Entries in missional (22)
Today I have the wonderful joy of preaching at 3 services at the beautiful Mosaiek Church in Johannesburg. This is a truly remarkable contemplative, missional, community of Christ followers. I am so deeply blessed by their desire to fully integrate the contemplative lifestyle with a missional focus. Encounter God, encounter the world.
I'll be speaking about failure and regret today. It is not often that one can have an 'adult' talk with a Church. I say this because so many Churches expect the kind of input that I give to my six year old, motivational, simple and entertaining. This community, however, has moved largely beyond that point. I see in them a desire for authentic living which inevitably means that not everything in life will be successful, victorious or filled with acclaim. The reality is that much of our lives revolve around how we cope with the inevitability of failure and regret.
Two quotes have been living within me as I have prepared a few words to share with them:
O Lord, who else or what else can I desire but you? You are my Lord, Lord of my heart, mind, and soul. You know me through and through. In and through you everything that is finds its origin and goal. You embrace all that exists and care for it with divine love and compassion. Why then, do I keep expecting happiness and satisfaction outside of you? Why do I keep relating to you as one of my many relationships, instead of my only relationship, in which all other ones are grounded? Why do I keep looking for popularity, respect from others, success, acclaim, and sensual pleasures? Why, Lord, is it so hard for me to make you the only one? Why do I keep hesitating to surrender myself totally to you?
Help me, O Lord, to let my old self die, to let die the thousand big and small ways in which I am still building up my false self and trying to cling to my false desires. Let me be reborn in you and see through you the world in the right way, so that all my actions, words, and thoughts can become a hymn of praise to you.
I need your loving grace to travel on this hard road that leads to the death of my old self and to a new life in and for you. I know and trust that this is the road to freedom.
Lord, dispel my mistrust and help me become a trusting friend. Amen
- Henri Nouwen (A Cry for Mercy).
Then there is this remarkable insight from JK Rowling's commencement speech to the graduating class of Harvard University.
At her Harvard commencement speech, "Harry Potter" author JK Rowling offered some powerful, heartening advice to dreamers and overachievers, including one hard-won lesson that she deems "worth more than any qualification I ever earned." In her speech, which I would highly recommend you google and read, she tells of how she failed catastrophically in her life –
I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.
However, she went on to say that,
Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than I was and began diverting all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
She had ‘fallen’ into her life’s purpose through an embarrassing, costly and heartbreaking failure.
Here are two further insights that have been a great help to me on this path - and believe me, I am something of an 'expert' at failure (and regret)!
The greatest and most important problems of life are fundamentally unsolvable. They can never be solved, but only outgrown.
- Carl Jung
First there is the fall, and then we recover from the fall. Both are the mercy of God!
- Lady Julian of Norwich
This is a beautiful video by The Work of the People - it asks a few critical theological and missional questions.
What did Jesus come to do? If we know what Jesus came to do, and we are called to be the 'body of Christ, then what is the work of the Church?
I'll be using this, and a few other videos, as part of my lectures to a group of Master of Theology students in Missional Leadership next week.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this video, and particularly what you think about the mission of the Church.
For the last few days I have been increasingly overwhelmed by a sense of sadness at the suffering of humanity. I have, at times in the past, despaired at how huge the task is of working for equality among persons. How it must grieve God's heart that some, like me, have too much while others do not have enough to survive. I cannot bear the thought that here in my own country half of the population live below the poverty line (US$2 per day if I am not mistaken).
I am currently a guest speaker at the Alberton Methodist Church (I preached at 3 services today and will do one more tomorrow evening at 7pm and another on Tuesday evening at 7pm). I have spoken a great deal about justice and mercy today. We, Christians - in fact all humans, must do what we can to work for justice and equity in the world. This is costly and difficult work. I believe that it will require personal sacrifice, great discipline, and above all else Godly love.
Our world will never know the depth of God’s passion for them until the church recovers the radical and comprehensive nature of righteousness. For the Bible knows no distinction between God’s holiness, justice and righteousness. The same righteousness which flows from the mercy seat in the tabernacle also justifies us by faith and overflows in good government which protects the poor. Justice is the river which flows from the heart of God responding to our sin and sinfulness in all its private and public manifestations. A theology which puts a wedge between personal holiness and prophetic advocacy uses the bible to build a dam in that river.
Please pray with me that we will find the wisdom, courage and love to live in a way honors God's loving desire for all persons in the world. Pray that we may live out the Gospel of God's loving justice in our daily lives!
I am yet to find a quote that more clearly expresses my understanding of one of the critical tasks of the Church than the quote below.
Our church has been fighting during these years only for its self-preservation, as if that were an end in itself. It has become incapable of bringing the word of reconciliation and redemption to humankind and to the world. So the words we used before must lose their power, be silenced, and we can be Christians today in only two ways, through prayer and in doing justice among human beings. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Of course the one element that I would have loved to see more clearly expressed in this quote is the act of worship. However, as I think about it, both prayer and acts of justice are expressions of God's worth. What do you think?
I am sitting at the departure gate to Johannesburg - tonight I fly from Cape Town in order to speak at the Edenvale Baptist Church's two services tomorrow morning and spend some time with their leaders reflecting on what it means to be faithful to God's mission for them in the world.
As always I am excited and blessed by this opportunity!
I have chosen the question 'Monday morning atheist?' as my theme. My friend Doug Spada wrote a great book with that title (you can fin out more about him and the book at http://www.worklife.org - Doug is an amazing guy, and his book is one of the best I have read on being a Christian in the world of work).
Simply stated, I have come to realize that many Christians may behave like disciples of Jesus on Sunday, but many others act like atheists on Monday. We worship in Church on Sunday, but on Monday we act as if we have no faith! This is so sad since the world of work is one of the greatest opportunities for us to live out our faith in Jesus and work to establish his transforming and healing Kingdom in business, education, the arts, politics, the family and a host of other critical aspects of our lives!
Much of what I'll be talking about comes from my book 'Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling!'. You can order copies of the book (or download a few free chapters) from the links on the left hand side of this blog.
Of you're interested in inviting me to come and share some of what the Lord has been doing among us in the world of work, please drop me a line. I'd be honored to come and spend some time with you or your group!
Please pray for us as we gather tomorrow! God bless,
I like this!
Christians are missionaries by necessity because all that we are and do only makes sense if what we are and do is done in the name of Jesus.
Stanley Hauerwas, Working With Words (via invisibleforeigner)
The ancient Catholic dictum extra ecclesiam, nulla salus (“outside the church there is not salvation”) contains a significant sociological truth. Certainly it is not impossible for individual Christians to maintain biblical beliefs even if a hostile majority disagrees. But if the church is to consist of communities of loving defiance in a sinful world, it must pay more attention to the quality of its fellowship and find new models of Christian community.
Ronald Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (via invisibleforeigner)
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the role of the Church in the transformation of society, and also how we could be 'better' at being what the Church is truly called to be.
Have you ever considered that the Church is called by God? I'm sure most of us would agree that our priest, pastor or minister is called to ministry. However, the same applies to the collective community of the Church - we are called.
I have encountered very few Churches that have taken this aspect of their identity seriously. The Church is called to ministry. It is a little like the priestly ministry of the scriptures. The priest is called to represent the people to God in worship and to represent God to the world in service.
Many of our Churches are simply 'Gospel clubs', places where people gather loosely for their own edification and upliftment. We treat Church as something that we 'do' rather than an identity that we are to 'become'. Perhaps it is for this reason that we hunger after experiences of worship that are more like a combination of a rock concert and a stand up comedy routine?
Please would you consider the following quote with me? Pray about the calling of the Church of which you are a part.
The work of God is the calling of a people, whether in the Old Covenant or the New. The church is then not simply the bearer of the message of reconciliation, in the way a newspaper or a telephone company can bear any message with which it is entrusted. Nor is the church simply the result of a message, as an alumni association is the product of a school or the crowds in a theater are the product of the reputation of the film. That men and women are called together to a new social wholeness is itself the work of God, which gives meaning to history.
- John Howard Yoder (via @fycr)
Controversy in Mayasia - update: In this morning’s newspaper the language is softening and the integrity of original reporters is (rightly) being questioned. Please continue to pray for peace and truth.
You can read the article that was on page 3 of The Star by following this link.
Steve flies home this evening and I will be leaving tomorrow morning. We are pleased to say that the local community has established some wonderful structures to see values, ethics and clean living roll out in Malaysia. We had an incredible time and met some of the most amazing people!
I can't wait to be back in October to speak at the Alpha / Marketplace Ministry conference... Let's hope they allow me into the country! If not, it won't be the first time I've been refused entry. In 2003 I was refused entry into the USA and last year I was not allowed to travel to Lebanon.
The two following quotes spoke strongly to me about being a witness for Christ in such situations. Certainly we have faced nothing compared to these two great witnesses for Christ, but their testimony has offered me great encouragement!
"I don’t preach a social gospel; I preach the Gospel, period. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is concerned for the whole person. When people were hungry, Jesus didn’t say, ‘Now is that political or social?’ He said, ‘I feed you.’ Because the good news to a hungry person is bread."
"Even when they call us mad, when they call us subversives and communists and all the epithets they put on us, we know we only preach the subversive witness of the Beatitudes, which have turned everything upside down."
Grace and peace from Malaysia! Tomorrow I will be in Hong Kong.
I enjoy Daniel Mosley's tweets and blog posts. He recently posted this post on the Catholic Church's use of an iPhone app to support the sacrament of reconciliation (confession and penance).
Please see his post here: http://danielmosley.posterous.com/got-sins-to-confess-theres-an-app-for-that
I thought this was a great idea at first glance! I am all for the Church finding contemporary methods (and tools) to reach and serve a much wider audience to aid faith, transformation and wholeness.
The Methodist Church in Britain has done something similar. See my post on this here: http://www.dionforster.com/blog/2010/5/17/methodist-church-launches-an-iphone-app-now-thats-missional.html
And, of course there are a myriad of 'ministries' and 'individuals' who have created tools and apps for devotion, news, encouragement or interaction. Some, like the two mentioned above are 'discipleship' tools to support believers, while others are evangelical tools to reach more people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I would highly recommend that you read Tallskinnykiwi's post on evangelism in this space here: http://tallskinnykiwi.typepad.com/tallskinnykiwi/2011/01/social-media-talk-at-lausanne-.html
Back to the confession app, I wonder if I would use it? Of course one major problem is that this sacrament is not part of my theological and spiritual tradition. So, that does cause me to value it a little less for the specific task it performs.
Let me ask, if you are from a tradition that applies this sacrament would you feel comfortable (or not) using such a tool? I'd love to hear why.
Also, are there any other tools or apps that you use, or know of, that you find as important in your faith and spiritual life?
Personally I use the Methodist app mentioned above, and I use the Olivetree Bible app daily on my iPhone and iPad.
For the past 3 years I have been seconded by the Methodist Church of Southern Africa to serve as a Chaplain. My chaplaincy has been to a number of organisations (which are all connected with the work and ministry of Graham Power, a prominent Christian Businessman and member of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa).
I have served as the Chaplain to the Global Day of Prayer, the Unashamedly Ethical movement, to two of the teams that helped to arrange the Third Lausanne Congress in Cape Town, and to the 2000 employees of the Power Group of Companies.
I often get asked what a Chaplain is, and of course what a Chaplain does! In particular people seem to find the concept of 'corporate', 'industrial' or 'business' Chaplaincy quite interesting. Most people are familiar with military Chaplains, prison Chaplains, and hospital Chaplains.
What is a Chaplain? A little bit of theology and history.
Before I talk about what I do let me give a little bit of background to the concept of Chaplaincy. Most scholars trace this history of Chaplaincy to St Martin of Tours, a 4th century Roman soldier who was convereted to Christianity. He was stationed in the North of France and tradition tells of how he encountered a destitute man at the gate of the city of Amiens one day. He was filled with compassion for the poor, naked, man and so took his sword and cut his Roman cloak (capella) in half and gave one half to the shivering man. The legend further suggests that the poor man that he helpded later revealed himself as Jesus (similar to what we read in Matthew 24:34-36). St Martin was later ordained and allowed to minister outside of the 'gathered Church' in places of great need. He became known as the keeper of the bisected cloak (the capellanus) - from which we derive the name 'Chaplain'.
It is interesting to note that Martin and his cohorts spread throughout the country meeting the needs of people and establishing places of worship (which where known as Chapels, after those who birthed and nurtured them, the Chaplains). The Chapel this came out of the ministry of the Chaplain, and not the other way around as it is commonly assumed.
Robert Jones writes in the Journal, Epworth Review:
Here then is the initial feature of chaplaincy, that it first addresses the acute need with practical care. Secondly, it goes to where people are without wating for them to come where we are.... Finally, this story says something to us about status, for at the moment of the inception of [St Martin's] ministry, Martin was still a lay person. He was later ordained... Chaplaincy has had the potential from the beginning to be a ministry of the whole people of God.
I have found this image very helpful in my own ministry. I am one who is called to meet people at their point of need. The 'world of work' is often a place of great struggle, hardship, and drudgery. I have had wonderful opportunities to offer practical and spiritual care in the workplace. Second, I constantly strive to facilitate instances of worship (Chapels if you will). Sometimes these are places (like the prayer room we have at our offices). And at other times they are short momemnts either with groups of individuals - for example when I go out onto our building and construction sites to meet with our staff. Most importantly I have attempted to 'extend' the office of Chaplain to numerous people in our company and in other companies and contexts. We have numerous 'lay people' who are ministers in their own right, offering pastoral care, teaching, and mobilizing ministry.
What do I do as a 'corporate' or 'business' Chaplain?
My Chaplaincy is primarily characterised by service. I'm sure that each Chaplaincy is unique in its character and form, attempted to meet the needs of the context in Christian love.
However, since I serve a Christian man, and serve in a Christian organisation, I have many wonderful opportunities for ministry. Among other things I do the following:
- Offer counselling and care to our staff and their families.
- Lead prayer meetings and Bible study groups in and around the workplace.
- I develop and share materials on spirituality in daily life (prayer guides, daily reflections, ideas for ministry and service etc.)
- I oversee and assist in the ministry of The Global Day of Prayer internationally and perform the same function with the team in our Unashamedly Ethical Office.
- I oversee the management of our company's Corporate Social Investment and Charitable giving (we have a Charitable Trust for this purpose).
- I do executive coaching for some of our senior leadership (with a particular emphasis on work life balance, spirituality, personal calling etc.)
- I sit on numerous committees in the company that have an input into the wellbeing of our employees, that look after aspects of our decisions (particularly in regard to ethics and social responsibility).
- I travel to lead workshops and retreats on the book that Graham Power and I wrote together called 'Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling'
- I consult to individuals and companies who are serious about finding God's direction, guidance, and will for their lives and their resources. I help to reshape both individuals and structures for greater significance in God's Kingdom.
Of course I perform a myriad of more mundane tasks that relate to budgest, meetings, planning, strategy, correspondance etc.
What is central to everything that I do as a Chaplain is the understanding that 'work can be worship' (Col 3.23). And the little phrase I often use which says:
While some are called to pastor congregations, everyone is called to ministry.
I'd love to hear your ideas, feedback! Do you do something similar? Do you long to do something similar? Have you got any creative ideas or inputs that could shape and form such a ministry?
Today is the 4th of July 2014 - it has been 4 years since I first wrote my short reflection on the ministry of a chaplain and St Martin of Tours. Today is the feast day of St Martin of Tours. My life has changed somewhat since I wrote that. I am sitting in Holland at the moment, working towards the completion of my second PhD at Radboud University in Nijmegen. I am no longer a workplace chaplain. Since January 2015 I am a full time academic - teaching Systematic Theology, Ethics and Public Theology at the University of Stellenbosch. It is a wonderful privilege to serve the Church and the world in this way.
This year I had an article published in the academic journal, Koers, on ministry and faith in the world of work, and I am working on another article with my friend Dr Johan Oosterbrink for the journal 'In die skriflig' (a Festschrift for Prof Koos Lotter). This article also focusses on faith and work.
My prayer is that we will see many more people awaken to the high calling of work, and like St Martin of Tours, that they would follow the call of Christ and serve Him and the world with their talents, time and treasure so that God's Kingdom of justice, mercy and peace may be established for all.
Today's 'Common Prayer' has a focus on St Martin. The two quotes below were a great encouragement and blessing to me in devotions today.
Martin of Tours (d. 397)
Martin of Tours saw Christ in the face of the poor and in the commitment to nonviolence. He was born in what is now Hungary and as a young man was involuntarily enlisted in the Roman Army. Martin’s conversion to Christianity occurred after he met a beggar seeking alms. Without money to offer the man, Martin tore his own coat in half and gave one part to the beggar. The following night, Martin dreamed of Christ wearing half of his coat. Once Martin was baptized he resolved to leave the army because Christ called him to nonviolence. His superiors mistakenly saw his request as one of cowardice until Martin offered to face the front lines without weapons as a sign of Christian pacifism. Denied this offer, Martin spent time in prison. Afterward he joined the monastery at Solesmes and eventually served for ten years as bishop of Tours.
Here is the other quote from the end of the devotion:
Martin of Tours said, “I am a soldier of Christ; it is not lawful for me to fight.”
Prayers for Others
Almighty God, you are King of all creation. You created order out of chaos, and you call us to strive for the peace that is not like the peace empires bring. Teach us to drop the weapons we carry in our hands, in our hearts, and on our tongues. Enable us to be soldiers of yours who destroy the weapons of our oppressors with your grace. Amen.
With rich blessing in your work and ministry!