Imagine yourself taking an informal poll asking your friends and loved ones this question,
“Are You Thriving?”
How many would confidently and enthusiastically answer “YES?”
Honestly… how would you answer?
The Word of God is clear. We can thrive regardless of the circumstances we face today.
Over the last 30 years, I have had the opportunity to travel the globe working with Apostles, Pastors and Leaders in both the first and developing world. The cross-cultural experiences on the mission field have challenged me to dig deeper, love more passionately, and live more purposely. I discovered I didn’t know how much I needed Jesus until I met those believers to whom Jesus was all they had.
I met many leaders in the developing world who daily faced peril, yet they were full of joy. They diminished their dire circumstances while, at the same time, magnified the Lord. They were passionate in their worship and love for Christ. They took care of one another and generously shared the meager portion they possessed. In spite of their hardships, they were thriving, and the Lord was gloriously present in all their endeavors. The astounding thing was they lived this way every day.
Following are some of the qualities that I observed in them:
People Who Thrive are Joyful.
In conversation, we often interchange happiness and joy. On the contrary, being happy and being joyful are two different things. Happiness is extrinsic. It ebbs and flows with our circumstances.
Joy on the other hand is intrinsic. Being joyful is a decision. It is born of an internal belief in the sovereignty of God. Being joyful is a daily agreement of heart that with practice can become permanent. We quickly learn as Nehemiah reminds us “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”
People Who Thrive are Grateful.
A few years ago I heard Oprah Winfrey share her thoughts about the importance of gratitude. She had a “gratitude journal” on her nightstand and each evening she would record a few things for which she was grateful. People who thrive begin and end each day with a grateful heart. Gratitude is the gateway into the presence of God. The Psalmist reminds us to “enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. He says we should “be thankful to Him and bless His name.”
People Who Thrive Have the Right Mindset.
I’m a country music fan. Willie Nelson has a perennial hit song titled, “You Were Always on My Mind.” Sometimes I think the opposite is true for most Christians. We could retitle the song, “I Was Always on My Mind.” Having the right mindset can be easily summarized by this statement – “Get your mind off you!” People who thrive have their mindset on the things of God. They focus on the people around them with a mind set on service, hospitality, affirmation, and encouragement. Paul exhorts the Colossians to “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
People Who Thrive Have A Clear Vision.
Jesus has given us a crystal-clear vision to go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all that He commanded.
We win souls. We make disciples. We train leaders, and we reach the world through planting churches. Our heartbeat is to help people everywhere encounter Jesus. God told Habakkuk, “Write the vision and make it plain, that he may run who reads it.”
People Who Thrive are Generous.
Thriving people are giving people. They give of their time. They give of their talent. They give of their treasure. They are generous in praising others. Giving is not a burden for them—it’s a privilege!
Many times, I was humbled to tears lodging in the homes of believers in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. Experiencing their generosity as we broke bread together has been a great joy of my life. They reminded me of the churches in Macedonia. “Though they have been going through much trouble and hard times, they have mixed their wonderful joy with their deep poverty, and the result has been an overflow of giving to others. They gave not only what they could afford but far more; and I can testify that they did it because they wanted to and not because of nagging on my part.”
Finally, people who thrive are faith people, not fear people. They connect and serve in a vibrant Christ-centered community. They live each day passionately allowing the Holy Spirit to lead them and guide them through life. As a result, the character they develop becomes proof that an encounter with Jesus is life-changing!
So, back to the poll…
Are you thriving?
In the Dark
Globally we are facing a very troubling and confusing season. Making sense of it is like asking a blind person to solve a Rubik’s cube. I don’t pretend to have solved even one side out of the six, although I do have some comments, questions, considerations and conclusions.
Importantly, this is not a position paper. Two elements preclude us from writing one. Firstly, your context is going to inform your response. As an example, the Dutch Govt is using words such as, “we strongly advise you to isolate,” re Covid, in these circumstances. They are not legally demanding prescribed action, with pursuant penalties in case of failure. This is unlike the UK Govt, and others, who are demanding isolation in prescribed cases with the full backing of the law. Secondly, conscience is a deciding factor, and by nature, conscience is not the same in every person, everywhere, except that we all have a conscience. Can you allow certain things with conviction? Some can and some can’t, so you will need to choose. Your private actions may have public implications but that is for you to face if you are acting in faith.
Comments and Questions
It is a virus and it is highly contagious. But is contagion, an ominous-sounding threat, not the common pathway for airborne and physically transferrable diseases, such as the common cold? It isn’t the common cold, granted, but most who catch Covid are either unaware or beset by minor symptoms. Of course, those with underlying predilections aren’t so sanguine about it, nor the families of those who have lost loved ones. We all know of someone.
Our governments have been scrambling from the word go. They are constantly behind the eight ball of confusing and changing scientific prognostications. Masks on, masks off, lockdown, easing of lockdown before reimposing lockdown, children at school are safe, teachers might make children at school unsafe, vaccines are now being made ready, vaccines are realistically a long way from being made ready, the economy is failing, the economy is bouncing back – it’s enough to make you giddy. Scientists are making educated guesses, with pressure from governments and the burden of science being the new saviour when it is no such thing.
The infection numbers are going up, but is this because more people are being tested, therefore recorded, or are the numbers actually going up? This question seems unsatisfactorily answered if it can be answered at all, and at the same time, answers are being used to lock cities down again. The base percentage rates might be a good guide but only if the numbers are actually rising and not just because they are being reported. And the problem here is that the rate might have been considerably higher earlier on, but many may have been asymptomatic, or it might have been lower because we were all shuffled off into suburban exile. Who knows? And, the reporting of deaths has gone virtually silent? What does this say? Fuel for speculation at least.
Unravelling lockdown is like trying to unpick the Bayeux Tapestry, 230ft long, with your fingernails. It’s close to an impossible job when you stop nations and their economies.
As a normal citizen, I am confused and getting slightly more agitated as time goes on. Others are getting somewhat more than slightly agitated: Germans protesting in Berlin, US unrest around their appeal to 2nd amendment rights, Australians living and reacting under draconian legislation, Brits flagrantly snubbing rules … this isn’t likely to lessen, on the contrary. Boris is unhappy, Trump is confusing, Morrison is falling out of favour, Macron is wrestling, Sturgeon is combative, and Ardern isn’t smiling so much.
What will happen when taxes take a hike because someone, us, has to pay for the massive borrowing countries have taken out? The UK’s debt is now a trillion pounds (or dollars). Nobody really knows what that figure is, so vast is it. Debt is becoming meaningless unless you owe taxes or overdraw an account.
Should I wear a mask? I do! If wearing a mask, which would seem axiomatic in containing spray, is going to help then it is a common courtesy to wear one, and it seriously doesn’t impinge on my rights. If our rights, wherever you source them, are compromised then how fragile are we? Freedom, the kind fought for, the kind embedded in our national founding documents and constitutions, is of a different genus than that being demanded by not wearing a mask. I look better with one on.
Considerations and Conclusions
The British economy, normally very robust, has taken a 20% hit in the first half of 2020. That is enormous. We see it at a local level with numbers of businesses closing, for good, on our high streets. Some of this is natural attrition hastened because of online shopping, but as much of it is due to people not being allowed to go shopping, owners concerned for their staff, rents not being paid, etc.
Families have been kept away from funerals and marriages, which are some of the most important and profound social events that bind families and communities together. The impact is not lightweight, and, I believe, grossly underestimated.
- Domestic violence has risen dramatically.
- Mental health is taking a turn for the worst.
- Suicide is on the up.
- Stats, damn stats.
I don’t know all the answers. You would be wise to avoid me if I suggested or claimed I did.
Our founding document, Genesis, gives us some answers.
If we see, as we do, the first chapters of Genesis as archetypes of our behaviour and creaturely image-ness, our glory and our degradation, our possible future and our lost past, then we have insight unparalleled. (Some secular philosophers credit Genesis with an outstanding capture of the human condition – applicable today as much as it was when written.)
Two things stand out when Genesis comes to defining the human. Firstly, is the need and normality of relationship/s, and secondly, the matter of work. As to the second, the clearest indication for what constitutes the image of God in humankind is the mandate to rule. The fact that is has sunk into an abyss of oppressive power doesn’t take away from the original purpose of ruling by working, subduing, and cultivating. In this, we bear the divine image.
We are in all sorts of trouble when we aren’t gainfully employed – when we don’t/can’t work. Shutting down an economy is about much more shutting down an economy; it is robbing us of the creative juices which nourish us, yes even when the work is considered menial.
Work gives us an internal equilibrium and satisfies the need and necessity to productively go outside of ourselves with hands-on physicality. In short, we were made to make; we do best when incarnating.
As to the first, relationships, these are not just important, but fundamental to our well-being. Quarantine from relationships, family, friends, from community, is an ill-conceived disaster waiting to happen. I understand the reasons we are being asked to, or, more to the point, told to, but this won’t obviate the pain and stress people are experiencing. This cost may be higher than deaths by Covid, and by the economic cost.
You, simply, can’t minimise the very things that make for our well-being as communities, and not expect a reaction. It is as if we are told to stop being human for a season so that we can continue to be human. I fear no good will come of it, partially because fear is driving the narrative.
Our Governments may have to make some bold and potentially dangerous decisions that recognise the massive cost to the reasonable and desperate need of non-online relationships, and the creational mandate to work. You can’t try to reconfigure or put on hold the human with impunity; if a person loses both legs they can’t walk.
Find out more about Simon McIntyre:
To thrive means to flourish; to prosper.
It is the “progress toward” or the “realization of” a goal.
Thriving is an Invitation.
I don’t think of thriving as a command. I think of it as an invitation. Through God’s word, He has issued an open invitation for us to thrive.
The Bible is clear. Regardless of the external circumstances — pandemics, injustice, political turmoil, instability, chaos, financial hardship, sickness, and disease — we can thrive.
No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. Romans 8:37 NLT
Jesus loves us. He wants us to be close and intimate with Him. And because He dwells in a place of thriving, He invites us to join Him there as we thrive too!
Beloved, I pray that you may prosper (thrive) in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (thrives.) 3 John 2
Thriving is a Choice.
Thriving is always a choice. At times, I don’t feel like thriving. I have to confess that there are moments when quitting seems easier. It is in those times of discouragement I realize that I need help from above. I call upon the spiritual might of the Lord.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ… 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
Thriving doesn’t mean that we have it all together. Thriving is a joyful, peaceful reliance upon the Holy Spirit. Thriving is a choice we make to overcome our feelings and win the battle of the mind. We choose to seek, to discover and to hear God’s Word, then confidently exercise our faith by confessing and walking in the reality of it.
Thriving Begins on the Inside.
You must first thrive on the inside before you can flourish on the outside. When you are right with God and in right standing with others, there is a corresponding grace that brings peace and joy to your heart. It’s not something that you can manufacture. It is something that shines through your countenance.
…for the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17
So, how’s your countenance? Are you right with God? Are you at peace? Are you experiencing the joy of the Lord? If not, you have an invitation to thrive!
Thriving is Better Caught Than Taught.
If you think about it, most of us learn to thrive through observation. We see and experience the resolve, the mindset, and the vision of those who have gone before us. Authentic righteousness, peace, and joy are really hard to fake, because associated with these is an anointing from God.
Craig Groeschel wrote a book titled, “It.” His book describes the powerful life-changing force that draws you into the presence of God. When “it” is present you feel it, you see it, and you experience it. Thriving is the same way. When you’re around people who are thriving, you see and feel the favor they experience, and that favor makes you want to be closer to God.
…they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:46-47
Thriving Can Become a Culture.
When you thrive personally, a culture is created around you where others can thrive too.
During times of adversity and hardship people are watching how we live more than what we say. Hardship exposes the deficits of our character—not to destroy us, but to allow Christlikeness to be formed in us.
When we choose to turn from our self-reliance and put our trust in Jesus, we open the door for The Holy Spirit to work in our hearts. Putting our trust in the Lord creates an opportunity for those around us to begin to thrive as well.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
You Can Thrive.
You have an invitation to draw near to Him. He promises if you will draw near to Him, then He will draw near to you. Embrace the opportunity you have today and take the first step with a fresh resolve to thrive. As you thrive, you will find the never-ending joy of living your life in such a way that it counts for eternity!
“We live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Cor.4:7 NIV
Faith is the Holy Grail of our walk with God. We walk by faith!
Faith is also the well-worn ground of our faith-full leader Ps Phil.
The wisdom of faith is faith’s practical, essential, application in life.
Faith without wisdom is simply foolishness! Don’t I know this first hand.
Do I encounter the WORD or does the WORD encounter me? I read it daily and find that something surprising can happen. It’s like time bends in these moments. The eternal steps into the temporal. I will be reading the word when suddenly it’s reading me. It’s like faith comes knock-knock-knocking on heavens door.
Scripture says, “Faith comes by hearing”. How does that happen exactly? “Am I even listening or just reading.” I find it annoying when I read, “He who has ears let him hear.” If you have ears what exactly could be stopping them from hearing anyway? It’s in these moments that I try to stop, listen, reflect, meditate… and slowly I begin to see with eyes of faith. Why? Because the eyes of my heart start to see.
Physical eyes connect to our brains. The fact is, we also have eyes that connect and translate the beliefs of our hearts.
I wrongly assumed the scripture, “We walk by faith not by sight,” meant that faith was blind. It turns out, biblical faith isn’t. It sees perfectly when our spiritual eyes are opened. How else can we, “fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporal but what is unseen is eternal,” (2 Cor. 4:18) unless this is referring to some other eyes? When Jesus said he came to “restore sight” was this purely physical? Hmmm, let me think about that…
Definitions are extremely important to me. Here’s why: because we have the naive tendency to think that because we speak the same language, use the same words, we must share the same definitions… right? I find that this is almost never true.
It is even more rarely true when discussing the scriptures. Once we assume a specific definition, each time the word is used it evokes specific thoughts, emotions, perceptions, and concepts.
Hebrews 11:1 had been my definition of faith in the past. Now I see it as a description of faith.
Hebrews 11:3 has become my definition of faith. Because without the understanding of faith there will be no practical application of faith. 11:3 says, “By faith we understand….”
- Wisdom for me is the practical application of truth.
- Understanding for me is the coherent joining together of concepts, principles, or knowledge.
- Knowledge is simply information. Knowledge without wisdom is simply arrogance.
The Wisdom of faith in the life of the Father of faith. “..Who gives life to the dead and calls which did not exist as though they did.” Ro. 4:17 WOW! He is seeing and saying stuff about an entirely different dimension. If Abraham can do it so can we. Me. Us. You.
I see two unmovable pillars that the wisdom of faith rests on: creation and identity.
If you don’t believe in the biblical account of creation or the one whose image you bear, you will find that faith is only hope, never a reality. This was the turning point for me.
You will notice a lot of songs being written about hope that sound like faith. “I see breakthrough is coming,” is a hope statement, not faith (by my definition anyway). Faith would say, “I have already broken through,” a current reality based on eternal truth; seeing and staying aligned with the truth that has already been revealed.
Faith is synonymous with trust. Words are only as trustworthy as the one who spoke them.
Faith establishes trust in the goodness of God. I think there is only one reason people don’t trust God, and that is because they don’t know Him. Some are afraid of Him. Some think He is angry. No one trusts someone they are afraid of.
Faith is not to get things from God; it’s to establish His image in my life. To use faith to get things is a perversion because it assumes he is withholding something. Faith is always now. Hope is future. Faith is the current reality of something good. I have often confused faith with hope. Hope is a precursor of faith.
Before God spoke creation into being He had intention. He was motivated by love and speaking what he saw.
You and I, now in the image of God, function exactly the same.
We can call things which do not yet exist physically as though they are – by faith that has experienced truth and now speaks out because it sees the invisible.
He never just spoke out generally. He was specific and deliberate. Every word had intention, forethought, logic, love that focused on the end.
To be clear, we don’t put faith in faith, but our faith is in the nature and goodness of God.
I try to pay close attention to motive. Biblical faith has intention and motive before speaking. It comes from somewhere.
Galatians 5:6 says, “Faith works by love,” in the KJV. The NLT says, “What is important is faith expressing itself in love”. I cannot express what I have not experienced. You will find you can’t trust someone beyond the love they hold for you. Faith works by love! Love that is unexpressed is useless. So faith without corresponding actions is useless. “Faith without works is dead.”
If you read Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the evidence of things not seen,” you reach the illogical conclusion that faith is blind. An erratic leap into the unknown.
Hebrews 11:3, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, that what we see now did not come from anything that can be seen”. There you have it! What we see didn’t come from what was seen, not from what didn’t exist, not from what was not real. Only what was not seen with physical eyes… yet.
The outcome of our words is first conceived in our hearts before they are spoken.
They express the evidence of things not seen…(yet)! We only believe what we have the most evidence for. Faith needs evidence. Faith is never believing without evidence – that’s superstition. Trust based on intellectual persuasion can be changed by another compelling idea. This is not faith in God, it is faith in self.
When asked how I deal with a crisis of faith, I reply “Faith has never had a crisis!” Faith sustains us through a crisis! Don’t you love Hebrews 11:27b, “Moses kept right on going (faith is unstoppable, it keeps you moving) because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.” WHAT??? How do you see the one who is invisible? With eyes of faith.
Faith sees better than ever and allows us to live today as though our future has arrived. It’s a prophetic memory. Faith overcomes the consequences of life and the chaotic cultures of our day. Faith is not trusting what God will do, it’s trusting who He is. It is not convincing ourselves that a promise is mine but trusting the One who made the promise.
The Wisdom of Faith agrees with the finished work of Christ along with every promise purchased on the cross.
In Christ, I am a partaker in His inheritance for me. Every promise is “Yes” & “Amen” now.
Faith is being certain, fully persuaded in the character and nature of God. Faith is deep assurance in His goodness, perceives Him clearly, sees the future confidently while recognizing and trusting His good promises. Our faith is built by discovering how faithful God is to His word and hearing that in our hearts.
No man can change Him. He never changes. We do.
1 John 5:4b in the NIV says, “This is the victory that has overcome the world even our faith.”
‘They will know you are my disciples by the love you have one for another’ (John 13:35).
When Jesus called the first disciples to follow him, it was in the context of relationship. Jesus, in commissioning us to make disciples (Matt 28:19), is commissioning us to be building community: the church.
But what is the best model for establishing a new church?
The revelation of Christ is the foundation of all church planting – ‘by wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established’ (Proverbs 24:3).
When I think “how-to” or which is the best model to apply, I think R.E.S.T
- Reason: what we can examine, study and test intellectually
- Experience: what we can feel and emotionally sense
- Scripture: what is revealed in the word of God, both descriptively and prescriptively
- Tradition: what has worked before and what the Lord has used previously
Scripture is not the only source of understanding and wise judgment, but it ought to be the non-negotiable plumb line.
We understand “not all trees in the forest are the same height but every tree is important.” We understand that a dynamic, diverse, and supportive ecosystem needs less artificial fertilizers than a single monoculture limited in genetic strength. Therefore, the diversity of models is not only to be expected but encouraged and celebrated.
Our personal experiences teach us that no “one size fits all.”
There were culturally homogeneous churches, such as the church in Jerusalem and Corinth, and there were diverse cultural churches like Ephesus. There were small churches – the church in Colossae had no more than 50, in Philippi under 150, in Ephesus many thousands – yet every church was important and given great attention from leaders like Paul.
There have been great churches of all sizes big and small. Throughout history, the predominant church size has been approximately 100 members. We plan for the norm, adjust for the exception, and celebrate all.
Learnings from C3
Mark Kelsey at Presence Conference in 2019 outlined a description of types of churches in C3. His list included urban, suburban, regional, churches in remote regions, churches in developing countries, and churches in regions of persecution. All with the same C3 culture but with various approaches.
The following are some approaches we have used (the headings are for description only):
The hub church
A team of pastors travels between 3 to 5 churches of up to 70. C3 Reach Bangladesh churches use this approach. We identify an evangelist, a pastor, and a manager. The evangelist goes into a new area followed by the pastor, then the manager coordinates all the hubs.
The reverse church
This approach is used in locations where believers are persecuted and the safest place to worship & teach is in homes. This can lead to isolation and a lack of accountability. We reserve the order in the west where we worship and teach in larger groups and fellowship in homes. The larger gathering is for fellowship and socializing only and the smaller groups are for teaching and worship. C3 Reach Egypt uses this approach.
The satellite hub
Establish one large central church and create smaller satellite churches each 1 to 5 hours away from the central church. Each satellite church has a pastor and a core team, and they visit once a month. C3 Reach Kazakhstan uses this model.
The home church network
In extremely dangerous situations, the only possibility is to have churches under 30 that meet in homes. Once every month, the pastors of the home church gather either online or in person.
Eight things that are present in the gatherings of all the models are:
- Intentional prayer and worship
- Preaching/teaching the word
- Community Evangelistic activities – including practical acts of service
- Development of the leader and monthly reporting to the supervisor
- Regular social activities
- Intentional focused development of ‘next leaders of the next plant’
- Intentional connection to other C3 churches
Defining the “how to do”
Rather than starting with a pre-set model, we start with a process of formational questions:
- “What are the broader cultural values in the context we are planting?”
- “What is the outcome we want?”
- “What do we need to do to achieve this outcome?”
- “What will it look like if we do the things we need to do?
If you are interested in the material we use, you can contact us at c3churchryde.com.au.
Effective delivery of the gospel requires integration between form (what is seen), function (what we do), and feeling (what we desire others to experience).
Ultimately our perfect model is Jesus and our methods focus on how we can be Spirit-powered and connect-driven in the specific cultural context.
Daniel, of Jewish royalty, was exiled to and raised in Babylon, and chosen to be schooled in its language and literature. In other words, Daniel was steeped in Babylonian culture: he was adept at their cultural, moral, and philosophical structures, which, at points were anathema to his monotheistic heritage.
Early on in his education, he forced a point of difference, and in so doing proved the wisdom, the observable difference of his separation, when he refused the rich fare from the king’s table. He was applauded for this.
Later he came into life-threatening conflict with the powers when refusing to obey the King’s edict concerning to whom one could pray. His disobedience was almost the occasion of his demise. He was thrown to the lions for this.
Admired and despised, loved, and hated.
And yet, remarkably, he out-lasted the suzerainty of four Kings.
Daniel is a remarkable example of being culturally aufait and counter-cultural.
He understood and utilized the culture, but he was not captive to it.
Where needed he faced into the raging wind of Babylonian power, and where required he worked within it.
Social media is a tsunami of facts, opinions, misinformation, vitriol, and accusation without defense. It assumes to be judge, jury, and executioner. Its damage ranges from being a nuisance to a cause of suicide. Any appeal to impartiality is a lost cause, as Facebook is currently discovering with massive losses of advertising revenue over its seeming inability to cull hate-speech invective.
On the other hand, social media can be social – it can be used to inform, entertain, and delight. It depends on who wields the s/word or the pict/ure. And as with any tool, it quickly loses its neutrality in the hands of the aggrieved, the thoughtless, and the malcontent.
But for many, it is a way to keep in touch, to foster connections. Fun and beauty can be mediated by social media, along with thoughtfulness, kindness, and truth.
This is all obvious though – nothing new here.
Of greater concern is not its use, but that it may be using us. We need the dexterity of Daniel in being able to weave our way between employing and being employed by, between mastering and being mastered by.
The easy option is to simply condemn it – avoid at all costs. But this is problematic, as it is a tool that, wielded correctly, has positive benefits – even in our Babylon. Daniel didn’t fail to employ his knowledge of the “language and literature” of Babylon with acuity. Much of his task was a human/creational endeavor as much as a Babylonian/fallen perspective. Administration of a kingdom is still administration; of itself, the administration is a noble task.
But where Babylon defied Jerusalem, Daniel was no longer carried along with the tide. At a great personal cost, he swam upstream. He would not become the mindless pawn of the powers that demand fawning obsequiousness. His failure to bow was their opportunity to crucify him, but his resolution shut the mouths of lions.
Vortexes of opinion agitate and swirl around social media. We must take care we don’t become a repeating station of ill-informed and spiteful words.
Jesus can be proclaimed on social media, but Jesus can as easily be defamed on social media. How? By God’s people reacting, retweeting, entering slanging matches, picking up on point-proving diatribe, all of which does little to advance the kingdom of God and the cause of Christ’s love. Not for no reason did Jesus teach in the Lord’s prayer – “Hallowed be your name,” or make your name holy in your people, juxtaposed to God’s people bringing into ill repute to his holy name.
Daniel got it right.
Find out more about Simon McIntyre:
Normally when we think of going the distance, we cite the usual suspects: prayer, scripture, the moral life, and others. And they are correct to cite, but not correct enough, because they all depend on self-discipline.
Self-discipline is good in itself, but focusing on these “usual suspects” individualises the faith, and diminishes the value of the community of God’s church. It’s in community where we gain longevity, because it’s in community that Christ is more fully realised, known and expressed than in private. Together we are not only better, but we are God’s people, and his church.
The Usual Suspects
Prayer is axiomatic (taken for granted) to sustain vitality and viability in relationship with God. Prayer needs to be regular and employing the various tools of prayer: private, public, using Psalms, NT prayers of Ephesians and Colossians, the Lord’s Prayer (where “I” and “me” are not mentioned once), speaking in known and unknown tongues, etc.
Jesus invited private prayer, but not to the exclusion of public/gathered prayer.
He was teaching us to see reward in relationship, and not in public accolade for long winded fancy prayers. The early church practised both – but we read more of gathered prayer rather than private prayer, although we can take private prayer for granted. You won’t go the distance without prayer. And it is one of the first things to suffer when ‘moral/ethical dissonance’ creep in.
A love for God’s word is vital. A private devotion to and immersion in God’s word is a lifeline; food for our true hunger. No other book compares.
A consistent practise of reading, studying and meditating on God’s word is the only thing that actually challenges and changes the church (as it is preached).
Food not sermon material. We aren’t meant to be merely good orators, communicators, relevant and appealing. Hitler was all those things, so are most dictators and heretics. What we preach/minister matters more than the delivery platform. Only reading/listening to what others have discovered is to rob ourselves.
The church was formulated by the apostle’s teaching – it was something they did together – not apart. “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
More was discovered and regulated by doing the process together. We always, and thereby erroneously, read this as the solo practise of prayer and scripture. It wasn’t.
This is vital as well for longevity. Some have forgotten this and incurred much pain and loss. Much of Paul’s instruction whilst starting in theology ends in application for lifestyle. Love will always show itself in moral and ethical apparel. Grace is a deterrent from sin, not a way around it, nor a minimisation of it. Your morality matters, your ethics matter.
These are private matters, but they have public impact.
And time isn’t enough to mention more of the usual suspects: generosity, witness, etc… These all matter, as personal commitments, but they don’t and can’t matter enough.
What we have individualised:
Baptism is not a private matter. Baptism is not just baptism into Christ’s death, as personal benefit (although it certainly includes this). It is also and equally baptism into Christ’s church – the new saving community (which is why it is so serious for people like Hindus and Muslims coming to faith is Jesus, as baptism disavows their community).
The Lords Supper
This is not meant to merely be a personal reflection of Christ’s death and its application to your present circumstance in the private domain of your heart. It is firstly a community celebration (an actual meal), that has saving significance and proclaims the Lords death until he comes again.
An inconvenient truth
Longevity in the faith and ministry has as much to do with who are your people, your community, as it does with a private devotion.
My salvation has as much to do with God’s church as it does with my individual commitment. I’m simply not that good, but God’s church is. My salvation depends as much on my community as it does on my personal commitment.
We grow as we connect, as we stay connected. We wither as we disconnect.
Side note, here’s how you disconnect: you get offended and fail to forgive. Going to another church won’t change a thing – it will only delay the inevitable. Repentance, forgiveness, love – the Jesus stuff. I don’t stay in God’s church, in community, because I like everyone or what everyone does or says – I stay in because I won’t make it otherwise (and I’m hardly dumb, uncommitted or undisciplined).
The church is the “saving community.” You aren’t a saving community. It is both pride and bad theology to suggest we all stand alone. Our Reformation reaction has cost us.
Church is a community that meets – not meetings that add community as an after-thought.
Salvation takes on many aspects in God’s church. As an example, the apostle John states, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Light, community, cleansing. Together, not alone.
This is the reason I’m still in Christ, in his church, in community – because it isn’t up to me. I worry about those who disconnect and say absurd, unbiblical things, such as, “I have a personal, private walk with Jesus.” You may do, but it isn’t the Jesus of scripture, tradition or history they appeal to. All the very best with that.
Longevity is found in community.
Find out more about Simon McIntyre:
One thing is for certain: God’s people are praying more – more often, more intensely, more urgently, with more faith and less self-interest than usual – none of which will harm us.
As to why this pandemic has spread with such virulence, I have no idea. Whether it is the outcome of cross species contamination or a lab leak, I speak with no authority. Beyond this, we speculate.
Apportioning blame is something for Governments, not God’s church. We are the antidote, not the accusation.
What can we pray?
There is no better place to start than the Lord’s prayer, which currently makes more sense prayed in community than in the closet. It is a prayer that glorifies our Father, a prayer that invites the uniting of “things in heaven and things on earth,” and a prayer that situates us with our daily needs being met, forgiveness being extended to us and from us, testing with limitations, and deliverance from evil.
This prayer has an ‘eschatological horizon’ realised in the resurrection of Jesus and the inauguration of God’s kingdom – as in heaven, so on earth. We are invited into much more than just anticipating a nice time here, as up there. Kingdom will here, on earth, in your city, your community, your family, as it is in heaven! We are praying with prophetic boldness the realisation of the will of the one who is far above all power and authority, be it human, angelic or demonic.
1 Timothy 2:1-4
We might also pray what Paul writes to his understudy, Timothy, urging him in the right direction to use all manner of prayer for all people, “for kings and all who are in high positions,” with the purpose that we, God’s people, may live in peace with quiet dignity, resulting in people coming to salvation in Christ. Whatever we pray for our governments, with whatever political preferences we adhere to, the point of this prayer is not that our Prime Ministers, or Presidents, become Christians, but that we, the church, can lead a quiet and dignified life so that the Lordship of Christ might be experienced in salvation.
Nothing wrong with praying for the saving power of Christ to be extended to our Government leaders, but this prayer isn’t about that – it is about a different sort of governing; it is about a governing, a lordship, that isn’t compromised by “the principalities and powers” of this “present evil age.” It is about peace for the sake of the church, his body.
This isn’t how this prayer is normally comprehended, but it is what it was written for, if a plain reading is allowed.
Praying these prayers in lockdown is a good place to start. Who knows where it might lead as the Holy Spirit prays through us, with prayers beyond our finitude, in intercessional groanings?
On Earth as it is in Heaven.
Find out more about Simon McIntyre:
A crisis is what it is: a time of intense difficulty and danger. And this is never nice or a good thing. As COVID-19 wreaks havoc on health, finances and overall wellbeing, people have been talking about a big “re-set” and taking time to refocus on the things that matter. I like these ideas, but with a future that seems uncertain, with the swirl of bad news, losses and death, it’s hard, on a day-to-day basis, to look on the bright side, to make the most of a bad situation, no matter how positive or faith-filled you might be.
When this is over, we’ll all look back and see the places of shelter in the storm, but right now that might be difficult, and as far as I’m concerned that’s ok.
Here’s what I am finding though, and for my part I am making every effort I can to use this time for this purpose: sharing the good news of what Christ has done for me – and all humanity. People are worried and scared, and they need, more than ever, a saviour.
The brightest, the boldest, the best are all in it together. No one, in over 48 countries (and counting), is exempt. This is happening to 1.5 billion of us. We are in lockdown, the things we’ve always taken for granted, a casual trip to the grocery store for something as ordinary as milk, has become a complicated chore. Never mind the poor and disadvantaged in our cities, the ones that have always had it hard. For them, sadly, it’s even harder now, in some cases fatally so.
Right now, I am doing all I can to share the love of Jesus. There are open doors all around, people we work with, family members that have never taken kindly to our faith, neighbours we’ve wanted to chat to about Jesus but were afraid it would ruin the delicate fabric of our social structure. This is the time. If there ever was a good time, this would be it. And you don’t have to hit them over the head with the Bible, all you have to do is offer to pray for them when they’re feeling down, maybe share a scripture, or how your faith in Jesus is giving you strength.
The door is open, we just have to ask permission to walk through it, and very few people are saying no.
I’ve had so many opportunities to share, and there have been moments where I’ve thought, “Oh, I don’t know, maybe later.” There might never be another time. For me THIS is the time to share the love we live in with those who need it so, so much. I’ve read Psalm 91 over co-workers, prayed for someone who had their team furloughed, explained that this week I was ruminating over the fact that Jesus forgave my SIN even though I continue to sin, and how that helps me feel safe and free while making me want to do better.
If you’re reading this post my biggest hope is that you will step outside of your comfort zone during this crisis and make the effort, no matter how uncomfortable, to share Jesus with those around you.
If you’re leading a church, encourage your people in this great opportunity. With all the bad news being communicated all day long, people are more open than ever to hearing some good news. And guess what – we’ve got it. Don’t be afraid, don’t wait for later, let’s share it – now.
For 21 years I was a paramedic.
I’d put on the uniform, get in the road ambulance or medical helicopter, and respond to emergency calls for help, ranging from the most minor of falls to the most unspeakable of disasters. And despite extensive on-going training, and exposure to almost any situation you could conjure in your mind, that sense of heading to the scene and feeling unprepared for what lay ahead never went away.
As we journey through this global pandemic, the feeling of being unprepared as a pastor is very real and is very present.
From providing counselling sessions via Zoom, to preaching in empty halls or even your own living rooms, to passing worship teams in the hallway of make-shift recording studios at acceptable distances . . . pastors have suddenly found themselves positioned on the very frontline of a community that is crying out for help, and doing it without some of the tools of the trade we’ve used for so long.
In 1 Kings 17, we read where Elijah responds to a call from God, sent to help a widow in the village of Zarephath. The call is firm, yet also vague and unusual. In a time of drought, Elijah is to ask a widow to feed him: counter-cultural for the times, and counter-cultural for a minister of God.
As a paramedic working on the frontline, I rarely received clarity in the initial call for help. In fact, often the information received added more confusion, building up that feeling that I was unprepared for what I was about to step into.
Elijah does exactly what God tells him to do, and then is thrust into a situation that he neither asked for nor had the natural skills to deal with. The widow’s son would get sick, very sick, and we read in v17, “he grew worse and worse, and finally he died.” Elijah was not a doctor, a nurse or a paramedic; in fact I’m not sure he expected to be thrust onto the frontline of this kind of crisis. Yet here he was – faced with the dead son of a widow. In a desperate call to God, Elijah cries out to save the boy’s life, and God moves. The boy is raised back to life, as God responds to Elijah’s obedience and faith, even though he was unprepared on the frontline of a crisis.
You may not have signed up to be pastoring on the front line of a global pandemic, yet God chose you, and will use your obedience as healing for His people.
Elijah didn’t have the skills or training to deal with his situation either, but he responded to the call, and he had faith in God.
On so many occasions, I would fly into a situation feeling unsure of what to do next… but I knew then, and I know now, that God is on the throne, and He is always in control.