When we had our first baby, Megan, I was blown away by the generosity of people in our street. Next door gave us a mountain of baby clothes, even though they’ve got a full house, with 13 grandchildren in and out. Our new neighbours on the other side, who we’d spoken to a handful of times, seemed to have bought something new for the baby every time we saw them. And it’s not just a baby thing. I’ve been put to shame as I’ve received far more practical help and love from those in my street than I’ve given.
We’ve been reading through Exodus as a family recently, and have reached the practical laws in chapter 21 onwards. It seems there were to be no boundaries for the Israelites in their concern and compassion for others. Foreigners were not excluded (22:21). Personal grievances were not to prevent aid (23:4-5). As much as I would love to just obscure the moral teaching of the Old Testament law under a blanket of redemptive-historical-fulfilment mumbo-jumbo, the truth is those laws reflect the heart of our generous God. Jesus was clothing himself with that law as he went about ministering grace to those in need, and summarising it’s teaching in the always-challenging parable of the Good Samaritan.
So why am I such a stinge-meister? Why am I so slow to seek out need around me? Why is generosity an effort rather than a knee-jerk reaction? (continue reading…)
Much needed call from Roger Carswell to ask tough questions about where we are in ministry and what is really shaping our plans and ambitions.
Full article here: http://e-n.org.uk/5489-not-listening-to-god.htm
Massive challenge for church leaders:
The world and the culture in which we live is this: Marriage is the issue. From gay marriage to divorce to adultery – people need to know how to love one another, and live together and raise kids and finish well.
And here’s the hard, cold, sad truth: you’re gonna take your marriage, and you’re gonna put it as the most important human relationship in the church, you’ll make it the epicentre of the culture that you create, and from there, everyone else is going to photocopy your marriage.
So if your marriage is jack you will have a church filled with jack marriages. If your kids are not loved and led, you will have a church filled with kids who are not loved and led. You will get a church, but you’ll get just another poor, dysfunctional, unhealthy church.
We don’t need more of those.
Watch the whole talk at marshillchurch.org
The Times had an interesting piece, “The Joy of Reading out loud” (sat Oct 2 2010). In it they talk about the Initiatives of The reader Organisation started by Jane Davies in Liverpool. Here’s an extract,
Davies found that reading aloud is the best way to get people into books and then she discovered that it makes people calmer, happier, self-reflective, more sane and open-minded. She found that her method works in retirement homes, with abused children, with kids who have never read a thing, with prisoners, with people on council estates and with NHS patients.
“We were reading Othello out loud with a group who had never read or seen a Shakespeare play. After a few weeks a woman said, “I’ll read Iago this week. I know that bastard. I was married to him.”
I realise that many of us are doing Gospel work in areas of low literacy, but please don’t take that as resistance to literacy. I have never met anyone in Speke who struggled with reading who didn’t actually wish they could read better. The issue is how we make efforts to make text more accessible to those who have often been scared off by it. As I read the quote above I was encouraged to come up with simple and creative ways to get people into the text of the bible.
- Enourage reading out loud
- Enourage people to have a go at reading different parts
- Ask good questions about what is said, how it is said and why it is there
The Lord knew what He was doing when He gave us a written word. Can I encourage you to have confidence that the written Word of God is made to engage with the hearts of men.
An example: Last year I preached through Hosea (yes, that OT minor prophet). A lady who had just started coming to church asked me for a bible so she could read the story for herself. She didn’t have an O-level, she didn’t have a bookshelf, she’d never worked and had 7 kids by 2 fellas. The day after i gave her the bible I tentatively asked whether she’d read the 1st chapter of Hosea, and to my astonishment she had read through the whole book.
“What is it about?” i asked.
“Its showing us that God is faithful even when His people aren’t. I know all about unfaithfulness and how God must feel.”
God’s written Word is powerful and people aren’t as stupid as you think, don’t shy from getting it into peoples’ hands.
I like a clear strategy, thorough-going administration and functional organisation. It makes me feel in control and as if I’m on top of things. It makes me feel as if the task of reaching people is not beyond me. I feel safe with a strategy, so I want people around me in my church that are gifted administrators and organisers.
And surely that’s what the Lord wants too, isn’t it? His churches will be built up, and His people will grow, by the power of efficient strategy and people who are able to make things happen. “Send me more of them, Lord,” I would pray.
But what happens when you are trying to build a Gospel-centred church family when few are administrationally gifted, most genuinely struggle to organise things and planning doesn’t come naturally? Well, if you are an idiot like me, try to beat them into organisational shape whilst begging God to transform them into the congregation that all the church growth manuals say they ought to be. Or else go back to your bible and realise that the Lord expands His kingdom rule through weak and feeble pray-ers who depend on Him over their own strategic ability and well meant plans.
I want a clear plan that testifies to my greatness as a leader. He wants to silence our pride and show that He alone is saviour.
I want to put confidence in worldly methods and boil Gospel ministry down to a manageable formula. He works to defy worldly wisdom and delights to anwer the prayers of dependent people.
Realising this is truly liberating. I no longer need to try to disciple people to be square pegs in round holes. I don’t need to train non-strategy types to be what they are not (needlessly frustrating and discouraging them along the way) .
Not all in our church families can plan, strategize, and push through a vision for Gospel growth, but everyone of God’s children can beg their heavenly Father for mercy, direction and saving grace. I can teach them all that! Until recently, I counted it a frustration that our church family has only a few who can drive through a vision – however, I’m beginning to think that in the long term it might be one of God’s greatest gifts to us. It means we have nowhere to turn but prayer, and we can all beg!