Theology

Churches On The Verge Of Movement – @alanhirsch at #exponential

I’m glad I didn’t post this immediately as I made the notes so it doesn’t come out with the flurry of other posts I made recently. This one needs some marinade time. My friends Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson wrote ‘On The Verge’ a little while back and it’s a game changer. At only £3.99 on Kindle now it’s a bargain as Alan’s theological and cultural awareness combine with Dave’s practical savvy to make a book that theorists can’t just theorise over – and practitioners can’t wait to practice. 

on-the-verge-book

I have read the book several times privately then picked it apart as part of a Learning Community set up by Dave Ferguson of New Thing as I prepare to step further into birthing ‘New Thing UK’ – working to create a church planting movement and identify, train and release apostolic leaders across the UK and Ireland.

It was great to hear from Alan a refresh on some of the main ideas, and my notes on his brilliant seminar follow; 

 

THE MISSIONAL CONVERSATION are you part of it?

You can make decisions now that will alter history, as long as you don’t leave it too long. We are a missional people. SENT.

If you want to know what it’s like to be unchurched/ dechurched go to visit a mosque.

Don’t make them do the missional work. We are to go to them!

There was a time when the church was in a place that if people were looking for God they’d come to church. That day’s long gone. But we still play the game as if it was that way.

 

Who do we need to change the church?

The 16% who are Innovators and Early Adopters;

People who feel there is something to be gained from thinking entrepreneurially. If you’re going to argue the toss over everything, you won’t be part of this.

But if Holy Discontent is what drives you….

 

We have to see that it’s Adapt or Die time.

There are very few growing denominations. Do you know of any? (NOTE: Actually I do, the Evangelical Free Church in Sweden, soon to be led by my friend @Norburg)

 

The best way to pass on tradition is not to wear your father’s old hat but to reproduce – new children. How? Church planting.

You need to make decisions now about what kind of church you want your kids to be a part of.

Future Travellers Process;

1)   SEE IT.

Capture imaginations. This is the first thing. Epicetus ‘It is hard to teach a man what he think he already knows.’ People THINK they know what church is. But the early church didn’t have steeples and choirs. They met on riverbanks and caves. The paradigm is vital.

The brain seeks for patterns to make meaning. And we as a group agree a paradigm, how it looks to us. Cf the Old woman/ young girl picture. When you can see one you can’t see the other.

Constantine is still the emperor of our church thinking. You don’t have permission to think differently in Christendom.

The alternative to it = movement. Movements are dynamic, changing, growing. It’s there in the Celts, in China, in early Methodism. Primal. Impacting.

It takes courage to see differently!

2)   SHIFT .

Code the system for change. How do you change paradigms? A sense of anomaly develops. Thomas Kuhn (maths – ‘The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions’). When the best practitioners of a paradigm say, ‘Yes… but – the way you’re looking at it doesn’t answer all the questions…’ then you bust the paradigm.

The others get together – and eject the old paradigm. Then they defend the new one! And so on.

The fish doesn’t know its wet.

You have to see – things – change.

New Thing (the church planting movement I’ve been challenged to spearhead in the UK and Ireland) are planting a new church every 10 days in USA. After 7 years they are at 50,000 churches – and they double every year. That’s a movement.

Look at / assess/ audit the ETHOS. The CULTURE. The Guiding story.

The church is wired to grow and change the cosmos. What’s stopping it? Ask – what’s blocking growth? E.g. – ‘What are you doing with the women?; In any movement that ever changed the world, women were fully engaged. Then you remove what’s blocking growth.

Check and change the LANGUAGE. Who’s your hero? If it’s Barth – you become a theological church. If it’s the nurse who crosses the street and sets up a homeless shelter…

Look at your branding. A good brand is a promise kept. Do you keep the promises you make? If not you ruin the brand.

Check Practices. That’s what brings the culture. The soul of the place. You can feel it. Some churches you feel ‘Oh no, I can’t do things here.’ And there are others where it’s free.

KEY leaders need to define the reality. The leader is the key to open the door. This is conceptual and irritating. Not everyone will do it – or needs to.

In Myers-Briggs terms, most people are S not N. So they ACT their way into new ways of thinking.

So you need to create some PRACTICES that help people do the new culture (eg. BLESS).

McDonalds don’t let the 18 year old make it all up. They coded it. That’s a bit too far, but we need to form habits.

3)   INNOVATE!

4)   MOVEMENTUM – The flywheel effect as Collins describes it. It’s hard, then it gets going by itself.

The greatest resource, is the people. Dave Ferguson. ‘Lead with a Yes.’ Trust people. They want to change the world!

Every believer is a potential church planter. In a seed is the potential follower. Every believer has the potential. The 12 were not the A team. But it wasn’t a professional show, it was a movement.

This stuff is pulled out in detail in the book On The Verge. Get a copy. These guys are Jedis.

 

 

 

 

The Ultimate Secret Of Prayer. Brother Luigi #LC14 ‘Fuel For The Fire’

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Notes from seminar at HTB Leadership Conference: 

 

Basic law of Christian prayer -
It is already there before you start.
When you realise this, you are praying
It’s like breathing: with you always

When 17 his faith has come alive and he’s trying to start to learn to pray

Started with 5 mins
Added 5 a day

About half an hour – it was wonderful
But then the house was empty

After a while his brothers spoiled it

So, he’d sit in a chair
Read
Get a word
Repeat it

But then a younger brother bangs on door
Now he’s angry
And guilty
So he gives up

By the end of the week – he goes to confession, where he learned the lesson of his life about prayer

About a man who was imprisoned for years, yet surrounded by pain and noise, out of that – he learned to pray. The monk then told him:
‘The test that a prayer is authentic is that you learn to turn it into prayer. Any scrap of wood is good fuel for the fire!’

Obstacles to prayer?
I’m stressed
Angry
Depressed
Noise

Well what if we prayed out of noise?
It’s easy in a silent monastery
But now he’s in Rome and the tourists come in with no regard that people are praying

So what if we transform the noise so you pray for the people? Anger
Jealousy
Does it have to stop you praying
No – express it to God
Why I am angry
With whom
Isn’t that prayer? Say it to God.

Thank The Lord – it’s prayer!
You find yourself now praying 100 times a day

Never think you have to overcome your frustration first! God is interested in all my feelings and thoughts; good and bad.

When is pain only pain
When is lust only list
When can hatred become a prayer?
Ps 140 tells us it can!
All our feelings are expressed in prayer.
The most poignant cry of pain heard on earth? ‘my God, my God- why have you forsaken me?’ This helps us turn anything into prayer
The ultimate secret of prayer is this:
MY GOD.
I direct it to him.
Risen, he is with us always.
In church, on the bus, in light, in the dark.

A Theology Of Leadership: Nurture and Protect for Flourishing. @gtomlin Graham Tomlin #LC14 HTB Leadership Conference

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The Christian church was born into an era of emperors. You ascended the imperial throne because of seniority, heredity or military glory. Then you could do whatever you liked until unseated by a coup.

 

Before 1949 in Germany Fuhrer just meant Leader. Since the war it doesn’t get used. It’s tainted. Similarly such leaders tainted it for the church.

 

Also for OT – God was king, kings were something to be wary of.

 

For NT – Jesus is only Lord. (Acts 17:7, Rom 10:9, Col 1:18) – HE is the Leader. The head of the church. Supreme.

 

We hear ‘Lead Like Jesus’ – but if that means he’s just an example of a good leadership tip source, that won’t do. He’s no leadership guru, he’s the Lord.

 

BUT God is working for the flourishing of creation. (Eph 1:10)

 

Richard Bauckham ‘God’s secret purpose at work in the whole creation took visible shape in Jesus Christ.’

 

God’s care for creation is exercised indirectly; he chooses a part for the good of all. He chooses us. It’s always mediated. Gen 2:15 ‘work it and take care of it’

 

Work it (enable its potential) nurture

Take Care of it (protect)

 

All mediated:

God’s care for creation – through humanity

For society – through govt

For people – through the church

For church – through it leaders (presbuteros, episkopos, deacons)

 

How does this kind of CHRISTIAN leadership work then?

 

Leadership is BORROWED and never OWNED.

There is one true leader, owner and Lord. (Rom 13 – God establishes it, every single authority so there’s no such thing as a leader – only God’s allowance.) Human authority is derived, not absolute. Never worship a leader!

This is a radical Christian insight. The power doesn’t come from the people.

God is King. We don’t own the leadership. Never forget it.

This extends to those we lead – they are HIS, not yours. Forget that and you’re in trouble.

 

Leadership is a means of DIVINE BLESSING

God wants to bless people through your leadership, so flourishing occurs. This call on us is to be those who work and care. Nurture and protect. Colin Gunton ‘that it may come to be that which it was created to be, that which praises its maker by becoming perfect in its own way.’ Guard from threats, internal and external and also help them realize their potential.

 

 

Leadership requires HUMILITY

HBR listed qualities of leadership; but missed this off the list. It’s seldom spoken of in leadership theory, but if we look at leadership as a stewardship, then we must look for humility. St John Crystostom wrote on leadership in the C3rd, basically saying why he doesn’t want to lead.

The first thing a preacher must do is ‘purify his sould entirely of ambition for the office… train himself to despise praise.’

Cf James ‘Who is wise among you?’ Jm 3:13 – look how you show it.

Look out for the limelight!

 

Leadership creates space to FLOURISH – remade in the image of Christ

The gardener doesn’t make anything grow, just creates space for it to happen.

Protect the plant (can be hard to oppose a negative influence)

Be imaginative.

 

God wants people to flourish and become like Jesus. Good leadership is joining in with that.

 

 

So…

 

Who are you called to lead

How can you nurture and protect them?

Which of these two things do they need most now?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rick Warren leaders meeting, HTB leaders meeting #LC14

I was privileged to be invited with a small group of leaders to lunch with Pastor Rick Warren – afterwards there was an ‘Any Questions.’ Here are my notes on his responses. I couldn’t think of any questions so I gave him a hug instead :) 

Rick Warren Rick-Warren-2

We can no longer lead with proclamation, we need to lead with activity ; in the public square. It’s important not to get alienated or partisan.

The local church has to reclaim health care as part of its job. Christians took care of the sick & dying
Why should we help those with mental illness?
Jesus did it – health of spirit, mind and body.
Practically, when the church gets called in to people’s troubles, we better be ready and trained to represent him.

Where do you go for help?
Small groups
Everybody has to be in one:
Meet in temple courts (large worship)
And
House to house
Saddleback has more people in small groups than Sundays.

The Pastor has to model this. Go through life together, I was there when they needed me, and vice versa. And when Matthew committed suicide, they were there in 30 minutes. To show up, and shut up
Not to bring words, but a hug.

Small is better in small groups
4 is better than 6
6 is better than 8
10 is too many.

People join a group for content
And stay for relationship

Don’t try to recruit for relationship.

How do we encourage honesty?
You create greater relationship by walking in humility; not denying your strengths but being honest about your weaknesses.

I used to think I could never say ‘Follow me as I follow Christ’
But now I realise there are no perfect models. So not pretending to be confident, admitting your fears, when people say ‘who do you think you are?’ Wrong question! ‘Who do you think God is’? We are scared, but God wants us to do it
The world is looking for today, in the UK
Is an authoritative message
In a humble personality.
The combination is irresistible

Q: how do we help young people not leave church?

- headline he saw ‘If you love Pope Francis you’ll love Jesus’ The methods change, the message doesn’t
Figure out the keys to the heart- felt needs.
Rick was a worship leader first
I’m inner city LA he wanted to reach the gangs – their key? ‘Who’s strongest?’

So they set up a weightlifting gym
Then there would be bible study
Then they had ‘who is strongest’ competition

Most churches just say ‘take it or leave it’ and they leave it.

Gallup asked the whole world ‘what’s the number 1 need in life?’ A Good Job.
Half the world is unemployed
Whoever helps find jobs and creates jobs gets the hearts.

How do we get more of the church to open their homes to the new people?

Pulpit – the rudder of the church. But you have to say it 7 ways before they get it.

Who you want to reach – put up front. When people walk into your church, the first thing they ask is not a spiritual but a sociological but one. ‘who looks like me?’

Match your greeters to who you want to reach.

Michael Frost at New Thing Gathering #exponential – Aslan on the move!

Michael Frost at New Thing Gathering #exponential

sentralized-michael-frost

 

Only one Australian has ever won the Nobel prize for literature; Patrick White
A brutal, critical hater of the church
in his biography he wrote about how he was with his gay partner of 40 years when he went out on the farm to feed his dogs,

He fell on his backside, covered in mud and dogfood he heard a voice say ‘who the hell do you think you are?’

He thought God was speaking to him.

So he went to church next week with his partner

He went to the Anglican Church and sat at the back, where the Rector was telling people off for entering the jelly bean counting contest and being gamblers.
‘I realised whatever faith I had needed to be a private matter’

And too many churches are putting people like that off or telling them off
Rather than being with them.
Being their friends I
And saying ‘that God who was taking to you, he’s my friend and he wants to be yours too.’

Canada – Another couple of Christians decided to pray for their neighbours every Tuesday night
They moved in and prayed

One night theres a knock at the door
A Muslim knocked on the door
‘Tonight Jesus came and said in a dream go and ask Nigel what I want you to do to help Single mums’

Thailand
A friend was sitting in a cafe
A Buddhist monk approached him
‘I had a vision of Jesus Christ he told me to be here and Paul would tell me what to do.’
He led him to Christ
And He has in turn led 12 other Buddhist monks who follow Jesus.

God is at work
Something is up
God is working beyond the church because we are not sending people out and equipping them
So he says ‘I shall reign wherever I choose even if my people won’t be there’

We need people willing to nice out of the Christian bubble to where he’s already working, in the pubs and among the poor

We Christians have nothing to fear!
Why ?
God is on the move
Cf Aslan on the move.
It’s happening in the nations now, the thaw is happening now!
We are being set free from the frozen place.
God is about raising up an army.
God is winning!
There’s pain and suffering
But those days are numbered
And all heaven is breaking loose !
Get involved!

Don’t escape from reality or look to blame and scapegoat for the problems in the world
It comes from a heart of fear

Churches shouldn’t be fearful places
We should be the most engaged
And involved

Jesus was our scapegoat
We don’t need to blame anyone for your problems
You’re set free
Sent into the world
Not called into an escape pod

God is directing history to its true end
It’s our honour to be part of it.

#exponential Rethinking WITNESS. Danielle Strickland. Lifting The Veil.

#exponential Rethinking WITNESS.

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Acts 3:1

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer – at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognised him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

 

She was on a plane going to Zambia, and feeling bored. Then 5 women got on with burkhas on, and one sat next to her.

And she said ‘Hello!’ to her. But she didn’t know what to say to her, so like a mad person she asked her, ‘What do you think of Bin Laden?’

 

Then she said ‘I’m with him.’

WHAT??!! You mean he’s on the plane too?!

‘I mean, I’m not against him.’

Why? What have you got against us?

You’re infidels. I just graduated from an Islamic fundamentalist school.

‘Oh wow, we have so much in common! I love evangelism too.’

‘I specialize in converting Christians to Islam.’

OK – give me your pitch

And she was reading to try to remember everything she knew about Islam and then the Holy Spirit said ‘Tell her about Jesus.’

And so she gave her testimony of how much Jesus had done for her since he showed up in her life at 7.

And then the lady said, ‘Would you like to see my face?’

And she showed her face and it was beautiful and smiling and joyful.

Then she said, ‘was I what you were expecting?’

And she wasn’t. That’s not what an Islamic fundamentalist looks like.

 

We have to change the way we see

See who Jesus is

See who people are

 

At the gate beautiful Jesus saw a man nobody else saw as beautiful. The disciples learn how to see people. He lifts the burkhas.

The Roman soldier

The prostitute

The leper

If only we could SEE PEOPLE.

 

People aren’t PROJECTS. Notches on the belt. Could we love people – even if they never converted? Could you share life anyway?

 

What have we done to make coming to Jesus a transaction?

Who are we with our stereotypes?

 

In Hebrews it says when Moses was born his parents saw he was no ordinary child. They saw something.

 

Catherine Booth of the SA used to tuck her kids in at night and say ‘You were born to change the world.’

Lord help us see beyond. How he loves people for who they are now, not just for who they could be. If we could, it would change everything.

Alan Hirsch at #Exponential on Discipleship

We can’t say when a person becomes a Christian. Not even at what point the apostles crossed the line.

We are to make disciples
He makes Christians

What is discipleship?

1. Becoming more and more like Jesus
2. Letting more of Jesus abide in me

It’s a response to Jesus being my Lord and Savioiur

We believe in Jesus’ death, resurrection and return

But what about the focus on incarnation – if we are to go as the Father sent the Son.

What about his teachings?
His life?

That stuff is the LORD part
It’s not just the Saviour piece -as sin management

We are eternally destined to be confirmed to his image.

Bonhoeffer – ‘Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.’

CS Lewis
… the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose.

The Beautiful Gospel – Brad Jersak at Ivy – #Bgbg2 for @wtctheology

Brad hails from Canada and teaches Gospel Studies on the faculty of  Westminster Theological Centre (which I am delighted to be a trustee of and teach on). My notes from his talk last week. He talks fast so I got as much as I could!! 

The beautiful gospel is of a God of unfailing love.

It’s not a sales pitch I have to convince people of.

A presentation that prisoners and the poor say ‘YES!’ to because it’s good news to them.

The gospel in itself does not need upgrading. It’s a faith once delivered to the apostles from the Lord Jesus.

But we need to be careful how we tweak our presentation of it, for every generation – so they hear it.  We can have approaches, but it’s not steps.

He then showed us the gospel in chairs: with two chairs (one black and one white chair).

How I heard the gospel first off: the version I came to Christ through – was the legal gospel. Composed by Calvin. Courtroom image. Sin is lawbreaking that must be punished. God can either punish the lawbreaker, or Jesus. He saves us from that. (Retributive)

So – Adam and Eve sin and go far from God. People remain estranged, despite religion or promises not to turn away.  They turn away from him, so he turns away from him. Jesus is the only good one. On the cross he becomes sin, takes our curse. God turns his back on Him. Pours wrath and punishment on Him. But because he was without sin he ascends to heaven. So now, if you believe Jesus died for you, you are ‘snow covered dung’ (Luther).  We have Jesus to hide behind now so God’s enmity to us is hidden and in Christ he becomes your friend. If you say no to this, you’ll have that wrath poured out in you forever.

This is the gospel that he came to faith through.

He doesn’t want to reject it, but it needs tweaking

It pits God against you. Actually His primary disposition is LOVE.

And – if God can’t look on sin ; wasn’t Jesus fully God? How could He eat with sinners then?  Is God more like a Pharisee – who would turn he back on a sinner!

And it pits the Father against the Son. Where was the Father on Good Friday? At what point did Jesus stop being God? Never. The idea that God turns away from His Son comes from his cry, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ But he’s actually quoting Psalm 22. And thinking of the whole thing not just the first verse. It carries on! A Messianic Psalm of death, passion and resurrection.  Because ‘He has not despised the suffering of his servant or hidden his face from me…’

There’s another version. We can tell it better! Sin is a fatal disease, that brings death – and needs a great healer. (Restorative)

It starts out the same way, Adam and Eve, image bearers. They come under the curse of sin, what is God doing? He’s always entering co-suffering love with them. Over and over the OT is full of people receiving love and promises and fulfillment and blessings and they keep blowing it and what does God do? He keeps showing up with more love.

He says I’m going to send you prophets with such good news, some of you will get it and turn back to me!

Then comes Jesus. God in the flesh.

God meets a woman who has been through 5 marriages and now she’s off again on a new guy. God comes and sits down beside her, and says. ‘It’s because you’re thirsty you’re living like that. Come to me for water and you won’t be thirsty.’

God comes to a little guy who’s embezzling funds and hated by the community he rips off he is loved back to life.

God comes to a woman caught in adultery. She’s a trap set up to get Jesus. Stone her? What does God do? Kneels down next to her and scribbles in the dirt. What was he writing? Their sins? In Jeremiah it says, ‘Because you have rejected me and my living water, I will write you in the dust.’

What does God say to the woman? ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.’ (Not ‘or else’ but ‘because you’re free!’)

God comes to a man so possessed by evil, demons are bouncing off him. He’s scary! God gets in a boat and steps up to him in the cemetery and sets him free and gives him his mind, clothes, and community.

God comes to a man who’s consigned to a mat, disabled. The culture says it’s because of sin. What does God do? When some guys open the roof and lower the man down toward him. He says – 1) Your sins are forgiven. (He’s not even repented). 2) Gives him a new life and job.

Our God comes – and co-suffers with us. His holiness manifests in compassion and love. He comes to people, who with hatred and shame who turn their back on Him. They put him on a cross – and he forgives from it.

Now when we go to the grave – he is there. He was dead

But now he holds the keys of death and hell – so there is nowhere God’s love is not. It fills all things. Those who receive that love experience it as eternal life.

They who reject that love… continue to receive it – as a consuming love.

What happens to them? His mercy endures forever.

His love never fails. That’s news a broken world needs to hear. That God never gives up on me. He’s always there and always has been. He never changes. His love is steady as an anchor.  Jesus is NEVER against you. Your rejection of him might feel like hell but it’s his version of love.

And on Good Friday, God the Father, Son and Spirit are on the cross.

2 Cor – God was in Christ, reconciling us to himself…

He’s not saving us from God, he’s not appeasing and angry Father but revealing a loving Father’s perfect love (1 John).

If you want to look at God, look at Jesus.

Jesus is the exact representation of His likeness.

God showed him that in a body.

God is now the most accessible person in the universe (1 John 4:15-19).

No Fear!

If He’s so accessible, we should take advantage of that!

Ready – Aim – Preach!

(continuing my series of thoughts on this most vital area for ministry…) 

In 1948 Harold Laswell described the ‘Magic Bullet’ theory of communication. Communication = a process whereby a source transmits a message through some channel to a receiver. It’s called the magic bullet theory because the sender shoots the message out of his brain into someone else’s. The listener is passive in the experience.

Others modified the theory and included the idea of ‘Feedback.’ (How the listeners respond will have an effect on the sender). It seems really simple, and lots of us can think that’s what communication is. Cause & effect.

I preach a message from the Bible, the most powerful text in the world, someone hears it and, ‘Bingo!’ (or maybe no more bingo, if you’re preaching that gambling is wrong).

Message sent (cause) —– Received (effect). I deliver it, you get it.

But anyone who’s ever done it knows there’s a lot more to it than that isn’t there? ‘There’s many a slip ‘twixt ear and lip.’ When you look out at people scratching, shifting, checking the time and yawning; the magic bullet isn’t doing its job. Maybe the gun’s misfiring, or the bullets are blanks?

Or perhaps its because you never took AIM?

Imagine walking through the woods and suddenly you hear the crack of a rifle, you hit the deck as branches snap around you. What the heck?!

Eventually you see there’s a hunter (at least he’d call himself one) wandering around firing indiscriminately until finally, mercifully, he runs out of bullets: You ask him what on earth he’s doing.

“Well, I know there are deer out here in these woods somewhere, I figured if I shoot out enough bullets in as many directions as poss, eventually I’ll hit one.”

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Ever heard preaching like that?  It makes you want to run for cover.

Probably my favourite recent Christian book on preaching would be Communicating for a change, by Andy Stanley.

He starts off the book with a parable of a truck driver who helps a preacher get better;

Lesson 1? Ask where you want to go. Preaching is like a journey; you go somewhere and end up somewhere. ‘The question is do you end up where you wanted to – or just drive round willy-nilly?’

If you don’t have a destination – you’re just driving round! He suggests you DECIDE in advance where you’re headed. In driving and in preaching a clear destination is VITAL.

If I just go on about various things I’m thinking or learning – it can be interesting (parts of it, to me at least).

I heard a Pastor once talk about ‘Preaching the notices.’ Don’t take him literally! What he meant was there’s a way for your sermons to drive the whole church forward – highlighting a value the church needs to have magnified or clarified (eg servanthood) or the vision of the church and a call to get moving or sustain momentum together…taking everyone on the journey with you where they discover truth together.

So, when you get up to speak – can you tell me the destination? Have you got clarity on that?

Ready to Aim? If not – you’re Fired!

Mike Starkey at Ivy – Fashion, Introspection and Providence. #Bgbg2

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Last Sunday evening at Ivy my friend Mike Starkey brought some great thoughts on these three issues, here are my notes: 

Most of the references to fashion in Christian history have been negative.

But our God is a creator, the source of beauty and colour.
Mike wrote a book some years ago about fashion – and was called the antichrist by a Christian who wrote to him for not lambasting fashion as being of the devil. She said that we are meant to be ‘not of this world.’

But does that mean we hide away from it? What does our clothing do?
Our clothing has a lot to do with our identity, increasingly in our society – years ago you had little choice about your place in society. You did what mother and father did, and wore what they did. People could read your status level from your clothing. When people bought clothes rather than made them. That has changed beyond recognition in our generation; technology has changed all that.

Teenagers got spending power, after the war – and were in search of identity. It became possible to buy an identity- off the peg. Subcultures you’d see in the media became available as an option for you to buy into.

We all buy into this! We are skilled at playing with the image we project – people are always communicating something about who they are, or what they are definitely not. Today’s city dweller sees more people in one day than medievals saw in a lifetime, so your clothing is a poster for your art when people walk past you.

People today are caught up in an escalating cycle of self consciousness. Self analysis has become the norm for most of us.  I can shape it through who I am and what I watch and what ‘people like me’ think about important issues.

Advertisers are selling me a vision of who I could be, if I buy a particular brand.

I think about things. I think about myself thinking about things,
And how do I feel about how I’m coming across to the person I’m relating to?

This is subtle, but very spiritual. We don’t notice it happening. And you’d hope when we come to Jesus we’d have the identity issue sorted out? But now there’s a whole new set of things to be self conscious of.
Should I still swear a bit to I show I’m a ‘cool’ Christian at work?

This self focus is a normal part of living now.
Naming it helps lift off the burden.

We can rediscover a sense of providence; which means ‘God is doing stuff.’

Genesis 24 – it’s the story of what happened before online dating.
But behind it all, God is working out his purposes.

The obvious solution to who Isaac should marry is ‘a nice local girl’ but Abraham knows Miss Right isn’t living round there. So he sends the servant off, and says, ‘Don’t forget – it’s not about luck. We are part of a bigger story!’ There’s an angel going too – but getting some other girl than God’s right choice would spoil the bigger story.

Notice – even before the servant has finished his prayer, along she came. Almost as if there’s a God!

Behind the scenes of human action there’s a bigger story being told. A deeper drama about God making a family and inviting people to be part of that. Something bigger than me is going on.
Always!
God is at work behind the scenes -
Always!
He is already doing stuff.
Stirring up dissatisfaction and needs. So I join in the missio dei.
Some groups in Christian history have emphasised providence, others free will.
Is it – ‘God has got a plan’ or have we got a choice? Look at Whitefield vs Wesley, they fell out over this.
It’s a false division! Both are true! God has a purpose and we are invited to participate in it.

Abraham said the girl will be free to say no. But it’s all according to God’s plan. How does that work?

We don’t know, except that we have a strength outside of ours that come from a story bigger than we could see.

Sometimes, we only see the story as we look back. The journey of faith is not me inviting God into my story. It’s me looking outward beyond myself. And saying ‘I want to play in your story.’