Thursday, October 23, 2014

How to be useful to God

From BiOY today:

'He is one of my great heroes of faith. He was a model of godliness, faith and humility. God used him greatly. When he died in 1982, his executors were unable to trace a single member of his family still living. No one came forward claiming to be even a distant relation.

Yet, The Times obituary about him rightly noted that his influence within the Church of England during the previous fifty years was probably greater than any of his contemporaries. John Stott, who was one of the numerous influential Christian leaders whom he led to faith in Christ, said of him: ‘Those who knew him well and those who worked with him never expect to see his like again; for rarely can anyone have meant so much to so many as this quietly spoken, modest and deeply spiritual man.’

Why was this man, the Reverend E.J.H. Nash – better known as ‘Bash’ – so useful to God? How can we be useful to God? It is no secret, the Bible tells us how.

St Paul writes, ‘In a well-furnished kitchen there are not only crystal goblets and silver platters, but waste cans and compost buckets – some containers used to serve fine meals, others to take out the garbage. Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing’ (2 Timothy 2:20–21, MSG).

John Stott writes, ‘No higher honour could be imagined than to be an instrument in the hand of Jesus Christ, to be at his disposal for the furtherance of his purposes, to be available whenever wanted for his service.’ Being useful to God starts with dedicating your life to him and re-dedicating it regularly to his service.'

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Shrink: Fruitful or Faithful?

I have been chewing over the question of whether we are called to be faithful or fruitful. Chris Hodges suggested that God doesn't call us to be faithful but fruitful when I heard him speak and he echoes this in his book 'Four cups'. An alternate view, offered in a book I am currently reading called 'Shrink' suggests being faithful is what counts.

'I have become convinced that the Christian leader's first job is to become a good and virtuous human being and a good and virtuous leader, and then to leave questions of growth and perceived success in the hands of God. Sometimes all God requires is to do the small things faithfully for the rest of his or her life. How many of us have the tools to even imagine that, much less carry it off?'

Shrink, Tim Shuttle, Page 26

The size of any particular church is somewhat incidental if in order to grow it you have to forfeit your marriage, your kids walk with Jesus or your Sabbath. Does anyone care that Mars Hill now has less than half of the congregation that it had six weeks ago? What does matter is that for a variety of reasons their pastor failed to finish the race well with devastating consequences for him, his church and his family. He was at Gateway Church over the weekend and he tells the throng that he's healing up and taking some time out.

I am enjoying reading 'Shrink' which captures many of the tensions for those of us who both long to see the church grow, whilst also wanting to preserve our sanity, health and passion for Jesus along the way.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Jacob Moment

'Correct him, but not as a foe, nor as an adversary exacting a penalty, but as a physician providing medicines'


'Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy'

General Norman Schwartzkopf,1991

I was chatting with a friend today and he reminded me of a comment a mutual pal had shared a few years ago about Mark Driscoll.

Our pal said this:

'He's not yet had his Jacob moment'

He then went on to suggest that he would be a much better writer, preacher, pastor, husband, manager, father and friend once he'd had it. Observing his so obviously deeply flawed character, he suggested that it was only a matter of time.

And so arrives the Jacob moment.

A Jacob moment is the kairos event that humbles you. The event that levels your confidence, your pride and your reputation and sets God in his rightful place. It leaves you a deposit of pain in your hip and forever more you will walk with a limp.

The internet is awash with reflections and I too am quietly reflective.

The ministry of Mars Hills been a blessing and encouragement to me in more ways than words can express. It was never a perfect one and was led by a seemingly very imperfect chap and my experience of it, as for many others, was from afar. I discovered them via their church planting and The Resurgence and A29 networks were the source of much wisdom, books, talks and collected learning as I planned for our venture here. Driscoll's passion for Jesus, his fire to see churches planted, his supreme giftedness in many areas, his longing to see the lost reached (particularly men) and a desire to see marriages strengthened impacted tens of thousands of people across the world. Both the church and A29 planting network he started will now outlive his tenure as founding pastor.

I have no doubt the fall out will be, and has been, devastating for those in his church and those connected and associated personally with and to this ministry and its tribe. Unaddressed and unacknowledged brokenness so often does that to others. It is timely for all of us who pastor churches, however large or small, to search for the inevitable planks in our own eyes (and leadership). Of all our flaws, and in my case there are many, it is our unfettered and dealt with pride we must be most ruthless with.

Here are some posts offering further reflection and reading:

The Mars Hill Postmortem

Seven better ways to respond to Mark Driscoll's Resignation

A tale of two Mars Hills

Unhealthy Christian Organisations

The True nature of Elder Authority


'In a grace-driven approach, we don't obey because we have to but because we want to. The Moral Law, which condemned us outside of Christ, has now become our worship list. Obedience is now just one of the fun ways we say thanks to Him while he drenches us with favour; it naturally flows from our lives. Christianity is not a process in which we earn love; its a process in which we reflect love. Or as it's often said, "We are not saved by good works. We're saved for good works!"

Pharisectomy, Peter Haas, Page 21

Mums: Be you bravely

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Still more

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still.”
“Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, ‘Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.”
A W Tozer,  The Pursuit of God
(Quoted by J D Greear in his post 'Six ways to experience the presence of the Spirit')

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Right Thing

'Martin Luther King said, ‘On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” And Vanity comes along and asks the question, “Is it popular?” But Conscience asks the question, “Is it right?”

‘The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of convenience, but where they stand in moments of challenge, moments of great crisis and controversy.’

Doing what is right in difficult situations in the workplace is a huge challenge. In his book, God at Work, Ken Costa writes, ‘There are right and wrong choices … all the invented terms such as “inappropriate” and “counterproductive” are efforts to avoid the simple ethical fact that there is a right and wrong course of action.’

When facing a difficult pastoral situation those of us in the leadership of the church need to remind ourselves that the first question we have to ask is, ‘What is the right thing to do?’ And only then move to the second question, ‘What is the most pastoral way to do it?’

Of course, none of us get it right all the time. We all make mistakes. As Ken Costa writes, ‘We only grow in wisdom if we learn from our mistakes. Siegmund Warburg [Ken’s first boss] said on this subject: “Some name it disappointment and become poorer, others name it experience and become richer.” ’

In today’s New Testament passage, Paul writes to the Thessalonians, ‘Never tire of doing what is right’ (2 Thessalonians 3:13). Jesus did not go for the easy or popular solution, but he always did the right thing. This is an important principle that runs throughout the entire Bible.'

From my BiOY notes today. As it happen Ken is coming to speak to the 350 today. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The 350

I am on the Southwark Clergy Conference (4 days)

In the last week, I will have listened to and been taught by as great a variety of people as anyone I know. 

Geoff Surrat of Seacoast Church, Peter Haas of Substance and Chris Rogers of Church of the Highlands are all part of a church planting movement called ARC. They taught me for a couple of days last week and were excellent. 

This week, among others, we have John Sentamu ++ of York, Sister Dominica founder of Helen House, Mike Lloyd-Principal lf Wycliffe Hall, Ken Costa CW of HTB and Sam Wellls- Vicar of St Martin in the Fields. We also have African theologian Esther Mambo with us who taught us wonderfully on the Woman at the well first thing.  

There is lots I could share but Mike Lloyd's phrase 'If you create your own meaning it's always smaller than you are.'   particularly struck me. However,  probably of all that has happened thus far Esther walking into a room of 350 Clergy with a clay jar on her head is the thing that will stick most with me. 

I will post some more as I find time.