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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Falibility, Guidance, Humanity, Humility, Nurture

Teachability…

An advert read “Complete Encyclopaedia Brittania for sale, teenage daughter knows everything!”

We live in a world where don’t like to be taught things.

We don’t like to admit we don’t know stuff.

We don’t like to be wrong.

We don’t like to feel ill informed, or worse misinformed.

We are a world of experts (because after all we all have a Google app on our phones). –

We don’t like the power dynamic of being told what to do. In fact one of the phrases often used in arguements is “you can’t tell me what to do!”

Perhaps this is why many of us blokes won’t even ask directions when we are lost “maybe we’ll find a short cut!” we say in a way that convinces no one, probably not even ourselves.

Yet teachability is a wonderfully underrated gift, it shows a beautiful humility, a world view that seeks to grow, go deeper and learn.

There is an old saying that “everyone we meet has something to teach us” -I think this is true, and in the Christian tradition we believe God himself can speak to us through often the most unusual of ways.

The question has never been, can God speak, but rather are we ready and willing to listen to him? And if we do hear him, will we harden our hearts? The (slightly crazy) prophet Ezekial speaks of God giving us a heart of flesh -tender meat- rather than that of stone, so that our hearts can hear his voice speaking to us, saying our name, calling out to encounter him in all we encounter.

Will we allow him in to these situation? Jesus stands at the door of our lives, knocking, waiting to be invited in to each and every situation, but does not force himself in, it’s the wise and teachable thing to hear and heed his knocking on the door.

Stephen Fry described himself once as endlessly curious, I love this image of a great intellect being caused by not giving up, thinking we have life, the world and the universe sorted… Seizing the moment and seeing what we can learn from it, what God can teach us from it, are our hearts open, are our ears unblocked.

Learning, especially in our journey of faith, is a destination we never reach, there is always more of God and more of his wonderful creation that we can discover if our eyes and hearts are soft enought to keep looking, seeking and discovering. -let’s be endlessly hungry for more? The biggest problem is with discipleship is we think we are there, or at least nearly there, and we fosilize, get satisfied and cease to be hungry.

Jesus used an example of discipleship of a little child, children are hungry for knowledge and full of awe and wonder I think to “grow up” and loose this is a tragedy.

Do we have this childlike faith?

Are we prepared to admit we don’t know stuff, or we could do things a better way? I have had to swallow my pride on occasions and admit that I’ve been wrong, and although not easy at the time can also be wonderfully liberating (maybe an example of “the truth setting you free?”)

Are we better at telling people what to do, rather that asking the insightful question and making the better choice? Are we inviting Jesus to speak into our lives and situation, expectant of him shaping and moulding us. Is the image of God as the potter one which is an actual reality in our lives or an empty theological image?

Another proverb says “in life we have a choice we either get better or bitter” -bitter is so much easier, but to learn lessons from the harder knocks life gives us will shape us, and form us.

In fact as everything we face we face it with our Heavenly Father, and every experience we encounter we can take to him, and ask what we can learn together through our experiences, using all we face to learn more of us, more of hIm, and to use our experiences to help shape us to be the people that God wants us to be. Allowing him, by his Spirit, to use all we face to fashion us into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ. When the pain and struggle strike, we need to invite God in, and take the negative and see God redeem, restore and reshape it and us for his glory. When life throws stuff at us, are we teachable? Can we use the bad and redeem it for good?

This idea of being people seeking to be transformed by God ought to mean that CHristians are the most self aware of people, yet sadly we all know that this often sadly isn’t the case…

Self awareness however is key for our discipleship, knowing ourselves, seeing ourselves as we really, but in the security of being loved and held by our Heavenly Father, who helps us to become the us we can, should and ought to be in and through him.

As I blogged yesterday about mission/evangelism and wondered too whether the call to greater self awareness would transform our the outreach we do, and our self awareness would transform our Church Communities too. Self awareness stems from a teachable spirit.

So, in our lives, in the situations we face and the people that we meet are we able to learn the lessons we need to learn, not missing the opportunity to be shaped more like Christ, becoming the people we were originally created to be.

So, let’s take the challenge to ask God to help us become more teachable, humbling ourselves as we open our ears, hearts, minds to him in surrender.
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Discipleship, Nurture

Tend…

Today I have been chatting with Allana’s brother, who is involved in forestry and landscaping and has worked clearing plants like Japanese knott weed from the countryside.

This stuff is pretty hardcore, if it starts growing in your garden and you don’t deal with it, this plant can grow through concrete and bring houses to the ground and is difficult to kill, if even a tiny little bit of the plant is left it can spaw and return as strong and deadly as it was before.

This stuff causes people to panic, understandably so, and so they employ guys like Dillon (Allana’s brother) to clear it away. Paying out cash for a massive clear out, yet what they don’t seem to want to pay for is the less glamourous job of ‘tending’ the land, checking no little Japanese Knott Weed remains and begins to flourish again… Clearing it once is not enough, it will return, instead the ground requires careful tending, looking at the ground carefully and make sure nothing remains, and any glimpses rooted out instantly.

It made me think of some of the tragedies I witnessed whilst doing a placement in rehab, people with wonderful recoveries and beautifully transformed lives crashed by just one small drink which led them back spirrelling out of control.

The conversation moved on from Knott Weed to another crazy plant, this one puts some form of enzyme into the soil which stops anything else growing there for about three years, he pointed to the side of the mountain which was mainly rock and soil and said “that’s why happened there”… Then he pointed out a seemingly innocuous and innocent looking bush and said “they must have missed that bit”.

A gardener removing this plant not only has to keep on rooting it out, but patiently wait until the soil is detoxified enough for other plants to grow there.

So often we want instant turn around, quick fixes, rip out some weeds and the garden will be back blooming again in no time, but God is into long term and long lasting change.

God doesn’t just want to remove the weeds but he wants the soil to be restored.

As I thought about this it reminded me of my character where I will gave a blitz on something and completely tidy up, but inch by inch things return to normal. Although not a fashionable thing to blog about that is why we need spiritual discipline, not just the occasional blitz but a daily tend.

With our spiritual lives, sometimes we have this great dreams of a different life and many good things we aspire to do, but despite our good intentions and maybe some short term encouraging signs sadly it isn’t long before we are back as we were before, often not because we slip away from God in some noisy row, but rather we slip away from God in inches, we don’t tend our spiritual lives and our good intentions don’t produce the fruit we would like.

So let’s be people who tend our lives, uprooting those things that will grow and entangle us and pull us away from Christ.

Yet rather than just watching our lives and uprooting sin, I was struck by another picture this evening of my mother in law tening the fire… Keeping it burning, when flames dipped a little she kept on putting on another log, tending the fire, keeping it burning. Again very easily to leave it for a little bit and the fire fades out and dies down, but to tend the fire requires patience, commitment and attentiveness.

So, what of us today?

Is there an area of our lives that needs tending?

Are their areas where we know we have a predisposition and weakness?

How do we stop unhelpful behaviours that shipwreck our faith to resurface even as small plants?

What does ‘tending’ look like in your quest for Holiness?

What of the fire picture?

Rather than just avoiding sin -important though that is- how do we tend to the positive things that help us stay on track and on fire in our relationship with God?

What can we do today to tend to the positive things we need to go to keep our faith alive and vibrant?

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Bravery, Gender Roles, Nurture

Fiesty Birds… A Mothering Sunday Blog!

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing
Last year I spoke about ‘Feisty Birds’ on Mothering Sunday, and I said we often take some of these feminine images to be very gentle and a bit twee.
 
 I remember when I was courting Allana coming face to face with a swan, it saw us as a threat and was angry we were on its territory, we had  to back away pretty carefully.
 
Swans and Wild Geese are ferocious! You don’t mess with them, especially when they have young. -Its not a tame picture as we often think. 
The image of the ‘Wild Goose’ in the Celtic tradition is often viewed as a picture of the Holy Spirit…Something at the heart of nature protects, shields with self sacrificing bravery for those we love.
I love CS Lewis portrayal of Jesus as the lion, Aslan… A great quote “safe, of course he’s not safe, but he is good”.
I then began to explore the way we define what are male and female character traits and suggested that actually nature itself shows that women can be warriors,  full of courage and bravery and yet these roles within the Church we don’t consider feminine… Perhaps we need to discover afresh the heroines of scripture such as Deborah or Rehab?
 
It also debunks the myth of nurturing and compassion as ‘weak or feminine’ -you wouldn’t call a protective swan weak would you!!
We often don’t celebrate the brave and courageous side of faith, we forget that heroes such as Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandella and Martin Luther King Junior are some of the bravest (but non violent) people we have seen in recent history…
We often make Jesus out to be a bit soppy ‘gentle Jesus meek and mild’ but forget that he probably avoided a stoning probably most days of his preaching ministry, was nearly murdered after his first sermon and drove tax collectors and traders from the temple single handedly…
Our Churches and our world desperately need to encounter afresh Jesus from the Gospels rather than this weird distort of him which often exists within the mind of our society.
But before we end up going crazy and tell everyone to eat raw steaks and growl at everyone, it is worth re-claming that beautiful and nurturing side of this image (and just think how massively counter cultural this was for a rabbi to align himself with feminine imagery!).
Jesus was the very embodiment of compassion, showing  humility in washing feet and being crucified, definitely offering no defense when questioned… showing emotion when crying over the city of Jerusalem…
You see I think as guys we need to reclaim compassion, kindness, gentleness as not signs of weakness but signs of simply being human, just as bravery and courage aren’t male traits but again traits of being human).
 
Perhaps we should nail our views of gender roles to the cross of Christ and let our understanding of what it means to be human to be found in Christ and not in social expectations and history…
What shapes our identity? So much of it is a culture which doesn’t really understand itself, let us be shaped not by other peoples expectations or silly inherited stereotypes but in being like the only human being ever to have a handle on humanity, Christ himself.
So let us not let the world squeeze us into its mold, but throw of all that hinders and entangles so that we might run the race set before us… being Alien Ambassadors, that leave the world scratching their heads at our strange existence, but in living this different way others may see Christ in us.

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