Needed Restoration - Jesus Army Life, Day 48

It's been an interesting weekend. There's been lots of good stuff and some heart rendering moments too.

The highlight of the weekend was when the group of teenagers we brought with us became drunk in the Holy Spirit. One of them was so filled with the life and love of God he couldn't stop laughing and was running around the event field. There was quite a lot of Holy Spirit stuff happening all over the place, and some of our guys are now considering baptism.

For me personally it was a chance to get back in touch with God again after feeling very disconnected for several days. For myself and many others Saturday and Sunday were times of repentance and restoration. I'd love to speak in detail about the weekend but I always miss so much through working on the video desk. There was a special focus on simple worship which touched a lot of people and caused many to reassess their standing before God. I think, as a church, the Jesus Army may have reached an important turning point.

Out of respect for others' privacy I won't write about the disappointments now; perhaps another time would be best. I feel we're facing a time of testing in the run up to the campaign (which starts tomorrow). It's especially important that there's some reconciliation between several members of White Stone. Our unity is our strength and it brings joy to God.


Jesus Army Life, Day 45: Multi-not

I can't believe I did it again! Same scenario, checking email last thing at night, followed by game till 1pm. Grrrr. Don't I know I need my sleep? It wouldn't be so bad but I find it impossible to sleep-in in the mornings too! Sheeesh Tschaka, get a grip!

Last night's multicultural group was pleasant, except it wasn't very err... multicultural. Out of ten of us I would say there were four non-English faces there. The lack of ethnic mix was symptomatic of the problem we are trying to address. I'm going to have to put in a bit of work between now and the next one in a month's time.

I appreciated the support of the brothers and sisters there however, and I as I said, we had a good time. Let's call it a bit of a trial run.

Anyway, it would be a crime to write this blog without mentioning Winning Weekend, one of the three biggest gatherings the Jesus Army hold each year. It's four days long and started last night. One of the brothers took a bus load of teenagers over for the first session yesterday and we're all there today. It's a great time of hearing God's word, finding refreshing and catching up with friends, and a very useful introduction to Jesus Army life. If you know me, come and say hello. I'll probably be hovering somewhere near the Video desk.

And just a quick shout out to the Dad of one of the sisters who lives here. He visits us quite often and this morning I prayed for his knee which is causing him trouble. So, I'm expecting results!


Jesus Army Life, Day 44: oops!

I'm making friends with one of the teenagers. He doesn't really trust anyone and talks about violence all the time. Beneath the brooding exterior is a young man who wants to be trusted and counted as worthwhile. It could be a long process but hopefully in sharing quality times with him we might learn to value each other more.

Last night I didn't go to sleep till after 1am. Foolish I know. I just wanted to check my email because I was expecting a reply and there I was, an hour later, playing a computer game. I don't begrudge the time I spent. After the busy evenings I often find I want some me-time, not to be selfish but simply to wind down before I go to bed. Hopefully, I'll be ok, I've got some hard graft rigging video equipment today, a multicultural group tonight and a busy weekend ahead.


Jesus Army Life, Day 43: I had a friend...

I just found out a friend of mine is getting married. Understand, when I say "friend", most of my close friends will smile wisely, waiting for me to utter the word "she" and then burst out laughing. Apparently, I'm that transparent.

Anyway this "friend" used to be a dear 'friend' of mine. We dated for a short while and I felt, well, privileged to know someone as smart and beautiful as she was. We never got too far though, I was determined to increase in my faith in Jesus, she wasn't interested, or at least that's what she said. I guess I felt she wasn't too interested in me either. We fell out and things cooled off. A short while later I moved to another town to move into community and we lost contact.

It's strange when you hear about things like this. There's often a 'what if...' question inside begging to be asked, even if you don't want to admit it. And, with the definite choice of community life, there's a temptation to blame the route life has taken on the radical choice you made. It feels like a sharp blade in your heart or something torn out as you sense the whisper of regret within. But life is never that simple and you make your choices with purpose in the full knowledge that times like this will come.

I'm glad she's found someone special and I'm glad I've made the choices I have, and I still hope she gets close to Jesus.


Jesus Army Life, Day 42: My mate says....

Got my mate here, one of the young lads. He's going to do a bit for my blog tonight. (None of the others are around, but I think he likes being here...)

White Stone is a great place to find your spirit. And there's great company. When I first came round I thought, okay this is scary. Then one of the brothers told me something that I hadn't told no one, about the way I was feeling. He offered me some prayer. After 5 minutes I decided okay... and four months on I'm doing really well as a Christian. I particularly get on well with one of the brothers, especially during the last month, he's a good laugh and a great person to be around; a really good brother.

Last week was my first visit to another community house: Kings House. It was bigger than I expected it to be. Like White Stone it's in a really quiet area. The things I liked there was the company and the drumming room!

Back to me... just to let you know that Agape here was particularly good last night. It was just really hearty stuff. We're also preparing for an evangelistic campaign next week. We'll be taking a tour bus round the local area and challenging one another to break a few fears in sharing the gospel etc. It should be good.

Other recent news I could mention is the return of one of the families from a few days away, and how a sister has taken a trip to France to see a friend get married, but I think I'll leave my thoughts about these events till a more reflective time.


Jesus Army Life, Day 41: Bored

Last night was one of those lazy evenings. Sure, I had things to get on with and was steadily working through my 'to do' list, but at one point I paused. One of our newer members was bored. All her immediate friends were busy I guess, though it might have a whole list of other tiny issues that can make you feel disengaged. She was just moping through the kitchen looking for something to do, so I paused to chat for a moment. We were joined by a brother and then a sister and another brother came along later.

It's one of the interesting things about community: if you stand still long enough and show interest in someone else, it usually turns into an enjoyable 'scene' of some sort. ('Scene' is one of those words I'm led to believe isn't much used outside the Jesus Army, except in certain subcultures, it just means a buzzing congregation of individuals.)

I do sympathise with the sister though, and another member who also complained of boredom later that evening. In your own place you are surrounded by your own comforts, it maybe a television or some music or a good book. When you are bored, one of those things will normally entertain you, but in community, with a life of simplicity and the absence of television, the biggest entertainment is other people. Being bored can drive you to distraction!

Living simply so that others can simply live is a challenge for our immature spiritual natures (aka the flesh) because it means that you have to engage with others at a deeper, less superficial level. Now, personally, I hate small talk, so the thought of making contact with someone through heartfelt conversation really appeals to me (though I used to find it difficult to open up and 'share' properly). However, if you find it tricky to flow with another person to that degree, and surprisingly this seems to effect extroverts more, then you are left with a boredom itch and often no one to scratch it.

What can you do about being bored in community? I think partly it comes down to vision. If you believe in the life you've chosen to live then you get on and live it. The two I mentioned above aren't fully-committed members of the common purse so they haven't made that commitment yet; and that's fair enough, they still feel they need to be doing other things. Existing in the spirit as opposed to the flesh starts with being willing to take on the hardship of a more purposeful walk.

The truth is that when you give yourself to others, that self-giving is fulfilling in itself, but you have to get rid of selfishness to find the fulfillment. And, when that happens, you can feel rather grateful for those times when the pace does slow down and you have time to concentrate on other things that need doing. As our pastor said on Sunday: serving means that you feel less like a spare part and more naturally involved. You begin to care about what is happening in the community and responsible for your part in it. That may lead you to pray or do something encouraging for someone else.

There's also the issue of soul healing though. Life's events can rough us up a bit. When that happens it's not always so easy to open up to someone else. Just being with someone without being active can make you feel nervous and those awkward silences become too apparent. Sometimes it's useful to do away with all the clamoring for entertainment so that people can get used to just appreciating each other. There's a lot of beauty in life which we can miss if we try to fill every space with something to do.

Everyone gets bored sometimes. It can simply come down to an issue of not having people around who are the same age as you. Ultimately however, we all need to look out for each other, which means dropping your agenda of things to do for someone else.


Jesus Army Life, Day 40: Joy and pain

As expected the time with my brother and sister-in-law went well. Several people were away at lunchtime but that made conversation at the table a little easier. We went out to Coombe Abbey afterwards. I'd forgotten how beautiful the area was.

The great day was tainted however by an argument I had with a Christian brother late in the evening. It really was too late and I lost my cool, but there were apologies before "the sun went down."

The next day was church. The same brother impressed me by giving some thought to what I'd said. Nonetheless there are some bridges to rebuild now. Sigh.


Jesus Army Life, Day 38: Pork and beans

What a beautiful day! But I have to tell you about last night.

Seven of us went round to a couple's place for a curry last night. Now you have to understand that when certain White Stoners hear the word curry, what they actually hear is "nearest thing to heaven"... so it goes without saying that we had a good evening, especially with all the laughter around a game of pork and beans. It is good to enjoy others hospitality.

Pork and beans: n. Definition: game played by any number of people where one person is asked unlimited questions for which they have to answer: "pork and beans". eg. "What was the preacher's sermon about last Sunday?" Answer: "Pork and beans." Game is over when said person bursts out laughing.


Jesus Army Life, Day 37: Sharing your life

Usually I write about yesterday's events but I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. My brother (as in sibling brother) is coming for lunch with his wife and new daughter. I usually go to see them because it's more convenient but it's always very cool to share some of this alternative life with your actual family. They are Catholic Christians themselves, which is fine with me, as long as they keep pressing on into Jesus, but I think that community-living is still a bit alien to them. I guess it would always be difficult to understand why someone you love would throw their life away!

Last night was very good, at least from my view. We had a lot of teenagers around for our 'Friendship meal', more than usual, but we had several adult members with us as well. I actually got tied up in transporting the younger guys home so I don't know what else happened but the vibe was good for the whole evening. One thing which encouraged me was that we had talked about being considerate of others earlier in the evening and the guys really took it on board (well, most of them did!) The mystery of how words from your own mouth actually become actions done by others has always illuded me. I'm genuinely surprised if people do what you ask them because everyone has their own will and won't necessarily listen to you. I guess it's a compliment when they do.


Jesus Army Community, Day 35: Unity

A quick note about the Agape meal last night, a touching time where we expressed our gratitude to God. We took a good look at some of our faith-targets for growth and sang many songs to our oldest sister who has just reached her 80th birthday.

One incident left me feeling grieved though. At one point there was a rather arduous discussion. I don't think that in itself disturbed me, I usually like a bit of controversy and confrontation. However it sparked off something inside of me, the emotions of which I could not quite put my finger on. All I could say was that in my spirit I felt a tear-jerking burden for close Christian unity. The kind of unity Jesus ascribed to the Trinity in John 17.

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me... May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory...
John 17 (New International Version)

In the Jesus Army there is quite a lot of discussion on church unity at the moment. We can't be parochial but, where it is possible, we need to be so much closer. That unity described by Jesus is not just for our Lord and His Father but for us also. To me it is vital, and it seems that unless this is achieved nothing else is worthwhile.


Jesus Army Community, Day 34: Bling, blogs and being blonde

We had a chat at dinner yesterday about blogging. A sister has been thinking about starting one. I'll link to hers if she does...

By the way, please ignore the blonde remark, it has nothing to do with the fact that over half the people in that dinner conversation were blonde. It's just that we were discussing these things as if they were the latest fads and not everyone knew what bling was, or how to use the word, which can make you look a bit silly. Living in community does mean you don't always know what the latest trend is, but it's far more important to value people and simply 'love the ones you're with' anyway. (And if anyone recognises that reference then they really are behind the times!)

This does relate to an interesting topic regarding the media though. Something preached about on Sunday and has got me thinking a little. The sermon referred to how the press will tell you that one thing is good for you one day and the denounce it the next. Apparently, "the only thing you can believe in the paper is the date." Hmmmmmmm.

Being a media-brat I have a little more confidence in journalistic reporting than that, but what really got me thinking was the conclusion: that continuous faddism is a mockery upon our minds. I think the preacher has a point. There are more important things than the latest must have, yet we will believe and chase after it like there's no tomorrow! It's fascinatingly strange and I do find myself wondering why? These things can often hold more sway in our lives than we give them credit for. I think it's important to be a little more discerning and that's something I'm certainly going to try to practice in future days. Living in community doesn't exclude you from the tides of modern trend-making but hopefully it does help you keep things in perspective.

Speaking of trendy people (ahem) I did promise I'd mention another blonde, a lovely friend from up north who actually reads the stuff I put here, but that's all I'm going to say about that! The thought that people read what I write leaves me more than a little self conscious and makes me feel all, well... blonde.

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Church government

At House Family Breakfast this Sunday we gathered for our Common Purse AGM. All our wages go into the CP so we have an annual meeting to assess how it is all going. The outcome is that we are doing well financially though things will be getting a little tighter with changes of jobs and our expenditure being slightly high in comparison with other communities. Still we're living at a cost of about £66 per person per week so it's not awful. Community is working.

I've noticed how much I 'enjoy' (is that the right word?) church government when it is at an accessible level. Meetings like our CP AGM are good for that. I understand that decisions have to be made that won't involve me directly, but when I can see and hear what is going on I feel a lot more enthused about the whole process. It feels more democratic, even if that is not what it is about.

As a church (the Body of Christ with him at the head) we do not aim to be a democracy; there is a corporate selfishness in that form of rule with accountability only to ourselves. Some people say instead that the Jesus Army's New Creation Christian Community is a theocracy (government by God) but it's necessary to avoid being too glib about these things. God will have his way one way or another, yet the foolishness of man can get in the way sometimes and quite often.

Interestingly, for our church, decision-making at various levels does seem to be based around the two commandments which Jesus outlined as the most important: that we love God and love our neighbour. Looking at how the decision-making takes place it is usually prophetic direction which carries the most influence but there is great concern to listen to the needs of all church members too. There is representation by elders, committees, bureaucratic networks and other spokespersons and in this way families, women, children, the elderly and young brethren are also considered. Hopefully all those involved are listening to God. It is a list not too dissimilar to the the lists found in some letters of the New Testament, with the obvious exception of slaves. But the issue of slavery does neatly bring me onto my main thought on this: that in preference to the unaccountable notion that we are purely theocratic, perhaps it would be best to say that our church is best run as a government of servants, a theocratic dulocracy?

Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Mark 10:41-45 (New International Version)


A good day out

A good but challenging day yesterday.

The household was going on an outing, with more than enough teenagers to boot. All together there were more than 20 of us. I was in charge. Admittedly this was something I had longed to do, there's something about blessing your friends with an amazing or beautiful experience that appeals to me.

The place I had chosen was Wyre Forest and various brothers and sisters were in full-strength character flow: excited, stressed, helpful, rebellious, organised, lethargic, caring, late! We left the house leaving one brother behind who was slightly ill. The beauty-spot was only an hour away and one family were meeting us there after returning from seeing relatives up north.

Then the rain started and kept coming and coming and didn't stop! To add to that there was terrible traffic for the family coming down from up north.

I felt bad. We had encouraged the sick brother's wife to come along since he had said she could go, but she hadn't come prepared for the rain, a few of us hadn't. (I had checked the weather report and it had promised the rain would be over by midday. Honest.)

Impressively, upon our arrival, some of the brethren decided to string up a ground sheet as a canopy between the minibus and another car. A ramshackle job, it still gave us some cover for lunch but my head was whizzing. We were definitely going to have a walk in spite of the rain, but how to encourage the others into it? All the while the rain was bucketing down. I suggested we wait for a while, but people were getting restless and some wanted to get going. So, leaving a few reluctant brothers and sisters behind in the minibus we trekked off into the woods.

And well worth the effort it was too. Even in the wet the forest was stimulatingly gorgeous with it's shades of green and fresh natural scents. We journeyed through the glades trying unprofitably to follow the right paths. There was lots of conversation and several little games. But we did get very wet.

The rain was slowing up and about an hour later we returned to the cars for hot drinks. It was then that the family travelling from the north arrived. Bless them, they had been in traffic for four hours with two small kids! Considering the delay and the bad weather it would have been reasonable for them to have chosen to drive straight home but, like the rest of us, they were determined to have a good time. I think a lot of us felt blessed by their effort.

As they went off to taste the forest, several of us gathered to play a wide game. Contrary to popular opinion the rules had been decided before the games got going, they just, er... changed as we went along. It was a game of chase the flag and was a huge success, we must have played for the next hour and a half.

Five and a half hours later we returned home, some justifiably having left a little earlier. There was changing of clothes and showers and cups of tea and an excellent quick supper. For the rest of the evening we simply stayed together and enjoyed the shared company. The gas fire and t-shirts might have been a bit excessive but it suited the mood.

I think a lot of people had a good night's sleep and were very happy when their heads finally touched the pillow.



Yesterday, the house was full as usual.

I had to have a long talk with a friend. He was feeling quite upset about his experiences over the last couple of days. He wanted to hide, but when you live in community you can't do that very easily. The greatest issue was that he was using rebellion as the mask to hide behind. We talked for a long time.

In the end brotherhood is knowing that you don't have to hide because you have people there to catch you when you fall. The bible says something about it when it talks about walking in the light.

It's not an easy lesson though.


Pressing on

At Agape yesterday we thought about how much we were accepting the word: "Get rid of all moral filth and humbly accept the word planted in you." So the scripture goes.

A cutting word for me since I know my shortcomings and the contrast of my longing to give my all to build Jesus' church.

Later we applied the word through prayer and prayed for various evangelistic campaigns taking place around the UK over the next week. We also prayed for particular disciples who were on our hearts.

We do so long to be a people for God, yet there is so much to cut away, so much of the Christian life to push into. We can only stick together and encourage each other onwards.


Being a disciple

The brother who moved in on Saturday is a great guy. Recently, someone gave out the challenge to be totally obedient to another brother or sister for an entire week. It's all part of our learning to be disciples.
Door to White Stone Community House
So he went for it. He's moved into community for a week and has been given a list of challenges to follow. So far, I think he's enjoying it...

It's a bit too early to say but I think the brothers' scene at White Stone is growing in maturity. This week and next disciples from our church will get together in different groups just to talk about how life, spirituality, really anything and everything is going. It's a specific time for openness, accountability and encouragement. I had my group last night and was particularly encouraged when two exhortations given to me were confirmed similar words I'd heard from other people as well.

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Lazy days of Summer

I had a wonderful weekend. In my church Sunday can seem like the most tiring day of the week! I had come to look upon this as a mildly annoying irony. But this weekend has proved different. It's best to just list the catalogue of delights...
  • Friday evening: Meeting to plan forthcoming Multicultural group. Early night.

  • Saturday: Volunteering at the drop-in. Pleasant time, met a very likeable chap.
  • Lunch with house-family, including first visit of one brother's parents.
  • Delivering Streetpapers to houses in a local area with another brother.
  • Soundly thrashed in sporting exercise by a brother 20 years my senior.
  • Helpful evening meeting on the Holy Spirit.
  • First night sharing a room with new brother who is staying for a week.
  • Sunday: Walk to church with a brother I'm discipling.
  • Excellent morning meeting which really made me take a hard look at my self (first time that has happenend in ages)
  • Pleasant dinner.
  • Work in the garden including picking plums, arranging a grape vine and discovering tiny frogs in a tree stump.
  • Lazy late afternoon lying on the grass with several brothers.
  • Evening evangelism, fairly good, felt a need to be sharper in my spirit.
  • Interesting share with young friend who says he is giving up drugs.
  • Relaxed evening eating and chatting with various friends.

All's well... except this morning I remembered I was supposed to be at a volunteer's meeting on Sunday evening! Is that why I felt too relaxed? Every silver lining has a cloud.



Last night I was talking to a friend about temptation. No, unfortunately not the steamy kind of temptation... He'd been offered a good business opportunity in another country but it would have taken him right away from doing the work of the gospel. Despite the attraction of money, culture, women and self fulfilment, he knew it was wrong.

Nonetheless, when you're living in community and you think you've got the simple-life sorted it can be tempting to dream of that just a bit extra wouldn't hurt. Having just a few of the finer things, it wouldn't be like signing your soul to the devil would it...? The reality is however that there's always a cost, to take hold of life's pleasures will always mean a sacrifice in another way. And ultimately, either you've enlisted as a soldier in Jesus' army or you haven't.

Currently at White Stone, we're looking at embracing simplicity even more. As a church there are new ventures ahead and we need the funds to follow them through.

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New growth

What's the best thing that happened yesterday?

I guess it was a couple of friends popping round to see us in the evening... Facing another busy weekend I had determined to take Wednesday night easy so I could pace myself a little. So it was good for a brother to pop round whom I'm enjoying getting to know. He has made definite steps into faith in Jesus and I took the chance to go spiritual and ask him a lot of questions about how he is finding his new faith.

I found the conversation especially interesting because he did not become a Christian as a teenager or through a crisis as is often the case, but he has made clear simple steps as a middle-aged man. The most significant being that he realised that he "was dead spiritually."

The other friend came round later. A brother we had not seen for sometime. I've only actually spoken to once before, so I was a bit disgruntled that he was whisked off for a one-to-one chat with the brother who knew him best, but there will be other opportunities I'm sure.

To be honest I was glad that there were some adults in the house! Much of our life has been filled with teenagers recently so it was good to have a bit of balance.

Oh, before I forget I must mention the young lad who came evangelising with us last weekend. He'd come out with a flag to declare his faith. In all the hubbub of the Friday night town centre a man took the flag off him and thrashed him with it several times. His response was simple: "I forgive you."

I was impressed.

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morepraxis � Blog Archive � Christi-Anarchy

morepraxis - Blog Archive - Christi-Anarchy: "Christi-Anarchy / kristiaeneki/ n. a Christlike life; lifestyle characterised by the radical, non-violent, sacrificial compassion of Jesus Christ; a way of life distinguished by commitment to love and to justice; working from the bottom up to empower people, particularly the marginalised and disadvantaged, so as to enable them to realise their potential as men and women made in the image of God, through self-directed and other-oriented intentional community groups and organisations; from Christi - 'Christ' - and anarche - 'against the powers', as in 'the principalities and powers'.
(Christi-Anarchy, Dave Andrews, 1999) "

I liked this. I like to think that living the way I do is a protest against the world, it flies in the face of the norm and opens up opportunities to love and serve others.

I'm sure you could live this way outside community-life, but perhaps the best thing about this lifestyle is that I'm not in control, not totally. My life is submitted to others, and that's the way it should be. I live in a state of anarchy against my natural sense of pride and self-preservation. There's a popular Christian song: 'Lord, I am not my own...' and I'm not, if I want to live for Jesus I can't insist on having control over my life. I can only insist on laying it down for him.


People you miss

A couple of sisters have taken several teenage girls away on a camping trip.

What a nightma... I mean, what an opportunity! Actually it should be very, very good. The trips have proved very succesful in the past as launchpads for younger sisters' spiritual lives. They discover God in a deeper way, and find confidence in themselves and bond in lasting and supportive friendships.

So, I'm excited for them.

I guess there's part of me that's already missing them as well... There's always something missing when a member of the community family is not here, more so when they are your friends. There's a very noticable silence. Not to say that the house is noiseless. Right now there are several guys in the kitchen laughing and chatting away. (Perhaps they've sensed the lower levels of estrogen in the house and have come to take over!) Whatever. I'm guess I should join them. I'll write more tomorrow.


Being Together

I'm not sure what is happening. After a very busy weekend and a few short nights I managed to get through last night's leaders' meeting without feeling tired. It was a shame to be away from home for the whole day, but these things can't be avoided and spending the evening in an atmosphere of prophetic sharpness and spiritual strength more than made up for it.

If there is one thing I'd like to comment on from last night, it is the 'word' on unity.

Painting at White Stone Community by Ruth DecisiveForgive me, sometimes I need to filter prophetic words before I can get a grip on them. Sometimes a word can be intended to cut to the heart but it is largely short lived. I have trouble dealing with the limited substance of words like those. However I don't think this was one of those words, time will tell... but I hope not...

Unity, or oneness as it was largely referred to, is an unimaginably important matter. Yet it is a hope Christians barely aspire to. We're commonly too interested in getting on with our own lives rather than laying lives down for one another.

Did I say it is incredibly important? Yes, it is: The Spirit came on Pentecost in the context of disciples staying and praying together. Jesus' prayer is for the closeness of the Trinity among brother-disciples. God finds oneness attractive. He wants to abide in us. This issue was crucial to me when I first became a Christian and it is more so now.

The appeal of community living is that it makes such a dream of unity possible. It is crucial that I share my life with others, including everything in my life-style, all the things I like, my preferences, my secret joys; it opens the door to bonds of peace with my brothers and sisters. And for the sake of others many of my personal preferences must go by-the-by. They must go because only one thing is necessary, and that is that we are able to know Jesus together. There is a price to oneness.

Unity must never be a sham. It is dangerous if it is just a front, a uniform a group uses to look impressive. Unity has to arise from the hearts of believers, disciples who choose to rely on one another. It is about the closeness of a brotherhood committed to a cause. It can never be just one of these: only the cause or only my brothers, but both together. Cause without brotherhood is ruthless and lifeless, brotherhood without cause is self-centred with ill-disciplined power. God desires love for him and love for one another, a oneness through commitment to the Father expressed by our commitment to each other.

Unity is not based on principles, though they can be used to measure our commitment. Unity is about an agreement of heart. It is not ecumenicalism, it is not a cover-all blanket. It is about knowing that if we stray from the path we fall out with God. He hates unfaithfulness, including among brothers. He expects us to be fanatical only about Him, together; that is where our unity begins.

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Feeling needed

There are two things I'd like to mention today. The first is this: Why Men Hate Going to Church It's the result of research by David Murrow. His work is tackling the issue of a feminised church. For example, he writes:

Church offers the things women crave: safety, relationships, nurturing, and close-knit community. The rules are: be nice. Be sensitive. Be gentle... On the other hand, men need adventure, challenge and risk – but these things are discouraged in church... Any man who tries to bring risk into his local congregation will quickly find himself in the gun sights of a longtime member... Volunteer opportunities in the local church revolve around traditionally feminine roles: childcare, teaching, music, hospitality and cooking. Men who want to serve in church often end up passing out bulletins or attending meetings. Where is the adventure in that?... Men are dying for a leader, but we’ve turned Christ into a lover.

You may not agree with the above but I find it interesting to comment on because of something that the Spirit said to my church decades ago was: 'Focus on the men and the women will come.' And we've found it to be true. Our church is 50-50% male/female which is very unusual in today's churches.

It is an interesting topic and it has nothing to do oppressing women, but if you don't encourage men to take their place as pioneers and leaders women will happily organise things in a way that suits them. Men find themselves disengaged and will ultimately seek other ways to satisfy their masculine minds. In contrast when men are encouraged to work out their roles in the church women don't need to find interests elsewhere but still get on with whatever it is that they do best.

Tonight we have a leaders meeting for the national church. It will be all male. There's something very raw and inspiring about men getting together to worship and seek God's wisdom. Something very humbling about seeing men make strong decisions for the good of the whole. Pray for us, we intend to do well.

I won't comment on the other thing now, perhaps I'll leave it for another time. Suffice to say it concerned a sister who felt a bit worn out yesterday. She has a very good ministry to some of the younger guys and I hope to make sure she gets some encouragement.

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