Saturday, 13 April 2019

Emmaus Pioneer Journey

Picture the scene.
You arrive,
on a day off to spend the day with one of your children.
To help him out.
You're greeted by about 5 tonne of soil to dig and move
Three tonnes of hardcore to be shovelled and barrowed.
And the goal is to have it all completed by 4.00pm!
You have just this one day to achieve your goal!
You know this is going to hurt!  But
The sun is streaming down,
its really beautiful day in the North East.

Such days are good for my soul.
Its good to escape the mental and emotional challenges of my role, just for a short while and to do some good hard labour!
Its also gives a great sense of achievement when you taking the obligatory photos at the end of the day of your work.

BUT this was seriously hard work!
At the start of the afternoon, we were both hurting, aching, sore not quite knowing how to continue.
We took a break.
In fact it felt like we collapsed into our break
And fed ourselves.
We needed to replenish the energy levels.
We both admitted we just could not go on!
There was a real temptation to give in, in fact we both just did not know how to 'push on'.

But carry on, somehow we did!
We completed the task together, spurring one another on.
Sharing the workload.
Imagining the end goal,
Knowing that completing the goal would make the next days work, on Monday so much more easier.


In those aching moments together, we supported and challenged one another.
These two roles are vital as we raise up, invest in and develop other leaders.
The role of journeying with, has to be intentional, hard work, relentless at times but the end goal is worth it.


In recent days Im continually be challenged by a few people who speak into my life about the need to keep investing in others and dreaming of the legacy I will leave behind.
To be honest, Im not actually too worried about the legacy, I simply want those who I invest in to realise their potential, and be the best leader, and disciple they can be.

In recent days Ive been praying, planning and seeking God as to how we can raise up many many more pioneers who are prepared to step up and out into the unchartered waters.
I think yesterdays 'building parable' again reiterated to me how this happens.

And so I ask myself, and maybe yourselves....

  • We need to intentionally invest time into others - Are we too busy doing the business of church, rather than investing in the people of church?
  • We need to walk with, journey with people where they are - Are we too busy rushing about doing things that we have forgotten how to be with people?
  • We need to 'grind it out', work hard with people who will not always want to go the where they are heading - Are we prone to give up too easily when those we journey with perhaps fail or give up
  • We need to keep the end goal of building the Kingdom and reaching the lost constantly before us - Are we all to often blown about like the boat on the sea by circumstances and lose sight of our focus?
  • We need to be determined, resolute and unflinching in our goal to hand the baton onto those who may well be gifted to do the things we do, and do them better - Are we at times prone to hold onto things because we enjoy doing them, when in fact we should release others to explore those possibilities?


Yesterday again taught me.
Its great to work with others.
To be in partnership.
To utilise one another's strengths and gifts and in doing so to be able to stand back at the end of the day and be inspired and blessed through the end results of the journey.


Friends.
Who are your journeying with?
Who are you taking 'time out with'?
Investing in?
Replenishing the spiritual energy reserves with?
Raising up?
Celebrating together with?

In the next few weeks we are going to be seeking to encourage and work with as many pioneers as possible, and leaders who are pioneering new ways of being church to raise up 1 or 2 new leaders each!
Will you journey with us, into phase two of The Emmaus Pioneer Road Journey?




Monday, 8 April 2019

Reformed......Cheese

Im sure you like me have had times when a Word, a verse or a whole chunk of scripture keeps 'haunting you'?


In recent days Ive been really reflecting on the role which I am engaged in. 
In fact, its not about the role I have been given, its about the deep rooted calling that God has laid on my life.
I believe they are different.
Im convinced that I have been called to be a prophetic irritant!  Birthed out of a deep love for who and what we are.

Im content in who I am. (well most of the time)  Although at times it would be easier not to have this banner over my life!
Im a child of God (who gets it wrong far too often), but God knows and loves me.
Im a disciple of Jesus, who seeks, and tries to follow The Way
Im a soldier, in an army that's compelled and exists to fight the battles of 'this world'
Im a break through Pioneer, who is always looking at the new ways we can communicate to those who do not yet know what it means to be a child of God,  a disciple of Jesus and soldier at war!

So that word.....
John 3(NIV) Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spiritYou should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c]must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?

Im wondering.....
Is this word about rebirth, not only aimed at the individual hearts and minds of men, but also at the religious organisation?
Is it aimed at 'the way we follow the law' and 'do things around here?'
Is it truly the embodiment of being reborn and continually being rebirthed?
Or perhaps a better word is, to be continually reformed.

Im wondering....
Have I, have we learned habits which are not in keeping with the way of Jesus?
Have we formed our own way of 'Being and Doing?'
Do we once more need to be reborn?

As i listen to lots of conversations about growing the church, growing disciples. Identifying leadership and what is leadership within our context....? About APEST gifts functions and roles.  About pioneering new ways of being.   I keep asking myself, 'have we formed our own habits, and style and lost something of the heart behind it?'

Is not our key operational requirement that every soldier serves God and demonstrates the good news of Jesus?  Isnt this what it means when we talk about our beliefs, of every member ministry?  The ministry of all believers?  
Do we stand at a time or 'reformation', or are we continually being reformed?   A story from the weekend.  On three separate occasions, in three separate meetings, all different, one whom I love dearly spoke about being overwhelmed, faint under the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  His whole being was 'immersed in God'.  As we spoke he said, the more I seek God the more I find and experience!!
This has made me think....
Am I, are we still being overwhelmed by the presence and the majesty of the King?
Or
Have we just got used to being a follower of The Way?
A bit like I spoke in my last blog....are we growing into a flavoursome good mature cheese, or it is a bit likel one of those ghastly processed cheese slices?

I sense in my Spirit, that God is asking us to be reborn, rebirthed, reformed.  Well He is me at least....what about you?

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Stilton or Edam?

Do you yearn for more?

Are you satisfied?
Do you sometimes feel like you've lost the sense of Gods divine dance, passion and belief?
Do you sometimes feel like the religion you ascribe to, is not the same as you saw Jesus demonstrating?
or do you even feel like you are burned out on religion?

I love how the message reminds us that our faith journey is not about religion, or even religious observance, if about walking close to Jesus.

Matthew 11:28-30 The Message (MSG)28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  I especially love this last part of the text.
Growing in our faith journey, and relationship is like a really good cheese, it takes time to mature to be the best, and needs to be in the right environment.  The trouble is all to often, we, I want it to be a quick fix, or easier to attain to, let alone placing myself into the right environments to grow and flourish.

I often end up with Edam,
rather than Stilton! Yet I sing and say I long to be the best that Jesus wanted me to be.  To achieve life in all its fullness.

I've been blown away in recent days, by the exploration of faith I've seen in one of my children. Hungry, desperate and even relentless in his pursuit of finding out what Jesus wants for his life.  Committed to finding a different way of being.  Last evening, all he could talk about was the bible reading for the day, the mentoring session he had gone through and the 'overwhelming physical experience of the Holy Spirit he had encountered'.  Hes learning that the best way to life is to 'keep company with Jesus'.

I wonder, as I have reflected on his own pursuit?
Are we all to often worried about keeping company with the religious organisation rather than the 'author or our faith?'
How do we reconcile these?

Have we at times fallen into the trap of doing rather than being, what we believe?
And is there a danger that we fall into the functionality of our faith rather the living out of our 'Rolemodel, Jesus?'


I cant help but think we need to push out deeper into faith and closer into the heart of Jesus.


Who loved the unloveable, ate and sat with the 'lost and hopeless'.
I cant help but think we need to reclaim the reason for our living.
Love God and love our neighbour.
To love the sinner and not the sin

Isaiah 61 (NIV) The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.   He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3  and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty  instead of ashes, the oil of joy    instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour.


Is it time for us once more to seek the Lord, whilst he may be found and to lay down our religious garments, outdated modes, and old ways of thinking?
Is it time once more to set out into the deep waters of faith with our Creator God?
To pioneer a new way?
There is so much more......
But we have to step out of our safe places to the unchartered waters.


“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men and women to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

For too long Ive eaten mild rubbery Edam, I long for the mature, the flavoursome Stilton!

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Leadership - A Farce?!


What on earth!!
What next??
Can we make any more of a mess than this?
Its shambolic!
Its like a continuous experience of going to the circus........
These are some of the statements, and there are many more,  that have been made in recent days as people have listened to and experienced the turbulence of our governmental wrestles with the future of our country. 

I think it would not be unfair to say we are all tired of what seems, and often feels like the school playground antics of grown up men and women, who are given the privilege to lead.   Not only a privilege but the authority to lead the United Kingdom.

I have to say what we have witnessed in recent days, from almost all of our elected representatives  has in no way demonstrated healthy leadership.

I wrote in my last blog 'Leadership needs to be in my view, not only creative but free to explore the uncharted waters of possibilities.  Sadly it seems so many leaders are weighed down, almost anchored to their systems, safety nets and operational guidelines?  Let alone the expectations of others.  I wonder when did you last sense the freedom of'flying in your spirit, with the Holy Spirit?'


Ive been thinking. 
So how are we as Christian leaders demonstrating the values and principles of the Kingdom in our own leadership?  How are we modelling what we believe?  How and what kind of influence are we leaving behind in our wake?

It does feel like its time for a new kind of leadership in our nation.  So said one of the so called 'rebel labour leaders', a few weeks ago.


I love this quote from John Stott 'The very first thing which needs to be said about Christian ministers of all kinds is that they are “under” people as their servants rather than “over” them (as their leaders, let alone their lords). Jesus made this absolutely plain. The chief characteristic of Christian leaders, he insisted, is humility not authority, and gentleness not power.'

The leadership of Jesus and therefore the leadership of his subsequent followers always needs to demonstrate the life and ministry of a servant.   We are not on earth to lord it over others but to walk humbly and to live lives full of grace.   'In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.' Matthew 5:16

I wonder if there are lessons that could be learnt by our elected representatives if they truly represented the views of 'their people?'
I wonder if the Church, the people of God should be actually giving a strong lead and prophetic voice at this time?
I wonder if we should stand up for the values of the Kingdom and the margins of society, now as much as ever.

Ill leave you with this great quote from Henri Nouwen.


“The Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. That is the way Jesus came to reveal God's love. The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God's Word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.”
In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership


Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Innovation Environ

Innovation
Entrepreneurship
Pioneering

These are all words I have read recently and have been shouting out to me in regard to some of the challenges facing Gods people, the Church into the future.  Increasingly it seems that we hold the tension of Kingdom values and practice with what the world seems to be pursuing, and even at times what organised religion seems to pursue.  You only need to look at the debacle of Brexit in recent weeks.  Mind you this leadership should be seen in the demonstration of leadership and grace from the New Zealand prime minister in the last few days facing the atrocities in Christchurch.


Leadership needs to be in my view, not only creative but free to explore the uncharted waters of possibilities.  Sadly it seems so many leaders are weighed down, almost anchored to their systems, safety nets and operational guidelines?  Let alone the expectations of others.  I wonder when did you last sense the freedom of 'flying in your spirit, with the Holy Spirit?'



I love how in many ways  Jesus demonstrated a different approach to leadership  He was certainly innovative, entrepreneurial and as scripture says A Pioneer, and pioneering.


Last week whilst I chatted with a lot of FX friends, pioneers and varied denominational leads I  was continually challenged that the more we seek to embrace the edge, the margins, the bigger the danger the innovators and pioneers face of domestication.  I dont think I will find anyone who will not argue that the revolutionary gospel of grace has all to often been 'controlled by religion?'  After all isn't this what Jesus spoke into when he challenged the Pharisees?

I recognise the beautiful works of grace which are present in many of our churches, but again as I travel Im increasingly concerned how The Church is shrinking at the edges.  Im also greatly encouraged in places where people are so desperate to see God work that they are prepared to try new things.   I had an awesome weekend in such a place last weekend and saw God powerfully move amongst the young leaders, as God prepared them to lead in a different and innovative way!

‘All ministers will need a more entrepreneurial approach if our effective mission field is not to age and shrink further’ said Bishop Graham Cray

He goes on to say in both an honest and frank assessment of his own church and tradition, 'The future development of pioneering fresh expressions of church will require a sufficient number of suitable pioneer ministers. Given that the mixed-economy is likely to grow in the future, the Church of England and the Methodist Church will each need to establish an integrated strategy to recruit, train and deploy pioneer ministers and parish/circuit ministers. Such a strategy should allow for flexible patterns of ministry......  Methodism is a classic example of a renewal movement within Christianity, a fresh expression of Christianity, which was frozen out by the rigidity of ecclesiastical structures and the unbendingness of tradition … Methodism reminds us that fresh expressions are not only the way in which Christianity began but also the way in which Christianity will be revived.

As we continue to grapple with the need to change, for innovation, Im increasingly recognising the importance of embracing the mixed economy way of thinking.  Its not a case of Either Or, its a case of Together And.  We need each other and we are indeed richer together.  Its this I think which Hirsch in his APEST piece refers to as the MOX - BOX -FOX, (Ministry of Christ, Body of Christ, Fullness of Christ).  The fullness of Christ is demonstrated when we 'journey together'.



Innovation and creativity can be messy!
Some people love it some loathe it.
Some like things done 'just so', whilst others like to do things differently, not different not better.
Innovators by their very nature will challenge the 'way we do things around here' always looking for new ways.
Pioneers will also look at 'breaking through the norms',  they cant help it, its who they are!
But we need innovators, we need pioneers if we are to be true to the calling which God has placed on our lives.
Indeed I would go further we were birthed as a pioneering movement, one which challenged, innovates and broke through what we expected and accepted societal norms.

Rather than pulling the edge back towards the centre, and constricting its movement/innovation maybe we should let is move on further out?  Its vital that we root the church but its also vital that its free to explore the possibilities.   Rooted and Free!

Wouldn't it be amazing if every disciple of Jesus took on the challenge to innovate, explore the possibilities and in doing so to create many and varied ways that people can encounter the grace of Jesus.  Just look at Messy church as one example of such thinking! 
 This needs and can happen in the everyday places.  Thankfully Jesus is not constrained to the four walls of organised religion.
Jesus continually broke free from the religious norms.

As Hirsch says discipleship starts with our experience of Christ which compels us to be engaged in the mission of God which then shapes our understanding and reality of Church!

I wonder would it be an innovative idea to ask Jesus, so just what does He require of me just now where I find myself?

Maybe, just maybe he might want us to fly into new experiences and to see new horizons?







Tuesday, 19 February 2019

The BORGs!

It seems so often that Im running to try and catch up!
Ever felt like that?
I have a 'to do list' each day and sometimes it just feels as though it gets longer rather than shorter.
I was in fact 'told off' the other day for simply putting too much into my diary.
Both people who said the same thing within 24 hours of each other challenged me as to where was 'my space to breathe'?


Now to be fair I do take 'space to breathe', I love to walk and I love to stand in wonder at creation, the beautiful colours often make me 'feel at home with God and His creation'. A couple of work colleagues always laugh at my pictures on social media of the countryside and Digby.


I've been reflecting on the Pioneer Gathering, Passionate believers, daring dreamers and I'm lost in wonder at the stories of transformation that I kept hearing.
People keep meeting with the reality of Jesus and are experiencing the empowering of the Holy Spirit, transforming lives and communities
A common theme of many of the pioneers was that God had already gone before them.  This statement in and of itself regularly makes me smile.
Of course God has gone before us.
He loves the world!
He loves humanity.
God is in this for the long haul....! For Eternity!


However it does seem that we are always having to catch up with God.
It seems that Im always running after God

God has gone before us....
Our systems so often are catching upto what is needed.
We settle all to quickly into how we do things around here
Yet, we are always behind....
Or so it feels.


Its challenging when we meet with resistance.
If i hear once more that's not how we do things around here, I will........????!!!@@@@
I simply want to say resistance if futile.
God is God!
He can do whatsoever He chooses.
Have we sometimes thought of ourselves more highly than we should?
Have we sometimes forgotten that this is Gods work?
Have we made our God to small?
Resistance is futile

All Star Trek Fans will recognise this statement, Resistance is Futile.   For those who dont here you go "We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile."
— The BorgStar Trek: First Contact

That line your culture will adapt to service us, has made me think.
Is what we do and what we are about glorifying God or about serving our own organisation of even self?
So often it feels as if we are tied down, held back by a massive piece of elastic. We can push out and explore but if we go to far it pulls us right back.
There is a healthiness in being rooted in our tradition, but we have to be free to explore.


We need to resist the default drag that pulls us back

We need to allow the wind of the Spirit to blow us where He will
We need to have courage to explore and resist the default drag to our known places.

Resist the default drag.
Resist The Borgs!

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Mission Posture

Yesterday was spent grappling with some of the realities of trying to ‘change the culture around here!’
Helpfully it was out team quiet day.
After the craziness of the last few weeks, quiet was appreciated!

I’ve increasingly been thinking through the place of strategy and culture.  Im confident that we would all agree, culture devours strategy.

One of the fundamental challenges that face Gods people is that we are
1. Called to be counter cultural and yet
2. We have so often made culture to be ‘self serving’ and ‘self propagating’ within the church?
3. We have even possibly gone further, and organised ourselves around our own understanding, and emphasis of what faith should be?


As many of you know last week was mostly spent with a group of passionate believers and daring dreamers at the national pioneer gathering.  As one speaker observed, there was something significant and special happening in the Salvation Army.  I smiled and thought I hope so!  

I am convinced that there needs to be a massive change in our mind-set, and even more of a change in the culture of our movement, well in the UK which is what I know.   Or maybe I should say a rediscovery of the culture of our missional movement heritage?

As we discussed together at the quiet day one of our team spoke about posture.  They explained that posture, how we hold ourselves, stand and sit was vital for our bodies to be healthy and work at there most efficient.  As she was explaining this point into my mind jumped the thought!  What’s out Mission Posture?


This seemed to be to be a ‘light bulb’ moment, and not only for myself but for others in the room.  It resonated with something i've heard in a learning cohort Im involved in a couple of times a month. One of the group has helpfully been expressing and grappling with one of the active characteristics of God’s mission that being “sentness.”

So last evening I sat down did some reading and searching out about Mission Posture.  I was surprised to find that there was quite a bit written on this especially in Planting Missional Churches by Ed Stetzer.

The writer says ‘The missional impulse of sentness is found in John 20:21, where John records Jesus saying, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” It may seem on the surface that sentness means going. While sentness certainly implies going, the Johannine mode of mission stresses something far deeper and richer given that it connects the sentness of the disciples to that of the Father sending the Son…. The depth of sentness as a missional impulse of the Church is understood in light of Jesus’ sentness.   The missional mode of “sentness” speaks of the Church (and individuals) having a missional posture.’
Stetzer goes on further to say ‘So as I understand it therefore Jesus’ sentness was that the Father sent him into the world. In Jesus’ name, the Father sent the Spirit as the indwelling presence of God to live among the people so that God may shine Jesus’ glory and bring salvation and healing to people (John 1:4, 14). Broadly, Jesus was sent to take up residence among God’s people so that they could behold God’s glory’.
So if we are the embodiment of Christ, As the Body of Christ, shouldn’t our posture be the same as the Sender and therefore shouldn’t the way we ‘do things around here replicate the reality of who God is?’

As I further read, Stetzer unpacks using the John scriptures to illustrate what this posture should be. 
  • ·        Bring glory and honour to the sender (John 5:23; 7:18)
  • ·        Do the sender’s will (4:34; 5:30, 38; 6:38–39) and works (5:36; 9:4)
  • ·        Speak the sender’s words (3:34; 7:16; 12:49; 14:10b, 24)
  • ·        Bear witness to the sender (5:36; 7:28)
  • ·        Represent the sender accurately (12:44–45; 13:20; 15:18–25)
  • ·        Exercise delegated authority from the sender (5:21–22, 27; 13:3; 17:2; 20:23)
  • ·        Know the sender intimately (7:29; cf. 15:21; 17:8, 25)
  • ·        Live in a close relationship with the sender (8:16, 18, 29; 16:32)
  • ·        Follow the sender’s example (13:16)

This feels to me like a really helpful ‘barometer’ of the health and vitality of The Church.
How I approach broken humanity.
How I approach my neighbour.
How I approach those within and without the church should be shaped by Missional Posture.  How I stand and conduct myself.  How I show and shine the reality of the Father through my words, actions etc.



Stetzer concludes ‘Since God is a sending God, sentness simply means we respond to his nature by living sent lives. The missional mode of “sentness” speaks of the Church (and individuals) having a missional posture. Thus, missional effectiveness requires churches to move from being distributors of religious goods and services to equipping a people sent on mission.’

Emmaus Pioneer Journey

Picture the scene. You arrive, on a day off to spend the day with one of your children. To help him out. You're greeted by about 5 t...