Tuesday, 22 March 2011

A nice start

You know a Sunday meeting is going to go well when it starts like this.

A 24 year old woman walked up to me and gave me an envelope.

Inside was her membership application.

This was someone who our cell group had been praying for over couple of years.

Someone who had done to Alpha Course and found Christ.

Someone who had found the Freedom in Christ course a helpful start.

Someone who has joined a midweek group and made many friends within the Church.

And someone who we baptised in January this year.

Who wants to become a member.

Now that is how I would like to start every week!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Evangelists Summit 2011: Richard Cunningham, UCCF

If you had told me ten years ago that the head of the UCCF would come to a newfrontiers conference I would not have believed you. I may even have contacted your psychiatrist.

If you have read this blog over time you will know of my mixed experiences in the university days that left me both greatly blessed and carrying bitterness, which I have had to repent of.

He started with an excellent session looking at Paul's intereactions through the book of Acts and how that can help equip us to make our message relevant to those we encounter. It was meaty, funny, and relevant. Then came the big moment, an open Q&A.

It is fair to say that newfrontiers with its very high regard for the local Church has not always found it's interaction with the CU movement on the ground very easy due to the level of time pressure the Christian Union can put on students, alongside it's role as the "only" missional group on campus. Add in the charismatic / non charismatic dynamic and attempted shared witness, and sometimes it can be hard.

Nor have newfrontiers Churches always got it right from our end, at all. Richard's clear definition of why UCCF is not actually a "parachurch" movement was deliberate, and required.

It also appears that through Terry Virgo's attendance at New Word Alive and becoming part of the advisory council of UCCF, that things might be changing.

So the first thing I want to say about Richard Cunningham is that I think the guy has got guts and I respect him for that. Yet as he came, he was not coming into the lion's den to be quizzed on this and that, what he found was a group of evangelical, conservative, missional Churches wanting to know how best to make it work.

The questions flowed, the answers flowed, all very straight, full of grace and a seminal moment in the ongoing relationship between these two bodies, a line was being drawn in the sand and new opportunity opening up.

And then I asked my question. I had been considering it well in advance. I had the paragraph that had so offended me printed out should I need it. I wanted closure. The hands continued to rise and so I waited, and waited, then he pointed at me and said "I will finish with this one".

Oh no; you don't want to be the angry guy at the end who throws in a googly when everything thus far has been brilliant. Ah well, I am here now. The time has come.

My question was fairly straightforward: my time in the CU movement was good at a local level but the UCCF stuff I experienced was very difficult because of the opposition I faced as a Charismatic. When my wife went to Uni the situation there was even more of a war zone and I had to counsel several people who had been caught in the cross fire. Now a girl from our Church is going to that university and asked me about the CU and I felt I had to tell her to not get involved but to just find a Church for her own protection. I don't want that to be the case, so I am asking have things really changed and can I recommend the CU movement to people.

It was one of those agonising moments when you realise that your question says more about you than it does about anything else, and my voice went half way through, meaning I sounded both confused and emotionally vulnerable. At least there was a level of authenticity in that because I was confused and emotionally vulnerable!

And then he answered.

Firstly, he did not fudge anything. It does not always work out and he cannot do a "Tony Blair" and offer to solve everything.

Secondly things are changing, several UCCF relay workers are based in newfrontiers Churches, as an example.

Thirdly, he expressed his own opinions on certain things which resonated greatly with how I felt.

So he did not blag an answer. He did not apologise for something which is nothing to do with him. He just shared his heart. Of what it could look like if it did work. We all want it to work.

And then just slipped into a sentence, while looking at me, referring directly to me, in answer to my question, he said "brother".

That was the head of UCCF calling me brother.

That was my answer.

In the documentary about Take That getting back together Robbie Williams makes an astonishing admission when discussing the ongoing difficulties between him and Gary Barlow. He basically said; all the hurt and rejection he had held onto, and the way he allowed it to shape him negatively, was basically because above all else he just wanted his approval. He wanted to know he respected his contribution. He wanted to make him proud. And feeling the lack of that was what pushed them apart.

That resonates with me.

I don't want a political answer. I don't want an apology, or a false promise. I just want to know I am not left on this side of the drawbridge and that you approve of me.

He called me brother. And so it is as brothers that we will face the future.

And that changes everything.

Without wishing to plagiarise Rob Bell, love wins.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Evangelists Summit 2011: Dave Smith, Peterborough

Dave Smith has built an outstanding church in Peterborough.

This is not some distant American mega-church pastor in a distant city.

He is one of ours.

In a provincial city.

Gathering 1600 on Sundays, in a massive multi-purpose building with a vision to reach many, many more people.

They baptised 160 new believers last year alone.

"God has a greater passion for our mission than we do" opened up proceedings, and then 10 principles from Acts 1-2.
  1. Harvest Vision (Acts 1:8b)
  2. Love for the City (Acts 1:8b)
  3. Passion for His Presence (Acts 2:42)
  4. Stable & Changing Leadership (Acts 1:24-26)
  5. Power for Purpose (Acts 1:8a, 2:4a)
  6. Preaching for Life Change (Peter's Pentecost preach!)
  7. Biblical Discipleship (Acts 2:42a)
  8. Relational Unity (Acts 2:44)
  9. Financial Generosity (Acts 2:45)
  10. Large Celebrations / Mid sized communities / small groups (Temple courts, homes etc)
Right the way through question after question flowed. Practical insights. Good ideas. Bits of wisdom and experience, all gently expressed within humility, humour and a genuine sense of being a good bloke.

And then he prayed.

As he prayed the mood changed.

Rather than the relaxed, down to earth guy who had been speaking to us, you saw a warrior, and maybe in those few brief moments I learned the most.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Welcome to Hell!

Well that is what it felt like! As the opening two sessions of the Evangelist's Conference were Greg Haslam defending the doctrine of hell!

It is not my intention to just regurgitate what he said, not least because it would not contain any great surprises, unless you're the kind of person who gets surprised that anyone believes in hell anymore. It was certainly robust, although took me a little while to change gear in my head from car banter on the trip down to this.

What greatly impressed me about Greg's teaching was that he gave the most compelling, cohesive and clear explanation of the annihilationist viewpoint that I have ever heard. A view he does not hold. I feel uncomfortable when people put up a daft caricature of a different position and then undermine it. He did the opposite. Had he stopped right there you would have thought that was his position, until he moved on. I respect that, hugely.

But anyhow; the practical application was the effects of your understanding of hell on the urgency of your evangelism.

Using 2 Corinthians 5:9-21 he brought out the following points relating to Paul's ministry.
  • The fear of the Lord was more important to him than fear of man (v9-10)
  • The love of Christ was what compelled him (v14)
  • This led to great compassion for people (v16)
  • The offer of life: v17-21 is our message
So we need to be clear about we do believe.

And if we do believe in any sort of seperation from God, and we do love people, and we fear God not people, then maybe we will have a little more urgency in how we express our faith.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Evangelist's Summit 2011

The Newfrontiers Evangelists Summit is the best conference I go to.

That is not meant to be critical of anything else. The Brighton Leaders conference has been a real blessing, The newfrontiers younger leaders conference is brilliant.

But this is something else. The quality and range of speakers is exceptional, the size personal, and the outcome invigorating.

I had fun last time

Evangelists Summit
Evangelists Summit Introduction
Evangelists Summit: Who are "The Evangelists"
Evangelists Summit: Phil Moore
Evangelists Summit: Michael Ramsden
Evangelists Summit: Mark Bailey

But the last 3 days have just blown me away.

Greg Haslam of Westminster Chapel, Dave Smith of Kingsgate Community Church in Peterborough and Richard Cunningham, Director of UCCF is a stellar line up that still leaves me slightly scratching my head.

Add in meeting several really interesting new people, alongside catching up with some old friends, and it has been in faith terms what a microwave is to food preparation. It didn't last very long but has left everything piping hot.

I'll be blogging some reports and perspectives in due course; but suffice to say, if you ever get anywhere near an invitation to this conference then bite their hand off.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Rob Bell's new book.

As with everything Rob Bell does the blogosphere is in overdrive. Blind defence or handing him over to eternal damnation are equally repugnant to me.

Besides, I quite like him.

And then, just when I thought no-one could find an adequate response, in came Liam, who nailed it.

As I commented there:

"A brilliant, balanced post.

The people who don’t “get” Rob Bell just don’t get it.

The people who run off with his ideas and end up in fairyland just don’t get it.

And yet I am nervous he may just have gone off the edge this time, and hope at the very least this book ends like the Italian Job, rather than the Guns of Navarone"

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The law

I was listening to radio five live on the way to work this morning and heard Harriet Harman defending the recent decision to not allow a Christian couple to foster due to their views on homosexuality.

I am not making any particular comment on that case here, but my ears pricked up when I heard the esteemed politician declare

"In this country the law overules the scriptures", or words to that effect.

My reply is fairly simple.

"No it doesn't."

The end.