A Calling to Betrayal

Following Jesus is a call to betrayal. There can be no fudging this. As soon as we affirm that ‘Jesus is Lord!’ we have committed an act of betrayal. We are announcing that all other allegiances and narratives must now be forfeit to a greater and deeper vocation. 

Ambition and identity are to be held lightly and be subject to Christ. All desires and aspirations are to be shaped by love. Selfish ambition has no place in the life of a Jesus follower. There can be no desire to make a name for ourselves (the sin of Babel) or to become ‘a big name’ on the conference circuit. We are, instead, to consider other’s needs as above our own, willingly working for the betterment of our sisters and brothers. Our identity is to be found in and through Christ and not through success or fame or riches. Our self-awareness is firstly found in being a recipient of God’s gratuitous grace and not in our being male or female, Gentile or Jew, slave or free. Such identities must, at most, be tertiary, for of secondary importance is being part of a new community of grace, the ‘called out’ ones, called together to betray previous narratives in favour of a better story. 

We see this played out again and again in Acts of the Apostles. Pentecost comes with a BANG, turning the usual, the ‘normal,’ upside down. It is the first taste of Mary’s Magnificat in the life of the Church: the humble become filled; the powerless become those who shape the future; the fearful become brave and the weak strong; the rich and powerful start to lose their place in the hierarchy because ‘there is another king, one Jesus.’

We see this unfold as Peter and John heal the cripple and have their first run in with the spiritual leaders. The disciples will not keep silent, threats or no; even imprisonment is no obstacle to them. And neither is the beginnings of persecution and martyrdom. Indeed, as Tertullian noted in Apologeticus, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. We see this again as Saul finds faith, as Peter encounters Cornelius, as Paul and Barnabus set off on their journeys; as the new movement spreads into Europe where it found a home for the next two thousand years; as the apostles wrote their letters and the Gospels, seeking to help the fledgling churches apply the stories of Jesus to their growing lives. 

And so a new narrative emerged, one in which ‘this Jesus’ takes the leading role, with the disciples playing necessary but secondary parts in a new story. These are not ‘walk on’ parts, but meaningful and insightful roles. They are the out-working of the in-breaking Kingdom of God, a process that continues even to this day. 

The concern is, however, that Europe, home to the faith for 2000, has failed to continue living a life of betrayal. Instead the church, instead of speaking the truth to power, became the power itself. The assertion moved from ‘Jesus is Lord!’ to ‘the church is the embodiment of the Kingdom and therefore you must submit to the Church.’ Ecclesiastical power was substituted for humility and the narrative of Jesus was lost.

We need to retell the Jesus story. We need to learn again the art of betraying the powers and principalities by embodying that first Christian creed, Jesus is Lord!

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

Photo by Edward Cisneros on Unsplash

The Main Thing Is The Main Thing

Mission can be a complicated business; I’ve just spent four years researching and writing a thesis discussing some of the complexities. What exactly is the relationship between proclamation and social action? How do you define unreached peoples (and should you be defining them anyway)? What is the best strategy for short-term mission? The questions go on and on. Books are written, sermons are preached and strategy papers are carefully developed then filed away and forgotten.

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The B-word

As I write the U.K. is in a state of confusion and flux. There have been and are arguments that float terms such as ‘sovereignty’ and ‘taking back control.’ People on all sides have strong views which have sometimes led to violence and even bloodshed on English streets. Emotions flow freely, in a torrent that divides nations, families and tribes.

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The ‘Red Lines’ of the Kingdom

In Acts we find a story of The Jewish diaspora, in which Jews, allowed to legally hold to their faith, were nonetheless subject to the vagaries of Empire. The Jews were scattered through the Mediterranean world, particularly the eastern end, and like all diaspora peoples, they gathered together for mutual support and protection. They formed insular communities so that their religious and cultural lives could be built up. Whilst there was trade (and other) engagements with the wider, imperial community, this was limited. Integration was not part of their agenda.

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International Students in China: Who will reach this vast and strategic yet invisible group? – Part 3

Leadership and ministry potential

A surprising number of Christian students come to China with church leadership experience. While some are confused or lukewarm in faith, others are eager to be equipped for ministry and are incredibly responsive to capable, intentional and loving ministry training. A Pakistani Christian student wrote, “Just need more prayers so I could work more for Christ and become a source of light for others.” Is this an opportunity to strengthen churches and train people for ministry?

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Four Things the Western Mission Movement Needs To Pay Attention To

The modern Western mission movement has seen huge success over the past 200 or so years. But now, partly to the efforts of that movement, the world has changed dramatically and if Western missions are to remain relevant they will need to make some radical changes. I would like to suggest that there are three areas in particular that we need to pay attention to.

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It’s all about Jesus – Part 2

The author of Acts introduces the narrative by pointing back to his first volume: ‘In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach’ (Acts 1:1). Acts, in contrast, tells us some of what Jesus continued to do and teach through His disciples. This present participle is vital, because the tacit assumption is that the ministry of the disciples, in the power of the Spirit, is a continuation of the ministry of Jesus. And His ministry continues today through us, as we are work in collaboration with the Spirit.

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Acts of the Apostles – Part 1

I am beginning a series of blog posts on Acts of the Apostles. They will be a series of reflections as I seek to draw some lessons from the biblical text and apply them to the contemporary ‘mission scene.’ You may agree with the points I make – but equally you may want to question some of the things I write. This is healthy and I welcome your comments and feedback.

Other better scholars will (no doubt) offer different perspectives, but I am approaching the text primarily as a missiological narrative rather than as doctrinal or historical accounts. Acts is an account of the spread and growth of the early church, from ‘Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). There are four main actors throughout the text: Jesus (1:1) and the Holy Spirit (1:8), the ‘Word of God’ and the Christian community. Off stage – in the wings directing everything – is the Father. The director and actors work in collaboration throughout the text as the story unfolds.

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What are the keys to effective, sustainable Kingdom ministry?

This was a question I was asked recently and it came up again just this week as I was participating in discussions about how to start new things. There are many possible answers and you can read many good books – and a number of not so good books – on this topic.

I think that there are three very basic foundations to effective ministry. In my opinion each of which MUST be in place if the project is to have any chance of getting started and thriving and you might be surprised to see that strategy and money aren’t included.

Read on!

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Faith to the Extreme

If I said the words “extreme faith” to you, what would spring to mind?

A missionary leaving behind their home to go to an unreached part of the world? A terrorist bomber? The title of a Christian conference?

In our wider culture, faith to the extreme has become a no-go zone. Radical religion is socially awkward at best and dangerous at worst.

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