Retreat to Advance

Thursday 11 August

With Will van der Hart

Well it is great to be here in NI. I have been on the beach again today and I have been surfing in Portrush. What a privilege to be with you here.

Reading from Mark 1: 29 -39

Jesus turns up at Simon mother-in-law’s house but there is a problem. Jesus heals her just so that she serve the house. Jesus initiated an act of healing for the sake of the service of the house. The Lord is bringing a reformation for leaders to serve the church with a new heart after the pandemic. I pray that we don’t return to normal but have a reformation of leadership.

The danger is that there is a hierarchy that supports insecurity in leadership and this is how we enumerate ourselves. This is a great challenge. Jesus establishes His ministry not in a desire to be successful in human terms. His first miracle is the enabling of the ministry of the first church evident in this house with the gathering of the disciples.

But then Mark says that the whole city gathers at the door looking for healing. You can imagine that Jesus would use this as an opportunity to show His power. He healed many but would not let the demons speak because they knew Him. He was not seeking elevation . 

I want you to be shocked by Jesus at this point because He leaves the house whilst it is still dark. The disciples go looking for him and here at the beginning of the gospel, they rebuke Jesus for leaving. “Everyone is looking for you.” I want you to be shocked because in our society you would heal the whole city, not leaving but making sure everyone knows you were there.

But Jesus goes to make intimacy with God the priority of His ministry. From this place every other aspect of our ministry should flow. He doesn’t respond to the rebuke of the disciples. 

The reality of our lives and leadership is that we are in danger of becoming goal driven and target hungry. This is a challenge for all of us. We are taught from a young age that this is a good way to live.

I went through a dry season in my ministry about seven years ago. I had been working hard with great moments and really tough moments. Anglican churches have a unique smell called ‘Anglican damp.’ It is a musty sweet smell. I walked into this new church – I had become the vicar. And I took council on a retreat and was hoping that the Lord would reveal ministry wisdom to them. But everyone asked for new toilets. The smell in the church was so bad. £19,000 would replace the toilets and I was reassured that if the toilets were sorted people would come. Six months later I was overwhelmed by the smell once again. My heart sank, “Lord have we spent all this money for nohtiner?”

A few months later I notice a blue door at the back of the church and asked the caretaker to unlock it. He was reluctant but when I went through the door, I found a set of steps into the basement that was filled with brassy water. The basement had been flooded by a stream. We called the fire brigade to pump out the basement. We got had skips to clear out all the rubbish.

Some time later a young man asked to set up a gym in the basement – a place where spiritual and physical muscles could be grown. We want to see a heart change. The Lord is calling us for a reformation of leadership that pumps out the shame basement and places it with an integrity gym. The disciples didn’t understand Jesus on the mountain. The challenge is that we have forgotten the reason we are here in the first place.

When leaders are asked about vision they always talk about goals. When you play football they score a goal, but almost immediately carry on playing so they can score more goals. Goals make us feel good for a fleeting moment . We can find ways of feeding ourselves to pay ourselves back, giving us an adrenaline hit. We create a scheme that serves us and not Him who saved us. 

Climbers who climb up Everest, are in serious danger. Of those who die in the attempt, 15% die on the way up but 56% die on the way down. There is greater risk in climbing down. In leadership, we can become orientated climb up. Climbing down requires a humility. We need to climb away from the success story that feeds our own ego.

Gideon performed a defeat of the Midianite solders with 300 men. His story doesn’t end well. He had a great success but created an ephod as a sign of his victory. The Bible says, the ephod became a snare to him and his family. Saul defeated the Amalekites but then disobeyed God. David defeated the Ammonites but then slept with Bathsheba.

Reformation in making intimacy with God our priority. When you make security your priority, success is the outworking of this.  

Holmes and Rahe Scale – looks at some of the things that produce the most costly psychologically such as marriage, reconciliation and even high achievement. Stress is a by-product of success. It is not going to fulfil our desire for affirmation. We are not called to that. We are called to reignite our intimacy with God.

“Sucstress” is the combination of stress and success. But Jesus makes intimacy with God a priority over the success of His ministry. 

This is my story. I suffered complex PTSD after the London bombings. I could make this a virtue story or tell you the true story. I was success-driven. I had expended myself beyond what I could cope with. I was already burnt out when the bombs went off and so I was not emotionally or spiritually resilient.  I had nine or ten panic attacks a night. It was a terrifying time.

After I had stabilised my wife said they should go away and recover. I was expecting a time in Spain or at a country hotel in Bath. But my wife booked a jungle trek in Borneo and a climb of almost 14,000 feet up Mount Gunug Kinabalu. The mountain was a series of 200 staircases of mud . My wife iurged me up the mountain and at the top of every staircase she would encourage me to look around and see how far I had come, and to be thankful to God for helping me get this far. Christian life is not a call to be successful in conquering the moment. but a continual reorientation towards God.

Jesus ‘slipped’ out of the house. He chose to step away from notoriety towards intimacy.

The truth is

  • Opportunities rarely dry up – don’t make opportunity the reason for doing anything.
  • We can never get enough affirmation.
  • There will always be another crisis – we can make being a “fixer” our idol.
  • Lists have the habit of getting longer – people can even add things to their list that they have already done, just so they get to cross them off the list. Let God to the Lord of your lists. Seek Him every day for what He wants
  • Some people will never like you. – recognising this will save you so much heartache, even in the church. Jesus worked and served perfectly but they nailed Him to a cross. We are not called to be liked but know that we are loved.
  • Only you can unlock your disciplines. You know what to do and you know what that quiet space looks like. You know what worship sounds like. You know what kneeling feels like.

Matthew 7:17-Good fruit is a consequence of being a good tree. A good tree does not force good fruit. There will be seasons of barreness. The tree’s responsibility is just to be a good tree. The consequence of us being a good tree is bearing good fruit – it will happen. 

Romans 8:37 says we are more than conquerors- we are called to go beyond success. Paul says that conquering is not the end of the story,. Success is not the thing we are called towards. Called to be those in relationship with Jesus. Only from that “more than” space will we be an example of the Kingdom in the world. 

Make intimacy with God your priority.

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