Monday, 26 July 2010

a sideways glance

a sideways glance

Thought provoking blog from Simon Jones

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Spirit's Edge 3

The authours give 3 final signs of the Spirits presence
Let there be unity around Jesus
Faith is maintained by keeping the unity that is already given to the church
Let there be ecstasy and intimacy

to be enthused literally to be en-theos in dwelt by God by The Holy Spirit Christ indwells us that is an incredible thought for any struggling Christian Christ indwells us

Let there be liberation and transformation
2 COR 3 " Where the Spirit of The Lord is there is freedom"
The Spirit brings freedom

How we need to embrace the role of The Holy Spirit! We need a genuine encounter with God if we are going to build His Kingdom and glorify Jesus

untamed suggests practices to follow
The one I especially commend to you is to learn to discern The work of The Holy Spoirit in everyday life so for instance Where have I worked with The Spirit in the last week? Where Have I resisted The Spirit in the last week? What must I change?

Monday, 19 July 2010

The Spirit's Edge 2

Continuing Untamed's great chapter on The Holy Spirit and his manifestation in the life of the church.
Where The Spirit is there are lots of little Jesuses

I must say I felt uncomfortable with this ,it seems quite irreverent -except that we are called to be followers and to have the likeness of Christ "to be transformed into His likeness" and I suppose the authours are right when they say if we are not being transformed there is something deeply wrong with our spirituality. The Holy Spirit is not given primarily to make us more peaceful or happy or content (let alone more traditional!) The Spirit of Christ is given to make us more like Jesus as individuals and as a community.

Let there be love

A key manifestation of the Spirit's presence is love.
There have been many times when I have sensed the Spirit moving powerfully among His people ,Love is always present. " God pours out His love into our hearts by The Holy Spirit He has given us" This does not mean Christians won't disagree, sometimes pretty robustly, It does mean we learn to disagree gracefully (or as one writer puts it to fight gracefully!) But the love Alan and Debra are talking about is not simply love between Christians, but love that Christians should have for others which I guess is a driving force for all mission, as Paul puts it "The Love of Christ compels us"

Let there be a learning community

Alan Hirsch says when he became a Christian it felt as if his mind had caught fire! The life of The Spirit brings a passionate desire to learn about God and His creation.
Christians should never stop learning or studying -God gave us our minds so that we use them and not neglect them .God's people are called to use our minds for Him.
I suppose one of the lasting legacies of the reformation has been a desire to study the Bible but also God's world. Thats why Christian missionaries have often founded schools and universities!
I want our church to be a church where emotion runs deep (if we don't feel emotional about our faith there is something wrong) but we shouldn't just feel emotional we should also use our reason -there is nothing unspiritual about that

Let there be some miracles
I suppose this adds balance to the previous point. Sometimes church can get so comfortable we live as though we don't believe in a God who acts; who does something & who is moving powerfully in this world as Debra and Alan succinctly put it "Bah Humbug to all the liberal theologies that disregard the clearly supernatural aspects of live in God ." It was Carey who said "Attempt great things for God -Expect great things from God " I wonder if we too often stop expecting to see God move? "We should hope for a whole lot more of those gracious interventions we call miracles."

Let there be spiritual maturity

We won't ever mature as Christians if we don't or wont open our hearts to the work of the Spirit How could we?It is The Spirit who makes us into the likeness of Christ

Let there be a lot more discernment
Hirsch's point here is that "Discernment is a gift of the Spirit given to the church so that we can safely negotiate our (complex) world" and discern between good and evil

I will leave the last 3 signs of The Spirits presence to the next blog post. However I find these points both inspiring and deeply challenging. We can drift along doing things in the way we have always done them or we can let our lives be transformed by the Spirit . if we are not open to The Spirit's work in our life then we are not being made more like Jesus, and no wonder then that people associate church with boredom. If we are open to The Spirit then life will be more edgy It's risky yes ,but very exciting !

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Spirit's Edge

The Spirits Edge is Debra and Alan Hirchs title for their excellent piece (chapter 3) of "untamed" on The Holy Spirit.
At the beginning of the chapter the couple share something of their early Christian church experiences which were divided between a Pentecostal church and a fundamentalist church (in their words not a lot of fun but a whole lot of mental!)

They point out some lessons they learned of things to avoid in church life and come up as usual with some thought provoking quotes, like "As important as theology is in guiding our understanding of God ,it must never be a substitute for our relationship to God Himself" and "Believers who have made God into a system of ideas,need to risk being overwhelmed by God again if they wish to be authentic disciples"

After this section the authours move onto describe some of the characteristics that should mark the presence of The Spirirt in our lives and our community.

Firstly creativity
Alan and Debra point out that The Spirit is the agent of creation He is creative!Therefore we should not be surprised that people motivated By The Holy Spirit get creative and entrepreneurial.
Where The Spirit is there will be lots of new things happening!
I must say I hadn't thought of creativity as a mark of The Spirits presence but I am convinced .It is certainly true that life in a church without The Holy Spirit moving can be fairly boring. I don't suppose it is The Spirit that inspires people to say " We have never done it this way before" I rejoice that our church is beginning to be more adventurous and creative- A sign that God is at work!

secondly,"Risky Mission"
The Father is a sending God and the Son is the sent one and together they send The Spirit into the world. The Spirit is a missionary. We only needs to look at the book of Acts to know that The advance of The Kingdom is a sure sign of The Spirits presence but as Hirsch and Hirsch note where the Kingdom advances there is bound to be spiritual conflict for as Paul reminded us "we wrestle not against flesh and blood"
When you see a church with a passion to love Jesus and share Him with others and that work is opposed, then you know The Holy Spirit is at work!

The third mark of The Spirit's presence is communitas
Communitas is something Alan Hirsch talks about in his book The Forgotten Ways Handbook" He defines it as the kind of strong committed community that forms in the context of a dangerous ordeal or challenging task.Christians need to move beyond a nodding acquaintance to being comrades and adventurers together. Christianity is not meant to be safe but is meant to be a great community adventure .The most exciting and rewarding times in church are when we are serving Jesus together and there is a sense of The Spirit leading us into building The Kingdom

I long to see more of these things in my life and in the life of the church I serve.Creativity,risky mission and communitas ,3 marks of The Spirits presence. My favourite hymns are ones that describe some of the hardship ,the excitement and the eventual triumph of Jesus and (through Him )His followers. How we need to allow The Spirit to reignite our Passion for Jesus!

We will look at some other marks of The Spirit's presence in my next post

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


Cartoon by Matt Glover says it all!

One of the genuine blessings of a sabbatical is time. Time to think ,to pray ,to plan , to talk, and yes to worship

Most mornings I put some Stuart Townend or Tim Hughes on the mp3 player and contemplate God as I listen to powerful words ,Today I was greatly helped by this from Tim Hughes for example;

It all begins with worship but as Mark Labberton says "Worship turns out to be the dangerous act waking up to God and to the purposes of God in the world ,and then living lives that actually show it."

Labberton's point is that if worship doesn't make us disciples, it probably is not true worship. So as Alan and Debra Hirsch point out in "untamed" worship is not just about singing ,or praying or liturgy it involves loving our neighbour ,seeking justice,evangelism and the renewal of true community (see Hebrews 13v15)
Helpfully, Debra and Alan suggest 4 practices that help us reflect on the nature of worship and whether we are worshippers

1Submit yourself to a regular inventory of idolatry ,what is it that stops God having first place in our heart ? What is it that stops Jesus being Lord?
2 Worship beyond singing ! Offer your whole world back to God
3 A life of learning read CS Lewis , Yancey and other writers who nourish the soul
4 Act your way into a new way of thinking Risk being led by God's Spirit into new things- This could be a great adventure !

We may think we have no time but one lesson I am learning is that if I am really going to be a disciple I must make quality time for these things or I will be ineffective as a disciple and church leader.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Fresh expressions of church

A few of us from the church have been doing a Fresh Expressions course with about 30 others from a variety of local churches.
The course is a Methodist, Anglican initiative and looks at how the church might share the Good News effectively with today's generation, and how our churches and ministries might need to change and what they may need to look like to make that happen. The course subject matter is as follows;
•The mission of God;
•Vision and values;
•Gospel and culture;
•Evangelism and discipleship;
•What is Church?
•Leadership and team roles;
•Missional spirituality;
•Worship and the sacraments;
•How to keep going when things get tough.

In truth the course has been a bit mixed,there have been problems with technology that haven't helped and some sessions I have not understood at all (probably just me!)
It is also true to say that it was initially very hard to get to know the other course member's
However it has recently got much better ,there was a very good residential weekend with sessions led by people who really knew what they were talking about because they were doing it.
Todays session we had a Christian vicar who was also a DJ whose very effective gospel ministry is in the clubs of Broad St in Birmingham, and then a couple who have planted a new church in Telford. Both emphasised the importance of relationships.
By the afternoon I was flagging a bit but it was good to see and hear people so keen to share the gospel that they were unafraid of trying of trying new (though still biblical)ways of expressing church.
A great deal for us to think about !

2 quotes from the day
"“In working with (young) not try to call them back to where they were, and do not try to call them to where you are, beautiful as that place may seem to you. You must have the courage to go with them to a place where neither you nor they have been before.”
“The church is essentially en route, on a journey, on a pilgrimage. The church which pitches its tents without constantly looking for new horizons which does not continually strike camp is being untrue to its calling...It is essentially an interim church, a church in transition....”

Wednesday, 7 July 2010


Those of you who read this blog (is there any body out there?)will know that Alan Hirsch "The Forgotten Ways" and especially perhaps "The Forgotten Ways Handbook" have helped shape my thinking about mission in general & what it means to be a missional church in particular.. I have recommended the books to loads of people,some have read them and been inspired by them ,while others remain untouched. Alan Hirsch books are obviously an acquired taste!

However, with my enthusiasm undiminished,I have returned to "untamed" a book I had only dipped into previously.The subtitle is "reactivating a missional form of discipleship" and this is exactly what Hirsch tries to inspire in his readers!

I will blog more on the contents of the book another time, but one reason I love this book is because Alan and Deb not only put great biblical truth in fresh ways but they also live it out in their lives and in the life of their church. This really is a book about incarnational mission!

Alan and Deb are widely read and quote many Christian and non Christain writers; indeed the chapters begin with great quotes like this from Bonhoeffer " the church is nothing but a section of humanity in which Christ has truly taken form". In truth however untamed is full of great quotes mostly written by the books authours How about these? "It is true that Jesus is like God, but the greater truth…is that God is like Jesus!”
“Jesus holiness was compelling. Sinners flocked to him.” and" If we are to be genuinely untamed followers of Jesus,we will be holy nonconformists,capturedby avision of the world that will be whenThe Kingdom of God is finally fulfilled

Untamed is also a practical book .Each chapter has a list of suggested practices to follow and also a number of questions for group discussion

Like The Forgotten Ways Handbook ,untamed is well worth reading if you are unafraid of being deeply challenged........ Oh and Jonny Birch's cartoons are great too!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010


Just popped briefly into Ludlow mainly to look at the outside of the Methodist church which I quite liked, though whether it would be right for our new town centre building is another matter!
While I was there I dropped into another church where the Child Protection Officer was trying her very best to persuade a very reluctant church person, that it really was worth having a Child Protection Officer and that CRB checks should be kept upto date. Seeing she was getting almost nowhere despite quoting recent happenings in the Catholic church ,she resorted to "It Is the law you know!" This all gave me strong sense of Deja vu !
Why is it church people struggle with this so much given all that has happened in recent years?
Surely it is our responsibility to do all we can to keep children safe?


Shaker chapel-now a museum

I am continuing to enjoy reading "Authentic Spiritual Mentoring"
Larry Kreider makes a very persuasive case for mentoring relationships in our lives. He backs up the case with lots of solid biblical evidence.
Kreider also focuses on the life of Jesus .He points out that He had an inner circle of friends,with whom he spent quality time.
Beyond the three Jesus mentored the twelve, and beyond them Jesus was also in relationship with the seventy two.
Jesus spent the majority of His time nurturing and preparing a few people to fulfil Gods purpose for their lives and to build His Kingdom.
He taught, prayed, modeled,not in a lecture theatre but in every day life situations whether fishing ,eating or walking together .Once he had done that He released and empowered those people to serve, and they in their turn preached the gospel,healed the sick,and met the needs of the poor.
I have long believed it is all about relationships! It really is! However, those relationships must have purpose and intention to draw people to Christ and then to make them mature disciples

Kreider mentions the Shakers an offshoot of the Quakers who shook in worship(shakers)and worshipped with ritualistic dance.In many ways they were fine people but they believed in celibacy above marriage ,produced no heirs and not enough converts and died out rapidly. Today they are remembered for their furniture

What is our legacy for future generations?

I was challenged by these words on page 37 of the book
" Church leaders have become so focused on programmes and committees that they have no time to train spiritual children to become future spiritual parents.This is a blight on the church,stunting future generations of leaders"

Time, perhaps to refocus on discipling and mentoring!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Thursday, 1 July 2010


Just begun this book and am so far challenged by the case that Kreider makes ,which is supported by biblical evidence.
As someone in my mid 50's I was startled by the assertion that Kreider makes that "Few Bible leaders finish well" ( There are massive exceptions to that ,of course; Jesus Himself and Paul for starters!) but there is enough truth in it to make me think.

I also was reminded of 2 people who have mentored me over the years.

The first was Gordon Heath my first pastor at Hamilton Baptist Church who encouraged this shy ,young boy lacking in confidence (no honestly!)that God really could use me. Gordon also taught me that it is not enough to inform in a sermon ,the preacher must also inspire people to live up to the call of the gospel. I have rarely succeeded but Gordon taught me that this is the preachers calling.

My other mentor who was so very helpful to me in my early years in ministry was Pat Goodland,who had done an awesome job as pastor of Gorsley Baptist Church and who encouraged and inspired and advised me for so many years.

Gordon has long since died and Pat is I think about 80 now but their influence on me and I am sure on many other lives on ! They both finished well I thank God for them!
That is my task now over whatever years God gives to me to finish well and by God's grace to inspire others to be disciples as I have been inspired!