Sunday, 20 July 2014

Commended for Ministry - 2 Cor 2:14 to 3:6

Imagine you are hiring someone. Candidates cvs roughly match and meet the job requirements. Who do you choose? Probably the person you already know ... because relationship trumps the other factors. You can't beat getting to know people. The Zambia trip is about that - seeing, hearing first hand their story, their work.

Every time you meet someone, you can influence them - point them to a better way, even point them to Christ. In that sense we are all leaders, because we can all influence others. Of course every organisation has recognised leaders, certain positions. Yet we must not forget that such leadership is enabled by relationship - one person influencing another.

Paul hits on this principle in chapter 3. Positively influenced people become a letter of recommendation for others to read: people might now see Christ because of Paul's original ministry among the Corinthians. As we seek additional leaders we legitimately ask who might be commended - the answer lies written in lives of people around us!

We are all invited into new covenant ministry - setting people free in Christ. It is an invitation that we can see from scripture applies to women and men alike. Father, Son and Holy Spirit all desire, commission and empower for this to be so. The invitation works through us in the various ministries and initiatives of the church. Whether it is a regular children's club back at base, or a potential new work at St. Johns, Stour Green, or even aspirations at Ely North, we are to be in the business of leading people to freedom in Christ.

Paul says this new covenant ministry is not bound in Old Testament law, but finds freedom in the Spirit. Let us not be tempted to read Paul's writings as some kind of rule book: that leads to tablets of stone and risks our hearts becoming stone. Rather live in the confidence of Christ which brings grace and freedom.

If we are to be bound in any way, it is only to Christ: let Christ take us captive as per 2:14. That makes a good acid test for a possible new leader - are they sold out for Jesus, led in His procession, being an aroma that might draw others to be captive to Christ too? The answer to that for any one person lies not necessarily in cvs or checklists, but by knowing them and the evidence of letters of recommendation. Such letters, I suggest, have probably already been written on the hearts of many people in our congregation.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Giving - 1 Cor 16:1 - 4 and 2 Cor 8,9

In Paul's dialogue with the Corinthians he calls on them to plan to give in the first letter, and then follows up on those plans in the second letter. Regular planned giving is a good thing. It is especially useful for charities and churches since it brings stability and enables good budgeting. As a church we are dependent on God bringing gifts through his people. This year we were slightly worried that giving may be insufficient, but praise the Lord because our financial year end show a modest surplus of £197 - He meets our need!

Regularly giving and being able to give when special collections are called for is a spiritual discipline. Yet regular standing order giving (which with gift aid is the simplest and most efficient way for the church to receive gifts) should never be seen as simply automatic, with no heart connection. We give because everything we have is a gift from God in the first place. God has entrusted each of us with resources - do we hoard them or deploy them?

The invitation to give is an invitation to release and enable. Additional giving to the church general fund could ultimately release additional people to minister, adding to and enhancing the diverse ministry of volunteers. Giving to our hall refurbishment project releases us to turn concept plans into actual plans and enable an attractive environment for various ministry to take place for decades to come.

This releasing and enabling always has an outwards ripple effect, bringing blessing far beyond the original imagination. From the amounts given or pledged this weekend we will send off 10% to build a classroom and toilet block in slum areas of Lusaka - freely giving as we ourselves have received.

In the second letter Paul does not give a command, nor does he specify how much people should give. He simply says give from the heart based on the principle of abundance of God. The word in 9:7 is the Greek word for 'hilarious' - God loves a hilarious giver: someone who is so abandoned to God's love that they release resources with joy and generosity, celebration and dancing, electrified with the possibilities of what God can do ... all because God Himself gave in the first place.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!