What breaks your heart?

Do you ever watch DIY SOS? The show always starts with a heart wrenching account of someone’s unfinished project to improve their home that has been delayed due a tragedy in their life. The team come in, and aided by volunteers, transform the home into a haven for the family. Invariably when the improvements are revealed to the owners, tears stream down their faces as joy and relief are mingled together. It gets me every time and I confess I find tears welling up in my own eyes. As we read the gospels we find that Jesus too was a man in touch with his emotions, a man who wept and felt compassion for his fellow man.

When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!” Matthew 9:36-38 (MSG)

Do you notice the strength of Jesus’ reaction when he sees lost people? His heart broke! That was Jesus’ motivation for instigating mission. He was not concerned about image or numbers, rather he felt such compassion deep in his spirit for the lost that it stirred his emotions and drove him to action.

First he highlighted the need to his closest disciples, inviting them to share in the pain and sorrow. Second he asked them to pray for workers to go out into the harvest field to rescue the lost people of Israel. If you carry on reading into chapter 10 you find that Jesus’ third action was to commission the disciples to become the answer to their own prayers. The trigger for proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom was hearts broken for the lost.

Does your heart break over lost people living down your street, in your work place, school or college? Do you feel compassion for your town or village? Does this drive you to pray for workers to go out into the harvest field? Does it propel you to become the answer to your own prayers? I suspect that until our hearts break like Jesus’, mission will always seem a heavy chore. Would you dare to join me in praying that God will break your heart for the lost people of Hook, Fleet, Basingstoke or wherever you happen to live?

This blog post featured in the June 2013 edition of Lifelines

Who is the message of the kingdom for?

That might seem a daft question, after all the answer is obvious – everyone! However, do we really believe that? Or do we have categories of people who we feel are beyond the gospel, people who are too hardened to respond to the grace of Christ? People we have given up on? What about people we might feel uncomfortable being with?

In Luke 14:12-24 Jesus told a parable to encourage us to believe that the gospel is for everyone who will hear it. He describes a great banquet, which a man throws for his invited guests. At the last minute the guests start making excuses and fail to turn up. The master is angry to be rejected in this way and sends his servants out into the streets to literally bring everyone they can find, the poor and crippled and blind and lame in to enjoy the feast which has been prepared. If his respectable friends won’t come, then he will fill the banquet with the outcasts of society.

I don’t think Jesus is saying we should give up on friends and family who have responded negatively to our efforts to share the good news of Jesus with them. Rather I think he is encouraging us to widen our circle and reach out to people who we might not naturally reach out to. The gospel is not only for people like us, or for people who like us, or even (dare I say it?) only people we like. The gospel really is for everyone! Will you rise to the challenge and pray for opportunities to share God’s love with anyone who will receive it? Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone for the love of Jesus?

This blog post featured in the November 2012 edition of Lifelines

Call the Midwife!

It is good to be back in the office after the summer. As I sit here reflecting it seems incredible that it is now 2 years since I left teaching to work for the church fulltime. Then I was sat in the cold, damp, wooden hut that had been home to the church for several decades. This time last year I was in the new premises but it was still a building site with all the commotion and stress that entailed. The experience today is much different as we have settled into the new building and enjoy the warm modern facilities that it offers. These last two years have probably the happiest and most fulfilling of my life so far. I am constantly overwhelmed by your seemingly endless energy and enthusiasm to support the various activities of Life Church—there are far too many things to run through here but I am sure you have your own list in mind.

Most recently many of us have shared together in the highly fruitful Newday and Westpoint events. These are always excellent times of teaching and worship and you can read more later in Lifelines. For me the highlight of the summer has been being midwife at the birth of 4 new believers! There is no greater joy than seeing someone come into the kingdom of God and becoming a ‘follower of Jesus’. Combine that privilege with some excellent teaching from PJ Smyth which I heard twice at Newday and Westpoint and it has rekindled a desire and expectation to see people becoming followers of Christ. PJ’s observation that churches have a tendency to drift from mission to maintenance is sad but true. Bottom line however is that Jesus has commissioned us to make followers of him. I am thrilled that over the summer 8 people connected to Life Church have crossed the line and made a decision for Christ. Christ is not looking for people simply make a decision and get the label ‘Christian’ but that we all genuinely become followers—a lifetime journey for each of us!

Any midwife will tell you that childbirth doesn’t run to tidy schedule and timelines, the call can come at anytime day or night. The challenge for us is not to develop new programmes so much as to ensure that everything we already do is shaped by the expectation and desire that it will result in helping people follow Jesus. Whatever your role in Life Church, whatever your daily routine, please join me in praying that we will all be called upon to be midwives and parents to birth and raise followers of Jesus.
This blog post featured in the September 2012 edition of Lifelines