And he went and bought that field…

I tweeted on Monday about us having bids accepted for two pieces of land on Monday.  I thought I’d give a bit more context to that tweet.

Many of you will know that we currently meet in a school.  We have been made incredibly welcome and have a great relationship with the school.  We have loved being able to serve the school and the staff and the families.  And we look forward to many years of continuing fruitful partnership.

But I am aware that the trajectory of society means that Christianity is increasingly marginalised and challenged.  As a church the only public space available in the area where we meet is the school, or another school or a college.  But if a policy shifts means we can’t meet in those we would have nowhere to meet.  There are no pubs, libraries or other public spaces.  There are no disused churches or buildings we could buy and repurpose.

To that end we began a number of years ago looking for somewhere to potentially put down permanent roots and serve the community.  However, as we are situated near Robin Hood Airport, land was exorbitantly expensive, we enquired about a vacant car park and were quoted a price of £800,000 an acre.  For a small church that was totally out of the question.

cows-2641195_960_720We have continued to pray.  We have been grateful for God’s answer in terms of the current generosity of the school and the new community space and office space we hire. However, a few weeks ago some arable land was put on the market in the Hayfield area.  This was much more reasonable price wise, though there is no planning permission and it is designated as farmland.  However, we prayed about it.  And we (Lucy and I) not the church tendered two sealed bids for the land, both were successful.  So once the sale is complete we will own two piece of land, totalling 10 acres in the area.

We believe God has answered our prayers.  But that doesn’t mean we are starting a
building fund immediately.  The land is rented out and farmed, and the process of getting change of use, planning permission etc… will take time once we apply for it.  Immediately nothing will change as we love being at the school.  And we’re a small church, about 35, so building feels like a challenge, and we need to pray and discuss as a church what next, when, and how.  We’d value prayer as we think and plan for the way forward.  That we would trust God for what to do and when to do it.  But please also praise God for his guidance so far.

Living in exile

When it comes to understanding where we live 1 Peter is an incredibly helpful letter.  We are exiles(1v1).  Just stop and think about that for a minute.  This world is not our home.  It’s not where we belong.  We don’t share it’s ideals and values.  And so we’ll be treated as such.  We’ll be misunderstood and maligned.  As foreigners and exiles we’ll be accused of doing wrong, o not fitting in, of not following what everyone knows is true and right.

how-to-create-a-distinctive-trademark-in-hong-kongBut Peter doesn’t call on these scattered Christians to withdraw from community, or to compromise with community, or to become chameleons and stand out as little as possible, or to privatise their faith and maintain their professionalism.  He calls them to live such good lives, fighting sin and doing good, that those who accuse you of wrong doing can’t deny the good they do and will, when God returns, glorify him for it.

That’s where and when we live.  But I wonder if part of our problem is that we’ve forgotten that.  It’s been comfortable to be a Christian in the UK for so long that we’ve forgotten we’re exiles.  The law has aligned with our beliefs for so long we’ve been lulled by the lullaby of tolerance into forgetting we’re exiles, into thinking that we belong and therefore our gospel is accepted.

But reality is that we’ve simply been compromised.  We’ve been living as citizens of the wrong kingdom because it’s been comfortable to do so.  But we aren’t, we’re exiles, we’re called to be different.  To stand out and to expect opposition and accusation for it, even when we do good.  But we are to meet such opposition and accusation with even more good because of grace.

Israel were a different nation, standing out among all those around them and facing accusations, pressures and opposition because of it.  Jesus and his disciples stood out even from the religious around them and faced accusations and opposition because of it.  The early church stood out from those around them, living as exiles, and they faced accusation and opposition and persecution because of it.  Have we forgotten where we live, when we live?  That this world isn’t home?  That we’re exiles, citizens of God’s kingdom but living temporarily, sojourning, here.  But only until His kingdom comes.

I was reminded of that this morning.  As Christians as we serve others and do good we will be accused of having hidden agenda’s, of seeking influence, of being out to get something.  The question is how will we respond?  Will we withdraw into a holy huddle? Will we give up doing good to avoid the discomfort of false accusations or will we keep doing good but invite people to come and see?

We need a mindset shift.  We’re exiles.  We’re not at home here.  Our agenda is the kingdom agenda, our actions motivated by kingdom methodology and love.  Our goal is to hear the Father’s well done not the world’s.  And at times as we serve God, as we pursue his kingdom we will be accused, we will be slandered, we will be wronged.  Will we be unbowed and unrepentant and will we still do good?  Still pursue God’s kingdom?  Still love those who accuse us?

Comfortable Christianity?

We’ve just finished a series on the Sermon on the Mount and it has struck me again and again as I’ve prepared and preached and listened over the last 11 weeks what a radical all transforming kingdom Jesus calls us to be part of.  No part of life is untouched.  The call is on our wallet, our praying, our time, our emotions, our willingness to forgive, our besetting sins, our anxiety, our idols.  Absolutely no part of life is immune from the call and the cost of being a disciple.

It will make us radically counter cultural.  More loving and welcoming than the most loving person.  More generous.  More forgiving.  More committed to prayer.  More willing to take risks and depend on God.  More committed to rooting out contentment and joy in God.  More determined to fight sin ruthlessly.  More committed to our church family.  More willing to be thought foolish, to face persecution for our worship of Jesus in every area of life.

But what has also struck me afresh is the loving gracious provision of God.  He calls us to seek his kingdom and righteousness first.  And then promises us that if we ask God, if we commit to seeking it, God will give it to us.  God doesn’t call us to something he isn’t ready and willing to empower us to do.  And that means the question becomes one of appetite. Of desire.  How different do I want to be?  How much of a disciple do I want to be?  How much do I want to pursue the kingdom and righteousness?  How prepared am I to stand out?  Will I really hear Jesus words and build my life upon them or settle for being a deluded disciple?

And Jesus ends with 4 stark choices for the disciple.  Choose the narrow or broad path.  Choose to listen to true or false prophets.  Choose to live enjoying God and obeying him as a true disciple or be a deluded disciple.  And finally choose to be wise and build your life on Jesus teaching or be a fool and lose everything.

Facing Frustration

One of the most frustrating things about ministry is the way often circumstances work to hamper the gospel.  We heard this recently of another family we’ve been close to, have seen come to church and explore Jesus and warm to the gospel who are having to move and are being relocated by the council about 25 minutes away.  That may not seem much to those of us with cars and used to a 25 minute trip to the church fo our choice.  But for this family it is 2 bus trips and a significant wait in between.  It’s not a million miles away but in a small church with stretched resources, and already transporting a few people, a 50 minute round trip on Sunday is probably beyond us at the moment.  And we had hoped to see this family come to faith and help us reach more of the community.

I know the circumstances are not outside of God’s control.  No plan of God’s can be thwarted.  I know that sometimes one plants, another waters and another reaps.  Mentally and theologically I know all of that.  But it doesn’t stop it being frustrating.