Why Love works.

I listened to this song a few times this morning and it reminded me of a couple of key facts that set the Christian hope above all others. Firstly, this hope has its origin and driving force in what is sometimes known as Love. This Love defines both life and death. It is most perfectly demonstrated both in the life of the triune God and in his death on the cross.

In life, Love compels us to direct our strength, our mind, our heart and our soul, not for our own interests but for those of others. Love, by definition is the opposite of self interest. Love creates and honours boundaries that preserve the good of the other that it lives to celebrate. Love loves justice… for the other, Love liberates… the other. When Love is present, life flourishes. And so we see that Love is death (of many kinds) for the life of another.

The death of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, on the cross, was an expression of Love at its height. The ultimate in substitution – a death of many kinds for the lives of all who will receive. The unique nature of this death, and the resurrection that followed, are just two of a myriad of signs that a new order has begun where death has been utterly conquered. A new order where all things are being made new and all that works against life is humbled.
Because of Christ who has overcome, and conquered death, we who love him can continue our war against all that opposes life with the most powerful force known to man, and the only weapon that we have, Love. In the face of hate, we must Love. In the face of fear, we must Love. In the face of murder, we must Love. We Love because death is not the final word; we have come to the city of the Living God where the Lamb who has overcome, and conquered death, is seated on the throne above every force in heaven and on earth.

Mount Zion, Jonathan Hesler

 

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Know you not that we are at war!

‘Know you not that we are at war?!’ a line from the movie ‘Cromwell’ as Oliver shouts into the air in the frustration of being stood up by an ally. Today we find ourselves in strange times. Stricken by the horrors of what we are witnessing in middle East and slowly awakening to the realisation that its been building and happening for years. It is sobering to think that while it was ‘over there’ and ‘their problem’ we could engage with it as and when we chose, now that there is a chance that our own lives could be effected, we are at last, be it ever so slowly, waking up. Although, perhaps waking up is still too strong a term.
My hope and prayer is that it doesn’t take us too long to finally get to our feet and rise to the moment. My concern is that it takes a while for a sleeping giant to wake fully and act responsibly – or so the stories indicate! As I read the moment it seems to indicate that there may be choices we made in the past that have brought us to this point, it also seems to indicate that there are significant voids in our consciousness that are turning into black holes; both these things need a response (not a reaction) a response, now and one that is clear and will take us into the future.
I am encouraged by some of what I am hearing from our leaders, I am relieved by Archbishop Welby’s input to the dialogue yesterday. But the risk is that we can see things, again, as ‘their problem’, not ours. The groggy giant that needs to wake is the people, and in particular the body of Christ – on the ground, in the streets, in the market place. Do we actually believe our (Christian) faith and the things it teaches us – would we build our lives on it, direct our choices, lead our families and our business by it?
Speaking specifically of the UK, it is this faith that has formed the foundations of our society and brought us from the brink of the abys on numerous occasions throughout almost 2000 years of history. It has shaped the things we value and would fight for, but in the last little while it has become a little buried. I think we have forgotten why we care about the things we do, we don’t recall the real reasons behind what makes us distinct from other nations.
I love the church in the UK and I am excited that in recent years it’s becoming more and more engaged and even integrated into the local community. This awakening into holistic mission that is creeping across the church is fabulous but there is another task that builds on this and that has, I believe, much more at stake. It’s the task of calling our entire society back to its song, back to its story, its redemptive purpose, back to the faith of its fathers. I don’t mean that everyone has to become a Christian, but the bedrock values of our faith and of our nation are ones that serve for the Peace of all people regardless of their faith or religion. They are values that make heroes of people, the ones we remember without trying because they remind us that ‘there is good in this world and its worth fighting for’. (in the words of Samwise Gamgee)
Archbishop Justin Welby said in his speech to the House of Lords yesterday regarding the situation in Iraq “…it is also necessary, over time, that any response to ISIL and to this global danger be undertaken on an ideological and religious basis that sets out a more compelling vision, a greater challenge and a more remarkable hope than that offered by ISIL…. We must not rely on a short-term solution on a narrow front to a global, ideological, religious, holistic and trans-generational challenge. We must demonstrate that there is a positive vision far greater and more compelling than the evil of ISIL and its global clones.” The military can do its best, and it needs to, but until the body of Christ and the people at large wake and step up the battle was lost before it was ever begun. This battle will be won through prayer and the turning of hearts and lives and it will result in the transformation of society and a church that has found its knees, its hands, its heart and its voice.

want to be inspired?

Hi, this week i posted two new links on my blog, i’d love you to have a look if you havent already. You’ll find them on the left under ‘newsletters’. the first is the most recent edition of Beyond the Horizon, a vibrant collection of stories and interviews with youth and community workers on the front line in the countries across the two thirds world. the second is an exciting report of the last 18 months or so here in the UK with Fusion. i KNOW you will be inspired by one or other of these and i will be suprised if you’re not encouraged by both!!

Two stories to be told – South Africa (part three)

Part three:

 

We had achieved so much with so little resource! But as a result the expat team was exhausted, true, some teams were more functional than others, parts of the network were more healthy than others. The disconnect between the reality on the ground in working towards the goal and the ‘official’ rhetoric reaching for large numbers by the world cup became the Achilles’ heal for the fledgling movement. Had I been more alert I would have acted sooner and realised what the network needed to take it to its next phase of development.

 

According to Dr Anne Dosha’s work on the four phases of transformational movements, I believe we were probably somewhere between stage 3 and 4 by the end of 2009. Here is basically what she shows: In stage one the need for social change is focused in society’s general consciousness – In South Africa this has been happening steadily in waves for the last couple of decades. It is on to this back drop that many transformative movements have taken off in the country over the years, not least of all the collapse of apartheid. In the second stage, a vision of a new and attainable reality is seen that answers the needs made visible in the first phase, this creates excitement and releases hope. We saw this as people responded to the goal and stories of people in other communities making and seeing a difference (see part one of this blog series). In the third phase, trust is built often through what Dr Dosha calls a ‘statesperson figure’ who is able to translate the vision into realistic strategy and clear, broad steps that people can commit to. In this phase, the vision still has to be clear and releasing hope but people are also equipped and supported and the story strengthens and trust builds further. There is still a fourth phase if the movement is to last beyond its first wave and become regenerating, in this phase things are institutionalised enough to support further growth and maintenance of what already is. This is where the administrators come into their own! We needed the administrators to come in and help establish systems and structures, detailed strategies, business plans and income generating enterprises. The administrations role in the context of the vision, broad strategy and growing trust, further builds trust and credibility both within the network and when viewed from outside.

 

As I reflect on the Fusion South Africa story it seems more than ever that the four phases, rather than being in linear progression, actually build on one another. So the vision brought by the person Dr Dosha calls the “prophet-mythmaker”, will lose its potency and relevance over time if the needs aren’t being kept in people’s awareness by the “agitator” in phase one. Likewise if the “statesperson” and “prophet-mythmaker” are out of the picture when the “administrators” come with structures and systems, hope dims and trust will be eroded and the life of the movement will ebb away.

 

Leaving South Africa when I did was possibly the biggest and most far reaching mistake I have ever made! Not pushing for a re-negotiated strategy, schedule and budget when our sponsor pulled out, comes a close second. My sudden departure broke trust in significant hubs and sections of the network and hope drained away in key hubs. What went missing were the functions of the “prophet-mythmaker” and “statesperson”. The year that followed my departure was remarkable in many different ways with amazing tales of courage and commitment that I want to share in the next few weeks, but as I write just four of the 24 communities in which we were working in Dec 2009 are still part of the story; organisations and key people that were keen to be part of the story are no longer so.

 

At the time I was still finding ways to have a voice and to build trust outside of South Africa so people could see what was happening on the ground. Often my own desperation was my biggest obstacle. My mistake was not to trust what my heart told me and to give up before I had found a way of helping others see and hear it too. I am grateful to friends and colleagues who have journeyed through this year and helped me find my voice again. Perhaps the main reason I can talk about my failure in this way is that in my failing, I have met my redeemer God in a new place and found his grace in a way I have never known before, and for that I am truly grateful. The story “A Life and Kingdom Lost and Restored” is based on this journey.

 

In other sections of the blog I also share stories of the various people that enriched our lives during those first 15months of the Fusion South Africa. I hope they inspire you as much as they have me.

 

 

 

 

 

Two stories to be told – South Africa (part two)

Part two:

 

In October 2008, we carefully selected and trained eleven key South Africans from the three main hubs in the country, they in turn worked together and gathered local teams around them from their own communities in each of Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. The plan was, over the next three years, to establish a mission and training hub in each of these city-areas that would sustain the network and movement we were about to see come into being. Three months later in December community festivals were run by these teams, one in Cape Town, one in Durban and two in Johannesburg. The eleven had scanned their networks and invited friends and colleagues to the festivals who might be interested in working in their own neighbourhoods in the same way. AS a result in March 2009, 15 communities were involved (it was at this time that the sponsors pulled out). In June there were 24, and using the same process, by the end of 2009 we were working with 38 communities. Of those 38 communities 24 had a local core team of 3-5 people who wanted to see the goals reached in their community over the next three years. The rest had one committed individual, able to recruit team for events but still needing to gather a core team around them to hold things together into the future.  There were still another 10 or so watching from the sidelines with keen interest hoping to jump in for the soccer world cup.

 

The expatriate team doubled from five brave hearts in June, to 10 in December 2009, in three teams of three, one in each of the hub cities, with myself providing leadership support. Reminiscent of Gideon and his army, our job was to train and equip, to mentor and encourage the local teams. This was the first time we had had such incredible buy in, in such a short period of time, from local people wanting to transform their communities, it was amazing! The degree of heart felt resonance to the goal was something I had never come across before. Government agencies, NGOs and Christian organisations were excited to partner with us and support the communities. Communities that had been part of the network the longest were beginning to support sister communities and we were on track to have South African trainers capacity building their own people. Teams who had run regular festivals were actively exploring ways to engage with particular sections of their communities where needs were apparent and could be met with their own resources or through networking and training.

 

It was truly remarkable! We had seen a grass roots network and movement come into being. Yes the cracks were showing, and we were beginning to creak at the joints, but wow, what had been facilitated and set in motion by such a small team, in such a short period of time bordered on the miraculous!

 

To be continued in the next few days….

 

Two stories to be told – South Africa.

Part one:

As I write I am in the midst of preparing to return to South Africa for two months. My mandate: through training and working towards Fusion’s goals in South Africa, to capacity build the local team so that they can continue to grow the work in their country.

This is no small thing for me. Just over a year ago I chose to leave South Africa with no notice, in dialogue with others; I had been leading the team there for a year. As a result of that and a number of other things the work in SA took a different turn, there is plenty to celebrate but there was loss. A conversation I had yesterday brought to my attention that very few people know or recall the remarkable story of the first 15 months of our work in South Africa. Another conversation I had this week highlighted again the truth that mistakes can either breed strength, creativity and cohesiveness or they can breed death, defensiveness and depression depending on how a team or individual processes them.

The story of the first 15 months of Fusion South Africa is one of audacious goals fueled a multi-million dollar sponsorship … which was withdrawn a third of the way through! We didnt quite do all we needed to in order to review the strategy sufficiently after the sponsorship was withdrawn, and so the work quickly outgrew our resources – both material and personnel wise. There is much to be learnt from this, but there is also another story to tell of remarkable things that were achieved in this phase of our organisations journey in South Africa.

I’d like to share some of that story.

We were approached by a secular corporation to use the soccer world cup as a pretext for increasing the level of social cohesion in the nation by working in 300 communities. The 300 communities became the rhetoric but the team on the ground knew that we didn’t need those numbers to bring about significant change. As I reflect on this now, i wonder if the disconnect between what we knew in our hearts and what the rhetoric was important to note.  Our goal to which we were committed was simply: To build and establish lasting connections and networks (social capital) that will help humanise and transform local communities and build safe, harmonious and inclusive societies so that all can find their place in a higher (God’s) local and global purpose.  Africans have a word for this – Ubuntu.

We were to “birth” a national movement and the strategy we used was based on the New Science of Networks, which turns out to be very similar to the approach the Apostle Paul used in birthing the early church! There’s a great BBC documentary that explains it: “How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer”. I’ll add the link to my website links.

To be continued in a few days….