Church, Life styles, paradigm shift, wisdom

Seeing Outside the Bubble…

I love the West Wing!

I was watching an episode the other day, I’m not sure what series it came from, but is when the team are campaigning for Bartlett to be re-elected.

The episode started with the President preaching at a rally, with lots of cheering people and “Bartlett for America” placards waved around, the President returned to the next place of the Campaign Trail, but somehow Josh (Deputy Chief of Staff), Toby (Communications Director) and Donna (Josh’s PA) are left behind by the motorcade.

They have to get themselves to the airport return to Washington, thumbing lifts, and blagging rides.

Josh and Toby (described by the President has having ‘great minds no common sense’) are so busy about returning to the long to do list they have when they return to Washington, they miss this opportunity to learn from the situation they are in.

Interestingly, whereas Donna (who is actually often the unsung hero of the series), gets to chat to these real people who help them a little about their lives and their issues and their political opinions, which is worrying most of the people who are helping them are voting for Bartlett’s opponent Governor Richie (Republican), and realises that although the campaign is going well, she is seeing life outside the Washington Bubble.

What of us?

Do sometimes we only ever preach great gospel messages to people who are already converted and love the message?

Are we preaching to the Choir?

It is easy to feel encouraged within the Churchy bubble, some big Churches feel quite happening and successful, but actually are only a small percentage of the actual population.

Are we so caught up with our jobs and to do lists, that we don’t take the learning opportunity to hear and engage with people (who are very willing to share and talk) about their lives and hear things that can be massively transformative and insightful.

It made me think too, how often does it take a crisis or a big event to tear me away from the hollowed to do list, rather, than learning from the opportunities that surround us all.

So, a challenge, let’s get out from our Churchy bubble and learn from those we meet, which will often be the most fruitful thing we can do in our mission, evangelism and discipleship.




A Word to the Wise…

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you”. James 1:5.

King Solomon asked God for wisdom so he could be faithful in the role God had called him into.
And Solomon was wise(ish)… He did wise things and wrote much of the biblical wisdom literature. But wasn’t wise with himself.  He lost his relationship with God because of taking wives and mistresses from other nations worshipping other God’s which shipwrecked his faith.
In the wisdom literature Wisdom is portrayed as a beautiful Girl, and Folly as a attractive but wicked Femme Fatal, vying for the writers heart.
Wisdom  is making those right and wholesome choices, that keep us from sin, that keep us for hurting ourselves and other people and shipwrecking our faith.
Where-as Folly puts ourselves right in harms way.
Mike Pilivachi say of temptation (with his classic and very funny story of eating a whole chocolate cake) “don’t open the fridge”… In other words don’t place yourself in an unwise situation.
For me struggling with some of my issues, don’t place yourself in a situation where people will fill up my dairy.
If you struggle with debt, don’t go to the shops in the sales as you’ll spend money you don’t have.
You get the idea -pretty simple, but amazing how unwise we can be around our weaknesses!
Don’t place yourself in foolish places which ultimately are going to help no one and possibly harm yourself and those around you.
A thought for today, are there areas I need God’s wisdom in?
Am I flirting with Folly?
Do I need to shut the fridge door?
-Perhaps you need to be the person having a ‘DBN’ -Difficult But Necessary conversation with someone, or perhaps you need to be someone who needs to hear it?
Barnabas, Leadership, mentoring, Nurture, Risk and Change, welcome, wisdom

Barnabas style leadership.

“To impact a moment tweet, to impact a season preach, to impact a generation -Mentor a leader” writes Rick Warren of Purpose Driven Life/Church fame.

As I think about mentoring, my mind goes to Barnabas, not a character well known in the Bible, his name means ‘encourager’ -the idea of mentoring is by helping and encouraging a leader they get better and everyone benefits.

Barnabas -one of the great unsung heroes of the bible.

We know that Barnabas is a sacrificial guy he sells a field and lays the money at the apostles feet (some people reckon that he is the unnamed rich young ruler who walked away from Jesus as he loved his wealth too much, if that were so it is a beautiful picture of it being laid at the disciples feet for the sake of the Kingdom).

He takes a risk on S/Paul, gives him opportunities to share his faith (everyone else was too scared of S/Paul because of his horrendous past) yet the risk paid off.

Paul became a fantastic evangelist and apostle.

In the Bible we see the narrator (probably Luke) change from writing “Barnabas and Paul” to writing “Paul and Barnabas” (Acts 13) as Paul grew in spiritual maturity, confidence, gifting… going places far beyond Barnabas.

Yet hen S/Paul began to excel, we see an amazing model of humility, Barnabas retreats quietly into the background. Echoes of John the Baptists statement about Jesus “I must decrease so he can increase”…

A great youth work quote is “to see our celling becoming their floor” -our wildest dreams their starting point-

Paul mentoring the young Timothy, re-read Timothy and there is a real undercurrent of “step up to the plate and go for it”…

It is like a relay race, if Barnabas hadn’t taken a risk on S/Paul and S/Paul hadn’t done the same with Timothy, we might not be sitting here.

Who is mentoring you?

-Are you humble enough to let people speak into your life positively? –It has to be done from a place of love.

“Iron sharpening Iron as one person sharpens another”.

Who are you mentoring?

-Are you taking this responsibility seriously?

Are you enabling them to fly, or clipping their wings?

What happens when they over-take you in the race?

Are you being mentored but not mentoring anyone? –sort it out, find someone to bless, encourage and support!

Or mentoring without getting mentored? –find wise and Godly people and hang out with them, and invite them to speak into your life.

If you are not being mentored and not mentoring anyone I would suggest that neither is God’s plan or best for you.

Mentoring matters probably more now in the UK than any time since St. Augustine as we are (to quote Lord Carey) “nearly one generation away from extinction”…

How can people be the leaders of the Church of tomorrow unless they are part of the Church of today?

I like the picture of passing on the baton, but interestingly statistics show that teams running relay races it isn’t normally the fasted who in, but rather those who manage the hand over best.

Too often when mentoring we keep hanging on to the baton and not letting our other leaders fly, or perhaps we just drop the baton and let someone else pick it up?

Perhaps we are being reluctant to take the baton that is being passed to us? Or perhaps we are inpatient and trying to snatch it from someone whose not finished with their race.

How can we receive and pass on well? –I believe at the heart of this all is the call to faithfulness in all things, a call afresh for our Churches to be filled with wisdom, or as the world calls it self awareness.

Too often we have a consumerist view of Church, where it is all about us and our needs and desires, but when we think of mentoring we realise that we are in fact custodians of the great truth of being the people of the Kingdom for a short season, and have been entrusted with a great treasure to pass on, yet we also have the privilege of standing on the shoulders of giants.

Bravery, Compassion, wisdom

The Scarecrow, Tin Man, The Lion and Us.

Whilst on holiday this week, the family and I watched The Wizard of Oz, I guess everyone has seen the film? I was struck by the deficincies of the three characters, the scarecrow wanted a brain, the tin man wanted a heart and the lion wanted courage.

I began to think about life and following Jesus, both as individuals and in community… And began think that these three unlikely heroes actually offer us some insights and challenges.

The Scarecrows, lack of brains -or lack of wisdom- is something I know at times I lack in my own life, and I know that in our lives together, that wisdom is a quality that I believe God really wants to bless his Church and his followers with.

As I thought about choices I had made in my life, it worried me how many choices were made of out fear, reactionarism, insecurity, greed, envy, petty jealous, inability to say no to forceful characters, pride or whatever. Bad choices in the long run normally causes pain, discomfort an problems.

Yet wisdom, is a beautiful thing, which -even if in the short term uncomfortable- ends up being something that blesses everyone.

Recently reading books like Proverbs and other books in the biblical wisdom series I really want to persue wisdom, I want to make choices and decisions which bless everyone, I want to do thinks in a wise way… I wondered too how many good ideas fall by the wayside by unwise implementation?

Wisdom is something to strive after, but also something James tells us in his Epsitle “if anyone lacks wisdom they should ask God who gives generously”…

In tough, challenging and changeable times we as Christians and we as Churches need to be seeking and crying out for wisdom more and more.

The Bible prizes Wisdom highly but it actually prizes one thing more, Love.

The Tin Man was without a heart, and sometimes I think as Church we need to rediscover love and compassion afresh -get our heart backs- do we actually believe the words of St. Paul when he writes “if I have not love, I am nothing”.

Sadly I fear the Church in the West is all about our minds, right doctrine, right approaches o growth and Church management, doubt theological method in ethics (all of which are important) but actually we are meant to be people who are primarily identifiable by their love… “By this all people will know you are my disciples that you love one another”.

Christians and Churches often protest that they are good at loving one another, yet too often it means loving the people like them, the people on their side of a debate or arguement, yet Jesus himself says that loving those who love us isn’t particularly noteworthy as even the hypocrites do that, instead we are called to love our enermies, to do good to those who hate us… As well as the call to love the marginalised, the disenfranchized, the ostracised as in these people we discover “Christ in his most distressing disguises” (says Mother Teresa).

Yet I worry that sometimes compassion without wisdom won’t always help people in the most helpful way… I remember taking part in a debate about poverty and I was talking about giving to the poor, and was asked if I gave cash to beggars on the street, I said sometimes, and the reply was “how is helping pay for a drug dealers new car helping anyone out of poverty?” -actual I think this is a bit of a dangerous stereotype, but it makes the point compassion and wisdom are best held together in tension to actaully enable people to get the best help and support they can.

Compassion without courage too will be faceless. Shane Claiborne say “the problem isn’t that (Christian) people don’t care about the poor, the biggest problem is that they don’t know the poor, it’s not just about making poverty history but about making it personal”. It takes bravery and courage, to reach out I love.

Love without wisdom might not achieve the blessing for the person we desire, and love without courage will fall short of what Christ calls us to do.

The lion needed courage, and I think all of us want to be brave, and typing this in my head I have the verse from Joshua shouting in my head “be bold and courageous, do not be terrified for I the Lord am with you where-ever you go”. The courage of the Christian comes not from our testosterone levels but rather from knowing the accompaniment of our mighty and victorious God, he is our strength.

So, let’s look at courage. It is a great gift, and our history books all full of people of huge bravery and courage in the face of massive odds and opposition. Yet courage itself needs to be applied to a cause or a situation, courage without wisdom might lead you fighting for a the wrong cause. Courage without love may reach the end goal but cause much collateral damage.

So, let’s come to God like the Scarecrow, and ask him to help give us greater wisdom to live our lives his way, guiding us so our minds align and we are going his ways.

So, let’s come to God like the Tin man, asking him to give us his heart of love and compassion, a heart that is soft and tender, a heart the beats in time with the Lord Almighty, a heart that breaks for what breaks his heart.

So, let’s come to God like the lion, and ask him to give us his courage, to overcome obsticals and adversity.

Yet rather that three seperate compartmentalised giftings, installed into different parts of our character, I believe that their greatest beauty and Christlikeness is actually found in the three of these compilementing each other in each and every circumstance of life we face, meeting people with wisdom, compassion and courage, living together as Church with Wisdom, Love and Courage, that is the type of Christian I want to be, that is the type of Church we are called to be, and that -I believe- is the kind of Church that will change the world.

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Ministry, Mission, welcome, wisdom

Excuse me does anyone here speak Christian?

I wrote a blog yesterday asking whether sometimes we drift too far away from talking about the cross, repentance, sin, holiness…

I’ve had comments that perhaps it’s not just an issue with what we say, but how we say it?
Recently I came across a vicars car with “I was blind but now I see” written on it in 6 inch letters accross the back windscreen (genuinely true! which out of context must terrify other motorists).
It made me cringe.
I’ve seen so many really awful puns on t shirts or DayGlo bilboards outside Churches that make me feel slightly embarrassed.
And have had times of feeling really uncomfortable inside when someone ends up talking at someone about their faith in a tactless monologue without pausing for breath.
I really, really want people to talk about Jesus, to live missionally, to share their faith intentionally, but sometimes I want us all to do it well and be fruitful.
I used to feel bad about being ebarrassed about people who were clearly sincere doing wonderful things for God.
“At least they are doing something” I used to think.
However, the Bible does talk about “Zeal without Wisdom being folly”, to “be wise how we treat outsiders”… “(Always be prepared to give an account for the hope that you have) But do so with gentleness and respect”.
The Bible really values wisdom, in fact James says “if anyone lacks wisdom s/he should ask God who gives generously”, often in our desire to share our faith we often lack wisdom, we don’t have empathy with those we are talking too, sometimes we make people feel like they’re ‘a scalp’ or a ‘project’, something I never get the impression Jesus did.
Are we more interested in “selling” the Gospel than building a relation or launching bible bombs at a distance rather than actually getting to know a person as a person.
A great question to ask ourselves would be “if they never became a Christian would I still love them?” -We need to love people to be saved, rather than love them just to save them.
Love them no matter what.
Learn to talk their language, and understand their world…
Yet Churches etc often expect the person who is seeking faith to learn our Churchy Langauge and understand our (very weird) world.
If we want people to listen to the thing that matters most to us, do we listen to what matters to them?
How easy is it for people to talk about Christ with us? Do we have our walls around us which make it hard to talk to us about certain subjects, particularly the awkward area of faith.
In the anglican ordinal we commission people being ordained to “proclaim the gospel afresh” and yet so often we simply “Proclaim it again”, not thinking how the people of our time and culture can hear it in a way they can understand and relate to.
When we look at the Bible, we see in Acts 2 Peter talking to the Jewish people about who Jesus was and Acts 15 with Paul in Athens explaining the message of Christ via the altar of the unknown God, very different messages but the same gospel revealed by the same Holy Spirit to people from differnent culture, language and world view.  A friend described this method of sharing our faith, as “look, listen and step out” -which I quite like.
Learning how to listen both to the whisper and nudge of the Holy Spirit and listen to the person we are with and the wider context of the environment they inhabit.
People often say they don’t know what to say evangelistically but we are promised that the Holy Spirit will give us the words. Yet, I also believe that study and personal devotion and daily discipline actually is at the heart of being a good evangelist. One of my college lecturers once said “to explain something simply is to understand it deeply”, if we are immersed in the deep things of God, studying and growing in faith, then we find that “understanding deeply explain simply” can be Gods preperation in us, for building his Kingdom through us.
As we think about God at work in us, not only will we be better about speaking of our faith, but also the more time we spend with God the more he shines out from us, people need to see the reality of the difference Christ makes in our lives, shining out from us, like treasures in jars of clay, gleaming in our lives, Christ in us the hope of glory being a visual reality.
And maybe your reading this blog wincing about past mistakes (if it helps I have made many mistakes with sharing my faith!) yet I also know God can redeem our mistakes, use our failings, and often I believe our feble attempts at sharing our faith echo with the tremendous “Amen” from heaven.
So to conclude lets cry out to God for wisdom, let’s learn to listen to the Spirit of God, the person and to the environment, let’s meet them where they are at, serving and loving them irrespective of their response, making it as easy as possible for them to talk to you about Jesus if they want to… investing in our own relationship with God that we are able to share well because we’ve let God be at work within us and to transform us.
And lastly are we people who are praying and eagerly expectant for God to act to be at work in the hearts and lives of those we meet, finding out what God is doing and joining in.
If we are joining in and partnering with God, then we need to be seeking to do this as well and as best we can because this is an awesome privildge.