Let’s turn it round

Get a cup of coffee/tea, sit down and make yourself comfortable as this could be a lengthy read: however I do think it to be important.


Like many of the churches within our circuit, Methodism stands at a crossroads in its life, torn between its past and the future, between appreciating and enjoying that which has sustained many over the years and discovering the new that will draw fresh disciples, between clinging to the comfort we know and venturing into the unknown with its risks and fears.

Some things to consider, reflect on, discuss and pray about……….

Sacrifice. Wow, there's a starter for you ! I believe that discipleship is sacrificial and a major part of discipleship is 'being a witness for Christ'. In other words mission. Jesus said “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies it produces many seeds” (John 12:14). In various other places in scripture this point is made. John 3:3 & 5 speaks of dying and new life: Matthew 18:3 speaks of becoming like a little child: Galatians 2:20 reminds us of being crucified with Christ and 1 John 3:14 shares that the Christian is one who has passed from death to life.

So often we want to bring people into our Churches with minimum effort, like having a beautiful rose garden without thinking of the need to prune the roses or feed the soil. Discipleship is sacrificial in as much as it demands we need to sacrifice some of the old in order to cultivate the new. Sadly, in every Church there are those 'who do', those who 'complain about those who do', and those 'who don't do anything'. We need to ask ourselves (me included) at all time which grouping we're in.

We need to die to our own fears, our sense of inadequacy, our clinging to comfort zones, our sitting on the sidelines of church watching others get burnt-out doing everything and we need to become risk-takers.

Pray. We must be prepared to pray. We all say we do it but is it an integral, committed discipline or is it something we squeeze into a gap in our day, a passing thought ? I spoke above of gardening and our gardens need regular tending. In the same way our Christian lives need feeding through committed prayer. We cannot carry out Gods work withou consulting him regularly. Church history is scattered with the ruins of well-intentioned and yet failed ventures because Christians didn't consult Gid in prayer nor sought his power through prayer.

In the Good News version of the Bible the word 'pray' is used 54 times in the Gospels alone and always in connection with Jesus. He placed a great emphasis on prayer and Scripture records the times he went to pray.

This was a practise continued by the early Church, Acts 1:14, Acts 16:25 and Paul frequently urges the early Christians to develop their prayer time, often citing his own prayer life as an example.

John Wesley made it a discipline to rise at 4.00am in order to begin the day in prayer: the Celtic tradition holds a daily discipline of morning, midday, evening and night prayers. Next time you're in Church look in the Worship book and you'll find the Methodist discipline of daily prayer, morning and evening.

I think prayer should be corporate as well as individualistic, believing, expecting, persistent, specific and if it contains all of these things it will become the means by which the dead seed becomes the flower.

Thirdly, Watch & Listen. Too often we don't look around us and see God at work, we don't listen for what he's doing. I used to have a Church of 39 good folk but clinging to the ways they'd known all their lives. About a mile away was another Methodist Church of over 200 and growing. When I challenged my church about this they retorted “ah yes but that's not how we do things” and when I said that it was obvious God was at work in the other church they simply came back again with the same answer. In other words they didn't want to be sacrificial, nor pray to seek Gods will, and they certainly didn't want to see what God was up to elsewhere.

We need to look around us and see what God is doing, at the Churches who are growing, at the growth of Christian work such as Street Angels or Pastors, at the needs of our community. For instance I had a Church on a council housing estate where because of my school work I felt that we should be doing something amongst young single-mothers. I was assured by the church that there were no single mothers in the area, only to find the 1991 census which confirmed that estate had the highest number of single-mothers in Europe! So often God is calling us to things that we fail to see.

That's why I particularly like the Fresh Expressions '360 degree listening course' as it teaches us to listen to God, the Church tradition and the community.

To those who have endured this to the end, congratulations, but I also say lets all, die to self, pray, read our scriptures and watch and listen.


What a wonderful world


Had a lovely walk today on a stretch of the Burton canal I've never previously been on: glorious sunshine, peaceful setting, canal boats occasionally going past, it was wonderful. At the same time I saw on Facebook that my daughter, partner and our grandchild had gone for a walk and they showed some lovely photographs from their local park. As I walked and reflected I found myself giving thanks for the privilege I have of living in an area and in a country with such beauty. Leaving aside the constant arguments about “Big Bang theory” or “evolutionism vs creationism”, what I think we should focus on is the belief that somehow (& in ways beyond our limited human minds) God created the universe. When I take my car in for a service I don't ask how the mechanic changed the oil, I'm just grateful he did: similarly when I've been in hospital I haven't queried the phlebotomists qualifications I'm just grateful she knows how to get at my blood. I know these are simplistic analogies, but the point is that sometimes we're too busy looking for answers instead of simply being grateful. Today I saw the beauty of rabbits playing and eating nearby, ducks resting peacefully, a swan nesting, varieties of colour in the trees and in the water; I felt the warmth of the sun, and to reflect the words of Louis Armstrong thought “What a wonderful world”.
But my thoughts also went to my friends in Poiana, Romania, where they have been hosting a team this week. The team have been insulating one of the houses in the village and in doing so will help the family concerned with heating and maintenance, making a major difference to their lives. In that village and in so many other places in the world the thought of a nice gentle stroll along a canal is unknown and many are in situations where to give thanks to a creator God is hard to do, because life is a struggle and is so much about survival.
For those villagers there isn't always the time to take in the beauty of the world and certainly in some places where there has been natural disasters it may even be understandable to curse God.
I don't know why I've been born where I have, and others elsewhere, why I'm the lucky one and others not, but I do know that the creator God has created a world where he expects us to be generous, gracious, grateful and he expects us to grasp the opportunities not only to enjoy the creation but to become creators ourselves of a better world where there is true peace and equality: where hunger and thirst is no more and where people's lives are not dominated by fear and anxiety.

Jesus called on his followers to make a difference to the world; to be the salt that brings flavour to the world. That's why I try to help the Burton Addiction Centre, the YMCA, my friends work in Poiana, and other situations where I can make a difference. It's why I try to be a good husband, Father and Granddad, because I want the best for others and I want them to have the same opportunities as me to praise the creator God.