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The Two Pastors Met Again for Coffee a Couple of Months Later

A follow up to the blog posted on 25th August 2016 entitled ‘Two Pastors met for coffee’

 

Mike: It was good that Andrea, the Pastor of the Church of the High Priest Jesus Christ, was able to come to our Evangelical Pastors’ Prayer Group last week.

Dave: Yes, I found the way she prayed very moving.

Mike: And Dave and Pete seemed happy to fellowship with her too. I didn’t know that Dave was so fluent in French. They really seemed to establish an entente cordiale. Also I hadn’t realised how much Christians have suffered in the CAR.

Dave: Put in that context it was easy to understand why the knowledge that Jesus as High Priest is ever interceding for us has come to mean so much to the church. Andrea’s explanation of that sent me back to Hebrews again and I realised that I haven’t really appreciated Christ’s heavenly work for us.

Mike: That is one value of having fellowship with people from different cultures. We are sent back to parts of the scriptures that haven’t had the same significance to us.  But I still have some questions about ethnic churches.

Dave: But didn’t Andrea explain that they feel so much freer to express their faith in French and Sango? Even though many like Andrea have good English, many of them still find it hard to pray and study scripture in it.

Mike: Yes I can see that, although many of the younger people already look on English as their first language.  But what really concerns me is the lack of testimony to the unity that we have in Christ across races and cultures.

Dave: Well we can hardly set ourselves up as an example of cross-cultural fellowship can we?

Mike: What do you mean? We have 30 different races in our church.

Dave: Fair enough, but how many are not classed A or B in social surveys? Half of your members went to the same school or university. They might be ethnically different, but culturally they are homogenous. I doubt you have a single Sun reader in your church.  Andrea has quite a social cross section of her community even if they are nearly all originally from CAR.

Mike: I suppose that is why McGavran’s Homogenous Unit Principle gained such popularity in mission circles. We all prefer to be with people like ourselves. Look at your services every Sunday. You have one at 8 am for those who like to worship in seventeenth century language, another at 9. 30 for the ones who want to have liturgy, sing hymns and have a choir and then at 11 you have the Family Service. If we can’t even get the whole British Christian community worshipping together what hope do we have for a truly multi-cultural congregation?

Dave: Yes you have a point there. I think we are losing out by the lack of mutual respect and cross-fertilization between the different generations in our churches. Half my congregation don’t know any Wesley hymns and the other half have never heard of Stuart Townend. I haven’t been able to crack that one, but I want to continue to work on it. Just as I think we need to work on bringing ethnic churches into fellowship with us and to try to be less class ridden. Some Mission Agencies have done a lot of harm by only dealing with people in their ethnic groups so that tribal and cultural divisions have been perpetuated and sometimes even deepened when denominational identity markers have been added to tribal ones.

Mike: I agree. Now that we have fellowship with Andrea let us work on having some activities together. It would be fun to have a French-English service sometimes. Perhaps we could try to combine our generation and class divided groups into one service at the same time.  And certainly we should talk to her about joint youth work both to benefit her anglicised young people and to bring a new cutting edge to the witness of some of ours.  Let’s try to show that in Christ we can be united as he prayed.

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I Will Tend

Let me begin with a confession, I am not very good at cross-examining the theology of the hymns I happen to be singing. Tom Wright’s wonderful book, Surprised by Hope, did leave me wondering where I had missed spotting Buddhist eschatology, Gnosticism and Platonism in some of my favourite and not so favourite hymns,  but like many others I can be sucker for a good tune disguising some ropy theology. However, this Sunday I was caught off guard singing the hymn, I the Lord of Sea and Sky. It is a great hymn based loosely on Isaiah 6. The first half of verse three goes like this:

I the Lord of wind and flame,

I will tend the poor and lame,

I will set a feast for them.

My hand will save.

At least it goes like that if you take the words from Complete Mission Praise. However, in the equally incomplete, Complete Celebration Hymnal there is a minor change, just the change of a letter in fact. Here the “Lord of wind and flame” will send the poor and lame. In the changing of a single letter the poor and lame cease to be those ministered to, to whom we are sent (chorus: Here I am Lord……I will go Lord…) and become the agents of mission. One letter turns the theology on its head and raises some helpful questions.

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Global Connections Conference Reflections 6

 

This is the sixth in a series of blogs on the Global Connections conference in May 2016, From Where I’m Sitting, where we sought to explore mission from different perspectives. You can listen to the talks on the Global Connections events page. I had the privilege to seek feedback on what was heard on the last morning and made a wide range of points.

 

Another key point raised was “Discipleship here and everywhere”.

 

We talked a lot about discipleship during the conference and the need to disciple younger people in a missional lifestyle. However I wonder if many of us in church and mission leadership need a dose of radical discipleship ourselves. It sometimes seems to me that we are ones who are in need of help!!

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Giving: good. Fundraising: bad?

Zoe Bunter from The Leprosy Mission was one of our speakers at our Integral Mission Forum on the 13th September 2016, in which fundraising from a Christian perspective was considered. Here are some of her further thoughts on the matter.

As followers of Christ we are called to help people in need. Jesus demonstrated this throughout his ministry, and the parable of the good Samaritan is an example of how practical Jesus makes it – help the person who others ignore, give them what they need – whether that is medical help, money, shelter or transport.

In Matthew 25 Jesus tells us that as we help people – with food, drink, shelter, clothing, medical treatment, comfort and companionship when they are in prison – it is as though we are helping him:

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…40 The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

So helping becomes an act of worship – both holy and practical at the same time.

We may not know who to help, we may not have the skills we need – we aren’t all social workers, or nurses, or people who can dig wells! We may not be able to travel to other parts of the UK or to countries thousands of miles away – where the need is, we may have responsibilities at home – children, elderly parents, jobs, church life which means we are short of time….

I often think of it as though there are two isolated groups – those who can help, and those who need help. What is needed is a bridge that connects the two together. I see charities as that bridge. They effectively take the hand of the person in need, and the hand of the person who can help, and they bring the two together. Without charities, those in need, and those called to help, can be like islands – separated by oceans.

Some of the recent negative publicity about charities and fundraising may be rooted in charities having lost sight of this – that all we are is a bridge – the important bit is not us, but those who can help, and those who need help. Charities need a humility about who they are.

For charities to be the bridge, they must tell the person who can help about the need of another. And sometimes hearing of need and being asked to help can be very painful. Charities expose us to the lives of other people and often their stories are heart-breaking. I believe that as charities we must tell those stories and we must ask for help – not for ourselves – but for those we are called to help.

I have wept in the office as I have read about a person who needs help because their situation is so dreadful, but I feel called to express that to God’s people and not to hide it. This is what is at the heart of fundraising. But if I just tell you the story of a young woman with leprosy who I met in India – whose family tried to kill her for having the disease, without telling you that you can help her – and others in her position – then I’m just cruelly exposing you to her pain.

It’s when I ask for help for her, that I am bringing you and her together in a beautiful relationship of giving and receiving. So asking you to help her and people like her is wholly ethical. Not asking is unethical. Asking enables the person who can help to give, and the person in need to receive. It enables the charity to be the bridge between them.

As people give to help others, they are allowing fragments of heaven – God’s kingdom – to break in to really dark situations and lives. Like rays of light breaking through the clouds. So giving is a calling, an act of worship, and a way that God’s kingdom is enlarged.

I want to finish with a practical and a spiritual point. There is a common misconception that if a donation is not directly used to help someone in need, it is being misused/or not helping the people it was given to help. So if a donation is used to help pay for fundraising this is improper use.

But in fact fundraising is a donation multiplier! Every £1 used for fundraising at The Leprosy Mission in 2015 generated £5 for people in need. So fundraising grew a donors gift to achieve much more. This is in line with what Jesus talks about in the parable of the Talents – to use what is entrusted to us in the best possible way.

Giving is good – very good, and so is fundraising!

See the full blog post by Zoe here.

 

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Deep roots for dry times

Have you noticed that mission workers are often expected to be spiritually self-sufficient, able to sustain themselves by feeding on God’s word alone, with little or no access to relevant church or fellowship groups? Curiously, the people who assert this are often those who tell Christians that they cannot survive spiritually without regularly attending church meetings, Bible studies, home groups…. Why are mission workers expected to be so different?

The truth is that most of us are not different. We struggle to maintain our spiritual vitality without friends around us. Our spiritual disciplines can fail under the pressure of demands on us. We can become discouraged when we labour long in the mission field with apparently little result. We dry up inside, and our relationship with God can be little more than going through the motions.Read more

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Three in a marriage? – reflections of a ‘team directorate’

Let’s be honest, team-working is often only an aspirational value in both church and mission agency. I say this because it’s fine until we talk about doing it in top-leadership – i.e. a “team directorate”. This is ‘sacred ground’, which provokes questions such as “Is it biblical?”; “Someone has to be the buck-stop?”; “What when you disagree?”; “How does accountability work?”

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Breaking the Silos

“Resilience in member care is an important idea, but when I began looking I found that lots of areas of study have been wrestling with the idea of resilience.  We just need to tap into it.”

The student giving this presentation was voicing a frustration that is familiar and important.  Knowledge and ideas tend to sit in silos of information that often do not interlink.   Sometimes a certain silo will become quite excited about a certain idea or approach and it will swirl in a vortex of excitement and newness.   If enough energy is gathered it sometimes spills over into other areas, but all too often it doesn’t and just stays in one area.

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Global Connections Conference Reflections – Part 5

This is the fifth in a series of blogs on the Global Connections conference in May 2016, From Where I’m Sitting, where we sought to explore mission from different perspectives. You can listen to the talks on the Global Connections events page. I had the privilege to seek feedback on what was heard on the last morning and made a wide range of points…
Another key point raised was “churches need to be at the centre of mission”.
Our Global Options conference way back in 2004 focused on how to help the church be central to world mission. It resulted in our strapline: “Mission at the heart of the church, the church at the heart of mission”
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A photo by Luke Chesser. unsplash.com/photos/KR2mdHJ5qMg

Two Pastors Met For Coffee

Mike:   Have you heard that a new church has started in the community centre?

Tim:    Yes, someone did mention it. It has a rather strange name – The Church of the High Priest Jesus Christ[1].  Where in Africa are they from?

Mike:   I think it is from somewhere in the CAR.

Tim:    CAR?

Mike:   Central African Republic. It seems their services are in French.

Tim:    Do any of them speak English?

Mike:   I think most of them do and certainly the Pastor, but they are happier in French or Sango

Tim:    So have you met the Pastor?

Mike:   Yes. I asked her why they were opening another church in town. She said that no one else was putting on a service in French and their people found it more helpful to worship in their own language.

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