When life on mission sucks.

‘This blog series is based on one idea from the sermon each week. This week’s blog is written by Pete Rennie. It’s based on the sermon ‘Corinth’ which you can listen to here: https://soundcloud.com/livinghopeinverness/corinth-acts-181-17′

At Living Hope Church, we are passionate about being a family of everyday missionaries. Why? Because the gospel is good news, and good news is to be shared. As Christians we are called to give our lives away so that others might come to know Jesus, and to grow in Jesus. That’s what it means to live on mission.

And sometimes life on mission is exhilarating. You have great conversations with an unbelieving colleague. You see someone believe in Jesus. You walk with your friend as they grow in their relationship with Christ.

But sometimes life on mission sucks. The people you know have no interest whatsoever in Jesus. You are kept at arms length because of your faith. You watch as someone you care for walks away from the church.

There are times when the ups and downs of life on mission takes it toll and it feels more hassle than it’s worth. We question if it’s really worth it? We wonder if there’s really any point? The temptation is to privatise our faith – to keep ourselves, and our faith, to ourselves. So what do we do in those moments?

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In Acts 18, we find Paul in Corinth facing that same issue. He’s travelled over 1500 miles in 18 months. He’s been chased from town to town by a baying mob. He’s arrived, alone, in a city of 250,000 people. When he lives on mission he is rejected yet again; dragged before the Roman tribunal. He’s asking if life on mission is really worth it? He’s tempted to go silent and privatise his faith. I’m sure he was dreaming of finding a quiet, peaceful place where he could make some tents to pay the bills.

But just as Paul is ready to quit, Jesus speaks. When we’re tempted to swap a life on mission for a private faith we need to hear the voice of Jesus. He says two things:

1 – I am with you. 

Jesus encourages Paul to keep on speaking because He is with Him. When Jesus is with us, we don’t need to be silent because we fear other people. As Christians, we have been united with Jesus; by faith, His life is our life, His death is our death. God is fully pleased with us and therefore, we don’t need to privatise our faith because we fear what other people think of us.

2 – I have more people.

Jesus encourages Paul to keep going because He still has other people in Corinth. God is on a mission to gather a people for Himself and that mission isn’t complete. As Christians, we are the agents of that mission. Through us, God is seeking and saving lost people and He still has more to save.

When life on mission sucks, when you’re ready to pack it all in for a quiet life of ease, hear the voice of Jesus saying to you: “I am with you and I have more people, so keep going.”

 

 

 

 

 

Do we really want revival?

The latest ‘Sons of Blunder’ podcast was recorded yesterday; it’ll be released soon. In it, we discuss how to re-evangelise the Highlands and during the conversation the subject of revival came up. It got me thinking, what would revival actually look like? And do we really want it?

What is revival?

JI Packer describes revival as “God touching minds and hearts in an arresting, devastating, exalting way, to draw them to himself. It is the God accelerating, intensifying and extending work of grace that goes on in every Christian’s life.” Revival is an extraordinary move of God’s Spirit that causes us to pursue God above everything else.

In the Highlands revival is something Christians say they are desperate to see. Previous generations have experienced it; most recently in Lewis in the 1949-1953 but there’s lots of others you can read about in Tom Lennie’s excellent book ‘Glory in the Glens’. For Highland Christians, revival is thought of like the bath after a day in the mountains; the cup of tea on the couch after a long, hard day at work. It’s a time of refreshing on weary people and the truth is we’re tired out, the ground is dry so we want the Lord pour out His Spirit and revive us again.

Everyone seems to want revival but have we ever stopped to considered what it would mean? I can think of 3 things:

1 – Revival means change.

When God’s Spirit falls, people outside of the Church come to faith. The Spirit gives spiritual life to people that don’t have any spiritual life in them. If revival came, people would start asking questions about God, church buildings would be fuller, baptisms would be more regular. But the Spirit isn’t just after converts, He makes disciples, so if revival came our churches would need to teach people to follow Jesus. Just like a family changes when a baby is born, church families change when people are reborn.

So if God brings revival, then our cosy little families would need to change. We’d have to answer ‘How do we disciple all these people?’ Our existing structures wouldn’t be enough to make disciples of lots of new believers. Revival would mean new wineskins for new wine. Our well established home groups would need to be split to make room for more people. Our weekly conversations with the same people would need to be sacrificed to talk to new people. We might even need to let someone else sit in ‘our’ seat. If God’s Spirit moved powerfully today our nice little church would change.

Do you still want revival?

2 – Revival means confession.

When God’s Spirit falls, people confess their sin. The Spirit convicts us of sin and gives us power to repent. If revival came people would become painfully aware of their imperfections and put their trust in Jesus’ perfection. But here’s the thing – the Spirit doesn’t just call people outside the church to repent, He also calls Christians to repent because we’re also sinners.

It’s often said that ‘revival begins with us’ but do we actually think about what that means? If that’s true, then it means that revival begins as we confess our sin and put our trust in Jesus. Revival begins when we become so painfully aware of our rebellion against God that we bring it to light, that let other people see it. Imagine what that would mean? People who have known each other for years revealing the deepest and darkest parts of their hearts. Secret struggles they’ve had for years becoming public. Revival would mean us taking off our masks of respectability. It would mean us rejecting the reputation that we’ve built for ourselves through our achievements. Revival would mean us looking weak and foolish. If God’s Spirit moved powerfully today our morally respectable form of Christianity would disappear.

Do you still want revival?

3 – Revival means mess.

So imagine God heard our prayers and revival broke out. What would it look like? It’d look like a family having loads of babies all at the same time! We’d be trying to work out how to cope – how do we make disciples of all these people? But not only that, it would also mean the people already in the family opening up about secrets they’d never told each other. Imagine all of that going on at the same time!

Revival would be all hands on deck, it’d be thinking on our feet, it would be pure and utter chaos! But as a friend once said to be ‘If you’re going to pray for rain, you’ve got to deal with the mud.’ If God’s Spirit moved powerfully today it’d mean lots and lots of mess.

Do you still want revival?

What do you want?

In the Highlands we all say we want revival. We say that we want the Spirit to fall just like He did in Lewis. We say that we want Him to revive the Church. But when we think about what that means do we really still want it?

Are we really willing to sacrifice our neat, tidy Church structures? Are really we willing to exchange our respectable reputations for foolishness?  Do we really want the hassle of revival?

The real issue behind the question is what do we want most? Do we want God enough to change? Do we want God enough to be honest? Do we want wet mud more than hard ground?

Do we really want revival or are we happy with how things are? If we want it, revival begins with us…

Why bother with church membership?

‘This blog series is based on one idea from the sermon each week. This week’s blog is written by Jodie Murchison. It’s based on the sermon ‘Thessalonica’ which you can listen to here: https://soundcloud.com/livinghopeinverness/acts-171-9-thessalonica’

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Why bother with church membership?

This question is often levelled at ministers and those who are part of a local church. There are undoubtedly numerous reasons as to why this question is asked – one reason is that people are curious and looking for answers, another reason is that people are sceptical of membership and are making a tongue and cheek remark.

In the Highlands of Scotland, I think that we have people who fall into both categories. However, from my own personal experience of talking to Christians who aren’t members of a local Church – lots of them have had a bad experience and been hurt by the church in the past. There are those who have been affected by legalism; they’ve grown up in the church, but have later left due to the overbearing strictness which was imposed upon them. Then there are those who have been victims of liberal views of church – they have been taught that membership doesn’t matter and that it is only Jesus that they need to have a relationship with. Kevin DeYoung puts it this way ‘Some Christians–because of church tradition or church baggage–may not be convinced of church membership no matter how many times “member” actually shows up in the New Testament’.

So, let us try and answer this question together, why bother with church membership?

1 – It’s a public declaration – Joining a local church is a visible sign that you have committed to God and His people. It displays to the world that you believe the Good News of Jesus and are committed to living in light of that. This is a huge statement – the culture that we live in is, one which is consumeristic and uncommitted. It is countercultural to commit to being part of something.

2 – It displays something of God – Many have taken the word ‘Church’ and settled for a definition which only means a building. However, this is lowering what Church is. Church is the invisible body of Christ which is visibly displayed to the world through local communities of people who are covenanted to one another, in other words we are a family. The Church is the people of God, not a building. This displays something of the character of God in that He lives in perfect community in and of himself – therefore living in community with one another tries to mirror this characteristic.

3 – It provides accountability – Christians are called to live in submission to Gods Word – we are not to self-govern our own lives and do as we please. Membership of a local church allows for when we wander from how we are supposed to live that we are held accountable for that. It allows for the leaders of the church to lovingly speak Gods Word into our situation in order that we would once again be in submission to it.

4 – It promotes unity – The reason that many Churches have membership courses is so that those who are looking to join the local church agree with the values and beliefs of that community. This is vitally important as it allows for there to be unity, the people of God are able to worship Him with one Spirit.

On Sunday in Acts 17:1-9, we seen people hear the Gospel and respond to that by forming a church. Paul had gone to the local synagogue announcing the Gospel in a language which the Jews would have understood, this resulted in some believing it and joining Paul and Silas. In the following verses, it seems that they had been received by Jason and started to meet in his house. This is an example of Christians living in community with one another in the early church – this is church membership on display.

John Piper says, “Church membership is a blood-bought gift of God’s grace. More than most of us realize, it is a life-sustaining, faith–strengthening, joy-preserving means of God’s mercy to us. I urge you not to cut yourself off from this blessing.”

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Scotland is grey.

‘This blog series is based on one idea from the sermon each week. This week’s blog is written by Pete Rennie. It’s based on the sermon ‘Philippi’ which you can listen to here: https://soundcloud.com/livinghopeinverness/acts-166-40-philippi’

The Spiritual climate of Scotland, just like our weather, is grey. According to a recent Barna Trust survey, 70% of Scots don’t go to Church because they “are just not interested in religion.” The majority of Scots are neither strongly for, nor strongly against Christianity, they’re just ‘meh’ towards it.

And we feel the weight of that greyness within the Church.  We have a desire to see people come to know Jesus so we put effort into organising and running programmes to serve our community, we invite people to our events, we try to share our faith with our friends and what happens? Not much, most people just aren’t interested. It’s just grey.

Scotland today can be a very discouraging place to live as a missionary. Mission gives us plenty opportunites to put into practice our natural ability for dourness.

But into the greyness Acts 16 offers us hope.

There the Holy Spirit prevents Paul, Timothy and Silas from going North to Asia, or East to Bithynia. Instead, He leads them West to a city called Philippi. That’s significant because Jesus promised His disciples that they would be His witnesses from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth; this is the gospel arriving in Europe. Acts 16 shows that God hasn’t taken a back seat role in mission, the Spirit is at the front leading the Church forward. God is committed to fulfilling His mission.

What does that mission look like? We see in the rest of the chapter. Luke tells us about 3 people who become Christians from all sorts of backgrounds. A wealthy fashion designer called Lydia, a demon-possessed slave girl and a Roman jailer all put their faith in Jesus. The mission of God looks like people joining His family. And we see in Acts 16 that nothing can stop that from happening; not Lydia’s wealth, not the girls demons, not even Paul and Silas being locked up in jail.

Acts 16 shows us that God is fulfilling His mission, He is relentlessly gathering a people for Himself from every tribe, language, people and nation. And nothing can stand in His way. God is on mission and He will be successful.

And we need to remember those 2 things in Scotland today. You see, sometimes mission here feels like we are fighting against God. It can feel like we want people to become Christians but God doesn’t seem as eager as we are. It can seem like He has sent us to a place that’s just too grey for His mission to advance.unknown-3

But Acts 16 splashes colour onto the grey canvas of Scotland. It shows us the missional heart of God. He is still committed to extending His family; every Christian is a splash of colour on the grey canvas. And God is still able to add more, the greyness isn’t too strong.

Scotland is grey but there’s colour on the canvas and God can add more.

So let’s be encouraged and keep pressing on.