off!” isn’t particularly pleasant either, but I have been really challenged about not letting the disappointments stop us, one lady went out with her son (possibly teenage?) who kept a count of the knock backs “that’s 18 rejections mum!” and yet on the 19th she led someone to Christ -what a star that lady was.

I wonder if I’d have had her wonderful tenacity to keep on going for the fruit of the 19th person getting saved? I often mention Jackie Pullinger who spent 7 years in the gang-land ruled ‘walled city’ of China before she saw her first convert but then after that came break through after break through. I wonder if that was me I wonder if I’d have lasted 7 months?

I also began to feel the danger of comparisons, one morning they got those of us who had been out before to line up and be team leaders, and those who hadn’t done it before could come and join us, and instantly in my head and my heart I was back in school when the ‘cool kids’ were being picked for the football side and I ended up praying that someone would pick me and that I wouldn’t be left until last.

At times in my life I have often wished I was more “gregarious”, “quicker witted”, “more charming”, “better theologian & apologist”, more gravitas and many more things too… I know I have a fake idea of what the perfect evangelist should be made up of components of other evangelists -with perfect teeth- I have known.

Yet he problem with comparisons we often run someone else’s highlight reel with our blooper reel, and actually make it about us and not God at work through us.

I remember someone talking to me and said they didn’t feel qualified (exact words!) to share their faith, and a friend of mine said “If you love Jesus and you have a pulse then you are qualified -amply qualified!”

This week my friend Rich said something incredibly wise when he was leading a bit of the training he said “even if you just tell someone that “God loves them and has an awesome plan for your life!” -you have done more good than if you’d stayed at home watching day-time telly.

This is something that never ceases to humble and astound me that God chooses to work through ordinary people like you and me for his glory and Kingdom advancement.

One of things I have found most exciting) is that we have trained up probably about 200 ordinary (which is the wrong word, but you know what I mean!) Christians to be able to share their faith simply but effectively with those around them.

If we can chat to strangers on the street about Jesus maybe we can chat to neighbours, friends, colleagues and family members too? It made me wonder how many sermons I’ve heard on the need for evangelism (which probably has made everyone feel guilty) and how few on some helpful tools, useful tips and practical stuff to help us actually do it (very few).

I saw ‘big Al’ one of our wonderful friends lead a couple of guys who come to our Soul Cafe project to a prayer of commitment on Sunday, on Monday we heard a story of a guy leading a work colleague to Christ, another guy led someone to Christ in our Church Car Park, from an organised event to organic every-day life evangelistic overflow is what I dream of seeing happening more and more as just ordinary and normal part of our Christian life -it should just be what we do as part of our regular day to day lifestyle.

It has been wonderful to be part of thing Kingdom culture for this time, and yet the interruptions of the pettiness and over-stress of the trivial remind us of where we actually are as Churches, but something of this is a glimpse of the Kingdom, the pull of a different and better reality instep with God, the longing for moreness of what God has in store for us.

As we fellowship as a missionary community, united in love in Christ and his gospel, celebrating with joy hearing stories of Salvation, there is a challenge awaiting us, that of following people up well and seeing them not just become converts but becoming mature disciples in Christ.

I remember when we saw a lad we had met from the Streets become a Christian I was very excited and joyous, but a friend said solemnly “you realise that XXX becoming a Christian isn’t the end of something, this is the beginning, this is where the hard work starts!”

who is up for joining us in this new and exciting challenge?

 

 

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call, Depression, Discipleship, Fear, Guidance, Kingdom, Life in the Spirit, Life styles, obidience, Pioneer, vocation

Don’t stop Pioneering!

I remember walking (or rather floating) to work having just made a re-commitment to God, I was excited, I knew God had changed my life, I longed to see more of him at work, I was hungry.

Later I went off to work for a Church in Wakefield, I saw their leader step out in faith and God doing wonderful things.

For the last 20 years I have worked for various Churches and I worry sometimes that I’ve lost my fire, or at least that fire has cool, the lion has lost something of its roar!

I am at a Church where although I’m one of the clergy nearly everyone there is older than me, and when I talk about stepping out in faith I get hit regularly with this bucket of cold pessimism and defeatism, one guy in particular seems to champion the “God will never do it here” corner, which is really tough.

The last 7 years have been unbelievably  tough -people who call themselves Christians can be just so mean and inch by inch you feel more and more deflated by this critical spirit tapping away all the time.

I have been crying out to God for break through, more recently if I’m honest I have been crying out to God for rescue.

Often people (probably well meaningly) talk about how they did great exploits for God when they were young too, I think this is meant to encourage me, and I praise God that they were on fire and did do “mission England” or the “decade of evangelism” but I look at them and think I don’t want to believe my faith in believing in God’s ability to transform is simply “naive youthful exuberance” and “jaded cynicism” is somehow spiritual and actually maturity. At my interview someone said “no one expects miracles in Kingwood”. I believe this is a lie, a demonic lie, maturity in Christ is not youthful naivety.  I don’t see “settling down and being comfortable” as part of the call of God on our lives, we are called to follow him ALL the days of our life, not just those reckless early years or at the start of our walk with him.

This is meant to be our daily reality, not just a nostalgic dream.

At this time of struggle, it is a time to pick up and ‘pioneer again’, to not settle for simply what we already have, but to push onto God for more of him, more of his Kingdom.

He may have given us stories we can dine out on and sound spiritual in the past, and I’m sure they will continue to be used for blessing, but like the manna the Israelites ate yesterdays manna does stale and there is plenty for each day.

As we get older our energy can decrease, and we value comfort more.

Do we have the energy to start again? To keep on following Jesus where he calls us? To the new challenge? To the new role? To the new mantle? CS Lewis reminds us “You are never too old to set a new goal or dream another new dream” -especially when that dream is put inside you by the spirit of the living God.

“But gradually the worries of life and the decifulness of wealth constrain the bloodrush of youth, we tame the wild and call it wise”-Pete Greig.

It is the nature of the human condition to pioneer and then too settle, yet God is calling us not to be settled, this earth is not our home, instead we are citizens of heaven.

we have responsibilities too, what of my wife? what of my children? These are valid questions, but God is able to take care of them, he is able to be faithful with them.

“But is he?” I ask myself, we are struggling here, it seems like the water is rising up and up, and hanging on to the promise that he wont let us drown. I remembered the story of Joseph, and God was faithful to Joseph, but before Joseph got to the Palace he first had to go through the Pit and the Prison.

The problem when we are in a pessimistic environment it can become so corrosive to our faith, to believe differently from the people around us is tough, sometimes being a Christian really does feel like swimming against the tide, and somehow it feels harder to swim against the tide within Churches because it feels like they ought to get it, but sadly they don’t, or they choose not too, and that can be a really tough place to be, it’s the place of Moses with the people of Israel, it was a really tough 40 year desert journey, and he only got to glimpse the promised land, but when he did I know that he would have thought that none of this was done in vain.

God is faithful and is with us even when it doesn’t feel like it, and maybe this side of eternity we will never understand why God led us on the path that he did, why he closed some doors and allowed other doors to open. Yet despite it all, and sometimes through gritted teeth, I still choose to believe that God is good..

Sometimes the place of pain traps us and paralysis us, leaving us unable to move on, Abra(h)ams Father Terah was on his way to the land of Canaan, yet he settled in Haran, the place he names after his son -also called Haran which is clearly not a co-incidence- Haran  died, and Terah settled here in his grief.  I believe God is saying to us all today not to let pain stop you in your tracks.

Pete Greig says this “It is easy to pioneer when you’re too young to know what it will cost you, when you feel immortal and invincible and the whole of life is an adventure waiting to begin. but Pioneering a second time is hard”.

Yet let’s be Spiritual Abraham’s, never settling for what we have, but pushing on despite the challenges and not getting entangled in the comfort, for the more of God and his Kingdoms. we are not called to be settlers but pioneers.

Don’t stop pioneering, keep going, let’s persevere, let’s see the new thing, the new dream that God has for each one of us.

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