June – July 2012 Issue 3
RELEASE Top tips on using your gifts We must release young people How leaders must release others, themselves and even God!
Allan Ball looks at life and ministry in the run-up to the Olympics
The successful businesswoman that knows who the real boss is
Keep going forward!
AoG National Leader John Partington reflects on this year’s conference
why THE CHURCH SHOULDN'T COPY THE WORLD The Church will struggle if it tries to follow the ways of the world, argues David Harvey
Contents Features 03
WE MUST KEEP GOING FORWARD
Re Online’s Kate Kent caught up with AoG National Leader John Partington at this year’s annual conference
WHY WE NEED TO BE SPIRITUAL ATHLETES
The Olympics are coming to London in July, which reminds retired Old Colwyn minister Allan Ball about being a spiritual athlete
It’s time to release christ followers
Anointed leaders must release themselves, others and even God, says Paddy Venner, and offers three ways to help you do it
I’M FIGHTING FIT FOR FAITH IN JESUS
Fitness guru and successful businesswoman Rosemary Conley may head a large firm but she knows who the real boss is...
HOW TO USE THE GIFTS GIVEN TO YOU
THE CHURCH CAN’T COPY THE WORLD
The gifts of God are vital to every believer and leader, but what are the dos and don’ts? Phil Pye, of the NLT, gives his top tips
The church will struggle if it tries to follow the ways of the world, argues Bible teacher David Harvey
WE MUST RELEASE OUR YOUNG PEOPLE
Church is only for the young at heart, says AoG minister Simon Cunningham, who encourages leaders to release their youth
Dr John Andrews answers questions about leadership
with Ian Watson
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Re Online is published by Assemblies of God Incorporated, PO Box 7634, Nottingham, NG11 6ZY. Tel: 0115 921 7272 Email: email@example.com Publishing agents: New Life Publishing Co Write to: Re Online, PO Box 777, Nottingham, NG11 6ZZ. Tel: 0115 824 0777 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org All content is copyright and must not be reproduced without prior written permission from the Editor. Submitted articles are subject to editing. By submitting articles you accept this to be the case.
s soon as we decided the theme for this edition of Re Online, I immediately had that old Tom Jones song come into my head which goes, “Please release me, let me go… I don’t love you anymore.” Now, I realise that I’m beginning to show my age, but whatever your thoughts are about the old – and recently rejuvenated – singer, he certainly knows how to belt out a great number, and I unashamedly admit to enjoying some of his classics. Thankfully though, these words would never form any part of any song to any person at any time from our Lord and God. The Bible is clear that even more than an act, it is God’s attribute and nature to love the ‘whosoever’. So simply yet comprehensively in 1 John 4 we read a number of times that ‘God IS love’. How tremendous to meditate upon that truth that there will NEVER be a second when you will be outside of God’s love and never a time when he won’t love you anymore. But what if we rewrote that famous line and sang back to our Saviour, “Please release me, let me go… I just love you more and more.” Because of our love relation-
ship with Christ we desire to be released into new ministries for him – new channels of his blessing, new depths of worship, new opportunities to serve, new dimensions of operating in the gifts of the Spirit, new ways of looking at planting new churches and new expressions of mission. Imagine being ‘released’ to dream ever bigger dreams and to do what you have never done before – to be set free from all restraints and confinements and to be liberated and delivered from all those negative influences from others and yourself! Well here’s the best news of all... I reckon that the more we love him, the more we get released to become all that he wants us to be and we can soar to new heights, even as eagles. May these summer months bring you into a fresh understanding of the glorious truth that ‘whom the Son sets free, is free indeed’ and that the theme of this magazine becomes the expression of your lifestyle. Your Friend, John PS: Are there any songwriters out there who fancy building around those great words: “Please release me, let me go... I just love you more and more”?
KEEP GOING FORWARD Re Online’s Kate Kent caught up with AoG National Leader John Partington at this year’s annual conference. Here’s what he had to say… contents cover 3
John, what did you make of this year’s conference? I’ve been more excited about this year than the two or three I’ve already been involved with since my return from Australia. We have had far more younger leaders than ever before who seem excited and there has been a real sense of worship and unity... I’m very pleased with how it has all gone. Tell us about the guest speakers this year. How did you go about choosing who you wanted to impart to the movement? I was invited to speak at the AoG national conference in Singapore – how that invitation came about I’ve no idea! But I took with me an envelope with an invite for Phil Pringle who was also speaking at the same conference as myself. However, before I had the opportunity to give him the envelope I really felt the Holy Spirit say I needed to get Dominic Yeo for 2012 and not Phil. Knowing how good Phil would be, I shared openly and honestly with him that I wanted to invite him originally but needed to hold off for a year. What I didn’t realise, was that the day before, Phil had prophesied over Dominic that he was going to get an invite to go to the UK so when I asked him he immediately said yes! Fortunately, Phil also agreed to come in 2013 and all I could do was say thank you to God because he really helped me in the situation. As for Andy McCourt and Paul Reid we wanted a couple who by reputation had done transitioning well, which is so relevant to our leaders at a time when so many younger pastors are being raised up. Can you give us a snapshot of what you feel God has been doing within AoG in the last year? There have been huge, huge changes, including leadership, the way we do business, moving from Ruddington to Mattersey, the joining of two staff, and the change in our financial situation. There have been some casualties along the way and it hasn’t been easy in some senses. Perhaps some people who used to hold office that no longer do may not have found it easy. But this one thing I do know... I came with a mandate to bring change, and I know some people don’t like it, but I have to be single minded on it and I feel God has graciously helped us. People are tell4 cover contents
ing me that we’ve hit the tipping point, that the ones who are with us are really with us and certainly the indication from this year’s conference is very much that. And so I will keep focused in doing what I believe to be right, and I have declared that if I have the health and strength, I will stand again next year, and if people want me they’ll vote. My team is behind me and it will bring stability if I can stay. God is setting us up for where we are going. What about you personally – what has been your major focus in the last 12 months? I love life. It’s a disposition I have, that I can put my head on the pillow at night, have a little chuckle and go to sleep. That said, leadership can be lonely at times and even though I have a great team and a great wife, I do carry a burden that I hadn’t anticipated and didn’t know about, but I’m happy that God has allowed me the privilege of doing this. Tell us about your decision, along with your wife, Andrene, to take on the role of senior leaders for Christian Life Ministries in Coventry earlier this year. Well senior leaders isn’t the right phraseology because we’re bringing in Martin and Esther Storey from the Christian Centre in Nottingham and they will be the senior leaders. I felt that my mandate
How did you go about appointing Martin? I met Martin when he visited Australia with David Shearman. We then had a meal together when he was at the Inspire Conference at Mattersey last year. I enjoyed his company and liked things about him and I felt God was going to use me to speak into his life in some way. He was going through some personal stuff, he didn’t really open up but I could see the signs and I knew all wasn’t well. People are very gracious and good but you can still see beyond it. Very often it’s not what we say but what we don’t say that can speak to us! When he left the conference I told him if he ever wanted to have coffee with me, to get in touch. I waited for him to contact me but he didn’t and I went off to Coventry. Four or five months later with no challenge from myself he did eventually contact me so I recommended he come to Coventry to see me. In my spirit I knew I wanted to put the offer to him to lead the church and before he went I told him I believed it was right for him to come and from there it’s proven to be that God has said the same to him!
'We have had far more younger leaders than ever before who seem excited and there has been a real sense of worship and unity'
How are things going at the church and how do you manage to balance that and your role as our National Leader? As I said, Sundays at church are going amazingly well. There are a lot of gaps in the midweek stuff and in the pastoring and direction of the local church. I’ve given quite a bit of time into Coventry, certainly more than my two weeks a month commitment in the last three months, but now I’m picking up the need to get around some of the other AoG churches and fulfil my commitment to them also. When Martin comes I’ll still commit two weekends to Coventry but he may be gracious and allow me some time off!
to Coventry was to bring oversight and to put in somebody who could take on the work. My commitment was only two weekends a month and you can’t lead a church with that so there have been huge gaps because I can’t be there in the week to pastor the people. I’m very grateful that it’s growing though – our services are packed out – standing room only. We have probably added about 150 in the time I’ve been in this role but when Martin arrives my role will alter somewhat.
Earlier this year you took your National Leadership Team members and their wives to Israel. What can you tell us about the trip? It was amazing! It was probably about £70-80,000 worth of trip – all paid for by the Israeli government and the tourist board! I was invited to go and I asked to bring my associate and when they said yes I asked if I could bring the team. It took them a few months to get back to me but they eventually said yes, but when I got that answer I had to point out to them 0
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that when I said my ‘team’ I had included all our wives under that umbrella! So as a result of that ask, we waited another couple of months until they agreed and in the end 16 of us went! Andrew Smith’s wife couldn’t make it but the trip did exactly what I wanted it to do in terms of bonding. There was no friction, we had fun, we prayed together and Andrene and I were able to have one-on-one time with all the leaders. It was a wonderful trip. Did you have a personal highlight? Yes, we had a lot of fun but when we visited the Garden Tomb it was there that we worshipped the Lord together as a gang. We broke bread and sang in tongues and praised God. On that particular day we had our own private tour guide – a professor who had two girls with him studying Biblical theology at the local university and he asked if he could bring them along. So these two girls came with us, one from America and one from Japan. The girl from Japan observed us worshipping the Lord at the tomb. Back on the coach she asked me to tell her more about the Holy Spirit. She told me she had recently (within the past few months) 6 cover contents
met Jesus and invited him into her life but she wanted to know more. I told her that before the day was out Andrene and I would pray for her. It was a long day but I didn’t forget my promise and later on we took her to the back of the bus and prayed for her and she was instantly filled with the Holy Spirit and began to praise God in tongues. It was marvellous, quietly done at the back of the bus. A few weeks ago I had an email from her to say she was coming to England and had just one spare date and asking if she could visit the church! I didn’t even know her name but I remembered who she was so I got one of the girls from Coventry to meet her at the train station. She only had a few hours but I greeted her with a hug and asked her how she was doing and she said: “God met with me at the back of the bus! I can’t believe it and I want to thank you!” So I asked her if she would share with the church what had happened and she was willing so I interviewed her and she gave her testimony... it was the most outstanding and remarkable story! That for me was the highlight of the trip and it had nothing to do with the team! I believe the whole thing was just
for that girl to be filled with the Holy Ghost! We all know that you love to have fun. What do you get up to when you’re not in work? I enjoy eating! I’m a granddad six times over now so I very much enjoy being with my grandkids and around my family and because I am away so much (something I know I need to rectify) home has become a place I very much look forward to. Just recently I was invited to speak at the AoG conference in Fiji later on this year, so I said to the man that I would have to pray about it. I prayed for about a second and then said: “Yes! I will be able to do it!” There’s so much to do and I will never be bored. And finally, are there any last words you’d like to add? Keep going forward, keep being positive. Let’s keep the confessions of our mouths sweet and not be put off by negativity. There will always be grumblers and moaners but we just need to let it go in one ear and out the other. I think God is doing some great things and I am personally at peace.
The Olympics are coming to London in July, which reminds retired minister of Old Colwyn Allan Ball about being a spiritual athlete. Here’s an alternative version to 1 Corinthians 13 that he felt inspired to write If I speak with the language of all the other athletes, but have not love, I am still at the crawling stage. If I have the gift of a fine physique and can move my arms and legs in perfect rhythm... if I have strength and agility beyond the average but have not love, I am too weak even to stand in the starting blocks. If I give all the time I possess to training and practice, surrender my body to the flames of enthusiasm and zeal, but have not love, I am disqualified from the race before it’s even started. Love is what I need. Love is staying power. Love is stamina. It does not weaken; it is not easily discouraged. Love is motivation in training and during the race love is winning strategy. It spurs me on if I am flagging. It gives me new bursts of speed. Love never fails. Where there are new training techniques and
Spiritual athletes 8 cover contents
facilities they will cease. Where there are tongues of instruction, they will be stilled. Where there is the knowledge of athletic skill, it will pass away. For we know in part, we exercise in part... but when we have run the race and received the prize, that which is imperfect will disappear. Now I am a trainee. I talk like a trainee, I think like a trainee and I exercise like a trainee. When I become a world champion and possess the gold, I shall put away training days. Now we see the Lord and Master of the Games briefly and only from a distance, then, when he presents the Victor’s Crown, we shall see him face to face. Now I am partly trained, then I shall be fully trained... perfectly exercised... unbeatable! And now these three remain as part of our daily training routine: faith, hope and love... but the greatest of these is LOVE.
RELEASE the Christ followers
Anointed leaders must release themselves, others and even God, says Paddy Venner
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t is within the crowds of the uninvolved in church life that we find the unreleased – the people who have the God-given potential, who have the ability and the anointing that goes with the equipping, but for whom the freedom to operate in their destined capacity is a stranger.
And they find themselves sitting like eagles in a budgie cage. Created to be big, but living small. How do people lose their freedom to operate? How are people so seemingly unreleased so as to appear unutilised and defunct, yet when they are spoken to they seem to have had a dream at some stage? I love to find out what drives people, what motivates them forward, and am saddened often to find that so many have the dream and often the ability to realise it too, but life came along and robbed them of the possibility of actualising what they felt they could do for God. There are so many unreleased Christ followers, and so many reasons for the unreleased. But here I want to explore three possible avenues of release.
Releasing yourself We become ensnared in bondages that prevent us from allowing ourselves to explore our faith and to step out beyond the confines of what we feel we are capable of. Past failure, past abuses and past hurts all play a big part in us not allowing ourselves to become more than we are. Unreleased from their own opinions of themselves and unreleased from the darkness of unbelief, people who are unreleased and held captive to these things show the symptoms of their captivity in a number of ways, but a principal one is fear, where people live their lives as a constant reaction to what is happening around them instead of making things happen and walking in the dominion and authority that is theirs through Christ. Releasing ourselves means realising that we have failed just as Scripture makes clear we will all do... and then forgiving ourselves. So many of us are quick to forgive others but we don’t afford ourselves the same treatment – we are harsher with ourselves than God is. It is when we forgive ourselves our failures and weaknesses that we release ourselves from our own judgements and we start to reap the benefits of self 10 cover contents
'Some of us were raised in an environment where accolades were earned by good school marks and where affection, love and acceptance were earned and not given unconditionally' confidence which is so often beaten down by our own lack of personal release, and our self-bondage in the lies we have convinced ourselves of. Fear and faith are on opposing ends of the belief spectrum – we are either operating out of one or the other, but the degree to which we operate in faith, and silence the vote of fear in our decision making is determined by how released our thinking is. Some of us were raised in an environment where accolades were earned by good school marks and good behaviour, and where affection, love and acceptance were earned and not given unconditionally. People raised in such a way have an inbuilt sense of being unreleased because no matter what they did it was never enough. They become prisoners to the expectations of others and this breeds a sense of paranoia and inadequacy – the paranoia causes people to react rather than act, and the sense of inadequacy prevents them from ever
stepping out of the boat of certainty onto the water that might be the water of storms, but is also where Jesus is standing beckoning. The unreleased are trapped in a cycle of events – the same things seem to always be happening to them – broken relationships, disappointment, getting upset by something in church, falling at the same obstacle time and time again. These are not symptoms of someone having a hard life – they are symptoms of someone who is unreleased and needs to break free of every chain that life has put on them, and from every chain that they have put on themselves This also has nothing to do with the devil – he doesn’t have to do anything – they’re already doing it for him! The unreleased person watches as well meaning friends try to bind the devil on their behalf, when in fact the cure does not lie in binding anything, but in loosing something. We release ourselves by simply decid-
people the same unconditional forgiveness afforded us on the cross, we release people from our judgment and into God’s hands where he can work in their lives. There is such freedom in releasing others as it shows our level of security in Christ and demonstrates a kingdom mindedness that goes way beyond our own little lentil patch.
ing that the past will no longer hinder us, but like the Israelites fleeing Egypt who went and raided the homes of their captors, we go forward equipped by our past having learned wisdom lessons.
Releasing others Secure leaders release others. Many of the unreleased in churches are so because their leader is threatened – ‘What if their ministry is better than mine?’ ‘What if the people like them more than me?’ I personally love it when I put a youngster up on stage for the first time to bring a Word from God and see them succeed and grow in confidence. It doesn’t threaten me – instead it tells me that the future of our church is looking secure. Unreleased people, people who are living in the reaction will never release others, but will have a Saul attitude. We see two Sauls in the Bible – one, of course, who became known as Paul – but both Sauls had an attitude towards releasing
people. When King Saul saw how popular and talented David was he threw javelins at him. When Paul saw how Timothy was growing in ministry he released him to minister in Ephesus and encouraged him, mentoring him and guiding him every step of the way. There is release and captivity in our words, which are arrows that we shoot into the future. We can kill off the confidence of an aspiring young person in the church, or we can take the Timothys – and ‘Timothesses!’ – and nurture them into their full potential in Christ. There is also the release from our judgment. When we harbour unforgiveness towards someone we are holding them in our judgment, and we know this because our thoughts towards that person are not loving thoughts, but thoughts of revenge and offence. When we choose to afford
God scarcely needs us to release him from anything, but the truth is we have bound his working in our lives by our small concepts of what he can and can’t do. If it is true that unbelief blocks entry into the promise then our lack of belief in what God can do in and through us will block our own entry into the promises over our own lives. We release God’s work in us when we surrender our need to be in control and let him be God. That is, the untamed, rampant God who is not the meek, pale, wan figure depicted in stained glass windows, but who is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah who roars deliverance into the lives of the unreleased, releasing them into their uniqueness in Christ. He never promises an easy journey, but he does guarantee a wild, adventurous ride, always taking the scenic route, and always arriving in his time. When we release God into our lives and get beyond compartmentalised thinking in our relationship with God, we start to see his amazing interest in every aspect of our lives. We might have given our lives to Jesus, been filled with the Holy Spirit and even be in ministry, but that does not mean he has been released in our lives to be God and Lord over all that is within us, to the extent that we can say with the Psalmist, ‘Let all that is within me praise his name,’ because there might be a lot of stuff within us that cannot praise his name as he has not yet been released to be God over our everything! My prayer is that we all find the power of release, where we are released from our limiting concepts into a realisation of the greatness of our Jehovah El Shaddai, the God who is more than enough. And when we do, we find the joy in releasing others to be all they can be in Christ, and we see the power of God working in our lives as we release him no longer to be limited in our lives by our paradigms, but to be God in us, our only hope of glory. contents cover 11
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ealth guru Rosemary Conley has made millions with her entrepreneurial skills – but the 64-year-old knows who is in charge. “God is the chairman of my board of life,” she says emphatically. Since she came to faith a quarter of a century ago, Rosemary has had no doubt who she reports to. Her Hip & Thigh Diet and the Rosemary Conley Diet & Fitness Clubs (there are more than 2,300 across the UK) have flourished when other diet and exercise programmes have failed faster than a New Year resolution. At the centre of it all, is her deep faith. “I became a Christian in 1986 when I asked the Lord into my life. I surrendered totally to him and from that moment on I have tried to live my life his way – not mine. “There were no blinding flashes of light or crashes of thunder or puffs of smoke when I asked Jesus into my life, but I know that as soon as I had prayed, kneeling at the side of my bed, something very dramatic had happened. When I awoke the next morning I knew that my sins had been forgiven, and that I was reborn and ready to live a new life. I had no idea that my life would change so dramatically in the years that followed. “Whilst I have enjoyed great success with my books, videos, diet and fitness clubs and magazine, none of it could have been achieved without the blessing of the Lord. He gave me the energy, the ideas, the opportunities and the humility to realise that what I had achieved was God’s own gift.” Watching Rosemary in one of her many TV appearances or videos – she still runs several classes a week – you see that her motivation is unbounded. She is never preachy or judgmental. She emphasises the need to balance healthy eating with exercise and can point to countless testimonies from people on how she has helped change their lives. After coming to faith, Rosemary says one of the most dramatic changes was the love she felt, not only for Jesus, but also for her husband, family and friends as well as complete strangers. “I know that this is God’s love reaching through me to touch others. We cannot survive in this world without love and the feeling that we are loved. “One of the greatest truths I have learned as a Christian is that the more we love others the more love they give back. I
Fighting fit for faith in Jesus Fitness guru and businesswoman Rosemary Conley knows who the real boss is. James Hastings reports remember at first being very worried that I didn’t know how to serve the Lord. Then, one day, after having a chat with a minister and listening to his reassurance that the Lord would tell me in his own good time what he wanted me to do, I felt more relaxed. “As I drove home after that very conversation I turned on the radio and the next song to be played was Cliff Richard and Sarah Brightman singing that beautiful song from Phantom of the Opera, All I Ask Of You. The lyrics sang out what I believed was my message from the Lord – ‘All I ask of you is that you love me.’ In
my mind it was so clear that this was the message that was being given to me and I was elated because I felt, yes, I could do that easily. “This was a turning point for me. Every day I try to remember to tell the Lord, as well as my husband, that I love him. Love is something that we should never take for granted, but to know that the Lord Jesus loves us more than we could ever love him should be one of the greatest comforts we will ever experience. It is his love at work through us that enables me to face each day determined to help others in whatever way he shows.” contents cover 13
How to use the gifts you're given The gifts of God are vital to every believer and leader, but what are the dos and don’ts? Phil Pye, of the National Leadership Team, has some top tips
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Traps easily fallen into: • We ‘professionalise’ the gifts – assigning them to the work of the ‘clergy’. Clearly there are gifts given to the Church such as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers that carry authority, weight, leadership and influence and rightly ought to find a submissiveness and responsiveness in our hearts. But these gifts are there to equip others to find their gift for works of service. Let’s reiterate, there is no clergy/laity divide and we must avoid creating one. As Andy Stanley observes, “Every time you add a title you add distance.” • We compare with others – and run to two extremes, never feeling as good as others, or in our more carnal moments offering self-congratulation at just how good we are. Don’t go there! • We define gifts by their ‘visuality’ – if our gift is not ‘up front’, for example preaching or leading worship, it has no value. This is not true! • We doubt we make a difference – of course the accusing voice is quick to reinforce this, but don’t listen. Is this not why Jesus said that even just giving a cup of water to someone in his name is not dismissed as worthless? • We get discouraged – which lends itself to not finishing what we started, a failure to see through all that God wants to do in us. It becomes a classic example of ‘unfulfilled potential’.
How can we help others determine where they fit? • Accept the truth – 1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each of you has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another.” God desires and longs to use everyone and we need to believe that. • Be in fellowship – the Psalmist is clear, being ‘planted in the house of the Lord’ causes us to flourish and be fruitful. How often have leaders been confronted with
people who claim to want to be part of the fellowship but with ‘their agenda’, which usually means they want a high profile? It never works! But neither does being disconnected from the body, which inevitably cuts off the life flow, leading to death! Here is an unchanging principle that is not going away anytime soon... if you want to prosper in your gift you need to be planted in a house. • Have a selfless heart – Paul writes to the church at Philippi and tells them he is sending the gift of Timothy’s ministry to them. His confidence in ‘his son in the faith’ was not misplaced for he describes Timothy as a servant who was only interested in their welfare. That is selflessness personified. Gift should never be dominated by self-interest. The question, “What’s in it for me?” needs to be consigned to the cross. • Be dedicated – Romans 12:1-2 tells us that we should offer our lives as an act of worship and not conform to the patterns of this world, but that we should be transformed in the renewing of our mind. Then we will prove God’s good, pleasing and perfect will. So, don’t hold back... make yourself wholly available. • Recognise where your fulfilment lies – it’s crazy to think that God is forever going to be asking you to do the opposite of what you most enjoy. Just recently one of the young ladies from our church found herself helping in the kid’s ministry for an afternoon. Asking her afterwards how it had gone, she replied, “Well, I’ve found out where my gift isn’t!” Discovering gifts can take time, trial and experimentation. It may shift and develop in the seasons of our spiritual growth, but God wants us exercising the right gift with the right team in the right place – then we’ll serve with joyfulness and not grumpiness! • Listen to others – Proverbs tells us that, “A wise person listens to advice.” Don’t be afraid or abashed to ask others you respect and are in relationship with the question, “What do you think?” •Be patient – passion needs to be mar-
ried with patience, allowing God to work through process. Be encouraged though, that “he who began a good work will carry it on to completion.”
As our gift moves through the gears, let's avoid: • Plateauing – in other words, putting a ceiling on what God is able to do. The temptation is always ‘so far and no further’, so keep responding, developing, and yes, even being surprised by what God will do. •Dwelling – we enter a rich fulfilling season of life and ministry, everything is great and we then want to stay there forever. Churches and individuals have been guilty of seeking to replicate something of the past from where God has moved on, but it’s futile! • Forgetting – No, I’m not contradicting the previous point – they need to be held in tension, not bound to the past, but never forgetting that whatever we are and whatever we do is always because of God’s unending grace and mercy. It keeps us grounded. contents cover 15
u o l d h s n ot h c
The Church will struggle if it merely follows the ways of the world, says Bible teacher David Harvey
ho would lead like that in the business world?” The conference speaker asked the question as the room of Christian leaders nodded in response at the Church’s apparent inability to match its secular counterparts. A question like this one should raise many more questions for the attentive leader – questions about the value of the 0 contents cover 17
comparison, or the appropriateness of copying leadership models from the secular world. But one question should stand above them all: What is the role of the Church? I have to admit to being surprised at how many Christians and leaders struggle to answer this, both quickly and biblically. Somehow, over the years, various different interpretations of what Church could and, supposedly, should be have turned what is a simple question into something more perplexing. And if we can’t decide on its purpose, how are we supposed to know how to lead it? The simple answer, to quote Hauerwas’ famous dictum, is that, “The role of the Church is to be the Church and to show the world how to be the world.” To help us understand that, we need some help from the apostle Paul.
Unity in Ephesus The easiest place to explore Paul’s theology of Church is in his letter to the Ephesians, where he wrestles with various concepts and issues. But if you look closely, one theme presents itself clearly and that is the theme of ‘unity’. Paul moves his conversations from issues of God’s grand project to reunite creation to showing how God is achieving this by uniting Jew and non-Jew and reconnecting those of us who were far off and those who were near, bringing us into the unity of the one Spirit. How has God accomplished this? Through us as the Church! How is the wisdom of God expressed? Through the Church, and, specifically, through its multifaceted diversity. It makes you want to take a breath before you criticise a church in future, doesn’t it? We live in a world where we are bombarded with images and rhetoric that attempt to standardise us all – this is seen most clearly in the advertising industry – yet God’s plan to restore the world is the Church, composed, not of a congregation of clones, but of a diverse, multifaceted group of unique individuals. A diversity so radical, that only God, through the Spirit, could bring it together to – amongst other things – show the
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world how ridiculous its divisions are. God choosing to do all this through the Church, you might say, is more than we ever asked for or imagined, mainly, because it would be just too difficult for anyone to accomplish on their own. This is why a church should never be segregated according to style, age, culture, or race, because when it does it becomes a club and ceases to be the manifold wisdom of God. Although the Church is a Spirit-fuelled organisation, Paul doesn’t expect it to just ‘work’. The Church is a human organisation, and I mean that positively –the quicker Christians realise that human is a God-designed state, the better it will be for all of us!
Five-fold ministry Paul notes that leadership is at the foundation of the Church and he turns his focus to this in chapter four of Ephesians. From his position of suffering, Paul demands that those who are called take that seriously, not by simply developing their ‘gift’, but rather to ensure that they keep hold of the basic characteristics of being a Christian – humility, gentleness, patience
'A church should not be segregated according to style, age, culture, or race or else it becomes a club' and love which all work towards developing unity. If the Church is the multifaceted wisdom of God it is hardly surprising to find Paul explain that the leadership gifts of the church are varied and diverse – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Paul isn’t intending to create a lexicon of leadership terms so that you, or your congregation, can define what type of leader you are, but rather, show us the mechanisms by which God will bring about the unity of the Church – unsurpris-
The Church comprises a diversity so radical, that only God through the Spirit could bring it together, says David Harvey
ingly through a diversity of leadership united under one calling. Now this is a challenging feature for church communities which have, in recent years, largely focused on only employing pastors and teachers. While evangelists are left to itinerant ministry, prophets are almost entirely misunderstood, and ‘apostle’ has become an altogether slippery term. This is not to suggest we’ve understood pastor or teacher any better. Pastor has become a generic term for either ‘church leader’ or the ministry for those who like tea and biscuits with the elderly, while teachers… well let’s just say for now that they’re not only for Bible studies. The Ephesian vision of Church is that each of these gifts be fully present working in Spirit-energised harmony to allow a church to be all that it should be. Briefly defining these gifts may help us as we move forward in our conversation: Apostle A pioneer, looking constantly toward developing new missional work and serving those works as they develop. Prophet A discerner of the spiritual temperature and a reminder of God’s vision and mission. This role must not be confused with the fortune-teller. Prediction and prophecy are very different things. Evangelist A communicator of the story of God that calls people into discipleship. This is not a ‘hired-in’ role, but someone working at the grass roots of building community. Pastor A shepherd, someone who performs all the roles of the shepherd of John 10 and a person who cares, feeds and disciplines and who is ultimately willing to die for the sheep. Teacher A person who works to guide people into following and modelling Christ as he is revealed in Scripture.
Ministry functions If we are going to understand Ephesians properly, we need to identify that these
ministry gifts are, as Frost and Hirsch observe, functions and not offices or titles. Whenever we use these functions as titles or offices we inherently destroy the very thing they are designed to promote, namely unity not exclusivity. As you notice when you continue reading beyond Ephesians 4:11, the gifts don’t elevate the recipient, rather they enhance the other saints and build the church until everyone attains unity and knowledge. When we forget that these gifts are functions it makes them more susceptible to be abused by arrogant and self-seeking people rather than activated by sacrificial and servant-hearted leaders. It also should be obvious from Ephesians that any attempt to break these roles down is to destroy the unity that Paul imagines they should operate with. A person can only fully function as a pastor if she also has an evangelist as part of that leadership, otherwise she’ll have to try and be an evangelist, thereby acting outside of her gift which leads to… well, you get the picture. Now this requires a real commitment to true team leadership, or perhaps, to quote Ephesians some more, a commitment to be the body not the head. A church works best when its leaders stop trying to be the head themselves and work within the body of Christ, as they are equipped. All of this transpires to say that what we encounter in Ephesians 4 is not a simplistic definition of church leadership, but a description of how a church should go about its task of being the Church, from the foundations of leadership right the way up to every single community member, and in the process, show the world what God’s kingdom looks like. The Church is called to model the crucified Jesus, so I find it difficult to understand how a church can be the Church while copying from the world systems. Ephesians 4:1-16 reminds me that my call as a Christian leader is not about me, but the commitment to seeing people grow into the full maturity of following Jesus within a witnessing church. This will require Christ-like faithfulness, commitment and sacrifice. It will cost you. The call to follow Jesus is lonely, difficult and dangerous.
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How do I avoid another meltdown? John Andrews answers more of your questions in this month’s column
any years ago I suffered a meltdown and I fear I am heading the same way. Can you give me some strategies to put in place to make sure this never happens to me again? Over the years I’ve developed a series of what I call ‘Sabbath events’ that have helped keep my soul and body in decent shape. They are: Devotion – spending time in his presence. God’s presence has been a balm to my soul more times than I can remember. When my mind is in turmoil or my world in a spin, his presence always brings sanity as Asaph in Psalm 73 discovered. Instruction – spending time in his Word. David declared, “Your word is a lamp to my feet.” Ultimately, truth is the key to freedom and victory. Knowing who he is and what he has said form the very bedrock of all we are and do. Giving time to truly study and hear from his Word is vital as we move forward. Reflection – spending time being still. Learn to meditate on his Word. Chewing it over until the goodness is drained out of it is a missing art in our helter-skelter Western world. Yet none of us would simply gulp food down without tasting and enjoying it. His truth needs to be chewed and digested. Allow time in your world to just think and be – that’s part of living and working too. Connection – spending time with people I love. Good friends and authentic connec20 cover contents
tions are vital for our emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual wellbeing. We were not designed to be alone and usually when I try to do life alone, I fail. As Solomon says, “Two are better than one.” Recreation – spending time filling my tank. Learn to have fun, engage with hobbies and have ice-cream days! All these things, or something like them, help us re-create, filling our tanks and giving us energy for the future. It’s OK to have time off, go on holiday and catch a late night movie. I want to be intentional in the spiritual growth of my leaders. Can you recommend what kind of things I can teach them and how often I should meet to encourage them? The danger with spiritual practices is that we find a way of doing it and then impose that on everyone. If it works for me, it should work for you. I’m always slightly nervous about this as my way of living and working can be very different for someone else due to personality, gift and even circumstances. However, as leaders we can create the culture that allows for authentic spiritual development in those around us. In seeking to teach and lead others, a number of things are crucial: Authenticity The greatest form of teaching comes out of what we truly believe and live. Our actions reflect our values and that we are what it says on the tin. Say what you see and take others where you’ve been.
Honesty Helping leaders grow depends on honesty. Too many of us lie or at least are economical with the truth. To lead others or be led, we must be honest with where we are, what we want and how we’re doing. Practicality Finding what works is the key – a plan that’s sustainable, profitable and practical. Giving those we lead the tools for success rather than simply telling them what to do is a great gift. Don’t teach them to depend on you, empower them to decide for themselves. How do you deal with an insecure leader? David served a desperately insecure king in Saul – so here’s some tips from him. Serve him – David used his best to help Saul look good. Both as a musician and warrior, David gave himself wholeheartedly to Saul, and no-one ever accused him of anything else. Support him – not once do we hear David bad-mouth his king or in any way put him down. Even in the darkest moments David remains a support to his king. Seek advice from godly leaders, but don’t blab it on Twitter! Separate from him – ultimately David couldn’t function with Saul because Saul’s insecurities wouldn’t let him. If after service and support the leader can’t move beyond his insecurities, then sometimes, rather than dishonour, it’s better to go.
Area Safeguarding Training - 2012 For Church Leaders and Workers with Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults ‘Facing the Unthinkable: Child Abuse and the Church’ followed by AOG-only session SCOTLAND: Venue: Central Hall, Edinburgh* Date: 06 October 2012 NORTH ENGLAND: Venue: The Hub Church, Rotherham Date: 16 June 2012 CENTRAL ENGLAND: Venue: Christian Life Church, Coventry Date: 30 June 2012 Time: 9.30am – 4.30pm LONDON: Venue: Regent Hall, Oxford Street* Date: 17 November 2012 SOUTH WEST ENGLAND: Venue: Riverside Church, Exeter Date: 31 March 2012 WALES (NORTH): Venue: North Coast Church, Towyn Date: 14 July 2012 WALES (MID/SOUTH): Venue: Newtown (TBC) Date: Autumn 2012 (TBC) Time: TBC
As part of the ongoing partnership between AOG and CCPAS, we have agreed to deliver a series of training events especially for Ministers and other church leaders across the AOG movement. Each of these events will include the standard ‘Facing the Unthinkable’ seminar during the morning (open to anyone wishing to attend) followed by a bespoke AOG-only session in the afternoon to look at a range of practical, legal and policy issues relating to operating a ‘safer church or organisation’. This training is being endorsed by the AOG National Leadership Team for all status and probationary ministers. We have agreed a special reduced rate of £10 per delegate for all attendees who identify themselves as AOG at the time of booking.
Times are 9.00am – 4.30pm unless stated otherwise *Please note that these are non-AOG venues.
To book, please call Karen on 0845 120 4550 (x208) and ensure you quote AOG2012 at the time of booking otherwise you will be charged the full delegate price of £19.50
setting standards in safeguarding
Church is only for the young at heart, says AoG minister Simon Cunningham, who encourages leaders to release their young people into all that God has in store for their lives
s a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? The top ten hit list of what children want to be includes doctors, astronauts, teachers, veterinarians, fire fighters, prime ministers and racing drivers. Some have big dreams of becoming an athlete, music star, actor, or ballerina. Ballerina never made my personal career aspiration list, but then the pink tutu just wasn’t my look. Of course, children grow up and, interestingly enough, those childhood dreams don’t alter a great deal. The top career choices for young adults are in the areas of health, education and public services, IT and engineering and the arts, yet funnily enough, not so many astronauts. Culture and media influence the trends of career choices, as does the influence of family and background. An ingredient to young people being released to their dreams and reaching higher is having fam-
ily and friends who encourage and believe in them.
Encouragement Right through the Bible we see a theme of encouragement and believing in one another. David believed in and encouraged his mighty men, Jesus believed in and encouraged the disciples, Paul believed in and encouraged Timothy, and the Holy Spirit encourages each one of us. Releasing young people to all God made and purposed them to be is, in part, fuelled through an environment of encouragement, cheering them on in the way they should go, getting them into
God’s Word, encouraging them to seek his kingdom first through every stage of education, training, development and employment. Encouraging them in their dreams and aspirations as the Holy Spirit leads, guides, affirms and challenges. From personal experience and from working with young people today, immaturity, poor choices, over enthusiasm, young arrogance and other things besides can lead them to finding themselves in difficult, complicated and sometimes very dark situations. Continuing to believe in and support them through these times is so critical for releasing them into their God-designed future.
Development This is a much deeper and more important question than ‘What do you want to do?’ How much of what we
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choose to do is influenced by truly knowing and discovering who we are? And knowing who Jesus is and giving our life to him is the birthplace and journey of discovery of who we are in him. Who do our young people think they are today and what kind of challenges are they facing as they come to faith and begin that new life of discovering who they are in him? What kind of challenges and/or opportunities are set out for them in the environments of our churches to learn, grow, make mistakes, develop and mature? Do our church environments have a purpose to encourage, believe in and release our young people into all that God has for them? I believe church is only for young people – young because you haven’t lived for very long or young because you are young at heart. Our household has the joy and privilege of including four boys – that’s four mini-men ranging from 6 to 15. Over the years my wife and I have enjoyed creating a home environment we love and enjoy. If I took you on a whistle-stop tour of our home and gave you a snapshot view of a week in the life of our household, you
would quickly see a focus on our children, their well-being, security and development. Our home environment is purposed with our children’s development in mind, and naturally so. The environment of home can and should be one that our children can develop in safely and be released into all that God made and purposed them for. The culture of our church family and the environment of our church facilities and programmes have the very same responsibilities to our young people. Are our church environments, cultures, facilities and programmes alive with the purpose of seeing young people released into all that God made them and purposed them to be?
programme’s purpose is for young people ‘to know God and make God known.’ Over the years I have yet to experience parents banging the door down, clamouring to get their children onto such a programme. The general trend has been one of great hesitancy in parents about their 18 to mid 20-year-old son or daughter signing up to the programme. The preferred focus on further education or starting their career is paramount and a year on a local church discipleship programme is seen as simply avoiding getting on with the more important and serious aspects of life. Releasing our young people into all that God designed them for faces all kinds of challenges.
Over the last eight years I have been involved in running a local church discipleship programme and I’m already excited about its tenth anniversary. With a focus on releasing young people, the programme creates an opportunity for youngsters to serve their local church for a year in an environment of great discipleship and ministry preparation. The
Release is best by design rather than default. In other words, a purposeful recognising, equipping and releasing is a priority. Identify emerging leaders and provide opportunities to serve in every area and aspect of the life of the church, its local community connections and missional focus. Is church the most alive, full of passion and vibrant place you encounter? Here is a quote from a book called, ‘Practising Passion – Youth And The Quest For A Passionate Church,’ by Kenda Creasy Dean: “Teenagers are heat seeking missiles. They’re drawn to fire. They yearn for experiences that will channel their passions. And by and large they are not detecting many signs of life from the Church.” I believe that we should be channelling the energy and passion of young Christians, releasing them into leadership responsibility. This requires great discipleship including mentoring. To bear fruit, relationship is key but mentoring loses its point when no meaningful relationship is formed between the two people. Let’s set a course purposefully to identify, disciple, mentor and release our young people into all that God purposed them for.
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God's release propels us to freedom Releasing ourselves can help us release others, says Ian Watson
s I was recently thinking about the word ‘Release’, it triggered my memory back to when I experienced release in a practical sense on a number of occasions.
As a young boy we had purchased a new washing machine with electric rollers for squeezing the water out of clothes. One day when my mum wasn’t looking, I thought I would see what would happen if I put my arm in the rollers. To my horror, it started to pull my whole arm through the ringer. As any child would do, I screamed for my mum who came running in and hit a quick release lever – however, the lever wasn’t the only thing she hit. At the age of 17 I bought my first car, which had been stood in a garage for years, and as a result of this the brakes were binding. Foolishly I jacked the car up but didn’t use axle stands. As I was pulling, banging and levering – trying to get the brake drum off, the car seemed in slow motion to fall off the jack and the leaf spring pinned my ankles to the floor. My immediate reaction was to shout for my dad who came running out of the house and, in what I thought was a miracle, actually lifted the car enough for me to release my legs. Once again – not a happy parent! Just a few weeks ago I was due to speak at a church on a date that had been planned for quite a while. However, personal circumstances occurred that really caused me to need to cancel this booking, which is something I would always be very reluctant to do. After explaining the situ-
ation to the people concerned, they very kindly released me from this commitment. All these three illustrations of releasing led to the same feeling of freedom, a free arm, free legs and freedom to address an important issue. From God’s perspective, the release he brings again propels us into a destiny of freedom that we would never have known outside of Christ. Here are some examples:
being released to make a difference. We are distinctive. It is very quickly noticeable if salt is present or absent. Like salt, we are a preservative. Before freezers were invented they used to keep meat fresh by rubbing blocks of salts into the carcass of the meat and by doing so slowed down the process of decay. The greatest privilege we have as released people is in a spiritual sense to rub shoulders with people, just like Jesus did with Zacchaeus and the woman at the well. In doing so, we halt the process of spiritual decay. As a result of this our release helps bring release to others.
• Release from the power sin held over us – how important it is that we regularly remember and put into practice the ability we have to say ‘no’ to sin. • Release from the control that temptation had over us, again recognising the power we have to resist its seduction. • Release from having to live our lives pleasing men but serving a higher authority, which, in turn, means we will do the best we can at whatever we do. • Release into a freedom to make choices out of the right desires and motives because we now live in the realm where we make it our goal to please Jesus. You regularly find in leadership that people are waiting for you to give them permission to do something. Similarly, we have been given this incredible permission to be salt and light in a world of darkness. We have been given the great privilege of
er Pow n f o si
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