#Nexus2015 – Cross Shaped Ministry – What was missing…

(The recent Nexus2015 Conference “A cross shaped ministry” thought through the implications the cross has on how we think about gospel work in our churches. These are some of my personal reflections – see the previous 4 reflections here.)

I do feel there was an significant theme missing from the conference, and while I understand it’s a day conference and you can’t touch on everything, I think this is important. In fact, when I asked our staff team what ministry implications they think spring from the cross, they answered this one first… evangelism.

5. The cross defines the importance of gospel ministry

If God didn’t spare his only Son… if, when His eternal Son begged him for another way, He answered, “No – There is no other way”… then woe be to those who now suggest there is anything greater than declaring the work of His Son. As there is no other name compares to Jesus’ name to be saved, so there is no other work that compares to Jesus’ work of bringing all things together under himself. And we get to be part of that work!

Or put another way; The cross of Christ is the very heart of God’s message to the world! It’s not a message to the disciples, or to the Jews… its God’s message to the world. God does not put an enormous flaming message in the sky saying “I’m sorry” (as in Douglas Adam’s galaxy). Rather he puts His Son on a cross and says, “It’s done”.

6. The cross defines the extent of gospel ministry

At the cross, Jesus purchased men for God (Rev 5:9), he was the Sovereign Lord who bought people (2Pet 2:1), he reconciled all things in heaven and earth visible and invisible to God (Col 1:20), he was a ransom (Mark 10:45).

Everyone in the world, because of the cross, belongs to Jesus. He bought them. They are his. This means that evangelism is not simply inviting people to consider Jesus (though we rightly want people to do this), rather our driving motivation is the knowledge and conviction that Jesus is already their Lord. We are pleading for people to “Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2).

They are His. We are right to covet what rightly belongs to our Lord. The extent of the cross should make us want more and more and more and more people to bow the knee. The cross should cause in us a holy-discontent with the size of our churches.

7. The cross AND RESURRECTION provides the hope of gospel ministry

I know this might be a fudge, as the focus was really only meant to be on the cross, but when it comes to gospel ministry, the resurrection and the cross need to be held together don’t they?

The resurrected Christ now pours out his Spirit – and that spirit is the ONLY hope we have in gospel ministry. Without the resurrected Christ’s Spirit at work in us and those we serve there is no gospel ministry to speak of.

What’s more, Jesus promises to save people! The resurrected and ascended Christ should give us great hope and enduring confidence to keep praying for more, keep speaking to more, keep running events and courses and calling people to invite their friends… We should be courageous, risky, bold… not in our own strength, but because we believe that Jesus died to save and rose to reign.

The resurrected Christ should keep us from being disheartened, and keep us zealous in prayer and evangelism.

#Nexus2015 – Cross Shaped Ministry – Reflections Part 2

(The recent Nexus2015 Conference “A cross shaped ministry” thought through the implications the cross has on how we think about gospel work in our churches. These are some of my personal reflections.)

3. The cross sets the terms of gospel ministry

The cross was divine judgement for sin, and Jesus’ resurrection brings the Spiritual renewal and transformation from sin. This lead to one of the most practical comments on the day… we must beware a common shift in our churches where “sin” only refers to “personal brokenness”, where “growth” only refers to “self-improvement” and where “sacrifice” only refers to “the personal circumstances I’m in at the moment”.

No. Sin is the rebellion against God, the defiant disobedience of His commands in heart and actions. Growth is the miraculous spiritual transforming power that allows Christians to say no to sin and obey God in the midst of pain. Sacrifice is giving up things for a better heavenly reality – it hurts and we need to stop fooling ourselves that we’re doing it.

4. The cross shows us the the pattern of gospel ministry

Since we follow a master who was beaten, ridiculed, persecuted… we should expect the same things, and we should call others to follow.

This is similar to the 1st point about our personal motivations, but it must go further. When we call on others to follow and serve in our churches, we must be wary we are not suggesting they do it for their own glory, or in their own strength, or for us – the under-shepherd! Rather the “recruiting conversation” should be a call to serve their master and his plans.

Next post… “Nexus2015 – What was missing…”

#Nexus2015 – Cross Shaped Ministry – Reflections Part 1

(The recent Nexus2015 Conference “A cross shaped ministry” thought through the implications the cross has on how we think about gospel work in our churches. These are some of my personal reflections.)

1. The cross kills our wrong ministry motivations

We don’t do ministry to try to “pay back God”. We don’t do ministry to “stay in God’s good books”. We don’t do ministry because we’re afraid God will be angry with us if we don’t.

The cross of Christ, in our place, purchasing forgiveness and freedom from judgement saves us from all these errors. We are wise to go back to the cross and there remember it is all done, our heavily Father is pleased with us in Christ.

2. The cross kills our wrong worldly motivations

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Gal 6:14

Our union with Jesus, is a union with him in his death and resurrection. So much so that Paul says his relationship with the world is viewed through the lens of being crucified. I think that means the world sees him as good as dead, and he sees the world as good as dead.

In other words, the cross reminds us that this world is moving towards destruction to make way for a new creation to fit Jesus’ resurrected body and Jesus’ resurrected people.

This should affect our concerns, our desires, our goals for life. It should make us pause when thinking about our hopes and dreams – for they should not be filled with this world’s offerings, but with the next world’s promises. The cross means greed and coveting is even more inappropriate – if that were possible.

More to come…

The Nexus Conf and the “Portfolio Model”

One of the “controversies” (apparently) at the Nexus Conference was comparing the Congregational Model of staffing to the Portfolio Model of staffing. While I was really pleased to see brothers keen to sharpen in their thinking about how to get good faithful gospel work done, there were some frustrations.

First, it seemed that the Portfolio Model wasn’t really held by anyone. Dave Sheath (Lakes Evangelical) kept referring to it as doing church according to Purposes, and wanted to avoid the Portfolio language. While Lionel and Phil had questions about it, it turned out the staff in their churches were “specialising” beyond their congregations already.

During dinner I was chatting through the purpose model, and thought it would be worth making some points…

  • The Purpose model is NOT first and foremost a “staffing” model, it’s a model that focus on ENDS rather than MEANS (to use Phil’s language – ironically).
    So at HBC, we’ve settled on 5 ends, 5 goals we think God wants to see EVERYONE grow in. 5 aspects of what it means to be a healthy christian and a healthy church; Be a magnifier of Jesus, Be a Missionary of Jesus, Be a Member of Jesus’ church, Be a Mature follower of Jesus, Be involved in Ministering with Jesus.
    You can focus on these purposes no matter how many staff you have. No matter how big (or small) your church is.
  • In a Purpose Model church, all pastoral staff see themselves as EVERYBODY’S pastor.
    I’m a pastor of 500+ adults. The other staff at HBC are also pastors of the same 500+ adults. We all share the pastoral responsibility – without dividing up the church into “congregations”. They are all the flock, and we are all shepherds.
    This is each staff member’s FIRST IDENTITY. Sam’s not the Mission guy… he’s a Pastor of the flock at HBC, who happens to focus on one aspect of the sheep – namely helping them be missionaries.
  • Therefore, the Purpose Model is better described as TEAM PASTORING where everyone pays a special role on the team.
    I wrote about this a while ago here. If you have more than one pastoral staff, you have a team. And you can either divide the team’s work into flocks (you take that congregation, I’ll take this one). Or you can divide it by gifts/focus/emphasis (you look after people’s heart for mission and magnifying God – particularly not exclusively, I’ll look after their membershiping, their maturity and their ministering – particularly, not exclusively)
    You make this decision on the basis of the gifts your staff already have. Some of us are just better at one of those than we are the others (see here)!  So, rather than limiting those gifts to just one congregation, they get to use their gifts regardless of their congregation. People don’t miss-out just because they’re in this congregation not that one.

So, the big points to grasp are, a) Purposes not Portfolios and b) Team Pastoring everyone and c) Staff are Generalist at heart, Specialists in the field.

Tomorrow, I’ll try to give a bit of a history of how we came around to this…