Theologically speaking…

Thats what theology does a lot of the time:- make theological statements.  They have their benefits and their drawbacks but do help, at time, to express something of our thinking.  I think if you distilled a lot of what I say it would probably still fit the Wesleyan Evangelical flavour…its what I was steeped in as a ‘forming disciple’.

I came across these statements below through Stuart Murray Williams and the Anabaptist Network.   I think these things are pretty close, or pretty closely inform, some of my understanding these days and without saying ‘I am an Anabaptist’, I could sign my name to all of these statements and have been fairly influential on me the last few years.  I may blog through them over the coming weeks and offer a few of my personal reflections on them….we’ll see!

  1. Jesus is our example, teacher, friend, redeemer, and Lord. He is the source of our life, the central reference point for our faith and lifestyle, for our understanding of church, and our engagement with society. We are committed to following Jesus as well as worshipping him.

  2. Jesus is the focal point of God’s revelation. We are committed to a Jesus-centered approach to the Bible, and to the community of faith as the primary context in which we read the Bible and discern and apply its implications for discipleship.

  3. Western culture is slowly emerging from the Christendom era, when church and state jointly presided over a society in which almost all were assumed to be Christian. Whatever its positive contributions on values and institutions, Christendom seriously distorted the gospel, marginalized Jesus, and has left the churches ill equipped for mission to a post-Christendom culture. As we reflect on this, we are committed to learning from the experience and perspectives of movements such as Anabaptism that rejected standard Christendom assumptions and pursued alternative ways of thinking and behaving.

  4. The frequent association of the church with status, wealth, and force is inappropriate for followers of Jesus and damages our witness. We are committed to exploring ways of being good news to the poor, powerless, and persecuted, aware that such discipleship may attract opposition, resulting in suffering and sometimes ultimately martyrdom.

  5. Churches are called to be committed communities of discipleship and mission, places of friendship, mutual accountability, and multivoiced worship. As we eat together, sharing bread and wine, we sustain hope as we seek God’s kingdom together. We are committed to nurturing and developing such churches, in which young and old are valued, leadership is consultative, roles are related to gifts rather than gender, and baptism is for believers.

  6. Spirituality and economics are interconnected. In an individualist and consumerist culture and in a world where economic injustice is rife, we are committed to finding ways of living simply, sharing generously, caring for creation, and working for justice.

  7. Peace is at the heart of the gospel. As followers of Jesus in a divided and violent world, we are committed to finding nonviolent alternatives and to learning how to make a peace between individuals, within and among churches, in society, and between nations.

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Ordinary Radicals

shane“Attentive ears can hear the ancient whisper, reminding us that another world is possible.”  – Shane Claiborne

This is a fantastic quote from Shane Claiborne, true on so many levels when we are dealing with God’s rule breaking in to a myriad of situations.  If you haven’t read or heard any of his stuff, he’s worth looking up.  I recommend you start with ‘Irresistible Revolution’.  He is one of those who’ve heard Bonhoeffer whispering about a new monasticism bringing renewal to the church as men and women band to gather.  He is part of a community called ‘The Simple Way’ in Philadelphia, USA, deeply committed to serving their neighbourhood and enacting the gospel of grace, mercy and redemption.

He and his community make a tagline of the idea of ‘ordinary radicals’, emphasising the fact that whilst discipleship and mission in a community is not all razzmatazz, it is, none-the-less, powerful.  God takes the weak things of the world to confound the wise.  Shane often says, quoting Mother Theresa:  ‘We can do no great things, only small things with great love.’

I am reminding myself of these things, these stories, these ideas often these days.  I remind myself that the world does not depend on me saving it.  Gosforth doesn’t even depend on me.  Neither does Trinity, come to that.  I can do no great things…I can simply offer what I have with great love and hope that love covers a multitude if ‘sins.’  In so many ways, we live our ordinary lives, but the radical comes in when we start to live out the call to follow in the Way of Jesus.

In the busyness and business of the thing called ‘work’, the greatest thing I can remind myself is that the most important thing is who we are as a community of ordinary people.  I love looking out before the service on a Sunday morning and seeing the interaction, conversation and buzz about the place.  A strong reminder that what we don’t need to build is fancy ‘Jesus Shows’ on a Sunday morning, but a place where we can come together and celebrate the living God in our community.

The more we learn to be a family of brothers and sisters, the more we embody the unity that God has placed within us by his spirit and the more the world will see that we are disciples.

‘Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.’  – Philippians 4:8

 

Stick 2

Can I moan for a minute?

So, I had the inevstickitable response from yesterday’s blog…someone (not in my local setting) glad that I’ve ‘seen the light’ and going to start functioning as a pastor should, knowing every one of his ‘flock’ intimately and spending hours on hours drinking tea with every single one and…..you know the rest.

Let me say clearly: In any given week, all through my ministry in the last 10 or so years, I’ve engaged in hours of spiritual/pastoral conversation with people, specifically in times of crisis, where they’ve needed help with an issue, a decision or a problem. I think most folks would say that I’ve been helpful, although I’m far from perfect. That continues to be the case: Is still spend several hours a week in that kind of conversation and setting on a whole variety of issues and topics: everything from illness, to issues of belief, concern, family, reproduction (!), marriage, divorce….everything. Hours of it. I always make time for people….but I cannot be everything to everyone in that way…I can’t know the details of 500 + people and nor should I. That would be irresponsible to believe that I could. I can’t do everyone. Simple as that.

There is always, in leadership, a pastoral aspect of ministry. Always. I embrace that. Thats what I’m reaffirming in the ‘stick blog post. I affirm that even although pastoral work is very much a shared task where I am at Trinity (especially with our Pastoral Worker, Mary and the rest of the Pastoral Team as it develops further) I still don’t believe that just because someone hasn’t had ten minutes with me means that they haven’t received ‘pastoral care.’ What does that say for the vital ministry of others? Its just as important as anything I can bring.

In previous circles, there would be some who’d say that they hadn’t been ‘properly visited’ unless I, as the male part of Tracy and I working together as co-equal partners in ministry had visited. This is lies. And it continues to be lies, even when Tracy and I don’t work formally in that way at the moment. So, I hope thats cleared up that.

What the stick episode has done has been to encourage me that what I’m doing in my ministry is what God would have me do. I focus my attention on different areas: teaching, apostolic/mission development and evangelism – this is what God wants, its how I can best serve the body. The responsibility I’m affirming is that sense of servant guardianship, eldership and oversight…its still needed even in a church with an Eph 4 ministry model. We see it in the epistles as Paul and Timothy appoint those who ‘keep an eye.’ These people weren’t ‘pastors’ as we understand it today…they just weren’t.

The other aspect of Stick that I didn’t articulate is a technical one to do with my job. We have an unusual set up here at Trinity in that I’m neither a Methodist or URC minister. So, the Methodist Superintendent carries the technical pastoral charge of Trinity – he is great – but he is performing an oversight role to allow my ministry to take place technically in accordance with the church rules. Stick highlighted that, beyond the technicalities, I have to fulfil the out working of that charge in the Super’s stead.

So, thanks for letting me get that off my chest! lol I’ve long resigned to the fact that many will misunderstand what I firmly believe my ministry to be. It always takes time to change a culture, but I’m committed to that. I just hope that by continuing to communicate, people will understand where I’m coming from.

Stick!

A couple of days ago, I blogged this:

Over a week ago, someone gave a prophetic word to me on similar lines.  He spoke of the time when Samuel was looking for the one to anoint out of Jesse’s family. Jesse presented all his candidates, his eldest sons, and Samuel said ‘The Lord has not chosen these…God does not look on outward appearance, but on the heart’.  And then David, the youngest and least likely, was ‘brought in from the field’ and Samuel sensed God’s ‘yes’ for the task and then anointed David.  He continued:  ’Andrew, you’ve been brought in from the field at this time because you are the person for this ministry.  May God continue to give you the obedient heart of David for the task ahead.’

stickI think its now relatively safe to tell you the story of my stick.  I know I’m weird, but over the years I’ve just learned to be obedient to God’s leading.  Here goes:

Sometime in Autumn last year, I kept getting the image of a shepherd’s crook in my mind.  Both sleeping and when awake.  It did my head in, I’m not overly keen of the ‘shepherd-sheep’ concept of pastoral ministry…simply because its been taken too far and made into something that it’s not.  It reminds me of ‘heavy shepherding’, pastoral abuse and, honestly, a passive/reactive form of ministry (maybe just me).  Anyway, I kept dreaming about this stick and that the Lord wanted me to ‘take it up.’   I wrestled and wrestled with this idea…I was not going to slip into a ‘default pastoral mode’.

Still the idea came of this stick to the extent I felt strongly that I really should buy one.  Only because I had a sense that God was on at something.  Thankfully, Christmas was coming up, so I disguised my stick buying with the excuse of dressing as a shepherd for the Church Nativity.  And so, stick has been sitting in the corner of our sitting room since Christmas. If you’ve been, you might have noticed it.  Still unhappy with the idea of the stick, but its been there.

And then….two things.  Firstly, I have a dream and I’m dressed in combats going into some sort of battle.  I’m handed a weapon and, you guessed it, its a shepherds crook: stick.  It starts to make a little bit of sense.  Secondly, a former prison chaplain colleague of mine, Rev Louis Kinsey, put up a new Facebook status profile picture.  Louis is also an Army Chaplain and the picture was of him in Afghanistan in his combats and carrying his shepherd’s crook…which is what Army padre’s carry.  God has used ‘stick’ to help me adjust to the pastoral nature of the role I’m in…that element of oversight, protection, guarding but also getting over a soft fluffy and flimsy pastor role that I’ve so long felt ill-fitted for.

Stick is only used offensively when dealing with wolves…not to ‘Lord it over the sheep.’  It is used defensively to protect.  It is used heroically to rescue the ones in danger.   In the case of the Army padre, its a sign of his peacefulness in not carrying arms, but also a sign of his availability – a symbol of his supportive and protective role for the overall spiritual and emotional wellbeing of his men and women.  There are many who do pastoral care much better than me, and I’m more than happy for people to be released into that ministry, but there is always the image of overseer is different to ‘pastor’ in that sense.

So, I thought I’d get myself a big fancy robe thingy and a flashy mitre and process with my stick…or, maybe not.  Its a reminder that I’ve been called in out of the field for the task in hand.  God helping me, I’ll do what I can.

Here I am….Send me!

choice and directions signsThought I’d flick through the archives and repost some stuff that might be worth posting again.  Here is a blog from 3 July 2010.  Enjoy!

I’ve been a passionate student of revival and a pretty consistent pray-er for revival for a long time.  For years, what I’ve meant by that is that the Holy Spirit would come and zap the church, there would be conviction, there would be salvation and salvation in numbers.  Now, I think its still fairly safe to say that any sort of ‘revival’ will always have certian things in common.  There seems to be a common thread.  Firstly, there is usually a re-focus on God’s word, or a re-discovery of a neglected truth.  Or, there is a new appreciation of the cross.  Or thirdly, there is a different manifestation of the Spirit (eg Toronto etc).   Most of these have lead to changed lives, changed churches, and salvation.  We’re certainly at the stage now where we’re Christianity seems to waiting for the next big wave.  The recent Florida thing seems to have been stemmed by some immorality somewhat, and certainly wasn’t the ‘next big thing’ everyone expected.

So whats going on with this?  Thing is, typically when the church has been at low ebb, thats when people get desperate and call out.   So, there is a degree of seeking God to be done.   But thing is….in these days, the church is more open to the Spirit quite possibly than it has in most of its history, we understand and have access to God’s word more than we did before and yet we’re not always finding ‘the magic’ happening in our churches.

I’m convinced that the next ‘revival’ will be different to the previous ones.  Yes, people will get saved, the Word will be real, the Spirit will be present.  But I think the context and the catalyst will be different.  You see, I think the church’s biggest need isn’t more Holy Spirit tongue-fests ( please note, I’m not anti-Toronto or anti-charistmatic, but there has been some insular stuff amidst all that).  I don’t think the need is for more bible knowledge and the whole ‘bring the bible back into schools’ and all that sort of stuff.  Nor do I even think that it is some moral crusade to re-capture Christian Britain, as if somehow to capture a wonderful golden age.

When I think of the early church, they had a whole raft of things going.  Yes, they had Jesus, the living word as their focus.  That’s key.  Second, they had ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Yes!  And, many many were saved.  Yet, the key in the spread of the church wasn’t just these things….it was because these things thrust the disciples of Jesus OUT from the places they were keeping themselves to engage in the lives of people.  They were thrust out from the walls of the synagogue (God even allowed persecution to come in order to make sure they were truly out there) into the places where, like Paul, he had to eat and live and become like a Gentile in order to save the Gentile.  These original disciples are thought to have been thrust out to the edges of the then Roman Empire, carrying the gospel with them where they went.  It was the going that brought the ‘recipe’ for transformation.

God acted as he has done in previous revivals to bring the people of God to an awareness of the word, an awareness of the things of the Spirit and to spark the ‘evangelical’ passion of his people.  Yet, if we are all ‘Word’ and all ‘Spirit’ yet forget to go, it bears little fruit other than that we can enjoy for ourselves.  Isn’t that what gluttony is??  Its clear to me that God seeks to mobilise a mission people who will take upon themselves a missionary stance with regards the micro and macro situations God puts them in.  People who have a mindset that is about carrying the Word and Spirit, the Blood and Fire, to the people instead of expecting people to flock to church in revival.  There will indeed be a coming in, there will be an equipping of the new disciples, and of course, there will be increased size in Christian communities etc but the focus will be on the going out.

There is a place for repentance, for spiritual warfare, for ministry in the power of the Spirit, for a great grasp of the Word of God and for a heart for the heart of God and the Kingdom.  Its all needed, all necessary.  But the next revival in the church will come when we ditch our old wineskins of ‘come to us’ religion and see every believer living provocatively, unapologetically and intentionally where God has placed them.  I sense that God wants to break his church out of the walls, not just physical ones, but the cultural ones we set up.  This is not an ‘if you build it, they will come’ mentality…its a ‘go into all the world….’ starting right where God has placed you.

What does it mean to live provocatively, unapologetically and intentionally at work, school, even in church?  What will it take for the Word and Spirit in us to take legs and get out to meet that which it is supposed to meet?  How will people in our communities touch and feel the truth and power of the gospel unless they can tangibly meet it in people who will show them and who by their following Jesus will make people take note?

I still sing ‘Send revival, start with me’ regularly.  But rather than me sitting waiting for God to do all the stuff, I choose to partner with him and choose to recognise that in actuality, he’s given us all we need to see the world saved.  We have a gospel that we can share by the power of the Spirit.  The next revival will be a revival of the ‘sentness’ of  God’s people.  This is truly a ‘neglected truth’ we need to discover if our world is going to be changed.

One!

travelodgeHatfield Travel Lodge isn’t exactly Mount Sinai or the Mount of Olives, but God sent a message anyway.   I was sleeping fairly lightly; a combination of a warm non-air-conditioned room, a 4 month baby, 7 year old daughter and Mrs C sharing the same space too.

Every time I woke up I was hearing phrases repeated over and over in my head:

‘One hope, one hope, one hope, one hope…’

The next time:

‘One faith, one baptism, one faith, one baptism, one faith, one baptism’

And then

‘One Lord, one God, one Father, one Lord, one God, one Father.’

By this time I wasn’t sleeping, my attention truly ‘grabbed’ and so I listened:

‘One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all’

You may or may not recognise those words from Ephesians chapter 4, Paul writing to the church about the Unity of the Body of Christ.  And so, scrambling for my iPhone I read the passage again.  A really key passage for the church.

The tone I was hearing these repeated phrases in wasn’t ‘casual’, they were sharp, pointed and adamant.  They were strong.  And as I waited again, these words:

‘I, the Lord, am One.  Let no-one divide what is not divided.  There is one Body united by the same Spirit.  And there is one ministry, the ministry I have set in place.  Let no-one divide what is not divided.’

And then, for a few moments, I begin to feel like Jonah headed for Nineveh.  Some of the out-workings of that word speaking clearly.  The Lord never comes with a reminder of his word without the need for that word to be shared, proclaimed and lived.  As I woke up and became more lucid, I could see as plain as day what God was saying to me and I guess I need to work out how I need to respond.

For me personally, I heard this:  God is the source of all we have and are in him and he calls us to himself.  Its a reminder that he doesn’t segregate his Kingdom, his people nor ministry within that Kingdom.  It reminds me that God is the one who calls, equips, ordains and anoints.

Over a week ago, someone gave a prophetic word to me on similar lines.  He spoke of the time when Samuel was looking for the one to anoint out of Jesse’s family. Jesse presented all his candidates, his eldest sons, and Samuel said ‘The Lord has not chosen these…God does not look on outward appearance, but on the heart’.  And then David, the youngest and least likely, was ‘brought in from the field’ and Samuel sensed God’s ‘yes’ for the task and then anointed David.  He continued:  ‘Andrew, you’ve been brought in from the field at this time because you are the person for this ministry.  May God continue to give you the obedient heart of David for the task ahead.’

I guess that brings to an end any sense of un-ease I had about how this whole thing is going to work out.  Time to get stuck in.  To God be the glory.