'We are all in the same boat, in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty'
G K Chesterton
We've been doing a thing with Lead Academy which has been interesting.
It's basically a learning community with about 20 churches exploring a plan for post-Covid church. We've had lots of good input - some better than others. I am generally struck by the constant pull of the US Megachurch and the 'go and do as Pastor X does' approach to teaching.
One chappy said this:
'People don't want sermons on Ephesians- they want something helpful'
I'll let you into a secret. I am not Andy Stanley. I've not written a book, I am not a 'high-performing' leader, I'm not that clever and I have so many shortfalls I could type them here all morning. I pastor a small local church. On the journey though , I've learnt a thing or two about the kingdom but no one will ever ask me to share this at conference.
I don't have a model or 'Five tools to grow you church' or the anointing of the 'super-apostle'.
I have nothing very wow to share.
Ministry boils down to four things (tomorrow of course these four might be different!):
1. Read/ dive into the Bible.
2. Pray and teach others to pray.
3. Care for your own soul (and look after your family if you have one).
4. Keep learning and reading
You will be absolutely amazed how little time pastors/ people working for churches spend doing these four things.
You can ignore these four and grow a church.
You can grow a church with human talent, money, driven-ness and an off the shelf model.
All of these are fine but not without 1 to 4
Read the Bible
The Bible is not a text book of theology or a model of how to live. It's a story we're invited to jump into. A pal arrived on my doorstep with a brand new five volume set of commentaries called Thru the Bible. I am currently using it as I read through Matthew each morning. It's great and it's helping the story come alive again.
I use the Daily Prayer app and the BCP takes you through all 150 psalms every 60 days. I am also reading this book on prayer which is blessing me. I am still reeling listening to Paul Miller say '90% of pastors admit to having no discernable prayer life'.
Care for your soul
Start by taking a Sabbath. It will be hard. There's lots to do I know. But you have to STOP. For the good of your soul.
Keep learning and reading
I always have a book on the go. I leave them open around the house. You'll be stunned how much you can read if you cut out Twitter and Instagram. I'm reading the Institutes on the loo. If you are wondering what to read, then get hold of Indelible Ink and choose a book that strikes you.
Do these four things and together we may, by grace, get to the end of the race having remained faithful and part of a local church and still loving Jesus.
I'm not there yet and I may fail yet- so we'll see.
'For the first time in my life, I connected God's justification of me with how I related to another person. The result? I didn't defend myself. I quietly rested in "the righteousness from God that depends on faith". My silence was a form of love. Love comes from faith'
The J Curve, Paul Miller, p.43
This year a friend texted me to tell me 30 years ago we were on an Alpha course together. I had encountered Jesus in my last year at university and had moved to London. Someone suggested I should do an Alpha course which I duly did. The person who led it (who is now a dear friend) remembers me being one the most disappointing people he ever had on a course. I am a slow starter and learner.
One of the first letters in the Bible I read as a Christian was Philippians via a book called 'A life worth living'. The title captures a problem I think many new Christian's experience, which is that we think we've invited God to join in with our life, when in fact it's the other way around. It took me over a decade to grasp this basic principle which is why perhaps I struggled a tad.
This letter is the most joyful of Paul's communications and seemed to be one of the more functional churches he planted. Apart, of course, from a couple of ladies falling out with each other. Other than that, Paul insists that what God began would be brought to completion however gingerly you begin. I can testify to that. In fact, many a keen bean in those early days have long since bailed. Little old me, with the dunce hat at the back of the class, find myself a pastor with 30 years of mileage on the clock and still driving, however slowly and inadequately.
I'd never dwelt much in Chapter 3 which is a section about death and resurrection. I've come to see recently, not only from this letter, but also from painful experience, that a life worth living will be full of many dying and rising moments.
'Brilliant book. So much theology, so much of life, is made sense of by the J-curve. Before I knew this book existed I built my logo around, and wrote this article about, The J-Curve. I wish I wrote this book, but I don’t have the wisdom, humility, life-experience, or holiness to write like Paul Miller. What a gift of a book. Deeply study this book and it will give you new eyes.'
Now I see that dying and rising is all over the letters and has huge implications for how we live. Most of you won't read the book, though I commend it heartily (together with 'The Praying Life' which is also terrific). So here is a talk that nails the key idea in an hour and, be prepared, Paul really does enjoy a chart!
'We are all in the same boat, in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty' G K Chesterton