This is my second trip to visit The Crowded House in Sheffield, this time Jo and the boys are with me. We have paid hardly anything for this trip, we are really excited and more than a little bit nervous about three and a half weeks in a foreign country (make that another continent!) with two very busy under fives.
Two planes, two trains, a taxi, a whole lot of waiting, being caught in rush-hour at King’s Cross Station and very little sleep we arrived in Sheffield Tuesday afternoon.
A much needed shower, pizza for supper and a very early night followed! Discovered though that our hosts only drink decaffinated coffee… going to be a rough morning!
Went for a walk in the Sheffield Botanical Gardens Wednesday morning, it was really beautiful and the boys got to run, shout, chase each other and pretend to be bears. This northern industrial city surprises me more every day I spend here.
Wednesday evening the mini-conference that Jo will be mainly attending while I look after the kids began. They call it a house party, but that just conjures up, for me, images of Tim Chester dropping some rhymes while everyone chants “throw your hands up!” Apparently it is acceptably understood by British Christians though….
And our hosts bought us some real coffee… true gospel hospitality
Wednesday evening I did, however, get the opportunity to go to a men’s event with Gavin Peacock (former QPR, Newcastle and Chelsea footballer and TV football pundit), who spoke on Biblical Manhood. Although as you can see from the picture below he was fascinated by my explanation of the 4-3-3 system in the modern game.
“God asked Adam, ‘Where are you?’, the Second Adam stepped up to answer and take responsibility.”
“A man can cry & be afraid but a man cannot whine, complain & blame”
“The call to manhood is not a call to be macho but a call to be mature”
“What is it to be a man and not a woman? A defining question of our culture”
“We’re called to be leaders by virtue of the fact that we’re male. It isn’t a competency issue; it’s a design issue”
“Be watchful, stand firm, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love”. (1 Cor 16:13,14). God’s Word to men”
“Overcoming sin in your life isn’t an effort thing so much has a faith thing.”
“Paul and his team, in their work and relationships, functioned as a ‘church’. As they engaged Jews and Gentiles in evangelism, and some became Christians, a new ‘local church’ grew up around them. The understanding of these new believers would have been shaped, not only by the apostolic message, but also by the apostolic method.”
“They understood what it was to be church by experiencing church at first hand. They had the gospel explained to them and they saw the gospel fleshed out in the lives of the team. The idea of the church as a body was tangible, and the reality of the church as a missionary body was self-evident. Just as a baby is, ideally, born into a family, so too new believers are, ideally, born into a family of faith.”
“In that context, they hear truth spoken, see life lived and absorb cultural values and norms. The benefit of this being a church planting team or new plant is that there will be a freshness and vitality that is often lacking when a church has grown beyond the planting phase and ‘normalised’.”
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“…in our world, it seems as though church planting is the almost exclusive preserve of young men. Men with energy, drive and passion for sure, but men who are often untested and unproved ‘in the field’. If catalytic leadership is an important principle in the planting process, then we should also encourage older men to take up the challenge. Men who have been tried and tested in both life and ministry, passed through the fires of hardship, disappointment and success and so shaped on the anvil of providence.”
“What usually happens though is that such leaders often move to prominent churches and bigger platforms. The cause of church planting around Europe (which is ‘merely’ a means to the end of gospel growth) will be served well when such leaders step out of the relative safety of established ministry and into breaking new ground. This could prove to be a tremendous training opportunity.”
“Imagine the scope and benefit if the older man were to be sent to plant a new church in a new context, and have with him younger, aspiring planters. This would give us the best of both worlds: experience and vigour. It also bears a striking similarity to the Pauline method of training and equipping for pioneer gospel ministry. For too long, formal training has been geared towards placing men in already settled churches. But church planting offers a great opportunity to train leaders in situ, who will then be equipped to lead new initiatives, because they are hard-wired to think beyond maintenance to mission.”
Would I love to be a part of that kind of church plant!
Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … buying from local shops.
Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … frequenting a local coffee shop or pub.
Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … playing for a local sports team.
Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … always tipping generously in local restaurants.
Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … being the kind of neighbour everyone wants to have as a neighbour.
Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … volunteering at a local charity shop along with a couple of others from church.
Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … doing ordinary things in community.
Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … opening your home to, and sharing your food with others.
Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … walking the same route to work at the same time or catching the same train each day.
Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … we do EVERYTHING for the sake of the gospel!
What would you add?
We are hoping to be a part of this conference when we go over to Sheffield in June for a time of refreshing, relationship-building and talking about church-planting.
That is if our struggles with the Department of Home Affairs can be resolved in time… We would value your prayers if you could pray with us for this. Basically we need his amended birth certificate to be completed before we can get his passport before we can buy tickets before we can get visa… and we only have a month and a half left…
Having said that if you are able to get to Sheffield UK over this time this conference will be well worth it. Here is a bit of a blurb from Tim Chester’s blog
Discipleship can easily be forgotten when churches focus on mission. Or it can be reduced to a series of courses and programmes that fail to engage with every day life. The Trinitarian Life: Church and Mission in the Light of the Doctrine of God is a chance to explore the theology and practice of missional church. Together we will explore how we can root discipleship in the life of the Trinity.
How can we encourage one another to know God?
How can we make disciples who make disciples?
How can we shape church life for mission?
Whether you are a church member or in church leadership, this conference will equip you to think though discipleship in light of who God is, enabling our practice to be shaped by our theology.
Speakers: Steve Timmis and Tim Chester
Plus break out sessions lead by church planters within The Crowded House will provide opportunity to interact and discuss issues relevant to your church.
You can find more information here.
“It takes the whole Bible to expound the gospel, so reducing it to three sentences is inadequate. But this summary provides a necessary reference point for considering the question of this post: Jesus, God’s promised Rescuer and Ruler, lived our life and died our death. He rose again in triumphant vindication as the first fruits of the age to come. He brings forgiven sinners together by the Holy Spirit to live as his people, under his gracious reign, as we point to and wait for the New Creation.
To be gospel-centred means that the gospel is not only to be the focal point but also that which sets and sustains the culture of our churches.
Our preaching must be the gospel, the whole gospel, and nothing but the gospel. We don’t preach moralism, sentimentalism, emotionalism, behaviourism, abstentionism, antinomianism or legalism. Whether we’re preaching from a podium or teaching in a living room, to whomever, wherever, whatever the issue – we preach the good news that is Christ.
Prayer and singing are opportunities to rehearse the gospel. It is through both that our affections are excited and we’re reorientated around the gospel, which renews, shapes and directs our hearts.
Don’t let business meetings get hi-jacked into being about protocol or procedure. Meeting times, Bible translations, instruments and coffee brands are all gospel issues.
If the gospel isn’t central, don’t be surprised when our youth jump ship. No matter how “sexy” our meetings, we can’t compete with the world’s sizzle. Youth ministry must faithfully bring the gospel to young people.
What will keep a couple together in 10 years’ time is not a compatibility test, but the gospel. Rehearse the gospel in your marriage preparation; massage it deep into the hearts of your men and women.
Train people in, with and for the gospel. The gospel enables them to disciple others, engage with non-Christians, answer critics, respond to hard questions and cope with disappointment & failure, joy & success.
In pastoral care, take people to the compelling truth of a God who, in Christ, justly forgives sinners. It tells me of my sin and of my Saviour. I no longer have to justify myself. Lying becomes unnecessary, forgiveness a reality, reconciliation a certainty.
Our mission is the gospel! We’re not here for our comfort or renown. The gospel is the unique contribution we make to a fallen world. So whatever other legitimate activities we support (relief, infrastructures, emergency aid), the gospel is that which sets us apart.
To be gospel-centred means that the gospel shapes and defines everything we are and do as God’s people. Which, like so many good and vital things, is a lot easier said than done. But, since when has ease of implementation ever been a necessary criterion.”
1 Peter 2:4-6 speaks of Christian being built into a new temple, through which the presence and the blessing of God are mediated to the world. 2v11-12 spells out a bit more what this presence of God would look like. The presence of God experienced in our lives lived together is such that it demonstrates the truth that it is good to live under the reign of King Jesus. Those who do not believe would (v12) see the goodness of our lives and glorify God. That is the language of salvation.
In this post I want to explore the nature of these good lives lived together. Is this a call to some utopian community? Some kind of exceptional life that most of us can aspire to but seldom reach? Well, yes I guess the Christian life is exceptional but it also very ordinary.
The spheres in which we demonstrate that is good to live under the reign of King Jesus – relating to government & obeying authorities (2v13-17), unjust suffering (perhaps particularly in our daily work) (2v19-20), marriage (3v1-7) and beauty and fashion (3v3). The context in which we demonstrate the presence of God and lives these lives of goodness are very ordinary and commonplace – work, home, country. The roles we play are hardly exceptional – citizen, wife, husband, employee (slave often being more akin to the role of a servant or domestic worker in those times). We are called to show the world that it is good to live under the reign of King Jesus in the very ordinary spheres of everyday life, in the very ordinary roles of everyday life.
This is on one hand exceptionally liberating – anyone can do this. This is not Christianity for the special, the exceptional, the superstar – no this is Christianity for everyone. The call is to live as citizens of the Kingdom in the very ordinary roles and contexts of everyday life.
But the Christian life is far from ordinary it is profoundly counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. Make the king wish all his citizens were Christians (2v13-14). Be the wives every husband desires (3v1-6). Make every slave-owner wish his slaves were Christians (2v18-20). Be the best husbands (3v7). Submit to authority (2v13), honour the king (2v17), love each other deeply (4v8), be good and considerate even when treated unfairly (2v19-21), do not retaliate in rage (2v23), lives of purity and reverence (3v2), radiant inner beauty (3v3-4), considerate (3v7), respectful (3v7) , live in harmony with others (3v8), be sympathetic & compassionate (3v8), repay insult with blessing (3v9), offer hospitality (4v9), not greedy for money but eager to serve (5v2), clothed with humility (5v5), self-controlled (5v8).
Steve Timmis has been known to say his great gospel strategy is to get Christian to be the neighbours everybody wants. Ordinary lives lived in obedience to an exceptional King.
Somehow this has become the unofficial Tim Chester promotion week. I had heard this book was in the pipeline, a follow-up to Total Church. But that was about all… until I stumbled across this promo video
As a sidenote – washing up must be Tim’s favourite analogy or illustration for almost anything. He has even done this talk on “The Theology of Washing up”. Actually a really great talk – well worth a listen.
But I must confess when I stayed with Tim for a few days a couple of years back, I remember trying to figure out where to put all the dishes when you did the washing up… those English kitchens are rather narrow!