Sunday, November 25, 2007

Homegroup on Mission

Last week our homegroup was discussing some of the past teaching in the church. Our focus was one message on Mission. We were saying how practicing the presence of God then this will enable us to have an influence for good on those around us. Luke 4 shows us that Jesus came to deal with poverty (spiritually and physically) and to bring insight and bring liberation from oppression and debt. Yes, we too have the same mission. Where are we doing this? We talked about projects such as our kids club and youth club but also our partnership with Karis Neighbour Scheme. But also we can help the poor and oppressed by changing our shopping habits e.g. consider how products are made or farmed, buy fair trade & not trade with companies that oppress people. We also noted the importance of peace (Hebrew: shalom = wholeness) in John 20::21 "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you." and that Jesus gospel involves teaching all principles including shalom and liberation not just what we thing of as ‘the gospel’ in Matthew 28:19-20 "Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you". We were asked at the end what one thing we could put into action this week as a result of this word. I said that we would buy fair trade coffee for the church on Sunday morning before anyone else got a chance to buy any other coffee!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Men's Breakfast with Hudson Luwi from Zambia

I’ve just got back from a men’s breakfast with Hudson Luwi from Lusaka in Zambia. Seven of us ate and chatted with Hudson at the Reservoir CafĂ© and then we adjourned to the Ledbury Centre. I was struck by how Hudson is so humble and unassuming. It was only as the morning progressed that I realised that he leads a church of about 300 and then later that he has responsibility for a few other churches of similar sizes and teaches at a Bible College. It is clear that he lives by his motto of leadership that it is relational, that we lead by influencing people and that we can best influence people by having relationship with them.

How had he managed so much with so little resources? In the West we have so much that our first port of call is to those resources. When we have no access to these things then our first call must be on God. Another insightful comment that he made about Britain is that Christians talk about their faith very quietly. He was saying that we should not be ashamed but be proud to be Christians and not divide our spiritual life from our ordinary life. He encouraged us to be talking about spiritual things at work say just as we do at church.

Hudson was talking about how his church was active in the community for example by giving away clean water. Rather than expecting people to come to their meetings they were actively going into the community not so much to knock doors or preach in the streets but to be available to serve people. He said that they had seen big evangelists breeze in and make many ‘converts’ whom they never saw again. He would rather see Christians building relationships, having one-to-one conversations and serving people.

But what is our ‘clean water’ with which we can serve our community? I wondered. Hudson was saying that rather than making great plans and budgeting lots of money they had followed Jesus’ call to come and follow him. When Jesus called the apostles they knew that the end result would be but not the exact steps to get there. Jesus led them one step at a time. In the same way he talked about how he had taken one step at a time to build their church building from which they are now giving away the clean water and how with God’s help they had even survived opposition from urban gangs.

I am looking forward to seeing more of Hudson and his family on Sunday.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Spiritual Formation and Mission – Part 3

At last here is the long awaited third part of my treatise on evangelism.

I think a very important aspect of my spiritual formation is reading and meditating on the scriptures and sharing my thoughts on these with others. The Bible is my spiritual food so why do I starve myself by avoiding reading it or thinking about it's implications on my life? It is not just reading and re-reading the Bible that is important but understanding what it means to me so that I can apply it to my life. Over the past year once a month in the small groups we have been discussing how what we are learning as a church can be applied to our lives. One theme that keeps coming out in our group is that it is important to take the next step and discuss these issues with those who do not share our experience. A scary thought. Yet passages such as Luke 10 remind us that God sends us out into the world on a mission and though we sometimes feel he is distant actually he is always present. Our security stems from God’s parental care for us. He gives us a secure base from which to venture into the world and initiate such discussions. Often we are afraid to make these true two way discussions. The world has plenty to learn from us and God’s presence with us means that we can learn what is good from anyone as God will lead us into all truth.

But of course sometimes it can be difficult to have meaningful discussions with people unless we have some form of relationship with them. It is very easy to be an inward looking group and just relate with other Christians. In my teaching on the psychology of relationships I point out that there are two important factors in who we tend to relate to. We tend to form relationships with those that are similar to us and think the same as us. And we tend to form relationships with those who we perceive to have desirable characteristics. I think that this is very relevant to Christians. Our teaching often implies that those outside the faith are different and offer nothing except to fulfil our need for evangelism and could even lead us astray. So it is no wonder that we tend not to develop genuine relationships with them. And that we don't see them as equals with whom we can have an honest two way discussion when it comes to talking about spiritual matters. If we cannot even cross this divide how are we ever going to reach those that differ from us in other ways such as in culture, sexuality and class? Perhaps it is time that Christians learn the true meaning of agape, caring for, having fellowship with, facing up to and having spiritual discussions with people that are outside the church just as we do with people in the church.

Any thoughts?