Friday, 7 October 2011

Enemies with faces

This week has been a busy week for us. We have been attending lots of meetings and using time to prepare for the move to our new venue in two weeks. So to be called into a meeting at 24 hours notice with the venue management was not something we were expecting or had scheduled into our already busy diaries.

There was a sense of "What's wrong?" that we were carrying before the meeting. As much as I tried to remain positive, my thinking continually went down the worst case scenario. As we entered the meeting I felt I knew WHAT the problem was, WHY it had come up, and WHO it had come from. Unfortunately I was right on all three counts.

Now the outcome was not all doom and gloom, as we are still in the venue for the three months that they had agreed to, but we are not sure what happens after that. The thing for me is that because I know where the objections are coming from I can quite easily put a "face" on the enemy. This is the easy way and unfortunately what many Christians have done down through history. We have become known more for what and in particular WHO we stand against.

That was immediately the direction my thinking took. It was then the words of the Bible came ringing in my ears "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Eph 6:12. Its easy to fight an enemy with a face but much harder to face an enemy that we can't see, protest or blog against.

As I thought about it, I was reminded that we are in a SPIRITUAL battle and we need to fight with SPIRITUAL tactics and SPIRITUAL weapons. Our strength is in God not legal systems.

The Bible is that which we calibrate our life against so what does it say about this situation?
  • Enemies without faces are to be fought with the full armour of GOD including the WORD and FAITH, also with PRAYER and with FASTING.
  • Those who we think are enemies with faces are to be loved, which means that we don't actually have any enemies with faces.
So over this next week before the management meet to make a decision on our long term future in the venue
  1. we will present a good case as to why we should be there, 
  2. extend the hand of friendship and offer to meet with those who object to us being there
  3. pray and fast against our real enemy.
We need to be clear on who are our enemies are NOT as much as who the enemy IS.

Will you join with us and commit to praying but also maybe fast for a day or two?

Monday, 3 October 2011

Releasing Leaders

For those of you that know me and are part of my life, I hope you will be able to say that I am passionate about seeing something in people that they maybe don't always see in themselves. I don't want it to stop there though. I want to release people into their God-given potential. That can involve pushing other people forward when my insecurities would cause me to want to hold the limelight.

I don't want to sound like a saint, because nearly everyday I struggle with some aspect of that and often get it wrong. We have so many talented people in our church that I think God has brought them my way to partly use them to refine me and my need for prominence.

Despite (or maybe because of) my insecurities I am committed to raising a platform for people to be released into leadership. Anyway, one of the young guys that has created a stirred in our church recently by his awesome heart for serving and building God's house is Peter Jobes. If you are part of NCLC you will probably have already encountered him or one of his amazing sisters. They are a true gift to us as a church. Peter wrote a short piece on the welcome at our church to help people understand the Biblical heart of a great welcome. I love how Peter has captured part of why we do what we do.
You REALLY need to take 5 minutes to read this.
Guys! We're going to be welcoming people to church on First Faces at Encounter so I want to take a quick look at why this is both IMPORTANT and AWESOME. Sometimes, when we do something every week, we start to think of it as just part of the routine and we forget why we're doing it; we're doing it for the GLORY of GOD. When we welcome people what we're doing is as much for the glory of God as is the worship or the preaching or any of the other parts of the service.

I want to take a look at what Paul says in the book of Romans about HOW we need to welcome people and WHAT happens when we do it.

"Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God."
- Romans 15:7 (ESV)

We must welcome people as Christ welcomed us, and we must do so for the glory of God. When we smile and say 'Welcome to church,' we're not just being polite, we're glorifying God. What we're doing is an act of worship. When we put aside whatever we may be feeling about the past week or any worries about the coming one and just welcome people in the same way Christ welcomed us then we're showing God's glory.

I LOVE that Paul is specific about this. We're not just to be nice people, we're not just to smile, we're not just to be friendly and warm in our welcome: We are to welcome people in the same way that JESUS CHRIST welcomed us and when we do so it GLORIFIES GOD.

I want to quickly share three important points about how Jesus welcomed us:

He welcomed us AS WE WERE.
He did not say that we had to be a certain way or achieve a certain thing before we were welcome, He just reached out and welcomed us with love. We need to be the same; we're not there to welcome just the cool kids, or to smile only at the people we know, we're not there to try and think who is holy and say nice words to them: we're there to welcome everyone that comes. Jesus said 'come to me ALL who are weary'. We need to be the same, no matter who it is or how they seem, we are here to WELCOME EVERYONE AS THEY ARE.

He welcomed us WITH HONOUR.
At the last supper Jesus did the unthinkable. In a culture where men walked on dirty roads and got filthy feet the lowest servant had to clean them on arrival. What Jesus did was flip that around, hosting his disciples he DROPS TO HIS KNEES with a towel and washes their feet. He honoured them not because of who they were but because it showed the character of God. We need to HONOUR THOSE WE WELCOME! It will show in how we do it. Do it well, what we're doing is about them. We don't want to give the impression that their arrival has distracted us from our chat with our buddies or that we'd rather be looking at our phone. When that person is being welcomed we honour them with our full attention and with the love of Jesus.

He welcomed us to CONNECT US TO GOD.
'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.' (John 14:6) Jesus welcomes people not just to get to know them but because HE IS THE WAY that they come to God. Jesus spent His whole ministry connecting people to God, whether it was the tax collectors and sinners or the lepers and the blind, Jesus used His own life to connect them to God and then gave it up so that He could welcome us and connect us too. It is our job to help create an environment where people CONNECT TO GOD

When we welcome people we're not just saying welcome to church. We're showing that they're welcome as they are, that God has opened His arms for them, that they're honoured and we're doing our part in connecting them to God. We should all pray before we start, it doesn't have to be out loud and it doesn't have to be long and fancy; just simply open up to God and ask Him to help you to do this with excellence.

An AWESOME WELCOME can be the difference between someone going into church with an open heart or with a grumpy attitude because they've not been well received. WE'RE THE FIRST FACE THEY MEET so it is OUR responsibility. We might literally be the first person they have ever met in church! Want to know what it means? I can still remember being welcomed to NCLC. I'd only been to one men's breakfast before that but I was made to feel so welcome by a group of people that by the time I sat down in the service I already felt like I'd came home. That is the experience we want to give people who attend; the words 'WELCOME HOME' are not just a slogan on screen, they're how we do church.

I'll leave you with a scripture from Matthew that shows how God values how we welcome strangers. It's one of the things that Jesus says makes us inherit the kingdom.

"Then the King will say to those on the right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirst and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me'."
Matthew 25:34-35
So how good was that!!!