I have entitled this weeks blog ‘Rabbit Trails’ in memory of my days at Mattersey Bible College, the place where they tried to mold me into being a production line ‘Pastor’. I lived in the uncomfortable slipstream of that for a few years but soon realized Saul’s armour never did fit very well. That may be the place of flinging stones at giants but it also becomes the place of avoiding flung spears at all costs, but hey that is another story. At Mattersey we had a lecturer called David Allen who taught on ‘Church History’. Those lectures became a place of legend because in each hour we would have to decipher between the 10 minutes of history being taught and what became known as the rabbit trails, as David Allen loved to get distracted as he lectured and ended up going everywhere and nowhere. He could talk for nearly an hour on the approach to Durham via the train and the view of the cathedral on the approaching journey. As interesting as that may be (and maybe more use to sojourners and travellers) the approach to Durham was never asked about in any exam I sat in. That links perfectly to my first rabbit trail; spent Saturday watching the rugby six nations decider in a (rather large) front room accompanied by people from the Passion Christian Centre in Ystrad Rhondda and some visitors they had from Mattersey college (see how I did that link there?). Talk about a lesson in humility as an Englishman in this mission field of Cymru and a reminder of the passion in the hearts of the Welsh people and nation. England were hammered by a fantastic performance by a team almost possessed with the aim of; 1) stopping the English win the Grand Slam and 2) winning by enough of a margin to be crowned champions. The aims would be in that order. Being in a room of about 25 people, only 2 of us English, was a very uncomfortable experience. They were very gracious in their victory (unlike many others with tales of chariots losing wheels etc.). But as I sat in that room I thought about being church together here in this passionate nation. We ate together, shared together, laughed together, threw lots of banter around the room, this was being family. I loved the time there as we shared lives together. It reminded me of how much I love this nation. I love Wales, Cymru. I love these people. Wild, passionate, untamable, Celtic warrior and yet soft and emotional to the core. I sometimes wonder why God will not let me escape to some other land, We have tried a few times as a family to move elsewhere. Those roots seem to be in the earth somewhere. Deep, joined, connected. This beautiful valley. This wild nation. This singing nation. Still so much to see unlocked.
As we have witnessed the first Pope for hundreds of years to step down before death, sense that is in itself a prophetic act and declaration. I think the challenge to many cherishing titles and positions and pulpits will be ‘are you prepared to step down? Are you prepared to give it all away?’ A few weeks ago read that Bill Johnson proudly announced that he was sending out Jesus Culture director Banning Liebscher, and the entire Jesus Culture group, to plant a new church in Sacramento, California. This at first glance may sound exciting, another new relevant youth orientated church with amazing music and worship. Yet something disturbed me and made me desire something else. Wouldn’t it have made an even more amazing impact if the announcement came that the leadership team were stepping down and giving what they already had to the next generation rather than sending them away? Do we hold onto things too tightly? Loved this quote from Graham Cooke this week;
“Leadership is not about living separately from the people. Platforms, titles, all that kind of stuff, positions – they’re irrelevant in many ways. When it all comes down to it, we’re all children of God learning how to walk with Him. I like getting involved in people’s lives. It’s thrilling. Everyone has a story and a journey. Good leadership is about stepping off a platform into someone’s story!”
God is the great leveller. He pulls down mountains and lifts up the valleys. Maybe it is time to get off so many high horses and walk into someone’s story. After all the army that Joel saw was marching shoulder to shoulder, not above and below. Stepping down may actually be the key to stepping up to the plate.
On Sunday morning shared a time with the people of Dinas Baptist Church. There were times when I would sit in these gatherings and see the flaws and the mistakes and the things that are so wrong with ‘doing church’ like this. Readers of my blog know my thoughts on church structure etc. so I am not going to go there today. Yet as God works in my heart and as I walk the journey outside the walls I find myself getting obsessed with something completely different, people. I just love spending time with people. Work colleagues, people of the community, journeying people, people who believe, people who doubt, people of faith, people who do the Sunday stuff and people who do not. When your obsession is with loving people and who they are and can be, instead of being obsessed with how people do the stuff or what they do, then you can find blessing and give blessing anywhere. I always find connectivity somewhere with someone. These people in Dinas have not had the easiest of journeys, and that is where I begin to relate. That is where I find connection, pilgrims trying to express their faith through the pain and hurt of every day life. They are a great bunch of people, desperate to find a home within community, often becoming wanderers due to losing their home, not afraid to release the young to lead them into worship. Enjoyed my time there sharing on the shadows.
I just want to finish this rabbit trail with a couple of quotes, the first from a Facebook friend called Andy Whitman. Just loved his status update on the 17th March;