Sunday, 29 September 2013

Non Segment Marketing

Advertisers are quite savvy at tuning their marketing to a specific audience. Aiming for a particular segment, they set their pitch accordingly in order to have greater effectiveness.

Although not really marketing, a number of Christians take a segmented approach to church related activities - seeing some parts of church life as 'for the Christians', and others as 'for those not in the church'. Curiously in the gospels there are several occasions where Jesus seems to take a broader or more fuzzy approach, where it is not really clear exactly who he is talking to (or aiming to talk to).

Look at and read forward from Luke 12:1. He began to speak first to his disciples, yet the large crowd was around. Where does the speech switch from speaking to the few devoted followers to the many? Just when you think you might have the answer verse 22 seems to reset things again.

Could it be that he worked with the smaller group but allowed others to listen in, being at peace with the fuzziness this implied? More of a non-segmented approach?

Now elsewhere Jesus clearly took his closest followers off, effectively on retreat, for special time just with them. As Christians we need that. But we should ask the question as to whether there are some activities that we do together which could in fact accommodate some by-standers, maybe at least those who we see as enquiring or searching with respect to the Christian faith.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Kenosis is the name of the game

In our Western culture Christian leadership runs the risk of being confused with the celebrity culture. Church size, ministry reach, and a host of other similar metrics usually make up a leader's bio when they are introduced to the conference platform or the like.

Ironically technology, despite its positives and fantastic utility, can contribute to this in a way that Paul (way ahead of his time) mocked in the beginning of 1 Corinthians (see 1:12). Which well known Christian leaders do you 'follow' on the blogosphere or via Twitter?

This one? Oh please ...

Paul's principle was the opposite. His metrics were the extent of his apparent failure plus generally being kicked around and despised: see 1:28f, 4:9-13 and 2 Cor 11:23f for examples of this recurring theme through the Corinthian message thread.

Paul's principle was that of Jesus Christ: 'kenosis', or self-emptying in English. Laying down that which you might normally or naturally grasp to, even to the point of being totally laid bare ... with only God who might raise you up again (Philippians 2:6-8).

Ask yourself: when was the the last time you heard a leader introduced as someone who has been radically humiliated or laid low in their pursuit of Christ and His service?

Yet that is the qualification of Christian leadership. Kenosis is the name of the game.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

For God's Sake Share Something

It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that as Christians in the UK we have effectively 'de-skilled' ourselves in terms of sharing God-related anecdotes with each other. They don't have to be mega events or wow-factor stories, just the simplest of observation would suffice. Sadly there seems to be a reluctance even to share with fellow believers - if we can't share with our brothers and sisters in Christ then what are our chances with those who don't believe?

Hebrews 3:13 exhorts us to encourage one another daily. Psalm 105:2 suggests the same, along with other verses that can be found in either testament.

Even today's secular field of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) recognises the value of the regular practice of being grateful, suggesting taking time once a week to list even the smallest of things to be thankful for. The Bible writers were ahead of the times ...

But we need not assume we just have to tap into the power of positive thinking. If your week has been a disaster be honest and share that too: bring it before God just like the psalmists did (and the prophets, e.g. Jeremiah 20:14 !). Such honesty can also be good for mission too - our unbelieving friends need to know that our faith doesn't equate to plastic smiles but rather believes through struggle and the hard realities of life.

So go on, break the habit of 21st Century UK Christians and share the thankfulness for an event, something you have seen, or something you have heard. Go public!