Changing church – The reason why the way church is done must change is not primarily: a historical reason – the way church was done in NT days was not like today, and far superior to it – although that is true. Nor is the reason pragmatic – the church is not ‘working’, and people are voting with their feet, leaving institutional church in droves, rarely to return – although that is true. Nor is it that cultural ‘modern’ paradigms of institutional church just simply do not work in the post-modern world with its very different mindsets and world views, especially amongst the young – although that too is true. The prime, main and imperative reason why the way we do church must change is because of Jesus, his ‘already here’ but ‘not yet here’ kingdom gospel and the powerful work of the Holy Spirit. The church must enable, encompass, reflect and embody these three things if it is to be faithful to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. The church has somehow become ‘ours’ and not his! It has become static instead of a movement, an institution rather than a powerful surge of new life. You have so much to learn! There are imperatives and directives in the teaching of Jesus that must be obeyed and enjoyed. They will bring change. There are current responses to the work of the Holy Spirit in your lives individually and together, that must be made. They will bring change. There is clear teaching in the New and Old Covenant about the coming Kingdom. This will bring change as it is prophetic teaching, which is the foundation of the church. Jesus brought teaching and the work of the Spirit – a new vision, a new way of communicating and a new experience of God. These three things He is bringing again in your day. This is a ‘hand-over’ generation, a cusp in the purposes of God. You are not ‘getting these things right’ for your generation, but for the next generation. God is turning on in your day three ‘taps’ of the Holy Spirit’s work: sound apostolic teaching and laying foundations for God’s renewed church vision and expansion of the work of God in the world in reaping and transformation new experiences of the Holy Spirit in knowledge, grace, power, miracles and signs to authenticate and point to Jesus and his powerful kingdom. God is shaking all things – those things that once were stable are shaking. The things you thought were stable will be shown to be unstable and may crumble and fall – nations, states, economics, education, health, politics. The turmoil will be ‘earth-shattering’ and immense. Stability and peace will be found in Jesus alone and amongst his people. The new kingdom is emerging – it is here – it is with those who hear and obey the voice of God, and put into practice the things he is showing.
Actually had a pleasant reunion with Toni and Drew, Gareth and ourselves although we had all been brought together by family funerals necessitating for them travel to Barbados. But fellowship and prayer together was great.
Interestingly too I had just the same day received forwarded notification of the death of a dear English friend which had occurred some days earlier. I was reminded to look at my journal and found this entry for the date in question, entitled ‘Tearful Morning’: “At breakfast time I was strangely tearful, not aware of any specific cause. Vicki put the news on and gradually my emotions were stirred further so that I had to leave the room. The economic news and it’s sad effect on the people of Greece featured but then good news of Team GB and their parade through London: I struggled through it all. Later, when recounting a dream to Vicki and quoting the breakup of a much-loved church I struggled with tears again… Could it be though that behind all this, without consciously knowing the facts, I was somehow sensitively aware of the death of my friend all those miles away and the sad loss to her family?
So grateful for the hope that is within us…
Friday is often ‘cafe day’! It’s the only cafe I know where it’s wise to check the wind direction before you choose your table because catching the breeze is vital. Otherwise you melt in the high humidity. For most of the time today I got it wrong but I clued on eventually!
Sitting there, after meeting a couple of visiting leaders from the States, I found myself praying for their meetings (the reason for their visit to the island) and then began thinking about a passage in Isaiah 66 and the foundational requirements of humility, contrition and trembling at God’s word. Many leaders are proud, in denial, and have ‘know-it-all’ attitudes yet our churches are so full of issues that our needy condition should be plain. The weak condition of traditional congregations is perhaps more obvious than in the newer developments but these same foundations are necessary: we are still dealing with the human heart. I suspect only a work of God’s grace by the Holy Spirit can change this. God help us to lay solid foundations in lives as a priority rather than just struggle with secondary maintenance issues. We need a move of the Holy Spirit. How viable is it to continue only with unending and wearying ‘building’ maintenance? Ought the priority to be relaying the foundations lest we end up building with ‘wood, hay and stubble’ rather than ‘gold, silver and precious stones’? 1 Cor 3:12 Jesus is the only foundation. We must all take care how we build. Is ‘underpinning’ an option or does “no one puts new wine into old wine skins” offer some guidance here?
It’s a nice view from the cafe!
It’s been a while! After my last post about intercession I retreated from the thought of blogging about prayer. Many people encouraged me to develop the topic as clearly God was bringing a new emphasis into my life but somehow it seemd too personal and private and what happens best behind closed doors rather than being published. At least that’s what my background tells me (and scripture comes to mind too). But encouragement to write has persisted so I think I shall continue as before with “glimpses of good living” but no doubt prayer will come into things as we go along.
I’m sitting now on the veranda of our home, listening to the tropical sound of tree frogs, which are deafening when you pay attention but after nearly 20 years of familiarity they just fade into the background. It’s well after 8pm and of course quite dark but the garbage collection truck is just coming round. Often it is much later. Dogs are barking at it’s arrival in the area and, slightly more quietly, can be heard the sound of neighbours conversing out in the street. And it’s still hot – 27c, but feels like 39c!
We have just received notification that at long last we have been granted Immigrant Status in the island. We have been here longer actually than any previous location. Many years ago we were told that our very presence here was intercessory so I guess it’s not surprising that our status has been contested for so long. This is a breakthrough.
“There is a chain of command – when you pray in the Spirit it is as though memorandums are issued and circulated and courses of action are ordered and embarked upon. Your prayers are heard and answered and decrees are set in motion in the realm of the Spirit that will bring about a response, a concurrence with your requests, for God regards you highly. He takes note of your wishes, your thoughts and assessments and will undertake to meet your needs.
You have a great God whose kingdom is benevolent and whose servants are endowed with great affection and authority, for it is a large kingdom – there is room for so much, and every creative thought and aspiration finds space in which to be expressed and to be creatively used to bring into being an aspect of that kingdom. Your God is great – there is no limitation with Him and his kingdom is everlasting, not limited to time and space but finding eternal expression.
So be enlarged in your thoughts and begin to see and explore your creative significance. Remember it is a kingdom of love and love is unending. There is room for you to be lost in the vastness of the ocean of the creative love of God. How vast is the sphere of your influence because, in the omniscience of God, His Spirit praying through you can change destinies way beyond your sight and knowledge. So be bold as you make your mark in His kingdom.”
I’m beginning to understand this – 17 years on!
In recent weeks popular demonstrations/uprisings in Tunisia, Jordan and Egypt have occurred. The president of Tunisia has been ousted, the king of Jordan has sacked his government and now the Egyptian president is fighting a rearguard action trying to stay in power (under the claim of preventing total anarchy and possible Islamic rule). These are long-standing ‘dictatorships’ which appear to have held the people in poverty for many years leaving it too late to show any adequate care i.e. ‘too little, too late’ is the general assessment, and the people have had enough.
I’m reminded of the church for so long subject to clergy or ‘one man’ rule and institutions that appear to care little for the complete development of their people who often simply have to fit into the system and ‘toe the line’. There is an unbiblical concept of separation between the people and those ‘in the ministry’. I believe the time has come when this is unacceptable, for the people as a whole are destined to reach maturity, not simply be kept as pew-fillers and tithe-givers, and the Spirit is stirring many hearts. Movements such as ‘alternative worship’ and ‘emerging church’ reflect this cry; elsewhere there are just undercurrents of discontent and ‘church-hopping’.
Where are the leaders that are recognising this change? Society at large is changing fast, aided by e.g. the internet which empowers individuals and gives them a say. As Clay Shirky puts it, “Here comes everybody”.
Leaders without a genuine scriptural care for the development of people and a readiness to rethink church will be left behind, as will organisations.
Of course there will be risk and challenges (e.g. The Muslim Brotherhood appears a real threat to the cry for democracy in N. Africa) but it is time for every member to function; for true leaders with heart and vision to emerge, so that we do indeed face the challenges of the hour rather than maintain an increasingly inflexible and irrelevant system that perpetuates the unreadiness of the Bride of Christ and leaves us even more vulnerable to the enemy who will show increasing resourcefulness to achieve world dominion.
‘Here comes everybody’ is happening in North Africa, in Muslim countries, to our complete surprise. Let’s hope the church reads the sign and takes a leaf from Issachar of old to understand the times and know what it ought to do.
Been quite a gap in my blogging recently although I have been faithfully maintaining my own journal: it’s just that some things seem too personal to publish here. But one thing I will mention is that at the ripe old age of 64 (although I keep saying there are so many more things I want to do when I grow up!) I seem to be on the receiving end of something fresh spiritually – at least for me. I find myself weeping a lot!
When I think about it, the closing of the apartheid days in South Africa, which were being constantly broadcast in various ways on film and TV before we left the UK, moved me strongly. This intensified when actually encountering in the Caribbean the evil legacy of slavery.
But in 2007 when listening to a man speak about a ‘place of prayer … in the middle of nowhere’ added to my underlying concern for the development of the young adults around us, my tears flowed uncontrollably – very unlike me! And to this day I can’t speak about these specifics without tears. And now I realise the phenomenon is more frequent and can be sparked off by other things.
Some days ago I was in Jamaica and in passing heard a respected church leader at a prayer summit just mention that he spent more time in tears these days. And last night speaking at a house church in Barbados I expounded on Isaiah 66 and made the ‘this is that’ link to ‘a nation being born in a day’ and the subsequent ‘new heavens and new earth’.
Bilbo’s glimpses of good living? I may be a late developer but I’m glad the adventure is continuing… We are living in challenging and exciting times.
I’ve been travelling to the UK, seeing some of the family and many friends from several previous locations. Even though it was a funeral which drew us together it was good. Some relationships already have ‘eternity’ stamped all over them!
And then it was 2 weeks of vacation over here, hosting son Jeremy and his girl-friend, Dorte. It was just great being together. And amongst it all Vicki and I squeezed in a 2-day retreat away from it all. Such times are always good for us.
And now it’s back into action, picking up some of the pieces and so many strategic issues to work through and decisions to be made: never a dull moment, but every now and again some are more testing than others.
It’s also been a time of receiving prophetic insights from friends. One thing has struck me again that such offerings are often phrased in the ‘language’ of the giver’s understanding and background and it is wise to seek to get to the spirit of the thoughts behind the actual words if we are really to benefit. E.g. 15 years ago one such insight told me to “forget what I know about pulpit ministry…” and though it was years since I had really inhabited that ‘pulpit world’, the spirit of what was said was actually timely and very affirmative of my desire to break through the clergy/laity divide in a particular situation. The ‘language’ was of course normal to the giver. But we can get hung up on taking words literally (as with parts of the Bible, I guess) when an interpretation is needed.
I think that’s one reason why I really appreciate dreams and my wife’s visions: – ‘a picture is worth a 1000 limiting words’. And I’m soberly reminded to try and choose my own words more carefully, without getting ‘hung up’ on that either.
Been trying recently to squeeze in a ‘crash course’ of the Alpha related ‘The Marriage Course’ and very good it is proving too. Although we have in mind using it as a tool for the many needy marriages we encounter it has been amazing just how beneficial it has been to us (after 40 years of marriage!) and we have only just got slightly more than half way through. So it is recommended.
I shall miss some though as I’m off tomorrow on a ‘flying visit’ to the UK for the funeral of a former colleague and neighbour during the 80’s and a continuing supportive good friend since then – Pete Goodland from Whitchurch, Hants. Friends are so valuable and this man with his keen theological mind, sense of humour, gift of story telling & gardening has been a gem to so many of us. He will be missed…