In Exodus 16 we have the story of the ‘Manna’ coming down from the sky as a miraculous provision from God. This wonderful bread like substance was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. The interesting aspect of this story is that Moses told the people “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”
It did not matter how much the people gathered, they had enough. God provided enough sustenance for them for that day. If they did not use what had been given for the day, try to store it, it went bad. Except on the Sabbath where miraculously the substance was preserved.
There is a real application for me in the above story. As a general principle God provides enough spiritual nourishment for the day, for the season. He speaks, he works, he challenges, he inspires. With what we need for that season.
The problem comes when we try to store up spiritual provision and hold onto it for the next day. It was good then, so I want to keep that, stay with that. The problem is that God provided for that moment, in that moment. And now, that moment has passed. Gods provision in the past provides hope for the future that He will provide when we need it next. But our relationship and ministry is always in need of provision for that day, because yesterdays wont suffice, unless we are stuck in yesterday.
Creativity comes and flows out of challenge. Some of the most creative people I know are those who don’t have much. They need to be creative, so they make out of the little they have.
My application is this, what God provides is to be used in that season. I often sense and receive words and thoughts flowing from creativity and a desire to hear from God. The temptation for me is to store those gifts from God up, to keep them. Sometimes, I confess, because I don’t trust that the next ‘manna’ is going to come. It is only as I use that which God provides for this season that I make room for that which God is going to provide for the next season.
On the Sunday just gone we had a Baptismal service at Inglewood Church.
Two months ago our pastoral team set a date for Baptism and said if we get one baptism, we will do it. One person came and said they wanted to be baptised so we started advertising the date. We had a further 4 people come and say they wanted to be baptised.
On the night before the Sunday I had someone ring me and we chatted and they too wanted to be baptised, so that made 6.
The service was amazing, a real sense of joy and God active in peoples hearts. After I had baptised the last person I felt really convicted to ask if there was anyone else who wished to be baptised. Two more people, on the spot said yes they wanted to be. I asked them to come forward and they shared their testimony. It was amazing.
I also said to people that we still have the baptismal (we hire a spa) and if anyone wanted to be baptised at our evening service, come and let me know. Two people did. Their stories were authentic and wonderful. So at our evening service I baptised them.
It was an incredible, spirit filled day. Probably one of the best in my 23 year Pastoral ministry at Inglewood Community Church.
One of them is a double walled coffee cup, not cheap, which is made for coffee. It has a serviceable handle but more importantly is designed so the heat from the coffee does not scald your hand.
The other is a simple glass, strong, but not insulated. Which would you prefer. Now the reality is that we all want a good tasting coffee. A scalding hot coffee will not be the best tasting one. Here
So the need for a double walled glass is actually superfluous. If you have a well made coffee, you don’t need it. In terms of enjoyment, I want to feel the warmth from the glass as I sip on my double shot macchiato or whatever I’m drinking.
Its the same with my faith. I want to feel what is happening. Those who argue for a purely rational faith, based entirely on the mind, are ignoring the reality of how God has made us. With emotion. And experts tell us many of our decisions are based on our emotions. Those emotions can often determine how we interpret the situations we are confronted with, and therefore how we behave.
Feeling compassion drives us to implement justice, sensing awe drives us to worship, empathy drives us to listen. For some Christians I wonder if the overriding aspect in their faith is actually fear. They fear how they truly feel, and how truly being open to God would make them feel, and therefore behave. Which is not to say we should be tossed in the wind, influenced by how something feels. But how we feel should be part of the discussion, and there should be no shame in that.
Today someone reminded me that 12 months ago my Church, Inglewood Church, held its last service at the Bob Daniels Centre.
Our Worship Pastor Jess sung this song at our opening service a few short weeks later.
It was a wonderful occasion. This song is a beautiful rendition of the story of Jesus’s transfiguration, when the disciples were fortunate enough to have a peek of Jesus glory. How awe inspiring it would have been to experience that.
Our churches transformation over the past 12 months is obviously nowhere near as dramatic as that incredible moment. Still, it is worth celebrating and remembering. God is good.
There is a plethora of church plants occurring in Perth at the moment. It seems like every week on Facebook there is a new shiny church springing up at a community centre or high school near you. The websites look good, the worship team seems fully formed and the pastors are passionate about reaching our city for Jesus.
Studies tell us that percentage wise more people become Christians during the formative years of a church than at any other time. So perhaps this is a good thing.
Some in church leadership have the gifting and the charisma to be effective in church growth. One easy measure of effectiveness in ministry is people on pews. This measure is not to be disregarded. Generally speaking we count what is valuable to us. Indeed the early church was well aware of the number of people who came to know Jesus on a particular day (Acts2.41).
New churches springing up is something we should celebrate, just as we mourn the passing and closing down of churches. Unfortunately in a dying churches history they have moved from vision and growth to management. Once a church has moved away from the upward scale of mission they plateau and move into the downward cycle of maintenance. Creatives move from such churches and are naturally attracted to the new, the fresh. They take their energy with them. Those who stay in dying churches decry this but only have themselves to blame. For them, the pain of change is too much to bear, so they choose the pain of slow painful death. Without change, a church will die. And the life will go elsewhere.
Likewise though, we cannot only keep moving from the new thing to the next new thing. That is exhausting and a waste of hard gained resource. Instead, somehow, the vision and the mission must be kept in the drivers seat. Creativity and passion must be stoked.
Character is actually the answer for balance. Character will cause you to make decisions which are contextual and yet have the same result. In some case, new life must rise from the ashes. In other cases strength will push new life out in new ways. In other cases the little strength you have will be able to be harnessed through deep painful change.
I attended the Baptist Assembly at Carey Baptist Church. It was a significant meeting.
The fact we could even have the assembly at Carey, a fantastic facility, is because of much of the leadership change we have seen brought in at Baptist denominational level. Healthy accountability structures enabling people to be creative and spirit led. Carey was founded upon sound leadership principles which came out of the whole leadership structure that has been brought in.
Worship time was great, Jett and his team of hipsters led us well, and to hear a Elevation song done, well that is always going to make me happy.
It was very interesting to see in reality the change in the face of people who came to assembly. There were a lot of women leaders, Pastors and associates and and others. The person who was accredited to be a Pastor in the Baptist Family of Churches was an Asian woman. What Mark Wilson said in regard to the changing role of women in church leadership was excellent. There was also a lot of younger pastors and leaders there, engaged and interested which was very interesting and encouraging to me. They feel the WA Baptist Family of Churches is a denomination they want to be a part of. I don’t think we can underestimate the change in culture that has taken place in ten years. To hear people laugh and enjoy assembly. That just didn’t happen before.
I think back to over ten years ago and Steve Smith was up against it. I don’t think we can underestimate the platform he brokered that enabled Mark Wilson to be able to come in. God has gifted Mark with the ability to bring reality, realness and social intelligence to a gathering. The meeting was good humoured, passionate and focused on mission. People don’t like change, but the change at denominational level has been necessary and incredibly positive.
It was great to see Mark Wilson get a overwhelming majority vote for him to continue in his role for the next five years. Mark presented some videos and thoughts on what Baptist Churches in WA get involved in and run. Like Sportsfest, Leavers at Dunsburough, Baptist Care, Baptist Schools and churches growing and being planted.
The Next Season
With all the changes taking place in our denomination there is a wonderful opportunity here for our Baptist Family of Churches to continue to to shine a light now and for generations. The reality is that in our post-christian generation our Baptist Churches continue to grow and be vibrant places of spirituality, shaping culture and communities for Jesus.