Monday, 18 June 2018

School Boy Error


Why on earth!
What a fool!  
I simply could not believe it! (As Victor Meldrew would say)
I don’t believe it!

How many times have you made what can best be described as a school boy error?  You know the things which seem obvious, which you really should not do and know better!
eg when you are about to embark on your first bike ride of the summer fitness campaign and you are going really well, so go a little further than you intended.  You then stop for a drink, and get ready to ride back home, only to find the front wheel is flat (yes at the bottom!), and you then end up having to walk home the five miles!

As many of my dear friends have said since, I could and should be using tubeless tyres!  (I thought they were called solid tyres and were rock hard, apparently not!)

Much to learn about cycling it seems, still.
The one blessing is you get your set daily steps in as well as the bike ride!

I've been having lots of chats in recent days with my eldest, who it is fair to say is on a real journey, exploration of what it means to follow Christ and His call on His life.   Its fascinating, how you can live and be around people and pick up key bits yet also realise there is so much still to learn.
Do you know what I mean?
As we have chatted, I was in fact reminded how much I still have to learn!

Its fair to say I am committed to life long learning.

Im not totally convinced about the desire for academic pursuit but I do enjoy learning.
As a dear friend of mine said, I love to surround myself with people who stimulate my thinking! 
Its been said Im a bit like a sponge, I love to see, understand and question what and why?
I find myself at times thinking to myself, I sound like a young child who is trying to understand when I say, ‘But why?’

I just wish it was easier to grab hold of the learning at times, especially when it comes to discipleship and the life of faith.

As I share my own journey, I have become increasingly aware that it’s the times of hardship, trial, temptation and persecution are where I eventually really grow.
I've been reminded, that when it comes to my faith I still continue to make the school boy errors!  Things I really should have grasped by now.

As i'm sat on the train heading south for what looks like a crazy week of meetings, coffee and chat.  Im thinking. 

So God what will I learn this week about yourself?
About myself?
About others?
How keen and willing am I to learn?

Maybe, just maybe, we should never stop making ‘school boy errors’, because it may be that we are coming before God as the children he desires us to be.
Learning to live a childlike, Christlike faith?
Just a thought!

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Im Lost!

I've never been in this place before!
Have you?

A place where you're not sure how you got here? 
Having never set out to be here? Noticing it seems that no one else, is here or even been here either before?
The unchartered place.
Its not on the map?
There were no signs of how to get to and from here?
It looks like im lost and alone!

Then the still small voice speaks into the 'lostness'. 
'I the Lord your God am with you WHEREVER you go!'
I said 'Never will I leave you or forsake you!'

These were the random thoughts which came vividly into my mind this morning as I meditated on the quiet, in the silence, breathing in, breathing out!
Im fairly confident these thoughts were starting to be formed in the last few days and were based on a couple of conversations i have helped to lead.
1. for the future direction of Fresh Expressions, where we together we seeking to imagine what the future would look like.
2. a conversation with a few friends who are both anxious and worried about where we as a movement find ourselves in the UK in these days.

Yesterday I sat and listened to three ladies speak about Prayer and Mission at the Fresh Expressions Community gathering, all three were amazing and different as they presented  their Ted talks.  They were great.   Rachel  said this paraphrased ' we cannot know the future but we can know our history and allow it to shape us for the future!' Loved it.  Andrea spoke on the need for prayer to be tangible and real, engaging in ways that we can best understand and practise.  And Emily said 'we need to inhabit the wild hedgerows who tend to grow where they will rather than be like the formed crops in the fields' paraphrased.

I could not help but smile to myself!
Our history can shape us in tangible ways for the uncharted ways that mission may take us', is how I found myself summing up what all three ladies had said!

You see no matter where you find yourself, almost certainly, unless you are heading to the moon (o hang on someone had boldly walked there before!), others have been this way before.  
The key to finding our way is going by the fixed points!

So what are our fixed points?
So what are we setting ou direction against?

I cannot help but think as we look to the future, and what the church needs to become, we may well need to rediscover the 'fixed points' of our faith and why we were called into existence.

And maybe, just maybe there is only one?
To signpost people who may be lost, not sure where they are to the Father.

Last night I sat thrashing through with a young man about how you follow the lead of God on
your life and where do you learn this.  I likened it to when you learn a trade, you have to go to a place of learning where you get the skills and learn the components of the trade.  You cannot short cut, or hope to become that good qualified tradesman without placing yourself in the place of learning. 
The response was interesting.  Oh Ive never seen Church like that! 
So church is where I learn to become more like God?   

I thought but can I be sure that this is what the Church is about? 
Has the Church forgotten its reason for existence?

Maybe just maybe we, The Church need to remind ourselves of why we exist?
It surely is to be this signpost to The Father?

Maybe just maybe the Future is going to be determined by just how well those who 'walk the Way', signpost those who are lost!

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Future Dreamers

What does the future look like?

I dream of a future.......

I've never been a sci-fi person.  Cant say I even really watched Star Wars properly.  But I must confess i've spent a good few days now looking forward and also a little bit of looking back.
Ive also found myself thinking about that iconic speech by Martin Luther King......I have a dream that.....
You have to put people like Wilberforce, The Suffragettes,  Booth to name just a few who dreamed likewise, or even my own children who in their youthfulness have their own aspirations and hopes for the future. Im dreaming of a movement of Salvation, an army that cannot be contained throughout the UK and Europe.  Im dreaming......

God is able to do more than we can imagine, more than!  I read when our dreams
have been realised, lets seek forgiveness from our God because we have not dreamed big enough!

I've just also spent two days with the national guiding team of the Fresh Expressions movement.   We have been trying to grapple with, 'What time is it?' and 'What does the future of the Church look like?'   It was a good few days......which have sparked of many more thoughts since.

Just what does The Church, the deep people of God, need to look like into the future?

Did I ever imagine as a person almost 30 years ago, when I started as a Salvation Army
officer that the mobile phone would so dictate and dominate the everyday for so many people not just in the west but in the fastest growing markets of Africa and Asia?  But someone saw the possibilities!

I shared about my last few days on my social media and someone wrote, in response to me sharing about the future of FE, 'shouldnt we all be looking to birth fresh expressions of church?'  This has made me think.  For this to happen there needs to be a massive shift in peoples thinking.  Namely for this to happen we have to look beyond the here and now, we need to look at so what is needed to reach people with the good news into the future?

Should Church inhabit the mobile phone world, could community be 'virtual as well as physical?'  Whats he latest piece of technology that's coming which the everyday person like myself does not even know about yet?

Im thinking is this not what Jesus was continually talking and teaching about, he used the everyday here and now to 'paint pictures' of a future coming Kingdom.  Are we not called to be people who not only proclaim the coming Kingdom but glimpse the signs of its coming?  Are we not called to inhabit the future in the here and now?

So often it feels that as a society and yes as The Church, we lurch from one crisis, and try to
manage our ways through it.

Should we not be future casting?  
Showing what is and is to come? 
Just what does the Lord require of us?  
For us to explore the future we have to take ourselves beyond our known spaces. 
We have to intentionally, go further, pioneer into the seeming unknown. 
The uncharted places. 
The places where maybe we have never been before.  This can be not only physically but emotionally and spiritually.

Ive heard quite a bit in recent days this statement 'our greatest days are yet to come!' 
So how do we know this?  Whats this based on?  Is this a throw away dreamy statement, or is it a Kingdom statement!

Yes there is a greater future ahead of us, but its not something we have to wait for, its something which I believe Jesus taught can be experienced today.   As agents of the Kingdom we can experience and display the glimpses of that future kingdom in the here and now.

So what does the future look like for the church in your community?
Why not explore the possibilities?
Why not be a future dreamer?

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Known Places

I was walking around uncharted ways this week.
This was how it was described to me.

We were walking around the Republic of Ireland.  Seeing if there was a new way the Salvation Army could engage with this nation.
(There are just a few churches and a social centres, with vast expanses of seeming possiblities!)

As we chatted with people, and discussed with local leaders and community works, we kept coming back to the same question. 

But how do we connect and support these places if we were to 'open up the work?'

As we journeyed around, chatted, prayed and reflected on what we saw, we increasingly became aware of the missionary nature of the early church.  (is there any other way?)

The gospel spread by the power of those first witnesses who had seen and believed.
They lived their lives in a way, that demonstrated the transforming work of the Spirit.
In a way that showed the supernatural work of God.
In a way that excited and compelled others to follow.

This whole way of living was apostolic by its very nature!
The people of God were sent out into the world.
They did not stay in Jerusalem. 
They went to the margins, the uttermost parts and people whilst they  did continue to be connected to Jerusalem.

Can you imagine what would have happened if they had just stayed put in Jerusalem, at the centre?
The very nature of Gods people is that we are a sent people, nomadic and should not accept the settled place.
Surely therefore the Salvation Army is by its nature a sent missionary people!  But where is it rooted in?
Where does it live out of?

Rev George Lings says that the very essence of The Church sent is centrifugal  rather that centripetal, but in fact it has in the west operated for many years in a centripetal manner.  Rather than the church being pulled and moving further and further out from its centre it has continued to allow all things to be shaped around the centre.  If this had happened there would have been no spread beyond the 'known places', at the time of post resurrection.

These functions are described as 'Centripetal force is defined as, “The component of force acting on a body in curvilinear motion that is directed toward the centre of curvature or axis of rotation,” while centrifugal force is defined as, “The apparent force, equal and opposite to the centripetal force, drawing a rotating body away from the centre of ...'

Lings argues that this centrifugal way of operating is what we see in the great challenged of Acts 1:8, as a sent people you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts.

This apostolic way of working is what those first disciples were called to.
To reach out, to go beyond. 
They were as Archibishop Rowan Williams, and others have described as rooted and free

The Church, the people of Christ needs to be rooted, and free to explore.

As I walked yesterday, I really needed to clear my head from what seemed to me to be decisions that were more rooted in Jerusalem as the centre than allowing the edges, the margins to flourish. 

I do not believe the centre is the key, I believe the edge is where we need to find ourselves....
I believe that we are as a people called to the edge but who are still rooted and free.

Maybe, just maybe the biggest challenge we face in Europe is that the church is formed far to much around the centre ground, and therefore cannot cope or wrestles with the edges of society and how we engage with them?

Im wondering, are we not called to be a scouting party who are sent out to rescue those falling of the edge of society, rather than building up structures to reinforce the centre?
Maybe just maybe, when Israel was busy building and rebuilding the Temple, Christ showed us each a different way when we are told 'our bodies are temples of the living God?'

Im wondering, does the edge shape the centre or does the centre control how far out the
edge goes?
Im thinking yet again, its  bit old school maybe??
We are at war.
We have to fight this war out on the battlefield, not in the trenches, the safe places.
We need to break free of our safety nets and abandon ourselves into the safe hands of The Father.
We are an Army at war, and it may be that we need to push out further,

Emmaus Pioneer Journey

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