Friday, 21 December 2007

A quote for Christmas

Here's a great quote that has made me think today....

But for the rest of us, forced to ponder the complexity of our existence and the competing implausibilities of faith and unbelief, that was surely the point of the manger, the stable, the ox and the ass. That God would choose to come among us in such a way so strange, so inexplicable, so unbelieveable, it compels us to believe.
Gerard Baker
(The Times 23.12.07)


Thursday, 20 December 2007


Vision is a funny thing. I think I can often overcomplicate this vision thing. Maybe this is why I have been hearing the Lord saying time and again 'keep it simple... stupid.' My vision is supposed to be his vision but too often it is merely my vision. My vision often can be presented and couched in such ways that it sounds really great and convincing but when it comes down to it lacks authenticity and therefore after varying amounts of time (during which there may be some signs of success) dies away to nothing. My vision needs to be allowed to fall to the ground and die - because from the death of my vision comes life.

I have found myself drawn to isolating the simple basics of vision the Lord has given me here:
Cultivate a tent mentality
Simply live, love and lead like Jesus
Build a community of communities

That's a fair amount to go on!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Jesus' teachings are not complex & easy but simple and hard

So, it all feels a bit complex. I'm looking for easy solutions thinking 'how can I solve the problems I face'?
I've got a church with no building, a people who want to go but don't quite know where to go (hey, but wanting to go is half the battle). A vision and strategy that runs out in 2008 so a new vision needed! Many of the trappings of English church life and a mixture of forced change (building not suitable for worship) and chosen change (a decision to worship in HGS).
Oh, and there are people wondering if God is calling them to join us and others hearing God's call to 'go' and getting a vision and pursuing it. Then there is the issue of managing the change, supporting great things already happening... Oh and did I mention the other small matter of another church I have responsibility for and the need to lead them to a decision regarding their building and where and how they are to live and worship as a community in the meantime and into the future?
No wonder 2 months in I feel like collapsing in a corner and becoming an introvert for a while!
Well, lets resist the temptation of that corner for a moment. Things seem incredibly complex and our instinct is to hunt for the magic wand that will solve it all - that's the easy and frankly impossible way (mind you, I reach for that magic wand all the time!) The way of Jesus lets us off from seeking a magic wand to flourish at our complex problems. Instead we are called to the radical simplicity of the kingdom way which contains hard things (what could be more counter-cultural than simply living like Jesus?) and a simple approach - love like Jesus, live like Jesus and lead like Jesus.
There are many things that are complex, that present me with problems that come over as intractable. But I am actually called to a change of mind - to see the simple and knuckle down to the hard way but actually what amounts to the best way.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Investing in Influence

I woke up this morning thinking about the importance of investing in the right things. This line of thought was probably based on recognising that for a significant proportion of this week I have worked without investing adequately in times of rest. As a result I am overtired and feeling a bit run down.

But as I lead a church and reflect on how to do it I realise that the areas we invest in are vital - where we put our energies and who and what we identify with are important.

There are lots of things of course that we can identify with, invest in etc. But it strikes me that many of them may be good but not God. I want to make Godly decisions according to his way and this may well put me at odds with others and lead to some hard times of discernment.

Jesus himself aligned himself very strongly with the repentance movement that John the Baptist started, indeed, his birth place and the circumstances surrounding his birth made very strong points of connection and alignment.

As I have looked at the lives of others I see the greatest leaders being unafraid to invest themselves and be identified clearly with some movements that others may frown upon. I have witnessed other leaders pay lip service to being open to the influence of the Spirit through another movement and then swiftly reject it or become judgemental later when the culture of the movement creates discomfort for them. I have seen too many people having their minds offended so their hearts can be revealed and then not being able to walk with the Spirit who leads us to a change of heart and mind. Sadly, I see how easy it is for me to be like this - rejecting the way of repentance.

Stepen Covey in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People writes about the circle of concern and the circle of influence - and our need to live in the circle of influence - doing that which we can do rather than seeking to take action in the area of our concerns which are largely to do with things we can do nothing about. Jesus clearly worked on this basis - there were things he was concerned for and about but he invested himself in the areas of his calling ('the lost sheep of Israel'). There were often crowds but we read stories of his individual intervention (doing what he saw his father doing). He taught his disciples (by implication - Us) to identify a person of peace - an individually tailored programme of mission to those the Spirit is preparing.

We are supposed to work on the basis of working within that which we can influence under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

There's loads here to reflect on - I have worked out that I am supposed to invest time and energy in certain areas. The churches I lead, the missional movement represented by the Order of Mission, the New Wine Network. I will continue to invest time and energy into my family and my relationship with God. These are the things I can influence and though there is much that concerns me many of those things are not areas I can do much about.

So - I'm just going to do what I can do - lead by exercising influence, not be afraid of being identified and aligned with certain things. I will seek to live the way of repentance so that my heart can be changed and my mind renewed. I won't seek the good - I will seek what is God.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

The Smell of Beginnings

I came across a great quote from Carlo Carretto recently
'Today's people... want a church made of friendship, of genuine contacts, of mutual interchange of little things. But more than anything alse, a church that feeds them with the Word, a church that works with them by physically taking them by the hand, a church whose face is like that of the church of Luke, of Mark, of John, a church that is just starting - that smells of beginnings'.
I really desire such a church - I would join a church like that! In fact I want to be a person who smells of beginnings.
I talked of this quote in my first preach at St Mary's - looking at the call of Abram in Genesis 12 - a call into the unknown, of obedience and trust. I'm sure that in order for Abram to follow this through he must have got the smell of beginnings in his nostrils.
And here we are - with the smell of beginnings and a call to trust and obey.