“Let him run his race, Darlin'”

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I think we can learn a lot about ourselves from the movies we love – the ones that move us. I recently watched the movie ‘Secretariat’ again, it is one of my favourites. Its a true story of a remarkable race horse and his owner. I cried in a few places this time – haven’t […]

Nice work if you can get it!

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Sitting on the beach going through some edits with a colleague last week: ‘I don’t feel like this is work, it feels more like a holiday.’ ‘hmmm, it is work, we are working right now.’ ‘yes but we are on the beach!’ Nice work if you can get it! So last week the European leaders […]

God’s not schizoid….

Its nice to be back to blogging. In the break  I have moved house, relocated office, been to Rome, viewed my Mother’s prospective new home and attended 4 different churches. From all that and much more I have plenty to reflect on and share with you!

One of the things I appreciate about the movement that I am part of is that there are very few decisions of importance and wide reaching consequence that anyone gets to make on their own. Over the last few weeks I have been involved in a number of important decision making processes, many of which will have consequences that will be felt right across the international movement.

As a Christian mission movement we believe that God has an opinion and a say in our life and the decisions we make. In a discussion recently I found myself saying ‘God’s not schizophrenic’. My statement was a reflection on the current complexity we were facing brought about by the fact that not only do we believe that God has a say in what we do, but we do NOT believe that any one person or group has the monopoly on revelation from God as to what he wants; but rather that ‘together we have the mind of Christ’. So what happens when different ones seem to have opposing notions (equally felt to be of God by the respective proponents) of the right way forward?

In this situation, in our movement’s context, we would have one of three main options; the first and easiest is to assume that one person or group does have the monopoly on ‘God’s truth’ after all – they’re the more spiritual ones or they prayed longest and hardest, or they know the bible really well or … whatever. The second is that God is in fact ‘schizophrenic’, and in one setting he said one thing and in another he said something quite different; so really it doesn’t matter which we choose, opt for the one we like best, its all just a game of roulette anyway. The third is that God has indeed spoken to each of his children who have asked and listened, what each have shared is a complex mixture of personal agenda and divine inspiration, but the joyous task is for us together in grace and mercy, with Holy Spirit’s continued help, to discern the whole of what God is saying as we piece together the different parts… separating out the stuff that we threw into the mix of ourselves.

If I am honest, I reckon we go for the first two options more often than we would like to admit! However when we do go for the third, I reckon heaven celebrates and the powers of darkness are stricken with terror. Because I believe that the third option is an expression of Trinitarian unity in action, it is humble disciples with their master, seeking first his Kingdom. The third option is extremely ‘unnatural’, it requires all those concerned to yield to the others, it asks for an unusual level of humility, it demands an acknowledgment that God is as much at work in others as he is in you (and vise versa), it relies on each party articulating what they see and demands that the group take the necessary time and action to create the environment where all these things are in fact possible.

Its easy to see that there are no end of factors that make that third option so difficult to achieve. For me with my back ground in Soul Survivor and Vineyard, one of the most important things I learnt was to say ‘I could be wrong, or only partly right, but I think God might be saying ….’. this not only acknowledges my fallibility as a human being, but it also welcomes fellowship in discerning God’s voice. (it was a bit of a breath of fresh air from the more classic Pentecostal style I had grown up with!) The down side is that I now react when people say things like ‘God said… ‘ or ‘God’s spoken very clearly and therefore we should ….’, the closedness that communicates to me then becomes a hurdle to me stopping and hearing what God might in fact be saying in what they bring.

As a movement we have chosen the hard rout in this area and one that not all Christian organisations would choose they choose the harder routs in other areas. It’s not a superiority thing, it’s simply about staying true to your organisation’s mandate and mode of operation. As we do the work to go for option three even when its really tough and time is short, we experience his favour and blessing because I believe that when all the things that make that option possible are in place, we are much more in line with God’s nature which means that his kingdom is able to emerge a little more in us and through us.

‘The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure (uncontaminated). It is also peace loving (shalom) and gentle at all times and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favouritism and is always sincere.’ (James 3v17) I think that’s what we’re talking about!

Hey, leader, stop blending in!

What do you do when you find squatters on your property? I don’t have property and I certainly am not facing this dilemma in a literal sense, however I am realising how much it features in so many ways, less literal but just as destructive.

A couple of months ago a friend was sharing how she was told by a church leader that she could only really belong if she was committed to this leader’s vision. There was more, but to preserve the honour of those involved I will leave it at that. Just this week a colleague shared how a discussion amongst the leadership of a church pitched commitment to God against commitment to the details of the church constitution; the discussion went in favour of the constitution.

There are so many ways in which we as Christians blend in seamlessly with the system and values of the environment around us.  In the area of leadership and authority, great swaths of the Christian community have embraced the values and practices of the business world and other systems; often our efforts to be relevant and attractive in our world has resulted in us looking very much like it. It was a sad, sad day when Israel asked for a king, the reason they gave was so that they could be like all the other nations. It didn’t go so well for them even though God redeemed the situation through David and ultimately through Jesus. Yet I know that the church tradition that I grew up in modelled so much of its life and structures on this and other similar aspects of the life of Israel. But actually, was this God’s intention?

In current discussions around how small groups can be a vehicle for effective discipleship, mission and transformation, questions around leadership and authority rise, quickly followed by those around ‘who’s in and who’s out?’. The assumption is that one person knows more than the others and leads the way for the group; the groups’ role is to follow submissively. That’s what we have been doing in the Christian community for a generation, and it’s part of what we need to rethink and redesign if we are to be part of God’s mission of grace and mercy into the future. If we look down the corridors of history we will find that this monarchic structure didn’t serve exponential growth or the transformation of society’s values very well. On the other hand models where God not man was central (really), where leadership was service to God and his people, and accountability was mutual with a shared passion to know God better and follow him better… a theocratic model… these had great effect.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we shouldn’t have leaders. I myself am a leader. What I am saying is that we need to make sure our models of leadership reflect God’s heart and nature much more than the systems around us. I am becoming more aware of the assumptions and habits I have that come from a value system that is different to the one I say I ascribe to. Like squatters who have taken up residence and become ‘part of the place’, it doesn’t matter how long they have been there and how entrenched they have become, they don’t belong. Like enemy strongholds in a newly conquered territory, until the stronghold is removed, the territory will never be fully conquered.

The Christian community is here to help with the great rescue plan of God on the world, we are here to help make all things new, to help bring mercy, compassion and justice, reconciliation and shalom. We cant do that if we simply melt into the background and become part of the problem.

Just saying…

The Church of Tomorrow

Its not often I find a blog I want to post, but here it is. I found this a really inspiring and challenging read. I have been doing some thinking about how we need to change as we move into what the future holds for us as both as a nation and as the body of Christ in this land. I resonate with much of what Alan Scott is saying here.

enjoy!

http://www.alan-scott.com/blog/2013/12/31/the-church-of-the-future

three things l love to do

 

During my recent trip abroad we covered three different countries and I got to connect significantly with four different teams. It was great! That time was almost a cameo of the things I love the most in life.

In South Africa we were a team of five with an impossible task to accomplish – the number of things to achieve and journeys to facilitate was almost ridiculous – but it was all for a huge, godly, kingdom dream… So we went for it and together we saw it all come together; we had mountains of fun, worked our butts off and in the process got to know and love God, the community and each other more.

In Greece, although sick and exhausted from the South African job, it was exhilarating and fascinating to help facilitate a process that helped us move forward as individuals, teams and as an international group. I really enjoy being part of that tie up between the big picture and the individual, the task and the life between us.

And from there I headed to Albania with Erion, Lysiena and Besi. It was a four hour road trip north-west from Thessaloniki through the hill country of northern Greece. Then across the boarder into Albania where the countryside feels like you have entered some bygone era when we got around on horses and donkeys, using carts to carry our loads to market. When we farmed small holdings of land in our families, together ploughing, planting and then harvesting in the heat of the day. It’s a different life and a different pace.

Besi, Lorena, Erion, Lino and Lysiena at another cafe!

Besi, Lorena, Erion, Lino and Lysiena at another cafe!

That evening I was dropped off at Lorena’s home where I was to stay for the weekend, and I slept! The next 48 hours were so different to the previous 3 weeks. This part of the trip was centred around cafes and shared meals! It was about doing life together, hanging out, spending time sharing together. It is something I love but I don’t get to do that often, there was no great task to achieve, no burning agenda items to cover, it was just about being present. Not just physically present but fully present. I learnt so much about what life was like for these guys individually and as a team and I was nourished and energised in the process. Sometimes it was just me and one other person, other times it was a whole group of us, or just three.

Lysi, Lorena, Mattia and Myself

Lysi, Lorena, Mattia and Myself

The café stops weren’t in my honour, its just how the team function, they simply enjoy each other’s company and ministry takes place as they do life together. In fact in between the café stops was a youth meeting, a Sunday service and a festival – there were other things that they did, those were just the three things I took part in.

Besi and Lino - beards thanks to Fiddler on the Roof!

Besi and Lino – beards thanks to Fiddler on the Roof!

I remember many years ago when I first started traveling, reflecting on how God shows up in the person of a stranger, but we often miss out because we are so preoccupied with something busy. My time in Albania reminded me how I really love just being present with no particular agenda but to care and not be indifferent.

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Rowing Blind

 

Just over a week ago I was in Leptocorea, a small coastal town just an hour’s drive south of Thessaloniki, Greece. After a day in transit in London enroot from South Africa we had landed in Thessaloniki where we were met by two team mates who had arrived earlier and hired a car. We boldly headed out, Andy driving on the right hand side of the road for the first time, only to find after an hour that we were heading north towards Albania. By this time it was around midnight! Two hours later and after a short break at a road side café where we watched a group of men racing from car to car looking for a working fire extinguisher to deal with the source of smoke that was pouring forth from the back wheels of a large lorry… we arrived in Leptocorea!

About twenty of us all told had gathered for three days. It was the first time in 3 and half years that we had gathered, the majority had not been present at the last meeting. This was to be a very significant time together. We will not know for sure for many years what exactly was set in motion by God’s spirit amongst us during those days but there was one thing that I noticed in particular.

Most of those present were Fusion team and many were staff members, committed to a life of full time ministry on no salary, trusting to God for his direction and provision in our lives. That statement though easy to write in reality describes a daily wrestle, a lifelong training, a constant temptation to look to sources other than God for sustenance and direction. That statement represents adventure and joy, life and deep fulfilment, but it also represents times of anguish, bewilderment and confusion. And so it is when God calls frail human beings to walk together and with him, to live by faith and not by sight.

As leaders in this setting it is easy to become weighed down under the burden of caring for others on this incredible but difficult road, often there is the burden of carrying our spouses and children as well; we become preoccupied and exhausted. This weight can become unbearable at times – mainly because it wasn’t designed to be born by us in the first place (although we give it a jolly good go!) but by God himself as we walk with him.

Here is what I saw beginning to happen over those three days.

Each of us with ears plugged and blind folded, holding an oar and rowing with all our might. It was a struggle and no one felt like they were making much progress; each was getting wetter and wetter, and more exhausted. Then one person decided to unplug their ears, suddenly they could hear all that was happening around them. One by one others did the same. People stopped rowing and struggling and started to listen, taking in the new reality around them. Each became aware of others close by them, one or two even reached out and touched each other. It was these ones who first took off their blind folds, they gasped and then with a laugh of recognition realised what they had been doing. One by one others did the same and eventually everyone had their eyes open and their ears unplugged. They realised that they were all in the same boat, with the same leader, heading for the same destination. Once the laughter had died down, knowing what needed to be done, they quickly arranged themselves and amidst jokes and laughter, keeping their eyes on the cox, they settled into a rhythm of rowing and sliced with ease through the water.

We are not all fully hearing and seeing yet, but with time we will and its going to be exciting what happens from that point on!