Archive for November, 2011

Delaying God - A clash of paradigms

A paradigm is a way of framing one’s existence. Within Christianity today there are many, but I want to highlight one and contrast it with my own paradigm.

The paradigm is the belief system, that all we need to do is pray more, intercede for our cities and nation, gather together more, be more authentic and relevant in our Christian lives and that the signs of the times are showing that Christ is on the way.

My paradigm is that we are stopping God do what God wants to do. I have to quickly say that God of course is sovereign and God will do whatever God wants to do. But although God is sovereign, God allows us to choose whether we serve. Thus for the children of Israel God’s plan A was the Promised Land but the Israelites chose the Wilderness. They delayed God doing wanted God wanted to do for a generation.

What was the problem with the Israelites then, and the paradigm of, “all we need is to pray more, intercede for our cities and nation, gather together more”….In my opinion they both don’t diagnose the real problem. Prescription before diagnosis causes malpractice.

The real problem in my paradigm is that God’s people had and have allowed unbelief with its symptoms of fear and worry to become socially acceptable. In other words God says to the children of Israel go into the promised land and they said the people are giants, God says today go and make disciples, we say we are afraid that they might reject us, or that what we have to offer is not authentic enough. We cannot see our own ubelief/sin and so we are locked in a shame fear control cycle.

At it is heart, shame is abandoning God and we become afraid that people might find out, so we control the situation by keeping busy. The children of Israel walked in circles and we today walk in initiative after prophecy, after intercession, after festival after major prayer meeting. This is not a criticism of any of those activities merely to say it is ….

The sin of unbelief, which keeps God’s people from finding their true identity in my paradigm is the problem. This is delaying God. We have put the cart before the horse. By emphasising the activities of Christianity, prayer, intercession, prophecy, unity and evangelism we miss the point. We need to search out everything that is blocking our relationship with God, sins of commission and sins of omission, confess and turn in the opposite direction. That’s the paradigm I believe God has led me to at the moment. I don’t say it is perfect, but I have seen once you tackle unbelief ordinary miracles start to occur.

Passive Hope

Passive Hope
Snow White sings Someday my Prince will come in the classic Disney song in the film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Hope is an important ingredient in the Christian Church. The verse in Romans that springs to mind is that And we know that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
But there is another hope that I detect in the church today.
That is Passive hope. Some would argue that hope is indeed passive.
I prefer to think that Hope is the emotion of Vision. Is Vision ever passive?….Hope and Vision inspire us.
To inspire is to have the spirit move within us. Hope is an inner movement,
a means of flowing from one emotional state to another, from a state of fear and despair to one of the possibility of desirable change. But I sense today that Passive hope has taken hold
There is an inactivity which is supported by the thought that God will do what God wants to do, so it doesn’t really need me
In its worst form it is apathy. Hope should spur us on, not keep us seated waiting on God.
As the bible says in Proverbs 13:12 Hope long delayed makes the heart sick. Passive hope is an illness that needs to be diagnosed within all of us and a prescription of active hope taken several times a day

Put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else

I have flown 16 times in the last month and perhaps I have memorised the security instructions given at the beginning of a flight. “Put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else” has discipleship implications for the leader of the church. I haven’t met many church leaders who don’t want to see their churches grow numerically and spiritually. Leaders are often however struggling to understand how to unlock numerical and spiritual growth. Within the safety instructions given on a flight holds a key. “You have to access the oxygen first before helping others. In other words, we have to attend to our own spiritual development before we can help others. I am sorry to say that our congregations are often a spiritual reflection of where we are in our relationship with God. How much change are you as a leader prepared to embrace in your own walk with God. Work on your own relationship with God and you will start to see ordinary miracles in your congregation

We don’t invite because we think we have nothing to offer

I have been staying with a wonderful couple in Papakura It is situated strategically 32km south of Auckland city The council promote the place in this way “Papakura is in the unique position of being bordered on its north side by the greater Auckland suburbs, and on the south by some of the most striking countryside within New Zealand.” Just been to church in Papakura. I have the privilege of visiting church communities around the world and invariably the church community itself does not know how good it is.
We often feel we have nothing to offer. But we have fellowship leading to community, an act of worship which helps us praise our Creator and be thankful, in some churches we have the opportunity to be discipled, which leads to people discovering who they are in Chirst, and we have mission leading to working with all God’s people, whether they are with us yet or not. We need to promote what God is doing among us as well as a local Council promotes its area

Do we decide for our friends?

I didn’t want to say no for them, came from a young woman who had invited her friends to a church event. I have found in the Seminars that I conduct around the world, that we often do the deciding for our friends as to whether we will invite them. We think, will my friend want to be invited to church and we conclude no. So we save them the bother of say no to a question we don’t really want to ask them. Who is God asking you to invite?

Not getting the desired results?

Are you not getting the desired results in your life/job/ministry? Do you tend to blame others for our current state of affairs? I used to blame others, in fact I sometimes still do, but I found that it didn’t really do me any good. It kept me from the reality that I am often the cause of my circumstances. This is hard for us to take that we are responsible, it is much easier to blame others. But the great news is that for the Christian we have something called confession and repentance. An opportunity to say the things we have done wrong and then turn in the opposite direction and change. For things to change we must change. To become more than we are we must work more on ourselves than on our job/ministry and then our results will change!

Fat Bottoms and Big Ears

What frustrates me the most in my travels around the world, is coming across large evangelical churches who love hearing the word of God. Now before you criticise me for clearly an unsound statement, hear me out. Good sound teaching is like having a wonderful meal and enjoying every taste. But what if you went to the same restaurant every week, ordered from the menu and then when it arrived you didn’t eat it. You appreciated how it looked, how it smelt, you even anticipated the taste, but you never tasted it for yourself. I come across churches just like that. They use words like exegesis. They have wonderful bible teachers, who can take you into the Greek, they tell great stories, they make you laugh, they make you uncomfortable at times, but in the end the congregation conclude, that the teaching would be great for others, but they themselves are okay and do not need to apply the teaching to their daily lives. But they will turn up next week because they love to sit and hear. They have fat bottoms and large ears. They will of course protest, the church does a lot of good works, because they pay their staff to do them, they donate a lot of money, because they have to big givers.

But the word of God says be doers of the word, not just hearers. To intellectually know something and not do, is not really to know.

You disarmed my Defensive Shield

One church leader thanked me for the Seminar on invitation, but particularly wanted to congratulate me on disarming their defensive shield. It seems to me that invitation is not done, because church leaders have been rejected by their congregations who have not invited their friends, that they protect themselves with an invisible shield controlling any further possibility of rejection. By not mentioning invitation they avoid being judged. To congregational member this might seem daft. But in the mind of the church leader everytime they have an invitation Sunday, it is almost like a visible referendum of the church leader’s ministry to the congregation. This is not a secret ballot, everyone will see the results. So they shield themselves.

Scripture talks about another shield which might in fact be much more useful to the church leader. It is called the shield of faith. That whatever the circumstances of our life God is with us. Perhaps once we have the right shield, more invitation will take place

To be Un-Invited

Have you ever been uninvited? I have been just recently. The ironic thing is that I was invited to a Conference to speak about invitation. All was set, I imagined a significant breakthrough and lots of openings to spread the message of simple invitation and then I was uninvited. No real explanation, but looking at the invited speakers, I did feel rather think that I missed out because I wasn’t a known speaker with a Doctorate and author of plenty of books.

It is hard to be uninvited, I felt depressed and down for at least 48 hours, I am still not quite over it some ten days later. But it is a reminder to me that although God has invited those outside our congregations into a relationship and God uses us to do the inviting. Unfortunately it appears as if we have uninvited them. By not concentrating on the great commission of make disciples and concentrating on maintain what we already have, are we not uninviting the invited? Convoluted but I hope you get my drift!

Change our angle of thinking

One significant church leader wrote recently and said that I might be able to come back and speak to his clergy if what I had to present is a very different angle. Oh to have failed in the first place to get over the message of simple invitation! I now have to think up a very different angle. In one sense the leader is correct. Jesus found different ways of communicating. There is as saying “He is the best orator who can turn men’s ears into eyes”. So I will try.

The great thing about this journey around the world trying to get invitation into the DNA of the church is that I pick up great ideas wherever I go, so I am confident that I will be able to re-present the simple Christian discipline of invitation very differently.

But why do we always crave the new way, or the fresh initiative. Aren’t the simple timeless disciplines of Christianity still true today as they have been since Christ walked the earth? GK Chesterton said that Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has been tried and found difficult, so not really tried.

How about a very different angle being, to look at our generation from God’s perspective and change our angle of thinking