Showing posts with label build. Show all posts
Showing posts with label build. Show all posts

21 April 2013

A walk along the river

A walk along the riverbank and a sight of the old castle mound spoke to me about church. We consider the story of the castle and what it tells us, how church can go bad, and some pointers as to how it might be redeemed. There's a useful list of links at the end.

Castle Hills in Eaton Socon
Yesterday morning Mo and I went for a walk. I headed across to his place, we had a coffee and chatted.

Then, as it was a beautiful morning, we walked down to the river, crossed over, headed upstream to the Rivermill pub, then back to Mo's for a second coffee and a bit more conversation.

On the way we had a great view of Castle Hills and it struck me that this place has much to say about the church. I've seen this view of the old castle site in Eaton Socon many, many times, but never before have I sensed that it was a powerful illustration of some spiritual principles.

The history of the castle - First I need to give you a bit of background information. The land around the river is very flat. It's flood meadow, there's a deep layer of river gravel covered by rich soil, and the river itself would have moved slowly back and forth across this flat area over the ten thousand years since the last ice-age ended. The higher ground you see in the photo is man made.

There is a story, perhaps true, that the castle mound was constructed and a wooden castle built on it
during the Norman period. But the nobleman who built it didn't ask for the king's permission, and he was later commanded to pull it down again.

Certainly there is no castle there now.

How does this apply to the church? - Just consider that the church is a holy temple built of living stones. We, the people of Christ the King, are those living stones.

In 1 Corinthians 3:8-17 Paul writes that the foundation of the church is Jesus Christ, but whether the building survives or falls also depends on whether it's built of the right materials and how skillful the builders are.

The castle was built on its mound by a Norman nobleman. But it was built of wood, not stone, and it was built unwisely because it was built without the king's permission.

How about the local church where you live? Has it been built with or without the permission of King Jesus? Was it built at his command? And is it made of materials that will last? We need to ask ourselves what other foundations and materials might sometimes be erroneously used.

It might seem strange to suggest that we need permission from Jesus to begin church. But remember, he said, 'I will build my church'. In everything we need to listen to the Holy Spirit and do what he calls us to do. If I branch out on my own I may come unstuck.

As a general rule it's OK to just meet together because we are his people, that is always a good thing. But what is not necessarily right is to create structures to manage and control the direction, the finances, the policies, and the work of the local body. For those we most certainly do need to hear and obey the King. That's what I mean by 'build' in the context of church life.

Clearly, if a local expression of church is built without the King's permission it is not built on the foundation of Christ. It might instead be built on greed, for example, created to turn in a tidy sum in offerings with the intention of creaming some off into someone's pockets. We have seen this with some TV ministries over the years. Or it might be built on business management principles leaving no room for the Holy Spirit to guide the work. Or perhaps it might be built on faulty doctrine or wrong practice.

And what about the materials used, the living stones? Even if constructed on the true foundation of Christ, a church might still be at risk if the people lack wisdom, or the ability to hear the Spirit well, if there is wrong teaching or unforgiveness or a clinging to materialism.

But perhaps the most dangerous situation of all is one where the church is led in a way that doesn't encourage active participation, where people expect to be 'fed' instead of coming to feed one another.

The way forward - There are many potential pitfalls, but beginning in simple ways and  making it difficult for people to be mere pew sitters will always help. Transforming a situation steeped in traditional ways is much more difficult, but by no means impossible.

Material designed to help church grow in healthy, Christ-centred, missional and loving ways is produced abundantly by people and organisations like Neil Cole (Church Multiplication Associates), Alan Hirsch (Forge Mission Training Network), Tony and Felicity Dale (House2House), Steve Addison (Movements that Change the World) and, here in the UK, Peter Farmer (NewForms Resources).

There are also many, many other sources of inspiration, information, ideas, and good teaching - far too many to list here. Consider Paul Young, Lyfe, Austin-Sparks.net, Nomad Podcast, Olive Tree, Be the Light.

Questions:

  • What is good about your local church environment?
  • What is less good?
  • Are there ways you could help to improve things?
  • Are you reaching others, encouraging the church family, loving those around you?

See also:

24 November 2012

The seal of authority

Donna and I looked at Haggai and considered the Lord's house and our house. When we work for ourselves like Adam we will struggle and fail. When we obediently work with and in Jesus we will see the church grow and be filled with his presence. Am I working for myself or for him?

Model of the second TempleThis evening, Donna and I read Haggai together. Earlier we had spent some time chatting, listening and praying with a friend.

Afterwards we ate a light meal of pasta with bacon and tomato sauce, olives, sweet pepper, mushroom and courgette, then we sat down with our Bibles.

Yahweh's house - The recent chat with our friend was very much in our minds and we talked about hospitality and the place this has always had in our lives. We know it's one of the functions and purposes Father has chosen for us, one of the useful things we can open our home for.

I felt Father calling us to focus on Haggai 1:2-11, but thinking about it and in prayer other aspects of the book also became clear to me.

We quickly agreed that Yahweh's house is the Temple, and like all Old Testament prophecy there is an application for his people today just as there originally was for the Israelites in Haggai's time. So what is the Temple for us today? Why, we are! We are a living temple built of living stones (1 Peter 2:4-5), he resides in us, he is present, not just among his people but in his people.

His house and our houses - Jesus clearly stated, 'I will build my church' (Matthew 16:18). It's not for us to do, but for him to do with us (as living stones). He will place us and cement us in position. But in our lives we can assist him as he works or we can impede him. If we are obedient then we will assist by doing what he commands moment by moment. If we are disobedient we are unlikely to help him at all.

But what are our own 'panelled houses'? They are whatever we are constructing for ourselves. So let's stop building for ourselves and begin building for him. 'Give careful thought to your ways' (Haggai 1:5-6). What are we doing for ourselves (singly or together as his people)?

Some other things that seem clear are that in doing our own thing we will, ultimately, fail. He has 'called a drought' on 'all the labour of your hands' (Haggai 1:11). We cannot hope to prosper in what he has condemned.

Serving Jesus - I also felt sure that our primary purpose and goal must be to serve him and obey him before anything else in our lives. I must do what he tells me even if, like Abraham, it appears to go against everything that seems logical, just, wise or loving (Genesis 22:1-3). He is love. He will hardly call me to do anything that goes against love. But the requirement is for obedience, not for understanding why or how.

We need to know what he is calling us to do, we need to know that whatever that may be it will be part of building his church, and we need to do it without hesitation or regret. We may find we no longer have time to be busy building our own thing.

What if we remain focussed on our own thing? I think, more often than not, he just leaves us to get on with it. But don't be surprised if he 'calls a drought' on the 'labour of your hands'. Striving by our own effort in thorny ground is what Yahweh promised to the first man, Adam (Genesis 3:17-19). Building his house and receiving his glory is what Father promised to the last man, Jesus (John 17:20-24). We are in Christ and he is our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14) and the government is on his shoulders (Isaiah 9:6). In the same way as Zerubbabel he is like the signet ring (Haggai 2:23). He stamps the mark of Yahweh's authority on everything he touches. We are part of the seal of the Father's authority. How awesome is that!

Which will you choose? The work of Adam or the work of Jesus? Choose wisely, both roads are open to you, one is broad with many fellow travellers and the other narrow and hard - but so worth it!

Questions:

  • Are you building anything that is more important to you than the church?
  • If so, do you think the Lord is blessing it?
  • There are many ways of building the church but they all involve living stones. Can you list some of these ways?
  • Are there ways you can encourage others to be available to Jesus as apprentice builders?

See also:

27 May 2012

Oundle - Meeting at Rupert and Uli's

< 11th January 2012 | Index | 8th January 2013 >

Do we over design and structure our meetings? Should we simply let Jesus take full control? Can we trust him in this or do we think we can do a better job than he can?

Sitting at a table in the shadeSean, Melissa and I visited Rupert and Uli and their family on Sunday. Justine was there too though some others were unable to make it.

It was a lovely time of simple sharing. We sat in the shade of a big, old tree and talked about life. Jesus was never far from our hearts and thoughts. We talked about Ffald-y-Brenin and our visit there last year. We talked about people we know and where they are on their journeys. Later, Rupert suggested we dip into the Bible and we read and prayed and listened together. There was no agenda, no plan, just us and Jesus.

As we ate together the conversation continued and he was still right there with us. This was such a blessing to us and a contrast with the planned and structured times we sometimes experience when we meet.

Jesus is looking for a place where he can rest and be at peace. During his life on Earth 2000 years ago, the place he found was in Bethany, at the house of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Looking back it strikes me that this meeting at Rupert and Uli's had the same flavour to it, the same aroma. Jesus was here and he was relaxing with us, chipping in from time to time, listening, enjoying our company and blessing us with his presence.

Shouldn't all our times of meeting be like this? Why are they not? Could it be that when he said, 'I will build my church', he really meant it? Should we stop trying to build? Should we simply behave like bricks and let him place us in his body and cement us together in love?

How does a brick behave? It does... nothing!

How, then, should a living stone behave?

If we don't - he will. If we do - perhaps he can't. Is that how it is?

What do you think? Comments please, they will be very welcome.

< 11th January 2012 | Index | 8th January 2013 >

28 November 2011

What is the Spirit saying to the church?

The Spirit is speaking to the church, but are we listening? And are we ready to live daily for Jesus with him front and centre in our lives and in our hearts and minds?

A graft unionSpirit and breath are the same word in both Hebrew and Greek. So when, in Old or New Testament writings, you read 'spirit' you might also read 'breath' and vice versa.

The Holy Spirit is the Breath of Truth (John 15:26), the Breath of Power (2 Timothy 1:7), but above all the Breath of Christ (Romans 8:9).

The Holy Spirit is always speaking to the church. How could it be otherwise?

The church is the body of Christ, the Bride of Christ. How could the breath not fill the body? How could Christ's Spirit not speak to Christ's Bride?

A new thing - We are at a time when the Spirit is again speaking to the church. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say we are at a time when the church is again listening to the Spirit. Don't misunderstand me, there are always those in the church who are listening raptly to the Spirit of Christ, but sometimes there is a wider, wholesale hearing that changes all our preconceived ideas and sets the church on a new track. I believe this is such a time.

There are a number of voices now speaking about different aspects of this new thing, and a number of people beginning to see some common themes. What it will become we do not know, but we will know.

Perhaps the central theme is that the Father and the Son and the Spirit matter, that they have a significance we can't overstate. Everyone will say, 'But we already know that!' Well, yes we do, but sometimes we know it in our minds without being driven by it in our hearts.

We know that without him we are nothing, yet without us he is still everything and will, if necessary, raise up the stones to worship him. We know that Jesus said, 'Apart from me you can do nothing' (John 15:5). We know that he said he does only what he sees the Father do (John 5:19), and says only what he hears the Father say (John 12:49-50). We know all these things but we still don't always live them out day by day.

It's all about him first, not us. It's about being in his presence, not being busy with our own stuff. It's really about knowing him, having a close and personal relationship with him - individually and as the church (his Bride).

Bullet points - Having said all that, here's a list of eight aspects that have come to my attention over the last few years. There may be more than this, of course. I've added a reference or two after each one, these are books, articles, or quotes that expand on the topic.
At first I thought it would be useful to put them in some kind of meaningful sequence, but I couldn't get that to work. I think the reason is that all eight need to be in parallel, not in sequence. In fact they are so intertwined and interdependent that any kind of structure seems to do violence to the underlying truth.

I need to shout this from the rooftops...

Focus ever more fully on Jesus!

Everything we are and everything we do needs to stem from having him full and central in our hearts and minds every day, every minute. Isn't that what it means to be 'grafted in' to Jesus? He is the vine, his Father is the gardener, and we are grafted-in shoots.

10 October 2011

THOUGHT - Building the church

< No earlier items | Missing the best >

I need to share a picture with you, a picture Jesus poured into my heart many, many years ago. This is the right time to share it again, it's been on my mind a lot recently and an item on Ben and Catherine's blog makes me think now is the time.

BricksSome history - Back in the early days, in the mid to late 1970s, Judy and I were particularly close to a couple who lived in the next street, Tony and Faith. We had young children at the time and so did they, it wasn't always easy to get baby sitters, so we worked around it.

I forget how often we met, but it was pretty frequently. One evening Judy would stay at home and I'd walk down to Tony and Faith's for tea or coffee, a chat, and prayer. Next time either Tony or Faith would come to us, then Judy would go to their place and I'd hold the fort at home. Then one of them would come to us. And so it went on.

These were exciting times of revelation and learning; we moved in the newly discovered (by us) gifts of the Spirit, sharing pictures and tongues, interpretation and prophecy, we were earnest and enthusiastic and young.

The picture - One evening when I was at Tony and Faith's I had a picture. I knew it was from the Holy Spirit and I shared it with them then and there. And I shared it with Judy when I returned home. Pictures were not unusual for us, but what I didn't expect was that this picture would remain with me for the rest of my life and that it would be foundational. To this day it still underlies much of my thinking (and doing) so far as church life is concerned.

I became aware that I was a small child and I was with a number of other children on a building site. Looking around there were ruts and tyre marks in the earth, piles of sand and gravel, timber, machinery, scaffolding poles and connectors. These were all around and amongst them were half-built homes and partly made roads.

We were on the building site for one reason only - to play. We collected some bricks from one of the stacks and made little houses with them, a brick for each of the four walls and another one or two for the roof.

We were having fun, imagining tiny people living out their lives in our tiny houses.

But then the builder arrived, I don't know how he came to be there, but in the picture one moment we were on our own and the next moment he was standing quietly looking at us. He wasn't angry, he smiled at us and spoke to us. I shall never forget what he said.

'If you keep scattering the bricks around you will slow me down and get in the way. I am building a real house. You can help me by bringing the bricks to me, and I will build them in the places where they should go.'

Building the church - The meaning is probably as clear to you as it was to me at the time. Our task is to bring people to the builder, living stones that he can use in the structure he is forming. His task is to do the work of building each one in right relationship with the rest.

In other words our task is not to build, but to bring. (See also Ben and Catherine's blog on 'Living Stones').

In the next post I'll explain what followed in the late 1970s. There were fundamental changes and developments that turned out to be part of the path that brought us to where we are today in terms of church life and structure.

< No earlier items | Missing the best >

09 October 2011

I will build my church - INDEX

(See indexes on other topics)

Remains of the TempleJesus told us, 'I will build my church'. What can we learn of this process? Will we take control from him, designing and building a home of our own?

  1. Building the Church - A picture of the builder.
  2. Missing the best - Meeting at home in the 1970s.
  3. Making things new - What does Haggai have to tell us?

04 August 2011

THOUGHT: Planting churches

There is a notable lack of church planting in the West and an abundance of it in parts of Asia. Are we asleep?Are we in the West doing something wrong? Are we simply being disobedient? Are we asleep, or paralysed, or distracted?

Here's a communication I had recently from an Asian country...

Hi Brother, Greetings to you name of the Christ, Thanks a lot for your acceptation my request. I am K from ... I am House Church planter. I have a small registration Organization name is "..." We have 500 house Churches, Pray for us. My email id " ...@..." God bless you. K

K's photo shows his wife and child, but I'm not going to show you the photo, give you his name, or even tell you which country he's in. There are some parts of the world where it's best not to be identifiable. We're not used to persecution here in the UK, but there are places where following Jesus is dangerous - I don't want to prejudice the safety of K or his family.

But look at his message again, he mentions 500 house churches! Wow - we need an explosion in our level of expectation! I can think of only three groups that I have helped to start in the last ten years, all are small, none have planted others as far as I know. I'm aware of other meetings and have been able to help and encourage individuals in a variety of ways.

Will you join me in praying for K and the 500 house churches? Assuming an average size of eight to ten people, that represents perhaps 4000 to 5000 people following Jesus in this Asian, mainly Muslim, society. They are all risking their lives daily so pray for their safety and for Jesus to bless them, guide them and encourage them through his Spirit at work within them. May they be wise and bold in their lives and reveal the grace and joy and peace of Christ to their neighbours every day.

Will you also join me in praying for the church here in Britain? What a lot we can learn from K and his friends. Every person in the three meetings I have helped start was already a believer. In K's case almost everyone (perhaps all of them) were not yet followers of the King of Kings.

Why am I not out there making disciples and rejoicing as Yahshua builds them into new churches? Are you more obedient than me? Are you out there, making disciples? 'Go', said Yahshua, 'and make disciples of all nations.' (Matthew 28:18-20)

One of the problems is that we have been taught for many generations that the responsibility for making disciples and building churches lies with full time evangelists, missionaries and pastors while our role is to turn up once a week, listen and live better lives. We have been misled.

Making disciples is your job and my job, building the church is Jesus' job. We are called to obey him, encourage one another and love everyone he brings us into contact with - friends and enemies alike.

There is plenty of information online about making disciples and multiplying churches. And there's a good deal more about what the church is and what it is not. Here are some starting points...

UK
Worldwide
There are further useful connections on my Links page, and also on the sites I've listed above. You'll also find plenty of good books and other resources just by browsing through some of these websites.

13 June 2006

Rugby - House and garden

< 7th June 2006 | Index | 21st June 2006 >

We talked for a while about houses, partly because the roof next door is still being built and we could see it through the window. Chris wondered what sort of house is implied by the Greek word translated 'mansion' in the New testament (Jn 14:2 - in my Father's house are many mansions). To us it sounds like a rather grand home, almost a small palace, but it seems it might just be a word for a room within a house.

A dilapidated buildingRachael immediately said, 'Funny you should mention that...' She explained that she'd had a dream in the last few days in which she was inside a dilapidated house. Some of the tiles were missing from the roof and the window frames were rotten. She said to Father, 'Shall I repair this house and make it usable again?' But he said to her, 'No. This is man's house and it has to fall down before things can move forward. Look! Where the tiles are missing you can see the blue sky - and that is mine.'

Chris thought that the dream referred to the Church, which men and women keep trying to build but which may get in the way of what the Almighty is trying to do.

In the gardenJohn explained that for him it spoke of an individual's life, that we can indeed construct it by our own efforts, but that what we really need is for him to make our lives the way he wants them to be.

Something else that came out in conversation was that a house in good condition prevents us from sensing the natural world outside, but once we stop repairing the house it begins to deteriorate, slowly at first but then faster and faster as the weather gets inside. Once tiles are missing from the roof the rain brings down ceilings and the timbers start to decay, and in just a few years the house can go from essentially usable to a complete ruin. We were not created to live in houses, we were created to live in the Garden and walk with Yahweh. He wants to bring down the shelters we have made and restore to us that simple, trusting life with him in the Garden.

< 7th June 2006 | Index | 21st June 2006 >

15 July 2003

Eaton Ford - Fallen and lifted up

< 23rd June 2003 | Index | 6th August 2003 >

Rachael brought some verses from Revelation (Rev 2:5). It was striking that the church at Ephesus was told, 'You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen.'



Somehow this seemed very relevant to the church today, we need to recover 'our first love', we need to see how far we have fallen. Only then will we have things properly in perspective. We belong in a high place, we belong with Him!

We were also aware of our need for fellowship with other people. We can't do anything alone, we want others around us, we need them to be there.

Father spoke through the Spirit, he said, 'Step onto my hand, I'll lift you up, there's no need for you to learn to climb or fly.' So we felt we can relax in him and let him do the work. He will lift us up and we will see him face to face. He told us to rest in him, to rest in his love, he said, 'I will do the doing'.

He also reminded us that our place is to encourage one another, not to criticise people, not to disagree with them, but to build one another up. We felt that when we meet with others it's often the differences that spring out and appear to become important. But this is a trap for the unwary, the differences are often less important than they seem and they're less important than the things we share - salvation, blessings from above, communication with Him and with one another.

If there was a theme to this meeting it was 'connectedness'. Once again he reinforced for us a sense that we are to be connected strongly to him but we are also to be connected to one another. This seems very important and something we should remember.

< 23rd June 2003 | Index | 6th August 2003 >

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