Thursday, October 9, 2014
The power of right connections
There are various depictions of the ‘upward, inward, outward’ directions, or relational connections, which are much discussed by those who study mission and evangelism. In this diagram Randall Neighbour, an expert on missional small groups or cells, includes the ‘forward’ direction for reasons which are given below.
MOST of us are quite scared of the word ‘evangelism’. I was no different.
Back in the day, in my ‘home’ church, they had three full time pastors heading up the eldership. The senior pastor was an amazing Bible teacher; the second pastor was prophetic, with a strong prayer and personal ministry, and the youngest of the three was a gifted evangelist, who was fruitful on overseas mission trips and also at home. We used to joke that he could preach off the back of a Weetabix packet and give an appeal. I led services for him, and quickly concluded that I was not an evangelist.
I had fallen into the ‘comparison trap’ because I didn’t know that God has made us how we are, for a reason. He will use you to reach different people from me, and differently from Laurence Singlehurst and Bill Hybels, who are our two star witnesses as we pursue this strand. But whatever your character, your passions, or your SHAPE (which includes spiritual gifts), our being used by God in any sphere depends on three or four directions being connected.
They are upwards, inwards and outwards and we need all three in balance, especially for the ‘rough terrain’ of today’s cynical world.
Upwards reflects a life of worship and prayer. The disciples were set apart by the fact they ‘belonged’ to Jesus: Mark 3:14
And He appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach.
So the upwards (“with Him”) empowers the sending outwards. So does the inward, “love one another”, which is one of the marks of a disciple (John 13:34-35). In tension with it, and also a mark, is wanting to obey Jesus’ teaching: “Go and make (further) disciples of all tribes…”
Some are evangelists as a primary gifting. However, all have the call spelt out to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:5) to “do the work of an evangelist”.
The point is, out of prayer and worship, out of unity and relationship, comes the ability to face outwards and let love overflow to those who need it the most.
If we are in contention with someone else, or we are not really spending time with God, we won’t have what is needed to connect naturally and in God’s love, with others. Similarly, if we are not prepared to have a go, our worship and body life will suffer – it all works together.
The fourth direction is not up or in or out – but forward. Sometimes we get stuck. We’re in a rut. We’re looking back to that teaching we received a decade or two ago, seeking to stay in the comforting experiences of that time, or stay as that same person. But God is always doing a new thing and His church is continually on the move and changing in its approach. The message never changes but our way of living it out does. Keeping in step with the Spirit is about staying with someone who is walking – so all of us need to be moving forward, to be on a journey – not stuck!