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Archive for January 2011

SALT - Sharon

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salt,partake ministries

Interview with a Christian answering 6 simple questions about their journey of faith. Today it is Sharon - a Chinese believer. Tomorrow we will hear her testimony of faith.

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SALT - Richard

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salt,partake ministries

Interview of less than 3 minutes with a Christian answering 6 questions.

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SALT - Sue

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salt,partake ministries

Interview of less than 3 minutes with a Christian answering 6 questions.

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SALT - Gill

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salt,partake ministries

Interview of less than 3 minutes with a Christian answering 6 questions.

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Community

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Community

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Jesus said in Matthew 10v16: “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.”

How should individual Christian disciples react in regards to a life of Discipleship in an age where church attendance is rapidly declining? It is by being a radical community of radical individuals, which will help stop this decline. The Church needs Christian disciples to be living a radical Discipleship, engaging with the culture, counting the cost of Discipleship and reflecting true humanity while not compromising core beliefs.

Radical Community

Firstly, the church needs to be a community that is seen to be radical by the surrounding society. At Pentecost, the church began when the Holy Spirit filled the Disciples (Acts 2v4). This momentous occasion started the Discipleship process of how Christians were to live as God’s people. The hallmarks of this community were commitment and transformation. This community was radical. It was where people’s lives were being changed as the Holy Spirit filled them. Instead of being a withdrawn people filled with fear of retribution from the Roman government and Jewish leaders, they became a people filled with boldness and joy. The New Testament church grew by being a radical community imbued with radical individuals engaging with others.

Today’s church will grow by building a strong community. A community which involves joining together isolated and solitary individuals where people are imbued with love, showing care to each other, particularly the frail, elderly and young, with what Moltmann calls a “creative passion for the impossible.” An inherent human need is the need to belong, and by fulfilling relational needs, the radical community will become relevant to the people within it. It will then also become relevant to those who are on the outside and looking in.

This involves improving present societal conditions, rather than remaining a conservative community, which merely repairs the status quo. In doing this, today’s church will be emulating characteristics of the early church (Acts 2v44-45). As individuals became Christian disciples, they were added to the church. Discipline helped ensure that the community was being seen as a holy community. To be excommunicated from the community for gross sin was a severe punishment. However church discipline is not primarily about punishment, but rather a “formative and corrective” service as part of Discipleship. Church discipline is foundational to Discipleship making, because it concerns the community’s spiritual health, and strengthens the community bonds.

The church must be a community of Disciples, willing to be holy. It is by being holy, that the church will grow. The role of the community engaged in radical Christian Discipleship is to help people to be holy and not merely happy. Happiness will flow from holiness, but holiness will not necessarily flow from an induced ‘feel good factor’. The radical community needs to be making Christian Disciples who are trained, equipped and developed in order for them to make Disciples themselves. Whereas in the past, Discipleship processes and programmes have emerged after people have joined the church, it should be foundational. The best way is for the leadership to set the example, and show a way forward. Good leadership has good accountability to each other and to the whole community.

Radical Discipleship & Radical Leadership

A radical community requires radical discipleship. Radical discipleship commences with compassion, similar to that of Jesus when he looked over the crowds, and commented that they were like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9v36). It should be a compassion driven like that of Jesus towards the woman at the well (John 4vv1-26). With compassion as motivation, and a contrite heart, the radical church community can reach out to those emerging who primarily see Jesus and the church as irrelevance.

A radical Christian Disciple needs also to involve the voices of others by engaging in dialogue with trusted others. This will involve having a diverse team in the Church who are both willing and empowered to give advice. This team will require an individual leader to have relaxed grip on control, with power delegated to others, which is radical in that it goes against current strains of leadership.

This radical leadership style requires a pursuit of relationship in order to work, rather than a pursuit of aims and outcomes. This will enable trust to form and helps establish the community on a firm relational foundation. Once relationship has been formed, then the spiritual gifts of the Christian disciple can be used in order to serve the community. By exercising gifts and being functional enables the Christian Disciple to grow, be used by God and to flourish with confidence and support. Radical leadership and radical Christian Discipleship encourage the fringe members.

Finally, Jesus recommends that Christian disciples be wise like serpent and innocent as doves (Matthew 10v16b). The means Christian Disciples are to be skilful and shrewd in making decisions that are characterised by intelligence, patience and cunning. Additionally, Christian Disciples are to be gentle and harmless, like doves. This would make Christian Disciples and leaders who are accountable to live a life of integrity worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1v27). This is a life, which is seen to be as holy and blameless. In order to do this, dependence on the Holy Spirit for strength and care is a vital necessity. By relying on the Holy Spirit, the Christian Disciple is perpetually connected to Jesus Christ, who is after all, the Head of the church community.

The Christian Disciple is to be a shepherd leader rather than a manager, so that guidance and nurture are central, rather than merely feeding the community. A Christian Disciple who cares and loves is one who goes out to find the lost rather than waiting for the lost to come. This shepherd is also involved in the training of other Christian Disciples so that care is disseminated. This does not mean however that a radical Christian Disciple leader becomes a subordinate to the community, catering to every whim and fad suggested by others. The Christian Disciple leader needs be a servant but also requires discernment.

Discipleship at most churches these days is organized around their programmes of small groups, Sunday services, prayer groups, leadership group and opportunities to serve. Discipleship in these churches usually involves some form of leadership accountability in four key areas: Mission, Maturity, Outreach and Leadership. Mission involves helping people become Christian and nurturing their faith diligently. If Western churches and Christian disciples started to take radical steps, both in being and making Christian Disciples, then growth would systematically increase. The Church would no longer be seen as irrelevant but as a thriving community where Jesus is glorified and transformation sought.

For more to think about please do read Acts 2v42-47. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. How, and in what ways, were the early church community creative?

Q2. What creative ways can I serve the community I live and work in?

Q3. How can I help my church be more relevant in the community, without compromising?

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Contentment

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Contentment...

So Close to My Heart . . .

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Paul writing in the Book of 1 Timothy 6:6-10; 17-19 "A devout life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that's enough.  But if it's only money these leaders are after, they'll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after. Tell those rich in this world's wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed, with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage-to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they'll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life."

There are generally two main opinions in the West regarding money & material possessions.

Now the first of our big two is the prosperity doctrine, which stipulates that since as Christians we are children of the King, then we should be living like kings in the physical sense.  If you are God's child, then God will bless you so abundantly you will have that earthly mansion, a million pounds in the bank, a good wife or husband and children, if only you follow him.  And if you don't receive these things, then maybe you should be asking for forgiveness, because apparently you are not a child of the King.  What a load of rubbish! It is just materialism in another disguise where possessions and material things are their gods and not the living God. Its very source is pride, and not humility, because they proudly proclaim "I am first, and everyone else is last". I defy anyone who believes this prosperity doctrine to take a trip to the poorer areas of the world and tell that false doctrine to the leaders of the churches who are working faithfully in those areas.  I guarantee you would cause more harm than good.  That is not to say that God never blesses His children with material possessions, because He does - the Old Testament King Solomon is a prime example of this.

Contentment.

In the Bible passage I read earlier, Paul commands Christian Disciples to be content with godliness.  We came into this world with nothing, and we will leave this world with nothing (v6).  The bare necessities for contentment of life are food, clothing & shelter (v7).  However, we could, with justification say that some other things are also necessary.  Cars, books, and computers may with some justification to ourselves as individuals, be a necessity.  That is up to our own individual consciences. But what we need to do, when considering purchasing items is, not to ask "Can I afford it?" but rather "Can I justify it, and could the money be better used elsewhere?"  There are many Christian organisations that need money to continue operating.  Perhaps, the money I was going to use for the trip overseas, could be of better use elsewhere in the kingdom of God?  Further on in Chapter 6, Paul states that we are not to desire riches, lest we fall into the temptation of coveting and wander away from the faith of God (vv9-10), not to love money because it is a source of evil (v10). Everyday Christians pray that God would not lead them into temptation; and he does not, they do that quite easily by themselves.  And those that are rich, are not to flaunt it arrogantly and are not to place their hopes in them (v17).  Those who are rich, are commanded to be rich in good deeds, to be generous and sharing (v18), building up heavenly treasure instead of earthly rubbish (v19).  I should hasten to add, that contentment should also carry with it, the idea of living simply, in sympathy and solidarity with the poor of the world.  Every one of us, could to some degree, live that little bit more simply, and donating the money saved to a worthy concerned organisation helping out the poor of the world.  Remember we are blessed by God, in order to bless others!

The humble, say "God is first, others are second, and I come last" and puts people before possessions.  The Christian Disciple is to place their trust in God alone, and not in their material possessions.  It so easy to fall into the trap of saying - "If only I had that new computer; or camera; or car; or an easier job with more money?"  It is so easy to say these things, and forgetting to be content with what we have.  And it is even easier to forget to say thank-you to God for giving us all our good things.  I would hazard to say, that probably the only time we say thank-you to God, is before the food that we eat.  We hardly ever thank him, for friends and all the other material blessings He does provide and the pleasure we gain from He gives us.  And that is the key to biblical contentment.  "Could I really thank my Lord for this particular item I want?"

For more to think about, please do read for yourself 1 Timothy 6.  Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them.  Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1 - As a Christian Disciple, in what ways are you not content?

Q2 - What blessings has God bestowed upon me, that I should give Him thanks for?

Q3 - How can I use the money and possessions God has blessed me with, in order that He is glorified and worthy of honour, this week?

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