This post is quite personal and a bit self-indulgent, but it is genuine and heartfelt. I’m 66 years old and have been a Christian for 56 years, so you’d think I’d have got this sorted out by now! I hope it will encourage you to look at your own life and aspirations, and if nothing else, to read a great book. I hope no-one is offended by my candour-please do try to read all the way to the end…
Sometimes hearing from God can be painfully healing.
I wallow far too frequently in a sort of “if only” state, where I think about how things might have been, what I might have been, if it wasn’t for decisions good and bad that I’ve made, or, worse because of the ways people who should know better have treated me. So many of the people I grew up with have gone on to be ‘somebody’, making a difference to peoples’ lives, writing books, founding organisations…the list could go on.
Don’t get me wrong…I truly rejoice and thank God for the way these people are prospering, and the influence for good and for Jesus they are having on others…just this morning I listened to the first song release by “Social Beingz’ and remembered what a pain Josh Green was in his growing up years and marvelled at the way God has turned his life around and was genuinely thankful. And that repeats for so many others.
It makes me wonder…have I been such an awful Christian, such a fake and sham that it sometimes feels as if all I’m good for is to be buried in an ageing, shrinking church at the forgotten end of England.
And then, God spoke…
He spoke through two books…hardly surprising when he knows how much I enjoy reading and how much the things I read make me think and change.
At present I’m using “The Message//Remix:Solo” during the time each day I set aside to intentionally spend time with God. Today I practiced Lectio Divina (some call it ‘Resting in the word’) with Matthew 15:1-14. The bit that stood out to me was:
“These people make a big show of saying the right thing,
but their heart isn’t in it.
They act like they’re worshiping me,
but they don’t mean it.
They just use me as a cover
for teaching whatever suits their fancy.”
Was this me? I had to ask myself this difficult question. It’s true that I get easily discouraged, that my heart isn’t always in it, but I found I could say I do love Jesus, I do want to live for him and to reflect: “goodness and greatness, growth and success through the lens of the life and teachings of Jesus”.
That quote is from Chapter 7 (hence the post title) of the second book that God is using to speak some sense into me!
Back in the days when I was helping to pioneer the work of The Message in Manchester alongside Andy and Simon Hawthorne one of the churches I had a bit to do with was Mount Chapel, in Salford. I also enjoyed the worship music of a band from there called “Heat”.
Chris Lane was part of both of those. I became aware of him more recently through some Facebook posts from my friend Paul Keeble, so I checked him out and found he’d written a book.
The book is about the history and life of a church in Salford called Langworthy Community Church, a church in which eating together has become a key part of everything that goes on. I’ve been thinking about the centrality of meals in Jesus life and ministry, and what that ought to mean to us, so I was drawn in.
The book is called, “Ordinary Miracles-mess, meals and meeting Jesus in unexpected places”.
I’ve been enjoying the practical, down-to-earth (should that be ‘incarnational’?) nature of the book…this morning I read chapter 7, from which the above quote is taken.
In Chapter 7, Chris takes a penetratingly personal look at the allure of the cult of celebrity in Christian ministry; so easy to be drawn into, and so destructive in our view of our own worth and significance if we’re not careful.
He talks about small in a world of ‘mega’, hiddenness in a world of celebrity and slow and steady in a world of fast and instant. He reminds us that Jesus died alone and obscure after just three years in the public eye in an occupied backwater…and yet…
He talks about how Christian leadership “needs a huge overhaul”.
I have been taken in too. I have wasted time, talent and tears on trying to emulate others, to get recognition for what I’ve done, to be a ‘somebody’. I’ve failed time and time again, and have shrunk in confidence and as a person as a result.
I need to accept that the person I am becoming with God’s help is good enough. Thanks Chris, you’ve really helped and encouraged me to see things differently!
And by the way, that “ageing, shrinking church” is full of people I love, and has a part to play in what God is doing in Berwick and I want to be part of that. My recent wider involvement with the Northern Baptist Association leads me to believe that in God’s eyes the North East is far from the “forgotten end of England” too…all around the Missio Dei is going on and we are slowly but steadily waking up to it and joining in.
I’ll leave you with one among many quotable quotes from chapter 7:
“I’m part of a generation who were taught to look for the Big Bang, to pray for revival, to change the world, to make a bucket list and do it all on our gap years, to live life to the max – to be outstanding and exceptional and be the best – but by definition only a tiny number of people will be outstanding. The rest of us need to get on with being ourselves, loving the people who we come into contact with, serving others, not waiting for our big break but getting on with living as ordinary people in ordinary time, believing in an extraordinary God.”
“The Message//Remix: Solo” by Eugene Peterson, Published by Nav Press ISBN-10: 1600061052 ISBN-13: 978-1600061059
“Ordinary Miracles: Mess, Meals and Meeting Jesus in Unexpected Places” by Chris Lane, Published by Instant Apostle ISBN-10: 1909728764 ISBN-13: 978-1909728769