Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Christmas is coming!

We have just released our publicity for our Christmas programme.

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
The Front:

The Back:

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

Nailing your colours to the mast...

I have been following, and participating in some interesting discussions regarding the titles and identities we put on ourselves and others as Christians.

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
I thought it may be worth having a look at why I have chosen those "labels" for me. Pam's post really spoke to me, because I wonder if I sometimes label myself more to explain what I am "not" than what I "am". None of the following explanations are meant to be detailed definitions or defences for the positions I hold to. This is just me with my heart on my sleeve.

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

A "biblical" view of Facebook?

A post by Gareth here pointed me towards this post here and it made me think a bit.

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

Sex Appeal...

I saw this on Mark Driscoll's blog and it brought a wry smile to my face.

I do think the Church needs a response to the current obsession with and addiction to pornography. I think ministries like 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

Do I want a "full" Church?

An interesting discussion has cropped up on several blogs I read written by Methodist ministers.

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.
In fact, the biggest challenge facing our Church is a lack of room at our main Sunday worship service. For this reason we are seriously considering having more than one main service, and will discuss this at our members meeting later this month. The elders are going down to Catford early next year to pick Steve Tibbert's brain about multiple services.

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

BNP Membership list stolen...

Someone has published the British National Party membership list and published it on the internet.

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

Setting foot...

As will probably become clear in forthcoming posts I am reading Proverbs at the moment.

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
These are just some examples where we usually know where the line is and what we should and should not be doing, but do we always avoid even stepping on the path?

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Be wise with money...

The last few weeks and months have been full of reports of people and institutions not being wise with money.

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.

I know many people who are wearing themselves out to get rich. I know many people who don't show restraint. It is wise to live simply and to hold things lightly, to show restraint. This is not talking about hard work to feed and house and clothe yourself and your family, this is to get rich. There is a huge difference in having our needs met, in having our needs met and overflowing, and in trying to get rich. Some of the wealthiest people I know live as those whose needs are daily met and thank God for it. Some of the poorest people I know wear themselves out to get rich.

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.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Fighting for the truth...

Last night I spoke at our Freedom in Christ course, the second session.

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

One trick pony...

But when the trick is this amusing - it is worth it!

This is the video promised in this post here.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Tongues Toolbox Talk

Last Sunday I gathered people from the Church who wanted to develop in the gift of giving tongues and interpretations publicly.

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:
Mark 16:15-18

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

Tongues often occur in an environment of much prophecy, but they are different:
Acts 19:6, 1 Cor 12:10, 1 Cor 14:1-5