Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Overcoming Flu

Well my "man Flu" on Thursday appeared to be the real deal and put me out of action for 5 days in total.

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

Broken Into (again)

A couple of week ago our building was broken into. A bit of cash was taken and lots of damage done to internal doors.

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

Impacting the Neighbourhood

This post from Marcus Honeysett got me thinking about serving the community and impacting the neighbourhood.

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!
This subject got me thinking about the "Centre" programme for the last fortnight, outside of Sunday activities. Gosh it has been busy.

Thursday 4th
National Childbirth Trust: 25 people
Newfrontiers regional Leaders: 25 people
Early Years and Childcare Team Christmas Away Day (with lunch): 56 people
Friday 5th
Nursery Education Funding Working Group (with lunch): 11 people
Impact (Youth activities, Youth Alpha): 70 people
Monday 8th
"Outlook" Senior Citizen's Christmas Meal: 40 people.
Lip reading class, 6 people
Greyfriar's Badminton Club: 25 people
Tuesday 9th
Barneytots Christmas Party (with lunch): 90 people
Healthy eating course: 10 people
Wednesday 10th
"Taking Part" Christmas Party (people with learning difficulties / down syndrome). 45 people.
Early Years and Childcare team: 8 people
Thursday 11th
Senior Citizen's Forum meeting with Christmas Lunch: 77 people
Friday 12th
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
Saturday 13th
Kidz Klub Christmas Party (with food): 70 people
Jigsaw Choir Concert in aid of Shrewsbury Ark: Number unknown - over 50?
Monday 15th
Outlook senior citizens: 30 people
Lip reading course: 6 people
Greyfriar's Badminton Club: 25 people
Tuesday 16th
Children's Centre Services Christmas Party (with lunch) 220 people
Wednesday 17th
Mental Health team Christmas Lunch: 35 people
Thursday 18th
Carline Fields (Sheltered Housing) Christmas Dinner: 40 people
Friday 19th
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

Honest to Darwin Shrewsbury 2009

2009 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin.

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

Do Sheep rap?

On Sunday mornings we had lots of visitors for our Christmas family service.

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?

Newfrontiers weaknesses?

This post is a follow on from my previous post on things I like about Newfrontiers.

It is also continues to parallel the discussion Phil Whittall has been having here.

He states:
  1. Our conferences are a bit dull.
  2. Our response to culture is a bit sluggish.
  3. We're very middle class, quite old and mostly white.
  4. Can we have some different styles of worship please?
  5. Our response to theology is a bit defensive.
I can see some interesting points in there and it got me thinking as to what I would add.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
OK - this has turned into an epic post now so I will draw it to a close. I love being in a newfrontiers church and love the vision, energy and the people in this movement. This is the way I feel right now, and God may call me to a big city sometime soon, where the new Church plant is meeting in a hotel! Equally I think within newfrontiers we do need open discussion about ways we do things and ways of improving, not least because it shows the world outside that we know we are not perfect, even if we do passionately believe in what we are doing.

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

Some things I like about Newfrontiers

This is in response to Phil's post on the same subject.

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:
  1. They care passionately about the glory of God
  2. They care passionately about the mission of God
  3. They care passionately about caring for the poor and needy
  4. They care passionately about the Word of God
  5. They care passionately about the presence of God
  6. They know how to give generously
  7. They're learning how to make big calls
  8. They value relationships
  9. The humility of their leaders
Here are mine, off the cuff, things I appreciate.

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

David Wilkerson

A discussion about the use of violent language on Dave Warnock's blog took an odd turn when Dave gave David Wilkerson as an example of someone not using violent language.

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

The Dudley Outpouring

Quoting from the Revival Fires website here it says:

"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

Reaching men

There seem to be lots of discussions regarding Church being viewed as feminine and the decline in numbers of young men in Church congregations.

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.

Freedom in Christ

We are continuing our Freedom in Christ course and had the away day on Saturday which went very well.

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

A Manifesto for Simple Living

A couple of months ago I explained how a sermon by my friend Phil had changed my life.

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."

What does God "hate" about blogging?

I am continuing to read and digest Proverbs (slowly), and I found these well known verses in Chapter 6 of particular challenge for the blogging world.

" 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."

I think that God may "hate" some Christian blogging.

"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?
So, anyone who reads my blog.

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?