Thank God for the Administrators!

MCM Director,Terry Durose

A couple of weeks ago MCM rolled out the final phase of the new Hospitality Ministries Database.  Not particularly exciting news for most of us who might prefer to hear of hundreds of people committing their lives to Christ or even the launch of a new exciting ministry to the poor and marginalised, but for me personally its been the climax of around 18 months labour.

Nobody taught me how to build a database,  I had to go on a steep learning curve and dedicate long hours of my time to creating a solution that would cover all aspects of our Hospitality Ministries, from booking guests into the Narrowgate, to scheduling volunteer shifts.

The end product is very satisfying for me, but no doubt deadly boring to most.

Should it be though?

At first glance administration tasks might not seem to be much of a missionary adventure,  but a little thought and consideration helps us see how important administration is in the Bible.

Think about two of the greatest and best known heroes in the Old Testament, Joseph and Daniel.

Prophets they may have been, but they both were also highly gifted administrators! Would the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall got very far without the project management skills of Nehemiah?

I’m sure you get the idea.

It is wonderful to think of all the people that MCM are reaching though it’s projects.  Encouraging to read of how many children hear the Gospel through the work of Groundbreakers, how many homeless people are given a bed to sleep in through Narrowgate, and how many residents of retirement homes have been visited by the Dawn project and so on.

However, behind all this frontline work are a team of highly gifted administrators, keeping records, filling in essential spreadsheets, managing finances and scheduling shifts.

Thank God for the administrators!

Outrageous Grace – by Terry Durose

At MCM we meet a lot of homeless or destitute people.  Many started out on what they thought was an adventure into the world feeling invincible and full of hope, only to find that things are a lot harder than they expected.

So many remind me of perhaps the most famous destitute person in the New Testament – the Prodigal Son. You can read his story for yourself in Luke’s Gospel, chapter 15, verses 11 to 32.

We might be so familiar with the  story that we fail to appreciate just how badly the younger son had behaved.  For one, he was effectively guilty of wishing his father dead.  Under normal circumstances, he would have had to wait until his father had died before receiving his inheritance, but not him.  His impatience led him to dishonour his father in a most callous way.

He then went on to waste everything he had obtained in what must have been a fairly short time. The text says he squandered it in reckless living.  Most of us who are reading this have worked hard for what we have. Imagine how grieved we would be if we saw our kids throwing away what we had laboured so hard and so long to obtain or develop. Finally, we are told that he wasted his inheritance on prostitutes.  Our culture prides itself on it’s liberal stance on sexual matters, but even today, such behaviour finds its way into our Sunday papers and gossip columns.

Even if we don’t find the fathers’s compassion towards his son surprising, surely the immediacy of the restoration should raise our eyebrows a little.  I suppose we might have expected that this lad to do time that fitted his crime. Surely some probation period might seem wise, but no. Immediate restoration was what he received.

There is much encouragement for those who from time to time back slide, or slip quietly into temptation.  The truly penitent are immediately restored.  Outrageous, but wonderful!

The Gifts

The true depth of God’s outrageous grace if revealed when we think about the gifts bestowed upon the prodigal.

The first act of the Father was to call for the best robe. The best robe had significance since it suggested favour, and  honour bestowed upon the wearer. Think of Joseph and his coat of many colours. Think also of the robe of righteousness given to those who have received forgiveness and reconciliation in Christ.

The father also called for a ring to be put on his finger.  This was not just a bit of first century bling. The ring denotes authority, the power to make decisions and to see them carried out. This ring sets the wearers out as a representative of the father himself.  Shocking isn’t it to think that this level of responsibility was being placed on the shoulders of one who had acted so foolishly with his inheritance, yet  we are told in 1Cor. 13 that love always trusts.  There was something in the contrite attitude of  this boy that showed that he had learned his lesson.

As believers we carry the very authority of the risen Christ. Everything we do, we are to do in his name and for his glory.  We might expect that this authority be stripped from us should we fail, but once our sin has been confessed, we are restored fully. The ring is placed on our finger immediately! Truly outrageous stuff.

Then the sandals were placed on his feet.  Only children of the family wore sandals. Servants or slaves went about barefoot.  This was total restoration to sonship.  The prodigal did not feel worthy to be called a son. He would have been delighted to just have been given a chance to earn his keep, but no. Sonship fully restored.  The elder son hadn’t got it.  He was a son with a servant/slave mentality that thought that love and acceptance could and should be earned by hard work. Grace didn’t come into his thinking.  The way he starts his argument  is telling “Look, these many years I have served you…” This stay at home backslider can only see his brothers return though legalistic, pharisaic  eyes.  This however, is not about earning anything. Grace not freely given is not grace at all.

The thing that seemed to get the elder brother’s goat (pun intended) was the fact that the prodigals return was celebrated.  Some see the fatted calf to be a type of Christ, citing the fact that blood had to be shed for the reconciliation to be effected.  Certainly it was an image of celebration. There is joy in heaven over every sinner that repents and by extension, every backslider and prodigal that finds his way home. Legalists may raise their objections, but the love of the father demands celebration there and then.

Such joy may be outrageous, but it also gives us hope.

Those who heard this story for the first time could only have been shocked, maybe outraged that God could be so merciful to sinners.  Instant restoration for the truly contrite.  Favour and honour restored without delay.  Authority restored there and then. Immediate reconciliation and sonship. Let’s celebrate  – today!  We may find it hard to believe  that God does all that for us every time we return to him – we know what we deserve -however let’s let this amazing story broaden our hearts to fully embrace God’s outrageous grace to us.

Manchester Arena Attrocitities

Terry Durose, MCM Director

I’m working today hampered by a lingering sick headache and trying, not entirely successfully, to hold back tears.  Like many this morning I woke to the news that there had been a suspected terrorist attack on the Manchester Arena. Twenty two people lost their lives and dozens more have been injured. It’s impossible to estimate how many have been emotionally traumatised by this despicable, cowardly act.

 

The fact that the target was a pop concert, and one that would have been largely attended by young girls takes our disbelief and horror to a new level.  One wonders at what might have motivated such an atrocity. What cause could have possibly been furthered by such violence? What perceived benefit could there be, that might be worth killing children for or indeed dying for?

This may be incomprehensible to us but we should not be blind to a simple truth. These murders made perfect sense to the person or people that carried them out. Their thinking has been warped by a Satanic deception that makes it  seem honourable to them to kill children and destroy lives.

Many of us today are wondering what we can do to help. As Christians we have weapons of righteousness that must be brought to bear. We must continue to love those who consider themselves to be our enemies. We must pray. We must persevere in our duty to proclaim the Gospel.  Only then can we expect those whose understanding is shrouded in evil darkness  to see the one true light.

MCM’s Clear Message

Terry Durose, Director, MCM

It often astounds me how much effort we have to put into keeping people out of church.  As I am writing this piece two workmen are hard at work servicing the shutters that protect our church’s windows and doors.  The shutters may not be the prettiest things on earth but they are very necessary if we plan to keep our building safe.

Sadly, there may be barriers that stop people coming into church when we want them to attend.  People feel nervous when they first walk through the doors of a church and need to feel welcome.  A church member’s frowning face or a church full of cliques can be harder to get over than a barbed wire fence!

I have few anxieties on that front for my own church. On the whole we seem to be a friendly bunch who go out of our way to make people feel at home.  My concern is about getting believers out of church and into the community.

For the last ten years, MCM has been building its work on three missional concepts, Incarnation, Compassion, and Proclamation.  Incarnation is love entering the world of the people we want to reach.  Compassion is love responding to the unmet needs we encounter and Proclamation is love declaring the unsearchable riches of Christ.

Putting any of these concepts into practices requires a measure of courage, but in my experience Incarnation seems to be the hardest of the three.  To be intentionally and missionaly present amongst your friends, neighbours, workmates and even family requires a level of vulnerability that most of us would find uncomfortable.

And yet Jesus sends his followers out as lambs amongst wolves.  The clear message is that to be “sent out” by Jesus means that we will be vulnerable.

By the time the workmen have finished servicing the church shutters, I will feel that the church building is once again safe. That’s good. Church should be a safe place, at least in some respects.

However, church should not be a fortress where believers are barricaded in to keep them safe from the world.  We are a sent people.

by Terry Durose