Thursday, 16 September 2010

5 things I love about Steve Chalke

Just a spot of housekeeping before I start this one to frame what I am saying.

I don't agree with him on the subject of penal substitutionary atonement. Not only do I disagree with what he thinks, I also regret deeply the manner in which he expressed it in his book "The Lost Message of Jesus".

That said, I do agree with him on other ways of viewing the atonement, which have a clear biblical basis and pastoral validity.

When all else is stripped away we both believe that Jesus "died for our sins".

We are brothers who will enjoy eternity together.

With that housekeeping done here are 5 things I love about his ministry.

Steve Chalke is an activist who has managed to fit in a bewildering array of activity! Some Christians can be accused of naval gazing. Others of having a "small God" mentality. Still others are risk averse. Steve has channelled righteous anger into activity, and has reached for the stars for the sake of his Lord. As I have said before, if some of his critics had a tenth of his track record the criticism would sound less hollow. I think James (faith without works is dead) would love him.

The "Kingdom" of God is a bigger than us. The extension of the Kingdom reaches beyond our ecclesiastical wineskins and touches all from the rulers and leaders to the oppressed and needy. Steve's ministry with Schools, Stop the Traffik, and all that has been in between takes a wide definition of the Kingdom of God and seeks to bring it about. His focus is not about bums on seats on a Sunday or other things that can deflect a pastor from seeking after the Kingdom of God. No, it is bigger than that, and has led him everywhere from the sofa of GMTV to the negotiating table at the UN.

Before Keller et al made "changing culture" a cool thing to get passionate about Steve Chalke was campaigning, organising and launching all manner of initiatives. The gospel, and the works of the those who bear the gospel should be good news to people. Those people may be in bondage to people traffickers or Aids victims in Bombay or living in a shanty town in Rio or prostitutes in Peckham. We have political freedom which we can use. We can affect the arts and media. We can challenge politicians. We can shape education. We can work together and showpiece all the ways the Church is blessing its local community. Well when I say "We", Steve seems to have.

People I know who have worked for Oasis Trust, or volunteered with Oasis trust, know for certain the value of what they are doing. Steve has an ability to impart vision and get people moving with him in an extraordinary way. It is not a personality cult: because it is not just about him. It is about the kingdom, and action, to shape culture.

I know loads of people who have been abroad with Oasis Trust. For my age group it was a real badge of honour: part of your Christian upbringing. 6 months in Zimbabwe, 12 months in Brazil, forget Thailand or picking fruit in Australia, there is a world out there that needs the love of Jesus being shared with them and your time matters.

All in all, there is much to love and honour about Steve's ministry. "Stop the Traffik" may yet mean his legacy within the UK Church scene is similar to that of Wilberforce or Shaftesbury. Can we actually change a generation? Can we shake off the yoke of oppression? Can we mould the view of society from lack of understanding to visible opposition to human exploitation?

Let's hope so.

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