Mission for Everyone

This morning I’ve been for a walk in the what some would call, “the freezing cold wastelands of North Wales”. Yet it has snowed, it is icy and I love it! There’s something about the clarity and deadness of sound that fresh snow brings. You can see for miles and the snow deadens the noise of the world so everything seems pristine and tranquil. I can really think and see clearly!

I’ve been off for a few weeks and as well as getting on with some things other than ministry, I’ve been thinking and praying about what the future holds. I don’t know about you but I need threads, ideas and facts upon which I can base my future actions and movements upon. God understands this too. Faith is often not blind faith, principally it is faith in the one who calls us. He is totally reliable. In my experience faith is often not unrelated from the present either. The God who beckons us forward is the same God who has been preparing us, shaping our circumstances and leading us to the point where we may make a leap of faith or two. We notice the leaps but we seldom notice the quiet movement that the Spirit has been making behind the scenes for years.

There are all kinds of exciting ideas that I have looking at the future of Dignity, most of them are significant upgrades and developments of existing work. Yes there are some new leaps of faith as well. The one concept that we have always been about is that mission is for “everyday people”, wherever you are. We know the poor can be used mightily by God, how about everyone else? Over the years I’ve become experienced in cross cultural, rural and community based mission. Maybe it’s time to use some of these very hard learned lessons in equipping others and reaching others.

I do believe that God is moving anew in his people. Some of the ideas we have worked with for years are gaining traction in wider circles. There’s a revolution coming that doesn’t base itself on superstars in the faith, but on the church, a people, a mission for everyone. Whoever we are, wherever we are, we have a calling to serve, to reach out, to be Jesus to everyone we come across and to seek out those we don’t come across. We need to up our game in the forgotten and rural areas of this world. We need to reach more people and equip more people to reach others also. Simple really 🙂

Dr RT Kendall recently at The Evangelist’s Conference got all prophetic. Of course it was very biblical, he is a renowned theologian. However the sense of now-ness of what God is saying really spoke to me. “God will work through the faceless”. That phrase resonated with me powerfully. You can listen to the whole talk here.

Heidi Baker again not so long ago spoke about similar themes at a conference here in the UK.

Here’s an example of a call to action about mission and what God is doing from the leader of Ivy Church, Anthony Delaney. Ivy are the church that send Jude and I out on the ministry we have. Again, we are all needed and it’s about redoubling and focusing our efforts on the lost, together.

Whatever you think of the prophetic elements there’s one element that speaks to me loud and strong, God will move through ALL of his people. The Spirit will empower us to do this. The future of the church is for everyone to fight together in unity. For those of us who get a little twitchy at the sound of prophetic words and anointing let me remind you of something very rooted in the word. Isn’t that the point of the Body of Christ? We are meant to move together with Christ as our head. At the moment we have limbs all over the place. Arms flail in different directions, parts of the body who don’t know what they should do, everyone thinks they are the head…. it won’t do and I do believe God is calling time on this. What God will do is not new in the sense that we have not seen it before, but it will be in out time, in our generation, because let’s face it, his world needs it.

Are you one of the faceless? A person that has never been a superstar? Never called to the spiritual heights? Well that doesn’t really matter because God has a role for you, in his mission, in his plan to reach this world. That’s the move of the Spirit that’s coming.

If you need a few threads upon which to base your future, there’s some for you.

Don’t we understand? It’s a mission for everyone.

So if all I have said is true I wonder, what will our response be? Answers on a postcard please……

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Kasama Bound

Some of you may well be wandering what it is that happens when we run a Life! Conference somewhere. Well a picture paints a thousand words, so here is a photo gallery to explain the what and how of some of what we are doing.

we're all ready to go!

“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas……” Ok we are not quite the Blues Brothers, but here are Andy and I ready to travel north to Kasama. Our trusty (but getting a bit decrepid) Isuzu is behind us, our trusty steed for this trip.

545 Kilometres, north east of Mkushi lies the large town of Kasama, it lies on the Great North Road whose ultimate destination is Tanzania. It took us 5 and a half hours drive to get there. Here we met Cornelius who told us that we needed to go a further 30 km into the bush, where the conference was to be held. 30 minutes later after bumping down a dirt road we were there.

This is Andy with Webster Chewe. Webster attended our Life! Planter’s conference which was held last July in Lusaka. At this conference we talked about the need for the church and community to come together to help people to understand Christ and to transform their community. It is usual for churches and people to be apart in many villages, this causes severe problems in areas that are already dependent and poverty stricken. Webster is not paid for his time, he volunteers it because it is not our work, most importantly, it is what God is calling him to do.

This is our home for 4 days. Our trusty tent and a whole host of gear in the back. The buildings behind are a rural school. It looks idyllic doesn’t it? There’s no mains water, no electricity and no lights! People here live in mud huts and mostly grow their food to survive.

This is Andy speaking to the 30 or so villagers that have come together. Through seminars, group work and fun we look at the themes of dependency, working in groups, the hope that Christ brings and how together with Him, the villagers can achieve great things! We believe in the potential of people, no matter how poor they are, especially if they know God. Through this work many villagers have discovered that they have a place in what God is doing and can be part of it too. From taking in orphans to fixing roofs, these lovely people are beginning to have hope.

This is a typical small group. This concept whilst common elsewhere is often unheard of in the rural areas. We help people of different denominations to come together with people in their community in such groups. Each village will have at least one group and together they can learn and make a difference. Here the people are preparing a sample group drama which they must act out together.

This is Webster’s group praying for one another. Their success depends on God and each other. It is not what one person can do with God, it is what many can do with God.

We also encourage the groups to pray and work together across villages. Here in this picture that are praying for one another village by village. They will nominate a few people to form a team that will help to coordinate the work of the village groups in the area. These teams form a spearhead in the future for further training and planting.

At the end of the conference, everyone get’s a certificate to say that they have attended. There is dancing, singing and great happiness 🙂

We hope and pray that the future is bright. Many don’t truly believe that those who are poor, dependent and rural can be used by God to do something truly magnificent. WE DO! If Kasama is like anywhere else, the 6 groups that will begin will continue to grow. As they grow, new groups will begin. People will become Christians as they are not shut outside of the Church, and as everyone come to know Christ, they will work together more and more to see their own community transformed.

We’re not trying to set up a project, we’re trying to inspire and equip a whole generation of people to move out of relational, financial and spiritual poverty.

A Year and a half ago, there wasn’t even one star on this map. The Life! Initiative did not exist, now there are stars everywhere. They represent either contacts beginning work or existing groups and work. Zambia is 4-5 times the size of the UK with poor communications, so the work is often logistically and geographically challenging. There are 7 million people in the bush, we want every one of them to know the life, potential and future they can have. You really do need to stand with us and pray with us.

The Future of Mission

Last night was cold, very overcast with a strong northerly wind from the Congo, bringing a chill in to the air. Rather than being tucked up in bed, I found myself at 1 am, sitting in my 4×4 in the village of Chalata, waiting for Augustine to turn up from Nchelenge.

Nchelenge is 14 hours bus ride away, so I hardly could complain at sitting in my car. Augustine was travelling down to a meeting we were having this morning about village training for the Life! Initiative. Augustine is a tall man, he has to lean over to hug me….. so do most people I am reliably told. As we met on the roadside, well its always awkward to hug someone a ft taller than you! Vincent, the second person attending the meeting is shorter and a really thinker and visionary. He in the past turned down ‘nice’ churches to go and work in the bush. Peter Muyombe from Mkushi,is more the elder statesman of the three who had come. Older and wider than perhaps everyone else. He arrived on a farm tractor at 8am, time enough to have some breakfast. Normally he would walk 2 hours to my place.

About a month ago, I challenged all of our groups to take up the task of expanding into new areas from the ground up. Maybe it would be an expansion of their work, maybe planting a whole new team next door to themselves, whatever it would be, it was their job as well. There are many actions going on here at the moment, but this is one of the most significant. Right from the beginning of this movement we have worked towards the release of communities and villagers to work with God for themselves. It is beginning to happen.

I have been truly humbled by the response. It would be easy for those from the UK to think that this work is about Jude and myself. It quite frankly isn’t. It’s about the tens and hundreds of people who are in the villages and what they will do and are doing. Listening to their stories, their challenges and their encouragements, I realised that the work was not solely mine. We have got to a point, where our friends here are beginning to see the vision and flex their muscles in pursuit of it.

So later this month, late August and in late September we will see the fruits of these labours when for the first time, those in Zambia will directly take up the vision of the Life! Initiative in their areas. This is by far and a way, the best piece of work I have ever been involved in. I simply feel so humbled that the Lord would give me a vision and a place of influence in it.

There is a long battle ahead for the heart of rural Africa, but the future of that mission will and no longer should be determined by those outside alone, it will be the hearts and minds of those who are in the bush that hold and execute the vision for themselves. Hearts and minds become feet and hands and I am excited to see this heart expressing itself in love and transformation in the villages here.

This is the future of Mission in rural Africa.

Tonight Jude, I and the kids are off to show the Jesus film in the compound….. the things you do on a Friday night…

Fasting

Well 8 days to go and Jude, I and the family fly off to Zambia. Yet again it’s a true pioneering situation. We’ve got to find a new base, expand the work and we believe set many new people in motion in this great adventure that God has for us. Your prayer would be much appreciated.

However, I want this post to consider the value of the discipline of fasting. Whenever I really need to hear God I have always fasted, sometimes I like what I hear, sometimes not. I’ve even been known to disobey what I hear God telling me, I’m not particularly proud of that. However, at least I have heard and had something to disobey 🙂 I find it’s much better to go with the Lord’s leadings rather than go against them. EVERY time I have fasted I have heard something of God and usually received a peace within myself that I didn’t necessarily have before.

What then is the purpose in fasting, why do it? Sometimes it is not easy to understand but Paul writes this in 1 Corinthians  Chapter 9

“25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

Paul was writing about the Isthmian Games (that’s from memory, I hope I’ve spelt it correctly) and in particular about the athletes that compete in the games. They entered strict training to attain a wreath around their heads if they were to win. Paul’s use of this analogy leads him to say that he beats his body to make it his slave. He does this to prevent himself from fighting or beating the air and to ensure that his effort is directed to attain an eternal prize from doing God’s work.

I think fasting has something to do with this discipline of ‘beating the body’, and I think it has a lot of relevance in our world today. The demands of our life are sometimes like a static that gets in the way of us perceiving, understanding and hearing God in everyday life. I do believe that we underestimate, the influence and power of wrong heart desires and direction in our efforts to hear God. I’ve lost count of the people I have heard say something like, “God doesn’t speak to me”. I would like to suggest that either you are going in the wrong direction or that you are simply too full of static to hear what he is saying.

To hear God, we must empty ourselves of this static by denying ourselves. The area of food and drink is one area that is common to all people and that is why I think the Bible talks about it. All of us get hungry and in mastering this desire for a period of time, we are beating our ‘existence’ to run to a different tune. We are in effect saying in a very practical way, listening to God is more important than our everyday needs. It is a form of worship and adoration at its’ very core.

I must admit I’m a fasting traditionalist. I don’t believe that fasting television or chocolate etc. is proper fasting. Hey! I’m entitled to my opinion. The reason being is that those things are not essential to our very being, they are not life needs. By forgoing them, we can quite happily continue to live our lives. We are not stating by our actions that God is more important that our very own life. This thought has inspired people to fast for as much as 40 days just like Jesus did. This is an important consideration. After Jesus fasted in the desert, the Devil came to Him and on every level tempted him to put himself above God. Firstly the Devil did this by appealing to Jesus’ very need to survive. Jesus replied that God’s word was more important. Secondly, the Devil appeared to our need for recognition. This is a powerful motivator for many in ministry, but ultimately a false one. Thirdly, he appealed to the temptation of Power. On every level, to supplant God as the ultimate provider and sustainer of life.

Fasting is a way of stating that God is our provider. Discipline is not much in fashion in the Church these days, but spiritual disciplines are essential in knowing God more. So when Paul talked about beating the body he was dead right.

To this end Jude and I have been fasting about all of the challenges ahead of us as we go to Africa again. Our own ability to provide is not the key, it is God’s ability to provide that is. Maybe by being willing to go when all is unknown is in itself a measure of worship and adoration to our God, who is alive, active and more than willing to lead us as we take a step of faith.

I certainly don’t want to be beating the air, i want to be a very effective person in the Lord’s kindgom. Maybe I’d better fast some more….?