Browsing articles from "September, 2013"
Sep 27, 2013
neil

Up to the job? Church-planting and gospel confidence

When it comes to gospel ministry, and particularly a pioneering, church-planting, ministry, Paul asks the kind of question that everyone is thinking; who is equal to such a task? (2 Cor. 2:16).  It’s the perfect question for any new congregation starting out together. We know that Paul preached the gospel with great boldness and confidence, a confidence that seems to motivate him, enable him and sustain him. And his second letter to the Corinthians is a letter all about the right and wrong kinds of confidence in ministry. Consider how often the word ‘confident’ or ‘confidence’ occurs. Ten times in the book as a whole e.g. 5:6, we are always confident and 5:8, we are confident.

Where does confidence for church planting come from?

In our culture – we talk of a self-confidence. Here’s Tracey Emin in her own words: I’m not your average woman, and I’m not going to live your average woman’s lifestyle. I set up the rules for me. I set up the perimeters. I have nobody telling me what to do. Former world champion boxer Chris Eubank exuded a self-confidence when he famously said: I have no vices. I am a hero. Go and look it up in the dictionary and you will find a picture of me.

I don’t doubt that in a group starting a church there are some very capable people. Gifted, skilled, equipped, trained, motivated but the danger will be a reliable on our own abilities, a self-confidence that breeds a self-reliance.  A wrong confidence.

For the Apostle Paul confidence is found elsewhere.  Paul answers his own question (2:16) in 3:4 Such confidence we have through Christ before God.

In this post I want to reflect a little on what a gospel-confidence is and then in my next post what a gospel confidence looks like in the life and ministry of a new church.

1) Gospel confidence

There are only two fuels you can put in the engine to fuel ministry, ourselves and our own talents and abilities or Christ and his gospel that saves. I’m sure you noticed how, for Paul, confidence is through Christ and before God.  A better translation there is ‘toward God’.  In other words Paul looks to God for his confidence rather than in himself for his confidence. So here’s the principle in planting; our confidence is entirely God-given. It comes from the gospel.

What does a gospel confidence look like? It’s recognising that our competence in ministry is entirely God-given. Paul says, 3:5, Not that we are competent to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from GOD.

Gospel ministry is beyond our resources or abilities. No wonder Paul asks,  2:16, who is equal to such a task. You and I cannot open the eyes of the blind. We cannot give life to the dead.  Our confidence can’t therefore be located in is not in our website, or our music, or our small groups, or our community, even our coffee – it comes from the fact that the life-giving Spirit works through the gospel to bring life and salvation and godliness.

When we recognise that our confidence comes through Christ and from God it is wonderfully liberating because our confidence isn’t affected by our performance, results, circumstance or situation! Andy Murray has just crashed out of the US Open in the quarter-finals in a pretty humiliating straight sets defeat. And no doubt His confidence will have taken a big knock. David Moyes hasn’t had the best start at Man Utd and it can’t be easy replicating the results of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Ask any celebrity and they will tell you of how self-confidence comes and goes, we are up and down people. As gospel servants, our confidence is strong because our confidence comes from God.

That’s great news this morning whether we are naturally over-confident or under-confident people.

Who is equal to such a task? Well the answer is there in v.6, God has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant. Paul knows that new covenant ministry is a life-giving ministry. A ministry in which God seeks to bless and we ought to expect to see people saved.  The Old Covenant, as Paul goes on to explain in verses 7-18, could not bring life because it was an external covenant of obedience to the law. It was a ministry of death, not because the covenant was not good but because of the spiritual incapacity of the people. But Jesus fulfilled it for us in his life, and he bore our penalty for our failure to keep it in his death and so released us from it. The ministry of the Old Testament prophets was a hard one – who would want to plant a congregation in OT Israel or be a Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah? But the ministry of the New Covenant is a glorious one because through it the Spirit is able to bring new life and to turn rebellious hearts back to him.

It is God, and no other, who qualified Paul and equipped him to become a minister of the new covenant, he claimed nothing for himself.  So too for any of us given the privilege and opportunity to be gospel ministers. Gospel confidence is a humble confidence and that, as we’ll see in the next post, is all we need to, in the words of William Carey, attempt great things for God and expect great things from God.

Sep 20, 2013
neil

Christianity turns out to be the opposite of all we believe

Last is first.

Giving is receiving.

Dying is living.

Losing is finding.

Least is greatest.

Poor is rich.

Weakness is strength.

Serving is ruling.’

So writes R. Kent Hughes in summary of the teaching and life of Jesus.

Paradox, according to G.K. Chesterton is ‘truth standing on its head calling for attention.’

Sep 13, 2013
neil

Why Steve Jobs wanted you to go to Bible College

You might not think that Steve Jobs would have had much advice to offer on whether or not we should encourage people to attend Bible College. But Daniel Finkelstein, writing in Wednesday’s Times (£), would disagree.  I should make clear that Finkelstein’s piece is on something altogether unrelated to theological education. His is a piece on why the proposed high speed rail link between London and the north is worth the cost despite growing estimates (worth a read for his take on this alone by the way). However, it got me thinking. In his defence of HS2, Finkelstein establishes a principle that can be rightly applied to all sorts of questions including our one on the merits of a Bible college training. Finkelstein argues for what he calls ‘the priority of proximity.’ Put simply, we need to maximise face-time if we are to maximise a learning opportunity.

Finkelstein illustrates his point from Steve Jobs’ demand that the Pixar Animation headquarters should not be a series of small studios but ’one big building with a central atrium.’ Why? Jobs wanted, through architecture, ‘to maximise the number of random encounters’ between employees.

Finkelstein quotes Jobs who says ‘there’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by e-mail and iChat. That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow,’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.’

Something of this dynamic was at work today in two meetings I have been a part of in the last couple of days in which the proximity principle worked  itself out. Both involved considerable travel, commitment, time and energy to attend, but crucially, they provided the only context for a quick-fire exchange of ideas and perspectives that combined to produce exciting results. It simply could not have come about through Skype or an e-mail exchange. It was free-flowing interchange between multiple people that produced the desired and necessary results.

So back to Bible College. Why should you learn in community rather than study through books from a distance or through courses that bring you together on just an occasional basis? Quite simply, because of the priority of proximity. The more learning that is done together, the more you benefit. The cumulative impact of numerous, daily, spontaneous conversations (sometimes in the classroom and sometimes through random encounter) provide the perfect forum for learning. If you want to equip people for ministry build an atrium.

Sep 10, 2013
neil

Momentum – working to plant churches that multiply

Saturday 19th October is the date of the next 2020birmingham conference. Why not join with church-planters and those with an interest in church planting for the day.

A mix of talks, workshops, worship and interviews with people in the process of planting, the day is designed to help us think through all things planting. The event is hosted by 8 church-planting churches located in Birmingham but all are welcome. Our workshop options are designed to offer something for everyone. So whether you’re just curious about planting, committed to leading a plant, already planting and looking for ideas or even developing a network of plants, this conference is ideal for you. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For details and booking click here

Any questions? Contact us on [email protected]

Sep 6, 2013
neil

A must-read from the Guardian for all who want to understand parenting

Insightful. Thought-provoking. Honest. Mostly right. More to say but no time today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(HT: Sophie Roberts)

Facebook Twitter RSS Feed