Why I got confirmed?

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On Sunday (23rd) I was confirmed. This is an Anglo-Catholic ritual that traditionally happens soon after baptism. At least this is my understanding. I was introduced to this concept as a teenager when I first joined a CofE church, their policy was that you couldn’t have communion unless you had been baptised & confirmed. This was quite a shock for my brother and I, who were following Jesus and had taken communion many times before.

And from the off – confirmation and I had not seen eye-to-eye.

In the last month I was confronted with the concept again. As part of my exploring a calling into ministry within the CofE, I have been meeting with various people (sort of informal interviews – stretched over a year). But last month I met with a guy who holds the position of DDO. (Director diocesan of ordinands – or something like that) His job is to oversee all the people, exploring this as a future job. And to, frankly, vet us.

When he found out I didn’t really know what the whole confirmation business was about – apart from it lets you take communion in some churches – let alone that I hadn’t been confirmed. He told me this was a red-flag. If I wanted to go any further – I needed to do this.

So I asked what it was. He said it’s based on the bit in the bible where Jesus is baptised and comes out of the water and God says ‘This is my Son, with whom I’m well pleased’. God was confirming Jesus… As a Christian? As a follower of Himself? I wasn’t too sure. But it made a sort of sense that the Church could perform a similar thing whereby it confirms God’s work in your life.

So who does it? Can my vicar confirm me? Since he’s the one who really knows me, and has seen me grow, and knows about my walk with God and how my life is spent serving Him? No. It’s a bishop. Ah, so I meet the bishop and talk with him, and he’ll find out about me and confirm that God is at work in my life? No. Apparently it’s very rare to meet a bishop before confirmation. But he will have my name on a piece of card before the service. When the DDO said this, I couldn’t help but laugh, and laugh out loud.

Someone, who doesn’t know me, has never heard about me, comes to my church (wait? No, I would have to go where the bishop was) one day and confirms that God is at work in my life…Ah, that makes sense. Now I’m more sceptical than ever.

So why did I get confirmed?

  • It’s a matter of submission: For me at least, this nonsensical act is a symbol of me coming under the authority of Church leadership. I don’t need a stranger in a robe to tell me that God is at work in my life, I can see this from the fruit, from my time with Jesus in the mornings, from the daily battle with sin that I choose to fight. The thing about submission is that it is fairly easy, when you’re told to do something you’d probably already be doing. It’s a lot harder when it’s something that requires effort or doing something uncomfortable or costly. By being confirmed I was declaring that I am coming under the authority of the CofE. (Obviously this doesn’t mean blind obedience, and there may be obstacles yet to come that I won’t be able to submit to – but this wasn’t going against God (Mark 9.38-40) or my faith (Rom 14/1 Cor 8).)
  • It doesn’t hurt anyone – except my pride. I wasn’t going to say things that were going to hinder anyone’s faith. I declared truths about who God is – publically, I declared that I belong to Jesus and that I reject sin. I didn’t have to say anything that contradicted what I believed, it didn’t undermine what God is doing in my life before confirmation. It just was just humbling to stand alongside new believers, remembering that I need grace just as much as them. So often I think we Christians can cause divisions over petty things, just because they hurt our pride.
  • God’s sovereignty was clearly at work – After meeting the DDO on the 11th September, I spoke to my vicar and found out that the bishop just happened to be coming to our church in a couple of weeks. And that they could probably “slot me in”. Given that people wait months for this, and have to go through loads of classes etc etc. This happened in less than 2 weeks. I’m not saying that God wants me to be a Vicar, or is leading me down this path, but I do think (if nothing else) He wanted me to face my pride in another encounter between obedience/submission and disobedience/suppression.

So why did I get confirmed? Well, a large part of it was that I needed the certificate to get me through to the next stage. But even in this God was at work, making me more like His Son.

2020 Birmingham

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In March I attended a church planting conference in Birmingham, run by 2020 Birmingham, whose mission it is/was to see 20 new churches planted in Birmingham

by 2020. They seem to be very much on track for reaching that target. And are preparing for the next decade: 30 new Churches by 2030. (That means each church-planting church, together with the 20 new churches each planting a new one!) Highly exciting for someone like me, who believes that God wants to use local churches to change our cities and nations.

Just for shortness of posts I’ll divide his three talks into two sections, the Intro & talk 1 and then talks 2 & 3.

Introduction

Before he said anything he introduced us to himself by telling us 5 biases he has. I liked this, because although a lot of them are ones I hold as well. A couple are different, and it reminds me as a church we are made up of different parts that function differently.

Richard Perkins biases/preferences: Practice > Theory, Church Planters > Pastors, Provocation >Nuance, Planning>Reacting and a strong inclination towards pragmatism. (This all came across as he spoke).

Q: Where will we find the next generation of leaders?

  • Matthew 9.38 (Pray for workers)
  • Mark 9.38 (Don’t stop others not with/like us), this requires that we adopt postures of teachability and receptivity.

Q: How can we identify, prepare, equip & send out the next generation of leaders? (And that’s what he focused on for the rest of the conference.

Talk#1 WHO

  1. Leaders who fulfil the Biblical standard of eldership
  2. Leaders who satisfy the character of a planter
  3. Leaders who embrace the DNA (of 2020Birmingham)

Titus 1:6-9: Blameless. (not divisive or compromising)

  • in personal conduct. This doesn’t mean “sinless”, but without scandal.
  • in family responsibilities. Loves wife and children sacrificially. Brings children to maturity.
  • in doctrinal orthodoxy. Know truth and able to rebuke lies.

1 Pet 5: Motive.

  • Not because they must, but because they are willing
  • Not to pursue dishonest gain (kudos, reputation, money etc), but to give.
  • Not to lord it over, but by example.

1 Tim 3

  • Godly, proven domestic responsibilities, widely recognized respectability.

Putting it all together:

Theological Conviction.

Godly Character. (Church leadership is like a bottle filled with liquid that gets shaken – with no lid – what’s inside will eventually show.

Ministry Competency aka gifting and ability. Whilst this area seems to have the most attention/debate. It is a mistake to focus on it and overlook character.

Character>Competency.

When looking for ‘who’ this could be for ask:

  • Can they take correction? (this’ll show many things but also if they believe justification by faith)
  • Will they take direction/advice?
  • Are they a team player?
  • Can they lead themselves well? (Sin, Spiritual disciplines, etc)

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The thin thread…

Yesterday was an eventful day.

I had my first interview since applying for jobs became my full time job! It went kind of well – I’ve had a day and night to sift through all the worst moments. I still instinctively clutch my face with embarrassment at some of the things I did and said. But I’ve done it now. I did my preparation, and I was myself at the interview, dressed up smart etc. Its now out of my hands. They have another day of interviews and then they should let me know by the end of the week. 

I received another rejection this morning from a different job I’d applied for. And with efforts this last week focused on interview prep, I have large gap of applications made. Which I reckon to feel if this one gets a thumbs down as well. Its all a thin thread, and it feels like it. I have a handful of really hopeful applications, but they can fall through my fingers like water in a minute. No matter how far along they are. Constant feeding the monster with my applications hoping to get past him.

Anyway in other news…Navs has started up again and is in full swing! We have hit the ground running, thanks to an awesome group and amazing student leaders! On Saturday we hosted a large group for brunch, with lots of new faces and pulled pork. Then last night we had our first study night of the year. More new faces! The student leaders wrote the study and lead them in three small groups. Amazing job! All I did was make drinks, share my testimony and enjoy being part of a Bible study. The baton is being passed!!!! And the next runners are fast ☺ . Meeting with the leaders on Wed for review and preparing next study. We’re also doing a New testament read through. Mark this week.

I am excited about the future, but really want a job. Please pray for this.

Reps conference 4 the wall


So far we’ve had 2 sessions (where we all get together, worship and have a talk), 2 seminars (more focussed times in smaller groups, looking at more personalized issues. And a big business meeting which mostly went over my head – where the “Board” talked us through some changes and finances stuff.

I wanted to share briefly, while sitting in a corridor on babysitting duty – apparently a 1st year tradition, about one of the seminars.

The topic was about what to do when it seems you hit a wall/obstacle in life or ministry. The couple walked us through 5 common (and at different times – appropriate responses). 

  1. Fight against it, resist the barrier & attempt to push through.
  2. Give up, this kind of response usually results in blaming others, feeling inadequate, worrying, envy. But can also just look like admitting a mistake or accepting this journey isn’t thee right one.
  3. Change route, so maybe go the “long way round” instead.
  4. Wait, simply wait for the right time when the barrier may be lifted.
  5. Change destination. Instead of France go to Scotland for example.

I found this list really helpful. As I think about my personal calling into Church leadership and the using of my felt gifts. And the obstacles I am up against now. This list seems to spell out my options.

As it hopefully obvious all these responses can be appropriate depending on the situation. And each response can be carried out from godly secure motives or selfish, sinful and insecure motives. 

Am I willing to admit I misunderstood God’s will? Am I able to accept that a calling I thought was for life might have only been for a season? Am I prepared to wait doormant but faithfully until God opens the way? Am I secure enough to face the critiscm of others in my decisions when I hear God’s leading? Am I resiliant enough to weather harsh resistance in the face of the calling? Where is my confidence and sense of identity in all this.

God bring me to maturity, nurture my character, increase my love, faith and hope, develop my competency and tabernacle in me while I remain in You. Amen!

A Culture of Participation

This has been a difficult post to put together…

Recently I just finished reading a great book called: Everyday Theology. It’s a book about looking at Culture and the things we produce and the trends we have and learning what they say about the human condition. Not just to criticise it, but also to 9780801031670affirm it! It was such a good read, I don’t think I’m going to sell it effectively in my own words. Each chapter is written by a different guy looking at a different cultural text or trend…

Anyway there was a chapter on Blogging which I found very interesting and wanted to try and capture the rabbit-trail it began in my mind. The author shared that Blogs have become a place of surprising vulnerability and openness. Surprising in that people are effectively sharing things so personal that they might not even share them with their family and friends. (I know this isn’t always the case) But he gave the example of members of his youth group who’d share posts and speak in ways (on their  blogs) they wouldn’t share with their parents but with strangers…

Anyway, that wasn’t what grabbed me! He talked about the rise of “christian blogs”, (the book was published in 2007), and how more and more people were posting faith related articles to their websites. Teaching, preaching, sharing their opinions etc. In looking at affirming this the author said that this was relating to the participation we should see in the church.

I don’t quite know how I feel about this. On one had I’m excited that writing has become a pathway for many people to contribute and build up the Church without having to write a book. I think writing isn’t used much in Sunday services so having blogs as an outlet seems really good. However I am also sad, that people resort to blogs in order to share their walk with God or write devotionals because there isn’t space for it at Sunday services. Maybe I don’t explain this well…

But the model for Church that I see often is a small team of people giving lots and lots to their church. And everyone else going to receive. I shared from my BRT post this week that Paul says: “Whenever you come together, let everyone be ready with a psalm or a teaching or a revelation, or ready to use his gift of tongues or give an interpretation; but let everything be for edification” – 1 Cor 14:26. I also see this need in the Navs group that I run, which tells you I’m not sorted in this either.

Here are a few of my thoughts on this:

Some people to step back – If there are people in the Church who are willing and able to contribute, but there is no room for it. Because the “core team” are able to manage it by themselves. Maybe they can consider stepping back. This will allow other people to grow and develop their skills/gifting and take more responsibility for the Church’s growth. In doing this those stepping back, learn the importance of inter-dependence and the value of the different members of the body. I think it is wrong to assume a leader, is the one person who shouldn’t/doesn’t need to be dependent.

Some people to step forward -If there are people who are happy just coming to the services and listening or “receiving”, but make no effort to build up the church. Then maybe they need to step up. I appreciate the Church isn’t just sunday services, so this might take other forms. E.g leading a community group, praying for the believers, blogging.

Acknowledgement of other gifts – I also think we need to value other people’s gifts. I think there is a place for saying some gifts are more important than others in regards to building up the church, Paul himself says this! However, this doesn’t mean that we take away value from the other gifts. For example I remember hearing that Bethel are using dance in their services. Is there the space for this at your church, are there people who want to express themselves in this way. Maybe it is painting or writing. At the youth camp I served at last year, we gave the kids the chance to draw pictures during the sung worship times. Perhaps someone is naturally gifted in mathematics or graphics, are we thinking how to incorporate these things.

I know this post sounds like a rant and it probably is. I’m speaking just as much to myself in it. I haven’t got this one sorted yet, and I want to improve in this area.

How can more members of the Body participate in it’s growth and transformation towards Christ-likeness? How can I, as a “leader”, help encourage and build a culture of participation?

 

BRT – 1 Corinthians

I finished 1 Corinthians a couple of days ago and here are my three points:

  1. 4.3-4: “And it matters very little to me how I am evaluated by you or by any human court; in fact, I don’t even evaluate myself…The One who is evaluating me is the Lord.” What an attractive attitude. I really like the word “evaluate” here. From an early age I’ve always been interested in “improving myself”, whether in a physical, mental or skill set. I played a lot of video games where you “level up” characters and make them stronger in some way. And I think this carried into my attitude towards life – probably not the only factor. Anyway, “evaluate” makes me think of areas for improvement. “How can I get better”. Usually I ask other people this or I sit down with a notebook and ask it of myself. There’s probably a place for this, but there is definitely a danger in it too! If I get caught up in my own opinion of where I’m at, or other’s, I’ll be tempted to forget God’s. Therefore maybe next time I want an evaluation I should ask God and listen to His Word!
  2. Very very close to the first point, 4.15: “For even if you have ten thousand trainers in connection with the Messiah, you do not have many fathers”. Being linked with the Navigators this aligns strongly with their value of Spiritual generations. But I’m still challenged by it. The role of a trainer is very different from the role of a father. To spend some time thinking about these differences would be helpful! Time-intensity: A Father should be present way more than a trainer, when I had guitar lessons growing up, it was an hour a week. But my father was living in the same house as me. Unconditional love: I was loved and accepted based on being a father’s son. However, a trainer focuses on accomplishment. I’m sure there’s more and I’d like to think more about these differences, especially how it changes the way I relate to the student group. How can I focus on becoming more of a father instead of only a trainer!
  3. 14:26: “Whenever you come together, let everyone be ready with a psalm or a teaching or a revelation, or ready to use his gift of tongues or give an interpretation; but let everything be for edification”.  I LOVE THIS! Come to church, prepared, with something to contribute. Too often Church is perceived as a receiving environment, what can I get out. Here Paul is saying, “no, bring your gift, prepare something to offer, have something ready so that you can build someone else up”. So often, because of sin and pride in my life, I think I come to church with the opposite mindset, maybe not consciously, but asking “where can I find fault?” (I probably convince myself that the motive is “where can I find room for improvement?”). Either way, it’s not “who can I build up? Who can I strengthen? Who can I encourage? What can I offer?” Let us come to Church expectant and longing to help build others up!

Leadership Identity (Romans 12)

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I was reading Romans 12 this morning and the way the translation said it got me thinking. I’m not competent in Greek to be able to work out if this is a great translation, so this isn’t a lesson just a rabbit-trail!

I really liked  v8 where it said:

if you are in a position of leadership, lead with diligence and zeal 

So often I connect leadership with identity. This is partly from the way I hear people talk about it, in books or at conferences: “you are a leader” – but also because I think I take a lot of pride in it. This verse reminded me that it is good to have a separation between the two and recognise that leadership is a gift and a position!

In 1 Cor 13 it talks about how the gift of prophecy and tongues will cease. I reckon that its the same with leadership and when we get to heaven it will cease! (at least in the human sense of it – obviously God will still lead!) Why will we need leaders when we’ll be in direct relationship with God?

Therefore if we, or I, build my identity on ‘being a leader’, then when I get to heaven what will I be then? Or what about in this life, if I become incapacitated to lead, or I’m in a job like I was at in Sainsbury’s where I’m not “leading” anyone. (I know we all have influence and can “lead upwards” – but you know what I mean) This is why I want to move from saying “I/You are a leader” (however true it might be) to “I/You are in a position of leadership”. This will not only keep me humble – reminding me that it is a gift – but also help me relate more healthily to those in authority.

I want my identity to clearly rest in what Jesus has done for me, rather than my work or position. I’m sure people are called leaders in the Bible and there is a link between leadership and identity, and I do care about that. I know it seems like a silly personal/semantic issue, but I think it will make a big practical difference in my perspective.

I am a child of God, dearly loved by Him. Chosen, Forgiven, Loved and an instrument for His glory (Eph 1) And my confidence rests in Him. It happens that he has put me in a position of (obvious) leadership in this season of my life, but this is not because I myself am superior but because His grace is great, and therefore I will lead “with diligence and zeal”!


One more comment, it’s because this is a gift and because of His goodness to me that I can truly work with diligence and zeal. If I believe it is within my own power to lead, I will lead with human-diligence and human-zeal. But if I recognise it as a gift then I will understand my utter-dependence for Spirit-empowered-diligence and zeal!

 

Role Maps

Holidays usually seem to be a great time to refocus and evaluate what I’m doing at the moment.

Am halfway through “What’s Best Next“, which is an interesting book which looks at how the Gospel impacts our view of productivity. He pulls together knowledge from a wide reading of “self-help” books and combines them together accepting the gift of “common grace” in each of them. But also going further and looking at which ways they are limited and how “gospel-lenses” (a term he doesn’t use) can help us see these methods and ideas in a more complete (or “redeemed”) way.

I think its a really interesting book, and hits similar themes as Every Good Endeavour – Tim Keller. Still not finished it yet. But I wanted to share a part of something I’ve put together in response to what I’ve read so far. In the book he calls them Role Maps. Alongside them I put probably what most people would call mission statements and core values.

Vision I’ve blotted out some names probably best not shared.

Although this is a work in progress and due to be updated in time. I found it really helpful to think through some of these things and just to write them out. This book and the Clinton one I’ve shared a bit from recently both seem to be the right books for me to be reading as I pray and think through options for next year.

I’ve made more graphs like the role map for personal and work for each of the categories on the Life one. Apart from having a lot of fun thinking through some of these things and trying to articulate them. It was a very useful exercise!

Two notes: “sermon prep” has the weekly symbol next to it, this doesn’t mean I’m giving a sermon every week. But simply that I’m trying to write a sermon a week at least structure out some points and put together notes. I’ve only every scripted a sermon once, so this isn’t as impressive as it sounds. Also “blogging” has the daily symbol next to it. This is far from reality. So the symbol functions more as a goal.

God provides people

At the moment I’m working through a really great book, by Robert Clinton, which looks at developing leaders. I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s been really helpful especially as I think about what to do next year. I wanted to share another thing which I’ve looked at recently. (I also want to be careful that I’m not giving away too much of the book and get in trouble!) He talks about how part of a leader’s job is to develop other potential leaders. And part of this is recognising what gifts they have, either natural abilities, acquired skills or spiritual gifts.

He mentions four methods or systems to help us identify where other people’s gifts are at. One of which is the Like-attract-like model, which I’d heard a bit about before. This is where a potential leader is drawn to another leader because they have similar gift sets. However the one which really gripped me when I read it earlier this week seems to work in the opposite way. (Like I said before he uses new terminology which some people find off-putting – but once you get over that hurdle it’s really helpful stuff!)

He calls it the Complementary Giftedness-Need Indicator Pattern, which basically describes how God brings people into a leader’s ministry who have real strength, passion, giftedness in the areas where the current leader might be lacking it. To stop myself summarising large chunks, and in an attempt to live up to when I said I wanted to be more personal I wanted to share how I’ve seen this at work this year.

One of my weaknesses as a Christian, is that I really really struggle to do evangelism or outreach. I mean I am intentional with my friendship and I try to talk about Jesus when I can, however when it is “cold-contact” like talking to strangers on the bus. I lack the confidence and passion to follow through. So God in His greatness brought a guy to Navigators this year – a student – who is highly passionate and active in Evangelism and reaching these people.

Apart from being incredibly humbling, that I get to be so refreshed and encouraged and learn – whenever we meet for one on ones. This has also provided opportunities for me and other students in the ministry to go and practice this gift with him. It’s great because otherwise the Brum Navs group would really be deficient in this area.

All of this makes me marvel at God’s commitment to building up His Church and that He is committed to using the different members of the Body to be His instruments in this great work!

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If you are leading, lets look for the people in our ministries or organisations who demonstrate gifts and passions where we lack them. Let’s get alongside them and be willing to learn. Chances are that God is using you in that situation to build up the person you are learning from. I reckon this is Iron sharpening Iron. In this way we can function more wholly.

As I ransack my mind for examples of this in the Bible:

  1. Moses and Aaron, Moses isn’t a great speaker (natural ability), so God provide Aaron who is.
  2. Paul and the 12 Disciples – Jesus spent time investing in 12 disciples, but none of them seemed to know the law (acquired skill) and the Jewish tradition like Paul did. (See his letter of Romans). So Jesus meets him on the road to Damascus and brought him into the team.
  3. Saul and his army facing Goliath (maybe this one is a stretch) but none of them seem to have the faith (spiritual gift) which David had. No one had the experience of seeing God fight on their behalf like David had when he had to fight lions to protect His herd. So God provides David.