Friday, 18 March 2016

Living out of abundance

Matthew 10:8-10
Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.
"Don't think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don't need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light.

A huge part of the work in Path of Renewal will involve finding and investing in local leaders in our communities.
I was reminiscing with a colleague recently about the folk who invested in me, gave me opportunities to discover and develop gifts and continually discipled me in faith. And who were disappointed when God called me to serve in another sphere from that in which I was nurtured. 
The way ahead, with God, is rarely predictable and never restrictive.
We tend to perceive the gifts of God as a limited commodity and yet our communities are filled with people with gifts, some yet to be discovered, some needing encouragement and some simply waiting to be released. 
Imagining our communities as incubators for the gifts of God helps us to appreciate God's extravagance and to live out of that abundance.
Building communities around the gifts of people was an important element in the Church Without Walls report - operating out of abundance and not scarcity. 
Changing our perception from scarcity to abundance makes a vast difference in our faith and in our hope. And operating out of abundance rather than scarcity allows us to find, to invest in and to nurture others, to move them from the confined space of an incubator, releasing them to follow God's call wherever that may take them, knowing that we have done our part and that God who is faithful will continue to raise up leaders and servants to work for the Kingdom. 
Our investment is never wasted in growing, with God, those who will live abundantly in the extravagant Kingdom of God.
In the words of Matthew 10:8 (The Message version) we who have been treated generously, live generously.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Getting it done or savouring the journey

In every crisis, there is a push to put in place strategies that will move things swiftly into safer waters. One of the luxuries in Path of Renewal is the resistance to mapping the journey in advance. Instead, space is being created to listen for the voice of God and to discern the Spirit at work. Without the pressure to deliver a solution, creativity is awakened and discovery of new ways is more than a possibility.
Reflecting on this gift I was reminded of a story Henri Nouwen told of his work with L'Arche community:
... this afternoon, I went apple picking with Janice, Carol, Adam, Rose and their assistants. MY attitude was to get the apples picked, put them in bags and go home. But I soon learned all of that was much less important than to help Rose pick one or two apples, to walk with Janice looking for apples that hang low enough so that she herself can reach them, to compliment Carol on her ability to find good apples, and just to sit beside Adam in his wheelchair under an apple tree and give him a sense of belonging to a group... Efficiency is not the most important word - care is.
(Road to Daybreak p28)
When our task is about changing a mindset and a culture, a lot of the work is intuitive, directed, not by guidelines but by gentle nudges and prompting of God. What we learn along the way, the people and the experiences we encounter take precedence over designing a route. What we discover will not be empirical but will be kingdom work.
God has led people this way in the past:
Numbers 9:22-23
Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, resting upon it, the Israelites would remain in camp and would not set out; but when it lifted they would set out. At the command of the Lord they would camp, and at the command of the Lord they would set out. They kept the charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord by Moses.
The waiting on God is not a time for idleness but a time of waking and of discovery, a time in which to grow more attuned to that gentle whisper of God inviting us in this time and place to develop new kingdom awareness. While that is difficult for those who prefer more order and direction and a gift for those who are more comfortable with mess and unpredictability, for both, it is a time to respond to God given opportunity in obedience, inspired by the people of God in all ages.

Friday, 4 March 2016

The language of engagement

Ephesians 4:11-13

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

As our learning community met this week, one of the common themes we encountered was the lack of clarity and uniformity in the language we use to engage with others.
Words move in and out of fashion as culture changes and, to engage effectively, we must be conversant with the language peculiar to the group we are encountering - not so that we can emit trendy sound bytes but so that we can converse intelligently with those around.
Currently, communities are increasingly concerned with health and well being - our church halls are filled with diet and exercise groups and local authority employees speak of the health and well being of communities and seek ways to deliver programmes that contribute positively to those facets of life.
While the last thing we need in local congregations is another programme or activity that taps into this agenda, it is possible to embrace the language, promoting Spiritual health and well being as part of the holistic care for our community.
Gauging the Spiritual health of the body of Christ and encouraging faith communities to care for souls wherever their daily life and work is focussed allows us to remain conversant with our communities and to be concerned with their concerns, building up the body of Christ, heart, mind and soul, releasing all those different gifts and growing together in community.