30 January 2012

Organic church life

Alan Knox uses the term 'organic church life'. There's a certain flowing, difficult to pin down, deep life about church that is well described by the term 'organic'. When we share this life we are sharing Christ himself as well as sharing ourselves.

A bejewelled networkAlan Knox gives some thought to the question 'Why is it so difficult to find organic church life?' and I very much like his answer. It's closely related to my recent post 'Circles of friends'.

Alan decides to use the term 'organic church life' rather than the more usual 'organic church', and his reasons are very revealing.
When I write about “organic church life,” I’m not talking about a certain church gathering, or a certain type of meeting, or a certain group of believers, or a certain method of organizing (or not organizing). Instead, I’m talking about believers sharing their lives with one another as they also share life in Jesus Christ.
I simply could not agree more! And I could not express it better.

Yet our minds are so anxious to organise and structure everything that we overlook organic church life in our rush to find something organisational in its place. We have insecurities that seem best met by plenty of structure and tradition and hierarchy. These things are not bad in and of themselves, but they are not where the life is. They have served us well in society and civil government, but they do not serve us well in finding and experiencing organic church life.

Structure is required as human life grows in scale. Very little structure is needed by three small children at play (though it's there if you look for it). A great deal is necessary to manage a large company, a big orchestra, or a nation.

Structure, tradition and hierarchy are useful tools for running large organisations, but in the day to day life of a family freedom, spontaneity and shared responsibility are much more appropriate. So too with organic church life. And that is why it's so hard to find even though it may be there right under our noses. Perhaps the truth is that it's not really hard to find, just hard to recognise until you get your eye in. And then you'll notice it everywhere.

But on the larger scale of the church worldwide, structure, tradition and hierarchy become necessary - right?

Wrong! Jesus said, 'I will build my church'. If we each focus on organic church life amongst our own circle of friends we can (and should) leave the rest to Jesus. He is the only one who knows how to do the job properly, only he can properly integrate our overlapping circles into the bejewelled network of networks structure of his design.

26 January 2012

Prophecy about Britain - again

I've been directed to another prophecy about Britain, this time from Lance Lambert, and would like to share a link to it. Prophecy is about hearing and telling; both are needed.

The human earI hadn't expected to post about a second prophecy so soon after the previous one exactly two weeks ago. But yesterday evening I was chatting with two friends about our intention to pray regularly and today they emailed me with another prophecy, this time from Lance Lambert.

I'd encourage anyone who was struck by the first prophecy to visit Lance Lambert's website and read what he has shared about Britain. Both prophecies were given in the August/September period in 2011.

Of course, the two are not identical, but there are some common themes. I have heard that Mark Stibbe also shared something similar in Bedford at around the same time. There are coincidences in life, but I think this is not one of them.

I am not drawing conclusions here, or suggesting any particular response. But I do urge everyone to read these two prophecies prayerfully and thoughtfully and consider what, if anything, Father would have you do about the current state of Britain.

Prophecy is often thought about in terms of speaking, but it also involves listening and hearing. Hearing what the Holy Spirit is saying must come first; there can be no prophecy without discernment. But what is heard and discerned must then be shared if it is to have any effect. I am particularly interested in the hearing aspect and may revisit that topic again.

21 January 2012

Circles of friends

Help doesn't always come from the places we expect. Community may not be the shape we design it to be. Church structure is better recognised than defined. Practice and experience are very likely to differ from theory.

Mallow on the beach, messy but vibrantAll of us need a little help from time to time, or someone to listen or encourage. And if we're involved in local church life we expect to find that support from church friends as well as from family members and others. In particular, if we are in a cell or home group we expect the members to provide the help we need. It's often claimed to be one of several reasons for meeting in smaller, more intimate groups.

But what happens in practice?

When a friend recently told me that he was not getting the help he needed from his home group, I was able to identify a number of people who were providing help. It was coming from a rich combination of close friends, some involved in other home groups, some in entirely different churches. Most of these people had not been 'designated' as his close church family, yet they were there when he needed them.

And this made me wonder whether we have things 'back to front' in some sense.

Rather than organise people into groups, why not recognise that most people already have circles of friends around them? Does it matter if these circles overlap with one another and don't fit into a tidy pattern?

As usual, organic life is messy but vibrant and abundant. Let it be what it is. If I can see vibrant and abundant I'm willing to overlook messy, or even rejoice over messy! Far better messy, abundant life than organised sterility. Yahshua said, 'I came so they may have life, and have it more abundantly.' (John 10:10)

So may I suggest that the people Father has placed around us are more likely to be there when we need them than the people that even the best organised church has defined as 'our' group? (The two are not mutually exclusive, or course.)

The corollary of this is that 'church'  is a shifting network of unique yet overlapping circles around all the individuals. True community comes, not from human-defined groups, but from the Father himself guiding his people in loving one another. And if we saw church in this way we would lose our need to identify ourselves as members of this fellowship or that denomination. We would let all the buildings and programs go (we wouldn't need them any more) and we could focus on life as the church that meets at Jane and John's house or the church in St Neots. Wouldn't that be grand!

15 January 2012

SOPA blackout


SOPA and PIPA

The blog is now restored to normal use.


All About Jesus will be unavailable from 13:00 UT on January 18th until 01:00 UT on January 19th. These times correspond to 08:00 EST to 20:00 EST on 18th January when many websites large and small will be blacked out to draw attention to the issues around SOPA and PIPA.

Please read the Wikipedia article on the initiative for more detail.

11 January 2012

Prophecy for England

I was sent these words of prophecy today by a friend. They concern the future of the UK and I felt led to place them here on 'All About Jesus'. Your thoughts and comments will be welcome.

Listening is important, something I've posted on before and feel strongly about. Many who follow Jesus have never been encouraged to listen or given any guidance on how to listen. This is a real weakness in church life in the UK in our day.

England in the UKProphecy is the result of listening so I was encouraged today when a friend sent me and others some words from someone she knows, John Richards. Here it is, exactly as I received it.

Prophecy for England

In the next 20 years there will be a period of cumulative and intense emotional & spiritual poverty and ever-increasing suffering in the UK as my generation and those younger grow up and reach middle age. Relationship and marriage breakdown will become completely epidemic, serious sexual and physical diseases and problems will become overwhelming, people's health both mental and emotional will be corrupted and there will be intense poverty, both practically and spiritually in this nation as communities die, children are fatherless and families are destroyed. The papers will become full of stories that will lead people into debt, fear, hopelessness and apathy and a terrible disappointment and anger at what they are living in.

During this time, there will be intense challenge for the established church as the divide between their normal ministry, practices and influence and the intense and accelerating need in their communites grows at an exponential rate and it becomes painfully clear that the Church and Gospel as they are living it out and preaching and teaching it is NOT sufficient for the Redemption and wounds of their nation.

At this point, God will send prophetic words into the church, all over the country, carried in the mouths of prophets, begging the established Christian Church to repent and turn from their materialism, religion and fear that masquerades as Christianity and to move out in faith by FASTING, PRAYER AND A NEW KIND OF CHURCH BUILT ON DISCIPLESHIP AND INTIMACY. God will come strongly against the established order of things in the Church and it will be utterly exposed as being largely impotent and shallow as the country begins to bleed.....

But simultaeous to the suffering of the people and ever increasing impotence of the established and exisiting Church in the UK, AN IMMENSE HUNGER FOR SPIRITUAL REAITY AND REDEMPTION WILL SURFACE IN THE NATION, PARTICULARLY AMONGST YOUNG PEOPLE AS THEY SEE MATERIALISM, CAPITALISM, DEMOCRACY, INDIVIDUALISM AND SO-CALLED FREEDOM, EVADE THEM AND FAIL.

IF in these days the Church hears the prophetic messages to repent and change that God will make resound in music, the Arts, culture, prophetic preaching and spirit-filled conscience, then GOD WILL BRING A GREAT REVIVAL TO THIS NATION like has never been seen in history, BUT IT WILL NOT START IN CHURCH, BUT INSTEAD WILL BIRTH AS CHRISTIANS BREAK OUT OF THEIR COMFORT AND RELIGION AND FAST AND PRAY IN ACCOUNTABLE GROUPS AND THEN MOVE OUT IN FAITH TO THEIR COMMUNITIES via discipling. The young will need to turn to the old in respect and accountability in the church, and the old will need to be fully repent and let go of the past and let God change their preconceptions and then let the young lead and move out in adventure and faith.



JOHN RICHARDS

John has asked me to include two links, one to his website and another to a copy of his book. I'd like to add my thanks for permission to share the prophecy here on All About Jesus.

I believe these words were given and shared in order to touch hearts. They may not touch every heart, and they certainly won't affect everyone in the same way. Particularly if you live in the UK (and especially if you live in England) or if you have a special heart for this country, please read them prayerfully and thoughtfully and test them for yourself. I don't endorse what is written but I do want to place it before you for consideration.

Megan, who sent me John's words, also mentioned that they are strikingly similar to something she heard Mark Stibbe share recently.

Why am I posting this? - There is a particular reason for passing this on. Much of what John has shared touches chords in what I have been thinking and hearing over the last year or so, especially during the last six months. I don't think this is a coincidence.

I woke up one morning with the word 'subito' rattling around in my mind. My schoolboy Latin from about 1960 made me think it meant 'suddenly' and that turned out to be correct. So I thought perhaps the Holy Spirit was telling me there was going to be a sudden change in my life. I wrote about it when it happened, at the beginning of September.

I believe that change has begun and now feel I should collect together some of the other articles I've written about listening. I'll post again when I've done that.

At this stage perhaps my thinking sounds a little disjointed - it does to me as well! But I have no doubt that something is being revealed and clarity will come at the right time. Nobody can claim life with Jesus is dull!

Eaton Ford (BS) - Doing it our way

< 3rd January 2012 | Index | 27th May 2012 >

We read the first chapter of Acts and discussed it. I was interested to note that the disciples behaved just the same way we do; in the absence of Jesus they decided to do things their own way.

An icon of MatthiasLast time Paul and I met we finished Mark's gospel and decided to work through Acts next.

Today we made a start by reading Luke 1:1-4 to help us understand how Luke had written both books to give the best and most consistent possible account of the events concerning Jesus and the early church.

Then we read the first chapter of Acts section by section, stopping to discuss what we had read as we worked our way through. Here are some of the things I found especially striking.

The pattern of events is perfectly clear. Jesus was arrested, tried both by the religious and civil courts, was crucified, died, and spent the entire Sabbath (Friday evening until sometime before Sunday sunrise) in a sealed rock tomb. Then he returned to life and for forty days he was with the disciples in Galilee and then in Jerusalem before he returned to the Father in heaven.

The rule of Christ - During these forty days he gave 'convincing proofs' that he was alive (verse 3). And during this time he spoke about the kingdom, that is he told them about his rule, the extent of his reign. This realm is not only in heaven but also in the hearts and lives of every man, woman and child that will follow him and obey him. Simply put, a kingdom is that realm where the king reigns; the sum of the places where his commands are treated with respect and fully carried out. It's important that my heart and your heart are part of his kingdom. You're either in or you're out!

He begins to reign immediately; he commands them to stay in Jerusalem until they receive the promised gift. Did they know what this gift was? Yes, the gift of baptism in the Holy Spirit. Did they know what this meant? No, they had little idea of what would happen or how it would change everything! But they would certainly recognise it when it happened.

We're just the same. We know that if he is ruling in our lives he will bless us but we don't expect the amazing things he does. When they happen though, we recognise them and realise our expectations were too limited. It's not that we lack faith (thought often we do lack faith), but rather that he habitually does abundantly more than we could expect even in our most faith-filled moments. (Ephesians 3:20) This should encourage us immensely!

Back to the city - I was very struck by verses 12-26. This is also just like us, scarily so. Just pay attention to what they did.

Jesus has just left them to return to the Father, they walk back from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem without him. They must have retraced the steps they would have taken with Jesus many times before, the same route the Temple guards would have taken Jesus after his capture. The olive grove of Gethsemane is on this route, part of the way down the hill. Their thoughts must have been confused and every step would have held a mix of precious and painful memories.

They go back to the upper room, very likely the same place they had eaten that last meal with him at Passover. But he is not here now. He has left physically and his Spirit has not yet 'baptised' them. They are without any kind of heavenly counsel, left to work it our for themselves. And they do.

The wrong way - Peter stands up and takes charge (they probably agreed that someone had to). He speaks to the remaining ten disciples and those other men and women gathered in the room. He argues (perfectly reasonably) that Judas should be replaced to make up the number twelve again. In their own wisdom they decide on two candidates and then they draw lots. Effectively they decide between Joseph and Matthias by tossing a coin!

Does this sound familiar? An important decision needs to be made, Jesus doesn't seem to be around, so someone takes charge, and we make the decision by election and/or by chance.

The right way - What should they have done instead? What should we do? We should have faith and we should have patience. In other words we should wait expectantly for the solution to be given to us. Prayer would do no harm while we're waiting. Jesus had actually told them to wait - wait until the promised gift arrives, wait until you are baptised in the Spirit. How immediate was their lack of trust, their taking of things into their own hands, their failure to wait.

And how much pain and disappointment could be avoided in church life if we listened to Jesus instead of rushing off to fix things for ourselves!

The real replacement - And who was the new apostle? Matthias (and Joseph too for that matter) remain in obscurity. Who was the new apostle? Arguably he was a pharisee. He might have called for the release of Barabbas. He certainly attacked the early church and helped at the stoning of Stephen. Saul, a person the disciples may not have heard of and certainly would never have chosen - this same Saul is the Paul who became the apostle to the gentiles and wrote all those amazing letters that make up a large part of the New Testament. Wow!

We desperately need to learn this lesson. Pray, expect, wait - and do what we are told, not what we think to be best.

< 3rd January 2012 | Index | 27th May 2012 >

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