Mission, Mission Shaped Church, Pioneer, Pioneers, Post-modern-culture

A Lonely Breakfast.

Yesterday started the day with a lonely breakfast.

For a while I have been really keen to gather a Bristol based “learning community” for all of us engaged in Fresh Expressions, Church Planting and all things Pioneering.

I’ll be honest as a Pioneer Minister most people don’t get it most of the time, and it is draining.

I sometimes feel so isolated.

Today no one came.

Just me (and the dog!)

There are a few people I have met on the journey that seem on the same page, but we are all so busy, and meeting up, praying, chatting, sharing seems like a luxury -I’ve missed these kind of meetings too because the diary didn’t allow it.

I wondered for a second whether I was trying to call a meeting for me, for my desire for a community that gets it, or to serve other people. As I sipped my coffee trying to not look like a bloke that has been stood up on a date, I thought perhaps it is both, perhaps I am wondering ‘does anyone else out here feel like this? If so, let’s meet, share and pray.

I thought too about learning communities as a whole, I have been part of a reasonably successful one looking at missional opportunities on new housing developments, where we share and pray, but also go a bit deeper in wrestling these issues together, sharing our experience and having insights from other people that (hopefully) understand what and why we are doing what we are doing.

Truly at their best this type of fellowship is “iron sharpening iron as one person sharpens another”.

I smirked as I thought of chapter meetings (here in Bristol they have mainly been reasonably good) but I have been in some where they are “bitch and brag sessions and not altogether helpful. Yet, I also thought how often do we discuss the stuff that really matters, like what are we doing to see real people coming to know Jesus? Are we really making Disciples that look like Jesus and doing what he did for the same reason he did it? -If not, why not? what is stopping us?

I don’t get why people aren’t passionate about Fresh Expressions of Church? It is actively seeking to partner with God is seeing where he is leading and joining in and seeing lives changed and the Kingdom of God coming in more fully. Yet we seem to put all our efforts in keeping the ship afloat (much of it probably should have been jettisoned a couple of decades ago).

I still believe that God is in Fresh Expressions, and he is calling his Church to get ready and be prepared for what he is doing, and about to do.

So, despite being on my own, I will still argue that God is “doing a new thing”, that Fresh Expressions are vital to the mission and ministry of the Church, and statistically probably the most fruitful ways of engaging with the unchurched and the dechurched.

As I ate my breakfast I prayed for this city, I prayed for the many people I have come to know here in Kingswood, I prayed for our Churches, those that are open to change and those resistant too it. I prayed for burned out and misunderstood Vicars and ministers -pioneers who maybe don’t even know that they are pioneers. I prayed that God would show us all his plan for the future of his Church and that we would be bold enough to grasp it and be obedient. So, as I ate my brekky, praying, thinking, drinking coffee I realised it wasn’t a lonely breakfast but one shared with the King of Kings.effective in reaching those that don’t yet know Christ.

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Person of Peace, Pioneers, Scouts

Spiritual Scouts…

I want to think about “Scouts”, so often we think of Pioneers coming in and starting something new and breaking new ground.

Often our thinking of pioneering and settling comes from a slightly romanticised idea of American wild west.

In reality the people didn’t just arrive and plant and pioneer a new random community, they did something key before hand, they sent in scouts.

Scouts would go out in pairs, and see how the land lay, they would see if the natives were friendly (normally if they killed one of you that was a sign that they might be a bit hostile).

Actually Scouts are visible in our Christian scriptures too.

Scouts were sent out in pairs to see what the city of Jericho was like, Jesus sent out the 12 and then the 72 in pairs, to seek out “friendly natives” or as Christ called them “people of peace” -‘If a person of peace lives there stay with him and eat whatever is put in front of you, but if a town does not welcome you, leave that place and knock the dust from your feet’.

Too often in Christian Mission our “scouts” get left on their own, or the people have become too comfortable to move from where they are to the promised land.

we have neglected the ministry of scouts, because Church is not seen as something on the move. we have settled, and become enshrined in brick and concrete. Often our Church buildings are unsuitable for what we want to do, and in awkward and out of the way locations that are impossible to find, whilst massive new estates spring up without Churches on them.

I believe we need to re-discover spiritual scouts, people who go out and spot the potential for new and better life, more fruitful and meaningful places to settle.

Perhaps we need to think less about erecting stone-temples and more about transportable tabernacles?

Once a community has settled there is no need for the scout, and so they go out and scout again.

In many ways the scouts are often the prophetic or apostolic types that see the Kingdom possibilities that fail to flourish in a settled Church that has put its feet up. Moving on is tiresome, it is hassle and we like to cling on to what is familiar and resist change -it is human nature.

Yet without scouts the nomadic people would die out, and unless we release more Kingdom scouts, then the Church in the UK is in danger.

Are you called to be a Scout?

Are you called to be a faithful supporter of a Scout?

Have you become too comfortable where you are and used up its resources, and need to move on for survival?

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Gideon, Numbers, perspectives, Pioneer, Pioneers, priorities, ready

The Power Of The Few!

I love the West Wing and one of the great lines comes from President Bartlett when he quotes Margaret Mead and says “never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world, because it is all that ever has”.

Recently with Jeremy Corbyn seeing many people desert him politically, yet leaving him with actually I think the best shadow cabinet we possibly have ever had, with people actually saying stuff that sounds like they really believe it rather than saying it because they think you want to hear it.
Better to be a small group of committed people of shared vision than a disperate and disunited large gathering of factions who loosely tolerate each other.
Bigger does not always mean better.
It made me think about popularity and keeping everyone happy, which is the surest way of not achieving anything (you will never manage to please all of the people of time).
It reminded me of something a local leader once said “I would rather have 5 people on fire for Christ than a congregation of 500 who were apathetic about Christ”.
The important thing is not numbers of attendees that come to our events but the depth of discipleship that is happening in their hearts and lives.
Christ’s strategy was not trying to steer a ship of thousands when he was on earth, rather h invested in the 12, a small group who went on to change the world with the biggest movement in world history.
Gideon fell for the numbers trap with IIs huge army, which Hod whittled down to a small group of guys.
Invest in the few for the sake of the many feels paradoxical, but yet that is the way of nthe Kingdom.
I remember a quote from Rick Warren who said “to impact a moment send a tweet, but to impact a generation mentor a leader”.
I worry sometimes that over the years I have been in Kingswood I sometimes have been a mile wide, and yet an only an inch deep, yet call of the Kingdom is for “deep to cry out to deep”.
As I think back over the prayer room, we haven’t had the place full all the time, but we have had the wonderful flow of faithful people, to often we think about quantity and God thinks about quality, we like breadth and God is into depth.
We are not called to entertain the crowd, but tend sheep, too often we can loose the individuals in the big projects… Or feel disappointed at a small turn out.
Yet I believe Kingswood and Hanham could be turned around and transformed by just a few of us on fire for God.

The question for each of us is will we be those people who are on fire for God? The souled out disciples. We may be the few in the eyes of the world, but from this small underdog can once again transformed the world by the power of the spirit within us.

I’ll end with a quote from John Wesley:
“Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on Earth.”
― John Wesley
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