Kingdom, Mission, Mission Shaped Church, paradigm shift, perspectives, vocation

Unique people working our a unique call in a unique context.

We started our short Mission Shaped Intro Course yesterday, and we ended up speaking about our own uniqueness.

We all are made differently, I have often looked at other Church leaders and other evangelists and thought “I wish I was more like them!”, often too we have looked at different areas and opportunities and thought “I wish God had placed me somewhere different”.

Yet the “one who calls us is faithful, and he will do it”.

We are called to live by faith and not by sight.

The question in the Christian life has never been “what is everyone else doing?” but rather “what is God calling me to do?”

Taking a step of faith is very different from jumping on the bandwagon.

As human beings we are great ‘cherry pickers’, we see an idea that works somewhere else, or a methodology we like the sound of, and try and ‘shoe-horn’ it into our context. As though what works else-where can simply be transposed somewhere else and have the same results. Yet, I believe, God isn’t into formulas like this =otherwise I think Paul’s letters would read very differently- the question is not “how has this worked elsewhere” but rather “what is God calling us to do here” and are we being faithful to that call.

What is the Spirit saying to us as a collection of Church Congregations seeking the advancement of the Kingdom of God here locally must be the biggest and most important question we can ask.

“If the Lord does not build the house then the Labourers labour in vain”, we see that Jesus (who “only did what he saw his Father doing?”) doing ministry differently from how he was in Samaria to how he was in Jerusalem to what he did in Nazareth. Jesus didn’t think ‘one size fits all’ -so why do we? -Interestingly, contrast the missional technique between Peter and Paul when they spoke evangelistically (Peter in Acts 2, Paul in Acts 15).

Just imagine if Paul -a former Pharisee- tried to mimic Peter -a former fisherman- it wouldn’t work because God was calling them as them to minister into the context to which God had called them.

I think as human beings we are often scared and fearful, we dislike uncertainty and want the promise of “sure-fire” results, God’s ways might sound more risky and more of a step of faith than down-loading the latest resource from a mega0church, but yet it is only through obedience to God that we will see the full fruitfulness of that which we long too see.

The problem is we often think that “so and so” would probably do a much better job if they were here than I have.  The problem (says James Lawrence) “is that we compare our blooper reel with someone else’s highlight reel”, our comparisons are often negative towards ourselves, often when we feel weak and ill-equipped often that means we aren’t relying on our own giftedness rather relying on Gods empowering faithfulness.

Comparisons, can be debilitating.

It takes faith to come to realise that actually God has called me to be me, and my unique blend of skills, passions and principals is called, God doesn’t need another clone of anyone, he needs us to be us, and we flourish best when we are being truly and authentically us.

I remember seeing someone engaging in interactive debate, and this really worked for their more ‘in your face’ personality. I have seen others listen carefully and prayerfully and this has really worked for their personality. If we were all a debaters or all listeners we would be a less effective body of Christ, yet perhaps the reason he is sending you in to the situation you find yourself in, in that you are the right person, God’s person, for that particular situation, everyone is different, and everyone responds differently, even if we don’t see it at first!.

Also, as the wonderful “Meet Anne” video shows, we have networks and relationships which are unique to us, no-one else has quite the same set of relationships that we do, being us -and fully us- fully and authentically where God has placed us can enable us to be used by God in a way that’s unique to us.

Also, God uses all sorts of creative ways to advance his Kingdom, my friend Rich Rycroft used his love of football to advance the Kingdom in Hillfield, my friend Charles Sugdan from Frenchay uses his awesome gifts at classical music to enable people to encounter Christ, yet neither of which I would be able to do, but it takes faith to believe that my gifts and skills, passions and pleasures can be used by Christ too (just check out the vlog bellow)…

So, let’s celebrate God’s call on our lives to be free to be us.

So, let’s celebrate God’s call to discover his call to us where he has placed us.

So, let’s celebrate that we don’t have to do what everyone else does, instead even our most random quirks of character can become Kingdom advancing facets.

I discovered the word ‘bespoke’ -you are a ‘bespoke’ ambassador of Christ, made unique for the glory of Christ.

You have a totally unique context, to a unique mix of people and network of relationships, and you have been ‘head hunted’ by the God of all creation to reveal him to his people.

The Spirit of God has a bespoke plan for our areas and context, its not just another course, or another project, but a unique plan that will work for us, taylor-made evangelism made to measure for individuals in a unique context.

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Church, Life styles, paradigm shift, wisdom

Seeing Outside the Bubble…

I love the West Wing!

I was watching an episode the other day, I’m not sure what series it came from, but is when the team are campaigning for Bartlett to be re-elected.

The episode started with the President preaching at a rally, with lots of cheering people and “Bartlett for America” placards waved around, the President returned to the next place of the Campaign Trail, but somehow Josh (Deputy Chief of Staff), Toby (Communications Director) and Donna (Josh’s PA) are left behind by the motorcade.

They have to get themselves to the airport return to Washington, thumbing lifts, and blagging rides.

Josh and Toby (described by the President has having ‘great minds no common sense’) are so busy about returning to the long to do list they have when they return to Washington, they miss this opportunity to learn from the situation they are in.

Interestingly, whereas Donna (who is actually often the unsung hero of the series), gets to chat to these real people who help them a little about their lives and their issues and their political opinions, which is worrying most of the people who are helping them are voting for Bartlett’s opponent Governor Richie (Republican), and realises that although the campaign is going well, she is seeing life outside the Washington Bubble.

What of us?

Do sometimes we only ever preach great gospel messages to people who are already converted and love the message?

Are we preaching to the Choir?

It is easy to feel encouraged within the Churchy bubble, some big Churches feel quite happening and successful, but actually are only a small percentage of the actual population.

Are we so caught up with our jobs and to do lists, that we don’t take the learning opportunity to hear and engage with people (who are very willing to share and talk) about their lives and hear things that can be massively transformative and insightful.

It made me think too, how often does it take a crisis or a big event to tear me away from the hollowed to do list, rather, than learning from the opportunities that surround us all.

So, a challenge, let’s get out from our Churchy bubble and learn from those we meet, which will often be the most fruitful thing we can do in our mission, evangelism and discipleship.

 

 

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Discipleship, Godliness, Mission Shaped Church, paradigm shift, perspectives, Spiritual Health

Paradigm Shift.

Its a phrase that I read everywhere, and I used to think it was just one of those pretentious words that get glued onto new things by people wanting to sound intelligent, that was until I looked up what it meant!

Here is a definition: “A fundamental change in approach or underlying assumption”, in Phil Potters excellent ‘Pioneering a new future’ he talks of this ‘Paradigm Shift’ being like a swimmer being given a snorkel and goggles, -the swimmer sees the sea, the shore, the boat and the sky- but the snorkeler sees all that is under the ocean, their location is the same but the view is entirely different.

Vision is fundamental to what we do, “where there is no Vision the people perish”, yet the question actually is whose vision are we following, ours or Christ’s?

Do see where he is leading for the next step, often a step of faith and always a step out of out comfort zone and security.

In the Gospels Jesus heals a blind man who recovers his sight in two stages, the first his vision is unclear, before being restored completely.

It is easy to imagine this guy being pleased at having partial vision restored, yet Jesus plan was to completely open his eyes.

I believe that this miraculous story can also be a parable to the modern day Church, sadly we can become spiritually blind when we take our eyes off Christ, yet Christ wants to restore our vision but we often settle for seeing less than Christ wants us to see.

We need our vision transformed by Jesus, not just partially healed.

Wondering too if sometimes our expectations, experiences, history, disappointments and our egos  blurs our vision.

To see things with Christ’s eyes, see things as Christ sees them, ought to be the ambition of us all who follow Jesus, he saw not things as they were but as they could be.

Seeing God’s plan, his new way rather than simply second hand revelation and conventional wisdom, doing what we have always done. David saw God’s vision for defeating Goliath with a sling shot rather than the bulky over-sized armour of King Saul.

Yet to many of us are trying to fight a Goliath shaped battle in debilitating Armour from a past generation, rather than asking if this is something he is still calling us to do?

Often our vision is smaller and more timid that I believe God wants to give us rather the vision his vision is huge and audacious, as if it a small vision achievable with our own resources where is the need for faith? Faith John Wimber reminded us is “spelled R-I-S-K”.

Yet revelation and vision from Christ is scary, it shakes the status quo, it pushes boundaries, defies expectations and stretches and strengths our faith and often means us laying down and surrendering our preferences and understandings. “If we always do what we have always done, we will get what we always have”…

I believe God is saying “I have seen your vision, now do you want to see my vision?”

God says “Behold I am doing a new thing” and yet too often we are munching on yesterdays stale manna.

I am a fan of the recent Church of England’s Report “Mission Shaped Church” but realise we have tried to turn this around to Church Shaped Mission, lowering the challenge and moving the goal posts closer to a more comfortable and achievable game.

We forget that God’s plan is bigger than simply his Church and our programmes and ideas within that, rather God’s plan is for the whole world. Rowan Williams famously said “It is not the Church who has the mission of God, but rather the Missionary God who has the Church”.

God can’t be placed in a box, the curtain ripped from top to bottom proves that the Spirit of God is uncontainable.

So, let us pray as we begin 2017, to expect the unexpected, to think big and look at the world with God’s eyes, through the eyes of Christ, praying for new and restored vision for us both as individuals and corporately as Church. Looking with bold eyes, not for a small God stuffed into a box of our expectations and understanding, but rather with to see “what God is doing in world and joining” remembering that our God exceeds our wildest imagination and can “do more than we ask or think”.

Let us see things with the fresh eyes of faith.

 

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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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Bravery, Discipleship, Godliness, paradigm shift, perspectives, Spiritual Health

Dont Drink the Pump Clip.

“I try to drink the beer rather than just the pump clip” said beardy Mike, my friend who runs the local pub.

Many people will choose a beer not based on what it tastes like but rather on the marketing plan around the pump clip, is it eye catching and memorable? Often an average beer can sell well because of its presentation, and a great beer is over-looked because of its lack of showy presentation, it’s only a real CAMRA (CAMpaign for Real Ale) buff that knowledgable about beers than can look past the label, the pump clip, and choose a great pint.

It made me think of how as human beings we often are a bit like beer pump clips, try and put on a brave face, a good show. Often what people see is far removed from what people get. In some ways we all put on masks to show the world.

Yet The prophet Samuel said that “people look on the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart”. God knows the real beer rather than being fool by a fancy clip.

We live in a superficial world, where the external is often valued above the internal, where breadth often matters more than depth, which is the opposite of how Gods Kingdom world.

The world maybe impressed with our rhetoric, dazzled by the stuff we encircle ourselves with, the the wit and wisdom of our facebook posts yet God sees right through all of this and sees the heart of things.

The problem is sometimes we end up “believing our own press” or as a self protection mechanism become self deluded and choosing to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to self awareness.

Yet, God sees us above our brave faces and bravado, God sees us beneath our smiles, and knows who we really are, the “the we that we try to hide”, the parts of us we don’t like or even to acknowledge, the areas we try to govern he knows us better than we know ourselves, he knows the dark corners and the deep scars in our hearts, he knows the sin and the brokenness lurking within each one of us.

I think as we get ready to face a new year knowing God knows us through and through, knowing he loves us, knowing he’s for us and not against us, know too he is our healer and specialises in restoration, know too that he can see within us beauty and potential we may have missed –knowing what we and he can do together-.

The problem is not that God knows us, it’s not about being “honest to God” but rather honest with ourselves before him.

Although he knows us fully we need to give him permission to access all areas of our hearts and minds, just as the Holman Hunt picture shows the handle on the inside, God in his grace asks our permission to come through the various doors and areas of our life, knocking as he does on the door, heeding his voice, and opening the door (Rev.3:20).

He will bring his light into any shadowy or dark areas of our lives but only if we invite him too. As Graham Kendrick wrote in Shine Jesus Shine “search me, try me, consume all my darkness” or as the Psalmist writes “search my O God and know my heart and see if there is any offensive way in me” (Ps.139).

Allowing ourselves to see ourselves with Gods eyes is a brave step of faith and also one of surrender, where we have to deal with uncomfortable truths of our sin and fallenness.

Sometimes requiring us to open up those firmly sealed doors behind which lurk pain and hurt that scream out through so many areas of our lives but we often keep their control room locked and bolted and letting our gentle God, the God of all comfort, let his healing and restoring gracious spirit minister to that place of pain by visiting it together with us holding our hand and dealing with it together with us.

To allow God to see us and help us to step up -or step out- into the new things that he has in store for us, the things we don’t thing we can do on our own or by ourselves. Knowing God is for us and not against us, knowing that he chooses to work in partnership with his fallible and broken creation.

Know that God is a healer, who loves us whose plans are to “prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us a hope and a future” and know that he wants the best for us, know that with all that hurts, causes fear and is broken within us can be laid at the foot of Christ’s cross knowing he can be trusted with all that is within us if we are brave enough to let go of it and give it to him.

The phrase that prompted this article was hearing Coldplays song “Fix You”… My prayer is that will be our experience of the healing restorative power of Christ “fixing us”…

And in letting Christ work in us we may show a much better and more beautiful “Pump Clip” to the world.

 

 

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paradigm shift, perspectives, the voice of God, vision

Perception Shift…

(Notes from the Morning session at New Wine, from a talk by Danielle Strickland)

The image of God imprinted on humanity beautiful potential, the danger is many of us have grown up with a theology of our badness, where we start with human depravity in Genesis 3, although it is undoubtedly true that the human condition is broken, yet we need to remember the story doesn’t start there. We need to start the story with the sacredness of life. The story starts with creation, and a creation of humanity in Gods image, be breathes his life into us.

God says something first before depravity can speak.
God speaks a word of beauty over your life.

Freedom needs to start from the inside of us, as we can rescue people put them in a safe place with new stuff yet unless something changes within the core of our humanity this remains just a cosmetic change.

The perspective shift.

The from Danielle Strickland putting her child to bed.
Putting a child to bed:-
“Who made you?”
“God made me”
“How did God make you”
“He made me good”.

What the word the society says is a distortion, an untrue word, we need to tune into the voice of

How you see yourself really matters.
It is an infectious word, a world that can speak louder than a prevailing and dominant culture.
God speaks a deeper word, a word which Is actually knitted deep within us.

Moses has become so assimilated with the culture he is described by his future wife at the waterhole as an Egyption, yet when God speaks he hears Gods voice and returns to Gods first identity of the Israelities, returning as a shepherd.

Repentance means not just to say sorry, but a new perspective, to see things different, in fact to see ourselves differently.

Do we see people with the world’s eyes? Or the eyes of Chrust.

Moses confronted Pharoah not as Egyptian had dressed him as, but as he truly was as an Israelite, a shepherd (as Joseph’s family were 300 years earlier,a return back to the beginning, the original story)

We need to see ourselves differently, and then see other people differently., the way God sees us and the way God sees them.

But God doesn’t see us as a them and us.
God doesn’t see people as the other.

The oppressor wants to divide us from one another but yet God wants to unite us with Ibe another.

For you to participate in oppressive behaviour you must believe lies and distortion, remember that Satan is a liar, the Father of Lies.

Let’s tune out the distorted oppressive lies over ourselves, over others and even of God.

Have we distorted our image of him?

What needs to change for us today?

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