Week by week, on a Sunday morning, I'm ususally on my chair in our worship area around 10 minutes or so before we kick off. From my vantage point, I look out on a couple of hundred people each week. I watch the chatter, the children playing, the last-minute arrivals settling in, musicians preparing. I cast my eye, and every week there are faces I don't know...rarely a week without a new person being with us. And every generation is represented, some more than others, but a whole spectrum of life, experience, colours, cultures and variety.
More than that, they're all at very different places spiritually. We're a community which is less fussed about drawing the lines of theological correctness, what has to be believed and what doesn't, and more about enabling people to encounter God and enable him to reveal himself more an more. Thats not to say we don't preach Jesus as Lord and as Head of the church. Thats not to say we don't invite people to pledge their allegience to him in every way... but people come as they are and we leave the task of building the church to Jesus. My aim is to enable and inspire response to the call of discipleship.
Why do I say all that? I say it because my own reflections as I look out show me more and more the changes that have happened in me. I reflect on the spiritual seasons I've moved through in my walk with Jesus thus far and I simply recognised that I've come into a new spring. And I'm happy. Happy not because there is no trial, no testing, no challenge, no sign of difficulty, but happy because as I've moved through the previous three seasons, I can see the truth and transformation of the gospel in my own heart that the process of the seasons have produced.
When I left the Salvation Army, it was on the determination that I was going to seek to remove factors from my life which claimed my allegience because I wanted to be all for Jesus. As I've gone through the process of laying down 'Salvationism' (with a capital S), laying down officership, laying down a style of leadership, laying down a system, laying down a rigid theology, laying down my own concepts of what I must do I've found that I've been surprised by God in tremendous ways.
I feel like a seed which has fallen into the ground, died, and come alive again. Sure, their are hints of the old but even when they come they are the exception rather than the rule and they show themselves for what they are. And so I look out at this group of people that, 10 years ago, I'd have brushed aside as half-hearted, uncommitted, 'unsaved', 'liberal' and ineffective, I now only see the utter foolishness in my previous set of judgements and values. The biggest thing that has been revealed to me is that as I determine to see Jesus more, to fix on him, the more able I am to see him and his work in the 'other'.
The penny finally dropped for me in recent months when we engaged again with the Army for a season. I saw, rushing back towards me, all the things that I had moved away from and that had come to represent what seems like a different life altogether. I discover that Jesus has ruined for me any narrow expression of ecclesiology and missiology...but more than that, any narrow understanding of him and what it means to follow him.
And so with that comment, I break a quiet blog season. I've been in the grave again and now here I am in another new day, thankful for the grace of God which refuses to give up on me. Stunned that even although I've only been faithful in a few small things, he has opened other things to me. Such is life in the Kingdom.
He is risen...and so am I!