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Will you say it?

When I was invited to contribute to the GC blog my mind wandered far and wide. What would be interesting? What would be helpful? What would enable people to engage in the mission of God? What are the ‘buzzwords’ of the day? Partnership, diaspora, discipleship, post-christendom. Or, what are the questions I get asked regularly? Does God really have a plan for my life? How can I be sure what God is calling me to? How does faith work? Why is prayer so important? What does mission mean? Who are the unreached? So my mind wandered.

It finally came to rest on four very simple words and it is these that I take for my first blog post. Like many simple things, they are deeply profound. They take a life-time to apply, understand and live out. They speak of abandonment, of consecration, of living fully for Christ, just as He calls us to. I believe, uttered aright, they are the beginning of a deeply satisfying life in Christ and a springboard to life-long adventure of faith.

So, before we give any thought to the ‘what’ of mission and ministry – what we might be being asked to do, what the best way to do it might be etc. We must start with the ‘who we are’ by settling a matter in our hearts and making our radical declaration to Christ. “Lord, whatever it takes …”

Think about it. Really, think deeply about these words.

Whatever you want to see the Lord do, are you willing. Willing to let go of anything and everything if He asks, willing to let Him lead you wherever and whenever He wants to take you, willing to entrust to Him your life, career, finances, possessions as He reveals His purposes to you. Willing to do ‘whatever it takes’ rather than ‘whatever you can manage to fit in around your plans and purposes?’

How dangerous to speak such words before our Father in Heaven, the Living God who hears all things and who knows the deepest motivations of our hearts. These four words – so easily shouted with fervour in a moment of emotional enthusiasm or spiritual bravado but which are best whispered with deep humility and sober reflection.

Unless we are prepared to say these words, unless we are committed to follow through on our confession, unless we are willing to embrace the outworking and unless we are prepared to persevere then I think most of our aspirations, thinking and planning are just chasing after the wind – we will never stay the course and our enthusiasm will evaporate at the first sign of trouble.

The mission of God, the sweet simplicity of the gospel message and it’s power to transform lives remains unchanged even if the context and culture around us shifts uneasily from one form of brokenness to another. For the UK Church to take its place within the worldwide body of Christ there is great need for people willing to do whatever it takes. Such people, characterised by humility, zeal, confidence in God and bold, outrageous faith will be the God-chasers and the Kingdom-builders of this generation.

Will you say it?

[NB All of the ideas, themes and questions are valid and might become topics of future blogs. In fact, if you want to save me from having to think too hard about future topics then please post any ideas in the comments section!]

 

The views expressed in this blog post are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the GC network.

Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

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Obedience

“To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22

After 10 years of working in the civil service, as I was watching a James Dobson film, God gave me a strong desire to be a teacher. I had no A levels, never mind a degree, and a wife and young family to support so it seemed a crazy idea. However, when God speaks into your heart it is simply a question of whether you will obey or not. I did obey that call and became a Primary school teacher and then was involved in Initial Teacher Education for 16 years.

In my walk with God, overseas missions had never been at all on my agenda. I had never thought much about Missions and missionaries until 2003 when the youth leaders from my church took some young people, including two of my children, to Albania to work with street kids. The following year the young people wanted to go again but the leaders could not go. Obedience to step into this leadership role was not at all easy but I am so glad I obeyed even if it was with a fair degree of reluctance.

I have led a team to Albania every year since 2004 and that reluctance soon disappeared when I got to know the people and God gave me a love for so many wonderful Albanian friends.

I had no idea that God was orchestrating these different strands of my life in preparation for another call. In 2010, because of my experience in education and my interest in Mission I was asked to join the leadership of TeachBeyond and became UK Director in 2012. Obeying that call was easy as I saw God’s hand clearly leading and it has been great to see God transforming lives through education across the world.

I am sharing this testimony not to draw attention to myself but to illustrate the importance of listening to God’s call and obeying even when the way ahead seems hugely challenging and sometimes ridiculous in our eyes. I would have missed out on so much if I had ignored God’s call and I pray that as you read this you will be challenged to obey whatever God is calling you to do.

 

The views expressed in this blog post are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the GC network.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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Living authentically

“As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” 2 Timothy 4:6-7

Do Paul’s words inspire you with a vision for your life? Are they a source of motivation? Or do they fill you with a sense of inadequacy, or maybe even guilt?

If I’m honest, over the years I’ve experienced all of these feelings as I’ve contemplated Paul’s no-holds-barred faithfulness. Could I EVER live a life like that? What would it look like for me to be faithful for a lifetime?

Without being conscious of it, I used to view my ‘faithfulness’ as the sum total of my most recent experience. Had I made the most of every opportunity to talk about Jesus? Or had I chickened out that day? I made sharing my faith more about what I did, rather than being part of what God’s spirit was already doing. And I didn’t always allow myself to fully experience God’s grace and love for me, even as I aimed to share it with others.

Over the years, I have come to see that the race Paul is talking about is a marathon, not a sprint. A life lived authentically is one surrendered to Jesus for the long haul. A life where our sense of adequacy and identity is not constrained by ‘what have I done for God lately.’ A life where we are free to step out in faith, whether we fail or succeed, because we know that we are fully and deeply loved by God.

 

First published in the 2016 Summer issue of Agapé MOVE magazine.

The views expressed in this blog post are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the GC network.

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

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Churches don’t care about mission

This is a complaint that I hear regularly from people who are professionally involved in promoting world mission. The accusation is levelled against individual churches, groups of churches and sometimes as a blanket condemnation of the church as a whole. For what it’s worth, I beg to differ. It’s not that everything in the garden is rosy, it isn’t. However, I’ve never met an evangelical church leader who had no interest in world mission and who didn’t wish that his church was doing more in this area. However, I have met a number of church leaders who resent what they see as pressure – bullying even – by mission agencies to be involved in their area of mission.

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Thinking Mission Symposium

I had the privilege to be at this gathering in London on Tuesday. It had been arranged by Global Connections to discuss Mike Stroope’s important book, Transcending Mission, which I reviewed last year. In God’s providence the author was already planning to be in the UK so Mike was able to attend. (In what follows I beg forgiveness if I misrepresent any of the contributors and will revise it if an error is pointed out.)

Mike gave an introductory paper, telling us a little of his ministry story as well as informing us of the thesis of the book and of the reactions it has received. I was fascinated to hear that he had had a significant part to play in the SBC International Missions Board’s leadership in the 1990s, a story told by Keith Eitel in Paradigm Wars. I had been in Nepal at that time and had seen some of the fruit of the machinations in the organization that Eitel documents. (I asked Mike about it at the end of the day but didn’t have enough time to really interact. Suffice it to say that those events had a significant impact on the development of my missiology so I do hope I can interact further before long.)

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Who can go?

It was a joy earlier this year for me (Ben) to be commissioned by my church into the ministry of Mission through Business. The local church has the authority and precedent to do this (eg Acts 13), and it was very significant for us as a family to have the church standing as a commitment to pray, encourage and hold us accountable as we move forwards.

In the run-up, the church took time to understand me and the ministry, testing the purposes against the Lord’s will. This went through various cycles, with the leaders, the deaconate and the membership all involved. The process will differ at each church, but one of the key tests remains the same:

What do we look for in a worker sent by the church?

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Church and agency partnerships

In the next couple of posts, I will be returning to a theme that I’ve touched on before and will undoubtedly touch on again; the partnership between churches and mission agencies. To let you know where I am going, the basic thesis of these two posts is that the way that mission agencies are set up makes it difficult for them to partner seriously with churches in their home countries. I’ll touch on a different aspect of this in each of the posts.

However, before going too far, I’d like to make a couple of statements.

  • I know that many agencies have some good partnerships with churches in the UK.
  • I believe that for the most part, mission agencies and their leaders take the role of the church and partnership with churches seriously.

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Rethinking exclusivity

A Muslim man joined us recently for our regular communion service at the place where I live and work.  Which made me think hurriedly about how to do communion inclusively and build bridges rather than barriers.  I could of course simply have said “This is not for you, but you’re welcome to observe”, as indeed you might, but as part of a community that is trying hard to get along well with our ‘cousins’, I knew this wasn’t how we would want to treat a visitor.  So I improvised.

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Mueller on five steps to determine God’s will

It’s the question many would love a clear answer on.

“How do I know it’s the will of God? How can I become better at discerning His desires and purposes?”

I’ve been reading Mueller’s autobiography recently, reflecting on his dependence on God and desire for God’s glory in everything. There’s a little section in there that’s worth sharing – how to ascertain the will of God.

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