Fire in the woods

War! War! (a poem)

A poem from the ever-lyrical Jon Jon Hilton. It’s an old un’ and a good un’.

Still we love to call ‘passion,’
What produces nothing lasting.
Only short-term feel good now transactions.
And the enemy was laughing.
Because no investments were happening.
Just good clean, fun, Middle-class distractions.
But who will sever their attachments
To the thrills they hold so dear?
Find on earth no satisfaction
Unfilled by her affairs?
For it seems, only a fraction,
Flee ambition’s subtle snare.
And it seems only a fraction
Put a sword to their careers.
– “Peace! Peace!” You hear them cry,
(When peace, of course, was nowhere near).
“Don’t sing your songs of revolution!
Don’t sing of war and violence here!
Just lift your hands and close your eyes,
And dance your dance and love your lives,
Let gentle breeze and compromise
Replace the need for sacrifice.”
-But “War! War!” Is passion’s cry
When fire burns up every fear,
We sing the song of sacrifice,
We sing of death to old life here.

“Chill, Chill,”
The cowards cry,
(At threat of battle, soldiers ran)
The rest amused themselves to death
On DVD’s and Christian bands.
Where are the youth with martyr spirits,
Who bid their God to ruin plans?
Who scorn the good to gain what’s higher,
With broken wills and emptied hands,
Who stand against their own desires,
And do not dream the dreams of man,
Who put an end to their agendas
At the sound of His command.
When there’s no call to kneel and pray allured
by sweet and gentle song,
No friendly arm to soothe and sway
They still maintain the fear of God.
And ruthless love for Jesus’ Cause
Makes passion real and wild and deep.
Each to his sword, to put to death
All inward rivals that compete.
Because ….you are what you eat.
And you become what you feed.
So brethren, learn to shut doors,
Endure and, learn to delete
Those numbers from your phone
Because he’d love to keep you home,
In silence and in comfort
At ease and alone
But “War! War!” Our passion’s cry,
Let fire burn up every fear
We lay our lives down for tomorrow,
At the cost of all that’s dear.

IMG_20140726_155508

People Finding Jesus Again, Just Like It’s Supposed To Be!

Life is full of seasons, and at the moment in my church community we’re in one of those exciting seasons of blessing, of harvest. Stuff’s cracking off all over the place!

About seven weeks ago two lads turned up on our doorstep. One spoke for his friend: they were from a couple of local villages and his friend needed a roof over his head for a few days, could we help? As it goes the chap who needed help, 21-year-old Elliott, stayed at his friend’s house for a few days after that but eventually turned up again and started stopping over with us.

Roadtrip
On a roadtrip

We found him to be very open, ready to get stuck in and thankful so we soon realised he was someone worth giving a chance. His honest questions about our way of life, faith and many big subjects came thicker and faster. Every now and then we’d see clues to his openness, whether it was teary eyes during a house church meeting, asking for prayer or his pointed questions. Someone gave him a copy of ‘Mere Christianity’ and he read it twice in one week! He became a tentative sort-of believer.

Three weeks ago he asked Simeon and I to pray with him for God to forgive him and to thank God for what He’d done in his life. What happened that evening was pretty incredible as he was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues for the first time. He said afterwards “I feel like a kid in a sweet shop; like I thought Haribo was all there was but now… look at all this!” It was the kind of God-happening that makes you pinch yourself and wonder if it’s really happening, seeming too good to be true at the time.

Bonfire
Around the bonfire

He’s with us now and doing brilliantly and really keen for more of God, organising a prayer meeting seemingly every over day! Last Sunday he decided he wanted to get a few lads together to pray together after supper that evening, so we picked a time and texted a few friends. At 10:30pm 16 guys turned up at our home from various house churches nearby and we crammed into our relatively small prayer room. What followed was a few engaging hours of prayer, worship and ministering to one another. It was such an engaged and alive atmosphere at a level I haven’t been in for a long time.

At one point someone spoke out a word of knowledge from God and one lad acknowledged it was for him, so we gathered around him to pay for him. What happened after that was pretty amazing, it was like one of those moments when God suddenly drops a Holy Spirit bombshell and the place erupts, the neighbours must have heard the noise! Needless to say this second lad, who’d long been wandering, was filled with the Holy Spirit too and is now taking about baptism, his life now being set on a very different course.

Supper time
Supper time

I get a sense in all this that this is just the start. When a group who are desperately hungry for God and up for Kingdom action get together to pray and go wherever God leads, it’s not going to just end at the door, is it? When we feel the first few drops of rain on a dry day we look up at the sky and wonder if more is on the way, maybe anticipating a deluge. These few happenings are like big drops of rain to anyone prophetic and tuned in to what God has up His Almighty Sleeves.

We’ve had quite a few semi-impromptu prayer meetings over the last few weeks. There’s a bit of a momentum building. All it takes is for a few hungry men to listen to the Spirit and get together deciding to get on board with what they hear Father’s doing.

There’s much more going on but I don’t have time to tell you about the other 3 young people around from Switzerland and Hungary and our trip to Norwich, that will have to do for today.

Thank you Jesus.

Augustine On The Beauty of The Incarnation

Man’s maker was made man,
That He, Ruler of the stars,
Might nurse at His mother’s breast;
That the Bread might hunger,
The Fountain thirst,
The Light sleep,
The Way be tired on its journey;
That the Truth might be accused of false witness,
The Teacher be beaten with whips,
The Foundation be suspended on wood;
That Strength might grow weak;
That the Healer might be wounded;
That Life might die.
– Augustine

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Let us, therefore, mirror Augustine’s beautiful reflections:

…That the hungry may have bread,
The thirsty a fountain,
Those asleep, a light;
That the lost may find The Way,
The false may live in Truth,
The fools may astound the wise,
The worthless may find their worth;
That the weak may be strong;
That the wounded may be healed;
That the dead may live again.

salt

What Is A Missional Church? Probably Not Like Us.

95% of what I’ll say here will apply to 80% of churches and 5% just applies to my church, the wonderful, colourful, still needing to evolve Jesus Army. There’s definitely something here for everyone though.

Language is very important as it has a role in creating and influencing culture. Considering that, it’s worth noting two vastly different understandings of a phrase we’ve started using to describe ourselves: ‘missional church’. This one’s probably more important than we think.

To some of you I may be preaching to the converted, or teaching my grandmother to suck eggs, as they say, but I’ll just say it all.

What’s been called ‘the missional conversation’ is a reformation movement similar in consequence, I believe, to the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement of the 60s – 90s, although far more hidden in nature; it’s changing things more like leaven than like fire. It’s not a fad or a mere method but a spiritual zeitgeist, central to many vital fresh expressions, as James Normal wrote in his recent post Lies, damned lies and church decline statistics.

So What Is ‘Missional’?

The well established definition of ‘missional church’ in this conversation is that it:

1. Puts Missionary Identity First

It understands the church’s ultimate purpose as joining God in His redemptive mission on earth, the missio Dei. The Father sent the son who sends the Spirit and the Church to make renewed disciples, so we’re all sent. We’re an apostolic church or a disobedient church. The church isn’t just a sending agency but a sent agency. ‘Missional church’ therefore, describes the very underlying nature of the church, not just some of its activity; it’s first an identity before it’s ever an activity. If we are to be a missional church everything we do must be brought in line with our mission, not have the tail wagging the dog, not seeing evangelism as conscription in order to find people to support the work of the church.

As C.S.Lewis said:

“…the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose.”

That’s the mission of church: discipleship. Note the distinction between ‘the mission’ and ‘missions’.

2. Emphasizes Incarnational Ministry

…versus attractional/extractional ministry. Attractional models, where evangelism = invitation, work OK in a Christian society where people don’t have to travel a great cultural distance from their context to ours, but incarnational missiology makes the missionary travel the cultural distance so is right on cue for our increasingly post-Christendom context. It’s more about “go and be” than “come and see [Jesus brotherhood]”, more about bringing Jesus to people than bringing people to Jesus.

We’ve been very good at doing “a light and city set on a hill” but not so good at being “the salt of the earth“, even though we clearly see salty friendships do more than lighty events. Attractional/extractional has been our traditional model with evangelistic events, large community houses we bring people back to, kingdom businesses (as opposed to business as mission) and our own different-rhythm diary. All of these things are good, but they’ve firmly been of the attractional and extractional emphases rather than of incarnational (among the people by default) and multiplicative (easily reproducible) emphases.

What Is ‘Missional’ Not?

In the video above Hirsch says most people jump to the conclusion that missional just means ‘more evangelism’. This prevalent misunderstanding has two barbs:

  1. People who aren’t evangelistic think “cool, but this isn’t me. I’ll let the evangelists get on and do it”, so they switch off.
  2. Evangelists think “I’m already doing it”, so they switch off. Or they get keen thinking everyone should be an evangelist then they plan a few extra evangelistic trips and events and miss the greater consequences of a truly whole-body-of-Christ missional mindset incorporating every ministry.

When we call ourselves a missional church we usually mean we’re a church that likes to go out on missions, rather than is missionary in nature with every ministry and form of church working together for that central purpose. Hence, the missional/incarnational impulse and disciple-making purpose that absolutely, categorically must inform all that we do will be blunted. This ‘only evangelism’ misunderstanding misses the greater implications by miles so threatens to impede what I believe God wants to do among us.

Although we have amazing foundations (seriously, I’m excited about our potential, we’ve so nearly got it, but so not quite) we’re not yet a missional church and I’m concerned that if we call ourselves one thinking we’ve arrived we’ll frustrate what God wants to lead us into by voicing His direction using misunderstood words.

What’s For Us, Now?

I believe Jesus’ salt and light metaphors in Matthew 5 express the paradox of a scattered and gathered church: engaged but not diluted, gathered but not hidden. All churches have unique emphases so some will specialize in one or the other (though all should manifest both) and God takes us all through seasons, sometimes deepening, sometimes reaping.

But like the groundswell of discontented dreamers around me I’m convinced we’ve only just scratched the surface of what it means to join a wild God in His mission on earth. We’ve only just scratched the surface of what it means for our Jesus communities to be truly salty, for mission and discipleship to drive all we do and for us to see genuine out-of-our-control Jesus movement rippling across the UK, Europe and to the ends of the earth.

The future church is not large, uniform, distant (culturally or geographically) or rich. The future church is small, varied, very local and very generous. It’s simple. It devotes itself to the apostle’s teaching and to prayer. It grows vivaciously like mustard. I speak of this future church in present tense because it’s shoots are already appearing.

And ultimately our missionalisation (yeah I think I just made up a word) is more important than anyone’s personal preferences and dreams because today’s post-christian culture demands it. We will have a future as a sent people or we won’t have a future.

Let’s understand the language we use and God’s will expressed through it with unity of mind, as well as unity of heart.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43

What do you think?