Monday, January 25, 2010

The low down on Urban Renewal pt. 1

My next couple of blogs will be giving you the low down on a gathering at Southlands@the Gallery from June 10th - 12th. It's called Urban Renewal - an Acts 13 moment. For some time now Chris and I have been chatting about the fact that most of our conference type events have been either Acts 20 events, where Paul gathered the Ephesians elders together for his last words on shepherding God's flock. These leadership training times have been very helpful, and in many ways are still fruitful where there is a genuine apostle, equipping pastors to be better pastors. More recently there have been some good Acts 15 type gatherings, where Paul and Barnabas met with the leaders in Jerusalem to discourse around theology - in particular the gospel to the Gentiles. We have loved the chance to sharpen one another theologically in these forums, and are needful of the emergence of genuine five-fold teachers to equip the saints to handle God's Word like faithful workmen.

What we have felt is missing though, is an Acts 13 type gathering. Here the church gathered together to worship, to pray, to fast(not so wild about that!) and to wait on the Holy Spirit's leading. The result was a new mission for Paul and Barnabas, which meant the gospel went further and wider, bearing fruit in virgin soil.
That's the heart of Urban Renewal.

So what would be some of the ingredients in the mix? Well firstly, it would be a partnership of prophets and teachers. Acts 13:1"In the church at Antioch were prophets and teachers." This means a rich and diverse gift mix in the team of friends who will partner together for a more fully - orbed expression of church.
Perhaps more important than that though, is a commitment in our gatherings to both the ministry of the Word and the ministry of the Spirit. A marriage of the two. This doesn't just mean that when a teacher gets up to teach they are biblically sound, and when a prophet gets up to prophesy they are Spirit -led. That's easy!
Our desire is for a gathering where prophets would be biblically sound and teachers would be Spirit-led. That's much harder! But its something that we believe God is wanting us to try and model at Urban Renewal. A theologically rich and prophetically weighty gathering.
The church has been far too divided along prophetic and teaching lines. We either have 'teaching churches' that are biblically solid but tending to be a bit sluggish in following the Spirit. Or we have 'prophetic churches' that are wonderfully Spirit-led but hazardous in their handling of scripture. God wants every one of us to have deeper biblical roots and deeper Holy Spirit wells.
So, Urban Renewal is about equipping the church to be biblically strong and prophetically sharp.
Early bird registration will be up and running on the Southlands website by February.
We would love it if you and your church could be there.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Epic of the Cobbler in Corinth

We've started the year here at Southlands with the over-arching theme of 'The Gospel of Multiplication.' "All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing just as it did among you when you first heard of God's grace in all its truth." Col 1:6

As part of this theme, Chris is preaching through the book of Colossians in the morning and I'm doing an evening series on spiritual formation called, 'Grow'. God's intention is that the gospel grows and bears fruit all around the world, and also right here among us. Spiritual formation is really just a clever term for becoming more like Christ and more useful to Him. All of us are called to both.

We can so easily miss the majesty of being used by God everyday, if we have an addiction to the spectacular and the remote. We end up stewarding poorly the good works that God prepared in advance for us to walk in everyday, right here. Scripture says that we are His workmanship. The Greek word is 'poeima'. An epic masterpiece. The thing is though, that our lives often do not feel very epic at all. They possess the rhythm of the all-too-ordinary. They lack the resolution of poetic rhyme or the elevated majesty of the heroic.

Larry Osborne in his book 'The Contrarian's guide to knowing God' brings incredible dignity and validity to what he calls the 'Cobbler in Corinth' - the kind of person who may never have been one of Paul's high impact leaders like Timothy or Titus, but who was transformed by the gospel that Paul preached, stopped visiting the temple prostitutes, began loving his wife in a way unheard of in that time and place, ran his business with scrupulous honesty and opened his house as a meeting place for the Corinthian church. By the grace of God, he grew to be more like Christ and more useful to Him. It may not have been spectacular but it was completely valid and absolutely vital gospel fruit. What makes the Cobbler in Corinth's life an Epic, is that ultimately his poiema plays out as part of God's great Poeima. He, and we, are a part of the unfolding of God's epic masterpiece.

This gives dignity to what may feel like the daily grind of paying mortgages, doing budgets, changing diapers and doing laundry. It gives significance to every decision we make to co-operate with God as He makes us more like Jesus. It strengthens our resolve to keep saying, "Lord, use me," even when we feel used.

John Wimber once said, "We are just change in God's pocket. He can spend us as he pleases."
Am I willing to be spent for God?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sitting in George Tyree's chair

I didn't know George Tyree all that well while he was alive, but I feel like I do now. His wife and family have become like family to me and mine. Miles Tyree, who turns 3 tomorrow, calls my youngest son 'Levi Tyree', and calls me 'Untle'. (his c's are t's).
He has a number of 'Untles' in the church, but I am delighted to be one of them.

I also feel like I know George because Southlanders are always talking about him. They talk about his vintage car, how he hated wearing shorts, and how he was always telling the other elders to iron their shirts.They remember his passionate sermons, and marvel at his gracious and courageous pastoring. Most of all they talk about his praying.
He prayed with relentless faith and unyielding fervor. He wrestled with God like Jacob did.
George's private and public prayer life was possibly the most powerful legacy he left to Southlands Church.

When my family and I came to join Southlands in 2007, I was given George's empty office. He had passed away a few months prior to us coming. The lady who showed me to my new space walked me to the door, showed me around, and then left me with these departing words. "You've sure got big shoes to fill."
It was one of those moments when I wish I had a quicker tongue. If I had, I would have said, "George Tyree has unfillable shoes." Who can even begin to replace the legacy he left to the family he so passionately loved, and the church on which he spent himself. Who would even want to try?

I have since moved offices, but I have kept George's chair. It's a beige, leather, retro one that swivels on a wooden base. Vintage. It probably reminded him of his car. It reminds me of him and his legacy of prayer.
In my journey of recovering a high view of God's Sovereignty, its a reminder to me that this does not mean settling into resigned passivity in prayer. I want to be like Elijah, Jacob and James who all talked about and modeled fervent, effective prayer.

The Hebrews 11 Heroes were commended for their faith, not their flawless theology.
They did seem to understand that God was Sovereign. They died not receiving all that God had promised. (v13)They knew that their ultimate reward was in heaven, and that God's promise to them would be fully realized in the coming generations.(v 39) You don't see them throwing a tantrum because they didn't get everything they believed for this side of heaven.
But they still believed God enough to obey him, saw much fruit here on earth, and were commended for it.
Submission to God certainly did not mean resignation or fatalism to them.
They believed that their faith made a difference to God and their situations, and it certainly did.

For me, prayer is faith with a voice. I want to pray like the Hebrews 11 heroes lived.
Pray with greater expectancy, urgency and tenacity. Pray like it really makes a difference to God.
I want to pray like George Tyree prayed.
I know I can never fill his shoes. No-one ever can. But at least I can sit in his chair.