Who am I

idprintAt church we are in the middle of a teaching series called ‘I.D’. The general premise for ‘I.D’ is that we want to facilitate our community getting to grips with who we are in Christ or if you are not yet a follower of Jesus why this matters to you. Our tagline throughout the series is ‘created by God, for God’.

We can often associate a crisis of identity with teenagers, people who have lost a job that was foundational to their life or people who flit from one thing to another looking for meaning. This can be true, but what about those of us for whom life is good, we are settled with the rhythm of our lives, content in our job but it doesn’t define?

I believe that many Christians who love Jesus, who are thankful for forgiveness of sin and hope of eternal life with Christ are missing the point and misunderstand that there is so much more to our identity and calling in Christ.

Yes, Jesus has forgiven us of our sin if we have placed our trust in him to do so. Yes, He has placed not only hope of eternal life with him but assurance of it because of his resurrection. However there is more!

He has called us to be on his mission with him as Lord. However to be effective in this he does a transforming work in us. He changes our spiritual DNA. We go from being dead to him, to being alive in him. That means he wakes us to the fact that the world does not revolve around us and that we were made for a purpose far bigger than our own comfort. Can I suggest that you have a read of 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, as in it, Paul is at pains to point out the Christians new identity and new role in this world.

I love the fact that God has made each one of us unique it makes life and community so interesting! There is no one quite like you. You may share certain personality traits, character, habits and gifts but no one operates in the the same way as you do. So when we talk about identity clearly we are not suggesting we become are robotic clones, with no personality. God works with who He has designed us to be but gives us a much bigger purpose.

We are call to be co-workers with Christ in his mission to the world in reconciling all things to him. Therefore our identity is wrapped in the call to follow him wholeheartedly and over the next four weeks we are going to be looking at what this means for us and our city.

You can listen to part 1 here: sellyelim.org

Friendly fire

mouth_FotorIt is is really easy to think the worst of people isn’t it? But what is more frightening is that those thoughts can easily turn to words spoke/written out. It is bad enough we can think such thoughts, but how often do we verbalise them without engaging our brain! We do it all the time, when we don’t agree with someone, have a falling out, don’t understand them… we could go on.

I think the internet is wonderful thing but it has given people the opportunity to speak garbage against people without any seeming come back or so it would seem. It is interesting to note that Sally Bercow recently was taken to court by Lord McAlpine for defamation of character. So maybe the tide is turning, its just not acceptable. This kind of thing isn’t restricted to politicians or celebrity gossip columns, but can you believe that there are some Christians who run “ministries” that try to run down well known pastors who are working to make Jesus famous. Sure there are going to be things we disagree on, nobody ever agrees with everyone on everything, but come on surely if we are born again by the Holy Spirit we are on the same side.

There are “teachers” who peddle a form of theology that does not lead to Jesus or form Christlikeness but perpetuates selfishness and greed. We as Christians need to speak out on these issues in kindness. We must cultivate an ability to disagree with what they say without making it personal, yet so often these two things don’t remain separate and it ends up just getting personal. These are not who I’m referring to though. What I’m talking about is friendly fire! I’ve been guilty of it and if you’re honest, so have you. prov 21:23 12:18

So I made a decision some time back, that I will only ever speak well of someone and as the old adage goes “if i’ve got nothing good to say, I won’t say anything at all” but sometimes I mess up on this and have to repent. What this doesn’t does not mean that I will agree with everything even when it is blatantly wrong, and nor will you, but I’m choosing to speak well and build up rather than tear down. If something is heretical or there is a destructive behaviour threatening the church then we deal with it, but lets not shoot our own who are trying to make Jesus famous and see people come to faith in Him.

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. –  James, the brother of Jesus (James 1:26 – NIV)

There are too many other things to be concerned with than to waste energy on fighting in the wrong war. If we are going to fight then lets at least choose the right enemy! Paul, who wrote Ephesians made it quite clear, for the Christian we are to be united in love because of Christ (even if we disagree on secondary issues) and our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces. Lets fight them, not amongst ourselves.

No regrets

I recently took a week off, it has been great to spend uninterrupted time with Rachel and Hannah. I’m reminded of an illustration that is used when talking about time management or lack thereof for workaholics and that is; no one has ever said on their deathbed that they wished they had spent more time at the office!

Family whether biological, adopted, guardians or just people that you allow close enough, is so important. I was able to get a glimpse of this a few weeks ago at the funeral of a long time member of the church. Although she had not be able to attend in recent years due to ill health, the tributes painted a picture of a person who loved life and love her family. It was clear that family and friends are going to miss her.

A couple of day before the funeral I was reading the story of a lousy king called Jehoram (you can read it in 2 Chronicles 21). There was a line that grabbed my attention and one that I have been pondering over these last few weeks. It say this of Jehoram “he departed with no ones regret”. Can you imagine how awful a person he must have been! What a thing to be said of someone. Granted this statement is extreme, but it got me thinking about the kind of legacy that I want leave behind.

I don’t know if you ever think of these things, but do you want your life to count for something more than the family you leave behind or the inheritance to pass on? King Jehoram I referred to above was a particularly nasty piece of work, who when he had inherited the throne decided to killed his brothers and some other potential competitors. Lets face it, after that kind of start he was never going to win many friends, and his family weren’t going to miss him!

The chances are you are nothing like Jehoram, you are in all likelihood a lovely person, who is loved by your family and would be missed when you’ve departed. However though I assume, maybe your not that nice, I don’t know. Do you live life in such a way that people want to be around you? The point is that today you have a choice to make, will you make your life count for something bigger than it is now. Who can you invest in? What can you give to make someones life better? Will you champion the generation coming behind you? Hope the answer is yes.

This I believe is the kind of life Jesus calls us too. As we are discipled, we disciple others. To put it a different way as we are influenced in the Jesus way, we do likewise to others. For me, I want to live my life in such a way that it will not be written of me ‘he departed to no ones regret,’ nor do I want to get to the end and have regrets that start with “if only I…”

What about you? If you are a leader you hold a great deal of influence in people’s lives. Use it wisely, leave a good trail behind you that others want to follow, unlike Jehoram!

Do Ministry, Don’t volunteer!

Do you ever get moments when you read something, it grabs your attention but you forget who said it?

Well, on Facebook a few months ago I read something which unfortunately I didn’t note down properly or notice who said it. The general thought was along the lines of ‘there is no such thing as volunteers in the church’. (If your reading this and it was you who said it then please let me know and I will make sure it is quoted properly and attributed to you).

So, picking up on this thought, I felt quite challenged. I, along with other church leaders often holla from the platform ‘we need more volunteers’. I understand why we do this, as there is the genuine need for people to get involved with gathered ministry activity of the church, whether youth or kids ministry to small group leaders; but by simply trying to fill ministry gaps for church based ministry does this subconsciously tells people that church based service is of higher value, than anything else anybody does. Some people either feel that they cannot do it because they ‘are not skilled enough’ or ‘not called enough’ or it is the job of those paid by the church.

Do we ever talk about what people are doing in their everyday lives and the connection between what is done Monday to Saturday and Sunday, as if it is as important to God as church based stuff? Or do we still subconsciously think that church and its ministry is more important?

What if we took a different approach? What if we weren’t just trying to maintain ministries by recruiting ‘volunteers’? What if our approach as church leaders was to equip people to live as ministers, empowered by the Spirit to serve the mission of Jesus whatever context they are in, under his Lordship and leading. Maybe the very term ‘volunteers’ has demotivated and devalued the ministry which the people of God fulfil in church based activities?

Is this just a matter of language? Maybe it is more a matter of culture? Even though we say, we believe in the priesthood of all believers, do our actions and the language we use reflect this?

It makes me wonder if we need to change our approach to church based ministry. Yes, the gathered church activity is important in discipling people to live as followers of Jesus (if it doesn’t do this why do we do it?) but so is our ministry to our colleagues, friends, family etc, wherever God has called you to make a difference and be a representative of Christ but also in shaping us as followers of Jesus.

So the challenge; to be a minister, a disciple of Jesus, whether part of the gather church activity or in the ordinary things of life. This is not just for the ‘few that are called’ but for everyone who calls Jesus, Lord. He is Lord of everything, he wants to use us to minister, not just volunteer our time or skills as some kind of bolt on to the rest of our lives. Everything, even the ordinary, is important to God and we would do well to view life through this lens. So, don’t volunteer but whatever you do, do it as a disciple of Jesus do it to his glory, and do it as one who has been sent by Jesus to minister to the benefit of others in his name.

Two books that you may find helpful and which have help shaped my thinking; ‘Imaginge Church’ by Neil Hudson and ‘Everyday Church’ by Tim Chester & Steve Timmis.

10 things I’ve learned in the first 10 years

I say 10 things, I have actually learnt far more in 10 years of ministry but thought one thing for every year was enough. They are in no particular order and the comment on each of the 10 is by no means exhaustive of my thoughts on the matters, but I hope that you find it interesting and helpful.

#1you’re not a good as you think you are || when you have spent three years in a academic institution, whether a University studying theology or whatever your chosen field, you may emerge from that bubble somewhat delusional and think that you are the answer to the problem, even if there is not a problem! You may have bags of potential to be world shaker for Jesus, but you also have lots to learn. Things will not be as easy as they sounded in lectures and the reality of ministering is a chaotic world will hit hard in the first few months. You may be good at what you do from the off, but there is always room to grow!!

#2people not programmes matter || it is people who are the purpose of ministry not programmes. Programmes are tools which are to be used to serve the needs of people. People must never be used to serve the needs of programmes. If the success of a programme becomes more important than people; kill the programme not the people you are called to serve!

#3 – when you’re married you cannot work like a single person || it seems obvious but in the heat of ministry and pressure you can forget that if you fail to be there for your family, your ministry will suffer. I learnt this lesson very quickly after getting married!! There will be seasons when life will be more hectic than others but neglect your wife & kids at your peril. Love your wife more than the ministry, if you lose sight of this you will eventually not have ministry and potentially no spouse!

#4build team with people who are different || it is easy to build team with people that are like you but that team will be boring! Yes, have chemistry. Yes, make sure you get on. Yes, they have to do the job well. However, for me the sign of a good leader is one who can lead people who have different gift mix, different personalities and different outlooks to achieve the same purpose. It is a healthier team when diverse people can work together for the same purpose and objectives.

#5take risks || this is something that I’m learn more and more in recent years. No one ever broke new ground or went on adventure by playing it safe.

#6know who you are || don’t try and be like anyone else, it is a complete waste of time. God had made you to be you, so stop trying to be like anyone else. The sooner you realise this the sooner you will start to be fulfilled in who God has made you and called you to be.

#7release people according to their strengths || identify peoples strength and abilities quickly and enable them to serve where they are strong that way you set people up for success and fulfilment not failure. Don’t just put people where there are gaps in ministry it will do them no good or the ministry. As the question are they a good fit for this? If not find a different area for them to serve. Understand that not everyone can serve in a church based ministry but seek to equip every believer to serve Jesus well wherever they are!

#8celebrate others success || genuinely and gladly celebrate when other succeed and do well. Whether that is people on your team who preach better than you or lead better than you, celebrate it. Celebrate it when your peers do well and their churches grow. Doing so keeps your heart right and is the gateway for generosity.

#9faithful and fruitful || your aim is not to have a well known name in the small pond of the christian celebrity culture. Jesus requires you to be faithful to him and be fruitful in the place he has called you to be. Anything else is a bonus, but it is not the main deal. Ministry is about making Jesus famous not us!

#10deal with stuff at the right time in the right way || deal with issues in the right time having thought through a plan and the impact on the church and the people. Remember, if you don’t deal with it someone else will have to! If the issue is that you just don’t like something (i.e. not a sin issue) then it is a preferred taste issue and maybe you just have to live with it?! If it is an issue that affects the ministry, the church or  the witness to Jesus, deal with it! You along with the elders of the church are called by God to shepherd the people he has entrusted to you. Sometimes you have to lose one from your flock for the benefit of the whole. Don’t be afraid to take issues, but be afraid if you tackle it with a wrong heart or motive.

These are just some things that I have learned over the last 10 years in ministry. To be honest I could probably write a individual post on each of them. If you would like to engage with me on any of these then please leave a comment.

Freedom Project

I don’t know about you but almost at every conference someone or some organisation are trying to drum up support for their project. Often the presentations are moving but it is one thing being moved by a presentation at a conference and and another to actually do something about it when you get home.

At our recent denominational conference (Elim) our International Missions Director (IMD) showed the following video presentation. I’m not ashamed to say I was moved to tears watching it. But something else happened, I felt compelled to do something, support in some way and see women and children reused from the sex industry.

I find it abhorrent that such things happen and other human being can inflict such violence on another human being!!! If I feel this way how much more God?

I was not the only one to be compelled to action, others were too. I’ve begun the conversation with our IMD to see what can be done.

Have a watch of this and see if you feel compelled in the same way, maybe we could make a difference together?