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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Acts of Service, Evangelism, Mission, Signs and wonders

Words, Works and Wonders…

I don’t know what your experience has been with Christians and the whole mission thing…

Words…

There some Christians, let’s call them the evangelicals (although not exclusively) who think it’s all about preaching the message, it’s about talking to people, it’s about discussion groups, giving out flyers… Ultimately it’s all about words.

…And to be fair there is a strong biblical basis for this way of thinking, just look at all the sermons that are recorded in the bible in their entirety…

Romans asks “how will they hear without someone preaching to them”, Phillippians talks about “holding out the word that gives life”.

Perhaps you can pray about having opportunities to speak and talk about the good news of Jesus.

…but the world has had an awful lot of words, and times words come cheap, often people talk about he importance of not just talking the talk but want us to walk the walk…

Works…

A quote that is often (mis)attributed to St. Francis, is “preach the gospel at all times and if necessarily use words!” Let’s face it when you admit you are a Christian, you are a marked person, people are watching you!

There are many within the Church, people used to be dismissive and call them liberals, but actually they have a strong biblical mandate and they say it is all about loving service and the pursuit of justice… After-all James tells us ‘faith without works is dead’, Matthew 25 talks about the sheep and the goats and the prophets tell us about ‘doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly’.

Wonders…

But others say words and actions are great, but what transforms lives is people encountering God and his Kingdom through signs and wonders… They point to the book acts and the words of Jesus where signs and wonders accompany the preaching of the gospel. They show us boldness and a risk taking faith, offering to pray for people, speaking out the prophetically… Of Gods mission partnering with his people.

Yet, I reckon they are all right.
I reckon mission and Kingdom living is about speaking out, living it out and God showing up.
Let’s be people of words, works and Gods wonders… Rather than one trick ponies.

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