Do we enable people to feel chosen or rejected

Many of us will have memories of our school days, the PE lessons, and two people picked as captains, and then they have to choose who they want on their team! those days of knowing that you were going to be last, and only end up on someones team because the other person didn’t choose you. This process of team picking often leads to people thinking that they aren’t worth much, or valuable to others, and they can start to feel rejected.

Not being chosen often leads to that feeling of being rejected. And we see it so much in our society today, where people are overlooked because according to those doing the choosing, they don’t quite fit. But, really, what does it actually mean to fit?

many at times have overlooked me, because I am blind. they make their assumptions about what I can do, what I am worth to a team, and my ability to do things, without talking to me, asking me, or especially pushing past the blindness, to seeing the person, not just the blindness. It is a challenge to all of us, that we don’t allow the church to become that place of rejection for people, but the place not just of acceptance, but chosenness.

But maybe the fact that much of society doesn’t feel chosen, and feel chosen by the church, is because we ourselves, haven’t got to grips with what it really means for us, as Gods people to be chosen. If we haven’t got to grips with being chosen ourselves, how can we expect others to feel chosen? We won’t demonstrate what it means to be chosen if we aren’t receiving gods choosing in the first place. it is time that we really started to embrace the fact that we are chosen people, so that we can live lives, that enable others to feel chosen as well.

the difference between the kingdom of God and the school PE lessons, is that everyone is chosen, everyone has the invitation to join in, nobody is excluded, but people can choose themselves, to be excluded. how much do we actually extend the invitation, and enable people to feel chosen, rather than them feeling rejection, excluded, or simply just not wanted.

In our work with young people, we should always have that invitation at the heart of what we do, and who we are, there should never be any sense of rejection. But many young people have felt that rejection, because of us puting behaviour before the ability or invitation to belong. Jesus invited people to follow him, and he would show them the way, and offer to guide them, they would know that they are chosen, and it was down to them whether they accepted his choosing or they decided to reject it. Jesus was inclusive of his invitation, and enabling people to feel chosen, but people would often reject this for various reasons.

Maybe it is time for us to start living those chosen lives, so that we can truly extend the invitation to others, and enable them to feel chosen, and that way, bring gods love, value, worth to people, and they no longer feel rejection, or exclusion from all that God has for them.

1: What does it mean for you to live a life knowing that you are chosen?
2: How can you ensure that others around you are invited, and not rejected?

The reality of pruning for leaders

Gardeners will understand the necessity of pruning for growth better than I will, but I have heard a number of people talk at length about the need to cut back, the need to prune, to enable whatever is growing to become what it is meant to be – and this is not just in the context of gardening!

Pruning is one of those things we talk about, we even suggest to others, but when it hits us, how on earth do we cope with it?

The first thing to understand is that if we are to grow, and if what we are part of is to grow, then pruning is not just something to talk about, but it is an absolute necessity. We often don’t like to face up to this reality, but it is true, and if we are serious about growth, then we had better get to grips with the truth of pruning.

Growth is something I am sure we would all sign up for, so what is it that stops us from embracing the reality of pruning?

Some suggestions:

Fear: we often have a fear that to be pruned means that we will no longer engage with what we have engaged with, and that we will be seen in a different light. Often our fear comes from how we think others will view us, rather than the reality of what it is that God is doing with us. Cutting back in our lives by God could and will mean that God has other growth for us to live out. Fighting against that pruning and allowing the fear to dominate will stop the growth for ourselves, but also for what God has for us.

Comparison: out of fear, comes our thoughts around comparison. If we are being pruned and things are being taken off us, and others are running with what we have been involved in, we may experience fear of being compared to this other person, especially if that person takes what you were doing to the next level. We see things in the light of comparison as opposed to seeing things in the light of building. Often we will be part of God building something, but then be pruned, to enable others take it to the next level, and maybe even for us to start something new.

Proving self: out of comparison comes our human instinct to prove ourselves to others around us. Proving is human nature, but it isn’t from God. We don’t need to prove ourselves to him – Jesus didn’t need to before he heard the words, “You are my son, with whom I am well pleased”, at his baptism. But often we will fight the need to be pruned, because it doesn’t necessarily look humanly good, and so we want to prove ourselves to others around us.

Need to build: out of our need to prove ourselves, can come the instinct to need to keep building. We don’t embrace the idea very well that pruning can and does strengthen the foundations for the growth that is to come. Often as we grow, or things grow around us, there can be, and often is overgrowth, and things start to look messy once they have overgrown. Pruning needs to take place to ensure that overgrowth doesn’t happen, and that things can grow in the way that they are meant to, looking as God wants them to look. So we need to put aside our own thoughts of us continually pushing to grow what it is we are involved in, to enable it to be what God wants it to be.

Pruning in John 15 is a good thing, a necessary thing, a godly thing, a growth thing, and a releasing thing. The truth is, we will not be the people God wants us to be unless we are prepared to face up to the reality of pruning.

These are just some starter thoughts – there could well be more as I reflect upon this over the summer, but maybe this is something to think through as summer moves on. Where is it that God is wanting to prune you? What does pruning feel like, and are you open to the growth that God has (and therefore open to the pruning he wants)?


My knowledge of history, and the reformation is so limited that i am not even going to attempt it here, but what is possibly worth exploring is some of what could be principles behind reformation?

unsettlement: Reformation generally comes when there is some form of unsettlement with the current status quo. But true reformation is not just the human unsettlement, it should and does come from God, when he shakes what currently is, and wants to reform the current into something of what he wants it to be.

there is a recognition across the country at the moment, that Reformation is needed amongst Discipling young people and young adults. There is a stirring, and unsettlement with what is currently being offered or provided, or lived out, and the growth of young disciples needs a reformation. it cannot be, that God would settle for those young people now who have made that choice, or starting to live out that Discipleship lifestyle? God would surely want as many young people as it was possible to hear, to have the opportunity, and have the ways in which discipleship actually meant something to them in their context.

Discipleship: From that place of unsettlement, has to come the recognition of the need of reforming discipleship. We have gone so far in our attempts to work with young people, and engage with their issues, but somewhere along the line, Jesus has been either removed, forgotten, or left to a later stage, which in many cases just doesn’t happen. Professionalising youth leaders has enabled them to certainly be good youth workers, working with young people, but the professionalising of youth leaders has made them that, professionals, rather than disciples who make disciples. there cannot be a discounting of what it means to engage with young people, and those practices, but we have gone so far, that the forming of disciples who make disciples is remote at best.

Discipleship is something that today, is attempted to fit into our practices, rather than being the foundation of our existence and practice. We need to be prepared to take the risks, step out, try new things, go to where young people are at, and stop thinking that they are going to come to us to be discipled.

Jesus as Lord: Following from our thoughts that we have adopted so many practices that discipleship is now a sideline, we need to get back to the foundation that Jesus is Lord, and is our only Lord, there is no room for anyone, or anything else to be Lord in our lives. We need to move from having our youth work practices as our foundation, to having Jesus as our foundation, and working out of that strong foundational place. There will of course be many elements that are brought into discipleship, and knowing Jesus, but this needs to be our starting place now, rather than our working practices, or other youth work activities coming first.

These are not finished thoughts, they are a starting point, but sometimes things need to be put out in the open so that the reformation can begin, and all that God has for young people, and wants to be for young people, can start to come into place.

Reformation needs to start from that place, of recognising that the current status quo is not going to do what it proclaims it is going to do, and for people to step out bravely, passionately, and in the guidance of God to see the reformation take place.

Dream new dreams

Recently, I had the fortune to go with a close friend to see U2 perform the Joshua tree in concert, it was an amazing evening on many levels, but profound to here them perform the whole of this album, which they had not done before, but also recognise the prophetic nature of this album for the time we are in now, not just for the time when it was released 30 years ago.

One song that stood out, was In Gods Country, and the opening lines: “desert sky, see beneath the desert sky, rivers run, but soon run dry, we need to dream new dreams tonight.”

Having not just worked with young people, and released leaders, over a number of years, I recognise the prophetic and challenging nature of these words.

As I reflect upon them, i am reminded of where I used to go as a boy on holiday, and one of our first reflections on arriving there, was that the rivers on the strand beach, had changed! often in width, or depth, but more often than not, in direction, but still the river flowed.

In these words from U2 certain things stand out:

1: Desert: for so long now so many have observed the desert nature of where we are currently at in regard to youth discipleship. observing that not only are fewer young people engaging with God, or the christian faith, but fewer are holding on to that as they grow older. the landscape for which youth discipleship currently exists, is very much a desert landscape.

2: the River: the words in this song, are so poignant, as they say, “rivers run, but soon run dry”. There are indeed rivers in the desert landscape of youth discipleship, but these are rivers that are largely formed out of how we have defined the river in the first place. We have decided that the river of youth discipleship has to look and flow in a certain way, if not, then it isn’t discipleship. Similar to the river of my childhood, i wonder whether we have to become more open to the river flowing in different ways, changing courses, and not being defined by how we want or expect it to flow, but defined, by where it naturally flows. Often we have got stuck into a place that says that God only disciples in certain ways in certain places, and placed our human expectation upon how discipleship takes place, without recognising where the spirit is flowing, and where God is at work. Similar to the river of my childhood, which adapted to its surroundings, and habitats, i wonder whether it is time for us to lose our constructed definitions of how the river of discipleship should flow, and be open to where God is moving.

3: dreaming: these words moe than any other have stuck with me since seeing U2 on that night at the beginning of July. “we need to dream new dreams tonight”, and why? well just remember what the previous line said, the “rivers soon run dry”.
Even though there are rivers of discipleship which are there in our desert landscape now, the reality is that more and more of the defined structured rivers are running dry, which is why we need to dream new dreams.

We should give thanks for those rivers that are still flowing, but also recognise that those rivers are getting fewer and fewer, and starting to run dry, and maybe part of this is because the rivers are not adapting to the context that they need to flow in.

For so long we have held on to our constructed definitions of discipleship and not asked the question first, where is God at work? where is his spirit flowing? If we actually asked these questions first, then maybe, just maybe, the rivers would be a greater feature in thelawdscape, and not be running dry so quickly.

So where are the dreamers? are we prepared to release them, support them, encourage them? Are we recognising those who are up for and able to redefine how the river of disciplehsip can look, to enable more rivers to stand out and less of the desert stand out.

Wouldn’t it be great if in 5, 10, years time, we were recognising more rivers and less desert? More young people were encountering God, and not just for a short period of time, but for life?

As I said, referring to the river of my childhood, no-one ever said, that because it changed, or didn’t look like it did the previous year, it is no longer a river! it still held its identity as a river, and maybe this is our challenge, to stop thinking that everything has to look like the way it always has done, and that is the only way it can look!

We need to dream new dreams tonight, if not then the rivers will indeed continue to run dry, and the desert will not only continue to be the dominant feature, but increase in its domination.