“Jesus strategy turns spectators into participators, consumers to contributors, audiences to armies, members to missionaries”

 

This quote is taken from the Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren. I absolutely love it, I do! As Rick Warren points out Jesus has a strategy and a plan always involves participation. He puts this strategy into place time and time again we see not only recorded in the Bible but is illustrated throughout history.  God transforms us which means that ordinary people can do through him extraordinary things . His Kingdom advances as the audience turns into an army.

 

It blows my mind that God chooses to use regular people like us to be a part of his master plan. He could quiet easily achieve this on his own such is his omnipotence. Father God though chooses to engage with his children and lavish love upon them (1 John 1: 3).  In Matthew 18 Jesus makes it very clear. It is HIS Church and HE will build it. He is the builder and it is his building, we are purely key holders (not just to the Church but the whole Kingdom) who wish to steward it well and ultimately put a smile on his face.

 

This is what Jesus Church should look like. It functions as the body as spectators become participators, consumers to contributors with each unique part contributing to the whole.

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I was sitting with a very wise sage the other day at a gathering of leaders from across our region. I was asked to share what was the area that I need I was feeling challenged in and needed to grow. A real heavy weight question!

 

I shared that I felt challenged about waiting for God to move before I did. It feels completely counter cultural for me to wait as I am very much a do-er. My default setting is to go for something that feels right before God and then pray he inhabits my efforts. I shared of several independent situations that were lining up where waiting was needed. The seasoned sage with more years under his belt leading Churches than I have living said this to me……
“Its all about Leggers and Bummers!” I paused intrigued to see where this was going and what on earth he was going to say next. He confessed he was a bird watcher and explained there were two schools of thought in bird watching. Firstly those who go out walking around to catch glimpses of the birds they seek, these are referred to as ‘Leggers’. Then you get the ‘Bummers’ those who find the right spot and just sit and wait. He told then of the incredible picture he had seen captured as someone found the right spot and waited.
‘Its right to be a Bummer at the moment. You are in the right place just learn to wait.’ Well that told me!

I was at the annual Pioneer Leaders Conference the back end of last week in Southampton. It was a great time of catching up with good friends and striking up new ones. I also feel totally refreshed from hearing inspiring people talking about what God is up to across these Isles. Time and time again I come away with the over riding observation that God grabs hold of ordinary people and does extraordinary things. I find this such a comfort being fully aware of my own ordianaryness and more and more aware of Gods extrodinaryness.

Alan Scott from Causeway Coast Vineyard Church particularly inspired me. There were two things that leapt at me from his Saturday morning session. The first bit was refreshing for someone like me who is passionate about advancing the Kingdom of Heaven and rolling up our sleeves to get stuck in and be the change to our city. Alan shared that ‘we are not called as Churches to take the city for Christ but to wash the cities feet.’ I loved this! Its all about serving and not ruling.

‘I am a servant not a master’

 The second thing was just really helpful to hear as a Church Leader. He encouraged us that our calling and role in leading Jesus’ Church is to ‘go make disciples’ (Matthew 28:19). Our role is not to build the Church. Alan reminded me that it is Christ’s church and his job not mine to build it! Jesus himself said ‘I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it’ (Matthew 16: 18).

‘I am a maker not a builder’

 You can download Alan Scott’s talk for free from http://www.pioneer.org.uk/allaudio.php

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Sometimes I look at the call that God has for my life I feel a little worried about my delivery to deliver! When I look back at some of the words trusted people have spoken over me I get that sinking feeling. The need is huge and I am just one man!

I found myself reading today the famous story of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its walls as recounted by Nehemiah in the Old Testament. I love this story and it’s many interesting images. Living in a City with ancient Roman walls surrounding which needed large scale restoration works last year the imagry is even more prominent. The rebuild required In Jerusalem at the stories time was massive and the risks huge. It was real life and death stuff as they built with a sword in one hand and masonry in the other. Large well planned work teams and family groupings took on rebuilding of the major sections of walls and the vitally important gateways to the City.
I stumbled across a really freeing bit that made me feel ‘even i can do that’. In chapter 3 as we see the work groups tackle the huge task we also find every day people just doing what they could too. In verse 23 we read of a couple of guys called Benjamin & Hasshub who commit to rebuilding the walls of the city that ran in front of their houses. I thought I may not be able to play a part in rebuilding the whole walls or even significant bits like the City gates. You know what though, I can do my little bit on my street outside the front of my house. I can build the Kingdom in my workplace, amongst my friends and outside the school gates. This is equally a valid a part of the walls being restored as the gateways being replaced.

As I approach the end of my Bible in a year plan (only a couple of months overdue!) I entered the book of Revelation. As a young man and someone new to Christianity I used to find this a book that bamboozled me. The more I read it the more it hurt my brain and confused me. The more years clocked as a follower of Christ the more I have grown to appreciate it and grown to understand it more and how it can encourage us. 

I was deep in reading Chapter 3 with John’s vision and subsequent message to the Church in Philadelphia the other day and just got hijacked by it. I love it when this happens! This is the bit that got me….

 “What he opens no-one can shut and what he shuts no-one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no-one shut.”

 I was captured by these words. I loved the permanency of Gods work and the unstoppable power of his will for us. If he opens a door for us it will remain open, FACT!

 Also I found a fresh reminder that the challenge of discerning Gods will for my life is not something to stress about it is simply looking for open doors to walk through and closed doors to walk away from. God sees our efforts and opens doors for us that are un-shut able.

I love it when it just suddenly grabs you especially when you are not expecting it! It’s like a bucket of cold water being thrown over your head on a hot summer’s day. I am talking about the Bible, the word of God, which soaked me when I was least expecting it this morning. We are told that the Bible is ‘alive and active’ as the writer to the Hebrews in the New Testament exalts. This is exactly how it felt this morning.

I am on doing a reading plan taking me through the Bible in a year. Sometimes you find yourself reading through very familiar pieces of the Bible and at other times bits that are more alien to me. Today as I opened the Bible to find myself in Ezekiel 47 which is a prophetic vision which I am very familiar with. The vision that Ezekiel presents to us is of the water flowing from the temple and the man taking Ezekiel in his vision further and the water getting deeper and deeper until the flow of the river makes it impassable. I was excited to be on familiar ground and feeling a little ahead of the game knowing the story so well. I read the main portion of the vision but the plan took me further beyond. As I continued reading I got the bucket of water over the head!

The bit that hijacked my time was where the river in Ezekiel’s vision opens out and the fresh waters from the stream flowing from the temple meet the salt waters of the sea.  It describes this as the place where the water swarms with life and in large numbers. The life is drawn to the
place where the fresh water meets the salt water and makes it fresh. Fishermen stand on the banks here as it is so full of life.

It got me thinking about the Church today which as I mused further about this part of the vision connected for me with the image of the Temple. My train of thought then went to where are those places where the churches fresh water meets the sea of this world? I thought of our City Angels Project, Toddler Tribe and Golden Angels to name a few of those places for us at Revs. This is the place where ‘life swarms’ where the Church waters our message and very heart beat intersect with the sea of life to create a bountiful estuary. It is incredibly vulnerable and turbulent but alive. This is where we have to invest our time and resources. How many estuaries does your church have?

I recently read of an incredible feat performed by Master Engraver, Graham Short. He took on the incredible yet micro challenge of engraving the names of every England goal scorer at the World Cup competitions from 1950 until 2010 (14 tournaments) onto a very small object. What made it amazing was the engraving was on the base of a football boot stud. It surprisingly totalled to 38 names and the iconic 3 Lions emblem.
 
Isaiah present the image of our names being engraved on the palm of Gods hands in chapter 49. This metaphor comes off the back of Gods promise of never forgetting us which is incredible considering the estimated 56 billion people that have ever lived. It makes Graham Shorts 36 names on a football stud look lame! That has always been an image that has resonated strongly with me.
 
So no matter what trends come and go in 2012 or where we end up both planned and unplanned let us be assured that God is with us. He cannot forget us as our names are engraved on his hands.

The worlds lowest ranked national football team American Samoa celebrated this week. They ended a run of 30 straight defeats, which stretched back over two decades. In doing so they also achieved there first ever victory with a hard fought 2-1 win over Tonga ranked two places above them (202nd) in the FIFA rankings list. American Samoa also holds the embarrassing fact of suffering the heaviest ever defeat at international football history when in 2001 they lost 31-0 to Australia.

Having potentially stopped the rot with their first ever victory coach Thomas Rongen said the result would now be “part of soccer history”. Talk about over statement of the year!

As amusing as this story is I managed to find a strange encouragement in it. It pointed me to the fact that you can be the worlds worst and still even occasionally succeed and taste victory. As a Christian this is a mighty relief! I defiantly fail more than I succeed and sometimes it can feel a long time between successes. However if I keep plugging away sharing the love of God with all those around me and those whose life I cross paths with I will eventually see success come my way. I propose that we could name this principal the ‘law of American Samoa’.

As followers of Jesus we have set in our hearts and minds an eternal and undeniable hope in Christ in what he has done, is doing and his return. Lets keep going for God and celebrate the victories no matter how few and far between knowing they will come as certain as he will return.

As a Christian of 20 years I feel like I have seen and heard quiet a lot about the faith. Mostly great stuff that has challenged me and caused me to grow deeper in my relationship with Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Somethings though have sounded very complicated and I am someone who does get a little uncomfortable with formula driven faith whilst as an evangelical acknowledging a formula and mechanism to salvation in Christ.

I love simplicity and in many ways the call to follow Christ is a very simple one. Often cunning stratergies, plans and programmes can add layers of complexity to our simple faith of following Christ.

Last week I came across a stunning piece of simplicity found in the Old Testement book of Micah. It was preceeded with a large profound but simple question about walking in the ways of God. In Chapter 6 we hear Miciah take on the question of “what does the Lord require of you?”. I guess at this stage a long detailed list could appear which would need to be followed up with a stratergy of implimentation. His reply is thankfully crisp, brief and to the point…..

“To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8 NIVUK

I love love this. I enjoy the published book series KISS (keep it simple stupid) and would be intregued to see a ‘KISS Christianity’. I am not aware of it being done yet so I am going to endevour to KISS Christianity Micah style!

My youngest daughter Jaime who is three has recently started to ask me about my day which I love. She will sometimes ask at breakfast what I am doing that day as well as asking me what her day holds. A couple of times as I have walked in from work or sitting at the dinner table with her she has asked what I have done too. It is all very sweet as she is learning how to engage with others. Recently she has really made Kathryn and I laugh as she asks about my day at work.                       

The conversation starts, “have you been to work today Daddy?” to which I usually reply, “yes I have.” She then asks “did you have a nice time at work” and then comes the punch line of “Did you do singing and ‘glory in the highest’ at work today.” 

Although she has been into the Church office where I spend the largest single percentage of my working time she still does not see that as what I do. Her understanding seems attached to our family Sunday morning experience of Church and one particular song by Phil Wickham that she has latched onto. She genuinely thinks that is what going to work is all about for me. Standing in our building singing songs to God and praising him all day.

 After the first few times of finding this very funny I moved from laughter to feeling profoundly challenged by her assumption. I started to wrestle with the fact that maybe that is what I should be doing as a Pastor of a Church. I recall chatting with my good friend Steve Harding about how he sees it. He said as a very experienced worship leader in all sorts of settings that he does see the Pastor/Priest/Minister as the primary leader of worship in a Church. So my conclusion has been more singing and less desk time. Can someone hold me to that please!