Sunday, 21 January 2018

....WITH ....

Yesterday was spent meeting some new people
They came to a training event I ran, 
As one said not sure what this is, or what we are going to look at but im told it will be helpful!

I smiled
And
I thought
Well im the leader and Im not sure whats going to happen!


The group of people had in fact gathered to look at pioneering fresh expressions of church in their neighbourhoods and communities.
A diverse, mixed group of people who were both inquisitive and passionate about their faith and about mission in today's world.

Theres something very special that happens when you meet a group of disciples who you have not met before and you engage in conversation with them.
It was, i believe a really encouraging day.


Whenever I lead such events theres nearly always one thing, or word, comment or statement that i read, hear or say that stays with me on the journey home or to wherever Im going next.
Yesterday was no different,
Strangely Ive read this so many times
Yet
Yesterday
It really 'landed in my head and heart'.


Pioneering ministry cannot be done to a community by someone who knows what they need, it can only be done with a community by someone who shares their need.   Angela Shier Jones


    So often we think we do mission when in fact we join in with mission
    We join in with the God of mission
    We join with those already present within our community.
    Wejoin with...
    Mission is not something we do to.
    Its something we do with


Its vital we listen to the Spirit, to the community to other people
Its vital we respond to the real needs, desires and aspirations of a community, not the assumed needs
Its vital we listen to those who have gone before us and are already at work, on the ground.
Its vital, we do not work in isolation, but with others.

A journey is far richer, and meaningful when you don’t journey alone but with someone.

    I have at the bottom of my email the following statement (pictures left) which has been with me more and more in recent years, it is for me a really helpful one that helps me realise my goals, visions and dreams.





Who are you intending to ‘be with’.
Maybe  just maybe you need to walk a step at a time with them.



Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Frontline....

Where is your frontline?

Ive heard this question numerous times in the last 24 hours, as Im at a training conference which is called Frontline.
Its a time to spend looking  at how can we live as disciples in the everyday, everywhere and everything?

Some great people have gathered, and some really thought provoking presentations have already happened.


One of the 'drivers' of the team Im linked to at the Enabling Mission Team, is the whole thing about how we enable and equip people to live as effective disciples, wherever they find themselves, right here and now.

Ive just heard a key question, as a leader;
'where are the people under your care right now?'

Theres no doubt that one of the biggest challenges we face as leaders is how, who and what are we doing to help others to be an effective follower of The Way?  How are we apprenticing people, influencing them, guiding them towards what the Lord requires of them and of us?

A disciple is learning to live the way of Jesus in their context at this moment. (LiCC definition of discipleship)


Ive not agreed with everything Ive heard, nor do I totally agree with the emphasis, this is ok I believe.  We all think and work things through differently.  We each face the same challenge i believe. The challenge is that we are called to journey with others who are 'on the way' and by Gods grace and through the demonstration of his transformative work in our lives, help us each to both grow more into the likeness of Jesus and then to let that demonstration live out of our lives, thus impacting others.


Im grappling with this though right now.....as i listen to the role, importance and place of preaching Im thinking is there a different way of communicating this, rather than standing at the front telling me how to live?

Im thinking isnt preaching, living out the truth of the gospel in my lifes actions and words?  Does this not need to be lived out in the world, and in community.  Isnt the most effective way to train, equip and enable through relationships?
Are the more effective disciples 'trained on the ground?'


As I ponder on what Im hearing I keep finding myself singing an old SA song, i cannot have sung it for decades.  It has a ghastly, in my view tune, but the words are indeed what we are called to; they say

The Lord's command to go into the world
and preach the gospel unto all,
Is just as true today as when
his first disciples heard this mighty call;
So let us gird ourselves and go to battle
'gainst the powers of sin and wrong,
Join the fight for the right,
in his everlasting might,
and sing our marching song:


On we march with the blood and the fire,
To the ends of the earth we will go;
And the Saviour's love will be the theme of our song
Because we love him so. 


As I think on these words the two starting lines for me sum up the challenge, 
In the world, preaching the gospel, through our lives, words and deeds.
The key is so where is the frontline, and how are we connecting and engaging with it. 

Im thinking to have an impact we have to get out of the buildings, our 'barracks' if you like to truly be preachers!  Just a thought!  I know we might need both ways....







Friday, 12 January 2018

Fog!

It had to be done!
I've resisted
And resisted.
But in the end I just had to admit it, 
And my hand was forced.
I had lost my reading glasses, but 
To be honest I could not see clearly with them anyway.
You see my eye sight has been deteriorating.
I needed help to see clearly.

Ironically as Ive worn my new reading glasses for the last week, Ive had a bit of a headache as my eyes have adjusted to the 'new clarity'.


My thoughts were stirred to this, early this morning as I looked out on the new day.
Well I tried to see out, but there is a dense fog that has consumed the neighbourhood,
It looks dark, dreary and I cant even see across to the other side of the road.
I think I prefer every other kind of weather to FOG.
I dont like not seeing where Im going.


Over Christmas and into the new year, we have all struggled with these bugs which have been going round.
It seemed like we had repeated migraines.
These caused us to want to be in dark places, resting our eyes, as the light just hurt so much.
Thankfully, we pray, these have almost passed now and health is being restored.


These three illustrations have caused me this morning to reflect again.
I thinking.
Theres been a 'fog' that seemed to have hung over us as a movement.
It has hindered our ability to see clearly.
It has hindered our view of the horizon.
It has hindered our ability to navigate the way we are going.


As with myself, I needed help.
Glasses.
Lights to journey by
Tablets to deal with the illness, we to need the help of one another and of our Lord to help us through the times of 'FOG', when we cannot and do not seem able to see clearly.


I want this morning to give thanks to family friends and colleagues who journey with us and to help us to see when we struggle in our own strength to see through the 'fog of life'.
Sometimes we cannot see where we are going, let alone how we can possibly get there.
Is this what Paul was saying when we wrote'now we see dimly.....but then we shall see clearly..'


The good news is that the fog does lift
That sight can be complemented and improved by glasses
That health can be restored normally by rest and medicine.


Friends today, if you are in a fog it will lift, or maybe you need to find someone to share the journey with to help you guide you through.

As the fogs is now lifted.
I read the following, as if to confirm from the Northumbria Community Daily Office;

Canticle
Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
overshadow me.
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right






Thursday, 11 January 2018

Who are They?

Who are they?

Have you heard this said? 

Have you said it?

You know what I mean?  They dont understand me! They dont listen! They make decisions that have no relevance!  They dont know whats going on out here! Kind of thing.  
You get what Im saying?

But I'm wondering, who are they?


I was blessed to spend the day yesterday, with a great bunch of passionate, deeply committed people.  The day was spent discussing how do we create a Pioneering Culture in every context?  Our discussion focused around the fact that whilst not all are called or gifted to be Pioneers and start new expressions of church, rather that we need to create places where pioneering is a natural expression and experience of the local body of Christ, the church.



The Salvation Armys Pioneer strategy, endorsed in March 2015, and which myself and Andrea are tasked with implementing, along with others says


As a pioneering mission movement the Salvation Army’s primary role has always been to ‘break new ground’, with the gospel.  Whether this be geographically or culturally.  As a movement it is paramount that we seek to encourage and resource new ways of being The Salvation Army in many different and varied contexts, for this present age.  


As we all chatted together there were many helpful conversations, much which was thoughtful, provoking and challenging.  Some great insights, and some real encouragements.  On a few occasions, the word 'they' was used. One person present then unpacked and helped us grapple with this.  He asked so who are they?  This thought has stayed with me through the night, and as I have been quiet and brought this before God a few things have come into my mind, which may be helpful to share?



Firstly we are stronger, better and more effective together.
The strength of the Body is that when we work together our gifts, characters and personalities compliment one another.  This is a whole body kind of thinking and working.  The group that gathered together, were not all like me, thankfully, but together we did indeed compliment and broaden our understanding, awareness, and thinking.  Im sure this is what Hirsch is unpacking in the APEST teaching, 'not all are called to be apostles......etc Ephs 4) Together we are so much richer.  This is why I love the whole mixed economy way of thinking.  Its not either or but together and....


Secondly we are actually called to 'Be One' (John 17:21-22)
The NT is littered with references and commands to be one, why so that the world might see that we follow Jesus, that the world might see God in us.  How and why? Because from such a disparate group of disciples the question will be asked, so how do they love one another?  How can they be one?  This is one of the things I love about the nature of The Church, its for the whosoever.  the Barrister can sit with the Homeless person, the musician can sing with the tone death person!  All through and by the grace of Jesus and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  Oneness comes from God.


Thirdly we need to understand the strength and depth of unity.  When Gods people are truly united as one there is a broader, and healthier demonstration of the Kingdom,  there is a real depth that comes by walking together in unity.   Its no wonder therefore that one of the biggest challenges, 'attacks' upon the body of Christ is disunity!  A them and us mentality.  The saying goes 'united we stand, divided we fall'. If the Body is to truly glorify the father and demonstrate the Kingdom, there can be no room for a 'them and us' way of thinking.


So Im challenged therefore by the statement who are they? 

A few months ago I was personally challenged by someone to get to understand how different people to me work and think, I was told that when I did this I would be better able to communicate with them.
Ive been trying to do this more and ive  still a long way to go.


The key to changing the culture 'of how we do things around here' is communicating relevantly and using the 'right language for the right context'.  For this to happen, for the body to be effective, fruitful and One, the 'they' has to go and be replaced with 'us'.

The words of Romans seem to speak loudly into this;
Romans 12:3-5  (NRSV) 

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.

So friends i thank God for you.  I thank God that my own life is richer by knowing you.
I think this is how we become truly One Army!

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Expectancy

Expectancy!


Do we expect God to be at work in our world, our neighbourhoods, our families?

Or even our churches?
Do we expect God to be present in the here and now?

Just what do I/we expect?

If I am an living as an expectant person, then I am ready for things to happen. After all an expectant parent, knows at some point the pains of birth will happen, (although maybe they dont expect them to be as bad as they are?)


So....I should have expected it to hurt! Shouldn't I?


Its a new year, and Im trying to lose some of the extra weight im carrying, so I can fit into whatever my son wants me to wear at his wedding later this year.
As part of this fitness campaign Andrea bought me a fitbit for Christmas. Its really good and encouraging.
It tells me everything Ive done, or not done throughout the day!!!


So i went for a long walk yesterday!  It was beautiful, really cold and crisp.  But I did'nt expect to ache this morning quite as much!
I'm hungry too, as I've started the diet regime as well.  My tummy is telling me......well lots of things.


Did I not expect a back lash in the short term, from new fitness and diet regime?  Its obvious isnt it, of course it was going to hurt a little, but where there's no pain no gain, or so the saying goes.


Yesterday, apparently was the 'most depressing day' of the year.  Apparently its the day that most people in the country feel 'down'.
Post Christmas, post new year and back to work etc.
It was a challenging day for many, including ourselves.
But why didnt I expect it to be the case?

Last week was significant with the prayer stuff that happened.
We are getting ready for the biggest and most strategic Pioneer Gathering we have had in our history, potentially.
A number of our senior leaders and pioneers are really going through it at present to.
No wonder really is it?
I mean when Gods Army and its soldiers wake up of course there's going to be a battle.


HOWEVER We do not live in fear though, but we do need to be ready, expectant and prepared for battle!
No wonder we are told to put on the full armour of God, daily!
No wonder we are told to take hold of the word which says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus....for we are more than conquerors.
No wonder we are encouraged to 'guard one another'.


Friends a sign of 'breaking through for God' is that we can expect all many of trials etc.
BUT be encouraged these are signs that we are indeed breaking through!
We can expect them, but we expect them in the knowledge that God is for us and with us.

He has not abandoned us, he stands right with us in the fire or whatever comes our way.


You can EXPECT God to be present with you!  Hes going nowhere!




Wednesday, 3 January 2018

The Snowball Effect........Momentum

Well the year finished in an artic blast. (Swedish friends its all relative!) 
Snow two weeks in a row, and when it fell it really came down in the north!

Chaos reigned as usual, with people unsure how to drive it seemed, and the roads ground to a standstill.

But I just love the snow!

It must be to do with the child in me! Even I must admit though, it looks so much nicer out through the window that walking in it!

A couple of observations based on the 'white stuff'.
I went for a walk and watched children making snow men, and the biggest snow balls you could imagine. 
They pushed them, trying to get them to roll down the hill.  Ever so slowly there pushed then suddenly they went increasing in speed, as they gained momentum.
Then there were the people on sledges doing likewise, being pushed until they literally had lift of and went, some at great pace down the hill.  
Momentum was key, until gravity and its force took over and the sledges and snowballs really began to slide freely.

Its felt a bit like in recent months and years as though we have been pushing hard, but have not been able to get over the precipice.  We've kept huffing and puffing, but have just not been able to get the momentum we've needed to fly, to have any pace, speed or impetus.
And yet it seems somethings happening.....

Momentum has begun to take over.

The snowball effect. From a small conversation, with a few people, who said we cannot carry on like this.
From a small group of people who said, what can we do to change the narrative
From a small group of people who said, we are not going to accept that 'this is it'
From a small group of people something is happening.

We all decided to meet to pray together (this Thursday January 4th)
We decided that prayer would change things
We decided that prayer and seeking God was what was needed.
And you know what, its been like the snowball beginning to role down the hill.
What a surprise that God has been speaking the same things to people all over the place!  of course He has!!

Ive been inundated with requests to join in, and so all over the country people will be gathering to pray for a real outpouring of God over the nation and over the SA tomorrow afternoon and evening.
What a surprise that God has been saying the same things to a number of people all over the place.  Indeed Im thrilled that the prayer team nationally have called 52 days of prayer starting in February, symbolically in line with the time it took Nehemiah to rebuild the walls.

Prayer of course is the momentum, the power, the driving force of mission!


As I wrote this first blog of the year, with a smile on my face as yet another email and another fb request have come in, I was listening...
Listening to the music in my ear phones but
Also seeking to listen to the Spirits promptings.
And on came these words
I surrender!
I smiled
As i reflected on the frustrations, the uncertainties, 
The song went on
I want to know you more....
Lord have your way in me!

If we want the momentum of change to take place, this surely is the key?  
Its about surrender
Its about abandoning ourselves into Gods hands
Its about praying it into reality.
As we embark on this new year, I sense that prayer will be key to unlocking the mission opportunities.




Its beginning to role.......
Momentum is gaining.....
Lets all join together pushing on in prayer, so that movement does indeed take place....

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...