Tag Archive: cape town


God snuck up on me today…

As part of the last day of The Warehouse’s Winter School for church and ministry leaders, I was leading several people through a time of personal retreat. I had challenged each of us to spend some time considering one thing God had brought to our attention over the past few days of the training – use this opportunity to go deep. I had also encouraged us to not move too quickly to “what am I going to do?” Instead, allow God to speak to who we ARE… and after that we can consider what actions this may lead to. And so we began into some time of solitude.

But then there was a tea break (not so well suited for the middle of retreats, but other participants were doing other electives. And, well. 10:30 is tea time, no matter what, right?). I was chatting briefly with a woman who is part of a local church I have good relationships with and had done a retreat for some of their team (including this woman) last year. This woman has recently taken on a new role, basically leading the team I had worked with last year. Interestingly, another person on that team had called me a while back and suggested that I apply for this job. I considered it, but decided it wasn’t the best fit for me. So this woman today says, “xxx told me she had called you and thought you might apply for the job. Why didn’t you?”

And while this could have been potentially quite awkward, I answered her straight away: “Because to do my best work, I can’t just work for one church. I need to be able to work across churches.” I love helping other people figure out how they can be who God wants them to be and I am much more of a catalyst and designer than one to run a system over time. I can create an amazing box, just don’t ask me to get in it!  It felt really good to say that. There was no apologizing or word smithing. She didn’t look down on me for not being something I am not. In fact, our conversation continued about all sorts of ministry I love and some of my questions about how to make it happen best.

So then we moved back into our time of solitude and it hit me – we just had a conversation about identity. I am a catalyst. I am an explorer. I am a designer. I am a dreamer. Yes, I am a priest – but more like Melchizedek than Aaron (that’ll need to be another blog post). What and where and how I express who I am can change – certainly has changed over time. And while the core of who I am – who God has designed me to BE has always been in there – I am continuing to discover and embrace this identity. What a journey! It’s not always easy – there is so much that works against us being our true selves. But the more I connect with this God who passionately loves me and has done everything to set me free, the more I am able to truly live.

The irony is, when I talk about how I am discovering who I really am, most people’s response is: of course! We already knew that. Why don’t you? This identity seems to be more hidden from me than anyone else. My not so secret identity.

The grand finale in a short series of questions on what God is stirring related to our faith life with others. You will find the first question of this series here, and the second one here. Please read/think/respond to these before giving your thoughts on today’s questions.

Reminder of the one rule –  you can not use the words “church” or “community” in your response (to avoid other sets of assumptions and to make you think about what you are really wanting to say!)

Question 3:

If there is something/anything of faith life with others you are longing for (your response to Question 1), something different from all of your other friendships (your response to Question 2), why haven’t you found this with an already existing congregation/community in your city? Assuming there are good groupings of people following Jesus together around town, what are you still looking for?

Note: I am not looking for anyone’s complaints about a particular church. In fact, I believe there are lots of gatherings to allow for many different expressions of our following God together. This question is really intended for those who, for whatever reason, have NOT found what they are looking for.

Another note: I am truly asking those who aren’t simply looking for somewhere with bigger music or comfortable and accommodating versions of the Gospel. I am asking those who have a DEEP desire for God and being part of a people who are centering their lives around Jesus and is honestly SEARCHING.

Please answer in only a sentence or two, don’t worry about any sort of proper or all-encompassing definition.

This is question two of a three-question series seeking input on what you are wanting with others also journeying with God. Thanks to everyone who responded to the first post on this blob, on facebook, or via email. You will find the first/previous question of this series here, pretty much necessary to answer before taking on today’s question.

Reminder of the one rule –  you can not use the words “church” or “community” in your response (to avoid other sets of assumptions and to make you think about what you are really wanting to say!)

Question 2:

How does what you are longing for (your response to Question 1) differ from all of your other friendships that also include faith? In other words, what do you need from a specific grouping of people that is different from what you are encountering from all the people you know – Christian or otherwise? Do you need something more or different?

Please answer in only a sentence or two, don’t worry about any sort of proper or all-encompassing definition.

Doing a short three-question series seeking your input. It comes from conversations from our own fledgling little On the Way group and while I need their responses, I am hoping that others who read this blog will also have their say. I am going to post three related questions and would love your thoughts on each 🙂

There is one assumption – that as we journey with God, it is helpful to be connected to others who are also journeying with God.

There is one rule – you can not use the words “church” or “community” in your response (to avoid other sets of assumptions and to make you think about what you are really wanting to say!)

 

Question 1:

Right now, what are you longing for/wanting/needing from others in a shared faith journey?

Please answer in only a sentence or two, don’t worry about any sort of proper or all-encompassing definition.

 

Orthodox Icon – The Ascension of Christ
http://orthodoxwiki.org/Ascension_icon

The primary school my youngest two children attend is closed today for Ascension Day. It’s interesting to me that this public school would choose

to take the day off for a Christian holiday – indicative of the religious climate of Cape Town. I have never celebrated Ascension Day. I am aware of the meaning, but I come from a “Christmas and Easter and every day in between” background. So, no Ascension Day, Pentecost, Epiphany, etc.

My son was explaining what they said in the school assembly about the meaning of Ascension Day. Essentially that Ascension Day celebrates when Jesus went back to heaven so he could send the Holy Spirit (at Pentecost). The reason it was important is because Jesus could only be in one place at a time, but the Holy Spirit can be with everyone everywhere. Yes, this was explained at the school assembly…

This is an important part of Jesus’ story – and ours. The sending of the Holy Spirit is the birth of the Church, the empowerment of God’s people, the spread of the Kingdom. That’s all Pentecost (which we celebrate soon). But Ascension Day is more than just a setup for Pentecost. Jesus ascending to heaven is hugely significant. Two reasons jump out at me.

First, Jesus ascending means he didn’t just go away after his birth, death, and resurrection. The Holy Spirit coming isn’t simply a next step, leaving Jesus with nothing to do until the last day. I did a quick search and came up with all these verses which refer to Jesus now seated at the right hand of the Father:

  • Acts 2:32-35
  • Romans 8:34
  • Ephesians 1:20
  • Hebrews 1:3
  • Hebrew 4:14-16
  • Hebrews 10:12
  • Hebrews 12:2
  • 1 Peter 3:22
  • Revelation 3:21

Jesus, having ascended, is now seated at the right hand of the Father. He was with God in the beginning and now has gone back to his rightful place of authority over everything (the one he gave up for us in his incarnation). And what is he doing on that throne? He is speaking to the Father on our behalf (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25). Can you picture the Father and Son sitting there speaking about how much they love you, watching what you are doing today? I believe he is also still putting in appearances here on earth. Literally. Revealing himself to people, helping, inviting, saving.

Further, Jesus ascending and being seated at the right hand of the Father means that WE are also in that place. In Ephesians 2:4-10, we read
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
We sit in this most holy place because Jesus does and we are with him! Thank you Jesus. We can live the lives we are meant to live because we live FROM the right place – with God. Knowing where we belong, and who we belong to,

makes all the difference in HOW we live. All the gifts, power, and authority that come from the Holy Spirit are useless if we don’t start from a place of intimacy with God, shaping our hearts to live well. Intimacy shapes our identity so we can live with authority.

All that because Jesus ascended 🙂

Happy Ascension Day everyone.
Amen!

Your thoughts:

  1. How much have you considered Jesus’ Ascension?
  2. What do you think Jesus is up to these days?
  3. What would be an appropriate way to celebrate the Ascension?
  4. What else?

Resonating

A picture that’s been rolling around in my heart and mind
filling pages of journal
spilled into conversation with my church last Sunday
received with some enthusiasm
given some words – maybe even a name for who we are together?
and now written down [unedited]:

I want to hum.
Like power lines charged full of electricity.
Like an object hitting its resonant frequency.

I know there is something built into each of us
DNA coded into our very being
that is the real me deep inside-
often latent, or marred, or out of balance, or afraid to shine, wounded, misguided
The Bible calls this the Image of God

What stirs this in us?
What causes it come alive, to come out
in just the right way that we SING
beautiful, earth-shattering, fully alive
resonating…

God’s Spirit calls to us in us
you are my beloved child!
love God, love your neighbours, love one another
seek God’s Kingdom
follow Jesus
live like Jesus
help others do the same

lives ringing with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control
from accepting Jesus’ invitation – “Come with Me”,  allowing his Spirit to revolutionize me – over and over again, a declaration that I will be the one I am meant to be

I become a person of love
housing God’s kingdom, power in me
a center of life and influence – ripples and waves
affecting the seen and unseen
resonating

But I join with others who are doing the same
spread across this city, this globe
We help one another to hum – i believe in you, encourage you, pray with you: and you me
and we do it together – a bigger pulse than any of us on our own – like five friends doing cannonballs into the swimming pool at the same time.
individual and collective lives of rhythm

lives changed
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control
becoming who we are meant to be
prodding others to do the same
a movement of hearts changed
coming to life
finding our frequency
resonating

Resonance

In physics, resonance is the tendency of a system to oscillate at a greater amplitude at some frequencies than at others. These are known as the system’s resonant frequencies (or resonance frequencies). At these frequencies, even small periodic driving forces can produce large amplitude oscillations, because the system stores vibrational energy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resonance

So, our little group has begun gathering to explore following Jesus together 🙂 As we talk about what we want to do when we are together (generally a meal plus something else), I’ve been thinking about this life of togetherness that is not defined exclusively when we are together.

I suppose most of us agree that there is an amount of our spiritual life that is lived out daily. It includes our personal times with God, loving neighbours, etc. And we know that there are the aspects of our journey that we live out with others. in other words, those things we do or are about when we gather with others (sing, talk, pray, communion, etc.). The overly-simplisticway of viewing it is something like this: together, we do ABC, and alone (when we are not together), I do XYZ. But there’s something missing in this equation. It’s the “even when we are not present with one another, there is still a togetheIt’s the “even when we are not present with one another, there is still a togetherness that is expressed through ???”

This is where people do things like:

  • read a daily devotion/lectionary – the same one others are reading all over the world – so there is a commonality though we are apart
  • fixed hour prayers so we are all praying at the same time, even if not in the same place
  • all committing to do the same certain activity during the week on our own, thereby sharing in a collective (though not combined) experience
  • share prayer requests so wherever you are, you can carry one another’s burdens
  • get together in smaller groupings for Bible reading, prayer, service, etc. In other words, we are together, but in smaller sets

This is the part of a shared journey that I am quite passionate about. I think this is partially because it breaks the false distinction between personal and corporate spirituality. Also, it says that we can share in faith life even when we are not gathered all together. It definitely takes an extra measure of commitment. It also requires a different level of submission because I am allowing us to govern part of my own “personal” time. Sure, when we are gathered we generally have some sort of plan, often with someone giving guidance. But usually then I get to choose all that I do (or don’t do) in the time between. This is saying, “I will give some of my time between for us.”

I don’t know what those of us beginning to follow Jesus together here in Cape Town will do with this part of our collective journey. But I would love to hear what others who are exploring missional communities think and do.

I am just about to send an email asking people to pray specifically about the planting of a new church here in Cape Town. Having been involved in beginning some different faith communities and pretty much thinking about this all the time, one of the things I am quite sure of is that prayer is THE essential piece of any and every type of new church. Period.

Want people to experience God’s love in new ways? Pray. Want to grow in being a disciple of Jesus? Pray. Want to see God’s Kingdom come and people be healed? Pray. Pray, listen, do what God says. That is my suggestion for starting a church.

I can’t stand to see another church squeeze every last cent from its members to buy a new piece of land or add yet another mega-meeting hall. I don’t want to see the same old cookie cutter vision/mission/strategy statement anymore. I won’t even read that strategic marketing that is meant to be innovative in drawing someone to church. Not because buildings, visions, or advertisements are bad per se. Rather, THEY ARE TOO OFTEN DONE IN PLACE OF PRAYER.

Prayer allows God to work in the ways God knows best. God, the creator of the universe. The one who loved each and every one of us. That God. I know we all believe Jesus is the head of his Church. But are we letting him run things? Or just using his name for what WE want? Seems to me that the way to keep him in charge is through prayer.

Prayer before you make decisions
Prayer before you gather to worship
Prayer when there is someone in need
Prayer when making plans

Not “bless us as we do what we want.” Rather, prayer that puts our hearts out there and asks God for His. Dangerous prayer that just might mean changing directions or doing difficult things in response. Prayer that requires God to actually be God for it to work. Prayer that asks big. That’s the kind of prayer I want my church to be about.

If your church isn’t praying enough, add some more. One prayer gathering, regardless of size or frequency, is spiritually significant. Putting yourself into God’s hands together will do what nothing else can in making into the church God wants you to be. And if you are starting a church, start with prayer. Let God have His way from the get-go and keep listening all the time. God loves the Church and wants to see us live out our destiny.

If God is birthing a new church here in Cape Town, may it come from prayer. I pray that regardless of where it leads.

 

What role have you seen prayer play (or not) in churches you have been involved with? What is God stirring in your heart around prayer?

Would love to hear from you!