Friday, October 18, 2013

It's not over til it's over


"The difference between where you are and where God wants you to be may be the painful decision you refuse to make" 


Craig Groeschl quoted in Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson (Page 156)



'Today as never before there is being laid upon the heart and conscience of the Church the burden of evangelism. Other generations have had there own specific tasks: confessional restatement, theological reorientation, ecclesiastical reconstruction. Today the demand is more radical and basic. It is spiritual resurrection: it is -under God- the creating of life. To confront a bewildered and dishevelled age with the fact of Christ and smite its disenchantment with the glory of the Resurrection- this is the urgent, overruling task. "Son of man, can these bones live?"

There is therefore, no place to-day for a Church that is not aflame with the Spirit who is the Lord the Giver of life, nor any value in a theology which is not passionately missionary. If there throbs through the Church the vitality of a living union with Christ- and apart from this the Church has no claim to exist, no right to preach, it is merely cumbering ground- if the Church can indeed say "It is not I who live, it is Christ who lives in me, " then the dark demonic forces of the age have met their match, and the thrust of life is stronger than the drift of death. A church that knows its Lord and is possessed by its Gospel cannot but propagate creatively the life that it has found. A Christian who is taking his faith seriously cannot but evangelize'


A Faith to Proclaim, James S Stewart, Pages 11-12 (1953)

Bill Hybels in this amazing talk has a wonderfully simple adage that vision is about moving people ....'from here to there'. He asks the question 'What happens if we chose not to do something verses the challenge of actually doing it.'

You see I know we could not bother with all the hassle of many things that we are dreaming and praying about about as a church. For example, we could as the people of God not bother responding to Strategy for ministry and just let 30 or more churches/livings in London close/disappear over the next five years- just so long as we're alright Jack. Let's be clear- that's potentially 30 parishes and 30 communities that need reaching with the gospel. It's 30 potential Foodbanks and Riverbank hubs and 30 youth groups and 30 mother and toddler ministries and 30 churches that could be ministering to the elderly and the needs of the poor. It's 30 Alpha courses that could be running and 30 student ministries and 30 hubs of worship and prayer and foreign mission. It's 30 community centres where people could receive debt counselling and Citizen's advice. It's 30 job clubs and community cafes. Lack of resources requires contraction but we could and should be making plans to keep churches open through church planting and grafting and missional communities. That's all of our challenge and it's the challenge probably every Diocese across England faces. Also, I suppose we could simply ignore the fact that for every two vicars who retire in the C of E we are only training one replacement. We could ignore the fact that the average bum on a seat in the Church of England is 62 and 40% of the Clergy of the C of E are due to retire in the next ten years.

There are so many 'We could not's......'

We could not bother changing the way we train and prepare clergy.

We could not make demonstrable evangelistic and missional gifting and passion an over-riding criteria for the recruitment and ordination of new clergy.

We could not ask the question of our church "What plan do we have in place to reach the lost in our parish/town/city who don't yet know Jesus".

We could not believe that our church is able to plant another church. After all once upon a time someone planted us. Ask why it is that your church isn't planning a church plant, a new missionary endeavour or a new idea to reach those who don't yet know Jesus? What's stopping you dream? Are you asking God for whatever you think it is that might make this possible?

We could not ask the question as a church community "When was the last time we saw someone saved, who are they, how did it happen and have we as a church heard their story to encourage ourselves and rejoice (as happens in heaven)?"

We could not run Alpha or some another evangelistic course but it might be worth a revisit as a church to ask why exactly it is we don't believe in or aren't currently doing/training people in evangelism? The NT (read Acts) does seem rather keen on us making disciples and proclaiming the gospel to others.

We could not have a plan for how we can minister to the poor, the slaves, the addicted and the broken both here and abroad (today is Anti-slavery day).



We could not innovate our worship services to make them more accessible to those in their teens and twenties.

We could not do any apologetics for teenagers.

We could not get around to reading 'I never left care, care left me' and then not respond to it as a church

We could not train any leaders and send no one to be ordained or on mission.

We could not have any discipleship groups

We could not bother reading The Circle Maker which might have transformed the way we pray.

We could not ask ourselves the question 'When was the last time I invited someone to church'

We could not ask the question "If I did ask someone to church is the service I am inviting them to accessible, welcoming and a place the gospel is preached in a way they might comprehend."

We could not ask the question "Is our style of music consistent with and for the people we are trying to reach or for the people who are already attending?" (this is a point of particular reflection as we start to plan our new youth service)

We could not worry about what forms of service we like and instead be more concerned about what we need to change and innovate in order to reach the people and groups we are currently not reaching.

These are the questions we are asking as a church and you might be asking them too. We're asking them because we want to make disciples and plant churches and we want to work out how to do this.

Time dear friends is short. So......

Gather

Pray

Dream

Risk

Empower

Preach

Plan

Look around

Have faith

Pray again

Then pray more

and then pray even more.

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