Wydale II : 'Then we shall see'Wydale I, and with a number of new ministers in the town, a second Church Leaders' conference was arranged for 22-23 September 2008 with a return to Wydale Hall, Brompton by Sawdon, Scarborough, North Yorkshire YO13 9DG, tel: 01723 859270. For a theme and title, Wydale II continued the verse from 1 Corinthians 13 "Through a Glass Darkly" to "Then we shall see". The verses for the leader ministry times were taken from the chapter, with verses from Ephesians 2 finishing off these moments.
Feedback from Wydale I suggested that fellowship and ministry one to another were highly valued, whereas the input of the 'bishops' (there was only one in 2004!) was less appreciated. two keynote addresses were integrated into the programme, with more time allocated for leader ministry and getting to know each other through work groups. We remain grateful to Janet Henderson, archdeacon of Richmond, and Peter Barnes, Stevenage Vineyard, for their leadership, prayer and contributions.
An application to Church House Trust was submitted to subsidise the ministers' overnight costs and cover expenses; our gratitude to the trustees has been offered. The event covered its costs with a very small surplus. The programme (attached, below) was published in DL format from A3, but the timings were only noted as a loose framework. Musical worship was supported by the secretary of Churches Together.
It would be easy to indulge in superlatives in describing this event, and having observed relationships between churches over some 30 years I guess my visitor expectations were mixed, but hopeful. Hopeful, because this event sounded different. And different it was!
For a start the agenda was well organised but still “at the mercy” of Church camaraderie. That made a refreshing change!
The momentum of the event was not “cast iron” or at the mercy of the organisers present but it was flexible, depending on the mood and needs of the Church leaders
There was room to accommodate the spontaneous and the unexpected
In the vast tapestry we call Church, unexpectedly to me every type of Church style was present
From the highly liturgical, conservative, right through to the more spontaneous, “Pentecostal” … they were all there
And how were all these traditions accommodated? Well, this is where I try to avoid the superlatives of a media driven world which makes us all so cynical of such descriptions
A genuine openness and respect
A desire to learn from each other and discern God's voice in the diversity
A true honouring of one another, man or woman
A willingness to truly listen and glean from one another's difference
These were some of the ingredients that I had never seen before. People protective and defensive of their styles and traditions….. Yes! But, genuinely learning from each other, irrespective of denominational background…. now that was new to me!
So how does one create this kind of atmosphere? The short answer is …… “I don't know”. I had never really seen this before. But the following visitor's observations may give you some clues. After that you may have to draw your own conclusions, or believe mine.
There was a genuine sense of fun and laughter over the whole event, symptomatic of people who don't take themselves too seriously...
The clear presence of champions of specific causes. But not the kind that “grind their axe”, more the kind that gently defer their passion in the interests of the majority
Some projects were clearly shared, some projects were unashamedly individual, but either way all learned and all were enriched by the corporate learning experience
There was no sense of, “support me in my little corner of the vineyard”, but a genuine openness of heart
So if you asked me to focus on one ingredient that underpinned the effectiveness of this event, I would say ….. Relationship
You can't enjoy this level of fun and fellowship without deep, meaningful friendships being formed elsewhere. It is relationship, and relationship alone that destroys in us all the corrosive effects of suspicion, jealousy, competitiveness, insecurity, et al. And I sensed very little of those destructive tendencies at Wydale II.
Janet allowed time for all to look again at the heart of our own ministry and the ministry of our churches. Janet drew notes from the story of the farmer keeping his mouth shut to ensure a cheap flight at an air show - even when his wife fell out of the airplane; missing the heart of our ministry. The incarnation is at the heart of Paul's ministry. What is the heart of the ministry we undertake, expending so much of our lives living out? At lunch on the first day there was much talk of happiness and what it means. Verse 13: for it is God who is at work in you for enabling you to will and to work for God's good pleasure. As William Barclay translated it, "brings to effect in you both the initial willing and effective action." The initial willing is the moral imperative and the effective action being the concrete result.
When Janet met Dave, her husband, he didn't know many clergy. He recognised that, to be a minister, we don't have to be especially good, but it's all about what God does through them. Ministry is about what God does through us - grace through us.
Andrew Clithoroe writes "I have no illusions any more about trying to be good; I just hope to be grounded in God and in the reality of his grace... that wherever I am there is a constant prayer going on which is the interaction of the Holy Spirit and this matter of a flawed me". The heart of ministry is about holding ourselves open to God amidst our busy lives.
A child has to be exposed to new experiences to become strong; we need to expose ourselves to God regularly. It is so simple but sometimes so difficult to do.
Janet noted the TV documentary showing how transplanted organs affect patients in unusual ways - gaining a fondness for curries where before they avoided the taste, consistently matching the desires of the donor. Even our very selves match the nature of the transplanted heart of our Father in the seat of the will, thinking and emotions and character and morality. Preparing the heart is an act of will; Jeremiah 19 and Deuteronomy 30 v1 both highlight the need for the heart to recall and remember. The heart is the seat of our character. God gave Saul a new heart. Our mind, our thinking, our feeling and emotions cut out our character of our morals and character. The heart is the soul as an operating force the heart is above all the place that God turns where the spirit of faith has its root, where conduct is determined.
When we get discouraged, fearful or proud in the ministry, re-examine the integration of the emotions, mind and personality with where God wants us to be. It is worth checking which part of my heart is not making contact or giving to God. Taking time out with God does restore our balance. God's gift to us on retreat gives us the time to rebalance our lives.
Michael Ramsey expresses it that we are called near to Jesus, with Jesus and in Jesus, to be with God with all the people we relate to on our hearts.
The heart of our ministry is an holistic and radical openness to God, a painful and costly honesty about what we are keeping closed or holding back and an outworking with and for communities in which God has placed us.
A theophany - direct controntation to God with individuals and communities - is an encounter with person or community whereby the future is redefined. The prime example is the episode of the burning bush. The future of our churches and our communities is at a crossroads.
We need to continually acknowledge how God is at work amongst our colleagues and friends and to continue to pray for them in our daily lives.
A story from France notes how we are one body, broken, battered and bleeding, yet one body bound together. We may have nothing but ourselves to give; Jesus broke the bread in anticipation of our brokenness for him.
When Jesus invited others to follow him, he spent most of his time asking them questions rather than giving them answers; that is why those who believed in him were given power to believe in themselves. Power that belittles others is not of God; but a power of servanthood releases rather than restricts God's power on others.
Love keeps us going - notably when we see more of our flock or patients than we see of our own families. At the heart of ministry, we are emptied out, our hearts are broken and yet we are thought to be heartless, but it is in those cases that we are closest to Christ.
We are caught up into the mystery of the incarnation, he emptied hyimself, he made himself of no reputation. With the ways of the world around us sometimes we need to remember to let not our own self interest and vain thinking (with our hearts) get in the way. At the heart of our ministry there will be times when , not until we have been emptied out, will God raise us up and glorify not us but Christ in us (John 17 v10 & 22). This is the life of becoming the living sacrifice.
William Barclay wrote how the hearts of people down the ages are melted as they worship Jesus Christ and they sing of a love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
* My Story - the call to inconvenience!
the call and the gift are unchanging…what is the variable?
is it possible that my gift can lead me astray?
the tension between gift and character becomes key otherwise it becomes gift versus character. God's intention … gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit.
* The Solution.
the two fold sin Jeremiah.2.13, neglecting the fount of Living water and constructing broken cisterns that do not contain that water.
* The Observation
the Mary/Martha tension –God was speaking and the gift was running out of control. I need protecting from my gift… how do I do that?
* My Story resumed
after 20 years of distraction, broken cisterns God initiated the start of a restoration in Toronto.
the Pentecostals: I knew there was a call.
the Charismatics: I backed off the call, hurt, confused, damaged and opted for settling!!
I was thrust into the forefront again in 1992 and observed the Church to be a mess, but in it all was aware of a love for God. Great comfort at this time the parable of the Prodigal's Father. God engineered for me to attend Toronto where the Father's heart was revealed, and exposed to a new model of doing Church.
the Vineyard: God started to unravel me and address my false priorities and the return to the true call on my life.
* Restored to what? The Father's heart is all about relationship. The fountain of Life is all about relationship.
The cisterns are all about constructing a life to preserve that relationship. Once a relationship is restored the gift is in safe hands... “faith which works through love.”
Jonah, running from God's call on my life. It was like avoiding the call to vulnerability. In the end the very thing we run from is the very thing that God is calling us to…as Wimber used to say “the way into the Kingdom is the way on.” The call to brokenness, the call to humility, the call to vulnerability! That's the nature of our call. That's the kind of character that handles giftedness carefully… “I'm suspicious of a man that doesn't walk with a limp”. In the end for me it was me returning to my roots… and discovering my call to relationship. That has always been the Father's heart. That's the sheer power of the message in the Prodigal Father. This is my son, who was lost, and is found… ever wondered what happened afterwards?
1. The Prodigal Reflex
Always returning, always learning, never on auto. Returning to the fountain always involves coming to our senses, somewhere!
“A disciple is always ready to take the next step. If there is anything that characterises Christian maturity, it is the willingness to become a beginner again for Jesus Christ. It is the willingness to put your hand in His hand and say “I'm scared to death but I'll go with you, you are the pearl of great price””
“an experience of God is always for a purpose. We receive our personal Pentecost, work through our personal deserts and out into the harvest”… that's where we belong!
it will involve mercy not judgment…contrast the older brother!
the Father's reaction was full of compassion and free of condemnation.
the party reaction, a celebration of delight.
David's ability to survive the long haul as a theocratic king was rooted in his Prodigal reflex…just read verses 10-13.All of that despite the disaster that was Bathsheba! God's heart of mercy has never changed. This whole episode in David's life replicates the Prodigal in Luke 15….”he came to his senses.”
3. What is the most difficult part of the call on our lives? Exposition of Psalm 131.
Exercise break . Just stilling our hearts to hear God. We're going to dial down now and listen to what He has to say. I'm going to ask the Holy Spirit to come and see what happens! …..
Now what did God say? Purpose of that exercise is to train ourselves to dial down and listen as a spontaneous lifestyle. As we build up our relationship with God through (the Holy Spirit) so we become better at listening.
4. So what is the Mary/Martha tension? Exposition. Luke 10.38-42
the battle of two spiritual cultures…the culture of the Kingdom, resting and listening. The culture of the world, pre-occupied and driven!
dealing continually with the force of my personality…and choosing the better thing! Most of us have a sneaking admiration for Martha's disposition and a tinge judgmental at the irresponsibility of Mary's behaviour.
Conformed or transformed. Martha was a picture of conformity (Rom 12.2) whereas Mary was a picture of transformation by the attractiveness of Jesus fellowship. Conformity goes deep in our nature…radical treatment is required to render it transformed.
In the final analysis Jesus was speaking and Martha was not listening!!! Somewhere within Martha a lie was at work and she believed it such that she was unable to implement the spiritual discipline necessary to hear Jesus. Jesus exposed the truth that bound her to the lie….you are worried and anxious about many things, but Mary has chosen the better thing and it shall not be taken from her…what a gentle rebuke!
Are we restless or contented?
Are we listening or distracted?
The only thing that will protect us is an affair of the heart…otherwise we will commit spiritual adultery, we will become compromised. David …”one thing I desire…” Psalm 27.4.
5. The wine and the wineskin. (the packaging analogy)
the key issue is always the wine…the container is dispensable. But we so often venerate the container and neglect the wine. The wineskin is called to serve the wine not vice versa
we are called to follow after the Spirit and structure accordingly, that's the way the Kingdom works. Get it wrong and we find ourselves building structures that are irrelevant to what the Spirit is doing!
a Godly character will seek to preserve the administration of the gift, they will not be in competition.
my gift and my call is to serve the Spirit, which will come out of a healthy, ongoing relationship with God.
The motivation behind all spiritual disciplines is to preserve my relationship…out of that comes an enriched, sharpened giftedness….Jesus to the disciples, ”come aside and rest awhile.”
Healthy disciplines will protect me from my giftedness.
Always coming back to the fountain, the Prodigal reflex otherwise the giftedness develops a momentum all of its own!
Materials and links
On the occasion that the wider church is given the opportunity to serve in a new, challenging and 21st century way, how would we respond?