Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Ever heard the gospel read in Chinese?

It’s very moving. It did something within me.

As I looked around our joint house group meeting I saw nine different nationalities I thought about the Great Commission and wondered how and when we the 'church' lost the significance, the profoundness of this great missional statement.

James F Engel - famous for his scale of evangelism - talks about the "great omission" it’s got me mulling!? I’m not so certain that it represents the ecclesiastical mandate for world domination that I was led to believe.

I think I am finding depth in the statement within the diversity that Poplar is.

...But I’m not sure!

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Andy church and today.......

Andy popped into our service today. He is already looking so much better. He connected with loads of people and his eye's even had the hint of a sparkle.

All round good day!!

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Andy...another grace starved life...

It was his hands that I noticed. They showed the scars of being badly burnt, scalded. Then the side of his face – not as bad but damaged. Then I noticed his eyes. There was a weight to them. No light. No sparkle. Andy was in our charity shop looking for a change of clothes – I was covering the morning - as our volunteers couldn’t make it - wondering what Nicky Gumble was doing today. I wonder if he was working in a charity shop somewhere? (first sardonic thought of the day!!)

As we talked I discovered he stayed in a Salvation Army Hostel in Stoke where my friend Trevor Green worked. "Hey you know Trev?"..."Course one of the best Andy replied smiling!" We talk some more and he and his mate leave saying they’ll be back to pay for the clothes. “Yeah – whatever guys” (second sardonic thought of the day!!).

Andy came back today. We sit and chat. Then he says could we talk privately. "I need to talk to you about my life". For the next half an hour he tells me about his grace starved life. About his quest to find his parents. About his son that he has never seen. About his depression. About how one day he was so low he set fire to himself. About how now he had a criminal record of arson. About how no hostel or employee would have anything to do with him because of his record. About how he needed to share his life with anyone so that he didn’t feel so low. About how he felt he could trust me.

"Do you fancy coming and painting our new gate?" This guy needs to feel needed. This guy needs family – I hope he does come back – says he’s coming Sunday.

Who knows?

Thursday, June 24, 2004

'Primitive' - For Mission that’s Not Glamorous; Glitzy or Glossy!

One of the frustrations and tensions of ministering within a small vulnerable inner city church is that for the missional life of the church you depend on volunteers. Our youth work; work with the elderly; charity shop – pretty much everything would grind to a halt without the people that God seems to direct our way as volunteers.

Nevertheless at certain times our missional life seems more vulnerable. Despite careful planning over the last few years in terms of Youth Work we’re on the knife-edge. This is where I remind myself that we’re involved in 'missio dei' and not 'missio gordei'. It’s God’s mission not mine! But we have a responsibility to look out for those who want to venture in from the leafy suburbs who might benefit from some gritty inner city mission with kids from our local estates.

Hence we’re re-introducing "Primitive – for mission that’s not Glamorous; Glitzy or Glossy!". We ran this project 5 years ago and had a great summer. We’re praying that we may uncover some people who want to make a difference – by demonstrating kingdom values with us.

'Primitive' - For Mission that’s Not Glamorous; Glitzy or Glossy!

your chance to: - experience youth work; the inner city and ‘no–nonsense’ mission

Opportunities to volunteer and get involved in evening sessional youth work at Poplar Salvation Army’s Paradise Zone Youth Centre are available from September 2004

Why not come and make a difference!

Details from Poplar 0207 987 9405 - Kerbey street - poplar - e14 6AJ

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Party Church... 'for the uninvited' [now that's a party!?]

Seems that there is a lot of church talk in emerging circles equating church with party!

Maggi Dawn alludes to it. "Party church". We talked about it at BLAH, about enjoying church. I get the sentiments. I like the thoughts.

But the metaphor is not that new. "Once there was a king who prepared a wedding feast for his son..." (Matthew 22:1 ff) remember the story? "Now go to the main streets and invite to the feast as many people as you find." (Matthew 22:9. Seems the party didn’t kick off until the "uninvited became the invited".

I think I’m more bothered about the uninvited of society; those that don’t fit; those that are marginal; the insignificant; the don’t belong crowd– I feel more at home with these guys than with the ecclesiastical party boys and girls...

"We’re looking for a church - what can your church do for us, what can it offer..."

I look at two professionals sat before me and I wonder ...'what can we do for you?' ... 'what can we offer?'. We go through the motions of outlining our ethos, outreach and worship but really I think they need to find a "Party Church".

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Gardening...Church Growth and Pruning Shears

Over the years our garden has allowed three major bushes to dominate the skyline in our garden. I cropped the last two this weekend past. As I looked at the first once I attacked some month’s back I notice the new shoots and healthy blooms. It has done well for it’s pruning. It seems that not all growth is good growth. An over grown garden isn’t that attractive.

Is this transferable to the church? What does the over grown church look like? Is an over grown church attractive? Is it possible for a church to overgrow and go to seed?

"The themes of the Western dream are accumulating, up-scaling, status, power, consumerism, individualism and self-actualisation. The themes of the home-coming future of God are justice for the poor, peace for the nations, the redemption of the people of God, a restoration of community, a renewal of creation and a celebration of the shalom purposes of God for a people and a world. These are not two versions of the same dream. These are totally different dreams. One is born out of an ancient faith. The other is the product of an Enlightenment vision of western progress." (Tom Sine - Mustard Seed versus McWorld).

Perhaps the overgrown church is one that has become pre-occupied with "accumulating, up-scaling, status, power, consumerism, individualism and self-actualisation." At the expense of "justice for the poor, peace for the nations, redemption of the people of God, restoration of community, renewal of creation and a celebration of the shalom purposes of God"

To me it doesn’t matter whether the church is institutional, emerging or whatever – if concepts of true hope, true liberation, true grace, and mercy have been lost to 'an onwards to bigger and better' mentality it’s time for the pruning shears.

I look at the church in our post-Christian West and I wonder what happens to the lopped off branches.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Archie...multi-dimensional mission

I’m finding mission to be a multi-dimensional phenomena. It is not just about giver and receiver it is also about observer. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but it does to me and it is a reminder that mission is multi-dimensional.

You probably need to know Archie

my one wish

Things have got messy for Archie again. He won custody of his daughter only now to be facing another custody battle with the maternal grandparents.

We went to see him today to offer support; to hear his pain; to share his anxiety in the days ahead another court hearing. As we arrived what I thought was going to be a private affair went a little public. Two unknown neighbours arrive - Barry and Ahmed. We together hear once again the story of manipulation, the story of anguish and the story of fragmentation that is this family; the story that in a moment of weakness could allow alcohol to get a grip of his life again.

As I listened I wonder how appropriate it would be to pray with Archie in front of these two unknown friends. Coming to the conclusion that Archie’s needs were greatest I turned to his friends "I hope you guys don’t mind but I think that it is important that we pray for Archie"

We pray. We finish our tea. We say our goodbyes. We leave but Barry gets my attention – "when you come again can you come and see me? I think I need to talk to you."

"Barry of course I’ll be round soon…I promise"

Mission is not just about giver and receiver it is also about observer.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The destruction of destiny and fate...

Jacques Ellul notes:

"...once Christianity had destroyed the idea of destiny or fate the poor realised that … their condition was not inevitable" (The Subversion of Christianity pp 113)

I’m just trying to get my head around this one. Mission’s 'soteriological' role in destroying the idea of destiny or fate seems pretty significant to me.

" know life doesn’t have to be like this..."

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Ministry of Jumble…

Today I go to pick up some jumble. Mrs Smith. As we enter her complex I see a card of thanks posted up. "To everyone thank you for your support at this time of loss --- Mrs Smith from 82". We carry the bags from flat 82. As we leave I gently place my hand on her arm, "this can’t be easy for you Mrs Smith..." "He was a great man" she whispers.

I never thought the day would come when I would reflect on jumble – I don’t know what you call it where you are from but you know the stuff that people donate to charity shops, thrift stores. Used clothes etc… Whatever you call it I never thought I would reflect on it.

Once or twice a week I pop out in the van to pick up bag bin bags full of jumble for our charity shop. Is this the stuff of ministry? Of course I’m able to put a spin on it – 'solidarity with the charity shop workers'; 'never ask someone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself'; servant leadership and all that nauseous retching talk.

But recently I’ve discovered the ministry of jumble...

Yesterday Richard our Community Development Worker – popped out for 10 minutes to pick up some jumble. Two hours later we meet in the car park as he hoists the black bags out of the car. "It’s not just about the clothes is it..." he starts to tell the story of the two hour pick up from an elderly couple – desperately lonely, abandoned by society, wanting community. Richard has just discovered the ministry of jumble.

"...Mrs Smith don’t be lonely give us a call" She looks up for the first time, try’s to smile – "can I?"

Jumble opens doors...!

Little Brother Gordon is very proud...

I don't often post about my family but this week has been significant. Big Brother Philip got the OBE today in the Queen's Birthday Honours. Middle Brother Anthony was made Divisional Commander for The Salvation Army in London South East this week. Little Brother Gordon is very proud. Is that allowed!!?

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Observable Love

This popped up as I was preparing some thoughts...

"During the Italian occupation of Ethiopia in the days of Mussolini, Christian believers suffered considerable persecution. In his book, FIRE ON THE MOUNTAINS, Raymond Davis tells of the love demonstrated by believers for each other during this period of affliction, which in turn made a major impression on unbelievers.

For example, no provision was made to feed the prisoners in jail by the invading army. This was the responsibility of relatives and friends. Christians in the prisons had no problem, though. They were well cared for by friends and family. In fact, so much food was brought them by fellow believers and church groups that enough remained to feed the unbelieving prisoners also.

This observable love, vibrant though nonverbal, brought many to seek the Lord. Such love was previously unheard of. As a result, the word spread far and wide. Non-believers sought out believers to learn more about the Christian faith. When prisoners who had come to know Christ while in jail were released, they went back home and attended the nearest church."

- quoted in Flynn, L.B. (1981)You Don't Have to go it Alone(Denver, Colorado: Accent Books

Grace centred love seems the strongest demonstration of the kingdom of God there is. I look at the church and our pre-occupation with self and sometimes wonder... when did we lose sight...?

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Mr Singh...At Last.....

Good news when we returned from a weeks camping in the new forest. Mr Singh is now in the system. Years of being on the street have come to an end. Apparently he called by in our absence to say thank you. He scrubbed up well by all accounts!

Authentic Community...Church...Mission

Something to reflect on...

Gospel and our culture network represents community through mission and mission through community. The church is by nature a missional community – a community that exists by, in, and for mission. Community is not merely a tool for mission. Mission itself leads to the creation of an authentic community aka Kingdom of God in the spirit of Jesus.

McLaren, B. (2000) The Church on the Other Side

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

fulfilment of variegation...and Steph

Not the kind of afternoon I really wanted to spend. I had great plans on using a chunk of time trying to work on a course that I am leading in all things missiology! I had great plans on using a chunk of time trying to be creative, imaginative, inventive. I had great plans on using a chunk of time trying to alleviate a little bit of pressure that is slowly building in the juggling that is my life at the moment.

Steph hasn’t got much. But seemingly enough for local kids looking to finance their drug dependence to smash their way in to her flat and steal not just anything of value but anything. Not just once but several times. Steph is part of our church and has decided that enough is enough and she is moving. I get a call – "any chance of helping". What I say is not what is going on in my head. As I say yes I groan inwardly, bemoaning the loss of time that I’d carefully set aside.

As we travel between the two flats I think of a guy I met at BLAH! A guy totally dissatisfied with church and I wish he was with me. I heard his anguish. His frustration. His angst. His irritation at his perceived cosmetic superficiality of church life and I wish he was with me moving what Steph has. Steph who craves community. Steph who longs for family. Steph who needs stability, constancy, solidity. I wish he could join me in my journey as I learn there is an indescribable fulfilment in ‘offering and accepting help’ within a community of variegation. I wish he could have been there when Steph who for long periods of the time we have known her has been homeless looked at me and said "thanks…I guess that is what families are for - getting and giving help!"

And there’s me wanting to be creative, imaginative and inventive with my afternoon.