subtle segues*

One of the things we tried for the first time on your recent holiday was riding a Segway. In case you’re not sure what they are, essentially they are a platform on which you stand with a wheel either side and a handlebar to steer with. Now that’s not really doing justice to them as it could also describe a scooter! In a Segway there are gyroscopes and computers and motors and batteries that do all sorts of very clever things to enable you to control them with subtle movements of your body.

To go forwards you lean forwards. To go faster forwards you lean further forwards. To slow down you lean less forwards. To brake (when going forwards) you lean back. To reverse (from stationary) you lean backwards. To go back faster you lean backwards further. To slow down (when going backwards) you lean forwards. To steer to the left you move the handlebar to the left. To turn to the right you move the handlebar to the right. To turn more sharply you turn the handlebar further. To stay still you stand upright.

Simple!

Actually although it may sound complicated when written down like that it is relatively easy to learn to do and very quickly becomes intuitive: you don’t think about doing it you just do it naturally.

seb

If you are ever in Devon I highly recommend that you visit Go-Segway where we received excellent three stage training and then enjoyed a great tour through Haldon Forest. It was brilliant. Even those who, before we started, were really nervous about it (especially fearing falling off) enjoyed it and by the end were confident in what they were doing. I was very impressed with the instruction – it was simple, comprehensive and the instructor took time to learn everyone’s names (14 in the group) and talked to us as we were learning to take our minds off thinking about what we were doing (it’s best when it’s intuitive).

And this is where I subtly segue* from Segways to a thought about them. The thought, like riding a Segway, is simple but there’s a lot going on under the surface. And that’s the thought. Riding a Segway is simple because of all of the complicated things going on underneath your feet. You don’t have to worry about what is going on and you don’t have to know about how all of the gyroscopes and computers and motors and batteries are working together. All you have to do is step on (and you learn this in the training) and let the Segway do its thing. I think it’s called ‘faith’.

It’s the same with God. You don’t have to understand the Trinity, the Incarnation, or any of the other detailed doctrines that try to explain the mysteries of how we can get to know him. All you have to do is step on and let him do his thing.

Of course, if you want, you can learn about how a Segway works, you can understand the complex mathematics and physics and engineering, you can be trained to maintain them and you can become an instructor. But that’s not essential for riding a Segway. And you can learn lots about Christian theology and doctrine, but, (takes a deep breath and prepares for barrage of stone-throwing) you don’t need to learn lots about Christian theology and doctrine to be a follower of Jesus.

One of the errors that I have made as a Minister is that I have sometimes equated ‘knowledge’ with ‘discipleship’. Growing deeper in your relationship with Jesus is not about learning more knowledge. You can be the most knowledgeable person in the world about him – he could be your specialist subject in Mastermind – but if you are not getting to know him more and allowing his Spirit deeper into your life then that’s not discipleship. How do you get to know him more and allow his Spirit deeper into your life? It’s actually quite simple and intuitive: you talk with him more (it’s called praying). You make conscious decisions to include him in what you are doing. You chat to him during the day. You actively invite his Spirit to accompany you. You make a decision to be full of his Spirit. And, (segue back to Segways) like riding a Segway, when you start off you will be thinking about these things and remembering to do them, but after a while they become intuitive and you find that they are a part of your everyday life, and following Jesus becomes less of an academic exercise and more of a relationship that deepens.

And like riding a Segway once you have got beyond the ‘thinking about it’ stage to the ‘doing it intuitively’ stage you can really go for it!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*Yes, that’s how you spell ‘segway’ when it’s a linguistic term to describe a link from one thing to another

scaling new heights

So this morning we have really joined the digital age. Because of the large number of internet-connected devices in our home our broadband connection was running really slowly. There were various correlations but the most significant was that the speed of connection was inversely proportional to the waking hours of our teenage offspring.

Hence the conversion to Fibre Optic Broadband. I thought that it would involve diggers digging holes in the road, a trench being dug through our garden and holes drilled in walls. Instead a nice man came in, having done the work at the green box at the end of the road, did a bit of disconnecting and reconnecting, and I was almost ready to go. Following instructions in the booklet that came from our supplier was easy, and after waiting for a couple of minutes… tadaaa. Superfast broadband (at least until the teenagers wake up!).

This quick conversion is in marked contrast to the way in which most people come to faith. It seems that so much attention is paid to the ‘moment’ of conversion – when someone makes a decision to follow Jesus or realises that they are a follower – that we neglect all that goes before and much that comes after.

engel scale

James F Engel’s famous eponymous scale reminds us that the ‘moment’ is only one part of the journey of faith. An amended version is here:

I have been reflecting on this in preparation for Sunday morning, and wondered where the people who will be in church are currently located on the scale. I hope and pray that they are moving upwards, wherever they currently are, and hope and pray that we as a church are helping them in that process.

It’s a real challenge. We want to be helpful, we want to be supportive, we want to assist people in their following of Jesus (or ‘discipleship’ in Christian jargon) but that can sometimes be reduced to attending a course, or reading a book, or ticking a box. I reckon the best way of ‘discipling’ someone is a group of friends together who encourage one another, who support one another, who pray for one another. If there are particular issues or questions they can ask someone who might know. But it doesn’t need structure so much as a loving mutual responsibility.

Or am I being naive?

Be blessed, be a blessing.