Authenticity, Discipleship, mentoring

Disciples that make disciples…

Often people talk a lot about “discipleship”, but I wonder if this is one of those terms, like mission, which is used a lot but everyone means different things about it.

Shane Claiborne talks about the massive difference that exists between a believer and a follower and for a long time our language in Church has been about being a believer.

A follower is someone who follows Jesus, so discipleship I believe is defined by movement, it’s a journey, things are changing, Jesus is not a static God standing still.

Yet for too long we have made discipleship all about our minds, about what we know, Christians bickering playing ‘top trumps with (often out of context) scriptures’.

Often we have made discipleship really passive come along and hear someone talk about the Bible and you’ll become a disciple through lots of listening passively.

The word that really annoys me is “so and so doesn’t feel fed”, firstly we all have responsibility for our own discipleship, Church together is meant to encourage each of us in our walk with God, but its the consumer mentality that says “what do I get?” rather than the more Christian “what do I bring?”

I don’t think the real problem with Church is a lack of teaching, we have Christian books published by the thousands, blogs -like this one- clog up the internet, there is always some great and good minor Christian celebrity doing the rounds -we have more information at our fingertips than any other generation, and yet we aren’t becoming more and more Christlike.

Sadly, it seems as though Christians just loop around their favourite Christian cul de sac, only buying books of people they already agree with, we don’t have real discipleship, just gathering people around us who reinforce our views.

I used to run an under 18’s nightclub, with a lot of young people who were Christians who helped run the club, I didn’t do lots of teaching, but they did have lots of conversations, I remember seeing one of the young people mopping up some sick once (completely unasked) and thought she had understood something deep and profound about the Kingdom of God, doing those blessed but unnoticed things for the sake of the Kingdom. we did share testimonies at the end of the evenings and some evenings were challenging (we were reaching out to some challenging young people) and we saw together highs and lows of ministry -which I think is more like the discipleship that Jesus had in mind, we learn by doing.

we grow by being self aware with the Holy Spirit and those we trust, those who are least spiritual mature are normally those who are least self aware and humble, because unless we can reflect upon ourselves authentically and honestly, we will keep doing what we were already doing.

I believe too we need more Godly mentors too, when I did youth work in Poole, most of us who were youth workers had either come from being schools workers led by this guy Danny Brown, or had come from a Youth Movement called the Farside led by this guy Simon Harwood.  Often much of the outreach that we did neither of these guys were about for, but their investment, time and energy probably underpinned most of the positive youth work in this area.

Yet on the whole the question I want to ask is where are the mentors? A question I often ask is “who is mentoring you?” and also ask “who are you mentoring?” Sadly too often the question is “no one”.

Sadly too often even when discipleship groups happen or people come to Church they hear a great load of Church history, or power-point maps, all of which has some interest, but often we lack the application, to our normal everyday life.

Too often our heads our filled, but what about our hearts?

Shane Claborne talks of Churches that come/sing “Just as I am”  but leave “just as they were” and behave like they always have.

Often too, with peoples behaviour is often the elephant in the room, we never have the courage to say, even gently -is this how Christians are meant to behave? (Unless it is about sex and then suddenly everyone seems to have a vocal opinion!).

So, lets re-discover real discipleship, discipleship where we are changed and transformed, where our lives don’t stay the same, and we learn through doing rather than just gorging on another podcast or having some lengthy theological conversation which is just self indulgent… Lets do it differently, and in doing so, I believe we might discover, we look, sound and act a lot more like Jesus.

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Church, Discipleship, mentoring, Ministry

Growing Younger

Growing younger seems to be the aim of everyone.

As Church this is actually our aim, it’s an aim which goes back to the very roots of our faith in Judaism, which talks on “one generation will tell another of the glories of the Lord”, and themes such as ‘passing on the baton’ resonate with what we see in Scripture.

The Book of Acts (in fact most of the Epistles too) speak of Jesus handing us his baton, passing his authority to each of us, who in turn passes it on to the next generation.

A business adage says “Success isn’t success without a successor”… Barnabas’ ministry was successful because S/Paul picked up the baton and ran with it, Paul did the same for Luke and Timothy… Over the centuries various people have done this right up until now, to the time when the baton has been handed on to us.

So, the question is are we handing this on to our children, and grandchildren.

I heard one person saying about Church “well, it’ll see me out!”, which is not the attitude of the Spirit of God, reaching out to every generation in turn so that they can know the wonders of God.

In our culture we have lost what it means to be mentored, and in turn to mentor.

Often, we worry about our jobs and roles which maybe we hold onto a little to tightly? It is easy to blame another generation for not wanting to do things our way. Yet I am often brought back to Saul trying to place on the young David his Armour and yet David and a new way for a new time.

The Ordinal talks about “Proclaiming Afresh for every generation” but in fact what we so often do is simple “proclaim again” for every generation.

Maybe we need to look at what is the dust of a by-gone age, and what are timeless spirit inspired truths that transcend generations.

So, today, what can we do to help “grow Christ’s Church younger?”

 

 

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Discipleship, Journey, Leadership, mentoring, Mission, Mission Shaped Church, paradigm shift, Spiritual Health, vocation

James Bond and Redundancy…

God’s been speaking to me a lot recently about redundancy, something I have never experienced but sadly a reality for many people who I live and serve amongst.

We often live as though its all about us, as if we are irreplaceable, and we will live/serve for ever… Yet even my Biblegateway verse for today challenges that…

“For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.” 1 Peter 1:24.

I re-watched the Bond film Skyfall over Christmas,  and made me realize they wouldn’t have been able to do a film like this if it wasn’t for those who have gone before, and rumours are circulating about a Bond actor taking over from Daniel Craig…

Jonathan Ross called Daniel Craig, the custodian of the role of Bond, a phase I liked, he doesn’t “own” Bond, but a dual responsibility both to safeguard the role and a responsibility to carry the franchise to the next generation, and yet someone else will take the series on after him maybe even to places as yet undiscovered, and unrealised.

The series was financially lucrative under Pierce Brosnan, and could have carried on in the same vein, many were sorry he left the role and for some he will always be ‘their’ bond, and yet if he hadn’t have left the series wouldn’t have had its reboot and wouldn’t have had its two biggest and most successful movies.

Okay, we may never be offered the role of playing Bond, James Bond…

Yet we are God’s people here as his Church for this generation, and like Bond there is a call to safeguard that which has been entrusted to us the good and unchanging news of Christ, yet we have to do more than just safeguard the role, we need to bring the good news of the Kingdom to a new generation. We might have to ditch things we like but become barriers to a new culture, or do things in ways we may find uncomfortable or alien to us… We may have to let go of the okay and the good, risking it all, for the best and the greater…

We need to see ourselves not as indispensable parts of the picture but simply custodians, links in a bigger chain of the picture of God’s call in this place… yet the question is will we leave the place better than when we found it?

I believe the call to pass on the baton is a continual call, we should always be looking for people to encourage, to hold things loosely knowing that they belong not to us but to Christ and not to cling on in an unhelpful way, in fact this clinging often leaves cracks and bruises where hands that should no longer have been holding it have hung on longer than they should.

I believe God is calling me, and us all, to look for redundancy, to lift other leaders up to take our place, to constantly be trying to do ourselves out of a job, so that we can pick up the next thing that God has for us, and then to do the same again.

I often wonder whether God has had amazing things for all of us, which we never get near picking up as we have never put down the first thing he gave us?

A journey where all things become new, cycles of fresh and new, where people are constantly being led on to new and deeper, the body of Christ is being strengthened and built up, as people (in Christ) end up doing (through him) more than they could ever believe possible.

Redundancy sounds scary, and it is, but in passing on batons our hands are free for the next thing God gives us

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Discipleship, Godliness, Journey, Leadership, mentoring, Mission, New Year, Spiritual Health, vocation

I get knocked down…

Last night we went out to a friend’s house who played something of a nostalgic playlist. One song that came on was Chuwumba’s “Tubthumping” with the refrain of “I get knocked down, but I get up again ‘cos nothing’s going to keep me down”.

As I chewed this over, whilst busting some stylish moves on the dance-floor, I was stuck by the profundity of this lyric as a new year anthem (although the original song is about getting wasted!).

Sadly 2017 probably will knock us down at some-point, there will be disappointments, pain, challenges and difficulties; the Bible puts it well “just as sparks fly upwards are people born to trouble” -yet often it is not what is thrown at us that is the issue but rather our response to it, how we deal with it, that will define 2017.

Do we let disappointments floor us?

Do we let pain take us out of the game?

Do we let challenges cause us to give up or give in?

Do we let difficulties cause us to descend into sin?

The Youth Worker, Mike Pilivachi, described “perseverance as a missing gift for today’s Church”, as too often we get knocked down but the problem is getting back up again isn’t something any of us find easy.

The Apostle Paul says in his letter to the Galatian Church “Do not grow weary in doing good for at the right time you will reap a (great) reward if you do not give up”.

There is a great verse in the minor prophets that says “Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.” Micah 7:8.

The question is simple “Where is God calling us in 2017” are we going to be faithful to that call, are we going to keep pursuing that call, despite the obstacles, challenges and difficulties?

I often feel like the New Year can feel like being the wrong end of the pitch with a rugby ball, and the whistle blows and we must run the length of the pitch with some hefty players trying to take you out of the game… Certainly this I think is the idea that the author of the book of Hebrews had when   talked in Chapter 12…

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart”.

Not a bad message to start the new year with.

My favourite story about being down but not out comes at the end of John’s Gospel when Simon-Peter thinks he is completely out of the game, he had run away, he had denied Jesus three times, and had returned to his life before meeting Jesus back at the fishing boat. Yet it was here in when Simon-Peter was down and at his lowest, this place of ‘back to square one’, that Jesus met him, and asked him the most important question of all time “Jesus: ‘Do you love me?’” reinstated him and gave him a new commission.

Simon-Peter had fallen big time, but he was raised back up by Christ is spectacular style.

The place of failure became the place of commission (or re-commission).

Whatever 2017 held for you, consider this to be a new start, a fresh page, a new beginning; perhaps you need to hear Christ asking you afresh the most important question “Do you love me?” -and lifting you from the ashes to your feet, brushing you off and saying “we’ve got work to do, want to join me?”

So, let 2017 be a year of getting ups, even if it is a year of knocks, a year of restorations even if it is a year of failing, a year of returns even if it is a year of disappointments.

Being knocked down is not fatal, but giving up makes it so.

Getting knocked down may be a tragedy, but getting back up is a victory.

Everytime we get back on our feet it is a victory for the Kingdom of God, as we say to Satan, I may get knocked down but I will rise back up again and I will continue what God has started within me.

Let 2017 be a year of victory, of keeping going, of perseverance against the odds, a year of the advancement of the Kingdom of God for the glory of Christ.

 

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Barnabas, Leadership, mentoring, Nurture, Risk and Change, welcome, wisdom

Barnabas style leadership.

“To impact a moment tweet, to impact a season preach, to impact a generation -Mentor a leader” writes Rick Warren of Purpose Driven Life/Church fame.

As I think about mentoring, my mind goes to Barnabas, not a character well known in the Bible, his name means ‘encourager’ -the idea of mentoring is by helping and encouraging a leader they get better and everyone benefits.

Barnabas -one of the great unsung heroes of the bible.

We know that Barnabas is a sacrificial guy he sells a field and lays the money at the apostles feet (some people reckon that he is the unnamed rich young ruler who walked away from Jesus as he loved his wealth too much, if that were so it is a beautiful picture of it being laid at the disciples feet for the sake of the Kingdom).

He takes a risk on S/Paul, gives him opportunities to share his faith (everyone else was too scared of S/Paul because of his horrendous past) yet the risk paid off.

Paul became a fantastic evangelist and apostle.

In the Bible we see the narrator (probably Luke)  change from writing  “Barnabas and Paul” to writing “Paul and Barnabas” (Acts 13) as Paul grew in spiritual maturity, confidence, gifting… going places far beyond Barnabas. 

Yet hen S/Paul began to excel, we see an amazing model of humility, Barnabas retreats quietly into the background. Echoes of John the Baptists statement about Jesus “I must decrease so he can increase”…

A great youth work quote is “to see our celling becoming their floor” -our wildest dreams their starting point-  

Paul mentoring the young Timothy, re-read Timothy and there is a real undercurrent of “step up to the plate and go for it”…

It is like a relay race, if Barnabas hadn’t taken a risk on S/Paul and S/Paul hadn’t done the same with Timothy, we might not be sitting here. 

Who is mentoring you?

-Are you humble enough to let people speak into your life positively? –It has to be done from a place of love.

“Iron sharpening Iron as one person sharpens another”. 

Who are you mentoring?

-Are you taking this responsibility seriously?

Are you enabling them to fly, or clipping their wings?

What happens when they over-take you in the race?  

Are you being mentored but not mentoring anyone? –sort it out, find someone to bless, encourage and support! 

Or mentoring without getting mentored? –find wise and Godly people and hang out with them, and invite them to speak into your life. 

If you are not being mentored and not mentoring anyone I would suggest that neither is God’s plan or best for you. 

Mentoring matters probably more now in the UK than any time since St. Augustine as we are (to quote Lord Carey) “nearly one generation away from extinction”… 

How can people be the leaders of the Church of tomorrow unless they are part of the Church of today?

I like the picture of passing on the baton, but interestingly statistics show that teams running relay races it isn’t normally the fasted who in, but rather those who manage the hand over best.

Too often when mentoring we keep hanging on to the baton and not letting our other leaders fly, or perhaps we just drop the baton and let someone else pick it up?

Perhaps we are being reluctant to take the baton that is being passed to us? Or perhaps we are inpatient and trying to snatch it from someone whose not finished with their race.

How can we receive and pass on well? –I believe at the heart of this all is the call to faithfulness in all things, a call afresh for our Churches to be filled with wisdom, or as the world calls it self awareness.

Too often we have a consumerist view of Church, where it is all about us and our needs and desires, but when we think of mentoring we realise that we are in fact custodians of the great truth of being the people of the Kingdom for a short season, and have been entrusted with a great treasure to pass on, yet we also have the privilege of standing on the shoulders of giants.

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Bravery, Colosians, Discipleship, Godliness, Leadership, mentoring, Mission, Mission Shaped Church, Paul, Paul's Prayers, prayer, Spiritual Health, vocation

Praying with Paul 1

2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

One of my favourite passages… Here Paul, a prisoner, isn’t simply praying (as most of us would) “GOD GET ME OUTTA HERE!”
Instead his heart is for God to be glorified.

He challenges the disciples to devote themselves to prayer, incIdently the word “devote” has the same root word as to “vote” (which has somehow been lost in our modern day political systems where we put a cross on a peice of paper ever 5 years) the idea is more about throwing your life behind your choice of how you live your life. Imagine if that was how we thought of voting, not just a tick in a box but throwing our lives behind now we think the world should be, voting everyday for the world we want to live in and for our children to live in.

This isn’t the polite Anglican intersessions some of us have become used to, here the idea of Praying as though your life depended on it.

The idea too of watching with thanksgiving is the idea of being expectant and grateful that God is at work in his world and too see him answer our prayers.

To often Christians pray with their eyes shut, praying not expecting to see God answer or move in the situation we are praying about… And when he comes through are we grateful? Or do we attribute it wrongly saying this like “that was lucky”?

So, what is Paul urging us to pray for? That people would hear the message of Gods good news of Christ crucified and resurrected.

It’s the message the world is literally dying to hear. Described in Phillippians as “the word that gives life”.

A message so powerful we need Gods help in handling it wisely.

A great picture of God going a head of us and opening doors for our message, which in fact is his message.

We as Christians partake in the mission of God, his mission, he’s the evangelist yet choosing to work through me and you his people.

God is setting up Divine appointments for us to bless and encourage us as we see people drawn to Christ through what he is doing in us.

I love Paul’s humility when he prays that he may ‘proclaim the message as faithfully as he should’.

God wants us to speak his words faithfully and in fact he promises to give us the words to say.

The prayer here shows a humbleness of heart which knows his need of Gods help in evangelism, this help he needs especially when chatting to people who aren’t yet Christians.

Paul realising he’s an ambassador of Christ, how he behaves will effect what people think of Jesus. Therefore he asks God to make him wise in his actions that any encounter he has will draw people to Christ.

Thr idea about being “seasoned with salt” is an interesting one.

Interestingly too much salt makes people sick -which is what happens when people go for it with evangelism unwisely, “zeal without wisdom is folly” (or foolishness the opposite of wisdom) but just enough salt makes people thirsty for the everlasting streams or springs of living water which can only be found in Christ.

This idea of being united and unified in Christ, being joined together in him through the proclamation of the gospel -which binds us all- where one suffers we all suffer and where one rejoices we all rejoice.

Let’s looks at Paul’s prayer, which I think only comes from heart that realises what actually ultimately matters, ordinary people coming to know Christ, his good news and awesome love for them.

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