‘Seven Sacred Spaces’

George Lings is a retired researcher with the Church Army, and also a companion of the Northumbria Community. He’s recently written a book entitled ‘Seven Sacred Spaces’. Basically, he’s looked at spaces common to monastic settlements and translated that to the spaces our lives in habit, both individually and corporately as a church. He is seeking to flesh out a balanced way of being community and being church that goes beyond the ‘bog standard’.

Here are his seven spaces – see what you think:

  1. Cell – obviously, the resident monastic has his sleeping/alone/prayer space. So do we – and by that, I don’t just mean out bedrooms etc…but that cell with in us – the place of encounter with God. We must inhabit this space. It’s the seat of encounter, transformation, relationship and growth. It is being alone with God and all that means.
  2. Chapel – this is the place of corporate prayer and worship. We’re all familiar with this I guess – and most of us will love some bits an not others. For many, this can be the most occupied space of our lives and so we call these spaces ‘sanctuaries’, ‘churches’ etc. There is, of course, a place for corporate public worship – but it’s not all there is!
  3. Chapter – in a monastery, this is the decision making place. Every church community does this differently, but it’s a crucial space. These days it can be reduced to ‘mere democracy’, which, in Baptist circles, really isn’t the point. It’s a place of discerning together the mind of Christ over and above our own perspective in order to reach unity. The question here is ‘what is the Spirit saying to the church?’ Another question here is ‘who gets to participate?’
  4. Cloister – in a monastery, these are the places between the spaces…the corridors. This is the place of chance encounter, infomal chats, chewing things over. These can be creative or destructive places, depending on how we are in them. This can be a missional space too – the encounters we have every day
  5. Garden – most monasteries needed to grow their food to be sustainable, and most monastic rules carried a commitment to ‘work.’ That is why monasteries produce beer, wine, and have farms and the like. Our work may not be in the realms of the church community, or we may be retired, but there are still things we turn our hands to, even in the confines of our own homes. It strikes me that there are a few places in the NT where Paul elevates the sense of ‘working with your hands’ and making a living. Very honourable. What is our work to do individually? And what is our work corporately? This might be a work of mission in the community too
  6. Refectory – this is the canteen, the dining room, the place of richest fellowship. If you’ve ever eaten in a monastery, you may know that you might expect to eat in rich silence, or to the sound of someone reading to you, but even in that, there is a sense of family and community. In our homes, for many of us, the key place is the kitchen table, or wherever we eat together. The sharing of food is both a leveller and a way to open up relationship. Church around food is very biblical (see the Corinthian church or the churches in Acts, for example), and is a key space. Faith and live worked out here is a different kind of approach to being in some kind of theatre. Of course, the table can be a missional space.
  7. Scriptorium – this is the place where manuscripts and texts we copied and preserved, and a place of learning. Think of the glorious Lindisfarne Gospels, with their amazing artistic work, and think scriptorium. But also, thing of any book before the technology of printing, and you have the scriptorium. Our churches (and our lives) need places of learning and growth in this way all the way through life – not just at the start of learning Christian basics. This, too, can be a missional space! The Lindisfarne Gospels were the equivalent of a church livestream or a flashy website – artistic tools of the day to share the news of the gospel.

George’s aim is not to suggest that every church renames a room to echo this. Not at all. He is drawing comparisons and noting that there’s more to church.

In a ‘village of God’, how might either the church community or the physical church space be transformed if there was a place for this full range of life, learning and development? I find the delineation of places to be a helpful prompt to thinking about how the life of church can look – not as a crusty institution – as a living community seeking to mediate the presence and message of Christ in our day.

Can you identify when any of these seven spaces have been significant in your own life and faith development?

Villages of God

In my Masters degree dissertation study, I started to explore the concept of ‘villages of God’. Built on the old vision of the Celtic monastic settlement, I started to imagine what an outward-looking hub of study, hospitality, creativity, prayer, worship and service might look like. This was a community that didn’t just see their one hour on a Sunday as the sole focus of ‘the church’, but who pioneered a whole life community open to the world, 7 days a week.

I was prompted to look at this after reading a book by a chap called Rod Dreher called ‘The Benedict Option.’ I read it with interest, but there was something missing in it for me. Dreher’s motivations was mainly to stem the moral and political disintegration of the USA, and his reaction of creating Christian communities was simply to preserve the church, and, to some measure, act as preserving agent in the society. He foresaw a day when there would be greater persecution for Christians – and that’s not necessarily unfounded. There’s lots of questions surrounding his vision, and I explored some of those. There was more ‘retreat from the world’ than ‘engage missionally with the world’ in his writing – but then, he’s talking from a different Christian context of Eastern Orthodoxy.

However, my view was that Celtic monasticism…an open, missional and ‘grass roots’ movement in it’s day was a better model of both strengthening Christian life and faith and also engaging more deeply with the wider world. Ray Simpson, the founder of the Community of Aidan and Hilda, has spoken about the concept of Villages of God at some length, and it was his ideas that I compared and contrasted.

As time moves on, I continue to reflect on this study as I reflect on the setting of the local church – in particular, the one I’m in. Our context is one in which the inherited pattern of evangelical church isn’t going to make significant inroads in future days. The ‘preaching station’ concept of Church, whilst very familiar to evangelical Christians, is not one that will effectively reach a post-Christendom, post-post-modern society very easily. This isn’t to say anything about the value either way of preaching, but more about my sense that the purely ‘gathered church for an hour on a Sunday morning and midweek group’ model is not fit for the future. This is a hard message for many to hear because, for many of us, it’s our key definition of church. As I look more broadly than my own local situation, the pandemic has done a little bit to question this for some, but not for others.

I’d love to see churches think more deeply and creatively about what Christian community could be beyond the hour. I’d love for us to divest ourselves of our ‘holy cow’ mentality and, rather than think of church as a meeting, think of church as a dynamic, prayerful, worshipful, creative, practical and engaged 7-day-a-week community which keeps the balance of devotion to God, devotion to community and devotion to mission equally…an equal trinity of life in the Trinity! I’d love to see the vision rise within the church that equates to a stronger desire to return to wholistic community than to a weekly event. I think that if my sole experience of my family was a weekly event, it wouldn’t be the best vision of what a family is. Same with the church, I think.

Our 21st C church is siloed, partly because 21st C life is private and compartmentalised. Church becomes a compartment of our lives, and we can treat it accordingly. For some, this is as far as they will go in their experience of church. I find that deeply sad, because there is something inherently more glorious in the life of the church than that. But, it is difficult to imagine how this might be more when we are each so entrenched in our culture and see church as just one more demand on our time to control. I believe that for much of the early church’s life, before Christendom, church was highly communal and familial – they saw themselves as communities of new creation, outposts of the Kingdom, deeply committed to each other and to the mission, as they lived lives of total allegiance to God.

I’m going to riff on these ideas for a while here on the blog. We all need to stretch our noggins as we move to post-Covid church…not just because of Covid, but because of what Covid has taught us about life, priorities, connection…and about the brokenness of our world and its people. The ability of the church to listen to it’s context is the extent to which it will meet its task under God. I don’t think there has been such a crucial time for some time – we can’t stick our heads in the sand.

The Cult of Busy

I’ve had a helpful week off work – restful, reflection, creative, and many other things…mainly pottering!

It is very tempting to return to ministry and work at 100 miles an hour but that won’t be any good for anyone. Rush and busyness are the cult of our day, and we’re all summoned to ‘worship’ at its golden calf incessantly. It just isn’t possible to maintain ministry at 100 miles an hour and still have meaningful time to offer to people, to the ministry of God’s word and to prayer.

Early on in last year’s lockdown, a group of us read together a book entitled ‘The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry’ by John Mark Comer. The book invites people to take a fresh look at the demands of our day, and simply to reflect on them. My own observations are that we are the creators of our own busyness because this bolsters our sense of value. It is more socially acceptable to say ‘I’m really busy’ than it is to say ‘no, things are spacious and I have time for all the things that are important.’ Even less acceptable to say ‘no, I can’t do that right now.’ I can even feel myself judging myself for that being the goal! I can also hear the ‘opinions of others’ – the other disciples of busy – raising their critical grumblings (or, it could just be my lunch…).

There is value in really investing ourselves in our work – don’t mishear me. But in the bigger scheme of things, it’s so easy to lose the soul of life in the living of what life has become in our 24/7 society!

The call of the gospel reminds us that there is one thing necessary: to glorify God – to seek him and his rhythms. Yes, that will involve many activities of various descriptions, but it is primarily about a posture of the heart.

‘Why am I writing this?’ I ask myself.

Well, I’m writing against a backdrop of the temptation to rush unreflectively back to life as it was ‘before’ the pandemic with a strong sense that not everything that was part of life before the pandemic is worth rushing back to.

I hope that most of us realise the things that really are important: being with the people we love; enjoying beautiful spaces; lingering over long meals; the honest satisfaction of the simplest of things; the buzz of a little coffee shop on a restful day off.

As far as church is concerned, there are many things I do miss. All boiled down, however, it is this: people. Living life with the body of Christ. For me, it really isn’t about the provision of religious goods and services like we’re just some niche country club. Nor is it about putting on the best, biggest or shiniest show in the town. It is about finding the way of helping a community of people flesh out the life of Christ collectively and individually in the places where we are. In doing this, we fulfil the call and the mission of Christ, because this life rightly lived will flow into our communities in abundant love.

I am looking forward to this next season in life and ministry which will allow for increasing levels of re-establishing face to face connection. I mean, praise God for the internet for making possible things which would have otherwise been impossible, but humans are made for a different kind of connection.

So, today, I am choosing to worship at a different altar.


“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matt 11: 28 – 30 MSG

Sounds good to me. You?

Night Church

This is a blog in the middle of the night – in the small hours. It’s 3.14am according to the clock. I’m three quarters of the way through a week of holiday and here I am lying awake thinking about the church.

I’m not thinking about the particular church I lead, but the church in general, although it’s not unrelated, obviously.

I’m mainly thinking, yet again, of the disjoin between the life, authority and task Jesus handed to the disciples, and how that became the thing we currently call the church.

I’m thinking that it’s quite inconceivable that Jesus had anything so complicated and expensive in mind, or anything so difficult to replicate in the various places around the world that he intended it should spring up.

I’m thinking that our present day models of church not only shaped for disciple making, but certainly aren’t places that help disciples fulfil the task of making disciples.

I’m thinking that the UP (worship etc), IN (Christian community) and OUT (all aspects of mission) dimensions of church are not a reduction, but are a sharpened focus of the essentials.

I’m also thinking that most churches can identify those three elements (to some degree or the other) but not all of them focus on them in a way which releases the church for exponential growth, or in a way that helps them see that their current method or tradition might hamper Kingdom extension.

I’m thinking that our expressions of church have largely created safe Christian ghettos detached from real life, and certainly real people, and that detox from this church culture is probably one of the biggest challenges the advance of the gospel.

I’m also thinking about how this shapes the leadership task…I’ll save you my conclusions.

Now that it’s 3.31pm and I’ve pit these night thoughts on church on record, I might feel more of a challenge to come back to them with earnest intention in the light of day…and now maybe get some sleep!

O Church of Christ, arise!

Resurrection

I need resurrection every day. I need the Holy Spirit power that raised Jesus from the dead in me every day. In him I live, move, and have my being. It is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me. And I’m glad.

This has been a year like no other in living memory. It has been challenging for us all, but I reflect personally on challenges I did not anticipate, and if I had, I might have been reluctant to turn the page on the calendar. Sadly, the lowest point was a desire that I’d never see another day. Taken to the lowest point again in my life-long struggle with mental health. Yet again, at the very bottom, are the arms of Christ – strong arms, mighty to save.

It’s all grace.

After our Sunday morning service on Facebook, I joined a Zoom with fellow Companions of the Northumbria Community to renew our new monastic vows, centred around AVAILABILITY and VULNERABILITY. That was special, but hard.

There is so much in me that still wants to retreat and put up the walls, but this is not the way we live. Being available and vulnerable when you’re still raw and healing is hard, but Christ is our example. In the pain of crucifixion, he spoke mercy and grace. Being available and vulnerable when you’re in the tomb seems impossible, but Christ wrestled the powers of darkness and came out fighting. Yes, availability and vulnerability is only possible with resurrection power.

None of us knows what is ahead. When we put our lives into God’s hands for him to bless and break, we join a story that is not our own. We are not in control.

There were two lines from our vow renewal in particular that spoke to me:

Let us embody your ready kindness in our day, for things will not be as they were before“, “Call out in me a willingness to love and serve,” and ‘teach me to dream again, to hope again, with my heart already in tune with Heaven.”

I’ve taken these sentences to my own Gethsemane this weekend. I’ve crucified stuff again. Taken up the cross. Sat in the tomb. Been raised again.

Turns out that Easter isn’t only a time in history past, but a reality in our day-to-day lives.

Every day is a walk to Emmaus, and his companionship makes our hearts burn within us once again. Praise God!

Exile

On Sunday I’ll be renewing my vows as a Companion of the Northumbria Community – an annual occurrence for each member of our Community. It is a special time. Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter, is a naturally reflective time, but this adds an extra dimension. It’s time to revisit our Rule…which isn’t about regulations, but about a provocative framework for life and discipleship. It’s not intended to ‘tie us in to a system’ but to shape our lives around key questions.

This last year, these questions, which the whole community live out, have been so poignant for me:

  1. Who is it that you seek?
  2. How then shall we live?
  3. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?

These are exile questions…questions from the desert. Questions that are asked between Egypt and the Promised Land, between the first advent and the second, and after Christendom…until whatever emerges next. I know that the penny hasn’t dropped for every Christian or every church, but we navigate a landscape where the Christian story is no longer dominant. Many live in such a way as to try and regain that dominance. Others recognise that Christianity has often been its most robust and healthy when it has occupied the margins of society.

My hunch – and it is a very ‘Baptist’ hunch – is that Christianity occupying a central stage this side of eternity is a compromised Christianity on the whole. Politics and ‘my rights’ take the place of humility, service and radical faith. By radical I don’t mean radicalised in the modern sense of the word, but radical in the sense of paying attention to our humble but significant roots. I guess this is why the questions are so significant to me in my own discipleship.

My answers to those questions aren’t so much destinations, but journeys…which sounds cliche, but that’s what open questions do. They’re questions that can be asked several times a day and yield different answers, priorities, realities and perspectives. They lead me far beyond ‘why’ towards the courage needed to adapt and move forward. I’ve found them to be the best companions.

The rest of the Rule seeks to make a corporate response to the questions, and to aid us in adding our ‘YES!’ to the core values of AVAILABILITY and VULNERABILITY, which, when fully embraced, returns us to risky living for Christ and the gospel. It has been these questions and these key elements that have called me back into life and ministry this year, in a year where every other resource seemed to elude me. It changed my ‘why’ to ‘and so, what next’ – and that is no small thing.

I still feel like I am inhabiting an ‘in-between’ place, like many of us are right now. I am trying not to resist or fear this, but to embrace it and find the joy in it. Easier said that done, but there but for the grace of God we go!

Secret Work

Pastoral ministry in the local church has several faces.

There’s the ‘public work‘ – what can be seen. This includes leading of worship, preaching, teaching, meetings, pastoral meet ups, social media and the like. All the things that you can look at from the outside and say ‘that’s pastoral ministry being outworked.’

Then there’s the ‘background work‘ – what is sometimes visible by some. This is the daily administration of teams, planning, writing, strategising, thinking, communicating, etc. These are all the things that, with others, keep things moving along.

Then there is the ‘secret work‘ – sometimes only know to God. That’s what I want to talk about now. It is secret in that it is a prayerful work, a reflective work, and very often a solo work, even when there is a wider team. This is where the weight of ministry is held, before an ever gracious God, and where the pastor gives highest continual account as those who will be judged more strictly (James 3:1).

It is an intercessory place – where a pastor will get on his knees for the pains and joys of their people, for the glory of God’s name, for the mission, for the lost, for the communication of the Word, need of every ounce of grace for a task for which we feel largely unworthy and unqualified for.

It’s a place of warfare – the enemy’s tactic is to ‘divide and conquer’ and the attack is greater at the pastor’s door, so the pastor needs to be well hidden in Christ, well covered in Him, and kitted for battle. It is consecration; it is bringing the most human of lives into the divine presence to be rededicated and empowered again for the next task.

It’s a preparatory place – because of this, its the place where the pastor soaks in the Word and in the Presence, and the source of the public ministry. This is where the pastor/minister brings his/her own heart to God that the work of the ministry of the Holy Spirit might be done in them first before it gets anywhere else.

It’s also a work that is least understood because it’s not directly on view, although you’d notice if it wasn’t there. It’s also a part of the work that many pastors I know struggle with maintaining and keeping proper space for, because many won’t understand the time needed to be invested here for effective ministry. The result is that many sacrifice this for ministry that can be seen perhaps to avoid criticism, to meet unrealistic expectations, or to win approval because one is ‘seen’.

There have been times in my ministry where I’ve neglected the secret work for all of those reasons, but the further I go on, the more I recognise that, in many ways, it IS the work. When the apostle Peter came to the place of appointing deacons in the book of Acts 6:4, he says, in effect, ‘we need help with so many other tasks so that we can continue to give ourselves to the ministry of prayer and of the Word.’ Reality means that pastoral ministry will always be a smorgasbord of activity in these days, but prayer and the Word must never be neglected.

Dear pastor friends – maintain your work in the secret place.

Folks in the fellowship – know that you are loved and held.

The needs of our day are different from the needs of any other time and history – and in the cacophany of the age, there are things that really need to be grounded in the depths of our calling as the people of God…for His glory alone.

Ecclesia Semper Reformanda Est

Ecclesia Semper Reformanda Est – ‘the church is always reforming’

This season of Covid has changed ministry beyond all recognition – without doubt. And, my sense is that it has changed people, certainly in the short term – there is a strong fatigue, a weariness, and an uncertainty hanging around. These seasons in life – where we’re between one thing and another – are ‘liminal spaces’. They are confusing in-between spaces; not quite sure who I am or where I’m going spaces; not sure what to do with it spaces; very uncomfortable spaces as the familiar falls away.

Not everyone can do ‘liminal space’ well. It takes a certain grit to embrace a transition season, but also some perseverance to tune in to its messages. Liminality speaks loudly…as loud as the most silent silence. There’s a profundity to step into if we are able to embrace it.

Liminal space is transforming.

Think of being thrust out of the Garden. Think of sailing on a flooded earth for a season. Think of lying in the bottom of a pit abandoned by your brothers. Think of generations living under slavery. Think of 40 years in the desert. Think of climbing up Sinai. Think of hiding in a cave from your enemies. Think of 40 days in the desert. Think a few nights in the depth of the tomb. Think of being shut away in an upper room praying and hoping in fear. Think of a few nights in the jailer’s cell. Think of exile on a island. Think of years of house arrest. Just a few biblical examples of ‘liminal’ in-between spaces.

Many of us are suspicious of the unknown. We hanker for safety, security, and the familiar. That’s natural, but it’s not normal in the sense that life is rarely really like that. I guess in the West, we feel that much of our lives are usually predictable and almost dull in their regularity, until something like a death, a sickness, a crisis, a pandemic or a war comes along.

And what about the church? Well, in lots of ways the church can be an expert at stability. Not saying that is a bad thing. The church, over the years, has had periods of being settled, it has endured, it has succeeded (sort of) in passing apostolic faith down the centuries. Execept, every 300 years or so, something comes along and provokes a reformation.

The first reformation was the coming of the Spirit on the people of God! Wow! Big one! Nothing was the same again.

The second reformation, maybe between 400 – 500 or so, was the emergence of desert monasticism – a movement that rejected the normalising and the compromise of church getting into bed with the state. So the Desert Fathers and Mothers lived a radical discipleship on the edges.

Not far behind, St Benedict and his radical movement which didn’t just transform the church, but transformed the world – preserving culture from itself!

The third reformation, maybe 400 years later again, came in the shape of St Francis. ‘Rebuild my church’, God proclaims, and Francis and his sister Clare set about bringing simple joy and poverty back to an indulgent church, setting a new bar for discipleship.

Fast forward another 400 years or so, and the rot hasn’t stopped. Faith and practice distorted: enter Luther, Calvin, Zwingly and Co. Enter the Anabaptists, then the Huguenots, the Waldensians, the Moravians, the Puritans and the like who take the church back to the Word, back to the basics of discipleship.

Skip a few hundred years and you have the Wesleys, Whitfield, Finney, Edwards, Moody, the Booths and the Evangelical revival of the 18th-19th century, taking the church back to the streets, back to the ‘common people’, igniting a passion for the gospel which lead to the biggest move of evangelisation since the early church.

And then…there’s now. In lots of way the rug has been pulled from under us. We’ve experience the biggest upheaval in the history of the modern church. Will be go back ‘to normal?’ Or, will we put our ear to the Word, to the ground, to the heartbeat of God and listen to what he’d have us do now?

That’s the choice we face in liminal space. Will we be the reformers, or will we be those reformed against? Can we take a brave, bold step into an unknown future for the sake of the gospel? I pray so.

That spiritual problem…have you got it?

In the last post I suggested you may have a spiritual problem – quite bold of me! I certainly have no wish to judge or condemn, but rather, to see followers of Jesus walk in freedom. This, after all, is what Christ set us free for – freedom! (Gal 5:1).

I’m not going to beat about the bush in arriving at this two-sided problem. I want to outline them briefly, and then point us to the road to freedom.

The problem is two fold: legalism or antinomianism. Whatcha? HUH? Yeah.

Legalism is the situation where, even if saved by grace through faith, there is a tendancy to believe that we have to do certain things in order to either contribute to our salvation, or work to please God and earn favour. The language of a legalist is ‘should’, ‘ought’, ‘must’. It can be directed at self (eg. I must have at least 20 minutes prayer every day or I will be failing God) or at others (eg they really ought to be at church twice a week every week to be any use to us). This can reduce the Christian life to a guilt-inducing set of requirements on a whole manner of things which, at the end of the day, will make you or those you are legalistic towards fairly miserable. Where is the joy? More than that, is it freedom to be enslaved to rituals, practices and attitidudes?

The opposite is Antinomianism. Basically, antinominism is where, even if saved by grace through faith, there is a tendency to believe that because we are ‘under grace’, I don’t have to do a thing! Don’t sweat it! Jesus has it covered! It is a kind of ‘lawlessness’ because, well, ‘I’m not under law.’ This plays itself out in lots of ways. People don’t take advantage of the means of grace that help us grow deeper into Christ (fellowship, prayer, bible reading, communion, worship etc) and reject the call to holiness (they are over-easy on their purity of heart and life, letting themselves off). This leads to a ‘Christian by name’ but ‘defeated by nature’ situation. This, too, is less than fulfilling, not transformative and leads to nominalism.

Can you see the problem? These extremes feed into each other, and are both extortions of authentic faith. One robs the joy and turns faith into religious doing, and the other robs the fullness by leading into sin, disengagement or spiritual laziness.

What’s the answer? It’s this: ‘grace reigning through righteousness’ (Ro 5:21).

What does that mean for the legalist? It affirms that their is a right way to live as we follow Christ, but rather than it being the case that we slave at religious works, instead we accept we are saved by grace and allow grace to inspire our free devotion, leaving off the religious or judgemental shackles. It’s about learning to live freely and lightly, accepting that Jesus’ burden is easy and his yoke is light – that nothing ill-fitting will befall us. That frees us up for loving devotion.

What does that mean for the antinomian? It means that although our salvation is by grace through faith, there is a demand of the gospel. Salvation is free, but it actually costs us everything. We’re invited to come and die to sin. More than that, as Paul spends loads of time saying in Romans, grace doesn’t mean we go around enjoying our sin simply because grace covers it. No! Grace means that not only are we set free from sin and its dreadful consequences, but we are freed from the bondage to sin. We live by the Spirit, and, like the legalist, we learn to live freely and lightly in response to the call to follow.

As I reflect on 20 years of pastoral ministry, I believe I’ve seen these two ways played out in hundreds of lives. When I started out in faith, I didn’t understand this dynamic and quickly fell into religious legalism…until I learned about grace. There have also been seasons when I’ve played down the call to life a life of repentance, purity and submission and have got tangled in sin for a season, dumbing my conscience to throw of the call of God…until I remembered grace.

I’ve tried to keep this post simple, but I believe the effects of these two tendencies in the life of the Christian not only lead to misery and defeat, but that they hamper the mission of God and the advance of the Kingdom of God so far as that is reliant on our witness in the world. It is a pastoral issue, but also a missional issue. We want to invite people to freedom in Christ – not a dried up religion or a weak, watery believe-ism that rejects the call to radical discipleship.

How might your reflections on this lead you into the freedom grace bestows?

You’ve probably got a spiritual problem

There are two equal and opposite ‘heresies’ or misunderstandings that plague the believer in Christ today. The are on opposing poles with each other, they set up division between one set of people and another, and they both lead to an impoverished spiritual life. Some people will be more entrenched in either one than someone else. The apostle Paul spoke about it very clearly.

Chances are, at many times in your Christian experience, you’ll have been inflicted with these to some extent at different times. Perhaps one or either of them have been your ‘operating system’ as a Christian for some time, even now. It is unlikely that they will exist in you at the same time.

If that’s the case, it is likely to be the reason that faith either makes you miserable, or gives your spiritual life such a lack of fulfilment. These problems are robbing you of your joy, will be affecting your relationship with God and with the body of Christ. It’s that serious.

Dealing with either these things as they affect your life will be a challenge, and it will offend you before you can find freedom from it. Not dealing with them will restrict you from full freedom in Christ

If this was true, would you want to know what they are and what the escape route was?

I’ll be writing more on Monday 15th March – tune in.