Disappointment, Discouragement, encounter, Eternity, Evangelism, expectations, Fane Conant, Gospel, Message, obidience, Opportunity, Organic, Pioneer, pperseverence, Repentance, spontaneity, word -speaking/preaching/teaching.

Yesterday was a funny old day…

We have been doing a mission this weekend.

An evangelist friend of my Dad’s, Fane Conant, had come up to help us, following a brief chat I had at a evangelism/evangelist conference.

We started the mission with a small group of us gathered together on Hanham Mount -where John Wesley had preached to the Kingswood Miners-. The Kingswood Miners were considered to be the toughest and roughest of people, normally people fled from them, yet here we see a small group of Christians choosing to make them the priority. Following the actions of Christ that prioritised the marginalised, disenfranchised and ostracised. Yet here had been an incredible harvest that transformed not only Kingswood but also our nation, and the world.

“Lord we have heard of your fame, we stand in awe of your deeds renew them in our day” (Hab.3.) We prayed bold and audacious prayers nervously and worshipped, there were only 12 of us, and the city looked vast on the horizon as we sung in faith “greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city”.

The next day we had a Men’s breakfast, sadly a few of the not yet Christian days didn’t show up, and 3 out of my 5 Churches weren’t represented, there was about 13 of us, and we’d reserved 30 places, so Fane’s presentation happened to rows of empty seats, although lots of people in the pub must have over heard the presentation too.

The next event was meant to be a coffee morning, but as I arrived no one else was there, not a single person had turned up. I felt bitterly disappointed. There were some guys in the hall painting. These guys were on Community Payback (the new name for probation).

Then an idea hit me, although God had probably been shouting it for a while, why didn’t I get Fane to talk to the Community Payback guys?

Swallowing hard and trying to appear chilled, I asked if Fane might be allowed to speak to the guys, talking about how his life had been turned around, message of hope and inspiration and I carried on in this vein.

The supervisor said “yeah, I’ll bring them all in”.

Fane (being wise) stopped him and said “you do realise I’ll be explicitly Christian?” (At this point I was expecting the guy to change his mind, and had already in a faithless way prepared my “well at least we tried” speech). The guy grinned and said “I don’t mind, I’m a Sikh by the way”.

So, here we were 8 guys sat around listening to Fane speaking about how Jesus turned around his life.

The last two talks Fane had done had been amazing, but here there was an even greater sense of God’s anointing, as Fane preached the Gospel in a wonderful and faithful way.

At the end Fane prayed a prayer and asked others to say it in their hearts, and then wandered around chatting to the guys, it turned out that two lads prayed the prayer giving their lives to Christ and are keen to be followed up.

Others were asking really deep, real hungry questions to Fane, Paddy and myself, the conversation fizzles and crack with God’s hand upon it.

As I left to take a wedding and Fane and a guy Harry from our Church went to chat to people on the High Street (and saw another guy come to faith)…

I smiled as I thought God is on the move, he is turning up in unexpected places, but he’s drawing people to himself, and what a privilege to join in with that.

Guidance, spontaneity, structure

And all that Jazz…

I have been thinking about Jazz as a metaphor or picture for life, mission and ministry and actually it works.

Jazz is both structure AND spontaneity together as rather odd (but also rather wonderful) mismatched dance partners working together.
Jazz is not purely improvised, nor is it entirely structured, its magic works by the two working together.
There is both an over-arching narrative but also containing improvisation within in… with both seeming departures and returns to the main piece. Times for Jazz solo’s and time for the Jazz band to come together, a mix of the corporate and the individual flare held together in a beautiful creative tension.
A picture of Jazz as our life together, the main narrative of the corporate with improvisation of the personal and the individual, working together seamlessly in a wonderful picture of corporate dependency and the personal touch freely expressed and free to be themselves.
Life is a mix of structure an spontaneity… the structure of deadline and the need to focus on the task in hand, verses the unexpected interruptions which ambush most of us each day…
Sometimes we get so focused on the destination we forget to focus on the journey to get there, sometimes we focus so much on the journey we never get to the destination… but Jazz at its best has both order and seeming chaos together.
It is about having an ear for the music, following the spirit of what is happening, having your eye on the conductor (each of those phrases probably could all birth a sermon in their own right, in fact I think the whole of the Christian walk and discipleship could be described as being in-tune with the spirit and working together with him harmony).
In the Bible there is a story of a man called Jirus who ran a  synagogue, who wanted Jesus to heal his 12 year old little girl, she is dying, and he is desperate. As they are hurrying to the girl, someone in crowd touches the hem of Jesus’ robe. Jesus stops, and asks ‘who touched me?’ -Jirus must have been desperate to keep Jesus moving toward his home and his sick little girl. A woman with “an issue of blood” (as the Bible delicately puts it) -for 12 years-  came forward and admit it was her who touched him, and Jesus tells her that her faith has made her well. Before resuming the journey to Jirus’ house. Interesting sidelight the woman’s bleeding lasted the same time as the little girls age. Jesus got to the house and looked like he was too late, the girl had died, and yet Jesus raised her from the dead.
His jazz may have seemed like a radical departure, dangerous improvisation,  but by the end of the piece it reached a fuller, better and more wonderful crescendo where both the little girl, the woman and Jirus and his family were blessed.
What of us?
Do we need to be more task focused?
Or do we need to focus more on the journey?
Are we stepping up to moment and taking our solo, or are we supporting one another as part of the band? Can we do both? Which is God calling you to do, to play a solo for a moment? Or to support someone else’s moment?
Are we okay with the flexibilty of jazz or do we prefer every step clearly mapped out?
-Do we love it when a plan comes together?
Or do we following a detailed plan stifling?
Does Jazz thrill you, or terrify you?
Do we need to loosen up and learn to improvise so we can dance to the jazz with the Spirit?
Or in our improvisation do we need to return back to the main over-arching narrative?
Are we letting other people go to improvise and be themselves, as well as allowing others to be part of something beautiful, wonderful and bigger than themselves?
…Let’s learn to embrace the Jazz together, following our great conductor, the jazz expert who truly understands the music.