Encouarge, Endurance, faithfulness, Intentional, inter-dependance, Journey, Life Together, Ministry, Mission, Partnership, presence, Self Care, Spiritual Health, Strength

Running Mates…

Yesterday I met up with my old prayer triplet from college, most weeks we would meet up, and chat and pray for each other and all that’s going on in our lives, and since college we have kept on meeting up (so I guess we’re on our 13th year!).

It is good to share with other people who are running a similar race to you, to remind you that the gospel and the Kingdom is best served lived out and proclaimed faithfully day in and day out alongside real people who don’t yet know Jesus.

we need friends that will encourage and inspire us.

we need people that help us stay focused on Jesus, we need people to help lift us up when we fall, and support us when our confidence gets knocked (and sometimes our confidence gets knocked in him too). we need others to keep us on track.

I have been working in various Churches and Christian organisations now for 20 years, and as I look back God has placed some truly wonderful people around me at various stages of my journey. we need one another. The Christian life can be a lonely one and we need those people to spur us on, to encourage us to keep going, to run the extra mile, to reach for the prize, to not quit but go on for the gold.

we need friends to pick us up too when we fall down, to support us when it is tough.

we also need friends to be honest with us, sometimes (and this needs to be the right people in the right context) be brutally honest.

we need to at times “confess your sins to one another so you maybe healed”, and I know from experience that I find being vulnerable difficult and the acute shame when I’ve messed up is wonderfully relieved when shared with a brother in Christ.

It takes courage to be vulnerable, I remember in Poole I was in a lads prayer group and we’d been meeting for a while, and then one of the guys admitted that he’d been struggling with lustful thoughts, and all of us admitted we did too. Yet none of us had been brave enough to say this, and we were in an accountability group.

Later when I was at college I discovered one of my theological heroes, Dietrich Bonhoffer, who talked about two fellowships “the fellowship of the righteous” and the “fellowship of sinners”, the first the fellowship of the righteous where we all pretend to be fine, sorted and stiff upper lip. whereas the fellowship of the sinners, is being honest about the struggles and the strains of our walk with Jesus.

It is so easy to let one another off the hook and keep everything nice and superficially pleasant, but then we don’t grow in our faith, we get stuck and stagnate, and don’t become all that Christ wants us to be.

It feels scary and risky admitting the things we struggle with, and I can’t guarantee that every Christian grouping will respond well or appropriately when we share, because when we share it challenges them too, and as people we know that going deeper is good for us, but being shallow is less costly and painful.

Yet God rejoices when Christian communities go deeper.

If Churches are not changing lives than why are we opening our doors?

we need to be people that have one another’s backs, and hold one another in prayer “because your enemy, the devil, wanders around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour”.

It is a tragedy that in our individualistic, consumerist and complacent culture that sadly has crept into the Church that we want people to have our backs and pray for us, but are we doing that for someone else.

A great question is “have you got a mentor?” but it should be followed by the question “and who are you mentoring”.

If I ever get to be on an interview panel for a Christian job one of the questions I’d ask is who are you accountable too, how regularly do you see them, and how ruthlessly honest are you?

we are called to bring the best out in one another, but that does mean challenge and sometimes conflict. I love the verse “iron sharpens iron as one person sharpens another” but I am reminded that when iron sharpens iron there are often sparks that fly off and it can be perilous.

If someone asks you to pray for them as they go into a tricky situation for them, not only pray for them, but check up and see how they got on, and if they have asked to be accountable then be full of love and grace but seek to bring light and truth into situations.

The problem is all this sounds good in theory, but to put it in place isn’t easy, and then to set the level that actually gets a real and authentic honesty is hard, and also trust takes time to be built up too.

Yet this is what I feel Church ought to look like.

I remember talking about my time working in rehab and seeing how people were so honest with each other, how they were ruthlessly blunt too with their questions and also wonderfully loving and gracious -and saw peoples lives changed and transformed.

Too often I think we think of discipleship as being able to regurgitate Bible verses (and it is good to know scripture) but actually what we want and long to see in our own lives and the lives of our Church family is real, lasting, deep change at the core of our being, that we become healed, restored and shaped into all that God wants us to be. Sounded more spiritual has some benefit but it cannot be at the cost of the true business of the Church which is Kingdom transformation.

we need one another, and they need us. The Africans have a proverb “it takes a village to raise a child”, and I think that is true spiritually too, it takes a village to raise a follower of Christ, we need one another to be all that Christ wants us to be.

So the question we need to ask ourselves is how can we be real, honest and vulnerable?

Are we brave and courageous to seek the help and support of others?

People say “I don’t need to go to Church to be a Christian” firstly we don’t go too Church we are the Church, but the truth is that people need us, and we need them, and God has placed other people around us as a gift, a wonderful resource to bless us, and us them.

So, lets gather our running mates, and keep on running together, discovering that running in a team helps make us faster and travel further and more quickly than we could do on our own.

“let us not forsake meeting together, but let us spur one another on towards love and good deeds, ever more as we see that day approaching”.

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Church, inter-dependance, Leadership, Unity

Team God

In the world of football, Bill Shankly -former Liverpool Manager-, used to win the league and each year, each year he would bring a in new people and retire successful ones, seems like crazy strategy yet his justification was “if I don’t do this we won’t win the league”.

Investing in people results in investing in the future.

Alex Ferguson’s genius was he was able to spot and nurture young talent and people of potential and bring them into the team. Without his eye for young talent the world might not have come to hear of David Beckham.

This should be a great picture of the Churches Ministry, continually investing in the next generation coming up, taking risks on young people and giving them opportunities in the squad and on the pitch.

Too often our human natures settle for what we have, rather than what we could have. We forget that so often when we stop pushing forward we end up drifting into reverse.

Leicester City, won league, but this was a bit of a blip as they now face relegation.

Although it is true they have lost a key player in their team.

I remember in the late 90’s when millions of pounds of expensive players were put in the Chelsea squad but although they had great and expensive players it took a while before they became a great team.

A team is not just a collection of gifted individuals, but rather the contribution of everyone produces something greater than just the individual components.

Some research was done into relay races, rarely is it the fastest group of individuals who win the race, but rather it is how well they manage the transition of the baton that causes them to win or to lose.

Church is God’s team for the world.

You and I are the Church, how do we work together to bring the best out of each other for the good and glory of Christ’s Kingdom being made manifest in his world.

Sadly, too often the Church in the west often we behave like a random collection of individuals, all doing our own thing, oblivious to each other. Often when a key person moves on, they Church really struggles, and things begin to grind to a halt.

I wonder with Church do we hang on too tightly to people and not let them move on from us to the next thing we have in store, although often we feel brutally pruned, for them and the Kingdom it could be the right move? Causing those in their shadow to emerge and flourish.

I wonder too as Church do we let people who have gifts that aren’t fully developed to can bud and to flourish, often these will only grow when due to God’s pruning they feel needed.

Do we work as a team to grow people in their gifts and enable them to flourish and thrive?

I have been struck with our Street Pastors teams that often people have been worried about talking about their faith on the streets and yet have seen as they have been part of a team, they have grown in confidence and flourished, some now who were nervous at the beginning are now leading the teams and encouraging other new recruits to ‘find their voice; in mission and evangelism.

As Church leaders, we want solid and constant growth and advance, but growth and life ebbs and flows often is season, sometimes we feel reduced, struggling and uncomfortable, which precipitates growth and Kingdom advance.

As I think of the whole pruning image, is a helpful image, as although short term the tree will keep going, eventually it becomes overgrown and unable to produce the fruit the tree is capable of.

As I read that uncomfortable passage in John’s Gospel, which talks of the branches which do not produce fruit being cut off, and those which do produce fruit are pruned. Pruning is inescapable.

The Gooseberry bush thrives best when literally its ‘heart’ is cut out, pruned back in such a way it looks as though it looks like it is fatal -and sometimes that is how it feels- but in doing so the bush buds again with a bumper crop.

This is a wonderful organic image, that is not about ‘keeping the show on the road’ but rather about investing in the future, a step of faith constantly leaving our comfort zones to invest in the (yet unseen) future.

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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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5 Fold Ministry -Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers (Eph. 5), brokenness, comparisons, Humility, inter-dependance, Leadership, Life styles, Pride, vocation

Too Much Testosterone…

“Which of the five-fold ministries are you?” I was asked this morning at morning prayer.

The Five Fold Ministries, are “Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teachers”, it is a fascinating question!

Are we all just one of these?

Can we be more than one or is that greedy?

Do I operate in all five on different occasions?

Or is that just vanity thinking I could be incompetent?

Then I thought a bit more about each of these and think these words can mean vastly different things to different people?

I’ve blogged before about how I worry that I see too much of Christian leadership lacks humility and has a smugly superior swagger, something I don’t see in the ‘first shall be last’ Leadership, often looking more like Alan Sugars boardroom than Jesus washing his disciples’ feet in the upper-room.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase “hurt people hurt people” which is true we are all broken people and often our brokenness has jagged edges that cuts both ourselves and those who come close to the area of that brokenness.

Yet too often our brokenness doesn’t just manifest itself in sitting on our own in a coffee bar crying into our latte, but in all sorts of behaviours.

I was talking to someone who said something fascinating “I don’t think I am arrogant, but I know I am deeply insecure”, but the insecurity often shows itself in massively competitive ways.

We often forget that a wise person once said “comparison is the thief of joy” and yet particularly the apostle, prophet and evangelist can end up engaging is a silly one-upmanship, which actually discourages all of them, talking themselves up and others down, because they want to appear successful.

Yet as Mother Teresa said “we aren’t called to be successful only faithful”.

It is a bit like running a race, if you can’t run forward when looking back.

The Pastor often can be guilty of ‘needing to be needed’ they need me, the danger to run in as a ‘Saviour leader’ where we want to come in like James Bond and save the day, forgetting that we already have a Saviour that doesn’t need replacing. The danger is for those of us with a Pastors heart is that we can fall into the trap of thinking “I’m important because I’m needed” rather than knowing we are valuable simply by being a beloved child of God.

Again, the teacher is often guilty of the same ‘needing to be needed’, yet like all teachers the kids graduate, they want to not just know about stuff they actually want to be doing it themselves. The teacher can fall into the trap of thinking “I’m important because I know stuff you don’t” and yet it often is a matter of time when they over-take us and they know stuff we don’t and suddenly our roles become reversed and we become the pupil.

If you are the Apostolic type, how do you react when someone else has a better and an easier idea?

If you are the evangelistic type, how do you feel when someone else discovers their gift and has great chats about Jesus.

If you are prophetic, how do you feel when someone else has a ‘spot on word for someone’.

If you are a Pastor, how do you feel when someone goes to someone else and not you?

If you Teacher, how do you feel when your pupil teaches you something?

The interesting thing I think is what we ‘ought’ to feel and what we ‘actually’ feel can be two very different things.

Often our insecurity ties us down and limits both our gifting and our effectiveness and fruitfulness in that gifting.

The heart I believe of ‘losing the testosterone’ is knowing our true identity in Christ, knowing our dependence not on our abilities but on his provision and grace, knowing that we are unique and our calling is different from those around us.

It is about an understanding of being part of God’s team and about building a Kingdom not our own empires, it is about Christ at work in us not just through us.

Let’s see ourselves as precious and part of the wider team of God, where our gifts and our weakness combine together with other peoples’ gifts and weaknesses to create something beautiful.

The heart of much of our problem is our self-sufficiency, this idea that ‘we can do it on our own’ which is actually not only unbiblical but a fallacy.

We need one another, and they need us, we are not created for independence but interdependence.

The question actually at its heart is asking about how we can work together where we maximise our strengths and minimise the weaknesses so that we can see the most fruitfulness of the glory of Christ in the lives of those we serve.

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Discipleship, identity, incarnation, inter-dependance, Mission

The RNLI tractor

Today I’m on holiday, and we visited a beach in a placed called Cricketh, it was high tide and we saw the RNLI boat being towed out to the sea by a tractor who enabled it to sail of to where-ever it had to go.

It made me think a bit about the body of Christ, the tractor driver is probably the most unglamourous job in the RNLI but without him and is tractor the people who can help and the people in need remain unconnected.

A reminder that everyone is needed within the body of Christ, and without many of the roles we often don’t even think of, often are crucial for the body to function.

Earlier today I picked up one of my mother in laws books about “Scientists and Seers”, which was talking about individual cells which make up our body, when isolated they self destruct, but thrive when they are connected with other cells. A powerful image of interdependency from the smallest component part of our human anatomy, at the heart of our DNA is woven together to function collaboratively.

Yet so often Churches are passive with a small minority of people doing all the work, Nicky Gumbel joked at attending a football match, where he saw 2000 people who could do with doing more excersize watching 22 people who could really do with a break…and said that this sadly was how many Churches feel.

Anyway, back to the RNLI tractor… I began to think of being the unseen link in the chain of bringing help to those who are in need of rescuing, getting the boat to the water, and thought this is a wonderful picture of evangelism, being those who gently (and maybe part of a long unseen chain) bringing the saviour to people in need.

Perhaps too we are called to to be the tractor from the life boat station, accross the sand and rocks, to the sea, after all many life boat stations filled with all its blessings and resources remain remote and inaccessable without the person enabling that relational bridge to happen of connecting Christ and his Church with the people he loves.

So let’s embrace the RNLI tractor, the small but vital link in the chain, the one through whom act as a bridge from a hurting and dying world and a wonderful saviour can meet and be saved.

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