Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Always needing a better reason

Is it my imagination or are we always in need of a better reason to do something than a reason not to do it? Sometimes I wonder whether "walking in the ways of the Lord" is enough these days. Maybe it's always been the case.

Serving God should be a joy in and of itself, but so often it needs to be the better alternative. And the problem is that the alternative is often less demanding or higher quality or more convenient. Even as a church leader I find myself thinking I need inspiration when what I actually need is self-discipline. Thinking I need encouragement when what I actually need is commitment, thinking I need recognition and affirmation when I need obedience and faithfulness.

So today, I recommit myself to serve the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, strength and mind because that is what I've chosen to do and now my life is not my own but hidden with Christ.

If you are serving God, have a great day and be blessed because you are "walking in the ways of the Lord".

And if you're not serving God, then have a great day too. Why should you miss out on the blessing?

Friday, October 27, 2006

A great week away

Just in case you thought I'd disappeared...

We;ve just come back from a week away in the Canary Islands. Temperatures in the high 20's (Celsius), wandering around Lava fields and cactus gardens... it was a great week. And then there was the pool.

With my newly developed water skills, you couldn't keep me out of the water. Everyday I went for a morning swim, a lunchtime swim, an afternoon swim and I'd have gone in for a swim after dinner if my wife would have let me!

People may laugh at me in my goggles and earplugs, but I had a lot of fun in the water. Not even my big sister probably thought she'd hear me say that!

Friday, October 13, 2006

A beautiful palace does not make a great king!

As I read this verse (it's from Jeremiah by the way), it struck me that too much attention can be paid to the wrong thing too often in life. I guess you could rephrase this verse with regard to the church:

A beautiful building does not make a great church!

In our current series on Acts at church we took a look recently at what might make a great church. We read Acts 2:42-47, well known verses for those who’ve spent their time thinking about what church should be. Perhaps a great church is characterised by great teaching, great fellowship, great prayer, great worship, great reputation and great outcomes. The problem comes when you try to define greatness. What does great worship look like? Is it all about thundering hymns and big choirs or is it all about intimate contemporary worship songs? Or what about great service, what might that entail?

How do we define greatness in the church?

Perhaps, when we think of greatness, we think more about what Jesus said about doing greater things than these, than we do about what he said about greater love has no one than this, that he (or she) lays down their life for their friends. Perhaps our definitions of greatness are still a little upside down.
A beautiful building does not make a great church, but I know a great God who loves the church he’s promised to build and I’m praying that what he builds will be a great church that reflects his great character.

PS More worrying is that you could rephrase the quote: A great church does not make a great church leader. Now that is something to ponder.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Do you love them enough to laugh with them?

Last weekend I went with several members of our leadership team to the Global Leadership Summit, a Willow Creek Association event that happens every year. I think this is the second year that it has been done in the UK using DVD's of the talks and interviews.

I loved the live event when I went to Chicago in 2004 and I was thrilled that my leadership team were interested in going to the UK event. It was worth the effort, and the discomfort of a sore neck, to listen to some great talks and some fascinating interviews. I can't imagine any other evangelical organisation having the guts to invite non-Christians to speak at an event on the basis that they had something to say that we needed to hear. I know that the Summit is aimed at a wide cross-section of people, but it is unashamedly Christian throughout it's presentation. I'm glad they have the courage to do what they do, and if you get the chance to go next year (it will be around the same time) then go. It's worth the effort.

Anyway, praising the summit is not the purpose of this post, it's a by-product.

What intrigued me happened during an interview session between Bill Hybels and Jim Collins, best known for Good to Great and Built to Last, two books I haven't read. The interview was great and our leadership team had a lot to talk about afterwards. What was really interesting too, beyond the actual content, was the relationship Bill Hybles has developed with Jim Collins.

Early on in the discussion Bill says to Jim, "You're sounding more Christian every-time I hear you speak." Later he talks about Jim Collins' spiritual journey and how he has great hopes that he will find his way into God's hands. Now under other circumstances this would be awkward and over the top, but they just seem to have such a great relationship that Bill Hybels can tell Jim Collins how much he's praying for him, and Jim Collins can quip back and they laugh together. Imagine that! Having such a good relationship with the people that you are actively sharing your with that they feel comfortable laughing with you about their spiritual journey.

I got the sense that Jim Collins knew exactly where Bill Hybels stood and Bill Hybels knew where Jim Collins stood, and they were okay with that. At any time they could have a conversation about spiritual things and that would be okay, or not and that would be okay too. They respected each other and it showed.

I wonder if the people with whom I'm trying to share my faith see me in the same way? I wonder if they'd be comfortable enough with me that neither of us would have to worry about offending each other if the conversation turned spiritual or felt that we should avoid such topics in order to avoid embarrassing silences or awkward changes of direction. I wonder.

I wonder if I love them enough to laugh with them and tell them to drive carefully or look after themselves because heaven is going to be sadder place if they're not their with me. I wonder if I have the patience to wait for God to do his work and the faith to trust that he loves them more than I can ever love them and that he doesn't want them to miss out on eternity with him either.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

How do we minister to the poor?

We’re doing some more thinking about the church and the vision and direction of the journey to which God has called us. As we look to the future that is unfolding in front us, our deepest desire is to follow God along the journey rather than try to set the pace ourselves. But how do you know if you’re following appropriately?

Assuming we’re praying and listening to what he is saying, there’s a degree of wisdom that come into play. Wisdom is the sense that we probably already know quite a lot about what Jesus wants us to do, we just need to put it into practice.

Take for instance the way he announces his ministry: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me … to preach good news to the poor, freedom to the prisoners, relief to the oppressed etc.

How can we inculcate these ideas into the life of the church? Perhaps one way is redefine how we give. As a church we set our budget annually in November for the coming year. As part of our budget we set aside 10% of our income to be given away.

As a symbol of our commitment to the mission of Jesus perhaps we ought to give a portion of that money directly to the relief of poverty and oppression in the world. The plan might look something like this: One third of our giving goes to support mission at home in the UK, one third to support mission overseas and one third to address poverty and oppression wherever it exists.

If Jesus meant what he said, then maybe we ought to mean it too.