Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Prayer, Prophecy & Pizza

We're almost 4 days into our time here in a Redding so here's a quick update on a few highlights of the past 100 hrs....

Visit to Healing Rooms - having been here before on our last trip I had some expectation of what to expect but I still found the time spent in the "encounter room" simply profound & moving as I encountered the presence of God washing over me... The room has musicians, painters, dancers & pray- ers and as they each expressed their worship you sit & soak it all in, for me personally the depth & breadth of God's love for me overwhelmed me afresh as I sat & received from Him. The words from "How he loves me" were being sung & the words from this verse completly undid me...

He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. 
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are, And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us, oh, Oh, how He loves us, How He loves us all

Sunday evening service - with baptisms...
It was amazing to witness the baptisms of 34 individuals, to listen to a short snippet of their story as to why they wanted to be baptised, then to celebrate for over an hour as we sang our worship songs as a congregation interspersed with spontaneous cheering & clapping as each one was baptised on the main stage.

Betgel Sozo Ministry
Today both Sue & I has our Sozo appointments at the Transformation Centre. Bethel Sozo Ministry uses some specific tools which enable you the "sozoee" to be prayed with so that you deal with issues of unforgiveness, inner healing & deliverance. We've been training with others at HBC over the past 12 months to be ready to launch the Bethel Sozo Ministry hopefully in the New Year. So this was our opportunity to experience a Sozo at the HQ so to speak and we were not disappointed as both Sue & I encountered Father, Son & Holy Spirit and received revelation & prayer to deepen our relationship with each person of the Trinity.

Prayer & Prophecy
Finally something that happens pretty spontaneously whenever you meet someone new from the church or on the BSSM as a student is you get prayed for and given prophetic words that strengthen, encourage and comfort (1 Cor 14:3) However this time the context was a limited different as we were in a Pizza Resturant next door to our hotel. We went there last time so knew it's owners were ex BSSM students now living in Redding, a number of staff are also ex students & now members of the church so as our pizza was served, Jessy asked us if he could share a "word" for us & pray for us, of course we said yes so for the next 10 minutes he shared some sense/thoughts he had for us & prayed. Then at the end of our meal the waitress came to take away our finished plates and we chatted & prayed together, this time we shared somethings with her for which she was really grateful for & then she blessed us with words of affirmation from our Heavenly Father as she prayed over us! 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Where has the time gone?

Seating on a plane for 8 hours certainly does give you sometime to reflect and think about "stuff" The fact that I'm on a return visit to Bethel Church and it's almost exactly 2 years since a we last went means I'm thinking about the past 2 years or so in particular. 

For me these past 2 years has been a great encouragement, of course we have had our challenges in both personal and community life at HBC, but over all we have seen God bless and guide us and in particular to begin to articulate and formulate a vision that we believe in and to which HBC is moving towards.

A question I have been pondering again and again in these 2 years has been: "How was Jesus able to equip a group of uneducated men and women to do the things He did, and to be like 
him in such a way that when he sent them out, they changed the course of human history?" As I have been seeking to answer this, 2 important partnerships have developed and strengthen these past 36/24 months to help me & HBC, these have been with 3dmEurope and with Global Legacy. 

In March 2012 we began our journey, as a leadership team and as a church, towards building a discipleship culture with expressions of Missional Communities. Now as I sit here in October 2014 having must returned from our 2nd Gathering of the Community Practice, having completed the 4 gatherings of a Leaning Community, we have made slow but steady progress over these 36 months. The discipline of processing "kairos moments", setting 2 yr vision goals with specific plans for the next 6 months has introduced an intentionality and common purpose that we just didn't have before. We are now working on a plan to make disciples, beginning with our definition of what a disciple is - "a person who is learning to be like Jesus and learning to do what Jesus could do!!" We've introduced some new vocabulary and vechiles to help us move towards of our vision, something we reset in this process - "Bringing healing, wholeness and freedom to broken lives & communities as we expect great things from God and attempt great things with God!"

Then back in Octover 2012 Sue and I took a trip to Bethel Church in Redding Californa, the Senoir Pastor is Bill Johnson and a number of global impacting ministries have begun here including Jesus Cultire and Bethel Sozo Ministry. It was an amazing few days and from this time we began to get to know leaders in the UK who were also connected to Bethel - primarily through Global Legacy.  This is the relational network that helps connect leaders, we've been to a couple of Eurpoean Leaders Advance gatherings, meeting with leaders within the UK with a heart for revival and committed to seeking the breaking in of God's Kingdom with supernatural power and authority. At HBC we have had visits from students from the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry under the leadership of Aline Lidwell, who herself spent 5 years at Bethel Church.

So these 2 relationships with 3dmEurope and Global Legacy have influenced me personally and also with HBC we have seen principles and values being expressed that flow from both sources. Overall I believe it has been for the good of the congregation and is beginning to express itself more for the good of our communities and city. To be honest we have only just begun but it is my hope and prayer that as we keep listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit and we step out in obedience to what we hear Him say, we will shall the church grow, the city transformed and God glorified.   

Friday, 31 October 2014

Trip to Bethel Church Redding - Oct/Nov14

I am writing this on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean traveling back to the USA and specifically a return trip to visit Bethel Church in Redding California.Its almost 2 years since we had our first experience of being at Bethel and I don't think it's an exaggeration to say it was life changing because of the encounter I had with God during the days we were there. Since then I have sought to steward as well as I could this work of grace in my life and to build on this  moment  for my life and ministry. And God has been good and merciful to me so that my life and the church I lead have changed during these past 2 years!!

So what about this trip. What are my hopes and expectations for the next 12 days. Certainly I am looking forward to being in the amazing atmosphere of worship that exists at Bethel - the times of sung worship were some of the deepest and most profound I have ever been in. To hear some more teaching by Bill Johnson and Kris Vollaton (and other Bethel leaders) will also be a privilege. Something new for this trip will be my Sozo appointment - over the past 12 months tougher with Siue I have led a team of 10 at HBC through the Basic Sozo Training. This tool that originates from Bethel is for me one of the most exciting and potentially ministries for helping HBC fulfil it's vision to bringing healing, wholeness and freedom to broken lives and communities.... One of the requirements for us to be "released" as a church to exercise the Bethel Sozo Ministry is to go through a Sozo appointment your self, so next Tuesday at 3pm I'll be at the Transformation Centre for my appointment.

In the midst of all this I really am hoping and praying for the encounter with God through His Spirit that will impart for me a deeper passion and wider perceptive for Jesus. To be encouraged and strengthened to keep going with the vision we have for HBC and for the transformation of Chester. In short heaven invading earth...

Friday, 13 June 2014

We don't go to church we are the church!

Recently I was talking to some of our "pilot" i61 Missional Community about the importance of changing the way we think and the language we use being important as we seek to create a discipleship culture here at HBC. We made some observations, then reflected and discussed the statement: " We don't go to church we are the church" 

I believe a significant change of thinking that we need to lead the congregation through at HBC is captured in this slogan. For many Christians in HBC & across the UK this way of thinking is captured in this statement: "we need clergy, buildings and a Sunday services to be a real church!" It's not that any of these elements are wrong, (although personally I'm not sure the distinction of clergy & laity is that helpful), what this statement reflects is a "Sundaycentric" approach to our definition of church. This diagram is a. Helpful one to visually illustrate our thinking and our language gives us away every time: I'm going to church this Sunday, see you at church next week, 
The drawing on the left hand side is is what most of us growing up have come to refer to as the church. A building. The place where Christians go, usually on Sunday, to worship and listen to the preacher.
The arrows pointing toward the building indicate people heading to the building together on Sunday.
“But the Bible never ever describes the church as a building. It always refers to the church as a people–God’s people, in Christ–who are now sent by the Holy Spirit out into all of life to be the body of Jesus.

The drawing on the right hand side shows a group of people with arrows indicating outward movement. I personally I think this is a better picture of the church; a people who are sent by God...who are outward focused. Certainly not a building, or contained within four walls for an hour or two each week.

I noticed yesterday that on the official John Wimber Facebook page this was their post, a quote from the man himself: "the church is not the building, it's the people, it's not just the gathering, it's also the scattering."  The idea that we go to church is deeply embedded in our thinking and requires new forms of thinking and new language to break free from but break free we must especially if we want to release the missional imagination with the people we lead. 

for us to be missional disciples we need to break out of our thinking and language of going to church and really start to be the church to the people around us

Friday, 9 May 2014

Kairos moments - Kingdom breakthroughs

It's been a couple of months since I last took some time to write a blog I'm a little disappointed with myself to be honest as I was hoping it would be a place for some reflection on life & ministry! Anyway it's a new day with new beginnings so let's look forward...

A phrase we are beginning to use at HBC is "Kairos moment" it's language to help us in setting our Discipleship Culture. We are using Life Shapes see Mike Breen's book "Creating a Discipling Culture". Lifeshapes are tools to help us live out a life of discipleship and mission. They are taken from biblical principles and teaching and put into simple ‘shapes’ to aid us in living out our Christian faith.

One of the shapes is the circle

The Key Scriptures: Mark 1:14-15, Matthew 7:24-29

At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus introduces, through the Parable of the Wise and Foolish builder, the two fundamental questions of Christian spirituality: What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? But how can we do what God is asking of us if we don’t know what he’s saying? What Jesus illuminates in Mark 1:14-15, is how to discern what God is saying. There are times when it feels like our world and God’s world are colliding (called a Kairos). When we have those times, we can step more fully into the Kingdom and wrestle with these two questions through a process of Repent and Believe.

For me a way to recognise if an event going on in my life is a "kairos moment" is to see how it grabs my attention, if it is then I tend to be begin the process. Over the past few weeks it seems like there a number of these kairos moments taking place at both a personal and church context and having the language and process tool of the circle to "go around" is really helping me & us as a leadership team to discern what it is God is saying and then how we respond to this so helping us to make decisions from a "faith filled" perspective. This in turn is helping us to develop a sense of movement into the vision & direction we are leading the church into. 

Saturday, 1 February 2014

That was quite a month....

Well here we are the 1st Feb - the first month of 2014 has come and gone; and it's been quite a month!!

First of all the church I serve and lead HBC moved into its new accommodation for it's Sunday Mornimg Gatherings - this building is the Chester City Mission building, so not have we moved buildings we are now gathering in the city centre actually within the City Walls of Chester. We are still using the Hoole Lighthouse Centre to host many of our community projects each week but the move has definitely open up some new horizons  and possibilities for mission across the whole city!!

Secondly, I was involved in the annual Fresh Stream National conference, I have written more about this In a previous blog but a few weeks later I am still convinced that there is a role and place within the wider baptist context for a network with a strong emphasis on "Word & Spirit" and a commitment to be missional.

Thirdly, I celebrated 20 years as the minister/leader of HBC; January 1994 at the tender of age of 28 I  became the Pastor of this little baptist church situated on the corner of a street of terrace housing. I certainly had no intention or idea that I would still be here in 2014. God has been so good through the ups and downs, and after 20 years there have been both!!! From a group of 50 adults and kids we are a congregation of over 200 adults  and kids plus we are in partnership with another congregation across the city - it's been quite an adventure and now we enter a new chapter!!!

Then fourthly and finally, it was my 48th birthday. As I draw near to my 5th decade(!) I feel,by the grace of God, this I am I ready to move into this new phase of life and ministry. Sue and I are working close together in leadership & ministry; I feel like we have a plan to develop disciples across the congregation and a renewed vision: Bringing healing, wholeness and freedom to broken lives & communities as we expect great things from God and attempt great things with God. 

I trust that with God the best is still to come and that the people who are HBC really do begin to reach their potential and together we see the Kingdom of God break out in new and powerful ways across our city and region. 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Faith for your City

We now have had our first 2 Sunday Morning Celebrations for HBC in the City Mission building which is within the City Walls of Chester city. On the first Sunday we lit a candle as a symbolic act and this remained lit all morning, (& was lit again for this Sunday). We wanted to declare the truth that we are the "light of the world" and this light is to shine into the darkness of Chester. 

Today I am sat in Starbucks again in the city centre, this morning I have prayer walked the City Walls  and have been reflecting on the sense of significance there is about our relocation for our Sunday gatherings in the city centre of Chester. 

Being together and expressing our sung worship in this new location certainly does add a new sense of perspective as we declare in song " you're the God of this City..."; being in a different building has helped people within the congregation to see how we can express church differently; being in the city centre and not in Hoole has opened up the possibilities of what and how do we do mission as a local congregation.

It's very early days, it's a new adventure for us, one that I hope will prove a catalyst for seeing the "greater things are still to come, greater things are still to be done in the city"  I believe that God has amazing plans and purposes for Chester, I believe that his primary vehicle to accomplish these plans  and purposes is His Church, His people and I belive that HBC as one of the congregations of His church in this city does have a key part to play.

This week I have started the reading plan in the You Version bible app created by Jesus Culture called Faith for your City.  
This is the short description about the reading plan:
Hope is alive! God is raising up a generation of revivalists who are praying for a great move of the Holy Spirit to radically transform their cities. The Scriptures support this hope that God wants to impact entire cities with His powerful love. God wants cities and nations to be saturated in His presence, and we invite you to join us as we encounter what the Bible has to say about city transformation.
For the next 21 days I will be on this journey!!!

Lord lead us in these coming days, weeks and months of 2014 by your Holy Spirit. Open our eyes so we can see Jesus, open our ears and enable us to listen, empower our lives so we can obey you so that your Kingdom is advanced and established here on earth, here in Chester as it is in heaven. Amen