Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"Table Talk"

For some time now I have found myself wrestling (in prayer and in my own mind) with the question of how we can best help people move in their journey of faith, in particular from the place of not knowing Christ to discovering a relationship with him through faith.

The Scriptures tell us that "faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." [Romans 10:17] This statement by Paul comes in the context of his own wrestling in prayer over the salvation of his own people - the Israelites, although as he states, in God's eyes there is no difference between Jew and Gentile in terms of their response to God - he blesses all who call upon him. But then he points out the issue ... how can they call upon him, or believe in him unless they hear the message, unless someone tells them the good news.

I believe that this is the way faith works - ultimately God has called us to be an expression of the good news in Jesus Christ. We need both words and deeds - our testimony about the reality of Jesus in us (the hope of glory), is then reinforced by the evidence of a changed life. The characteristics of that changed life are multi-faceted, it is a life increasingly shaped by the teaching of Jesus as we read in the gospels, for example within the sermon on the mount. I believe that when these characteristics are evident in our lives, when we serve one another out of love, then opportunities are more likely to arise to give the reason for the hope that is within us.

But there comes a point for most people, when they need to hear the truth of the gospel of the kingdom put into words. We do not have a weekly corporate gathering where they can come and visit (should they want to). It is not easy for a seeker to just come and join us in our home churches necessarily (it depends upon the individual). So I believe we need some "middle space" - environments that are relatively 'safe' that allow the issues of faith to be discussed and reflected upon without pressure. I for one, am looking for opportunities and ways in which we can provide this to help people move in their faith journey.

What does that mean for you? Paul tells us in Ephesians that God gave some to be evangelists - both to do the work of evangelism as well as to equip the rest of the body to share Christ. We are not all called to an evangelistic focus, but some are. All of us are called to be willing to 'bear witness', in other words to talk about our experience and knowledge of Jesus Christ. For that, I believe it is incumbent upon us all to build friendships with people who do not know Jesus yet, which means spending time with them (in their world to some extent). The heart of it is that like God, we treat all people the same, not trying to determine whether or not they are 'true Christians', but looking to serve them because they are 'true people'. Out of this, and our prayers, will come opportunities to simply be real about ourselves and our faith.

For any of you who sense a greater desire to help people find Christ - perhaps this preoccupies your thinking, your prayers or you find a natural affinity with those outside the church - I would love for us to get together to talk, pray and dream about how we might serve God and others. Please email me, respond to this posting or call me. This is not a call for those who have it all together, you just might be the only person there! But simply for those wishing to grow in this ministry.

"How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" [Romans 10:15]


Friday, May 25, 2007

How are you "feeling" today?

This week (after a couple of weeks break), I wanted to follow up on the article I wrote at the beginning of the month. I had the opportunity to be involved in some shadow coaching and small group work at the next McCoys leadership training event this week. They call it "Business As Unusual" - B.A.U.

It was a most moving time to have the privilege of helping some men begin to explore their emotional 'make-up' perhaps for the very first time, and to think about how some of their personality preferences were having an unhealthy impact on their ability to work alongside as well as live alongside, people who were important to them. I know I shouldn't be, but I am often amazed at how much brokenness and abuse some people have had to deal with in their lives, very often as children when they should have been able to expect better. It reminds me of two things - my thankfulness for the blessings of my own upbringing (even though it was not without its challenges), as well as my thankfulness for God's intervention in my life through Jesus Christ, and how that has brought about healing and transformation for me (though as you know, I am still a work in progress!)

We are complicated beings - a combination of body, soul and spirit and it is interesting to me to reflect upon the interplay of each of these parts and how that affects our ability to fully respond to God, our family, and one another. I have been exploring ways in which we might be able to use some of these principles in our community life and discipleship here at BridgePoint, as well as further afield. I have been intrigued to discover that Life Builders are working with Intimate Life Ministries to build a relational component into their discipleship process because they are working with increasing numbers of people who are just carrying hurts and pain in their lives that are hindering the growth process. So they are looking for some tools and principles to assist in the healing/transformation process. Yes we need renewed minds through truth (ultimately about Jesus Christ), but that needs to be mediated through close relationships within the faith community.

So, I will keep you posted on this, and just wanted to share some of my joy at being able to touch the lives of some guys in a business context, who might never darken the doors of the church as we traditionally know it.


Tuesday, May 1, 2007

A "twist" on leadership development

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a leadership workshop put on by the Center for Relational Leadership (part of Intimate Life Ministries) on behalf of McCoys, the builders' merchant. This was part of an ongoing program of leadership and staff development. The workshop was entitled 'Exceptional Customer Experience' and reflects the beliefs of McCoys (and the CEO, Brian McCoy in particular), that people and relationships are to be prioritized over profit or productivity. Quite a novel (and radical) concept you might think - especially for the business world. They call this 'Business as Unusual'

It made me think of how some might say that we are doing 'Church as Unusual'! They are seeking to become a company made up of people who care about people, and the process is one of growing self, in order to grow others, in order to grow the business ... in that order. This, of course, requires people to develop relational skills such as;

(i) Knowing yourself as well as others
(ii) Giving first to others by meeting needs
(iii) Showing care and expressing empathy
(iv) Becoming vulnerable in order to help develop trust
(v) Dealing with conflict and giving and receiving forgiveness

It all looks very familiar to us because it reflects the nature of authentic Christian community and love. Their approach is to teach these Christian principles and values, without being overtly religious (particularly in the area of language). That would be inappropriate in a business context.

The week culminated in an extraordinary time when the store teams had an opportunity to give testimony as to how the week had impacted them. This was incredibly moving as people became very vulnerable and real. It was quite an honor to be a witness to this.

A central theme of the training, was the notion that our behavior is often affected by and sometimes dictated to, by our emotional state. If we are living with significant amounts of painful or negative emotions, then that will inevitably affect how we deal with and react to people around us. To effect change (or healing) within ourselves, we need to be able to identify strong emotions within, understand some of their roots, and receive care from others. This is what empowers us to reconstruct out thinking (do away with the lies) and develop new, more healthy behavior patterns.

It has struck me that as we have transitioned into a model of church/life that invites us into more intimate and vulnerable relationships (for the purpose of our own healing and enjoyment of life), then we also come up against the same 'strongholds' (to use a biblical expression), that need to be overcome. It has led me to believe that in BridgePoint we would really benefit from working through some of this and shortly I am going to be inviting any who wish to do so, to join with me in doing so. I hope that you will seriously, prayerfully and courageously consider giving yourself to this process.

I would welcome any feedback, comments or questions on this.

With much love,