Best practices are specific, discrete ministry activities that measurably increase program scale, effectiveness, and/or efficiency, and can be replicated by other National Ministries. Best practices should be supported by evidence (data).
Yesterday was a good day.
I travelled to London and met the head of a global organisation where I shared the work of PFI’s global family and they shared the life transforming work of their own movement. There was great missional alignment and we may even be able to partner in the future. There were wonderful biscuits with the tea! I then went to the Houses of Parliament for the launch of some new research conducted into the positive role and contribution that faith makes in the prison system in the UK. No surprises there but good to have it reaffirmed. And good to see hope renewed in the participants that the work of those who love God with all their heart, soul and strength, loving their neighbour as themselves matters (by choosing to engage before, behind and beyond the Prison gates) — it really matters. I even got the chance before taking the train home to shop in Fortnum and Mason and pick up some almond-topped mince pies, as a romantic gift for Andrea. Yes… she too was surprised that I thought this was a romantic and appropriate offering for celebrating the start of our relationship 42 years ago at a school Christmas disco.
And as I emerged from the train station in the cold drizzle mist that is part of our UK climate at this time of year, I smiled.
It really had been a great day; progress had been made. I was encouraged, our work is moving forward, I was heading home in time for dinner and I knew that in 50 years’ time no one beyond my immediate family would remember me.
I wasn’t discomforted by this at all. In fact, it made me laugh inside and even more determined to enjoy the mince pies, as I realised that so much that can bring a lack of peace and joy (the dis- eases, dis– appointments and dis-tractions) in my life are transient. They will pass. That the wise live with eternity in view. Beginning with the end in mind is more than just the habit of a good leader, it is the pursuit of the Godly according to the “wisdom seeker” of Ecclesiastes.
Ultimately, like all residents of our planet, my body will return to dust and in a few generations at most no one will have any clue that I was ever here.
This revelation was added to a BBC headline yesterday that less than 50% of the population of the United Kingdom now identified as being Christian.
Now dependent on the definition of ‘Christian,’ this may or may not be big news, but let’s assume all the worst things that I think the headline was trying to imply. I still say what a miracle it is that we have fallen to that number! Given the humble origins of the community that carried the early message of Jesus of Nazareth, to decline to 50% is astounding.
Even in that descriptor of Jesus there is a supreme irony. It’s a bit like introducing myself as Andrew of Codnor. It automatically begs a locational question that isn’t entirely positive…. Where on earth is Codnor?
Good question. The answer is that it’s a bit like Nazareth of 2,000 years ago. It’s an irrelevant, despised, backwater village (with apologies to any Codnor residents reading this message) that no one would believe anything or anyone good could come from.
Imagine 2,000 years ago, the headlines of the Bethlehem Bugle, in its Shofar Op-Ed: baby boy, born to poor transient Jewish parents in stable (un-married Mother, adoptive Father, soon to be refugees). Personal, community, global, cosmic and eternal repercussions will follow.
Nevertheless, it is a fact of history that the good news of Jesus of Nazareth, His birth, life, death resurrection and ascension has taken our planet by storm.
Don’t just take my word for it. Here is Tom Holland (the eminent historian, not Spider Man) in the introduction to his excellent book “Dominion — The Making of the Western Mind”:
The ambition of Dominion is to trace the course of what one Christian, writing in the third century AD, termed the floodtide of Christ: how the belief that the Son of the one God of the Jews had been tortured to death on a cross came to be so enduringly and widely held that today most of us in the West are dulled to just how scandalous it originally was. This book explores what it was that made Christianity so subversive and disruptive; how completely it came to saturate the mindset of Latin Christendom; and why, in a West that is often doubtful of religion’s claims, so many of its instincts remain – for good and ill – thoroughly Christian. It is – to coin a phrase – the greatest story ever told.
Now please don’t think that I am sugarcoating the issues of our day. We still live in times of turmoil, injustice, wrongdoing and hatred. I am not denying that these injustices need to be addressed.
What I am saying is that the Good News of Jesus is just as relevant as ever and the solution starts with me (and you) because as Alexander Solzhenitsyn reminds us:
Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil.
And it’s this fallenness and brokenness that God came to address through relationship with His Son who has taken on flesh, moved into our neighbourhood and — through His birth, life, death and resurrection and ascension — changed the world, for good, forever.
Of the increase of His Government there will be no end.
So, my friends God rest ye merry Gentlemen (and gentlewomen) let nothing you dismay and be of good cheer. The first announcement of the angels still echoes around our universe:
“Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased” – Luke 2:9-14 NLT
And then, in response, let’s keep going in full confidence: God is with us, God is for us, and by His Spirit He lives in us.
One man awake,
The second awakens
His next-door brother.
The three awake can rouse a town
The whole place
The many awake
Can make such a fuss
It finally awakens
The rest of us.
One man up,
With dawn in his eyes,