'Tree of Life' -- Some Thoughts

June 29, 2018
2018

The Need for Christian Vision

Without vision, the people perish—but blessed is he who keeps the law. Proverbs 29:18

… And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. 1 Samuel 3:1

Flavour

Christian Vision should be full of flavour.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. Matt. 5:13

Getting the Flavour right requires a carefully calibrated combination of various possible ingredients:

‘Blank Slate’

Both Peter Gray and Peter Buckley have suggested that there is a ‘blank slate’. But this is obviously not entirely true. For one thing, a new name has already been chosen. So that seems the obvious place to begin talking about vision. Indeed, if it is a God-given name, then it should be taken as a prophetic word to be interpreted… 

‘TREE OF LIFE’. What’s in a Name?

And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:9

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:22-24

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed. Proverbs 3:13-18

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise. Proverbs 11:30

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. Proverbs 15:4

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ Revelation 2:1-7

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22:1-2

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Revelation 22:14

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. Revelation 22:18-19

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:1-3

1. ‘Tree of Life’ = A Gospel Riddle

In the beginning there was a garden. In that garden were two trees. Those trees had names. Those names are a riddle. Clearly the Knowledge of Good & Evil=The Law. So the Tree of Life=The Gospel. The Gospel=Salvation by Faith not Works is the message of the Whole of Scripture—not just the NT! The temptation to drift from Gospel to Law (Liberty to Legalism; Relationship to Religion) is constant.

So we have to keep reminding ourselves and each other of the Simple Gospel. And the TREE isn’t just a metaphorical riddle of which the interpretation is the gospel. For it was by being ‘hanged on a TREE’ that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law. And so to preach the TREE (ie. the cross) is (metonymically) to preach the gospel (1 Cor.1:18).

Now, we affirm that the Law is good, holy, righteous (Rom.7:12), and that the Tree of Knowledge was a good part of God’s creation, and that in telling Adam not to eat from that tree, God was already giving him some ethical knowledge– and indeed we even affirm that the Law’s role as a tutor to lead us to Christ (Gal.3:24) is an ongoing one (1 Tim.1:8-11)…

But we keep The Gospel central, and all other questions of Christian life subordinate (1 Cor.1:23) –including, perhaps especially (in talking about the Tree of Life & the Garden of Eden), controversy about how to integrate history, science and theology with regards to Adam and Eve (Titus 3:9). I would suggest that everyone on the Tree of Life team be trained to share the gospel simply, something like this (http://peter.prescott.ws/blog/2015/10/meaning-of-life/ ) six-colour outline. And the entry point just needs to be ‘Would you like to know why we’re called Tree of Life?’

2. ‘Tree of Life’ is Radical and Utopian

‘Radical’ means ‘back to the root’. Tree of Life (Gen.2-3) speaks of humanity’s beginnings in the Garden of Eden, when we were all united in perfect Relationship with each other and God (no ‘Religion’!) ‘Utopian’ means an apparently impossible, perfect Paradise, to be realized at some point in the future. Tree of Life (Rev. 22) speaks of this too. Around the corner from 18 Slater Street, on Bold Street, ‘News From Nowhere’ is a ‘radical and community’ Marxist bookshop named after a 19th Century novel by William Morris about a socialist Utopia. Anyone stepping inside can see that they know what they believe and stand for, and are not ashamed for all to know it. As Christians we should have convictions at least as radical/utopian. (Indeed, ‘Utopia’ means ‘Nowhere’ – hence Morris’ title. But we have [Good] News from Somewhere Real!)

3. ‘Tree of Life’ spans the Total Biblical Narrative

The phrase ‘tree of life’ appears only eleven times in Scripture. But it appears at the start of Genesis, and the end of Revelation, and so spans the whole of Scripture. It also appears a few times in Proverbs, using it as an image for wisdom (in contrast presumably to dead ‘Knowledge’). This speaks therefore of how true wisdom is found in finding our place in the story of Scripture. And in pointing forward to Revelation the name reminds us that the story of Scripture is not yet finished—but we are living in the days of Scripture’s final fulfilment, as all tribes and tongues are invited to worship the Lamb!

4. Word & Spirit

Tree of Life speaks of Wisdom, but according to Psalm 1, the person who meditates in prayer on the word of God is also like a tree (of life) planted by streams of living water. So the image speaks of Wisdom AND Revelation; of Word AND Spirit. And so there will be a Bookshop AND a House of Prayer.

5. Worldview

If Wisdom is a Tree of Life, and the person who meditates on the Word is a Tree of Life, then there’s clearly an intellectual WORLDVIEW aspect to this image. Darlene Cunningham (cofounder of YWAM) teaches on ‘The Belief Tree’ (http://ywampodcast.net/shows/teaching/belief-tree-darlene-cunningham/), drawing an analogy between soil and culture, roots and beliefs, trunk and values, braches and policies, fruit and actions.

6. Intercultural & International Mission

The Tree of Life’s leaves are for the healing of the NATIONS. Rev. 22:2

7. Evangelism

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise. Proverbs 11:30

8. Organic Structure

A TREE is both a living organism and a flexible structure for other living creatures to find their home in.

18 Slater Street

Floorplan

There’s a lot of space to do a lot of stuff.

Upper Floor Bathrooms. Main Hall. Front Lounge. Back Office. Storage Room. Front Stairs. Back Stairs

Ground Floor Café/Bookshop. Stage. Bar. Kitchen. Backyard.

Basement Corridor. Valuable-Book Room. Other-Book Room. Homeless Ministry Supplies. Other Storage.

Location

City Centre.

On Slater Street: pubs, clubs, music labels. In the midst of the city’s nightlife.

Round the corner from Bold Street: trendy coffeeshops & restaurants, independent bookshops. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bold_Street,_Liverpool

C.T. Studd. “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell//I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell”. I love CT Studd – Cambridge student and missionary to China (with my parent’s mission), India (pastoring the church in South India where I was baptized!), and Africa (where he founded WEC). But I want to see not just the salvation of souls but the transformation of society!

History

1819 – Bible Society moved here. 1880 – Bookshop started. 1980 – Contact Café (Fellowship) Five years ago – Peter Gray & Peter Buckley & Rada get things back in order… Now – ‘Could this be a Kairos moment?’

Church

What would it mean for there to be ‘church’ here?

COVENANT: New Covenant-Community/New-Covenant Community

Back in March I was suddenly struck that Malachi is all about the need to prepare for the imminent fulfilment of the covenant–by creating new covenant-communities. One could divide up the book to preach through it thus:

  1. God’s All-or-Nothing Covenant Love (1:1-5)
  2. Pure Covenant Worship (1:6-14)
  3. Godly Covenant Leadership (2:1-9)
  4. Faithful Covenant Marriage (2:10-16)
  5. Swift Covenant Justice (2:17-3:5)
  6. Full Covenant Tithing (3:6-12)
  7. Written Covenant Membership (3:13-4:3)
  8. Prophetic Covenant Bible-Teaching (4:4-4:6)

MOVEMENT: Making Disciples Who Make Disciples Who Make…

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

COMMUNITY: Being Church

And Peter said to them, “Repent [1] and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins [2], and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit [3]. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls [4]. 42 And they devoted themselves [5] to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

GATHERING: Doing Church

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching [1] and the fellowship [2], to the breaking of bread [3] and the prayers [4]. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all [5], as any had need.

INSTITUTION: Leading Church

Structural

3 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. 8 In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. 1 Timothy 3:1-10

Structurally, the ‘overseers’ seem to me to correspond to the trustees, and the ‘deacons’ to the team of employees & [long-term?] volunteers.

Spiritual

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ… Ephesians 4:11-12

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:28

Simple

42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45

On the one hand, effective leadership should always be about service; on the other hand, serving an unmet need will always give a person a degree of authority.

MINISTRY: Equipping the Saints

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ… Ephesians 4:11-12

In what ways does Tree of Life equip Christians for these different dimensions of ministry?

Apostolic Incubator.

To be apostolic is about FOUNDATIONS, PIONEERING, MOVEMENT, RISK, MISSION, SUFFERING, THE IMPOSSIBLE, ACTIVATION.

Birds nest in its shade. Mark 4:32

Upper Room. Acts 1.

I would like to see Tree of Life being a catalyst for encouraging even more people, even more effectively, to turn their passions into action, clarifying vision, gathering team, hosting events, growing a movement.

Prophetic Sign.

To be prophetic is about VISION, TIMING, HARD TRUTH, REVELATION, DECLARATION, PRAYER, HOLY SPIRIT, IMAGINATION, CREATIVITY. Burning Bush. Ex. 3.

I would like to see every aspect of The Tree of Life be a vivid declaration & demonstration of radical, visionary Christianity. How could the café’s food say ‘Tree of Life’? – by serving [only??] Garden of Eden vegan salads, not out of ethical moralism (Mt. 6:16), but as a symbolic House-of-Prayer fast for the Bridegroom (Mk.2:20); by serving food from ‘the nations’ (Rev.22:2 – inspired by 91 Ways, Bristol charity that uses food to bring together people from Bristol’s 91 different language communities http://91ways.org/).

I would like to see artists gathering to express their worship in all manner of creativity—perhaps in song and music most obviously; but also in creative writing, in paint, in fine art, and in simple childlike creative play. In due course, we will be recording new albums of worship songs. Perhaps we could also be publishing books. Being a bookshop means we will already have a customer base and connections to networks of suppliers.

Evangelistic Launchpad.

To be evangelistic is about THE GOSPEL, JESUS, INVITATION, THE CROSS, TESTIMONY, SIMPLICITY.

Leaves for the healing of the nations. Rev. 22

Solomon’s Porch. Acts 5:12-14

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Revelation 12:11

The essential ingredients to overcome the power of the enemy are i. the blood of the Lamb=the gospel, ii. Testimony, iii. The courage to lay down your life and suffer misunderstanding, death, etc.

My favourite gospel outline is this wordless set of six colours: OOOOOO. Green=Creation, Black=Sin, Red=Cross, White=Forgiveness, Yellow=Heaven, Blue=Holy Spirit. Which leaves a lot of flexibility for each individual’s unique way of explaining it, while also ensuring that nothing essential is forgotten. Here’s my extended account: http://peter.prescott.ws/blog/2015/10/meaning-of-life/

I would like to see every member of the Tree of Life team equipped and confident to share their testimony and a simple account of the gospel. And for us to see people converted and baptized and connected with long-term covenantal Christian community (church—here or elsewhere) through this witness.

Also, for us to distinguish between evangelism (explicit communication of the gospel) and mission more broadly. Evangelism without the context of wholistic mission is bones-without-flesh, and will alienate more people than it wins; but mission that is not centred on constant explicit communication of the gospel is powerless moralism.

Teaching Resource.

To be teacherly is about THE BIBLE, OPENNESS TO QUESTIONS, FUNDAMENTALS, DEPTH, EXPLANATION, EDUCATION, WORLDVIEW.

‘Bring me my books!’ 2 Tim. 4:13.

I would like to see the Bookshop not just be a shop that sells Christian Books, but to be a fully Christian Bookshop which sells Books as a tool to provoke people to ask questions about Christianity and to develop a deep and full Christian worldview. Also to be a Bookshop that serves the whole breadth of the Church.

I would like to see more books in more of the rooms (upstairs and downstairs…) open and available to people to browse, with space as well for them to sit and work. Even a library that would have the best selection of books on Christian worldview in all of the city.

Inspired by Francis Schaeffer and L’Abri, and their conviction that true Christianity has answers to all the questions – philosophical, artistic, existential, etc. as well as ‘spiritual’.

Inspired by News From Nowhere and the possibility of being a ‘radical’ bookshop that is not afraid to sell a wide range of books reflecting every aspect of their core beliefs.

Inspired by The London Book Review bookstore and the possibility of a publication that could go out (perhaps quarterly) from the bookshop to the city, encouraging and equipping Christians across Liverpool and beyond to cultivate a wholistic Christian worldview.

Inspired also by Hearts & Minds (“It’s not everywhere that you can get works by Thomas Merton, Francis Schaeffer, Martin Luther King, Madeleine L’Engle and Jack Hayford all served up with a knowing smile and a hearty recommendation”) and their ‘Booknotes’ newsletter (https://www.heartsandmindsbooks.com/booknotes/).

Amazon and online-shopping (Eden.co.uk etc.) make this a challenging time for bookshops (https://www.thebookseller.com/news/indie-bookshop-presence-uk-contracts-11th-consecutive-year-499776) – but charity bookshops are thriving (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/aug/04/oxfam-shops-booksellers, https://www.theguardian.com/culture/charlottehigginsblog/2009/aug/04/oxfam-second-hand-books). Asking people across the cities’ churches to donate their second hand books could well be a starting point to get people connected with Tree of Life.

Pastoral Sanctuary.

A Garden of Eden, Ps. 23:2-3. Food and Community.

To be pastoral is to be about HEALING, COMMUNITY, NURTURE, KINDNESS, CONVERSATION.

This is about meeting people where they are. Some degree of intentional focus is perhaps okay, so long as we remain open to everyone and anyone that God might bring across our path (‘who is my neighbour?’).

This is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all men to be saved…1Tim.2:3-4

What can we do to more intentionally, more strategically, more specifically reach: - menANDwomen; - marriedANDsingle; - workingANDretiredANDunemployed; - mums w/ babiesANDtoddlersANDprimary-school-kidsANDsecondary-school-kidsANDsixth-formANDundergradsANDpostgrads; - healthyANDillANDdisabled; - BritishANDforeigners – AfroCarribeans, Chinese, Ghanaians, Greek Cypriots, Irish, Italians, Latin Americans, Malaysians, Vietnamese, Somalis, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Welsh, Yemeni, Zimbabwean, - Nigerian, German,… (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography_of_Liverpool) - life-long ScousersANDrecent arrivals - agnosticsANDatheistsANDmuslimsANDhindusANDbuddhistsANDJews

Eg. The back of the café (which currently houses second-hand books) could be turned into a mums & toddlers play space to make it more child-friendly.

Accountability

To be pastoral is also about ACCOUNTABILITY. Greg Bustin (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Accountability-Key-Driving-High-Performance-Culture/dp/0071831371/) suggests that an effective accountability CULTURE requires:

  1. CHARACTER. Our values are clearly defined and communicated. We do what’s right — even when it’s difficult.
  2. UNITY. Everyone understands and supports the vision, mission, values and strategy, and knows his or her role in helping achieve them.
  3. LEARNING. Committed to continuous learning and invests in ongoing training and development.
  4. TRACKING. Has reliable, established systems to measure the things that are most important.
  5. URGENCY. Makes decisions and acts on them with a sense of purpose, commitment, and immediacy.
  6. REPUTATION. Rewards achievement and addresses underperformance, earning a reputation that behaviour matches values.
  7. EVOLVING. Continuously adapts and changes practices for greater effectiveness.

Values. How might we define our values? Most basically, every Christian should have two values: to be Christlike, and to be biblical. Those then generate a potentially infinite set of possible other prioritised values. We might start with four, spelling LIFE.

L is for LEARNING. To be a disciple is to be a learner. This is why being a Christian should be as much about questions as answers—even Jesus grew in wisdom and grace by asking questions Luke 2:46! A person needs to learn to ask Who is Jesus? and What must I do to be saved? Before the answers Saviour and Repent and believe can mean very much. And if God is the creator of all things then He has wisdom to give about every subject in life! This is why we sell books, and above all the Bible. This is why we host bible studies/talks/lectures/readings/church. But not because we ‘know-it-all’ – but because we want to invite people into a community of disciples who value LEARNING.

I is for IMAGINATION. We are made in the image of a Creator God who spoke the universe into being by creatively declaring the Word. We are transformed by the renewal of our minds as our imaginations are reshaped by biblical truth, and our actions consequently begin to change. Learning isn’t so much about the transmission of information as the transformation of the imagination. We want to cultivate and catalyse creativity. In our House of Prayer, in our Café, in the events we host, by the books we sell…

F is for FAITH. This has a triple sense: the TRUST in God as good Father, by which we embrace our identity as beloved sons and daughters; the BELIEF in the fact of the objective, historic, necessary death and resurrection of Jesus for our sins according to Scripture; the subjective individual FAITH that all of us (‘religious’ or not) have in something, which is demonstrated by our actions, and the life well-lived is the life of integrity—the life where a person’s actions align with their convictions, for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin—and this applies to everyone, which is why the contemporary fashion for authenticity resonates so. We are not ashamed of our evangelical Christian faith, and we enthusiastically tell whoever will listen that God loves them so much that Jesus died for them—but we trust that it is the Holy Spirit’s job, not ours, to change their heart and regenerate their spirit, and we have to gently, patiently, love all people whatever their faith or lack thereof.

E is for ENCOUNTER. To be human is to be more than just a learning mind, an imaginative soul, a believing spirit—but to be a physical, flesh-and-blood body, made primarily for relationships in the context of face-to-face ENCOUNTER. This is why virtual relationships on the internet don’t fulfil in themselves, this is why coffee-shops have become so important in our generation, this is why we maintain a café, this is why we encourage you not just to come here sometimes—but to volunteer and become part of the team! And ultimately even in our relationship with God this is why we look forward not just to going to heaven when we die, but ultimately to a fully restored creation where we will see God face-to-face in new resurrection bodies.

Unity. Vision=Rev.22:2, the nations all healed by the leaves of the TREE OF LIFE=Paradise Regained.

Mission=to hasten the day of the fulfilment of the VISION, by being a TREE OF LIFE ourselves, specifically by being 1. Apostolic Incubator 2. Prophetic Sign 3. Evangelistic Launchpad 4. Teaching Resource 5. Pastoral Sanctuary

Values=Learning.Imagination.Faith.Encounter. Strategy=1.To individually cultivate spiritual LIFE. 2. To establish rhythms of vibrant prayer. 3. To engage as many people as possible, particularly key urban demographics (cf. Tim Keller, Center Church p.160) Younger Generation, Cultural Elites, Accessible Unreached People Groups, The Poor.

Tracking I have the feeling that TRACKING is an area in which a lot could be done, but the interesting question is what the IMPORTANT things are that God would have us track. Maybe not books sold but bible-study groups started? Not that it’s either/or!

Urgency The need for flexible structures that allow us to respond swiftly when Kairos opportunities arrive at unexpected moments.

Me.

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations’. Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth’. But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say “I am only a youth”… Behold, I have put my words in your mouth…’ Jeremiah 1:5-10

18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys Matt. 16:18-19

And who knows but that you have come to this position for such a time as this? Esther 4:14

6 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. Acts 6:1-6

It is not at all clear to me from Acts whether we are to think that the apostles’ apparent decision to step out (completely?) from being involved in practical service was the right one. Is the shift from Peter to Stephen and Philip incidental, or is it a subtle suggestion that actually the most powerful ‘apostolic’ ministry is done precisely from the place of serving at the point of need? But at any rate, I would very much like to maintain time to read a lot and think and write.

But I want it to be connected to active missional ministry, and as need arises I’d be up for filling in wherever need arises. I would like to manage lead the bookshop. I would like to have Peter Buckley’s office/workspace. I’d like to see the bookshop thriving as a business, to the extent that we would be making enough profit to consider planting ‘Tree of Life Bookshops’ in other cities, as hubs for learning and prayer and worship and mission and evangelism and church-planting. I would like asap to be one of the trustees, involved in the key decisions especially in this moment of new beginnings, eg. with a new cook being chosen and the possibility of adjusting the menu to reflect a new name and vision.

Indeed, I’d like eventually to be the main leader, leading by imparting biblical vision—I’d like to spend twenty minutes preaching through Scripture at the start of each Friday morning meeting. I’d like to send out a weekly email and produce a quarterly newspaper/magazine to promote the vision (and by association the ministry) of Tree of Life. I would like, in the course of the next 18 months, to take the baton from Peter Gray and run with it. I’d like to be able to recommend some more trustees, including John Greaves but otherwise creating a new trustee team by the time we head into 2020. I’d like to lead Tree of Life in such a way that it would integrate easily and resonate fully with being involved with TFH’s vision for prayer (cf. Appendix) and eg. me and Taryn having Abigail and James come and live with us/be discipled by us.

I’d like to do this for the next twelve years.

A suggested/possible typical working week:

Work from home on Mondays

(eg. House of Prayer: 10-11am and 4-5pm; Street Evangelism: T&Th 1-2pm Book Club: Wed(??)1-2pm Inductive Bible Study: Fri(??)1-2pm

(eg. Club Outreach [call it ‘Rescue Shop’??] on Friday 9pm-midnight; or Homeless Ministry on Thursday 7-9; or Something New on Wednesday/Tuesday; –aiming to raise up teams of volunteers to continue doing and multiplying the ministry)

Ten weeks per quarter, with three weeks in between to refocus and prepare to launch out again, as well as ministry travel, and holiday. So July 3rd-September 7th; and then October 2nd-December 7th. I’d like October-December to be the OFFICIAL LAUNCH of TREE OF LIFE (with new name, clear vision, etc.), and the whole of 2019 to be a 200th Birthday Celebration.