Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ordained Pioneer Minister?

So tell me God, what's the difference between an ordained Pioneer Minister and an ordained minister and how am I supposed to know which sort I am - and who is supposed to decide.

Please, please don't tell me its up to the Church to decide, God. As you well know, the Church and I have not always seen eye to eye.

In fact, I'm not sure I am that comfortable being a part of the institutional Church anymore - it all seems so terribly business like, officious, managerial, and so frighteningly desperately empty of you.
Does that make me a pioneer?

All I know is that I feel out of place in a Connexional Church which seems to think that 'everything' will all be OK as long as it employs a team based on an individuals conformity to a fixed list of essentials and desirables, (none of which directly mentions any necessity to believe in you I'm sorry to say) and then orders its business and finances according to agreed priorities.
I really don't want a fresh expression of this...

I want MORE - I want people to discover the wonder, the transforming power of knowing YOU and of what they can be in YOU. I want a Church that isn't afraid to name you as God and which states that belief in you is central to its self-understanding not just one of its priorities.

Whatever happened to being raised up to spread scriptural holiness throughout the land and reforming the Church?
Whatever happened to wanting to be disciples, to growing in grace and holiness and trusting in you rather than managing the Church for you?

I don't believe that the British Methodist Church began to decline through lack of management, it has been declining through lack of confidence and faith in you.
Yes, yes, I know, harsh criticism.. but its OK, there's nobody to listen or take note - except you God - and you at least know that my anger is rooted in pain not scorn.

God this is such a deep grief to bear, this slow death of British Methodism.
It's like tending a parent with terminal cancer, or Alzheimer's. disease. I can't stop loving, but the illness makes it so hard to hold on to what is precious and win through.

Did you mean for this to happen, was this really a part of your plan or just a consequence of our determination to go our own way?
If it is your will for us to die so that we could be resurrected, then why does it feel like a lie when I try and persuade others to win through, to not lose heart, to keep faith with Wesley and the doctrines you gave us to hold and share? Worse, why do I feel so passionately that you have called me to try and hold those with the same longing for you within our Church?

Is it so wrong Lord, for me to long for them to have what others have had - a chance to see your young people, all your people, participate in a lively, vibrant church which is on fire with the Spirit, alive to the gospel and committed to working for your kingdom of grace?
Does this longing make me a pioneer?

All I know is that I believe it is essential to want to reach out to your people for positive reasons, because the Church does see the need and does feel called by you to respond to it, not simply because the Church is in decline or because I am so deeply unhappy with what we are not doing now.
Does this make me a pioneer?

I want, no I need, to believe that I am motivated by love of you and called by you to spread the good news of your gospel. I need to believe that what drives me is a love of your people, whoever they are, not my despair over the state of the Church...
but, oh God... have you seen the mess we are in...
Does seeing make me a pioneer? Or just the determination to reach out and win through...?

So tell me...what sort of minister am I really God?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Positive Accountability

Well God, as you know, I've been trying to prepare myself to lead a Methodist Covenant service this weekend: not an easy task for someone who takes accountability seriously.
It's an odd thing but so many people seem to have forgotten how to hold themselves accountable to you without wallowing in either self-pity or self-loathing. Accountability seems bizarrely to be associated with 'miserable sinner' status.
I can't believe that was ever what you wanted - was it God?
You invite me to be accountable to you for the state of our relationship - that's a positive thing isn't it? You expect me to share being accountable for the joy we both find in our relationship, for the good that it does and the way that it enables me to grow. Why would that make me miserable?

Maybe I'm wrong, but I've always found our chats quite intimate and reassuring, even when they are uncomfortable. They are a chance to reflect and maybe regret, but also a chance to acknowledge how important you are to me and how vital your grace is to my life. After all, here you are, still listening, still holding on to me, still nudging me, challenging me, exasperatingly so sometimes, but always lovingly.
The bottom line is that the more I reflect on it God the more conscious I am of your part in my life.
Yes.. the poverty of my worship does shame me, my failure to love my neighbour distresses me, and the failure to love myself is something that, as you know only too well, I regret deeply. I deeply wish I could live up to my own, leave alone your expectations of me. But I don't feel the need to 'confess' these things to you so that you take them from me as my failures or so that I can avoid or justify you punishing me (I don't think you've ever done THAT!)
No, I share them with you because only you seem to share or even understand my desire to be a better person, and only you seem to be able to provide me with the means and the grace to be so.

Isn't confession simply a way of sharing my sometimes broken hopes and dreams about who I am and a way of acknowledging my need for your help in fixing them...?

But how, God, can I lead others to that same place of positive accountability?

How to help others hold the tension between being accountable, and yet NOT falling into either the slough of despond or the pit of despair?
"with JOY we offer ourselves anew to you"

The words are certainly powerful God - don't you think?

Eternal God,
in your faithful and enduring love
you call us to share in your gracious covenant in Jesus Christ.
In obedience we hear and accept your commands;
in love we seek to do your perfect will;
with joy we offer ourselves anew to you.
We are no longer our own but yours.

I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you
or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing;
I freely and wholeheartedly
yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.