Category Archives: too safe

Church blueprint

Vision Don’t Kill People, Instructions Do

Back in April 2013 a few of us were sent on a visit to the Woodlands Church communities in Bristol. They have 11 communal houses across Bristol with about 150 people living in community (and growing). We stayed at one of their community houses on the Friday evening and joined them for a whole day conference about community the day after.

They impressed me at how they’ve kept both fresh and focused over the last twenty years. Their focus is on one stable and simply defined vision. From this vision come their practices and principles which have been kept flexible in order to stay true to their vision, their calling. Calling & vision is like the wine for which principles and practices are a wineskin.

Pondering this some more I came up with this list of primary and secondary things in church life:

Primary things
(Must be remembered & protected)
> Secondary things
(Must be kept fresh & flexible to be true to what’s primary)
Vision & values
Outworking of calling
Practices & principles
Skeleton, structure

Now, in the church it can be tempting for us to insist people follow a blueprint, this seems safer. A blueprint is everything in the right hand list.

However no one gets as inspired about a blueprint as much as a vision. People will sacrifice greatly for a vision but not for a blueprint. James Normal recently said “People will sacrifice a great deal for a pioneering vision; less to maintain a status quo; hardly anything just because they’re told to.” And a vision can grow into so much more than any rigid blueprint.

All these primary things can produce these secondary things, but secondary things can’t produce primary things. Primary things are from God and secondary things are generally more man-made.

Regarding “vision mentality” over “blueprint mentality” Neil Cole commented:

“When we start putting together systems to make sure that future generations obey, what we end up doing is building an institution that conforms people to a pattern. They don’t have their own faith, they’re living off the residue of faith of a previous generation.”

To a degree today’s radical Christian should look different to a radical Christian twenty years ago. Radicality is relative. Same heart, new expressions.

If you’ve got to the end of this article and you’re thinking “yes, but…” or even a “no, because…” write your “yes but” or “no because” in the comments below.

Light On Resources = Strong With God’s Power

A guest post from a friend continuing the We Are Too Safe series:

In the book of Judges Gideon heard the call of God to fight. He tested the Lord to make sure the calling was God’s plan and not his own. He started out to fight the Midianites with 32,000 men. The Lord stripped away his men (symbolising Israel’s own resources and natural strength) until he had only 300 men left. The enemy against them “lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance”.
300 men.
300 men.
God’s plans are impossible and very simple.

When “The Lord their God is with them, and the shout of a king is among them” (Num 23. v21) we will have nothing to fear.

We need to learn corporately to take risks and not rely on our own resources. If Jesus came to us with a desire to strip us of some or all of our wealth, houses and material possessions would we recognize it as Him? Or would we fight in the courts or take out insurance to protect our assets- not realizing that we are fighting God? You might ask- why would He want to do that? Because of the principle outlined in the story of Gideon, that a Church that has little or none of its own resources- but has faith- is strong with the power and authority of the Lord Jesus.

Yes there’s a need for discernment and wisdom. But Jesus wants a Bride with “nothing in my hands I bring- simply to Thy cross I cling”.

Security Without Safety

We need to be a risk taking church. There is security in Christ but no safety.
Justin Welby

Many times we live our lives in such a way that the power of God is not necessary. Our expectations are low, our prayers are mundane and our witness is bland. The power of God tends to show up when we throw ourselves with abandon into God’s mission and expect his power to truly make a difference. God shows up where people are depending on him.
Mark Jobe

God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible. What a pity that we plan only things we can do by ourselves.
A.W Tozer

Adventure #3 – A Cross And No Money

You can read adventures no 1 & 2 here if you missed them.

Last Friday 19 of us set off on a 2 day adventure carrying a 12ft cross across London from Brent Cross (see what we did there?) to Parliament Square & back, via a few hours sleep by a canal. We took no food and no money. We prayed for about 20 people, healed some & two joined us at different points.

1st highlight– a couple of guys joined us carrying the cross a fair distance, including Ollie (a floppy haired hippyish searcher with a guitar) who stayed with us for several hours and became one of the team. He was well touched by the Spirit just jamming with us and seeing us heal people & appreciated our unity.

2nd highlight– On the way to the city centre we popped in to a Baptist Church to worship and Ewan (the minister, late 20s) joined us. He played the piano to our songs and shared communion with us (bread donated by Ollie and wine by Ewan). Ollie was gently blown away by the Holy Spirit and wrote a poem. We prayed for and prophesied over Ewan, and one of us read out a scripture that he then said had been preached from at his ordination last week!

We tried to kip in Regents Park but after being circled by police cars several times with spotlights they moved us on (in a very friendly & apologetic manner). It was a hilarious experience as we pretended to all be asleep until they started talking to us. My lowlight was spending an hour or so walking around looking for somewhere else to kip. Ended up sleeping by a canal under a railway bridge, occasionally woken by the overhead thunderous rattle of early morning trains.

In addition to Ollie’s bread and biscuits we were given some strawberries, crackers and coffee but were starving and tired by the time we got home.

A few thoughts-

  1. We’re knackered. As we get in to more and more mission we need to cultivate a sabbath mindset- it’s good to do nothing for a day or so after going all out on mission for Jesus- don’t feel guilty about that. Otherwise we’ll burn out.
  2. Stick together and don’t be afraid to call people to join you- by far the best times were when we were moving as one group and we greeted people around us; people were much more open.
  3. Go out on a limb and do crazy risky things for God- He will be with you on every corner. Even the worst bits were worthwhile and even though Jews don’t particularly like people carrying a 12ft cross through Golders Green on a sabbath I’m sure God meant for us to be there- He just couldn’t find any other bunch crazy enough to do what we did. We had some friendly shalom-exchanging conversations with Jews.

Summary- tired but inspired. Parts were AMAZING, parts were downright rough, but it was all well worthwhile as God did some amazing things & I feel loads closer to all of the guys.

Should Creative Work By Christians be "Safe"?

This is a guest post courtesy of Phil Cooke, reproduced with kind permission.

Christian media today is filled with the word “safe.” Look at the advertisements: “Family safe programming.” “The safe alternative.” “Safe TV.” Sure we need to protect our kids from violence, sex, or profanity, but one thing you can bet on about the Bible: It isn’t “safe.” It tells the story of humanity in very real, authentic terms. A recent Park Forum devotional (highly recommended by the way) put it this way:

Austin Tice, 31, a law student, former Marine, and freelance reporter, has been missing since mid-August in Syria, where ten journalists have been killed since the uprising began last year. Even though he knew this, Tice went to the country and, on July 25, wrote to his friends:

It’s nice and all, but please quit telling me to be safe … Sometime between when our granddads licked the Nazis and when we started putting warnings on our coffee cups about the temperature of our beverage, America lost that pioneering spirit. We became a fat, weak, complacent, coddled, unambitious and cowardly nation. I went off to two wars with misguided notions of patriotism and found in both that the first priority was to never get killed, something we could have achieved from our living rooms in America with a lot less hassle … We kill ourselves every day with McDonald’s and alcohol and a thousand other drugs, but we’ve lost the sense that there actually are things out there worth fighting for … No, I don’t have a death wish – I have a life wish …

Austin Tice is a soldier, but in a similar attitude, if you’re a Christian pursuing a life of creativity, my advice is to stop worrying about being safe. Start pushing the boundaries. Start telling the truth. Start showing us life as you really see it. Our job isn’t to force the world into a Christian bubble. Our job is to pop the bubble and engage the culture that is – not the culture we’d like it to be.

Jesus called the religious leaders of His day out. As a result he was threatened, vilified, ridiculed, and eventually hung on a cross. Had He taken the safe way out, our future would be bleak indeed.

What can you do this week to punch through “safe” and create work that speaks the truth?

Disturb us, Lord

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

Sir Francis Drake