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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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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Growth, Health

Growth & Health / Health & Growth.

Yesterday when trying to catch the dog outside in the dark I didn’t see a step and ‘OUCH’ hurt my foot (actually its a lot better today, but for the sake of the blog go with it!) hobbling over to the settee I instinctively realized that making this bust foot bare my weight was not a good idea.
Putting weight on something that is broken will causes more damage in the long term than being sensible and getting it fixed. Yet as I talked about in my blog about the dentist getting things fixed isn’t something we are necessarily good at doing as Christians.
Sometimes our life together as Church can be pretty broken, is it wise (or helpful) to run around and try and grow as a Church without sorting out the brokenness, is like trying to do a marathon with a broken ankle.
Sometimes we get so caught up with wanting God to work THROUGH us that we never actually let him work IN us.
I guess this is what Jesus is saying about sorting out the log in our own eye before dealing with the speck in our brother/sisters eye.
I love John Wimbers’ famous prayer “Lord Send Revival, Start with me”, a desire for the Growth of the Kingdom of God, but in order for the Kingdom to grow we need to sort out our spiritual health.
With our children, we worry about their health,  but (normally) their growth is a normal by product of being healthy.
Just as in life when we invest in health we find that God brings growth, however, when we invest in growth that doesn’t necessarily produce health.
Mike Breen said “When you make disciples you get Church, but when you do Church you don’t necessarily make Disciples”.
This reminded me of a conversation I had this week with a guy who was talking about “loving to see the Church packed”, we ended up talking and (it was a banter-type conversation) said that I could give out free beer, have pole dancers perform and not mention Jesus once but I reckon we would have the Church packed with standing room only. As the conversation progressed we talked about the difference between ‘bums on seats’ and ‘transformed lives’.
I once heard someone say “I couldn’t grow the Church because I am not an evangelist”, but this particular lady was an amazing saint, and she might not be dragging people out of bed to Church on a Sunday morning, but she really helped the Church be healthy by her infectious love of Jesus, his word and his people, which helped make the Church more healthy and Christ-like, which I believe is really attractive to the world alongside us.
Growth isn’t always numerical, popularity is not always the litmus paper for obedience.
Lets be people who are spiritually healthy seeking first his Kingdom both in our lives and also in the lives around us.
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