Disappointment, Discouragement, encounter, Eternity, Evangelism, expectations, Fane Conant, Gospel, Message, obidience, Opportunity, Organic, Pioneer, pperseverence, Repentance, spontaneity, word -speaking/preaching/teaching.

Yesterday was a funny old day…

We have been doing a mission this weekend.

An evangelist friend of my Dad’s, Fane Conant, had come up to help us, following a brief chat I had at a evangelism/evangelist conference.

We started the mission with a small group of us gathered together on Hanham Mount -where John Wesley had preached to the Kingswood Miners-. The Kingswood Miners were considered to be the toughest and roughest of people, normally people fled from them, yet here we see a small group of Christians choosing to make them the priority. Following the actions of Christ that prioritised the marginalised, disenfranchised and ostracised. Yet here had been an incredible harvest that transformed not only Kingswood but also our nation, and the world.

“Lord we have heard of your fame, we stand in awe of your deeds renew them in our day” (Hab.3.) We prayed bold and audacious prayers nervously and worshipped, there were only 12 of us, and the city looked vast on the horizon as we sung in faith “greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city”.

The next day we had a Men’s breakfast, sadly a few of the not yet Christian days didn’t show up, and 3 out of my 5 Churches weren’t represented, there was about 13 of us, and we’d reserved 30 places, so Fane’s presentation happened to rows of empty seats, although lots of people in the pub must have over heard the presentation too.

The next event was meant to be a coffee morning, but as I arrived no one else was there, not a single person had turned up. I felt bitterly disappointed. There were some guys in the hall painting. These guys were on Community Payback (the new name for probation).

Then an idea hit me, although God had probably been shouting it for a while, why didn’t I get Fane to talk to the Community Payback guys?

Swallowing hard and trying to appear chilled, I asked if Fane might be allowed to speak to the guys, talking about how his life had been turned around, message of hope and inspiration and I carried on in this vein.

The supervisor said “yeah, I’ll bring them all in”.

Fane (being wise) stopped him and said “you do realise I’ll be explicitly Christian?” (At this point I was expecting the guy to change his mind, and had already in a faithless way prepared my “well at least we tried” speech). The guy grinned and said “I don’t mind, I’m a Sikh by the way”.

So, here we were 8 guys sat around listening to Fane speaking about how Jesus turned around his life.

The last two talks Fane had done had been amazing, but here there was an even greater sense of God’s anointing, as Fane preached the Gospel in a wonderful and faithful way.

At the end Fane prayed a prayer and asked others to say it in their hearts, and then wandered around chatting to the guys, it turned out that two lads prayed the prayer giving their lives to Christ and are keen to be followed up.

Others were asking really deep, real hungry questions to Fane, Paddy and myself, the conversation fizzles and crack with God’s hand upon it.

As I left to take a wedding and Fane and a guy Harry from our Church went to chat to people on the High Street (and saw another guy come to faith)…

I smiled as I thought God is on the move, he is turning up in unexpected places, but he’s drawing people to himself, and what a privilege to join in with that.

Church, Organic

Have we made it all too complicated?

I have been in rota meeting where we have spent hours, literally hours, sorting out who speaks when and what about.

I remember getting ordained and the ‘dress rehearsal” took ALL morning -do you really need a hours of choreography to get someone to pray/commission you?

I have seen people spend days getting orders of services written, printed, folded etc for one hour service…

I have been in Churches where the sound check can take hours getting every mic just right.

Although I think we shouldn’t necessarily be ‘slap-dash’ about worship and our time shared together, sometimes we make it all too complicated?

Maybe -especially in this election tide- we need to get “back to basics” and re-discover what it really means to be gathered together as the family of God in the fellowship of believers.

Does Church have to be such a big event taking up so much heavy duty time and effort?

Does the work we put into a service show reflected in the transformative effect in real peoples lives day by day?

I have been thinking about the Israelites following God using their portable tabernacle housing the ark of the covenant, they followed God where his presence was, and yet know we have stopped moving and turned the tabernacle into stone Temples.

Church was never meant to be an event, nor worship like a show, the Church was never meant to be run like a business and the local leaders were never meant to act like company CEO’s.

Sometimes I think Churches choke with beaucracy, like David in Saul’s armour unable to fight because the baggage of a past culture.

There are some people who seem to get more excited about Canon Law than about Scripture! (Sadly true!).

I was thinking about Church when it is all boiled down to its core components it is just a group of people who love Jesus trying to following and helping one another to do this better.

Church was never meant to be an event.

Following Jesus wasn’t meant to be about a stack of committee meetings that meet regularly but achieve little, and filling in rota’s, endless maintaining buildings and back and forth email chains that seem everlasting…

I long to see Church being organic and about the over-flow of what God is doing and saying to us.

I long to see Church being family not a business.

I long to see our lives less complicated and being about loving Jesus, when you are in love nothing is too much trouble and you automatically adjust your priorities around your heart.

I wonder how many committee meetings the Holy Spirit feels excluded from? How many of our meetings cause the Holy Spirits heart to stir or the demons heart to sink?

Or amid the stuff of Christendom have we lost what it means to have a real authentic and vibrant relationship with Jesus.

A challenge is we stripped away all the stuff we currently do and just ‘hung out with God’ how much everything would change? I reckon if we soak in God’s presence we would be fuelled to his our lives his way.

If we soak in God’s presence, there is something wonderful in our lives and it becomes contagious -I want what you’ve got! Iron sharpening iron.

I wonder what is we learned to simplify everything and just sought God and his heart, long to be in his presence and be transformed by that encounter. Soaking in his presence and blessing and encouraging one another, our brothers and sisters in Christ, our Christian family.

I don’t know how we can make it all a bit simpler, but I long to drop the shackles of yesterdays armour and see people liberated from the millstone of Christendom to drink the sweet new wine of the Kingdom of God and the intimacy of God.

Authenticity, Intentional, Organic

Intentionally Organic.

I was at a conference recently and a (fantastic) guy was being interviewed about the great stuff he was doing and he said “we’re very simply…” and he went on to cram in a list of about half a dozen buzz words from the world of Church planting.

Two favourite words I hear quite often are “Organic” and “Intentional” but they are often used to mean totally opposite things.

Organic means letting things grow naturally, develop how they will, seeing how it goes, a more sort ‘fasten your seat-belt and go where the ride takes you, and we aren’t quite sure where the end point is and how it will look when we get there’. Very much the missional model Jesus had when he sends out the 72 with no Alpha DVD’s in their ruck sac’s or why Jesus’ in their back pockets, no plan to build a stadium or with a worship leader already appointed with a guaranteed contract and salary for two years.

Whereas being intentional isn’t a model of “jump in and see what happens” but is a much more deliberate, planned and calculated, it’s not a reckless approach but one which is wise and asking the question “what can I do strategically to make the most fruitful Kingdom impact with the time and resources I have”.

It’s a model which doesn’t get blown around all over the place, or distracted from the central calling.

This model means you are looking for an opening to talk about Jesus, you are alert and trying to see the opportunities to introduce people to Jesus and to make disciples. You have a vision of what you want to see happen, how you would like the future to look (or how you believe God is calling you to shape the future) and how you envisage getting there.

The Apostle Paul was a pretty intentional guy, check out how he went to places with the express aim of talking about Jesus.

The danger with some organic missional stuff is it never actually quite gets around to you know talking about Jesus, and the group/community does its stuff but is it really producing global Christ-like disciples?

The danger with some intentional stuff, is we are too proscriptive and we don’t follow the spirit and listen to the community enough.

Yet I am wanting to be ‘intentionally organic’.

Taking the best from both.

In fact one phrase which our college used to say (or over say) was “hold that in tension” -often this is a silly way of ignoring a contradiction- but on some occasions (like this) the two seemingly opposing truths pull together, rather like an archers bow, and it is the tensions between the two truths that creates its power and its pull.

Yet when we are intentionally organic we are going into communities seeking out the people of peace, looking for the opportunities to build community, finding out where God is already at work and joining in. It’s putting something new into the DNA mix. It is altering the ingredients in the recipe.

Yet it is organic enough to evolve with the community, it’s not turning out ‘cookie cutter’ churches all resembling each other, it doesn’t know the end of the journey before it’s beginning, other than the desire, intention and corresponding action that something of heavens Kingdom is planted here amongst these people.

It is like the first night joining a new band with an instrument they’ve not had before and having a jam (maybe playing jazz, see previous blog) and as we improvise together somehow we create new music and new harmonies, but as you are tuning up no one quite knows how it is going to go, but there is an intention that together journeying will produce something hitherto not seen before.

It is the tension between all mission and ministry which is both proactive and reactive, always arriving and always departing, it is the double listening to God and the community, it is learning to be in step with the spontaneous spirit of God who is somehow a God of order rather than chaos.