Category Archives: missiology

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Labyrinth of Prayer

Love the fact that our little local church is so keen to help all ages experience God together. This morning we continued a series on spiritual growth through looking at a number of spiritual disciplines. This week we used the Labyrinth prayer experience as a church.

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All age travel guides

One of the exercises today involved everyone writing down a prayer on some special paper and then heading off into the Labyrinth. Once you got to the middle of the labyrinth there was a font with some water in that you placed your paper prayer into and it dissolved.

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Then you were encouraged to write an attribute of God that you appreciated as an act of praise in chalk on the floor.

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Then for your journey out of the labyrinth as you go on to face the world you are to take a psalm with you to meditate on.

A Psalm for your journey
A Psalm for your journey

All the ages took part today with some of us acting as guides for the travellers.

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Well done to the team that put this together!

My 7 year old daughter had a great time, though her prayer did make me laugh…

“Please God please don’t let me get lost in the maze.”

Other ideas for all age services here.

 

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Simple Simon Says… Make Disciples

Francis Chan certainly has a direct way of challenging the way we go about fulfilling the mission Christ commissioned his church to complete.

Francis Chan – Making Disciples from Verge Network on Vimeo.

Of course the challenge is what does disciple making actually look like. I have been thinking about this for a while now, see the suite of resources we have collated here.

I have been thinking on how we create disciples that are not just clones of celebrity church leaders or so fragile that their faith falls apart during transition – let along tragedy. See my article for Christianity Today’s leadership blog.

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Men and Church

I have been asked to respond to the challenge of the male gender deficit in church attendance. I wanted to make sure there really was a problem first. The most extensive research I could find (thanks to the wonderful EA information officer Kim Walker) revealed this table:

Peter Brierley working off of the 2005 census argues for a discrepancy figure of 14% with female churchgoers in England at 57% and male churchgoers 43%. This is a scary imbalance but look what happens when it is broken down according to age range. The following table is from the recent 2013 Capital Growth publication which looks at figures just for London.

20-29 years old 30-44 years 45-64years 65-74 years 75-84 years Average age Total number
Male 11% 20% 21% 11% 6% 39 years 316,000
Female 11% 21% 22% 13% 7% 42 years 405,500
Total 11% 21% 22% 12% 7% 41 years 721,500

 

I’m not brilliant with statistics. Perhaps the main problem is  that  41% of those that attend church are over 45 years old  so is it possible that some of the gender discrepancies could be due to difference in death rates?

The Tearfund survey of 2007 saw a bigger deficit  at: Women 65% and men 35%. (They measured regular churchgoers as those who attend monthly at a service on any day of the week whereas the census was looking at weekly Sunday attendance so it is not unusual that the figures don’t match up). This could be because of the difference in work patterns which still sees more men going out to work so more women are likely to visit a church during the week. As I say stats is not my favourite subject – so feel free to correct my reading of the numbers.

So should we be worried?
It is true that  I can think of more instances in my pastoral experience where women attend church services and their husbands don’t. Most of these situations were not men dropping out of church – but rather men never having connected with church. The wives coming to faith and the husbands not responding yet. But I also know lots of women that find church very difficult because of the gender imbalance in Church leadership. I was only given a few words to respond so here’s what I wrote.

Love to know your feedback friends…

We need better research into the numbers. Figures from the last English Church Census in 2005 seem to indicate there is an in-balance with 57% of churchgoers being in female and 43% male but more recent research published last year looking at churchgoing in London presents a much more even spread. If there is a problem; that isn’t based on birth and death rates or including midweek church attendance, this happened while churches are run predominantly by men.  Despite this I have heard arguments for gearing the Church more towards men. Personally I think we need a greater involvement in decision-making for women as I believe the Church should model to our culture both the equality and complementary nature of female and male relationships. I believe that a Church confident in the gospel will call men and women to the kind of discipleship that challenges the consumerist attitudes that make participation in church life dependent on whether services are provided in a way that I want. The answer is not to be more macho.

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Too much Aid not Enough Help

Review Too Much Aid not Enough Help, Ken Gibson

This important book is a hard one to read. Not just because the subject matter is global poverty or that it reveals the complicity the western world and the aid business have had in making the two-thirds world poorer, but because it is unremitting in its style and content.

Ken Gibson is the Executive Director of The Leprosy Mission Ireland. It might seem surprising that the leader of a development agency is daring to write a book that encourages less aid to be given to the poor. But Gibson is writing predominantly about intergovernmental aid (otherwise known as multilater aid) which represents 96 per cent of all aid that is given. Gibson is careful to distinguish between good aid – he cites the Expanded Programme of Immunisation which saw a radical decrease in the number of children dying from preventable diseases and save around three million lives a year. Gibson’s main concern is to challenge the way that western aid – especially that of the US and to a lesser extent the UK – have been using aid payments to their own advantage.

Gibson gives a lot of space to a critique of the Official Development Assistance (p.76), which confusingly is listed as Overseas Development Aid (p. 160) in the glossary which cites the 51 abbreviations used in this 160 page book. The ODA was established at the end of the second world war primarily to rehabilitate the devastated European theatre of war. In President Truman’s plans the ODA was to help “bring the underdeveloped majority of the world’s population to the point of being developed”. Perhaps President Nixon summed up the rationale behind the aid programme:

“Let us remember that the main point of development aid is not to help other nations but to help ourselves.” (p.87)

Gibson then systematically exposes almost every example of intergovernmental aid as serving the national interests of the donor rather than the best interests of the receivers. The World Bank, the IMF and ODA come in for heavy criticism. There appear to have been so many strings to the aid that it was a massive form of global manipulation and power politics. Gibson even sites occasions where countries were literally held to ransom as aid was withheld just as countries faced severe famine and more stringent conditions were placed on the receivers knowing they couldn’t refuse as people were literally starving to death.

The final chapter includes suggestions from Gibson on better ways forward. Suggestions include:

-       redefining aid as “Compensatory Finance” which would involve the west repaying its debt to the rest.

-       Encouraging protectionism in underdeveloped countries where trade tariffs were introduced to help infant industries.

-       Protection of local food markets by stopping the dumping of food developing countries’ food surplus in under-developed countries.

-       Prioritisation of debt relief.

-       Devolution of IMF operations to regional blocks such as the African union.

This book is harrowing reading. It is hard work as there are lots and lots of figures and abbreviations. The book does not have a specifically Christian audience in mind despite being written from someone who works from a historically Christian development charity. There is no mention of God, scripture or any explicit theological analysis. You could argue that a Christian worldview is assumed but is this because of the latent borrowed intellectual capital of the legacy of Christendom or because of a deliberate application of Christian values on a global tragedy? It seems impossible to tell from the book itself.

There is no real call to action in the book either – the aim seems to be informing a wider group of people as to the flaws of the majority of intergovernmental aid which may inform the way we engage politically. But sadly I think the truth that this book exposes will remain read by a small minority as a result of its writing style, narrow focus and lack of application to most readers.

 First published in Anvil. 

Old Globe

Global Evangelicals

First published in Anvil March 2014

The Global Diffusion of Evangelicalism, Brian Stanley, IVP

“Dwell on the past and you will lose an eye; forget the past and you will lose both eyes.”

Often evangelicals have a nostalgic view of the past, whether it is those of us who believe the Reformation was the high water mark of Christianity or those of us who discovered the worship revival of the 1970s, evangelicals often enjoy reminiscing of better days. But a Cyclops still has an advantage over the blind so it would seem a wise investment to explore the history of a movement that has grown to global status so rapidly over the past half century.

Brian Stanley is the most qualified person I can think of to write the fifth volume in IVP’s “A History of Evangelicalism” series. Previous volumes have included such luminary historians as David Bebbington and Mark Knoll but Stanley’s role as an evangelical historian serving as Professor of World Christianity at Edinburgh University is ideal for the task of writing a history of the globalisation of evangelicalism in the English-speaking world.  Stanley has written a fascinating and engaging volume that rewards careful reading.

Rather than attempting a narrative history of the 1940s to 1990s of evangelicalism, Professor Stanley writes an introduction and then eight thematic essays exploring a broad range of trends.

1. Evangelicals and Fundamentalism

The first essay explores the evolving relationship between evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Noting that in the United States the defining feature of evangelicalism was differentiation from fundamentalism while in the United Kingdom the identity of evangelicals was formed in distinction from liberalism. This is a powerful and helpful distinction and may be the root of much miscommunication between American and European evangelicals.

2. Evangelicals and Globalised Networks

The second essay explores how evangelical networks globalised. Stanley focuses on the ministry of Billy Graham, the formation of the World Evangelical Fellowship (now known as the World Evangelical Alliance), the indigenisation process at work in Scripture Union and the worldwide effects of the East African Revival. Stanley notes how the decision in 1947 of Scripture Union director John Laird to deconstruct the movement’s “imperial” structure led to remarkable growth in Africa and a whole slew of indigenous leaders developing. This is a strategy that still needs further global application for many organisations 65 years on.

 3. Evangelical Scholarship Matters

The third essay highlights the growth of evangelical scholarship once thought an oxymoron due to confusion between evangelicals and fundamentalists. The development of Tyndale House in Cambridge is shown to have played a vital role. In a fascinating piece of theological archaeology Stanley also shows how the subsequent editions and revisions of the New Bible Commentary can act as a window of the increasing conservatism on issues such as biblical inspiration, infallibility and openness to biblical criticism. Stanley also notes the way that at the turn of the century systematic expositional preaching was not a norm in the diet of evangelical churches and it is through the preaching of G. Campbell Morgan and of course Dr Martin Lloyd Jones and John Stott that it became a staple.

4. Evangelicals and Apologetics 

In his fourth essay Professor Stanley tracks the development of evangelical apologetics and highlights the work of Cornelius Van Till, Edward Carnell, Carl F. Henry, Francis Schaeffer and Alvin Plantinga who in different ways helped evangelicals to defend the faith in the academies. Yet Stanley demonstrates that  non-evangelicals such as Lesslie Newbigin and more significantly C.S. Lewis offered “an intellectual armoury of a very different kind from that offered by the sterling efforts of conservative theologians”.

5. Evangelicals and Lausanne 

The captivating story of the Lausanne Congress on world evangelisation is told in the fifth essay. The Congress, the brainchild of Billy Graham, and after some coercion joined by John Stott brought together leaders from across the world in 1974. Stanley tells how the American-dominated programme was challenged by Latin American theologians: Rene Padilla (the need to rethink the cultural accommodation of Christianity in the West), Samuel Escobar (the need to engage with social justice in mission) and Orlando Costas (the need for contextualisation). Tribute is paid to John Stott’s mediatory skills in helping to include these insights into the final Lausanne statement. It is interesting to note that the UK reception to Lausanne was lukewarm – a term which applies to my experience of UK delegations at more recent global gatherings.

 6. Evangelicals and the Global Charismatic and Pentecostals Movements

The sixth essay tracks the development of global charismatic and Pentecostal movements. Tracing the rise in healing ministries, John Wimber, the adaptation of worship music, the Toronto Blessing, the impact of Bretherenism on Newfrontiers and the birth of Alpha. Stanley is on the whole positive about the impact, stating: “The global evangelical family gained much-needed spiritual vitality as a result.”

7. Evangelical Hermeneutics 

The seventh essay tackles hermeneutics, gender and sexual ethics. I think it was somewhat unfortunate to lump these issues together. There are very few women mentioned in the entire volume – the history of the global proliferation of evangelicalism is mainly told through white male leaders. When Stanley does get round to engage with women it is in the context of a debate around the role of hermeneutics that ends with an exploration of evangelical responses to homosexuality. Stanley tackles the controversy around women’s ministry by citing the debate between Melvin Tinker, a prominent member of Reform, who argued for a “slippery slope” that a change of view on women’s ministry would lead to the approval of homosexual relationships. Tinker’s debate with Dick France, then principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford who argued clearly and robustly that it does not. He then goes on to cite Stanley Grenz and Paul King Jewetts’ argument that there is no intrinsic link between a changed view on women’s ministry and homosexuality. It was a shame that the role of women in the proliferation of evangelicalism is only cast in the middle of this debate.

 8. Global Evangelical Trends

The last essay was a sobering one to read. Professor Stanley attempts to summarise the trends he sees at work in the evangelical world today. Stanley revisits the post-evangelical debate of Dave Tomlinson and comments that many conservatives (Professor Don Carson included) refuse to see a difference between post-evangelicals and post-conservatives such as Stanley Grenz and NT Wright. I have experienced this kind of tarring with the same brush such that if you take a different view on the role of women to the likes of Don Carson, John Piper and Wayne Grudem you are effectively labeled a non-evangelical. Stanley seeks to mediate the divide between Postconservative/ Open Evangelicals and Conservative Evangelicals. After citing Carson’s withering critique of Stanley Grenz’s “Renewing the centre” where Carson concludes that Grenz’s work was ‘truly outside of the evangelical camp’ Brian Stanley states that: “Grenz, however remained until his death a faithful member of First Baptist Church, Vancouver, under the conservative expository ministry of Bruce Milne… Assessments of the state of evangelicalism can be misleading if they focus exclusively on academic theological arguments and neglect the evidence of spirituality and church life.”

 Evaluation

In many ways this book, though skillfully written, is a depressing read. Stanley recognises this in his summation when he states: “It is part of the vocation of the church historian to remind Christians who may be depressed about the current condition of the church that states of division and uncertainty are the norm rather than the exception in Christian history” (p.237).

There is a note of encouragement in the midst of the gloom. When we look back to the halcyon days of evangelical unity that saw the renewed confidence and growth of evangelicalism – there was as much disunity and the term evangelical was as contested then as it is now and that evangelicalism seems to be perennially needing to rediscover its identity. For me if the apostle Paul can call the church to continually hold firm to the gospel and continually re-examine those that claim to present the gospel in light of the apostolic witness – it seems evangelicalism’s need to continually re-examine itself in light of scripture is a healthy one.

Sadly, I think Brian Stanley is optimistic in his closing sentiment that “the battle for the integrity of the gospel in the opening years of the 21st century is being fought not primarily in the lecture rooms of North American seminaries but in the shanty towns, urban slims and villages of Africa, Asia and Latin America”. We praise God for the proliferation of the gospel that is bearing so much fruit among the poor. We rejoice that the centre of gravity of the church has moved to the global south. But in my limited experience of working with the poor – the gospel that is being spoken about there looks a lot like the Western individualistic virtually-gnostic version that we have exported. The battle for the integrity of the gospel is being fought on social media and in the budget meetings of western publishers and conference organisers where global celebrities are made out of certain preachers who export their cultural assumptions to the rest of the world. We need to allow the spirit of the first Lausanne congress to continue on and allow the global church to be reshaping our understanding of mission and the gospel in the light of scripture. We need to continually fight the imperialism of Western domination in global evangelicalism.

 

Stanley’s well written and researched book will help evangelicals to avoid the blindness of ahistoricity; perhaps we need a companion volume to help us know what we can learn from Evangelicals in the non English speaking world?

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Mosaic Church Downtown LA

Is this the hippest church in the world?

When you are  in LA on a Sunday morning where do you go for a church gathering? I decided to visit Mosaic Church’s Downtown LA service to see what I could learn and if I could be a blessing. Here are 5 things I enjoyed about the church.

1. Branding

There’s a place for demonstrating who you through your visuals and in LA a city of art and culture I can imagine if you are trying to reach young creatives then you put a lot of thought into your visuals.
are as a church through the way that you present yourself to the world. Mosaic Downtown meets in a concert venue and so their visual presence has to be temporary. But I really liked the signage that they used all over the area to point people to their meeting place. DSCF1590

2. Welcome

There was a welcome desk strategically placed so that you couldn’t enter the venue without someone greeting you. The welcomers were neatly presented, sat behind a desk – a bit like the reception to a conference venue. It gave a professional yet friendly feeling to proceedings. It’s not rocket science, but the welcomers asked good questions

1. What’s your name?
2. Where are you from?
3. How long are you in town?
4. How did you hear about the church?

2. The Pre party

I know it’s a pretty LA thing.  I was really really really early. Nearly an hour before things were supposed to begin. The welcomers did their job of ushering me into the main auditorium, but i was so early no one knew what to do with me and it felt weird to leave as I would have to walk past the welcome table…  So I did the play-with-my-phone-thing at the back,  it doesn’t mean I don’t want to talk to anyone but it means I feel awkward but don’t want to look like it. People did leave me alone which meant I got to listen in to the “pre-party.”

So the party is about 40 people mostly in their twenties made up of the people on the rot as.  There’s a lot of whooping and laughing -  when a new person is welcomed everyone gets a name shout out.

Ken: Hi my name is Ken.
Everybody: Hi Ken (whoop)
Ken: I am serving on the set up for the first time.
Everybody: Go Set-up (whoop)

There’s a lot of energy in the room, which is unusual for the teams I know that set up church. It’s a very affirming atmosphere, even if it is a little hard to take for a reserved Brit. There’s a shout out for all the teams whose service we are grateful for:

Set up- chairs and furniture set up , signage etc
Production – sound and visuals
Connections- a team to help people transition to deeper involvement in church
All stars- the creche I think
Kids mosaic- childrens’ programme
Team mommy – kind of hospitality for the band, pastors and speaker
Ambience – no idea what this is but would love to know

There’s a brief motivator talk from Joe the pastor for this venue. Its good helping everyone get a vision for why their role is important in helping new people make a step of faith.

 Everyone seems to know what they are doing.  Everyone is a 20 something  lots of cool urban sheek going on. 

3. Hospitality

These guys don’t mess about with the post-pre-party-pre-service-meet-and-greet – OK I made that name up. There’s a very cool DJ doing an excellent job of providing some uber cool ambience. It is a little loud (but I recognise as a 40 something father I am not in the target demographic) for conversation. There’s Starbucks on Tap and some very nice cakes cut into bite sized chunks. Hospitality is clearly a strong value here.

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4. Creativity

There’s a lot of verbal affirmation of creativity throughout the service. This is a core value of the church and also the heartbeat of Erwin MacMannus’ new book “The Artisan Soul” which apparently is arguing that all of us are creative in some way.  There’s a little interlude in the service that involves two twenty something young women singing a comedy duet about the challenges of being a twenty-something in LA on Social Media. It is very funny and very catchy – they are very gifted, in fact if anyone knows who those women were let me know I want to buy their CD it was that good.  Strangely despite the language about creativity the service seems otherwise very normal. We get a block of worship (it’s lead by an excellent band who may well have written all the songs themselves as I don’t recognise any of the songs). We then get a talk with a creative response. So much so normal. I had to sneak out before the end to try and catch a flight home – so maybe I missed something. The vibe is working though as there are a lot of creative types in the room – judging by age and dress sense. I like the desire to reconnect Christianity and creativity something that feels like it has been sadly neglected for a couple of centuries.

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5.  Twenty Somethings

It is great to see so many twenty somethings in a room.  In a city that is synonymous with cool – Mosaic has created a cool LA church.  I definitely feel like I don’t belong here.  I am too old, to brown, too married, too much of a family guy to have a place in this church. Apart from the speaker everyone on stage was a 20 something. Most of them look like they could be extras from a TV show or movie. Some argue that this is exactly what we need to do – we need cool church for cool people, young church for young people, artsy church for artsy people. I hold to a contrary picture of what it means to be the body of Christ, but I can see value in what Mosaic are doing. Perhaps if we can see this gathering as a journey rather than a destination . If this is a temporary staging post for young adults to connect in with the wider body of Christ; an outreach or discipleship programme rather than church in itself then we can get the best of both worlds?  Too often when we talk about multigenerational, multicultural, multi class church we settle for a lowest common denominator model that connects with no one in particular. What I appreciate about Mosaic is the attempt to contextualise into a subculture. I want to celebrate what they are doing and learn from it. But I believe we need both a contextual approach to church and prophetic edge that challenges the prevailing cultural norm of fragmentation, consumerism  and passivity.

Conclusions

After spending the weekend at the Justice Conference and walking around Downtown LA with its large homeless population and the number of Latino people in residence this church service felt very odd indeed as it neither reflected its local community or the Justice theme I had been hearing so much about. But perhaps that was just where I was coming from and you shouldn’t judge a church simply by one of its services. Perhaps I was just feeling homesick for our little community church.

 

So thank you to Mosaic Downtown for your welcome. Thank you for your creativity. Thank you for raising the bar when it comes to engaging young adults. I met a guy on my way out to LA and yours was the church I encouraged him to think about going to. I hope he makes it along to you. I am not on the same page as you in all that you do, but may God bless your ministry.
Your brother in Christ,

Krish

Justice Conference Street Art

6 Things I learned at the Justice Conference LA

Just had the privilege to spend the weekend with thousands of people passionate about serving God through Justice ministry.  The fourth Justice conference took place in Los Angeles this weekend. It’s an exciting progressive event bringing together Christians from across the US to engage on a range of justice issues.

 

 1. Justice is Bigger than You Think

In many of the conversations about justice in the evangelical community the main focus is on the important issue of people trafficking.  But it was refreshing to hear about the broader justice issues such as: access to education, gender equality, racism, global hunger, consumerism, community organising, immigration reform, civil disobedience, mass incarceration, sexual violence and environmentalism.

 2. Generosity and Hospitality

The Justice conference is the brainchild of Ken Wystima the president of Kiln college and is now owned by the aid agency “World Relief.” In a highly consumerised and commercialised environment sadly there is often a competitive relationship between different Christian agencies. So there was something exciting to  see World relief host the CEO of World Vision, workers from Compassion, EnditNow and a whole bunch of other agencies being given place on the stage. These are in human terms competitors for donors but there is a sense of community and hospitality here which is really encouraging.

 3. Multi generational

There is a very interesting range of ages here. There are some very cool looking hipsters with a lot of facial hair (the guys that is). There are also older; but I am sure no less hip people here too. I would say 50% of the people that have come are young adults in the 20-30s age range. This is an exciting mix of – which bodes well for the future of the church.

4. Engage the Arts

On the first evening I went to my first Poetry Slam which is a spoken word competition which has a very young, urban feel to it. Most of the contributors were young black men. It was a very moving and engaging event. It brought an interesting cultural mix to the event. The slam poets also took part in between the talks which gave a real emotional punch to proceedings.

Check out this promotional video for the event from the excellent Michael Bournes and Propaganda.

There were also some fantastic musicians that took part – Jars of Clay, The Brilliance, Gungor and Josh Garrels. It added a very different vibe to the event. So although there was no sung worship and very little corporate prayer – the music changed the dynamic of the event. There was also some excellent live street art going on:

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5. Guard your Heart

Martin Luther King’s daughter Dr Bernice King  spoke at the event and was one of a number of speakers that challenged the conference to not just be sad about injustice or mad about injustice but to keep a soft heart and let love be the dominant tone in which we challenge the injustices in our world. I found that a very helpful corrective as I often come across people who have got a particular justice agenda but the way in which they carry it out is marked more by anger than love. Those that oppose them are demonised rather than sacrificially loved. It was powerful to hear Martin Luther King’s daughter talk so passionately about the need to love those that don’t just disagree with you but hate you. She left us with a prayer:

“May God bless you with anger at injustice without hate and hostility”

6. Diversity Matters

I enjoyed hearing women and men, black and white and latino speakers, artists, lawyers, CEOs and pastors. It was very encouraging to hear such a fantastic range of people with such wide experience. The only challenge for me was the need to hear more global voices – especially as there was a stream of conversation around global injustice.

So thank you Justice Conference for your hospitality and inspiration.  It was great to meet up with old friends and to make new ones.  Looking forward to working out how to implement all that I have heard in my situation back in the UK.

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9 Reasons that Churches shouldn’t apply for lottery funding

I am continuing to think out loud about churches applying for lottery funding for social action projects. You can see 9 reasons why church’s should receive money from the lottery here.  The views expressed here are not necessarily my own, I am just trying to build the strongest case I can. What do you think friends?

1. Lottery funds are essentially dirty money

The money that comes from the lottery is gained through an immoral source and is therefore contaminated . The ends to which the money is put towards do not justify the means by which the money was gained. A lot of the arguments that are presented below are related to this basic premise.

2. Receiving lottery funding gives implicit consent to gambling

The lottery is a form of gambling that could act as a gateway to other more addictive forms of gambling. Scratch cards are seen to be particularly unhelpful as you are actively encouraged to “chase your losses” by buying  more cards. At its best the church is working with those most vulnerable to gambling addictions and so to be receiving money from the proceeds of gambling is hypocritical.

3. Receiving lottery funding validates the false hope that gambling provides

The lottery has long been described as an implicit tax on the poor because it offers a false hope of escaping poverty through an astronomically unlikely event occurring.  The lottery is a destructive force in society that does not help the poor but actually makes their lives worse because of the money wasted on playing and the false dreams it promotes ( see the EA ACUTE report from 1996).

4. Receiving lottery could restrict or redirect the activities of a church

As the saying go “He who pays the piper calls the tunes.” So churches that chase lottery funding may well reshape their community work so that it meets the lottery funding parameters – this will be towards social amelioration work rather than evangelism.

5. Receiving lottery funding model bad stewardship

Rather than wasting money on the lottery people should either give money directly to good causes. The support of good causes is merely a conscience easing aspect of the work .

 “In the year ending 31 March 2013, 28% of total National Lottery revenue was returned to the Good Causes”

The lottery both discourages people from giving selflessly it also encourages gambling instead of saving as a way out of poverty.

6. God’s people should pay for God’s work

Rather than rely on pay outs from external sources, the church should pay for its own ministry. Even in its work amongst the poor there is more profound public witness if the church is seen to be doing it with its own funds rather than relying on lottery funds.

7 Unequally yoked

Receiving money from the lottery unhelpfully ties the church to a secular agency that would then have a degree of control  over the church’s ministry. The church should be free to do what God has called it to and not reliant on

8. The lord owns the cattle on a thousand hills

God is rich enough to be able to supply the needs of his people to do the work that he has called them to do. To go cap in hand to the lottery is admission that we don’t believe God is able to provide.

9. Receiving lottery funding  demotivates Christian giving

Christians should be giving sacrificially to the Lord’s work and receiving large grants from an external source may demotivate church members from giving to God’s work

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6 verbs of leaders on twitter

Looking forward to a seminar this afternoon with students at Regents Park College at Oxford University. One of the topics we are going to look at is whether twitter is worth the hassle. Here are my six reasons why it can be a useful tool for leaders.

1.  Incarnating – expressing gospel in another subculture

Living out the gospel in every sphere of life is our calling as disciples of Christ, Twitter is a great space to do that in.

2. Listening    –  allowing new streams of ideas and information into your imagination

Allow the zeitgeist of new ideas and thought streams to impact you by tuning into different people to follow on twitter.

3. Incepting   – injecting ideas into church and culture

There’s not that many new ideas on Twitter – lots of things are just recycled content from other sources. Add your ideas into the mix.

4. Clarifying  – developing the skill of conciseness

Having to reduce your thoughts to 140 characters can be a very good discipline to develop. Perhaps Twitter is the 21st century haiku.

5. Collaborating – cross platform networking

Twitter can be a great place to put together needs, skills and opportunities. I have found an amazing film maker through a connection made through Twitter alone.

6. Disseminating – news and information spreads quickly through social networks 

Lets say you want to tell everyone there’s been a flood in your building – twitter is a very agile way to get the message out.

What have  I missed friends?

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5 things I learned from James K.A. Smith

I’m a big fan of Smith’s work I have have enjoyed three of his books so far.

Who’s Afraid of Postmodernity
Desiring the Kingdom
Imaging the Kingdom

Desiring the Kingdom has without doubt been the most influential in my thinking and informs the 5 ideas outlined in this post.

1. We need to rethink our strategy of Christian discipleship in light of a Christian understanding of the person

I was brought up in a tradition that primarily aimed at the head as the core of the person. Romans 12:2 was the proof text “

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

Now it is true some traditions react against this emphasis on the mind and have an anti-intellectualist approach. Neither of these extremes is helpful. Smith presents a compelling case that education needs to be more holistic. We need to engage heart, mind and body. We need to develop a more holistic understanding of the person – we are not just “brains on stalks” but rather affective beings. The core of our being is the heart (kardia) which is not just fluffly emotionalism but recognising in a Augstinian (and I suppose Jonathan Edwards ) sense we are affectionate beings.

“What if education was primarily concerned with shaping our hopes and passions – our visions of the ‘good life’- and not merely about the dissemination of data and information as inputs to our thinking? What if the primary work of education was the transformation of our imagination rather than the saturation of our intellect? And what if this had as much to do with our bodies as with our minds?” DTK, p. 18

2. We are formed not just but the ideas of this world but by its practices

“Our hearts are oriented primarily by desire, by what we love, and because those desires are shaped and molded by the habit-forming practices in which participate” DTK, p,25

It is not just what we believe that determines who we are, but what we do habitually that shapes our affections. Tim Keller once explained that if you do not love someone then you should act lovingly towards them and the affections would come along afterwards. That is part of what Smith is advocating here. He uses Mall shopping as a powerful example of how this operates. We are socialised into desiring a certain form of life – through the architecture, the images, the example of others, the ambience, the physicality and instant gratification provided by the things we purchase. This repetitive exposure and immersive experience shapes what we consider a life worth living and shapes what our hearts value.

Liturgies in Smith’s sense are heart altering repetitive practices.

3. It is no accident that scripture normalises practices for the body of the church to repeat

Smith argues that we need to pay attention to rituals / liturgies prescribed by scripture:

“every liturgy is an education , and embedded in every liturgy is an implicit worldview or “understanding.”
DTK, p, 25

Smith’s picture of an average or normal church service is limiting – he assumes a relatively “high church” setting. He once remarked that he thought there were certain transcultural norms for the church’s worship but when pressed these still seemed to be culturally bound. Nevertheless he lists the following as the essential formative practices of the church:

[quote_box author="" profession=""]a) the act of gathering
b) the welcome
c) reading of the Law
d) the creed
e) Singing
f) Baptism and Communion
g) Prayer
h) Scripture and the Sermon
i) Offering
j) The dismissal or benediction[/quote_box]

There’s lots to like about Smith’s analysis as I will explore. I would take issue with the structure that Smith seems to think is transcultural – I think there is a colonial critique to be applied to this and a middle class western filter that needs to be exposed. There’s a power structure going on in the way that the vicar is seen to stand in for Christ rather than body of Christ serving as priests. There’s a passivity to the elements that is an inherited part of a reformed clergy lead ecclesiology.

Often we seek to dismember the service – what is the least we can get away with and still call it church? That was partly influenced by the Seeker friendly church movement of the 80s and is present to some degree in some Fresh Expressions. Similar sentiments were raised in the Gospel Driven Church by Ian Stackhouse in the 1990s. The implicit model seemed to be
“Can we demystify and declutter the service so that we can make room for the sermon which is where non-Christians are going to be converted.”

Smith makes a bold case that these practices are not just filler before the sermon, not just relics of a former way of doing things – but have affective and formative function in the disciplemaking we are tasked to do by the risen Christ.

4. Do we need to reconsider the way we do evangelism too?

Does Smith’s work reopen debate about evangelism? In many circles there was a long debate about Belonging before Believing in the cell church movement. This affectionate reorientation of Christian formation would seem to argue for more along those lines.

MEET
SING
PRAY
REPEAT

Is being a part of the “liturgical life” of the church a means by which we induct people into the narrative of the gospel? Is there a connection with what Newbigin described as “the church as hermeneutic of the gospel.” Again the communal life of the church in Smith’s thought seems to take second place to the act of formal worship

5. Is it possible we have still neglected the family as formative community?

Strangely for a book on Christian education no role is given to the family . The Christian university is Smith’s setting but a truly biblical anthropology will not view an individual as a consumer of Christian formation. Even at tertiary level family is a hugely significant context for a young adult.

Perhaps the habitualised environment of teaching at a Christian university has set an unnatural normalising limit to Smith’s work. Because I know Smith’s work is being applied in contexts that are very different to the Christian university I believe this is worth noting.

The church’s lituirgical practice is given as a positive example of Christian formation – but again the unit of attendance is assumed to be an individual. What difference does it make that liturgical practice takes place in the context of family?

Watch this space as I want to unpack this as we explore the discipleship of children and young people in future posts.

There’s lots more to enjoy in Smith’s work, read more in Desiring the Kingdom

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