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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Age, cost, Depression, Disappointment, Discouragement, doubt, Dreams, expectations, Experience, faithfulness, Grit, hope, Hopes and Dreams, Humanity, Risk and Change, self awareness, Spiritual Warfare, Step of faith, Suffering., Testimony, vocation

Looking back over my 30’s!

I remember 10 years ago about to turn 30!

30 -I couldn’t believe I was going to be 30!

30?!

I remember sat in a pub on the Quay -and called the Quay- in Poole.

I was all full of hope and excitement about life…

I was about to get married.

I was a year(ish) into my curacy and was about to be ordained Priest/Presbyter.

I was full of audacious dreams of the adventure God had planned for us in somewhere we did not yet know.

Today I’m feeling much more melancholy.

Looking back over the past 10 years have had some wonderful moments, particularly marrying Allana and our fantastic daughter.

But, I am asking myself 40? -How did that happen?

40,that can’t be right?

40!?

There have been some wonderful moments, seeing people pray prayers of commitment to Christ and meaning them, baptising adults, planting a Church -and a few new congregations-, seeing friends step into what God has for them especially those ordained (especially Sam)and seeing some wonderful Kingdom signs and wonders along the way too.

Yet there have been some tough moments too.

To be honest it feels a little like half way through a boxing match where you are dabbing your eye with a wet sponge and spitting blood into the bucket.

Sometimes when we stop we sometimes realise what a fight a season has been, how far you’ve come -and even if it doesn’t feel far, it is worth remembering that sometimes the shortest distances sometimes can be the toughest of drags. One clergy friend that had a tough time talked about “I ran with the ball and I made the 9 yards”. It might not feel a long way, but they were significant steps hard won and costly.

As I slipped into sulky mood, I began to have a bit of a self pity party with the people that let me down, the mean stuff people have said, the times plans didn’t go right and all sorts of bumps and bruises along the way.

Yet in it all I am sure I have learned stuff.

And despite sometimes feeling very confused, and even sometimes asking “God where are you?”, why is this happening” and “why did this door close?” I can still say (even though this has probably been the toughest decade of my life) that God has been, and is, faithful.

As I thought of that young thirty year old dreamer, I’m now a bit more gnarled and wrinkled, but we are standing on another new season.

The dream for God to take us, now the three of us (four if you include the dog) into new adventures into the unknown, with expectancy, again not knowing what the future holds, but knowing who it is that holds the future.

As I sit here, a bit battered, but still want that same dream to stay alive.

I think there is nothing spiritually mature about becoming jaded and downsizing our expectations of God. There is nothing Godly about playing it safe and going through the motions. There is nothing wise about allowing dreams to die and reducing and minimising your vision.

I love the C.S. Lewis quote that says “You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream”.

why should the future look boring and safe? An adventure with Jesus might be tougher and harder than most of us thought when we surrendered our lives to him, but it is still the greatest calling we have.

It would have been so easy to keep on doing what we have been doing and just slowly die under the moany pessimistic emails, the endless cycle of harvest festivals and other annual events and preaching to people who have heard it all a million times but longing to preach to someone who has not heard it at all.

It is so easy to be safe keep your head down grit your teeth and think about your pension, yet I believe that God has so much more for all of us than our 9-5 prisons.

As we get older, sometimes the risks feels bigger (especially those of us with families) and the jumps feel further, and the costs seem greater and yet the truth of God’s faithfulness remains the same, constant.

So, looking back and looking forward, however it looks I want to pledge one thing, it will be about Jesus, the one who is the same today, yesterday and forever.

It will be uncertain although it is in the service of the only truly certain thing in this universe -Jesus is this life’s only true certainty.

So, although I feel like I’m sat on a stall, it’s time to return the gum-shield, step into a different ring and listen to the bell and see what God ahs in store for the next decade.

It’s not about how much it cost -although sometimes that does feel quite in your face at times- but rather it is about how great is the prize, the Kingdom, the pearl of great price, the one worth it all.

“were the whole realm of nature mine that were an offering far too small, love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all”.

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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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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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expectations, Growth, prepared., ready

Trestles and Vines

Last night at our Church AGM we had an interesting image brought to us about Trestles and Vines. Vines need support -Trestles- to enable them to flourish and grow well.

The idea of trestles is what support do we need to put in place to enable to work of the Kingdom of God to grow and flourish well?

Without a trestle the vine falls on the ground and the fruit is trampled underfoot, and the grapes flourish in the sunlight.

It is an image I like, because the priority is focused towards what actually matters, and building a structure; loose, adaptable and flexible, to adequately host what God -the vine grower- is doing.

Sometimes in order to help the vine, we need to work with the trestles.

Yet I began to kick the idea of Vines and Trestles around in my head for a little bit and I thought of three pictures around this.

The first picture is a very sad one, -the Revered but Redundant Trestle- where the vine has long since withered and died, and so they obsess about the trestles, the trestles are -if we are being brutally honest- in-necessary and unneeded by the people have got used to them being there, and have been there when there was a vine covering them, and no one has had the heart to gently say “your trestles don’t appear to have any vines, leaves or grapes on them”.

The second picture is a little happier  -it’s the just about coping Trestle- the vine and the trestle are well matched and everything is coping nicely, the vine is a little heavy on the old trestle and the trestle has given faithful service, but it is all okay really. It works, yet the trestles have only been built to contain what they now contain, they may have been originally built with vision and faith, but now they have reached their capacity, and are happy, but a little strained, but they don’t want to stretch out new trestles and push beyond the now reached boundaries.

The third picture, is a faith-filled Trestle, where the trestle is built in faith for the vines future growth and development, seeing the vine now how it currently is, but how it can and will be, it know the vine will grow and need support, it is waiting/watching and prepared to take the strain as new growth gradually appears.

Growth is sneaky, often advances by inches, subtle and unnoticed except to the most faith-filled and expectant watcher with alert eyes.

When God starts to move, are our Churches ready and able to cope with what the Lord of the harvest brings in? Are our trestles, redundant or only just coping? Lets instead build with faith that God is at work.

Building not for what is here at the moment, but building for what is going to come, for the harvest we have yet to see.

Lets be people building these faith filled trestles/

 

 

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cost, expectations, Falibility, Ministry, Mission, Uncategorized

Our Response When the Storms Hit…

Matthew 8…
23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

In many ways I feel this is a picture of the Church in the UK.

It is a picture too of our own individual Christian walk with God too.

We’re okay when nothing much is happening, but can’t cope when it stops being comfortable, nice, and safe…

The Disciples are with Jesus, Jesus is in the boat (albeit asleep), and a storm hits…

They look at the size of the waves and they panic.

The strength of the wind makes them fearful.

Their hope is undermined, probably one of the disciples said something like “we’re going to die…” and this fear was infectious and spread.

The disciples problem they were focused on the problem (the storm) not the solution (the Saviour).

What are we like when storms hit us? (Afterall life throws us plenty of rocky moments).

Do we PANIC? Or do we PRAY?

Our are our hearts, minds and lives filled with FEAR? Or are our hearts, minds and lives filled with FAITH?

I was thinking about how fear is debilitating, a rabbit caught int the headlights of a car is frozen…

Fear makes us (like Jonah) run in the opposite direction from where we should be…

It’s okay to be nervous and not understand what is happening or why, that is a fairly normal part of being a Christian and being a human being, but fear is something we often choose to invite into our lives which God does not want in their.

The Bible tells us that “Perfect love casts out all fear” -and the only one with perfect love is God himself.

The most frequent command is “Fear not”…

But then imagine being in a stormy boat, being powerless to save yourself (there is quite a Salvation message here, powerless and destined for death until the Saviour intervene’s!) and then your passenger speaks to the wind and the waves and they fall quiet and go silent…

The question I’d like to ask the disciples, were you more scared before or after JEsus calmed the storm… I think afterwards!

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom, our starting point is the awesomeness of God.

 Today was meant to be the launch of our Church plant All Souls’ Southey Park, but there are problems with the lease and this is delaying us getting in there.  It would be easy to look at the stoms and the winds of things standing in our way, no key the the building, not much of a budget, very small team of people behind us. Sadly our Churches can be filled with scare mongers and prophets of doom, do with listen to their shouts rather than God’s still small voice whisper? 

Many of our Churches have dwindling numbers and are struggling, it is easy to see the wind and the waves and throw in the towel and give in and die…

Yet instead we need to look to Jesus, he doesn’t need waking up like he did in the story, but coming to him is always a good first response rather than a last resort, knowing he is more powerful than the wind and the waves, he is bigger than the problems and difficulties we face, nothing is too difficult for him.

So, who do we listen to effects what we do, thinking about the Church plant, I want to be like Caleb and Joshua who instead of being defeatist like the other spies who went to look at the promised land, came back saying that the land was good and God was able to deliver it into their hand… Yet the people chose to listen to the voice of fear rather than the voice of faith.

Fear took them into the desert to die…
Faith took Joshua and Caleb into the promised land to live.

Who do we listen too?
Who do we let speak into our lives?

Do we pray instead of panic?

Do we seek the Saviours Soultion rather than be pleplexed by the problem.

In your powerlessness remember that God is with you, who is able and mighty to save.

Encounter the storm stilling God, our starting point is an awesome God yet one who says “fear not”

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expectations, Fear, hope, Hopes and Dreams, Neighbour, Politica, Risk and Change

Project Fear? Message of Hope.

On the eve of the referendum in have been thinking about risk, about fear, about the familiar and the security of the status quo, even if the status quo isn’t always great, often people want to stick with it just because it is familiar.

Most people fear change.
Risk is something most of us deep down are a little adverse too.
Yet we forget that actually everything changes, and the phrase “remain’ sounds like something unmoving, yet actually Europe is also an evolving movement, the truth is that both are a risk as none of us know what the future holds.
We cannot avoid risk, change of the unknown actually by voting either way in the referendum as both staying or going are not static places.
Sadly too, there has been scaremongering happening about ethnic minorities, asylum and immigration, which has caused us to fear one another, our neighbours and our friends.
The debate has also frightened people with institutions like the NHS and its provision, causes us to fear for our future.
The debate on both sides has got so nasty that it has been dubbed project fear.
Tony Benn talked about “Hope is the fuel of progress and fear is the prison we put ourselves in”
Yet I would say whatever your views don’t let fear take you prisoner, or push you around.
The greatest prisons aren’t places with bars and gates, but actually are in hearts and minds, fear paralyses us, fear reduces our expectations, inhibits our vision and hampers our judgement.
Whatever your views let’s vote from a place of hope for a better and brighter tomorrow.
Knowing that it’s not just a better Europe we are working towards but actually an advance of Christ’s Kingdom on earth we are seeking to live out and usher in.
Remembering that our citizenship is not of Europe or the UK, but of heaven, an inheritance which won’t spoil, fade or spoil.
Yet I was struck by the truth that the Bible says 365 times “Do Not Be Afraid”, one for every day… We are reminded too that “Perfect Love Casts Out All Fear”, and the one who loves perfectly is Christ himself.
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