Tag Archives: Church

Seven lessons from Jesus’ prayer for us all…

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1)  Revelation – “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world.”  John 17:6

God wants to be known. Eternal life itself depends on this ultimate knowing. “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” v.3 The apostle Paul also echoed this reality of revelation when he prayed for the Ephesians:WisdomRevelation

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” Ephesians 1:17

The generous Father has already “given” us people to whom He will reveal the beauty, glory and salvation of His Son Jesus. Who are your “given?”

2)  Edification and Sanctification by the word of truth – ” For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them…Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:8&17

You must give people “words” that you have overheard from the Father. Such words are found in the disciplined and loving meditation of the whole Bible. Try reading it through at least once every year.

3)  Prayer “I pray for them.” John 17:9

Jesus “always lives to intercede for” us according to the writer of  Hebrews 7:25, and we should also devote our lives to pray for those God has entrusted to us.

4)  Protection “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name…My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” John 17:11&15

For the Jews there was great power in the revealed name of God. That name is now incarnated and fulfilled in the name of Jesus before whom every knee must bow: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

Proclaim the name of Jesus over those you love, your church, your friends, family and your nation.

True protection can never come from just hiding away behind the four walls of the church or barricading ourselves behind a marginalised religious culture. We are in the world as salt and light. Engage boldly with it, also releasing those you love to their culture and friends, trusting that your prayers will protect them from all evil influences.

5)  Unity “so that they may be one as we are one.” John 17:11unity through diversity

Staying together always requires effort, sacrifice and love. It is the mark of the mature and the reflection of true Christian character. Unity is never separate from the truth of God’s Word.  Heeding the apostle Paul’s advice we must all work towards this goal. “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3

The Puritans put it this way. “Unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, charity in all things.”

6)  Joy“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” John 17:13

Jesus is a joy bringer. Cultivate joy in your life and sow it into that of others. The atmosphere of the Church, where Jesus is present,  should be impregnated with joyous freedom. The cold stoney sadness of many religious edifices, simply signals the absence of the true Beloved. “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

7)  Mission “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” John 17:18

There is a great river of purpose flowing out from God’s heart. He wants all of us to be caught up into this passionate current of love which seeks salvation and restoration for the world. Jesus began the “domino effect” of such a mission as He laid down His life, was “sent” and knocked on to His disciples the same “sacrificial sentness.”

May your own domino fall on to those around you adding to the great teleological history of salvation.

Intercession – My heart’s desire and prayer

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praying chrch movement diamond 2We saw in the last post how the woman in Revelation 12 could be seen as Israel. Now we look at the second option of her as the Church. This time the twelve stars could be seen as the twelve disciples and the sun and moon representing the breadth of the Church as her members “shine like stars” in a dark world. However adding metaphor to metaphor is not the real point. We, as a Church,  are a people called to pray.

The early apostles set the identity of the Church and Paul, like a Moses of old, wrote down the grace principles in his letters and his life. In one word Paul modelled intercession. He, like the sign of the pregnant woman, knew all about making disciples through painful spiritual travail.

“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…” Galatians 4:19

We see this same committed intercession at the end of Romans 8, a passage which “hinges” significantly to the beginning of Romans 9, and which shouldn’t be stopped by the chapter numbers,  but should flow on to reveal Paul’s pained identification with his brother Israelites. One thread  of chapter 8 is the incredible commitment and love that God shows in Christ to His people. There is NOW, “no condemnation”. For If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”  There is also no accusation:Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died– more than that, who was raised to life– is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” And no separation: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”  Romans 8:31-35

The climax to all this come in the last verse as Paul emphasises the certainty and indestructibility of our place in God’s heart:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” v.38-39

He is emphasising the “no separation” love he knows of Christ – and yet he is prepared to go beyond promise, beyond even his own blessed experience of Christ’s intimacy, stepping boldly into the realm of identification and suffering for his own people.

“I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit – I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers , those of my own race, the people of Israel. ”  Romans 9:1-4

The man who so confidently proclaimed to the Philippian church: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” now has unceasing sorrow for his brothers. This is the paradox of our Christian pilgrimage on earth. Sorrow and joy often meet in the same heart, sometimes in the same instant, both intensely real and yet not hijacking one another in the mature believer. Tears and laughter can share an instant in the hidden heart of the intercessor.tears and laughter

Like his ancestor Moses of old, and his beloved Jesus of the cross,  he is willing to sacrifice even his own salvation, such is the passion of his prayer.

“But now, please forgive their sin– but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” Exodus 32:32

Christ’s living body on earth also modelled the obedience of intercession as an almighty God identified with the pain and lostness of His people with powerful tears.

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”   Hebrews 5: 7

Before a waiting and watching world, imprisoned in the depths of sadness and suffering, the Church, the body of Christ, stands. May the multitudes see our tears and prayers as we are sent out in the same intercessory spirit as Christ himself.

Paul makes an interesting statement of Christ’s passion in Colossians 1:24,

“Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”

What is lacking? Surely there is no lack on the side of Christ’s full redemptive act. The lack is on the other side of the cross, as the Church is challenged to pick up the missionary baton of intercession and take Christ’s love to the end of the earth – on knees first, and then aeroplanes! It is not a redemptive lack, but an intercessory missionary lack! The power and passion awaits those who dare “rejoice” in suffering for the Gospel.

“To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” v.29

This is a call for the church to “labour”, to birth the reigning male child, Christ’s Kingdom, into the world.

I’ll end by going back to Romans 10:1, which encapsulates Paul’s longing – the Church’s longing and hopefully our own longings in intercession, for people to be saved. Paul prays for his brother Israelites here, but you can use these lines to pray for those closest to your own heart.

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.”

Intercession – Who is the woman of Revelation 12 ?

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Woman_and_DragonWe ended last week’s post with the above question. Who is this dramatic “sign” in heaven? Many scholars and theologians have addressed this question over the years. I even read recently that some people interpret her as the zodiac sign of Virgo who awaits the time to have a certain configuration of moon and stars around her.

However, the main explanations that have emerged from various ecclesial traditions ask these three questions:

Is she the Church ?

Is she the Virgin Mary ?

Is she Israel ?

Now, as a fairly ecumenical Protestant, I cannot fully accept the Mary solution. However, so as not to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water, I prefer to redefine this explanation as the woman representing the “Mother” figure and essentially all the courageous women from Eve, Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and many anonymous others, who birthed the line of the Messiah through the ages, culminating in the glorious fulfillment of it all through mother Mary’s miraculous birthing of the Messiah in the flesh.

The vulnerable child, born it seems in hopeless weakness to be devoured before the dragon’s gruesome mouth, is in fact born with an innate Messianic promise. He holds the “ancient” sceptre, to fulfill the “ancient” promise of the garden  (Genesis 3:15) to overcome the “ancient” serpent.

“He said to me, You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron sceptre; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” Psalm 2:7-8

The “male child” is neither crucified nor devoured but lifted up to heaven echoing the prayer that the Lord Jesus gave his people in Matthew 6:10: “…your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”iron sceptre

This is a great encouragement to us. So often our ministry and its vulnerable fruits seem ready to be devoured by persecution and strife…but what is born out of intercession and promise carries innate authority and will always survive against all the odds!

I’ll come back to this “Mother figure maintaining the line of the Messiah”  later in the study, so let’s move on.

The classic interpretation is that she represents Israel with the miraculous salvation from the waters reminding us of the crossing of the Red Sea in the famous Exodus story and the forty-year “desert” period wandering. The twelve stars might speak of the twelve tribes and the sun and moon are images used by Joseph in his dream to emphasise the family, and hence the roots back to Abraham – and even beyond to the early garden creation.  Israel gave us Christ. Other commentators would emphasise that in the “new alliance” she represents the Church who has been grafted in to the aged root. In this, and the next study or two we will cast a brief glance over these three options in the light of intercession.

She is Israel

We need to go back to Genesis 32 :22 to find the beginnings of Israel’s name. We find Jacob wrestling with “the man”. For an excellent study of this “man” and the passage click on Allen Ross’ paper here. The prophet Hosea comments this passage by stating that:

“In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel; as a man he struggled with God. He struggled with the angel and overcame him; he wept and begged for his favour.” Hosea 12:3-4

It is a story about struggle and transformation.

” I will not let you go unless you bless me. “ v :26

This is the language and posture of intercession.

His own physical and soulish strength is broken in the process: “…he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.”  v :25

True men and women of God, those trained in the school of life and intercession, do not walk with a swagger but a limp. “The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.”   v :31

Bless meHe “overcame” an all-powerful God through his faith to hold on in weakness and vulnerable love, refusing to let God go. Pain and suffering often tempt us to push God away, but we can be transformed as we “overcome ourselves” and hang on. The Father’s righteous wrath was “overcome” on the cross as Jesus hung on for a blessing to all mankind.  “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and man and have overcome.”  v :28

Israel means “he struggles with God.”, and Israel, with the great prayers of Abraham, Moses, David and the prophets have always been an intercessory people. It is the key to understanding their persecution by the dragon throughout history.

With the blessing he received, leaning on his staff, Jacob went on to bless Pharaoh (Genesis 47:10.) Our intercession can bless the world. He also had a prophetic blessing to pray over his sons, the next generation to carry the blessing.

“All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.” Genesis 49:28

Our intercession must also prophetically rally and bless the emerging generation of pioneers.

Go and bless your world and family today!

Having seen the woman as the “fighting, praying, suffering, and broken” Israel we will move on to look at the “praying” Church in our next post.

Re think

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“Christendom has done away with Christianity without being quite aware of it”                 Soren Kierkegaard

Ever since the cross was painted on a shield – held about one yard from the heart, Christendom, in its Constantinian political power, began to lose its true identity modelled on the humble servant/king Jesus.

Money and power have never been far away from the cloistered chambers of prayer, and even today, when we survey the blighted history of the Church we come to the sad conclusion that we didn’t do a particularly brilliant job.  While many are hunting down the “speck” of homosexual marriage it seems that we might do well to take the great plank out of our own eyes first. Weeping is a good way to dissolve planks!

Of course, God is the master of history and, as the famous parable says, has allowed the good seed to grow with the weeds. There have always been the bright periods when pioneers, often perceived and persecuted as heretics, and missionaries opened their hearts and the Word of God to the world.

The fastest growing church in the world today is those who are leaving it!

I celebrate my thirty years as a missionary this month. I remember back to those inspiring moments when God called me to follow Him in “triumphal procession” amongst the nations and to share something of the perfume of Christ. It has to rate as life’s greatest privilege. However, I am still mindful of the pain that the word “mission” can conjure up for many. Let’s hear what Mark Twain had to say:

I bring you the stately matron named Christendom, returning bedraggled, besmirched, and dishonoured, from pirate raids in Kiaochow, Manchuria, South Africa, and the Philippines, with her soul full of meanness, her pocket full of boodle, and her mouth full of pious hypocrisies. Give her soap and towel, but hide the looking glass.” A Salutation from the 19th to the 20th Century,” December 31, 1900

In the wake of an often chequered colonial past, Western mission needs to heed the new voices. Lesslie Newbigin has long been such a prophet:

“We are forced to do something that the Western churches have never had to do since the days of their own birth – to discover the form and substance of a missionary church in terms that are valid in a world that has rejected the power and influence of the Western nations.  Missions will no longer work along the stream of expanding Western power.  They have to learn to go against the stream.”  The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission

So, mission needs to learn about going against prevailing currents.

We are going deeper and deeper into crisis it seems.

Listen to what Roman Catholic theologian José Camblin has to say:

“There has never, since the origins of Christianity, been such a radical change in the world as the one that is now taking place. For the church, this transformation is more radical than the transition from Israel to the Gentiles, more important than the establishment of the institutional church under Constantine or the Protestant Reformation: the present transformation forces it to a more radical reappraisal of itself and challenges many more aspects of it than have been challenged hitherto.” The Holy Spirit and Liberation

How will we face up to the challenge? We could avoid the difficult questions by retreating into self centred hedonistic spirituality and simply, like the good old British films of the past, “Carry on Singing”. Another approach might be to batten up the hatches, get into defensive mode, and preserve the dwindling flock with endless Bible study.

It is time to think…and hopefully do differently.

Building on the radical voice of Michael Frost’s teaching, let me offer three ways of renewing our intelligence at this time.

1.      It is time to think about God differently

For many, God is “up there”, hidden away in distant omnipotence. He seems to be a static God, carved into the rocks and doctrines of time, erecting static churches which need their roofs repairing.

There is nothing static about God! He is ever on the move breathing his creative life over chaotic waters and into human clay. He sent out the Lamb that was in His heart, sent passion and purpose into the world at Pentecost and sends us, his wounded, vulnerable church, into the dung and dough of this world.

“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”   John 20:21-22

The very nature of God is to send and be creatively involved and committed. The key attribute of God is mission.

Theologians put it another way and in 1934, Karl Hartenstein, a German missiologist, coined the phrase “Missio Dei” (Latin for Mission of God) in response to Karl Barth and his emphasis on “Actio Dei” (Latin for “the action of God”).

According to David J. Bosch, “mission is not primarily an activity of the church, but an attribute of God. God is a missionary God.” Jurgen Moltmann says, “It is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world; it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father that includes the church.”

Mission was understood as being derived from the very nature of God. It was thus put in the context of the doctrine of the Trinity, not of ecclesiology or soteriology. The classical doctrine on the Missio Dei as God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit was expanded to include yet another “movement”: The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit sending the church into the world.

We need to encounter the Missio Dei in a fresh wave of intimacy.

Jesus said that he could do nothing without the Father.

“I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”  John 5:19

Jesus worked by revelation rather than perspiration! No redundant, ambitious energy here. He took the time to “see”, and worked out of divine relationship with the Father. There was no forced tension or difficulty in this. Divine flowed into Divine.

Intimacy with the Father is the foundation for our collaboration with the Missio Dei.

There is a danger that the marvellous revelation of God’s Fatherhood to us may be perverted into some introspective Freudian passivity. This is so wrong! We have boxed the Father into a psychological, pastorally weighted paradigm instead of releasing Him into His transformational missional identity. Look again at the intimate words of Jesus in Chapter 5 of John and see what other word is associated with the revelation of “Father”:

“He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him.”

“…whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me.”

“I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”

“For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.”

“And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me.”

You cannot separate the Father from his “sending”!

Jesus is totally impregnated with the notion and character of a missionary Father – the closer you get to such a Father, the more “sent” you become. The intimacy of such a Fatherly revelation is not limited to your own personal “inner healing” but it spreads like a magnificent tree for the “healing of the nations.”

So think differently and get sent!

“The primary purpose of the “missions ecclesiae” can therefore not simply be the planting of churches or the saving of souls; rather, it has to be service to the missio dei, representing God in and over against the world, pointing to God, holding up the God-child before the eyes of the world in a ceaseless celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany…In its mission the Church witnesses to the fullness of the promise of God’s reign and participates in the ongoing struggle between that reign and the powers of darkness and evil…Thus, in its missionary activity, the church encounters a humanity and a world in which God’s salvation has been operative secretly, through the Spirit.” Vatican 11 Gaudium et Spes 26

2.      It is time to think about the Church differently

The church is not a building! It is a collection of relationships propelled out into the cultural context the Holy Spirit has prepared for us.

Your context is your mission field…and ongoing church.

Many know that the Greek word the bible uses for church is “ekklesia” – “called out ones” or “gathered ones”.

Paul in Acts 17:17 “…reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace (agora) day by day with those who happened to be there.”

Both “synagogue” and “agora” also have the same notion of a gathering place. It seems that the thrust of Paul was to use any structure necessary get the word of God to as many folk as possible. He could cater for the “in crowd” Jews but also for “those who happened to be there”

I think that the Holy Spirit may be calling us to think more widely about the nature of church so that it can be available for those crowds around us who caused Jesus such compassion.

I sometimes wonder what Jesus was thinking about when he said in Matthew 16:18:

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

He links church (good) with gates (bad). Now Jesus, with his Jewish background, would have known all about gates. It was the place of authority where the wise would sit and judge for the benefit of their community. When Jesus later talks about “keys”, (are they not for gates?), he is no doubt continuing the parallel of church (good gate) versus the Satanic kingdom (bad gate).

He would have known how Moses put blood on the doorposts to protect from the destroying angel, and would have cherished the memory of Nehemiah restoring the glory of Jerusalem by repairing the gates that were burnt with fire.

Perhaps he may have been thinking of the wife of value whose husband was “respected at the city gate where he takes his seat among the elders of the land” (Proverbs 31:23) or even thinking of the wonderful blessing Rebekah’s family prayed over the future bride:

“Our sister, may you increase to thousands; may your offspring possess the gates of their enemies.” Genesis 24:60

Where is your “gate”, the place of authority that the Lord wants you to serve in with wisdom and love? It may be family, or in society – business, education or government. Where is your “agora?”

We need to review the “attractional” paradigm of church, which sees everything drawn into it, and move to a more “incarnational” one which sees us sitting as servants within our society.

Can we begin to think about church as the “called out” wise ones, given as God’s gift to our villages, towns and neighbourhoods – salt and light bringing protection and restoration within the heart of our communities?

3.      It is time to make mission the organisational principle of Church

From a study of Acts 2:42-47, most people would conclude that there are four basic functions of Church.

Worship, Fellowship, Teaching & Mission.

Over the years it seems that worship has emerged as the dominant or organisational principle of most churches. There are many ways to worship and share the sacrament, but essentially people go to a building to take communion and sing. We would usually enjoy “something from the word,” biscuit and a cup of tea followed by a kind of guilty numbness about the “lost.” Passionate evangelists, or guest speakers try to give ease to the guilt with the occasional “outreach programme” which mobilizes the more noble amongst us.

While asking you to forgive my simplistic generalisations, can I also assure you that I think very highly of all these functions and do not want to dismiss any. However, I’m making a plea for mission to become the organising principle and not just the last resort.

Once people grasped a clear missional goal together the fellowship and teaching would get done “on the job”. Instead of teaching being like theoretical school homework it would become vital information for getting the job done. Instead of forced fellowship over a polite “How are you?” we would truly become a “Band of Brothers” on a mission.

The worship would go beyond the building and the singing (although I still think we need a gathering point for robust corporate celebration) and into the living sacrifice of lives laid down in service in the midst of a community. Such validation of worship would no doubt engender a deeper reality at the communion table – wherever that was held.

I’ll share a few quotations to help underpin the paradigm of mission as the organisational principle of church.

“The Church, wherever it is, is not only Christ’s witness to its own people and nation, but also the home base for a mission to the ends of the earth.” Lesslie Newbigin, A Word in Season.

“The Church exists in being sent and in building up itself for the sake of its mission.” Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 4/IV/1.

“I think that the deepest motive for mission is simply the desire to be with Jesus where he is, on the frontier between the reign of God and the usurped dominion of the devil.”  Lesslie Newbigin, A Word in Season.

Mission may take us to the ends of the earth and an unreached tribe in northern India, but it may also take us into the world of business, entertainment or sport. While writing this article I have been involved in developing the concept and practise of Business as Mission. Hardly a new concept…and yet coming back to the centre stage of church life.

As well as encouraging you, like Newbiggin, to have a deeper “desire to be with Jesus where he is,” let me finish with a quotation from the matured wisdom of Kenneth Scott Latourette as he traces the role of the “ordinary man and woman” in the greatest adventure life has to offer – sharing the life of Jesus with the world!

“The chief agents in the expansion of Christianity appear not to have been those who made it a profession or a major part of their occupation, but men and women who earned their livelihood in some purely secular manner and spoke of their faith to those whom they met in this natural fashion. Thus when Celsus denounces a religion which spreads through workers in wool and leather and fullers and uneducated persons who get hold of children privately and of ignorant women and teach them, Origen does not deny that this occurs. [see Contra Cels., III, 55]  In the commerce and the travel which were so marked a feature of the Roman Empire, the faith must have made many new contacts through Christian merchants and tradesmen. …  Involuntary travelers such as slaves and Christians deported for their faith were also agents.”  Kenneth Scott Latourette, The First Five Centuries.

Be you a slave, a traveler, a merchant, tradesman, missionary or pastor…There’s a world to win…and the world awaits…

Sin energy or Synergy?

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When I first heard the word “synergy” I wondered if it was talking about my special capacity to sin dynamically! The old man always seems to have reserves of energy to sin. However, on closer look at a dictionary, I found a more suitable definition. From the Greek sunergiā, cooperation, from sunergos, working together, synergy means:

“the interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.”

Or the,

“cooperative interaction among groups, especially among the acquired subsidiaries or merged parts of a corporation, that creates an enhanced combined effect.”

Synergy is when the result is greater than the sum of the parts. Synergy is created when things work in concert together to create an outcome that is in some way of more value than the total of what the individual inputs is.

There are many verses in the Bible that show how God’s covenant with Israel was meant to create the blessing of “synergy”. Leviticus 26:8 is one of many examples.

“Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you.”

Simple mathematical multiplication means it needs 500 to chase 10000. Synergy gives us five times more power.

Do our projects seek simply to multiply the same, or are we discerning the opportunities of synergy with others? Are we only looking to “survive” as “five”, or are we looking to take the step of faith to become a “hundred”?

I believe that the Lord is asking us to lift up our eyes and seek out “synergetic” partnerships. It is only our fear, unbelief and “sin energy” that can stop us.

I’d like to give you three domains for synergy.

  • The synergy of nations.

God’s heart is “all nations to reach all nations.”  In 1 Chronicles 12:22&38, we see the model of many tribes coming together at Hebron, “fully determined to make David king over all Israel.” We need to recognise our own particular “Hebron” in this world’s global village. Standing shoulder to shoulder with different nationalities, and indigenous mission movements we can endeavour to make Jesus the true “King over all the earth.” Revelation 5:9 and 7:9 gives us a glimpse of the redemptive beauty of many tribes and cultures worshiping in glorious diversity in a “synergetic celebration of the nations.”

  • The synergy of generations

The Apostle’s Creed talks about the “communion of saints”. What are we in communion with? Surely not just a superstitious offering to the dead, but more a taking up of the living baton of a previous generation’s love for Jesus expressed through their prayers and dreams.

In the last days, God says,  I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.”   Acts 2:17

 The dream of the “old men” must find an interface with the vision of the “young men” of a new generation.

An old man with a dream but without the next generation is doomed to frustration and sterility. The young man with vision but without the discipline of the “dream” of the past will be “rootless”, wrongly ambitious, superficial and lacking direction.

“See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.  He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”       Malachi 4:5-6

 If you are a young man (or a young mission movement), be rooted in the living “dreams” of the fathers. If you are an “old man”, attempt to disciple a few young men with your dream.

  • The synergy of denominations.

We inherit our ecclesial history which is unfortunately filled with schisms and separations.  There are no superficial solutions to healing such deep wounds of division, but the Apostle Paul encourages us to “keep the unity” of Biblical fellowship. Even if we are used to playing our various instruments in different orchestras we can always come together to find another missionary harmony as the Body of Christ moves into corporate action. We read in Matthew 18: 19-20 :

“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

The word “agree” is “symphoneo” in Greek which takes us back to the idea of the beautiful symphony of synergy. Let us make every effort to keep the unity, to express a powerful missional thrust by praying across our denominational divides.

We are all called to share the joy of Jesus together.

“It was not men’s grief, but their joy Christ visited, he worked his first miracle for men’s gladness…And indeed, was it to make wine abundant at poor weddings he had come down to earth?”  (Brothers Karamazov)

 True joy is found in sharing Christ together. Change our water into wine Lord!