Proverbs 23:23 counsels us to "Buy the truth, don't sell it". This phrase has long been a principle in our family of churches, reminding us that we don't know everything; we are all learning; and we need to keep finding fresh wisdom for our churches as we seek to bring God's saving message to a fast-changing world. This posture leads us to welcome regular guest speakers, send leaders (staff and volunteers) to external conferences, as well as hosting conferences and training in-house. That's healthy for us.
Father, Son, and Spirit, bound in love, welcome us into their community of love, which finds its expression in human – that is, broken, joyful, annoying, wonderous, difficult, surprising – communities of love.
The Wild Apple Tree.
On searching, we press on; we walk a little further along the path, keeping eyes open to the trees for what they may hide, a harvest waiting, unattended, not on our property - wild fruit.
When finally, the prize is seen - Christ’s prize – on the ground, a few fruits dropped, ready to be collected. But there’s more above on the bough - keep searching, expect more! Excitement and satisfaction rise, “expect more and keep searching,” says the Son of God. His prize is larger still.
This is the second blog in a short series exploring what the elders believe God is saying to the church at the moment. A few days ago Steve wrote about faith for growth. Having had the privilege of sitting with the elders recently, I'm looking at how we can engage with the Summer of Mission 2018 because (unlike the Blues Brothers) we really are on a mission from God!
What comes to mind when you think about mission? Moving overseas? Crowds listening to a speaker in a stadium? Or your neighbour who you talk to about Jesus from time to time?
This is one of a series of 3 blogs explaining our approach to student ministry. We've talked about being part of a movement, how that connects with Fusion, and in this last blog I want to explain more about our values of 'church-based student mission'.
Our convictions, actually, are not really about just student mission, but mission and ministry in general. We believe that mission and ministry is supposed to be part of the task of the local church, where community, mission, discipleship and worship can be integrated, holistic and sustainable.
I came up to Oxford in 1985. At the time there was little in the way of charismatic, Holy-Spirit-filled life in the church. St Aldates at the time was led by Michael Green (now an elder-statesman in the church, who we are delighted is coming to speak at OCC in the autumn) - one had to queue for entry, such was the level of excitement as Michael led the church in the life of the Holy Spirit. There was a small charismatic house church somewhere in Botley, and an odd, itinerant and therefore hard-to-track-down group of Christians called Oxford Community Church.
As I've been preparing for the Turning, I've been reminded of the story of Gideon in the book of Judges. He lived in a time when the people of Israel were not really close to God and the Midianites were regularly taking away their crops and intimidating them. His response was to hide away in a wine press and thresh wheat there so that his family could be fed. He is approached by an angel but immediately talks about what's wrong in Israel. God's response is to ignore what he says and call him to go and save the nation.
When I was in my early twenties, I took on mentoring a student (let's call him Jon). Jon was in his final year of University, and most of what we talked about was how his devotional life was faring during the pressures of finals. One evening, however, he asked me for my opinion - should he start thinking about proposing to his girlfriend? I hadn't talked out that kind of question before, and it took me quite a while before I eventually thought of a response I was happy with. My question to him was, 'tell me all of the reasons why you like her'.
One of the great things about working for Steve Thomas is that I get to hear about all sorts of things and even get to take part in some of them. However, when, within a few weeks of hearing of the incredible results obtained in an evangelism campaign in Reading, I began to pick up indications that, not only that they were thinking of taking this thing to France, but that Steve had actually volunteered my services to help administrate the event, as well as to translate all the related texts, I was far from impressed.