call, challenge, Church, cost, Discipleship, Kingdom, Ministry, Mission, obidience, perspectives, priorities, vision, vocation

we don’t need more Churches, rather we need Churches doing what they are supposed too!

Recently I had a sad experience, we had started a small congregation meeting next door to the main Church in the Community centre, mainly to allow the children’s work to flourish but unfortunately it didn’t work as we had hoped. I remember doing the last service there, which was a damp squib, as I tided up and walked out the door, something of lump appeared in my throat, although only a very short era, it was still and end of an era.

I did in my spirit wonder if maybe we (as in the Christian Community) will be back here reaching out to the people of Kingswood.

Then as I thought more about this I began to ask myself the question “does Kingswood need more Churches” actually Kingswood is choc-a-bloc with Churches yet few that are reaching out beyond their four walls, few seeking to reach out with the good news of Christ Jesus, few trying to raise up discipleships that are ‘nation transformers’ and praying in the Kingdom of God.

We also have new Churches planted into Kingswood, and yet sadly, they come into Kingswood, people drive in and drive out, some don’t even get around to investing in a “welcome sign” by their front door. Yet all that happens stays within the walls, and they never even send the other Churches in the area a email saying “hey”.

Yet we know that God is wanted his deeply divided Church to be unified in him, and in seeing his Kingdom advance and grow, impacting local communities and transforming lives, as we think of the Pentecost season, we know the need of the Spirit of God taking his Church back, breathing fresh and new life into it and blowing open its door to reach the community for Christ.

We don’t need more congregations and Churches, but actually for the Churches to do -or at least try to do- that which we are called to do.

The challenge is that the Church, is not some faceless institution, but rather you and me, we need to be people filled with his spirit, living his way, and seeing as individuals to shape and transform the corporate body of believers to keep us following Christ in courageous obedience.

Advertisements
Standard
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.

Standard
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.

 

Standard
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.

 

 

Standard
Life styles, Mission, perspectives, Spirituality

Spirituality: The Icing? Or the whole Cake?

Last night I heard Bishop Lee (Bishop of Swindon) speaking at a confirmation service, he started off by talking about “Spirituality” and asked the question “Spirituality: The Icing? Or the Cake?”

It was a great picture too often we view spirituality as a nice sideline or hobby, a bolt on, a leisure activity that can be squeezed into busy lives.

And for some people that is how their Spirituality works for them, in the midst of a busy week, couple hours at Yoga, and then carry on with life as normal, living as we always had, except perhaps maybe slightly less stressed.

Yet for the Christian, Spirituality isn’t just an activity we slot amongst the other stuff, it is the way we live our lives, all the time, day in and day out (24-7, 365 -what it means to be a living sacrifice, there on the altar of God by choice)..

Not just a drizzle of icing but the whole cake.

This made me think about how we lead our lives as Christians.

I wondered if I really exhibited the fruit of the Spirit “Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Gentleness, Goodness (or in some translations generosity), Kindness and Self Control” whether people would be challenged and think “what is it in his life that makes such a difference I want some of that!”

Perhaps we need to explore what it means that “he that is in us is greater than he that is in the world”, “Christ in us the hope of glory” and “treasure in Jars of clay”… A life where God is glorified in us, a life lived as life was intended to be lived by God is bound to be noticed, it will be like “stars shining in the darkness” unmissable like salt or light.

I think there is something wonderfully missional about our lives being different from the world around us.

We live in a world where people don’t know who they are, looking for authenticity, desperate to know what really matters in a materialistic and superficial world.

St. Francis talked about our hearts being restless until we find our rest in him, and we see how restless our world is, especially in the west where everyone is so driven, hyped up on red-bull, but not actually sure where they are going, nor sure of the direction of their lives, but feel the pressure to go where-ever it is fast!

Interestingly my friend Jonathan who used to lead a Church called  B1 in Birmingham said he was often involved in coversations about wanting to lead a good life, the New Monastic Group Moot does life coaching, amazingly rich city types pay vast sums of money for someone to help them explore how to live their lives, because it clearly really matters to them.

I am reminded of Freddie Mercury’s Song “Does anybody know what we are living for?” -Freddie Mercury was a deeply spiritual man, but never managed to get “a handle on life” describing himself as “desperately lonely”.

We have this wonderful gift to give the world, but unfortunately it is also a gift that as Christians in the west we haven’t really fully opened, explored and enjoyed.
Instead becoming like Chameleons trying to blend into the world around us, when really we were called to stand out, why will people listen to what we say, when they look at our lives and can’t see anything different from their own.
I think of some of the wonderful wise (often elderly) saints I know, and I am really drawn to them, I find conversation with them incredibly inspiring. I think part of their appeal is that they have walked deeply with Christ and that is something deeply attractive.
Too often we end up apologizing for what actually makes us beautiful and attractive to the world around us.
Let’s be unashamed of the difference Christ makes to us in our lives, in the highs and in the lows, in the good times and the bad.
Ironically, when we live our lives following Christ we become more the person we were created to be, more fully us.
Bishop Lee cited Archbishop Rowan meeting Archbishop Tutu, and described him as a guy “enjoying being Demond Tutu”, this isn’t talking about pride or vanity, but rather being someone comfortable being themselves.
We live so much of our lives worried about what others will think of us, and yet really what matters is the audience of one, Christ himself, what does he think of us?
People talk a lot about mission, and a lot about discipleship, as though our sharing our faith and our everyday lives are somehow different, but I think the reality is who we are is what speaks volumes, and yet Churches we have worried to much about “saying the right thing” rather than “living the right way”.
So, lets be people that embrace the cake, not just a frosting of spirituality icing.
Standard
Journey, Life styles, perspectives, Risk and Change, the Holy Spirit

Misty Eyed Nostalgia.

One of the things I think paralyses us in our Christian life is when we stop looking forward to what God is doing and start looking over our shoulder.

The problem is we start to think the greatest works of God are in our past rather that awaiting them expectantly for our future.
When our eyes are fixed over our shoulder, our progress forward is very slow if not more or less non existent.
Jesus said “anyone who puts their hand to the plough and keeps looking back cannot be my disciple” – strong words.
The past can trap us -an ironically it rarely was as good as we remember, we often look back and often limit our future by rose tinted glasses from the past.

It is nice to reminisce sometimes, a nostalgic moment can be pleasant, yet the truth although we can remember the past fondly, the past is not a location we can live in.

We are called to live in the present and to be architects of the future.

We are called to be people that follow where Christ is going, rather than settling where Christ has been.

I’d rather live where God IS working rather than where he HAS worked.

I want to be someone who relentlessly peruses Jesus, hungry to be where he is going, joining in where he is going.

The past, whether good or bad, can be used as a spur or launch pad into a different future, yet too often I feel that the past can imprison us and restrict us.

Nor do other peoples’ past experiences have to be millstones that we are forced to carry -how often is our predecessors’ memory is

used to beat us over the head? “The last vicar always….”

Yet God calls us to run our own race, without other people or the pasts debris clinging onto our coat-tails.

We are set free to move forward along the path that lies ahead and not that stretching out behind us.

When we think that past experiences cannot be bettered, that is debilitating, crushing potential and clipping the wings of future dreams.

Bad experiences have not laid the rail tracks for the rest of our life, although often this does feel to be true, for the Christian we know that “those who the Son sets free will be free indeed”, “forgetting what is past I press on towards to goal to win the prize for which Christ Jesus has called me” and that “in Christ we are new creations, the old has gone, the new has come”.

Our history (at the cross of Christ) does not have to dictate or lay the rail tracks for our future.

Let’s remember that God has not finished with any of us yet, whilst we have breath in our lungs we are available for his use.

C.S. Lewis once said “you are never too old to chase a new vision, or dream a new dream”.

So lets enjoy the past, but not let it hold us back, distract us from where God is calling us on to, or limit of vision and expectancy of the future.

I’ll close with some words in Habbakkuk… “Behold I am doing a new thing!” -lets pray we grasp this with open hands rather than leave our hands full of the baggage of yesterday.

Standard
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?

Standard