Barnabas, Paul, Risk and Change

Take a chance on me…

I’ve not managed to post this since Wednesday, although I am a pretty rubbish Anglican, but when I was writing this I discovered today that today is a day when the Church celebrates St. Paul’s day, the great missionary to the gentiles.

I think he is a great example of a missionary (interestingly potentially a rubbish speaker) but he was fruitful in his personal evangelism, but more than that he raised up ordinary Christians to do extraordinary things, a strategic mission released many, many ordinary Christian people to do evangelism and mission.

Yet Paul the great enabler of mission and missionaries, the one who empowered people in the Kingdom cause, did so because he was empowered and equipped by Barnabas, who took a risk on him and invested in him, and gently pulled back. Interestingly how scripture records the exploits of “Barnabas and Saul” initially and then later “Saul and Barnabas”.

Paul was a challenger of the status quo.

Paul challenged the Christians to be changed, and to change what they did, how they did things and how they behaved.

We live in a change resistant culture, especially in the Church, -the joke about the Anglican Church whose moto is “change, what’s change?” Theory of change, but doing it, is often a different a thing. Change is not doing more of the same, or simply doing the same thing louder and on steroids.

“Keep your head in all situations… do the work of an evangelist…and dutifully fulfil all your duties”. 2 Timothy 4 verse 5

Missionary Doctor had to teach other people to do medical things, as when they ‘the Doctor’ weren’t there people died.

For people to survive the Doctors need to do themselves out of a job.

This actual is difficult for us, we love to be needed, often our self-worth is wrapped up in our achievements and our productivity, and stepping back can be painful and costly even if ultimately worth it.

Delegating is wonderful but really hard if they don’t do as good job as you would do.

Delegating is wonderful but really hard if they do a better job than you would do.

I have had both scenarios and both have left me profoundly challenged.

The people might never have the same level of expertise as the Doctor, but they were equipped to be able to save lives.

I have previously blogged about success being redundancy. 

Reaching the stage where I am no longer needed to lead the people in evangelism and mission because they are equipped and confident to do it without me (in fact my heart is that they do it better than me!).

We don’t do mission, we are mission. A better word is about the community being missional.

Mission is not an event but rather a collective way of life.

A picture a lady had at the Fellowship of Parish Evangelists was of the Nile river disturbed by a Motor boat caused water to spray all over the banks of the river- it looked impressive and dramatic- it caused short term watering, of dry land, even looked mildly fruitful for a short term, but long term it wasn’t very fruitful, as it was a big splash not a habitual, regular watering and nurturing.

Hit and run evangelism, will not have a lasting impact without the full support of the local, indigenous body of believers.

Christian Aid has recently popularised the phrase “Give a person a fish you’ll feed them for a day, teach them to fish and they’ll feed themselves for the life-time”.

What of us?

Do we still think of Mission as an Event rather than a way of life?

Are we faithfully watering and nurturing or running around expecting a dramatic ‘motor-boat big fix, which might make us feel good, but isn’t lastingly fruitful?

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Colosians, Mission, Mission Shaped Church, Paul, Paul's Prayers, prayer

Colossians 4

Colossians 4:2 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 towards 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.

Sounds like wise words from Paul about how to approach 2017….

Being devoted to prayer.

Watchful (although I think ‘expectant’ is a better word as it is less passive).

And being thankful, expectant of God to be at work and praising him for seeing him at work.

Praying also for me, pray for each other… -interestingly if you’re a leader sometimes you can feel as though everyone’s gunning for you and very few are praying for you, Paul probably is feeling pretty low as he’s banged up in prison-, but I think the important thing here is to pray for each other, we’re a community, a family, we are meant to be carrying each others burdens, supporting one another in prayer, but too often the individualism of our culture creeps in and it becomes ‘all about us’.

Pray that God opens the door for his message, so we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, Pray for those divine appointments, real and genuine opportunities to honestly talk with people about our faith in natural and helpful ways.

For which I am an ambassador in chains -let us this new year be people that remember the persecuted Church, especially as I think the political/social landscape is changing and I think pluralistic secularisms voice is getting louder and so being a Christian is going to get tougher.

Pray I may proclaim it as clearly as I should, pray that God gives us the words to say, -that all sharing of our faith will not only be with the right heart but also spirit lead.

Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders… One of my favourite verses my friend Mark Rich quotes is “Zeal without wisdom is folly” often howe act pushes people away from Christ rathe r than drawing people towards him? So many things Churches do and individual Christians do, that is simply really unhelpful.

 Making the most of every opportunity… God gives his people, both us as individuals, and collectively as his Church so many opportunities, so many  I think we simply don’t see, so many we choose not to see as it sounds like a tough call “opportunities are missed because they come in work overalls”, some we think are too big for us, and some we sadly (sometimes) think are beneath us “I’m not doing that?” or “I’m not going there”. Jesus says “Open your eyes the fields are white to the harvest” 

Let your conversation be always be full of grace… Some of the emails I get from Christians, some of the conversations I hear in Churches,  leave me wondering “where is the grace?” and if we can’t even manage to be gracious and loving to each other as a community, why would anyone want to travel with us in following Jesus? People want to see a different community, one that loves, one that builds up, Kingdom living is attractive, let people see, hear and experience it, when we remove grace from our lives together it is like a alkali burn -its what’s not there -the absence of acid- that burns us-, sin of omission if you like.

Interestingly, our conversation needs to be always full of Grace, yet sometimes hard to find trace elements of it. Interestingly we are called to have conversations full of grace, yet also seasoned with salt. how often it is the other way around, full of salty Christian rhetoric, but no grace?

Seasoned with salt… The image of our conversations making people thirsty for Christ is an exciting image, as a parent of a young child, I realise that often we are watched and listened too even when we don’t realise it. 

Also, lets not be afraid, to mention the name of Jesus, to be open and honest about our faith, and give people opportunities to talk… Seasoned with salt, unashamed of the gospel, giving people openings and opportunities for further discussion.

If your conversation is like this, then people will be drawn to you and want to explore Christ with you, so you may know how to answer everyone.

 

 

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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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