Saturday, October 25, 2008

Portugal 2008...

I must admit that a week in Portugal is looking really appealing.

A quick look at the 10 day forecast has cruelly raised our hopes that we might get some decent weather!

Back in a week!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Global Leadership Summit

It definitely took some getting used to which left me with a niggling frustration. WBC hosted the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit and while the material was good, exceptionally well produced and polished, it was achingly 2D! Not that I didn't benefit from the event, there was some great material to digest - the highlight being Gary Haugen of International Justice Mission.

Within the context of his work with IJM his session was about leadership based on things that matter to God rather than leading things that don't matter to God. Are Jesus and I interested in the same things? What is God passionate about..? were good questions to act as a kind of litmus test to motives for mission. Unsurprisingly his thing was to talk about justice at a international scale - you can check out the website for the exciting interactions. "If you say justice is not my thing - God says well I'm not your thing...!" as a conclusion left me with loads of questions and areas that I wanted to follow up.

I only made the first of the two days. Maybe you got used to the oddness of watching it all on the big screen. Maybe it became more natural to corporately pretend that all the speakers were there; to welcome the various speakers as they came to speak to us; to say amen to a prayer that Bill Hybels prayed 6 months ago; to engage with rhetorical questions; to humour with polite laughter someone who would never be patronised by our attempts to humour him!

There might have been times when I wished I had had the remote control to pause and go back, only once or twice would I wanted to Ffwd - in short a good learning experience but I couldn't but help wonder why they didn't put it all on youtube for everyone to get to see for free!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Believing in the Church...

I get a daily Henri Nouwen meditation arrive in my email inbox -usually always helpful. This was yesterday's and while it wasn't totally for me yesterday it was for some friends today.

Our faith in God who sent his Son to become God-with-us and who, with his Son, sent his Spirit to become God-within-us cannot be real without our faith in the Church. The Church is that unlikely body of people through whom God chooses to reveal God's love for us. Just as it seems unlikely to us that God chose to become human in a young girl living in a small, not very respected town in the Middle East nearly two thousand years ago, it seems unlikely that God chose to continue his work of salvation in a community of people constantly torn apart by arguments, prejudices, authority conflicts, and power games.

Still, believing in Jesus and believing in the Church are two sides of one faith. It is unlikely but divine!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bumping into the General...

The look was incredulous and unbelieving.

I had just introduced Eryn to General Shaw Clifton who we happened upon while walking home from school through the grounds of WBC. "...and who is this young lady?" the General asked me offering his hand to Eryn.

As Eryn shook his hand I introduced our youngest daughter. "Well I am very pleased to meet you Eryn" the General offered as his small entourage looked on. Thinking that Eryn didn't have a clue who this man was I thought I'd explain.

"Eryn - this is the General of The Salvation Army...!" Fortunately I think I was the only one to hear her incredulity.

"yeah right...!"

"yeah really....!"

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The essence of the church (5)

A bit more van Gelder as he explores the nature of the church and the centrality of the cross. This is an ineresting exploration of a narrow understanding of salvation which then supports a narrow understanding of mission.

"Those who make the cross the starting point for their discussion of redemption often find it difficult to see the bigger picture inherent both in creation design and God's redemptive reign as announced by Jesus. Starting with an understanding of the mission of God in the world provides a broader framework for considering the meaning of the cross. The cross is still central within this framework, but its purpose is understood in light of the broader scope of God's mission. Understanding the cross in relation to creation is critical to being able to grasp the full character of the church's ministry in the world." (2000: 130 ff)

Monday, October 13, 2008

question of evil (7)

NT in his commentary on Romans deals, I think, helpfully with the question of evil when he looks at Romans 6.12-14. This is what he says.

"There are two spheres, two places to live, the Adam-humanity and the Messiah humanity.

Paul doesn't mention the devil at this point, but when he talks about 'sin' there is a sense of a suprahuman power, a force or energy which is more than the sum total of unhelpful instincts and wrong actions.

This force can and does act like a tyrannical landlord, making demands and backing them up with threats. You must live like this: you must go out and get drunk; you must indulge your sexual appetites as fully as you can; you must help yourself to other people's property; you must develop new types of weapons to kill more and more people; you must extend your business empire as far as you possibly can....if you don't live like this, you're missing out on real life; you'll never be satisfied until you give in; you'll get sick or stale; people will laugh at you; your economy will crumble; your enemies will take advantage of you". pp108

Wright, T. (2004). Paul for Everyone: Romans: Chapters 1-8 (for Everyone). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


"Whispers of paedophilia, and of his computer being seized was enough for him to run for London leaving all he owned behind for a new existence on the streets ..."

He came in late to the drop in and made a bee-line for me. He was looking for somewhere to sleep, he needed some food and a sleeping bag. I noticed the deep cut under his left eye as we drank tea together; he began to tell me something of his story. As Jon blinked awkwardly he was keen to tell me that he had a home up in Yorkshire but was homeless in London because of fear.

Fear had driven him out of his home; his neighbours had turned on him. Whispers of paedophilia, and of his computer being seized was enough for him to run for London leaving all he owned behind for a new existence on the streets but not before someone tried to gouge out his eye.

Encounters like that leave more questions than answers. Whatever the circumstances it is good that FH can be a place where fear isn't, even if it is for the length of drinking a cup of tea with someone.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Estelle's Rant...

Estelle goes on a rant here

Apparently conservative delegates at their recent conference found in their welcome pack vouchers to go to a lap/pole dancing club. Harmless fun or have we a case of supporting a way of life that makes a market for trafficked women?


'He who sees the Church looks directly at Christ...'

My Mission class at college are currently looking at this assignment -

"Mission is not a programme of the church but rather an attribute of God" (Bosch 1991:390). Critically analyse this statement in the light and experience of mission in your placement.

I've just uncovered a quote from Graham Tomlin that sets the scene nicely:
The God of the biblical story displays very different characteristics from the Greek gods, or even gods of eastern faiths. He is not capricious but faithful,keeping his promises and covenants from generation to generation. He is not a sea of placid detachment from the world, but instead interacts with it.... Instead he is humble, lavishly creating a world in which he remains hidden, a world that is not full of signs demanding we pay Him attention and give Him His due. The qualities that mark him out are those of patience, faithfulness, perseverance, kindness, goodness, self-control, humility, joy, creativity and above all, love (2006:83).

Tomlin, G. (2006). Spiritual Fitness: Christian Character in a Consumer Society. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.

'He who sees the Church looks directly at Christ...' (attrib. to Gregory of Nyssa) - is an interesting point of reference to what we as church generally do! Makes you wonder what people see when they look at the church?

Monday, October 06, 2008

An Agenda for Change: Living Out the Social Gospel

Joel Edwards puts a compelling process of thought together in what he calls 'An Agenda for Change: Living Out the Social Gospel'. Rather than jettison the Evangelical label he argues for rehabilitation!

Rehabilitating Evangelical: The Challenges:

  • We need to humbly reassess some of our tribal theological rigidities- "If evangelicalism is to reposition itself as a transforming movement in the twenty-first century, then it is the vast majority of people in the evangelical centre who are going to take us there."
  • We must present Christ credibly in cultures which have increasing vendettas against the idea of God in the public square - "a credible response needs to undomesticate the Christ evangelicals have held captive in fearful subcultures. We have become too comfortable with a risk-averse Christ who is not the Christ of the Bible. I’m not convinced that Jesus would be publicly identifiable with our moral agenda."
  • We must integrate long-term thinking. - "Christian citizenship must therefore be integral to our discipleship. Strategic Christian involvement in the marketplace, business, the arts, education, media, sports, local government, and community involvement is not an optional extra. If evangelicals become prophetically and strategically involved in the pain of our communities we may need less spiritual warfare concerning people we have nothing to do with."
Edwards concludes:
"It’s a united community of people who unveil Christ, presenting him credibly to government and culture; it’s a movement of people who are good news to the poor and marginalised; and it’s a Church mobilised for spiritual and cultural change, consumed by a long-term vision of a better society."
A couple of observations - it is interesting that Joel Edwards feels more comfortable having a go at articulating some of this material now away from the restrictions of being
general director of the Evangelical Alliance UK. Secondly, you can't help but feel some of the discomfort of the paradigm shift that his thinking represents.

More here

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

question of evil (6)

Hiebert makes some interesting points regarding Spiritual Warfare and evil.

He points to three worldviews but 'Cosmic Dualism' would it seem to influence much of what I have read regarding SW; it underlies a sense of
redemptive violence where order can be established only when one side defeats the other in spiritual warfare.

One side seeks
to establish a kingdom of righteousness and order, and the other an evil empire. Sounds familiar - Hiebert interestingly draws parallels with other religious similarities found in Zoroastrianism, Manicheism and Hinduism where mighty gods battle for control of the universe.

Hiebert points out that:

Many current Christian interpretations of spiritual warfare are based on an Indo Euro worldview which sees it as a cosmic battle between God and his angels and Satan and his demons for the control of people and lands. The battle is fought in the heavenlies, but it ranges over sky and earth. The central question is one of power - can God defeat Satan? Because the outcome is in doubt, intense prayer is necessary to enable God and his angels to gain victory over the demonic powers. Humans are victims of this struggle.
It seems a shame that we are left with a caricature where engagement within SW is akin to to Popeye cartoon. Hiebert paints the scene...

Every week Bluto grabs Olive Oil. Every week Popeye tries to rescue her. Every week Bluto beats up Popeye. Every week Popeye gets his spinach and defeats Bluto. Bluto never learns to leave Olive Oil alone. Popeye never learns to take his spinach before he attacks Bluto...!

Hiebert P.G. (2000) Spiritual Warfare and Worldview in ERT 24:3 pp 240-241

The Essence of the Church (4)

A bit more van Gelder as he explores the nature of the church.

  • The nature of the church is defined by the mission of God in the world
  • The nature of the church is the result of the redemptive work of Christ
  • The nature of the church is holistic in relating this redemption to all of life
  • The church exists as a social community that is both spiritual and human
  • The church exists as a full demonstration of a new humanity.
  • The attributes of the church's nature determine the church's ministry. pp128