31 December 2012

Clergy and laity

Choudhrie's steps, Part 1 of 21
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In his first step for transforming church life, Victor Choudhrie suggests that we rewrite the job description of the professional clergy. Instead of employing professional clergy we should expect leaders to encourage the sheep to serve one another.

A shepherd and his sheep in RomaniaHere's the first of Victor Choudhrie's steps for transforming the life of the church, in his own words.

Rewrite the job description of the professional clergy from that of a pulpit orator, sacrament dispenser and tithe gatherer, to that of a shepherd who feeds his flock to be healthy and reproducing, by encouraging them to practice the priesthood of all believers with authority to baptize, break bread and equip fishers of men. He must model a flat church structure wherein brothers and sisters submit to one another, pray one for another, serve one another, exhort, forgive and love each other. John 13:34-35; Matthew18:21-22; Ephesians 5:21

There's a lot to digest, right here in step one. It is written on the assumption that the reader is currently involved in a typical western denominational church of a particularly traditional kind.

There are professional clergy, people who are paid to work as pastors or vicars or whatever they may choose to call themselves. These people have three major roles - speaking from the front, presiding over the sharing of bread and wine, and fund raising.

A change of role - Choudhrie is clear that there must be a change of role. Shepherding involves feeding, promoting health and ensuring there is active reproduction. This would be a farmer's desire for any flock of sheep and it should equally be the shepherd's desire for church sheep. So far so good, at this point those in the newer streams of church may be feeling they are doing a reasonable job of meeting that first step. Catholics and Anglicans, however, may already be having a hard time accepting some of the changes being proposed.

But there's more! Choudhrie insists that the sheep themselves must be encouraged to act as priests and to take responsibility for baptising, breaking bread, and equipping others for capturing new followers. And the members are to learn to submit to one another and themselves do the work of church leaders. This may give pause for thought to many more of us.

Probable responses - How will traditional churches receive the suggestions in step one? There are three possibilities.

  1. Some may reject the step out of hand because it goes against church tradition and denominational rules.
  2. Others may try to make adjustments to bring their current model of church more in line with the requirements of step one. They might, for example, encourage selected and trusted members of the congregation to speak from the front from time to time, or take charge of communion, or manage a home group.
  3. And some might accept step one as it stands and make fundamental changes to the way church operates.

Questions:
  • What problems do you see with each of the three responses?
  • If the sheep are to do the work themselves, is a shepherd still necessary?
  • What do you suppose Choudhrie means by a 'flat church structure'?

See also:


< No earlier items | Series index | Meet in houses >

30 December 2012

Cine film of Eaton Socon in 1939

Here is a stunning piece of colour movie film from 1939 showing some of my local landmarks, The Crown Inn and the Akbar Tandoori in Eaton Socon. The photographer drove along the Great North Road from London to Grantham, stopping to take these images on the way.


The Crown in 1939 and 2012
I recently found a YouTube video of a journey along the Great North Road from London to Grantham in August 1939.

As I live in Eaton Ford (just a few hundred metres west of the route) it was fascinating to see some local landmarks that I know well.

On the right, side by side is a still from the 1939 film and a photo taken yesterday, both show 'The Crown' in Eaton Socon. The main changes are an extension beyond the further chimney, removal of the ivy, the addition of a porch, the signs, two chimney pots and the loss of the telegraph pole.

The Akbar in 1939 and 2012
And here on the left are two further images, this time showing a tea room, now the Akbar Tandoori Restaurant.

Once again we can see some changes, but the scene is still very recognisable.

The YouTube video is shown below. It starts in London and 'The Crown' pub appears at 2 minutes, 37 seconds. This is followed by the old RAC sign for Eaton Socon, and then the tea house (now the Akbar Tandoori). The next shot shows a farmhouse beside the road near Southoe, then some open road followed by the Buckden sign and some shots in Buckden itself. After that there is a view of the Brampton Hut Hotel and then the journey moves on beyond my local area.

It would be interesting to know what camera and film were used to take these cine shots. Is it early Kodachrome brought over from the USA to record Britain just before the Second World War? Or was it a European process, perhaps Dufaycolor?



Questions:

  • How much has the area where you live changed in the last 73 years?
  • Are you aware of the local history of your town or village?

See also:

29 December 2012

Choudhrie's steps - INDEX

(See indexes on other topics)

Victor Choudhrie is an Indian evangelist and apostle who has baptised many people in India, planted many house churches, speaks internationally, and writes books, manuals and teaching material. He suggests twenty-one steps for transforming a traditional church.

Victor Choudhrie
Victor Choudhrie is an Indian cancer specialist turned apostle. I don't know if he would describe himself in quite that way, but I do.

He has started a movement of house church planting in India and it is spreading exponentially. He has also been invited to speak about his work in many countries and has written books and papers about it.

Listen to him speaking about how he changed from medicine to preaching Christ (there's a two minute introduction before Choudhrie speaks). The full set of six videos is well worth hearing.

One of his papers is a PDF containing twenty-one steps that he recommends for transforming the life of the church. Some of the steps have been shared on SimpleChurch Journal and briefly discussed on The assembling of the church. Victor Choudhrie describes them as 'twenty-one steps to transit from being a barren church to a millionaire of souls'. They form part of the training material on the Paul-Timothy website.

But I'd like to go further, I think it would be useful to take all twenty-one steps individually and examine them in a bit more detail. They are very striking, and extremely challenging. Are you ready?

The steps are listed below in abbreviated form and will be examined in future posts.

  1. Clergy and laity - rewrite the job description of the professional clergy
  2. Meet in houses - move from meeting in temples to houses of peace
  3. Small and informal - phase out Sunday services, gather informally
  4. Share resources - replace Mosaic tithing with Christian sharing
  5. Eat together - replace wafer-and-sip communion with agape meals
  6. Spiritual melody - replace professional music with heart music
  7. Interact and participate - not spectator-oriented but prophetic
  8. Become a network - not mega-church but meta-church
  9. Multiply - produce baby meta-churches abundantly
  10. Know who you are - be Christ's royal-priests, not laity
  11. Challenge purposeless church - clearly stated vision and a roadmap
  12. Unglue and send out - don't sit, soak and stagnate, but actively go
  13. From death to life - from titles to five-fold ministry that equips
  14. Subgroups are church - every prayer group and Bible study is church
  15. Replace goats with sheep - individuals who care for the weak and lost
  16. Simplify disciple making - gossip the gospel and multiply
  17. Training at home - no seminaries, share the truth house to house
  18. A new personal paradigm - church is where you spend your time
  19. Legacy church is secondary - see it as it is
  20. Preach Christ in new places - be fruitful and multiply
  21. Have a completion mindset - aim to be a millionaire of souls

Questions:
  • How do you react to the list of steps?
  • Does Victor Choudhrie have the right to suggest these steps to change?
  • If so, why? If not, why not?
  • What do you find most interesting or challenging about his life as a believer?

See also:

27 December 2012

Israel and Iran love one another

Remarkably, Ronny Edry has started a viral peace campaign on the internet. Initially it was 'Israel loves Iran', then 'Iran loves Israel', and now it's worldwide and growing apace. Take a look at the Facebook, Google+ and Twitter accounts. What a great idea!

Ronny Edry's Peace FactoryIsrael and Iran are at best very suspicious of one another, at worst sworn enemies. Iran would like to see Israel destroyed, Israel is considering a strike at Iran's atomic research infrastructure.

Ronny Edry started something bigger than he expected when he put up a simple poster on Facebook expressing love towards Iran.

After a while it built quite a bit of momentum with replies from people and places he didn't expect.

It's not merely that his poster has gone viral (although it has), but rather that the whole idea of loving one another has gone viral. Quite a movement!

Ronny, knowingly or unknowingly, has reiterated Christ's message to his followers to 'love your enemies' (Matthew 5:43-48). To our shame we have not always done that as we should. Well done, Eddy. And well done everyone who has taken the idea and run with it.

Watch this video of Ronny speaking at TEDx in Jaffa, Israel. It's a video you really should definitely not miss.



Questions:

  • Do you think Ronny's love movement has lasting value?
  • How many people might a viral idea like this reach?
  • Can you think of further and novel ways to contribute to Ronny's idea?
  • Is there anything greater than love? Who might you offer love to today?

See also:

21 December 2012

Law or grace?

On the one hand is law and on the other grace. Can I base my daily living on either of these? Is there any other way to live my life? We look at obedience in the life of the believer, based on Christ's love within and the actions that stem from this.


Tetrahedron
Sometimes things are not as clear as they seem.

Some followers of the Way are bound by rules and regulations; in other words they are
convinced there are standards we must meet in our lives.

Others may say they are free in Christ to do all things since he dealt with sin once and for all. Perhaps the former are in the majority although it's hard to tell.

At the absolute extremes we would be so law-focussed that we might rely on our own purity, or so grace-focussed that we might treat continuous forgiveness as our right.

It's unlikely that anyone could be found at either extreme, but some might come close. The rest of us are spread out in a continuum between law and grace. So who is right? How should we live our lives?

It doesn't often occur to us that both might be far from the simple truth.

Law - If I depend on the Law I'm like the Pharisees who criticised Jesus for allowing his followers to harvest and thresh grain on the Sabbath. As they were walking through the fields they took ears of grain and rubbed them between their hands to extract the seeds to eat (Mark 2:23-24). It was hardly an industrial-scale process! The Pharisees also prided themselves on meticulously tithing even the smallest quantities of herbs and spices like cumin (Matthew 23:23).

Meanwhile, for all their complaining about others and pride in their tithing they failed to help the poor or take pity on those in difficulty. Adherence to the law is not sufficient. Or more correctly, it would be sufficient if I had never sinned and could continue to lead a sinless life. But I haven't and I can't.

It's already far too late for me to depend upon observing the Law.

Law is a gift from the Father.

Grace - But if I look to grace am I any better off? Perhaps that depends on how I understand grace. If I see it as a precious gift it is all I need. If I treat is as a licence to sin without further consideration then I lose its true value.

Grace came at great cost, it is a precious, precious thing. It enables us to stand confident in the presence of the Most High, to see him as a loving Dad, to recognise we are forgiven, special, precious, loved, honoured and glorified by the Creator of the universe.

I dare not abuse it, I am called to receive grace as a gift but also to offer it freely, to forgive as I have been forgiven, to love as I have been loved, to honour as I have been honoured.

Grace is a gift from the Son.

Obedience - Law is too rigid. It's not the right place to look, I can never earn forgiveness and justification by obeying the Law. Yet grace (if I mistreat it) is too flexible.

But there's a third alternative, rarely considered, and it transforms everything.

Obedience is good, but obedience to the Law is impossibly hard. It is unachievable. It is already lost. However, grace opens the way, not only to forgiveness, but also to life in the presence of the King.

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit precisely so that I could hear what the Father is saying to me moment by moment as I live out my life on this Earth. So rather than a vain attempt to live by obeying the Law, I can now begin to live by obeying his voice, just as Jesus did. This is truly revolutionary!

There is nothing I am not allowed to do - as long as I'm told to do it. It's hard to see the freedom and opportunity wrapped up in this statement. Paul writes that even eating food sacrificed to an idol is OK, providing I don't cause others to sin by eating  (1 Corinthians 8:1-13). In other words my care for others trumps the law and is made possible by grace. Love wins. It's no accident that Paul judged love to be the greatest thing (1 Corinthians 13).

It's not that there are no longer any rules, but in Jesus those rules have been fulfilled and now I'm free to look away from them and focus my attention on Jesus instead. And he'll guide me by the power of the Spirit. It's just as written by Isaiah, 'This is the way, walk in it!' (Isaiah 30:19-21) and by Jeremiah to a disobedient people, 'Where the good way is, ... walk in it' (Jeremiah 6:16).

Obedience is a gift from the Spirit.

Conclusion - Everything comes from the Father, Son and Spirit. Just as they are inseparable, so too are law, grace and obedience. We cannot pick them apart, we need all three. But the amazing truth is that Jesus ministers all three to us. He is the way, the truth and the life; do you see that those three concepts have the aroma of the Father, Son and Spirit? We can lay them out here.

  • The Father provides law and has the aroma of the truth.
  • The Son provides grace and has the aroma of life.
  • The Spirit provides obedience and has the aroma of the way.

But because they are one, you can mix and match and every statement you make remains correct. The Father, Son and Spirit are all about law, grace and obedience and all have the aroma of way, truth and life. There is a wonderful symmetry about the great Creator King, a multidimensional knot that holds the universe together and cannot be unpicked.

As an aside, the tetrahedron is an interesting geometric shape in three dimensions. There is a base (think of it as the universe or the world). High above is an apex, think of this as the Almighty. There are three faces (Father, Son, Spirit), three edges connecting the apex and the base (law, grace and obedience) and the base has three sides (way, truth and life).

The law had to be fulfilled and Jesus does that. Grace is sufficient for me and Jesus provides it. Life needs to be lived and Jesus shines a spiritual light onto my path. He is all in all. Jesus says, 'If you have seen me you have seen the Father'.

Jesus came to set me free. And I am free indeed! But he set me free to obey him in everything.

Questions:

  • How large a part should traditions have in church life?
  • What does it mean to be 'free indeed'? (John 8:36)
  • Is Jesus the way, the truth and the life for you, personally and daily? (John 14:6)

See also:

14 December 2012

Season's greetings

Greetings to all my readers. This is a time to remember warm sunshine and abundant greenery, to enjoy the glitter of frost and the crunchy feel of frozen grass, and look forward to the return of flowers and warm weather. The King is here in all of it.

Hoar frost on a shoot
For years I've struggled with the Christmas season. Like all the traditional 'Christian' festivals there are many pagan elements involved and I'm not happy to be associated with those.

On the other hand I don't want to be a big disappointment to my wife, friends, daughters, or grandchildren. I have no wish to spoil anyone's fun.

In the end I've developed a workable compromise. I don't initiate any of the things that trouble me, but if other people want to do them I try to be gracious and not stand in the way or make a fuss. Between these two extremes is a place that is sometimes difficult, where I must choose between helping with something I'm uncomfortable with or not helping and risking disappointing people. Even here, I can often find an alternative, something to do that will help without directly involving me in the thing I'm uncomfortable about.

Greetings - But Christmas cards remain a difficulty. This year I'm going to send out greetings electronically wherever possible and this blog post is one means of doing that. I'll be working out how much money I save by not buying and posting cards, and will give it to a charity instead.

So what kind of greetings should I send you? Not Christmas greetings, for sure! Winter greetings, then. How about this slideshow of frosty scenes? They were all taken in St Neots where I live. (If you don't see the slideshow below you can view it as a gallery instead - then click the 'Slideshow' button at upper right).



You might also like to listen to 'Winter' from Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons'. Along with the photos and the music, please accept a winter greeting from me at a time of year when (unless you live in the southern hemisphere) the days are short and often cold and the nights are long and even colder. Summer is far behind us, yet it also beckons from the year ahead, warmth, long days, flowers and vivid green leaves turning the countryside into a garden fit for a king.

Emmanuel - Fit, actually, for the King. Everything is so beautiful. That's because it contains the essence of the King himself. Creation contains the stamp of authenticity, the mark of its maker. Just look at the beauty of a frozen landscape, could anything be more beautiful? Could it? Well, maybe. Yet all things are beautiful and glorious with the beauty and glory of the King of kings.

He is here, in this season, in every season.

May he also rest in your heart in love. May you know him and receive him just as he knows and receives you. He is the beginning, the centre, and the end. He is all you need.

Questions:

  • What do you most like about the season of winter?
  • Have you ever wondered why fog freezes mostly on the edges and ends of leaves?
  • Which of the photos is your favourite?

See also:

12 December 2012

Death of a nurse

The tragic death of a nurse following a prank phone call from Australia should make us all think about how we deal with other people and how we respond when hurt. We can only behave as we should if we have hearts that are full of love for others.

Most people will have heard about the tragic death of Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse involved in the hoax phone call to the London Hospital treating the Duchess of Cambridge.

Amidst all the media activity and comment, maybe it's time to take a look at what happened and consider how we should respond.

The bare facts are quite straightforward. Mel Greig and Michael Christian are radio hosts working for an Australian station, 2Day FM. They decided it would be fun to phone the hospital pretending to be Prince Charles and the Queen asking for an update on Kate's condition, and were quite surprised when Jacintha took the call and put them through to the ward nurse.

The nurse on duty answered their questions. Later, when the news of the incident reached the hospital and Jacintha realised what she had done, I can only assume she must have been horrified, very, very embarrassed and upset. Later, she tragically committed suicide leaving her husband and children bereft of a loving wife and mother.

The suffering - Jacintha's family, her friends and colleagues, the hospital management, the Duke and Duchess and their families are all suffering some level of distress as a result. When news of the suicide reached Mel and Michael they, in turn, were dreadfully upset at what had happened.

Something that began as a prank has turned into a nightmare for so many people. Who should we feel most sorry for? Frankly, I feel sorry for almost everyone involved including Mel and Michael. What they did was foolish and unkind, but clearly not intended to cause a death. However, I have little sympathy for the management of the radio station.

It seems there have been previous incidents for which the station has been criticised (this is the fourth such event mentioned in the Wikipedia article about the station). But it's clear that listener ratings and company profits were once again put before caring behaviour and ethical procedures.

The company's CEO, Rhys Holleran, had the audacity to say it was not possible to foresee the suicide. That is true, but hardly relevant. It's a shameful failure to take responsibility. What was perfectly foreseeable is that any prank of this nature is certain to cause very serious embarrassment and distress. Isn't that the whole point? Embarrassment and distress amuse and excite audiences, keeping ratings and profits high. The station is now going to review its operating procedures, but changes should surely have been made when they were criticised for similar behaviour in the past.

What should happen now? - As a bare minimum Jacintha's family need immediate financial support to cover the costs of counselling, loss of income, and to cover whatever extra facilities are necessary for the family to function in her absence. Additionally there will be a need for significant compensation. A wife and a mother cannot be replaced, of course, nor can the lifetime experiences that she has lost.

It seems to me right and fair that the radio station should be required to meet all these costs as a bare minimum. And they need to change their standards of behaviour or face closure. I'm glad to hear that the radio station does plan to offer some financial help. This is to their credit, but should not prejudice any independent rulings on compensation or operating standards.

The hospital is also raising an appeal for Jacintha's family. They are not guilty of doing anything wrong, but it's possible their handling of incoming phone calls could be improved in some way, especially out of hours. They are looking into this.

What can we learn from this tragedy? - Surely the fundamental lesson is that we must always treat people with kindness. Deliberately embarrassing and distressing people, whether for commercial gain or for any other reason is simply not the right way to behave.

Paul, writing to the Ephesians almost 2000 years ago makes it very clear. He writes that 'the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control'. There is, he writes, no law against such things. (Galatians 5:22-23)

I hope that Mel and Michael will recover from their shock, grief and sorrow. Their lives will be changed by what has happened, hopefully they will warn others of the dangers of treating people unkindly. The worst thing that could happen now is for anyone else to be harmed. My prayer for Mel and Michael is that they will find the strength to endure this difficult time and to move on, not forgetting what has happened but learning from it. The same prayer goes out for all the managers and staff of the radio station.

My prayer for everyone else is that they will be able to forgive. A world without Jacintha is a poorer world, especially for those who knew her. Sorrow and grief are inevitable, nothing can bring her back, the only way is forward. They will all need time, courage and strength to take those forward steps. Father, bless them as only you know how - in Jesus' name.

Love - But what we all need in this amazing rainbow world of technology, war, natural beauty, knowledge, suffering, joy and wisdom is more love. Love for one another, love of what is good, endless love, love that never gives up, love that always hopes and believes the best. Only the heart of love can forgive and bless.

Here's Paul again (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Consider reading what the Scot, Henry Drummond, wrote about love in his amazing essay 'The Greatest Thing in the World'. Love is the one thing we need, both to give and to receive. We can't manage this, only Jesus can provide it. He is the source of love, both to give and to receive. Learn more about him from the seven signs in John.

If even one person learns about love something good will have come from this desperately regrettable incident.


Questions:

  • How do you think the radio station might have prevented this?
  • How do you think the hospital might have prevented this?
  • Are you always guided by love in your dealings with other people?
  • How do you measure up to the standard Paul set out? How will you get help?

See also:

11 December 2012

Introducing the universe

The universe, Part 1
< No earlier items | Series index | How does science work? >

This is the first post in a series on the story of the universe, insofar as we know it in the first eighth of the twenty-first century. In this introduction I provide a little background about my reasons for tackling this subject and my own training and experience in science.

The Hubble extreme deep field view
I have a new project, and this post is the very first part of it. What I'd like to attempt is a sweeping review of the development of the entire universe, from the earliest moments right up to the present. It goes without saying that this is a rather ambitious task.

Why would I want to do this? - There are several reasons. One is the current battle of ideas between science on the one hand and people who think they know better on the other. And here I include creationists, the detractors of the evidence for global warming, deniers of human causes of global warming, those who are anxious about the side effects of inoculations and all sorts of other groups denying that scientific understanding of this or that topic is correct. I'll refer to these disparate groups as deniers and disbelievers (DDs).

DDs have a variety of reasons for their views. Some are genuinely concerned that science has a wrong view that is dangerous or harmful. Others may have some kind of hidden agenda. DDs of both kinds can be extraordinarily resistant to logical argument. Some (a small minority) can be manipulative and a few have been abusive.

Another reason is simply to share what are to me profound and amazing truths about the nature of existence. When you see something astonishing and beautiful, don't you want to share it with others?

Fun along the way - I have a scientific background (I was a professional biologist for many years) and I enjoy explaining things. I don't know a whole lot about fields other than my specialist area of biology, but I do have a science education and I possess the basic tools needed to understand scientific arguments and the principles by which science progresses.

I expect we can have a lot of fun along the way. Get ready for some amazing images and videos. Prepare to meet some extraordinary characters. And don't be surprised if some of the things we see are truly beautiful and awe inspiring - that's the way the universe is. To see some of these now, click on the photo of distant galaxies for a more detailed view, and take a look at the scale of the universe, an interactive journey up and down from the scale of our normal environment.

Not all my blog posts will be devoted to this journey of discovery. They'll be interspersed with much else besides - all the other topics I've posted on in the past. But every so often I plan to slip in another post in this series on the story of the universe. I'll link the posts together so you can easily browse back and forth between them, and there's an index to help you jump straight to a particular topic.

Questions:

  • Broadly speaking, is your inclination to trust or distrust science and scientists?
  • Do you find the natural world beautiful, perplexing, and thought provoking?
  • In your opinion, does the existence of the universe demand an ultimate cause?
  • If not, would you say it's enough to assume that there is no cause?

See also:


< No earlier itemsSeries index | How does science work? >

06 December 2012

Alan Hirsch at Newforms

Some fifty people came to the Newforms National Gathering where Alan Hirsch was speaking on movements. The sessions were good with plenty of time for questions, group discussion and feedback. Alan's long years of study and experience came through clearly as he spoke.


Newforms National Gathering 2012
Last weekend I drove to Nottingham to join about fifty other people for the 2012 Newforms National Gathering.

Alan Hirsch had kindly agreed to come as the main speaker, and the meetings were hosted by Peter and Marsha Farmer assisted by helpers from Nottingham and elsewhere.

People from all over Britain had booked places and travelled to join in. Some had come from Europe and even as far as Australia to be with us. We met at St Saviours and at the Riverway just opposite (both made us very welcome).

Hearing from Alan and Peter - The sessions were pretty intensive, but breaks for tea, coffee and lunch were frequent and long enough that our concentration didn't lapse. Alan Hirsch and Peter Farmer were so interesting and engaging that we might have managed with even fewer pauses. Many people already knew one another from previous meetings, at least slightly. Those who were new were soon joining in the conversations during the breaks and making new friends.

There were sessions on Friday evening, all day on Saturday, and Sunday morning and early afternoon.

Topics covered included apostolic movements, networks, mission, disciple making, viral spread, and reproduction. Alan drew on his years of study and experience on these subjects, covering the central place of Christ himself in detail and then looking at the five gifts in turn.

Alan spoke about discipleship and church planting movements, how they work, why they fail, the factors involved, and the fivefold ministry gifts (Ephesians 4:11) - apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers (APEST). We were encouraged to interrupt the main sessions with questions and Alan was willing to respond before continuing. This made the whole experience more interactive and useful. Peter spoke more briefly on some of the practical aspects and also gave us time for discussions at our tables, with feedback.

Here's the Ephesians passage in its proper context, Ephesians 4:11-16.

Taking it further - Alan Hirsch has published books on each of these aspects, they're listed and introduced on 'The Forgotten Ways' website. Perhaps I need to work my way through all of them.

Alan encouraged us to consider what our own gifts might be and explained that one of the best ways to discover is to pay attention to what others say about us. We are, after all, part of a body and the body as a whole recognises the value and function of each part.

We went home challenged and encouraged. The video on the right includes comment from some of the people present.

The National Gathering is an annual event. Check the Newforms Events and Training pages for details of next year's gathering and other meetings.

Questions:

  • Have you thought about your own gifts in terms of APEST? (You might have more than one.)
  • What do those around you in church life think about your gifts? You may not need to ask - just listen.
  • Do you think you might come to the next National Gathering in November 2013?
  • Have you read any of Alan Hirsch's books?
  • How do you think you can apply these ideas in the place where you live and in the church there?

See also:

05 December 2012

More on the river

We need to be full of faith and urgent purpose to tirelessly pursue whatever it is that Papa gives us to do. But we also need to understand that without him we can do nothing and it's not about our actions but about his nature. The river verses in Ezekiel and Revelation help us understand this.

Life in the desert along the Nile
We need to be like Esther (Esther 10:4-9), people who will not shrink back in the face of danger but will be bold.

Just as Esther fearlessly facilitated life for her people, so we need to be fervently taking hold of the life that is offered to us and eagerly passing it on!

We desperately need the inner thirst that Chris Duffett expressed.

I long to bring some of that fresh faced faith that I saw in India, a burning desire for Kingdom and urgency in people meeting with God, right in the heart of what I do. I know it’s not down to me, yet I long to be willing…

Bursting with faith and urgency - We need to recognise the 'fresh-faced faith' we see in others and find it in ourselves, we need that 'burning desire for Kingdom' and the 'urgency in people meeting with [Papa]'. Like Chris, we need these things to be 'right at the heart of what [we] do', we need to 'know it's not down to [us]' (it's Jesus who will do it) and of course we need '[to] be willing'.

There are many we can reach who are dying for lack of the river of life within them. Doesn't this bring out the great significance of Jesus' words in Matthew 25:31-46? We have living water, are we going to withhold it?

But in all of this we should also remember that we are his people and that he will guide us moment by moment in our lives. It won't necessarily help to plan our own complex route into unknown territory. Better by far to trust the Guide who has already been there and knows the way - the One who indeed is the Way (John 14:5-7).

The river grows as it flows - Notice how the river grows (Ezekiel 47:3-5). This is not normal in desert country because rivers grow as tributaries join them and tributaries are rare in the desert. If Esther was the river in Mordecai's dream might we all be like rivers? Jesus said we'd do even greater things than him (John 14:11-13). He reached Galilee, Judaea, a limited number in Samaria and a handful of Romans and Greeks. Paul reached much of the northern Mediterranean, in the following 300 years almost all Europe, North Africa, and parts of south-west Asia were reached. And today this river we call the body of Christ has penetrated almost the entire world.

So the river that sprang from Christ flows into the desert country where there is no water, and brings life. The living water is the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). And those who are his tributaries are springs of life arising because he is in each one of us. But surely the river in the vision has no tributaries? Ah, but it does. As tributaries we are hidden because we are in Christ. Our little springs of living water are already mingled with his, we don't need to flow into him, we are already in him, we are hidden tributaries and have no independent existence. Apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:4-6).

Seeing it like that might tempt us to think that the river grows because we somehow add our independent little springs of water to his. But it is not like that at all. The spring welling up in me is the living water he provides because Christ himself is the Source living in me and living in you.

The mystery - The source of the river is the temple, specifically the altar in Ezekiel 47:1 or the throne in the city in Revelation 22:1. The altar speaks of the old covenant, of sacrifice and of priesthood. The throne speaks of the new covenant, of rule and of royalty. Jesus is the Lamb, a living sacrifice and he is the King of kings, who rules over all. And we are his royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), set apart for his use.

It's a mystery! Jesus is all in all for us who believe, he is absolutely everything we need. What a relief to know that nothing depends on us any more. That doesn't mean that we have no work to do. It means that whatever he calls you to do you will be able to accomplish because he is in you and you are therefore filled with his Spirit!

Part of your calling is already clearly expressed from Jesus' own mouth. Love the Father with everything you have and are (Matthew 22:37). Love one another as Jesus loved those around him (John 13:34-35). Go and make disciples everywhere (Matthew 28:18-20). And so on.

But part of your calling will be shown to you as you go along. The Holy Spirit will reveal it step by step on a need to know basis.

Everyone shout 'HalleluYah!'.

Questions: 
  • How do you demonstrate your love for the Father?
  • Think about your brothers and sisters in Christ, how do they know that you love them?
  • Are you actively making disciples?
  • How can you improve your listening to the Spirit?

See also: 

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