Sunday, April 29, 2007

Doing an ordinary thing

Tomorrow I'll be doing an ordinary thing. It's not a big thing, just a simple thing. Tomorrow I'll give someone the help they need to get a job done. It will cost me some time, it will cost me some effort. I'll have to make conversation with someone I don't know that well, but I hope I'll know a little better by the end of our trip.

I could spend my day doing extraordinary things. I could do some big things. I could, but I won't because often I find God in the small things.

I'd love to do some big things. I'd love to tell you stories of how God has used me to influence this person and that person. I'd love to tell you all about the people who have come to faith because of the amazing ministry I have, but I won't. I can't. Mine is not a ministry like that.

Mine is a ministry of small things. I don't minimise what I do, after all I'm in the business of doing things that have eternal significance. There are people wandering around this small green/blue planet who are living lives closer to God, not because of me, but because of something God spoke into their lives through me.

This is not a delusion of grandeur, it's what I do, it's what God does through me, and I like being used by God. It's just I'm a minster of small things, and I don't despise the day of small things because maybe a big day is coming. And if it's not, then I'd be wasting my time waiting around for it and I'd be missing out on such a lot of opportunities to do something significant for the kingdom when I do a small thing in a small way at a small cost.

So here's to the small things.Here's to my little road trip tomorrow.

You never know, I might be reporting something big because of it!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

One small step

A little while ago I wrote about our aims and objectives at church. This last Sunday we began to explore them together as a congregation. Rather than just give everyone the answers, we decided that it would be a good idea to try something a little more interactive. So I presented the first of our big themes "The Journey".

Briefly I went through the background and then some basic principles of what I believe is a Biblical approach to walking with people on their spiritual journey. After that we invited the congregation to divide into small groups and answer three questions. These were:

1. Who is on your heart at this time? This could be someone for whom they have been praying for a long time, or maybe someone with whom they have recently made a connection.

2. What groups of people are on your heart at this time? This could be "the elderly" or "the homeless".

Neither of these proved too hard for anyone. We had a big board at the front with a line on it to represent the spiritual journey and we wrote the names of folk down on post-its and stuck them on the board along the line. Not very scientific, but it served to illustrate the point that every person can be in a different place on their spiritual journey and that means that we will need to do something different for them to help them along the way towards Jesus Christ.

The third question stumped almost everyone.

3. What should we do differently to help these people take another step on their spiritual journey?

Over at there's an interesting quote from a survey done about church credibility in the community. I'll simply quote the thing in full (if you want to go to the webpage it's here):

  • A large religious publisher asked on a nationwide survey what churches ought to do more of in order to be credible and true to purpose. Among respondents who are active in a church, the predominant answers focused on sharing Christ (and on worship). The predominant answer from non-church attenders:

    Do more for the poor and the hungry

    We often validate ourselves by outreach, by the Great Commission. The people we want to reach validate us by the Great Commandment.

    But it’s slightly more subtle than that.

    The subtly has to do with the very concept of outreach. Outreach categorizes people as “in” or “out,” and targets the ones who are out. We tend to be very skilled at this. We name committees and annual campaigns “outreach,” we have “outreach” training, buy “outreach” programs. But few people like to be targeted.

    What people do respond to, is when we seek to come alongside, connect with them naturally and at a meaningful level, develop community with them, listen for their heart’s dream as well as their hurts and needs, discern what God may already have begun within them, and journey with them toward God and toward God’s dreams for them and for us.

    As to the matter of doing more for the poor and hungry, people in contemporary America – think of your neighbors – are far more likely to respond to being asked to help, than to be the “target” of our charity. “Withreach” applies to the Great Commandment as well.
I was quite surprised by how stumped we were when it came to thinking differently. Eventually a few things emerged, but it was a real challenge.

Perhaps the nuts and bolts of the answer lies in the coming alongside and the listening.

I'm looking forward to next week when we talk about building great Christian community. Let the revolution begin!!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Just a thought

Been away at Spring Harvest. Quite enjoyed ourselves too.

While away, I read this verse in Luke's Gospel:

Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach.
(Luke 15:1 NLT)

Now I know this is not true of my ministry, and I'm going out on a limb here, but I'm guessing it's not true of many other ministries either.

This is not a criticism, it's just an observation. I mean, wouldn't it be really great if people who needed Jesus actually came to listen to us talk about him? But they don't. Perhaps we just don't have the same draw that Jesus had. Perhaps they don't think we want them to come into our nice tidy world, a world where they fear judgement rather than expect acceptance.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Finishing well

Last Sunday I finished off the series on The Sermon on the Mount that we've been doing at church. We reviewed what we'd been learning about character, influence, righteousness, disciplined discipleship, and relationships. The final part of course is all about the wise and foolish builders.
It strikes me that one of the reasons Jesus finishes with this illustration is that the gospel is all about choice. It's your choice whether to follow Jesus or not. So he says make a wise choice. But secondly, I think he is also making the point that you need to make a wise choice of foundation precisely because the storms of life will come. You will have days when the rain pours down and floods rise up against you. And on that day, you need to know you're on a sure foundation.
This got me thinking, and I asked myself a question and I asked the congregation the same question too. Why is it that too many Christians appear to start strong and finish weak? Why do they, do we start well and finish poorly?
I have an unwritten goal for my Christian life and that is to make my last day my most effective day for the sake of the kingdom. I want to finish well. I haven't defined what finishing well might look like, perhaps I don't need to. Perhaps that's best left to God who will, one day, welcome me into heaven. If I do need to define it, it won't be defined in terms of numbers or how well-known or influential I've become on some grand scale. I just know that finishing poorly is not on my agenda. I want to finish well, I want to finish strongly.
A few years ago my Dad passed away, and a couple of years before that my Mum died. Both of them were around 80 years of age. By my calculation that leaves me around 30 years if I reach the same age. Maybe I'll live longer, maybe not, only God knows that one. But 30 years is a long time to wait if it's going to be a poor finish. So I'm thinking 30 years is long enough for me to make a real contribution to the kingdom.
So, in the words of Isaiah, a favourite among the prophets, "Here I am Lord, send me."And maybe, my epitaph will be, "He finished well!" Or maybe not.