call, cost, priorities, values, vision

More than just keeping the show on the road?

I remember the Vicar who is leading one of the Churches my dad used to lead, telling a story of his previous parish in the leafy Sussex Countryside which went something like this, :

“Treasurer:- Unless we sought out our giving this Church will shut!
Vicar:- Unless we sought out our evangelism, mission and outreach people will go to a lost eternity”.

We often get obsessed about keeping the lights on in our Church building, rather than our calling of “seeking God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven” as we fulfil the great commission and “make disciples of all nations”.

Jesus never promised to keep open our particular building, but he did say “I will build my Church and even the gates of hell won’t prevail against it”. Jesus told us to “seek first the Kingdom of God”.

Too often we neglect the “seeking first the Kingdom of God” to worry and stress about our building, our constitutions, our processes and 101 trivialities, which from an eternal perspective are cul de sac’s, diversions from our main focus.

Paradoxically, I have seen on many occasions, when we focus on the Kingdom of God the things we so often stress about are resolved -unexpected legacies come in, or people with needed gifting come out of the woodwork.

When we put Jesus first, he sorts out the rest, in fact that is what he promises “seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you”.

You see it is not the Church that has the mission of God, rather it is the missionary God who has the Church. We collaborate and partner with the ‘Missio Deo -the mission of God’, yet too often we become curators of dusty buildings.

As I thought more about this tragic picture I remembered the story of Mary and Martha, Martha was busy making Jesus a sandwich he didn’t want (in fact the one who fed the 5000 probably wasn’t that worried about missing lunch!), how often are our Churches stressing and wasting our time stressing on things that God himself will sort.

Ironically too, the best way of ‘keeping your building open’ is by keeping in step -living in obedience- with the Holy Spirit of the Living God.

The often stated phrase of “keeping the show on the road” is only a laudable aim when the show is orchestrated and choreographed by the Holy Spirit of the Living God, otherwise it is simply re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We forget the warning in scripture that reminds us that “unless the Lord builds the workers labour in vain”.

Often people are very keen on keeping their buildings open, but the question has to be asked, is there anything in this building that is worth preserving? Are we being a Matthew 25 Church? Are we being an Acts 2 Church? Are lives being transformed by Christ?

To me, it seems like much of the Church in the UK has the telescope the wrong way around distancing us from what should be close at hand, a false perspective -a distortion- that brings complacency.

So, let’s ask God to transform our vision to coincide with his vision.

Advertisements
Standard
call, Democracy, Politica, trust, values, vision, vocation, Vote

Voting is a lifestyle…

Today people will be voting in the general election, for who they want to represent and govern them. It is really important to vote, so if you’ve not done it already go and do it!

Yet democracy ought to be more than marking a bit of paper every four years? As I began to think about it, we actually vote all the time, often a vote for the status quo, but a vote none the less.

It has been said that every pound you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in, scary when we think that if we have the internet in our homes we are in the top 4% of the worlds richest people. How we spend our money shouts loudly to this capitalist world.

Interestingly if we look back to the 80’s when many banks wanted to invest heavily in South Africa at the height of the apartheid they stopped doing so when people -mainly students and the now infamous picture of Jeremy Corbyn getting arrested- boycotted their banks.

As consumers what we think really matters, if in any doubt look at the millions that are spent devising algorithms to match our viewing habits to commercial sales.

So, although it might be only a baby step even a facebook share or twitter comment at least does make something of an impact.

The lie we are fed is that we are too small or insignificant to make a difference.

Yet as Confucius once said “Too small to make a difference? Try spending the night with a mosquito”. -He also said, that “A mosquito on your testicles teaches man that not every problem is best solved with violence”-.

The problem is that we are often don’t make a stand about anything much at all. A great question that has always challenged me is “would my bank manager know I was a Christian by the way I lived and spent my money?”

What are my choices when I buy, do I seek to be an ethical consumer? Do I value fair-trade? Do I enquire about sourcing? Or animal welfare? Do I ever do any on-line research about company ethics? Is there anything I boycott due to ethical grounds? -How does our (honest) answers on this chime with our response to a position of God entrusting us with the responsible stewardship of creation?

Yet, I think that we can do more than spend wisely, read labels and write strongly worded tweets on social media.

I passionately oppose the sale of weapons especially to states with awful records on human-rights, but yet I have never been on a protest, or picketed and arms faire, if I care about this issue I need to step up to the plate and make my protest felt.

Although Christians statistically are good citizens when it comes to doing their civic duty and vote, we perhaps need to be better at protesting against injustice, do we sign petitions? Do we write to our MP’s? Do we go on marches? Do we campaign for a better world?

The truth is that if the people of God don’t step up for the things that are upon the heart of God then who will step into that void?

So a call not just to vote, but live a life that seeks to usher in and advance the Kingdom of God, voting as a lifestyle each day, choosing to be a campaigner for the Kingdom of heaven and the cause of the heart-cry of Christ.

Standard
call, challenge, Church, cost, Discipleship, Kingdom, Ministry, Mission, obidience, perspectives, priorities, vision, vocation

we don’t need more Churches, rather we need Churches doing what they are supposed too!

Recently I had a sad experience, we had started a small congregation meeting next door to the main Church in the Community centre, mainly to allow the children’s work to flourish but unfortunately it didn’t work as we had hoped. I remember doing the last service there, which was a damp squib, as I tided up and walked out the door, something of lump appeared in my throat, although only a very short era, it was still and end of an era.

I did in my spirit wonder if maybe we (as in the Christian Community) will be back here reaching out to the people of Kingswood.

Then as I thought more about this I began to ask myself the question “does Kingswood need more Churches” actually Kingswood is choc-a-bloc with Churches yet few that are reaching out beyond their four walls, few seeking to reach out with the good news of Christ Jesus, few trying to raise up discipleships that are ‘nation transformers’ and praying in the Kingdom of God.

We also have new Churches planted into Kingswood, and yet sadly, they come into Kingswood, people drive in and drive out, some don’t even get around to investing in a “welcome sign” by their front door. Yet all that happens stays within the walls, and they never even send the other Churches in the area a email saying “hey”.

Yet we know that God is wanted his deeply divided Church to be unified in him, and in seeing his Kingdom advance and grow, impacting local communities and transforming lives, as we think of the Pentecost season, we know the need of the Spirit of God taking his Church back, breathing fresh and new life into it and blowing open its door to reach the community for Christ.

We don’t need more congregations and Churches, but actually for the Churches to do -or at least try to do- that which we are called to do.

The challenge is that the Church, is not some faceless institution, but rather you and me, we need to be people filled with his spirit, living his way, and seeing as individuals to shape and transform the corporate body of believers to keep us following Christ in courageous obedience.

Standard
Dreams, hope, Politica, steadfast, vision

Things can only get better?

Yesterday it was the 20th anniversary of Tony Blair’s historic Labour landslide in 1997, for many of us it was our first time voting in a general election, also the Tories were all we could remember, they had (it seemed to us) been there forever.

I remember a couple of weeks before the election and a friend said in the pub “I still reckon that some how those unscrupulous Tory ******* will some how get back in!”

Yet here before our eyes we saw history being made, as seats bluer than Bernard Mannings joke book became New Labour Scarlet, and many of the giants of the Tory Party were felled by the voters.

I have heard people say that the biggest killer is apathy, but my generation wasn’t particularly apathetic, I voted first thing in the morning as soon as the polling station was open, and at work the next day many of us were bleary eyed from staying up until about 3ish -“did you see Portillo?”

Britain was changing and would never be the same again.

For us, we saw that our vote changed things. That change was possible. That what had looked like it was set in concrete wasn’t. More-over the mistakes of our parents generation (not that my parents have ever voted Tory I’m pleased to say) could be rectified, this was a generation forging its own future with a new set of values.

I remember the song that was the Labour Parties Election theme “Things Can Only Get Better”, I remember being struck by the message of Hope, bill-boards said “Labour: Class sizes will get smaller” or “Labour: wages will increase”.

Fast forward a few years and I remember 10 years ago Barak Obama getting elected the first black President of the United States, the same message of Hope, “YES we CAN!” -in fact Obama called his autobiography “the Audacity of Hope”. It is incredible to think of a black president of the United States of America when as recently as the 1960’s Blacks and whites weren’t even allowed to sit together on buses.

I remember reading “Rosa (Parks) sat so Martin (Luther King Jr) could walk, Martin walked so (Barak) Obama could stand, Obama stood so our children can fly”.

The idea that we are making history and the world a better place for our children is a compelling vision.

Yet fast-forward to today.

Sadly the achievements of Labour were blighted by the Iraq war and the global recession and they are back in opposition, the Tories look unbeatable again.

Young people who probably have seen both Labour and Conservative in power probably think “why bother”, and ask does my vote change anything.

Obama’s “YES we CAN” has been replaced by the world asking of America “They Can’t Can They?”

This election is not fuelled by hope but fears.

“Things can only get better” is not the mood of the country which is more fearful than I can remember in a long time.

So, is this blog about my political viewpoint? well no, actually it is about something far deeper, it is about not letting a dream die.

It is easy to say “wasn’t that good” or be nostalgic for the good old days, easy to set a moment as a ‘golden era’ never to be equalled let alone excelled, it is easy to think that the hopes of our youth have matured as we have become more jaded, cynical and our defeatism can have an older sounding rhetoric.

It is amazing how quickly we forget that things can and do change.

It is amazing how quick we can feel disenfranchised again, how discouraging circumstances stop us dreaming those big, crazy audacious dreams of a different world.

More over if we stop dreaming that a better and different world is possible, we wont bother to fight and achieve it.

Take hope out of our hearts and we are lost.

The Tories are saying they are going to defeat Corbyn with a landslide, and is a clever tactic because if people give up before the start then we have lost.

If you don’t play to win in sport you nearly always loose.

Battles that are fought are won or lost in our minds.

Some one once said “do events happen to us, or do we happen to events?”

It is amazing how the radical revolutionary sinks back into the mire of the despondency.

Imagine for a moment the earliest of disciples, locked in the upper room for fear of the Jews, hidden away, and when the Holy Spirit came they were filled with boldness (which is a fruit of Hope) and this small group of uneducated artisans went out speaking to the people and changed the world forever.

Yet despite seeing thousands come to Christ, soon persecution happened and things went badly wrong, and yet despite their change in circumstances, the challenges and the opposition they kept on going…

Here is Paul talking about his recently Missionary endeavours “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers” 2 Corinthians 11. Yet Paul never gave up.

So, as we approach this election, as we are in very different circumstances in a time that feels very different, my message to myself and to anyone who reads this blog, is don’t let discouragements and oppositions burst our dreams of making the world a better place for our children.

In fact the world seems a darker place than 20 years ago, but when it gets darker the light shines more brightly.

when times are at their most challenging and depressing we need the dreamers and the prophets more than others.

Anyone can be an optimist on the mountain top, but it takes bravery and courage to be an optimist in the valley.

we may live in a very different time, and the world may feel very different, but lets “not grow weary in doing good for at the right time we will reap a reward if we do not give up!”

In the film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves Robin is fighting in the water and he shouts to Azeem his friend to ask hat to do, and Azeem tells him to “get up and keep fighting”. I think that is a message for all of us who maybe feel a bit weary and battle warn, when maybe Hope feels more like a distant memory that a present reality.

I’ll end wth a quote from CS Lewis who said “You are never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream” -So let’s keep dreaming and fighting to turn these dreams to reality.

I

Standard
Bravery, faith, Joshua, vision

Joshua…

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.’So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites
(these are their names, and then follows a long list of people, including a Vophsi which I think is a great name).These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land. (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua.)
17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, ‘Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.’ (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)
21 So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, towards Lebo Hamath. 22 They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) 23 When they reached the Valley of Eshkol,[a] they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs.

At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.
26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: ‘We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.’
30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’ 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.’

Just to finish the story off, the people didn’t respond in faith and ended up wandering around a quite small dessert for 40 years, before their next generation went into the promised land led by Joshua, who was probably about 20 here, and so would have been about 60, so  when he’s used of an example of a young leader they’re not doing their maths right (although Samuel, Daniel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Mary and the disciples and Timothy are all still good illustrations of God using young people!)

Here the people are faced with a choice, to choose to live the life that God has for them, or to stick with the old, comfortable and familiar life. 

The choice is between a life in a fertile land of their own where they can settle down, or the nomadic life of a desert traveller.

Bishop Lee read a quote out about a woman who said “I know I live in hell, but I do know all the road names”, meaning she knows that her life was horrible, but she just couldn’t cope with the change.

The problem was the Israelites were faced with a choice, did they trust that God was able to lead them into what he had promised or not? The same God who had delivered them from the hand of pharaoh, and provided for them in the desert in some remarkable ways at yet they looked at this large fortified city with panic, rather that looking at our faithful God and pray!

The choice we all have on a daily basis is do we panic or pray.

What rules our hearts, faith or fear?

Faith is being certain of what we hope for and confident in what we do not see (Heb.11.11), as Christians we live/walk by faith and not by sight  2 Cor.5.7… 

Faith is putting it into practice, living it out…

I was thinking too about faith and fear being cultures… 

The Israelites created a culture of fear, defeatism which caused them to walk away from the promised land and die in the desert.

Imagine the bravery and social awkwardness of Caleb and Joshua saying after a long diatribe of negativity to stand up and speak out that they believed that God could do it. I am guessing many of us have been in that awful situation in our Churches where faithless defeatism sometimes runs rampant, and we have to stand up to a hostile (and often quite patronising) group and say actually I believe if God is calling us to do this, then he will be faithful.

Sometimes too, the hardest people to speak a word of faith are those closest to us, these were Joshua’s tribesmen, relations, friends; and yet was called to say to stand up for his faith in front of them. Often Christians find the hardest people to talk about Jesus too our those closest too us. Yet here we see Joshua model bravery of speaking up a different and an unpopular view-point, but one that was right. Joshua was prepared to say the unsayable, because of his love and loyalty to God.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve tried to speak a word of faith only to get fobbed off with a line about ‘love your enthusiasm’ -which is normally code for “I think you’re a bit naïve!” -Yet actually when we look at this from God’s point of view it is the  other way around, with God we are always in the majority, he is the God who is our provider, he is faithful and will fulfil all that he has promised, in fact even when we are faithless, he will remain faithful for he cannot deny himself.

Steve Strydom uses a great phrase, “God’s will God’s bill!” -in other words Jehovah Jirah is our provider.

Are we people who look at the size of the problem or the size of the God who is  our solution.

Too often our Churches can be places of pseudo-faith, where we pay lip-service to trusting in God, but our lifestyles and our life together says a different story. The problem with ‘lip service’ or ‘phoney faith’ is that scripture reminds us that “God is not mocked” and he reminds us that “Faith without works is dead”, to say “I believe God can do it, has to be backed up by our actions otherwise it is empty rhetoric.

I want to close with being a culture of faith, scripture talks a lot about taming the tongue, and all of us can probably remember the story when one person completely changes the atmosphere by what they have said or done. Faith snuffed out by unrighteous cynicism.

Or we could be a community which is filled with faith, spurs one another on in faith, encourages and nurtures faith, a community when faith sets the tone.

This is the culture Joshua created with God, having first heard God speak “bold and courageous, do not be terrified, for I the Lord am with you where-ever you go” Josh 1.8; which led him to issue the Israelites a challenge,  ‘Choose this day whom you will serve, but for me and my house we will serve the Lord’ (Josh 24.5). They were clearly filled with faith, as wandering around the city armed with nothing more than a mouth organ seven times a day, was God seeing their hearts and they were obedient, he delivered the city into their hands, and brought them into the promised land.

So a challenge for us all, are we people who are shaped by fear or by faith? When faced with adversity do we panic or do we pray? Are we people who inspire and encourage faith, or are will filled with cynicism that snuffs it out.

Standard
Hopes and Dreams, vision

Dream with your eyes open.

I was at a youth meeting tonight and Jackie spoke about “Dream with your eyes open”.

Which made me ask, do I still dream dreams?

It made me think that so often we have given up, and stopped dreaming dreams.

Or perhaps maybe many of us started out as we began to follow and serve Christ we had big, bold and audacious dreams but now our dreams have been scaled down, reduced, the radical corners smoothed off.

We somehow think maturity is about being jaded, cynical, defeatist and wordly weary, and we think that fire, passion, enthusiasm, vision, drive is somehow naïve and silly, yet this is a lie many of us have fallen for.

When Christ called us to have a childlike faith, I think he meant us to be full of dreams, passions, enthusiasm, vision and drive -its a life of potential and transformation.

I then began to wonder if we have ever given people permission to dream in the first place, often so many people within our Churches just have Church “done to them” and don’t realise that they can, and indeed ought and should, have permission to dream in the advance of the Kingdom.

People need to feel like stakeholders, invested, and taking personally responsibility for something before they dream into it.

We don’t realise we have something worth while and unique to contribute, and often ideas aren’t welcome.

Recently I have also come across a tragic phrase recently which is called “poverty of ambition” which basically a generation or a people groups whose dreams have been burst and their wings cut so their dreams and ambitions are so tragically small.

Sometimes we are scared to dream, to dare to hope that maybe things could look different, because we have been disappointed too often, and the pain of dashed hopes becomes something we try and protect ourselves from.

Too often ideas are like bubbles, nice and wonderful things, but yet ideas and visions need to be birthed. I have met people who have hundreds of ideas -which is great- and yet the ideas are never allowed to germinate and come to birth.

In fact often a dream is followed by another dream and another, and yet no one dream is allowed to be properly owned, shared, birthed and developed, rather sometimes we hide our dreams in a field of dreams.

It takes a risk to turn a dream into a reality.

Perhaps God is saying: “Awake O dreamer and arise from your slumber”? If you’ve had the dream what is stopping you from going and changing the world?

Standard
Mission Shaped Church, values, vision

Vision and Values…

Last night I was at the Mission Shaped Ministry Course, it was very very good, we had a guy Liam, talking about Values for mission…

It is interesting, we talk about Vision lots, but it is our values who really shape who we are!

The truth is we all come with values and expectations, we rarely tease out what are values are, and often chase after a vision and realise that most Churches and Christian groups unravel around values.

We all have values, often just below the radar, and for us we just think that these are obvious things that everyone holds. Yet sadly the truth is our values differ massively from person to person, and what is “obvious” to one isn’t “obvious” to another.

Our behaviour often is determined by what our values really and truly are.

Jesus says “where your heart is there your treasure is”… What is in our hearts? What is our treasure? What is it we really value and what don’t we value?

Take a moment to think about the values we hold, the values that jar against us as the ones that resonate with us?

A bigger and a tougher question, what do our values look like when compared to the Christ of scripture (remember he smashed up the temple too, ask ourselves if we truly have a handle on what Jesus’ values actually were?).

Are our values the values of Christ?

Then think of the people who you admire, and those whom we struggle to ‘see eye to eye with’. and think about why we think what we do and why they think what they do.

We often think of other people as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ because they do/don’t hold the same values to us.

There is an old proverb, don’t judge anyone until you have walked a mile in their shoes, by which time you are a mile away and got their shoes!

As we look at what our values really truly are under the light of Christ, be prepared for him to profoundly challenge you!!

Standard