Tuesday, 30 June 2009

One whole year: the Good News

Have I really been an elder a year?

My goodness, time flies!

12 months onwards on my road to elder "ado" and here is the good news
  1. God answers prayer: He really does. Gift days, staff appointments, and the day to day stuff. Jehovah Jireh: God certainly provides
  2. People finding Jesus: yep, just taken 11 people from the Alpha Course through the Freedom in Christ Course. There is nothing greater than people finding Jesus.
  3. Loving Jesus: There is nothing else is there? I mean, really, is there? I have less time for Church politics, less time for theological sabre rattling and just want to serve my Lord, more than ever, deeper, further, an adventure following my saviour.
  4. Vision: If I had much more vision I think I may pop! Reaching the lost here. Growing a big Church here. Being part of a wider body of Christ. Churches working together here. Shared mission here. Reaching a town and region for Christ. It is not what we do that concerns me that much, it is the harvest that has not been reached yet.
12 months. Not a long time, but long enough to realise there is only one person whose opinion matters, only one person whose understanding is complete and only one person whose grace is sufficient. In the world of private investments I am banking on Jesus.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Losing Weight

I have been on a bit of a "regime" since the start of this year.

On New year's Eve as we celebrated with friends Dom & Becca, Dom & I got onto the subject of our ever growing curvaceousness. Amongst much laughter and banter the scales came out and we wieghed ourselves.

The challenge was set: him to lose a stone and a half and me to lose a stone within twelve months.

I started off fairly well with a bit of self control to go from 13 stone 8 pounds to thirteen by April.

Then I went to visit the doctor.

He told me I needed to lose an extra stone.

So off I went: new target weight 12 stone. Deep down I think I could be 11 stone 8 but that is still a distance away.

In the last three weeks I have climbed Snowdon twice and Cadr Idris, alongside a bit more rowing and weights work at the gym, and the usual running & cross training with five a side on mondays. And I have eaten less: much less.

Well anyway: at the weigh in this morning I hit the scales at 12 stone 4 pounds and 8 ounces. I am building up to the edge of breaking "the stone and a half" barrier and have the bit between my teeth now. We have a graph on our wardrobe which charts my weight and it is looking better.

It is certainly teaching me a lot about discipline and self control.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Evangelists Summit: Mark Bailey

Mark Bailey is vicar of Holy Trinity Cheltenham which has grown from just over 100 to 1700 in 15 years.

He came across as a really humble and friendly guy, and shared bits of his story and the story of his church.

He imparted a vision to see change in the Church, to bring change to the community, to bring change to the town, to bring change to the region, to bring change to the nation, to bring change to the world! This big ambition has seen him develop a large outward focussed Church.

Leadership, vision, courage and determination seemed the hallmarks of his story.

His passions are: The Lord, his wife, his children and the Church.

The purpose of the Church is connecting people with the Lord. He is part of a generation he described as being "driven away from the Church", so his mission is to engage and draw in. Reaching the UNchurched and the DEchurched.

Jesus bears little resembalnce to what we see in Churches. He was engaging, full of wisdom, full of power and very friendly.

Churches need to decide who theyw ant to keep happy: people or God? We love God and we love others but we need to have a fear of God alone.

They are displaying a remarkable level of flexibility the Church has developed into a multi-site, multi-location, multi-layered, multi-ministried and multi-congregational model. This is not "one size fits all" but rather "by all means win some".

Four things to live by:
  • There is no status quo
  • make a difference
  • be a change maker
  • leave a legacy
He prays for three conversations about faith and opportunities to witness a day.

Staffing choices are not to "do a job" but to "equip the saints"

The big question he would ask of any Church: how big is your fringe? How big is your social circle? How big is your reach? They host a lot of parties and socials to get to know people.

Pithy Quotes

In relation to personal evangelism
"Personality opens the door. Character keeps it open."

In relation to the work of the Holy Spirit
"We dont want to be "purpose driven", we want to be "presence shaped." His presence drives our purpose, and so that reflects our preaching, worship, prayer times, small groups and who our leaders are."

In relation to Church growth
"The more we feed/clothe/house the poor the more people join our Church. It feels like God blesses us when we bless people He loves."

In relation to leadership
"The strengths of the leader will be the strenghts of the church and vice versa."

In relation to relevance
"The most irreverent thing we can do is be irrelevant"

In relation to maturity
"Serving is the missing step to maturity. The Church in the UK is equipped well beyond its obedience."

In relation to Evangelism
"Do you not think God is more interested in people being saved than we are?"

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Evangelists Summit: Michael Ramsden

Michael Ramsden is the real deal. I am always stirred up and provoked by what he says, even though there are definite similarities between different messages I have heard because, simply, that is what he believes.

The strongest apologetic we have is God in us.
  • In us
  • In our marriage (if we are)
  • In our family
  • In our friendships
How "attractive" is our life? Is our testimony proved true in how we live, no matter what we face? This is not presenting a saccharin sweet view of a "perfect" life, but showing faith in action.

In Leviticus the calling to the priesthood was a gift.

Calling to serve God is God's gift to us, not ours to Him. Do we allow ourselves to feel we are somehow "doing God a favour" by serving Him in this way. Does the "gift" start to feel more like a burden, like a curse?

He then went on to discuss 1 Corinthians 1: 17-31

The irony of the verses which start with a warning about using words of human wisdom, then breaking into poetry. More so breaking into Hebrew poetry but in Greek, in a passage warning about the dangers of eloquence and pride.

Perecles Funeral Oration
regarded a victory, but they were later defeated. In context of that defeat, even the great oratory loses its significance.

Paul's verses here have 71 points of similarity with Pericles' poem: but the significance does not come from the words.

The power of the events is what gives the words power. The significance of the message is what gives the words significance.

So the question for us is do we rely on God and use our gifts,
or do we rely on our gifts and use God?

Are we in danger of allowing our "gift" to replace the "giver"?

Just because we are gifted does not make our life OK or a good witness.

When we meet people are we "tired" and "busy" so we can somehow be congratulated for the way we are serving God?

Then came a very familiar encouragement from 1 Peter 3: 15 & 16

Essentially the point was to see apologetics, giving an answer, as a spiritual act alongside prayer, fasting, theology etc. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 show apologetics is a spiritual act above an intellectual one.

In order to provide answers we need to know their questions. That requires knowing what they read, watch and think about things. But our response needs to be "our" response: not someone else's neatly packaged into pithy sayings. We need to make it our own and express it our way.

Not only is it expressing the truth, but also being an effective witness to the truth as we answer.

My highlight:
"Apologetics is theology with legs that can walk into a pub and impart wisdom"

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Evangelists Summit: Phil Moore

Phil Moore is from the Coign Church Woking and really set the scene for the two days with what was essentially a fairly impassioned cry for people to not leave their devotional life underdeveloped while performing public roles.

He used the analogy of cannons asking the question: do we search for a bigger cannon (such as better preaching, bigger Alpha Course etc) or do we desire more gunpowder, e.g. the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we stay close to God.

I found this quite a challenge. It is so easy to just be busy "doing" for God not "being" with Him.

The challenge laid was that prioritising time with God was an act of humility, with a little quip that evangelist's especially are sometimes not known for their humility.

Isaiah 40 29: 31 was used alongside other verses to set the point up clearly
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
There were quotes from Evan Roberts and others highlighting the devotional aspect of the leaders of many of the great revivals.

Here are some particularly pithy quotes used:

"The secret of Christianity is Christianity in secret".

"Our job is not hard, it is impossible. Without the Holy Spirit we are at 0%. With the Holy Spirit we are at 100%."

DL Moody: "Every great move of God can be traced to a single kneeling figure"

John Wesley: "Give me 100 men who fear nothing but God and hate nothing but sin and I will change this land"

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Evangelists Summit: Who are "The Evangelists"

Adrian Holloway from Christchurch London hosted the event and started with a very good pep talk regarding who was there and why we were there.
  • There were lots of different people there: different ages, genders, stages, experiences, places
  • Not "single issue" people but people with a desire to both do and equip others to do evangelism within their wide-ranging Church responsibilities
  • There were (as you would expect) many "preaching" evangelists there but also a whole range of other people in different roles and with different gifts. That pleased me, because it shows it is not seen as an "expert" thing and that the definition is not too narrow.
And then the next bit which sounded a bit like a manifesto for evangelism for newfrontiers in the UK.
  • Britain is largely unevangelised
  • Reaching lost people is a primary goal
  • Church planting is essentially an evangelistic activity
We want to see:
  • Evangelistic Churches
  • Evangelistic members
  • Evangelistic meetings / programmes / courses / small groups
  • Evangelistic preaching
There is more to Church life than just evangelism. But we need to take evangelism very, very seriously as it is such a primary calling.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Evangelists Summit Introduction

Is it really 10 days since my last post?

We had a fantastic couple of days down in Milton keynes being stirred up again about evangelism.

It really was excellent.

The new building of New Life Church North is quite a facility, but what was more exciting was their weekly altar call for people to come to salvation that has seen 19 people respond so far this year.

It is not about buildings and it is not about conferences, it is about those 19 people coming to faith in Jesus.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Evangelists Summit

Tomorrow I go with Terry and a few others from our local region to the rather grandly titled "Evangelists Summit" in Milton keynes.

I went a couple of years back and it was excellent.

I am really looking forward to it for the following reasons:

1. It is INTENTIONAL: Getting loads of people with a passion for mission and a passion for the Church together for the purpose of discussing the Church and mission. It is not rocket science, but is massively releasing, not least because many of those there will not be lead elders or even elders but will be those with the hands on responsibility for mission initiatives, with local experience at the coal face.

2. It is RELATIONAL: Meeting old friends, making new friends, networking ideas and information, inspiring each other. Sharing good practise, sharing each others frustrations.

3. It is INSPIRING: In the past speakers like J.John and Michael Ramsden have been a tremendous encouragement and provocation.

4. It is ACTIVE: This is not some "jolly" for people with a particular title in a Church. These are the people running with initiatives like Frontedge (Evangelistic Healing meetings), preaching the good news, praying for the sick, asking for a resonse, leading people to Jesus. This is the frontline, and the frontline can get bigger and bigger through events such as this

5. It is PRAYERFUL: This will not be about quick fix schemes or ten point guides. This will be about Jesus. Loving Him, worshipping Him, praying "Your Kingdon Come" and then working out how to do it.

So all in all, really looking forward to it. Let's hope it does not disappoint.