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Playing the game?

This week and today particularly I have been really challenged about the authenticity of what we are doing here.
This has partly come from conversations I have had with people, mostly in church, who seem to assume I have many more relationships with people on the estate than I actually do in reality. I try to resist guilty feelings about this – it does no-one good if I beat myself up about what I’m NOT doing. However it has also brought me a real challenge to reflect on my practice. Am I doing what I am setting out to do, and being focused on building relationships in my community? In reality I am too often distracted: by church, by family, by cleaning, cooking, social media, the tv, a good book, by good friendships. Often stuff that seems good to be doing, but can still in reality be a distraction.
And to be honest, sometimes it just seems too hard. I run out of ideas. How on earth do I build relationships with people in this community? How do I create opportunities to engage without it seeming forced?
Often it seems like I am just playing a game, tinkering around the edges, pretending to do something that I’m not.
I don’t feel guilty today. But I do feel challenged to make the decision each day to do something uncomfortable, and take my engagement with this community up a level.

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All things to all people?

This week in two contexts I have read the following verses:

To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. (1 Corinthians 9:20-22 NIV)

There are times when being ‘all things to all people’ can feel like an impossible task. And one that can seem ridiculous. Surely we should just be ourselves, have integrity and be true to our God given identity… Not change who we are to fit our context?

But Paul isn’t talking about changing who we are… He is talking about relating to and understanding the culture we are trying to ‘win’. Becoming part of that culture and accepted by that culture. He understood Jewish laws and customs and spoke to them in the context of those teachings. They accepted him as one of them. He made it his business to understand the Greek language and philosophies so he could speak to them in a way that connected with them, and so they accepted him as one of them.

Without changing who we are and our identity in Christ… We must become part of the communities and cultures we want to reach, so we can truly relate and understand peoples lives. Not just using their language but speaking to them in a way in which they can relate to… Knowing that we are really, with all of who we are, relating to them. So they will accept us as one of them.

Living, and loving incarnationally…a message of Christmas….

This morning at church I reconnected with the power of incarnation. I actually got quite emotional as I was reminded that Jesus – amazing God who was there at the formation of the world – gave up everything to become completely and fully human. He that in order that He could fully identify with us, with me. He loves each one of us that much.
My girls love this video from YouTube:
An Unexpected Christmas
In fact their New Zealand accents are becoming quite uncanny; ‘They won’t be expecting that!’
It’s an amusing video but it captures the seemingly absurd idea of God’s to come to earth as a tiny helpless baby born to a poor virgin girl with nothing much earthly to offer.
It’s pretty humbling that God loves us that much. This was a pretty big deal!
It made me think about us in our situations too. If we are to keep becoming more like Jesus what does the incarnation say to us?
For me it basically comes down to this. If God himself was humble enough to become totally like the people
He was ministering to, to walk with them and live alongside them…. Surely we should do the same? And let’s not forget He chose the lowest of the low to live and work with!
I’ve been working through Dave Andrew’s book ‘Compassionate Community Work’. This week I was really challenged by thought of emptying ourselves in order to immerse ourselves in lives of others. To empty ourselves of everything – everything but love. Today I connect that to what Jesus did when he came as fully human. He emptied himself of his glory and who he really was in order to immerse himself on earth and demonstrate the full extent of His love.
Dave Andrews connects this with incarnation mission and community work and moving into communities – living among and as one of the community in order to connect with and serve others as Jesus did. To risk the heartbreak of real involvement in peoples lives. And that is why we live where we do.
But for all of us, in whatever situation we are in and wherever we are… We are called to be Christ. To live alongside and engage with people as one of them. To do what Christ did and relinquish ourselves to love and serve our communities.
Let’s celebrate this Christmas a baby being born among us because he loves us…. But let’s also follow in His footsteps and be among our neighbours communities…. Because he lives them just as much!

Trinitarian Community

‘Those who love community will destroy community. Those who love people will build community’
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

What is your first memory of a positive community experience? My guess is your answer will have to do with relationship, feeling valued, or being able to participate and feel fully and equally part of something.

At the moment I am working through Dave Andrews study book Compassionate Community Work

The opening couple of chapters are re-capping some ideas I’ve already thought about before but it’s always great to think through these things in the light of the context you’re in at the time. And reminding yourself of your core values, and grounding those biblically is always going to help in prioritising your time and efforts.

What my core values boil down are relationship, loving people, justice, acceptance, equality and participation.

I’m personally challenged to prioritise more spending time with people, investing in them and receiving from them in order to model unity in diversity, equality and participation by every member of the community on our estate. Everyone has something to offer this community and is able to participate in it’s development. The best way I can assist that development is probably to love, value and empower people.

I think it’s also a challenge to us a Church.

20131107-213706.jpg

Looking at the trinity as a model for community, it’s a place of safety, equality, acceptance, unity and where justice for the poor is important. It’s not about the individual and it’s not hierarchical. It’s about every member contributing and feeding into each other, it’s relational and everyone has a role. (As shown in the diagram above)

Building community, inside church or out of it is never going to happen by our efforts to build community. It’s going to happen by us loving people and valuing difference.

Baptisms and Halloween

Last weekend I had the absolute privilege of baptising a fantastic lady from the estate. As she shared her story with the church there was barely a dry eye in the place… My heart was overwhelmed with admiration and love for this lady who I have had the honour of walking with in the last few months of her journey. And with admiration and love for her mum,
Dad and sister who have walked with and stood with her through everything that led to that moment, and were there with her for the baptism even though it was probably quite weird for them. What I loved was the way she was totally real about her (quite traumatic) story and her excitement about the new life she is stepping into. And that her story opened a few peoples eyes about the kind of things God can do in the lives of real people in our community…. And encouraged a few people that actually there is a place for them in God’s Kingdom too.
This special person and the time I have spent with her has taught me so much about God and the things we as seasoned Christians take for granted – I can’t remember seeing anyone so excited about the fruits of the Spirit becoming evident in their life! And that IS exciting! I want to see it in my life.
My point is that we get so hung up on getting discipleship, worship, teaching etc etc (which are ALL very important!) but what has helped ME grow and see God more in the last few months is walking alongside someone exploring faith for the very first time. Getting out there into someone’s home in my community and sharing life and faith with her. So if you are wanting to see God more and grow in Him – get out there!
Which brings me to Halloween… A time of year when often as Christians we get behind our closed doors and turn out the lights. Don’t get me wrong here … I’m not suggesting we all start dressing up as witches and ghouls. I don’t like it, I think it’s actually quite horrible and potentially dangerous. And I’m actually quite disturbed by the level of Halloween based activities in my 3 year olds nursery class, and did have to ask for her not to be included in them.
However this is the one time of year when my neighbours are going to be knocking on my door. I am not going to keep it closed when on any other day I would be rejoicing!! I want this to be a place where people will remember and want to come back to. So instead I baked cookies and made up goody packs with invitations to our churches kids events, and we chatted with the kids who came to the door and their parents. Maybe not that radical. Maybe no-one will remember much about it. (Though the cookies were the cause of much excitement!) But I’m pretty sure that interacting with those kids and families was better than not! And I’m also pretty sure that Jesus would not have locked his door and turned his light off either. After all a light belongs on a lampstand, not under a bowl.

With thanks to Jo Dolby’s thoughts in her Halloween blog

A glimmer of the dream

This last Sunday I sat in church in front of two ladies. The both live on our estate. One has recently become a Christian and I spend time with her regularly in her home, she’s amazing! The other is from a Russian orthodox background, came to the uk 4 years ago and recently stumbled on our church through a kids club. This was the first time I met her. They are neighbours, their kids play in the street together… They came to church quite separately.
What I loved was the interaction between them. They were loving each other. My friend was offering to help the new lady speak to the council (her English means she struggles to communicate by phone) and was looking up on her phone where there are English classes locally. I heard in the week that in return the Russian lady had baked her a cake.
I was so excited!! People from the community supporting each other, loving each other, using their gifts and talents for each other’s good… hand in hand with them developing relationship with a God who changes lives. A God who is changing their lives… And their relationship with each other.
It’s so exciting to see the things we have dreamt and prayed starting to happen. And the best thing was – I didn’t do anything! God’s potential in people is all it takes – this community already has all it needs to be transformed!

Coffee and a chat or The Great Commission?

Today I went round to chat with someone about baptism. She’s recently become a Christian and I’m trying to meet her regularly to chat and get to know her, and talk her though a bit of what we believe.

When using some prepared material to talk about baptism – she’s being baptised in a few weeks – we read Matthew 28:19 -20 to explore why we baptise people

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Her response was
“So what you’re doing with me then!”
(Make disciples, baptise, and teach)

I came away humbled!!! And reflecting that actually it’s quite simple. I was just doing something I thought was ‘not much really’, just getting together for a chat. But I was actually doing the very thing Jesus asked us to do! How encouraging that those small things have such a great significance.

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