There are quite a lot of people who seem to have a pretty negative view of the church at the moment, and I don’t mean those outside of the church family. Many Christians seem to be wondering what the point of the church is, anymore. As part of a week of teaching at the Spring Harvest festival I tried to express some of the great things the church has done and is doing in the UK at the moment…. This was a “call and response” part of my sermon – I asked the questions and the audience replied “No its the church actually!”
Do you know who provides half of the parent and toddler support groups in the UK. Is it Surestart? No, it’s the church actually.
Do you know who provide the biggest network of debt couselling across the UK with 190 drop-in centres? Helping over 19 141 individuals last year alone? Is it Martin “Moneysavingexpert” Lewis? No it’s the church actually.
Who is it that donated 72 million hours of volunteer work to social initiatives last year estimating a contribution of 1.5 billion pounds a year? Was it the National Trust? No it was the church actually.
Do you know who will feed 100 000 hungry people this year in the UK is it the Redcross, no it’s the church actually!
Do you know who brought hospitals, schools, universities and democracy into our country? Was it the Vikings? No, it was the church actually!
Who invented Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Bolton Wanderers, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Queen’s Park Rangers, Southampton, and Tottenham Hotspur Football clubs, was it the Football association? No it was the church actually!
When the doctors, the police and the social workers move out of an area and go and live somewhere else who is that moves in ? Is it Richard dawkins and Militant Atheists? No it’s the church actually!
Who is it that is the hope of the world, is it Nato? No, it’s the church actually!
Captain Lisa Jade Head, of the 11th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment was killed after a bomb she was trying to defuse in Helmand Province of Afghanistan exploded giving her catastrophic injuries. Its another story of a tragic loss of life in an ongoing conflict that has seen many thousands of Afghan innocent civilians lose their lives. A young woman’s life was snuffed out as she tried to keep the roads safe for supplies and people to pass through. All lives lost in conflict are hard to deal with, But when you hear about friendly fire incidents they somehow seem even more painful. To think that soldiers who are supposed to be fighting for justice and the protection of innocents end up killing eachother due to confusion or poor communication seems like a total waste of life. As I travel around the UK visiting churches, Christian Unions and Christian festivals it feels that many of the people that have dropped out of church have done so because of a friendly fire incident. It hasn’t been the big guns of Athiests like Richard Dawkins or Christtopher Hitchens that have argued people out of their faith it is people have lost faith because of an argument they have had with another Christian or the way they have been let down by the church.
The story of Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, shows us that jesus is no stranger to friendly fire. One of the 12 that Jesus chose has chosen to reject him. One of the 12 men that knew Jesus best has decided to betray him. They say that those that are closest to you can hurt you the most, well the betrayal of Jesus by Judas “troubled jesus in his spirit.” For me that would have been game over. John has been very careful to tell us that Passover is approaching and it’s the time when Jesus will demonstrate the full extent of his love for us and yet one of those sharing the Passover meal with Jesus is willing to stab in the back and sell him out. This would have been the last straw for me when you are trying to do something good and all you get is betrayal its enough to throw in the towel and that’s what many people have done with the church. But Jesus doesn’t react this way. Despite being let down by the very people he’s dying to save he goes ahead and offers himself up on their behalf. Jesus laid down his life for his friends even when his friends act like enemies. Its high time we learned again what it means to follow in Jesus footsteps in our relationships.
You can listen to this as devotional reading here thanks to premier radio.
I was the only Asian kid in my Sunday School. In fact I was the only non-white person in the entire church. I was a random walk-in with virtually no knowledge about Jesus. Half Sri-Lankan, a quarter Indian and a quarter Irish brought up in a Hindu/Catholic mash-up, I had an awful lot of questions for my poor Sunday School teachers who were not trained at all in cross-cultural evangelism.
The disciples were also caught off-guard as a handful of non-Jews quiz them about Jesus in the week before his last Passover festival. They had been taught to say a prayer of thanks that they were not born Gentiles, so when they ask Jesus for some help with handling the Greeks, he gives them a cryptic response to their dilemma.
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Those who love their life will lose it, while those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour….
It is the Passover festival, when Jews celebrate the sacrificial lamb who was killed in the place of the first born son of every Jewish household. But now Jesus is saying that he will be killed as our Passover lamb. Jesus is clear that his death will not be a miscarriage of justice, or a waste of a life. His death will be in place of all who put their trust in him.
When the Passover changed to Easter, Jesus wanted us to know that everyone is invited to the celebration. His death will bring freedom and hope to all people, Jews, Greeks, and even to those who are half Sri-Lankan, quarter Indian and quarter Irish.
You can listen to this as an mp3 thanks to Premier Radio.
I am delighted to tell you about a nationwide initiative that I am working on with Care for the Family and Evangelical Alliance.
There is a pressing need in the UK for more foster and adoptive parents. There is a crisis in recruitment and retainment of foster and adoptive placements. The church is uniquely placed to offer its help to meet both of these needs. As a large social network with involvement with large numbers of families the church is fertile soil for recruitment. Once carers have been through the full process of assessment, the church provides an excellent community of support wrapping around families to help them continue on in their placements.
This initiative aims to change the culture in local churches across the UK to make adoption and fostering a significant part of the life of the majority of churches. We aim to develop an intentionality about the recruitment and support of foster and adoptive families in local churches.
We need your help.
This is such a big idea that there is no way this can happen without you. We are starting a consultation process so we want to hear from anyone interested in fostering and adoption -
1 Current and prospective foster carers – to understand your hopes, fears and experiences
2 Church and denominational leaders perspective – to understand how we can begin to change the culture in churches around fostering and adoption
3 Social work professionals – to get a grip on best practice
Your engagement will shape this project at every level. All of our plans are open so getting involved now at this early stage will really help us. There will be 6 regional consultations in Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff, Belfast, London and Glasgow – please check on the link below for more details.
Its high time that the church became known again for being good news to our culture and what better way than to offer hospitality, hope and help to some of the most vulnerable children and their families.
Please get in touch by registering your interest at our website here.
Following a recent trend in teen fiction the Hunger Games is a dark and dystopian view of the future. Based on the first of a trilogy of novels the film tells the story of Katniss Everdeen’s quest for survival in a state sponsored televised, gladiatorial fight to the death between 24 teenagers. The film draws on a number of other films but somehow manages to be greater than the sum of its parts.
A Battle Royale (2000)
A japanese film about a class of 9th grade children who are kidnapped by the government and forced to fight to the death. This is the closest parallel to the Hunger games with the same levels of brutal violence. Battle Royal was an 18 certificate but Hunger Games is only a 12a. The political and romantic elements of the Hunger Games make it somehow a more adult film with a lower age certificate.
Truman Show (1998)
The story of a man who has lived his whole life on television as part of a complex soap opera. He is on the air but unaware and every detail of his life is controlled by the Director Kristoff. Although the participants of the Hunger Games are fully aware they are on television and in fact that is one of the brilliant themes of the film that you never know whether the participants are being “honest” or just playing to the camera to win support from their sponsors who can send food or medicine to support their favourites. But the directorial role of the game designer who controls every aspect of the game is very similar to the Truman show and leads to a rising sense of injustice that this is not a fair fight.
The oppressive power of the government to use a brutal game to prop up the injustice of a very wealthy capital population with the poverty and food scarcity of the outlying districts is a very important theme in the movie. Although this is a parallel of our current global injustice where a wealthy west still oppresses a hungry rest of the planet the film makes this point powerfully by making those who are poorest white. The absolute control and surveillance of the government reminded me of 1984′s dark picture of the world – but equally could be paralleled in V for Vendetta, Children of Men etc.
Romeo and Julliet (1996)
Two supposed enemies finding love in impossible circumstances and it all going wrong with poison – (not to give too much away don’t worry). Shakespeare’s themes are toyed with on purpose but the extravagant costumes and style has a lot in common with bad luhrman’s amazing musical adaptation.
This is a significant film – you probably don’t want to see it with young children because of the violence but older teens and adults will find a compelling, beautifully show and powerful film. Tearfund have drawn on the themes of the film to produce some really helpful resources to explore global poverty well worth checking out.
Dave Niblock is a youth pastor from Bradford’s Abundant life church. We invited him and young people from his church to address the Evangelical Alliance Council and they did a fantastic job of inspiring and challenging us all. As I listened to Dave the idea that most challenged me related to a survey of parent’s expectations of teenagers – one of them was “Make your own bed.” Dave pointed to the fact that the disciples were likely to have been teenagers and God called them to turn the world upside down or to the fact that Mark Zuckerberg changed the world while still at college, by inventing Facebook. It was stirring stuff. I was reminded of Dave’s words when I went to visit a church in Cambridge that wouldn’t allow leaders from the University Christian Union to use their data projector in case they broke it. These were some of the brightest students from (arguably) the finest university in the world – but they were not trusted by the church.
We underestimate the potential of young people to our peril – but equally you may remember a blog post a while back about unrealistic expectation for our young people. That we promise them they will all be world changers and then by the time they reach their twenties and they have debt, unemployment or if they are luck a moderately interesting job to deal with – the promises sound hollow.
What do you think – do we ask not enough or too much of our young people?
Do we promise too much or not enough for their life with God?
In this 6 minute video Alan Charter who runs the Children Matter network argues from Deuteronomy why it is so important for the family to take seriously its responsibility to be the primary place for the nurturing of Christian faith. Now there are of course exceptions to the rule – my situation was that my family were not Christians and my sunday school volunteers and local schools workers were a vital and irreplaceable part of my spiritual formation. But the normative model for the spiritual development of children are parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles taking responsibility to help raise faith in the upcoming generation.
I’d love to know what you think are the roadblocks for parents in particular in being proactive in the discipleship of their children. I am asking for a couple of reasons – I am a parents and I need all the help I can get in discipling my children. I am part of a church leadership team that is wrestling with this at the moment. But I am also an author trying to write into this space. So three questions for you:
1. What are the challenges for parents to actually disciple their children
2. What can the church do to work with (not around parents)
3. What are the best resources you have seen to help
Thanks for your help friends
This is the last of the videos from the Evangelical Alliance Council meeting “It takes a whole church to raise a child.”
So many young people are like Kay Morgan Gurr’s brother who said ” I can believe in God, I can’t believe in the Church.” How we behave today as churches will significantly impact not just the children concerned but a whole generation that follows. Kay’s brother had a toxic experience of church and it lives with 40 years later. If we de-church our young people now – we are seeing less of them come back to church later in life even when they have children of their own. The above video was recorded at the Evangelical Alliance Council meeting where we discussed the vital topic “It takes a whole church to raise a child”. Kay’s talk was part of the scene setting for the day’s discussions.
Show this video to your youth leaders and sunday school teachers. Make sure your church leadership team has seen it – because if we get this wrong we cripple this generation and the next to come.
Would love to hear your suggestions about how we make church less toxic for childhood faith – drop me a line.
When the boys in my comprehensive school met me they labelled me “Paki”. They never asked me where I was from and never discovered that I am half Sri Lankan Tamil, a quarter Irish and a quarter Assamese Indian. They were not color blind – they saw my colour and judged me on that and that alone. My sense of humour, my academic gifts, my personality, my character didn’t even get a look in. I was rejected because I didn’t fit their acceptable ethnic criteria.
When my wife and I applied to be adoptive parents ten years ago we faced similar discrimination. On the initial inquiry phone call we were asked about our ethnic make up. We were told that we would be suitable adoptive parents only to a child who had a similar British, Irish, Indian and Sri-Lankan mix. Since there were none in the borough they politely turned us down. The system did not look at any of our parenting abilities, or whether we were practically and emotionally able to provide a loving home to a child. We were rejected because of colour.
There are currently 4000 children waiting to be adopted in the UK. Many of these have been waiting for their whole lives for a loving and secure home. But it continues to be suggested that blinded by colour, we should disqualify parents who want to love and care for some of our nations most vulnerable and needy children.
The Prime Minister rightly recognises that it is better to give a child a safe and loving home than leave them waiting indefinitely for an exact ethnic match. This stance does not reduce the importance of ethnicity and identity, but affirms the fact that acceptance trumps colour.
Currently thousands of children are losing their childhoods, losing their abilities to form meaningful attachments and losing the chance for education. Our prison system is being filled up with young people who have been spat out the other end of the care system. We urgently need to recruit more adoptive carers (not to mention the 8000 place hole in the fostering system) from across the ethnic spectrum. We will not be able to match each child according to their ethnic background but that should not mean we have to leave these children without loving parents. What these children need are parents who will love them unconditionally to the best of their ability.
My wife and I are now both adoptive parents and foster parents with a wonderfully multicultural family. Our family get-togethers celebrate our cultural heritages from India, the Caribbean, Malaysia and North Africa. Respectful of cultural backgrounds, we have fostered across religious borders, and we have cared for a child with disabilities that many in society would reject.
In Britain today we no long judge people by the colour of their skin. And it’s no longer taboo or even unusual to marry inter-racially. Surely it’s high time we found children loving homes regardless of the parents’ ethnic background?
I am a big fan of Rob Parsons – he is a gifted communicator with a genuine passion for people. Rob kicked off our recent Evangelical Alliance Council event “It takes a whole church to raise a child” with a talk based on his book “How to get your kids through church without them hating God.” Rob has the knack of both challenging and encouraging you at the same time. This talk speaks to parents, church leaders and youth workers and encourages us all to take the opportunities before us to help form the children in our churches to become fully fledged disciples of Christ.
The video is well worth watching the video and get a hold of the book if you can – you won’t regret it.
This 20 minute video would make a great watch for a parents group, house group or women’s meeting. Please spread the word.