30 September 2010

Eaton Ford - At sea in a storm

Jim is away on holiday but Sean and I planned to travel to The Bull in Watton at Stone to meet David. Due to unforseen circumstances David had to call the meeting off at short notice, so eventually it was just me and Sean and Jesus at my place. I include the Lord in the list because he really was unmistakably meeting with us this evening.

A storm on the coast of Israel, near CarmelAfter our usual start of coffee and a chat we began to focus on Yahshua. Quite soon, Sean shared a picture of a storm at sea. Some friends we know are in a storm like this, driving headlong into it. But Yahshua can calm the storm - he's done that sort of thing before! Our friends are moving into the storm but beyond that, everything is calm.

This reminded me of the storm on Galilee and how Yahshua had actually walked past his followers in the boat. They were battling a strong headwind and they were just terrified when they saw a figure walking on the water. But he told them, 'It's me, don't be afraid!' And then they called out to him and Peter began to walk on the water too. But it was essential that they communicated with him.

We need to communicate with him too. Reading the passage in Matthew 14 later I noticed that when Yahshua stepped into the boat the wind immediately died down. How we need him in our boat when a storm blows up! Something else that seems significant is that when the storm took place they were in the dark - it was the middle of the night and they'd been battling the headwind for a long time.

Sean remembered that Yahweh once said, 'I have plans to prosper you'. He was speaking through Jeremiah to the exiled people of Israel (Jeremiah 29:11-14). If the Almighty did this for them, won't he also do as much for us?

Sean thought that these truths are there to point us to him and give him an opportunity to show us his miraculous ability. For example, he is able to change our hearts to love him just a little more - we don't need to be able to do it, even when we can't - he can.

I imagined one of our friends having a conversation with the people who have mistreated him. He was saying, 'I forgive you. I forgive you for believing the lies you were told about me. I forgive you for not believing what I told you.' And I became aware that the pavement (or patio) was flooded. It was only an inch or two deep and the water was stained pink with blood. The details were very clear but I could only see the stonework and brickwork - no people or plants or anything else. The ground in front of me was covered with large paving slabs and a red brick wall rose from the edge of the paving. The bricks were old and crumbly. I have no idea what this means.

28 September 2010

Eaton Ford - A crooked line

Sean and I had coffees and a catch up chat, then decided to look at 3 John which we've been wanting to do for a few weeks now.

Sean had the feeling this letter was written in haste, and I think he's right. It seems to be written to encourage Gaius, The road aheadclearly a Roman, who seems to have been struggling under an overbearing (and misguided) Greek leader called Diotrophes. It's a letter of reassurance, perhaps to someone who is inexperienced or lacks confidence.

We were interested in the use of the phrase 'The Name' in verse 7. This is a traditional Jewish way of referring to Yahweh and is still used in Israel today, 'Ha Shem'. The oldest texts we have of 3 John are in Greek and it's likely that Gaius would have understood both Latin and Greek. We looked up all 17 occurrences in the New Testament of the phrase 'τοῦ ὀνόματος' (Greek for 'The Name') and found this is the only time it's used in this way. The other examples are phrases like 'in the name of Jesus'.

As we turned to prayer and worship I was given a picture of a straight line and on its left-hand side a crooked line that touched the straight line in one or two places. And the Lord said, 'When you are close to me, I am also close to you; but when you are far from me - I am close to you!'

He also gave me a word about Moses and Isaiah. Moses had felt inadequate as a speaker and therefore wanted Yahweh to choose someone else (Exodus 4:12-13). Isaiah knew he was unworthy because his lips were not holy but was made clean and was willing to go for the Lord (Isaiah 6:5-9). We may be prevented by lack of confidence or ability on the one hand, or lack of worthiness on
the other, but if Moses and Isaiah were good enough for the Lord to use, who are we to say he can't use us?

Sean elaborated on this in prayer, mentioning that there is so much fear to be dealt with, fear of speaking and fear of not speaking.

And then the Lord gave me more words, 'It's easy for me to live in you, but hard for you to live in me. But they're the same thing! So just trust that I am living in you.

We felt greatly encouraged by this evening, it seems to be another step forward, another little bit of progress on the journey.

THOUGHT - Preparing the ground

< Obtain seeds | Index | Plant the seeds >

In the second part of the series we looked at how we obtain the seeds for the work of planting a church. But the phrase 'planting a church' is loaded with meaning from our past experiences. We'd better define it before we begin to apply it here.

Compost - a good soil improverWe've already decided that a church is a place where brothers and sisters live in harmony in the presence of the King, Jesus. It's not about us gathering, it's about him being among us. He, not we, define church. If he's not at the centre then although it's a gathering, it's not church. So planting a church means setting in place a community where he is at the centre and his people gather around him. That gets the purpose and intention into clear focus.

The seeds are welcoming, open people who are already primed with life but are currently dormant. They may have been dormant for a long time or just for a short while. If we can provide them with the right environment these people will grow - just try and stop them! So we need to look at the environment in which these people (seeds of church) are living.

What we must not do is uproot them from their environment and move them into our environment. That is often what happens but it's a serious mistake. If we move them they may wither in the new environment where they are surrounded by people they don't know. Much wiser to spend time with them amongst their own friends, family, or workmates and try to modify that environment in helpful, encouraging ways. Jesus said that when we are welcomed we should remain there (Luke 10:7). I don't think that necessarily means living in someone's house (though sometimes it will), but it certainly means living in that person's circle instead of drawing them into your own.

Read Luke 10:1-16 and Matthew 10:5-14 carefully and make a note of other things you should do or not do. There's a lot to consider in those verses. Pray about the things you find there and your attitude to those things.

A gardener would assess the situation and so should we. The gardener might notice the soil was too dry, or choked by weeds, or poorly drained, or much too shallow. He would prepare it according to its need by watering it, hoeing out the weeds, adding sand or compost, or building up the level.

We need to be observant, wise, and discerning. We might notice that the 'seed' person isn't reading the Bible, doesn't understand prayer very well, or perhaps hasn't heard or understood Christ's message of good news. We might therefore need to begin a Bible study with them, discuss and model prayer with them, or share the gospel (the good news).

If our discernment is good and what we do is appropriate we will soon begin to see them living more and more abundantly, growing in grace and love and excitement. These are just examples of the kind of thing that may help to prepare the ground. Pray fervently about the seed and your efforts at preparing the soil. Practice listening to the Holy Spirit - he will show you what to do and say. (You might like to use or adapt some of the priciples of CO2, you might consider doing this with the person you are helping, or you could do it with one of your believing friends.)

Look for natural opportunities as Philip did with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 4:26-40). Don't smother people with over-attention, give them breathing space to process what they have already absorbed.

Don't talk about doctrine or traditions or denominations. Focus as much as possible on revealing Christ to the person you are helping. There is so much in the New Testament - how he related to his followers and talked with them, the care and love he showed to those in need, his words on the hillside, Paul's abundant writings about love and other good things. You and the one you are helping will benefit by studying Jesus and spending time with him more than in any other way.

When the conditions are right and as time passes you will find signs of growth and it's likely the person will want to involve other friends or family. Encourage this - the seed is developing a root and a shoot and is already becoming a baby church without prompting from you! HalleluYah!

Next time we'll look at the details of planting the seed.

< Obtain seeds | Index | Plant the seeds >

27 September 2010

NEWS - Updates near and far

The latest news comes from near and far. As usual all these items are well worth reading through.A megaphone
  • Barna Update - Spiritual dialogue but not much change - The latest survey results from the Barna Group in the USA show that although some believers are changing their opinions and attitudes there's not much overall impact. Of the changers, about half are reporting increased spiritual commitment and the other half less.

  • The BreakDown - I really wanted to show you this website created by a group of enthusiastic young people in and around Godmanchester (near Huntingdon). They show all the signs of uncompromisingly following Jesus; that's very dangerous in my experience :-) I'm praying for them and if you're reading this, I hope you will too.

  • Harvest Now - How deep does it go? - This is a wonderful account of how success in the Kingdom depends on following the King, not our own ideas, methods, or traditions. Great stuff from Steve and Marilyn Hill, if you read nothing else this week, read 'How deep does it go?'

  • Nomad Podcast - Kester Brewin - This time Nomad inverviews an author, speaker and one of the founding members of the alternative worship community Vaux. Kester talks about what the emerging church can learn from pirates, and the importance of churches being temporary places.

  • SimpleChurch Journal - From church-goers to Jesus-followers - Another good post from Roger Thoman, he seems to be saying the same thing as Steve and Marilyn on 'Harvest Now', but in a different way. Maybe you'd better read this one too!

Can decentralised control work?

Most businesses and other large organisations (government, church, military, education, medical) are based on a hierarchical command and control structure of some kind. In government, even though leaders may be selected democratically, during their term of office they work as a hierarchical structure with a prime minister or president granted overall authority.

A temperate forestIs the hierarchical model appropriate for all projects and organisations? Are there workable alternatives?

One alternative that has been demonstrated to work (and work well) is an organic approach. This is based on the way living organisms grow, flourish, and reproduce. It also depends on grasping the nettle of death and decay - this is an essential part of the process, anything that is no longer working must be discarded and recycled.

Take the growth of a forest as an example. A tree starts its life from a small seed and it has a pattern of growth, maturity, seed release, and death. The forest consists of many trees of a variety of kinds along with other plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria. All of these follow their own particular patterns of growth and reproduction and together they form an interacting ecological web that maintains itself rather well. Not only that, species will move in or decrease as climatic and other conditions change. And over periods of tens of thousands of years and upwards the species that make up the forest may evolve and fill new or unused niches that become available. Not only is the forest self-maintaining, it's also self-adapting in the long term.

Can organisations be maintained and adapted in the same way? Yes they can.

Let's take the computer operating system Ubuntu as an example. Most of us think of Microsoft Windows when we think of an operating system, or perhaps Apple's OS X. But there are many others. One of these is Linux, and Ubuntu is just one flavour of Linux.

A recent TechRadar article outlines how Ubuntu is built and managed. The Ubuntu website is the public face of the organisation where you can download your own copy (free of charge) or learn much more about what the system offers.

Compare and contrast this approach with Microsoft's proprietary and traditional business model for Windows.

The organic approach is as old as the universe itself. It works. If it didn't, we wouldn't be here.

I began by listing various kinds of organisation - business, government, church, military, education, medical. It would be easy to extend the list. The table below provides some examples of each along with generalised properties of such organisations. In practice, of course, extreme examples are rare, normally organisations fall somewhere in the continuum between hierarchical and organic and this is certainly true for the examples below. Even the most structured organisation allows (even demands) a degree of original thinking and initiative from staff; even the most organic and democratic organisation has basic rules governing behaviour.



Hierarchical

Organic

Business

Microsoft
Shell
Tesco
Unilever

Traditional high street
Village fair
Sole traders

Government  

Absolute monarchy
Dictatorship

Anarchy
Liberal democracy

Church

Orthodox
Roman Catholic

House church
Simple church

Military

Regular army

Al Qaeda

Education

University
School

Life experience
Parent/child interaction

Medical

Government service  

Private care

Properties

Command based
Controlling
Formal
Obey
Leader decides
Top down structure

Do your best
Freeing
Individual decides
Informal
Organic

So always remember that there is not just one way of doing things. There are two extremes with a whole range of possibilities between them. If you are creating or running any kind of organisation or activity, be open minded and choose the approach that will best suit your objectives.

24 September 2010

THOUGHT - More on the garden

< No earlier items | Index | Prepare the ground >

In the first part of this short series we looked at the steps needed for planting churches. We considered the analogy of planting seeds.

Perhaps the first thing to point out is that the churches (plural) are like a garden (singular). That is the way the Lord put it in my mind and that is how I wrote it down. Here are the words again as I received them, 'Planting churches is like growing a garden.'
A ripe seedhead ready to harvest
There is only one garden, I think that is the crucial point. There is not my garden and your garden, the churches I plant and the ones you plant. There is not the Anglican garden and the Baptist garden and the URC garden and the New Frontiers garden. There is not an English garden, an Italian garden, or an American garden - there is just Yahweh's garden.

The garden where he first walked with his people is the same garden in which he will walk with his people at the end of time. And it's also the same garden in which he walks with his people today. This garden is special not because of what it is, but because of who is in it! It is filled with the glorious presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Will you walk there with him? That's the question. If you will walk with Yahshua (Jesus) you will be walking in the garden; but you cannot go there without him.

So what are the churches that are 'like' this garden? A church is a place where brothers and sisters live in harmony in the presence of the King, Jesus. We can't all be in one place at the same time because we are spread throughout the world and also through time. A church is his people in relationship with Jesus in a local place and time. Wherever and whenever his people gather around him is church. It's not about us gathering, it's about him being among us. He, not we, define church. If he's not at the centre then although it's a gathering, it's not church.

Take these churches in their entirety and they are the garden!

Planting churches
What the Spirit told me was that planting churches is like growing a garden. I'm not an expert on church planting, I might possibly claim that Jesus involved me as several small groups sprang up. But I can see clearly enough the garden-like aspects of the process.

Step 1 - Obtain some seeds
Hmm... Seeds. You can buy seeds in a packet, you can harvest seeds from the previous season's flower heads. But in biological terms the process is the same. Seeds can't be manufactured, they must be collected from the fruits of a previous generation. Providing they're stored properly (kept cool and dry) they will remain alive although they are dormant.

So where should we go to obtain seeds to grow a church? We need to find the 'fruits of a previous generation'. If you take a late summer or early autumn stroll through the fields and along the hedges (or in a garden) you will see seed heads and ripe fruits in abundance. If you know what to look for you can collect seeds easily. If you don't know what to look for you may go away empty handed.

Jesus said, 'Look! The fields are ripe for harvest.' (John 4:34-38) And he said, 'Plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into the field'. (Luke 10:1-12) Take him at his word! He gives detailed instructions in those verses. Read them. Pray.

There are 'seeds' out there, people already primed with life but dormant. Forget the idea that you have to go out and 'convert' people. People come alive when the Creator breathes his Spirit into them. It's not your job to fill people with life - it's his job.

Your job is to walk the fields and hedgerows of this world, recognising dormant life and collecting those containing it. You are a seed collector and you have been commanded to call out for the provision of more seed collectors. Together you will collect an abundant harvest of seeds.

Jesus sent out his followers in pairs to walk the fields and hedgerows. And he told them what to look for - 'peaceful people'. They were to look for people who would welcome them, house them, feed them - generous, giving, open people. People like that are already alive. They are alive but dormant. When you find them stay with them. If you don't find them try again in another place, don't even take the dust with you when you leave. Life came from dust and returns to dust. Where there is no life there is only dust - leave it behind.

If you look you will find these peaceful people in many places and at many times through your life. They're out there! Learn to recognise them, begin to notice them, but don't rush on - stay with them. And remember, where you go the Lord has already gone ahead of you.

So think about going out and collecting seeds and next time we'll begin to consider what we should do with these living, dormant seeds once we have found them.

The next post will take a look at preparing the ground for planting.

< No earlier items | Index | Prepare the ground >

More about this website

I hope you'll find what you're looking for here on 'Journeys of Heart and Mind'. Many of the articles are about aspects of following Jesus, but there are also items on science, technology, travel, history, space flight and much more.

Navigating - Click the tabs under the banner to visit the major parts of this site. There's a little more detail in the list below.

  • Home - A brief introduction with links to recent articles.
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Searching - Use the search box at the top of the right hand column. Type a topic of interest to bring up a series of articles on that subject - for example spacesciencemission, or peace. You can use multiple words in a search. The results provide three tabs, use these to switch between hits on this website (the default), from other blogs, or hits from the web in general.

Themed series - There is a series index listing topics that are covered by linked articles. Visit the index, read the short descriptions, and then click through to a series of interest.

Logo - The logo that looks like a pizza is almost 2000 years old. Visit the 'Ichthus' article for details.

The name 'Scilla'
The web domain is called 'scilla' after a kind of bluebell, one of my favourite flowers.

Site history - The site was at various times called All About Jesus, Focussed on the King and The Scilla Blog. You'll find these names used in some older articles. It's still all about Jesus, the name has changed but not the foundation. He is the way, the truth and the life.

On the web - Also follow 'Journeys of heart and mind' on Google+ - jhmplus.scilla.org.uk


23 September 2010

Little Paxton - A field of flowers

Although I haven't reported much on meetings recently, they've still been continuing. Here are brief notes on an evening with Jim and Sean.

English meadow flowersWe shared fish and chips and a cup of tea while we chatted about recent events, and then we made a Skype call to David in London. David told us he's heading up to Scotland tomorrow as the forecast looks promising for a walk up Ben Nevis (he's already walked Snowdon and Scafell so if he can bag Ben Nevis he'll have done the highest peaks in England, Wales and Scotland). I hope you make it, David!

Later, sitting around the table, Jim shared a vision of a field full of flowers, everything was exceptionally bright and glorious, and the flowers were so dense that you could hardly see the grass at all. This reminded me of what I wrote earlier the same day about planting churches, especially Step 8, 'Enjoy the display of life and colour'.

We prayed for our children, for our friends, for Jim and Pam as they spend a week of much deserved relaxation at Lake Garda in Italy.

Jim also shared his growing excitement in reading 'Extreme Treasure Hunting'. He is beginning to appreciate even more than before the importance of hearing from the Holy Spirit and then responding. This is further reinforcement for the sense that Sean and I have had for a long time now that listening, hearing, and obeying are fundamental to our lives in the Kingdom.

Chris mentioned something that Paul Young had said in a DVD he and Sean watched on Tuesday. 'It's not about what we do, it's about who [the Father] is.' But in a sense it's also about who we are - sons!

Jim shared the strong sense he has that we are coming into a time of truly great and exciting things. That as we hear and obey we will be used in awesome ways. I think this is already happening, has been happening for some time. I also think Jim is right in his sense it's about to ramp up a gear or two. To quote Jim - 'Bring it on!' And to quote Rob - 'The best is yet to come!' They are both right!

THOUGHT - Planting churches

The Spirit showed me that planting churches is like growing a garden. Maple seedling He said there are particular steps to be taken, and that the analogy is complete. Here's the process he set before me.
  1. Obtain some seeds.
  2. Prepare the ground.
  3. Plant the seeds.
  4. Water them at intervals.
  5. Protect them from birds and mice and insects.
  6. Watch them grow.
  7. Remove diseased leaves or shoots. If necessary pull out badly damaged plants and remove them.
  8. Enjoy the display of life and colour.
  9. If they've been encouraged and nurtured in the right way, they will naturally produce and scatter seed for the next generation.
There's also a 'do not'.
  • Do not micromanage the plants or try to conform them to your expectations. You will stunt them and they will grow misshapen and may not flower and set seed.
So there you have it, all you need to know in outline about planting churches. But of course there is every need to put some flesh on the bare bones of those steps. Over the next few days I'll explore the area covered by each of those points. The next post will take a look at how to obtain seeds.

Meanwhile I'd love to have your comments - how do you think the points relate to the practical work of planting real churches?

See also: The series on No-till farming by Miguel at Pathways International

16 September 2010

Watton at Stone - Making a start

This evening was a new departure for us. Instead of meeting in my home or at Jim's or Sean's, we travelled down the A1 to Watton at Stone, a village just beyond Stevenage. We met at an old pub called 'The Bull'; it's full of ancient timber and has an enormous brick fireplace with a massive oak beam supporting the chimney breast above.

The Bull, Watton at StoneThe reason for meeting further south is so that our friend David can join us. David lives in north London, just inside the M25. It took us and him about 40 minutes from home, much more manageable than the hour and a quarter for the journey from London to St Neots or vice versa.

I had expected 'The Bull' to be a tired sort of place and with only a few people present (based on an earlier daytime visit). But it turned out to be quite busy, clearly a favourite meeting place for local people. We asked Father to bless the place itself and the people who use it and it will be good to get to know some of them a little as the weeks and months go by. We plan to meet here every other Thursday and we'll try Skype as a way to 'meet' online in the intervening weeks.

Sean and I arrived early so we found a table and sat chatting with a drink each. When David arrived we talked about our lives and recent events and then took turns to share our feelings using SASHET as a framework. We also talked about our thoughts on what Yahshua has been saying to us. I felt that these components of CO2 were very effective in this face to face environment. We bought coffees (which were small but really quite good).

Finally we prayed together for a few minutes, slightly self-consciously on my part. Here we were in a corner of 'The Bull', surrounded by people chatting and laughing. Should I close my eyes (which might make me appear rather odd) or keep them open (which would make it harder to focus) or close them but try to hide the fact by lowering my face and leaning on my hand (which is what I finally did after trying to pray with open eyes and finding it difficult).

David thought that the early church prayed with eyes open and the habit of closing them was introduced later. Maybe I should practice prayer with open eyes to become more comfortable with it. The strange thing is that I can pray this way while I'm walking or driving, prayer is just a conversation. I've never really thought about it before, but why does it seem necessary to close my eyes when I'm sitting in prayer with others?

15 September 2010

REVIEW - The Grace Outpouring

A lady came into Cornerstone in St Neots and asked for a copy of 'The Grace Outpouring' by Roy Godwin and Dave Roberts. She had heard about it somewhere and felt she needed to read it. James was serving at the book counter and checked the catalogue to see if we had it. We did. We hunted the shelves and failed to find it, but we said we'd continue looking for it and the customer agreed to come back later to collect it.

The Grace Outpouring
After she had left we found it almost immediately!

James went off for lunch and left me in charge. The shop was quiet so I picked up 'The Grace Outpouring' and flicked through some of the pages. One or two passages leapt off the page and I was close to tears as I read how a young American woman had come to faith simply through reading some Bible verses and praying to a Jesus that she did not initially know.

It quickly became clear that the book was full of stories like this and I ordered a copy for myself. I've just finished it and already intend to pass it on to a friend tomorrow evening.

Roy and Daphne Godwin are directors at Ffald-y-Brenin (Welsh for 'the King's sheepfold'), a retreat centre/house of prayer and more that is being used by the King himself to bless local people, the whole region of south-west Wales, and much further afield internationally too.

Roy and his co-author Dave Roberts describe how Ffald-y-Brenin came into existence, how Roy and Daphne became involved, how the place has been used by the King of Kings to touch individual lives and the entire area in extraordinary ways, and how you might expect to see similar things happen where you live too.

It doesn't require skill or knowledge, great wealth or influential friends. All it takes is a willingness to be used by Jesus, an open and humble heart, and the courage to surrender what you thought you wanted from life in exchange for what Jesus wants for you.

Basically, it's about obedience. That means listening carefully to Jesus, hearing what he says, seeing what he does, and following him wherever he leads. These are the same things we have been learning over the past few years, and we too have seen extraordinary things happen as a result. It's not what we do that counts, it's what Jesus will do in us and through us.

I heartily recommend this little book, 185 pages containing a great story told well. Like all good, true stories this one is full of illumination; I guarantee that it will delight, challenge, encourage, and excite.

Obtaining a copy - Order it in paperback or as an audio book from Cornerstone in St Neots if you live locally, or direct from Ffald-y-Brenin. It's also available from Amazon and other online sources.

See also:

08 September 2010

Burning the Qur'an

I was saddened to learn that Dr Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida plans to burn copies of the Qur'an on Saturday.

The first sura of the Qur'anI appeal to you, Dr Jones, please think this through again.

Consider the words of Paul writing to the Galatians - 'The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.' (Galatians 5:22-23) He adds in verse 25, 'Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit'.

Just take the first word, 'love'. Didn't Jesus call us to love our enemies? (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27, Luke 6:35) Burning a book that many people value and revere doesn't seem to fit the concepts of love, kindness, or gentleness.

I have to ask you therefore, in the name of Jesus Christ, to please reconsider the Qur'an burning. Change your mind now before it is too late, not because I am asking you, but because Jesus himself is asking you.

And to any Muslims out there who may be reading this. I have heard it said that Islam is a religion of peace. If that is so I am glad and commend you. However, I follow Jesus (Isa) who is also one of your prophets, and he came in peace. He calls his followers to be a people of peace. One of his titles is Prince of Peace.

He once said, 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of the Most High.' (Matthew 5:9)

Thank you for reading this through to the end. My prayer is that the truth carried by Jesus will enter the hearts and minds of each of you and illuminate your innermost being with his peace and grace and joy.
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