… which, as you know, is Latin for time flies (‘tempus fugit’ that is, not FAQ which is French of course for – Fumer Avec Qualité – only smoke Cuban cigars).
So… I now have around 20 days worth of journalling which I’m editing to post in this blog. It’s not easy because a lot of my journal-waffle is either
- for my own personal benefit, or
- not that interesting, or
- a mix of deep thoughts, shopping lists, to-do items, all jumbled up,or
- a few very personal things that I would only share with Judith and a couple of others (that’s got you interested eh?), or
- much which doesn’t make any sense at the end of the day (even to me… I’m often left thinking “What the heck did I mean by that?”) including not a few things I can’t make any sense of,
as well as, I hope, some semi-reasonable thoughts, comments, opinions, and meditations which I try and edit out of the jumble for general consumption here.
I have been asked by one of my daughters to post some more. You see I’m now in Redding, California, whilst this blog is still in France. Moreover, since France we have travelled to the Indian ocean, visited family and churches in Hong Kong, then friends in Australia, Hillsong in Sydney, a couple of days in Melbourne, then back to Sydney (where Judith and I parted as she returned home… sob!) I then flew to San Francisco, drove up to Redding, and next weekend I will be in Seattle, Washington.
I have unfinished pieces to edit and post on all those people, places, and events. Pages of stuff scribbled in my Moleskine, fumbled notes on my iPhone. The trouble is I haven’t really had time up to now to do a thorough editing job. I’m so glad I didn’t plan my trip to so as to attend conferences everywhere (as some folk recommended!) or else I’d not even have had time to think!
Whilst I’ve been here in Redding there has been a Transformation School (part of Bethel Church’s School of Supernatural Ministry) going on this week. All the new year students (including Alex Dell from the Rock) are there along with those who have just booked for a week, like some Newfrontiers pastors I know. I’ve dipped into a couple of the sessions, but also spent some time meeting leaders and asking questions that often don’t get asked or addressed in conference settings. I figured that I can always get hold of conference teaching afterwards but I don’t always have the opportunity to meet people face to face and see churches au naturel so to speak. Conferences are great and have their place, but you don’t tend to see or experience the local church properly. That is really what interests me.
Also God seems to speak to me in many different ways that seem sovereignly ‘knitted together’ in a fashion that could only be Him. Judith has had this experience too. I will write something about all this in due course; but it is not uncommon for a place I’m visiting, a book I’m reading, a song we’re singing, an in-flight movie I watch, a pastor I speak with, a person I bump into unplanned, a ministry I observe in action, a sermon I hear preached, another I listen to on my iPod – all to have that tell-tale hallmark of the voice of God speaking directly to me. I guess I’m just so hard of hearing that the Lord has to use that many different methods over such a vast geography and such a long time frame, or maybe I’m just hard of heart…?
Now I have had some hours to reflect on what I have been experiencing so you should see some more appearing over the next few days.
Some of you have asked the reason for my choice of places to visit and what I am looking for as I travel and meet people. Firstly, when God spoke to me about taking time out, about a year ago, I sensed Him direct me particularly to “drink from three streams”. I perceived that these three streams and their sources were:
- Hillsong Church, Sydney;
- Bethel Church, Redding; and
- Mars Hill Church, Seattle.
These three streams already were influencing our church and ministry, but indirectly, and in any case I sensed God had spoken to me about this and shared it with my team at home. As time progressed, near the beginning of 2009, I found myself keeping a page at the back of my journal to scribble down questions which I felt the Holy Spirit wanted me to seek answers to as I travelled.
I very loosely grouped the questions into 7 general ‘ideas’. This is how they look in current form:
1. How (and what) can a church in a small place (like Guernsey) learn from a church in a larger place (e.g. the cities I’m visiting) in terms of
– building a strong church
– reaching the lost
– making ‘spiritually & emotionally healthy’ disciples
– identifying and raising up new leaders
– relating to other churches & pastors without seeming threatening or compromising truth or vision
2. How can we be more effective in reaching completely unchurched people? [I want to find out in each place I visit whether & how the leadership sees their church as effective in reaching out to this group as opposed to those who are either prodigals or ‘disgruntled’ Christians who are leaving other churches to join what they perceive as a better one!]
3. How does Church Planting feature in this church’s vision and strategy for growth? How are church planters sent and supported? How do they see the ministries of Eph 4 feature in this strategy? Do established church plants continue to feel like they belong to something bigger?
4. How can we improve pastoral care of the flock so that people are genuinely feeling like they belong, they are loved, and they are finding grace in God to be helped and healed, and at the same time so that we do not lose focus on mission and become too ‘inward looking’?
5. How do this church and its leadership handle the following?
– including children, young people in Sunday services (so that parents are not disenfranchised)
– opportunities for individuals to use and grow in spiritual gifts, especially the more visible, corporate gifts, eg. tongues, interpretation, prophecy, words of knowledge, healing, etc. [1 Cor 12, 14]
– facilitating worship in small groups, children/youth, Sunday services… (eg. training, resources, planning – balance with other essentials)
– protecting the flock against ‘being tossed about by every wind of doctrine’ [Eph 4], false teaching [2 Pet 2:1], heresy, etc. Specifically what do the leaders see are the current issues?
– using technology effectively [website, communications, access to pastors, staff etc.]
– raising faith for financing general ministry and projects [inc. attitude to borrowing, property ownership, profit etc.]
– recruiting and supporting staff and employees [hiring & firing, contracts, accountability]
6. How have the key leaders kept the ‘core leadership’ together and focused during growth? What are the key values worth fighting for so that this team works as God intends? What have been the main challenges to this? How have they sought to overcome them?
7. In all these things – what are the main differences between what they are doing now and when they started or were significantly smaller in number? What things have remained largely the same?
So far it has not been a question of answering each one systematically; I did not want this to be a robotic exercise. It was more about God doing things in me than anything else. I wanted to keep it personal when I met people, not going through a list of questions. So I emailed the questions (in a slightly abridged format to the leaders and teams I would be meeting before hand, explaining my intentions thus allowing them to know the context for my visit, and freeing them from any obligation to have answers ready to all of these inquiries. Some of the answers have been found through personal observation, interaction while I have been around, and discussions we have had. Others (particularly at Hillsong) have been kind enough to forward me information they thought was relevant by email afterwards.
So now, back to France, the Maldives and then Hong Kong…