honouring

Those of you who have read previous bloggages of mine may get the impression that I am not the greatest advocate of our current government’s policies and approach. You may well be correct. I did not greet yesterday’s news that Boris Johnson has been elected as leader of the Conservative Party (and hence going to be the new Prime Minister*) with any sense of joy.

And now I am torn. Because although my political views are at odds with our government there is also a strong mandate in the Bible for Christians to pray for those in government and, so far as there is no conflict with my faith, to remain a good citizen of my country, I can do that. Heaven knows that our country is greatly in need of those prayers!

And I have to accept that, however much I disagree with the current government and however much I am astonished or dismayed at the choice of the new Prime Minister, I am supposed to honour them.

Really.

1 Peter 2:17: “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor.”

This picture is about honour – the paper is ‘on her’. (Yes, I can hear you groaning!)

Honour is difficult. It is often something that we feel should be deserved or earnt. But in the Bible it is (usually relating to God, but also to parents and others) something that is due because of who the person is and the role they fulfil.

So if I am meant to honour the emperor, what does that mean? I think it means that I am to honour the office, the role, and the task. It means that I should be respectful of those who have the incredibly difficult job of leading this fractured country, whether or not I support their policies. It means that I should be praying for them, especially if I disagree with them. And it means I will try not to make derogatory comments on social media, or ‘liking them’ no matter how much I may agree with them or find them amusing. To do so dishonours those who are our leaders.

But let’s be clear about this: praying for and honouring does not mean endorsing. Being a good citizen does not mean acquiescing when I believe that something is wrong. Doing those things does not mean that I support the government. It does not mean that I cannot protest against injustice and campaign for the poor and marginalised. It does not mean I can’t write to my MP about issues that concern me (I am not sure whether I am on his blacklist now after all the letters I have written).

So don’t expect me to keep quiet about what I believe is wrong, but do expect me to be respectful, prayerful and honouring in the process.

Be blessed, be a blessing

*Rant warning: please can we remember that Prime Minister is two words. It irritates me no end when it is reduced to Pry-Minister by lazy reporters on the telly. Harrumph.

delegation

What happens if you just ask someone to buy you a mouse...
What happens if you just ask someone to buy you a mouse…

Delegating is difficult. If we ask someone to do something we need to make sure that we provide them with the resources to do it, that they have the skills and ability needed to do it, and that they will be able to complete the task within the time scale needed. And there’s the distinct likelihood that the person to whom a task has been delegated will do things differently to the way we would have done it. Delegation requires a degree of oversight, encouragement and support and the temptation can be to do things ourselves because it can take a lot of effort to delegate successfully.

But if we don’t delegate we limit what can be achieved to our own skills and ability, resources and available time. And we also deprive someone else of the opportunity to contribute and to have a sense of accomplishment at the end of it. We limit what can happen to the limits of our own imagination.

Recently I asked someone to design something for our church. I gave a working idea to them, parameters for the design and asked them to produce something. I am so glad I did that rather than trying to do it myself. What they have produced is way beyond anything I would have conceived. It’s brilliant.

The outcome is not only that the church will have something new and special to offer people who are newcomers, not only that I have had the opportunity to thank someone and that it has used someone’s gifts, but also that they have had the chance to use their amazing gifts as an act of worship.

Delegating is not easy. It can be risky. But I suspect that many of the occasions when I have delegated and it has not gone well it is perhaps more down to me not delegating well and failing to support / oversee helpfully rather than failure on the part of the person to whom I have delegated.

Of course Jesus has taken the risk of delegating the task of telling people the good news about him to us, the church. He offers support, encouragement, advice and enhances our gifts through his Spirit…

Be blessed, be a blessing

Pontificating

Pope John Paul II monumentSo, that one caught us all by surprise didn’t it? I did not hear of anyone who was claiming credit for predicting that the Pope would be resigning yesterday, nor that he would announce his resignation in Latin! I don’t want to get too side-tracked by this, but I wondered what the Latin word for ‘resign’ is… Google Translate tells me it is ‘abdicare’, which makes sense. It certainly sounds better than ‘concludicus’, which was my guess.

As a non-Catholic I watched yesterday’s news reporting about Pope Benedict’s resignation with a certain amount of detachment. When we are told that our country is increasingly a secular society, the resignation of the Pope might be expected to be lower down the running order in the news. According to the BBC website there are apparently about 5 million Catholics in this country, although less than 1 million of them seem to attend Mass regularly – about 1.5% of the population. There are apparently over 1 billion Catholics on the planet, which makes them a much higher percentage of the world population (15% or so) so I guess in terms of the impact of the news on a significant number of people it is newsworthy*.

I first came across the news on social media and I wondered initially whether it was a joke. Then I wondered if the Pope had been tweeting and the predictive text on his phone had sent the wrong message. But it soon became clear that this is indeed happening. In two weeks’ time he will be an Ex-Benedict.

Because this has not happened for hundreds of years there are many questions: will we have to come up with new language to describe him –  will he be ‘expontificus’? Will he be like US Presidents and still keep the title even though he is no longer in office? Will he retain the name ‘Benedict’ or revert to Razinger?Where will he be living? What are his plans for retirement (I can’t imagine him playing golf)? And how will his successor cope as pope knowing that it is possible that people will go and ask the former pope what he thinks of any controversial plans?

But I think the thing that was most significant for me was when a reporter told a Catholic woman in the street outside a Catholic Cathedral and she was visibly shocked. It is the ordinary people in the street and the pews who have looked to the Pope for vision and leadership who will perhaps be most affected by this. On a much smaller scale, I imagine it is a bit like when a minister or vicar announces to their church that they are leaving to go to a new church, or retiring unexpectedly. The people in the pew are affected by a change in leadership, but need to be reassured that God’s plan and purpose does not depend on any particular leader.

In our evening services at the moment we are exploring the early chapters of Acts: the beginning of the Church (used in it’s correct sense here); the moments when Peter started to fulfil the commission Jesus gave him (and which Popes claim to receive in direct succession from him as Bishop of Rome). The book title is often ‘The Acts of the Apostles’, which puts a lot of focus on these fallible people who seemed at times to be making it up as they went along. I think that it should be called ‘The Acts of God’, which then reassures us that God had a plan and we can be amused, delighted, impressed and inspired at how God helped the Apostles to work out what he wanted them to do.

The Acts of God are still being written today. Leaders will come and leaders will go, but Jesus remains the same and the Church that bears his name will remain. God’s plan will still be fulfilled through it. Our task as leaders is, with God’s help, to try to help the individual people on the street and in the pew to fulfil their part in God’s mission calling – so that we can all be good free samples of Jesus wherever we are – Colchester, Daventry (not sure where that came from in my subconscious!), Croatia, Vatican City… we all have the same mission calling regardless of what we do and who we are, regardless of whether we are active in employment or have announced that we are abdicandae.

Be blessed, be a blessing

*and yes there was still some sloppy reporting of what was happening to ‘the Church’, assuming that it was all Christians, rather than ‘Roman Catholic Church’. This is something that is commonplace and will probably continue to happen, but I am making a small Reformation-style protest about it here [sfx: sound of hammering a nail into a door].

two weeks

CalendárioToday marks the end of the second week of my sabbatical leave. I am pleased with how things are going. I am ahead of schedule in my reading and am getting some helpful responses to my enquiries about growing churches. Next week I hope to sift the data coming back and start to arrange some visits.

In my sabbatical reading so far I have come across a number of very helpful and pertinent passages. Some relate to me and my faith, some relate to me as a church leader and some relate to our church. One of my tasks is to sift these prayerfully and try to discern which are more relevant at this time than others. I have decided to post some of the things I have discovered so far here and offer you the opportunity to comment on them too:

I am too busy if I lack time or space to be with God, or I justify not doing so by reference to all the things I have to do for him.

God intends churches to grow. But numerical growth is more than just attendance at Sunday Services – it’s about making disciples.

If God intends churches to grow we should be asking what we are doing that is hindering that growth.

Leadership is about influence, not position. If nobody is following you you are not a leader.

“Churches with money problems often actually have a vision problem.” (Rick Warren)

Goodness is more contagious than evil.

Laughter is more infectious than grumpiness.

Open-ended communication (perhaps through creative arts) can leave space for God to speak creatively.

What do you think?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

 

A little girl pointed to the dusty Bible on the shelf.

“Whose book is that?” she asked her mother.

Her mother quite startled by her daughters question replied, “Why honey, don’t you know? That is God’s book!”

The child demonstrating that she had a very practical turn to her mind said, “Don’t you think that we had better give it back to him? No one around here ever reads it.”