I spent last weekend at Ashburnham Place on retreat as part of my training towards Licensed Lay Ministry. This was different to the other training sessions I have attended as part of the course in that there was no teaching as such, nor was the subject matter geared towards any sort of assignment. Instead, it was more of a guided retreat with plenty of hanging around doing nothing time for prayer and reflection.

On the first evening, we were read the children’s story “Jane and the Dragon”. The general gist is that Jane – a child being trained to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a lady-in-waiting wants to become a Knight. She tells everyone about her dream to become a Knight but she’s laughed at and told that little girls don’t become Knights. They become ladies-in-waiting. No-one took her seriously. Except the Jester. He let Jane into his secret – he once wanted to be a Knight too, and was told he was too small. And he even had a suit of armour that fitted Jane perfectly. He gave it to her so she can fulfil her dream and the opportunity soon arose when a dragon kidnapped the prince and Jane was able to rescue him, and become friends with the aforementioned dragon in the process. She proved to everyone she is capable of being a Knight and gets to live out her dream.

We were encouraged to reflect on what that story meant to us, and to think about our dreams in the context of our training towards licensed ministry. In small groups we shared what particularly stood out for us in the story, and interestingly in my group we had each focussed on different aspects. For me, it was that Jane’s dream only became a reality because she allowed herself to be vulnerable and tell everyone about it. And it was the least likely person (the jester) who was able to give her the confidence and resources to fulfill her dream.

How can we be more courageous to share our dreams and visions with others, and act on them so that they might become a reality? How might we encourage others to talk about their dreams?

During the weekend, we each had a one-to-one conversation/interview with our bishop, and that was a great opportunity to talk about what might be our God-given dreams (cf Joel 2:28) as lay ministers.

I remembered a quote by Laurence of Arabia I heard from this year’s Vineyard National Leaders Conference (which was incidentally given the theme “Dangerous Dreamers”):

All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.

Photo credit: Rachel. Reproduced under Creative Commons Licence

Does the Church need defragging?

Windows defrag process

As a smug Mac user for the last decade, memories of needing to defrag Windows PC hard drives are, thankfully, well in the past. For the uninitiated, PCs don’t always store data on hard drives in the tidiest way, and over time this can cause the computer to slow down and not run efficiently. ‘Defragging’ the hard drive attempts to tidy it up so the PC runs more smoothly and quickly.

Leonard Sweet, in his foreword to Alan Hirsch’s book ‘The Forgotten Ways,’ opines that the Church is in serious need of ‘defragging’:

Christianity has undergone untold crashes and clashes in the past two thousand years. In the last five hundred years its original hard drive has wiped out so many times, especially in the West, that it has almost ground to a halt.

The computer geek in me gets the analogy. Sometimes the untidy mess of our church structures, programmes, roots, buildings, finances etc slows us down to the extent that we struggle to do the most basic functions. Sweet goes on to suggest that, as a computer being ‘defragged’ means it can’t be used for any other purpose, so the church may need to stop doing things whilst the mess is sorted out.

I like that concept, and am interested to discover whether this book “has provided twenty-first-century Christianity with the best defragger available”.

Image: © Everett
Reproduced under Creative Commons licence

Footprints on a beach

Walk in the way of love

This morning, I preached at Pip & Jim’s morning services. We’re currently working through Ephesians, and I was speaking on 4:17 – 5:2 – the section headed “Instructions for Christian Living”.

I was focussing on how St Paul balances rebuking the Church in Ephesus for living like the Gentiles with making sure they know about the love of Jesus, and I reflected on how the Church today is often much better at telling people off than sharing Jesus’ love.

I introduced the congregation to the ‘bounded set’ and ‘centred set’ models of church, and challenged people to consider how they might ‘walk in the way of love’ (Ephesians 5:2) to bring the transformation Jesus offers to their communities.

The book ‘Both-and‘ by Rich Nathan was helpful in my preparation.

Download the audio recording and the Keynote slides.

Definition of Worship

What is public worship

As part of my training for Licensed Lay Ministry, I’ve been considering what defines public worship, and how worship relates to mission, growth and pastoral care.

I wrote an essay exploring this issue further which you can read below, or download as a PDF.

Let’s start a conversation…What do you think? Are there other key characteristics? Does worship have a link to other aspects of church/Christian life?

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