Sunday, 31 August 2008
One of our practical responses to this whole area, probably best summarised in this post here, is the question of how we approach Christmas.
Last Christmas we made an undertaking, to do everything we could to ensure that our Christmas gifts were either charitable giving, fair trade, or charitable shop purchases. NB - Not "Charity shop" as in second hand, but "Charitable" as in - profits go to a charitable cause.
It was quite an adventure really, and we got close, so close, before time, energy and wanting a couple of specific things meant we did not manage 100%, but were somewhere in the nineties.
The Leprosy Mission Shop was an absolute goldmine and allowed us to get a birdbox and 7 different books for family members, with the profit going towards the work of the Leprosy Mission.
The "Alternative Gifts" of cash donations to charities on behalf of those receiving the gifts took a bit of finding, but we settled on World Vision, Barnabas Fund (which has an excellent menu system on its donations page to choose the recipients and finally Tearfund's excellent Living Gifts site which allows the recipient to choose their own recipient of the gift.
And so "Sanitising a well", "disaster relief kits" "irrigation kits", "School books" and donations to persecuted believers in Pakistan, West Africa and Sudan, as examples, were all given. We gift aided the presents to ensure the maximum went to the charity.
Our local fair trade shop provided a vase, scarf and candle.
Two worship CDs from our local Christian bookshop were also added to the present pile.
We then moved away from the basic theme and used a website to buy a couple of funky personalised calendars, and got a few miscellaneous boxes of chocolates.
The whole process really did make us think - and these are the questions it posed.
1) Who benefits from our expenditure?
2) Worse still, who is oppressed by our consumption? Does our happy Christmas contribute towards making someone else's unhappy?
3) What is real generosity? Is it giving people who have what they need things that they don't need? Isn't that just waste?
4) Will our friends and family think we are weird? Or even worse, cheapskates? I was really nervous - but most were thrilled.
5) How can we approach the expense of Christmas and use it to actually bless, share, and model our values about the kingdom of God?
It was a very humbling experience, going out on a limb socially, doing something a bit different and trying to find a way to make our Christmas really matter.
We tried to do it so everyone got something to keep and something to share - a small gift for them and a small gift for the charity.
I have never felt more content at Christmas, knowing a couple of hundred pounds was winging its way directly to charitable causes across the world, while still being a blessing to my friends and family.
As you start to think about Christmas, and think about saving up for presents, have a think about this post and let it spark some ideas for you.
Let's make Christmas 2008 a "Happy Christmas" for as many people as possible.
Friday, 29 August 2008
Shrewsbury Town are top of the league!
I wonder how it would work if Churches had league tables? How would we score points? It seems odd that we still use bums on seats as the key indicator of "success".
That means Churches take short cuts to attract more Christians and the Church loses it's focus on the long term mission - to bring new people into relationship with Jesus. Then it becomes about the programme not the mission. Then our people become consumers not witnesses.
The discipleship and teaching of the great commission comes in the context of being witnesses to Jesus, not in how many Christians we can gather on Sundays.
By 5pm tomorrow Notts County could have put a dent in our promotion push. Let's never view other Churches with that sort of competitiveness.
Thursday, 28 August 2008
This took place at the youth venue, with many teenagers gathered, after his talk just half an hour before in the main venue regarding our hopes to plant many new churches in our region.
From this I have learned three things:
1) Don't take yourself too seriously
2) Always "dress down" for youth events - you may end up covered in something nasty
3) For safety, when working with teenagers, develop a bean allergy and make it public knowledge
Tuesday, 26 August 2008
I'm tired - really tired.
It was a good weekend though, these being some of my highlights:
1) David Fellingham, author of many songs, and pioneer of early newfrontiers worship, coming and joining our worship team, playing the trumpet in the band. It is that kind of humility that makes me love these people. This is a guy with his own albums, with songs that are used in thousands of churches, people like Stuart Townend and Paul Oakley view him in such high esteem, being willing to stand at the back and serve. The seminars he and Rosie led on the family were very well received.
2) Angela Kemm - a female, a social activist and a prophet. Those who like to throw stones at newfrontiers imply the first two don't really exist! Her work amongst the townships in Cape Town was revolutionary at the time and her passion to see God's people be good news to those around through serving the poor in the power of the Spirit is just infectious. She is a prophet not just in her words, but in her actions as well. She is the real deal.
3) Hanging out with guys from Church - I was on site-watch from midnight until 2am the first night and had a wonderful chat with a friend about life. That kind of fellowship is difficult to have when life gets busy - so to just be away, in the quiet of the night, to talk, encourage, think. It was wonderful.
4) Doing the stuff - I shared a prophetic word in one of the main meetings which several people were encouraged by. Then I was asked to join the ministry team on the Sunday evening and prayed for a couple of guys. It is so humbling when the Lord gives you an encouragement or challenge for someone you have never met before and you're so out of your comfort zone sharing it. Then they open their eyes, smile and say "That is absolutely spot on. God has been speaking to me about this for years". To think God can use an "average Joe" like you or I to speak to His people - it still moves me to tears. Angela Kemm kept saying that in the gifts of the Spirit, on the foundation of the word of God, God has given us the "toolkit" for the part of His mission he is calling us too. It is so true, and yet so often we leave the tools in the box and crack on in our own strength.
5) On a Mission - I have known Martin Charlesworth since I was five years old and have seen his ministry develop and grow and to now see how God is shaping a whole region of Churches in a common mission together is really exciting. I can see his apostolic gifting grow as more and more churches seem to look to Martin to take the lead and help them develop. But the whole beauty of it is that it is so voluntary - people want this - they ask for it. There is no pressure, no outside "authority", no meddling - these are freestanding, independent, local churches desiring to partner together and receive encouragement from each other, and looking to Martin to help shape it.
6) The Future - We have only just begun. It is like being at the birth of something. We have a heart for North Wales, parts of Mid Wales and people have started to lift the lid on the Black Country as a possible future Church plant, as well as the smaller towns of Staffordshire and Shropshire. None of our Churches are all that big - only one gathers more the 100 regularly on Sundays, but together we are taking responsibility for our region and wanting to see active mission through the planting of churches based on new testament principles. It is not the "size" or "success" that makes my heart burn - it is the potential. We are a bunch of nobodies from places no-one has heard of, in Churches no-one has heard of, and we are going to work together to make Jesus known to those who as yet do not know Him.
Friday, 22 August 2008
The "Borderlands" name was birthed in an elders meeting about 4 years ago, as an attempt to show that we represent Churches in Shropshire, Staffordshire, and North Wales, working together.
In years gone by the English and the Welsh around these parts did not get on too well, as the cross in the middle of Shrewsbury shows, where Dafydd Ap Gruffydd, the last prince of an independent Wales, was hung drawn and quartered for high treason. 700 years have passed since then, but for some the local banter is pretty serious.
It is deep in our hearts that God wants the english and the welsh to work together for His purposes. And so we are going off the Wrexham, where a new church has been established recently, to worship God together, hear from Him, and build friendships between churches.
Behind the scenes this week there have been lots of issues to iron out and it will definitely be interesting to see how God uses the weekend to speak to us. Dave Devenish, Dave Fellingham and Angela Kemm are the speakers, so it should be rather interesting.
I am thinking through the whole question of how we use our resources to best serve our mission and this weekend I really want to be open to God to speak to me about the future.
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
His ten point analysis gives much food for thought. And I am trying to make it personal to me - not what can we learn in a "know it all" way, but what can I learn in an "as I work out my own salvation with fear and trembling" kind of a way.
1. We should let history give a name to what is God is doing. Really early on, in fact way too early on, it was called a 'revival' and Dudley was called an 'outpouring' and named by those involved. To my mind that is a big presumption and to be honest God's work rarely needs man's PR to make it a success.
Good point - instead of predicting the "next big thing" and chasing after where it is supposedly at, let's chase after God and His purposes and His call on our lives and see how history judges us.
2. This was the first 'revival' in a media age. There is no question in my mind, that this event was the first of its kind which spread virally and was 'sponsored' by a TV station (God TV) and that this was not always good. While, this TV channel is run by Christians it is still a TV channel. Sadly for us, being on TV is a still seen as a sign of legitimacy which shows that we still have a fairly naive and immature approach to media. Being able to watch in on the internet or on TV does not make it any more or less genuine.
I think I was already pretty cautious about the Christian media at large, and will be more so now. No matter how good the intentions, we are always getting an agenda. The same goes for conferences, books, speakers etc etc. Keeping a broader vision and staying connected widely across the body of Christ help us to have a context. "Power evangelism" is going on at St Andrews Chorleywood in the ministry of Mark Stibbe and others. UK Anglicans, on the front foot, seeking God for healing and conversion and seeing it. That is exciting - God is at work in such a variety of ways - but by their nature media channels push us into focus on the smaller amount of locations and ministries, creating an imbalance.
3. TV inflates and exaggerates. Saying you have a potential audience of 400 million people is very, very different from the number of people that are actually watching. Right now I have a potential readership of billions on this blog, in reality the number is one or two less than that.
The numbers game is a false economy. TV coverage focuses on the end of the camera, God's Kingdom perspective focuses to the ends of the earth. Let's consider the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, the Church across the world. Not the millions looking to the one, but the one, me, looking to the millions, the millions of my brothers and sisters around the world on mission, under persecution, in poverty. The only one we should focus on is Jesus.
4. What is the deal with the nightly meetings? This seems to have become a modern mark of revival. Where did that come from? I've no idea why intensity has become more important than longevity but it has. It certainly accommodates demand, but it seems to me that saturation often does more harm than good and in the case of Lakeland we became saturated faster than ever before. Why do we exhaust so quickly what we want so badly?
Church programmes quickly overtake relationships. Do our structures consume or release, take or empower, bless or burden? Are our churches so resource hungry that our mission falters? Isn't mission supposed to be about getting out there and meeting people were they are not sitting here and expecting them to come to us? This challenges me more and more as I can get sucked into church activity daily and nightly - but always want space for my friends.
5. We made it about a man. Again. Todd Bentley may very well have a supernatural gift from God to heal people, this is not a good reason to let him preach dozens of nights in a row. It is not a good reason to let him exhort people to give. It's not a good reason for much except getting him to pray for the sick (although preferably without punching, kicking, kneeing, slamming or whatever). Why can't we let the gifted preacher preach, the prophet prophesy and the healer heal? So once again our shallow need for celebrity, and plenty of other causes, gave one person far too much prominence, where it was dangerous for him and dangerous for the campaign he was involved in.
More and more I see this play out. People really do want to make it about a person. I think this is where Ephesians 4 ministries are so vital - people need to play to their strengths. It is never about one person, one ministry - some of the variety is the beauty of being in a body. Let the musicians play, let the evangelists preach, let the teachers teach, let the pastors look after people and let the administrators try to fill in the gaps! Being right in one area doesn't make someone right in everything. I think Phil's blog, and his heart cry, needs & deserves much wider airing than it currently has. We need different prophetic voices in the Church raising their voices and being heard - but not a "one size fits all" approach. Phil's got a message on living simply, he has a challenge to materialism. But that doesn't mean he is the right person to speak on "power evangelism" - get Mark Stibbe to do that! Let's release each other and honour the good, not expect everyone to do everything.
That is why I enjoy the Brighton conference - as I have friends in India and Africa who I can hear from and catch up with. The range of speakers is a blessing - someone working in Russia, someone working in South Africa, Someone from Seattle - not just my little bubble.
Eldership is a team ministry. Leadership is a team ministry. People say to me "Are you part of Martin Charlesworth's Church"? What a false question. Nope - I am part of Jesus' church. Martin leads the eldership team of our local expression of it.
6. Charismatics want revival the easy way. Still. We desperately want people to be saved without us preaching to them, healed without us praying for them, discipled without us befriending them, enriched without us sharing with them and the nations reached without us going to them. So when one man came, we went to him instead of to HIM.
Do I pray for things I am actually not willing to be part of? Do I look to people instead of God? Do I bask in the reflected glory of the ministry of others, rather than take up my own cross and follow him? Will I cross the oceans to hear a preacher when I won't cross the street to greet my friend? The heart of the great commission, Go, Make disciples, baptise them & teach them. God doesn't "do" revival on his own - otherwise he wouldn't have given us a blueprint or a mandate to reach the nations for Christ. But that mandate starts in our Jerusalem, then our Judea and Samaria, then the ends of the earth. Am I praying for revival in Samaria while not obeying my commission in Jerusalem? Is revival now a spectator sport, not a life consuming mission?
7. We're looking in the wrong places. It seems to me that our eyes are fixed on America, hoping revival will come from there. It has the right language, the media channels and millions of Christians ready to give a leader national prominence and millions of dollars. When God decided it was time for Jesus to come he didn't send him to Rome but to Bethlehem. If we could be bothered we should be talking to the Chinese, the Indian, the African.
So true. We play it safe. They look safe so they must be safe. When I look around in heaven I am not going to see a room full of educated polite white people - so why does my bookshelf contain the majority of books by polite educated white Christians? Why are the blogs I read mostly polite white educated Christians? We all know about the Chinese Church but what are we learning from them?
There is a sinister side too: The level of "voice" someone has can be shaped by money and viewing patterns, not necessarily fruit or integrity. I am setting myself up for a fall if my ministry, or my theology, or my relationships are too heavily reliant on one person or a few people.
8. Why can't we have good doctrine and great power? Personally I'm tired of this split where those with good doctrine see so little dunamis while those with all the dynamite just blow themselves up with it because they forget that theology actually is important after all.
Too true. I want to see both. I really do. We need people working in teams better. Let the teacher teach, the prophet prophecy and the healer heal. It does not have to be the one person, it is one body. I need to play my role in that body with what God has given me, while honouring all parts of the same body. Too often the single person approach to ministry means you only get a single track gifting: let's be a people moving in power and honouring Scripture, and that means all of us involved as a body.
9. Wacky, is well, wacky. God has every right to use methods and people that do not conform to my expectations. His wisdom can appear foolish to me, but that doesn't mean that everything that is foolish is from God. That would be, well, foolish.
We must not throw out something because we have not seen it before. When Jesus walked on water the disciples didn't reject him because the "biblical" way would be to part the water with a staff! But I always consider why Paul spent so much time structuring "orderly" worship rather than allowing God to "just do His stuff".
10. Sadly, we love being fighting to be right. I think blogs can be helpful places to get reactions and think through issues, it also becomes an easy way to take cheap shots and demonstrate a stunning lack of grace, charity, forgiveness, wisdom or discernment.
Yes that is true. Type "Todd Bentley" into google, or even "Todd Bentley Marriage" and you see a civil war within the blogosphere which is a tragedy. I read blogs by people I disagree with to broaden my thinking and challenge my assumptions. To engage not to attack. I know I am not right on everything, I am just trying to work out which bits!
Monday, 18 August 2008
My posts on the Todd Bentley situation help explain my concerns with some elements of the "Christian" media.
So when I saw this video on Youtube I wasn't quite sure what to make of it.
On the one hand, what a great opportunity. On the other, how corny is that! Is it a great witness or a cheese-tastic sell out? Or a bit of both?
I can't help feeling uncomfortable when I see people singing a popular christian song apparently on the basis of its popularity amongst many of the "target audience", not the meaning of the song. And yet it is a wonderful song that glorifies Christ being sung to millions of people - what a fantastic witness.
What a shame then that by the time it came to the American Idol "Give back" show "Jesus" had been toned down to "Shepherd". What an oddity - the PC worship song, ideal for "non religion specific" worship. Barmy.
Although Joshua Harris helps to explain the situation on his blog here, here and here. There is always more than meets the eye.
I know for years Christians have said things along the lines of "If only we could get Christian worship into the mainstream" and stuff like that. Everyone had to buy Delirious singles the same week, and more recently download a Tim Hughes song in the same week to try to catapult our favourite worhsip leaders onto the national stage, but we never really got anywhere with it. I remember being asked to do with same with a Kendrick song back in the day. And yet all along elemtns of the church has maintained an undignified distance from Sir Cliff Richard. Whether you like his style or not - he is ridiculously popular and very very clear.
Few seem to know about the faith of Joseph Simmons (The "Run" in "Run DMC"), and no-one knows how to pigeon hole U2 and the journey members of their band have been on. The same people who want a Christian in showbusiness for the sake of witness are probably the same who would lambast their every move and judge their every statement and end up banning their kids from listening to their music.
Then along came "Mary Mary" and got to number 5 with this corker, and gazumped every mainstream christian artist wanting to break the charts.
If you're going to get more "Christian" songs in the mainstream, let's have them sung by Christians, popular by their own merits (not our plans to hijack a chart) and make sure the words sound a bit like this:
Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance
I just wanna praise you
I just wanna praise you
You broke the chains now I can lift my hands
And I'm gonna praise you
I'm gonna praise you
In the corners of my mind
I just can't seem to find a reason to believe
That I can break free
Cause you see I have been bound for so long
Felt like all hope is gone
But as I lift my hands, I understand
That I should praise you through my circumstance
Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance
I just wanna praise you
I just wanna praise you
You broke the chains now I can lift my hands
And I'm gonna praise you
I'm gonna praise you
Everything that could go wrong
All went wrong at one time
So much pressure fell on me
I thought I was gonna lose my mind
But I know you wanna see
If I will hold on through these trials
But I need you to lift this load
Cause I can't take it no more
Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance
I just wanna praise you
I just wanna praise you
You broke the chains now I can lift my hands
And I'm gonna praise you
I'm gonna praise you
Been through the fire and the rain
Bound in every kind of way
But God has broken every chain
So let me go right now
Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance
I just wanna praise you
I just wanna praise you
You broke the chains now I can lift my hands
And I'm gonna praise you
I'm gonna praise you
Saturday, 16 August 2008
"We wish to acknowledge, however, that since our last statement from the Fresh Fire Board of Directors, we have discovered new information revealing that Todd Bentley has entered into an unhealthy relationship on an emotional level with a female member of his staff. In light of this new information and in consultation with his leaders and advisors, Todd Bentley has agreed to step down from his position on the Board of Directors and to refrain from all public ministry for a season to receive counsel in his personal life."
The full transcript is here.
This whole situation has a lot further to run - and we need to pray. Looking at various blogs and forums you see a massive schism forming between camps of people who either endorsed or opposed the Lakeland situation. It really is desperate. The people who oppose this are all over it like a pack of hyenas, while those who seek to support Todd are struggling as in the midst of the confusion it just sounds hollow.
It makes me consider previous occasions when situations have unravelled and I remember the very deep sadness felt by everyone. Both Fresh Fire statements deliberately make clear that they are not talking about adultery having taken place. Let us pray that the situation does not descend that far. People who defended the situation just days ago on account of there being no-one else involved are already on shifting sand as more information becomes public.
I remember being devastated when Kevin Prosch, a wonderful worship leader, highlight of mid nineties Soul Survivor, and author of my favourite song "Love is all you need", was removed from public ministry by his Church after admitting to adultery. Songs like "His banner over me is love" and "He is the Lord, and He reigns on High (Show your power)" are still common in churches across the world, not to mention "Lord of the dance". That was such a shock at the time - the first time a leader significant in my life had fallen in their moral walk. In situations like that it just feels like no one wins.
The other case that I vividly remember was even more complicated. I had been to a "Biblical Evangelism" conference arranged by UCCF and the speaker was a guy called Roy Clements from Cambridge, a stalwart of conservative evangelicalism, member of the EA Council and held in very, very high regard by the students I encountered. I met several people that weekend who were scathing about charismatics, including me, to my face, even at the dinner table, that the weekend is best left forgotten. But it was interesting the pedestal this preacher was on in their eyes. A few months later and there were marital difficulties and he was removed from his position in his church and went on to become a major voice within the homosexual evangelical movement and strong critic of the way he had been treated. The same people who put him on a pedestal were left absolutely devastated.
Both those experiences helped me to see how crushing it is when people fail, and also how dangerous it is to lift people so high. I think the media bandwagon that followed Todd Bentley made everything so big, so quickly, on an almost unprecedented scale. It now needs to have a good long hard look at itself. The "success" was beamed into living rooms of millions of people across the nations, and so the effects of problems arising are so much bigger too, and so far outside of the usual local church fellowship and support.
It is all so very sad, and we need some of the big hitters, the big players, the leaders whose words people listen to, to come out and make statements and give guidance, fathering & mothering hurting believers through a difficult time. And we need the christian media to beam those messages and those encouragements and those warnings into those millions of living rooms in nations across the world to help sure up the damage they partly liable for.
Pray for Todd & his wife - there is always a way back. The alternative is too sad to even consider.
Friday, 15 August 2008
I went to cell last night not really knowing what to expect.
We started with a welcome question "What trait would you like more of and which would you like less of" - that sparked a very humorous discussion, especially when partners started to endorse answers given readily!
Next up a member of our group has just been to Uganda and she shared her experiences and what God had taught her through the experiences she had and we saw lots of photos. It was amazing. I actually felt like I had been there and heard God through what she was saying.
Then we had a bible study - looking at the call of Samuel and discussing how we know when God is / isn't speaking to us! That opened up a whole range of stuff about whether we can trust how we "feel" about a situation. This was interesting - our desires and heart for things is shaped by God, and yet feelings can also be very unreliable.
This was followed by us naming the things we are "called" to in scripture by nature of our identity as followers of Jesus - rather than the "when", "where" and "who with" sorts of decisions. That was a great discussion - definitely future blog potential.
What are we called to, even if we never "hear" God?!!
The discussion really showed me what a privilege to be both evangelical and charismatic, and how the bible keeps us safe.
Next up a time of worship, with prepared songs from a CD, but lots of prayer in between and a spontaneous song that someone started. This was no dictation of what to do by a worship "leader" - it was a spirit led group coming together to worship Jesus with many people involved in shaping the direction.
We finished with a song to sit and reflect to. Everyone is so busy, just stop and think of Jesus. Wonderful.
And we finished with communion - reading scriptures from Isaiah, from the gospel account of the Crucifixion and the Lord's supper.
We meditated on this song:
And that was it - next week we have a social & an opportunity to invite our friends to come.
I started out a bit tired and came back later refreshed and encouraged - and that is one sign of an encounter with God & His people.
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
It is always good to know what motivates the worship leader - that is why "When the music fades" by Matt Redman and "My Jesus, my lifeline" by Tim Hughes have been particularly special songs for me, as I have heard the writers explain the signifiance and the journey they went on to write the song.
So when I heard this song at a recent Trumpet Call conference at the NEC I decided to find out more about both the song and the worship leader, Godfrey Birtill.
Here he explains how the song was birthed:
Which fills me with a lot of confidence.
And here he is playing it. I think it is an absolute juggernaut of a song. Bold, brash, and absolutely right for this time in this nation.
For all the effort, for all the discussion, for all the theology, for all the serving, for all the evangelism - what we need is a touch from the King, and what they need is a touch from the King.
Here are the lyrics.
There's a battle raging, over this land
A deep damage in the people
Yet pride prevents us
Stretching out our withered hand
Yet God has stretched out to heal us
This I know, this I know,
This I know, this I know that
Just one touch from the King, Changes everything Just one touch from the King, Changes everything
There's a great darkness, over this land
A deep darkness on the people
But a light shining
That the dark can't understand
Light of the world King Jesus
Do you know? Do you know?
Do you know? Do you know?
O land, O land, O land,
Hear the Word of the Lord
Godfrey & Gill Birtill, © Thankyou Music 2006
And so the blogosphere goes into overdrive like vultures around a carcass.
Some of the posts in a thread like this fill me with hope, but most of them, especially early on, fill me with anger. Do not read them if you are easily offended, please. That first page is really quite painful to read.
The "I told you so" movement sweeps into full view, this is an example of many, although ones like this list some useful observations even if I don't agree with everything they say.
- We’re not to focus on outward appearances
- We’re to exercise discernment, regardless of the manifestations and preaching taking place from the pulpit
- There will always be examples like this
- Pray for Todd Bentley
This is the saddest video of all I have seen from Lakeland. It was not that long ago at all.
Big questions for those apostles, Peter, John, Bill, Che, Rick etc on the stage that night.
1) Did they know the Bentleys were having relationship troubles?
2) What have done to support it?
3) What are they going to do for them now?
These were the promises over him: what are they going to do for him now?
Many people think that this "commissioning" was just people wanting to get on the stage of the next big thing. That is a harsh accusation, so prove them wrong guys - go to his aid, he needs you. You "stood with him" on the stage in front of hundreds of millions of viewers in tens of countries, now "stand with him" in the gutter.
I have a really heavy heart when I think about this, and my frustration is at both sides of the discussion.
To those who attack Todd - Why is the christian army the only army in the world who shoots our own wounded?
To those who support Todd - Why do we lift people up so high that all that is left to do is to fall?
We have the right to ask questions, really tough, pertinent, timely questions - "Apostles" at that service, ICA, God TV - what are you going to do to help Todd and what are you going to do to help those following him?
We have the right to ask questions about the money, the angels, the use of scripture, the style etc but one by one, by their own merits.
But critics of Todd - what would you like your christian brothers and sisters to do if you fall in some way? This is not the time to kick a man when he is down, it is time to lift truth and light and grace above human failure.
The fallout from this could be really huge, the damage to people's faith huge, the division caused massive. No-one wins.
As I ponder this situation my own response is this:
1) Pray for Todd
2) Pray for the reconciliation of their marriage
3) Pray for the children
And to seek to learn from it. Not getting off on a self righteous "I told you so" and not giving up on the power of God at work in witnessing to the glory of His son Jesus through signs and wonders.
I think we can only really deal with something like this if we:
Look to Jesus,
look to scripture,
look to wise counsel,
and look at our own hearts first.
NB: I have amended the post to be clearer in what I am trying to say based on comments received. I also removed a link to an unverified source, including a whole previous post, in response to Peter Kirk's fair challenge in the comments section regarding only focussing on verified statements, which I take on board now, and for the future.
ADDITION: This link was posted in the comment to an article by the editor of Charisma magazine
Monday, 11 August 2008
Now I am particularly infruriated by these circumstances, for the following reasons.
1) Dr Matthias is my Dad
2) Phil is my mate
3) It it so utterly, unbelievably ridiculous
Now, it would have been better to either insert the word "retired" or "former" in the description of the doctor, granted, but I think the ASA really have shot themselves in the foot if they are suggesting a retired medical doctor cannot call themselves a medical doctor on the basis of whether they hold current GMC certificate.
Will Professor Steven Hawking just be known as "Mr" on retirement? Will Rowan Williams be "Mr"? Do other medical doctors still use Dr in front of their name after retirement? Of course they do!
So the ASA have adjudicated that a trained medical doctor, of 35 years experience, having practiced for 20 years on the estate were 2,000 leaflets were distributed by a Church was attempting to "mislead" people, the majority of whom would be his former patients, into believing he held a current GMC certificate through the expression "I am a medical doctor"? I suppose they needed a success and changing "am" to "was" sorts that out for NSCC but it is pedantic in the extreme.
I propose that any member of the ASA panel, if on their way home from the meeting were travelling by train, and the passenger next to them had a heart attack, and they cried out "Is there a doctor here" would turn away the offer of help of a doctor with 35 years experience on the basis of him not holding a valid GMC registration document! I live on this estate and people are baffled that Doctor Matthias, who treated them for 20 years, who helped when they were pregnant, or when they were babies, who sent them for that cancer scan, has just got done for claiming to be a doctor, when he was, and is.
So on to the Church. Is it really irresponsible to say "Come and be prayed for because God heals" on the basis that it could prevent people from seeking medical advice?
What a complete red herring.
a) If they were suggesting not to take medical advice then why did they require a MEDICAL DOCTOR to verify the healings taking place?
b) At no point during the publication did they do anything to suggest it was to be done INSTEAD of visiting a doctor. All healing are to be verified by a doctor - meaning every person who claimed a healing would be told to go and see, erm, a doctor!
c) People always complain that claimed "miracles" are not medically verified. Now a Church is being pulled up for suggesting a doctor has verified the miracles. So Church should be silent if they cannot verify healings AND churches should be silent if THEY CAN verify healings.
From the ASA website
Religious organisations may make some claims about healing only if it is clear that they are referring to spiritual, not physical, healing.
In the ASA’s experience, those types of marketers have been unable to provide documentary evidence to prove the efficacy of their services; they should neither imply they can deliver results that they cannot deliver nor guarantee results unless the terms of the guarantee are clear.
One complaint made against a church said that:
"The complainants, one of whom pointed out that advertisers who claimed an ability to cure specific medical conditions would be required to hold substantiation, objected that the claims "MIRACLES" and "HEALING" were misleading and irresponsible, because they could not be scientifically proven and preyed on the credulity of vulnerable people."
So here is a Church, claiming healing, verified by a retired medical doctor of 35 years, being told it is irresponsible, not because the healing cannot be verified, which they have been, but because their verification is irresponsible and means people won't take up "qualified" medical advice, presumably off someone like a medical doctor of 35 years.
I am really interested to see how it all works out. How does it work when slimming world show a verified candidate who has lost weight and it has been verified. Does that stop people seeing a doctor about their weight / diet? Is that "irresponsible"? "Mrs Jones from Pontefract has lost 3 stone in 12 weeks, just in time for her summer holidays" is one thing - but if she had been to the doctor instead she may have found that she had diabetes as well.
What I have learned from this is as follows:
1) The ASA are going around in circles and there is no consistency of approach except to imply churches claiming healing in the name of Jesus are doing something irresponsible, or even bad.
2) God does heal today and people are being healed in the name of Jesus, including at my Church in central Shrewsbury, and at North Shrewsbury, and we have doctors and opticians who have verified this. Some of whom even have a current GMC certificate, out of interest.
3) Someone has complained about this and given the Church a much greater level of publicity than one could ever hope for in a print run of 2000 leaflets. I look forward to the next "Beautiful News" which fulfills the pedantic requirements of the ASA and raises the profile of God and His people in this area.
4) The Evangelical Alliance are on the case and looking to ensure future judgements are fair and clear. Let's pray for them.
I think people need to be wise, and I am sure Phil and others will have taken on board this judgement and refined their wording. But if news of over 200 teenagers healed at the Newday camp last week is anything to go by, ASA versus any Church is going to be a regular feature because God is at work, people are being healed, doctors are verifying it and we are not going to stop telling people about it, although we may run the wording past a few people in future!
A good review is found here.
It felt like a list of rules and regulations being presented.
I never read Jesus say "Come to me, and you will have no sex, no abortions and all will go well with you"
For all the talk of the christian faith being about Jesus, rather than a list of rules and regulations, sometimes the rules and regulations do seem to get highlighted above all else.
I don't think anyone should "fix" someone and "make them a Christian" by teaching them a set of outward behaviours. If anything that would be teaching them a lie that they just need to fit in as best they can with a moral ideology and they will be ok. Jesus had harsh words for the pharisees who did that.
I think faith in Jesus brings a strong moral ideology that we need to defend - but on the basis of faith in Jesus rather than maintenance of external behaviours.
The woman at the well had an encounter with Christ that had huge implications for her moral behaviour. I want to see people have an encounter with Christ - the rest follows.
And yet this show was a brilliant opportunity as I watched it with two friends who are not Christians and it led to a great opportunity to explain what I believed and why I believed it. They were the first to pick up and say "Just saying he isn't going to go out drinking won't change anything", and they were right.
Because everyone knows you can fake external behaviour - "if it doesn't matter in your heart then it doesn't matter."
Sunday, 10 August 2008
So I put my own ideas into the equation and it suggests that I could be a Methodist.
This is an interesting situation, because I don't feel like one. Or at least I have not found myself having a huge amount in common with those I have met. One or two "free methodists" I have come across seem a bit more similar.
The term "Wesleyan" is a bit more specific to the man in his day and probably a bit closer to where I am.
Or am I actually a Methodist?
This post is sort of tongue in cheek, but it is interesting to see where I came out.
I am certainly no liberal or Catholic, so that sits right. I constantly get accused of being too "modernist" by emergent / postmodern friends, so to find I am still pretty postmodern raises a wry smile. "Reformed evangelical" was always going to be pretty close to the top within a newfrontiers enviornment. I am happy to be fundamentalist if that means holding on to the fundamentals of the faith, but not if it makes me a gun toting right wing american. But hey, with an "emergent / postmodern" score that high maybe I have a call to put the "fun" back into fundamentalism?!!
Neo-orthodox? He sounds like a priest off "The Matrix". It all paints an interesting picture, and am surprised that Charismatic came out so low - but the questions seemed skewed to answer either evangelical or charismatic and not to hold both, which is a bit of a stereotype, but if push comes to shove I will stick with the word although in reality I see them as interdependant not mutually exclusive positions.
What's your theological worldview?
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|You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan|
You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.
Thursday, 7 August 2008
Now this current winner of my list may seem a little bit odd. Most people of a certain persuasion would expect a gospel presentation which I responded to and that changed my life. And that did happen, several times in fact, as I grew up in a Christian family and in a Church environment, there have been some great times of coming closer to God and responding to him, but I cannot condense them into one "time", one "moment" or one "sermon".
This talk, on the other hand, is a single moment in time, from which nothing has been the same.
Context: Two mates going to the world cup. Phil and I go on a road trip to Germany to watch some football. This was not where I was expecting to encounter God. This was not some conference of biblical heavyweights with me preparing in gleeful anticipation for months in advance, this was an afterthought.
On the way back Phil had been invited to go and do a presentation at CCK about "living simply". Now I have known Phil for close to 20 years, and I have always thought he is a bit "simple", so it came as no surprise he was speaking on the subject (this is jest). He has always been a bit of a "leftie", never really had great control over his hair or his facial hair, and he spent time in Africa, worked for Tearfund, rides a motorbike, and moved onto a council estate in Shrewsbury to plant a Church in the least churched area of the town (all of this is true).
I was aware of a few of his projects, like his blog, and Breathe, but they all sat squarely in the "my hairy leftie friend" category so I had never shown them due diligence, beyond a polite smile and passing interest. "Good on you mate" sort of stuff, but no personal reflection.
I was not that way off the mark in my own thinking on this. I too have lived in Africa, visited works amongst the poor in India, have a family steeped in the fair trade movement through my Mum's work locally and so I was not coming into it blind. This is no "capitalist semi fascist loses arm wrestle to eco-warrior and goes to live in a Teepee" scenario.
But this is a UK evangelical charismatic christian coming to a real sharp awakening that these things really do matter. "Really do matter" as in not just signing the petition at Greenbelt and hoping for the best but seeking to reflect them in everything. This is no neatly wrapped social gospel. This is not taking on the "green" issue as a potential convert grabber. This is a child of God actually seeing deep down that not only is this our problem, as children of God it is also our responsibility, and I was not in step with scripture.
So up steps my friend, and starts to ask questions. You, me, Christians...
- 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?
How does this fit with:
a) our view of God b) our rights as people c) our responsibilities as "followers" of God
I was ruined.
Suddenly I realised the ground upon which I was building was very very shaky indeed. Slightly hip lifestyle choices needed to become deep rooted convictions. The scriptural basis was secure, and my own conscience played out its tune - this is part of my freedom, and part of my calling.
I can genuinely say that I have pondered this process every day of my life since. I have not set up a shrine to Phil in my room or anything - and have not spoken much to him about it since. But this is an adventure Esther and I have been on since then. We are way off the finished article, but have been pondering ways of working through this and making radical choices.
Most of the outward things we have done sound really little and petty when listed. What I need to express is the burden for this has shaped everything, the big and the small decisions, the way we have shaped and built the practicalities of our married life together, and the economic pattern for our lives is through a window that opened up to scripture through that talk.
Every consumer decision bows to a greater clarity, and a more ruthless determination to live for Him not me. Our resources have become more and more His resources.
It is not really a question of whether we can justify a new car or not (which we can't) or if we choose Cafe Direct above Nescafe (which we do).
The actual question asked was "Who do you say I am?", and I was horrified to find I could not say "Lord" in several of my attitudes to money, possessions or the environment. That cut me deep.
And so began a quest to live more simply, give more generously, share more freely, accommodate more selflessly, appreciate more readily, and be content.
There is much still to do, and much still to lay down, but my life changed that day, as the sword of the spirit, yielded by my friend Phil, hacked off a huge cancer that was weighing down my soul, choking my faith, and hampering my witness.
Wednesday, 6 August 2008
This conference was the best I have ever been to. The Album is the best live album I have ever heard, bar none. Their live version of "I lift my eyes up" should be my favourite ever worship song, but I can only say should be because despite it being unconventional nothing can touch Kevin Prosch's "Love is all you need" found on Tumbling Ground by the Black Peppercorns.
But anyway, back to the conference, the main speakers were first class, as can be seen in NUMBER 4 and NUMBER 2 in this series being from the same event.
I had been to the Soul Survivor summer camp 4 or 5 times as a teenager and was greatly blessed by watching Matt Redman and later people like Tim Hughes open up a whole new sphere of christian worship music. Songs like "Heart of worship" just captured a moment in the development of my relationship with God.
But by the time I heard Mike speak at this conference I was 20, doing a university placement year in Nottingham and was a little bit past the whole Soul Survivor thing so did not know what to expect.
He spoke on 1 Samuel 2:12-36 and it was all about what happens when people get their focus wrong in worship. When it becomes about "me" or "my needs" rather than our offering to God. When we hold back something of the offering to ourselves, rather than give Him everything of ourselves.
I believe he has since taken this whole theme and preached on it extensively and even written a book relating to it. But this was no book or journal, this was a man with a passionate jealousy for the name of his Saviour giving a defence of the glory of his Lord.
It is about Jesus. It starts with Jesus. It comes from Jesus. It goes to Jesus. We meet Jesus somewhere in it and all the glory goes to Jesus. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus and a bit more Jesus. You can only concentrate on Him too little, never too much.
"I didn't get a lot our of the worship today" is a shameful statement because it does not honour yourself, your worship, or your God. It is not for you, it is for Him. It is not about whether it is pleasing to you, it is about whether it is pleasing to Him. Who says "I did not get a lot of giving my Father a present today?" The worth is in the Father, the worth is in the gesture, the worth is in the gift, not in whether it made us feel good or not.
The statement identifies a wrong attitude that robs God of the glory and the worship and the honour He is due. It becomes a consumer goal to get a buzz, not a priviledge to declare the goodness of our King.
A quote from his talk can be found on the live CD in between two tracks. The pertinent statement is made: "He is the center of worship, and how dare we ever make us the center of worship"
That cemented a deep seated conviction I hold regarding worship - the desire to add my voice to the honour and glory given to Jesus. Every time I listen to that CD and hear Mike's words it is such an emotional moment - as God is calling His church back into selfless and pure worship of him, and I believe much of the evident blessing of God upon the whole Soul Survivor movement has been their radical, uncomplicated, biblically based, passionate worship of Jesus.
Tuesday, 5 August 2008
The next one wasn't even a sermon as such, but rather a "seminar". David Holden, Brighton Conference 2007, and for once you can actually listen to it if you want to here.
Now this stirred something in me, not just for the merits of the content of the talk itself, but for what God was, and is doing in me, at the time I heard it and through to the present.
Rob Rufus was speaking at the conference regarding the work of the Holy Spirit and even though I didn't engage with everything he said there was a real sense of God stirring something of a desire for His glory, for His presence.
Dave Holden had come to speak at our regional celebration meeting (A termly meeting of the churches in Shrewsbury, North Shrewsbury, Wrexham, Stafford, Rugeley and Telford) and had given a similar encouragement / challenge / provocation which the seminar added to.
- Are we "charismatic" because we have a "contemporary style" or because the "charismata" are present? Is it guitars and PA systems or spiritual gifts that really express the presence of God?
- Are "prophecies" and "words of knowledge" becoming just too fluffy and huggy to bring about any real consequence? God does love and care for us - wonderful - but what about stuff that is more directional, more challenging, even rebuking. Why is that becoming rare?
- Is the full weight of the bible behind the words given? Could we aim for more public reading of scripture as God puts in on our hearts?
- Where are tongues and interpretations? Paul gives instructions for when there are many at one time, not irregular and from the same people every time.
- Do we "perform" worship or do we sing out psalms, hymns and spiritual songs? That is a question for the congregation as much as the worship band. Is it too prescribed, too closed?
- Is the way we "do" worship times too restrictive? When is the last time someone other than a worship leader has started a new song? How can we all be more deeply involved in shaping the time of worship?
- Has our worship become so focussed on "music" that there is less room for other forms of expression?
These are all open questions.
I see cell groups as an opportunity for people to express some of these things more fully in a smaller, safer context. But I want to see these things in the wider settings too.
I guess the underlying question is this: Has the thirty five minutes of 1970s "soft rock" songs that so defines many charismatic churches actually become a blockage to the work of the spirit in our meetings? Has the very thing the "new wineskin" of the charismatic movement sought to redefine itself from actually re-occurred but just in a more contemporary way? Are we charismatic because we sing Matt Redman or because we exercise spiritual gifts?
For example, I know I have the gift of tongues and interpretation but have only used it twice in public meetings in the last twelve months and not on a Sunday morning. This sermon / talk / provocation remains outstanding in my life - and that is why it ranks in this list, because the challenge of it pursues me and keeps calling me to account.
Monday, 4 August 2008
I thought I would share this video of a clip of a John Piper sermon.
In 1707 a non conformist from Southampton in his early thirties expressed something of his heart to God. Well, we have just broken 300 years later, three centuries have come and gone, and I still don't think he could have penned truer words. He did not write it in relation to prosperity teaching, but my goodness he could have done.
I will leave the rest to Isaac Watts...
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it Lord, that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that charm me most
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Sunday, 3 August 2008
Jackie Pullinger To should need no introduction, but just in case she does you can find a three stage explanation here, here and here.
Before we get to the talk itself the woman herself was most of the power. She really has walked the walk. She has given up everything for the sake of her Lord and brought love and life to hundreds of people.
Look at this for a selection of quotes:
"I went up to a man and said 'Jesus loves you' …but I realised that it didn't mean anything unless I did it." "I banked my life on a miracle." "Jesus is everything. If it weren't for him, I'd have no goodness at all."
So up steps this woman, this white, middle class, well spoken, home counties, middle aged lady who then started to speak at a conference full of white, middle class, well spoken, home counties type people (and I was one of them). Everything about it could have been scones and spongecake Christianity - but it wasn't. This was life changing, career destroying, "take up your cross and follow me" radicalism that literally stopped me in my tracks.
There was biblical exhortation, there was encouragement, and it was wrapped in a life story of courage and endeavour that no other British Christian I can think of can equal. "Chasing the Dragon" is the "Cross and the Switchblade" for UK Christians of a certain era. She just oozed grace, passion, determination and asked questions too uncomfortable to ask within huge tranches of UK Christendom.
She spoke of her passion to reach those in poverty with the gospel, and spoke of her total angst that there were so few Christians in the inner cities. She stopped, silent, and lent over the lectern. Then asked the gathered thousands in the state of the art auditorium in a voice hushed to barely a whisper but with a deep, 30 years in the mission field type of sincerity...
"You aren't all still living in the suburbs are you?"
You could have heard a pin drop. She was not actually technically suggesting no-one should live in the suburbs, or to reach people in those classes, but she was chastising a Christendom that has got so interested in being respectable that we have given up on being near millions of the lost.
The talk was a total affront to safe and secure British Christianity, and even though I have yet to fully work out how to live it all out, it left me in a place where if He says to "go" then I know I have to.
Friday, 1 August 2008
I cannot remember when I heard this, or where. I have heard J.John at Soul Survivor, and at the Newfrontiers Evangelist's Summit, and at the Newfrontiers Brighton Conference, so I don't even know if my memory is of a talk or an amalgamation of a series of talks heard by the same preacher - J.John.
He is undoubtedly one of the most gifted communicators of this generation. He is intensely funny, and very insightful. In short - he is a scream. He is the kind of guy you want at the Barbeque when you first invite a friend, you want him on the car park on the first Alpha night, you want him in the pulpit explaining, challenging, bringing the gospel to life, and you want him in the pub answering the tough questions after the talk.
But the brilliance of J.John is that he equips and exhorts every believer in their personal witness. This is no platform expert doing the stuff on your behalf, this is a prophetic voice, a heart changer, a life-shaper, taking a consumerist and introverted church into a missional calling. If anyone fulfills the role in Ephesians 4 of apostolic evangelist in my life it would be Him.
I remember two things so clearly. Him saying that some Christians say "I don't know how to meet non-Christians" and him jumping around the stage shouting "BUT THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!", "THEY ARE EVERYWHERE". More than 95% of people you could accidentally meet are them. They are in the shops, in the pubs, in the parks, on the bus, at the football, in the houses, at the school gate. If you speak to ANYONE there is a 95% chance you are speaking to someone who does not have a personal relationship with Jesus. So this means everything, everywhere is witness.
Then he encouraged us to go and find something we love, and do it, enjoy it, and meet people, build friendships, be salt and light, and be an ambassador for Christ with them. I was captivated. I made a decision, deep down, that I liked football, and so I was going to engage with it as best I could, and burn for Jesus in that environment. An example is given here.
I am an editor of the club fanzine, and moderator on the supporter's website, I have led press campaigns, served on the board of the Supporter's Trust, and met literally hundreds of local people, and made some great friendships. To many of my friends I am one of a handful of "religious" people they know, if not the only one. I get intense banter about my faith (and some abuse), and a lot of questions. And I greatly enjoy being out there, having fun, meeting people, and being active in a local subculture within our community where there are few known believers. These are not "projects" or "targets" for me, they are my friends, and I want to reflect something of Jesus to them.
So it changed my view of witness, and it changed how I spend my spare time. Every day is an opportunity to reflect something of Jesus to people, and amongst the people I have the most in common with there is the biggest opportunity.
1) He lived a life I could not live (2 Cor 5:21)
2) He showed compassion I could not show (Luke 23:34)
3) He obeyed what I could not obey (Rom 5:19)
4) He loved how I could not love (Rom 8:38-39)
5) He showed humility I could not show (Phil 2:5-11)
6) He saved a life I could not save (Eph 2:4-5)
7) He won a victory I could not win (1 Cor 15:57)
8) He paid a ransom I could not pay (Heb 9:15)
9) He atoned for something I could not atone for (1 John 4:10)
10) He took a punishment I could not take (Isaiah 53:5)
11) He destroyed what I could not destroy (Eph 2:14)
12) He guaranteed something I could not guarantee (Eph1:13-14)
13) He ended something I could not end (Rom 10:4)
14) He broke a power I could not break (1 Cor 15:56-57)
15) He redeemed something I could not redeem (Rom 3:21-24)
16) He made a way I could not make (Heb 10:19-20)
17) He let me belong where I did not belong (Eph 2:19-20)
18) He earned an inheritance I could not earn (1 Pet1:4)
19) He raised me where I could not rise (Eph2:6)
20) He gave me a hope I could not hope for (1 Pet 1:3)