Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Submerge

I truly inspiring day yesterday thinking about the missional church and about reaching those who we middle class types like me in the C of E so often fail to. So very encouraging and convicting in equal measure.

Sometimes you meet people with such an incredible story you know the things you learn from them are going to remain with you. John Hays founded Inner Change: A Christian order among the poor. He was compelling and helpful on so many levels.

He started by telling us that there are three stories

1. Your story
2. Your communities story
3. The biblical story

You need to know how to put them together and this he told us always takes time.

We must, he said, be people 'who nail our feet to the ground' that God has called us to which was a phrase that resonated with all of us.

John is the author of Sub-merge which he said his friends tell him that when you read it, it usually ruins your day.

In the afternoon, a great fellow called Mike Hewitt from NFI came to tell us about planting churches in the East End. He too has a remarkable life and story and we learnt much about what it means to do church in a white working class context.

His insight about the current way we do church- even planting- being unbiblical was fascinating.

Today: The Church gathers disciples who do evangelism (in some cases)
NT/Acts: You do evangelism which gather disciples to produce a church

We have flipped the model which explains rather a lot of our current outcomes he suggested.

Sandwiched in the middle we heard about Mission Year.

All different stories but all such a blessing.

I did a book review of The Shaping of things to come and interestingly had one of its quotes about 'story' on my heart all day which seemed to fit where God took us.

'Ivan Illich was once asked what is the most revolutionary way to change society. Is it violent revolution or is it gradual reform. He gave a careful answer. Neither. If you want to change society, then you must tell an alternative story he concluded' [Page 32]



A lingering thought that John offered was be sure to talk to those who are old in our communities. They know the story best out of anyone but few take the time to ask, seek them out and learn it. It was fitting I concluded my day with my amazing friend Audrey [82] who is coming to lead our Quiet day. She's going to teach our people about intimacy with God through Scripture, solitude and hearing God's voice.

We all have a story to tell and a story we are writing.

It's too early to tell if mine will be a good one.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Train and release

Talking about the Missional Church today@ St Mellitus

"The reason the UK church is not effective in mission is because we are not making disciples who can live well for Christ in today's culture and engage compellingly with the people they meet.....Jesus has a "train and release" strategy, while overall we have a "convert and retain" strategy" Mark Greene 'Let my people grow'

Tim Chester, Total Church, Page 35

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Question

"So here is the question to test where you have been sucked into the world's distortion of love: Would you feel more loved by God if he made much of you, or if he liberated you from the bondage of self-regard, at great cost to himself, so that you enjoy making much of him forever?"

Don't waste your life

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fatal success


“As I write this, I am fifty seven years old. As the months go by, I relate to more and more people who are young enough to be my sons and daughters. You may be in that category. I have four sons and one daughter. Few things, if any, fill me with more longing these months and years than the longing that my children will not waste their lives on fatal success.

This longing transfers very easily to you, especially if you are in your twenties or thirties. I see you, as it were, like a son or a daughter, and perhaps in these pages I plead with you as a father who loves you dearly, or the father you never had. Of the father who never had a vision for you like I have for you-and God has for you. Or the father who has a vision for you, but it’s all about money and status. I look through these pages and see you as sons and daughters, and I plead with you: Desire that your life count for something great! Long for your life to have eternal significance. Want this! Don’t coast through life without a passion”

Don't waste your life, Piper (which you can also download a PDF of here.)

Saturday blog-sweep

Kathy Keller on reasons you should not marry an unbeliever

This went thru my mind

Eight ways to approach scripture

Sex marriage and fairytales

Swimming through jellyfish

Five ways to find a mentor

1password

Ben Witherington on the death of his daughter

Sentamu's pitch for Canterbury

Famous theologians on creation and So what are you going to try for God today? (via Dash House)

If you are a leader why are you investing all your time in the wrong people?

Activism

My measly opinion

C S Lewis and the power of story

Friday, January 27, 2012

For such a time as this


We say we are too busy to pray. But the busier our Lord was, the more He prayed. Sometimes He had no leisure so much as to eat (Mark 3:20); and sometimes He had no leisure for needed rest and sleep (Mark 6:31). Yet He always took time to pray. If frequent prayer, and, at times, long hours of prayer, were necessary for our Saviour, are they less necessary for us?

Author Unknown
The Kneeling Christian, circa 1930, ch. 7.

Prayer is so necessary in these days. 

Recently I caught some of a program called Party Paramedics which both shocked and saddened me- a world in my own story I am all too familiar with. It gave me yet more reason and burden to pray for this nation and the urgent mission of its church.

Last night at Kingdom Come a band of saints numbering 300 or so from across this city and further afield gathered. I took a crowd and we prayed with others for our leaders, the church, church planting, schools, students, prisons and specifically at the end for North Korea. 

We heard about Revival Run which was new to me and of all the things that God has done through a small church in Ramsgate and the prayer movement that it has unleashed.

Pete Greig author of the simply wonderful Red moon rising, which I commend, spoke of the necessity of prayer. 

The next gatherings are on 29th March and 28th June @ HTB .

This is the film we watched together about North Korea but be warned its content is quite intense. I found it particularly striking given my father was a POW in Korea from the age of 18-21. It  is a little out of date given the recent death of the father but as we know he has been replaced by the son. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Severe discipline

"In the morass of subjectivity came a Professor of Literature from the University of Virginia, E D Hirsch. Reading his book Validity in Interpretation during my seminary years was like suddenly finding a rock under my feet in the quicksand of contemporary concepts about meaning......

....My debt at this point to Daniel Fuller is incalculable. He taught hermeneutics- the science of how to interpret the Bible. Not only did he introduce me to E D Hirsch and force me to read him with rigour, but he also taught me how to read the Bible with what Matthew Arnold called "severe discipline." He showed me the obvious: that the verses of the Bible are not strung pearls but links in a chain. The writers developed unified patterns of thought. They reasoned. "Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord" (Isaiah 1:18). This meant that in each paragraph of Scripture, one should ask how each part related to the other parts in order to say one coherent thing. Then the paragraphs should be related to each other in the same way. And then the chapters, then the books, and so on until the unity of the Bible is found on its own terms.

I felt like my little brown path of life had entered an orchard, a vineyard, a garden with mind-blowing, heart-thrilling life-changing fruit to be picked everywhere. Never had I seen so much truth and so much beauty condensed in so small a sphere. The Bible seemed to me then, and it seems today, inexhaustible. This is what I had dreamed about in the health centre with mono, when God called me to the ministry of the word"

Don't waste your life, John Piper

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A bit and a bob

I have been listening to The Rend Collective's Home Made Worship and think their version of 'Be thou my vision' is stunning.

If you wondered if God is glorious and majestic then do watch this video to convince yourself. It will keep you from having too high an opinion of yourself and our tendency towards our little self-promotion projects which can't really compete with creating the universe :)

Furtick has got lots of hassle for bringing Christians from different tribes together to preach the gospel at the Orange Code Revival. These are the supposed 'best in class' at preaching to lost folk so why not have a listen via the podcast and see if you agree.

I don't know if you noticed..... but I wrote a bit about preaching last week. David Fitch has views on y'man.....

Bethel have gone all acoustic with The Loft Sessions which I am enjoying.

As I am now trying to do three jobs here is some helpful advice on 'How to train your church'.

Really challenged by Don't waste your life which I seem never to have got around to reading. Better to read it sooner rather than later as the title probably suggests.

Cool office pod (via Ben Armett)

If I can include a list of books that someone liked you know I will. Buy one and tell me what you think.

At the St Mellitus 'Church Planting Program' we've been debating Attractional vs Missional and Reggie McNeal has some views (via J R Briggs).

Love David Keen for keeping the C of E's blunt sword a tiny bit sharper by showing us the numbers evacuating the church (one example he tells us of a diocese, unnamed, that saw a 20% decline in both decades averaging at 36%!) Now even though there is no 'performance managment' as we used to call it in the real world I presume their was a Bishop but one may ask what on earth was he doing? I feel for him poor chap and other Bishops - it must have been so very depressing or perhaps no one told them until too late that people were no longer coming to church.

A few reflections on a few strategic questions that might  have stemmed the tide that I have no idea if the 36% decline winner asked. You don't really have to be a seasoned missiologist to work this out. Who did he ordain? Did he have a mission strategy at he outset? How did he deploy his resources? How did he spend his time? What efforts did he make at evangelism and did he ever think of recruiting evangelist's to lead churches? Did he have a church planting strategy? Did he ask for any help or expertise from others who may have the knowledge or experience he lacked? What were his staff doing? Did he allow anyone around him to give him truth or did he believe his own propaganda? Did his fellow Bishops not pull him up on things or one of the Archbish's? Did he teach, visit and encourage his clergy? Did he train his clergy? Did he have any focus on youth and children and if so what was that? What books was he reading and who was he engaging with to help stem decline? Did he call his people to fasting and prayer? Did he monitor men's attendance at church? Did he engage the learning of those churches that were experiencing some growth in his area and ask them how they go about it? I could go on. All the while during that period we talked almost singularly about gender and homosexuality at our synods. Don't get me started or I will have to write another one of those long essays :) More detailed numbers from David here and he concludes:

"My fear is that bishops/synod/etc. will look at these stats and say 'oh hurrah, things are getting better'. Well, they are, in the sense of a man who has one leg amputated one week and only has to have half a leg amputated the following week."


Monday, January 23, 2012

Don't waste it.


A quote from this:

“You don’t have to know a lot of things to make a huge difference for the Lord in the world. But you do need to know a few things that are great and be willing to live for them and die for them. People that make a difference in the world are not people who have mastered a lot of things, they are people who have been mastered by a very few things that are very, very great. If you want your life to count you don’t have to have a high IQ and you don’t have to have a high EQ, you don’t have to be smart,  to have good looks, you don’t have to be from a good family or from a good school,  You just have to know a few basic, simple, glorious, majestic obvious unchanging  eternal things and be gripped by them and willing to lay down your life for them which is why anybody in this crowd can make a worldwide difference cos it isn’t you it’s what your gripped with.  One of the really sad things about this moment right now is that there are hundreds of you in this crowd who do not want your life to make a difference all you want is to be liked maybe finish school, get a good job, find a husband or a wife a nice house a nice car, long weekends, good holidays, grow old healthy have a fun retirement die easy no hell.
And that’s all you want.
And you don’t give a rip whether your life counts on this earth for eternity and that’s a tragedy in the making. A tragedy. “

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Prayer

"The greatest answer to prayer is more prayer"

Samuel Chadwick quoted in Fresh Wind Fresh Fire, Page 29

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Politeness

When I was at Vicar Factory my college principal used to say that the mark of what it means to be an Anglican is 'politeness'. It was not something he worried too much about :) We English don't like people who are not polite. We like nice people in the C of E who have manners, write thank you letters, smile and shake our hands as we leave church. We won't have listened to a word the Vicar preached (rightly as very often it is sadly utterly unmemorable), will criticise them over our Sunday lunch and pick to bits all their inadequacies. At least they think we think that are doing a good job. Incidentally, my friend who is training for ordination has had NO instruction in preaching. Amazing- none, nada- not a jot.



I have been fascinated after posts about A blog post for Brits by Mark Driscoll and this interview that evangelical Christians have been so offended by his recent comments about the British and our preachers (that would be me then). He is nothing if not controversial adding to this his book Real Marriage which is causing a stir he is now preaching through. We evangelicals, in variety of the crowds I run with often harp on about the short-comings of other tribes or people or neighbouring churches or those within the institution of the C of E.

It seems I am good at dishing out a bit of criticism (or helpful observation as I prefer to call it) but rather poor at receiving it.

I asked a crowd of church leaders this week a simple question.

"Have you seen anybody saved? Are people coming under the new birth as a result of your preaching or indeed of any preacher you know?"

There was silence. There was a bit of testimony to a salvation or two coming in dribs and drabs but they were all as a result of people coming to Christ on Alpha. Some of these were leaders, in UK terms, of 'big churches' by our standards. But they are big churches where seemingly very few are actually coming to repentance and faith in Christ. There are of course exceptions but these are often non-C of E.

Many churches run good programs and courses and lots of prayer ministry that Christians love to consume but there is not a culture of, nor expectation that, people will be converted and moved to repentance under the preaching of God's word.

No one asked anyone to church to listen to me preach last Sunday (that might be because it was gift day!) but I should ask why. Why do people not want to bring their friends to church? (There are of course a host of reasons) In fact, not one person had asked anyone who does not yet believe in Jesus to come to church with them to hear the gospel and encounter God through his people and presence. Now, happily by ten minutes in there were a few faces but none that anyone had actually invited.

Why is that?

The gospel is surely the call to repent and believe in Jesus Christ.

Does it matter that people believe in Jesus?

Like really really eternally matter?

There isn't a 'nice' way to preach repentance and faith and too often perhaps the truth is I fail to. Faith yes but repentance is a bit of a tricky one. Sin and stuff. Keller and others do manage 'nice' but Driscoll is Keller born in a trailer park with a drink-soaked Irish family line and a non-Ivy league pedigree. He unquestionably has issues -anger being one- but he's working on it he tells us. This may however take a while. Smith-Wigglesworth would have been a sight on You tube though wouldn't he?

Tell me how you nicely tell people that they are utterly separated from a holy God who is unable to look for a moment upon their sin and as a result they are destined for eternal hell. In burning love, praise God, he sent his Son and through him and him alone salvation is offered but only through his blood soaked body on the cross where he died for the sins of the world absorbing God's wrath. To receive this, you must repent and humble yourself and accept the Lordship of Jesus Christ, die to self and live out the rest of your days for his glory (and not your own). This will inevitably, if you do it wholeheartedly, cause you trouble, suffering and difficulty and for some, even death.

What Driscoll perhaps is asking is is this message being preached with courage, love and power in this land in a way that is resulting in significant numbers of non believers coming under the new birth as a result of the preaching.

Let me be frank. The preaching in the pulpits of the C of E is in the main dreadful. The diet in most churches is an eight-minute dull platitude that will very often not even make mention of Jesus or the Cross, let alone call anyone to repentance. Now don't get me wrong- the gospel is being preached but in only in a few select places is it resulting in conversion (Soul Survivor being one and Mike P among others is a man of great courage but that is a festival not a church)

In contrast, there is a church in Seattle which saw 800 people repent, believe and be baptised on Easter day alone listening to this sermon.

I know there are cultural factors and the States is more 'Christianised'

It takes a bit of guts to preach like this though. Trust me I am a preacher.

They were converted it seems under the power of preaching.

I have been debating with a few fellow preachers and friends and my thoughts have narrowed to the question, "Is the Lord with him?". If he is then it's worth hearing his comments on this land and if not then I can carry on business as usual. Why are so so many listening to him and finding blessing through it? They (men and women) tell me so everywhere I go. Only today, by HS appointment having heard of this man only on Monday I met an Acts 29 planter who is setting up near me as I plant in Barnes. Movements move and this one seems to be moving whether we like it or not.

I, with a small crowd of men went to listen to my critic preach in the Albert Hall and all of us were moved to tears of repentance. He is not my tribe (being what one might term on the 'Hot Prot' team) nor is he my nationality but he does seem extremely anointed and is being used powerfully by God. The same could have been said of John Wimber. Let's agree fiery with 'the anointing' is something amazing but fiery without anointing is just aggression and cold lovelessness. There are a few of those 'without' religious types in UK pulpits and they are both scary and not bearing much fruit. Parking that, am I pleased that many people are coming to Christ through him? Am I excited that as a result of this movement a church is being planted in West London? Or am I not excited and if not why is this? We, grown men were all blubbing and shaken to our cores. Fact. He didn't say nice things, but he said true things that our hearts acknowledged as true it's just no one had had the courage to say them to us so directly with the Spirit's power. Ask the men who attended with me and the profound impact it had on them. We were diverse in age, occupation, life experience and circumstance but were all deeply moved.

Now the thing is this.

Most don't like my critic for good reasons that they will tell you but I for one am taking time to think whether or not he might have a some truth to tell me. Albeit one that now lands squarely at my door.

One word of caution. Is it not that the old wineskin rarely embraces the new? RT Kendall said as much to New Wine Leaders eight years ago preaching from Hebrews 13. I remember that hotel room in Coventry as though it were yesterday for lots of reasons. I seem to remember spending a great deal of time on the hotel carpet under the Spirit but that is a discussion for another time.

"May we never be a network who misses out on a move of God because it does not start with us" was the concluding call.

It would be a bore if just when we have all decided as a church to be egalitarian God goes and flings a loud-mouthed complementarian with a bible in his hand into our midst. He seems to know said bible backwards and is confusing us all and making us think through our doctrine and its relationship and impact on both the culture and the church. Blast. God will have habit of being God sometimes even when I disagree with him. Or it's not God and the things I think are right in which case I can ignore it-phew. Or it's not a major deal either way which is the easiest option- Hybels seems to be doing OK?

Decisions.

Darrin Patrick shares some thoughts on his journey on this very thorny one, author of The church planter, which unsurprisingly is a read I have checked out. This was the tinder box issue at the end of the interview. Most evangelicals in the UK thirty-five years ago would not have been the least bit troubled by Driscoll's theology of church leadership but today it's a whole other matter as the Premier interview showed so starkly. Now this might not be a move of God and Driscoll's doctrine might be crackers 'in the UK climate' and passe in which case stand down everyone and get on with whatever you're up to.

The Premier interviewer, like so many in our pews, had neither a bible in his hand nor any doctrine that he was happy to be pinned down on. He does seem a jolly nice fella though. I can bet you he knows the words to 'How Great' by Chris Tomlin. In contrast, members of Mars Hill have to read this book (which is thick, thorough and has hundreds of footnotes) in order to join the Church, that would be everybody- no read no join. He taught ten hours of sermons on the book in hour long chunks. I will say that again. People are coming to be taught the doctrines of the Christian faith from the bible in their droves for ten hours of intense theologically dense scholarly teaching. Hang on a minute, wasn't the title meant to say 'Might Believe'- surely that is a mistake? Actually 'Should' in Driscoll's world, and arguably the bible's, really does mean 'Should'. A thought. How many of your people can articulate their doctrine of the trinity (Chapter one) and where can you find similar teaching from a UK pulpit? Starts to explain a little of the reason why 30m and counting sermons have been downloaded. I would wager few would not find some merit in Driscoll's brilliant teaching on Mary and Martha and find it's truths helpful even if you don't like the style or the man?

At some point that nobody quite noticed, perhaps as everyone fell over in 1993 under Toronto, some people/churches stopped reading bibles and teaching its truths and as they woke up started listening only to worship albums. Maybe it is time for everyone who calls themselves an evangelical to pick up their bibles again and to start reading them- really reading them. Have some evangelicals in the UK simply now only got that written on the outside of the tin but poke around a bit and the liberal reality appears? At least those of a liberal mindset know they are liberal and say so, unlike your man on Premier who I don't think knows quite what he thinks from the sounds of it and certainly couldn't justify it from the bible. But might it be even though it's not very convenient, culturally insensitive, intellectually superior and it goes against what we've agreed in the C of E at a synod meeting, oh and it's not very English, God might be in all this somehow.

I am reading Ezra. When we studied it at IME my dear liberal pals went puce in horror and disgust and on any level it is quite a moment. You know the bit when God tells everyone that they have married people and they weren't supposed to. He can do that you know- being God n'all. Shocking stuff. All very messy and clearly has a cultural context (we love saying that about the difficult bits in Scripture) but wouldn't it be a thing if when every one actually started studying Scripture they realised they have made some wrong decisions and now have a right old mess if they wanted to unpick them. We'd look like complete idiots if we found out we were wrong (Josiah comes to mind) and what's more we've passed all those resolutions in our synods about gender and human sexuality but while doing so our society's gone down the materialist, social and secular swanny and the church has disappeared? Did you see that Kodak has gone out of business. Extraordinary. Massive business that didn't know what its core proposition was and hence failed to survive. That's what happens when you forget what your core proposition is.

He's right on one thing certainly- twenty something men are not exactly smashing the doors down of my church- let's be really honest about that one. They are getting smashed in the pub, rioting across London and leaving their girlfriends fatherless for other women and fathering more children or did you miss that part of last summer?

Question. Can we disagree and beg to differ but at the same time see the good in this movement and even find some grace to encourage it for the glory of God- even when the theology, culture and style is so much not our own? Now, you might say he needs to do they same to us. Perhaps he does and maybe he too needs to be a bit (a lot) more graceful and generous. All the children have to learn to play nice in the playground, but every once in while the big kid whoops someone. We've been whooped. He needs to say sorry, be nice and work out how to get along with the other kids, even if they are different and he knows his bible a lot better.

But here's the dilemma. God in his grace has raised up preachers down the years who have been enabled by the power of the Spirit to see significant numbers come to faith. This can happen through one or two individuals (Spurgeon who was weird looking, Whitfield who was squinty eyed, MLJ who was rather depressed and grumpy, Evan Roberts who was a bit crazy and Welsh and John Stott who had a few quirks my friend tells me- he shared a house with him as a Curate) that then go on to impact a whole nation. In the States MLK (by all accounts v. imperfect) and Billy Graham come to mind.




Of course there are people who can teach the bible in England. It's silly to say otherwise. But the real question I am being asked as a British preacher is what impact is this bible teaching having on this land and on God's church for its transformation. Is the gospel we preach causing unbelievers in a hugely secular godless culture under the power of the Spirit to come to repentance and faith in Christ.

If not, then should us preachers not take a fraction of a moment to be asking why not? It doesn't mean we adopt his style to do so would be insane and end in tears but should we not be praying for an anointed preacher to take our unsaved friends to listen to so they can get saved?

Of course by God's providence a preacher may be raised up or maybe as many have said this is not the English way. Its only American's who like personalities, we do things small and quiet and fresh expressiony and I think in some ways we do. Maybe all is well in the garden (but we know it is not which is what Why plant churches? speaks to)

Maybe, just maybe, people are not being converted (which my very small sample tells me in my circle  they are not) because my gospel is a bit doctrinally flabby due to my lack of courage. I can't speak for others they will have to work that out before the Lord but I know I could do better if I was less concerned about my 'niceness'. I know that to show some in this culture the truth of the gospel would lead people to think that I am not 'nice' and would require some 'non-nice' truths that would over time cause me some mighty trouble. It is possible to be not very nice yet very loving- the greatest of loves being sharing Christ and seeing that love burst forth in a new salvation life. We so easily settle instead for non-missional Christian huddles of comfort, bible study groups, and perhaps, for the keen, a Christian festival. Driscoll is right we fly in someone who is preaching and teaching thoughtfully about hell, the Crazy love stuff and living radically with great impact on those who do not yet believe but doing so somewhere else. Have any of you actually read the Chapter 4 of Crazy love on the lukewarm?



When one gets offended it is for two reasons usually:

1. There is hurt because what has been said is wrong and need not be listened to. In this case that may be so I don't yet know.

2. Or there is something to hear because what has been said has some truth but we don't want to face it

The offence has come it seems chiefly because the person who offended us isn't very cuddly and didn't say it very nicely. He shouts sometimes, he looks different, he is a big personality, he is steeped in the word of God, he says offensive things on occasion that he often regrets and he gets angry about sin and sinners yet crowds of people are flocking to him and 30m sermons have been downloaded, 400 churches planted and 175k are in the movement. Oh, and this has happened in fifteen years. He needs softening by the Spirit of course and is very imperfect, as am I. The only thing he isn't currently doing is eating locusts and honey :)

Maybe he is nasty, nuts, a loon or maybe he is a prophet to our land and for our day.

Most think the former and I am just exploring a case for the latter.

The frustrating thing about prophets is they don't actually give a hoot what we think. They couldn't care less.

How frightfully rude.

Steve Furtick is a man whose story I have followed.

He is currently embarking on something called Code Orange Revival Meetings. His idea is to gather twelve of the best preachers in the English-speaking world that he could convince to come and he's beaming their sermons live currently in order to see as many converted as possible. Preachers including T D Jakes, Craig Groeschl, Christine Caine and James MacDonald have been asked and they are from a variety of tribes but for the good of the gospel they have laid their differences aside for the greater good. Now there's an idea. Furtick also invited Matt Chandler and this is I think an example of the type of preaching Driscoll is talking about that is seeing people converted and that the blog post was asking for in the UK. This is the sort of preaching that is not it seems spilling out of the pulpits in our churches and doesn't get much of a laugh. It won't get you liked but it does see sinners repent and believe by the thousand. This is after all the task of the preacher.



Why is this sort of preaching not English and not what I do? Because it's not nice. Because there is a cultural gap - yes I know that. Yes, there is much good happening here in the church I know I know. Yes, there are lots of nice Vicars. And yes, there are lots of views about fame seeking American's and the nasty cult of church celebrity. But dear preachers let's be honest - preaching like this takes a bit of metal and wielding the bible with such confidence and skill is quite something. The question I am asking myself and you will have to make up your own mind if you are a preacher is am I preaching with enough courage and is there something in all this for me to hear? Perhaps if I had more courage while remaining me and more preparedness to not be liked but to bear the cost of the cross then perhaps more may be born again under my preaching.

When you witness the whooping crowds at the beginning of Chandler's preach (he is so exceedingly rude- shockingly so at the start) and then contrast this with the hushed tones at the end of the sermon you have some sense of what the power of the gospel preached looks like.

It is why Furtick called Matt Chandler and didn't call me.

By the way, I will happily do it for Furtick next time if he asks but my real hope is that next time he might at least have one of his telephone numbers that starts +44 and maybe I pray that number may be yours?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

George Whitfield offers response to critics of British preachers

“Let my name be forgotten, let me be trodden under the feet of all men, if Jesus may thereby be glorified…let us look above names and parties; let Jesus be our all in all…I care not who is uppermost. I know my place…even to be the servant of all.”


George Whitfield

Monday, January 16, 2012

Too much cowardice in the British Church?

Now in recent days there has been a bit of a broo-ha-ha brewing due to some alleged things an American pastor from Seattle said about British bible teachers. As I am both British and a preacher it is clearly worth some food for thought.

Mark Driscoll has written a post called 'A Blog Post for the Brits' in response to his statements being taken out of context. In the meantime, it might be helpful to listen to what Mark Driscoll and his wife actually said and it is possible hear the interview they gave to Premier Radio.

The Tall Skinny Kiwi has some initial thoughts.

I have views that I will try and share soon if I have time and, for what it's worth, I think he may have a point or two but you decide.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Is religion OK?

There has been a bit of debate about the difference between religion and the gospel in recent days because of this video which has gone viral (10m and counting). I was reminded of some thoughts about religion by Tim Keller which I have posted before but it seems timely to do so again.


RELIGION: I obey-therefore I’m accepted
THE GOSPEL: I’m accepted-therefore I obey.
RELIGION: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity
THE GOSPEL: Motivation is based on grateful joy.
RELIGION: I obey God in order to get things from God
THE GOSPEL: I obey God to get to God-to delight and resemble Him.
RELIGION: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or my self, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life
THE GOSPEL: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.
RELIGION: When I am criticized I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a ‘good person’. Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs
THE GOSPEL: When I am criticized I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a ‘good person.’ My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ. I can take criticism.
RELIGION: My prayer life consists largely of petition and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment
THE GOSPEL: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with Him.
RELIGION: My self-view swings between two poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel insecure and inadequate. I’m not confident. I feel like a failure
THE GOSPEL: My self-view is not based on a view of my self as a moral achiever. In Christ I am “simul iustus et peccator”—simultaneously sinful and yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad he had to die for me and I am so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time. Neither swaggering nor sniveling.
RELIGION: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work. Or how moral I am, and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to ‘the other
THE GOSPEL: My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for His enemies, who was excluded from the city for me. I am saved by sheer grace. So I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. Only by grace I am what I am. I’ve no inner need to win arguments.
RELIGION: Since I look to my own pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols. It may be my talents, my moral record, my personal discipline, my social status, etc. I absolutely have to have them so they serve as my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, whatever I may say I believe about God
THE GOSPEL: I have many good things in my life—family, work, spiritual disciplines, etc. But none of these good things are ultimate things to me. None of them are things I absolutely have to have, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despondency they can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.
(via TULLIAN TCHIVIDJIAN )

Saturday, January 14, 2012

For the pod: The church is the hope of the world

I remember where I was when I first heard Bill Hybels preach about his passion for the church. His phrase 'The church is the hope of the world' has been with me ever since. I had missed him coming to speak at our church in the early 1990's (something of a theme sadly at the time) but I listened to him later on a cassette in my car. If there is one man alive who has an ability to a caste vision possibly better than anyone else then it might be Hybels. He is in tears by the end of this talk, as I nearly was as I drove up the M3 this morning. If you want a reminder of what it is we are all supposed to be doing and a kick to get on and do it then listen to this.

Saturday Blog-sweep

Does Jesus hate religion? and do also read this gracious response.

Driscoll thinks English preachers are cowards

A thought on the Iron Lady

The first thing you do when you sit down at the computer

13 ways to raise grateful kids

Why church planting and How to plant a Church (via Dash House)

A letter from Martin Luther on Spiritual Warfare

Descriptive vs prescriptive 

What the Elephant Room tells us about evangelicalism


Friday, January 13, 2012

Be wide-awake

"Be diligent in action. Put all your irons into the fire. Use every faculty for Jesus. Be wide-awake to watch opportunities, and quick to seize upon them."

Charles Spurgeon


(via What's Best Next who has a book on productivity coming)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Everyone gets to play

I have been thinking a bit about 'Vocation' and chatted recently to someone about what it means to be ordained.

I love Wimber's phrase that 'everyone gets to play'.

At a time when the Church is finally starting to awaken (as David Keen observes) to its call to mission and growth this needs I think to be matched but a rethinking on Vocation so that so many more can be empowered to get involved to pray, serve, create, innovate, risk, fail, have courage, lead initiatives and gather others into the advance of the Kingdom in this land. This will only happen if religious professionals in dresses (and me not in a dress:) can get out of the way and let the folk in the pews get on with it.

Tim Challies writes more on this in The intrinsic value of what you do (Yes you!) which I hope will affirm you if you run a business or are a mum, a doctor, a teacher, a student or any other occupation that might brand you as 'the laity' and thereby somehow as less holy, less connected to God or less able to be effective for the Kingdom.

It's quite simply poppy-cock to think that I am more connected to God than you (assuming you have repented and believed in Jesus).

God seems in my experience to use those who are hungry for Him, those who seek Him, those who wait on Him, petition Him and love Him.

'Many are called but few are chosen'

Matt 22 v 14

Who are chosen?

Are the chosen confined to Wesley, Whitfield, Wimber, Gumbel and Pullinger or indeed to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Clergy?

No. Those who are chosen are those who quite simply desire to be and can't help themselves. Those who by the Holy Spirt at work in them yearn for it and are desperate for it.

By grace he is at work in some and that is a work of power.

It's interesting that the context of Matthew 22 is a directive to the religious professionals of the day.

I am one of those so must never say I haven't been warned.

So seek Jesus, spend time with Jesus, ask Jesus, listen to Jesus and just see what happens.

YES YOU.

Finally, I share a MLJ quote from the Sermon on the Mount which goes some way to clearing up once and for all the misconception that any Christian is more 'special' than anyone else. The wonder of mercy and grace is the fact that you are a Christian at all.


"Read the Beatitudes, and there you have a description of what every Christian is meant to be. It is not merely the description of some exceptional Christians.
I pause with that for just a moment, and emphasize it, because I think we must all agree that the fatal tendency introduced by the Roman Catholic Church, and indeed by every branch of the Church that likes to use the term ‘Catholic,’ is the fatal tendency to divide Christians into two groups—the religious and the laity, exceptional Christians and ordinary Christians, the one who makes a vocation of the Christian life and the man who is engaged in secular affairs.
"That tendency is not only utterly and completely unscriptural; it is destructive ultimately of true piety, and is in many ways a negation of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no such distinction in the Bible. There are distinctions in offices—apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors, evangelists, and so on. But these Beatitudes are not a description of offices; they are a description of character. And from the standpoint of character, and of what we are meant to be, there is no difference between one Christian and another.
Let me put it like this. It is the Roman Catholic Church that canonizes certain people, not the New Testament. Read the introduction to almost any New Testament Epistle and you will find all believers addressed as in the Epistle to the Church at Corinth, ‘called to be saints.’ All are ‘canonized,’ if you want to use the term, not some Christians only. The idea that this height of the Christian life is meant only for a chosen few, and that the rest of us are meant to live on the dull plains, is an entire denial of the Sermon on the Mount, and of the Beatitudes in particular.
We are all meant to exemplify everything that is contained here in these Beatitudes. Therefore let us once and for ever get rid of that false notion. This is not merely a description of the Hudson Taylors or George Mullers or the Whitefields or Wesleys of this world; it is a description of every Christian. We are all of us meant to conform to its pattern and to rise to its standard."

Religion vs Jesus


Thanks to my pal Peter for this one.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Does anyone care about the line if they love the product?

I met with my little team of sinners to try and craft what is known as  'A vision statement'.

You know the sort of thing that if you get those ten words right will birth you a mega-church.

I failed spectacularly I'm afraid.

So here is my thought for the day.

Can you be a church without your 'brand' having a tagline?

The other day, I realised Carlsberg has changed its copy-line from 'Probably the best lager in the world.....'  to 'That calls for a Carlsberg...'

You like me may not have noticed and 'probably' don't care.

The line has changed but the thing is the beer is still the same.

Psalm 34 v 8

Until I think up 'a line' my holding position is this:

 'Love Jesus'.

That'll just have to do for the time being.

"The biblical fact is that there are no successful churches. There are, instead, communities of sinners, gathered before God week after week in towns and villages all over the world. The Holy Spirit gathers them and does his work in them. In these communities of sinners, one of the sinners is called pastor and given designated responsibility in the community. The pastor's responsibility is to keep the community attentive to God. It is this responsibility that is being abandoned in spades'

Eugene Peterson, Working the angles, Page 2

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Home-made worship

A few in our church are currently rather keen on The Rend Collective Experiment. Their new album is called Home-made worship so do check it out and this is a bit of an introduction.




How to get a bit sorted out for 2012

If you are like me the New Year is a bit of a time of resolution and sort out. We all tend to have fresh  intentions to get things done.

I am covering a Sabbatical at my Church, doing some part time study at St Mellitus and planning a church plant so I used the time between Christmas and New Year to have a bit of an organisational overhaul.

1. Getting things done

This is about getting a process in place to capture all the things you need to do. Reading Getting things done is helpful or you could alternatively read these posts on productivity.

You no doubt have the plague of email to deal with and also have snail mail. I can't describe how helpful it has been the read this called How to get your email inbox to zero every day. This is the simple principle of only having three categories for your email:

1. Answer
2. Hold
3. Read

There is similarly helpful advice on How to get the mail

There is also a post on How to set up your desk

2. Getting things sorted


A couple of friends have been heavily evangelising me about Evernote. At last I have now got myself Evernoted thanks to Michael Hyatt's superb set of posts called How to organise for maximum efficiency- check out all the related other posts. It is well worth the time and effort to work through this and comprehend the power of this amazing application. One point of note - you don't need to buy a scanner you can simply use 'Scan-drop' and then you can achieve the thing we all hope for which is paper-less-ness.

Hope that's a help folks and especially for those of us who want to spend less time doing email, filing and paperwork and more time talking to people about Jesus and making disciples.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

For the pod: Healing and deliverance

It's good to be back after a break and I even got the odd complaint that I had been away for too long. Blogging, like anything else, is something you have to watch and for me it is helpful and necessary to lay the blog down every now and then and regroup.

Many years ago I listened to a speaker who in his opening talk said he was 'just a fat bloke on his way to heaven'. His talks during that week captivated me in so many ways and so did all the charismatic goings-on around them. The man's name was John Wimber who sadly died of cancer not long after I heard him teach. I have had much happen in my life since those early personally messy Christian days. I am now a little more rooted in my understanding of the gospel (which was a word that mystified me or to put it better I failed to fully grasp in my first Christian years) , of grace and, most importantly in my story, of justification by faith alone. Freedom came through this revelation rather than through speaking in tongues or experiencing physical healing both of which I had.

I have been discipled and encouraged by many along the way which is crucial, I've read a book or two, I've even been to Vicar Factory but in truth I never ever want to grow up out of my 'first love' experiences of the Spirit. Newton has some good insights into what growing actually looks like. What I have been mulling on since listening to this talk are three important words: Gospel, Spirit and Kingdom. Too often it seems, we divide into 'Gospel' people or 'Spirit/Kingdom' people and the truth is we are to be both but being such a people is the challenge.

If Wimber is remembered for anything it might be for the rediscovery of 'the third person' of the Trinity in the Church of England (among others) on the back of what is sometimes described as the charismatic renewal. For the history of this and the curfuffle this caused Martyn Lloyd-Jones Volume 2: The fight of faith tells the story, although Murray seems to commentate through seemingly disapproving cessationist eyes. MLJ came to his own conclusions on the Spirit in his work Joy Unspeakable which is when some think he lost the plot by advocating a second blessing, while others think he finally found it. You can hear the whole fascinating MLJ story and the debates that raged told here. Sadly, the church remains terribly divided over these matters to this day.

I will always remember Wimber's lovely question that he asked his pastor described in 'The way it was' (and I paraphrase) and it has always stuck with me,

"When do we do the stuff?" said John

"The stuff?" his Pastor replied confused

"Yes, the stuff I have been reading in the Bible (he had been reading Acts)"

"Oh, we don't do the stuff any more"

"Really? Why's that? Surely God is the same yesterday today and forever"

We read this at the beginning of Acts which Wimber took to be the story of what following Jesus was meant to be look like:

'....I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach....He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the Kingdom of God' Acts 1v 1-3

The rest, one might say, is history. The remarkable things happening with Alpha and at HTB, St Mary's and through the Trent Vineyard and its movementNFI and many many other churches would not be happening without this remarkable and humble man's influence (accepting of course providence and all that :) If you want a read on this then 'The Way in is the Way on' is a good place to start as is Simon's incredibly helpful book on the Holy Spirit called God inside out for some grounded theology and helpful explanation of all these, at times, complex issues. I also commend Arnold's Three crucial questions about Spiritual Warfare for more good teaching on this issue. At the outset, I do think robust teaching, pastoral wisdom and insight is so important in an arena where too often things can end up in a car crash. Being a 'charismatic with a seatbelt' is a good thing because without it one can get nastily thrown through the windscreen when the wheels come off.

I listened to John Peters, a C of E Vicar, give what he describes humorously as 'a rant' about the importance of the Spirit. If Wimber made a disciple or two, and he did, then John Peter's is one of his most vocal and effective in this land having seen literally thousands pass through the church he planted in London. When it concerns matters of the Spirit it is good to be in safe hands and John has been blessed with those although, as you will hear, he is very honest about his failings. This talk called Healing (4th December 6.30pm) contains incredible testimony to two divine healings and is remarkable in its force and passion to communicate what John, for one, feels can so easily become a forgotten or ignored truth. Francis Chan in fact entitled his excellent book on the Spirit 'The Forgotten God'. The testimony alone caused me to sit up straight- one of someone who regained sight in one eye and another of someone healed of a congenital heart condition. What follows then is John's explanation of why each of us should pursue the things of the Spirit and in many ways it is his 'one' sermon that he has given hundreds of times. I do admire John's fiery zeal, courage and no-nonsence unreligious manner that has got him I imagine into some Driscolesque hot water down the years.

There is much food for reflection here. I try to navigate a course my old Vicar directed me on of being a man of both the Word and the Spirit. Sadly, it seems too often we all more easily land with a bias to one rather than the other. This sermon is a call to take note and listen up if you are more cautious on these matters, not least because if these testimonies be true you will be forced to do so (you can either see or you can't so it is surely pretty easy to prove or discount?) We must all work out our theology of healing and you have one even if you think you don't. This talk will at very least leave you with a few things to ponder as it has me and do please dig into the Scriptures anew. If you are already pursuing the things of the Spirit and the charismatic is not new to you, this may be an encouragement or a prompt to pursue the Spirit even more earnestly and with greater faith (Ephesians 5:18).

For an alternative angle on this, I also commend P J Smyth's talk called Suffering Sickness and Healing which my pal, who also happens to be a Consultant surgeon, said is quite the best he has ever heard on this subject of suffering and healing.

For any interested, St Mary's are running a training day called Third Person: How to pray for people in the power of the Spirit on Jan 21st that I am attending with a few others from our church and you might like to come along.

If you want to dig deeper into some teaching on the Kingdom then do check out these.