call, cost, Evangelism, Journey, Kingdom, Monasticism, Pilgrimage, Pioneer, Post-modern-culture, ready, rejection, Risk and Change, Salvation, Simplicity, St. Francis, vocation

A Cunning Plan…

People are asking me all the time what am I going to do once I leave (especially about money).

It is hard because the honest answer is “I don’t know, God hasn’t shown me yet” which as someone who normally knows where they want to go, has a strategy and is forging ahead, this is pretty uncomfortable place.

I have said I will spend October until Christmas seeking God and praying (although I’ll also try and find some way of earning some cash too, unless Allana can keep me as a kept man!)

I do want to learn to be a better husband and dad, heart-breaking phrase from Hope was about being glad I’m not going to be a Vicar anymore as she will see more of me as I wont always be working. As you can imagine how much that phrase was like a knife in my heart.

Somehow in making personal sacrifices for ministry, we end up causing our loved ones to suffer in a way that I don’t believe God intended.

One thing I remain passionate about is telling people, who want to know about Jesus, about Jesus.

And some thinking is beginning to emerge in my head and heart.

Recently I have become aware that two phrases I hear all the time, is “I don’t like ‘hit and run’ evangelism” and I want to be a Church like the book of Acts.

which is ironic as Acts is full of hit and run evangelism, as are the gospels, Jesus only did ministry for three years (that’s shorter than a curacy in the Church of England), he sent the 12 and the 72 out to go into the cities, towns and villages and then to come back. The book of Acts is entirely “hit and run” S/Paul the great missionary only stayed in Ephesus for a year -ironic as the average clergy stay is 7 years. More-over it seems to have taken about half an hour for the Church in Ethiopia to be planted (as it appears as though he went back home with his faith, told others and by God’s grace the Church took root and grew).

As I thought more about this, the greatest missionary movement outside the Acts of the Apostles -St. Francis of Assisi- again saw people travelling from place to place, just as Wesley too was captivated by his assurance of Christ and went from place to place telling other people about Jesus.

Yet why has that stopped? why have we become so settled in our communities? why have we lost this urgency of the gospel which we want to tell everyone and go to the ends of the earth if necessary?

why do the only people that seem to go from place to place talking about Jesus nowadays are the big name speakers, staying in plush hotels, and speaking to large audiences (most of whom -est. 70% are already Christians) in luxury venues with massive sound-desks and lighting rigs and a ton of equipment.

Yet Jesus sent the 12 and the 72 out without even a second jacket, knowing that the gospel was enough. -How come todays Christianity looks so clunky? why is it so like Saul’s armour, slow and immoveable?

Recently we planted a Church, its been tough, recently I sat in a meeting and they were talking about all this Churchy procedure and just felt like something in me was dying (I’d already resigned by that point, but it certainly confirmed by decision). why is establishing a new Christian community so full of human beaucracy, it was jobs-worthy we need to remember that Jesus matters more than red tape!

A year ago I blogged about “Simple Church” we make it so complicated when really it is simply gathering together, worshiping and learning together about how we follow Christ and sharing together bread and wine. Today I was chatting to a minister who talked about “Pop Up Church”, the idea of Churches shooting up all over the place, travelling light, trying stuff out, mobile and seeking where works the best and through it all people discovering and growing in Christ.

This model of Jesus, Francis and Wesley relied not on “paid professionals” coming in and teaching us how to do Church, but rather empowering people from day one, it was collaborative, it was free from really unhelpful “provider client” baggage, or of preacher/pastors needing to be needed. The preacher was off to the next town, so “all hands on deck”.

Perhaps this next season might involve simple mission, just telling people who are interested about Jesus (so often in all the fuss, noise, events, buildings, fundraising, activity we forget that we are meant primarily to be telling people about Jesus). Simple Church, that makes simple disciples that live for Christ and transform the world.

Church that keeps on moving, place to place, keeps on planting again and again, and keeps on going until this nation is changed and transformed.

Perhaps this is the new monasticism I’ve longed for looks like, people simply talking about Jesus going from place to place, and setting up Churches as we go. Not every Church will grow and flourish, but -God willing- some will.

So, come January, maybe somehow can work out a way of simply doing this, which looks to me like mission as Jesus intended, very simple yet very challenging. Simply talking Jesus -and showing him by how we live our lives- seeing Churches literally popping up, some will live and some might not make it, and as we step into all that God has for us, seeing the great commission fulfilled and “disciples being made”…

I don’t know yet how this will look, and maybe it’s just an unrealistic dream, a bonkers thought, or maybe, just maybe, there might be a gleam -a momentary glimpse- of a possible future that maybe starting to be born…

And maybe it is a challenge for us, maybe this vision might reasonate with you, or maybe God has a new vision for you about to be born, maybe he’s calling you to lay something down, in order in his time to pick something else up.

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brokenness, cost, Dreams, Evangelism, Gospel, Mission, Try?

word on the street 3.

Over Easter we had a mission across the city “The Turning” where we went out and talked with people on the street about Jesus(using a simple script).

Yet we now have the new challenge, rather than just putting a load of effort into a short term event, we are trying to be missional people doing this as a normal part of our usual, normal life together.

we are being ‘intentional’ about keeping on going out together regularly onto the streets to tell people about Jesus, this months there have been three Friday worship sessions followed by three Saturday mornings in different parts of the city.

At the beginning of the month a load of us met up and worshipped, soaked in God’s presence, as someone that is an activist normally with multiple diary clashes prioritising God’s presence was a wonderful thing to do, although I must admit that just turning up for the Saturday outreach did creep into my mind. So glad I didn’t.

Today however I just came to the outreach on the street, we were in South Bristol and I felt convicted if I wanted people to come and share their faith in Kingswood area, then I ought to be prepared to bless other parts of the city too.

Both times on the Street were very different, lots of busy people in a hurry that wouldn’t stop. Yet on both days some people did stop and listen and have conversations with us, on both days we got opportunities to pray for people, and this morning we saw three people pray a prayer of commitment.

All things that wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t gone out.

Today we prayed for a woman who said he life had been “ruined by God” as she suffered a stroke, but prayed for her and she prayed a prayer of commitment. Last time a lady we spoke to couldn’t pray that prayer of commitment as she was so angry with God for the way her mum had suffered before she had died.

Realise that in sharing our faith people are giving us privileged access to their hearts.

I wonder how many opportunities I miss by doing something “important” that actually from an eternal perspective might not have been that important at all!

Yet, I believe the Turning Mission is bigger than just the events with the label “The Turning” on it, just as “healing on the streets” and other initiatives should be bigger than just the teams going out, mission and evangelism should filter through to our Churches, our homes and work places.

The Turning has increased our expectancy for God to be at work, helped us see those potential Kingdom encounters. Recently an older gentleman shared about he was at Lidl and the lady at the front of the queue didn’t have enough money and was getting worried, he gently asked how much she was short by (32p) and paid the cashier. The lady asked him why he did this and he said “God loves you” and se began to well-up with tears.

Little things can make a big difference.

This last month, I have been reminded afresh of the pain of so many peoples’ lives.

This month of June I have had a student Dan with me, learning about being a Vicar. The first week he was here we wandered around the local shops giving out mini chocolates just as a gentle blessing from the local Church. The first shop we went into -a sweet shop- the woman declined the sweet but ended up talking about shutting her shop as it was loosing money. we were able to pray with and for her, and as we prayed she began to cry, just felt as though God had somehow touched her in that moment. Ironic as I toyed with the idea of not going into the sweet shop to give out some sweets as it seemed a bit cheeky. I am glad now we did.

Last Friday with the street pastors ended up spending a big chunk of the evening with a homeless couple, the girl of the couple just seemed really vulnerable.

On Thursday I had to help out for a couple of hours in the young peoples secure unit, seeing these young people who look both incredibly vulnerable and incredibly hard at the same time, one can only imagine what they have been through even though they are so young.

Recently as we do our weekly Pints of View (Church in a pub) I have seen us as a team becoming gradually more emboldened, one guy asking if he could pray for Annie (a regular) with her knees, next week she came in and said they were healed, and then began to complain about ankles. we prayed for her ankles, when I saw her a couple of days ago she said “you wont believe it but since you prayed they are ever so much better!”

One guy Jason, the week before heard one guy share most of his life story, but every now and then chipped in something really wise and Godly. People want to share their stories and want to hear what Christians have to say, we have fallen for the lie that people aren’t interested.

Also in our prayer time, we have been joined by a couple of guests, neither sure about what they believe, but both wanted to be there and came back next week, and we made the choice to carry on praying and worshipping in exactly the same way as we did when it was just Christians

Last week too tough lads smirking almost squared up to me and asked me if I could do “one of them gay weddings right there in the pub”… One of those things they didn’t teach me at theological college! It had the potential to be interesting (and by “interesting” I mean I could get punched in the face!). Yet with a bit of chatting and warmth the ice-melted and they admitted they both had girlfriends but thought it’d be funny to see how I reacted! From that my friend Harry began asking one of them if he had a faith, and ended up praying for him that he’d come to know Jesus -I thought Harry was pushing his luck and again expected him to be told to “**** off!” but instead the guy seemed genuinely moved shaking Harry’s and my hands warmly and thumping his chest in a “love you guys kinda way”.

It would be easy to read these stories and feel like we are sorted, but we are not, far from it, I still find even after the umpteenth time going out on the street that I feel nervous, and often wandering away I think of “what I should have said” -not what I did say!, but I believe we are gradually learning what it means to be a missional people living their lives everyday.

I know I and my friends still are far from sorted, but I know too that God is helping us be bolder and riskier in sharing him and seeing people respond.

I remember the line the overseer of The Turning Pastor Yinka says “the fields are white to the harvest and the workers are YOU” -what can we do?

Then we realise that God has gone before us and prepared the way ahead, opened doors and been tapping on lives already.

what an awesome privilege to partner this fantastic God.

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Disappointment, Discouragement, encounter, Eternity, Evangelism, expectations, Fane Conant, Gospel, Message, obidience, Opportunity, Organic, Pioneer, pperseverence, Repentance, spontaneity, word -speaking/preaching/teaching.

Yesterday was a funny old day…

We have been doing a mission this weekend.

An evangelist friend of my Dad’s, Fane Conant, had come up to help us, following a brief chat I had at a evangelism/evangelist conference.

We started the mission with a small group of us gathered together on Hanham Mount -where John Wesley had preached to the Kingswood Miners-. The Kingswood Miners were considered to be the toughest and roughest of people, normally people fled from them, yet here we see a small group of Christians choosing to make them the priority. Following the actions of Christ that prioritised the marginalised, disenfranchised and ostracised. Yet here had been an incredible harvest that transformed not only Kingswood but also our nation, and the world.

“Lord we have heard of your fame, we stand in awe of your deeds renew them in our day” (Hab.3.) We prayed bold and audacious prayers nervously and worshipped, there were only 12 of us, and the city looked vast on the horizon as we sung in faith “greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city”.

The next day we had a Men’s breakfast, sadly a few of the not yet Christian days didn’t show up, and 3 out of my 5 Churches weren’t represented, there was about 13 of us, and we’d reserved 30 places, so Fane’s presentation happened to rows of empty seats, although lots of people in the pub must have over heard the presentation too.

The next event was meant to be a coffee morning, but as I arrived no one else was there, not a single person had turned up. I felt bitterly disappointed. There were some guys in the hall painting. These guys were on Community Payback (the new name for probation).

Then an idea hit me, although God had probably been shouting it for a while, why didn’t I get Fane to talk to the Community Payback guys?

Swallowing hard and trying to appear chilled, I asked if Fane might be allowed to speak to the guys, talking about how his life had been turned around, message of hope and inspiration and I carried on in this vein.

The supervisor said “yeah, I’ll bring them all in”.

Fane (being wise) stopped him and said “you do realise I’ll be explicitly Christian?” (At this point I was expecting the guy to change his mind, and had already in a faithless way prepared my “well at least we tried” speech). The guy grinned and said “I don’t mind, I’m a Sikh by the way”.

So, here we were 8 guys sat around listening to Fane speaking about how Jesus turned around his life.

The last two talks Fane had done had been amazing, but here there was an even greater sense of God’s anointing, as Fane preached the Gospel in a wonderful and faithful way.

At the end Fane prayed a prayer and asked others to say it in their hearts, and then wandered around chatting to the guys, it turned out that two lads prayed the prayer giving their lives to Christ and are keen to be followed up.

Others were asking really deep, real hungry questions to Fane, Paddy and myself, the conversation fizzles and crack with God’s hand upon it.

As I left to take a wedding and Fane and a guy Harry from our Church went to chat to people on the High Street (and saw another guy come to faith)…

I smiled as I thought God is on the move, he is turning up in unexpected places, but he’s drawing people to himself, and what a privilege to join in with that.

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Evangelism, Mission

Come and See… Go and Tell…

 

“Come and See” -The words of Andrew when he brought his brother Simon (later Peter) to meet Jesus.

“Come and See” -The words of the Samaritan Women at the well when she returned to her village.

…and probably echoing around nearly every home in whilst Jesus public preaching ministry was happening.

Much of our Church life, and our lives as Christians, have been about inviting people to encounter Christ, to see who he is, what he does…

So, often people are waiting, self consciously, to be invited to come and explore.

They want you to take that walk across the floor and ask them to come.

Yet I’ve also found another phrase in scripture…

“Go and tell” -The words of God to Moses to Phaorah.

“Go and tell” -The words of the Prophets and Patriarchs.

…the story of the Shepherds…

“Go and tell” – Jesus’ words to Herod (Luke 13.32).

“Go and tell” -The words of Jesus to tell his Disciples of his resurrection (Matt 28.1).

“Go and tell” – The Great Commission (Matt 28).

Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.” Acts 5:29

This idea of being a witness testifying to what we have seen and heard, telling our story… Sharing our story.

It is a pro-active word, about not just inviting people to come, but going out taking the message beyond our walls and our comfort zones, taking our witnessing words to people who might not ever feel comfortable walking into our Churches.

Lets learn to be people of invitation.

Lets learn to be people who “go and tell”.

Lets pray that by all means the message of who Christ is is shared so that all may hear and know that he is the God who saves, loves, heals, leads and transforms.

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Evangelism, Listening, love, Mission, Testimony, Worth

Three Stories Entwined…

God’s Mission is all about stories, his story and our story (or testimony if you like Churchy speak) join together, the events of the cross, empty tomb and the upper room of Pentecost 2000 years directly affecting our real and everyday lives today, now.

We are all called to be witnesses and to testify to what we have seen and heard.

The Bible really values the importance of Testimony, it says in the book of Revelation “they overcame by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony”.

Our story meets God’s story in a beautiful harmonious melody, as the two stories blend together, the stories playing (more or less) as the creator/composer intended.

And yet today I want to talk about mission and evangelism (I know I do keep on talking about it), often people ask me what I think makes a good evangelist, and when I give my answer they look at me like I’m a bit mad (and they’re probably right!)… My answer is simply “Listen. No, really Listen, hear their story”.

We are often so keen to talk about how our story and God’s story joined up, that we don’t ever listen to other people, we don’t ask their stories.

Yet when we don’t listen to them, we do God a disservice, because I believe God will have been at work in the lives of all we speak to (although his fingerprints may have been unnoticed)… Part of listening is enabling them to see the hand of God in their lives, to see him gently tap on their hearts drawing them to himself.

Listening also conveys love and value. One of the most beautiful and powerful things we can do for another human being is to listen to them, I mean REALLY listen to them.

Also, as we listen to their stories, then in mutual exchange of relationship there will come an opportunity to naturally share our story.

We so often what to push our stories down peoples’ throats and not listen to them, or we listen long enough to think of a pithy comeback but not at any real depth, we forget Peter’s approach to faith sharing “always be prepared to give an account for the hope that you have, but do so with Gentleness and respect”… yet part of gentleness and respect is getting to know people, building relationships, loving them even if they don’t want (at this time) to hear your story and listening to them.

Also, as we listen we hear more clearly, as we listen that should change us, change what we say, alter us by the encounter and so then more patient fruit is more likely to be fruit that will last than seeds that fall on the path (don’t take root).

Yet as we listen to someone else, we also, by God’s grace and mighty paradox, find that we are hearing God speak to us.

Street Pastors talk of double listening, listen to what is going on (both what people say, and what the community is saying, the listening that happens with your eyes) and listening to the still small voice, the Holy whisper of God’s Holy Spirit.

So, mission I believe is about hearing and telling stories, listening and interacting in God’s stories, listening and interacting in the stories of those around us, and celebrating the ultimate concerto seeing not only our story combined with God’s story, but also the stories of those around us join in with both our story and the story of God, part of the  local melody of the chorus of God in his Church.

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Evangelism, Mission

Are you IN or Are you out? (and I’m not talking about Europe).

“In / Out Evangelism” A phrase I heard today, a phrase I’d not heard for a while but has been rattling around in my head all day.

It is an interesting phrase…

When I think of Jesus, most of his ministry seemed to be attacking the smug religious types who thought they were IN and meeting with the broken and the marginalized who thought they were OUT, yet Jesus showed those who thought they were IN were actually OUT and those who thought they were OUT were being welcomed in.

It seems across Church history that God sends someone to remind us of this message… John Wesley was attacked and ran out of Churches for telling the gentry of England they were sinful, but yet his message found a resting place in the hearts of many of the poor, voiceless and disenfranchised who knew their need of a Saviour.

The words of Jesus talking about “Tax Collectors and Prostitutes entering the Kingdom of heaven before you” must have been ringing in Wesley’s ears as he saw people the Church had written off here in Kingswood responding to Christ (Did you know there wasn’t a Church between Bitten and Pip n Jay in the time of Wesley).

Jesus makes it clear he will say to people who have claimed to be Christians “Go away from me I never knew you!”… and yet there are people in Matthew 25 who seem utterly shocked to find themselves in heaven.

I think as human beings we like to draw lines around ourselves to make us we are “in” and those we don’t like are “out” but we forget that actually it is not up to us, we don’t make the rules God does! I think a lot of the “IN” or “OUT” question actual stems from a deeper human need to BELONG.

To often we have turned faith in Christ into a doctrine test… if you are ‘sound enough’ you get into heaven -yet the thief on the cross probably would have flunked a theology exam but has the word of Christ himself affirming his place in heaven.

Sometimes we have turned faith into Christ into an issue of respectability, -how to be IN not OUT- we don’t consider you a proper Christian (even if you love Jesus and want to follow him) until you’ve completely sorted your life out (not actually that any of us really are sorted, but there are some sins we get more worried about than others!)

Nor does asking and seeking truth for tough questions and wrestling with doubts mean that you who were once “IN” are now “OUT”, all it means is you wont be fobbed off with unsatisfactory answers.

Nor is it a matter of style and taste, you’re not IN because you go to New Wine and OUT if you go to Greenbelt (or ViceVersa!) you aren’t IN if you believe women can’t be vicars and OUT if you believe they can (or ViceVersa!). You aren’t IN if you wear chinio’s and a rugby top and OUT if you wear Vestments (or ViceVersa).

The IN and the OUT is very much about trying to gravitate to people who agree with us, rather than seeing ourselves as a diverse family, who maybe do, think and say stuff we might not always go along with but our still followers of Christ, maybe in a different way to us.

Now some of these things I’d love an opportunity to debate with them, and to share different view points (and they probably do with me) but let us be people of grace with those within the Church, and even more towards those on its fringe and even more to those who are yet to join.

Yet surely I believe that we need to be a family which copes and love us even when our theology goes a bit crazy, our lives have bumps and blemishes, we wrestle with doubts and tough questions… and yet let us hold one another and BELONG together.

IN or OUT is God job, our job is to love, sure we can chat, talk, encourage and support one another but “the Lord knows who are his” “Who are we to judge someone elses’ servant”.

We had a young lad die suddenly in Salisbury, Danny, he was about 34, he had been coming to Church and we were friends… The big question people kept asking was “was he saved”… I didn’t have a clear answer, pretty sure he had made a commitment (to use the evangelical language) but then a verse really spoke to me in a new way “whilst he was still a long way off his Father saw him in the distance and ran to him”, a verse which comforted me, a God who runs to us.

Lets be people who love rather than question, that stick together even when we disagree, that hold tight when we doubt…

Lets be people whose doors are always open to everyone irrespective of difference and baggage.

Lets learn instead of dividing people into THEM and US, but rather see us all as beloved of God, and in need of knowing him and his grace, hope and transforming love better.

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apathy, Church, Evangelism, Ministry, Mission, Revival, Risk and Change

Why I didn’t like Bishops when I was 19!

When I was 19 I did a year out and I worked with this guy Tony Washington, who used to do training in Youth and Children’s Work, and we used to do lots of very long journeys around the North East. I remember having a conversation about why (at that time) I didn’t like Bishops (I like a number of Bishops now!) and for some reason this popped back into my head this week.

I had just come back to God, a friend had died and that had made me re-evaluate what did (and didn’t really matter), and I had realized through her death something of the urgency of the gospel… If you die apparently not knowing Jesus then there is no assurance of salvation, and that is scary.

I had the eyes of a new believe looking at a creaky Church institution and was asking where is the urgency? Why were the people who were meant to be leading us seem so chilled out about people coming to know Jesus?

If this stuff (salvation) really matters why does everyone seem to be faffing around on things that aren’t important? Why when we have a Church full of not-yet-believers do we get a sermon about…I dunno what but it lost me… (and I knew about half of the long words they were using!)

The 19 year old me wanted to see fire, passion, wanted to see a vision to reach out and change the world for Christ and instead it just wasn’t happening.

I wanted to see leaders I could rally around and follow.

We  need “Saints” people who inspire and encourage us in our faith (not advocating putting people on pedestals) but we do need to see faith lived out around us in inspiring ways.

Church and its leadership did (and does) sometimes think that jaded apathy, gloomy defeatism is somehow a sign of greater spiritual maturity and that youthful fire was ‘a bit naïve’ I was (somewhat patronisingly told) -maybe people were trying to save me from disappointments (of which there have been plenty, but I’d rather have disappointments and failures than have flat-lined a faded away).

Fortunately no one told the apostles or the heroes of Hebrews 11 that they were being a bit too enthusiastic (or if they did I’m glad they were ignored!)

Teenagers and young adults are a heroic age, God has placed idealism, enthusiasm and fire within us and we want to make a difference, we want to change the world.

There are plenty of places which will give a compelling vision for world transformation, politics, charity works, self-help guru’s…

Yet why isn’t the Church at the forefront of inspiring people to change the world, because we have the highest and the greatest of commissions “to go into all the world and make them my disciples!”, “May your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven!”.

I think actually over the past 20 years Bishops have got better at spearheading vision of mission and justice… but our

Churches are sometimes tired old institutions that sap our energy, quash our enthusiasm, damped our vision and sow seeds of doubt to our calling.

I remember reading Richard Dawkins who said of Christianity in the UK that is was “mostly harmless” -this idea that Christ’s Church isn’t doing anything much, isn’t what Christ wants.

I want a dangerous faith…

I want to be part of something that will last forever.

I want to be part of the greatest move on the planet for human good.

We need a revolution.

We need a return to Acts 2.

Let’s see Church rise from her slumber and once again change the world.

Are you with me in this dream?

If so, let’s turn this dream into a reality?

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