Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The lost art of disciplemaking

“The ministry is to be carried on by people, not programs. It is to be carried by someone and not by some thing. Disciples cannot be mass produced. We cannot drop people into a ‘program’ and see disciples emerge at the end of the production line. It takes time to make disciples. It takes individual, personal attention. It takes hours of prayer for them. It takes patience and understanding to teach them how to get into the Word of God for themselves, how to feed and nourish their souls, and by the power of the Holy Spirit how to apply the word to their lives. And it takes being an example to them of all of the above.”

From 'The lost art of disciplemaking ' by Leroy Eims via Mark Howells

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Book Review: The Promise of Blessing

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Not long after I became a Christian I started attending a wonderful Anglican church plant called St Barnabas, Kensington. I have lots of memories of those early years and one of them is of hearing the blessing from Numbers 6 for the first time. I had never heard it before and it would be periodically prayed at the end of the services and I grew to love it. I guess, as I look back 25 years, my lingering question about 'Blessing' was probably 'Will he? and more specifically 'How will he?'

This is the blessing:

“‘The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
25 
the Lord make his face shine on you

    and be gracious to you;
26 
the Lord turn his face towards you
    and give you peace.’”


I do believe books can change lives, and even if you don't believe this, they certainly mark them. My friend Kate has written a book and I genuinely think it will mark your life if you read it. It will help you better understand God and his purpose for your life. It will help you understand the nature of God's blessing and his grace and how to face the mess of your past and the challenges of your future. Had I been given this book soon after I became a believer, it might have made my journey towards maturity a lot quicker and more comprehensible. I read this book in PDF format on my iPad during a day off. I finished reading it the same day sitting in a car in Richmond Park as dusk was setting with my wife feeding our newly born son next to me. I am still dwelling on the beauty and depth of the words it contains.

Here are seven reasons to buy it and read it:

It's full of God's word and alive with His Spirit

Too often with Christian books they are either too dry or too woolly. Kate's exposition of every phrase of this blessing is deep and rich and she peppers her narrative with a wonderful selection of quotes, stories and observations. She's a fan of C S Lewis.

It's practical

At the end of every chapter there is a section entitled 'Response' and you are encouraged to take some time to pray, think and to apply what you have just read. It works if you do that- I've tried it out.

It's rooted in the local church

It was such a joy reading the stories of people's lives -many of whom I know having worked with Kate in the same church together for six years. Kate isn't a Christian celebrity touting her signs and wonders from one conference to the next but is instead a local church pastor, school chaplain, wife, mother and friend. This saturates her book and is what makes it so real and interesting and vital.

It's beautifully written

Let's be honest- tons of Christian books are terribly written. This is a master class in good writing.

It's helps you understand suffering

The title of this book might lead you to think Kate has a bouffant hair do and a cable telly channel. The chapter on suffering and how we can comprehend blessing through all the pain and difficulty is worth the price of the book. As she writes, 'Tough times will come and you can name them and claim the blessing as loudly as you want but it won't make you completely immune to suffering. We are not promised undiluted health and wealth; what we are promised is the promise of a Saviour who comes to be with us and who can bring good out of the worst circumstances'

It's one you can give away to others (to believers and to not-yet believers) with confidence

You may, like me, struggle to think of good books to give to bright, broken and thinking people to help them engage with Jesus. You should add this one to whatever titles you already have on your list of those you give away. But give it away not just as an apologetic for the Christian faith but also as a tool for discipleship. Whatever church you're part of everyone in your church should read this book and you never know if they do some of them might even become Christians.....

It's all about the grace of Jesus

At one point (p.76) Kate writes this: 'I hope, as a result of reading this, that you will take time to consider how to put yourself in the place of grace. Where in your life do you make space for that encounter with God? If you flounder at the thought find someone you know who is a few steps ahead on their walk with God and ask them what to do. And be encouraged- God wants to meet with you. God wants to make his face shine upon you and through you to the world.

Now, I don't know if I am further along the road than you in my walk with Jesus but my advice to you is if you want to encounter God in the place of grace buy this book. The other funny thing is the blessing in my own life turns out to be that I now get to pray this blessing from Numbers 6 over a church of my own which I do almost every week. Who would have ever believed that 25 years ago?

You can get 'The promise of blessing' here and if you are at Focus then do go and hear Kate speak (29th July)


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Some interesting facts about UK Cities

This post makes for some interesting reading for those of us leading churches in Cities.

N.B

The view of Hammersmith Bridge as you look and walk right out of our church door.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ten things for a Tuesday

1. Do you lose yourself when you have kids?

2. I am very slowly working my way through 'The Road to Character'. Much like reading this book- character takes time to cultivate. I underlined this little observation of Dwight Eisenhower most recently:

"When  I go to a new station I look to see who is the strongest and ablest man on the post. I forget my own ideas and do everything in my power to promote what he says is right." Later in 'At Ease', he wrote, "Always try to associate yourself closely and learn as much as you can from those who know more than you, who do better than you, who see more clearly than you." He was a fanatic about preparation and then adaptation: "The plans are nothing, but the planning is everything. " he would say. Or "Rely on planning, but never trust plans"

(Page 63)

3. I listened to Bill Johnson's sermon called 'Prayer strategies' and he was very bold and clear on human sexuality post the SCOTUS ruling. I still think he too often speaks in riddles but it's refreshing to hear a movement leader showing courage to hold to Scripture (imagine a Bishop in the C of E opening a talk like this)

4.  Planned parenthood a week on

5. I have been reading about Nagaland

6. Some thoughts on 'Being on the wrong side of history'

7. Dick Lucas has an ABCD

8. Does anyone think they pray enough?

9. This post is an interesting reflection on Perry Noble's thoughts on how to know when your church is in trouble.

10. Tim Farron awakens media scorn against Christians and may now be the best known Christian in the land.

Friday, July 17, 2015

What does it mean to be a disciple?

The vision of our church is to see disciples made and churches planted and I have recently been asking what it means to be a disciple. One of the places I turned to was the '21 Marks of a Disciple' outlined in David Watson's classic called 'Discipleship' if only for a audit on my own growth and discipleship. I also found these questions helpful when considering how we are doing as a local church on responding the command to 'go and make disciples':

'What are we aiming at, when we talk about making disciples? Let me mention a number of characteristics that I have observed over the years. I am not claiming that this list is complete, or that every disciple will display the full range of qualities; but at least we should know what we are hoping and praying to achieve. Let me put it in the form of questions that we need to ask; and although these questions are masculine in form, they refer to either male or female.

1.        Is he willing to serve? This was a repeated lesson that Jesus had to teach his status-seeking disciples, especially when he humbled them dramatically by washing their feet. (John 13; cf. Mark 10:35-45)

2.        Is he learning to listen? When Simon Peter was full of bright ideas on the Mount of Transfiguration, God told him to 'listen' to his Son. (Luke 9:35) When Martha was impatiently bustling around preparing a meal whilst Jesus was talking, she was
gently rebuked for not being like Mary who was sitting quietly listening to the Master. (Luke 10:41f)

3.        Is he willing to learn? When Jesus spoke about his coming sufferings and death, Peter blurted out, 'God forbid. Lord! This shall never happen to you.' The stinging reply was something that Peter never forgot. (Matthew 16:22f)

4.   Is he willing to be corrected? How well does he receive honest criticism, when others speak the truth in love? (Matthew 18:15)

5.     How well does he submit to those who are over him? (1Thess. 5:12f; Hebrews 13:17) Is he willing to do this, even when he does not understand all the reasons why, or when he does not naturally enjoy what he is being asked to do?

6.        Can he share his life with others, in open and honest fellowship? (1 John 1)

7.        Is he learning humility? Can he rejoice with those who rejoice, and be genuinely glad when others are blessed in some way or other? (Phil. 2:3f)

8.        Is he learning to examine his own life before criticising others? (Matthew 7:1-5)

9.        Does he know his weaknesses? Is he learning to overcome them through the grace of God? (2 Cor. 12:9)

10. Is he a perfectionist? This will lead him into either self-righteousness, self-condemnation, self-pity, or a judgmental spirit. 'We all make many mistakes' (James 3:2; cf.  1 John 1:8-10). Is he learning to accept himself, as God accepts him in
Christ - just as he is?

11. Is he able to forgive? (Matthew 18:21f)

12. Has he stickability? Or does he give up easily? How does he handle discouragements? (Ephesians 6:10ff; cf. 2 Cor. 4:7ff)

13. Is he to be trusted? (1 Cor. 4:2) Is he reliable? Will he get on with a task without constant nagging? Is he willing to trust others, even when they have disappointed him and let him down?

14. Does he mind his own affairs? Or is he always wanting to pry into the lives of others, becoming a busybody or even a gossip? (John 21:2If; 1 Tim. 5:13)

15. Does he do little things well? (Colossians 3:17)

16. How does he use his leisure? Does he see that all his time is a gift of God to be used wisely? (Ephesians 5:15-17)

17. Does he aim first and foremost to please God? Or does he seek the praise of others, or gratify his own desires? (John 12:43; 2 Cor. 5:9)

18. Is he quick to obey when God speaks to him? When fisherman Peter obeyed instantly the instructions of Jesus on the Sea of Galilee, however foolish those instructions may have seemed to him, there were astonishing results (Luke 5:4-9)
This proved a vital lesson (which had to be learned more than once!) in the years ahead.

19. Has he faith in God, especially when there may be no outward signs to encourage his faith? (Luke 18:1-8; Mark ll:12ff)

20. Where is his security? Is he willing to trust ultimately in the love and faithfulness of God, or does he look for more temporal and material securities first and foremost? (Matthew 6:19-34) Is he willing to move as the Spirit leads him on, to make
adjustments and changes, or does he resist change?

21.Has he a clear understanding of God's priorities for his life? (Acts 6:2-4)