I LOST THE PHONE! – Day 4-8

Time is flying by and here’s an update on how the last 5 days have been living without social media and with some seriously limited phone usage. It didn’t help this week as I lost the replacement phone I had – my only tech-contact with people. Oops! At least I had face to face contact still (phew).

However, all is found now, and I’m (slightly) more contactable now.

I would love to hear what you think about how much social media and access to the internet at the immediate time is enriching or spoiling your social interactions? What are your thoughts and opinions on this?

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No Phone for 40 Days – The first few days.

During this season of Lent I am putting time and energies into others things other than my phone and social media. Here’s some thoughts after the first few days.

1. What do you do when you first wake up? Look at your phone?
2. What app do you go to FIRST? Why is that? 
3. Do you think our phone usage is a generational thing, or inter-generational thing?

Leave some comments, let’s continue the conversation!

Shrove Tuesday – Giving Up the Phone for Lent.

For the period of Lent I’ve decided to give myself space away from social media and excessive mobile phone usage. I recorded a short video below to outline why I fancy giving this a try, a few thoughts, and some of the rules I’ve put in place.

The Five Rules I’m putting in place are:

1. No Social Media | 2. No Text Messaging | 3. Limited Phone calls. | 4. No Internet Mobile Device Usage. | 5. I’m allowed emails (on my laptop only).

Hang on a minute! You are using social media! I found this link on facebook and twitter!” – I know, I’ve automatically set this blog post to send to twitter and facebook, but don’t worry I won’t be checking it.

Anyway, do post some comments on here or on the youtube account. Let’s get a conversation going.

#tbt 10 – Dying to the wrong things.

It’s another #tbt, looking back at aspects of the story of Jesus’ Church. Finding out a few interesting bits and pieces, and seeing what we can learn for us today.

Last week I told you about Ignatious. He wrote loads of letters in his time (being the worst ever letter writer/text replier/responder to calls ever, I’m desperately put to shame by Ignatious’ trigger/pen-happy fingers), but a specific one was to a church in Smyrna. Take a look at the map, Smyrna doesn’t exist anymore, but it was located in Turkey. The bishop at the time was a guy called Polycarp. Now, when it comes to standing up for your faith, this guy was the real deal.photo

At a time when the Roman Emperor was considered a god in the 2nd century, people were forced to worship them, burn incense for them, and reject any other god-like figures (particularly Jesus), being a Christian wasn’t easy. For those that refused to do this, they would be killed. Polycarp was a refuser. As he was reportedly dragged before the crowds, before he was martyred he declared

86 years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong.

How can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?

Now there is somebody’s hand I want to shake.

After he was martyred by being burned at the stake, many Christians would come to remember, and celebrate this amazing example of what it was to following and give it all up for Jesus.

However, unfortunately people took it too far. Martyrdom became somewhat ‘fashion’. I don’t say this lightly or want to seem crude, but many Christians began to freely hand themselves over to the authorities in order to be martyred. It became the greatest thing one could do in order to be like Jesus, as that is what he did. Leaders had to begin to share direction and correction with Christians, that they shouldn’t die to the wrong things. The Bible does say that we are called  to ‘die to ourselves‘, but we need not die to the wrong things. At the time of the ‘wannabe martyrs’ (greatly named by Nick Page in this great book), it was written by a Christian leader that “we do not approve of men offering themselves spontaneously.“. Needlessly and willingly giving your life away to be martyred was not was God had in mind.

I wonder if we die to the wrong things today? Most of us in the Western world today don’t find ourselves in a position where being martyred is a reality we need to face, and therefore the idea of us willingly and eagerly putting ourselves in a place to be martyred is even more distant. But how many of us become martyrs in different ways? I wonder if you take on burdens you need not carry? Behaviours, lifestyle choices, attitudes that we simply don’t need to hold onto. How many of us have misinterpreted things  or are going the wrong end of the ‘die-to-yourself’ stick? I know God often needs to remind us of a few things he does not want us to die to:

  • Loving and serving my family.
  • Fun and enjoyment.
  • Sleep and rest.
  • The health of our soul in preference over our ‘doing’ for God.

What other things is God speaking to you about NOT dying to? Sure, we do need to die to some things, but lets not become martyrs in the wrong way, and avoid the full life that God would love us to have.

#tbt 8 – The ‘Whole’ Church.

#tbt – Throwback Thursday, a look back at the story of the Christian Church and having a think as to what we can learn today from them.

One reason I am getting more and more interested in church history is because it's an opportunity as you look into it to find out what stuff in church life is 'man-made' and what is 'God-made'. What practises, concepts, ideas, tactics and structures are from God, and what bits are from us (usually stupid) humans? Sometimes as we look into church history it's clear to see, other times it's a bit more tricky. Anyway, onward with this week's #tbt!

Near the end of the first century, a guy called Clement wrote a letter from the church in Rome to the church in Corinth. At the time the Corinthian church had recently chucked out their leader and appointed a new one, which Clement felt as a bad idea as the leaders are God ordained and they needed to trust God in it.

All sounds fine I right? Well, I guess it would be fine if Clement hadn't assumed that he wasn't just sharing his opinion with the church, but he was actually an AUTHORITY in the situation. This is where it gets tricky. In his letter, Clement shared a translation of Isaiah 60:17 stating “I will establish their bishops in righteousness and their deacons in faith” (if you find that translation to be anything but inaccurate please do tell me!). Clement shared that ultimately the succession of the church leaders came down the line from Jesus, and with that, an 'organisation'-like feel across the world that linked the churches together.

Up until now the local churches ran independently of each other. Doing their 'thing' in their part of the known world, advancing God's kingdom. But Clement here spoke of a global church, a church that was together, unified and one organisation, that these collections and gatherings of people were 'one church'

It was Ignatious of Antioch that first used the term Katholikos (take a stab at what word we use now!), which meant universal, or global, or 'whole'.

When we say the word 'Catholic' now, we get it mixed with 'Roman Catholic'. When we read the creeds and statement of faith that say 'we believe in the one catholic church', those of us who aren't Catholics needn't be confused, we are not speaking about the Roman Catholics, but speaking of the one, universal church.

So what comes to mind as you read all this? Is it right to say and have one universal church? Should we just focus on our local churches and forget about the global aspect of the church? The word Catholic isn't mentioned in the Bible, so what does that mean for us? How much accountability and leadership should our churches and ministries take from other churches and ministries, whether the church is down the road from us, or on the other side of the world?

For me and the church I am part of , we pursue unity amongst other believers and other churches. In the small town I'm involved in with our MultiSite we have launched, I am in good relationship with the other church leaders. For us, relationship is key. Strong bonds and relationships amongst other churches locally, nationally and internationally is deeply important. We are all on the same mission, let's encourage each other along the way! Accountability is also important, having other leaders and other churches we bond, link, support, encourage and share with is important (and I know our senior pastor does that).

However! Authority across churches puzzles and confuses me a little. Authority is often different to accountability and relationship. Clement seemed to stamp an authority over a church that he was geographically far way from, and quite possibly emotionally and mentally some distance from also. I'm not sure if I agree with him doing that. As long as the church in Corinth had good accountable relationships with other local churches in the area, I'm sure they could support, help and support each other through difficult decisions like those that had been made, why did it need some authority to come in and state the 'rules'?

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Anything to add or share about this kind of stuff? Thoughts on a postcard (or comment below, much easier)…

 

 

It is not about Trying. It is about Training.

Last week at my church I had the joy of preaching and introducing our August preaching series called 'The Soul Shift Series'. Click here to take a listen, and without merely repeating myself, here's a brief rundown of the message as well as the direction we are heading in over the coming month.

“It's not about TRYING. It's about TRAINING.”

So many of us try new things all the time, attempt things in life in order to better ourselves and improve our lives, and the lives of those around us – such as health, ideas at work, parenting and marriage tips, tricks and advice. But for various reasons, we often find ourselves failing, and then giving up. They rarely become part of our daily life, and they rarely become habits that are integrated in our lives. This is no different with Spiritual Disciplines. We may often be encouraged to read the bible, pray, have times of solitude and silence to seek God. But so often we try them out, they don't go how we thought they were going to go, and we give up. Why is that?

There are plenty of reasons most like, but I can think of a couple:

1. Comparison. We compare ourselves to others. “Look at how great they are“, “everyone else seems to find this so easy, but I'm useless at it.“, “I'll never be as good at them.” Comparison will be the death of us if we give it space. Check out Zeddie Little's picture (aka Mr Ridiculously Photogenic) at the end of his 10km race the other year. When I went for a run once I compared my terrible experience with the look of his. It didn't help!

2. We measure success on the wrong thing. So many of us assume when we try things, we'll be excellent at them straight away, and will see the benefit immediately, and when we don't experience that, we give up easily. Also, with Spiritual Disciplines we often think that the act itself of reading the bible, of prayer, or time alone with God is the goal. It's not. The Spiritual Disciplines are the tool for getting closer to God. The goal is ultimately to know God more deeply, to draw close to a Him, to develop a relationship with Him. Get the measure of what success is wrong, and you're bound to think of yourself as a failure or think that you are not hitting the mark somehow.

There is clearly something wrong with 'trying', the striving, the comparison, the attempting, the one-off 'giving a bash' style of attempting spiritual disciplines. The Bible helps us out. The Bible doesn't talk about trying, but about training. Ultimately, if you were asked to run a marathon, you wouldn't just turn up on the day and try, you'd need to train.

Check out 1 Timothy 4:7, Hebrews 5:13-14, and 1 Corinthians 9:26-27. All these are speaking about training, which I go into more detail about in the message itself, so take a listen.

It's tough though. And there are various obstacles that we put in the way, and other obstacles that we face in our world/culture today when trying to train. I think of 3 words that we live our lives by:

  • Fast (we live our lives very fast paced, and very 'full' and busy).
  • Public (we are encouraged to 'share' in our lives. In many ways, some of this good, but it can drastically contrast with the idea of developing a private relationship with God).
  • Self-centred (the idea that we feel that we don't need God to get through our days). The upcoming weeks at church in Kerith will look at these in more detail.

Let's remember that God is a God of grace and love. It's not about trying to do, say or be the perfect person. This is about training in godliness. Training to be more like Christ. We are not in it to please people, or please ourselves, or please God. Remember that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. Thank goodness for that eh?

Personally, I can't wait to hear the next 3 speakers over the next 3 weeks at church. It'll be epic.

 

#tbt 6 – The Early Church Leadership Structure

Throwback Thursdays (#tbt), a look back at the story of the Christian Church, seeing what we can learn.

As time went on, the early church felt that they needed some kind of structure and organisation.

Around 60AD three titles were beginning to be used for leaders within the church. They didn't invent words. They simply used titles that were already used for similar roles outside of the church. Let's learn some Greek shall we?

Episkopos – nowadays we have use the name 'bishop'. The word meant 'overseer' or something like a 'foreman'. These people would oversee a few churches, most of which being under 100 people.

Diakonos – what we now call 'deacon', simply meaning 'servant'.

Presbuteros – what we now call an Elder. This originally was the name of 'a man of standing' in the community.

Giving people names and titles can be dodgy. Some let it go to their head and it can become a bit of an ego trip. But when you see what these roles looked like in the early church, you quickly see that they were hugely interchangeable. In reality, no matter what the title of the person was, there as a strong sense and attitude in them that all roles were servants, meeting the needs of others. Part of the bishops role early on was to look after the poor and needy, including ensuring that these people have somewhere to sit! If there wasn't a seat available the bishop would give up his seat. In reality however the roles of the bishops and deacons were very interchangeable. Not just the bishops would do this, but many would. There was a sense of all getting “stuck in”, and just cracking on with what needed doing. The modern equivalent would be anyone who spots a dirty toilet in the church grabs some rubber gloves and gets it sorted, regardless of title, position, salary or length of time serving.

No sense of a celebrity leadership culture here.

In fact, far from a celebrity culture, many people had trouble leading the church to take any notice of the bishops at all! There actually seemed to be a lack of respect and honour of the overseers. One of the early books (called the 'Didache') advising the early followers of Jesus urged Christians not to dishonour and ignore them, but treat them with honour as they would the prophets and teachers of the time.

So what can we learn from this? In some sense the church had it right by not putting leaders on some kind of celebrity or 'know-it-all' pedestal. Titles are not everything. No matter what position you may hold, no matter what name or job title you are given, you are called to serve. The early church seemed to get this. It's not about trying to look great or get 'promoted through the ranks'.

However, the early church weren't perfect. Dishonouring and not listening or following our leaders is no way to help grow the Kingdom of God. Sometimes we can be put off by structure and organisation, as if it is somehow against the movement of the Holy Spirit in church. The reality is, we need leadership, leaders that serve in the right attitude, but lead nonetheless. Taking the reins, paving the way, pioneering new ideas, helping keep priorities in the right place and giving direction to directionless groups, not being afraid to make decisions, big and small. We need leaders who can lead us in living in step with the Holy Spirit.

What can you do today to honour your leaders? What can you do in your role/title/position in the church to serve where is needed? What does it look like for you to 'do what is necessary' for those you lead? The church doesn't need positions and titles, it needs servants.