Age, cost, Depression, Disappointment, Discouragement, doubt, Dreams, expectations, Experience, faithfulness, Grit, hope, Hopes and Dreams, Humanity, Risk and Change, self awareness, Spiritual Warfare, Step of faith, Suffering., Testimony, vocation

Looking back over my 30’s!

I remember 10 years ago about to turn 30!

30 -I couldn’t believe I was going to be 30!

30?!

I remember sat in a pub on the Quay -and called the Quay- in Poole.

I was all full of hope and excitement about life…

I was about to get married.

I was a year(ish) into my curacy and was about to be ordained Priest/Presbyter.

I was full of audacious dreams of the adventure God had planned for us in somewhere we did not yet know.

Today I’m feeling much more melancholy.

Looking back over the past 10 years have had some wonderful moments, particularly marrying Allana and our fantastic daughter.

But, I am asking myself 40? -How did that happen?

40,that can’t be right?

40!?

There have been some wonderful moments, seeing people pray prayers of commitment to Christ and meaning them, baptising adults, planting a Church -and a few new congregations-, seeing friends step into what God has for them especially those ordained (especially Sam)and seeing some wonderful Kingdom signs and wonders along the way too.

Yet there have been some tough moments too.

To be honest it feels a little like half way through a boxing match where you are dabbing your eye with a wet sponge and spitting blood into the bucket.

Sometimes when we stop we sometimes realise what a fight a season has been, how far you’ve come -and even if it doesn’t feel far, it is worth remembering that sometimes the shortest distances sometimes can be the toughest of drags. One clergy friend that had a tough time talked about “I ran with the ball and I made the 9 yards”. It might not feel a long way, but they were significant steps hard won and costly.

As I slipped into sulky mood, I began to have a bit of a self pity party with the people that let me down, the mean stuff people have said, the times plans didn’t go right and all sorts of bumps and bruises along the way.

Yet in it all I am sure I have learned stuff.

And despite sometimes feeling very confused, and even sometimes asking “God where are you?”, why is this happening” and “why did this door close?” I can still say (even though this has probably been the toughest decade of my life) that God has been, and is, faithful.

As I thought of that young thirty year old dreamer, I’m now a bit more gnarled and wrinkled, but we are standing on another new season.

The dream for God to take us, now the three of us (four if you include the dog) into new adventures into the unknown, with expectancy, again not knowing what the future holds, but knowing who it is that holds the future.

As I sit here, a bit battered, but still want that same dream to stay alive.

I think there is nothing spiritually mature about becoming jaded and downsizing our expectations of God. There is nothing Godly about playing it safe and going through the motions. There is nothing wise about allowing dreams to die and reducing and minimising your vision.

I love the C.S. Lewis quote that says “You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream”.

why should the future look boring and safe? An adventure with Jesus might be tougher and harder than most of us thought when we surrendered our lives to him, but it is still the greatest calling we have.

It would have been so easy to keep on doing what we have been doing and just slowly die under the moany pessimistic emails, the endless cycle of harvest festivals and other annual events and preaching to people who have heard it all a million times but longing to preach to someone who has not heard it at all.

It is so easy to be safe keep your head down grit your teeth and think about your pension, yet I believe that God has so much more for all of us than our 9-5 prisons.

As we get older, sometimes the risks feels bigger (especially those of us with families) and the jumps feel further, and the costs seem greater and yet the truth of God’s faithfulness remains the same, constant.

So, looking back and looking forward, however it looks I want to pledge one thing, it will be about Jesus, the one who is the same today, yesterday and forever.

It will be uncertain although it is in the service of the only truly certain thing in this universe -Jesus is this life’s only true certainty.

So, although I feel like I’m sat on a stall, it’s time to return the gum-shield, step into a different ring and listen to the bell and see what God ahs in store for the next decade.

It’s not about how much it cost -although sometimes that does feel quite in your face at times- but rather it is about how great is the prize, the Kingdom, the pearl of great price, the one worth it all.

“were the whole realm of nature mine that were an offering far too small, love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all”.

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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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Authenticity, Fear, Life styles, Listening, Mission, Naaman, Pride, Risk and Change, Salvation

word on the street

Today I went to the Turning Mission happening in Bristol.

I felt a bit awkward going in as I had missed the last couple of days, and had to log in on this computer that kept crashing, before grabbing a disposable cup of coffee (actually not too bad coffee for Church coffee!).

I scanned the sea of faces for a face I recognised before spotting my friend Geoff, another Vicar, who works with us sometimes, it was his first day too.

I wasn’t wearing my clerical collar, normally when I do outreachy stuff I’m normally in Kingswood, and I wear it as have found it often helps the conversation get started. Often too when I do outreach I’m either doing School or Street Pastors with lots of practical help to offer (not to mention the large florencent jackets!). Other times when doing Chaplaincy work we are giving out creme eggs other chocolate, but today, it was just me, no props, no costumes, nothing to hide behind, just me (and God).

My friend Greg Sharples once spoke on Jesus sending out the 12 and the 72 without anything extra for the journey and his main point was simply: Jesus is enough… we don’t need the gimmicks.

Anyway the worship started and I tried to look Holy whilst trying to surreptitiously drink my coffee.

Although the worship was just a random dude on a guitar there was a real sense of God’s Holy Spirit anointing on our worship together, reminding me afresh of importance of God’s presence. 

Also reminded me just how complicated we have made Church life, let’s just worship together, share life, open the scriptures, pray and eat together.

The Turning is based on two very simple ideas, soak in God’s presence and go out into the community in pairs following a very simple script as we talk to the people we meet.

I felt nervous about using a script, I wanted to sound authentic not scripted, would I sound false? Also, if I’m honest I was a bit proud, I’m not sure I need a script I thought… then I had a pang of guilt/regret as I thought how few people I have seen make a commitment: “Lord Jesus, I pray I’ll be humble enough to learn what you’ve got to teach me” I prayed silently.

I was reminded of the story of Naaman, the Babylonian Commander with lepracy  who was told by Elisha’s servant to wash seven times in the Jordan river, Naaman was offended, his pride was hurt, because he thought he was too good to wash in the dirty old water of Jordan. Do we think we are too good to learn from other Christians?

And then we were off. I was in a of team of five, and we had been told to go to the M shed, as we set off we saw a guy sat on the grass, with his bike. My friend Harry and I went up to talk to him. (I’ll be honest I felt nervous, I felt like 14 at the school disco asking a girl to dance). we introduced ourself, we told him God loved him and had a plan for his life. The next part of the script talked about if he died tonight  did he know if he would he go to heaven (all the pastoral-ness in me was cringing a bit, feels pushy and don’t mention death its an uncomfortable subject), I did make a joke about “we hope you don’t die tonight by the way” -not a great joke, by he smiled, and said he’d been thinking a lot about this sort of stuff recently, probably not fair to blog his conversation with us, but as  conversation moved on and was able to pray with him, and lead him in a prayer of commitment.

we came down the hill, and then realising that the rest of the team were all engaged in conversations too, quietly prayed for them, and then began to grin at passers by trying to get another conversation, I think I was over-eager as people refused to make eye contact with this over-grinning bearded scruff.

Later ended up talking to a couple who had already been chatted to, but they were smiley and chilled, so began to relax a bit, this wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.

Something however was rattling around my brain, the previous night my friend Jason and I had been talking to a lady in the pub with our PINTS OF VIEw event, and she had said to me “I really like the fact that you don’t come in here and preach to us”…

Last night I had taken that as a compliment, but then wondered whether sometimes I’m too worried about listening well,  caring and saying the right and helpful thing that maybe I should be more bold and tenacious with the gospel.

I remembered hearing Ricco Tice talk about the pain barrier in spiritual conversations, often the great fruit comes as we leave our comfort zones and are bolder than we’d like to be.

Again, I remembered hearing talk about dangerous faith, and felt God say that maybe I’d got a bit too comfortable just being the nice Vicar out an about in the community. Suddenly I remembered my walk to work on Easter Monday 1996, the day after I had made a re-commitment, I believed as I was about to commit social suicide by being different and telling my friends and colleagues I’d become a Christian (actually it was fine, and led to loads of great conversations, God is very gracious and faithful).

Anyway, I was brought back to earth with a jolt, I’d made eye contact with a guy on the bench. Another conversation followed with a young guy who wasn’t up for making a commitment but liked being prayed for and had a job interview later that afternoon and were able to pray for that.

The rest of our team had seen a couple become Christians early on, but now conversations were getting flat. I tried talking to a homeless guy sat on a wall but he told me to  “F*** off” -Something I’d been expecting a lot of today, but hadn’t really happened!

Then ended up having a conversation with some guys working for Amnesty international, a charity I love, they were a bit cold to the idea of God “yeah but is God a MAN, how do you know?” one sneered, I made some joke about God being bigger than gender -they laughed (a miracle it was a rubbish joke!) but the ice was broken. I tried doing the spiel ending with a “can I pray for you?” -“only if you let me recite you a poem” said the guy who was clearly the “big cheese” of the group, so I prayed my best and boldest prayer, and he recited his poem, interestingly there were images of the fall, of the worlds emptiness and some redemptive ideas within his sonnet, we ended up chatting about his poem and his world view, as we chatted he became  much warmer and did a two handed grasp when he shook my hand for the final time. It struck me that two of these guys with their dreddlocks and their tattoos were spiritual and seekers, the third was much more interested in trying to convert me than listening to what I had to say. Am I like this? I hope not, do I only listen to reply, or do I listen to hear what is being said? Street Pastors talk of “Double Listening” -hearing what God is saying, hearing what the person is saying (and by hearing I actually mean taking it all in, words, body language and everything else).

we were still no where near the M shed and it was nearly time to go back, the guys were talking to a busker whose English was bad, just then Harry started chatting to him in  Spanish, I didn’t know Harry knew Spanish! “Afterwards Harry said “I might have ordered a beer” but I hope I told him Jesus Loved him”.

Geoff came up to me and said that a dad and a daughter had just accepted Jesus which was amazing, and the lady in our group was having a fab conversation with a girl who was raising money for charity.

A guy walked past sort of stopping, and he said he was a Catholic, always an interesting one, is this a cultural/family thing or a real relationship with Jesus? He couldn’t stop, but did want a copy of the script. Two lads on the steps of the registry office eating hummus let us talk to them, polite but didn’t want us to pray for us. I did wonder, one guy seemed more open than his friend, I wondered if his friend wasn’t there might it be a different story. I thought about Street Pastors and how peoples mates can make them act totally differently.

Harry joked about having a 100% failure rate claiming that I did all the work on the first guy. It was one of those half jokes that often hides a sadness. Just then an old bloke struggled out of his mobility scooter with an empty disposable cup. I asked him if he wanted a hand, and he asked me if I could put his cup in the bin for him, so I did, the nearest bin was over-flowing so I went to the next bin down the road, and came back to hear Harry leading him in a prayer of commitment, the 100% failure rate had been broken, praise God.

we then headed back to hear testimony upon testimony of people accepting Christ, making re-commitments, or having prayer for healing or words of prophecy, one person met someone from Canada and they turned out to have a mutual Christian friend -what a divine appointment!

Praise God.

So glad I went along today, wished I had had a prophetic word for the Amnasty guys, as think you can bat ideas around for ages, but sometimes the prophetic cuts through everything. Still God is able to reach them, and even if it wasn’t through me today, he’s got lots of people and places to connect with them.

The last thought I had was remembering Rowan williams quote, “find out what God is doing and join in!” -when you find out what God is doing its always risky and a step of faith, but an adventure, which made me ask why so often is so much we do mind-crushingly dull?

I left thinking, why isn’t this my normal Christian life? I believe it could be, and should be… My prayer is God show me “what I can do to make my life like this not just on a mission, but on a normal everyday day?”

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Authenticity, Bravery, Guidance, Risk and Change

We Can’t Stay here…

“You can’t stay here” I said aghast as I visited Jo who was homeless living in a boiler room with water washing through it like a river.

“It’s not that bad, I’ll be okay!” was the reply (and she lived there for a further 6 months).

The people of Israel lived as nomadic desert people for 40 years, they were happy to trudge around in the heat and the absence of water, because this was safe, comfortable and familiar.

I am someone who hates going to the dentist and normally when the pain thresh-hold gets to the point when I can bare it no longer I stagger to the dentist, until I’m agony I put of going. Telling everyone “I’m fine”.

Is there pain that is unresolved that is getting worse?

Are there things in your life that hurt but hasn’t reached agony yet so you’re in pain and popping painkillers like smarties?

Over the last two years of our interregnum we have had a real challenge with trying to develop a culture which doesn’t tolerate people being nasty to each other. The least helpful thing when trying to change the culture was people saying “it’s not that bad” or “its just how people are” or other such excuses.

People talk about being Pastoral, and yet sometimes “sorting it out” is the most pastoral thing we can do, intervention is often scary, bringing change and risk, the familiar cycles are broken and the status quo is interrupted, sometimes things carrying on as they always had sometimes isn’t the best for anyone involved.

Ironically though, I am actually someone who hates conflict, I know others thrive on it, but I’m not one of them. Yet sometimes following Jesus sometimes means doing and saying the tough things that need to be done because they are the right thing to do.

It is an uncomfortable place to be the one that acknowledges the elephant in the room, and being the one who suggests that maybe this elephant in the room needs dealing with again takes bravery, but the bravest thing of all is actually dealing with the elephant and taking it out of the room.

It feels very unpastoral to cause this upset and to challenge things that have become part of the DNA of where we are but perhaps the least loving thing for those we are called to shepherd and pastor is to let the status quo go on unchallenged.

Perhaps like the homeless person at the start of this blog, you feel that “if you stay here you will become sick, and possibly die”.

Perhaps like the toothache this pain can be sorted out with 10 minutes of discomfort in the dentists chair, the pain can be cured if we take decisive action.

Sometimes we need to see the peril in a situation, or feel the pain to make us change.

I have said at Church “unless we reach out this Church building will be closed”

I think that in order to move forward you not only sometimes have to make the compelling case for moving to a new place, but sometimes we have to say “we can’t stay here”, we have to make the case that where we are is not a place we want to stay.

Bishop Lee once wrote a piece which talked of a woman living in a hellish place, but not wanting to leave, she was asked “why do you want to stay here” and she replied “it maybe hell, but I know the street names”.

We feel safe in the familiar, even when the familiar is harmful to us.

Change is something, that all of us find to some degree threatening.

I was talking to a landlord the other day and they were talking about how their regulars don’t have much cash and so making a living is tough, many of the regular customers are getting old and dying (or going into residential care) wants to modernise, do food, entertainment and quizzes etc, duke-box etc. Yet the fear is “will I loose the regulars”? Also, it’s a risk I could update everything and still not attract new customers. His response was “I can’t afford not to do it” in other words if the pub goes he and his family loose out, he needs to do all he can to try and make the pub viable and successful.

Often the risk is not to do something, the more dangerous risk is often to do nothing at all, that is the more risky behaviour.

Ironically, when we take no risk the thing we fear most actually happens, we perversely become self fulfilling prophecies.

One of my favourite films is Dead Poets Society, where their mantra was “carpe diem” -seize the day.

I’ll close with the thought that often it is the opportunities that miss are those we regret the most.

I believe that God is a God who wants to change and transform, and we often miss out on the wonderful signs of his Kingdom because we are begrudgingly satisfied we what we are used to rather than dreaming dreams of what could be.

So, let’s dream dreams, let us not settle for what we have, but step bravely out into the future, we may not always win, but for me the biggest failure is the failure not to try.

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Job 14, Renewal, Resurrection, Revival, Risk and Change, the Holy Spirit

The Scent of Water… (Job 14)

The phrase Scent of the water ones from Job 14:7-9:

7 “At least there is hope for a tree:
If it is cut down, it will sprout again,
and its new shoots will not fail.
8 Its roots may grow old in the ground
and its stump die in the soil,
9 yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put forth shoots like a plant.

I heard this image shared at the Fellowship of Parish Evangelists conference, and the image stuck with me, this idea that just the tiniest bit, the smallest morsel, can be enough to cause lasting change and transformation.

From a dead tree, yet new life can sprout from the dead place, not from a flood or a puddle, but rather ‘the scent of water’.

As I thought of the idea of the scent of water my mind wandered to the images of living water within the scriptures:

“ Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn.4.13&14).

Water a picture of the Holy Spirit, able to satisfy that deepest desire at core of our being, that “deep cries out to deep” call towards God which we all crave and are thirsty for. God putting eternity with the hearts of humanity.

“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (Jn 7.38).

Just a taste of the real thing is what our heart craves.

Maybe this why scripture urges us not to “despise the day of small things”?

God’s mustard seed can flourish from seemingly nothing to becoming a great tree.

As I thought of the power of light and hope, often it is the smallest glimmer that helps spur us on. I was reminded by the faith of the woman with the issue of blood, who knew she could and would be healed by one touch of the hem of Jesus’ garment.

The tiniest touch of Christ can bring more change in a life than a man made flood of good intentions.

A recent poem had the line : “don’t give me the sky when I ask for the light?” (citation need).

Perhaps sometimes in our evangelistic strategies is “less is more”

Jesus left people to work stuff out rather than give people a neatly packaged “just add water” solution to life, the world and the universe.

Perhaps you are only called to be a small link in a chain of events which sees lives turned around, all God might be-calling you to is to be faithful in your small scene and role rather than the whole production.

Perhaps our keenness to drench people in theological flood had more to do with our desire for instant results and wanting to “give God a hand”.

I wonder whether Spirit Led Evangelism is saying what God wants us to say, no more, and no less.

Sometimes it takes a step of faith to trust the journeys of those we love, pray for, and with who we have sowed seeds, or nurtured green shoots, to the God who makes the seeds bud and the crops grown.

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Barnabas, Paul, Risk and Change

Take a chance on me…

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

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

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

Paul was a challenger of the status quo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have previously blogged about success being redundancy. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

What of us?

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

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

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Pioneer, Risk and Change

100 Pioneers…

Dave Male –a writer and researcher with the fresh expressions movement within the Church of England- was guest of Bristol Diocese last week who was at a meeting I went to last week, and he said: “I believe you could radically change this diocese with 100 pioneers”

This made my (rather small) mind spin off for a moment, firstly I thought about what pioneers are? They are people who see things as one writer put it “not as they are but as they could be”or another definition I liked is “people who see what needs doing and does it”. I was reminded of a saying “if you do what you always have, you’ll get what you have always had”, we need people who will do something different.

Then I thought about the greatest pioneer of all time and that is Christ, the original Church planter (of sorts!) and I think Acts 2 & 4 is the ultimate fresh expression! Then thinking of Christ’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, giving us his pioneering DNA.

I liked this thought of Christ at the heart of what it means to pioneer, the Holy Spirit constantly pioneering work in peoples lives to bring them both to relationship with Christ and maturity in him.

Not just humans with a good idea, nor Christians running off on their own whims and creativity but rather to “pioneer with Christ”.

Christ the ultimate pioneer, his ways often defy our conventional thinking and yet God promises that “his word does not return to him void, but accomplishes that for which it was intended”.

The aim of every Christian is to “see where God is at work and join in” but sometimes spotting where God is at work or opening a door require looking with the eyes of faith, is the call for the pioneer to see what other people don’t see.

This isn’t just dreaming dreams, I know so many people in churches who are full of great ideas, but you remain a dreamer unless you wake up and turn dreams into reality. Too often some the greatest dreams God has birthed in us, remain locked in heads and hearts rather birthed. I believe God is calling us not just to dream, but to birth dreams from heads into transformed communities.

Pioneers and entrepreneurs are very much the words of the business school when perhaps the rich mine of scripture and tradition would use the word “apostolic”, I did wonder if the word should have been “evangelist”, but actually it is about linking the opportunity with evangelists.

And the I thought about the number, on one level a hundred people seems an awful lot, especially when they are currently only three of us employed by the diocese, yet not every pioneer has to be a vicar -in fact in some cases being a vicar could a real disadvantage!-.

There are lots of pioneers who are doing radical things probably under the radar of many Churches.

There are many pioneers frustrated wearing ‘Sauls Armour’ straight jacketed into ‘normal church’ and dying inside whilst doing it.

There are too many pioneer that just haven’t been “discovered”, released or empowered to be themselves in the call and service of Christ.

We as Church in the west have become staid and sensible, yet the Church of the acts of the apostles was one of danger, risk and stepping out in faith.

Let’s learn to encourage people to be dangerous in their discipleship, be risk takers and and faith filled followers.

Faith that makes us gulp rather than yawn.

“Keep people dangerous” was a phrase I jotted down at the meeting, following Christ is meant to make us more wild rather than tame us down!

But then I thought maybe 100 people actually isn’t many, when you think of the size the city, and then I remembered a phrase from John Wesley who said something to the effect of “rather having five people sold out and on fire for Christ than five hundred apathetic spectators”.

I love the West Wing and one of my favourite quotes (actually comes from Margaret Mead) which says “never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world, because it is all that ever has”.

Often we think about mobilising hundreds, managing the crowds rather than mentoring individuals.

Again another great quote reminds us to “invest in the few for the sake of the many” –we find security in numbers, but yet I believe Jesus is calling us to step out out the boat, and now we are a picture of Gideon’s army, a small group of people who have the choice between living superficially and saying the right things, or stepping into the radical and dangerous discipleship.

A call I believe to raise up apostles, people who see and believe that “the fields of our nation our white to harvest” filled with potential that needs unlocking, seeing the need and stepping into the gap, not just talking a good game, not just dreaming vague possibilities, but going out where there is no path and finding and making a way through.

Maybe only a few, but let’s wake up our dreamers, let’s see the world –our world and our front-line- with the eyes of Christ and partner with the Holy Spirit, God the pioneer calling us to step into the unknown future with the known God.

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