Scriptures that have influenced me – Luke 5v10

My first salaried leadership role within a local church was serving as the church evangelist whilst studying part time at Bible College. It was in many ways very frustrating! I felt that the church was expecting me to do the evangelism on their behalf whilst my idea was that the role of the evangelist was “to equip the saints for works of service” Ephesians 4v11, i.e. they should be doing the evangelism not just me. This led to some tensions even within the leadership team!

It was in this context that I heard a sermon based on Luke 5v10, our calling to be fishers of men. The preacher, Simon Petit who was from South Africa, explained that in Africa fishermen always fished with nets never with rod and line. A team of people would lower the nets in the sea and then pull the nets on to the shore catching lots of fish. The idea of a single fisherman catching single fish just didn’t exist in his context and more importantly didn’t exist Jesus’ context.

I suddenly saw that the teaching I had received, the teaching that I had in fact myself passed on, that we needed to go out as individuals catching people one at a time was not what Jesus had in mind at all when he called us to be fishers of men. It was us reading the scripture through the lenses of our western individualistic culture.

It helped me see why the church was expecting me to do the evangelism for them. They knew they were not up to it; they just were not equipped to go out as individuals and win individual people for Christ. They were right! They knew that the church was called to evangelism and saw that I had some level of gifting in it so expected me to do it on their behalf. However I too couldn’t deliver what was expected on me.

What was needed was a totally different evangelism strategy. The answer was for the church to be made up of various fishing teams where people worked together to win not just individual people but groups of people. Such an understanding is releasing for everyone.

This insight has been the heart of all that I believe about how a church should operate. It underpins the heart of what we are trying to build in Hope Church.

WRITTEN BY TONY THOMPSON

tonyt

Tony is an Elder at Hope Church Luton and part of the Leadership team.

He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

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Scriptures that have influenced me – John 15v16

Feelings of inadequacy are something that many of us have to cope with at different times in our lives; it has certainly been true for me. I can remember a particularly difficult period not long after I was invited to become part of the leadership team in my local church. After a short while I found myself almost paralysed by feelings of inadequacy, feeling incapable of contributing anything to the life of the church, spending my time obsessively questioning my suitability for the role I was being asked to fulfil.

The black cloud that dogged me lifted as suddenly and as quickly as it had arrived. I can remember it vividly even now, many years later. I was sitting one evening reading through the scriptures and I came across John 15v16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.”

It was as if that verse was written specifically for me. I felt God strongly telling me to stop worrying about whether or not I was up to it, God had chosen me; it hadn’t been my decision but his. I should therefore stop wasting my energy on whether he had got it wrong but should instead put my energies into bearing fruit. It was a real shock to the system, I felt the words like an arrow deep into my being and I was shaken out of my malaise.

It was a very personal encounter between me and my God, one that I didn’t speak about for many years, but one that laid a healthy foundation right at the beginning of my leadership. My focus needed to be bearing fruit that would last, he had done the choosing not me.

I don’t think it was a coincidence that a good few years later, at the service which was held to mark my being sent out to lead my first church plant, the text that the preacher spoke from was this very one. The preacher didn’t know its significance to me, but God obviously did. He was reminding me again that he had done the choosing, I just needed to get on with the fruit bearing.

Something that I still need to remind myself of.

WRITTEN BY TONY THOMPSON

tonyt

Tony is an Elder at Hope Church Luton and part of the Leadership team.

He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

Scriptures that have influenced me – Exodus 19 v1-6

It was whilst I was at Bible College that I can across this scripture in a significant way. Ever since then it has been a major influence on the type of church I want to be part of.

The passage before this has Jethro telling Moses how to structure the life of Israel, the passage after contains the 10 commandments, the rules that govern the life of Israel. This passage, the meat in the sandwich, is Israel’s mission statement. The structure and rules either side of it only make sense in the light of Israel’s mission.

Peter, in 1 Peter 2v9, makes it clear that we, the church, have the same mission statement.

There are three elements to the mission statement. Firstly “out of all the nations you will be my treasured possession.”

Israel, the people of God, us, are God’s treasured possession. If you have a treasure possession whether that is a child’s special quilt, a Teddy Bear, a photograph album, it is something you give value to. It doesn’t matter what others may think it is you who gives the value.

God says we are His treasured possession. It doesn’t matter what we or anyone else thinks, he have value to him. He has decided.

Our value is not in what we do, even who we are, our value is what God gives us. Our value is in what God thinks of us. In God’s eyes his church is special, a treasured possession, something to be shown off.

That is the first element of the mission statement. Until we understand that we are God’s treasured possession we can’t properly receive the other two elements, our calling to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

Priests are intermediaries between God and man. Israel, the kingdom of priests, was therefore called to be intermediaries between God and the nations.

To fulfil that role of intermediaries she needed to be a holy nation. Holy is defined by God, “be holy, as I am holy” says God consistently in scripture, the laws give definition to this. Holy also means cleansed and set apart for God’s use, e.g. the utensils in the Temple, only to be used for specific tasks in service of God.

If we are to represent God to man we need to be like God, we need to be holy. Holy also means set apart for God’s purpose; his purpose to be a kingdom of priests.

Sometimes Israel focused so much on being holy, being like God that they separated themselves from the nations because they didn’t want to be contaminated. At other times they got so involved with the nations that they lost any sense of distinction. God continually called Israel back to being both a holy nation and a kingdom of priets.

The church too often needs to be called back to do both at the same time. When we get it wrong, as we often do, we have to remind ourselves that we are also His treasured possession. Our value is not based on our performance – thank God.

WRITTEN BY TONY THOMPSON

tonyt

Tony is an Elder at Hope Church Luton and part of the Leadership team.

He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.