5 Fold Ministry -Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers (Eph. 5), Anger, Boldness, Bravery, Courage, Ephesians 6, Leadership, love, Pastor, prayer, Protest, shepherd, Spiritual Warfare

The Angry Pastor Prays.

we often have this idea of being pastoral as being weak, wet and woolly.

Interestingly people often seem to pride themselves on being rude and obnoxious and try to justify their behaviour by saying “I’m not pastoral, I’m prophetic/evangelistic/apostolic”…

Yet I think this show not only a misunderstanding of the role of the prophet, evangelist and apostle, but also an acute misunderstanding of the role of the pastor.

The word Pastor or Shepherd are often inter-changeable.

It is easy to think of the Shepherd as gently nurturing sheep on some idyllic hillside somewhere nice and peaceful. Yet the reality is more of a challenge, sheep are easy prey, the shepherd has to fight of robbers, wolves, lions and bears.

There is nothing wimpy about the shepherds in Biblical times, it was a tough and often bloody role, killing of wolves and scaring away predatory beasts.

It is a costly role. Jesus himself said “the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep”. Many of us in Pastoral ministry may not have been killed but we certainly have had to cope with some incredible spitefulness.

Yet sheep are not particularly grateful, in fact sheep need saving from themselves most of the time, often getting themselves lost, stuck on hillsides and sometimes -especially the rams- they can be violent towards the shepherds too.

There is a picture of Jonny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow running from a group of wild people armed with spears and the caption says “Be a Pastor they said, it’ll be fun they said”.

The shepherd has to preserve the sheep, protecting them from the dangers outside and the dangers inside. A thankless task. A task that requires us to be pro-active. A task that calls for courage and bravery.

So, as we re-think this role of Pastor as not being weak and wishy washy, but a person of action, going where angels fear to tread, “someone fighting for you and for your spiritual growth”.

In fact much of the imagery around the Christian life is that of battle and warfare.

Even images such as God shielding us under the shadow of his wing, are actually more violent than we like to think, just think of how protective of her young a swan or wild goose is? Yes, it’s an image of shelter, but it is also an image of protection against all that can wage against us.

I want to think for a second about our emotions, so often we are so British that we think of the only emotions that are healthy in the Christian life is a serene gentleness.

Yet I would suggest that one of the most pastoral acts we see Jesus doing is throwing the tax collectors and the money changers out of the temple, he’s angry.

I5 is right to be angry at injustice, at wrong behaviour within the Christian family. Scripture doesn’t prohibit anger but rather it says “in your anger do not sin”.

It is not fashionable to talk any more about the wrath of God, but I don’t believe that God is impassive and emotionless about the horrors that are carried out in his world, and sometimes in his Church. God’s anger is righteous, but it is still anger none the less.

And lastly let’s think about “angry prayers” -the Psalms is full of them (and many written by a shepherd). It is right and proper to be honest with God about how we are feeling, and if we feel angry at something it is good to tell him.

Often in the west, especially in the Anglican church, our prayers can be a bit placid and bland, but perhaps we can pray with a passion knowing that God loves us and wants to hear our hearts.

In fact if we are angry because of our zeal and fire for the things of God.

Our prayers too can be warfare, can be violent -scripture uses the image of destruction- tearing down strong-holds, standing firm in the full armour of God… Yet the opposition too sounds fierce and scary “your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour”.

Our prayers are powerful and offensive to the “powers and principalities of this world”, as an old adage goes “Satan scoffs at our plans, laughs at our schemes but trembles when we pray”.

Martin Luther talks about grasping our hands in prayer as an act of warfare on all that is evil or destructive. In the book of Zechariah, we hear of the Devil being rebuked “the Lord says NO to you Satan”.

Prayer is a defiant action.

The Angry Pastor prays for brothels to close and people to be set free, for drug dealers to cease trading, for violence to cease, for gossip to stop, for relationships to be healthy and for the Kingdom to advance.

The prayer of a righteous person accomplishes much.

Scripture warms us we have not because we ask not, so let’s take the ground and ask for more and more of the Kingdom to become here on earth as the gospel is proclaimed and lives are transformed.

The angry pastor does battle on her knees, fighting in the heavenly realm, fighting for less of sin, the world and the devil to have influence and control over those whom we love and serve.

So, let’s reclaim biblical pastoring to look like that of Christ the good shepherd, bold and brave, fighting for us, our defender -seeking our welfare, but prepared to even save us from ourselves. The person of courage and boldness, but motivated by love -love for the person and love for the Shepherd King and his Kingdom.

Bible, Commitment, consumerism, cost, Deep, Discipleship, expectations, Fruit and fruitfulness, Growth, pperseverence, prayer, Presences, relationship with God

Teaspoon hiding Vicars.

I read an article about a Churchy couple that invited the Vicar around for tea, it was all very pleasant and nice, but later that evening the couple noticed a silver teaspoon was missing. It was no where to be found.

A year or so later they had the Vicar around for tea again, this time they asked him why he had taken a teaspoon.

The Vicar said that he didn’t steal it, instead he hid it in their Bible.

One of the things that really worries me is the low level of Biblical literacy in the Churches. I remember a Churchy young person telling me the story of the elder wand (from Harry Potter) thinking it was a Bible story.

This book which cost people their lives to bring to us is barely flicked through by Christians, they key to discipleship is not more Church events or umpteen courses or bacon butties but for the men and women that want to follow Jesus to seek God in prayer, read their Bibles and invest in the most important relationship of all -their personal relationship with Christ Jesus.

The problem with discipleship in the UK, people say about “coming to Church to be fed” -a phrase that shows a complete misunderstanding of what Church or discipleship is actually all about, as though our walk with God has been sub-contracted out to someone else, we -before God- have to take personal responsibility for it, not expecting someone else to spoon feed us.

And perhaps with Bible study if we’ve been in the word ourselves, we can come to the group as a contributor rather than just a receiver.

So, if you’ve had the Vicar around for tea check your Bible for teaspoons.

pperseverence, prayer, presence, priorities, Self Care, sin, Spiritual Dryness, Spiritual Health, Spiritual Warfare, Time, Try?

“Got to pray just to make it today”

If prayer is the most powerful thing we can do as human beings, in fact by is an instinctive response, yet why is it something we all struggle to do?

It is said if you want to make your congregation feel guilty “talk about prayer”.

we all know we should do it, but probably none of us does it as much as we should, or even as we would like.

we claim to be too busy, but in reality that is about priorities, we can always make time, but the truth is we don’t always.

-Made more ironic by the fact that when we actually are able to pray, it often feels good, and I often end up asking myself “why don’t I do this more often?”

The illusion of to busy, or too tired, or a distraction there are so many things that just pull us away for a few seconds, and we never get around to doing that important thing of actually praying.

Intending to pray is not actually the same as praying.

Then as I began to think more about prayer, not only is it hard sometimes to do, we need to make the effort, grasp the moment and maybe even do that unfashionable word of self discipline/Spiritual discipline, to challenge ourselves to do that which we know we should.

Yet I wonder too, how often we don’t pray because we are comfortable and the urgency or necessity to pray doesn’t really grab us, we think we’ll be okay and our comfortable western lives often cushion us to forget our dependence on God.

Even theological truths of lost eternity or human compassion don’t always force us to our knees until God has our hearts fully, and paradoxically, if we don’t pray we never give God our hearts or let him have ours.

I think the real reason the Church in the west is failing is actually because Christians aren’t praying. God says “You have not because you ask not”. Jesus talks about us being like “salt”, the idea is to make us thirty for God, and yet too much of the Church seems comfortable and complacent.

I think too, we struggle to pray because of fear and lack of faith, we fear disappointment, we fear getting our hopes raised -even sometimes we fear God answering our prayer. I remember that terrified moment when I felt “wow, God is actually real” as he answers prayer shocks and shakes us from our complacency.

The pain too of seemingly unanswered prayer, when heaven seems to be silent, and times of suffering and confusion can cause us to struggle too, and ask where are you God.

Too often we think that in the Christian life we will always get a charmed life and always have a parking space, where in reality it is tough, confusing and painful.

Often too our own sense of guilt, apathy, sin, pride can all keep us away from God’s loving arms, these times when perhaps it is easier to run away from God is the exact time we need to instead run to him.

For me, one of the best ways to keep me praying has been personal accountability, over the last 20ish years -sometimes more regularly than others- I have had some great guys who I have met up with too pray, and without that companionship on the journey I don’t think I’d have made it this far.

Also, I need to be reminded that prayer works, that God answers, my soul needs to HEAR the stories of peoples encounters with God, or prayers answered and God speaking. we need these stories to spur us on. Yet we also need to TELL those stories too when God meets and speaks to us, answers our prayers, we need to share it too.

So, the challenge for us all is let’s not just talk about prayer, as though it is a good thing to do.

Let us not even intend to do it.

Let us be people that actually pray.

prayer, Revelation 8

Silence in heaven…

When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.

Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.

There was silence in heaven for about half an hour? -What is that all about?

Early in the passage we read of the buzz and noise of heaven, a cacophony of praise, when suddenly there is a hush… silence, Why? -the answer is later on in the passage- The saints are praying.

God and the whole company of heaven are listening attentively to the prayers of the Saints.

Just as when I want to give my daughter my undivided attention, I stop work or turn off the television so she knows she has my full concentration; so heaven listens without distraction to the prayers of the saints.

But who are the Saints?

We often think Saints are these emaciated ethereal people with bizarre halo’s in stained glass windows.

Yet Saints literally means “the Holy ones of God” .

Yet we don’t always feel like “Holy Ones of God” yet because of Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection we are declared Holy, not because of what we have done but because what Christ has won for us.

We are God’s Holy people. We are all Saints (which is unfortunate if your name is Bernard!)

So, this passage tells us that when we pray, the whole of heaven is listening to every word.

Our prayers bring heaven to a stand-still.

The passage continues to talk about the prayers of the Saints rising up like incense towards heaven. Incense is an ancient symbol of prayer rising to God’s nostrils, a beautiful smell that God enjoys and brings him pleasure. A bit like returning home to the smell of your mums roast dinner, the idea of our mouth watering, salivating with expectation. So God is longing, aching with anticipation to hear from his beloved children.

Yet as the prayers rise up before an attentive God, we see heaven’s response to our prayers.

We see our prayers our powerful and impacting the world.

To often we have bought the cliches about “prayer changes us” and about “us becoming the answers to our prayers (true but it does far more than that too) and sometimes we are so used to bland prayers that it often feels like prayer is sharing our wishful thinking with God, when it is so so much (much) more than this.

Prayer changes situations.
Prayer changes people,
Prayer changes us.
Prayer changes the world.

Our prayer sees heaven respond in power.

Heaven responding with peels of thunder.

Earthquake, literally transforming the face of the earth irrevocably.

And lightening, pure intense light touching the earth and removing darknesses.

So, we see a God desperate to hear from us, enjoying and excited just the anticipation of our prayers and heaven responding in power.

So, in light of this, let us pray with boldness and expectation for God’s goodness to break and shine through.

Acts of Service, Authenticity, incarnation, prayer, welcome

Prayer Meeting with Jeremy Kyle.

On Mondays for a while, some of us meet up and pray for our local area (if you are a local reading this, do join us, 9:30-10:30 at Chasers). We use a local pub/coffee lounge to meet up in, on the walls are tv screens normally play Jeremy Kyle.

I used to see this as a distraction, an annoying interruption, I used to get them to ‘mute’ the sound on our nearest screen. Yet something about this has challenged me profoundly.

We have for a long time tried to have prayer meetings and other such meetings out and about, we don’t want to be Christians hidden away in dark corners of invisible Church buildings.

So, we pray whilst somewhere in the background of the room we hear the shriek of “he’s not the Father of my baby”.

Yet last week, I was struck by how nice our prayer room is, with wonderful coffee, and so often the rawness and brokenness of many peoples lives never creeps into our prayer rooms.

Too often we assume that everyone’s life is like ours, and yet for many people the things we are just ‘normal’ and take for granted would be a very alien way of life for many.

Too often we as human beings steer ourselves away from the mess, brokenness and pain of life, when is Church intersessions does anyone ever pray openly about domestic violence, abused children, traffic refugees caught in the sex industry, depression, self harm, sweat shops exploiting their workers so we can have cheap clothes?

Shane Claiborne says “It’s not that folk are hard-hearted toward the poor, but often simply that they don’t know the poor… we fear what we do not know”.

Our Churches are too often too clean and sanitised, and yet we have a God who left the glory of heaven and dwelt with us in poverty and brokenness.  Christ did not steer past the crap of dysfunctional lives, but rolled up his sleeves and embraced hurting and broken people and saw transformation.

I was struck by a Church I encountered once who did a lot of great work with disenfranchised people, a free meal on Sunday Night, a back to work thing on Friday morning, and yet I think sadly they do acts of compassion “to” the poor, it is a bit arms length. Like us with Jeremy Kyle playing on the TV screen.

I wonder are our prayers too removed because we are too removed?

Do just exercise safe compassion, great works but like Jeremy Kylie it’s clear whose who and where the power lies, where can always ask someone to turn the volume down a bit if we get uncomfortable.

Yesterday I was out walking and bumped into two friends, had a chat, pray, hug and talked a bit about life, one conversation had a bit of ‘story swapping’ -I was blessed by the encounter and I believe so were they, I wonder if this was more what real incarnational ministry ought to look like?

So, Jeremy Kylie stays on on a Monday morning, but rather than just to nudge our consciences as we pray, my prayer is that it is a reminder that the call is to be incarnational, living out our faith like Jesus did, not avoiding pain and brokenness, not having it as wall-paper remote and distant, nor at arms length, but in loving relationship embraced to our hearts, held in prayer not out of duty or obligation, but out of love, not people we serve (although we do) but people we call friends.

Holiness, Lords Prayer., prayer

Harold be thy Name…

At our All Age Congregation, Kings Krew, we have been working through the Lords Prayer, last time we looked at the opening phrase “Our Father in Heaven” (see previous blog).

On Sunday we looked at the next section, which I used to think was “Harold be thou name”, although we explored this together we remembered it was “hallowed be your name”, but interestingly everyone knew the word, but no one actually knew what it meant (adult as well as kids!)

I was thinking of the question “Who Am I?”

-We answer by giving our name.

The name we are known by effects our relationship with them, Doctor Who, is known as the Doctor “the one who makes people/things better”.

God reveals himself as “Father”, the source of life, loving parent, head of the family, provider, protector and the one in whose image we are fashioned.

As we explored what Hallowed meant, we discovered that it meant Holy, “Holy is your name”, what does Holy mean? We got some interesting Churchy words for Holiness, but as we dug deeper we got, words like “precious”, “perfect”, “unblemished and untarnished”, “as it should be and without defect”, “completely right”, “as it should be”, “the best quality”, “flawless” this idea developed into the phrase (unintentionally quoting Tina Turner!) “simply the best, better than all the rest”.

In fact we though of the verse in Isaiah 6 which said “Holy, Holy, Holy” -which describes God, but the reason why the same word is given three times is because there is no word for “very”, so it is saying emphatically perfect, perfect, perfect, the best, the best, the best.

But then we wondered “may your name be Holy” is a funny phrase as God’s name IS holy, so perhaps this actually is a call for people to realise, acknowledge and honour the Holiness of God’s name. In other words “your name is Holy, and may it be honoured by all people”.

There are many names for God, but we can’t simply sum God up in one name, in fact one time when God is asked his name he describes it as “I am who I am”, which become translated to Yahweh, which was an unsayable name, orthodox Jews today consider God’s name to be so Holy they write “G-d”.

Knowing our name is too intimate for some people, teachers will introduce themselves as Mr or Ms, rather than by their first name, to be known by their first name would give a familiarity they don’t want.

Joan Osbourne asked “If God had a name what would it be? And would you call it to his face?”

Christians know that this God, whose name is too Holy to speak or write down, was given a name -a name which is above every name- -a name by which we are save- and that is Jesus, “the one who saves”, “Immanuel” or “God with us”.

Chris Cornell sung for the re-boot of Bond in Casino Royale, and sung “You know my name”, God who is Holy lets us know his name, let’s us know him, intimately, informally, personally and authentically.

May your name be revered and honoured, as people come to know you God. Amen.

Lords Prayer., Matthew 6:8, prayer

Just call me Dad!

I did a talk this morning to our All Age Congregation Kings Krew.

I asked them what they would call Prince Charles if he wandered in to Church?

They worked out that he’d be called “Your Highness” on first meeting and then after that you can go a bit more informal and just call him “Sir”.

If the Queen walked, she should be called “Your Majesty” -and we practiced bows and curtsies too, yet after first meeting you can call her “Mam, as in Jam, nor Marm as in Farm” -Always assuming the biopic film “The Queen” is right.

If Donald Trump, tragically the most powerful man on earth, his title is “Mr. President” and on no account is anyone allowed to call him “Donald”.

…I then asked what we call God, the one who threw stars into space, the once who created everything from nothing, a God who is a million times bigger than our biggest thought or concept of the infinite God.

What do we call him?

One kid put their hand up and said “Lord!”

Another kid put their hand up and said “Jesus”.

…both right answers… but I was thinking of a much simpler word “Father”.

Just imagine the ripple of consternation when Jesus this scruffy nomadic Rabbi suggested we call the Adonai, the Lord Almighty, “Our Father” at the start of his most famous prayer…

Perhaps as we have got so used to saying the Lords prayer that we forget the power of this opening line?

We forget that orthodox Jews don’t even write the word God, because it is too holier a word to write so they write it G-d. Yahweh or Jehovah were words too Holy to utter…

And yet Jesus allows us to call this God “Father”.

John says “See the love the Father has lavished his love upon us that we may be called children of God” (1 John 3:1).

Yet Father might still conjure up a sterner respectful image, yet the word used is “Abba” which is more intimate, a bit like “Daddy”.

I remember having a profound moment in London watching a Jewish family playing together and the kids were laughing with their dad calling out “Abba”, in fact it is a word do simple it is one of the first words a human child can say!

Paul says in his letter to the Romans “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8.14-16).

This image of being adopted is a wonderful Christian image of being taken into the heart of the family. I did think of correcting the above passage to something more gender non specific than “sonship”, but then realised that this word does more than indicates we are (beloved) children of God it has a concept more of being an heir, the one who inherits. The rules of adoption meant you inherited everything just like a ‘blood born child’.  In Christ, we are sons and daughters of God, who inherit everything. A truth which is not just some theology for our brain but rather should be something experiential, a truth encountered, a truth permeating to the depth of who you are.

As a child we have access to God at anytime, rights of beloved children. My daughter does not have to make an appointment to see me, rather I try to move appointments so I can see her, a God who wants a relationship with us, a God who’d whose us at our worst and still loves us and even so he bids us come.

I’ll close with Prince Charles ‘ official full title

His Royal Highness The Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Earl of Chester, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, Royal Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Extra Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Grand Master and Principal Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Member of the Order of Merit, Knight of the Order of Australia, Companion of the Queen’s Service Order, Member of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council, Aide-de-Camp to Her Majesty… “

But to William and Harry he is simply Dad!

God of heaven, the Lord Almighty, King of Kings and yet he loves us and says call me dad!

Now, you might not have had the best experience of dads, but God isn’t like our earthly Fathers, he is like the worlds best and most perfect parent. A friend of mine was once asked whether we could call God ‘she’, she replied that God wouldn’t have an identity Crisis, God is waning to be known and loves us.

Can you hear him calling?

Mission, Mission Shaped Church, Pioneer, Post-modern-culture, prayer, presence, Worship

Pints Of View…

We have been continuing our work with Pints of View, being available for people to talk to us, I go to the local pub the Kings Arms and Wetherspoon’s wearing my collar each Wednesday to make myself accessible to the local people who might want to chat.

The more Catholic end of the spectrum of the Church teaches us a lot about the power of presence, of the importance of ‘just being there’ and ‘being available’.

Keeping the rumour of God alive. Putting a human (and smiling approachable) face on the faceless institution of the Church.

Over the years’ I have been here much of my thinking and efforts has been about learning to be good guests on other peoples’ turf, being prepared to meet people where they are at, where they go and where they hang out, rather than our somewhat naïve and arrogant idea of expecting them to ‘come to us’.

One of the project I have worked hard with is the setting up of the Kingswood Street and School Pastors, where Christian volunteers wander around our local communities where we try and make it as easy as possible for those who want to chat to have a conversation with a Christian. Friendly, accessible, warm approachable, sadly not words we always associate with Church.

Yet, we want to offer more than just a conversation on a street corner, but the opportunity for a longer conversation if people wanted, being in the same place at the same time regularly, so that people if they want to can join us. We soon discovered that for most people -even if we’d had a good chat with them- never came to a Church service on Sunday (despite many saying that they would), maybe it was just too bigger jump for them? Perhaps having a chat in a pub was more of a manageable step for people.

 This is something we have been doing regularly in some form for the past 4 or 5 years, in different pubs, and trying different things. Sometimes I have been joined by another Christian friend -or two-, and sometimes just on my own, sometimes no conversations with anyone at all, other times have birthed some wonderful kingdom opportunities, and some new friendships -this week was invited by a couple of guys who aren’t Churchy to join their team for the pub quiz, which was a lot of fun even if we didn’t win!

Recently we changed or format again, my friend Mike who runs the pub called the Kings Arms (what a fab name for a Church!) has let us use a side room to meet up in, so we have started our evenings with a bit of prayer and one week my friend Wes brought a guitar and we worshipped a bit (if you are interested in hearing more about it, do check it out here….).

Interestingly God has been speaking to Wes about the power of worship, somehow worship seems to alter the spiritual DNA of the place. In the summer at an outreach event, Wes and his team had some worship on the streets, with preaching and flyers, the manager of the shopping centre stopped the flyers and the preaching, but allowed the worship to continue, yet it was through the worship which led someone to pray a prayer of commitment. Worship is powerful, worship changes things, worship changing us.

So, we decided to do a service in the little room, with the hope that people could drift from the bar and join us, in many way this was doing a service almost as a prophetic action to say we believe that Church will be birthed here. I’d asked my friend Regan to do a bit of a talk.

I’d sent out emails, put it on facebook, but still was worried that no one would come.

Regan was the first to arrive, which made me feel more worried, if no one showed up it would feel more awkward, especially if Regan had spent ages preparing this would be uncomfortable.

Yet gradually a few people came, in fact there was about 6 of us. My friend David led some worship songs on the guitar with the words printed out on a bit of paper. I looked around, we were quite a broad mix really, mix of ages, from different Churches, everything from AOG to Roman Catholic.  

It felt somewhat self-conscious knowing people could hear us praying and our worship, it felt a bit like a step of faith stick our neck out for Christ.

Although we just singing a few songs accompanied by a couple of guitars, but there was a real sense of God’s presence, everyone there was hungry for more of Gods Kingdom to break into our community.

Was this Church? -Yes! Rowan Williams defined Church as “an intentional community centred around Christ Jesus”.

It made me wonder:

Do we make Church too complicated?

 Do we make Church too static and inflexible?

Are we far too bound up by our buildings?

Our we too wedded to our history of the hallowed Sunday morning hour ideology which has no scriptural base?

My heart longs to be a simply Church, flexible, deployable but still being authentic church community moving into the heart of our community.

As we worshipped a sense of God’s presence was tangible, perhaps in this season God is longing to be encountered rather than just explained?

Then my friend Regan shared a few words, mainly his testimony, was reminded afresh of the power of our story, interestingly this is the most common question I get asked? “What made you go religious?”/ ”Why did you become a Vicar?” -people want to know our story.

When we encounter people and they see that in many ways we are both Christians and people like them, that brings an unsaid challenge that ‘people like me can be Christians’.

Perhaps part of the failure our Churches is they simply don’t look like the communities in which they are situated?

Within his testimony, Regan spoke about his journey of faith, he spoke of how one of his relatives in Zimbabwe used to pray for him regularly, and I wonder how many of the people in the pub that have anyone who is praying for them? I was reminded too, by Regan’s story of the centrality of Christ himself in the role of mission, who would have thought that a struggling, middle class church of largely elderly people would mainly reach and disciple a young 20 something Zimbabwean? Yet, by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, the impossible -or at least the highly unlikely- happens.

This reminded me of that wonderful verse “They overcame by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony”. The power of our story placed here by John the author of Revelation side by side with the blood of Christ.


Regan then shared about a wonderful older saint at his work, who came up to him once and offered him a Bible, which he declined (somewhat rudely!). Yet, I hope that this side of eternity, this lady will come across Regan doing what he does best telling people straight about Jesus. Maybe this lady felt like a failure at mission because she was given ‘short shrift’ by Regan, but he bravery and almost certainly her prayers echoed in eternity and have had an effect she could have only dreamt of.

My friend Kaja shared how she was so angry at her sister for having the disrespect and audacity to talk to her about her new-found faith, and yet several hours later Kaja herself said she was on her knees inviting Christ into her life.

Sometimes we don’t know the fruit that God brings to birth, often what feels like failure could be slower birthing fruit. Maybe when we step out in faith, we need to remember that “one plants, another waters’, but God makes it grow”, remembering too that “God’s word does not return to him void”.

Then as we wandered talking to people in the Kings Arms and Weatherspoon’s, Kaja and Wes met a couple of people ended up bumping into a Christian and sorting out some exciting stuff to do with the local foodbank in Fishponds -made me wonder when we intentional give God time and space he will uses our offering for his glory and sometimes divine and Kingdom advancing appointments.

It was good to chat to one another too, it made me think about how formal Church is and we rarely spend time with one another, ironic as one of the Churches I lead has its tag line “where strangers become friends and friends meet with Jesus” but perhaps we stay a little too much like strangers? I used to say “I don’t want to be a Church that is friendly, rather I want to be a Church where people can make friends in”.

I ended up chatting to my new friend John, a Catholic, and was so encouraging to hear what the Holy Spirit is doing in the Catholic Church, it makes me realise that although we come from different places, and do different things, that the Spirit of God is not confined by our differences and is bringing glory to Jesus through all those that seek him.

I had a brief chat with a guy I’d met at the foodbank, who came up to me and shook me by the hand and said that “although I’m not religious, I want to thank you for what you do”, which was a massive blessing, as I have recently felt really discouraged of late and this meant more than he could know (in fact I see it as a mini miracle as -sadly- this very, very rarely happens!).

On our way out of the pub, at the end of the evening, we ended up having a conversation with two guys about the Street Pastors project, Church, life, compassion although we never gave them a ‘full gospel message’ it again felt like this was again a Kingdom advance life blessing conversation.

So, why not join us, on a Wednesday, 7:45 for some worship and prayer, followed by a drink and being open to meet whoever we meet, giving the evening to God for his glory and see what happens, making new friends, going deeper with one another, perhaps conversation too which may change peoples’ eternal destinies?

God offering each of us the opportunity to partner with him, not hidden away in some Church, talking churchy stuff with already churchy people, often naval gazing. Let’s step out and meet him where he always has been in his world longing to meet his people who don’t yet know him.

prayer, the Holy Spirit

Seeking the Voice of God.

Do you remember the old logo for HMV of a dog listening to an old grammar-phone? I didn’t realise that HMV stood for his masters’ voice and the ‘story’ of the logo was the dog hearing his owner on the grammar-phone and was confused.

God says “my sheep know my voice”, he also says “whether you turn to the right or to the left you will hear a voice behind you saying this is the way of the Lord walk in it”. We as Christians believe in a God who speaks, yet perhaps we are not people who naturally find listening easy to do.

I have found in the Bible the story of Samuel incredibly challenging when as a Child he was in the temple but didn’t know God’s voice, and kept on mistaking God’s voice for the voice of his Rabbi Eli, until eventually Eli realised that the Lord was calling Samuel and taught him a prayer which was “speak Lord for your servant is listening”. I wonder if this is something the Church of Christ would echo, “speak Lord, for your servants are listening”.

In the book of Revelation there is a refrain at the end of each of the letters to the seven Churches of Asia Minor “he who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying too the Churches”.

Yet to hear God’s voice, we need to have soft hearts, in the book of Hebrews we get the refrain “today if you hear God’s voice do not harden your hearts”.

So, a challenge, are we listening to God?

Are we expectant to hear his voice?

Are we opening scripture?

Are we giving God time and space to talk to us?

Are our hearts open to what he has to say, or are our hearts hardened to what only hear what we want to hear?

Are we sharing with one another, the diversity of the body of Christ, to hear what he has to share through one another?

As I thought about this I began to think about how narrow the people we listen to actually is, how many of our Churches are run by middle class, university educated middle class males?

How much of our reading is from American mega Church pastors (again pre-dominantly white middle class university educated and male)? 

Or if you move in theological circles white Europeans male academics from the 1950’s (Barth, Bonhoeffer, Moltmann, Tillich or Kirkergaard).

Interestingly too, when we read blogs and things on social media, rather than challenging our opinions the computer finds people who will agree with us, do we limit our reading and encounter to find people that confirm what we already think, or challenge out existing thinking?

Do we expect God to speak through people who look and sound like us?

I was talking with a friend today who was speaking about how he had to write an essay using only voices from the developing world, which profoundly challenged him encountering different people from a different world view, and yet enabled him to encounter something different of God.

So, where is God speaking?

Is God stretching us to search and seek him beyond the confines of our comfort zones?

Are we expectant to hear God’s voice from sources we might not have previously engaged with?

Let us live our lives with our hearts, eyes and ears open to encounter more of the revelation of God and wrestling and growing in all that we discover of him becoming more like him.


A Simple Blog about Prayer.

Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives

39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.[c]
45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

Jesus wants his disciples to pray, in fact he really wants his closest mates to be praying for him as he approaches the toughest challenge of his life, and yet they are caught napping. When the need is greatest, the disciples are caught napping.

“being ready” is a major theme of Jesus’ teaching, describing his return like a thief in the night, telling parables of the careless bridesmaids who run out of oil (Oil -a symbol of the Holy Spirit) and aren’t around when the Bridegroom returns (Bridegroom -an image for Jesus), or the parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard. John the Baptist’s message was to get ready “prepare the way…  for the Kingdom of heaven is close at hand”.

Sadly, this can feel a bit like a picture of the modern day Church caught napping.

Yet could Christ say to us and our Churches “why are you sleeping” and would he challenge us to “get up and pray”.

When I arrived in Kingswood in the parish they had a million and one music groups, flower festivals, concerts and socials but not a single prayer meeting in either Church.

Yet sadly  prayer is seen as an optional extra, something just for the keenest. Yet could Christ say to us and our Churches “why are you sleeping” and would he challenge us to “get up and pray”.

Mark Rich says when he goes to a Church the first thing he does is look at the notice sheet and counts the weekly prayer meets as a barometer of the health of the Church.

Unless we have a supernatural element to who we are, we engage with God in prayer we are simply “A Rotary Club with a Pointy roof” to quote  Archbishop Justin.

Churches really  aren’t measured by their activity or grandeur of the building but in the depth of their relationship with God.

Archbishop Justin continues “without prayer there will be no renewal of the Church, and without a renewal of the Church, there is very little Hope for the world”.

A Church will never be a praying Church unless its component parts -its members- are praying, and I mean really pray, not politely going through the motions dutifully, but seeking God with all of our hearts, souls, mind and strength. A great quote from Pete Greig is our prayers need to be “more Fight Club and less Golf Club!”.

If you want your Church to be a praying Church, then the best advice I can give you is to pray.

Bring it into conversation, let’s pray about this, I’ll be praying for… I was praying… and let’s be Churches of testimony -when God answers our prayers, let’s share it with the Church to encourage and raise the faith of those around us.

And rather than just being a praying Church, let’s join with other Christians in our local area and pray with them and for them, as ultimately, we want to see the body of Christ in this area built up, encouraged and equipped.

As I wrote this I’m reminded of the image of the Roman Soldiers that stood together interlocked with their shields, the idea of needing one another, and fighting together, remembering the adage “united we stand and divided we fall” -so true in the context of prayer, particularly from this passage.

In seeking to encourage Church to go deeper, and become more prayerful, I have experienced some nastiness, opposition and resistance, and maybe you might too? In many ways we are being revolutionaries, our prayers re-write the spiritual DNA of our areas, our prayers are powerful and dangerous so of course Satan will try to keep us asleep rather than being awake and at prayer.

One quote from Mark Rich is “Satan laughs at our schemes, sneers at our plans, but he trembles when we pray”.

want us to be a Church that makes Satan tremble, don’t you?

Let’s ask ourselves are we as Churches (and as individuals) filling our lives with things that cause us to spiritually fall asleep and distract us from prayer and our relationship with God.

 Should we  keep doing them?

If the answer  is yes, what can we do to keep us awake, alert to the spirit and prayerful?

Let’s pray for a new wave of prayerfulness to sweep across this area and across our nation, let us be part of a new awakening in the Church of God at this time…

Let us wake up and get on our knees.