Church · community · Worship

The Work Of A Leader

This post is a quote from a book by Richard Giles – At Heaven’s Gate.

So with yourselves; since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church.
1 Corinthians 14 verse 12

The chief work of a good leader is to build community. The true pastor is one who works with devoted skill, tender loving care, and infinite patience to nurture a community of faith into fullness of being; surrendering to the work of the Spirit of God ‘until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity of the full stature of Christ.’ (Ephesians 4 verse 15)

Good worship springs from an authentic and palpable sense of community. Once we learn to ‘cook on gas’ as a genuinely interactive community of faith, we shall draw forth from one another a whole range of talents and ministries to create extraordinary worship …. good worship, at the local level, week in week out, depends very much on the quality of common life enjoyed by that local community. Good worship begins with a whole and happy community.

It cannot be done the other way round – for worship to be used as a sticking plaster for a dysfunctional community will not last very long. It is not much use devising creative acts of worship that we hope will somehow put the community back together again. The human heart is stubborn and contrary, and conflict will need to be addressed and wounds healed. We cannot look the other way when a community is hurting inside, for good worship continue to be beyond us if we are not right with each other, not at ease with who we are as a body.

At Heaven’s Gate pages 16 & 17

Bible · community · Following Jesus

Then Moses Climbed Mount Nebo

We were round at some friends yesterday evening catching up not having seem them for a while. They were telling us about their recent short trip in South Wales. One day they went to the top of Pen-Y-Fan, hoping to enjoy the spectacular view from the top. The weather was clear when they started out, but by the time they had reached the top, it was covered in cloud !

They told us about their trip around Europe some years ago – that as they arrived at each new area, town, city, etc, they would look for a high place to be able to see the landscape around them, and to get a feel for where they were in that landscape. It might be a hill, or a tower, and anything that gave them some kind of overview. Maybe they’ll get to go back to Pen-Y-Fan one day and take in that glorious view.

There’s a hill near where we live called Robinswood Hill which rises to just under 200m metres. From the top, you can see all around – the city of Gloucester below us; the Malvern Hills to the North West; the Severn Valley to the South; Cheltenham and the Cotswolds to the East. It’s a wonderful spot.

Although we were thinking about literal high places, I wondered about another question to do with our neighbourhood, which is just under a mile from Gloucester City centre – If we imagined ourselves high above the streets where we live, what would we see, and how do we understand our place within it ?

In my reading just this morning, I read this passage from the Hebrew scriptures. It’s a part that describes the end of the life of Moses. Just before he dies, he is given the chance to look down from a high place (Mount Nebo), over the land that God has promised to Israel.

Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”
Deuteronomy Chapter 34.

It’s one of those coincidences that seem to happen from time to time – when you’ve been thinking about something, and then it pops up soon afterwards from a completely different place. It seems like God is telling you to keep thinking and asking what this is all about. I’m pondering what this might mean for us …

In the early church, one of the ways that leadership was described was to do with being able to see the ‘Big Picture.’ The Greek word is Episcope.
It’s not a word we’re particularly familiar with, but we do know other related words – microscope, telescope, periscope … all intruments designed to see something – something small, something far away, something above you …

If there were such an instrument as an episcope, it would be something that would help you to see the lie of the land around you. An overview. An important aspect of leadership is to be able to so this. It might mean that you’re less likely to get caught up in distractions. You have an idea of what the task is. You have a grasp of what’s needed.

Strangely, it’s about getting a broad view, but one that helps you stay focussed.

Part of the call to follow Jesus involves ‘getting to a high place’ to see the lie of the land. The essential tool for this work is listening. Listening to others tell their stories. Finding out what is important to our friends and neighbours. Learning how to serve those around us.

One of the other passages I read this morning was from St Paul’s letter to the church in Rome – these words seem ver relevant to the call to ‘Know Jesus, and to Make Jesus Known.’
How can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? Romans Chaprter 10.



Elisha And The Little People

One of my favourite Old Testament* stories is of the Aramean General Naaman. He has some sort of skin disorder, which in those days would make him unclean – and probably not able to make sacrifices to the Gods of Aram.

In his household is a slave, a young girl captured in one of the wars with neighbouring Ephraim (Israel) to the west. The slave girl somehow knows of the prophet Elisha, and tell her master that he can find healing in Israel. So, Naaman gets permission from the king of Aram and heads off to Israel.

He takes a load of gifts with him – not wanting to provoke any untimely trouble with the king of Israel. Once he gets there, he tells the king of Israel the story of how his slave girl has directed him to come to Israel to find healing. (Although we can work out which king of Israel this is, he is not named in this particular story – perhaps as a way of telling us he’s not the key to the action). Anyway, the king has no idea what to do. He is worried because this could just be a way to provoke Israel to another war with Aram.

Just then, Elisha turns up. He has heard what is going on and comes to bring Yahweh into the picture. He tells Naaman to go and wash in the river Jordan. Naaman sees this as an insult – the rivers back home would be much better surely! Then one of his servants speaks up and advises Naaman that he should do what the prohet is telling him. Naaman takes the advice, washes in the Jordan and is healed. That’s the heart of the story – you can read the whole story in 2 Kings chapter 5.

Things I note – It’s the little people who make a difference here. Firstly Naaman’s captured slave girl getting the whole thing going. And second, Naaman’s servant who encourages him to take Elisha’s guidance.

Then – the role of leadership. The king of Israel seems to think he should be able to answer any question, solve any problem. When someone presents him with a problem he can’t solve, he doesn’t know what to do. The thought that someone else might hold the key doesn’t seem to occur to him ! I know from my experience of leading a church that its easy to fall into the trap of thinking you should have all the answers. After all, that’s what people look to leaders for, isn’t it ? And it can be very seductive. To be someone that people look to for solutions makes you feel very important. But as this story shows us, the king of Israel is on the sidelines here. A lesson for leaders – work at giving away your power and spreading it around. Don’t make yourself the centre of everything. And for those of us who think we’re too insignificant to make a difference – this story tells us otherwise.

And here’s a song to go with it ‘Come to Your River’ by Ibeyi

* As I have mentioned elsewhere, The Old Testament isn’t perhaps the best way to describe this collection of books. It’s the Hebrew Scriptures, or perhaps for Christians The First Testament.