doing things properly

One of the things that has occupied a lot of my thinking recently is our EBA Gatherings. These are opportunities for us to get together from across the Association. (In case you were unaware the first one takes place in the Southern Sector this Saturday at Romford Baptist Church. You can find out details about all of them here – it’s not too late to decide to come!)

This year we are holding three Gatherings across the Association rather than one Assembly. We have started doing this in alternate years in order to seek to involve as many people as possible. Doing things this way allows us to develop different but complementary themes – “Rejoicing in the Gospel” and “Pass It On!” – which will be explored in different ways. It allows for the involvement of far more people in the planning and delivery of the events. This is also partly a response to geography: our Association covers about 6,500 square miles, so travelling to one venue for the Assembly, wherever it is, means that some people have to travel a long way. Having three Gatherings means that people don’t have to travel so far.

I believe that these will be wonderful events that will be a blessing to all who attend. We are immensely grateful to the churches who are hosting us and to everyone who is contributing in some way.

But there’s a niggling thought in my mind that feels that we are not ‘doing things properly’ by doing this. And I am not sure I can put my finger on why that is. It might be to do with not fully expressing our unity as an Association: you might suggest that this Trinitarian way of working reflects our experience of God but we are not God and this way of working does reveal more about our three-ness more than our one-ness. It might be to do with us not having a common experience. It might simply be that organising one event is easier than organising three. Or maybe it’s that we have not only done it this way once before and last time it looked very different.

I know from my conversations with some of you that this is also something with which local churches are wrestling. With the advent of things like Messy Church, Café-style services and other expressions of church within the wide circle of church life new congregations are emerging. Similarly there are some churches that have a thriving midweek youth or children’s work but see very few of them in attendance on a Sunday morning. And we try to work out whether these are routes for people to follow to join in with mainstream church life or whether they are ‘church’ in themselves. And part of what lies behind that wrestling is wondering whether we are ‘doing things properly’.

I’m not offering a definitive answer to that as it will vary from church to church. But I wonder whether a part of the answer to my niggles about the three sector Gatherings and the local churches wrestling with different expressions of church / congregations is the same – perhaps we should ask what those who attend think it is! There’s a danger that when those who are used to a more traditional way of doing things try to define the way things should be done we revert to our comfort zones and thus stifle what God is trying to do – in effect we tell him that he can’t do things that way. I think Jesus preferred to allow those he was reaching out to on the margins of life to define what ‘it’ was: he met them where they were and almost seemed to improvise (temporary) community in response to them.

So the Samaritan woman at the well, for example, finds herself in conversation with a male Jewish stranger – a conversation that leads to her becoming an evangelist and Jesus and his friends staying in the town for an extra few days. The joyful entourage on the way into Jericho finds that the star of the show leaves the party in order to eat with the collaborating, thieving tax collector Zacchaeus and as a result there is spiritual, social and economic renewal. A leaders retreat for Jesus and his disciples becomes a feeding frenzy of healing, teaching, loaves and fishes for 5,000+ people… I hope you get my point. Because it seems to me that what wound Jesus up more than anything was religious people telling him that things had to be done in a particular way. And I would rather not wind him up.locked

Perhaps we need to be less worried about whether we are ‘doing things properly’ and instead allow Jesus to improvise community with us: joining in joyfully with what he is doing.

called to be mundane



The Bible covers a period of about 2000 years, if you start with Abraham. I am not going to go into a discussion about Creation vs Evolution here (partly because I think it is a non-argument). But given that it lasts for about 2000 years and that it contains about 788,000 words on average that only gives 394 words for each year. But because lots of words are devoted to spectacular events most of the 2000 years don’t have anything written about them at all.

The Bible is the record of God’s engagement with people like us, and records many extraordinary amazing moments. But there are lots and lots of gaps. We have records of lots of things that Jesus said and did in the last three years before his crucifixion, but virtually nothing about the first 30 years and even the records of the last three years are not complete records of everything that happened. John comments at the end of his gospel: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

But if they were all written down, every second of those three years, there would be a lot of ordinary life. The Bible tells us of the extraordinary, but we forget that life is not generally extraordinary. Most of the time it is ordinary, mundane, even boring. And (forgive me if you find this heretical) most of Jesus’ life was ordinary, mundane, even boring. Not the bits we find in the gospels but the bits they missed out:

Jesus’ Mum sent him to the market and to buy some bread.

Jesus made a chair in the carpenter’s workshop

Jesus slept.

Jesus and his friends had a barbecue where they told each other funny jokes.

He was just as much God’s son then as when he was preaching on a mountainside, or when he was in Gethsemane, or even when he appeared to his disciples after his resurrection.

We are all called to live out our faith in the ordinary, everyday, mundane. Few of us will encounter God in a burning bush, but we can all encounter him in the kindness of a friend. Not many of us will be invited to walk across a lake, but we can all cross the road to speak to someone. Few of us will have our packed lunch shared by a crowd, but all of us can be grateful to God for the food we have and share what we have with others. Few of us will see Jesus transfigured on top of a mountain, but all of us can see him in the faces of the people next to us on the bus.

It seems to me that so-called ‘reality TV’ is based on ordinary people trying to be extraordinary. So they may do extravagant or outrageous things to get the attention of the cameras. They may do things they would not normally do in order to be broadcast. If you ask a group of children what they want to be when they grow up you could summarise a lot of the answers with one word: “Famous!”

But we are called to be faithful followers of Jesus in the ordinary. We are not called to be outrageous or extravagant except with God’s love, grace and forgiveness.

And I think the same is true for churches. From time to time (and don’t ask me why) God does something extraordinary in a church. And Christians flock to that place so that they might get some of that for themselves, so that their church might be supercharged and spectacular.

But I have a nagging feeling that this response causes God to do a divine face-plant: “Don’t they realise that I work through the ordinary, faithful, loving, mundane as much (or perhaps more) than through the spectacular?”

Live out your life as a follower of Jesus in your normal life and find him in the ‘ordinary’, the everyday, the mundane, the boring. He’s there just as much as in the amazing. You are God’s child where you are, and he loves you.

Be blessed, be a blessing.