Announce it

Was reading Mark’s gospel and something struck me (no, it wasn’t a bus). In 1:14, Mark tells us that “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “‘The time has come,” he said. ‘The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Now…what is the good news? Our first response would be that Jesus died and was risen so that we could die to sin and rise to new life. Yeah, thats good news. However, its clearly only part of it. This is Jesus announcing what the good news is. He hadn’t yet died, technically, the work was still to be done. Jesus says: Its the proximity of the Kingdom, its repentance, its believing.

It appears that simply announcing the Kingdom is effective. This is a long held confirmed view of mine and to my mind is the great value of open air worship…it announces the Kingdom. By simply announcing the Kingdom, we’re conducting life changing, world changing business.

This verse just magnifies the power of faith in Jesus and the power of the work on the cross…it was effective before it even happened. But the key here is ‘repent and believe.’ Jesus makes evangelism look very easy.

I believe something happens spiritually when the Kingdom is announced. Yes, people hear and God rejoices, but I believe the demons quiver. It has to be said though, that Jesus never simply announced the Kingdom…all the way through the gospels Jesus announces the Kingdom, invites people to respond to it, then he demonstrates it with a healing, a deliverance session, or some other miracle.

Maybe your evangelism needs to take a new direction today.

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Presence


For some strange reason, I put a CD of gaelic psalm singing in the player this evening. My gaelic is progressing, but its almost impossible to work out what they are singing on the CD due to the style. So I stopped listing to the words and started listening to the worship.

My mind went straight back to the church in Barbhas in Lewis where I visited a couple of years ago where God started to speak to me about Scotland and which ultimately led to our return. As I listened, I recalled how in that church, some 50 years after a powerful revival, the presence of God was so very tangible in the church where there was nothing much modern, trendy or multi-media about the worship.

I’d say there are very few times in these last two years that I’ve sense God’s presence so intensely in a worship session, not like that, anyway. It does cause me to think how much I am desperate for the presence of God, though. Have I not felt God in the same way because its a ‘geographical’ thing, or is it an ‘expectation’ thing? I don’t know.

I think back to earlier this year when I attended a conference about healing where the Holy Spirit actively did something with the disconnected muscles in my face. Holy Spirit tingling for several hours in the affected area bolstering my faith that God indeed IS a God who heals!

I’m sure you, like me can think back to the times when we’ve felt close. Thing is, yesterday’s presence isn’t much good to us. Seek him now, just where you are. Accept his love. Accept his holiness now. Let him touch you afresh, fill you to over flowing, and then go out and infect the world.

A good dose of Presbyterianism

Was at the Church of Scotland this morning on the last leg of the Torry church tour. Again, a predominantly elderly church with, what appears from the content of the sermon, to have several missional challenges! The Rev Dr Barclay exhorted his congregation in no uncertain terms to take ownership of the mission of the church or else!

In many ways he was right. His church (as in the denomination) have recenly brought out a new plan to solve the decline of the church….by restructuring the system. His comment was that no amount of restructuring would help the delcine of the Kirk, what was needed was for people to own the mission. He spoke from the bit in the gospels where the Pharisees were questioning Jesus ministry. Jesus responds by asking them what their thoughts were on John the baptists ministry. The Pharisees don’t answer because it would get them in trouble…they sit on the fence. So, Dr Barclay made the connection between that and the concept of ownership…you either own the work or you don’t, but if you sit on the fence, its clear to all that its exactly what you are doing…sitting on the fence.

Very intersting…but I won’t publish my ‘pew-view’ of what the response of the congregation was!

Nevertheless, it was good to be identified as a visitor and invited to share tea with the minister (I was incognito in civvies) where on revealed that I was a Salvation Army officer. Dr Barclay was very cordial, conversational and refreshingly open about the missional challenge his church faces.

So, the grand tour of Torry churches comes to an end. Next step in the mission here is to begin conversation with local authorities and gain their perspectives on life in Torry.

On the issue of restucturing as a pancea for all ills….The Army are often the best at this, but as the good Dr Barclay said this morning, the right question is “What are we doing about the mission of the church?” and not “How can we structure the church better?”

Now Recruiting Intercessors

We’re recruiting intercessors for the Salvation War on the Torry front. If you’d like to partner with us in prayer, helping us storm the forts and battle the enemy, please let us know.

We will endeavour to send out a weekly intercessors email to help inform your prayer for us. I know many of you pray for us anyway, but receiving the update will give you something other than ‘God bless em’ to pray! Thanks in advance for your partnership in the gospel!

To sign up, please email me at andrew.clark@salvationarmy.org.uk.

Thanks!

Tozer on Leadership

This grabbed me as I read this morning:

“If Christianity is to receive a rejuvenation it must be by other means than any now being used. If the church in the second half of [the twentieth] century is to recover from the injuries she suffered in the first half, there must appear a new type of preacher. The proper, ruler-of-the-synagogue type will never do. Neither will the priestly type of man who carries out his duties, takes his pay and asks no questions, nor the smooth-talking pastoral type who knows how to make the Christian religion acceptable to everyone. All these have been tried and found wanting. Another kind of religious leader must arise among us. He must be of the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne. When he comes (and I pray God there will not be one but many) he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom.”

A. W. Tozer

St Jimmy

I like the book of James in the New Testament. I like to think of James as Jimmy, the Glaswegian half-brother of Jesus fae the East End. James is a gutsy book, close to the edge some might say, immensely practical and straight talking, thus my theory that James (aka Jimmy) was Scottish. Our country has St Andrew as its ‘patron saint’ but I think Jimmy would do better in his place.

He starts of with trials and temptations, what to do with them and how to endure. He then goes on to talk about watching your mouth. Then he goes on to talk about making sure you don’t promote the wealthy above the poor before teaching about getting your sleeves rolled up and getting on with it. After re-capping on keeping your mouth shut, he then talks about making sure you’re not fighting with your family in the faith and about making sure God is number one. Towards the end, a warning to rich oppressors, a pep talk about being patient in suffering again before his classic ending:

“If yer in bother, talk tae the Big Man aboot it. If yer happy as Larry, gee it laldy and let Him hear yer song. Ur ye no weel? Get yer pals roon and get them tae pit a wee bit oil oan yer heid and Jesus will do the business. And, before ye can run round the table and take a swipe at the cat, as long as yer believin, ye’ll be fine. Mare than that, if ye tell each other whit ye’ve been up tae, ye’ll be even better. If yer guid, yer prayers will work fine.

Thon Elijah wis a bloke jeest like yersel. He was prayin that it widnae rain (like maist Gleswegians) and it didnae….fur a hale three an’ a hoff year! Wance he wis fed up with the dry, he did the business again and it poored until we were a’ drookit…it wis bouncin’ aff the flair past yer knees.

Mind this though, if sumbuddy goes aff the rails, make sure and grab haud o ees jaikit because if ye can stoap him, ye’ll hae done wonders.”

Gaun yersel Jimmy!

PS. Jimmy is listed as being the patron saint of drug dealers (pharmasists!)…no comment!

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sincere apologies to the non-Scottish readers…normal service will soon be resumed!

The Grand Church Tour continues..

I was able to continue on my ‘Grand Church Tour’ this morning with a visit to the United Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)…don’t forget the continuing. The service was attended by around 50 people, mainly ederly with only one or two younger faces. The minister was cheery and his sermon was biblical, Jesus centred, although I couldn’t help wondering if it were over the heads of the faithful gathered. I was slightly concerned about his apparent satisfaction with the downfall of Todd Bently, regardless of what one’s thoughts are on it, and wondered where concern and grace were in that, but nevertheless, another part of the jigsaw of the church in Torry.

The whole purpose of these wee visits has, yes, been to make contacts with leaders and churches in the area. But, to be honest, the question on my mind is ‘what is it about the church that means it is not reaching the community effectively.’ The over-riding question that has plagued me over this last month or so of exploration are ‘where do the lost find faith here?’ I’ve tried to put myself in the position of one without faith and asked..what would it feel like to turn up here with no clue of Christianity other than what your average Brit would. I’ve asked the ‘how would my mother cope’ question and I’ve played the conversation over in my mind as I can recall what her comments would be!

I confess that I’ve struggled to make sense of Christianity as presented by the myriad of expressions of it that I’ve experienced over the last weeks. I’ve struggled to relate what I’ve heard expounded from the pulpit to my daily life. I don’t say these things as specific attacks or negative comment on the specific churches because I recognise that up and down the country much of the church, including the Army, is in the same place.

I have one more congregation to visit. I can guess already what I’ll find, yet always hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

So, in Torry, there are (including the Army) 6 congregations. They can muster around 300 believers on any typical Sunday morning in a community of 12,000 and it has to be said that that maybe as many as a half of them drive from wealthier areas outside Torry to come back to church in what would have been there home community before they got wealthy and moved out. That looks like about 2.5% of the population fronting up at church on any particular Sunday, and half of that living in Torry. Thats a big change from Pill, where we estimated that 1% of the population were Salvationist, let alone Christian! Even if 100% of the 2.5% of Christians attending church in Torry are saved, which is what I’d hope, its appears to be bleak.

What does this mean for us? It certainly means that the harvest is plentiful. If you follow the logic of the statistic that suggests there should be a church for every 1000 of the population, we’re certainly well below that in the area. It certainly gives us much to think about in terms of accessibility, about how and where we present the gospel, about what we do and don’t give our energies to and about how we put flesh and bones on the incarnation of Jesus to Torry.

On a personal level, it presents me with further questions about how the structures, ministry and function of your average Salvation Army corps cope. I ask myself, yet again, are we flexible enough to meet the challenge of our community? To be honest, more questions that there are answers. But then, Torry isn’t your average Salvation Army corps and there are so many promising signs about our wee community that are surely embryonic of more hopeful things to come.

Yet even we struggle with the cumbersome load of programme beyond our limited means which ultimatle leads to a sacrifice on the great task of winning Torry to Jesus. The age old problem of programme vs relationship and programme vs mission is as real here as in a corps many a times its size.

I did not anticipate at all that the personal things that challenge me about officership would be absent or would cease to exist simply because of a change of location. The continual challenge for me, and for any officer in The Salvation Army today is to what level are we committed to the lost and to reaching them. To what extent are we willing to throw of church shackles and identify ourselves as a permanant mission to the lost. In modern parlance, to what extent are we a missional body of people.

The jury is out.

More news from Romania

More developments on the Romanian front…another friend, Captain Adrian Roman, who is the officer at the Ploiesti Corps, writes with news that they have been asked to vacate the building they had been renting in the city. They now have no-where to meet because they are finding the cost of renting too high elsewhere in the city. They have had to cease much of their children’s work and they are losing touch with people because of nowhere to meet.

Adrian is struggling too without the resources to buy a vehicle for his work. Unlike here in the UK, officers aren’t provided with cars in the Eastern Europen Territory. This fledgling Salvation Army region has seen some great growth as it approaches nearly 10 years of work, but they are vastly under-resourced in many ways.

I don’t know if the process has changed in the last couple of years, but the officers in Romania have to travel several hundred miles each month to pick up their monthly allowance in Chisinau, Moldova. They get what they need to run the corps and what is left is their allowance. I too often fear that these good folks ‘go without’ even the basic things to ensure the mission continues. Thats strong commitment, but in today’s society and in an international Army, it shouldn’t have to be like that.

If you’re reading and you think you could help Captain Adrian with a decent second hand vehicle, please contact me.

Today’s Round-up of thoughts

Having had a busy day (and week), I’m just rounding up preparation for our meeting tomorrow night. We’re looking at the picture of salvation provided for us in Psalm 27 and I’m just reminded how good and blessed it is to be in the presence of God, especially with God’s people. There is very little more precious than that.

It was wonderful today, at the opening of the Aberdeen Citadel refurbished building, to hear the General’s heart for the world-wide Salvation Army. He is a man who holds the internationalism of the Army close to his heart. As he told of plans to invade Outer Mongolia, and as he confirmed growth in Greece, advancement into Kuwait and adventures into Kathmandu in Nepal, my mind just explodes further as I picture every tribe, every tongue, every nation under heaven actually in Heaven praising the Father. Yet, I’m just as excited about our hopes and plans for expansion in Aberdeen. For now, my heart is set on seeing more Scots in heaven!

It was great this morning to hear from some good friends, fellow officers, in Romania, Captains Ianut and Roxana Sandu. They are the corps officers in Craiova, a city in rural Romania which is primarily ‘Orthodox’. They are having a difficult time spreading their work there as the people generally see those who are not Orthodox as sinners heading to hell, and so you’ll imagine the wall of resistance they face in trying to reach out there. They sent some pictures of the little congregation they’ve managed to raise, mainly of orphan children, and of their work to try and support a nearby orphanage that desperately needs playground equipment…the stuff they have is rusty and un-useable. Simple things we in the west take for granted, even in our most challenging communities. Yes, the challenges these young officers face are challenging to say the least.

At the end of this busy Saturday, I can hear the noise of our public houses spilling out into the streets of Torry…the rabble, the pain, the ‘drowning sorrows’ and no doubt the brokeness mixed with little tinges of celebration. I’m reminded that God’s shelter of salvation is huge, and its great to be under it…but there is yet more room for even more people. God help us all as we do all we can to reach the world for Christ, beginning just where we are.