Thursday, 12 December 2013

Fully Reliant or Just Playing at Faith?

Just a few quick thoughts this week ...
When do we really rely on the power and strength of God?

Thinking / praying / mulling this week flash bulb moment happened: i/we are totally reliant on the power of God to grow the church. I heard myself say something like "You don't say?" in a very sarcastic tone! But then the thoughts flowed too about how so much in the past i / we have relied on lots of other things to grow the church first: a high street building bringing visitors, great children's and youth work, big worship band, great technology, a reasonable crowd already with a good age spread meaning anyone will see an age group they can identify with. I could go on. And of course (hear me out before you jump to the wrong conclusion) these things are good, not bad, but my mistake has been to trust in them first, and then hope and pray too that some day the kingdom will break out with signs and wonders.

Instead, with a more missional model, and smaller weekly congregation, we simply have to rely on the power of God coming and breaking out. Which raises my faith. I want to see that desperately. Everywhere: clusters, services, small groups, mid-week groups, everywhere. It reminded me of being in Zimbabwe this summer where everyone prays about absolutely everything,; where the first port of call is God, because there is no other place to go or person to go to. Why do African Christians see more healing? Because they don't have an NHS to go to first, they put all their faith into God and prayer. Car breaks down, pray, coz there aint no AA!

How good it is to be in this place. This place of desperation, of growing faith growing hunger, growing peace and growing delight. It's uncomfortable at times - but being totally reliant on God is the best place to be.
Know what I mean?

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Sheep Factor

Most images used for discipleship are of solitary
 plants. This is unhelpful. Discipleship is supposed
to be  done in community
What’s in a word? Discipleship. This is THE  word for the church – the most important thing – yes, I am going to say it and you know how much I love mission – discipleship is more important than mission! I was with 15 other church leaders the other day and all of us were wrestling with the issue of how we make disciples and how we make help disciples make other disciples. Discipleship is the practice of following Jesus – so what we’re saying is how do we make followers of Jesus that make more followers of Jesus? How do we create churches where Christians have it built into them to pass it on?

More and more thinkers and church leaders are waking up to the staggering realisation that most don’t know how to do this. Wow! That’s what has been behind the huge challenges we have faced these past 4 years as we've tried to be faithful to the teachings of Jesus (as opposed to the traditions of the church). We had some great old friends to stay a few weeks ago, Geoff and Caroline Shave. We know them from our church in Newcastle 20 years ago, and now they’re with Agape, doing a student ministry in Namibia. They spoke brilliantly at our church a couple of years ago about the difference between growth by addition and growth by multiplication. We too had the same conversation about making disciples that make disciples, and realised God had been teaching us both about the same thing. We had so much to learn from them and they were really interested in what we were trying to do and very supportive too.

What we’re going through – is the beginning of something wonderful. It has to be  - because we’re rediscovering the essential beauty and simplicity of Jesus’ ways. Whatever we do in 2014, it has to be about discipleship and nothing else: being better disciples and making better disciples. Following Jesus with everything we have and are, and passing that on to others. What has Jesus taught you this year? What are you better at in following Him? Who have you discipled this year? I ask this to myself too, and receive the challenge to myself first. I pledge myself to helping others be better disciples and make better disciples. It may get me into trouble. It may upset the apple cart a bit. It may offend some – if it does then it’s only because the gospel of Jesus tends to do that.

Spotted in TFL Tube window!
Speaking of following, have you seen the sheep around Morden? Messy Church’s brilliant sheep hunt is going on – 40 woolen sheep placed in different shops and businesses around Morden for the children to spot and write down and then post through our sheep letter box. Love it. Well done Messy Church for creating loads of opportunity for discussion. They've even been seen on Twitter!

One last tip. If you’re feeling the pressure of the month and feeling down, try skipping. I found out by accident last week that if you skip along (not with a rope, just the walk/skip thing) it’s very hard to do it and not grin. Have a go. Does it work for you?

Street Cred!

A couple of weeks ago I joined the Street Pastors team in Wimbledon from 10pm to 2am on a Friday night, and had a brilliant time. Yes, it was cold, yes it was late, but yes, people were open and receptive to us, and people needed helping. If you've forgotten what goes on in town centres at night go and sit in a cafe to be reminded of the dynamics: people in search of fun can get into hairy situations and need help – and so the church is there to help. In fact I learned that Wimbledon town centre has a pop up men’s urinal! Yep, just outside of Tesco by the bus stops there is a urinal that disappears into the ground in the day – how bizarre. I did pose for a photo but it has to be said, it was only a pose!

What amazed me (although I am getting used to this phenomena even though I will never tire of it) is the warmth and respect of people towards the church (street pastors in this case), especially the door men and staff at the various pubs and clubs. This is a huge credit to the street pastors who are out week in and week out, befriending and helping, being and sharing God’s love where it’s needed and received. When non-Christians see the church out on the streets serving the community and helping they are very receptive to their message. Obviously when they see preachers proclaiming judgement they are instantly turned off and abrasive. I’m so thankful for movements like Street {Pastors that can turn that image around and build up an excellent reputation that Jesus I know is proud of and pleased with. Well done to our own Ruwani (who led the team that night), Colette, Jim and Sidi who do this regularly. It’s a tough job; we should be proud of them.

My kind of wreath: chocolate!!
... It’s now a week later since I started this blog! Advent is here and I’m excited about encountering Jesus afresh through the Advent process for myself and who might encounter Him of the first time. In the last 6 weeks we've seen a rise in spiritual temperature: a few people choosing to follow Jesus, half a dozen healings at least, and many miraculous answers to prayer in challenging circumstances. What’s God teaching us? Pray more. Seek him out more, and do it more in community. Pray together and for each other – standing together ... 'if 2 of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven', (Matt 18:19). Please email us in your testimonies or leave a comment about them below. Let’s be encouraged by this.
In the busyness that December brings, may you truly meet the Christ of Christmas!