aware, End times, ready, Return of Christ, Uncategorized, watchmen

The End is Nigh…

The sandwich-board says “The End is Neigh… Repent or Fry!”

The idea of talking about the end is very unfashionable in our Churches.

Scripture calls us to interpret the times and the seasons, those of us who are ordained in the Church of England have promised to be “watchmen, keeping watch”.

Theologian Karl Barth urged his students to read the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other hand, the Bible speaks into todays world, and God’s word has a timeless power to speak prophetically into the changing world.

Jesus called his people to keep watch and be ready, we have heard of the foolish virgins -or bridesmaids- that run out of oil waiting for the bridegroom to return (oil being a symbol of the Holy Spirit). Be ready, don’t miss out.

The repeated message of the Gospels is be ready, John the Baptist message was “repent for the Kingdom of heaven is close at hand”. Be ready, and be prepared.

Peter warns us to be on our guard for “your enemy the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” -Be ready, and stay alert.

Paul instructs us to “wake up O sleeper and rise from the dead and the light of God will shine on you”… Be prepared, don’t lets get caught napping.

The early Church were expecting the imminent return of Jesus, yet we aren’t expecting him to come anytime soon. Its almost a joke -I have a T’shirt saying “Jesus is coming look busy”- but the truth is Jesus IS coming. The question is “how will he find his Church?” -that’s you and me-.

People say “we won’t know the day or the hour”, “it will come like a thief in the night” and like “Labour Pains on a pregnant woman”… Yet Christians are also called to look at and study the times and the seasons, to see what God is doing and saying in his world.

Yesterday I heard a challenging talk on all things “end-times related” from a very wise guy Rich Rycroft, and today I spoke to my friend Mark Rich, who said this “we may not know the day or the hour but we can know the season”, we know God is on the move, God is at work and time may well be shorter, much shorter than we think.

I came back to God through the sudden death of a 19 year old friend, her death jolted me out of my complacency, realising that I couldn’t put off thinking about these things that actually really mattered (mattered more than anything else). Before her death I was something of a spiritual ostrich burying my head in the sand, yet God wanted me to come to a realisation that these things cannot be put of to another day, because one day there wont be another day.

I have never been to a casino, nor ever played roulette, but I’ve seen that on the movies there is a time when they say “no more bets” and the opportunity has gone.

I believe we are living in changing times, time where God is at work, God is reminding his Church of the urgency of his Gospel -especially as “in the last days people will be lovers of themselves and will gather around themselves those who say what their itching ears long to hear”-.

Now is the time.
Now is the day of Salvation.

Let’s not be frightened, Jesus is faithful and trustworthy, but let us seize the day, and live each moment as though it were our last, bringing in a harvest that lasts for eternity.

Jesus is the King, but he is the soon coming King, are we ready for him, let’s get ready for him, let’s encourage one another to be ready for the King’s return.

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call, cost, Evangelism, Journey, Kingdom, Monasticism, Pilgrimage, Pioneer, Post-modern-culture, ready, rejection, Risk and Change, Salvation, Simplicity, St. Francis, vocation

A Cunning Plan…

People are asking me all the time what am I going to do once I leave (especially about money).

It is hard because the honest answer is “I don’t know, God hasn’t shown me yet” which as someone who normally knows where they want to go, has a strategy and is forging ahead, this is pretty uncomfortable place.

I have said I will spend October until Christmas seeking God and praying (although I’ll also try and find some way of earning some cash too, unless Allana can keep me as a kept man!)

I do want to learn to be a better husband and dad, heart-breaking phrase from Hope was about being glad I’m not going to be a Vicar anymore as she will see more of me as I wont always be working. As you can imagine how much that phrase was like a knife in my heart.

Somehow in making personal sacrifices for ministry, we end up causing our loved ones to suffer in a way that I don’t believe God intended.

One thing I remain passionate about is telling people, who want to know about Jesus, about Jesus.

And some thinking is beginning to emerge in my head and heart.

Recently I have become aware that two phrases I hear all the time, is “I don’t like ‘hit and run’ evangelism” and I want to be a Church like the book of Acts.

which is ironic as Acts is full of hit and run evangelism, as are the gospels, Jesus only did ministry for three years (that’s shorter than a curacy in the Church of England), he sent the 12 and the 72 out to go into the cities, towns and villages and then to come back. The book of Acts is entirely “hit and run” S/Paul the great missionary only stayed in Ephesus for a year -ironic as the average clergy stay is 7 years. More-over it seems to have taken about half an hour for the Church in Ethiopia to be planted (as it appears as though he went back home with his faith, told others and by God’s grace the Church took root and grew).

As I thought more about this, the greatest missionary movement outside the Acts of the Apostles -St. Francis of Assisi- again saw people travelling from place to place, just as Wesley too was captivated by his assurance of Christ and went from place to place telling other people about Jesus.

Yet why has that stopped? why have we become so settled in our communities? why have we lost this urgency of the gospel which we want to tell everyone and go to the ends of the earth if necessary?

why do the only people that seem to go from place to place talking about Jesus nowadays are the big name speakers, staying in plush hotels, and speaking to large audiences (most of whom -est. 70% are already Christians) in luxury venues with massive sound-desks and lighting rigs and a ton of equipment.

Yet Jesus sent the 12 and the 72 out without even a second jacket, knowing that the gospel was enough. -How come todays Christianity looks so clunky? why is it so like Saul’s armour, slow and immoveable?

Recently we planted a Church, its been tough, recently I sat in a meeting and they were talking about all this Churchy procedure and just felt like something in me was dying (I’d already resigned by that point, but it certainly confirmed by decision). why is establishing a new Christian community so full of human beaucracy, it was jobs-worthy we need to remember that Jesus matters more than red tape!

A year ago I blogged about “Simple Church” we make it so complicated when really it is simply gathering together, worshiping and learning together about how we follow Christ and sharing together bread and wine. Today I was chatting to a minister who talked about “Pop Up Church”, the idea of Churches shooting up all over the place, travelling light, trying stuff out, mobile and seeking where works the best and through it all people discovering and growing in Christ.

This model of Jesus, Francis and Wesley relied not on “paid professionals” coming in and teaching us how to do Church, but rather empowering people from day one, it was collaborative, it was free from really unhelpful “provider client” baggage, or of preacher/pastors needing to be needed. The preacher was off to the next town, so “all hands on deck”.

Perhaps this next season might involve simple mission, just telling people who are interested about Jesus (so often in all the fuss, noise, events, buildings, fundraising, activity we forget that we are meant primarily to be telling people about Jesus). Simple Church, that makes simple disciples that live for Christ and transform the world.

Church that keeps on moving, place to place, keeps on planting again and again, and keeps on going until this nation is changed and transformed.

Perhaps this is the new monasticism I’ve longed for looks like, people simply talking about Jesus going from place to place, and setting up Churches as we go. Not every Church will grow and flourish, but -God willing- some will.

So, come January, maybe somehow can work out a way of simply doing this, which looks to me like mission as Jesus intended, very simple yet very challenging. Simply talking Jesus -and showing him by how we live our lives- seeing Churches literally popping up, some will live and some might not make it, and as we step into all that God has for us, seeing the great commission fulfilled and “disciples being made”…

I don’t know yet how this will look, and maybe it’s just an unrealistic dream, a bonkers thought, or maybe, just maybe, there might be a gleam -a momentary glimpse- of a possible future that maybe starting to be born…

And maybe it is a challenge for us, maybe this vision might reasonate with you, or maybe God has a new vision for you about to be born, maybe he’s calling you to lay something down, in order in his time to pick something else up.

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expectations, Growth, prepared., ready

Trestles and Vines

Last night at our Church AGM we had an interesting image brought to us about Trestles and Vines. Vines need support -Trestles- to enable them to flourish and grow well.

The idea of trestles is what support do we need to put in place to enable to work of the Kingdom of God to grow and flourish well?

Without a trestle the vine falls on the ground and the fruit is trampled underfoot, and the grapes flourish in the sunlight.

It is an image I like, because the priority is focused towards what actually matters, and building a structure; loose, adaptable and flexible, to adequately host what God -the vine grower- is doing.

Sometimes in order to help the vine, we need to work with the trestles.

Yet I began to kick the idea of Vines and Trestles around in my head for a little bit and I thought of three pictures around this.

The first picture is a very sad one, -the Revered but Redundant Trestle- where the vine has long since withered and died, and so they obsess about the trestles, the trestles are -if we are being brutally honest- in-necessary and unneeded by the people have got used to them being there, and have been there when there was a vine covering them, and no one has had the heart to gently say “your trestles don’t appear to have any vines, leaves or grapes on them”.

The second picture is a little happier  -it’s the just about coping Trestle- the vine and the trestle are well matched and everything is coping nicely, the vine is a little heavy on the old trestle and the trestle has given faithful service, but it is all okay really. It works, yet the trestles have only been built to contain what they now contain, they may have been originally built with vision and faith, but now they have reached their capacity, and are happy, but a little strained, but they don’t want to stretch out new trestles and push beyond the now reached boundaries.

The third picture, is a faith-filled Trestle, where the trestle is built in faith for the vines future growth and development, seeing the vine now how it currently is, but how it can and will be, it know the vine will grow and need support, it is waiting/watching and prepared to take the strain as new growth gradually appears.

Growth is sneaky, often advances by inches, subtle and unnoticed except to the most faith-filled and expectant watcher with alert eyes.

When God starts to move, are our Churches ready and able to cope with what the Lord of the harvest brings in? Are our trestles, redundant or only just coping? Lets instead build with faith that God is at work.

Building not for what is here at the moment, but building for what is going to come, for the harvest we have yet to see.

Lets be people building these faith filled trestles/

 

 

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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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