Monday, December 10, 2007

Permission Granted!

This fall my wife Carol has been looking after two young daughters of a friend, when they get out of school. Once a week she takes them for a particular appointment and the other week she decided to take her knitting with her. Another woman, also waiting for her child commented upon this and lo and behold the next week she also brought her knitting. It was as if Carol's actions had given her permission to do something she wasn't sure was appropriate.

Reflecting upon this, my thoughts (as they often do) turned to the kingdom of God and the nature of discipleship and ministry. For too long of its history, the institution of church has restricted the work of ministry to the few, specifically the clergy. As if it was too dangerous a thing to equip and release so-called uneducated or untrained people (also known as the laity). Even the Reformation did not lead to significant change in this mindset and/or practice, in spite of a re-appreciation of the priesthood of all believers. However, God cannot be contained and his purposes will always prevail.

One of our values at BridgePoint is that everyone baptized into Christ is a minister. Our authority to do so comes not from human structures (such as bishops), but from our relationship with our heavenly Father. This was also the source of Jesus' authority. The power and ability to serve comes from the presence of the Holy Spirit within us, the very life of God that enables us to do all things (to which God has called us). The place where we do ministry (service) is wherever we find ourselves ... as John Wesley said, 'the world is my parish'. He was seeking to break free from rules of men in the tradition parish system, where a bishop decided who could minister where. But Jesus sends us all out into all the world ... (see Matt 28:18-20).

However, there appears to be a hurdle that is sometimes too high or too imposing for people, and I think it is in the area of permission giving. Because we have lived with man-made restrictions for so long, they have become ingrained in our thinking - a stronghold. This needs to be broken down by truth and prayer, the real weapons of our warfare. But I also believe that a key to this is the role of spiritual fathers and mothers, or perhaps 'mentors'. A younger generation (and not a few older folks also) are looking for spiritual parents - people who will release in them the permission that God has already granted but which needs to be encouraged through loving, committed relationship.

I believe that Jesus' invitation to a mixed group of people into such a relationship, one in which they became his friends (more in the manner of David and Jonathan than Ross and Rachel!) Today, people need more than just theology expounded, they also need loving mentors who will model a way of life, but more importantly impart that lifestyle through their teaching, example and encouragement. But the basis of this is loving commitment (covenant friendship), just as the family was instituted by God on the same basis as a means of raising godly, kingdom-centered children.

Permission has been granted, go and do likewise. If you're looking for a mentor in your life, I encourage you to pray about this and then ask someone you look up to and respect. Take the risk.

I would love to hear your thoughts ....