The Last Words!

Picture of Steve and Ruth

This post by Steve and Ruth Lancaster was originally published at Life in the Lancs Lane

2nd January: High Pike in the Lakes

The very last words of Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ novel are a tad underwhelming considering what has gone before.  Samwise Gamgee, the ever-faithful travelling companion, arrives back in the Shire after completing his quest to help Frodo deposit the magical ring in the fires of Mount Doom.  He has fought off giant spiders, battled with orcs and trolls, trudged over mire and mountain, and finally arrived back at his Hobbiton home.  He slumps into a chair in his cosy hobbit-hole and says to his wife in a rather understated manner, “Well, I’m back.”

Well, we’re back!  And this is where our AIM journey comes to an end.  We haven’t had to fight any trolls, at least not in the physical realm!  Who knows how many spiritual trolls have been encountered during our journey?!  We have encountered a few big spiders and scorpions, but not on the scale that Sam and Frodo had to deal with.  We haven’t had to trudge over mire and mountain, unlike many of the early AIM missionaries, but we did clock up a lot of miles on the potholed roles of Tanzania as we ministered to pastors and missionaries across the country.  We didn’t have a magical ring to deal with, although, just as Tolkien’s ring had the power to destroy all evil, our mission was to teach God’s Word, a story that deals with the ultimate battle between good and evil, and the eventual demise of our enemy.  Revelation ch. 20 states that Satan will indeed be thrown into a lake of fire, and on that day, his influence will be no more!  The victory has been won!  Now, I realise that you can take analogies too far (Tolkien might disagree!) but the fact is that Ruth and I have completed our AIM journey and we’re finally able to say with Sam Gamgee, “Well, we’re back.”  It is the end of that story – but if you’d like to watch a summary of our final term ‘adventures’, see the penultimate paragraph for more details! 

Winter Wonderland: It’s now just over four months since we arrived back in the UK.  We enjoyed a quarantined Christmas, staying in a cosy Cumbrian cottage in the village of Baggrow – not ‘Bag End’!  Due to the fact that we couldn’t do any face-to-face deputation and that we hadn’t got a home to go to, we decided to head north to Scotland where Ruth’s sister has a holiday cottage that we could rent for a few months.  We stayed in the town of Nairn, or as one resident referred to it, Nairnia!  It certainly felt like Narnia during January when the snow came down and covered the frozen harbour!  Here’s a strange connection: the actress who played the evil ice queen in the Narnia movie actually lives in Nairn! 

Coming out of the heat of Tanzania, Ruth and I had both wanted to experience a proper cold winter, and up in Nairn we certainly got that!  We were told that Nairn hadn’t seen as cold a winter for at least 10 years, so it seems we were there at the right time!  With mountains on the doorstep, beaches to walk along, forests to wander through and birds to spot, these two months provided a real Rivendell experience for us; a place to rest and relax, to unwind and unravel, to chill and be chilled!  We loved it!  We managed to do a few online presentations and I was also able to preach a couple of times.  In fact, the wonders of modern technology meant that I could be halfway up a mountainous Munro but at the same time preaching in Carlisle!  Whilst preaching a pre-recorded sermon to a laptop does have some advantages, it isn’t quite the same, so I’m looking forward to getting back in a live pulpit sometime soon. 

A wintry Munro in the Highlands of Scotland

Morogoro to Malmesbury: Following our time in Scotland we headed south and began the process of finding somewhere to rent.  To cut a long story short, we’ve ended up in the small Cotswold town of Malmesbury where we have been able to rent a flat in an old workhouse!  Actually, it’s an old silk mill that was built in 1793 to process raw silk from China.  You’ll see from the photo that the building has numerous large windows in it, designed to let lots of natural light into the rooms, thereby avoiding having to use oil lamps and candles.  This was all with safety in mind as the silk material being processed was highly flammable!  We’ve been here just over a month and have settled in really well, and so far haven’t come across any ghostly silk-millers looking for their silk!  We had initially wanted to rent in Corsham itself but found that there was very little on the rental market that was available for just six months, so we opted for this flat in Malmesbury, only a 20-minute drive away. The silk mill will be our home for the next few months whilst we wait for our tenants to move out of our house in Corsham.    

The town of Malmesbury seems to have three notable claims to fame.1 . Athelstan, the first king of England was buried here in the abbey in the year 939. 2. A tower in the abbey was used for an early attempt at human flight way back in 1010.  One of the monks jumped into a hand-made glider and launched himself off the tower.  It flew for 180 metres before crashing to the ground, leaving him with two broken legs!  3. Nowadays it’s home to the Dyson company, an employer of over 4,000 people who design and produce all sorts of household gadgets.

Sunset on the Solway Firth

And so to the ‘what next’ question!  We’ve certainly enjoyed our home assignment months, even though they’ve been a bit different due to Covid restrictions.  Tanzania already seems a world away from where we are now; there are no geckos on our walls here, no ants crawling over the kitchen top, no snakes to be mindful of!  We now drink water from the taps without a second thought and are still amazed by the food choices available in the supermarket!  Despite what people may say, the roads here are a pleasure to drive on, and having my car serviced here only takes a day, rather than week!!  And it still seems strange that it’s not getting dark at 6.30 every night!  I guess that these, and a thousand other differences, add to the variety of life that we’ve experienced during the past 7 years, and it’s going to take a bit more time to fully adjust back into UK culture.  We’re grateful for most of these experiences (!) and thankful to God for a good re-entry!  

Ruth has been actively looking for employment and had hoped to find a job with a Christian ministry.  However, the Lord seems to have another direction in mind for her at this time and on 10th May she will start a new job as the Operations Manager of a small company that specializes in providing training through role play (see www.inspired-act.co.uk for more information).  This opportunity came about through a member of Corsham Baptist Church who runs the company.  Please pray for Ruth as she settles into the role. 

As for me (Steve), there are a few possibilities, but nothing definite to report on.  I’ve found it hard to know exactly what I want to do in this next chapter, and I’m content to wait for the right opportunity, knowing that God will show me the right door to walk through as and when that door appears!  I’d like to continue in Christian ministry through preaching and teaching but working out the right context in which to do that, at this point in time, is the hard part!  Meanwhile, Oak Hall has asked me to lead and speak on a few trips during the summer and, now that travel restrictions are beginning to ease, there is a better chance of them actually happening.  Israel is one country that has just been given a ‘green light’, meaning that there won’t be a requirement to quarantine on return.  The Israel trips I hope to be leading will be 31st July-10th August, and 8th-18th Sept, and I also hope to be doing the Bible teaching on the Oak Hall Alpine Bible week in Austria towards the end of August.  It’s always good to see a few familiar faces on these trips, so if you fancy joining me, please have a look at the Oak Hall website, or click the following links: 

Oak Hall – Israel—trip codes IS34 and IS40 

Pastor Batano & Tony 
at Sanga Sanga

News of Sanga Sanga: Our former team mates Tony & Cath Swanson visited Sanga Sanga in February to run a training course for pastors and reported back to us that the ministry appears to be thriving.  The buildings were spick and span and visitor bookings were growing.  We’re so thankful to hear this news and to know that our Tanzanian colleagues are doing a great job.  Please do continue to pray for Pastor Batano, the accountant John, evangelist Francis Manungu and all the team there.  You can receive occasional updates of Sanga Sanga through the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/aictsangasanga.

Magical Memories and Memorable Moments: Back in March we put together a video presentation of our third term in Tanzania, a summary of our final term and a collection of our memorable moments.  It was done primarily for folks at our home church in Corsham because we couldn’t report back to them face-to-face, but we thought we’d make it available on the blog for anyone to watch.  You might be familiar with some of the photos and stories, as they’ve appeared in various newsletters, but we hope that it gives the full flavour of our final term in Tanzania.  So, if you’d like to see some footage of an elephant up close and personal, some grown-up men and women getting excited over a piece of birthday cake, a Muslim-majority primary school class singing God’s praises, and some Masai dance moves, head to the previous post on the blog entitled “Video – a look back at our last term” and click on the link which says “3rd term video for Corsham Baptist”.  A word of warning to those strapped for time, the presentation lasts for 46 minutes!! 
This is the 41st and final edition of our AIM-related newsletter and, if you’ve read all 41 editions, you deserve a medal!  A note of thanks to Ma and Pa Lancs for printing and distributing those 41 editions!  We hope you’ve enjoyed the journey and have felt a part of what we’ve been doing over these last 7.5 years.  We may well continue to write an occasional blog update (depending on what happens next), so if you would prefer not to be on the blog update list, please let us know.  If we don’t hear from you, we’ll assume you’re happy to hear from us occasionally!  
Our formal service with AIM officially ended on 31st March, although we’ll continue to be inactive members for the time being.  We had good debriefs with our colleagues in the Nottingham office and are grateful for all they’ve done to administer our service and smooth our transitions to and from the field.
To those who have written to us at various times, to those who have encouraged us, to those who have prayed for us, and to those who have supported us and our work at IBM financially, we want to say the biggest THANK YOU possible – asante sana kabisa for your support!  You’ve been a huge blessing!  And I guess all that’s left to say is ‘goodbye’…. for now!   
Every blessing,
Steve & Ruth
Prayer Points
– Praise God for the way in which He has helped us to adjust back to life in the UK and for the provision of accommodation.
– Please pray for Ruth as she starts her new job soon.  Pray too for Steve as he considers the future and waits for God’s direction.
– Please pray for Pastor Batano and his team at Sanga Sanga, that the ministry will continue to bless the pastors and evangelists of the AICT.  Pray for wise management and increasing visitor numbers to sustain the work.
Bird of the month: Long-tailed Duck,
seen at Hopeman, Moray
Steve, his niece Grace and sister
Bev at the end of the unofficial
Nairn half marathon in March!

Notices for Sunday 9 May 2021

This week

In-person services continue with increased capacity. Pre-booking is still required but please consider coming if you would like. You can book your family ticket (one per household) here – contact Cathy Simon if for any reason you are unable to book.

Please note that:

  • you must not attend if you have any Covid symptoms – a new cough, temperature or loss of taste or smell ;
  • you must inform us if you receive a positive Covid test within 14 days of attending ;
  • distancing rules of 1m plus mask apply.

Sunday Services

  • Church on the Screen @10am: If you prefer a more active service rather than simply watching, a warm welcome awaits from Rob and the team. All details at: https://www.churchonthegreen.online/event/10am-sunday-service-online/
  • Priory Street joint service @10am: ‬https://youtu.be/YbEXONceEGY. This week our worship will be recorded. Then we continue the Good News according to Mark brought by Eddie. You can read the passage : Mark 2:13-17 : here.
    • Please continue to pray for our preaching team as they prepare to bring God’s word to us week by week.
    • Next week (17 May) our worship will be recorded and Alan C will bring you Good News from Mark.

Zoom Junior Church

If you would like your child to participate in these sessions but haven’t done so already, please contact Rhiannon (childrensworker@corshambaptists.org or mob (in directory)) giving permission for them to join.

There are safeguarding rules that we need to adhere to and in the first place parental consent is required for your children to take part in these meetings.  Please could you send Rhiannon an email or text / message with the following (filling in the relevant information):

  • I give permission for …………… to interact on zoom.
  • I give permission for a leader to contact me (Parent’s name) by email/ phone/text for the purpose of  setting up these Zoom meetings.And then add your name.

Church Meeting 17 May

The Eventbrite tickets are now available for the Church Meeting on the 17th May

Please book here

It is essential to our church culture that we meet together to discern God’s will but if you are minimising contact due to Coronavirus it will be possible to participate online. However, to vote you will have to deliver that in person to the church within 30 minutes of the ballot opening. There will be someone to collect your vote outside so you don’t need to come into the building.

The agenda is now available and reports will be forthcoming within the next week.

Youth Matters

Incredible youth plans that you most definitely don’t want to miss hearing about so you can commit the young people of our church & community to God in prayer. 

  1. Youth Study Groups
  2. Youth Away Day:  After the Church on the Farm (6th June),
  3. Summer Camp: We are currently exploring two opportunities… 
  4. New Horizons:
    1. We are currently trying to organise a gathering for those finishing sixth form or college to give them a good send off before they explore new horizons.
    2. Two of our young leaders are currently making applications for an AIM Community Outreach Week – Reaching out from a church in the midlands situated in a community of people from a North African background.
    3. Year 6s face a big few months as they finish off in primary school & transition to secondary school as well as being eligible to tap into youth ministry. Dan is hoping to meet with the year 6s of Corsham Primary, by taking part in the schools Careers Week – explaining something of what he does, why & who can come. This presents opportunities to raise the profile of youth ministry. 
  5. Baptism Classes: We are about to begin some baptism classes to help a couple young people think through baptism. 
  6. Detached Youth Work: With schools work & outreach into the community campus still problematic, we are exploring possibilities around outreach to young people in Corsham. We’re looking at clothing & branding that will identify us – as we meet with young people where they are at & build ministry in the margins to young people unconnected with church life.

For more details, please Dan’s full article on the website which includes a list of points for prayer

Ark Children’s Service Sat 29 May 10:30

You are invited to book for The Ark children’s service at Corsham Baptist Church on Saturday 29th May, 10.30 for about half an hour.  There will be a take-home craft available. The service in church will be similar to normal with songs, Bible story and puppets.
We look forward to seeing you so much, but need to ask if masks could be worn by over 11s and hand gel on arrival, please. You will be allocated seats to ensure social distancing with socially distanced entry and exit too.  We would be grateful if you  don’t attend if you have any Covid symptoms. 

Click on the link here to get your tickets!

Souper Friday on Facebook

Souper Friday is now in Facebook! We want to reach local people who need support with food parcels, so if you’re on Facebook please ‘like’ the page and engage with the posts via likes/shares/comments. You can find the page here: www.facebook.com/souperfriday
If you have any questions about Facebook, feel free to contact Jasmine Warren.”

Activities during lockdown

  • Souper Friday continues to reach out to our community and neighbours
  • Community Money Advice is handling work remotely, but do get in touch if you are aware of or are having money difficulties ;
  • Several small groups meet and share online.
  • Youth Groups- Contact Dan for further details

Please send items for next week’s notices to Cathy Simon and/or Tim Stephenson by 12 noon on Friday

Youth matters – Matter!

so DO NOT skip reading this essential article!

Hi Church Family, with Covid restrictions easing, I want to tell you about some incredible youth plans that you most definitely don’t want to miss hearing about – so you can be fully informed & will be able to commit the young people of our church & community to God in prayer.
As a result of what you hear, you may wish you yourself were involved in all the exciting things happening, & so feel free to contact me & find out how YOU can get involved further with the young people.

(1) Youth Study Groups

We are now meeting in-person & this term we are applying the Good News of Jesus to social justice issues such as Poverty, Climate Change, Racism, Abortion & Sex Trafficking etc.
As part of this, some of us will be raising money for Tearfund by undertaking the Mean Bean Challenge – living of a measly ration of Rice & Beans for 5 days. For more information or to support us, check out: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/CBCYouthGroup
We will also be finishing our year long journey in Witness Training, helping to equip & empower young people to be God’s witnesses among their peers.

(2) Youth Away Day

After the Church on the Farm (6th June), the young people will be staying on for an away day – creating time to hang out & re-build friendships, making up for lost time due to Covid. The Day will culminate in a youth service with various elements led by different young people.

(3) Summer Camp

We are currently exploring two opportunities…

  1. DTI Camp (replacing Soul Survivor) a 4-day camp held in Nottingham to enable young people to come together & grow their relationships with each other & God. [30th July – 2nd August]
  2. Summer Camp A weekend away for the older youth (14+) in Cornwall. [6-8th August]

(4) New Horizons

  1. We are currently trying to organise a gathering for those finishing sixth form or college to give them a good send off before they explore new horizons.
  2. Two of our young leaders are currently making applications for an AIM Community Outreach Week – Reaching out from a church in the midlands situated in a community of people from a North African background. Activities will include a children’s holiday club – games, crafts. A community artwork challenge. A women’s group to run alongside the children’s activities – crafts & practicing English. There will also be sports activities for teenagers in the evenings.
  3. Year 6’s face a big few months as they finish off in primary school & transition to secondary school as well as being eligible to tap into youth ministry. I am hoping to meet with the year 6’s of Corsham Primary, by taking part in the schools Careers Week – explaining something of what I do, why & who can come. This presents opportunities to raise the profile of youth ministry.

(5) Baptism Classes

We are about to begin some baptism classes to help a couple young people think through baptism.

(6) Detached Youth Work

With schools work & outreach into the community campus still problematic, we are exploring possibilities around outreach to young people in Corsham. We’re looking at clothing & branding that will identify us – as we meet with young people where they are at & build ministry in the margins to young people unconnected with church life.

Well hopefully, that gives you plenty of prayer fuel as we look forward to what is to come in youth ministry in the coming months. If you would like to look back, & be encouraged on some of the ministry that has already taken place in lockdown, please check out this article: https://www.webnetwork.org.uk/encouragements-in-lockdown-young-people/

As I wrap up, let me leave you with some bullet points of how you could pray for us:

  • Please pray that all we programme would serve our goals: to REACH young people – introducing them to Jesus, to BUILD young people up in Him, and to SEND young people out as witnesses for Jesus in a broken & hurting world.
  • Please pray for the young people, particularly the year 6’s & year 13’s as they transition into new environments. Pray that they may remain rooted & established in God as they make their transition.
  • Please pray for the young people as they reconnect with their Christian peers in person. Pray that relationships would deepen & grow with each other & God.
  • Please pray for wisdom & sensitivity to the youth team as they navigate young people through restrictions lifting.
  • God to change hearts & lives of young people in our church & community.
  • That young people will see more clearly the beauty of the Good News of Jesus and how it applies to all of life. Please pray that the Good News will direct & shape how we campaign when it comes to social justice issues, and that we would have courage to respond as God would have call us to, whether popular or counter cultural.

The Fuelcast: Ruin

This post by Alex Drew was originally published at Seventy Two

The pandemic has left many feeling overwhelmed or in great hardship. None of us know what the future holds, but Alex Drew of @WeAreSeventyTwo brings us words of reassurance – God promises to be with us every step of the way.

 

The post The Fulecast: Ruin appeared first on Seventy Two.

Notices for Sunday 2 May 2021

This week

In-person services continue with increased capacity. Pre-booking is still required but please consider coming if you would like. You can book your family ticket (one per household) here – contact Cathy Simon if for any reason you are unable to book.

Please note social distancing rules apply.

Sunday Services

Zoom Junior Church

  • I give permission for …………… to interact on zoom. 
  • I give permission for a leader to contact me (Parent’s name) by email/ phone/text for the purpose of  setting up these Zoom meetings. And then add your name.

Gather to Pray

Do join ‘Gather to pray’ on Sunday evening 2 May · 6:00 – 7:00. This is a powerful opportunity to seek God’s heart for the work of the church and our local community.

Computer or smart phonehttps://meet.google.com/vjm-gkgi-obq
Telephone: 20 3957 3964‬ PIN: ‪916 886 270‬#

Elder & Deacon Elections

Nominations for three Elders and two Deacons close on Sunday 2nd May. You can find further information, nomination forms and teaching from Eddie about the biblical role of elders and deacons at the link here. Please read and consider prayerfully.

The Eventbrite tickets are now available for the Church Meeting on the 17th May

Please book here

Easter Thank Offering: Message from the Treasurer

Thank you church for your generous support for the Easter Thank Offering.

A total of £2558 has been raised to support the work of our mission partners (Compassion, International Teams Austria (The Oasis Centre) & Tearfund) who would normally have benefitted from the Harvest and Christmas Service offerings.  This will boost our Restricted Mission Fund to around £4575 by the end of April 2021.

Souper Friday on Facebook

Souper Friday is now in Facebook! We want to reach local people who need support with food parcels, so if you’re on Facebook please ‘like’ the page and engage with the posts via likes/shares/comments. You can find the page here: www.facebook.com/souperfriday
If you have any questions about Facebook, feel free to contact Jasmine Warren.”

Activities during lockdown

  • Souper Friday continues to reach out to our community and neighbours
  • Community Money Advice is handling work remotely, but do get in touch if you are aware of or are having money difficulties ;
  • Several small groups meet and share online.
  • Youth Groups- Contact Dan for further details

Please send items for next week’s notices to Cathy Simon and/or Tim Stephenson by 12 noon on Friday

Am I willing to move on from where I’ve previously settled?

This post by Nigel Coles was originally published at Seventy Two

On the face of it, it seems ridiculous to think of Moses ‘wandering in the wilderness’ for forty years, or is that just me? Apparently if they’d walked in a straight line it would be 5270.8 miles. Even today, even with a Sat Nav, that’s impossible, but forty years! However, when I factor in 603,550 men (Numbers 1:46), which easily equates to over two million people, it’s not so daft.

When I think about the shift from slavery to worship, for a whole nation, or from Israel’s bondage to Pharaoh to its bonding to the One, True, Living, God and especially when I think of how long it’s taken this single human (me) to get this far, it doesn’t seem so long at all. I like to think it’s my love of Tolkien and that quote from The Fellowship of the Ring, ‘not all those who wander are lost’, why I try and find such meaning in wandering, aimlessly. I suspect however, it’s more connected to my innate desire to settle, to stop moving, for a bit of comfort. But God…

But God is disturbing, disruptive, more concerned with why and how I’m going anywhere than where I want to go.

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people around by the desert road towards the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, ‘God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.’ After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. Exodus 13:17-21

The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, travelling from place to place as the Lord commanded. Exodus 17:1.

We are in a liminal space. The pandemic has created liminality around the globe for countless people in all walks of life. But for those of us in Christian leadership, especially across the Western world, the pandemic has merely drawn back the curtain on what was our present reality. The pandemic has revealed, not created, where we are.

I’ve been putting off taking some time to seriously reflect on this particular question, which I accepted on my list four months ago now. But I need to move forwards. I can be more comfortable teaching others how to navigate our cultural landscape than finding my own way. I get too settled. It’s not been a comfortable four months; the Lord has been continually at work, by His Spirit, nudging, cajoling, un-settling. I’ve made three commitments.

#commitment 1. I am re-focused on my ultimate destination

What kept Moses going? His relationship with the Lord, trust in his ‘commands’ and conviction about where he was headed. Terence Fretheim, in his commentary, talks about the wilderness wandering’s as a ‘community on the move from a past act of redemption toward a promised goal’. Keep that in mind. This is about people stuck between promise and fulfilment. I hear Jesus reminding me the reality of the kingdom of God is here, but not yet fully realised. That’s where I/we are called to live, to love, to laugh and to cry. Truth is, there’s no other place I can live and so many of the distortions, misconceptions and misunderstandings (deliberate or otherwise), which I allow to cause me dissonance are if not of my own making, avoidable

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3.

Is it as easy as this? Yes and no. Living it out is frequently far from easy, but staying true to keeping our eyes on Jesus, as our compass bearing, makes all the difference in the world.

I’ve not worked out the proportions, but reading Exodus again, it feels like it’s all about Moses relationship with the Lord. My feelings tend towards exaggeration, but don’t you recognise the sense it all depends upon you, the responsibility which weighs too heavily at times, as well as the exhilaration when the kingdom breaks through?

What I’m seeing in this wonderful adventure of Moses leading the people of God towards the Promised Land is providing significant encouragement to me as we start taking steps out of the pandemic induced restrictions. The wilderness period is a liminal period in the biblical narrative and carries the potential for being one of our most helpful guides in the present day.

Over a period of forty years the people of God transitioned from slaves to citizens, from a people with a nameless God to one who knows the personal name of their deity, and from a lawless people to a nation bound by covenant. They completed these transitions by following Moses through the wilderness, a period marked either end by water crossings at the start and finish of this liminal journey. Now if that’s not a gift for a Baptist, what is?

We are now living in a missional era. The most pressing need for the church across the western world is to transition into ‘being missional’, no longer relying on ‘doing mission’ to others, we must accept the calling of Jesus Christ to be as well, ‘as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you’. A missional church requires missional leadership. This is where you and I come in. Whether we consider ourselves primarily gifted as pastors, teachers, apostles, prophets or evangelists, we must all learn to lead out of our relationship with the Lord and our being, much more than our doing. It’s all about living faithfully according to Jesus’ call ‘come follow me’.

For Moses, it was his dynamic relationship with Yahweh and staying faithful, whether he felt like it and not, to the call from slavery to the Promised Land. For us, it’s towards ‘Christlikeness’ and the fulness of the kingdom of God we won’t dwell in fully until heaven.

We all need to wake up. If we’re asleep we need disturbing. Moses struggled with a lot but would not walk away from seeking to be faithful to God’s agenda. We are still living in a period of transition. It’s not called ‘post-modernity’ for no reason; we’re post/past something, but we can’t yet label where we are, because we don’t know when, or where we’ll land. If modernity lasted hundreds of years, it’s somewhat premature to try and be clear we’ve arrived at a new destination since the upheaval of the 1960’s in a mere sixty years!

A secular agenda, built around human beings at the centre, is not what it means to have arrived in the kingdom of God. I have not yet completed my call to follow Jesus. I have not yet experienced a total merger of ‘life in all fulness’ and the ‘normal Christian life’. Yet seeing Jesus changes everything, and we have seen Jesus. Keeping our eyes fixed upon him remains challenging, but re-focusing my eyes is essential whenever he gets blurred.

#commitment 2. I am re-aligned with God’s over-arching purposes

I’ve been approaching the question, “why did it take so long to get from Egypt to the Promised Land” from my own perspective. Of course, my perspective is always through the lenses of where I think (my understanding) I need to get to or how I think we should go about this (my personal traits). Note to self, “why do I always have my SatNav set on ‘quickest route’?”

Exodus 13:17-18 becomes more fascinating the more time I’ve dwelt in it. It highlights God’s concern the people might change their mind if forced into battle (‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt’. 13:17). The people of God, not for the last time, prove He had good reason for concern (What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 14:11). God knew the people of God were not ready to take on the challenges a more direct route would have brought. I wouldn’t have wanted to listen to any advice suggesting delay. Whenever I believe I know what the Lord is calling me to do, I tend to get out and get on with it. I tend towards living in the big picture and not worrying about the details. That has occasionally led to impatience with those who have legitimate concerns about today, or how they fit in, etc.

This episode tells me, if planning for the future makes a difference for the Lord to the shape that future will take, then I must take care. Irrespective of whether I’m wired as a pioneer or a settler, I need to check what I’ve fed into my personal heart SatNav – does this sit comfortably within God’s purposes?

I find it easy to be critical of those I see keen to grasp hold of the ‘pioneer’ label when I don’t see any expectation or intentionality of people becoming disciples of Jesus Christ. But it’s not always so easy to acknowledge the same limitations in myself. So here’s my antidote list:

  • What’s my motivation here? Is it truthfully about honouring Jesus or myself?
  • Who am I relying on to fulfil this step? Can I fulfil this myself, in my own strength? If so, I need to be concerned: it’s either of me or not a big enough step.
  • Am I being and remaining open to being re-filled by the Holy Spirit?
  • Am I ready and quick enough to repent and adjust my compass bearing?

What about my development as a leader? I’ve lost count of the number of conversations I’ve had with my wife Maggie, (she works in education) about teaching staff promoted to a level of incompetence. Surely not me! Baptists are always going on about the fact we’re not a hierarchical organisation, but we’re immune from what became known as The Peter Principle. Apparently, Peter and Hull intended their 1969 book of the same name, to be a satire, but it became popular as it was seen to make a serious point about the shortcomings of how people are promoted within hierarchical organisations. Honestly, I see this in churches all the time. The mentality a Baptist Minister is a Baptist Minister belongs to a period of history we’re no longer living in, but churches make massive assumptions when they appoint … well, people like me (and maybe you too?).

Check out John Maxwell’s Five levels of leadership, for yourself. I find it a helpful grounding in reality to identify where I am and recognise:

  1. If I’m to grow up a level I won’t do that by neglecting those gifts, skills and capabilities already acquired and practiced.
  2. If I’m to grow up a level I won’t do that if I think I’ve moved past the need to pay attention, firstly, to myself!

John Maxwell states:

  • The first person I must know is myself – self-awareness.
  • The first person I must get along with is myself – self-image.
  • The first person to cause me problems is myself – self-honesty.
  • The first person I must change is myself – self-improvement.
  • The first person who can make a difference is myself – self-responsibility.

#commitment 3. I am re-committed to living according to God’s direction

We know a lot about the first two years of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness, but hardly anything is detailed about the next thirty-eight years. The presence of the Lord is not measured by the number of words:

The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything. (Deuteronomy 2:7) What a testimony, I’d be happy with that!

However, the next reference is more discomforting:

It took us thirty-eight years to get from Kadesh Barnea to the Brook Zered. That’s how long it took for the entire generation of soldiers from the camp to die off, as God had sworn they would. God was relentless against them until the last one was gone from the camp. (Deuteronomy 2:14-15 The Message)

God’s roundabout route is sometimes the best route he can take us, as these verses are reminding me, for several reasons and any one is enough for me:

  • I am more likely to acknowledge His presence if I take my time. ‘Keep in step with the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:25) comes to mind. Following the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, I had a chat with a man with a military past who reminded me (the army, navy, air force, plus representatives of the Royal Family all walked in step). He told me: ‘when you keep in step you walk forwards together, in unity’. I want to be at one with the Spirit of God.
  • I am more likely to rely on divine provision if I go at his pace and walk in his direction. Manna and quails were supplied super-naturally. My sustenance may not be as immediately, obviously, supernatural, but if I seriously believe (as I claim) this is God’s world of which we are but caretakers, my gratitude for daily bread and life will be a continuum of praise and thanksgiving.
  • I am more likely to co-operate with his purpose of transformation. The Father is intent on seeing through the ‘good work’ he began in me, which is about who I am becoming, much more than achieving any self-set targets.
  • I am more likely to live by the ‘unforced rhythms of grace’ (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message) by having to rely on God.

I’m not sure what you think about the how of following a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day, but let’s think about this. A whole nomadic nation clearly didn’t break camp every single morning and move on. Maybe these thirty-eight years didn’t look so much different to my last thirty-eight years in one sense (only one, I hasten to add): we’ve lived in six different places, staying between one and fifteen years in each).

I can’t say I’ve moved a long way in four months, but I can say ‘here I am wholly available’. How about you?

 

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