See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
Friday, September 20, 2013
How we move vision into reality
WHAT INFLUENCES the way we set priorities and live our lives? Is it what we believe? Or even our sense of vision and mission? Or is it something more.
In a general and basic way, beliefs do have influence. A few of us attend Christian churches, some are Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses and many are Muslims – the more committed ones attending one of a number of mosques. Most people have little in the way of those kinds of beliefs – religious education ceased in any real sense a generation ago, and maybe it needed to – the poor quality of the input I received as a young person served only to put me off for many years.
Probably not the kind of neighbourly rescue we might need here in the Chilterns…
If you want someone to help you when your car won’t start or forgive you when your dog digs up their garden, or rescue you when you’re really stuck, you might just be better off with your unbelieving neighbour (unless they are a Speen Church member of course!)
It is well attested that divorce rates among Christians are broadly similar to the population as a whole. If Christians feel threatened by an unexpected change to the programme, or are let down by their leaders, or their cages get rattled by a rather robust sermon, their behaviours might not be out of the Sermon on the Mount. People outside the church can sometimes seem more tolerant and less preoccupied.
That’s because we’re surrounded by decent people with mainly good values. Your beliefs may determine how you think, but your values determine what you do. You might be able to recite Bible passages of Jesus’ teaching and more – and in the past, some had a Sunday image but were violent at home. There were priests who performed religious rites and abused children. In Northern Ireland supposedly Christian religious extremes surfaced on both sides of the divide, which resulted in sectarian killing. The mixed message has done more damage to the standing of the Church than anything else.
That’s why I am passionate about us holding a God-given, biblical vision and mission which also drill down to a clear set of values that we hold together and live by together. Then people will see the truth enacted, and might at that point be interested in hearing the truth preached.
The values we have come up with in this exercise are only five in number – about the limit for remembering – but they represent the different strands of “each other” and one another” and “see to it it that you…” teaching we pick up on almost every page of the New Testament. They describe a way of living that isn’t difficult and isn’t particularly religious and isn’t weird – yet is sufficiently distinctive to make a contrast with our selfish, consumer-centric world with its controlling people, mindless bureaucracy and call centres specialising in the science of customer disservice. The way evidently is not the way that people might associate with traditional church – and it might just appear to be the ‘real thing’.
Jesus coached the disciples in the ‘real thing’ after the Last Supper, identifying Himself candidly as Lord and Teacher while doing the junior house slave’s job of washing feet which John comments was “showing the full extent of His love” (John 13:1). And what did He say, speaking into this very hierarchical, status-conscious world that the disciples were moulded by? “I have set you an example…now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:15 and 17).
That was a lesson in values. Our values scheme of…
Body life relationships
Disciples who make disciples, and
…also confronts superiority, independence, ghetto-mentality and having a form of godliness but denying His power (2 Tim. 3:5). That will not only position us with a different stance, but will feed into the little things we do all day, every day which will become more and more Jesus like. And people will increasingly see Jesus in us.
Years ago, when we were still members of a not-too-exciting C of E church we made friends with another couple who were churchgoers, of not very definite faith. We didn’t preach at them, just had meals with them and answered questions as best we could and talked about our walk with Jesus as best we could, in ordinary terms. This was before Alpha or anything like that. They became Christians, we heard – possibly after we had moved on – and one of the reasons they gave was because they “saw something different in us – something that they wanted.” That is humbling. But just imagine a few more like that – and they their friends see something different in them, and they give them a bit of time and friendship and answer their questions as best they can – and then it moves to them and their friends, of course a widening circle by this stage. This is being disciples who make disciples. Lots of disciples – the growth is exponential.
So why has the church missed this for the most part? Well, the answer lies buried somewhere in this little exercise about vision, mission and values that we heard from Jesus and found in the Bible.