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RETIRE! …. WHO ME?

June 23rd, 2014
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By Barry Hatfield

(Warning: under 60-years readers must be accompanied by a retired adult)

Sydney church has a ‘men’s shed’ of sorts. It’s when a few men are working together in hall set-up before the ladies arrive. We have a short time window in which to talk, laugh and generally bump things around as men do without fear that we’ll be chastised for ‘not being nice’. Those moments are precious.

In similar vein, here’s a radical thought. Men shouldn’t be at home. At least those who’ve retired and don’t have an interest that keeps them out of their wives’ way. (I hear wives shouting agreement).

The human form ‘Man’ was meant for work. Most of us would agree. Notwithstanding, there comes a time when body and mind succumb to inevitable age-creep and the decision is made to cease employed work – or your boss decides you have become a ‘redundant’ employee and euphemistically ‘lets you go’.

What then? Are you a redundant human being? Is that the way God sees you? Obviously not. He wants us to be active, productive, permanent members of His family where the terms of tenure won’t be broken by an encroaching arbitrary age barrier. If we’re there, we’re there to stay – is how our Heavenly Father has structured His plan.

Yet in this world, Christians don’t get a free Senior’s Pass to soften the ride into what the world has come to label ‘Retirement’.

When I made that shift some years back my mind wasn’t prepared for the almost immediate change in my long-held ‘work’ mindset. From day one, the business phone calls ceased, the emails stopped filling my inbox, invitations to press conferences dried up, the requests for consulting services stopped. It was as if I’d left the planet. I was anticipating publishing deadlines disappearing — but not this isolation. My self-imposed ‘work-stoppage’ (retirement) had put me out on an age-labelled limb from which there was no climbing back to the trunk of the ‘productivity’ tree.

But we (men especially) must be willing to face the inevitable fact that we do ‘age’. It’s tough on us, we who’ve been the bread-winners for decades. We can easily feel we’ve been cheated by time and in turn are cheating our families by not leaving for work each day like we used to.

When I handed in my National Heavy Truck licence that had allowed me to road-test and report on new truck-trailer combinations I had made the decision because my body and mind don’t run at the speed they used to. And I don’t want to become a risk to others.

I’m now limited to a God-ordained winding down body. After seven years isolation from a working life-time of productive (and exciting) man-style activity I’ve accepted the fact that I’m retired — yet not retired from life.

The challenge for all of us creeping over the age-hill like a heavy truck climbing a steep grade, is that we tend to only see the grinding slope ahead of us. It can be a hard, un-rewarding slog at times, knowing that it won’t get easier. Unless, of course, we ‘see’, in faith, what awaits on the other side. Unlike most of the world, we don’t need technology to see ‘over the hill’.

In place of a GPS screen we have Christ’s own assurance that whether currently we are human men or women – our new spiritual bodies will be a reflection not so much of how we’ve held a particular identity in this first life, but of the continuing identity and realm of Christ throughout our ‘second’ and eternal life.

For we older men, who’ve focused on jobs and careers and responsibilities — this isn’t easy to get our heads around at times. We still want to join up and talk about ‘manly’ issues — without solving the problems, I might add. Fact is, we can’t. Only the power of God can. We can but want to be an active part of what He’ll be doing with us …forever.

Men! Good news! There won’t be any retirement when you have a spirit body. Life won’t wind-down because of advancing years. And there won’t be any stiff backs, sore knees, weak muscles and creaky joints. No un-utilised talents. No un-realised dreams. No redundancies!

What you will be as a spirit-‘man’ in the image of God, and as a brother of Christ, will be validated – no matter what role Christ assigns you. Others (and yes, that includes resurrected family members!) won’t question your life, times, work, enjoyment and worship in Christ. You will be you– as Christ wants you to be in and around Him.

Whatever position, involvement, challenges, responsibilities, and opportunities we’ve had as men in this life will, in the life to come, be so far removed from the reality of living as glorified members of God’s Family in His Kingdom and all its astronomically gargantuan (see dictionary) purpose throughout eternity, that the frustrations of the few short bumbling, stumbling years of so-called ‘retirement living’ here and now will evaporate before our new eyes, when the dark glasses are removed and we see, for the first time, clearly, what our ‘real’ life will be in Christ.

(Now to mow the back lawn!)

Over 60's

The Simple Church

March 14th, 2014
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If one has been a Christian for many decades you become aware that churches can go through various stages. In the early years there is a zeal to be doing things. Youthful energy keeps the congregation very involved  in church based programs and activities.

The church can easily become a a little community on its own apart from the rest of society. It provides its own sports, social life, good works all within its four walls. The pastor is the multi – tasked co – ordinator of this enterprise or mini kingdom. Obviously this even more pronounced if a Christian school and other church businesses is made part of the mix. Effectively people could live in a Christian ghetto and their whole world caught up only with the church.

As time goes on an increasing internal pressure can build up. People become burnt out. People have no escape from the pettiness or accumulated hurts or disappointments that inevitably flow from human relationships. There may develop social pecking orders, gossip about nepotism or even double standards how people are treated or even disciplined. This can be very sensitive involving families and their children. Some children perceived as in the elite group and the rest left to fend for themselves without any favours.

A lot of energy can be wasted on speculation about promotions and demotions, organizational decisions, how the money is spent, who gets paid what and even rumours of scandals. The more successful and bigger the organization, the more complex it becomes with fiefdoms and factions  developing.

We have been there. Our grapevine was a very alive around the world filled with this or that hot of the press news. For any group there is no way that they can escape this today with the advent of social media.

Now of course we are a much smaller outfit with far less resources than in the past. We are almost surprised that we continue to grow with various people coming to us around the world. Our basic approach is: ” Silver and gold I do not have, but I can share with you the name of Jesus.” It is true we do give of our physical resources to help needy brethren but we are not the wealthy church we once were.

This has meant a re examination of what we are trying to achieve as congregations. Our church motto is “All sorts of churches, for all sorts of people , in all sorts of places.”  This may involve just walking alongside other ministries as brothers as we do in Nepal.

The idea of Simple Church is identifying what gifts, resources and opportunities God has given to us and doing 3-4 things as well as we can, without trying to do everything or be a community that can serve every need. It is a more humble recognition of our limitations and where God has invited us to work with him.

It means we are sustainable over the long term: thankful for what is happening, and not comparing ourselves to other ministries or congregations. It also means that we can be flexible according to new opportunities and resources. We are not burning up people with ever increasing activities and programs or introducing new ideas in a panic to be relevant or to stop feeling inadequate.

Here are the four present main areas that have developed in our area:

1. Our weekly service

 This involves a lot of people’s commitment – whether it is in the speaking, the audio/visual support, the worship music, the set up and take down and the hospitality for our afternoon refreshments. So far we have been able to handle changes in personnel with others stepping up to contribute. We have sought to simplify here as well. But one thing we need to appreciate is that a lot of prayer and preparation does go in to the weekly service. This also includes the preparations for Ulladulla. Our services are shared with others through Skype, the cloud and CDs.

 2. In home Bible Studies

 These have been a feature of the area for many years. Some homes have changed but we do have a significant number of members who attend at least monthly, and some much more frequently than that, a 90 minute study and discussion of a book of the Bible. This requires the hosts to have their homes ready and refreshments for the after study fellowship. Some attendees are given transport as we live in a very large city and we are very scattered.

 3. Prayer Chain

 No one needs to suffer or go through life’s challenges alone. Praying for one another centralizes all the individual pastoral care so that we share our burdens and come together as a family before our heavenly Father. It means that we are not just being good folk who care but we go together to the very source of comfort, healing and life itself. This also includes prayer groups and intercessory prayer in our service. We particularly focus on the persecuted church.

 4. Overseas Mission

As an area we have now for many years supported Mark’s visits to PNG and been involved throughout South-East Asia and Africa and even Latin America. We have tried to economize our expenditures so we have more to give. Even when our income has fallen we have not dropped the amount we send to our brothers and sisters in the new areas God is working. This requires major accounting support locally and proper project feedback which is shared in our services and newsletter.

 All of the above involves the congregation in one way or another. These four areas have emerged as the dominant ones. And despite our ageing, or how scattered we are, each of the above remains vital and reveals commitment to Christian community.

Also it frees each of us to be involved with extended family, neighbourhood, local charities and organizations so that we are not sealed off in our church’s four walls. Most of us belong to many communities outside the congregation — probably up to at least 5-6. We want all of us to participate in these according to our priorities.

Over 60's

Disciple-making as spiritual parenting

December 5th, 2013
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Ted Johnston of the Surprising God blog wrote:

Disciple-making is often approached as if it were a mechanical process: insert person into a one-size-fits-all program and out pops a mature disciple. But that’s not how disciple-making works nor how it Jesus and his early followers practiced it.

 When Jesus called his followers “disciples,” (mathetes is the Greek word used by the Gospel writers and by Luke in Acts) he was using the word as understood in first century Jewish culture (for a helpful discussion about this word, click here).

 In Jewish culture discipleship was a close, life-on-life, mentor-protege relationship between a teacher/mentor (typically a Rabbi) and his followers, known as disciples. This relationship was not about mere information-transfer. Rather the beloved Rabbi shared his life with his disciples and in so doing, imparted to them his character (who he was), knowledge (what he knew) and skills (what he could do). You might say that he gave them his heart, head and hands.

 But have you ever wondered why the word “disciple” is not found in the epistles of Paul, John and Peter? Did disciple-making cease to be the mission of the church?

 The answer is “no”—disciple-making continued, though the terms used to describe it did change. This change is explained by Mike Breen in The Great Disappearance. Following is a lengthy quote from that e-book. As you read it, I encourage you to consider what Jesus, through the Spirit, is now doing in multiple cultural contexts to multiply his disciple-making followers.

Read more…

Over 60's