acceptance, brokenness, community of grace, Compassion, ethics, grace, Holiness, inclusion, LGBT, love, truth

It’s a SIN?

I recently blogged about the Church needing to be loving in its attitudes towards people especially those in the LGBT community.

I deliberately didn’t blog about where I personally stand on the issue, as normally that normally means that only the people who agree with you read your post!

I long for all sides of Christ’s Church to become more loving, to read the Bible together in loving, God-honouring, humbling, respectful exchanges.

People talk about grace and truth being held together, and I think much of our Christian theology is about holding some difficult things intension in a Godly way (which is hard at times).

For some this is primarily a debate about the authority of scripture, what authority does scripture have over how we are followers of Christ live our lives? Does scripture say what we think it does, are we reading things the same way? Let’s talk and seek God together about authority of scripture and then about what it says within it?

For some this debate is about pastoral theology, how do we live out our faith together in community?

For others it is about how people make sense of their story and the story of God that captivates us, and the fundamental question of “who am I in Christ?” And for some, how do I make sense of “who I have discovered I am” with “who I have discovered I am in Christ?” and is there a tension with the two, and if so, how do I authentically deal with this under the Lordship of Christ.

The question people often say is “is it a sin?” as it seems be saying “if it is a sin, then the gloves are off and we can treat them how we like”, pastorally, even if it is a sin we are still called to love people and to “love our neighbour as our-self”.

Some think unquestionably the answer is yes.
Some think unquestionably the answer is no.

Some distinguish between desire and inclination and the practice.

I think the problem is we want a ‘clear cut’ discipleship and yet I have discovered that most pastoral theology is often complicated, messy and often not as clear cut as we’d like it to be.

I know many people in different places on the spectrum.

One Christian I have spoken about this, is an amazing Godly person and this person has chosen to be celibate rather than living out her sexual desire.

I know other Christians, gay and straight, who genuinely have really studied, prayed and sought God and believe the opposite.

Much ink has been spilled in the “nature/nurture” debate, yet irrespective of this Jesus is a God that meets us where we are at, and this is true for all people regardless of gender identity, and yet loves us too much to let us stay that way. we all need transformation, and we are all fallen, broken people. The straight person is not superior to his gay neighbour, as before the foot of the cross it is level ground, we all come from any and all walk of life, empty handed before a loving God who died for us.

I worry we have re-written the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector to the “straight and the gay person”, and I don’t want to be on the wrong side of the parable.

Christ’s grace and love extends to every area of our lives include our sex lives and inclinations, as does his Lordship too.

As I said in my previous blog, the only way we can see these rifts within the wider Church and individual fellowships be healed, is in love journeying together prayerfully, seeking God and seeking him honestly through scripture (which can be immensely challenging for us all whatever perspective we hold, as scripture always shapes and challenges us profoundly to the core of our being).

Even if we don’t agree and may never read the Bible the same way as someone else our challenge remains to love them and to ensure that our conduct towards them reflects the Christ we serve.

It is a difficult call, and groups like synod will make stands some of which we will applauded and others of which leave us perplexed, yet rather than walk away, lets keep engaging, praying and seeking God with those who see things differently by reading his word together.

It is hard being in conversations about things that are deeply personal and important with people that don’t agree with us, and the Bible can feel incredibly sharp on occasion, yet even though it is difficult it is the cost of being a disciple to be a loving community, gathered around Christ and his word, and to seek together to follow Christ, which is often more complex, messy and ambiguous than we would like it to be.

As we seek to share our journey of faith with our brothers and sisters from many different walks of life, we need to let God work in us and shape us, and these things are often costly, “Iron sharpens iron as one person sharpens another”.

The Church in the U.K looks like it might split over this issue, which would be a tragedy for us all. There have been many big and important issues that have threatened to tear the Church apart, but we need to remember the heart of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane that prayed “let them (the Church)be one as you and I are one”, Christ wants his bride to be united. To stop fighting and prayerfully gather around scripture takes bravery from all sides, and even more courage to stay praying and sharing around the Bible when it gets challenging, but worth it, to show the world that Christians can disagree in a Godly and honourable way.

The Church needs to heed the words of murdered MP Jo Cox that said “there is more that unites us that divides us”.

I believe the Church can and should be an outpost of the Kingdom of Heaven, and I believe it is worth fighting for, because you are worth fighting for, because we are the Church of Jesus Christ and we will not let’s not allow Satan to divide us.

Keep loving.
Keep meeting with people who we disagree.
Keep praying.
Keep sharing.
Keep reading scripture.
Keep on seeking God together.

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inclusion, Marginalised, Youth and Children's Work

“Don’t let the local kids in…”

I was doing a youth event and we’d hired a local youth club for it, with lights and smoke and the whole works and a band of young people were leading the worship which was fab. Suddenly a couple of faces appeared at the door, local guys, “Can we come in?” they asked. The rain was pouring down outside, and our incredibly gifted speaker was getting ready to speak.

I wanted to be welcoming, and let them come in, suddenly from 2 or 3, became 5 or 6, and then a couple appeared on their bikes from no where. I tried being all “Ali G” and told them to be respectful of the speaker and stuff, they nodded, one even shook my hand. Deep down I was hoping they’d hear something of the talk and the worship, and be impacted by the Kingdom of God.

They shot into the kitchen and began to eat the left over food, which was okay, most of it had already been eaten by the Church kids. One was in the music booth trying to disrupt the music, but a burly youth worker called Doug’s presence deterred them.

A few went down stairs rather than hear the talk bit, but was trying to watch the kitchen, was trying to make eye contact with someone, as trying to be in two places at once wasn’t easy.

Then heard an alarm go off and ran downstairs, turned out that someone had punched a fire alarm, which caused more problems as we tried to turn it off setting off the burglar alarm too.

“They don’t teach you this at theological college” I thought to myself! Anyway kids soon ran off, and had to sort everything out, including ringing the people in charge of the building, who said “next time, don’t let the local young people in”.

To be honest I can understand the position, yet it feels like this is going against our very ethos of who we are. we are about to start a Church plant here in this part of the parish, using this youth centre, I have always wanted Church to be open to all, I think Jesus has a a particular compassion for disenfranchised young people.

In many ways though we have to respect the wishes of those who own the building, it is part of being a good guest on someone else’s place… when it is your Church hall that gets trashed, it causes hassle -especially from the grumpy blue-rinse brigade- but there is a whole load of other complications when you don’t own the building.

I remember in Poole, we had some feisty nights with the AREA under18’s night club we used to run, and I remember a pretty brutal complaint from a neighbouring Church-goer complaining about the kids behaviour, their thinking was “can’t you just reach nice young people” not those nasty “hoodlum” types. Jesus said “those who are well don’t need a doctor”… “I tell you the truth there is more joy in heaven over 1 sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who need no repentance”.

The truth is that much of the Church think this, sometimes Church is massively judgemental and a little bit snobby too. we have become like the Pharisees.

Jesus never said “just reach out to the nice ones”.

I think Levi the tax collector, or Mary Magdalene who had 6 demons in her, or Simon the Zealot all were people you might not want to sit next too.

These are the people I long to see coming to Church. we have even called the Church movement ‘All Souls’ making the statement that all are welcome here in the house of God.

I know too I’m a bit of an inverted snob, where I have more time for someone with an obvious dysfunctional life than some elderly, affluent daily mail reader who I struggle to love.  So, I need to be careful of not pointing the finger, only to find three pointing back at me.

So, the week after next we are meant to be back in that hall, and are meant to be planting a Church there in that hall… what do I do now that maybe we’re not supposed to let in the local kids? Interestingly been using this hall for a number of years now and this is the first time it happens just before a plant is due to start? -Is this a spiritual attack?

Again, it makes me ask how these young people in Kingswood and Hanham will ever hear about Jesus. we have Churchy young people that simply don’t relate to these guys of the same age-group, they don’t dress the same or even go to the same schools, they are poles apart, have we created a generation more segregated than before making them less effective and fruitful in evangelism to people who could potentially be their peers.

I don’t know what I think, but it reminds me of the hill we have to climb to see this generation hear the gospel of Christ in a way they can understand and respond too, it is a bigger challenge than we think.

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5 Fold Ministry -Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers (Eph. 5), call, Carrying burdens, Discipleship, grace, Guidance, identity, incarnation, inclusion, Life in the Spirit, vocation

“Everyone Gets to Play”

“The term “laity” is one of the worst in the vocabulary of religion and ought to be banished from Christian conversation”. -Karl Barth.

I think Barth is right. The Clergy laity distinction does create an unhelpful them and us image of division.

It is translated into some peoples minds as “the called and the uncalled” -which is rubbish we are all called people, we just are called to different things and different roles within the body of Christ.

Or the qualified and the unqualified, but actually although it is an amazing privilege to study theology at degree level the under-pinning idea that ordinary everyday Christians aren’t “qualified” to do the works of the Kingdom is simply ludicrous -most of the original disciples were unskilled men!

Or perhaps you feel like the ‘elite’ and the ‘plebs’ which again isn’t helpful, because I think there is no such thing as a  super Christian, as we all stand on level ground before  the cross of Christ in our need of salvation, and ultimately all good works come “not by might, nor by power but by my spirit says the Lord of Hosts”.

In fact I’d go further and point to two pictures within scripture which I think are more helpful:

i) The first is that of the body of Christ, where every bit is interdependent on each other, each bit is needed, no bit can claim a greater importance in the body as each is doing a role or function that only they can do.

ii) The second is the ‘priest-hood of all believers’, not the few elected holy people as under the old covenant, but everyone able to approach the throne of grace with boldness.

That is not to say that there isn’t an important role in leadership within Christ’s Church, although I fear that to often Christian leadership looks more like Lord Sugar than the Lord Jesus’ Christ, the board-board rather than the upper room where Christ washed, dust, sweat and camel crap of his disciples feet.

Jesus said “The Son of Man (a term he used to describe himself) has come not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”.

I think Jesus showed us leadership that looked very different, it looks like sacrificial and costly servant-hood because that is what it is.

A friend who is a vicar, once asked a Church about a Biblical character they thought of when they thought of leadership, their response was of Moses coming down the mountain clutching the tablets of stone under his arm and saying “thus sayth the Lord” -an image I find very uncomfortable, and no wonder if this is your starting point is leadership abused. Instead this friend talked about the leadership picture he prefers which is that of John the Baptist “I must decrease so he must increase” -the path to fruitfulness is humility, prayerfulness, finding strength in weakness and these are entirely the virtues of the upside-down Kingdom of God.

I think we need to go back to scripture and see afresh what leadership is meant to achieve, from my reading of scripture it is meant to “equip the body of Christ for works of service”.

We often think this is about the 5 fold ministries in Ephesians, “Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Teacher and Pastor”, where someone comes and does Evangelism, or moves in the Prophetic, but surely the role of the Apostle is to teach other people to think apostolicially -looking for those kingdom opportunities, the prophet to hear other people to hear from God for themselves, the teacher to enable people to learn and grow for themselves, the evangelist to help other people in evangelism, and the pastor to help us love and care for one another”.

It’s not about building ourselves up, but rather it is about building up the body of Christ.

We often forget that leadership is actually about bringing out the gifts of God in others, it’s not a calling (to use a football analogy) to be a star striker scoring all the goals, but rather it is the role of the team coach who is called to invest, encourage, bless, challenge, inspire God’s people so they can turn this broken upside down world the right way up for Christ Jesus.

It’s not about building a big empire, with lots of people downloading your sermons and turning up to your services and putting on a great show on a Sunday, but rather sending people out to transform the world on Monday morning living out their faith in everyday life on their front-lines.

Too often leadership has been “you help me do what I think we should be doing” than asking “what is God calling you to do, and how can we help, bless and enable you to fulfil God’s call on your life”.

Too often we think of leadership about ‘press ganging volunteers’ to do our things -What can I get from them? Rather than thinking “how can be bless them” in what and where God is calling them.

I’ll close with a controversial Youtube Clip:-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uikd5uoMdpk

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Church, community of grace, inclusion, love, Uncategorized

Homophobic Bigot seeks Judgmental Hypocrite

Shane Claiborne did some research asking young people in America who didn’t go to Church what four words came to mind when they heard the word Christian.

Their answers are depressing.

First on the list was homophobic, alongside bigoted, hypocritical and judgmental…

Yet although Jesus was  accused of many things, he wasn’t accused of any of these, in fact the opposite it true, he was a friend of sinners, hung out with the outcasts, gravitated to the marginalized and prioritized the disenfranchised.

Somehow Jesus’ Church doesn’t feel very Jesus like.

Jesus in his most famous sermon talked about “judging not unless we want to be judged the same way”.

In one of his parables he had a smug paragon of virtue a pharisee and a tax collector (who in their culture were very much on the margins of the Jewish society), the pharisee was puffed up with his own importance and gave a boastful prayer to God whilst the tax collector new his need of God and cried out to him for mercy. Jesus asked “which went away justified?” everyone agreed it was the tax collector not the pharisee.

Jesus also spoke of “taking the plank of our eye so we can take the speck out of our brother/sisters eye”.

At the heart of being a Christian is not our righteousness, but actually our brokenness, Christianity tells us we don’t get it right all the time, we sin and need to forgiving cleansing grace of a Saviour.

Whatever our views of other peoples behavior, the cross ought to remind us that we ourselves shouldn’t be hurling the first stone.

The gospel message points us towards a God who loves us passionately, love ALL of us passionately irrespective of who are, what we have or haven’t done, our age, class, gender, sexuality, race, religion or whatever…

The Bible tells us that we are loved by God, we are loved so much that the cross of Christ says we are worth dying for.

I was asked once what I would do if a gay person came into my Church (I hate the expression my Church as its Christ’s!), but I said “I’d welcome them and make them a cup of tea” which is exactly what I’d do if a straight person came in, or a black person came in, or a Hindu or Muslim, who am I to turn my back on someone who is loved by Christ.

I long for every community to know the message of the grace and love of God that brings fullness of life and salvation through Christ.

At an interview I was at before Christmas I was asked my view of ‘LGBT’ people 3 times, and yet no one asked me about Jesus, his Cross, the Person and Role of the Holy Spirit, why are we so obsessed with one issue and yet the matters of faith that actually will effect people eternal destiny are not even mentioned?

What’s my view on the LGBT community? It is exactly the same as for every other community, I want them to know they are passionately loved by Christ who died for them.

I want anyone to be able to feel like they can walk into Church and be loved and welcomed and not rejected, as scripture says that God won’t turn away anyone who turns to him.

The good news of the cross is on offer to all, and we all stand before it was complete equality.

What is more this isn’t playing fast and loose with scripture.

This is not saying anything is or is not sinful, but rather a call for us all to have the right starting place, that we ourselves are not God, we ourselves are not perfect and need to be gracious to those around us (another parable of Jesus with the two debtors).

We may have different ideas about what is and isn’t sin, but my understanding is,  to quote Billy Graham is “Its the devils job to condemn, the Spirits job to convict and my job to love”.

I’ve never refused anyone the communion elements, but interestingly I’ve struggled more giving communion to very Churchy people who written viscous letters, told lies, gossiped and slandered people and have done so without (seemingly) any effect on their conscience than with the sins people think I should be more offended by.

Somehow Victorian prudishness has hijacked much of the Church where we are obsessed with sex in an unhealthy way but completely  overlook hurtful behaviors, money and other ethical issues.

If we chose to follow Jesus, then probably our view on things will change, mine are constantly changing, the lordship of Christ effects every choice and decision we make, we all have a responsibility for own discipleship as we seek to pick up the cross of Christ.

Christians need to have clear thinking about what they think about things, but even if you have a different view on something (I know people who have a massive range of views on different things) we are still called to love one another, to encourage one another, to bless one another.

I think especially when we disagree, we should show the world how to disagree differently from the world, in a way that loves people, in a way that remembers our fallen-ness and brokenness and others preciousness to God.

Graham Kendrick talked about Christian Community saying: “each others needs to prefer”. Yet sadly this is not how I see many Christian disagreements, especially around issues of sex and sexuality.

I long for the Church to be so counter cultural that rather than ripping each other apart and giving people a piece of our mind, let our love for for those who maybe we profoundly disagree with be marked by incredibly gracious sacrificial love, =giving people a piece of your heart-.

Pointing people beyond the tedium of our arguments and show the world the incredible power of Christ at work in his follows reflecting him in us and through us.

I long for the Church to look like Christ afresh.

I long for people not to think of it as a judgmental institution they want to avoid, but a place they want to run to. Knowing they will be loved and accepted no matter what; no matter how broken, bruised or burned they are.

Lets’ ask God to help us be this type of revolutionary, and show the world the beauty of Christ in our lives.

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community of grace, Compassion, Falibility, Family, forgiveness, Fruit and fruitfulness, Hopes and Dreams, inclusion, inter-dependance, Life Together, Uncategorized

One Another…

Did you know there are 59 “one another verses” in the New Testament?

#Love one another…
#Pray for one another…
#Encourage one another…
#Serve one another…
#Support one another…
#Forgive one another…
#Bless one another…
#Carry one another’s burdens…

Yet bizarrely I find one of the toughest parts of being a Vicar is that you can sometimes feel really lonely. It has been said “Jesus sent the disciples out in 2’s but in the Church of England you’re on your own”!

The Victorians used to believe that a persons religion was a personal and private thing, a lie we’ve embraced as a culture made worse by our increasingly individualistic culture.

We need I believe to recapture the togetherness of when Church is meant to be a family, yet some of us have become so institutionalised into the mould of ‘lone-ranger-vicardom’ that we need the help of this family, to help us learn another way, and another new normal.

We need for Church to become a safe place afresh which gives people the confidence to be vulnerable, because they are held in a place of love.

The problem at the heart of this, as with much in the Church culture, in pains and hurts which causes us to suffer on our own, and often in silence, which causes Church to become polite and even friendly. Yet as I have said before, I don’t want to be part of a friendly Church, but rather work out a way of being a Church where people can make friends in. After all at All Souls’ motto is “where strangers become friends and friends meet with Jesus”.

Perhaps the problem is that in Church people can be more likely to give you a piece of their mind than a piece of their heart.

Sadly we hear these horror stories of people professing to be Christians who…
#hurt one another…
#gossip about one another…
#(try) controlling one another…
#bicker with one another…
#running down one another…
#compete unhelpfully with one another…

All of which makes Churchless and less like the foretaste and outpost of heaven that it should be.

Is our behaviour more the first list or the second?

What do we need to change in us, to help our Christian Communities resemble the one perfect community of love which is at the heart of who God is when revealed as Father Son and Holy Spirit.

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community of grace, Discipleship, inclusion, love, welcome

What we are and What we should be…

Marg Simpson asked her son Bart if he had had a good time away at Church camp, he said “I had a great time learning to be more judgemental!”

Yesterday I put up on Facebook/Twitter a quote from Steve Chalke who said: “Church is designed to be a community of friends, where people are not judged, but loved, accepted and welcomed home”.

Yet someone asked a great question, what about 1 Cor. 5:12 “Expel the immoral believer”

The question I think is asking is there a place for ‘judging in the Church’?

Can judging ever be loving?

Or is this a misunderstand of love?

Billy Graham once said: “God’s job is to Judge, the Holy Spirit’s job is to convict and my job to love”. -Often the problem is when I try and do God’s job for him!

‘Love bade me welcome but I drew back full of guilt and shame’ wrote Hymn-writer George Herbert, just like the dad in the story of the prodigal son love welcomes in irrespective of past sin, so our Churches ought to welcome people no matter what.

Yet those who need love, grace and mercy most are those who fear our judgement and so stay away from the Community of Christ and that is a tragedy.

I remember being taught about how Jesus called people first to belong, then to believe and then they became disciples.

As I pondered this I was reminded by a quote by Philip Yancey “God loves us just the way we are, but he loves us too much to let us stay that way”.

As Church I believe we are called to be a community of grace, but also realise that Church is -or at least ought to be- a ‘transformative community’.

Zacchaeus began a dinner with Jesus as dishonest, unscrupulous crook and by the end of the meal was transformed giving away half his cash and repaying back four-fold those from whom he had stolen from. -In one conversation with Christ he went through the “belonging” – “believing” -and “becoming -a disciple”.

Shane Claiborne once said the problem with Church is we come and we sing “Just as I am, but the problem is we leave just as we were, and carry on as we always have”.

Church ought to be a community which loves and accepts us, irrespective of what we do, or don’t do (I believe) but yet it should never leave people unchanged, in fact it should be a community which inspires and spurs us on to me more Christ like.

Yet what we ought to be, and we actually are, aren’t the same thing!

The problem we have in our Churches is people come and be part of us and yet aren’t changed and transformed, and their behaviour carries exactly the same…and that is a tragedy.

Whilst I worked in rehab, I saw amazing gracious and long suffering love shown to many of the clients there, yet it was a tough love, it was a risk taking love, love isn’t always letting everyone do exactly as they want, after all, we love our children, but love isn’t letting them do exactly as they want.

As Church leaders, often we have to be ‘guardian of the culture’, which means ensuring that Church is a safe place for everyone and enabling people to flourish and grow, to do this will inevitable involve conflict, challenging conversations and heart break.

I remember as a youth worker, someone once asked, “are you prepared for your heart to be broken on a fairly regular basis?”

Yet I believe that to be the most Christ like Church this is by being a community of grace, with accountability and mentoring rather than a place that evicts sinners.

If we become a Church which habitually evicts sinners, I know I’m heading for the door, as I know I am a Vicar, but I am also a sinner in massive need of God’s grace.

I am reminded of Christ’s words which say “let him without sin cast the first stone”…

Yet alongside this, I also have a responsibility as an “under shepherd” to protect the sheep God has given us, and although I have had many a ‘sheep bite’ and am scared of what is called “heavy shepherding” sometimes we have to fight the cause of the broken, marginalised and disenfranchised (sadly too often Churches and clergy seem to side with the bully and the powerful and blame the victim, which is disgusting and again is a tragedy) but on those occasions we need sometimes to step in and sometimes, although it must break God’s heart, people walk different ways and paths.

The last resort, and never the first option.

…I believe too that, where possible doors must be left open, and people welcomed back with love and grace.

…Broken Church communities are not God’s plan, but then we live in a very fallen world which is not as God intended.

…Sometimes, Churches being full of broken people who makes mistakes and get things wrong and in that the community of Christ which is meant to bring healing end up causing hurt and that too is a tragedy.

When I think of what Christ calls us to be as Church, it makes me realise afresh how we can’t be this community without him empowering help…

So, somehow let us seek to be who we are called to be, and not what we sometimes sadly become… will you join me in the revolution of trying afresh to be the Church that Christ wants.

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community of grace, Godliness, inclusion, Journey, Luke 15, Romans 7, welcome

Not good enough for Jesus?

This isn’t what I was planning on writing about today, was planning to look at another one of Paul’s fantastic prayers, but this has been something birthing in me for a while…

And will probably get some people defriending me on facebook!

I believe that we called as Church to be a welcoming and loving community that points people to Jesus and says “Wow let’s follow him, can you help me? can I help you?” -(whilst praying together that God himself will help us).

All the way through the bible we see people with broken and messy lives flocking TO Jesus and yet 2000 years later these same people are running FROM Christ’s Church.

In his book ‘What’s so Amazing about Grace” Philip Yancey tell a story of someone whose really messed up, and when asked about getting help from the church her response was “I feel bad enough already, they’ll just make me feel worse”.

Someone yesterday told me a story of someone saying to her, “You are a Christian you must hate me because I am gay”, -makes you want to cry doesn’t it? We shouldn’t be hating anyone, and so sad that any group feels hated by the Church, when Jesus’ message is one of love.

I’ve been asked ‘can I come to Church even if I don’t agree with you on everything?’

The answer is “YES!” Of course, you are most welcome, in fact I might not be right on everything! Rather you came, thought, prayed and wrestled with scripture about what I say than just blindly accept it.

Ive traditionally thought of being a Church which calls people to belong, believe and then behave, but people don’t always live how we think they should even when they are Christians, in fact I’m a Christian and I don’t always live as I should.

Often we talk of “before I was saved I… ” Yet I don’t know about you, the things that tempted me before I was saved can still tempt me now!

Even as a Christian I can echo St. Paul who says in Romans 7, “the good I want to do I don’t do, and the wrong things I don’t want to do I do do” -the apostle Paul knew he wasn’t in some state of sinless perfection.

It seems sometimes we try pretend to the world that we are Christians that don’t struggle, aren’t broken, never tempted, don’t get confused (especially not about theology).

Seeming to want to project an image to the world of perfect toothed sortedness, yet the bible shows us God has broken people who screw it up, doubt, chicken out and get it wrong.

As Christians (especially those of us in leadership) I believe we need to model being “wounded healers”, people who are changed and transformed by being in Christ, and yet still human, still people in need of Gods grace, love and forgiveness.

I want a church that’s authentic.

I want to be real about my struggles, doubts, baggage, bruises and the sin that so easily entangles.

The problem is we often think if people don’t agree with me, they can’t be proper Christians.

Or perhaps they are doing things we don’t like…

Because I am pro ordination of women to all three dimensions of ministry (Deacons, Presbyters and Bishops) and therefore interpret some verses in Timothy different from other Christians somehow I’m not legit.

Because I believe Spiritual Gifts are for today, I’m not some-kind of pseudo-evanjellyfish-.

Others may ask questions around marriage, but that surely doesn’t make them not Christians it just means they have different opinions.

They might be wrong (I might be wrong)…

I was asked on Made in Bristol what I’d do if a gay person came into Church and I said something like “introduce myself and make them a coffee, which Is exactly what I’d do if a straight person came in too”.

I was reminded of a quote again by Philip Yancey that sometimes “it is easy to find sex on the streets than a hug in a Christian Church”!

The more I have thought about it, I have thought about the story of the kids coming to Jesus and the disciples trying to turn them away, I don’t want to turn anyone away who comes seeking Christ.

When I start become the doorkeeper and bouncer I need to remember the story or the Pharisee and the tax collector, when the Pharisee told God how good he was, and the tax collector just said “God have mercy on me a sinner”…

I do not want to be like the older brother in Luke 15, grumbling at the Father for his grace and loving kindness.

Or Jonah moaning about God not destroying the wicked people in Nineva…

The most repeated phrase in modern translations of the New Testament is “God opposes the proud but lifts the humble”.

The Bible keeps on confronting our stereotypes with God showing up to those the people of the day didn’t think God should be interested in, but he was.

Perhaps this is a time, to be honest with ourselves, realize we too are broken and sinful people, we aren’t good enough for Jesus, but he loves us anyway.

Let’s not be older brothers as in the story of Luke 15, but graciously love extravagantly and keep on pointing people to Jesus without judgement and finger pointing.

Now don’t get me wrong, holiness really matters, but as Billy Graham once said, “It’s the holy spirits job to convict, my job to love” -the problem is we sometimes try and do God’s job for him!

A friend talked of his Church being a “Community of Grace”.

At my licencing in Kingswood, the Archdeacon preached from the passage where the Greeks said “we want to see Jesus”, perhaps mission is making it as easy as possible for people to meet with Jesus, and what I have noticed when people meet with Jesus that encounter is normally transformative!

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