Friday, 29 May 2009

The Moral Compass

I hear people describing the Church as a "moral compass" in our society.

Is that really the case?

For me the recent furore surrounding the appointment of an openly gay minister in the Church of Scotland showed one thing loud and clear.

This is not a point about whether the guy should be a minister or not, at all. That is a seperate discussion. But reading the article I was concerned by the following quote.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland said it was "delighted" with the result. Spokeswoman Alyson Thomson, said: "The Church of Scotland General Assembly has tonight set out a clear stall - it is a modern church for a modern Scotland.

"The commission is delighted that the church has, as Scott Rennie requested, taken an honest look at itself over the issue of sexuality and decided that the values of fairness, equality, dignity and respect are of more worth than those of ignorance and intolerance. "We are certain that this decision will be welcomed by the majority of Scots and certainly the majority of Queen's Cross parish in Aberdeen who overwhelmingly demonstrated their support for Mr Rennie."

It is interesting that they were called in to pronounce their "blessing" on events. Am I right in thinking that the "moral compass" in this article is an unelected secular government-appointed QUANGO?

Is the traditional evangelical position regarding practicing homosexuality now officially "ignorant and intolerant" in the eyes of government?

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

More on Prayer

Last night at cell group we were worshipping using the song which asks "send revival start with me".

The "promises of old" really caught my attention, as in the most part they allude to 2 Chronicles 7 when following the dedication of the temple God appeared to Solomon.

The phrase picked up within the song comes from this part
14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.
I was encouraged by this passage and what it says about how we relate to God and about He relates to us. It gives an example of how we can live out a relationship with the God who encounters His people like this.

  • They come as His people
  • They come called by His name
  • Humble themselves
  • Pray
  • Seek His face
  • Turn from their wicked ways
  • He will hear from heaven
  • He will forgive their sin
  • He will heal their land
  • His eyes will be open
  • His ears will be attentive to their prayers
The status, responsibilities and promises are in many ways the same for us now.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Healing Ministry Part 2

Having just discussed what I don't think "healing ministry" should look like in my last post, I am thinking of what it should look like.

My great sadness is that some of the weirdness seen in this area actually puts people off seeking healing. The same can be said of spiritual gifts. Weirdness from the fringe of the Church makes people throw the baby out with the bathwater. We have to find a way of seeking healing that is scriptural, safe and with integrity.

Then I read this post by Scott Taylor, from Reading Family Church where Terry Hotchkiss from my Church in Shrewsbury went as part of the Frontedge initiative on Sunday.
Granted not everyone who is prayed for is healed but we are seeing people regularly healed of various ailments. The more we pray, the more God does through his people by the power of his Spirit. You would think that this would be enough to rejoice about. However the real rejoicing came when we rang the bell three times. There were at least three responses to the good news of Jesus on Sunday morning with three more still to be identified. Each time we rang the bell we put up a cheer to God not a short cheer, but a long sustained one, joining with the celebration of heaven over each of these three sinners saved.
This is where I think I want to be in terms of seeking God for healing.
  • Healing ministry is within the context of the pastoral support and accountability of Church life
  • The bible is honoured and ministry comes out of that. Not diving into ministry and hoping the scriptural foundation catches up
  • The speaker is known personally to those running the event, or their ministry is proven amongst people they trust
  • Follow up is about the whole person into the future: not just hands up on that day
  • Healing is discussed in the context of Jesus and salvation: with the focus on Jesus and salvation. "If you leave here with only one thing: leave here with faith in Jesus."
  • Prayer for healing is part of the over-arching witness of the Church. It is not just a specialism (although God may use one person in the area more than others), not a single focus issue, not something "extra" tacked onto the edges of Church life. Rather, as we, the body, gather and seek God we see Him work. It is something we "share" not something we "consume". Something we participate in as part of a Church body, rather than something someone "else" does to us or for us.
and that is why I am confident to continue to push on in this area, and consider it a blessing to work alongside Terry as God continues to use him to open up this aspect of ministry.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Healing Ministry

If God does heal, why are so many famous Christian "healers" a bit weird? A bit off centre?

This helpful post from TC Robinson caught my eye, as did the squabble that followed it in the comments.

I started to write a comment and thought I would turn it into a seperate post here. I have made this point before, but I think it needs to be taken hold of more and expanded.

God heals. Driscoll’s definitions are workable & helpful:

"The gift of healing is the ability to call on God to heal the sick through supernatural means for the purpose of revealing God"

"Those with the gift of healing trust that God can heal the sick and pray in faith for the physical restoration of those in need. These people see healing as a sign that God uses to reveal his power to people so that many will come to believe in Jesus. People with this gift do not see someone healed every time they ask God, since healing is something that God alone decides to do"

I think a major issue is that some Christian media needs to make a return to pay for itself.

Ministries often have to pay for slots on the TV channels themselves.

That means certain media channels get filled up with prosperity gospel / word of faith kind of stuff because frankly, that is where the money is.

Someone just teaching on and praying for healing does not pay the bills.

Those who teach on healing and ask for $20 a month from their “prayer warriors” make the business model work. You have to send $50 to the prayer room in Jerusalem to pay for the half hour slot you are watching. The only way people are going to be gullible enough to do that is if they are offered hope of a healing or a financial blessing in their life.

The whole “Sow into the revival” model is essentially “Please help keep us on TV” and does not appear to bring much revival beyond what is on the stage that night.

Then, in order to validate the ministry, and in turn keep the business model flowing, it is inconvenient to wait and see if healings are medically verified. People want to get that many people through the meetings per night that they don’t want to stop and ask for a name. Just wave your crutches if you think God has healed you.

Then thanks to the web suddenly every christian mystic from all corners of the earth can email in and claim their puppy has just been raised from the dead, those get read out live on air, and the weirdness bar is raised and accountability dies in a ditch of self promotion.

So that is my issue with “healing” ministry. The business model of some Christian media actually promotes false teaching, lack of accountability, poor medical evidence and a requirement / desire for money.

In our Church there is a lady who is in remission from an untreatable and terminal condition. She is now almost totally free from a condition she should have died from, having received prayer for healing. I believe that is by God’s sovereign hand. We are waiting for several months before making anything public to honour her, her doctors, and God, and to fully test the healing.

There is another young woman in hospital as we speak. She is not well at all, and there have been set backs in her medical treatment. We are praying for her, caring for her and the whole family.

That is a major reason I want to see prayer for healing practiced within a safe environment such as a local Church with local accountability rather than the travelling roadshows which sweep into town and only several months later does it become clear it was more of a circus than a revival.

None of this is aimed at particular ministries or Christian media channels. It is a general suggestion. What a tragedy it is that Christians are put off the area healing, a sovereign work of God, because they think they are going to be bombarded with requests for money, off beam theology, strange manifestations and that there is so little follow up for those who are not healed.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Calvin on Prayer

As we continue our series on the sermon on the mount I have just preached on the Lord's Prayer. I came across this quote from Calvin, and I thought it was great.

"Believers do not pray with the view of informing God about things unknown to Him, or of exciting Him to do His duty, or of urging Him as though He were reluctant. On the contrary, they pray in order that they may arouse themselves to seek Him, that they make exercise their faith by meditating on His promises, that they may relieve themselves from their anxieties by pouring them out to Him, in a word, that they may declare that from Him alone they hope, and expect, both from themselves, and others, all good things."

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Mission Shrewsbury

There was a Mission Shrewsbury United Service on Sunday evening.

I am recruiting a "taskforce" of different Christians from several different Churches in the town to look how we can build mission focus and capacity into our Churches through:
  • working together
  • sharing resources
  • training
  • bringing people/ministries to the town who can help us develop
The website is now up and running at

It is really exciting to see (so far) 8 churches from 4 different traditions standing together with a desire to reach our town and explain the gospel of Jesus.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

It is all about relationship! NEGATIVES

In my last post I post the question: is it really "All about relationship"?

There are many positives. But is it always good? What do we need to watch out for?

5 potential negative outcomes of being "all about relationship"
  • Are we sometimes too confident in how deep our relationships really are? Do we actually know each other all that well? There is a massive difference between being "friendly" and being "friends". Aside from the pleasantries are we really that close? Does time / geography allow it? Would you even be able to tell if I was sad? My friends know before I tell them.
  • If things are "all about relationship" does that restrict progress and growth? For example: if I want to recruit a team I would probably do it from people I know. I would ask people I know if there are people they know who would be suitable. Are we missing quality input from people in our Churches because the right connections have not been made to get them to places or situations where they can be used fully? Are there job descriptions and application processes to fulfill roles in conferences and on teams? Or do people just invite who they know? Is that person the best person for the role? How would we ever know? Does that risk it becoming more important to be called / gifted or "well known"? Does that lead to people actually trying to "make themselves known" in a way that is based on ambition?
  • How do you get involved? Our Church has a guy who with his wife leads a youth work of over 60 teenagers in a congregation of 300. Lots of other Churches in the town have young people coming here on fridays. How do we release a tremendously able communicator / leader who has built a large town wide youth work in a small town like Shrewsbury when the fact he works 60 hour weeks as an I.T. project manager over 80 miles from home means it is almost impossible for him to be "known", even though he did two years serving a major Newfrontiers Church in Capetown, South Africa? (His wife does not like to do public speaking, for those following a parallel discussion about gender). Is there a danger the criteria swings in favour of 1) Church leaders 2) Full time staff 3) people who have done Newfrontiers training in the UK because it is "all about relationships"?

  • Does it look a bit like the Mafia from the outside? That is entirely tongue in cheek! We need to be careful I think, that "one big family" does not exclude new people. It can feel a bit "in house" to those outside. It is possible to get very comfortable within Newfrontiers and does that cause our relationships with other Church groups to stagnate? We have all we need "in house" so why bother? I am not saying that happens, I am saying it is a potential pitfall. If we only do our training, go to our conferences and preach in our Churches then are we only part of our body of Christ or the body of Christ?

  • Do people actually need to be "friends" first? Does that mean we only work with people we are "comfortable" with? Some of the most exciting and dynamic teams have people who are very different working together. Would we ever get to that stage if it was "all about relationship" because that "relationship" is only ever going to be built up by working together and we won't necessarily choose to work together because we don't have relationship? Is that a vicious circle? Do we end up pooling similar people and not celebrating diversity because of the cost of building friendship across cultural / personality / demographic factors?
  • Oops, I thought of a sixth! When it goes wrong, if there are differing views, if there is an issue that causes a divergence in the future, then it is all the more painful because relationships were close. Especially when it feels like people you thought were "friends" turn against you. That is the criticism I hear from people who have left Newfrontiers. Closeness is a double edged sword, expectations are higher. On the one hand lots of things can be sorted out via friendship rather than committees and tribunals. On the other hand if things reach the point of no return in a situation everyone feels let down by each other and that is painful.
I don't think any of these are majorly prevalent issues we face, but I do think it is good to discuss the way some of these processes work. I am thoroughly blessed to be part of a movement of Churches which is "all about relationship" but I thought it was worth raising some of the potential issues.

Friday, 15 May 2009

It is all about relationship! POSITIVES

That is almost a motto for newfrontiers.

Who we work with regionally is not just about geography, rather "it is all about relationship"

Who oversees a Church is not determined by a random decision from above, rather "it is all about relationship"

The make up of Church, small groups, team ministry, eldership teams, is "all about relationship".

Last weekend I was talking to my friend Dom and he used the exact expression, "It is all about relationship", and it got me thinking: is it? I mean really, is it? Is it always a good thing?

There are lots of positives. Here are a quick five.

5 positive outcomes of being "all about relationship"
  • People are beings, not roles or structures, but beings.
  • Working together is not based on systems or hierarchy but on mutual respect and love.
  • Permission is not demanded by "the system" but given by the friend.
  • Decisions from "above" are rarely out of touch because people remain close to the action. If you are genuinely friends with those on the frontline, the ivory tower does not insulate you from reality.
  • Loyalty is earned not demanded. Respect is shared not faked. Unity is developed not imposed.
Being "all about relationship" is a major factor why I love newfrontiers. I love the people. I can use the term "we" not as a company salesperson who "represents" an institution but "we" as in being part of a group of friends.

In turn Martin Charlesworth says "we" amongst us, as he represents another group of friends, the UK regional leaders. One stage past a group of friends (National team, I know 4 of them personally) is our regional team. We meet fortnightly for worship and prayer, with twenty or so friends representing 7 churches. Then our eldership team meets weekly, the three of us. So from the "top" of the system to me, on the frontline, there are three groups of friends, and I am part of two of them.

Maybe it really is "all about relationship"?

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Off to Wem-ber-ley!

Shrewsbury won, with a goal two minutes from time, in our play off second leg against Bury, and then had a man sent off in extra time, but did not concede, so it went to penalties, and we won!

The play off final, against Gillingham is on May 23rd. The date of my friends wedding. Esther and I are doing the prayers.

Ah well.

Been a cracking 8 days to be a Salop fan: winning away at Dagenham to overtake them and qualify for the play offs.

The depths of despair to lose to Bury in the home leg to a disastrous own goal.

Rescuing the game with two minutes to spare in the away leg, man sent off, winning on penalties: just genius!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Before I am 40 (Part Two)

Matt Hosier linked to a good article by John Maxwell for young leaders here which is based on this.

In it there is a little nugget of 10 things to do before you are 40.

1. Know yourself
2. Settle your family life
3. Determine your priorities
4. Develop your philosophy of life
5. Get physically fit
6. Learn your trade
7. Pay the price
8. Develop solid relationships
9. Prepare for the future
10. Find purpose for your life
Time for a bit of self analysis. I am aged 30, so have a decade to hit some targets, but why wait? I have already looked at the opening 5 in this post. Now it is time for the last 5.

6. Learn your trade
  • I have sat in elders meetings since the age of 23 and became an elder aged 29.
  • I have served with Mum's & Toddlers, Senior citizen's, Cell Leadership, Cell oversight, Youth, Children's work, Words projection and more.
  • I have preached on Sundays, Christian unions, Alpha Course, Freedom in Christ, Blowing your Cover and more.
  • I don't see being a Christian leader as a "Trade" as such but there are not many "jobs" in Church life that I have not been willing to do myself, from clearing up sick to preaching at a Carol Service.
7. Pay the price
  • I gave up a graduate job with Accenture to follow my call into serving the Church
  • I am learning what it means to help people through the hardest times, and the personal cost of other people's pain
  • I am also learning how to take harsh criticism from people who are projecting their own sadness onto you
  • I am continually trying to lay down my desire for more stuff, for status, for wealth, to be comfortable and am choosing a generous way of living, while trying not to be being jealous of people with more than me
8. Develop solid relationships
  • Friendships matter. I have some real friends. Some proper "ring them up at 3am because your car broke down" kind of friends. The kind who stick up for me and tell me when I am out of line
  • Esther is my key friendship: if our friendship is not secure then there is trouble ahead
9. Prepare for the future
  • We have a plan. It involves kids at some stage if possible. It involves jobs, especially Esther qualifying as a Social Worker in about two and a half years
  • We are open to God to open new opportunities for us
  • We are looking for a future here that does not just look like what today looks like, but presses into what God has in store in an exciting way
10. Find purpose for your life
  • If I had any more "purpose" at the moment I think I might pop!
  • What I need is time to fulill the purpose, wisdom to prioritise the purpose and grace walk the journey

Friday, 8 May 2009

Reaching Men: Part Two

Interestingly enough: many of the observations charicatured by people like Mark Driscoll about men in the Church, appear to be pretty spot on.

I wrote about my thoughts back in December here.

Looks like some research backs up many of the statements made, as published by the Telegraph here.

All they needed to do was mention football and it would be spot on.

No, of course I don't mean "all men". Just lots of them.

Interestingly it feels like sometimes it is people who get very upset about much evangelical thought regarding homosexuality for the sake of "inclusivity" in the Church, who then get offended by churches seeking to "include" men who have other preferences, in areas like worship style and decor.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Joy in my heart!

Yes, Shrewsbury have just qualified for the play offs!

Over 1300 salopians went down to Dagenham to watch a game where Shrewsbury had to beat them, in order to overtake them and grab the final play off berth.

Shrewsbury scored two good goals and then hung on for an hour (which felt more like 8 hours) to finally win 2-1 and clinch 7th place in league two.

Now we play Bury home and away for a trip to Wembley against either Rochdale or Gillingham.

We sold over 4000 tickets for our home game on the first day of sales, and have sold 1500 of the 2200 for the away leg in just a day and a half.

The prostar will be rocking on Thursday night, but I won't be there. I have already arranged to go and see the comedian Dave Spikey at Theatre Severn. I will however being going to the away match on Sunday.

Should we progress that far I will miss the final because of a friend's wedding.

How weird is that? I make the two away games but not the final or the home leg? Thank goodness Sky TV will fill in the blanks for me!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Before I am 40

Matt Hosier linked to a good article by John Maxwell for young leaders here which is based on this.

In it there is a little nugget of 10 things to do before you are 40.
1. Know yourself
2. Settle your family life
3. Determine your priorities
4. Develop your philosophy of life
5. Get physically fit
6. Learn your trade
7. Pay the price
8. Develop solid relationships
9. Prepare for the future
10. Find purpose for your life
Time for a bit of self analysis. I am aged 30, so have a decade to hit some targets, but why wait? I will start with the opening 5.

1. Know yourself
  • On the one hand I am extrovert, relational, a bridge builder, communicator, humorous, sensitive, outward looking, fun, relaxed. I am an ideas person, creative, thinker, problem-solver.
  • On the other hand I am sometimes a bit too outspoken, and need to ensure my humour is not allowed to go too far. Friendships need to be more than just having fun, and my sensitivity means I need to develop in my ability to confront and to challenge, as well as receive criticism. I don't mean fair words showing thing I could do better, but I mean the unfair criticism you get from people with an agenda.
2. Settle your family life
  • Married to a wonderful woman and building what we both want to be a strong and healthy marriage. Not at the kids stage yet so one step at a time.
3. Determine your priorities
  • Relationship with God, encounter with God
  • The kingdom of God expressed through the local Church
  • Sharing, giving, empowering. Justice, trade justice, green issues, depth of relationships, hospitality, having fun.
4. Develop your philosophy of life
  • Big question! Love Jesus, worship Him, preach Him, follow Him.
  • Still in incubation stage of how that translates to the rest of life.
5. Get physically fit
  • Five a side once a week, squash once a week, gym once or twice a week.
  • Got a weight target and on course to reach it by the summer.
  • Lowered my cholestrol: blood pressure etc all fine.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

An ecumencial put down!

There is a Good Friday march of witness every year in Shrewsbury, with every conceivable type of trinitarian Church represented.

This is a direct quote from the programme given to all marchers:
Many thanks to all who took part, whether giving the talk, reading, singing or praying. I have tried to balance the genders, denominations and age groups. Also the hymns, after much heart searching, include both old and new, both traditional and evangelical. Any complaints may be addressed to the Lord, therefore, since it has all been laid at His feet!
What a brilliant deflection!

The programme itself was full of fabulous statements.
Thank you to Richard for bringing the cross, and Fred for carrying it. Also to Steve for banging the drum and the Salvation Army for providing it.
Absolute genius.