Suck it up and see the results!

This week’s blog is written by one of our current students Nigel Warner from King’s Community Church in Braintree:

From the first moment of the first session of TSM, the culture was made clear. Everything was to be done in an atmosphere of Honour, Generosity, Acceptance, Authenticity and Courage. Yes, the purpose of the year long course is to release the supernatural in the lives of those of us who attend, but it must happen in the proper context and atmosphere. Those members of the TSM family who attended King’s Arms nodded sagely in gentle Christian agreement as they heard these things, since the culture is a part of their church. I, on the other hand, sat there wondering what the heck difference these ideas made in a real and practical way?

Almost immediately I began to wrestle with the alien nature of these cultural values. I have been a member and leader of churches for years now, but, if I am honest, these five cultural values have only really been a desirable aspiration in the body of Christ, rather than a defining reality. At TSM, they are a precious and valuable starting point. No matter how worthy the task itself might be, it is only good when it is done in the right culture. And, when the culture is deliberate and celebrated, it grows to become more natural until, in the end, it is simply present in the things we do. A defining reality that is tremendously uplifting, attractive and powerful to the glory of Jesus.

A simple example…

During some TSM sessions we are paired off and given instruction to encourage. The ‘encourager’ is told to look the other person in the eye and speak words of encouragement. Simple enough… but the ‘encouragee’ is told to receive the words of encouragement by looking their partner in the eye and, when the words are spoken, sucking in a breath as if drinking in the encouragement and responding with, “thank you. Is there anything else you would like to say?”

If I am honest, it made me feel a bit of a plonka at first. But the deliberate nature of giving and receiving truth with honour, generosity, acceptance, authenticity and courage has had a huge effect on my heart. As I encourage, I seek God to make sure that what I am saying is good and helpful, true and encouraging. How can I deliberately look a brother or sister in the eye and lie? Yet, in my experience of church life, encouragement is often a throw away moment, said as a duty rather than from any heart of true encouragement.

As I receive encouragement, I choose to believe that my brother or sister is speaking truth and to trust them. It is hard to meet someone’s gaze. Especially, for some reason, when they are speaking positive things about me and to me, but it is an amazing thing. Once the strangeness passed, their words hit home in a way in which they never have before. The deliberate choice to trust, listen and receive means that the words have flavour and substance, turning an awkward moment into an opportunity of revelation.

The culture and activity have changed both the way in which I encourage and receive encouragement. I find that I carry the culture. I am less reticent to speak encouragement and choose to make the effort to share the positive because it is honouring, generous, accepting, authentic and courageous. And I listen in the same way.