Since the 70s we’ve been called Jesus Fellowship. On April 7th 1987 we took on Jesus Army as our second, parallel identity, a public brand under which we’d reach out to the UK for Jesus. This post is all about names.
Why do names matter? Names shape culture and values, they help form first impressions. Choosing a good name for a church is no quick fix to changing a culture, but what organisations choose to call themselves carries weight both in gathering members around a vision and communicating to outsiders.
It is an exciting time for the church, new people are coming and finding Jesus and the promise of Isaiah is once again fulfilled in our age:
“Lift up your eyes round about and see; they all gather together, they come to you. Your sons will come from afar, and your daughters will be carried in the arms.”
One thing that I’ve always loved with this church is the bold proclamation of Jesus and how we make that clearly and publicly visible. ‘Jesus Army’ is written on vehicles, on flags; some of us wear red crosses or even colourful Jesus jackets; our social centres are called Jesus Centres where the cross is the first thing you see. As someone told me some years ago: “We’re loud and proud!”
And we should be.
The comedy troupe Monty Python once performed a sketch called The Four Yorkshiremen. Four old rich gents sit on a fancy veranda, puffing cigars. One after another they start telling stories about how difficult their upbringings were, each story more ludicrous than the last. Finally, the fourth Yorkie finishes his story with the crowning phrase “And you try and tell the young people of today that, they won’t believe you!”
It’s fair to say that we live in a cynical age. Everything is questioned, picked apart and doubted. But it’s no wonder. This past week or so has seen the nation and the government divided, leading to a bubbling over of hate and prejudice, with accusations flying from both sides.
It’s been said that the longest journey is the distance from head to heart. Actually I think this is wrong, it’s quite a short distance; but the road only goes one way and it’s in the other direction. Christianity, our faith, is an exploration of the heart not the head. God is love, so how could it be anything else. The head can understand what the heart finds, and it can guide the search, but you just can’t make your heart believe what the mind thinks unless you really find it.
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.” (James 1:22-24)
Here we can see how closely doing, hearing and identity are linked. Sometimes we just need to be taken back to the basics – let’s hear what God’s saying and let’s do it.
A sure way to get an idea of what is really special to God, is to look at how much energy Satan puts into tearing things apart. For example: look at communities, cities. God loves cities – they are places where people of all nationalities come together. So they are under attack – any city in the world you’re going to find full of all kinds of evil and corruption. Another example of something that’s close to God’s heart is listening. Listening is so important to God. We live in the information age and our capacity to listen is under attack. Listening requires so much discipline.
At school, we would often hold debates in class, where some people would be assigned to argue “for” the topic, and others “against”. After each side had voiced their opinions, we were asked to switch sides and argue from the opposite point of view.
I remember finding this quite difficult, as sometimes it meant I was holding forth about something I didn’t really agree with, but thinking back on it now, I think it does teach something valuable. When you have to look at both sides of an argument, it gives you a bit of balance and helps you understand where the other person is coming from, even if you still don’t agree with them.
One open secret of church life and growth is house groups, or cells, church in homes, etc. If the Holy Spirit life is flowing and new people are coming and finding the Lord, then everyone loves it, and God is glorified. It’s as simple as that.
Then why do we have lots of groups but not often that sense of life and growth? What is missing? What is needed?
We recently made the decision to re-decorate our dining room. It looked acceptable but just needed a few improvements.
To be honest, I would’ve been happy to simply paint over what was there. Get it out the way quickly so that we can return to normal as soon as possible. Others, however, were more diligent and felt we needed to do a thorough job. The others prevailed.
About a year ago I found myself having to lead (that’s loosely put) worship in a small community house. As far as I could see it required a certain degree of confidence in singing and playing the guitar. Neither of which I had. In fact growing up going to church I would often ‘mouth’ the words to songs just to look like I was singing. Anyway, I accepted the challenge, drew the short straw and grabbed a guitar. It was a painfully embarrassing experience.
In my first post in this series I explored the question “what is God’s mission?”, and the second post briefly answered “who are we and how did we get here?” in regards to our New Creation Christian Community. In this final post in the series I’ll set out to describe some of the new vision stirring in our community.
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