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no bag: missional marks #2

June 25, 2017

yesterday I began looking at the list of things that Jesus asks his disciples to leave behind as they go out and share the good news that the Kingdom of God is on it’s way to change lives and communities.

Jesus asked his disciples to have a stance that is open and honest and while not afraid to speak out is vulnerable and refuses to defend itself.

The second item on the list is a bag! we automatically think of a bag packed and ready to take with everything we will need for a week in the sun, or on the mountains, or where ever! But, Jesus is just talking about a bag, like an empty bag – In these days where wee are charged for shopping bags we may be tempted to make sure we have a bag with us to take things home – and this is what Jesus is pointing us to.

In the three years that Jesus spends with his disciples we know they lived rough from time to time “the son of man has no place to lay his head”, and that they were forced to gather from the fields what they needed – as the poor in Israel were entitled to do. So what we see is Jesus saying don’t bring a bag for foraging, for collecting. Instead we are to accept hospitality, to allow ourselves to be a guest. That sounds great, but it means we need to adapt to whatever we are given, whether great food or short rations.

We need to learn to be a guest, to accept the gifts that are given by those in the community we come to with our good news. We need first to be in someone else’s debt, before we can draw others in by offering them hospitality. As we learn to be where other people are and to understand them, we slowly begin to share experiences and learn a language that we can use to share what we believe.

We also begin to know how to live generous lives without being patronising.

 

how we live our values?

June 24, 2017

the marks of a missional posture.

well the title sounds like something out of an academic essay that I would have written for a FORGE assignment, but the thinking for my blogs over the next five days came from spending some time out thinking about the story where Jesus sends his followers out to go and do the stuff that they had been watching him do. (Luke 9). Jesus does the opposite of what we expect in a way which is still shocking to me as I read it! Instead of the expected, “have you got your toothbrush”, “don’t forget your passport”, “are you sure you’ve not forgotten anything” approach, he turns this on his head. Sure – Jesus gives them the kit list, but it is a list of what to leave behind!

The list is five items long, and this prompted my curiosity. why does Jesus give a list at all – instead of just saying “travel light, ditch everything you don’t need”? As I allowed these five things to peculate in my brain I began to realise that these are five keys to the values and posture that we need to go to our neighbours with the good news of the Kingdom of God. Over the next five days I will explore these five things one by one.

first up on the list is “take no staff”. Of course Jesus is not talking about a company away day but the old fashioned pole or stick that people leaned on. Moses famously used his to do miracles like opening the Red Sea! My first thought was of the staff as being something that supports us – but this is a modern view, back then the staff was used as a weapon. Used well and skilfully it would disarm a group of bandits, and the bible gives us the picture of David defending his sheep against bears with his staff!

So what does it mean to take nothing for defending ourselves? It means we go as people who are vulnerable, who choose not to defend ourselves when provoked or attacked. To intentionally choose to listen first and to listen well. Let me tell you that is way harder to live than to write. As we go through life there are people who are different to us, they may ridicule or attack us – they may think our faith is weird, or simply not understand us or be on our wavelength.

At those points it is easy to be defensive, to stop listening and to try to correct wrong thinking. Or to fit in, and be accepted, by colluding, agreeing just for the sake of not causing problems, Or to just go quiet and try not to be noticed. But what Jesus seems to be saying here is that we should be honest and vulnerable in our conversations. And that demands that we act with all the courage we can muster. To speak truth as we see it, while still respecting the person who has a different view; to be honest about how we feel and what we think without defending ourselves.

Jesus is not afraid to invite us to live honestly as he tells us to leave our defensive staff behind.

 

how do we hold our relational leaders to account?

June 24, 2017

Apostolic oversight groups (created ostensibly to provide ‘accountability’ to others) who don’t create policy documents to govern their own behaviour and enable evaluation by the wider church…may in so doing reveal that they aren’t themselves seeking to be truly accountable. BUT: Policy ( Holy Spirit and relationship) = mutual accountability = godly and objective evaluation = […]

via Do ‘relational’ Apostolic teams really evidence robust accountability? Here’s how they might. — Urban Ecotheology

Why I love my fitbit?

September 2, 2016

My kids have realised that I am moderately overweight and moderately unfit so they kindly bought me a fitbit.  I love it! It tells me how well (or badly) I am doing in my exercise regime, well walking to work actually – as that is the only exercise I do! It rewards me with praise, reminds me when I need to get active, and is totally honest with me.

With all the encouragement I get from my fitbit, I can just walk a little further, or a little quicker, or a liitle more often.

… then I remembered why I started walking to work, and realised that, much as I love my fitbit, I have to remember that there are other important things.

So, for the record, there are four reasons why I work to work and they are here in reverse order –

Four. I am moderately overwieght, and moderately unfit so I need to keep active to be healthy!

Three. It saves a whole heap of money, driving the couple of miles across town not only uses gallons of petrol over time,which costs pennies – but not running a second car in our family saves us hundreds of pounds each year.

Two: Choosing not to drive also helps to keep Dundee as a great city, it may only be a tiny action but it saves congestion in the city, and reduces the greenhouse gases which are so bad for the climate, the earth and all of us who live on it!

One: The absolutely most important reason for walking to work is that it both slows me down, and connects me to where I now live. The journey may take three times longer, but in that time I have time to think and pray (rather than get frustrated at the other drivers), I have time to look and notice what is happening in the community I live in – where people gather to talk, where rubbish gets dumped, I get to notice people who are out and about the same time as me – which is slowly setting me up with opportunities to acknowledge people (like the guys who pick up litter outside the shops each morning, and who pretty much no-one talks to) to talk and listen and so on!

So I love my fitbit, thanks guys! But more than that I love this city that I have been called to live in and have chosen to make my home.

 

welcome home

May 4, 2016

No one can have missed the huge number of migrants who are leaving everything and risking all to enter Europe. There is a campaign currently to pressure our prime minister to allow children to settle in the UK, (presumably because children can’t be terrorists!)

As ever Britain is divided as to whether we should allow them in, many people – fuelled by the rhetoric of Brexit – tell us that the country is already full, that charity should begin at home, and indeed push these arguments to the extent of campaigning against giving any aid overseas.

Others point to a rich history of immigration to the UK, pointing out that we absorbed some 200,000 Jews from Europe prior to WW1, and a further 50,000 refugees during WWII, accepted 21,000 Hungarians in the 50’s. We opened our doors, (against some political pressure) to 28,000 Ugandan Asians expelled by Idi Amin, and again (against political pressure – this time by our then Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher) 24,000 Vietnamese “Boat people”.

None of these people groups have swamped our cities, put us into economic decline, or caused civil war. On the contrary, these people have settled, integrated, added value to our communities and brought out the very best in us.

We would do well to remember that all of us (except arguably the Welsh) are descended from immigrants, Viking or Norman if not more recent. Our stupid arguments to try and keep foreigners out diminish us.

We need to urgently pressure our government – despite the protestations of the red top press – to accept many thousands  of the desperate people currently living in inhumane conditions in contential Europe.

We need to demonstrate the welcome and hospitality that we rightly claim to be a mark of our Britishness, and roll out the red carpet for these mothers, fathers, and children who want nothing more than to have a chance to start their lives again. If we cannot even show common  humanity then we should feel shame!

 

 

Six weeks to change the world?

April 28, 2016

A further blog post from December that didn’t get posted at the time… Enjoy

six  weeks ago I started a new job, for those who have known me over the years – there really isn’t anything unusual about that, BUT this job was one that could be a whole lot more that just another job – it really could be a world changer…

let me explain, my new job is on one level – just another job. Business Manager of a charity – something I’ve done before. Fairly straightforward as long as you make sure all the systems and processes are in place. One another level it is about the formation (or the recognition and development) of a Christian Community. At the beginning of November Signpost International took the decision that we would develop a residential community alongside all the really important stuff of serving the poor and helping communities in India, Africa and the Phillipines.

Of course all that continues – and our job continues to be complicated by floods in the villages we work in and in the offices of our partner organisation in India…

Six weeks into that job, trying to listen to the stories of the people who work here in Dundee, the voices of those we serve in Scotland and across the world, and trying to discern the “still small voice” of God. What have I heard?

  1. I have recognised that here I am already part of a community, it may not all be `christian`, it may not yet be residential – but there are relationships here that simply leave me gobsmacked! There is a degree of openness and honesty here that is way beyond what I was expecting, and for some of us in this `community` I recognise that that level of openess and sharing is really hard – yet it happens anyway! I have come to a network of relationships that are moving and genuine. For a number of years I have been trying to make community happen, mostly through doing events, meetings, meals, talking; here all that happens but the relationships seem deeper that those I have managed to manufacture though church and community doing.
  2. I have discovered an understated generosity as people who have very little share what they have with those who have even less. There is a generosity of understanding as people are prepared to stop and listen to ideas, there is a generosity of time as people stop their bust schedules to make space for someone to talk, there is a generosity of giving as people contribute what they have to help others. In fact I have been on the recieving end of meals, lifts, conversations, and reflecting back over the past weeks I am shocked to discover that I have not felt under the obligation of having to return the favour, or the invitation. These things have been genuinely gifted to me.
  3. I have begun to experience a much deeper rhythm of prayer. I have to be honest and tell you that I have never found prayer easy (shocking thing for a pastor to say!), but plugging into a rountine of traveling between Lancashire and Dundee each week, I have stumbled across a rytham of refelecting on the place I am coming from – and the place I am going to, and holding those things before God in a way that has impacted me more than I thought was possible. Each morning we gather and say our prayers (using a liturgy), but framing the day by doing this has made me more aware of what God is saying in each day.

On moving to Scotland

April 28, 2016

These are thoughts from back in November last year that didn’t get posted, on the basis of “waste not, Want not” here they are…

So this week my world has changed! I travelled up to Dundee on Tuesday and started a new job. It has been a bit of a whirlwind so far, but I had planned to walk the city a bit this evening. However as I began to set out I was introduced to a characteristic feature of Scotlands weather, it was ‘blowing a hoolie’.

So heading back into the house I sat down to write this blog.

So just to explain why am I moving up North? (No really North!) after 9 years of living in Earby and serving the church in Barnoldswick I made the announcement that I am moving on. To some people this was not just a surprise, but perhaps some people just couldn’t understand why I would want to leave a wonderful placelike Barlick?

First off I am moving because I believe that God has been stirring me to move on. If our Christian faith is about anything it must surely include putting God first and allow him to direct us! One of the things we have been learning together is that we need to be following the whispers of God’s guidance and be prepared to change and step out in faith rather than simply stick to what we know and the way we have always done things! As a leader I have to be open to doing what Iamasking others to do, so when I began to hear whispers from God (who oftenspeaks invery ordinary ways) I knew I needed to be willing to act on what I felt God is saying.

Secondly I am moving because the time is right. I felt very strongly when I became leader at Majestic Church that I was to be here for a short season, (I had in my mind a couple of years) so that we could move to being a more outward focused church, and so that people in the congregation could grow into their gifts. Two years ago at North Camp, there was a prophetic word that “in two years, senior elders would move out to different nations to help grow other churches” It was a word that impacted me at the time. just two years later I found myself with an opportunity to do that (although some would argue that Scotland is pushing it in terms of other nations)

I also realised that the things that God had asked me to put in place in Barnoldswick were beginning to happen. As a church we are much more focused on our community, serving it through job club, reaching through football on the park, interest groups and of course Pais. As people who belong to our particular church I have seen people grow in gifting,in confidence, and in their faith. All this will I am sure continue as I hand over to someone else, but I know that just as God called me to lead a few years ago, so God will call someone else to lead into the next chapter!

Thirdly I am moving to do something new. Over the last few months God has been pointing me in the direction of building a place:

that is a safe space for people to explore their faith. Many years ago when I first grew in my faith I was passionate to help people meet and follow Jesus. I did street outreach, coffee bar stuff, door to door; later I ran Alpha courses almost continuniously. I believe that I will be reconnecting with those `mission` roots.

where we care for those in need. One of the downsides of working with Majestic is that it isn’t located in a particularly deprived area. Of couse there are people in need whereever we go, but I have been feeling a pull (particularly after India) to be working with the poor and showing the practical care and love of Jesus to people.