9 years in the making

Having morning tea this morning, one of the students asked me ‘how was yesterday afternoon?’ I sat there trying to think what could he be talking about? What did I do yesterday afternoon? He noticed the blank look on my face and the vacant stare and proceeded to say ‘you know the old people!’

Ah it all came flooding back… Every Thursday I run a computer group for seniors. A nice bunch of people, friendly, fun, considerate group of people. But to tell you the truth at 38 years of age I did not picture my life being the way it is!

I did not imagine I would be running a group full of how can I say… ‘mature’ people! Nor did I imagine that at 38 years of age that I would still be spending my friday evenings being involved in running a youth group consisting of mainly 13 year old boys… grrr the blood pressure is rising just thinking about it! Nor did I imagine being under pressure to prepare for sunday’s sermon so late on a friday afternoon, and then have spent so much time preparing and only having half a dozen people turn up!

And to make it worse I have offended someone who I have been working hard at seeing them come to know Jesus, I also have another family who I have been spending time with and would dearly love to see them come to follow Jesus. But I just can’t find the time to spend more time with them to make it happen!

I find myself asking the question all the time ‘am I doing the right thing? Am I wasting my time… actually my life… in this church planting business? Is the outcome of this church plant going to differ to any other church I have been a part of?

This church planting caper has been an expensive business for me personally, spiritually, emotionally, financially, and physically. And to throw more doubt into the mix some of those who I have held with great respect, people who literally took me in, people who provided a solid grounding for my life, people who shown me that the gospel is the pinnacle, the very core upon which everything I do. Some of these very people have reacted to my change in life in what was an unsuspected manner.

I thought that everything I did was to create missional community, to actually reorient the church around the mission of Christ, based sorely upon the life changing principals I had learnt from these wonderful gospel people. In my mind it was just the natural outworking of what I have taken onboard through their foundational teachings.

I had assumed that the foundational core of the established mainstream church was that ‘mission is why the Church exists’.

It seemed to me that all the things I had done in churches before was based upon that core but it was always expressed in an orthodox manner. It felt right to do things the way they have been done before for many years. I thought now that I am just merely expressing the same cause/belief in a more relevant manner, that should be a no brainer, right?

I could plainly see that doing the things I had done simply because I had done them before was not achieving the purpose, and on top of that I noticed a reluctance of many christians to approach evangelism differently at a local level, but on another hand when it came to world wide evangelism a different approach was nearly always allowed!

The missionaries seem to be getting away with so much more than I could in the local scene. The missionaries were able to go into new cultures create new connecting points with the culture, even speak a new language. But here locally, could I do the same? No way! If anyone talked differently, looked different, thought differently. Than I might as well be banging my head against a brick wall! Has anyone else noticed that?

I think I had, not by my own design… become a cross culture missionary, except I did not travel overseas… I was just trying to minister in my own community. I really struggled in the main stream church, because I wanted to use the same way of thinking in local evangelism as used in world missionary work.

My calling changed from being a pastor who focus is on the happiness of its members, to mobilize the church for the purpose of fulfilling God’s mission of reconciling the world to Him. I had gone from sending our missionaries out and to keep them at a safe distance from us, to some how wanting them to break back in.

In my mind membership in church is no longer a viable option! There are no members only missionaries. There is nothing to join except only a community on a mission.

But here I stand taking flak from the people who were in a sense the catalyst for the person I am today. Here I am still doing the things I thought would change, like running a club for people who I really have very little in common with, who the connection points are at best few. And here I am running a youth group knowing full well that I am not at all interested or even called to be involved with young people!

I mean what have I got to do? It seems the more relevant… the closer I got to ‘real’ people the further I got from His people. Then it also seemed like I was no longer really belonging anyway… I don’t really belong with the ‘more mature’ or with the ‘young’. Why can’t the chasm be closed in my life?

Erwin McManus summed up how I feel in an article describing the Moasic Alliance ‘We have a zero tolerance policy for religious jargon or Christianese. We have little room for traditions that mean something to us but nothing to a person searching for God. We will not forsake the Word of God for the traditions of men. We are committed to removing every non-essential barrier God and humanity. We refuse to allow the Gospel to become lost in our nostalgia or to appear irrelevant because we are. And I must confess we are less concerned about whether mainstream Christians get us than about whether those searching for God get Him. And if this makes us the bane of the church than so be it. Paul said he would be accursed if only Israel would be saved. If he was willing to take hell for eternity, we can take a little heat form the watch dogs of Christian orthodoxy’

Man do they sound like fighting words? Words coming from someone who has had enough of the useless distracting dribble which consumes so much of our time!

It is words that like which lead me to posting here on this blog. Words like that show me that I am not alone in the frustration! Words like that remind me that when I am frustrated with the way things are going, that there is always a greater cause! That the fight is huge but it is a worthwhile fight. I may at times become frustrated with the status quo around me,with the situation I find myself in, and even my own inability to make change when I so clearly see the need for change, and more so when I have been given the power to bring those change, but fail to do so!

This is the reason why ignitionjournal exists to fan the flame, to enlarge, enhance our paradigm and to renew the passion in which we go about our life and live out those paradigms. And so I find myself saying to you and even to myself. Don’t give up, don’t surrender. Keep on going, keep following the heart of the king!

I know what I wrote above doesn’t make sense unless you find yourself in the situation as me, and then it makes all the sense in the world. But if it doesn’t make sense then please trust me when I say this, ‘I want His Kingdom to come!’ and I don’t care what I have to do to see it happen. If it means a loss of a job or ministry bring it on… if it means a loss of respect in the eye’s of those who I once looked up to, bring it on… If it means I will never go back to a church building again, bring it on… We need a missional approach in local churches now! We need Pastors to be equally concerned with the lost than we are with the saved… We need people more interested in spending time with the lost then ministering to brethen… We need our dairies to reflect our evangelism priority… We need less programs and more releasing to live lives which are missional in nature.

You may not be aware of this, but I wrote this article nine years ago. A lot has changed. I’m no longer working at the Church Planting Training College. Sadly, this has closed it’s doors. While a lot has changed, something has remained the same. I’m still church planting, in fact still at the same church. Still working towards the aims we started off with. Our goal is always outward, always geared towards the person who is ‘outside’ the boundaries of normal orthodox Christianity. If I am being totally honest with you. I think I can say I/we have been a people of faith, we have surrounded so many things in the name of church planting. We have been a people of love, we have loved people even when that love has not been returned or it has cost has. However, being a person of hope and a people of hope… well that is a different matter!

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