30 September 2012

Where he treads I must follow

< No earlier items | Index | Surprises open us to change >

We take a look at three questions about mission and our lives in Christ. Do we know what he is doing in us and around us? Are we playing our part in the things he is doing? How can we find out? How can we begin to do better?

A mediaeval baker and apprenticeIn his 'Missional Challenge' blog, Dave DeVries reposts some questions posed originally by Don Snell. The questions are intended for coaching. In particular the aim is to help people 'align [their lives] with Jesus' disciplemaking mission'.

I think these questions are so good that I've decided to take them a few at a time and  share my answers, at least in outline form. Here are the first three.

  • What is God doing right now?
  • Are you aware of what God is doing?
  • How are you part of what God is doing?

Notice first that the old English word 'disciple' has the sense of  'apprentice'. It's about learning by working alongside an expert. Jesus is the expert. 

29 September 2012

Don Snell's Questions - INDEX

(See indexes on other topics)

We take a look at some interesting questions on mission and disciple-making and have a stab at some answers.

Don Snell's questionsIn his 'Missional Challenge' blog, Dave DeVries reposts some questions posed originally by Don Snell. These questions were originally intended for coaching. In particular the aim is to help people 'align [their lives] with Jesus' disciplemaking mission'.

I think these questions are so good that I'm taking them a few at a time and sharing my own answers in outline form.

I hope this will be helpful to others. Don't expect my answers to agree with your own, but do be encouraged to go through the questions yourself and think about them carefully.

  1. Where he treads I must follow
  2. Surprises open us to change

The case of Megan and Jeremy

The story of Megan Stammers and Jeremy Forrest is major British news, but in France the story has struggled to make the headlines. Why the difference? One French news source explains differences in law and opinion between the two countries.

French news article
France and Britain are just a sleeve apart. On a good day the two nations can see one another across the world's busiest sea lane, the 'English Channel' to the Brits, 'La Manche' to the French (literally 'The Sleeve').

But that little stretch of sea water divides two great nations who disagree on just about everything.

The latest example is the case of Megan Stammers and Jeremy Forrest. Opinion in the UK is certain that she is an abducted child and he a kidnapper. French opinion is expressed with a shrug and a smile, they are two people in love who made a foolish but understandable choice to run away together.

Compare an article in 'The Sun' with this from 'France 24' and you'll see what I mean.

28 September 2012

Floods in York

(Click the photo for a larger view)

Flooding in the city of York - Photo taken 27th September 2012
Here we see serious flooding in the city of York. I was there visiting family, thankfully few homes were flooded and most of the city centre escaped apart from some car parks built on the flood plain.

The River Ouse reached its second highest level ever recorded following two days of constant rain.  The flood waters are now receding and a clean-up operation is underway (midday 28th September).

Here are some more images of the flooding.

What does this image say to you? There are no wrong answers. (Add a comment).

Click the 'image' label below to see other image posts.

27 September 2012

Grasshopper at SpaceX

Reusing spacecraft instead of throwing them away after each launch would massively reduce costs per launch and costs per kilogram of payload. The Space Shuttle was largely reusable, but the work involved in making that possible was costly and safety was jeopardised.

SpaceX's Grasshopper
SpaceX have a number of projects going on in parallel. Perhaps they are best known for launching their Dragon spacecraft in May, successfully docking with the International Space Station (ISS), delivering cargo, and bringing a return cargo safely back to Earth. They plan to fly their first contracted operational flight to the ISS for NASA on 7th October.

But one of their objectives is to further reduce the cost of launching spacecraft. Their Falcon range of launchers are already cheap enough to take launch contracts from other operators, including Ariane. But to make a further reduction in costs SpaceX have always expressed the importance of making Falcon stages reusable.

24 September 2012

Seven times?

How many times must I forgive a person who wrongs me? We take a look at forgiveness in terms of Cain's murder of Abel, Israel's history, and the teaching of Jesus. There's a pattern, a thread running through all these themes. We see how forgiveness is protective and comes without limits.

Forgiveness at its source
When Yahshua told Peter he should forgive not just seven times, but seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22), he was clearly making the point that forgiveness is something that should be seen as having no limits.

But this is not the first time these words are found in the Bible.

All wise and all knowing as he is, Jesus would have been very familiar with the earlier texts in Genesis 4:15 and Genesis 4:24. He intended Peter (and us) to get the deeper message. So what is that deeper message?

Cain - Read Genesis 4:8-26. In verse 8 we see how Cain attacks his brother and kills him. Which is the greater sin, attacking my brother or killing him? Most of us would agree that murder is worse than injury. But is it? We'll come back to that.

17 September 2012

Organic leadership?

I thought it would be good to repost this from April 2010 as we've been thinking about leadership recently. This old article is a good reminder that it doesn't really depend on us, it depends on Yahshua. He is the one who builds the church!

Oak leaves and acorns
Brian Hofmeister has tried organic church and found it difficult. He writes about his experiences in a report in Christianity Today - Leadership. Brian's conclusion is that leading organic church was just too onerous, and was not achievable without some degree of professional input.

However, this has not been my experience, nor that of many others. And I don't believe it was the experience of the early church either. There's little evidence of paid leadership in the New Testament.

So what went wrong for Brian and the people he met with? To answer that we need to go right back to define what is and is not organic church. The word 'organic' implies an organism, whereas much of our experience of church comes from organisations. An organisation usually has a top-down management structure and a hierarchical authority structure. Something which is organic begins from a seed and grows until it reaches maturity and produces more seeds which grow in their turn.

16 September 2012

Keeping watch

We consider the Koine Greek word 'episcopos' and see how Luke uses it in Acts as he records how Paul spoke to the Ephesian elders on his way to Jerusalem. It seems that Paul was most concerned with preventing misleading teaching from confusing and scattering the believers.

A flock of sheep
Let's take a look at another Greek word used in the New Testament and usually understood as a leadership term. The word is ἐπίσκοπος (episcopos) and is variously translated bishop, overseer, ruler or supervisor.

It literally means someone who looks around, or across, or on. Does it have the sense of governing others in some way, or might it rather have the sense of keeping watch and staying alert as a way of serving others?

There is a widespread perception and presumption that New Testament authors intended it in the former sense.

11 September 2012

More on leading

In an attempt to pin down what the New Testament writers meant by the ideas of leader and leadership, we take a look at some of the words that have been translated into English as 'leader'.

A famous leaderFollowing my previous post I noticed Alan Knox's repost of his earlier article, 'Follow the Leader or Simon Says?'

I left a comment on Alan's post, referring back to my own blog. I was perhaps too hasty and didn't really make my meaning clear. When Alan replied, I tried to clarify, but the exchange of views had the side effect of making me think harder about the underlying issues.

As Alan rightly mentions, 'Scripture uses the Greek term for “leader.”' But then he goes on to add, 'I don’t see any problem with having leaders among the church.'

Issues with leadership - Nonetheless I do still see issues with human leaders. And these are issues that were already arising very early on in church life. This is made quite clear in 1 Cor 1:10-17 for example. In verse 17 Paul explains that he was sent for a purpose.

08 September 2012

Strategy? Who's strategy?

Do we need to follow good strategies, or do we simply need to obey everything the Holy Spirit shows us to do? I believe obedience, not strategy is the key to success. How about you?

Obedience training
I'm growing tired of hearing about strategy. Don't misunderstand me, there's nothing wrong with having a strategy but it had better be the right one, from the right source.

My strategy always misses something important.

My strategy is based on limited experience and the goal is one of my own choosing.

I select goals from a place of partial knowledge, poorly developed wisdom, and a proud and selfish heart.

Therefore my strategy will fail.

03 September 2012

Beginning all over again

Beth Foster's blog is a story of movement and challenge. For the past year she has been learning to live for Jesus in a radically new way - and she is changing! Read 'Organic Life' for yourself and follow her progress. But beware! You might find yourself changing too.

Organic Life, Beth's blogHave you ever been at a place of new beginnings? Most of us have experienced the pain and anxiety when there's a disconnect between old and new. Usually there is expectant hope and a joyful looking forward as well, perhaps tinged with some apprehension or great sadness. Mixed feelings in many ways.

Whether it's a new job or retirement, a new birth or a family death, moving to live in a new home (and leaving an old one), a lot of things are going to change and we have to adjust. The same can happen when the Holy Speaks to us about a major change in our spiritual life.

01 September 2012

Groups of six to twenty

< Groups of two or three | Index | Groups of sixty to eighty >

Groups of between six and twenty have many of the properties of family, especially when they share a meal together. Groups of this size may be sub-sets of a larger local church, or they may form an independent house church, or they may serve a particular function (such as an Alpha Course).

More than six, fewer than twenty
At sizes much beyond three, the dynamics of a meeting change quite dramatically. Let's take a look at this and examine the strengths and weaknesses of groups in the range between six and twenty people. (The optimum size is probably between eleven and fifteen.)

But before we do that, we're going to consider how groups in this size range are typically managed.

Many churches of more than about thirty people have smaller groups meeting during the week in addition to a main meeting on a Sunday. These groups go under a variety of names - home group, cell group, life group, small group, house group etc. Generally, such groups are encouraged or required to divide if they grow larger than about twenty people. The governance may be formal and tight, or looser and more informal.

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