Monday, 23 June 2014

None of the above? The primary purpose of discipleship

I've been reading James Emery White's latest book, 'Rise of the Nones.' His provocative attempt to shape churches and lives in order to reach the irreligious who state 'none' to the religion question on their census forms.
Quite simply, to reach an increasingly post Christian generation, authentic Christians are needed to grow up as quickly as possible.
In our local church, we are learning that the emphasis on creating a discipling culture is with this real Missional purpose - It is in order to create genuine followers of Jesus in community, that make his message very real and attractive to those who currently consider him irrelevant to their lives.

This fabulous quote from James Emery White summarises so well what we are aiming at. It contains a quote within a quote, a Bill Hybels bonus from his book,'Courageous Leadership.'

"Hybel's gathers his final thoughts:
'There is nothing like the local church when it's working right. It's beauty is indescribable. It's power is breathtaking. It's potential is unlimited. It comforts the grieving and heals the broken in the context of community. It builds bridges to seekers and offers truth to the confused. It provides resources for those in need and opens it's arms to the forgotten, the downtrodden, the disillusioned. It breaks the chains of addictions, frees the oppressed, and offers belonging to the marginalised of this world. Whatever the capacity for human suffering, the church has a greater capacity for healing and wholeness.'
This is what we have been called to give our lives to, and in order to change the world, we must give our lives to it. Until we have this vision coursing through our veins, we will never be able to cast it before a watching world of 'nones' who dismiss it as irrelevant at best and harmful at worst."

Monday, 16 June 2014

Culture of discipleship : An authentic rabble

We're considering the culture of discipleship over these couple of Sundays together as a local church. Not so much the structure of how to get it done, but how it feels to be part of a discipling, growing community of people who are eager to grow up fully into the mission of Jesus.

The story of David in Adullum's cave is great example of the kind of mixed up people that are drawn into this mission, and that are still called to partner on Kingdom adventures today.
The distressed, discontented and those in debt began appearing at the cave as they heard David was hiding out there - this sorry bunch of loser outlaws with all their hang ups and poor history became the power base for the new kingdom through their growing love for David, and the increasing understanding of the adventure they were engaging in together.

This rag tag rabble don't look too different from the troublesome twelve that gathered around Jesus' leadership hundreds of years later! These fall out boys were constantly at each other, always bickering and boasting, never quite seeming to get the point....and yet look what they became.

Maybe we are beginning to realise that these are just the kind of people that authentic disciples are made from, the kind of people who get shaped and sent on mission? Maybe we have to change our thinking and realise that the ordinary disciples we look around at on a Sunday morning are the ones God calls in our generation for the sake of his glory and his purposes?

To paraphrase the great writer Brennan Manning in his 'Ragamuffin Gospel' :
This call to discipleship is for the bedraggled, beaten up, burned out.
It's for the sorely burdened who are still shifting the heavy suitcase from one hand to another.
It's for the wobbly and weak kneed who know they don't have it all together and are too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace.
It's for the inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker.
It is for the poor, weak, sinful men and women with hereditary faults and limited talents.
It is for earthen vessels who shuffle along on feet of clay.
It is for the bent and the bruised who feel that their lives are a disappointment to God.
It is for smart people who know they are stupid and honest disciples who admit they are scallywags.
It is for me and anyone who has grown weary and discouraged along the way.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Mr Genor story

Stories are always great, and we used this one about Mr Genor to finish a training day on the Kingdom of God today. Some of you have asked about it so I have copied it below. I read the story from the book 'Fire Evangelism' by Che Ahn.

A number of years ago in a Baptist church in Crystal Palace, in south London, the Sunday morning service was closing, and a stranger stood up in the back, raised his hand, and asked the Pastor if he could share a testimony.

He said, “I just moved into this area, I used to live in another part of London, I came from Sydney, in Australia. And just a few months back I was visiting some relatives and I was walking down George Street when a strange little white-haired man stepped out of a shop doorway, put a pamphlet in my hand and said, ‘Excuse me sir, are you saved? If you died tonight, are you going to heaven?’ “

He said, “I was astounded by those words. Nobody had ever told me that. I thanked him courteously, and all the way back to Heathrow this puzzled me. I called a friend who lived in this new area, where I’m living now, and thank God, he was a Christian -He led me to Christ. And now I’m a Christian.

That Baptist Pastor flew to Adelaide, in Australia, the next week. A woman came to him for counseling, and he asked her where she stood with Christ.

And she said, “I used to live in Sydney. And just a couple of months back, I was visiting friends there, doing some last minute shopping down George Street, and a strange little white-haired man, elderly man, stepped out of a shop doorway, offered me a pamphlet and said, ‘Excuse me ma’am, are you saved? If you died tonight, are you going to heaven?’”

She said, “I was disturbed by those words. When I got back to Adalaide, I knew this Baptist church was on the next block from me, and I sought out the Pastor, and he led me to Christ. So sir, I’m telling you that I am a Christian.”

Now this London Pastor was now very puzzled. Twice, within a fortnight, he’d heard the same testimony. He then flew to preach in the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Perth. And when his teaching series was over, the senior elder of that church took him out for a meal. And he asked him how he became a Christian.

He said, “I grew up in this church from the age of fifteen through Boy’s Brigade. Never made a commitment to Jesus, just hopped on the bandwagon like everybody else. And because of my business ability, grew up to a place of influence. I was on a business outing in Sydney just three years ago, and an obnoxious little man stepped out a shop doorway, offered me a religious pamphlet, and accosted me with a question, ‘Excuse me sir, Are you saved? If you died tonight are you going to heaven?’ “ He said, “I tried to tell him I was a Baptist elder. He wouldn’t listen to me.”

“I was seething with anger all the way home to Perth. I told my pastor, thinking he would sympathize with me, but my pastor agreed with the man! He had been disturbed for years, knowing that I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus - and he was right. And my pastor led me to Jesus just three years ago.”

Now this London preacher flew back to the U. K. and was speaking at the Keswick Convention in the Lake District, and he threw in these three testimonies. At the close of his teaching session, four elderly pastors came up and said, “We got saved between 25 and 35 years ago through that little man on George Street giving us a tract and asking us that question.”

He then flew the following week to a similar Convention in the Caribbean for missionaries. And He shared these testimonies. At the close of his teaching session, three missionaries came up and said, “We got saved between 15 and 25 years ago, respectively, through that little man’s testimony and asking us that same question on George Street in Sydney.”

returning via Atlanta, Georgia, to speak at a Naval Chaplain’s convention the Pastor spoke to over a thousand Navy Chaplains. The Chaplain General took him out for a meal and he asked him how he'd become a Christian?

The Chaplain relied, 'I was living a reprobate life on a US Battleship. We were doing exercises in the South Pacific, and we docked in Sydney Harbor for replenishments. We hit King’s Cross with a vengeance. I got blind drunk. I got on the wrong bus - got off in George Street. As I got off the bus, I thought it was a ghost. This elderly white-haired man jumped in front of me, pushed a pamphlet into my hands and said, ‘Sailor, are you saved? If you died tonight, are you going to heaven?’” He said, “The fear of God hit me immediately. I was shocked sober, and ran back to the battleship, sought out the chaplain, the chaplain led me to Christ and I soon began to prepare for the ministry under his guidance. And here I am in charge of over a thousand chaplains and we’re bent on soul-winning today.”

This London Pastor, six months later, flew to do a convention for 5000 missionaries in a remote corner of northeastern India. And at the end, the host took him home for a simple meal. The Pastor asked him, “How did you, as a Hindu, come to Christ?” He said, “I was in a very privileged position, I worked for the Indian diplomatic mission. And I traveled the world. One bout of diplomatic service took me to Sydney. And I was doing some last minute shopping, walking down George Street, when this little white-haired man stepped out in front of me, offered me a pamphlet, and said, ‘Excuse me sir, are you saved? If you died tonight are you going to heaven?’”

He said, “I thanked him very much, but this disturbed me. I got back to my town, I sought out the Hindu priest, and he couldn’t help me. He to go and talk to the missionary to satisfy my curiosity - that was fateful advice. That day the missionary led me to Christ. I quit Hinduism immediately, and then began to study for the ministry. I left the diplomatic service, and here I am, by God’s grace, in charge of all these missionaries, and we’re winning hundreds of thousands of people to Christ.”

Eight months later, this same pastor was ministering in Sydney. He asked the Baptist minister, “Do you know a little manwho witnesses and hands out tracts on George Street?” And he said, “I do. His name is Mr. Genor, but I don’t think he does it anymore, he’s too frail and elderly.”

The man said, “I want to meet him.” Two nights later, they went around to this little apartment, and this tiny, frail, little man opened the door. He sat them down and made them some tea. The London preacher told him all these accounts over the previous three years. This little man sat with tears running down his cheeks.

He said, “My story goes like this.” He said, “I was on an Australian warship and I lived a reprobate life. And in a crisis, I really hit the wall, and one of my colleagues led me to Jesus and the change in my life was so amazing and I was so grateful to God that I promised I would share Jesus in a simple witness with at least ten people a day - as God gave me strength.

'Sometimes, I was ill - I couldn’t do it, but I made up for it at other times. I wasn’t paranoid about it, but I have done this for over forty years, and in my retirement years, the best place was on George Street. There were hundreds of people. In forty years of doing this, I’ve never heard of one single person coming to Jesus until today.”

It has to be deep love for Jesus that enables a man to keep this up over the long haul without knowing any of the results. This is more than could be sustained by simple commitment, this is a love for the lost that flows from a love & gratitude for Jesus. That's over 146,000 people that this simple little man provoked about Jesus. Goodness knows how many more had been impacted for Christ.
Mr. Genor died two weeks later. Nobody except a little group of Baptists in southern Sydney knew about Mr. Genor, but I’ll tell you his name was famous in heaven. Can you imagine the fanfare he went home to?

Monday, 2 June 2014

28:20

Matthew 28:19 has been rightly emphasised by churches down through the centuries - 'Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit'.
Nothing has changed - this mission remains our top priority. However, verse 20 is of equal value, and yet has received less emphasis.
28:20 'Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, and surely I am with you to the very end of the age'.

It seems that by emphasising verse 19 and not verse 20, we risk getting new believers to baptism, but then leaving them to get on with things on their own. To work it out as they go along. If this mission to the world remains our most important focus, then we cannot afford to leave disciples of Jesus looking and sounding just like the world they have been saved out of. What gospel message is that going to preach?
The idea in the early church was that our distinctive, Christ shaped lives would be an attractive contrast to the lost world around us. Indeed, for the early church, this was exactly how it worked - transformed by the gospel, learning to walk each day full of the power of the Holy Spirit - no wonder people were drawn in and joined this new band of believers on a daily basis.

For us as a local church in Crawley, the mission to over 100,000 people around us who don't yet know Jesus, who maybe don't know so many distinctive Christians, and probably don't connect with a New Testament church, couldn't be clearer. We need to get in shape, Jesus kind of shape, and quickly! Bringing our lives into line with his teaching in his word, so that our community sees something authentic and attractive.
Genuine New Testament discipleship then is less about me getting my issues dealt with and feeling better about my life (although you will), and more about growing up and looking and sounding increasingly like Jesus to a world which needs our authentic witness.


28:20 Discipleship evenings are a simple attempt to do something about this.
We will meet on monday evenings during term time to work our way through Mark's gospel. In doing so, we will be learning how to read the scriptures, how to hear God speak through the bible, and how to apply what we are learning to our lives.
There will be a chance to deepen our prayer life too and to learn how to get filled with the Holy Spirit and exercise spiritual gifts together.
Each week, we will follow a simple pattern, with the idea that you can replicate that template on your own in quiet times, with your family or even friends in a small group.
In short, we want to make you into disciples that can make disciples of others rather than lock you into an unhealthy dependency.
Our expectation is that you will grow quickly, begin to see breakthrough in all kinds of areas in your life, learn to walk by the Spirit, and start to see real missional impact through your ordinary christian life.

Friends, there is too much at stake on this mission for us not to take this seriously. If there is anything in you that wants to grow, however hard a change it may mean - come and join us!
Tom Landrey, coach of the Dallas Cowboys in the early 80's described coaching as, 'making men do what they don't want, so they can become what they want to be.'

What kind of Christ follower do you want to be? Let's stop living in neutral, or even worse, unthinkingly getting discipled by the culture and attitudes of the world around us. Why not start living for Jesus, as you intended from the start? For the sake of the world around us, your friends, neighbours and work colleagues who don't know what a New Testament believer looks like- its time to grow up and take Matthew 28:20 as gospel!

See you at The Charis Centre, Mondays 7.30pm from June 9th.