Thursday, July 28, 2011

Farewell And Thank You, John Stott

John Stott, the elder statesman of evangelical tradition, died aged 90 yesterday afternoon.  He was, more than anything else, a man of integrity; and it was that integrity that won him the respect and deep appreciation of those who agreed with him and those who disagreed with him alike.  Integrity is not a given, but is nurtured.  Here are just a few observations of John’s life:

John was grounded in the local church, in the local neighbourhood.  University apart, he lived his entire life within the community of one local church – as boy, curate, rector and rector emeritus – in one wider London community.  It was that narrowness, in one sense, and – rather – that depth, that enabled him to serve the global Church, because the global Church is made up of grounded local churches and the local church is part of something far bigger than itself.  We would be mistaken to infer from John’s life that everyone should remain in one place; but we would be wise to learn the value of roots that go deep.

John was grounded in spiritual disciplines, such as careful study of scripture, and prayer.  Self-discipline is deeply misunderstood today, not least by those who misunderstand the connection between law and grace.  Grace does not replace law, freeing us from constraint.  Rather, grace enables us to fulfil the higher law – the law of life; not the law of death, which convinces us of our need to be set free.  Grace empowers us to take on the disciplines that lead to life, as opposed to the indiscipline which results in death.  Again, John was a man grounded: a man whose roots went deep, a tree that survived dry years as well as good, that spread out its branches and consistently bore fruit.

John was grounded in his love of God, as revealed in Jesus.  John placed his relationship with God above his work for God.  As a result, he wasn’t driven by fear, of what he might lose – through falling into sin; or by God simply choosing to lay us aside in favour of someone else – because his focus was on what could not be taken away, God’s love for us in Christ Jesus.  As a result, John was able to live a life of personal integrity which flowed out of love, not fear; and able to equip and raise up many others into leadership, some of whom will be able to say, in the words of Sir Isaac Newton: “If I have seen a little further, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants.”

John was grounded in the world God created.  He had interests and passions quite aside from his work, from his serving the church.  Most notably, he was a world-class amateur ornithologist.  Yes, he drew spiritual parallels from the physical world – as, of course, did Jesus – but he understood that life was more than service: it was gift, to be enjoyed, to be marvelled at.  Ninety years old, and never having lost childhood wonder.

John was prepared to speak up for what he believed to be right, even at great personal cost, and in particular the cost of being misrepresented or rejected by others within the church.

John was not prepared to speak out in judgement of other Christians.  His wise default position was to reserve judgement on others; and even where he spoke out against views expressed by others, he did not attack them.

John, thank you for the way you lived, for the example you gave us.  Father God, thank you for the gift of John to us.  May we, too, living after his example, pursue those grounding disciplines that nurture integrity and put to death unworthy desires.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Feast Of St James

Today is the Feast of St James, one of Jesus’ circle of three closest disciples, and patron saint of one of the churches I currently serve.

The lectionary sets us two unflattering stories of James to mark the occasion: at Holy Communion, the account of James’ and John’s mother asking Jesus to place her sons at either side of his throne in glory; and at Morning Prayer, the account of James and John asking Jesus if they can call fire from heaven down on a Samaritan village which refused to welcome them because they were on their way to Jerusalem – an attitude which seems frighteningly contemporary after the massacre in Norway at the weekend.

James and John were known as the Sons of Thunder, a nickname which is generally taken to refer to the hotheadedness demonstrated above; but in the last book of the New Testament, the account of Revelations of heaven given to James’ brother John in his older years, thunder is synonymous with worship, inviting us to reframe our understanding of what a Son of Thunder might be.  Here we see the possibility of one whose misguided ideas of zeal for God are expressed through violence undergoing a transformation of grace, so that they have no less zeal, but it is channelled in a way that brings glory to God.  This would seem to me to be a timely prayer, whatever may come of Anders Behring Breivik.

Current events aside, I am glad that St James’ feast-day is marked by acknowledging his less-than-finest moments.  It invites us to experience hope in our own failures, reminding us that we are not paper saints but flesh-and-blood; and challenges us to repent from our tendency to promote our finer moments rather than be open about our frailty.

St James became the patron saint of Spain, and is especially associated with the pilgrim way that runs across the north of the country.  His symbol, the scallop shell, became a symbol for pilgrims in general.  I recently wrote on the film The Way, here, and cannot recommend it highly enough.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Southport Air Show

We have really enjoyed having my sister and her family staying with us for a few days.  In fact, we were so pleased they could visit, we arranged for the Red Arrows to fly over our garden.

The Camera Never Lies

My children get their good looks from me.

Sermon : Parables Of The Kingdom

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 with passing reference to Romans 8:26-39

I love the parables of the kingdom.  They are like the iTunes icon on an iPad.  If you click on the Music icon, you open up an existing library of music; and if you click on the iTunes icon, you open up a store from which you can download more: treasures old; and treasures new.  If you click on iTunes, you won’t get sat nav, or the weather forecast, or your photos, or text-based documents, or Angry Birds.  Parables can’t mean whatever we like; but if we think we know the meaning of a parable, it is like saying of iTunes, “Yeah, I’ve heard that album.”  Every time we try to pin a parable down, God in his wisdom won’t allow it: because the scope of the kingdom is too high and wide and deep to be grasped in that way.  Parables reveal to us treasures new.

The kingdom was one of Jesus’ favourite themes.  Mark summarises Jesus’ entire ministry with the opening declaration: “The time has come...The kingdom of God has come near.  Repent and believe the good news!”  (Mark 1:15).  According to Jesus, the kingdom is both now, and not yet; has drawn close enough to enter, and is delayed.  It is the reign of God, breaking-in to our world, driving back the reign of injustice and oppression.  Way back at the beginning of our story, God had created men and women to know him and to represent him, exercising his rule on his behalf on this earth.  We had abdicated our position; but Jesus came, as one of us, to win it back.  And when he did, God didn’t say, “I won’t make the same mistake again; from now on, I’m keeping this responsibility myself.”  Incredibly, God has restored us to our position as his ambassadors: because God never had, and never will have, a Plan B.

And so as we listen to these parables of the kingdom of heaven, we ought to ask, “What are we supposed to be like?  How are we supposed to exercise God’s life-releasing rule?”

The way God’s rule is exercised is like a seed, which must surrender its existence in order that a shrub might grow.

The way God’s rule is exercised is like yeast, which must surrender its existence in order that the dough might rise.

The way God’s rule is exercised is like treasure, which is buried, abandoned, forgotten, not displayed in a place of honour – its existence surrendered, awaiting such time as someone might happen upon it.

The way God’s rule is exercised is like a merchant, who is willing to surrender his existence – for what is a merchant with nothing left that they are willing or able to trade? – in order to buy fine pearls.

And in each case, the focus is not the agent of the kingdom – the seed, the yeast, the buried treasure, the merchant – but others, described variously as birds, the hungry, a completely undeserving inheritor, and fine pearls.

What are we supposed to be like?  How are we supposed to exercise God’s rule?  After the pattern of Jesus, who calls us to die to self in order to live the life God has for us, and in order that others – whom the world sees as a nuisance, and leaves hungry, all the while resenting any good fortune that might come their way, and never ever seeing them as a thing of exquisite beauty - might experience the generosity of God.

It is crucial that we should understand this, because it is not inconceivable that we live in a world where individuals, and communities, who call themselves Christian and believe themselves to be acting in a way that exercises God’s rule and brings him glory, advocate and even bring death to others.  There is no evil in God, and evil does not come from his hand, as a part of his plan we are simply not wise enough to grasp.  Evil is the resistance against God’s life-affirming rule; and we are caught-up in a clash between two kingdoms, in the fierce fighting between the decisive breakthrough, the sacrificial beach-head of Calvary, and the end of hostilities.

And it is also crucial that we, who might never do such things, should understand this, because we are daily pressed to conform to the pattern of the world, which says you must achieve status, you must amass wealth, you must secure your future...Resistance against God’s rule finds expression in more subtle ways than a gun.  God has made us co-heirs with his Son, and is at loving work to conform us to his sent and broken and glorified likeness as we live-out our fully-resourced calling to embrace death to self in order to bring life to others.

Another parable: the kingdom of heaven is like a net let down into the lake.  That is, people are supposed to be caught up in the experience of the kingdom, are supposed to experience what God’s reign is like.  How they respond is not for us to judge, but for the angels.  We, who are invited to know God and challenged to represent him, are the net which describes the area within which people experience the kingdom.

I am struck by the accounts of Jesus calling his first disciples.  Mark records that Simon Peter and Andrew were casting their net into the lake, because they were fishermen; while James and John were preparing their net.  Matthew says the same.  Luke’s version has them washing their nets, having returned from fishing.  Now, I think it is fair to say that we tend to read this as background detail.  But if it is true that the Spirit of God breathes life into all scripture, so that it becomes useful to us for our instruction, and where necessary, rebuke, then such background detail is not merely background detail.  If disciples are to fish for people, then we need to understand something about how to fish.

We tend to fish the English way: as a solitary pursuit, with a rod and line, stalking one good fish at a time; meeting up at the clubhouse to tell tall tales of fish we have caught in days gone by, and the elusive Ones That Got Away...

That isn’t what Jesus would recognise as how to fish.  We need a net: a net in which each one of us that has entered the kingdom is a knot; a net that can scoop up a great many fish – of all kinds, some good and some bad – at once.  If we are to be sewn-together into a net, we must discover one another’s gifts, and how they work together.  If we are to be sewn-together into a net, we must connect together, so that the net does not come under too great a strain at certain knots.  If we are to be sewn-together into a net, we must regularly attend to those things that, left unattended, tear a net to shreds: disagreement, and disappointment, and competition.  You see, the lake has always been full of fish...and disciples have always been confronted with having fished all night and caught nothing; are always invited to submit their experience to Jesus’ authority and challenged to throw out their net and draw in more fish than they can imagine.

These are the ways in which we prepare our net for fishing; in which we fish with our net; in which we clean our net having gone fishing.

Jesus ends these parables of the kingdom by asking, “Have you understood?”  Have you heard the Spirit of God speak a word to you which enables you to respond with faith?  That word might be the invitation to die to self, enabled by just a glimpse of the life beyond.  That word might be the challenge to see others from a heavenly perspective, as birds God cares for, or fine pearls he values beyond price.  That word might be go and find a partner who can work with you to prepare your net.  We are entrusted with a treasure-store.  Will you bring out what you have heard God speak to you today, so that the kingdom is extended, bringing life to those around you?

Friday, July 22, 2011

All In The Name

My favourite woman of all (Jo Dowsett), reading the latest book by one of my favourite women (Jo Saxton).

Being Disciples : Making Disciples : Part 3

Today is the feast day of Mary Magdalene, the first apostle sent as a witness to the resurrection (John 20:11-18).  Mary was one of Jesus’ disciples (she calls him her Rabbi: Jesus didn’t have 12 disciples – that was a symbolic number within a larger group, of perhaps closer to 20 men and women), and, as all disciples are, was sent out.

This morning as I stood waiting for my youngest son to be led into school, I watched a group of four-year-old girls perfecting their disdainful I-am-better-than-you faces at one another.  Boys have issues of their own, but sassy disdain, which flowers into full-blown contempt for other people, is a major issue facing our girls today.  Lord, have mercy.

Today my prayer is that our girls and our women would know the redeeming and releasing that Mary Magdalene experienced as a disciple, in order that they might become disciple-makers who will, in turn, help others to learn how to live the glorious liberty of the children of God.

Being Disciples : Making Disciples : Part 2

Further thoughts on discipleship:

You might feel uncomfortable with the suggestion that we make disciples of us, because we are conditioned to believe that Jesus is the person we should follow. But that is to misunderstand the discipler-disciple relationship. Rabbis do not ask their disciples to worship them; neither do we ask our disciples to worship us: rather, the purpose of the rabbi is to point his or her disciples to God.

You can influence an almost unlimited number of people, given the right media; but you can only disciple a few people at any one time, because it requires that you are sharing your life with them.

Never set out to follow someone who doesn’t know where they are going.  They will probably dress it up as being like Abram, setting out for the Promised Land (Genesis 12); but Abram was following God, who knew the way; and to set out not knowing where you are going is to follow in the footsteps of Abram’s father, Terah, who died in Harran (Genesis 11), or Abram’s cousin, Lot, who chose Sodom and ran into difficulties there (Genesis 13, 14).  And never set out to lead others in a direction you have never gone ahead in before.  Instead, be like Joshua and Caleb, who scouted-out the land extensively (Numbers 13; Joshua 2) before leading the people across the Jordan to take possession of it (Joshua).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Being Disciples : Making Disciples

Jesus called disciples, to follow him and so to learn to share in his (covenant) identity and in his (kingdom) mission, and then to go and make disciples, and teach them in turn to make disciples.  There is a dynamic of following – of being a disciple – and of being sent out – as apostles, or sent ones - to make disciples.

Let’s get one thing straight: we are not Jesus’ disciples.  A disciple follows someone in order to learn from them, and Jesus makes it clear to Simon Peter (John 13:36) that he was about to go somewhere where we cannot follow him yet: to the right-hand side of our Father in heaven, where he intercedes on our behalf.

To claim to follow Jesus is to concern oneself with adhering to his ethical teaching.  But that is an inadequate response.  To follow after Jesus requires us to be disciples – and that requires us to literally follow someone whom we have physically encountered, from whom we can learn something of how to live this life according to the pattern Jesus inaugurated.

Thus making disciples is an apostolic task, in that – regardless of whether our own function within the Body of Christ is primarily as an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor or a teacher – making disciples happens as we are sent out by whoever we have gathered to in order to be ourselves discipled.  Making disciples is not a pastoral task – or a prophetic or even an evangelistic or a teaching task; although apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers will go about making disciples in different ways, because they have different personalities and priorities, carry different facets of Jesus.  We must rediscover this; must recognise that we are all sent, and not just a few.

There was a kid named Andrew (by the way, his name means ‘man’).  His father was a fisherman, and so he and his brother were learning to be fishermen – and if the stories are anything to go by, they had a lot to learn.  But whenever he could get away, he went to learn from a crazy wild-man by the name of John.  Until one day, both John and Andrew realised that The Day had come: Andrew had learnt what John had to teach him (about how to be a man devoted to God), and now he needed to go and learn from John’s cousin.  And in time, John’s cousin sent Andrew out to call others to learn from him all that he had learnt from Jesus...

Discipleship is embodied.  You can’t be discipled effectively by several people at once, though you will probably need to be discipled in different areas or different seasons by several people.  And you can’t be genuinely discipled at a distance – through podcasts, or books, or blogs – unless these things are building on an already-established relationship (it is worth noting how many people who read my blog either already know me personally or look for the opportunity to meet me; and the same is generally true of those blogs I keep an eye on or books I read).

The gracious challenge my church tradition finds herself confronted with is our need to recognise that we have focused on the disembodied – and therefore highly individualistic, private, and intellectual – matter of following Jesus, instead of on the embodied matter of following after him, as those who are sent into the world in the authority of the Son, empowered by the Holy Spirit, bringing glory to our Father...and to repent and believe, to accept the gracious invitation to take up our calling to be and make disciples.

Who have you followed (been discipled by) at various stages in your life?  Who are you following now?  Who has been sent to you, for you to follow?

Who has followed (been discipled by) you, at various stages in your life?  Who is following you now?  To whom have you been sent, to call them to follow you?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

If Church Were A Business : Part 2

If we are to re-imagine church as a business, in the biblical sense of the ‘oikos,’ then we need to ask questions of the nature of the business itself, the role of the head of the family, and the roles of the rest of the family.  Here are a few thoughts.

The nature of our business:

Providing a context for worship is not the family business.  Worship is one aspect of what the family does together.  In the Greco-Roman home, the family lived around the courtyard behind the shop-front; and in the Greco-Roman Christian home, worship took place in the dining-room, around the context of the shared meal.  Corporate worship is not our ‘shop-front’ we draw people into.  The shop-front is something else, and in the context of going about our business we build relationships, and having established a relationship with someone we might invite them to experience our family-life.  But the family business is something that enables us to participate in and contribute to the wider economy in which we are set.  And ideally that business, whatever it is, ought to generate income.

So we ought to ask, what business opportunity is there in the place God has set us?  In a small village, it might be running the shop and Post Office; in a market-town square, a cafe; in a major city context, it might be producing courses that can be franchised (family businesses can grow to be very large: there is nothing inherently wrong with being a large church, though I would suggest that a large church built on the worship experience is unhealthy, and probably draws Christians from other churches rather than grows as a result of mission).  It might be after-school homework clubs, or debt counselling, or any of a hundred and one other things (though no one church can attend to a hundred and one things well).

The role of the head of the family:

If church is a family business, then there needs to be a head of the family: family businesses do not thrive where there is a free-for-all approach.
The main roles of the head of the family are to carry the vision;
to help every member of the family to identify how they can best contribute to the family business, according to the gifts they have, and to ensure that they get the necessary training and tools to do fulfil their role;
to host the family meal (in my tradition, we call that meal Holy Communion or the Eucharist);
and to represent the family before the heads of other family businesses.
It is not the role of the head of the family to work on behalf of everyone else; and it is not the role of the head of the family to micro-manage them, either.

The roles of the rest of the family:

In a family business, everyone has a vested-interest, and everyone must pull their weight.  I was struck by a passage in a novel I read a while back, in which a man recalled growing up on a farm: he had not been a physical boy, but was a gifted mathematician; and for a while his unwillingness to help caused a rift between the family, until his father confronted him: he need not work the land – other than those times, such as harvest, when everyone must pitch in – but he must contribute, nonetheless; and so he trained in order to help keep the farm accounts in order.  Everyone has a role to play, appropriate to the gifts they have been given – and everyone needs to understand where they ‘fit in’ in relation to everyone else.  Competition within the family will result in division and loss, and so we must attend to our relationships as well as our tasks: we must share life together.

Of course, our context has become different from that of the ‘oikos’: we don’t live and work as family units, and members of a local congregation live in several family units and work in a diversity of employment (including retirement, and volunteering).  This means that our church commitment is ‘time poor’ in comparison.  Nonetheless, I believe we need to re-imagine church as a family business – as opposed to a place of sustenance for individuals – and that we can do this to a considerable extent...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

If Church Were A Business

If churches were businesses, a lot of churches would be going into administration.

Of course, one of the most contentious issues when I was at theological college, and for many clergy, was the extent to which business models have been applied to church leadership.  The church, some argue, is not a business, and should be run on biblical principles rather than worldly ones.

What is ironic about this view is that those who hold most dearly to it tend to see the church as a service provider – in (at least) two senses – and one which, like the NHS, provides its service to the community ‘free at the point of use.’  Of course, ‘free at the point of use’ does not mean there are not significant costs which have to be met in some other way.

More importantly, the problem with such a view is that the primary biblical model of the church – the ‘oikos’ – is precisely an economic unit, or, family business.  Consider Philippi.  Lydia’s household – composed of family members and slaves (90% of the population of the Roman Empire were slaves, making them much more akin to employees in our society than to abject slaves, such as today’s sex trade or child labour market) – were in the high-end fashion business...and that was not only their livelihood but their communal mission context.  The goaler’s household were in the law-and-order business.  Or consider Prisc(ill)a and Aquila, planting churches out of the business context of tent making (a literal trade which has lent its name to self-supporting ministry).

I share the discomfort of others where senior church leadership looks like being the CEO of a large corporation.  But...the senior leader of a church should look like the head of a family business.

In a family business, everyone is a stakeholder.  In a family business, you don’t get to see the accounts once a year.  You know when things are going well, and when you are facing hard times.  And everyone has a vested interest to contribute more time, more money or more effort in order to grow.  But where church is a club, where members pay a nominal fee and hold fund-raisers to meet the real costs, that is neither viable nor biblical.

We need to re-visit church as family business. 
How would you define the particular business of your particular local church?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Preparing Your Net : Part 4

Here are some helpful observations on preparing our net, by my friend Paul Maconochie, as shared at The Order of Mission (TOM) gathering in Coventry this past weekend.

Relationships exist on a continuum, from more informal to more formal.  So, for example, someone who we initially meet for the first time who is open to us – a Person of Peace – may become a friend, which is an informal relationship but slightly more formal than first acquaintance.  You might become for them their church connection – that is, they know you to be a Christian, they might ask you to pray for a situation they or a member of their family find themselves in.  At this stage, the relationship is slightly more formal again: in effect, you are their priest.  This person might move from here to a point where they join a cell group – again, the relationship is becoming more formal – and in time might join a more explicitly discipling group.

What we are likely to find is that few of us operate with ease along the full continuum.  To function as a net, we must pass people on.  Evangelists are likely to be most comfortable at the most informal end of the continuum: they don’t need any kind of ‘permission’ to talk to people.  Pastors tend to be at home at the more informal end, though one step towards formality on from evangelists.  Teachers and prophets tend to operate more towards the formal end, once a person has given permission to speak into their lives; and apostles often operate at the most formal end, leading teams of committed disciples.

So here are some questions regarding preparing our net:

Where do I sit on the continuum?  How do people relate to me?  (For myself, as someone who is more prophet and teacher than pastor or evangelist, my relationships tend to be more formal.)  And who am I connected with, that I can pass people on to, or who can pass people on to me?

What is true of relationships is also true of resources: resources exist on a continuum from more informal to more formal.  The most informal resource you have for mission is yourself, your own life.  Slightly more formal is your testimony, or story.  More formal again are books, talks or videos you might pass on to someone – and with books, biographies are more informal, teaching books more formal.  More formal again would be nurture groups, such as Alpha.  And at the most formal end would be inviting someone to join a discipleship group.

As a person moves along this continuum, you move from being a person they know, to being their priest – the one who intercedes to God on their behalf – to being their guide or mentor, in a more or less formal way, to being someone they see as discipling them.

So here are some further questions regarding preparing our net:

What resources do this person need right now?  What resources do I have access to?  What resources do I need to invest in?  (For myself, as someone who operates most comfortably at the more formal end of the relationship continuum, I need to develop story as an informal resource.)

And then, because Jesus’ mission strategy is, find the Person of Peace who welcomes you into their home and serves you, because this person is the key to gaining access to a community, we also need to ask, what relationships and resources do they have access to?

Preparing Your Net : Part 3

This is a post on church discipline, on recognising that the glorious liberty of the children of God is not a licence to throw off restraint, but a free choice to submit to a higher law.

1 Timothy 2:11ff are some of the most poorly translated verses in Scripture.  But they contain life-giving principles, that are lost in translation.  On this, Ian Paul’s Grove booklet ‘Women and Authority: The Key Biblical Texts’ is extremely helpful, and to be highly recommended.  Here I will draw out some principles for church discipline, which I believe to apply equally to men and women.

Firstly, the text addresses attitude: we should quieten our spirits, or seek to live quiet lives, at peace with one another (‘silence’ is not an acceptable translation) and we should submit ourselves to teaching (not one gender to another; though elsewhere we are clearly instructed to submit to one another, regardless of gender).

Secondly, the text addresses permission: Paul does not write ‘I do not permit...’ but ‘I am not permitting...’  Consider the difference between these two statements: ‘I do not permit anyone to say anything in my pulpit’ and ‘I am not permitting anyone to say anything in my pulpit.’  The first says, only I am allowed to preach; the second says, my decision to allow other people to preach is not a blank cheque and I will not allow it to result in a free-for-all.  Paul does write ‘I do not permit...’ elsewhere, but not here.

Thirdly, the text addresses abuse: it speaks of usurping authority, and the word in question (not the usual word for authority) carries the meaning of murder.  We murder one another when we crush one another’s spirit by shouting another down, or when we character-assassinate them by spreading dissent.  It would appear that in the church Paul was writing to there was a particular issue of women creating ‘noise’ and ‘murdering’ men...but in my experience of local churches this is not a form of ungodly behaviour that is restricted to women.  Because fourthly, the text addresses equality: women are not more sinful than men; but neither are they less sinful.

What has this to do with the preparing of nets?  Often, the net created by a local congregation is torn, by the stirring-up of dissent, by the marginalisation of certain knots, or the insistence of certain knots that they are more important than others (women considering themselves to be more important than men, or men considering themselves to be more important than women; apostles thinking they are more important than pastors, or pastors thinking they are more important than prophets).  Without church discipline, without a willingness to submit to one another, without a willingness to submit to decisions that are made (which may turn out to be wrong – that is for time to tell – but which can be changed healthily where mutual submission is the culture), the net can be torn to shreds.  The lake is teeming with fish.  A shredded net is neither use nor ornament.  We must regularly attend to washing and repairing our net.

Preparing Your Net : Part 2

The church is called to be sent out into the world, and to that end Jesus has made some of us to be apostles in order to help the church as a whole fulfil that calling.  The church is called to speak prophetically to society, confronting injustice and painting an alternatively-imagined future, and to that end Jesus has made some of us to be prophets in order to help the church as a whole fulfil that calling.  The church is called to proclaim good news, and to that end Jesus has made some of us to be evangelists in order to help the church as a whole fulfil that calling.  The church is called to nurture the young in faith and bind up the broken-hearted, and to that end Jesus has made some of us to be pastors in order to help the church as a whole fulfil that calling.  The church is called to search out and pass on wisdom that leads to life, and to that end Jesus has made some of us to be teachers in order to help the church as a whole fulfil that calling.

Jesus is the Apostle sent from heaven, the Prophet greater than Moses, the Good News of great joy, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, and the Teacher who teaches with unprecedented and unrivalled authority.  Together, we share in the nature of Christ, as different parts of his body.  What Jesus did as a person, we are called to do as a community.  Where the Body of Christ presents Jesus to the world as shepherd and teacher, it presents a sub-biblical Jesus.

Preparing our net includes attending to the connectedness of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers in our context.  Where do you fit in?  In your church community, which knots in the net are missing, or have worked loose and need to be sewn back into the mesh?