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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Fulfilled, Happy, St. Francis

Happy??

I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of, so they can see that it’s not the answer.
-Jim Carrey

I came across this quote on twitter today, and is incredibly profound.

The “Holy Grail” of our culture today is to discover “how can I be happy” -perhaps that is why Church fails to attract people as the image we have is of miserable people looking gloomy and slightly bored!

Yet this “how can I be happy” question is one that is right at the heart of what it means to be human, when we read the book of Ecclesiastes, although thousands of year old, it reads like a modern-day classic echoing our generations search for meaning, substance and purpose. Realising that true meaning wasn’t found in riches, pleasures or even knowledge all this was ‘vanity or chasing after wind’ -which is a polite way of saying “it is all *&^%!” -which is a pretty literal translation of the ‘Vanity’ phrase.

when asked “what would make you happy?” -most people would say a lottery win -and that is why so many people buy tickets or get hooked on gambling- and yet when journalists have followed up lottery winners many, many, many of them have found that their wealth has made them desperately unhappy.

More-over money can’t buy the stuff that ultimately matters, and we can’t take it with us. “what does it profit a man if they gain the whole world and loose their life, The Rich Man and Lazerous is another story illustrating that same point, as does the rich fool who thinks he can “eat, drink and be merry”… but he died that very night.

Lots of the great heroes of the faith had something of a sworded past, St. Francis had it all and realised it was worth nothing, he gave it all up (literally stripping naked in the town square and having to have his bits covered by a Bishops Mitre -gotta love a bit of Church history, you couldn’t make it up!) and lived a life of simplicity (voluntary poverty, chastity and obedience). Yet his rejection of his past hedonistic lifestyle has to me echoes of St. Paul giving up his life of empty religious piety to follow the risen Christ when he said “whatever I (used to) considered profit I know consider loss for the all surpassing greatness of knowing Christ” -again the world for loss is slightly politely translated the actual phrase means “Dog $%^&!”-

Later St. Francis said “our hearts are restless until they find their rest in him”, later described as a “God-shaped hole in our lives that only God can fill”.

Jesus himself described himself as “the bread of life” the idea is that bread satisfies our hunger, one communion prayer puts it fantastically “he is our living bread in which all our hungers are satisfied”.

The way to have a life that is fulfilled is often the opposite of what we think, it’s not our wealth, experiences, relationships but actually it comes from knowing Christ.

As the Westminster Catechism says “the chief end of man i to worship God and to enjoy him forever”, it is only in Jesus who promises to give us “life in all its fullness”, for his is the “way, the truth and the life”, “he as Jesus says “he who drinks this water will thirst again, but who-ever drinks the water that I give him will never thirst indeed it will become a spring of living water welling up within him to eternal life.

It is counter intuitive as Jesus says “whoever wants to keep his life will loose it but whoever looses his life for my sake will find it!”

To close this blog I’ll leave you with a quote from the Martyred missionary Jim Elliott “he is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep (his life) to gain what he cannot loose (eternal life)”.

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