As Pastors and leaders our past hurts will flavour our reaction to present ministry situations.
If we have been criticised, betrayed, let down and disappointed by people, this will cause us to be insecure, reactionary and untrusting in present ministry situations.
If there has been a battle fought and won in a particular area of ministry, when that discussion comes up again we may very well be overtly defensive about it. The pain inflicted by fighting that battle may still be real and present. So we shore up our defenses. It feels like we are being attacked all over again, even if we are not.
The ability to reframe your perspective to your present situation is crucial. The past battles have been done. Its time to trust, hope and believe again.
The Apostles Creed is not scripture. However I believe it accurately articulates some important aspects of the Christian faith.
I think theology is important. There are some great theologians, and some that are perhaps less than great. However theology is important, it can inform our expectations of God and life.
Neither creeds nor theology are actually what is crucial to the Christian faith. Jesus Himself made this clear. Love God. Love others.
Love of God, knowing Jesus, having a relationship with Him with all that entails is crucial to our Christian faith. Hearing from Him, listening to Him, worshipping Him. This is essential.
Love of others. Caring about our neighbour, seeing justice on earth, caring for the poor, sharing our faith, helping people say yes to Jesus. This is essential.
Despite him playing for the team I dislike the most, I could not but help admire the way Ben Cousins played. I remember one derby , which was an away derby, when I was sitting in the stands with a crowd of West Coast supporters. Cousins had worn himself ragged chasing all day and was vomiting on the sidelines. Despite his best efforts his team came up well short.
Now I read the latest in his long line of misdemeanours which has resulted in serious charges being laid. It also appears he is almost destitute with hardly a coin to his name. How he has fallen from those rock star days when he paraded around town as the darling boy of the Perth media.
There is no question his fall from fame, wealth and influence is a result of his own bad choices. A gracious and forgiving father, perhaps too gracious, a fawning media and sublime skills were not enough to ensure he lead a comfortable and privileged life.
But how do we react to this. Do we say its his own fault, his own choice and he deserves what he gets. All that is true. No question.
Yet in the midst of the consequences of his own bad choices I feel sorrow for him. For the plight he finds himself in. It could have been so different. We all make bad choices, everyone of us. And the consequences are natural and our own fault.
But I still feel sorry for him. Just as I feel sorry for myself when I bear the consequence of my own decisions. As a Christian I want to be like Jesus. In the midst of the whole human race making bad choices He did not say, well suffer you lot, you are getting what you deserve. He came down, He cared, and he took on himself the consequence of our decisions. I have to have the same attitude He took to those who are suffering, even suffering because they have made foolish and irresponsible choices.
The Church and Christians are often accused of being judgemental and hypocritical, with good reason. Cousins is just one example of someone who needs grace, not sneering looks.
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.
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.
Provocative title. Yes. And of course we discover so much about Jesus through the primary source of the Bible.
Yes these words of Jesus provoke something in me.
“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! 40 Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life…..”John 5.39
How much study do we do compared to how much time we spend just praying, listening, hearing, meditating.
How much scripture do we exegete before sitting down and thinking about how the Holy Spirit wishes to transform our lives, and the community around us. It is safe to study. It is safe to know the construct of the Greek words. It is not safe to be born along as the Spirit leads.
Seems to me there is a holy war going on at the moment. Some are worshipping at the idol of knowledge and attacking those seeking to know Him.