Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why bi-vocational is not part-time

I got pulled up a while ago for suggesting that the long-term future heath of the church may lie in a bi-vocational approach to ministry. It was suggested to me that "bi-vocational" was simply another way of saying "part-time". It is not, and here's why.

In the first instance, part-time describes what you do in terms of how many hours you spend doing it. That is a wholly inadequate way to describe a vocation. We don't call people who work twice the average hours in a week than most people double-timers, we just call them full-time ministers!

Secondly, who would dare suggest that Paul was a part-time worker for the kingdom when he used his tent-making skills to earn an income. It's nonsense.

But I guess it's the division of our lives into the so-called secular and sacred that most troubles me when we use terms like part-time and full-time. It's an old argument I know, but I think such language reinforces this divide and feeds the unhealthy self-understanding it creates. We are all called to be full-time followers of Jesus Christ, deploying our gifts and skills the best ay we can for the sake of the kingdom and in the mission of God. Postman, dentist, lawyer, retail worker or church worker, we're all the same. None of us is more special than any other.

So why is bi-vocational better? Well I guess it's not if we only use as a posh way of saying the church can't afford to pay me a full-time income. My first churches had very little money available for ministry, so my wife worked to support us and I gave my time freely and fully to serve them. They paid me what they could and we worked it out from there. But that's not all I'm thinking about.

I believe that maybe bi-vocational ministry will demystify ministry and ultimately empower the local church to be the community of faith it ought to be. Instead of having one or two professionals doing the majority of the ministry, the whole church will be mobilised and engaged. Why should bi-vocational help this more than full-time? Maybe because we will need to be far more specific about the bi-vocational leader's role.

These are just some emerging thoughts. They are incomplete, but I think the distinction is important.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Psalm 73

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:25-26

There is much to reflect upon from these two verse but I don't have time to do that right now, I just wanted to post them as a reminder for me and hopefully a blessing to you!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday Morning 8:45am!

For those with memories long enough to recall Simon and Garfunkel, you'll understand the licence in the title! Perhaps S & G were not your favourites, so you'll have to think Beatles instead (didn't She's leaving home begin "Wednesday morning, it's 5am..."? Anyway, it's Wednesday morning and I'm in Costa drinking a hot milk with caramel syrup. With the opening of Cafe Nero, I now have three Coffee shops from which to choose plus all the other places I haven't even ventured into along the main road. We even have an ice-cream parlour opening soon!

I'd love to be able to recount stories of significant spiritual conversations I've had in these places, but I don't have any such stories. Perhaps a really extrovert evangelist would find a way, but I'm certainly not either of those. So I just come and sit and work and read and pray. Occasionally I meet someone loosely connected to church and have something between a shallow and slightly deeper conversation, but they are rare.

The thing is, if I were not sitting here, I would never have the chance. So being here and not getting an opportunity is better than not being here and closing the door to a chance meeting completely.

Anyway, my goal today is to write at least one if not two outlines for some bible studies I'm preparing for after Easter, so I'd better get going on that!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Ages ago I waxed lyrically about Dropbox, an online backup facility and file synchronising utility. It is great. Works a treat and provides useful off-site storage.

If you want a free account with 2Gb storage to use, then follow this link. It's a shameless attempt to get more free storage for myself because every time someone uses the link to sign up I get another 250Mb of storage!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spring Harvest 2011

Arrived home from Spring Harvest yesterday. It's been a couple of years since we've been, and it was good to get away again. We thought the worship was positive and done well. Overall we enjoyed ourselves even though we came home tired!

Might blog some more thoughts later!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

The New Universalism Debate

I guess we all know to whom we are referring when the topic turns to universalism these days. I've not read the book, and I've got rather too many on my reading list at the moment to add it to the pile.

I just wanted to post a link to a useful post that I think sheds helpful light on one of the keys issues that can go ignored. Put simply, if we perceive that the fundamental problem with universalism is that everyone is saved and that means that there's no point being a disciple of Jesus, then we've made Jesus little more than a get into heaven free card. There is more at stake than this.

This post by Ed Cyzewski addresses that very question.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Isn't this Mary's son?

Here's a question for you, it's not original to me, but something that I read or heard earlier today. How could the Son of God live among the people for thirty years and they didn't notice he was different? I think it has more to say about the humility and grace of God that he could do this than it does about the lack of perception on behalf of humanity.

Maybe people see what they want to see and the last thing they wanted to see, or expected to see, was God with calloused hands sweating over over the construction of some simple piece of furniture. After all, why should the one who spoke creation into existence reduce himself to working with hand tools?

But don't be fooled into thinking that God came in disguise rather like the Greek gods were supposed to do. The biblical story is that God didn't look human, he was human. He was neither pretending nor hiding, he was simply being God incarnate.

So, if he wandered down your street, you could be forgiven for thinking he was just another ordinary human being passing by. Nothing remarkable about him, nothing to draw your attention.

On the other hand, if you looked more closely and listened more carefully, you might just discover that you've been in the presence of God himself.

Spare Parts

I've had cause to get a couple of spare parts for the washing machine and the tumble dryer recently and espares proved to be a fast an efficient website for getting what I needed.

I'm not a great one for DIY repairs, mainly because I know next to nothing about how these machines actually work, but fitting a new door catch and drum paddle are well within my capabilities. finding the parts on the website was easy enough and they arrived nice and promptly.

I'd recommend them, and what's more they just sent me an email with a promotional code promising a £5 voucher if anyone uses the code to order parts! So here's the code, just follow this link and I'll get my voucher. Whether you get anything I don't know, and my voucher might just be a discount on more parts, but it's worth looking if you need something!

Advert over.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Heart, treasure, focus and fixation

The issue is not about the church model or even the building but rather whether or not the life of Christ is getting out of the box [the church] and into the culture.

Most Christians perceive the church service as "the main event" and thus the central locus for Christian life and activity. And they look to the pastor and staff members as being primarily responsible for organising and conducting outreach and evangelism. As a result, the mission of the church is professionalised, and outsourced to the "clergy" thus leaving the majority of Christians out of the missional equation... In short, our actions say that what we do inside the building is more important than what we do outside the building.

Right here, right now p217-217

Jesus said that our hearts will follow what we treasure most. If church treasures the gathering above everything else, where does that leave the missing who don't fit our culture of church?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, April 04, 2011

Quietly passing three million

Yesterday, during an evening walk with Anne, I passed the three million step mark since I started to record my daily steps in August last year.

Interestingly, I've also spotted an error in the spreadsheet I use to record the data. Somehow, although the formulae look okay, there's a discrepancy of about 15 miles that accumulated over the months. Very strange, but at least it will give me something else to do when I get really bored one afternoon!!

Connecting with the missing

As anyone who reads what I write or listens to what I say, one of the things that bothers me most is the issue of connecting with the people Jesus misses. Sometimes we call them lost, although I know from personal conversations that this is not a word they would use to describe themselves. In fact, for some, lost was what they felt when they did go to church! That aside, and the vocabulary issues relegated from a priority position they probably don't deserve, the question remains: How do we connect with, spend time with and generally reach the missing? Couple this with the concept of being a missional community that focuses on people rather than programmes, and although the question doesn't go away, it asks us to make some shifts in our thinking.

In the traditional pattern of being the church, we'd most likely look to a programme by which we could get these missing folk into church. We'd assume that if only we got them through the doors, the rest would be fairly straightforward. Preach a clear gospel, invite a response and there you have it. Instant Christians. But we all know that this isn't how it is.

Now I'm not saying that these things are not important. But I think we'd all have to agree that the major missing ingredient in all of this is that we just don't get people into church. So no matter how good our celebrations might be, how clear and compelling our gospel presentation might be, they are just not there to hear it.

So how do we rediscover connecting with ordinary people in ordinary ways that, by the grace of God, might lead to gospel conversations and opportunities to help people find faith? I think one solution lies in the antithesis of the Christian ghetto. In other words, we have to spend quality and quantity time outside of the church community, and here's one suggestion about how to do that.

Find something you really like doing and do it with unchurched people.

Are you interested in learning a new skill? Find an adult education course, go, make friends, learn the new skill and maybe an opportunity will arise. Instead of starting a church-based walking group, join the local ramblers or start a community walking group. No evangelistic agenda, the kind of thing that requires an epilogue at the end of each walk, just a group who go walking together.

I remember Jim Wallis saying something along the lines of: Find out what you do best, and then do it in a way that makes a difference. Perhaps we need a similar motto for rebuilding our friendship base in our communities.

Do what you love doing, but do it in a way that builds relationships.

So, with that in mind, I guess I ought to start up a social tennis group in the local park, given my recent foray into the sport!

Friday, April 01, 2011

March walking stats

The end of another month, and the scores on the doors are:

Steps: 405, 121

Miles: 197.55

23,543 was the most steps on a single day. This was when we were at the tennis camp at the beginning of the month. although I've had a couple more 20k step days this month since then.

So far, since the 1st August, I've taken 2,963,782 steps which is approximately 1,467 miles. In theory, by the end of Monday I'll have done at least another 40k, which means I'll have taken my  three millionth step!

I only had 2 days when I didn't do 10k this month, although I've not been going out purposefully to walk consistently this month. Most of my steps have come from walking more often than driving and playing tennis (and a little badminton of late).

So maybe in April I will return to trying to do at least 30-45 minutes of aerobic walking a day, but with all the tennis and some swimming, I'm not doing badly for exercise.

I'll probably keep the statistics going until the end of July, just to see what the year looks like. After that, who knows, even I might get bored!!