Sunday, 15 May 2016

Discipleship at the Core … of devotion?

40 days of Good News came to end today and I came away from church this morning conscious how much we need to translate ‘40 days’ into ‘365 days’, if we’re to get towards Acts 2:47, because here we read about an every day occurrence … ‘the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Thank you to Ian Sinclair, my Pastor at Counterslip, Bristol, who preached a really good sermon from Acts 2:42-47 for this Pentecost Sunday and really got me thinking about this word devotion. I came away with the challenge, not simply about the object of my devotion, but the outcomes. My commentaries are packed up in boxes, as we await a moving date, but thank God for the internet!

Transliteration: proskartereo
Short definition: I persist.
Definition: I persist, persevere in, continue steadfast in, I wait upon.

From pros ‘towards, interactively with’ + kartereo ‘show steadfast strength’ from kratos ‘prevailing strength’, properly, to consistently showing strength which prevails (in spite of difficulties); to endure (remain firm), staying in affixed direction.

 … proskarter├ę┼Ź means "to continue to do something with intense effort, with the possible implication of despite difficulty – 'to devote oneself to, to keep on, to persist in'.

The big thing, staring me between the eyes, was the essence of the devotion we read about here. I’m fairly sure the message of those listening to me preach form these verses thirty years ago could have easily concluded they were fulfilling the call to obey simply by being in a church building listening to the word of God being preached. However, that’s not what we’re reading about here. This isn't a call to perpetual Bible study (‘oh no’, I hear you cry!); this is an observation of peoples’ lives on fire for Jesus. This is an exploration of the source of their power. This is an examination of the engine, which provided momentum to the first century disciples.

Devotion to the apostles teaching was seen in how it was lived.
Devotion to the fellowship was a rootedness in the re-ordering of God’s new society.
Devotion to the breaking of bread was recognition for the necessity to re-calibrate around ‘what did Jesus do?’

Devotion to prayer was highlighting the perpetual need to live out of deep communion with our heavenly Father.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Discipleship at the core ... of preaching?

We're nudging towards half-way through 2016, during which the banner over nearly all our WEBA-wide gatherings and events is 'discipleship at the core'. I'm convinced it's the issue, right now (probably always has been!). I go along with Mike Breen who says, if we're to ever get towards anything resembling missional movement, then discipleship is the engine, which will get us moving and enable us to get where we want to go.
The biggest hurdle I'm encountering, is along with using the 'mission', or 'missional' words, people respond with the assumption 'isn't everything we do about discipleship'? 
This may, or may not, lead us into a constructive conversation, but my sense is (generally speaking, all readers here excepted!) we are very reluctant to explore what the impact of all we do actually is (as Ministers and key leaders). Sadly, but not always, this conversation revolves around the main Sunday worship service. Even so, this remains the single greatest opportunity to really gain some traction in mobilising the people of God to go into the mission of God  'wherever He intends to go'. 
In the light of this I also found the results of this survey very interesting:

44% of believers (49% of men and 39% of women) said "biblical exposition" was the most important thing in a sermon, compared to 2% who said a "sense of humour" was important.
The poll also found 40% of Christians (44% of women and 36% of men) found practical examples of how to live out the Bible's teachings was the most important part of a sermon, compared to just one percent who said personal anecdotes or stories were important.
If our Ministers are saying they believe discipleship actually is at the core of their preaching and Sunday services, then maybe we need to look at these survey results and hear what the people listening are saying more carefully.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Will the Mayor of Bristol reconsider?

At some point today I shall cast my votes for the next Mayor of Bristol, plus local councillors, as well as the Police and Crime Commissioner.

The actions and comments made last week by our existing Mayor have caused me to wonder, once again as a Christian, what I might expect from the office of an elected Mayor here in Bristol. So, whoever is elected as a result of today, I hope and pray they might reconsider the message which has been sent to the Christian community recently.

The hustings event our current Mayor refused to attend, on 25th April, was organised by Churches Together in Greater Bristol. By virtue of office, I am part of the overseeing group of leaders associated with CTGB. The reason given was, as reported in the Bristol Evening Post, 'I assumed that this was a united Bristol Churches event, but I am deeply concerned about the chosen location for the debate and some of the views of the leadership at Woodland Church’. The particular 'view' related to a comment made by a good friend of mine Dave Mitchell, in a letter to the congregation at Woodlands (NB always best to get the name right if you're going to be critical) at the time of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in 2013. The Mayor commented: ‘This seems to me a clear statement of homophobic prejudice against the LGBT community that I deplore, making it inappropriate for me to attend this particular debate’.

Unfortunately, this reveals a common lack of understanding concerning the Christian Church from National and Local Government. 

The accusation of 'homophobia' is inappropriate and ill-advised. On passing legislation for same-sex marriage our National Government recognised the opposition from the Christian Church (and other religious groups) to the point of allowing a so-called 'triple-lock', precisely to allow the Church to not be compelled to perform a ceremony contrary to our orthodox Christian understanding of what the Bible means by 'marriage'. Since then the major Christian denominations have re-affirmed their understanding of marriage, similarly to the Baptist Union of Great Britain to which I belong, who have stated: 'We affirm the traditionally accepted Biblical understanding of Christian marriage, as a union between a man and a woman'. This is not homophobia. It is, however, highlighting boundary lines, within which sexual relationships and family life are best fostered. 

Sadly, despite the huge legacy in Bristol, as a direct consequence of significant Christian social reformers and the Christian Churches, Bristol City Council are in danger of disregarding the goodwill and generosity the many and varied Christian Churches provide, for the well being of the people of our great City. The Christian Churches are the largest provider of voluntary social care across the nation and Bristol is no different. The hustings event last week was organised by Churches Together in Greater Bristol - the venue was immaterial and any Mayor of Bristol should be more reliably informed.