I’ve just been on a training course for three days up in Manchester. It’s quite a bit of a sacrifice for a proud Yorkshireman to be that side of the Pennines but also to be spending time away from home. The course was to do with providing coaching for church planters. So, on the one hand I was looking forward to learning some things that I thought would be helpful as I look to give more time to helping people plant into urban contexts. At the same time, I was a little anxious because I was bracing myself for the 5 steps and the latest offering for a silver bullet to guarantee successful ministry. Given the people involved I should have known better of course!
There were processes and tools introduced as you might expect. However, the course ethos definitely wasn’t about “finding the all winning technique.” Instead, we were brought back to the Gospel. We were reminded that the Good news isn’t just the entry ticket into Christian faith but the way that each of us goes on and grows in the Lord. The Gospel is the anecdote to both legalism and licence. As Titus 2:11-14 says:
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
This was a powerful reminder. One particularly challenging point was when we looked at idolatry and how the desire for approval, comfort and security can turn our heads away from Christ leading to manipulative behaviour. It is as we are encouraged to keep our eyes fixed on Christ that we learn to live fruitful lives for him. This is important both for the leader or coach and for each of us in the congregation.
Pastors and church members alike do not need some advanced training. We don’t need to be initiated into new skills or a higher level of knowledge. Rather, we need the Holy Spirit to bring us back to the Gospel of Grace.