Showing posts with label Mission. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mission. Show all posts

09 February 2016

Here be giants

A few days ago I watched a Louie Giglio presentation at a friend's home. He was talking about 'giants' in people's lives, issues that they struggle with but have not been able to completely subdue. Louie Giglio used Goliath to teach that 'giants must fall', but I think there's a much deeper meaning in the David and Goliath story.

Dwarfs and giants are real, by the way. Not so often today because of hormonal treatments that can control a person's growth. The photo shows Robert Wadlow (right) and his father (left). Robert reached almost nine feet in height; he was immensely strong and was still growing until his death in 1940.

Robert Wadlow
Robert Wadlow
Personal or corporate? - At first sight it seems that Goliath, slain by David, is a great illustration of the personal battles we face as individuals. And we heard that David represents Jesus so, like the Israelite army, I am not the one who defeats my giant - Jesus is. I'm sure Giglio is right to point this out, but I am equally sure that Goliath represents a giant that threatens, not just individuals, but the entire church.

Goliath (and several other giants in the same period) did not come to defeat individual Israelite soldiers. Goliath came to defeat the entire army and, indeed, the whole nation. He shouted defiance against Yahweh (the god of Israel) and he threatened the gathered people of Israel. I suggest that there are giants defying the Most High in our day, and threatening the church. And just as David won the entire war by defeating Goliath (1 Samuel 17:9), so will Jesus have a mighty victory when he brings down the defiant, threatening giants of our day. Let's unwrap this a bit more.

The giants - Let's think about these giants. They are very big issues that the church has developed during her long history, they mislead us and are strong and powerful, difficult to identify and shake off. The people are afraid to tackle them; these giants defy the Almighty and they cause confusion and doubt. Can we identify any of these giants? I have some preliminary ideas that I will share, but there are likely to be others I haven't identified.

The leadership giant - I believe one such giant is our great misunderstanding of church leadership. I am not referring to people here, but to an idea. The giant is not a bad church leader, he is a wrong view of what it means to lead in church. Jesus clearly said that he is the only teacher and master we need, and that we are to be absolutely humble and loving (Matthew 23:8-12, John 13:1-17, John 17:21). Yet the church is full of many leaders - bishops, elders, pastors, vicars, priests, deacons, apostles, evangelists and so forth. The problem is that we have forgotten that we have one head, Christ himself, and we are not to rule over one another. To look to others to lead us is to defy the will of the Father expressed in and through the Son. There are leaders in church life, but they don't look like the leaders I'm referring to here. For more on leaders, see Jesus, Disciple, Mission, Church (JDMC), especially the sections on The APEST gifts and Other leaders.

The denominational giant - Another giant opposing the will of the Most High regarding church is the dreadfully divided state we are in. Paul criticised the Corinthians for being divided (1 Corinthians 3), and as the centuries have passed things have just gone from bad to worse. Denominations sometimes cooperate with one another, and that's great as far as it goes, but it's not the same as being one. Jesus calls us to be one 'as I and the Father are one' (John 17:20-23), Think about that for a moment. Can it be said to be true for the church today? If not, surely we're guilty of disobedience? Paul writes about one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephesians 4:1-6). Some denominations even regard themselves as the one true church. If this is so, what do they think about all the others?

Wrong thinking about mission - Mostly, the church focuses on evangelism. When we think about outreach we think about sharing the gospel. But read Jesus' words in Matthew 28:18-20. Where does he mention the gospel or evangelism? He does, however, say that he has all power and authority, that we should make disciples everywhere and that he will be with us as we do it. The evangelism giant prevents us from doing what we have been clearly told. Let's try being and making disciples as Jesus commands, evangelism will happen along the way. (See the JDMC section on Becoming Disciples.)

Other giants - Are there more giants than these three? Undoubtedly, though three is probably more than enough to consider right now. The great difficulty with these giants is that we are so used to them that we no longer really see them. These giants are almost invisible, or we are so nearly blind and deaf that we neither see Goliath nor hear his daily challenge to us.

We need to ask our 'David', who is the same Jesus who said, 'Go in my name, make disciples, and I'll be with you', to demolish these giants for us.

Perhaps it's significant that David felled Goliath with a smooth river pebble. Jesus is more than a pebble, he is the very bedrock on which his church is built. And it's worth mentioning that he doesn't call us to build it. He did tell us that he would build it.

14 January 2014

Come to the mountain

What are the basic rhythms of our lives as followers of Jesus? They involve coming into his presence and going in his Name, and that, really, is all there is to it. Following Jesus is not complex or hard; he says it is easy and that his burden is light and comfortable.

The view towards Coniston
The view towards Coniston
I was at a church meeting recently and The Holy Spirit gave me the words 'Come to the mountain'.

I knew that if I began by speaking these words out, the rest of the prophecy would follow, but I didn't feel it would be acceptable to just speak, and I knew that if I'd gone to the front and asked to share it, the moment would have gone and I'd have lost the flow.

There's an immediacy about prophecy that will not be denied. So I borrowed a pen and jotted the words down as they came. Here they are.

Come to the mountain. Come!

From the mountain comes your salvation.
From the mountain comes your holiness.
From the mountain comes your light.
From the mountain comes purpose, grace, glory, power, peace, love, honour, authority and hope.

Come to the mountain.

I AM that Mountain.
I AM the Rock of your salvation.
I AM dependable.
Now I say to you, go in my Name,
Go in the authority, grace, love and peace that I have poured out upon you.
Go into the world, for I AM with you.

I don't know that these would have been the words I would have spoken; they are almost certainly not. But the gist of the message is probably the same.

Coming and going - And it seems to me that coming to the Mountain and going into the world are at the heart of all that we do. Jesus says, 'Come to me everyone who is tired and struggling, I'm gentle and I'll give you rest. My load is light, the weight I lay on your shoulders is manageable and comfortable' (Matthew 11:28-30).

In coming to him we will also be gathering together. When we are where he is, we will inevitably find his other followers in that same place. We don't gather because we decide to be together, we gather around him. Moths don't gather as a cloud because they want to be together but because they are drawn to the light.

Does he send us out together? Yes he does. Jesus taught his followers to go out in twos (Luke 10:1-2). We are to go, not as a cloud around the Light who is Jesus, but in smaller groups. We do not go alone, we go in company, but we go in the company of a few.

So if we are attracted to him, we will be among many. But if we are obedient to him we will be among a few. And because we need to do both, sometimes we'll gather together and sometimes we'll go out with a few.

Basic rhythms of life - Coming into the Light and going in his Name are the basic rhythms of following Jesus [Tweet it!], they are the pattern of discipleship and missional living. These were the rhythms when he walked the dusty roads and hills of Galilee and Judaea with his followers, they were the same rhythms during the time of the early church, they are the basis of life for his persecuted people in China and Pakistan and Indonesia and many other places, and they are the same rhythms of discipleship and mission that the church in the West is beginning to rediscover.

So the call to all his people is twofold. 'Come to the Mountain' and 'Go into the world'. We are not truly following Jesus unless we are doing both. Come into his presence singing, 'Jesus is Lord'. Go into the world sharing in practical ways the good news that he is the Lord of love and of forgiveness and of freedom.

And rejoice! Again I say, rejoice!

Note: The photo was taken from near the top of Coniston Old Man, a mountain in the English Lake District. The view shows Coniston Water and the lovely little town of Coniston. Click the image for a larger view.

Questions:

  • Are you gathering around the Light? Are you going into the world? Consider if and how you do these things.
  • Is there anything you should change about your gathering and going? Pray about it.
  • When you are on a mountain you can see the country below laid out like a tapestry, you see it as a whole in a way you cannot do when you are in it. Is this significant for discipleship and mission? In what way?

See also:

22 November 2013

Prayer, Bible study, story telling

Here's an opportunity for some free online training. Steve Addison presents a session on following Jesus and making disciples. It's no substitute for face-to-face contact with a trainer, but it's invaluable as a taster. If you get the chance to meet Steve, take it. But watch this and read the books anyway.

Steve Addison's website
Steve Addison's website
Steve Addison is an Australian with a calling, in his own words, to 'spark church planting movements, everywhere'.

He has written some great books, 'Movements that change the world' and 'What Jesus Started' are particular favourites on my electronic bookshelf.

Steve also runs courses all over the world and is coming to Nottingham next week for the Newforms National Gathering 2013. I'll be there, and I'm greatly looking forward to hearing him.

Recently, Steve Addison released an online training video available to watch live or for download. It is an excellent starter for anyone wanting to get out amongst local people and reach them with the best news in the known universe. It focusses on prayer, simple discovery Bible study and story telling.

Read his two books mentioned above as well, you will not be disappointed by either the style or the content. They are very readable but at the same time, challenging.

Questions:

  • Watch the video. Do you think you will approach people differently from now on?
  • What single thing that you have learned will most affect the way you think and behave in future?
  • Have you ever wondered what Jesus' daily life was like? Read 'What Jesus Started' and find out. [Tweet it!]

See also:

11 July 2013

Familiar strangers

We're all aware of people we know by sight but not by name. This happens when we repeatedly see the same face in a certain context - travelling to work, having a coffee while shopping. Research shows how widespread this is; can the church make use of this idea as a missional resource?

Will I recognise anyone here?
Will I recognise anyone here?
Recent research shows that people are regularly in the same place at the same time with others they don't know.

This seems to happen because we're creatures of habit, using the same bus at the same time every day, visiting the coffee shop at the same time, using favourite shops over and over again.

Such patterns of behaviour mean that faces may become familiar to us, even if we don't know a person's name, even if we've never spoken to them. It would be easy to start a conversation with such people; if I recognise their faces they will most likely recognise mine too.

Opportunity for mission - This opens up some interesting possibilities for mission.

I'm going to try deliberately noting people that I see regularly and initiating conversations. Hopefully I can widen the circle of people I know in that way. It's going to be important to be intentionally observant so that I can find people who will feel I'm already familiar.

I'm going to pray about it and ask Father to show me the right people and guide me in the conversations. It'll be very interesting to see how this works out. This is related to the idea of a third place and using such a place as an opening for community and mission.

I don't plan to have religious conversations, just conversations about everyday things at first. As I get to know some of these people better I hope to be able to share the good news that they are loved and special in Father's sight.

Questions:

  • What places do you visit regularly? What are your daily patterns and habits?
  • Can you identify people that you see regularly?
  • Are you willing to try talking to these people?

See also:

17 April 2013

Five ideas about stories

Josh Reeves shares some great ideas about 'knowing the story'. The idea is to make us more effective in what we already do, not add extra stuff to our schedule. In a fuller article at Soma, Josh provides more of these useful lists of ideas in other important activities.

Josh Reeves writing on VergeJosh Reeves, writing at The Verge Network, considers 'Five Practical Ideas to Know the Story'.

He explains, 'Much of what we do is not meant to add things to the schedule, but bring intentionality to the things we are already doing'. And then he provides a list of practical ideas.

  1. Practice telling the story to your kids and spouse
  2. Listen to others tell the story
  3. Have a night where each person shares their story in 10 minutes.
  4. Identify and write down the 4 major stories you see people believing.
  5. Host a get to know your neighbors party - with artifacts.
He suggests we consider these short extracts from the Bible... Genesis 1:1-2, John 1:1, Psalm 1 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Josh also provides links to some very helpful resources. Don't miss out on these, read his article and follow the links.

In his Verge post, Josh is summarising part of a fuller article on Soma's website. If you want to know more I recommend you take the time to read that. In it he offers five practical ideas for a whole range of other activities - to help us listen, celebrate and suffer, bless, eat, rest and work.

Maybe you could consider working through Josh's lists with a group of friends?


Questions:

  • Jesus often used parables - why?
  • Why do you think telling stories is so powerful?

See also:

07 April 2013

Hopeful signs of liminality

Alan Hirsch uses the terms liminality and communitas. I was interested to check how much 'liminality' I could find in church life today, particularly in and around my own local area of west Cambridgeshire. I found more than I had expected which is really rather encouraging.

Big hearted lyfe
Recently, I've been working my way through Alan Hirsch's excellent book, 'The Forgotten Ways'. Amongst much else he explores what he calls 'liminality and 'communitas'.

Liminality is being involved around the edges of what we consider normal in western church life. It's a matter of taking risks, pushing the boundaries in terms of reaching the hungry, the abandoned, the spiritually lost.

For those in places like China or the Muslim world it may mean facing danger or even death. Alan Hirsch uses terms like ordeal, danger, marginality and adventure.

Communitas is the sense of comradeship that comes from sharing liminal experiences with others. It's deeper and more urgent than the typical community life we have in the western church. We cannot achieve communitas just by drinking coffee together or going to meetings.

(Scroll to the bottom of the post for short extracts from the book defining these two terms.)

This sparked my imagination and I wanted to identify examples of liminality in my own life and the lives of those around me. Here's what I came up with (in alphabetical order). Some of these examples are very local, most are from the UK, all but two are things I've been involved in personally.

Be the light - Chris Duffett provides a list of ideas for creative evangelism. Many of these involve some degree of liminality by getting us out of our comfort zones. Take a look through the list, are there some ideas here that you and a small group of friends might try?

Ben and Catherine Taylor - Not content to just sit around and let the world go by, Ben and Catherine in the West of England are involved in church life with a difference, lots of liminality here I think!

Ben and Hannah Dunnett - Hannah is an artist, Ben is a musician. They challenge and encourage us all by making the most of their talents. Take a look at what they have on offer and ask yourself if you might buy some material to use in inventive ways to reach those around you.

Beth Foster - Beth lives in the USA and used to have a great blog. She seems to have removed it (I hope temporarily). In it she described how she had been led to review what she did as a believer and to slim it down to the real essentials. She made some notes on how this was going. Although you can't  now read these for yourself, she also left some great comments on several of my posts. Take a look at this one (you'll need to scroll to the bottom to see Beth's comments).

Big hearted lyfe - Some great material and helpful suggestions for doing Bible study and personal development in a public place. This could be one way to experience a form of liminality! Have a go, see if you can encourage others to join you. This idea comes from the Bible Society.

Donna and the children - Donna lives in Nottingham and amongst many other things has explored church with children. This was not an obvious or easy thing to do, but she saw the need and the opportunity and just went for it. Another good lesson for all of us.

Ffald-y-Brenin - This community is pushing out the boat with houses of prayer. Read part of their story here on Journeys of heart and mind. This is no ordinary retreat centre, liminality is not in short supply!

Food bank in St Neots - There are plans afoot to start a Trussell Trust food bank in the town. Many of the local churches are cooperating. It's a great thing to do and will bring together people from different backgrounds as well as increasing contact with people needing some help. I've begun collecting and have delivered a first donation to a local church that's already passing on help to those in difficulty.

Free hugs - Some friends, Tendai, Mark and others, have been trying out some of those 'Be the Light' ideas at the top of this list. I joined them once for a 'free hugs' session in the Market Square and will be getting involved again.

Krish Kandiah - Active in work with students, as an author, pastor and as a sought-after speaker, Krish Kandiah is different. He is inventive, active, and always willing to push the boundaries and take risks.

Newforms Resources - Pete and Marsha Farmer are involved in a lot of hard work, much of it centred around Newforms Resources. This is an organisation they created as an umbrella for training, meetings and books aimed at encouraging missional expressions of church in the UK and, increasingly, Europe and beyond.

Paul and Jenny Shortman - Jenny is an old friend from years ago. She and her husband Paul have been very helpful in a Free Church not far from here. They encourage, work at all sorts of jobs, and Jenny often writes for their magazine. It's always good, edifying stuff. Maybe this is not so much on the liminal side of life, but it's way beyond the normal range of what we'd call community. Humble work done well and done for love. They are a good example to us all.

Pete Stamford - Pete runs annual camps for ages eight to sixteen. From small beginnings using scout camp grounds he is now running multiple camps and other training events each year from a dedicated site at Moggerhanger in Bedfordshire. Everything depends on CRB-checked volunteers - lots of them. Missional in nature, aiming to reach young people and their parents, Pete has faced and overcome many difficulties along the way.

St Michaels Without - This Anglican church in Bath, Somerset, has changed itself in interesting and delightful ways. Both the physical structure and the lives of the people have been adapted to better serve the local community. Take a look at their website to find out what they're been up to.

TryPraying - This idea began with a group of ordinary people in Edinburgh, Scotland. Now they are publishing booklets encouraging non-believers to experiment with prayer. The whole thing is imaginatively and beautifully executed. Who would not want to be involved?

Conclusions - Few of these ideas are fully 'on the edge', but most of them have elements of liminality significant enough that I can share them in this article. There may be other people in St Neots getting out there and engaging in the great commission. I certainly hope so.

Taken together, these may be early glimmerings of life and growth in the church in the UK. And as people engage in these ways and involve their friends, so communitas may start to develop. I imagine a time, not far off, when church will be completely transformed where I live. Yes, Father, bring it on; we are so ready for this!

Liminality and communitas - Extracts from 'The Forgotten Ways', Alan Hirsch's definitions of liminality and communitas.

Liminality ... applies to that situation where people find themselves in an in-between, marginal state in relation to the surrounding society, a place that could involve significant danger and disorientation, but not necessarily so.

Communitas ... happens in situations where individuals are driven to find each other through a common experience of ordeal, humbling, transition and marginalization. It involves intense feelings of social togetherness and belonging brought about by having to rely on each other in order to survive.


Questions:

  • Are you taking risks in your life as a believer?
  • Do you agree that shared danger can lead to a marvellous sense of togetherness?
  • Can you find needs and opportunities in your village, town or city?
  • What are you doing about those needs and opportunities?

See also:

13 January 2013

Meet in houses

Choudhrie's steps, Part 2 of 21
< Clergy and laity | Series index | Small and informal >

For the second step in transforming church life, Victor Choudhrie urges us to meet in a different place. Instead of 'temples made by human hands' he recommends 'houses of peace'. What does he mean by this? How do we find 'houses of peace'?

Is there a house of peace here?This is Victor Choudhrie's second step for transforming the life of the church.

Move from meeting in temples to gathering in 'houses of peace'. 'God does not dwell in temples made by human hands'; rather He dwells in human hearts. For we are the mobile walking and talking temples of the living God, with a maximum of organism and a minimum of organization. Luke 10:5-9; Matthew 10:11-13; Acts 7:48-49; 2 Corinthians 6:16


As with step 1 there's a lot to digest. Once again, step 2 assumes the reader is part of a typical western church. We are comfortable with the idea of meeting as a large group in a spacious building, But Victor Choudhrie challenges us to read the New Testament with fresh eyes and open minds and calls us to meet somewhere entirely different. Let's unpack this a little.

Temple or house of peace? - Are we 'dwell[ing] in temples made by human hands'? Surely not! The Temple was in Jerusalem, not here in my town. Why does he say we are meeting in 'temples'?

What is the essence of a temple? It's a special place where people come to worship their chosen god. Is that what we do on a Sunday morning? Well, yes, in a way it is exactly what we do. We all know that the place where we meet is not special, yet we treat it reverentially. Or, if we hire a building once a week, although the building is ordinary we regard the gathering itself to be special in some way.

And what is a 'house of peace'? Reading the Luke and Matthew passages it's clear that travelling is involved here. When we arrive in a new place we're to search for a home where we will be made welcome. So rather than meeting in a special place, we might consider meeting in any home that will welcome us. That implies smaller numbers (200 people won't fit in a typical house) and it implies lack of organisation (no worship band, no pulpit, no rows of seats).

There are at least two ways of looking at this.

Mission or community? - The first one involves going out to find people of peace, spending time with them sharing the good news of Jesus, asking them to gather their close friends and family in their home, coaching them to lead the new house church so created and teaching them to repeat the process themselves. That's one view. This is what the disciples and early church did. Meeting as part of a small community in a home means you are part of a network of such meetings and actively planting out new ones.

The second way of looking at it is that the small meeting at home is a family, a stable group of people that love and care for one another, help one another out, build one another up, and encourage one another.

In practice, most home-based churches will have elements of both viral spread and family group. The proportion of the mix depends on environment. Where there is a large harvest in the local area the missional aspect may be the major one, where there are already many believers, the community aspect may the most widely expressed.

This second step requires additional, fundamental change of a most demanding kind. In the first step we lost our leaders, now we are losing our building!

How many conventional churches would be willing to take such a major and seemingly foolhardy step? Perhaps not many. And what sort church would do so? Perhaps the answer to that is one who's members are looking to follow Jesus closely and are paying attention to what he says.

Releasing resources - How much money and time does it take to manage church in 'temple' mode? Add up the cost of a building, either rented weekly or purchased outright, and the expenses involved in staff salaries, office space and equipment, lighting, heating and other running costs and the annual bill for just one church is very large. Now factor in the time people spend supporting all of this church infrastructure. The time and money absorbed by non-essential activities is immense.

Now multiply that by the number of churches (over a dozen in St Neots where I live) and you can begin to comprehend the resources that would be released if we all met in homes. Most of those resources could be used to support mission work, to help one another, and meet everyday needs in the community.

It's not that conventional churches don't spend time and money on the community or on mission, some make considerable efforts in that regard. But how much more could we do?

And here's the main point. How often do we stop and ask the Spirit of Christ to guide us in these things? If we asked him, what would he say to us? Would he command us, 'Go and make bricks and build a physical structure for me'? Probably not, that's what Pharaoh commanded the Israelites.

No, he is much more inclined to tell his people, 'Go in my name and feed the hungry, heal the sick, share the good news, look for the house of peace and the person of peace and allow me to build my church there, a body made of living stones'.

Probable responses - How will traditional churches receive the suggestion to move out of a 'temple' and into 'houses of peace'? As with step one there are three possibilities.
  1. Some may reject the step out of hand because it goes against church tradition and destroys what we have been accustomed to. Many may feel it's an unsafe and unwise move, a step into the unknown.
  2. Others may try to adjust what they already have. For example, they may stress the value of home groups and reduce the importance of the Sunday service in a large, central location. This meeting may become a celebration held once every month or two.
  3. And some might take hold of step two enthusiastically, replacing the main location altogether and focussing all their resources on growing healthy gatherings in homes.

Questions:
  • What arguments do you foresee being used to retain the use of a large meeting place?
  • Small and large meetings both have advantages and disadvantages, how many you can list?
  • What does Choudhrie mean by a 'maximum of organism and minimum of organisation'?

See also:


< Clergy and laity | Series index | Small and informal >

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

04 May 2012

Changes to the blog

There are a few changes to the blog that you should know about. There's a name change, an attempt to reach spiritual seekers who know little or nothing about Jesus, and a reduced focus on meetings.

The old version of the blogI'm making a few changes to the blog that will, I hope, make it more useful. I would like to reach the spiritually hungry with the good news that Jesus is alive with a life he really wants to share.

Name - The name of the blog is changing from 'All about Jesus' to 'Journeys of heart and mind'. Apart from that and the new label 'SpJ' (stands for 'Spiritual Journey') everything will look and work much as before.

Spiritual Journey - The 'SpJ' label displays what I hope will become a series of articles to help and encourage spiritual seekers of all kinds. The idea is to offer information that will stimulate thought and provide some useful resources.

Business cardPlease pray for a right attitude and boldness on my part. I feel Father wants me to make an effort to reach those people who are searching for spiritual truth and are open, but have not so far had the opportunity to meet Jesus as he really is.

I've also made myself a simple business card to hand out locally whenever I'm prompted to do so. Here's a picture of it, just a little teaser with a web address on it. I hope to use that to start conversations and make it possible for people to contact me later.

Meetings - There is one further change. I can no longer make even a token attempt at publishing notes on all the meetings I take part in locally. Instead I will write notes on meetings from time to time when it seems especially useful. The main change is that the 'Meetings' tab will now only list meetings that have notes, it will no longer include those that go unreported.

19 April 2012

Nomad with the Dales

Here are some of the main points made by Tony and Felicity Dale during their recent interview by Nomad. It's all good stuff; Tim and Dave head home with some highlights still buzzing in their minds.

Nomad's blog post about the interviewTim and Dave run the Nomad Podcast. If you haven't heard any of their monthly interviews, you've been missing a treat!

The latest interview is with Tony and Felicity Dale from Texas, recorded when they were in the UK recently. Tim and Dave travelled to Cheltenham to meet them for the interview. After five minutes of mirth and banter in the car they finally get to the point and the interview begins.

We hear the background story of the Dale's early days in medical school with patients coming to the Lord and many small, home-based communities. They moved to the USA in 1987, clearly led by the Spirit, but once they arrived they were at a loss for direction.

After nine years they gave Father an ultimatum, and things began to move again. They led a discussion with businessmen based on Proverbs and over the next year all of them became believers. They also started a breakfast Bible club for their children's friends. The children and then their families began to follow Jesus too. With the business people and the new families they decided to try to multiply the small rather than just growing bigger.

They learned that success in Father's eyes is not about what we do but much more about what we become because of Jesus. Even before they left the UK they learned not to build something that can survive with or without the Lord. But simple church is not a panacea for all ills, preconceived ideas can mean that house church just becomes big church shrunk smaller.

Felicity describes a simple church in an underprivileged area. It was messy and based very much on present needs, but that is what Jesus loves to do amongst his people. Life brings us into church as a lifestyle, not an event. We need to understand that we don't need experts, anyone can start a church. People gather in every context, the person of peace may be a Cornelius or a woman at the well. But regardless of the kind of person, such people have circles of influence and they have the ability to lead built into them.

Simplicity implies reproducibility, complexity slows down multiplication. We need to find simple patterns that the Lord can work through. Simple food is better than complex food, for example. Pot luck or pizza is just fine. The same applies for prayer for one another. Tony explains that they determined never to make things complicated or difficult. Prayer is just chatting naturally with Father.

The person of peace concept is missional, moving out into that person's context. Sequentialism is a barrier to multiplication - 'I need to do this before I start to do that'. Local community worked in the East End of London, but it doesn't work for the Dales in Austin. However, people are very mobile in the USA and they have community with visitors, at work, at the gym, or Starbucks. They are therefore living the presence of the Lord wherever they can.

We are called to make disciples, Jesus will build the church with those disciples any way he wishes. Tony explains how this happens in the business he runs, it's not a Christian company but discipling takes place there very naturally and easily.

Disciples need to learn the key skills of hearing from the Holy Spirit for themselves and being obedient.

After the interview, Tim and Dave discuss the session. Tim is particularly struck by the idea that making disciples is our call and Jesus will build the church. Dave is engaged by the thought that disciples are primarily people who hear and obey the Lord. There is some more amusing banter before the recording ends.

See also: Felicity's blog 'Simply Church' and the 'House2House' organisation they set up.

22 February 2011

Brampton - The Harvest Field

< 18th February 2011 | Index | 28th February 2011 >

This was the latest in a long series of meetings where Sean and I have been trying to hear what the Lord is saying to us. We desperately want to be more obedient, but how can we be obedient unless we first hear?

A well maintained ditchWe began with coffee and spent some time in prayer knowing we needed to finish early so that Sean could collect his son, arriving home from a trip abroad. Right at the start we wondered just how alive we really are. Sometimes it seems we are not. But perhaps that's healthy, Yahshua tells us very clearly that he is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). We read much of John 6:5-21. It's clear that our life is in Christ or we have no life at all.

I had a puzzling picture of a blocked ditch. Because of the blockage, water was running where it should not go; we knew we needed to unblock the ditch so that the water could flow freely in the proper channel again. We started to dig around the place where the blockage seemed to be and soon discovered a farm tractor hidden in the ditch. It was completely buried!

I knew that somehow the buried tractor represented our broken and failed efforts, but I couldn't understand the full meaning of the picture.

But later, Sean made it clear. He realised that the ditch was part of the Lord's harvest field and I then understood that the very thing we'd used to clear the ditch was, in fact, blocking it. By using our method, applying our own power and energy and strength, we were actually causing the problem. Instead, we need to watch to see what Jesus will do and be available to do whatever he tells us. Only he can clear the ditch, our effort to do it only makes things far worse!

In other words, we must let him do the work and he will tell us what we must do. He's the manager, we're the staff. We are not to take charge. We are here to obey, not direct.

At home later I was reading Ephesians 1 and noticed how relevant it is.

We are blessed, we are chosen, and we are loved. Paul makes this clear right at the start of his letter. We were picked in advance to be adopted as his children. It's all part of Father's plan to bring everything under the headship of Christ.

Paul writes that the Ephesians 'were included in Christ when they heard the word of truth'. Paul is clearly very pleased with the Ephesian believers, they are doing really well. He prays that they may be given the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that they may know the Father better.

And that's exactly what we need - to know the Father better.

< 18th February 2011 | Index | 28th February 2011 >

06 January 2011

RESPONSE - Community and mission?

Felicity Dale has just written a great post about community and mission. Do we need to become a community before we launch out in mission? What does it mean to be a 'missional community'? Is that the same thing as a communal mission?

Felicity Dale's BlogFelicity has set me thinking and I need to respond at greater length than a blog comment will allow. If you want the context you can read her article now, or you can read my reply and then return to Felicity's article. But whatever you do make sure you read her wise contribution at some point!

She was asked the question, 'What do you do about mission if there is very little sense of community in your group?' Her post was in response to that.

The essential thing here is to let go of any preconceptions we may have, I can guarantee that some of them will be misconceptions. Better to clear a space in which the Holy Spirit can direct us and guide us. His job is to lead us, show us the way, encourage us, comfort us, and act as an advocate. Our job is to go and do the things he tells us. He is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of Sonship, the Spirit of a sound mind.

Can I build Yahshua's church? No! He said he would build it himself. The best I can hope to do is play with the bricks so that he has to sort out my mess before he can begin building. Better to let him do it right from the start.

Mission - How did Jesus go about mission? He sent out his disciples in pairs and told them to go to the towns and villages. He told them to knock on the doors and, when they were made welcome, to go in, speak peace into the home, and eat with the people living there.

Community - A pair of disciples is the smallest unit that can be regarded as church. Greater numbers are not necessarily better. You, me and Jesus - that's enough! Church is not defined by size, structure, management methods, buildings, programmes, or mission statements. It is defined as two or more people on a journey together in community with Jesus.

The journey may be 'missional' at times - literally travelling from place to place to tell people the good news about Jesus. But much of the time it's more likely to be a journey of deepening understanding and growing depth of relationship with one another and with the Lord. If Jesus is leading us, reaching out will happen as part of that community life.

The source - What we most urgently need to know is that mission and community both have their roots in love. In his recent book Follow, Floyd McClung writes...

All followers and seekers of Jesus must wrestle with three simple yet profound truths. Worship. Mission. Community. They are simple, but they will affect every area of your life if you allow them to.

He lists and defines them again several times.

  • Worship: to love and obey Jesus as a lifestyle - with passion and purpose.
  • Mission: to love those who don't follow Jesus - with courage and decency.
  • Community: to love other followers of Jesus - with intentionality and transparency.

And later he writes...

'Worship - Love Jesus. Mission - Love the world. Community - Love one another.

Very simple. But building one's life on these three simple yet profound truths goes deeper than a first glance reveals. They might be simple, but they are not easy. They are approachable and touchable, but once you get close to them, they demand your whole life.

Love is the source of mission and of community as well as being the source of worship. If there is no love there can be no meaningful mission and no meaningful community.

But whose love? Mine? Well, yes and no. First and foremost it's the love of the Father poured out in and through the Son. And it's the love of the Son, Yahshua (Jesus) poured out sacrificially to redeem us and change us. And it's the love of the Spirit of Christ within us individually, and Christ in us communally - the hope of glory.

We love because we were first loved. The result of love in our hearts is threefold - worship, mission, and community.

It's not a question of mission and then community, or community and then mission. As we begin to love (and therefore worship) the One who first loved us, we will find ourselves in mission and in community too. Without love we will never get started with either of them.

Receive his love and you will inevitably begin to love him, then you will worship and everything else will follow as we are swept along with Jesus on his journey towards deeper community and mission.

There's a great example of this in practice on the Jesus Virus blog.

30 April 2010

MISSION - The Kingdom

This evening we watched the DVD of Wolfgang Simson speaking to the House2House Conference in September 2008. An imperial crownHis theme was the Kingdom of Heaven, and how we can't live in the Kingdom without obeying the King.

We discussed what this means to us. The Kingdom stuff surely can't be ignored - are we going to live as people under the King's command or are we going to do our own thing? Only obedience brings blessing!

We thought that next week we should spend our time in prayer and listening.

23 April 2010

MISSION - Wisdom

Sean explained that he'd been reading Proverbs 24 which is about wisdom. Child development and drawingVerses 11-12 particularly stood out and spoke to him about mission. It's what we're here for! Salvation for those in peril! I agree with him about this.

As we were talking about it I mentioned that it is 'the Prime Directive', and Sean suggested instead that the prime directive for us is loving God and everything flows from that. This makes sense to me.

Like Moses, who didn't enter into the promised land, we will continue on our journey to the end of this life. But Moses was there on the mountain talking with Jesus and Elijah. One day we will be with him too.

The Moggerhanger meeting in February and the Newforms meeting in April were mountaintop experiences for both of us, they were so exciting, so encouraging. But we're not meant to be there all the time. Sean pointed out that if we were able to choose our mountaintops, we'd most likely be there for the experience, not simply for the Lord's sake.

I had a picture of colour spinners, the sort children used to make from a disc of card with two holes and a piece of string. Colouring them with segments of the primary colours red, yellow and blue and then spinning them by pulling the string, there was a magical effect. The coloured segments would vanish and be replaced by a neutral, dull grey. When we spin our colour discs we make a dirty grey, but when the Lord spins his colour wheel it makes a glorious, brilliant white too bright to look at at. I thought that this is how he takes our different abilities and natures and somehow creates something wonderful out of our ordinaryness.

Sean explained that when they were young, his children could draw, but not nearly as well as he could. They were always amazed at the things he could draw that they could not. He felt that we are like that. He can do so much better than we can, he can spin a colour wheel to produce true white light, our attempts are rather poor by comparison. And we are amazed!

19 April 2010

St Neots - Passion for Souls

Six of us met this evening to discuss an aspect of the work being done by Passion for Souls, a charity run by Paul and Michele Shinners to support the mission work they've been doing in parts of Africa. The Passions for Souls logoMore recently, Paul has felt the need to reach out here in the UK, and specifically in St Neots and the area round about. We were a mixed group around our dining room table, from several parts of the church in the town.

A series of interesting and encouraging circumstances were uncovered as we met. For example, one couple had viewed our house before we had bought it, and they'd considered buying it themselves at the time! An African crafts connection (Spring of Hope) had been made independently by Paul and by Donna. The Spirit gave me a thought about city walls which resonated with Claire, reminding her of other times of prayer for the town.

We listened to Paul as he outlined his ideas and the reasons for them. We had a chance to ask questions and hear answers from Paul and from Jim. We spent some time in prayer and all felt very encouraged and excited.

The next step is to give ourselves time to consider what to do. I am already confident that the Lord wants me to be part of this new development in the town and I think perhaps we all are.

As things go forward I should be able to be much more specific about the details, meanwhile - watch this space.

06 April 2010

THOUGHT - Enthusiasm!

Someone shared this video with me earlier today, it shows real enthusiasm for Jesus in the lives of some students in the USA.

Watch it and see what you think, how do you feel about the student's attitudes? Encouraged? Challenged? Horrified? Amused? Upset? Emotional? Excited? Rejoicing? How does this make you feel about your own life? Leave a comment to let us know.

Student CPx rough intro from Erik Fish on Vimeo.

11 March 2010

MISSION - A picture of a toddler

Sean and I met again to discuss mission. We talked about the importance of the fruit of the Spirit. A happy toddlerIf we are to touch people's lives in ways that are remotely useful, if we are going to be a blessing to people rather than being irrelevant at best and perhaps even a curse at worst, we are going to need plenty of spiritual fruit in our lives.

Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in his letter to the Galatians. If we are growing spiritually we should be increasing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control. He points out that there's no law against things like these!

Sean had a picture of a toddler. He mentioned how amazing it is as a parent to see your child walking for the very first time. It's a wonderful, wonderful feeling! And he understood that this same sense of excitement is what our Father feels. He really gets very excited about seeing our growth and development. He's thinking, 'Wow! My child has just pulled himself up by holding onto the couch!'

08 March 2010

Brampton - A bare table

We began with a cup of coffee and a chat about the idea of mission growing from hearing. Jim has been reading the book 'Permission Evangelism' and is finding it very good. The third Nomad PodcastHe shared with us how security is important to people. Some find it in property or possessions, owning a home, or having money in the bank. But real security is spiritual, in the heart. He reminded us of the parable about the man who wanted to build one more barn to store even more harvest so he could take life easy. But he died! There is no security in physical things.

I played the the third Nomad podcast and we all listened to the first section together. Mission comes from seeing (noticing opportunities) and hearing (direction from the Lord).

Jim read Acts 27:33-38 about Paul on the ship during the storm. Paul encouraged 276 people and told them they'd be safe. We are constantly on a journey. Our mission is partly to encourage one another. When it became clear the ship would sink Paul didn't say, 'I told you so'. Instead he said, 'We're tired. Eat and be encouraged, we're going to make it!'

Jim also shared some exciting news about plans for a new church facility in St Neots. It's in the early stages but probably will go ahead.

I had a picture of people sitting at a table. They had empty plates and cups, the table was otherwise bare. As I watched, Yahshua came in through the door and opened a large, walk-in cupboard. It was full of good things to eat and drink! The people were huungry and would have starved to death, yet there in the same room and within easy reach was more than enough for all of them.

Jim said that Jesus is the best grocer in the world! And he can come in and sit with us even without a door! His abundance is complete. He said it's as if we've lost the key to the cupboard. We needed to pray to be shown the key and how to use it to open the cupboard.

Sean asked an unusual question, 'What does a mercy fruit look like?' We didn't find an answer, but the question lingers in our minds.

Colworth (CU) - Mission

I had volunteered to bring a topic to Christian Union this week, and as mission has been very much on my heart recently, The harvest fieldI decided to open a conversation around that.

I shared some points that I felt are important as background for mission, things that perhaps need to be in place in our lives to prepare us for looking outwards more. These include involvement at a heart level with one or two other people; involvement in at least one local expression of church on a larger scale; and involvement in a group of others interested in the practicalities of mission. This third group would normally be drawn from a slightly wider area. And finally, I explained that it's necessary to notice opportunities to reach people who do not already believe. I also mentioned the idea of looking for a house of peace and suggesting such people should bring their friends and family together to learn about Yahshua.

David said that it's important to put the nets out in the right place. He referred to passages like Luke 5:4-11 and John 21:2-6. This is absolutely right! If we are going to be 'fishers of men' and catch people we need to hear Yahshua's instructions and follow them. We need to put the nets out in the right place. We need to listen more and our closeness to him will increase. It's our job to listen, he will make sure that we hear.

I read Luke 10:1-12 and we talked about it for a while. Some of the things we noticed are
  • That the disciples were sent out in pairs.
  • That we should ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers.
  • That we are commanded to go, and that we are like lambs among wolves.
  • That we shouldn't take what we need with us.
  • We are not to greet people on the way.
  • When we go into a house we are to speak peace over it.
  • We are to stay in the house, eating and drinking what we are given.
  • We are not to go from house to house.
  • We should heal the sick.
  • The Kingdom of the Almighty is near for those that welcome us and also for those that do not.
Finally we ended in prayer for one another, for reaching our work colleagues, our neighbours, for more labourers to be sent. and for our ears and eyes to be open.

05 March 2010

MISSION - Sheep and goats

We met at Sean's, just Sean and me. We began with an informal chat about anything that seemed useful.

We considered what the word 'religious' really means. Is it a helpful or unhelpful thing to be thought of as 'religious'? A female mouflon, perhaps similar to early sheep?We agreed that we'd prefer to be thought of more straightforwardly, perhaps simply as 'followers of Jesus'.

We agreed that we need to pray for our neighbours and that the coming Passion Play is a great opportunity and that we should pray for that too.

I had a picture of the ground being rotated under us as we walked. We didn't need to know the way, we just needed to walk forwards. Father rotated the ground so that forward was always the right direction to go. Like a train on a track, there is no need to steer. This is encouraging. Our job is to walk, his job is to guide us.

Father said, 'I didn't choose you because you are great orators, because you are persuasive, or celebrities. I chose you because you are humble and will follow me and keep me fully central in your hearts and minds. Think of Moses, Isaiah, Elijah, and all the other people who were poor speakers, helpless, afraid, or unclean.

He also spoke about sheep and goats. We feel like lost sheep, but we're not, we're found sheep! We recognise the Shepherd's voice, when he calls we run to him. When we come across lost sheep they will form a flock but the goats won't (they're independent minded). When we go towards the Shepherd the lost sheep will go too. We can't separate the sheep from the goats (middle eastern sheep looked very like goats). But we don't need to, they will separate themselves!

We prayed to the Lord to send more labourers into the harvest. This is a direct command from Yahshua himself and we feel it's hugely important. We briefly discussed the basis for mission in Luke 10:2 and thought about the steps involved and some ways in which we have already been presented with things to do as part of the process.

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