Thursday, 20 September 2012

Hitting hard.

I love those moments when God taps you on the shoulder and says ‘I told you so’.

There are points in your life when you realise that there are things that you can’t do or probably shouldn’t take on. You realise the limits of your capacity and it’s a bit of a humbling moment. Up until recently, my response at those points has been one of reckless ambition and defiance, while I can hear my wife, Anna, in the background whispering ‘Are you sure?’ I say whispering. She was probably saying it quite clearly but I had my hearing filter switched to overdrive.

A few years ago, I can remember my good friend and pastor, Andy Arscott, referring to me as a special weapon that we need to keep razor sharp with regard to my worship leading gifting to get maximum benefit from me as part of the church body; that it wouldn’t be right to blunt me by using me in other areas. It’s the same for all of us. God gives us different gifts and abilities so that we can bless each other. ‘ If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing?’ 1 Cor 12: 12 – 31. There are times when I’d really like to be an ear when I’m quite clearly a finger. Or a backside.

I quite often end up the butt of church jokes. (Quite literally – I’m often referred to as BeyoncĂ© by some of the reprobates hanging around the church office). It’s regularly brought up that I have the pastoral and administrative skill of a buffalo, yet I’ve been chomping at the bit for years to have a go at improving in those areas. A couple of years ago, Anna and I were given the responsibility of leading a home group. Full of eagerness we launched into it. It had dawned on me that leading another group pastorally and administratively would improve me in those areas. I’m sure it did in some regards, but it killed me in most other areas. Leading the worship team took a hit. Family life took a hit. Church took a hit. Our worship team is not as good as it was two years ago. We lost a lot of momentum by me striving to be something I’m not.

When Stu and Andy suggested we step back from leading a home group at the start of the summer so I could concentrate on getting the worship team right, I was like ‘Whose idea was it for us to lead one in the first place?!’ We totally love the guys that God gave us for that season, but the most loving thing for them was for us not to be leading them at a home group, but to be leading them in worship.

Our worship engine room is about to roar into action again. I’ve discovered the importance of delegation and have acquired a MMMMONSTER administrator in the shape of Ben Homer, who has the gig schedule of a musician with a very full gig schedule, but still manages to find about 70 hours more than anyone else in the week to help with Church bits and pieces. He’s my special weapon. If you lead a worship team and haven’t got a Homer then get one.

Homer the homing missile.

Realising your own personal limits and capacity is one of the most delimiting things you can do for your church. I’m not saying that God doesn’t give grace to mould you into other shapes. Our lead pastor, Stu Alred is an amazing example of God’s transforming love and power. When we met, not long after he became a Christian only 8 years ago, he was by no means a people person - grumpy, rude, disinterested etc. But God has changed him beyond recognition and I now see him way ahead of most leaders of his generation. Each year I see more of the impact of the Gospel on his life, loving people more and more.

What I am saying though is that if God has already clearly given you grace for a certain area of serving, you should maybe consider that He might want to use you for maximum impact in that area. It’s something I learned the hard way.

Maximum impact. Aim to hit hard in the way God made you to hit hardest.

Friday, 31 August 2012

5 things I learned leading Ignite @ Westpoint youth

Last weekend I had the privilege of leading around 100 – 150 twelve to sixteen year olds in worship at our regional Newfrontiers conference.  Sharing the sessions with me was Owen Hayward from Plymouth, a great guy with bags of gifting for leading worship and more administrative gifting than myself ;-). 

It certainly felt like it was going to be a challenge. A lot of our teens are used to going to Newday each year, an experience that includes an enormous sound system and about 6000 other teenagers. Comparisons are inevitably made. You’ve got to do things completely differently. There’s not much point in trying to replicate the same thing with 3% of the numbers. Sure our sound system was big enough for our context and we made enough noise to make ourselves heard across the whole site, but we had an opportunity to do something that arguably Newday can’t achieve.

So here we go. Here’s what God taught me and reinforced in my thinking through the experience.

  • Small gatherings enable more body ministry, allowing us to be built together more. God’s voice becomes ‘broader and louder’.

Our youth are great and ready to own responsibility for the others in the room.  During each session we had kids who were ready to prophesy, bring words of knowledge (knowing about things that only God could know, often regarding illness or disability), pray for healing, bring messages in languages given by the Spirit and interpret them. I saw kids who wouldn’t have dreamed of sharing in a regular, adult Sunday morning meeting developing in spiritual gifts they probably never had faith to use before.  When the body of the church starts ministering to each other, it makes front-led ministry pale in comparison. I’m sure God did far more in the gaps between the songs I played than He did with the songs themselves. Why limit yourself to one person relating what God is doing when you can have three or four? We get a much broader perspective of who God is and what He is saying to us.

  • No matter how good or important you think the next song on your list is, the direction the Spirit wants to go in is always better.

In my first two sessions, I was about to start my 3rd song when on both occasions God said to me ‘go intimate now’. On both occasions they were big songs I was itching to play, especially my new one during the first session! Instead, I sang out in tongues (my spiritual prayer language) and waited for an interpretation so we could all say amen. The first time it happened, a young lad interpreted, the second time, I did. Immediately we had prophecies, words of knowledge and several people got healed. Had I stayed on my alternative course, I’m sure there wouldn’t have been time to get through all of that which God ended up doing!

  • Enjoy the day of small things.

It’s a fast track to maturity. God teaches you loads and gives you a bigger perspective of how His Kingdom works, that He is inclusive and wants multiple gifts on offer.

  • Our region has a phenomenal future.

If some of our young men and women continue on their current trajectory then we are going to have some brilliant leaders from their generation. These guys are unashamed and own the vision of building the Kingdom of God with their whole hearts. I hope they keep the childlike faith that led to so many getting healed and ministered to.

  • Tongues and interpretations are the equivalent of spiritual dynamite!

Nothing triggers things spiritually like using the prayer language that the Spirit gives. It’s something so clearly not of this world and waiting on God for an interpretation gets our ears in tune, opening us up to His voice so we can receive prophecies and words of knowledge.

All in all, Ignite was fantastic. Duncan Lee led the team brilliantly. We saw God working in minds, hearts and bodies, we knew His presence was going with us and that He delights in us and what we’re doing.

Ignite is the future.

Boom time.