Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Heart and Soul 2016

A reflection shared at Heart and Soul 2016
It's been a joy and a privilege to journey with the folks on Path of Renewal exploring what it means to be Involved with God in God's mission today - something that is different in every context and for every community but that has some basic principles, and even some ancient ways.
In our last gathering on Path of Renewal, we were re-imagining discipleship for today, looking again at Jesus example, at how he made disciples and modelled discipleship.
Discipleship is playing a huge part in our journeying together.
We're wresting with the question: How can we be disciples and how can we make disciples today?
Of course there are lessons to be learned from People of the Way all through Scripture as they journeyed on paths Unknown:
The Psalmists - saw themselves as People of the Way - in light and in darkness, in their brightest moments and in their trials.
They saw the presence and the word of God lighting up the way ahead for them at every turn.
In Psalm 23, we read: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, he makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me by still waters - Describing an ancient path and an ancient promise.
The Psalmists' route was never an easy one, nor straightforward. 
But they travelled with hope and with vision.
It's that kind of hope and that kind of vision that sustain People of the Way today.
To get to those green pastures and those still waters involves, first of all, negotiating some fairly difficult dry scrub land, places, it seems, with which we're more familiar - sometimes places in which we are tempted to linger because they are so well-known and well-loved.
But God's vision for us is for so much more - green pastures and still waters.
Today, God still leads us to those places of abundance. For that is Gods will for all Gods people.
Our calling is to live into and out of that abundance, to recapture the vision and the promise of God as people of the way for this age.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

People of the Way #GA2016

Some of the congregations involved in Path of Renewal have been reflecting on this year's General Assembly and Heart and Soul theme: People of the Way.
This from Carol Anne Parker, minister at Alloa: Ludgate

How does the Path of Renewal allow you to explore your calling as 'People of the Way'?
It's not just buildings that make us static, it's minds too. We get used to doing things a certain way, and in the end don't think too much about them. And if we're honest perhaps we can admit that most of what we think of as innovation or doing differently is really just playing around with the edges. The Path of Renewal is at the very least about encouraging us to ask questions about all of that. And to ponder the frightening but ultimately freeing question, is there a more faithful way for us to be together as People of the Way? 

What excites you about the Path of Renewal?
You know, I don't want to get to retirement and find all I have to show is a tally of how many funerals I shared in or how many times I preached through the lectionary cycle or whatever. I want to laugh into older age, I want to chuckle at stories of daring, of risks taken, of helping each other up when things went wrong. I want to marvel at how folk who never thought of bringing their light to the church's door found faith for life simply because we were willing to be with them, really be with them, where they were. That's God's work. But the Path of Renewal might just help us along that way. That's what excites me. 

What challenges is the Path of Renewal helping you overcome?
The Path of Renewal is giving us a language to speak about why things are the way they are for mainline denominations in the West. This is by and large a time of decline for the church but that is not to say that people do not feel an itch to explore faith's questions. The fact remains, though, that people are not generally looking to the church to explore those questions. The Path of Renewal is helping us to understand the reasons this might be so. And to find ways to share our faith that resonate with people here and now.   

Monday, 16 May 2016

The Difference

Matthew 4:18-22
Jesus Calls the First Disciples
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

A different kind of rabbi and a different kind of disciple.
These are just two of the issues with which we're wrestling on Path of Renewal.
Jesus didn't surround himself with the brightest and the best when he gathered his disciples:
"Come, follow me" was a recognised summons to discipleship but the people to whom that summons was issued, by Jesus, were not the kind of folk normally invited into such a prestigious relationship.
It was an honour to be invited into discipleship, an honour that involved profound change as the disciple learned from and tried to imitate the teacher.
Most Rabbis were very prescriptive in their teaching, setting out the law simply and precisely so that their disciples would be in no danger of transgressing if they followed the very clear boundaries spelled out for them.
Jesus, however, though he taught the law simply, also left wiggle room - room for his disciples to work out how they could best fulfil the law - and how far they might go to do so. Rather than teach his disciples to do the least possible, Jesus encouraged them to do more. "Love one another" became an encouragement to practice selfless giving rather than simply doing no harm to your neighbour.
As we grapple with disciple making today, we are forced to examine our own discipleship: How are we imitating Jesus and what, in our lives, would we want others to imitate? 
It is clear that, although the disciples whom Jesus called seemed a strange, eclectic mix, they had amazing success in discipling others. The growth rate from the twelve, along with the women who also accompanied Jesus is evident in the stories in Acts of the early church. Not only were people being saved, but leaders were stepping up to take on roles in kingdom work.
With the activity of the Holy Spirit, the number of believers grew beyond imagining and the task of discipling became all the more crucial.
It is daunting to consider ourselves as disciple makers. Often we can barely get past all that we would not want others to imitate. And yet Jesus called the least likely folk as his first disciples.
Today, we are called, equipped and empowered to go into all the world, in the power of the Holy Spirit to make disciples.
This is kingdom work that will involve changing the very culture of church as we know it. We cannot look to others to effect that change. It begins with us stepping into the role to which the Risen Christ commissioned us in the power of the Spirit, a role through which he promises to accompany us every step of the way.
A different kind of Rabbi and a different kind of disciple.
Matthew 28:19-20
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Opting in

John 6:66-69
Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

I recently heard a Pioneer Priest refer to "the church of slimming world" and, immersed in exploring discipleship models as I am at present, that phrase resonated with me.
Our communities, not least our church buildings, are populated by all manner of motivational groups for healthy living, groups that attract because people are unhappy with their lifestyle or with their body image. (The kind of media that encourages that dissatisfaction or dictates what is ideal is a whole other story) People sign up to these groups to be mentored through change. They become part of a community that stimulates and encourages the kind of changes that they perceive are necessary. Within those communities they experience motivation and accountability.
One of the interesting facts is that few people go along to such a group, learn the basics, pick up a schedule and then decide to go it alone - or if they do, they soon return to the community looking for help. Because the encouragement and accountability are necessary parts of the plan. And leadership is important too - someone dynamically bringing that all together, discerning when to be gentle, when to be more confrontational, when to encourage or cajole. 
What's more, such groups often really do offer supportive community. They are open, accepting and affirming, groups that most are comfortable inviting their friends to join.
Clearly there are parallels here for the church as an Attractional model.
But, alongside these groups, there is also an intensive leadership programme - and a different layer of community being formed among those leaders. A community that is intentional in training, in equipping and in empowering. A community that holds its members accountable and that expects results. A community that invites folk to step up, own the challenges, celebrating success and analysing failure. A community that expects leaders to model the programme.
Aren't those the kind of demands we want to make on those involved in discipling others? Those who have themselves experienced the kind of change that following Jesus brings, whose lifestyle demonstrates that change and who are willing to put themselves out there as a model of the transformative power of the love of God. Those who set targets and also deliver. Those who, in community will share openly and honestly, constantly learning new skills, finding growth in their journey of discipleship that will enrich and shape how they disciple others.
The question is: Would you want to be a disciple who disciples others?

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Buzz words

Matthew 28:19-20
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Discipleship has become quite the buzz word in church in all its many hued forms at present. 
I have an aversion to being on trend. I'm a 4 on the Enneagram, so, as soon as something becomes trendy I'm off looking for the next distraction. 
Discipleship, it seems, is not to be so easily shucked off.
Our last gathering of ministers involved in the Path of Renewal Pilot focussed on Discipleship, as will, I imagine, many of our gatherings for the future.
Rich Robinson of 3DM-Europe helped us work through some of the essentials of being and making disciples: Information, Imitation and Innovation. 
How tempting it is to take what we think we've learned and then rush to put it into practice. From Information straight to innovation, without the imitation piece. Of course we'd much rather bypass the difficult work of modelling discipleship for others - that's the hard bit!
I'm currently trawling through books on discipleship, discerning what might work in different contexts. But, as one of the ministers involved in the Pilot reminded us, this is a journey we are on together. There are no guinea pigs - we share the road and the lessons learned along the way.
For my part, authentic relationships, vulnerability and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, along with studying Scripture to learn from Jesus' interactions with his disciples are leading me on paths long forgotten or avoided.
And so, as we consider Renewal in the church from the inside out, so too, discerning discipleship is proving to bring personal renewal from the inside out. We are absolutely, unequivocally on a journey of discovery together. Thanks be to God.