Overcoming Hurdles

At a conference entitled ‘Missional Leadership’ Rev Anne Calver spoke about how to overcome those hurdles we face as Christian leaders. Below are my notes, reproduced with her permission.

When we face hurdles, our first instinct is to shy away, ignore them or run! Remember the children’s story ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ by Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury? When faced with obstacles they said we can’t go under it, can’t go over it, we’ve got to go through it! In Exodus 3-5, Moses is faced with a big challenge, yet God says ‘I will be with you.’

Encounter – Exodus 3 v3. Moses made a decision to check out the bush that was burning. He chose to encounter God. We too need to choose to encounter God or not.

Who am I? – Ex 3 v11. Moses asked God the question that we too ask. When God commissions us to do a job for Him, all of our life experience comes to the fore. The work God has done in you, He now wants to do through you. Nothing in your life up to this point will be wasted. He has chosen us for a reason.

Suppose I do go? – Ex 3 v13. If I do go, what will actually happen? Moses wanted to know, just as we do. We want it all taped down: the what, why, how, where and who, before we begin. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for trust…

What if…? – Ex 4 v1. These two words hold us back and bring anxiety, the opposite of trust. Our minds race ahead to various scenarios, most of which won’t actually happen. However, if God has set a task for you, it cannot fail. He does not set us up to fail, He brings success to those who are faithful. We must not crush God’s word with fear or insecurity.

Excuses – Ex 4 v10. Moses essentially says ‘you know my baggage and my faults, choose someone else!’ Moses pours out a list of negatives. When tempted to do this, we need to grasp again with confidence that God is in control (v12).

Chosen – Ex 4 v13. Moses is still pleading with God to send someone else, but he was the right man for the job so was chosen by God. However, God graciously gave him his brother, Aaron to work alongside him. He was a support and encourager on their long and difficult journey to free the Israelites from Egypt. Who is alongside you in your work? We are not designed to work alone, we need the body of Christ.

We read in chapter 5 v1 that Moses and Aaron went to Egypt, confronted Pharoah and demanded that the Israelites be set free from slavery. Moses albeit reluctantly at first, overcame his very human hurdles and God granted him success.

During 2017, Rural Ministries are holding 4 day conferences to encourage and build up the church across the UK. Each day contains 4 workshops based on pastoral care being an effective tool to reach people for Christ.

Workshop 1, entitled ‘Why Care?’ asks what the Bible has to say about pastoral care, how we define ‘need’ and identifies some skills and tools which need to be developed in our congregations.

Workshop 2, entitled ‘Building a Community of Carers’ asks how a local church can identify, train and release new people into caring roles across the generations. It also addresses the question of burnout in the busy frontliners of the church.

Workshop 3, entitled ‘Pastoral Care as an Outreach Model’ uses scripture to explore a Biblical model of pastoral care which brings about personal and community transformation.

Workshop 4, entitled ‘Pastoral Care across the Generations’ acknowledges that rural churches are growing and ageing faster than urban churches, putting them at the forefront of tackling the challenges and opportunities of an ageing society. It also looks at how to effectively minister to those who are elderly.

Dates and Locations of Conferences – cost £15

4th February in Huntingdon, 4th March in Taunton, 16th September in Berwickshire, 14th October in Oswestry

To book, go to http://www.ruralministries.org.uk/events

I am currently reading ’Explore’ daily bible notes from ‘The Good Book Company’. I’d like to share the opening days describing one way to check on your spiritual health as the new year begins.

They ask the following questions:

  1. Are you in love with Jesus? (Revelation 2 v1-7, 1 Corinthians 13 v4-7)
  2. Are you grateful for the cross? (1 Timothy 1 v15, Mark 15 v1-39)
  3. Are you excited about your eternal life? (Romans 8 v18-25)
  4. Are you committed to God’s people? (John 15 v9-15, Romans 12 v9-16)
  5. Are you pursuing godliness? (2 Peter 1 v1-8)

Another good question is to ask ‘How healthy is my church spiritually?’ Colossians 3 v5-17 has some pointers on how this may work in practice.

Make a point of encouraging each other regularly, sending notes of thanks to build one another up. Stand shoulder to shoulder as you journey together through this new year.

May you thrive in the new adventure God has for you in 2017.

Life is like running a race – it is a marathon not a sprint.

God plans out our race path, both as individuals and as a church. God’s plans are always good. Jeremiah 29 v11-12 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.


Hebrews 12 v1

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

Hebrews 12 comes after Hebrews 11 – it lists some of the flawed but faithful heroes in the Bible. They were all ordinary people, like you and me, who did extraordinary things for God. It’s amazing is that we are told that they are cheering us on as we run our race!

God gives us strength to do that which He asks of us – Philippians 4 v13 “I can do all things through Christ who give me strength.”

How do we run? By “keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” Hebrews 12 v2

Jesus, the pioneer – He went ahead of us, doing something no one else had ever done before, opening the way to the finishing line of heaven, showing us how to run enduring hardship because of the joy ahead.

Jesus, the perfecter – we are all works in progress, Jesus is perfecting us slowly as we persevere in our faith.

We are called to run both individually and together as a team (church)

Do you know your personal race that God has marked out for you?

Do you know the planned course of your church life together?  What is the specific task for you?

Check out Philippians 3 v13-14

 “And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown’

He replied ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way’”

ONWARDS & UPWARDS with God into 2017

May you be richly blessed this year.


Let your Light Shine

In Matthew 5, Jesus was talking about believers as being salt and light.

Light is the source of all life (Gen 1 v1-3) we need light to help us to see, to make plants grow etc. We have our natural body clock, to be awake in the light and asleep in the dark. In believers, its God’s light that shines, not ours.

In John 9 v 4-5 Jesus said “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world”. Now he is not physically here, we are the light of the world. He described John the Baptiser like “a lamp, burning and shining” (John 5 v35). We need to let people see Jesus shining through us, keep your oil topped up!

Jesus said don’t hide your light – let it shine.

How can we hide our light?

  1. Being quiet when we should speak
  2. Going along with the crowd
  3. Denying the light
  4. Letting sin dim our light
  5. Ignoring the needs of others

The world is full of darkness, we need to shine in dark places. We used to be living in the dark, now we are in the light. That’s good news to share!

Ephesians 5 v 8-10 For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.

We need to fulfil our job description of salt and light – Stop talking about it, show it! Be aware that people are watching you shine (or not!). Let us reflect Jesus, we are ambassadors

Edgar A Guest wrote this (part) poem:
I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear;
And the best of all the preachers are those who live their creeds,
For to see good put in action is what everybody needs.
I soon can learn to do it if you’ll let me see it done;
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true,
But I’d rather get my lesson by observing what you do;
For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give,
But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.

Happy Christmas!

MATTHEW 5 v13 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavour? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

Jesus used everyday things, such as salt and light, to teach deep spiritual truths

What do we use salt for? There are 14,000 uses for salt! Here are a few:

  1. Flavour – imagine crisps without salt? We need to add God’s flavour to the world, such as radiance, joy, security, vitality, beauty, health. We need to be effective witnesses. So add flavour locally – be a school governor, listen to kid’s reading, support the local football team. One small church man working for his town council boldly suggested that they pray at the outset of their council meetings. They agreed and Andy leads the prayers every time they meet.
  2. Preservative – no fridge in those days so salt was used to stop food rotting, to prevent decay or perishing. The world is becoming spiritually decayed, people are perishing. 2 cor 2 v15 “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing”
  3. Purity/cleansing – 2 kings 2 v19-22 Elisha purified the water with salt.
  4. Creates thirst – the gospel points people to Christ, our ‘flavour’ hopefully creates a thirst in others for God.
  5. Healing – I had a tooth out last week and the dentist told me to use a mouthwash of warm water and salt for healing.
  6. Transforms bitterness into sweet – try adding a small quantity of salt to a glass of tonic water, or into bitter tasting coffee – it becomes sweet!
  7. De-icing roads – melts the ice – our flavour will hopefully melt people’s hearts.

The expression “to be worth one’s salt”, which means you’re competent and deserve what you’re earning, is said to have its roots in ancient Rome, where soldiers were sometimes paid in salt or given an allowance to purchase it. The word salary is derived from the Latin “salarium,” which originally referred to a soldier’s allowance to buy salt.

Sodium Chloride is a stable compound. In Jesus time, salt was often corrupted by being mixed with small stones, making it an unstable. If it got damp and the salt evaporated, just gravel was left and used for pavements. eg v13.

Don’t lose your God flavour!  Stay close to Jesus

On monday, we held our annual Small Church day conference. Part of the day was spent hearing from Amie Buhari about how to keep our young people in the church. Amie is the Director and Founder of The Hebe Foundation http://www.thehebefoundation.org.uk (a Christian charity) who work with young people. They are funded so can help small churches to engage with projects for young people without money being a major issue. Here is some of the useful advice she gave us:

  1. Identify their gifts and talents
  2. YP must have the trust of the leaders
  3. Pray for the YP
  4. Get them involved
  5. Allow them to express their faith through music, art etc
  6. Let them do a presentation to the church about issues they are passionate about
  7. Invest in the YP – time and money etc
  8. Identify the emerging leaders. Mentor them, train them
  9. Every diaconate should have a person under 25 yrs old on the team
  10. The leadership need to be willing to take risks with YP and to learn from them
  • Give YP responsibility eg set up and serve communion, preach, lead worship etc
  • Listen to their ideas.
  • Be aware of life transitions – junior to secondary school, school to college, college to uni, uni to work (FUSION very helpful)
  • Spend time with YP, listen, be relational, be real and up with life issues
  • Church needs to be a safe place of trust, a place they can talk about depression, self harming etc
  • Be missional – make faith relevant to them, tell them what God is doing in the world not just in the UK.