I think Ryan is great! He saved me a tent space right next to the main stage - he is the man!
Ryan went through our Gap programme last year, and came back ruined. He has a passion for people who do not yet know Jesus, and an inate ability to chat to them and to introduce them to his own best friend - Jesus. He spent six months in Berkeley NSW, giving out bread, chatting to people, and sharing Jesus' love in word and action. He longs to carry on doing just that, and we are working with his local church to make that possible, probably with Ryan working part time to earn some cash.
Which got me wondering - why doesn't the church support Ryan full time? He has undoubted gifts, a calling and a ministry. The answer is simple - the church pays for church buildings, church structures and church pastors, but despite the endless talk of mission, the church rarely pays for evangelists. Not in NZ anyway!
I am confident that given the right setting and good support, Ryan could gather enough new followers of Jesus to be self-supporting in a couple of years. But who is going to pay for him until then? And when that new group of believers is strong enough to look after itself, and Ryan moves on to pioneer a new work...what then?
Come on church. Pastoral, ordained ministry is not the only valid form of ministry, and certainly not all we should be supporting financially. Church planters, aspiring musicians, story-tellers - these people are coming to CANZ, for which I thank God, and when we have the $$$, I promise we will pass it on.
I had one of those heart-stopping moments on the last evening. I was seated with Monika about 3 rows back, praying for the rain to hold off, when one of those women came running towards me, arms outstretched, massive smile eating up the rest of her face. You know the kind I mean - mad, demented, nuts, odd, weird, strange. The ones who always have words from God for ME. The ones who kindly offer to pray with ME. The ones who scare the life out of ME.
"Hiiiiiiiiiiiii" she screetched, "how are uuuuuuuuuuuuu?" I learnt a prayer from Matt Fielder, a superb speaker. " God, help."
Jesus heard my prayer, as she flung herself around the quivering wreck of a man seated one row in front of me. Thank you Jesus.
One of our motives for attending Parachute was to work out how Church Army NZ could use the event next year to publicise what we do, especially the Gap Year programme, and possibly raise support. So I wandered around the displays of numerous Christian organisations with interest, determined to steal ideas and gain inspiration.
Instinctively, in my head I tried to calculate the cost of matching or bettering the gleaming displays of many of our "competitors" (I know you don't like me using that word, but we are all after the interest and the $$$ of the same, small market!) Add the cost of the thrilling giveaways we'd have to offer, plus the cost of the stall in the first place...and serious doubts crept in.
I'm an idealist...and my hope is that CANZ will be known, respected and paid for because the ministry we do is of such quality and impact that people want to be on our team. Changed lives; the least, last and lost being lifted, promoted and saved; thousands of Christians being motived, trained, equipped and supported to share Jesus in their everyday locations - this is what I long for CANZ to be known and love for. Not glossy brochures or dazzling handouts.
And afterwards I imagined all the Christian organsations agreeing to have a publicity fast - and the tens of thousands of dollars we'd all save being pumped straight into frontline work! Better go, my image consultant is on the phone...
Young people do my head in - I simply don't understand them half the time. I can cope with them when they're asleep, but beyond that...!
We are at Parachute, the highlight of the year, having paid serious dollars. Speakers and bands from across the globe...and the kids sit around playing cards. Why did you come, idiots!
Fast forward two days. The rain it raineth, in English proportions, everyone is less dry than Wet Wet Wet ever were, and the older Clarks are seriously thinking of coming home. So the card-playing, big speaker-missing, God-ignoring youngsters turn out in their thousands, cheering, singing, worshipping, drowning, praising, faithful, excited, passionate, Jesus-adoring. What is going on?
"The rain was so good...it stopped it being just fun or entertainment, and made us focus wholeheartedy on Jesus."
We need to hear it again - despite what many say, todays youngsters don't want spoon feeding and mollycoddling endlessly. They are willing to get drenched, and even to die, for a worthy cause.
Parachute is a massive Christian music festival held a couple of hours south of Auckland. We have just returned from an amazing four days, with a few blogs worth of material. Here is number one.
Emily has friends who make up a band called Kadet, who were invited to make their Parachute debut - and did so in one of the smaller venues called the Apollo. It was the first time I'd heard them live, and they were awesome. Their music isn't full of Christianise, there was no being washed in the blood of the lamb or even saved by grace, just songs echoing the real issues and desires of young people today "I want to fall in love"...that kind of thing.
I'm not expert, and I don't know if they're good enough, but I could not help pondering the massive impact these four Christian young men could have on their peers in NZ and beyond. The church won't fund them, of course, and though I'd dearly love to see Church Army taking these kind of evangelistic risks, we can't...so is there a Christian businessperson who'd be willing to invest not just in Kadet, but in the Kingdom?
Update...the best debut band gets to play on Main Stage at parahcute, and this morning Kadet did just that. Not just me who reckons these ladsare worth investing in!
It is funny how certain phrases become fashionable - and consequently are repeated until you are heartily sick of them (rather like some songs!). One such line for me is "we are human beings, not human doings." The more I think about it the more it sounds like an empty 1960's hippie mantra or a new age excuse for sitting around doing nothing. But I do get the point.
If you want to make my wife, Monika, really angry, just ask her what she does. Because what you are really asking of course is whether or not she is in paid employment. Whether we like it or not, we tend to define and evaluate people by their job and title. But Jesus doesn't do that. Jesus sees Monika's passion to serve him and people and her tireless labours - and that she works twice as hard as her husband for no pay!
Church Army is considering becoming an order, rather than a society. I don't fully understand the difference to be honest, but I think part of the point of being an order is being known for what we are, not what we do. Church Army NZ currently describes itself by its task - "we follow Jesus, make him known, and help others do the same." I have started describing us as "a community of pioneering evangelists." Our being and our doing - surely one must come first and define the other?
Like just about everything, the prevalent style of evangelism is subject to fads and fashions of the day. Recent years has seen a big push for friendship evangelism, process evangelism, lifestyle evangelism. It takes time, and we speak loudest by the way we live. The excellent sermon I heard this morning included the story of a missionary hospitalised in India. The old man in the next bed couldn't get himself to the toilet one night, so messed the bed - to be smacked by the staff the next morning, leaving him in tears. The following night our hero carried the old man and helped him sit over the hole which served as a toilet - with the consequence that in the days after, many patients and hospital staff asked him for the tracts he had previously been unsuccessfully trying to distribute. When a visiting evangelist spoke to the patients and staff, he discoverd that many had given thier lives to Jesus. A great story - and the point drawn from it was that it was the selfless act of mercy and compassion rather than the testimony or carefully crafted Gospel presentation which led to the conversions. But I want to object at this point. Doubtless the beautiful expression of the Christian faith being lived out touched people's hearts - but without the Gospel being explained to them, (in this instance, via aprinted tract) and a response invited, they would have had no opportunity of entering a life changing relationship with Jesus. The Gospel must be explained - and I fear we have either lost confidence in its abiliy to bring transformation, or we have lost our ability to succinctly and helpfully explain just why Jesus came to earth. For a fuller explanation of this theme, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send you a copy.
So this is what 2010 looks like - hot lazy days in Auckland while my family in UK freeze and cope with snow! I have been asked by a number of people to start a blog, so they can get to know me (and my thinking) better. So here it is. I hope to update it at least once each week, perhaps more, so please do check regularly. I am genuinely excited as we head into this new year, with all the opportunities and potential it holds. I am also deeply aware that history is littered with wasted opportunities and unfulfilled potential, so my desire is to pray and think more; to speak in consultation more; to dream and risk more; but above all to put into firm action more of the visions and ideas which God sends my way. "Community" is a buzz word in both the Christian and secular worlds. I describe CANZ as "a community of pioneering evangelists". Well now it is time to move from words to actions - so the new Church Army NZ Base is in the Kodesh Community in Avondale (www.kodeshcommuniy.org.nz). But we are not just living in a community, we fully intend to model community. We will have numerous visitors and guests staying with us, from a day or two to maybe years. We will develop a communal life with spiritual rhythms alonside washing-up rosters; prayer and peeling potatoes with mentoring and mowing the lawn! It will be an adventure for us as a family with the usual highs and lows; but for now I'm just relieved to be living out at least one great idea.