Monday, January 31, 2011

Two great questions

I came across tow great questions while reading a post about missional communities:

  • To whom do you want to be good news?
  • What does good news look like to those people?

I've rephrased the questions slightly, but the essence is still the same. We might even rephrase the first question again by asking:

  • To whom has God called you to be good news?

Of course we'd probably answer that globally and therefore generally. "Everyone," is what we'd most likely say, but that misses the point. If God has placed in a particular community, then maybe that is where he'd most like to partner with you in mission.

And the question is important because good news might look very different in one community compared to another. It's also helpful because it asks us to stop making the good news a set a beliefs we present, but a life we live.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Psalm 48

I was struck yesterday by two phrases in Psalm 48 that caught my attention and got me thinking. The first comes in verse 8:

As we have heard, so we have seen in the city of the Lord Almighty

I'm not really sure what it was that resonated in my heart about these words, but something did. Perhaps it's the sense that we don't see, that we've done a lot of hearing, but we simply don't see. "As we have heard, so we have yet to see" might be our experience and feeling. And yet God is doing things, he continues to be at work and yet we don't see.

I long to see.

The second phrase comes right at the end:

For this God is our God for ever and ever; 
   he will be our guide even to the end.

The God who is described and active in the Bible is the same God we know today. Times may have changed, but our God has not. If he did it then, whatever "it" might be, then surely he is able to do it now!

There was a third thing in this psalm that I noticed and wondered what difference it might make if this were our practice too. In verse 9 it says:

Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.

Notice that the preoccupation in the Temple was not with right doctrine or expression of worship. It wasn't about dotting the i's and crossing t's of our theology. It was about meditating, focussing on the love of God.

Three things worthy of reflection I thought.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Daily Prayers

Over the course of the last year or so I've developed a routine of daily prayers that I pray for the church. Recently I shared them with the leadership team and we thought it would be good for us to take on board these daily prayers ourselves. We've since presented them to the church and asked them to take up the challenge of praying five things everyday. Here are the five prayers in outline form:
  • Renewal and restoration
    • That God’s Spirit will overflow continuously in me and the church
  • The Growing Kingdom 
    • That God will draw into his kingdom those who are far from him
  • Sharing God’s mission
    • That God would lead us in mission
  • Sharing the struggle
    • That God will give us his peace, as we help each other through our struggles.
  • God-Honouring Change
    • That God will guide us as we seek to make changes that honour him.
I can't say how many people have taken up the challenge, or what difference it is making. By God's grace we might begin to see the difference over time. What was interesting was both the process of taking my daily prayers beyond my personal prayer life and adjusting them for a wider group. Not everything made sense outside my world and some of the prayers have lost their sense of personal intimacy because they are wider now.

It took me a while to adapt to feeling that they were no longer my prayers but someone else's. Originally I chose to pray these prayers because I felt a sense of call to do it and a sense of discipline about developing a routine of intercession on behalf of the church. I still feel that way. In fact my list of daily prayers has ten items on it, but in truth I can only every remember these five, the other five I have to look up! And maybe five things are enough. Who knows.

February has been a month of prayer for me for a number of years. I try to write a simple prayer guide for the church so that we can all pray about the same things. Each year I look at the previous year and ask myself which items should remain and which should be reworded or replaced by something new. Each year I also wonder what impact last year's month had!

Anyway, if everyone prays at least the five daily prayers for the month, that would be great. Perhaps there will be stories to share along the way. Maybe this year I will try and blog about the prayer month as we go along. We shall see.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Books

Two new books dropped through the letterbox today. Simply Church by Tony and Felicity Dale explores dynamic trends in society and church that are pushing Believers into simpler ways of doing church. I've blogged and thought out loud about church a lot. Sometimes I wonder if the institution of church hasn't become way too complicated and way too demanding. This should be an interesting read.

The second book to drop through the box is Right here, right now: Everyday mission for everyday people by Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford. According to Reggie McNeil it is a powerful new resource. It is both inspirational and instructional for serious Jesus-followers who understand church as a verb.

I'll get going on these just as soon as I finish Church Awakening.

In between times I'm dipping into Hit the ground kneeling by Stephen Cotterell and I want to have a look at All-Age Worship by Lucy Moore, bought on the basis of a review I read the other week.

So, as usual, a lot of reading to get through!

New Trainers

After well over 1,000 miles it was time to retire the old trainers. I've replaced them with another pair of Asics, my third. I don't think they've done badly, although I noticed a big difference when I pulled on my new ones this morning and set out for  my early walk.

It was mainly in the sense of support and cushioning, which all suggest that the old ones were well past their best. They will become general purpose, wandering around the garden and garage, doing jobs trainers. The closest thing to recycling them I guess!

Do you think that now I'm lighter they will last longer?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Church Awakening

I'm only part way through reading The Church Awakening but I have to say it is full of gems and encouragements and challenges. Often reading a book like this can leave you feeling somewhat inadequate-wondering if you fall into the category of leader who would be judged as falling short of pressing biblically or failing to pursue grace. But you have to cut through those insecurities and let the book both refresh your sense of call and commitment to seeking to lead according to God's heart and to challenge you to invest more fully in building those things into your ministry.

Throughout the book there are sets of principles and patterns that set out the core of being a biblical community. There's nothing controversial, just a plain and simple call to profound realignment of the church with biblical models. A call to face up to the reality that we need to pay attention to those things that work to erode the fundamentals of being the church that Jesus wants to build.

The danger with such a book is that it makes a straw man of the emerging church or the ideas behind missional communities. I think Swindoll avoids this. His concern is not with a return to some bygone age where all in the church garden was rosy. No, his concern is to address the slow, subtle and silent erosion of core values that happens over time as we drift gently on the tide of popular thought and away from our biblical moorings.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, January 17, 2011

Who's to say?

I've been quietly annoyed ever since I read a comment about someone being a challenging preacher even though they hadn't had any formal training in preaching. I remember the times we had some apparently very good preachers come to college to show us how it's done. I'd like to think that it was the artificial nature of the circumstances that made these events less than inspiring!

Maybe one day we will describe someone as a challenging preacher despite their formal training.

Rant over.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

What kind of leader am I?

A little while ago I took the APEST assessment. I first came across the concept through reading about it in books and on blogs. Essentially proposes that the leadership of the church comprises apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists. If the church leadership is going to function properly, then it only do so with all five of these leaders present.

So anyway, I took the assessment and came out strongly as apostle and prophet. Now at first glance I was a bit confused because I'd always though of myself as a preacher/teacher primarily. But then I dug a little deeper and discovered that in fact the role of preacher was actually subsumed into the role of prophet and the role of teacher was actually more of the role of organiser.

Now that makes more sense to me, even if you don't define teacher this way. I'm no organiser, but on my good days I can be an effective preacher.

I guess the question that arises now is what does this mean for my ministry and my leadership role, and of course for the role of those with whom share
leadership responsibility. At its most basic, the question is: where are the evangelists, the pastors and the teachers?

Too much of church leadership rests on the shoulders of an individual. It's time that changed. How you change that I'm not sure, but would it be too apocolyptic to suggest that the future of the church depends upon it?

A time may very well be approaching when all ministry will have to be what is euphemistically known as bi-vocational. We will no longer be able to hide behind the paid professional church leaders of whom we expect a wide range of gifts and skills than in truth none of us actually possess.

It is quite unsettling to think that one day one might actually have to carve out a career outside of the church in order to minister and lead effectively within it. After 20 years of full-time ministry one wonders what else one might be suited to do! And I also wonder how many of us would feel if we no longer had our professional status to wear as a badge of honour.

Much to ponder!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, January 14, 2011

What's outside the jar?

Here's a post that I picked up about organic/simple church that asks a really pertinent question or two about how we do church and why we do church the way we do.

So much of what we do is condition behaviour. That's not always a bad thing. In fact, if we've been trained well as children, then we can grow and become even better adults than our parents! But the counter is also true, and more fundamental than any of this is that if we are not careful we fall into the trap of one-dimensional thinking about almost everything.

Church is organic. It grows, changes, develops. The message stays the same, but the packaging changes. I honestly believe that church in the 21st century, the established church that is, is way too complicated, too unimaginative and far too dependent upon professional leaders doing the very ministry that the whole church was designed to do.

Here's the video in case you don;t have time to follow the link to the other post.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Church Awakening

I'm reading The Church Awakening by Charles Swindoll. We're doing a study in Acts at church and this struck me as a useful book into which I could dip along the way. In the first chapter he talks about course correction in order to address issues of erosion in church life. He sets out three simple truths about erosion: it is always slow, always silent, and always subtle. The implication of this is that unless we measure it, we simply will not spot it before it's too late.

Learning from the early church, Swindoll identifies three principles and three imperatives:

  • Clear, biblical thinking must override secular planning and a corporate mentality. (Principle)
  • Think spiritually (Imperative)
  • Studied, accurate decisions must originate from God’s Word, not human opinions.
  • Stay biblical.
  • Wise, essential changes must occur to counteract any sign of erosion.
  • Be flexible.

As he goes on to say: “you can have more than these, but you can’t have church with less than these.

Friday, January 07, 2011

December Walking Stats

Having completed my 100-day challenge back in November and avoiding becoming overly obsessed with the numbers, December has still worked out to be a fairly successful month for walking.

Total steps taken: 366564

Daily average: 11825

Number of days over 10k: 28

Equivalent distance walked: 172 miles

That took me to an equivalent total distance from Aug. 1st of 928 miles!

Overall it's not bad. Lower that November and October, but not by much and anyway, it's never been the point to keep pushing the average up.

My goal for January is to reach my 1000 mile target. I had initially thought I might do that by the middle of the month, but then I realised I'd got the maths wrong and it's more like the beginning of February. My trainers will definitely need replacing by that point!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Be afraid, be very afraid!

A quote from the Evening Standard:

“Now and in the future whatever device you use Windows will be there,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said. “Windows PCs will continue to adapt and evolve. Windows will be everywhere on every device without compromise.”

Now there's a worrying thought!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Questions for the start of the year

If you want a list of questions to ponder at the start of the year, then here's a list of 31! All good questions, and you don't need to answer them all in one go, but maybe 31 is stretching it a bit.

New Books

As I went for my early morning walk (actually not that early today, but the mornings are getting lighter...), I was thinking about what book I would recommend to the congregation of our church if I wanted them to read something about what it means to be a missional church. There are lots out there, many on my bookshelves, but it would be great to find something that was short enough and accessible enough for everyone to read. Great as some of the books I have might be, they are not always easy to read.

So I was interested in a book that popped up on a blog feed from the Missional Church Network. It's a new book by alan Hirsch and Lance Ford called Right here, right now: Everyday mission for everyday people.

Here's a quote from Alan Hirsch:

“A working definition of missional church is a community of God’s people that defines itself by, and organizes its life around, its real purpose of being an agent of God’s mission to the world. In other words, the church’s true and authentic ‘organizing principle’ is mission. When the church is on mission, it is the true church. The church itself is not only the result of God’s mission but is obligated and destined to extend it by whatever means possible. The mission of God flows directly through every believer and every community of faith that adheres to Jesus. To obstruct this is to block God’s purposes in and through his people.” 

Sounds like this might be a useful book, so I'm off to Amazon to see if it's available for pre-order in the UK.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Reading Plans

I know there are lots of variations of Bible Reading Plans, so much so that it begs two questions. First, how come most of us can't find a plan to stick to in order to take ourselves regularly through the text? And second, why do I keep creating my own plan when there are so many out there already?

Well, the answer the second question,  I do it because I'm trying to develop different ways of engaging with the text through regular reading. Over the years I've done a simple one year plan that starts at the beginning of both Old and New Testaments and works to the end of each. I've done the "One-year Bible" approach. Two years ago I worked out a reading plan for the New Testament in one year, spreading the gospels through the year rather than reading all four at the beginning of the year. Last year we did the Old Testament history through the year.

This year we are doing the wisdom and prophetic literature of the OT.(By the way, the "we" means Anne and me. We try to read to each other on alternating nights. Often we have to play catch up because I have meetings that finish late, but that's another story!)

Anne asked if we could mix it up by doing the Psalms and Proverbs every day. It makes the plan a little more difficult to work out, but I'm having a go. The plan is to read the Psalms twice and everything else once. Having done the maths, that works out as 19 verses from Job to Malachi, 3 from Proverbs and 13 from the Psalms. Well that should keep me occupied, working all that out!

Whatever plan works for you, find it and give it a go. Our three plan seems to suit us, and it gives the opportunity to do other things too. Given that this year is the 400th anniversary of the King James translation, it might not be a bad year to look for a resource to help you get started. Search for Biblefresh if you want a place to start.