Reset Reflections

I have very recently published my latest book, ‘Reset Your Church Life: Whatever Happened To Plan A?’ and in this the first of a number of posts, I intend to reflect on some of the issues that both informed my writing of the book and my impressions since then, as we all continue to live through ‘interesting’ times.

For anyone who is wanting to address how their own Church family can maybe do better, I invite you to ask yourself, what are the most important things that such a community must pay attention to? This can lead on to a consideration about whether the time, energy, and money, that is invested by the group members is directed at those most important things? If not, is it possible that you have found yourself being distracted? With the very best of intentions, over time we can find ourselves doing things that are good, but they are not necessarily the best things that we could be doing.

To add a little spice as it were to the task of identifying what the most important things are, how about the discipline of limiting yourself to naming only the 4 most vital aspects of Church life? There might be all kinds of things that occur to you, perhaps even without you having to think very hard. Possibly they would include one or more of these, merely by way of example: worship; evangelism; prayer; preaching; pastoral care; social justice campaigning; feeding the hungry; housing the homeless; leadership; signs and wonders; and prophetic insight.

Whatever list you personally might develop, if you limit yourself to just, say, the 4 most important things this means you have to try to discern what is it, for you, that is of primary importance. Do you know what really matters to you? Does your faith community know what really matters to it?

A related and perhaps equally challenging issue is, what kind of value system are we using to assess what is truly vitally important? Is it a matter of what we almost by instinct believe to be true? Or would we say that our view is undergirded by Biblical truth?

It can be a fascinating journey if we are willing to embark upon it – the journey of looking critically at our own assumptions. Almost certainly, we assume that what we are doing in the world of Church life is based on what the Bible tells us. Perhaps inevitably, we can become so accustomed to what we as a Church do, and the way that we do it, that we simply assume that our Church life is indeed totally consistent with what the Bible tells us Church should be. However, I suggest that with the best will in the world, sometimes we lose our way.

One of the challenges in all of this is that we can look at things in a relatively superficial fashion. We can look at our activities, what it is that we are doing, and fall into a kind of trap of thinking that the activity says everything important there is to say about that subject.

Purely by way of example, let’s take worship as a focus. Lots of us would probably say that worship is bound to make it to the ‘top 4’ list of the most important things. But almost as soon as we begin to focus on worship, we probably think about worship in the sense of the way we as a community ‘do’ worship. It can be very difficult to extricate our thinking from being centred around the public, outward, visible, display of what worship has come to be in our own culture.

When pressed, probably many of us would quite easily say that worship is far more than what is lead from a platform and/or through a public address system. And yet, in our use of language, we can so casually talk about ‘worship music’ or about the ‘worship’ at a particular Church – almost implying that the sum total of what worship is can be identified by songs that are sung to – or at? – or with? – a congregation by a special group of talented people.

Especially if you are convinced that worship must definitely make it into the top 4 most important things, you could perhaps spend some time reflecting on both what the Biblical basis is for worship, and what worship in all its Biblical fulness truly is. Who knows, perhaps such a process might even lead you to conclude that it is time to ‘do’ worship a little differently?

multi colour moebius strip, infinity symbol, isolated on white background

The Uploaded Life, Part 2: Three Steps To Heaven

It was some months ago that I wrote about ‘The Uploaded Life’, and I have, I am sorry to say, been very late in following up that post as I had promised.

2020 has, of course, been quite a year. For all of its trials and sadnesses, and even horrors, it has presented people like me with an opportunity to examine ourselves and perhaps discover, as believers in Jesus, how ‘uploaded’ my life really is.

Last time, I looked at what struck me as 3 fundamental truths on which an uploaded life could be based. These were that any such believer: is a new creation; has access now to Heaven; and is a citizen of Heaven.

I also mentioned 3 possible courses of action that I felt were appropriate responses on our part to these truths. Those responses were that we should: change the way we think; focus on things above; and start investing now in Heaven. Here, again, is a graphic that I used to illustrate this:

What I now want to mention briefly is what kind of specific action we can take that helps us to make these responses real in our lives. Forgive if this is too corny, or perhaps reveals too much about my great age, but I like to think of these specific steps as ‘Three Steps To Heaven’ – it’s the title of an old song.

The first of these Three Steps To Heaven is meant to help us change the way that we think. Reading, re-reading, and meditating on the words of the Bible is surely a great way to help us have our minds renewed. God’s word is powerful – if we let it, it can shift the way that we think. My suggested step here is, find your emergency verse. I mean by this the kind of verse that you know you can turn to in a moment of crisis, including a moment of fear or weakness.

Some time ago, when I was asking God to help me with what I felt were some addictive and melancholic tendencies within me, I sensed the Holy Spirit directing me to make an effort to be thankful, and this would be, for me at least, an effective antidote. I felt drawn to what 1 Thessalonians 5:18 has to say about always giving thanks. Whilst I cannot claim to have been anything like an exemplary student, I have made a serious effort to treat 1 Thessalonians 5:18 as my daily medicine – and I can honestly say that it has made a real difference in my life.

That particular verse might not work for you. However, I encourage you to find at least one emergency verse that works for you.

The second of the Three Steps To Heaven is meant to help us focus on things above. My suggested step here might be surprising because it doesn’t seem to have anyting to do with visualising God in His glorious throneroom, which is what you might a charismatic evangelical like me to mention.

No, for me, the starting point is rather different, and it is this: connect with nature. I am not trying to say that we should all become avid tree huggers and forest bathers – but if that works for you, I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. But again, contrary to what might be seen as typical for a charismatic evangelical, I see positive merit in getting out into the natural world, on a daily basis.

It’s probably easy to accept that contact with the natural world is good for the soul. But beyond that, I suggest this contact can actually help us learn and experience more about the way Heaven works, and what Heaven is like. This seems perfectly consistent with what the Bible tells us – for example, Psalm 19 tells us that the natural world declare God’s glory, proclaim the work of His hands, and reveal knowledge.

The third and final step addresses ways in which we can live in a way that is consistent with the reality of our new citizenship, and puts flesh on the bones, as it were, of the idea of investing in God’s Kingdom. My suggestion here is a terribly simple one – start doing something new and different with your money by supporting a Third World Kingdom-oriented project.

I am not for one moment advocating you diverting your usual financial support away from your local Church, or anything else you are already giving to. The reason why I mention a project in the Third World is that I am looking for something where the giving is pretty much guaranteed to be altruistic – where there is no earthly side benefit for you in giving whatever you are giving. I also suggest this giving should be more than a mere token amount – it should be giving at a level that is noticeable – if you like, giving an amount that hurts, at least a little.

And I say the project should be a ‘Kingdom’ project because I want it to help you connect with the fact of your Heavenly citizenship. I am not in any way criticising or denigrating giving to good causes generally. However, the discipline of finding something we can support that is related to the Kingdom we belong to, but from which we will receive no discernible benefit at all, is very significant.

Here is an image that summarises all this:

The Uploaded Life

The Uploaded Life Logo

Easter has passed, but I am reflecting on the message and meaning of Easter – bearing in mind the Covid-19 crisis and the pressure this places on us. I am aware of the pressure this can put on us – both for ourselves, for people we know and love and even for complete strangers whose needs are shouting at us through our televisions, our smartphones, our computers and our radios.

What I mean by ‘The Uploaded Life’ is a way of living that is consistent with what is true about what God the Father has done for us through God the Son.  If we can live The Uploaded Life, we will be well equipped to cope not just with this current crisis, but any crisis. Also, The Uploaded Life will be noticed by other people and will a fantastic witness to the reality that Jesus is our saviour, and The Uploaded Life is available to anyone and everyone who wants it.

For me, there’s a bit of a parallel with technology. It is not difficult or super expensive to back up our precious data. If we are backed up well, then the loss, theft, or failure of a laptop or other device doesn’t have to be much more than an inconvenience. But whether or not we back up is basically our decision, it is under our control.

So it is, I feel, with the Christian life. God has made it perfectly possible for us to live in an uploaded way, but this is not automatic – there is some work we have to do, some effort that we need to choose to make.

What struck me is that there are some basic truths from the Bible that need to be grasped.

The first is that, ‘You Are A New Creation’. I base this on what Jesus said to Nicodemus about the need to be born again, born from above, born of the Spirit in John 3:3. Also, in 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul tells us that anyone who is ‘in Christ’ is a new creation.

The second is that, ‘You Have Access Now To Heaven’. I recall what Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:4-6 about us alrdeay having been raised with Christ and or being seated in heavenly realms with Him. This is not just a truth about our future, it is a truth about our present.

The third and final truth is, ‘You Are A Citizen Of God’s Kingdom’. I base this on Colossians 1:13, where we learn that God has rescued us from one kingdom – the kingdom of darkness – and we have been transferred to God’s kingdom.

Given that powerful truths such as these exist, what is the appropriate response to them? I suggest three responses to these three truths, so that alongside something that’s true, we have something to do. I link something from the Bible to these responses, merely as a suggestion – I am not trying to say there is anything definitive or exhaustive in what I offer next.

In light of the truth that ‘You Are A New Creation’, I was struck by Romans 12:2. I suggest that, since I am new, I have a responsibility for the way that I think.

Given that ‘You Have Access Now To Heaven’, I am reminded of Colossians 3:1&2. I feel a good response is that I should focus on things above.

For the truth, ‘You Are A Citizen Of God’s Kingdom, I was drawn to two sections within the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5:19-21 and 6:33. Jesus is telling us to tresaure Heaven. If Jesus wants me to place a value on Heaven, I sense my reponse should be start investing now into that place.

Here is a graphic where I try to summarise all this:

Slide 19

I will try, in a future post, to sketch out some practical ways we might be able to make progress in these kinds of responses.



Mankind On The Moon

Here is an excerpt from an article in today’s Daily Telegraph by Daniel Hawkins:

“On Christmas Eve 1968, a message was broadcast to the Earth from the orbit of the Moon: ‘And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. The words were spoken by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders, as he and fellow crew members Jim Lovell and Frank Borman recited Genesis, chapter one, in a broadcast watched by one billion people.

“The moving footage reveals an often ignored fact of the success of the subsequent Apollo mission to the Moon, which celebrates its 50th anniversary today: that it was one compelled by faith as much as science.

“Many of the 12 men to walk on the Moon were Christian…Faith ran throughout the US space programme. John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, said on his return from a second voyage: ‘To look out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible.’

“This is not surprising. The Apollo programme was so ambitious that it took men of faith even to entertain its possibility…

“The Apollo greats who walked on the Moon risked their lives to do what no living creature had done before. They did it through technological achievement, mathematics and complex algorithms. But the role of faith in sustaining their efforts cannot be overlooked.

“ ‘Science and technology got me there, but when I got there and looked back home at the Earth, science and technology could not explain what I was seeing nor what I was feeling,’ Eugene Cernan, the 11th man to walk on the Moon, said.

“ ‘When I looked back home there was too much purpose, too much logic. The Earth was just too beautiful to have happened by accident.’ “

I can remember as a 9 year old school boy being ushered into a hall to watch live coverage of the Moon landing on a tiny, grainy, black and white TV. I was fascinated by the Space Race for years after that, and truth be told I have followed the story of space exploration ever since.

Hawkins’ piece is mainly concerned with the people who walked on the Moon, who were all men, but let’s not forget the role played by many women in the story, this was brought home to me powerfully when I watched the movie ‘Hidden Figures’. That movie centres on the true story of 3 amazing women of colour who battled sexism and racism. The character played by Kevin Costner gives, for me, some compelling insights into leadership and vision – and possibly of the faith that Hawkins highlights. Battling with his frustration in the early  Sixties with falling behind the Russians in the Space Race and the huge challenge of trying to get men to the Moon, he says to one of these women that the trouble is, in his mind he is already there – on the Moon. He somehow had to motivate and organise a group of highly talented people so that what he could picture might become a reality. There are lessons here for us all.

Reset Your Church Life, Part 6: Some Conclusions

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In Part 5, we looked at Purpose, and I summarised a Church’s Purpose like this: we train.

As we have looked at the key areas in Church life of Witness, Culture, Structure, and Purpose, I have offered a summary of each of these. So we now have a complete set of summaries: we receive love; we give love; we connect; and we train.

There is a flow to these summaries, which is mainly why I have chosen the above graphic that goes with these blog postings. It strikes me that there is a continuous flow from one area to another, and that that these 4 key areas operate in pairs, and that these two pairs are linked to each other.

Witness (we receive love) flows onto Culture (we give love). Structure (we connect) flows onto Purpose (we train). As we receive, we then give. As we connect into those who will do us good, those who will build us up, we seek to help others to be built up just as we ourselves have been helped. As we seek to train people, to make disciples, what is the most important thing for them to grasp? Surely it is that they are loved by God, that on the basis of what Jesus has won for us, we can live in the reality of being loved by Father God in the same way that Jesus is loved by him.

We see a flow in that famous Bible verse, John 3:16. Father God loved, so he gave. The whole process of developing a healthy Church life starts with God, not with us. It is, after all, his idea. We are brought to life by his love. As we experience that love more fully, it has implications – both for our own sense of personal worth and significance and also for seeing the worth and significance of others.

Also, we begin to take seriously the call on our lives to more accurately reflect the character of Jesus and we begin to relate with other people who can help us on that journey. There is less baggage that gets on the way of creating learning relationships. Less mistrust, less ego, less pride, and less independence. Finally, as we are helped by other people, we are more able ourselves to be a help. We can support other members of the Church family on their journey of faith. And what is all this for? Why do we do this? It is because of love. Not love that we originated, but the love that came to us from Father God. Can you see the pattern, the cycle, the flow?

As I have said in a previous posting, I am not claiming that these 4 key areas are in any way a comprehensive list. However, I believe there are important keys here, and I hope and pray this Reset Grid may be of use to you. I believe many Churches will find in one for two of these key areas something that they are already doing very well. Also, I believe they will find one or two that stand out as areas needing some care and attention. May God bless you in your journey to tune accurately into what God is saying to your particular Church, in your particular situation.

Here is a graphic that summarises the Reset Grid:

Reset Grid Summary Graphic

Reset Your Church Life, Part 5: Purpose

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If you are involved in helping to lead an organisation, it’s fundamentally important that you know and understand why you are doing what you are doing. In the case of a Church, what is Church for? To make that question more personal and most likely more tricky, what is your Church for, and what is my Church for? What is our Purpose?

Between us we could come up with a number of answers, and I imagine many if not most of those answers would be ‘correct’. But I am looking for something very clear, very specific, and clearly foundational that shows us what we are supposed to be doing.

My guess is that a lot of those answers would be about reaching the lost. I have somewhat cheekily stolen that possibility away from my Reset Grid by already identifying Witness as a key area of Church life, and tying Witness into our knowing that we are loved by God as our Father.

Alternatively, some of those answers might revolve around worship and prayer, highlighting the importance of glorifying and honouring God. Others might point to the importance of being seen to be good news by doing kind and compassionate works – for example, looking to meet the needs of the poor and marginalised; or campaigning for issues of social justice.

I have no intention of in any way criticising any of these things. But there is, it seems to me, one very clear instruction that Jesus has given his Church about our Purpose – what we are supposed to be doing. It is often described as the Great Commission:

Matthew 28: 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” [New King James Version]

Fundamentally, our Purpose is to make disciples as we go into the world. Our going into the world might be as result of deliberate sending out as on a mission, or it might be simply a reflection of the fact that we are on the move for other reasons. In any event, there is to be movement and there is to be a process of making disciples.

This is more than making converts – although without any converts, how will there be any disciples? Jesus spent three years or so training his band of disciples, and then he trusted this men to take on the task of establishing not just the Church, but the first Churches. Jesus showed his disciples how to live like himself, and God is calling his Church to is purpose of producing more Jesus followers – people who can be fair representation of Jesus would be like if he were standing in our shoes, if Jesus were walking our path.

‘Disciple’ can seem a rather old fashioned word, but its related word discipline helps to convey some of its true sense to a modern ear. Also we can usefully consider words like training and apprenticeship to get close to what Jesus means in the Great Commission. What does it mean for your Church to make disciples? Is it a matter of listening to certain number of good sermons? Is it about a programme of reading the Bible? Is it membership of a small group? All of these things are good, but is something more required? I believe so.

I have heard it said many times that the Church is the only organisation that exists for the benefit of its non-members. I appreciate the sentiment behind this kind of statement – there is a heartfelt concern for the lost, and I totally agree with this. But for me, such a statement somehow doesn’t quite fit. If the Church’s very purpose is to make disciples, then for a significant time the people who are being made into disciples are going to be in the Church – they are members, who are being benefited by the Church.

And as we go through the process is being discipled, this is certainly going to be a benefit to other people – we will be better equipped to minister and reach out to other people. But there is also a benefit for us. As we are discipled, Christ’s character is formed in us, we are changed from one degree of glory to another, as the Bible says.

I suspect that many Churches do not have a fully developed sense of what discipleship really is and what their plan is to take their people through a process of being discipled. Personally, I feel I have much to learn in this area. If my suspicion is correct, this is odd since this is clearly what Jesus has commissioned his Church to do. If we are not doing it, or are really only doing it in a somewhat disorganised, haphazard way, isn’t it time that we changed? I think so.

In the final part of this little series, I will draw some conclusions…

Reset Your Church Life, Part 4: Structure

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We might like to think that Church should be all about life and that Structure speaks of something more like death than life, and so Structure is not important. However, if you consider what life itself is, you can see that Structure is very important. Every cell in our bodies is full of incredibly complex Structure. DNA, the molecule that holds the genetic code for each of us, is a complex double helix Structure. Our bodies would collapse but for a series of Structures, including but not limited to our skeletons,  our arteries and veins, and our nervous systems.

A paradox here is that, if Structure is indeed important to a healthy Church life, the Bible seems to be very non-prescriptive and open about what the required Structure actually is. My belief is that this reflects God’s great wisdom, given that his plan is for the Church to be able to operate in all sorts of cultures, and in all sorts of situations, over a very long period of time – starting with the events recorded in the Book of Acts until the very end of this current age.

I suppose many Churches will believe that their particular structure is totally consistent with the Biblical model of leadership and governance; but there seem to be so many variations to these models, and surely they cannot all be ‘right’, can they? I suggest it’s relatively easy to pick up on one aspect of what the Bible says about leadership, while at the same time more or less overlooking or ignoring something else. For example, one Church might have elders, but where are the deacons? It might have both elders and deacons, but where are the bishops? Another might do well with bishops, but struggle more with pastors and teachers. There might be priests, but how about the priesthood of all believers?

If we aim to be part of a Church that is based on the early Church, we all start with an immediate disadvantage, however hard we might try to cover everything the Bible says about how Churches are led. The early Churches were Churches of cities. They didn’t have the history of division and denominationalism that is the real historical and cultural context for so many of us nowadays. For example, if you are in a Church that believes in recognising elders, eldership was something that was understood in the first century in the wider community beyond Church communities. Elders were elders of cities – how does this really translate for the leadership of one Church amongst many Churches in a city?

There is, for me, nonetheless something in the New Testament that cries out to us across the centuries and applies to us wherever and whenever we are, regardless of the size of our Church and regardless of any other variables, whether those variables relate to ethnicity, economics, gender, persecution, age or anything else. It is this:

Ephesians 4: 11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.  [New King James Version]

This statement by the Apostle Paul seems to apply for all times and for all situations. God has a plan for the body of Christ, the Church, to be built up. The word in the original Greek that is translated here as ‘equipping’ has the sense of fitting and adjusting things together perfectly. If what these 5 ministries (some say 4 – linking pastor/teacher together as one) do is fit people together, this is relational, personal work. It follows that if a Church, as part of the body of Christ, is being built up in this way, then there must be some kind of relational, personal connection to the apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, and evangelists.

Where are these connections in your Church, and in mine? Possibly some or all of the names of the ministries God has given to us are not totally familiar within your Church. If that is so, isn’t this strange, given that Paul tells us plainly that God has given these ministries to us?

Many of us will be familiar with pastors – although this name is often applied as a label to someone who leads a Church, and this might be a very different thing from saying that the leader is primarily a pastoral care type of person.

We might imagine evangelists as the people who come in to organise special events, or perhaps we might think of the people in our own congregation who seem keen to reach out to those who are outside the Church. Possibly the leaderships of many Churches do not easily include evangelists. Evangelists are so interested in what is happening beyond the walls of the Church building, and not very interested at all in maintaining existing Church members.

As for teachers – well, who are they? How many itinerant ministries identify themselves as primarily teachers? How many Church leaderships have a resident teacher?

Leadership teams might struggle handling a strongly prophetic person on the team if he/she is not the main leader – how does everyone cope with an opinion that seems to be backed up by God himself, if that opinion is not followed? Churches might find the prophetic a little unsettling.

In my personal experience, Apostles are being talked about more than in years gone by. I consider this to be a good thing, although I find it disturbing to see more and more people who seem very happy to identify themselves as an Apostle, and to print their business cards and post on social media in a way that proclaims their status boldly. That said, Apostles seem very clearly to be at the apex or sharp end of the Ephesians 4 ministries. How well are our Churches doing in the job of connecting well with apostolic ministry? Where are the Apostles?

Maybe it is too easy for a Church to dodge important questions that flow from Ephesians 4 by pointing to membership of a denomination, or affiliation to some other kind of network. Churches that see themselves as totally independent face a different set of challenges here. Whatever your particular Church situation might be, if you are in any kind of leadership and you want your people to grow, you must be prepared to address the question of how you are connecting with Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers, and Evangelists.

I summarise Structure like this: we connect. I will, of course, return this summary of Structure in Part 6 of this series.

In Part 5, I will move the fourth and final of the 4 key areas of Church life – ‘Purpose’.

Reset Your Church Life, Part 3: Culture

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Part 3: Culture

Every nation, every tribe, every people group, and every organisation (including every local Church) has a culture.

In looking at ’Culture’ as one of the 4 key areas in my Reset Grid, it is easy to confuse Culture with our values, and/or aims and/or objectives. Culture is not about what we say is important to us. Culture is about what really is important to us, underneath what we say. It is about what we actually do, not what we say we would do. It about how we behave, how we act, and how we react.

As an example, many Churches have formal written policies about various things such as health and safety, child protection, food hygiene and so on. These policies may be very good, but do people know what they say, and where to find them if they want to find out what they say? And when something happens that falls within the scope of one of those policies, what happens? The people who really ought to know what they are supposed to do – will they actually do what the policies say should be done? Or will do they do something different?

On a more personal level, a Church might say all sorts of things about how friendly it is, or how much it believes in children and young people, or how it is reaching out to people who are not yet followers of Jesus. We can say these things, and honestly believe them, but are they actually true? Is our Church Culture – how we act in real situations – is this consistent with what we say we want to see?

I heard a wise person say once (about not for profit organisations generally, not just Churches) that if you wanted to find out what really mattered to them, you just needed to analyse their annual budgets. There tends to be a strong connection between what is important to us and what we spend our money on.

Many Churches will say they want to attract new people to the faith and to help them connect with a Church. But is this consistent with what we actually do? If we consider the content of our Church services, who are they designed for – is it really visitors who are the main focus? Specifically when you look at the way people are greeted, the length of the service, the sermon, and the announcements, what message are we sending about who is truly being welcomed?

Anyway, what about the other people who maybe have a legitimate stake in how our Church meetings work – for example, the existing congregation and, dare I say it, God himself?! There are all sorts of potential issues here. We can say that visitors are welcome, we can genuinely believe that this true. But in practice, we might have other priorities, possibly perfectly good and valid priorities.

It can feel a bit like a jungle once you start drilling down into why we do the things that we do. It can take some courage to look into the divide between what we say are the values that form the basis of our corporate life together, compared with the values that truly drive our actual behaviour.  

The fundamental order from Jesus regarding this key area of Culture is, I think, fairly obvious. At least, if you are trying to find just one Scripture that can truly serve as a foundation for a healthy Church Culture. It is this:

Matthew 22: 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”  {New King James Version]

Any Church should be preoccupied with creating and then maintaining an environment where everything that is done, is done on the basis of love. If the way that we act towards each other in Church and towards others outside the Church is not based on love, then our community’s Culture has parted company with how Jesus tells us things should be. Love should undergird the way we do everything in and around Church – if we want to base Church life on the way Jesus says things should be done.

Different Churches will of course have different flavours, different projects, different practices. But love is non-negotiable.

I summarise this Culture like this: we give love. As I have mentioned in a previous posting, I will return this summary of Culture in Part 6 of this series.

In Part 4, I will move the third of the 4 key areas of Church life – ‘Structure’.

Reset Your Church Life, Part 2: Witness

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Part 2: Witness 

In this posting I am going to look at the first of the 4 key areas of Church life in my ‘Reset Grid’ – namely the key area of ‘Witness’.

Jesus is the Chief Executive Officer, Founder and Chairman of the human organisation that I lead – a local Church. What I found to be the foundational teaching from Jesus on this subject is not an obvious one, so you might feel that I have strayed off the correct path from the very beginning. But bear with me.

If I invited a bunch of Christians to consider what is the foundation of Witness by a Church, I suspect many, for totally good and understandable reasons, would think of Acts 1. This is when the risen Christ tells his Apostles that, after they have received the empowering of the Holy Spirit, they will be his witnesses starting in Jerusalem, then out to Judea and Samaria, and then to the ‘ends of the earth’. Or, there is what Jesus says in Matthew 24 when he talks about the gospel of the kingdom being preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations before the end comes.

There is a lot we can say about Witness, and however deep we go into it, and whatever aspect of it we might choose to emphasise, it has to be about what we have really encountered for ourselves. Our witness is not our retelling of someone else’s story, it is our own story. As we read in John 1, John shares with us what he has heard with his own ears, what he has seen with his own eyes, and what his hands have touched.

What I want to focus on is something very specific, significant and strategic that Jesus said as part of his prayer before he was arrested. It is this:

John 17: 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. [New King James Version]

So Jesus’ prayer is that when the world looks at us – the Church – it will know that Jesus has been sent by the Father, and that Christians have been loved by the Father in same way that the Father loves Jesus.

This is quite a prayer, this is quite a statement! I cannot remember many, if any, discussions about developing a strategy for evangelism that are based on the prayer that Jesus actually prayed. What would it take for people outside Church to look at a bunch of Christians and conclude that those Christians are loved by God in exactly  the same way that Jesus is loved?! Dare I say that, whatever it might take, the Church in general might not be doing very well in this area?

Surely, if there is going to be an environment where people outside Church can discern this love, then the Christians in the Church will have know this love for themselves. They must have had a firsthand experience of this love. This love needs to be something they have witnessed so they can be witnesses to it. This love needs to be something they have heard, seen, tasted, and touched for themselves. They must, surely, have a clear personal conviction that God’s love for them is also, specifically, love from God the Father.

Some Christians struggle with the idea of God as Father. They can interpret what John 3:16 says about God’s love very easily in terms of being loved by Jesus, God the Son. But the love that sent Jesus to us – the love that comes to us from God the Father – can be harder to grasp.

And yet, if we as Christians cannot really accept that God is the Father who loves us, how can we possibly convince the world that we are loved by that Father, in the same way that Jesus himself is loved?

This Witness that Jesus prayed for must also mean that we Christians live in a way that is consistent with the type of life that Jesus would live if he walked in our shoes. Jesus made it very clear in his teachings that he basically did nothing unless he could see God the Father involved in it. And the words Jesus heard from God the Father were more important to him than food. The way that Jesus lived flowed from a love relationship with the Father. If the Church is going to be able fo fulfil the mandate of John 17, then we as Christians need to be living out of the same kind of flow of love.

I summarise Witness like this: we receive love. I will come back to this in Part 6, the conclusion to this series of postings.

In Part 3, I will move the second of the 4 key areas of Church life – ‘Culture’.

Reset Your Church Life, Part 1: Introduction

Reset BannerPart 1: Introduction

Some while ago, a trusted friend recommended to me that I should read a book called ‘Recalibrate Your Church: How Your Church Can Reach Its Full Kingdom Impact’, by Troy Jones. The main thing I took away from reading that book was this: every organisation, including but not limited to every Church, would benefit from a reassessment at least once in a while of what it is doing, and why it is doing it – a recalibration.

It is in the nature of things that an organisation can take on a life of its own. It responds to external events – whether they are problems, opportunities, or just the demands and pressures that people and things put on us – to the extent that we lose touch with what we are really supposed to be doing. Perhaps, worse still, we even end up losing touch with who we really are.

As a pastor of a Church, there was a particular idea within that book that grabbed me. The writer invited me to imagine what I thought a new pastor would do if he/she took over from me. And that I should then do exactly that – what I thought the hypothetical new pastor would/should do. I should be prepared to make whatever radical changes I imagined someone new would make if I died/retired/left/was sacked.

This is not about change merely for the sake of change. It is about connecting, or reconnecting, with what lies hidden within my own heart about what I truly believe to be important, and what I am called by God to be doing. You see, it’s all too easy for the clutter of everyday life to obscure this.

My pondering about such a recalibration led me to what I call my ‘Reset Grid’. In case it is helpful to someone else, I am going to say a little about my Reset Grid in this series of postings to this blog. I decided that as part of my own personal attempt at some kind of recalibration, or reset, I would attempt to focus on what I believe God has actually said to me about myself and my life and my calling. But at a more basic level, and one that I believe applies to anyone and everyone, I wanted to focus on what God has clearly said about the type of organisation that I lead – a Church.

If it is possible – perhaps even inevitable – that the Church I am leading can stray off course, then it must be helpful to focus on the important things God’s Word says about how life in Church should be. This must be a vital part of any reset process.

Without claiming this is an exhaustive list, I identified 4 key areas of Church life:





For each of these 4 key areas, I have found a key teaching from Jesus (in 3 cases) and for the remaining 1,  a key teaching from the Apostle Paul. The way I have named these 4 key areas might seem somewhat obscure if you carry on and read what I have discovered about them. I am not trying to be clever or provocative for the sake of it, hopefully my contribution to this subject will at least make you think. And if you are involved in Church leadership, maybe this will help you formulate your own reset at some point.

In Part 2 of this series of blogs, I will explore the first key area – ‘Witness’.