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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Carrying burdens, community of grace, Discipleship, Godliness, Partnership, Paul's Prayers, Phillipians, vocation

“Don’t just ‘SUPPORT’ me, ‘PARTNER’ with me” (Updated).

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Can you say a little prayer for us Vicar?

Would you mind if I said a little prayer for you?

I don’t want to pray a LITTLE prayer!

A “Little Prayer” sounds as though we lack confidence in Gods power to transform lives and circumstances.

I want to be like Paul praying big, hairy and audacious prayers rendering heaven.

I’ve been thinking too often we have dumbed down our language and expectations of prayer, mission and discipleship.

Recently, I came across (via Jackie Davies) a William Booth quote: “I’m not waiting for a move of God, I am the move of God”.

This is God’s plan for the transformation of his world, you and I living for him, stepping out in faith, and partnering with him.

This was reinforced for me recently with two things that happened this week…

The first when I prayed for someone to be healed, and they were, and I was more shocked than they were, which led me to have an interesting discussion with myself afterwards!

The second when I was sharing at a Church meeting the work I am doing in the community, and quite frankly it was pretty obvious they couldn’t care less…

My experience of this healing miracle made me think about living out my calling to partner with Christ (if you are a Christian, that is all of our callings!) and wondered am I really pulling my weight here, am I working with him, alongside him, or doing my own thing.

My experience of the DCC made me feel unsupported, certainly not feeling like we were in any real sense ‘partnering together’.

I was talking to another minister type mate who and said about supporting him, he said “I don’t want people to support me, I want people to partner with me”.

The same is true the other-way around, I don’t want to just support my congregations in mission, I want to partner with them.

The word SUPPORT conjures up images of sitting there with a sympathetic and slightly constipated look, offering milky coffee and making polite noises for a few minutes until the conversation returns to something less uncomfortable and more superficial.

Whereas the word PARTNERSHIP conjures up both people investing heavily in something, standing shoulder to shoulder, battling together amid blood, tears and sweat.

Partnership is a word about mutual investment, were the outcome really matters to those involved.

Support, sounds more like offering a hand, lending a fiver, giving someone a lift, making a cuppa (all good things, but has the image of superficial investment and involvement).

Paul wasn’t after support from his fellow Christians, he didn’t want “Oh Bless him” platitudes, he wants the disciples partnering with him to carry on fighting for the Kingdom cause as fearlessly as he did when he was on his missionary endeavours -especially as now he is in prison, in chains, for talking about Christ.

Paul’s prayer shows his aspiration for his team.

This left me wondering, is this the kind if thing we pray for ourselves? Our Churches? Our home-groups? Our friends involved in Christian Unions at work? Our Kingdom allies locally doing things like work based Alpha, Street Pastors, outreach work or whatever it is God is calling them too?

Or do we pray that God would just “help” them or “bless” them…

Over the next few days I’d urge us to grow our intersessions vocabulary, and realise that as we pray we are doing something bigger more amazing, more powerful and beautifully supernatural..

So let’s rediscover afresh the awesome power of prayer, connecting us with the awesome power that comes from almighty God.

Let’s up our support of one another so that it feels more like partnership.

Let us review how response to God’s partnership offer, are we partnering with him, pulling our weight and keeping in step.

To the original readers of the scriptures the word partnership would lead people to think of Oxon partnered together under a yoke, journeying together, in step, both taking equal share of the weight…

Yet for us the Yoke is a three person yoke, shouldering our partnership with God, and with one another, a call to carry one another’s yokes or burdens -and let them carry yours- as we all partner together to fulfil the heartbeat of creation to see God’s Kingdom come on earth as in heaven.

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