Wednesday, 24 December 2008
That meant I missed preaching on Sunday through illness, and I missed the Carol Service in the evening. Last year I missed preaching on exactly the same sunday with that Norovirus that put a couple of million people out of action.
It all made me a little sad really, but in the grand scheme of things life is good.
The fever has gone, headache gone, shivers gone, runny nose gone, sore throat gone and all I have left to show for it is a slightly tickly cough which should not prevent me leading the Christmas service.
Now that is one not to miss - as you get to play with the kids toys!
Thursday, 18 December 2008
Well last night they went a stage further. Having gained entry by putting a massive hole in a plate glass patio door, they then bashed holes in another two doors trying to access offices.
Each time it costs us hundreds to repair the damage - I sometimes wonder if it is worth putting our safes on the outside! It could work out cheaper.
Well anyhow - our area of town has been targeted a lot recently and the police knew the intruder tends to go back to recent places fairly quickly so there was a police lady walking past on duty (at about 2am). She heard the banging from the Centre, called for back up, and they busted into our building and arrested the two intruders on the spot.
After we were broken into last time I prayed "Lord, let them be caught, bring us justice"
I was not expecting it to be in our property though!
It is always weird sitting at my desk knowing someone had broken in the night before and been through everything. Mind you, the resale value of a couple of alpha talks on a messy desk means I never get anything nicked. The nature of the work here, debt relief, addiction support, means we are a soft target as lots of people with a criminal past know all about us.
The good news is that by 11am I was too poorly to stay at my desk and feel sad about it, so I am now at home with the usual "Man Flu survival pack": Berry smoothie, jelly babies, pomme bears and paracetemol. I'm off to bed.
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
This got me thinking.
What is my "motive"? What is our "involvement"? How far is our "reach"? What would our "community" say about us?
This year has thrown up a few surprises for us with regard to how this Church is perceived.
- Firstly, the county council had a major meeting about youth work and they asked to host it here because we have the "largest youth work in the town", secular, church, or otherwise. We had not told them that. An upshot is in the new year the councillors are coming to speak to our 70+ teenagers about democracy, and our teenagers are going to pray for them and hear a talk about respecting government and what citizenship means (by me!).
- Secondly, the county council had a large important public meeting and needed an independent chair, and asked Martin, our lead elder, to chair the meeting.
- Thirdly, the press interest in what we are doing is growing, but more than that, there are now more press stories from other community groups who use our facilities than there are about Church activities.
- Fourthly, other people who have been to the Centre have started to use us in their publicity! Take this story about a lady with an Owl here. We started getting press associations and TV companies ringing up to follow the story, yet we have never heard of her and can only assume she came to a meeting here hosted by an outside group!
National Childbirth Trust: 25 people
Newfrontiers regional Leaders: 25 people
Early Years and Childcare Team Christmas Away Day (with lunch): 56 people
Nursery Education Funding Working Group (with lunch): 11 people
Impact (Youth activities, Youth Alpha): 70 people
"Outlook" Senior Citizen's Christmas Meal: 40 people.
Lip reading class, 6 people
Greyfriar's Badminton Club: 25 people
Barneytots Christmas Party (with lunch): 90 people
Healthy eating course: 10 people
"Taking Part" Christmas Party (people with learning difficulties / down syndrome). 45 people.
Early Years and Childcare team: 8 people
Senior Citizen's Forum meeting with Christmas Lunch: 77 people
Mental Health Services (with lunch) :15 people
Post funeral gathering for a local resident (with lunch): 40 people
Impact (Youth activities, final week of Youth Alpha): 70 people
Kidz Klub Christmas Party (with food): 70 people
Jigsaw Choir Concert in aid of Shrewsbury Ark: Number unknown - over 50?
Outlook senior citizens: 30 people
Lip reading course: 6 people
Greyfriar's Badminton Club: 25 people
Children's Centre Services Christmas Party (with lunch) 220 people
Mental Health team Christmas Lunch: 35 people
Carline Fields (Sheltered Housing) Christmas Dinner: 40 people
Hazeldine Court (Sheltered Housing) Christmas Dinner: 38 people
Impact (Youth) Christmas Party (with food): 80 people
So excluding any Sunday stuff, we have welcomed 732 people to non church run events, serving them something like 627 lunches. We have welcomed 475 people to Church events - many of them are non church attenders, and 280 of them were also fed.
So I make that 1207 visits, receiving 907 meals, in 14 days, excluding Sunday services.
The aim of this is open hearted service to our community. There is no hard sell. We have Alpha Course posters, and Carol Service flyers, but overall - all this has very little "impact" in terms of souls saved or bums on seats on a Sunday. That is not why we do it.
An elderly lady in the sheltered housing next door told her daughter that she was looking forward her Christmas dinner at Barnabas Centre. Then she died. So the daughter came across, and asked, because her mother had so looked forward to celebrating her Christmas here, could they celebrate her life here instead. That was the highlight of this Christmas for me, to be the place where people come even in sadness, because they knew in life we did them good.
That is a gospel in action that opens the door for effective witness, and earns our right to explain what we believe, because it has already been expressed in love. yet all of them are "them to us" initiatives - reliant on a building, a physical presence and an army of volunteers. I wonder how I could gauge the "us to them" impact of these two weeks?
Tuesday, 16 December 2008
In response to this and the many celebrations such as the "Darwin Festival" taking place in Shrewsbury, some local Christians have put together a programme of events which look at the legacy of Darwin from a scientific perspective and a Christian worldview.
More details are found at "Honest to Darwin"
This event involves the visit of Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute as well as other national figures in the Intelligent Design movement.
I really like this initiative for the following reasons:
It is engaging - rather than defensive
It is contributing - not maligning
It is working towards - not working against
It is a response - not a reaction
It is in a neutral venue - not in the Christian bubble
For all these reasons I think it is a "right" response and could be very popular.
Please pray for this initiative. It may well get some press attention.
Please consider coming to some of the events in what looks like a fascinating programme.
If you are coming along be sure to contact me and if I can help in any way with advice about transport / accommodation / places to eat etc or even providing some of these things I will do my best!
Monday, 15 December 2008
The children did the "Rock around the flock" nativity which was excellent.
It was standing room only in the main hall.
But the highlight of the day? Sonny the Sheep from Kidz Klub (a puppet!) with the best bit of rapping I have heard for a while.
I genuinely have never seen that in a Church service before!
What is the most fun thing you have seen/will see this Christmas?
It is also continues to parallel the discussion Phil Whittall has been having here.
- Our conferences are a bit dull.
- Our response to culture is a bit sluggish.
- We're very middle class, quite old and mostly white.
- Can we have some different styles of worship please?
- Our response to theology is a bit defensive.
I also include his disclaimer:
"There are plenty of critiques against Newfrontiers - views on apostles, spiritual gifts, roles of men and women, baptism, missiology, ecclesiology etc... Well if I had too much of a problem with any of those things I'm probably ministering from the wrong place. On the whole, I don't so those things aren't in my critique.
But I probably need to write a whole host of caveats and disclaimers. Whenever you offer a critique there's often an inherent claim to be able to do better, and I'm not sure I could and I don't want to be arrogant about this - heck I'm just a blogger. There's also a personal preference element, I have some preferences but which may not be shared by the wider group. So I have to not throw a tantrum about it, grow up and get on with it. And of course, I could be wrong - won't be the first time."
That sums up how I approach this. This is just how I feel at the present time, and are my thoughts on a movement I am very positive about.
- WHAT IS NEWFRONTIERS? I hear this question asked a lot of times and I hear it expressed in many different ways. The organic, relational, apostolic foundations of the movement are something I consider to be a strength. Except that how you define "newfrontiers" then depends on your organic development, your relationships and your experiences of apostolic input within the movement. What is the central statement of faith? What are the values? We know them, we hear them, we teach them, we share them, then when someone shines a spotlight on us and asks what they are then um, err, um, err, 100 different people will give 100 different answers. I know statements of faith can be restrictive and in some cases divisive but I would love to see some sort of "value" statement agreed and published to make things a bit clearer. Restoring the Church, Making Disciples, Training Leaders, Planting Churches, Reaching the Nations are the values stated, but I think we could go a bit deeper and be a bit clearer, especially on controversial issues where we are unpopular for holding a particular position.
- WE RISK SOUNDING ARROGANT Sometimes I feel we know what we are not as much as we know what we are. That is how I feel reading some bloggers and some of the magazines. It starts to sound incredibly self righteous. I also feel we need to be careful about how we express some of the aims and prophecies of the movement. "Changing the expression of Christianity" came from the outside into the movement, but if you repeat it without the context it sounds like an almighty claim for a group with a mere 200 UK churches. It then sounds increasingly odd when we know what we think is wrong with other denominations who HAVE changed the expression of Christianity, albeit in different generations. Another example would be the ongoing discussion about "parachurch" organisations. I agree with the fundamentals about the priority of the local church, but the way it is sometimes expressed really does a disservice to the thousands of godly people serving God in simply astonishing ways within "parachurch" organisations.
- WE SOMETIMES SOUND SECTARIAN I don't think I want anyone to join my Church because we are "reformed charismatic". If people do join our Church they will find what underpins the mission and ecclesiology of our Church is highly influenced by reformed theology and very open to the holy spirit. But if someone joins my Church purely on the basis of a theological position then I don't think we will be reformed "enough", or will be too "reformed". What does that mean anyway? Are we too charismatic, or not charismatic enough? I want someone to join our Church because we love Jesus, honour the bible, are open to the Holy Spirit, are passionate about discipleship, about being the family of God, a body of many parts. I want them to join because we are passionate about effective witness, about serving the poor, about loving the lost, so that they too can worship Jesus. I want people to join our mission, not our position. I don't want to risk being "right" in my theology and "dead" in my faith. To join our mission you don't need to join every theological position the elders hold. You have to respect it, naturally, and come and join this adventure of faith. It is likely we may win you over in certain areas as we express our faith and you see it in action. But I never want to invite people to a sectarian definition of Church - I want them to be called by God (ooh, that gives away charismatic, Calvinist tendencies!) to join His mission in our church family here and now.
- DO WE "HATE" WOMEN? Nope. Personally I am a great fan of them. But the area of gender roles is a big area of disagreement for other people, and unpopularity for newfrontiers, and the (unfair) accusation is made that we "don't like" women. Within newfrontiers there is broad agreement on certain fundamentals but different churches draw lines in different places and there is a spectrum of belief. I am nervous that it can look like we rely on a couple of visits from Grudem to set the agenda. I am also concerned that things can be expressed in an inflammatory way, or just in a clumsy way. I am happy to be criticised for holding a certain position if I believe that position to be correct. But I think a bit more humility and a bit more care about how things are expressed would go a long way.
- ARE WE EXCLUSIVE? Yes and no. We don't work with everyone on everything. We won't work with certain people on certain things. I think it comes across that we have to do our "own" thing too often. It looks and feels pretty exclusive. Exclusivity is without doubt the most consistent criticism I hear from friends outside newfrontiers. Is it "focus" on our own church, our own calling, our own region, our own movement and focus on the calling of God on our lives? Perhaps. It may not even be a bad thing. But it could be expressed better. We do work with lots of people on lots of things, and need to make this clearer.
- DO WE LOVE "THE" CHURCH OR "OUR" CHURCH? Again a massive question. The church is the hope of the world. The church is the institution God has instigated. The church now, the church in the future, restoring the church, church , church, church, we believe in the church, we even sing songs about the church (although I am not a fan of this). But by Church - do we actually define it as just ourselves? Or our way of doing things? Our movement? I know the answer - but do other people? We are a minuscule droplet of the "church" in the UK by the narrowest of definitions of what church means. Over 93% of evangelical alliance member churches are not in newfrontiers. We have less than a fifth of the churches of the FIEC (as an example). We are small fry. Are we seen to love the church or our church? We are small fish in a massive pond. Do people think we love the fish or love the pond? I think we could express this better to show how much we love and value the pond.
- WE ARE MISUNDERSTOOD All of the above wrapped into one. We need to communicate better. We need to explain clearer. We need to engage closer. I think we need to be very, very careful in the words we use, and be humble. The issues listed above are more to do with how things come across and people get the wrong end of the stick.
- DO WE MOVE TOO FAST? Research shows churches tend to grow most (numerically) between something like 7-12 years of a pastor's ministry. Do people put their roots down far enough and their roots down long enough to really "reach" an area? I am all for Church planting to new places, but am a bit concerned if people move on too fast. The same goes for those with apostolic gifts to serve Churches - is it a long term commitment or can the sands shift a bit too quickly? Has the growth of Newfrontiers outstripped its supply of apostolic oversight and growth? I would not say so, but it is quite difficult if you go to plant a Church with someone then 3-4 years later they move on to another situation leaving you with the vision, the responsibility, and the people but minus some of the leaders. I want us to build fast (new church plants), I want us to build far (other nations), but I think sometimes we should build deep first. I think we need mobility and stability - they rely on each other, and I think sometimes stability is compromised. Missionaries of generations past are held up as models - but reading up on their lives it often took a lifetime (10 years before the first convert sort of stuff), not a five year stint before moving on again.
- I WANT TO STAY, IN A TOWN I currently feel called to Shrewsbury, the people here. This is a small provincial town that no-one has ever heard of. I don't want to just hear about people going, going, going. Mobility is good, absolutely. But I am currently called to stay. So I want to hear from people who are just as passionate, just as energetic, just as risk taking, just as faithful who are staying and building. I live in a town. I hear stories of this city, that city, the other city, the next city. All well and good. Let's reach the cities for Christ! I 100% agree. But I live in a town, want to reach this town, and the villages around this town. I want to hear from people reaching communities in towns and reaching the rural locations. Cities shape culture - go to cities. Cities are international - reach cities. Fair enough, all true. But so are towns. A member of our Church is on various House of Lords panels for debt related subjects and leads a national network of debt advice centres. We have 30-40 students from south east Asia and Africa in our service every week, some of whom have made very clear commitments to Christ while being in the UK studying. We have links over many years with Churches in Ukraine who are now part of Newfrontiers and in Shrewsbury we run a charity that raises thousands each year for works amongst the poor in Ukraine. In our Church we have a local newspaper reporter and a local radio reporter. We have a local councillor, doctors, teachers, headmasters. We have lawyers, financial advisors and the county's only remaining independent fishmonger. I am staying here for now, and as a Church we are playing a small part in shaping the culture of our town, engaging with local and national government, supporting international outreach, supporting ministries to the poor overseas, supporting overseas church planting and playing our part. I want to build deep, I want to build strong, and am going to do much of my "going" right here and right now, and want training and conferences that equip and encourage this even in a small church in a small town.
- WHY DO WE USE HOTELS? This is slightly spurious, but I dislike conferences that use hotels. This is rare, but it costs a lot of money and I can't justify it. My friends, my brothers and sisters give money to this Church and that helps to pay my wages. I just cannot justify spending X amount of money going to a hotel for a younger leader's weekend. I would go to a conference centre like Kings Park, but I feel uncomfortable upgrading from anything I would expect my peers to go to. I don't want to go to better than what people use for Church weekends, and if that means Butlin's then so be it. I don't want to be pious in pursuit of asceticism, but this week we had an email to financially support Newfrontiers churches in Zimbabwe. I'd rather pay half the amount for a conference and give the other half to Zimbabwe. As we receive we also give. I want to model something, and having stuff in a hotel is a hindrance to that.
Most of these are based on sensitivities about how we "come across" to other people rather than what we actually are, and my experience is that some people almost deliberately misunderstand some of these things to give room for criticism, so we must not pander to popular opinion. The flip side of that is being clear, being open hearted, and being generous in our spirit towards all the other parts that make up this wonderful thing called the Church.
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
Like him I will post later regarding what I view as weaknesses.
Anyone may have all manner of different experiences of Newfrontiers, some positive, some negative. This is a subjective assessment of what it means for me.
I agree with much of what Phil said - so will not repeat some of the good points he makes, which are:
- They care passionately about the glory of God
- They care passionately about the mission of God
- They care passionately about caring for the poor and needy
- They care passionately about the Word of God
- They care passionately about the presence of God
- They know how to give generously
- They're learning how to make big calls
- They value relationships
- The humility of their leaders
1) FRIENDS: Yep, pure and simple. I have made many friends in newfrontiers. I like keeping in touch with people I trained with. I like the people we work with locally, and have friends in different places I have met through different projects, mission teams and church visits. I like the people who lead churches we have planted. From Edinburgh to Brighton, from Mumbai to Cape Town, from Brisbane to the next place someone I am friends with goes to plant a Church, I have friends who I know through newfrontiers. I appreciate this immensely.
2) LOVING THE LOST: I like the way more and more Churches are being geared up for mission and for expressing the gospel practically and through direct outreach. I like the way people think about Alpha and Blowing your Cover and Just Walk Across the Room. I like the way there are evangelists who help co-ordinate and encourage mission regionally and nationally. I love the way Frontedge is gaining momentum and actually making mission part of the DNA of each Church. I like the way there is always a gospel preach at Newday. I like the way the teenagers go out onto the streets. I like the way at every level, the church is being mobilised for mission.
3) CRACKING ON WITH IT: I like the way people crack on with it. I like the Church planting teams going out. I like the ministries to the poor starting. I like the new initiatives. I like the way Stoneleigh Bible Week finished even when it was successful. I like the way people just crack on with it - just as we are here in our little bit of it.
4) WORDS AND ACTIONS: I like the way people say stuff they actually do, and hear stuff then actually do it. Mission, church planting, praying for the sick, charismatic gifts, caring for the poor - the challenge goes out and people actually respond. Over the last ten years I have seen the movement change direction, change emphasis and respond to the different prophetic words and different preaches. I like that. I want to respond. I want to be living for what will come not protecting what is. I want to do what I say and say what I do and I am inspired when I see others doing it with their whole lives, like moving a faimly to Tajikistan to plant a church for example.
5) PEOPLE MATTER: This is slightly different to "friends" because these are people I have no ongoing relationship with in a "let's go for a coffee and catch up" sense, but they are people I have met. In short, I like lots of the people I have met. I like their humility. I like their good humour. I like their desire to serve. I like the way they are interested in me. I like the way Steve Tibbert asks after me and cares about me. I like the way Terry Virgo carried his own box of books. I like the way Adrian Holloway asked what we are doing here and does not think he has all the answers. I like the way David Stroud asked me how I am "after being married a year now" which is a good call for someone who knows hundreds of elders in 200 churches. I like the way David Holden does not mind me taking the mick out of West Ham. I like the people.
So to summise - yes I can agree with Phil's points entirely, but summing up this little post I could say - I am priviledged to spend my life building the church, for mission, with some godly humble people, many of whom are my friends.
But is Newfrontiers perfect? Nope. Not at all. That will be my next post.
Friday, 5 December 2008
Being a reader of David Wilkerson's books and sermons, and having visited his Church in New York (in 2004) and seen videos of him on Youtube I knew that this was a strange assertion as he is a full blooded fire and brimstone old style evangelical.
Well anyway, while looking for a bit of evidence for my case I stumbled upon this quote here.
First of all, David cried out to the Lord. “Oh, Lord, make haste! Help me quickly. I’m about to fall. Please, hurry and deliver me. Cause me to escape. Your Word promises you’ll deliver me, so do it now” (see Psalm 70). I ask you, how often have you cried out a similar prayer? “Oh, Lord, how long will it take for you to deliver me from this?
Please, do something now. This is dragging out too long. Where is my way of escape that’s promised in your Word?” The truth is, we all want out of the war we’re in. We are tired of fighting, weary of the struggle. We think, “I’ve fought long enough. I’m so weary now I’m about to fall.” Even Jesus said on the cross, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” But God won’t take some out of their war.
Why? First of all, war is how the Lord strengthens and teaches us wisdom as soldiers in his army. Second, he needs us in this war. You see, you are at the very center of the conflict, and others close to you depend on your example. If God pulls you out, it’s possible many of your friends and family will suffer and fall away, because they
never saw you fight through your battle.
Do you get the picture? You are the one whom God uses to drive back the enemy. You are the one he wants to teach how to war. You are the warrior whom God works through. And he is using your example to strengthen weaker brethren.
David Wilkerson is genuinely an old warhorse of american evangelicalism, if you can forgive the violent metaphor. What a wonderful exhortation to see the work of the Lord within suffering not outside of it. To see the call of God in trial not outside of it. To choose the narrow path, not the wide one.
If there is one thing to come shining out from our Freedom in Christ course it is the testimonies, and the power that is expressed when people have faced trials and challenges and overcome them or worked through them.
Too often I know I pray "Lord, take it" or "Lord, fix it", not "Lord, help me stand and fight"
I think that is one aspect of being from a consumer culture that has left its mark and I need to stand against it.
Wednesday, 3 December 2008
"Having had 28 weeks of extended meetings of the Dudley Outpouring, which has had major impact on the church in UK and Europe, it has been wonderful to see what God has done, but we need to take a view on what’s next."
That statement really stuck out for me.
Three questions for those who read this blog.
1) Has it had an impact on you or your Church?
2) Was that impact good, bad or indifferent?
3) Is there an increased faith and expectancy for healing linked to what happened in Dudley?
I am looking for comments to provide an open, positive and honest sharing of testimony and critique of what has happened this year.
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
Well, I am a young (ish) man, aged 29 in human years. I have male friends in my Church who are around the same age as me. There have even been young men saved and added to our number.
What is the secret? Erm, there are no secrets. I would suggest though, that there are 5 key points I have learned for reaching young men (20-35) in modern Britain.
1) FOOTBALL IS GOOD: We play it, we watch it, we talk about it
2) FOOD IS GOOD: We eat it, lot of it, curry, chinese, pizza, then we eat some more
3) THE PUB: Ah yes, Sky footie on in the background, a nice Shropshire ale and put the world to rights. We do talk about our feelings, we just don't do it much in groups of people we don't know.
4) DIGITAL DISTRACTIONS: Wii, Xbox, PS3, you set it up, we will be there
5) MEN'S MINISTRY: Some blokes are very passionate about "Men's ministry". Most I meet could take it or leave it, they just want some friends to play football with, before going to the pub, then for a curry then stay up into the night playing Pro Evolution Soccer.
This is a deliberately tongue in cheek post, yet actually, has some pretty stark relevance.
One lad who plays footie with us has just agreed to come to the carol service. Two came on the Alpha Course last year. I am not particularly a "man's man". I don't run up hills dragging logs or drive a big truck. I don't pump iron, say words like "grrr" or talk about kicking the devil in the backside. Nope, I just do what I enjoy doing, with other guys.
And if you are thinking to yourself "Ah yes, but those are all just stereotypes of masculinity and not all men are like that" then you probably just missed the whole point of this post.
I just wanted to pass on a bitter sweet story which made me smile and sad that I heard from another Church situation.
A lady was commenting on the section all about the forgiveness section and said
"I said to the Lord that I couldn't really think of any areas on unforgiveness and was wondering what to do. Then I looked up and saw the place where the elders used to sit and realised I had a lot to work through"
I pray my name does not regularly crop up in that section of the course!
Monday, 1 December 2008
In it I posed many questions that were raised in me. (I think the best sermons often pose as many questions as they answer. Not what do we now know, but what need to now change!)
Phil has responded to this by going through the questions and putting forward some more thoughts.
In my opinion, he is not far off having compiled a very useful Christian MOT in the area of living simply. I would love to see this be the basis of some sort of little booklet, with each chapter posing a different question.
I was doing a session with our year project students about money and possessions and used my blog post and then Phil's responses to open up a discussion about our own attitudes and ideas. I talked to the students about what I would regard as "conversational" theology. Where one statement or suggestion sparks others, and so the message becomes clearer that God is speaking. We had a fabulous discussion that easily swallowed up the two and a half hours I had set aside for it. We wrestled with these issues.
What about living simply then? What about it?
- what about the consumer dream?
- what about the environment?
- what about consumption?
- what about the way we label success?
- what about generosity?
- what about the desire for ownership?
- what about sharing?
- what about the goal of our lives being the accumulation of wealth?
- what about how we approach debt?
- what about trade justice?
- what are the desires of our hearts?
- what about community?
- what about our security?
- what about the future?
Somehow I don't think I could have expressed what I wrote in spoken word. Somehow I was more free to write it, to blog it. That appears to have evoked a response in Phil that this message needs to be heard and the word is coming alive in people's hearts through his challenge and encouragement.
Now he does not just have a slightly emotional blog post from a friend thanking him. He has a manifesto for simple living to continue to build upon.
I have not got too far into Proverbs yet, but when I get to chapter 27 this will have a bit of extra meaning and I shall think of Phil.
" 17 As iron sharpens iron,
so one man sharpens another."
" 16 There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers."
"haughty eyes": eyes that are assuming, cavalier, conceited, contemptuous, detached, disdainful, distant, egotistic, egotistical, high, high and mighty, hoity-toity, imperious, indifferent, lofty, on high horse, overbearing, overweening, proud, reserved, scornful, sniffy, snobbish, snooty, snotty, stuck-up, supercilious, superior, uppity
"a false witness who pours out lies": Do we fall into this trap accidentally when quoting someone else when we have misunderstood them? Do we fall into this trap when we discuss what is happening within the Christian world and end up passing on gossip? I know I fell into that trap here and Peter Kirk brought a timely challenge which helped me see an error (in the comments of that post).
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers: That does not say a man who disagrees with others. Or a man who challenges others. Or a woman who does either. But I do wonder sometimes if some "discussions" have a deeper agenda.
- Are we looking for something to criticise?
- Are we looking for something to be offended by?
- Do we find it easier to blog about other people than to dialogue with them?
- Do we issue a judgement before we issue a question?
- Do we engage or retreat?
Please tell me, at any time, if I am sounding or looking as though I have "haughty eyes"
Tell me if anything I say is gossip or a blatant misunderstanding.
Tell me if you feel I am stirring up dissension amongst brothers.
And with your permission, may I do the same for you?
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Here is the quick version!
14th Morning: Family service
21st Morning: Sunday service
21st Evening: Carol Service
25th Morning: Christmas service
28th Morning: Sunday service with baptisms
Then we come onto publicity. This is the situation so far:
2500 "Belle Vue" (the area we are in) Christmas cards delivered through local doors. This includes all Christmas services of the local christian churches in this area, us, Anglican, United Reformed, Methodist, Apostolic and Salvation Army.
Then we have produced 2500 of our own postcards, double sided
A few years ago a lady who worked for Riverside Press in Market Drayton, Shropshire dropped by with a selection of their products. £68 delivered for 2500 postcards has revolutionised the way we do our publicity. Their website is www.djflyers.co.uk and I cannot recommend them enough. Tell them Dave at Barnabas sent you.
So that means our church congregations the last two sundays have been given flyers. We will give them to our Kidz Klub and Barneytots families. Cell groups have taken them to deliver through doors near to where they meet. Our centre hosts Christmas lunches for several local sheltered housing places and non profit groups and they will have invites at the tables.
We are giving them out like confetti: the shot gun approach. The aim is simple: each person looks at the card and knows we exist. If that is it I am happy. if it causes a conversation then all well and good. If they come, brilliant! One lady in our Church took a handful of Alpha Course postcards earlier this year and put them through her local letterboxes. The evening came and a lady arrived a bit late. "Hi, who has invited you": "oh, I had your invitation through my door". She now regularly attends on Sundays. Now that is worth the £68 on its its own.
At each an every one of the five services over Christmas every person will be given an Alpha Course flyer. There is no better opportunity for witness in our culture than Christmas, and we have already started praying for all these initiatives.
Monday, 24 November 2008
PamBG discussed the issue relating to Methodism.
The recent chuntering between the Warnock bloggers highlights this point, with posts such as this one by Dave Warnock. Phil Whittall responded to the challenge of who he is willing to "work with" here, in a post which basically mirrors my own position pretty closely.
In my blog headlines on the right hand side I refer to myself as a:
- Big E Evangelical
- Small c conservative
- Big C Charismatic
- Small r reformed
- 2 and 2 half points Calvinist (!)
- and a Shrewsbury Town fan, hence I am Blue, with a hint of amber
Big E Evangelical
I would see my personal membership of the Evangelical Alliance as a key factor in how I define myself as a Christian. The EA statement of faith is the main statement of faith for my Church. The term "Christian" means so many things, let's be honest, 71.8% of all people ticked it on the census. Calling myself an "evangelical christian" puts me in the 1% or so of the population who identify themselves as that and helps show a difference from the 70%. I don't belong to a political party, but I do actively belong to the EA.
I do take the point that maybe I do refer to myself as evangelical sometimes because it shows I am not "liberal" in my theology. Maybe the term "evangelical" for me is a watershed point - hence Phil Whittall talking about the EA basis of faith being his base line. I don't feel like it is a sectarian notion. I don't talk down non evangelicals. I do work with non-evangelicals, some times in majorly public ways, but I definitely see many things differently.
Small c conservative
I love Mark Driscoll's statement about being theologically conservative and culturally liberal. I think I am culturally liberal. I think American evangelicalism, conservative evangelicalism etc would disapprove of me. I preached yesterday wearing jeans. When I say culturally, I don't mean morally, as I would be morally conservative. My views on scripture, inerrancy, creation, abortion, homosexuality etc would put me firmly in the conservative camp, but I don't necessarily find that fills me with joy all the time!
"Conservative" evangelicalism has many negative connotations for me, as the main criticisms I have received in my life, and the probably the most pain inflicted by fellow Christians, has been criticism of me being charismatic, from conservative evangelicals in my student days. I am a conservative evangelical by believing many of the same things, not by a desire to be identified with every other conservative evangelical, if that makes any sense, hence only a small c.
Big C Charismatic
I believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for today. I believe in a genuine experience of baptism in the Holy Spirit. I speak in tongues. I prophecy. I interpret tongues. I believe God heals today. I have words of knowledge. I believe these are powerful gifts to be used reverently for the mission of Jesus in His Church. Yes, I know that spiritual gifts and the fruits of the spirit are so much wider than this, and every christian has the Holy Spirit as a deposit and a seal on their hearts. I don't consider myself higher or better on account of these things, I just look to scripture, look to God, and see what happens.
I would not consider myself to be an American caricature of charismatic.
Scripture comes first. If push came to shove I would choose the bible every time. If anything is said or done that contradicts scripture then I reject it. I am deeply uncomfortable with wacky stuff in the Christian media. I don't believe the devil lives under my bed. I don't see angels at the bus stop and I don't think any blessing from God can be bought with a MasterCard payment.
But I do see the demonstration of the work of the Holy Spirit as an important aspect of worship, fellowship and my own individual walk with God. That makes me charismatic, because I am not cessationalist. Again - it defines what I am not as well as what I am. I work with cessationalists all the time and have some great friends who disagree with me on this point.
Small r reformed
I would identify myself broadly speaking with what has become known as "reformed" theology. I would see the reformation as a pivotal part of the heritage of my understanding of many issues and different aspects of my ecclesiology. I would enjoy the works of many "reformed" authors. I am considering a course at Spurgeon's college.
I guess I use the term because it helps to define me within evangelicalism. But it only has a small "r", and conservative only gets a small "c" because I don't choose to identify myself directly with every aspect of reformed theology or with every other person who holds them. I don't see it as something I need to aspire to. I don't see it as a package I need to hold on to. But I do believe what I believe and find myself towards the centre of evangelicalism but leaning to the reformed side, as you will see from the next point.
2 and 2 half points Calvinist (!)
This is going to take several posts to explain fully, but here is the short version.
If it is a choice between God's election or man's freewill I choose God's election.
But I don't think things can be systematised in quite the way others can and I would say I was an evangelical with Calvinist tendencies, at this point.
I don't like defensive theology. I think it takes us down into cul-de-sacs of thought. I suspect sometimes people believe every aspect of TULIP because that proves Arminianism must be wrong. It works the other way too. I don't buy that way of approaching it. I don't like it when the logical extension of a truth becomes a truth in itself. I can live with some level of inconsistency. I see God's election and man's free will as train tracks which co-exist next to each other and occasionally cross.
It is more about God's will than man's will. My salvation is secure. I have been chosen before the creation of the world. I identify myself with Calvinism the without needing to be force fed the whole package, if that makes sense, and I am still on a journey of understanding.
newfrontiers (I am adding this as it seems relevant)
Our Church is part of newfrontiers. Our Church has planted two churches in the last 5 years which are part of newfrontiers. Our Church is central in a local region of newfrontiers in Shropshire, Staffordshire and into Mid Wales. Martin Charlesworth who leads the eldership team of my church serves in an apostolic role with those churches, while Terry Hotchkiss, another fellow elder has responsibility to develop evangelism across the region. Both those are an attempt to mirror the pattern found in Ephesians 4.
But I would not regularly identify myself as being a "newfrontiers" pastor. I serve on the eldership team of our Church. We are part of newfrontiers.
Being us, and being friends with who we are friends with makes us part of newfrontiers.
It is entirely relational.
We aren't a newfrontiers church and therefore we believe a,b,c etc.
We believed a,b,c and therefore have chosen to build strategic partnerships with other churches and affiliate ourselves with similar churches within newfrontiers. The definition came locally - the affiliation comes nationally.
Don't misunderstand this. The one of the greatest blessings in the life of this church has been coming to know people within newfrontiers, accessing the training, conferences, resources etc and being part of something much bigger than ourselves while also being given a renewed local vision for our area.
This has been an interesting process. I want to define myself by what I am, not by trying to distance myself from what I am not.
I want to define myself so people know what they are getting - not to burn bridges with other people.
I am on a journey and I am learning. My understanding is being shaped. Above all this I am a Christian, a follower of Jesus. These are specific elements of how I express that and what I believe it means for me, not a sectarian way of excluding others. In fact, I sometimes find more fellowship with people on different sides of the various fences to me!
Saturday, 22 November 2008
I use facebook a lot.
I love facebook.
Just to clarify - I think most of the applications are complete dross, apart from the wonderful Superbadger and a couple of others. Maps of where I have travelled, footie grounds I have visited etc. The rest irritate me somewhat. That is not what makes Facebook.
I love the opportunity to network socially. I love the opportunities to arrange events. I have got back in touch with many old school and college friends. It is also great for allowing new people int he Church to become part of the social fabric of the Church.
Connections are important in an increasingly lonely, mobile and faceless world. Facebook bridges that gap, and in doing so becomes a wonderful tool for a Church.
There are 153 members of our facebook Church group. There are 55 members of our "Young adults" social group and 52 members of our Youth group. Each of those groups is a brilliant starting point for contacting new people, getting new people to join, and getting messages out quickly. The events function is very powerful. At the touch of a few buttons I invited over 100 people to our Carol Service, who can then pass that invitation on to their friends. The "young adults" group helps to share information about what is going on socially so people can feel included and get to know new people.
So with these positives in mind I thought I would weigh up the comments made in other posts int he light of my own experience.
9 Potentially Negative Uses/Dangers of Facebook
1. The trend of using status updates to complain
Potentially - but that is a far bigger issue than Facebook
2. Measuring your worth/identity by number of Facebook friends/Facebook interactions
Potentially, but no more so than real friends surely? I take the point, some really random people have added me, but I don't see that as intrinsically bad.
3. Greater concern over forming Facebook (virtual) friends rather than real friends
I don't see this one. In fact the opposite is my experience. Facebook has allowed people to meet more people in real life, to know more people, to connect with new people, to keep up with old friends. "Real" life friendships are enhanced by effective communication means.
4. Diminishment of face-to-face time with people/enjoying and working on real relationships
Again my experience is the opposite. It helps us invite and include more people to more events and for people to connect with each other rather than just with a central person.
5. Dual identities
I would say the opposite. The fact people's mates from Church can see/read everything written makes people a lot of careful compared to when they are with other mates behind closed doors, as it were.
6. Hurting and excluding others (intentionally or unintentionally)
Nope - it has provided a means for effective inclusion beyond any previous technology, even text messaging.
7. Facebook and online life can make you more distracted, changes how you think/attention span
Potentially - but only the same as anything like TV, consoles or whatever.
8. Can tempt you away from your calling/work
Potentially - but that same criticism can be levelled at almost anything. The fact it can be used to actually increase efficiency in your calling and work!
9. Thinking about yourself more than you already do
Potentially - but it also helps you think about others more.
6 Facebook Opportunities: 6 Ways to Love God and Love Others Through Facebook
1. Can get back in touch with old, far-away friends in an easy way, showing them how you’ve been changed by Jesus
Yep - everyone else can see your interactions, friendships, events etc.
2. Can use Facebook as an extension of face-to-face relationships/can be used to enhance time with people
3. Can use Facebook to think about yourself less and others more
4. Can use Facebook to sharpen/discipline what you do with your time
5. Can use Facebook to quickly announce/make great things happen: events, face-to-face time
6. Can use Facebook to influence other people for Jesus. Create a new culture with your status updates
That one is a bit more tenuous in terms of status updates, but our photos, friends, interactions and events can be a great witness.
So there we are. None of the "dangers" with Facebook are particularly unique to Facebook. Some of its advantages, currently, are unique to Facebook. that is what currently makes me more than just a user, but also an advocate of it. It is unique in its uses, and really has changed the way people can plan stuff and include people.
Friday, 21 November 2008
www.xxxchurch.com are valuable in discipleship and mission. I am about to read Driscoll's new e-book "Porn Again Christian" and will review it here. Software programmes like the free version of X3 watch have been a massive step forward and helping people break the cycle of loneliness, guilt and pain caused by pornography addiction.
I wonder when the t-shirts of this motto will start to be sold at Spring Harvest?
Then the Internet chatter will start...
"Are you into this new rage, HHCM?"
"Yeah it is amazing!"
"Where can I find some?"
"After being at the altar"
"Eh?I mean where do I look for some?"
"In your own bedroom"
"No I mean where can I buy some?"
"You can't. Find a nice girl, buy her a ring, commit your life to her then it is all yours"
"Woh, that sounds intense"
In other news today my brother had his t-shirt design chosen to go into production.
Now our family has some pretty weird claims to fame. Not least my adventures with Blue Peter. I think it is fair to say that this surpasses all of them!
Dad was really chuffed when he got his Blue Peter book. I wonder what he will be getting off Jon for Christmas?!!!
Thursday, 20 November 2008
I picked it up here, and then here, here and here.
I found the different strands of the discussion interesting, and from outside that denomination it was interesting to see where the conversations led them.
It also left me analysing my own heart and asking myself: do I want a "full" Church building?
Do I want our Church building to be "full" on Sundays?
The answer is a hearty "no", for a wide variety of reasons. This may seem odd, as our Church building is regularly, well, full.
- A full building is unfriendly for new people. It gives the impression that there is no space for them.
- A full building makes it hard to welcome new people, as there is little room to mingle
- A full building is a nightmare to steward. We have something like 360 chairs and at a baptism service in February we had 417 people. It was uncomfortable and gives us a major headache for our fire risk assessment.
- A full building makes disabled access more difficult, and makes life difficult for people with pushchairs.
So do I even want the Church to be bigger? The answer is a wholehearted "yes", I certainly do. Well actually - to define things a bit clearer, I would like more people to be saved. When more people get saved those people often become part of the Church so the Church grows. And we could do with a bit of help reaching out to new people in new areas that more people can be saved. Jesus encourages us to pray for more workers to help us collect the harvest so I am happy to do so!
If that mission to proclaim the gospel means the building is now "full" on Sundays then so be it. That is the cost, not the goal. But it does now give us a bit of a headache.
Some people have said "Buy a bigger building" but we have not heard from God on that score.
Others suggest "plant another Church" but again, we have not heard from God on that score. We heard clearly from God when North Shrewsbury Community Church was launched. We heard clearly from God when Beacon Church Whitchurch was launched. In both cases we sent about 30 people to establish something new and if God calls us to that again we will do it, but not out of convenience, not as a management decision. We will take the hit of sending out a Church plant if God asks us to, and in order to reach a specific town or area of town, but not because of expedience.
Last week we had two baptisms. Both people had come on our Alpha course. Both have joined our Church. The weekend before it was our Alpha Away Day and three people made first time commitments to follow Jesus. Last friday our youth alpha countinued and two teenagers made first time decisions to follow Jesus. That is what we are living for. That is what we are serving for. That is how I want a bigger Church. I don't want to attract more Christians necessarily, unless they are joining us on mission to reach our town. In 2009 we will probably have to make a radical change to our Sunday services to help us continue in our mission to reach out in our town.
Looking at our membership list there are something like 50 out of 250 adult members who have come to faith within our Church. 20% will do but I would like more! I want our Church to be a net contributor to the growth of the body of Christ, not just a better attraction for local Christians.
So when I come to think of it I am glad our services do sometimes feel "full". I certainly do want our Church to grow. If that means more people making the step of repenting of their sin, putting their faith in Jesus and commiting themselves to follow Him with their whole heart.
That is what I am living for, and why I think we need two services, and why I want those two services to be "full" before long.
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
The full story is here.
As the various blogs go into overload debating this issue, most are rightly pointing out how terrible it is that personal details have been leaked like this. That is correct. Whoever has done it will be in considerable trouble.
But what troubled me specifically, is the revelation that five vicars (or retired vicars) are party members. These may not be the only church leaders on the list, but they are the most obvious.
That means five people in leadership positions in the UK are members of a party whose policies nestle in a right wing totalitarian timewarp.
That is the real shame of this news story. So much for caring for the alien amongst us. So much for visiting the captives in prison. So much for love.
Many of the people whose names have been published will be concerned about the response. This story has a way to run.
I also wonder what surprises would be thrown up by a list of other organisations such as the freemasons being made public?
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
This struck me today, from Chapter 4
" 14 Do not set foot on the path of the wicked
or walk in the way of evil men."
Not walking in the way of evil, well, that is fairly straightforward. We know when we are and we usually know how to not do it.
But to not even set foot?
I mean, not even a hint?
That requires a head decision, a heart attitude, and God's empowerment.
- Flicking TV channels
- On the internet
- Comparing ourselves to others
- Thinking about money
- Dealing with conflict
- Being wronged and needing to forgive
Sunday, 16 November 2008
What wisdom does Scripture give us?
Well - two passages in proverbs have really spoken to me recently.
From Proverbs 3: "9 Honour the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; 10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine."
This is an often misquoted passage by those trying to sell the prosperity gospel. Yes I do mean "sell", because it is almost always accompanied by an appeal for funds. Therefore the promise of blessing is being touted as the return service for the sale. I fundamentally disagree with the way this passage can be used, so let me explain why is struck me as being useful.
This is biblical wisdom, and has so much to tell us about how to be wise with money.
1) Honour God first and foremost - that includes the pay check
2) Give to God first - that means two things. Firstly - priority of God over all else. Secondly - in order to give to God first you have to know what you have and so budgeting becomes part of the process.
3) It implies work - the crops don't arrive by accident. Wealth is the product of hard work, not a short cut cosmic blessing solution.
4) It does not imply status symbols or wasting money - it implies you will have enough of what you need, and more. This is not an excuse for excess, but rather saying you will have what you need. If you remember God He won't forget you. Then you will have enough for you and enough to share or to save. This is not ticking the box that allows you to buy a Ferrari with a clear conscience - this is what you need for now, what others need for now, or what you or others may need for the future. The blessing is for what we need, not for what we want.
Proverbs 23 says:
4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich;
have the wisdom to show restraint.
5 Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,
for they will surely sprout wings
and fly off to the sky like an eagle.
This is the point where ambition and aspiration overcome calling and rob us of joy and peace. This is the point where status symbols and purchasing decisions move well beyond our needs and what the item does for us and into what owning the item says about us.Verse 5 must be one of the most important verses in post credit crunch Britain. Not only is it wisdom, but it is prophetic, and it is prophetic that has proved true. The problem with giving ourselves for riches is twofold. Firstly we wear ourselves out to get them and secondly when we get them we can lose them. That is not just "You can't take it with you when you die" wisdom, but actually - that pension, that house, those investments - what happens if they go up in a puff smoke? What next? Where does our security lie? Many millions of pounds of money has flown off like an eagle into the sky.
So as I look at this wisdom and seek to take it on board I can see several themes.
Honour God - not riches
Work hard to have what you need - don't wear yourself out to get rich
We can rely on God - we can't rely on riches
God can and will bless some of us with wealth, for what we need, for what others need, for His work on earth. He comes first because it comes from Him, not because there is an outside chance we may get a bit more. What we do get is for what we need, which in this culture requires restraint. Whatever we have may not last, so we should not hold onto it too strongly.
I love the way scripture is littered with clear, wise counsel for life.
Thursday, 13 November 2008
Monday, 10 November 2008
It seemed to go quite well, and we are pleased that over 90 people have signed up to the course which is roughly a third of our membership.
The theme was truth - our view of truth, the world's view of truth, the biblical view of truth.
My message was fairly simple - Jesus is the truth.
He is truth.
Not only did he define truth, he lived truth.
It struck me, with a simply overwhelming sadness, how much of the Christian life are so utterly and pointlessly wasted on sifting through different theological contructions to try and find the "truth". You only have to read a few blogs to get weighed down by this quest for truth and different sides of the same equation drawing lines in the sand over whose truth is actually true.
The "word" becomes academic and cerebral, almost forgetting the the Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us.
Yes I want to know truth. But I would rather know the Truth, and see Him dwell amongst us.
Yes I want to understand truth and understand the word of God. But I would rather be a follower of the Truth and a follower of the Word who is God.
Jesus is the truth, and I need to live and act and speak with much humility because there is an outside chance I could be wrong on virtually every other point, other than Him.
Sunday, 9 November 2008
Tuesday, 4 November 2008
Making the transition from gifts we have to gifts we use is often a challenge.
We talked together, prayed together, worshipped together and then exercised our gifts together. There were about 12 of us there - and it will be interesting to see where it leads us.
I prepared a "Toolbox talk" on the subject. On building sites people often gather around a person who gives them a quick overview of where the job is headed. A practical "heads up" for where they are headed and how they are going to get there.
I want our worship to be an environment where spiritual gifts can flourish in a safe and clear way, following the biblical patterns we see and in a way that honours Jesus.
Tongues Toolbox Talk
Tongues are part of the spiritual gifts given when people are baptised in the Holy Spirit: Acts 2:1-4, Acts 10:44-47, Acts 19:6
Tongues are human languages or spiritual languages:
Acts 2:6-11, 1 Cor 13:1, 1 Cor 14: 2, Jude 20
Tongues are prayer and praise to God:
Acts 2:11, 10:46, 1 Cor 14:2, 14-17, Jude 20, Eph 6:8
Not everyone will speak in tongues, although it is very common:
Acts 2, Acts 10:44-47, Acts 19:6
Tongues are a sign of the kingdom:
Tongues, when interpreted are a sign for unbelievers:
1 Cor 14:22
Tongues help strengthen and edify the person & the Church if given publically:
1 Cor 14:5, 12, 26
Tongues must be interpreted if given publically:
1 Cor 14:27
You should pray to interpret your own tongue:
1 Cor 14:13
If you don’t have an interpretation someone else should do it:
1 Cor 14:27
The gifts of tongues and interpretation may be given to different people:
1 Cor 12:10
Tongues should be given no more than 3 at a time in public worship:
1 Cor 14:27
Everything in worship should be done in order:
1 Cor 14:40
Unless tongues are explained and handled carefully they can look very strange to visitors! 1 Cor 14:23
Acts 19:6, 1 Cor 12:10, 1 Cor 14:1-5
Tongues often occur in an environment of much prophecy, but they are different: