Summit VIII

Orphan Summit VIII day 1

So here I am at the Orphan Summit hosted by Saddleback Church, Lake Forest – Southern California. What follows is my live blog of the morning plenary session. I unintentionally kicked off a bit of twitter storm through tweeting from the conference something that one of the speaker said. I have put my instant reactions in brackets – the rest are either quotations or summaries from the platform speakers.

So the orphan summit kicks off in earnest today, yesterday was the presummit intensives link here.
We are in the main auditorium of saddleback church, it’s a 3400 seater venue.

Jedd Medifind who directs the Christian Alliance for orphans which connects over 100 agencies that work in “orphan care” kicks us off with a welcome.

“Justice and mercy flow from the gospel” is our catchphrase for the morning.

“The deepest needs of a child are not met on a macro scale but through the love and touch of a family supported by the local church”.

Now Rick Warren takes to the stage.

“163 million orphans in the world, 113 000 in the USA.

If one church in four got one family to adopt an “orphan” there would be no more orphans. ( I am not sure this is true – because sadly even we managed to adopt all of the children needing adoption at the moment – our societies are still generating more children that need adopting so it will be an ongoing concern)

We lack the willingness for us to work together

James 1:19ff is quoted

Pastor George Ndhawa from Kenya represents the global church by leading us in prayer – (great to have a globalrepresentative so many of ourconferences don’t bother with this at all)
Geoff Moore is the host for the morning session – apparently he is a famous musician.
(Spookily he has the same glasses as rick warren – must be a dress code I didn’t know about :0) )

Now Dr Pastor Crawford Loritts from Fellowship Bible Church is speaking. Loritts is an adoptive Dad.

“The family is a visible representation of what it means to be connected with God.”
“The family exists to steward God’s purposes from he generation to the next.”
“The family is a gospel unit – it is created to make clear what the gospel is all about.” (This was what I tweeted that lead to a bit of a reaction – will blog more on this later perhaps)

“The only thing that will sustain the passion for including those who are alienated is clarity on the gospel.
I don’t have a me and Jesus relationship with God – but justice in the bible has to do with:

1 advocacy
2 hope
3 witness
4 restoration”

(There are a lot of one liners here – Crawford – you can see the twitter stream later – there are ripples of applause and a little cheer when Crawford explains that he adopted because he felt he needed to do something about the abortion issue.)

Crawford uses Isaiah 58 as his base passage…

- justice has to do with addiction – the yoke of oppression (not sure that works personally)
- justice had to with oppression – people being sinned against
- I don’t believe any believer has the right to criticise government until they have got involved in justice then we can speak with integrity on a platform of what we have actually done.

We are called to be 1. Bondage breakers 2. burden bearers…

God says if you stop posturing and acting all religious then you will be the standard, you will take back the moral authority from the government , you won’t be viewed as those people who are answering questions no one is asking…
You become a model for mercy, justice, compassion and wholeness.
We establish credibility – your righteousness will go before you
Then people will say of us…
“you want to find people that love you, that really care about you, that give you what you really need… That’s what the church is all about”

Now listening to Ryan Bomberger his white mother was raped by an African American and his mother chose to keep the baby and he was them adopted. he is a prolife activist but also an emmy winning Artist. He lived as a mixed race child in a predominantly white area of America- Lancaster county. His mother’s father was a racist and broke relationship with his mother over the adoption.

There is a clear tie now in this conference between being pro-life and pro-adoption.

This is a helpful challenge in this US context to the prolife lobby that they need to step up to offer adoption. Ryan is a champion for birth mothers too. he challenges the judgementalism towards teenage mums – we forget the fact that we have been redeemed from sin and so we can’t be judgemental. We need to come alongside the young single mums that make the Tough choices in this area.

He runs a couple of websites – they have a great look and feel however you feel about the issue. Sally’s Lambs is about supporting birth mums.
He also runs the radiance foundation.

I must admit I have kept out of the abortion debate to focus on adoption – but definitely impressed by the grace and practical challenge towards mercy that Ryan offers.

Photo by Chiceaux Lynch/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Theology Boot Camp


Photo by Chiceaux Lynch/Flickr (Creative Commons)

OK for the afternoon am spending time at with Dan Cruver from Together for Adoption. Its a movement for adoption that has a strong theological emphasis. Their book Reclaiming Adoption which features the writing of John Piper.

Listened to a powerful testimony of a mum whose adopted son has recently become a Christian.

Now Jason Cornwell is up to speak on Ephesians 1. Jason is a single 35 year old with a passion for Orphan Care. (he seems nice – he might be good for my sister…)

Jason prefaces his talk by stating that the doctrine of election is a much kinder, gentler doctrine than people think and he is not raising it to be contentious but to reveal the fatherhood of God.



3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemptionthrough his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he[d] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment —to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.


Adoption and the Trinity

Father v.3-6
Son v.7-12
Spirit v. 13-14

Jason unpacks the way in which God has planned our adoption since before the creation of the world.
God predestined us to the adoption as sons so that we might be holy and blameless.
God uses adoption so that we look like one of God’s children.
We get a little of the Piper vs NT Wright debate – (I think that Kevin Vanhoozer gives us a helpful third way that could really help).
Justification – legal / forensic term.
Sanctification – renovative
Adoption is both – we are adopted from slaves (not orphans) to sons.
Jason is passionate about the centrality of adoption as a metaphor to describe God’s plan for humanity.
Stephen Suderbaker “God’s glory in creation consists of communicating the eternal glory of God to creation”

God’s plan of adoption is that we enjoy forever and participate in the love of father, God and Spirit.

How do I get people mobilised for adoption, to combat human trafficking, orphan care etc? get them to buy into what God is doing adoption.

Got to chat a little bit with Dan Cruver raising concerns about the approach that some “adoption theologians” have taken in that adoption into God’s family means obliterating the past / cultural heritage – Dan seemed to agree with me that this is very unhelpful and due to an oversimplification and overspiritualisation of adoption. These guys are reformed but take a very different line on social transformation to someone like Mark Dever. We had a good chat about the way that the problem has been a false dichotomy in ecclesiology. We are not going to agree on everything but I like these guys a lot.

Dan Cruver is up:

He is tracing the “Abba father” texts:

Romans 9:4 – redemption unto adoption

Ephesians 1:3-6 – redemption unto adoption

Galatians 4:4-6 -

Romans 8:8- adoption unto redemption

“redemptive history is adoptive history” David Garner

Dan shares his work with Haitian churches and his support for the way that Haitian churches facilitated Haitian families to adopt some of the children orphaned in the earthquake.








Questions that every adoptive family needs to think through:

image from Think Out Loud (CC)

Here are 10 questions from seminar leader Michael Monroe.

1. Are you willing to acknowledge and fully embrace your child’s history, including that which you know and that which you will likely never know?

2. Are you willing to accept that your child has been affected by his/her history, possibly in profound ways, and as a result that you will need to parent your child in a way that exhibits true compassion and promotes connection and healing?

3. Are you willing to parent differently than how you were parented, how you have parented in the past, or how your friends parent their children?

4. Are you willing to educate yourself, your parents, family and friends on an ongoing basis in order to promote understanding of your child’s needs and how best to meet those needs?

5. Are you willing to be misunderstood, criticized and even judged by others who do not understand your child’s history, the impacts of that history and how you have been called to love and connect with your child in order to help him/her heal and become all that God intends?

6. Are you prepared to advocate for your child’s needs, including at school, church, in extracurricular settings and otherwise, in order to create predictability and promote environments that enable your child to feel safe and allow him/her to succeed?

7. Are you willing to sacrifice your own convenience, expectations and desires in order to connect with your child and help him/her heal, even if that process is measured in years, not months?

8. Are you willing to fully embrace your child’s holistic needs, including his/her physical, emotional, relational and spiritual needs?

9. Are you willing to seek ongoing support and maintain long-term connections with others who understand your journey and the challenges that you face? Are you willing to intentionally seek and accept help when you encounter challenges with your child that you are not equipped to adequately deal with?

10. Are you willing to acknowledge that you as a parent bring a great deal to the equation when it comes to how your child will attach and connect? Are you willing to honestly examine (on an ongoing basis) your motivations and expectations relating to your adoption journey?

There are some very helpful resources here:


From Empowered to Connect

Tapestry | A Ministry of Irving Bible Church

Adoption and Foster Care Ministry

I am in a seminar called “Developing an Adoption and Foster Care Ministry that prepares and equips families for the Journey” lead by Michael and Amy Monroe from Irving Bible Church

It was inspiring to hear the number of people in the seminar that have adopted sibling groups – for some reason lots of them have adopted from Ethiopia. Having adopted they are not catalysts for an adoption ministry in their wider churches. Most of the people here come from churches over 3000 people in it. But everyone here is a volunteer trying to get their churches on board for adoption ministry.


Tapestry has a three fold ministry:

- Connect
- Encourage
- Equip

Online Help – articles and resources online at
Kids Closet – clothes and resources for families that foster and adopt.
Mentoring – new adoptive and foster parents
Crisis Support – being available when things go wrong
Discussion Groups – eg groups for parents waiting for adopted children to be placed.

Key messages

  1. It will not be easy
  2. It will be worth it
  3. Don’t do it alone

Tapestry is serving the wider adoption and fostering community – not just Christians. In their promotional video (see above) there is a moving story of a non-christian adoptive mum who was helped by Tapestry’s ministry and came to faith as a result. It’s an interesting model of providing on going support to the wider adoptive community ; doing it from a Christian perspective but not restricting those that receive it. Tapestry is willing to serve anyone who is doing or is keen to foster or adopt – both married, single, christian or non-Christian.

“When you do this well the state will see that the church is uniquely positioned”
Michael Monroe

Tapestry runs a parenting course for adopted and foster parents but it is increasingly being attended by parents in general.

In a recent survey 500 Christian parents said they were more likely to go to the bookstore to get support and help with fostering and adoption than they are to go for help to their pastor.



these guys take book marketing to another level

An Explicit or Expired Gospel you decide…

these guys take book marketing to another level


You have got to be careful how you search for Matt Chandler’s new book “The Explicit Gospel.” It’s an interesting choice of titles. It has a commendation from Mark Driscoll whose most recent book could certainly have used the term explicit in the title as it had a lot to say about sexual positions for married couples. Chandler’s book has the most racy name but attempts to make the gospel clear.

Why does this book matter?

The list of commendations let you know a little about the circles this book has come from: DA Carson, Mark Driscoll, Mark Dever are conservative evangelicals from North America connected with the Gospel Coalition network of churches and leaders. Perhaps Chandler’s book could be described as the gospel that the Gospel Coalition espouses. This book is a big deal not just because of who commends it, but because it comes with its own branded tour bus with a multi city itinerary. The rock star imagery is noted by Chandler Its also the first chance to see what the new head of the Acts 29 network (Mark Driscoll recently stepped down from leading this) thinks about evangelism. Mark Driscoll gave this book a rave review:

“Matt Chandler is one of the best Bible preachers on the earth…”

Those of us in the UK know about the high standards Pastor Mark has for preachers so I guess from this commendation Driscoll believes Chandler to be a brave and truthful preacher. I am not sure how well Pastor Mark has researched his comment that Chandler is one of the best preachers on the planet – but perhaps he is better acquainted with the preachers of Sierra Leone, Albania, Tasmania and Nepal than I give him credit for. It was encouraging to see the inclusion of Rick Warren with the following commendation “If you only read one book this year, make it this one. It’s that important.” I know Rick reads copiously so this is high praise indeed. So it was with eager anticipation that I dived into my review copy from the generous team at IVP UK.

5 things to enjoy

1. Personable and engaging

I have listened to quite a bit of Chandler’s preaching and there’s lots to like. He often has a very fresh use of language – he has a very down to earth turn of phrase that I find refreshing and often heflpul. He also has a pastoral heart – part of me wonders whether his own experience with cancer – which he talks about openly and often has given him a deeper and richer experience of God and of the church. You get the idea Matt would be a good person to hang out with, someone you could trust.

2. Willingness to think bigger

The book is divided into two sections – Part 1 “the gospel on the ground” and Part 2 “the gospel from the air.” The gospel from our point of view and the Gospel from God’s vantage point if you like.

Chandler describes the difference between the two in an interview with Ed Stetzer:

Chandler states the “gospel on the ground” looks at the gospel up close (individual salvation) and then the “gospel in the air” pulls way back and looks at our faith from 30,000 feet (meta/mega-narrative). Whenever you de-emphasize one you take what is robust and awe inspiring and make it smaller than it is. I think this is harmful to people and to the church.

We’ll dial into the gospel on the ground later in this piece, but the “gospel in the air” that Chandler presents is a helpful corrective to a lot of the “gospel” preaching I hear from the conservative stable. If you compared this book with Mark Dever’s “The Gospel and Evangelism” you would find the gospel in the air offers a wider canvass. A more expansive vision of the gospel – one that I and many others have been championing for a while now. The structure is Creation, Fall, Rescue and Consummation but there is mention of the new heavens and the new earth and resurrection that is often missing in the gospel according to conservatives. In many expressions of the gospel creation and the church are completely ignored and Chandler’s “gospel in the air” helpfully seeks to address this.

3. One degree shifts

When you read a book I guess trying to work out whom the intended audience are is a key part in assessing its success. I get frustrated when I get a review of one of my books where someone says they don’t like it because it didn’t scratch where they were itching – often the fact that the book was aimed at someone else could go half way to explaining that. If Chandler’s book helps to lift some conservatives out of an overly pietistic and individualistic approach to evangelism then in my mind it has succeeded. I can think of many friends for whom what Chandler is saying will be a one degree shift they might be willing to make that will help them engage with a fuller and deeper gospel.

4. Not guilt by association

Chandler moves in circles where pastors discourage their congregations to read books that come to difference conclusions on things like social justice or the social implications of the gospel. Chandler recently spoke at the together for the gospel conference alongside Mark Dever who at the same conference in previous years has argued pastors ought to protect the flock by discouraging them from reading books on social justice. I have written elsewhere on how controversial Tom Wright seems to be in Gospel Coalition circles but Chandler cites NT Wright at length. This is a brave move for someone in his position and is to be commended.

5. Passion for evangelism

There is an unmistakable passion for evangelism present in this book . Chandler believes the gospel is worth sharing clearly and often. He has an infectious enthusiasm for preaching the gospel and as an evangelist I enjoy reading that. Chandler is the leader of a huge US church which is seeing conversions and for this we can only rejoice. He is very keen that the gospel we preach does not lead to “moralistic therapeutic deism” that Christian Smith and Kenda Creasey Dean analyse as having a major influence over the teens of the US church.

5 things to be frustrated about

1. Inter Tribal warfare

For a book about making the gospel clear Chandler managed to find a way to make explicit his views on: the role of women and on creation. He played up to my stereotype of the US conservative right wing by bashing people who hold to an egalitarian position on the role of women in church leadership.For all his protestations he has made it part of the explicit gospel. For me that is a key problem we are facing in evangelical circles at the moment – we have made a whole range of issues a test of orthodoxy which previously were not considered to be part of the gospel.

2. Unexamined presuppositions

Chandler’s first section on the gospel on the ground uses the well worn pattern of

  1. God,
  2. Man (a masculine term deliberately chosen instead of humanity)
  3. Rescue
  4. Response

No explanation or justification is given for this structure. It is an assumed evangelical shorthand. Surely one of the ways that we “guard the good deposit” is that we have the courage to make sure the gospel we are preaching is the same as that the apostles preached. But Chandler’s exegetical method leaves him wide open to allowing the cultural assumptions of the west and the particular evangelical subtribe he lives in to edit the gospel down to size.

For example take a look at what is included under these different headings:

God – the all sufficiency of God – lots of quotes from Piper and Romans 11 – this feels like a condensed version of “Desiring God” by John Piper rather than an exegesis of what the Bible has to say is important about the nature of God in the gospel

  • strangely Chandler is virtually silent on the Trinity
  • there is no mention of the idea that people may be aware of the presence of God through general revelation – something even Calvin had space for in his doctrine of revelation.

Man – the sinfulness of humanity is highlighted as if this is the only aspect of biblical anthropology – is the only thing that the gospel has to say about human beings is that they are sinful? No one is asking that sin be minimised but what about human dignity as being made in the image of God. What about though we are evil we still know how to do good?

Rescue – the death of Christ is presented in isolation from the story of Israel, the birth, life and teaching of Jesus and even the resurrection. Jesus is explicitly reduced as a means to an end.

There is no critique of this gospel on the ground. It is presented as a valid expression of the gospel – the fact that it is drawn almost entirely from the book of Romans – Chandler very deliberately describes the process as throwing well known Romans verses at his readers. Is this really true to central thrust of the book of Romans? Is it the intention of the book of Romans to present a timeless gospel message? In order to get this gospel message from Romans you have to fillet out vast chunks. This presentation focuses on what many of us knew as the Roman road Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8 and 10:9 with the extra bonus of Romans 11:35-36 to underline the sufficiency of God. Chandler does not engage with the gospels at all. Which is very telling for a book about the gospel.

3. Lack of integration

Now as I recognise, perhaps politically Chandler almost has to expound this version of the “gospel on the ground” in order to be able to say the things he wants to say in the second half of the book. Because unless he has said these things and proved his orthodoxy it is possible in his desired audience will listen to the rest of what he has to say. If that is his strategy I understand. But because there is no critique of the limits of the gospel he has given – I think readers will assume you can take your pick between the gospel on the ground or the gospel in the air. Chandler does not integrate his gospel from above with his gospel on the ground.

Interestingly the gospel from the air uses:

  1. Creation
  2. Fall
  3. Redemption
  4. Consummation

Another four point structure. But once again the entire history of Israel is absent from the gospel message. The chapter on creation spends no time on thinking through what creation stewardship might mean and a lot of time expounding his particular views against evolution theory.What is Chandler’s advice to evangelists – which gospel should we preach Gospel from above or on the road or both? Why does one sound completely escapist and other only marginally less so? This may be a one degree shift for his audience but he has still left some big holes.

4. Missiological Naivety

Now that Chandler has made his two alternative gospels explicit – he does not explain to us why it doesn’t sound a lot like the gospel preaching that we encounter in the early church. Chandler’s gospel can’t be found on the lips of Jesus or in any of the evangelistic sermons in Acts. The rigid four point structures seem a lot less fluid than the contextually aware preaching of Jesus. The parables of Jesus for example don’t fit. Paul’s preaching in Areopagus or Peter’s at Pentecost don’t fit. The premise behind the book seems to be the nailing down of what is to be essential to the gospel – but to be honest the book is weak on the role of the Spirit, the missional task of the church, the place of repentance, even the atonement is not adequately explained. Not a single non-western theologian or thinker or evangelist is referred to. Perhaps Chandler “one of the best preachers in the world” – (I know he didn’t write that about himself but authors get to make a call as to which commendations are printed on their books) could use spending some time with believers from across the globe to have his explicit gospel unpacked by Christians who might be able to make his cultural assumptions, his theological bias and his inter tribal warfare made explicit to him to see the impact it is having on his gospel.

5. Less Explicit UK version


The US publication of the book states very clearly that this book was co-authored by Jared Wilson. But strangely the UK version does not acknowledge this – why not?






Despite my strong reservations there are many positives – I hope this book is widely read by the audience it was attended to help and that it becomes the starting point for a further conversation about the nature and essence of the gospel for our late modern western cultures.


California Dreaming Day 1

Born to Run

Got up at 5am then went for a run around the Lake at the bottom of the hill that Alan Hirsch lives on. I put together a playlist for the run – including the classic Mammas and Pappas song “California Dreaming.” I struggle to be away from the family for a whole week – but want to take the opportunity this trip provides to dream a little about how to take forward three of the initiatives I am working on with the Evangelical Alliance.


Spending the morning with Alan Hirsch generated lots of ideas – I recorded an interview with him that hopefully will appear at some stage. But the big idea that stuck in my brain was Alan’s self description as an Inceptor of ideas into the church. As a prolific author (one of Alan’s book has sold 60 000 copies alone) and speaker and adjunct faculty member at Fuller, George Fox and a host of other seminaries. 52 year old Hirsch is not leading a major organisation, he does not have a steady income from one major job. Instead he is writing and speaking to earn his living. But more than that Alan sees his primary calling is to be someone that helps the church engage with new (yet forgotten) ideas. The image is of course taken from the film Inception starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Where a new form of psychological espionage focusses not on stealing ideas but on giving them away – implanting them into someone’s mind. As a benevolent inceptor of ideas Alan has had and continues to have huge influence to a wide range of church groups and streams. He has introduced the term “attractional church” to distinguish them from missional churches – in fact together with Mike Frost Alan has played a huge part in normalising the missional church language.

I am intrigued by this model of ministry – perhaps in the digitally re-landscaped world we live in this role is increasingly important as the old linear authoritarian structure that dominate so many of our churches and organisations are not the best way to see change – but rather a locally grounded, missionally experienced, digitally savvy inceptor might be just the kind of change agent we need.

Hospitality and Community

I had not met Alan before last night – yet he offered me a place to stay in his beautiful and inviting community house. A brilliantly diverse group of people live together: a married couple, two single professionals and a mother and her amazingly bright 9 year old daughter. It was a lovely community to visit for 24 hours and another demonstration of the way that Alan and his wife Deb practice what they preach finding new ways to live out the gospel. I am grateful for the time to learn from Alan and his friends and will experiment with following in a small way in his footsteps as an inceptor of ideas.

Sticky Faith

Kara Powell of the fuller youth institute was the next person it was my privilege to meet in Pasadena. Kara’s work on “Sticky Faith” is an advanced parallel of the work we have been doing on “It takes a whole church to raise a child.” Sticky Faith is really hitting a nerve as the US church struggle to hold on to its young adults and so Kara is much in demand as a speaker and educator. I was able to grab a quick lunch with her looking for advice on how to take the “It takes a whole church” initiative further. Kara is a whirlwind of ideas, analysis and anecdotes. It was hard to keep up with the flow of insight and wisdom. I came away inspired and challenged: real change in the lives of young people is possible but the challenge comes when we think of the scale of reconfiguring that needs to take place if the church is going to find a way to help young adults not just survive in their faith into adulthood but actually thrive and grow. How can we empower youth workers to take themselves seriously as grown up members of the church? how do we help parents to be disciple makers? How do we navigate the politically loaded world of evangelicalism so that the reimaging of children’s and youth ministry to work with parents is not hijacked by a male headship / complimentarian agenda nor a retreat from the wider culture into the homeschooling-is-the-only-way ghetto. Kara gave me some fantastic ideas and i am looking forward to thrashing them out soon.

INFOGRAPHIC_ The Kony Kraze | Online Schools

Kony, Slactivism and Justice

Its been the fastest growing viral video campaign in history. Over 100 million people watched (all or part) of the 29 minute video highlighting the plight of the “invisible children” – the child soldiers of the LLA.

Apparently it took Kony just 6 days to reach a 100 million views. But take a look at the next fastest videos to reach over 100 million views… notice anything about them?

They are all entertainment videos – either children’s comedy, funny family clips or pop videos. Most of them under 3 mins long. But Kony was a 29 minute campaign video encouraging us to take action for some of the most at risk children in the world. So this really is an encouraging and astonishing achievement.

One of the key things the Kony video asked us to do was to “cover the night” on April 20th with a poster campaign aimed to help the world wake up to the name of Joseph Kony – the head of the LLA who has kidnapped, abused and killed thousands of children. Sadly the reports are that the events that were organised around the world were poorly attended and that even on twitter there was a very little exposure for #kony2012.

I had and still have reservations about the KONY campaign – but I admire the vision, the use of social media and beautiful videography. I am interested in mobilising people to bring social transformation – as this is a key aspect of the church’s mission on earth. So I am intrigued why the campaign did not translate into on the ground action. Here are my immediate reactions:

1. Social media is a tool not a panacea

A viral video is does a great job of raising awareness but the move to call for action is a lot harder. This is where Malcolm Gladwell’s comment about weak ties is important. Gladwell commented that the civil rights marchers back in 1965 that faced down the police on bloody sunday in the US state of Alabama were bound together by strong social ties but Facebook friends are only weak ties. He is right of course but that is to misread how social media works. In my humble opinion the arab spring saw the use of social media to serve and support the ties that people already had rather than form new ones. Thus the Kony campaign will not galvanise a group of activists but it can help to inform and educate a wide audience.

2. Slactivism is real but not the whole story

A tweet, a “like” of a Facebook page or a view of a youtube video are certainly not enough when it comes to social activism. And it is a lot easier for us to watch a video than do anything else to help the victims of Joseph Kony. But to right off the Kony campaign as slactivism is misleading. Raising the issues has got to be part of a strategy of mobilisation. There will be a funnel effect – tens of millions watched the video but I believe hundreds of people globally will make the harder longer lasting choices to get stuck in and invest time and energy into working amongst the worlds poorest children. I keep coming across people who motivated by a desire to serve God actively seek ways to invest their lives into the most seemingly hopeless causes to demonstrate that God is powerful enough to bring transformation anywhere. Perhaps the Kony video will form part of a whole bunch of people’s journey towards greater involvement with the poor.

3. Beauty, Bandwagons and Discernment

The beauty of the video was the key to its viral nature – it was incredibly well shot and there was a very clever use of story telling through the eyes of the directors small son. But there were some some big questions that needed asking about the call for direct military intervention and with dubious partners. We live in a world where whoever makes the best marketing pitch gets the most amount of money and support – we need to help to educate the wider audience to ask critical questions about fundraising campaigns, aid and development charities without encouraging a cynical do nothing attitude. It also the celebrity factor that makes a huge impact. Look at the stats on impact of single tweet from Oprah Winfrey…


What are your reflection on the Kony2012 campaign?

Preaching a whole Bible Book in one Sermon


Our church is teaching through 12 key books of the Old Testament this term. Here are the notes that I prepared for our preachers and house group leaders. I thought they might be useful to help more of us to explore preaching whole books at a time as part of a varied diet of Bible teaching:

1. Why Preach whole books?

  1. People don’t know the sweep of the story of scripture
  2. Teaching scripture atomistically has become the norm
  3. Its easier to twist a micro-chunk of scripture than a whole book
  4. Sometimes you have to step back to see the beauty
  5. Even in a long term preaching ministry it is unlikely that you will cover every book of the Bible

2. How to preach whole books

  1. Make a case for why this book matters – we always have a mix of Christians and faith explorers each Sunday…
  2. Help the congregation to review the story so far…
  3. Present a simple overview of the book you are teaching…
  4. Make a link to an aspect of Christ’s life and work – your sermon should be a “Christian one” – we know how Christ fulfils the Old Testament
  5. Don’t try to say too much – K.I.S.S.

3. Things to avoid when preaching

  1. Sermon turning into a regurgitated commentary / mini lectureForgetting the pastoral and evangelistic needs of the congregation
  2. Making the interactivity in the sermon inaccessible to new and not yet Christians
  3. Turning every book of the Bible into a character study
  4. Preaching the book either allegorically or in a way that forgets Christ fulfils the Old Testament
  5. Assuming the congregation know the book as well as you do now

4. House groups

  1. Take the opportunity to review / remind the congregation of the big story of the Bible.
  2. Explore fresh insights members gleaned from reading the book / hearing the sermon.
  3. Ask preachers to provide a couple of thematic question that explores a major theme in the book:
  4. Spend time thinking through the pastoral needs of your group and explore ways to connect them with the dominant themes of the book
  5. When you pray ask members to use insights gleaned from the book to inform the way you pray:
    “Creator God – we ask …”
    “God of Exodus rescue – we praise…”



Tell young people about love before judgement?

I was honoured to be invited to speak last year at the Youth Work Summit in Manchester. I was given 10 minutes to speak about the subject “Tell young people about love before judgement” or “Tell young people about judgement before love.”

I think I was given the subject in light of my review of Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” book for Youthwork magazine. Here was my best shot at the subject. Let me know what you think of it.


Photo credit: RHiNO NEAL

The Wright Stuff

Photo credit: RHiNO NEAL


Its hard to find Christians leaders who are ambivalent about Tom Wright’s writings. You are either for him or against him, love him or hate him. Recognise him as a genius; the leading western biblical scholar of his generation or write him off as a pompous woolly liberal. I hadn’t realised the extent to which the former Bishop of Durham is a marmite figure amongst evangelicals until recently. I have friends on both sides of this debate. I must admit I am a fan but I really want to understand why he gets on the wick of so many of my friends.

1) Piper versus Wright

For some it is a matter of taking sides. There is a guilt (or glory) by association going on. For some of my friends to be wrong side of John Piper is to be on the wrong side. Now as I have written elsewhere there is much to commend in John Piper’s work but he is neither omniscient nor infallible. Piper’s doctoral research was in New Testament studies but he has not remained in academic research he has chosen to invest his life in local church ministry. Now of course the academy and the church are not mutually incompatible and indeed there needs to be a greater interaction between the pulpit and the academy. But it is interesting that when the two disagree they tend to disagree on method. In my opinion Piper tends to read the NT through the lens of the reformers while Wright reads it through the lens of biblical theology. Neither the Reformers nor Wright’s reading of biblical theology are inerrant but these men do tend to talk past eachother when they engage. My friends love the humility and graciousness of Piper and find NT Wright’s tone as pompous and arrogant. I guess this is where someone’s presuppositions come in to play, because I know a lot of people who have the exact same problem with Piper’s work. How can we get past perceived tone and engage with content?

2) All or nothing

For some of my friends its all or nothing with the theologians they like. There’s a tick list – a writer needs to tick the boxes on a number of issues in order to have anything to contribute to a conversation. So for example if Tom Wright challenges views on justification he can’t have anything helpful to say on how to read the gospels. Strangely this thinking doesn’t apply to the great reformers – Luther’s anti-Semitism or Calvin’s encouragement to see Servetus executed as a heretic. It also doesn’t seem to apply to CS Lewis who is often loved by my friends who don’t like NT Wright. Because I do not share Luther’s antisemitism or Calvin’s willingness to execute dissenters or CS Lewis’ views on Heaven and Hell does not mean I can find nothing of merit in their work. I have been greatly helped by these flawed mens’ works and I find the same is true in NT Wright’s work. Some of it I do not agree with but I have still found much to treasure. Surely this is the mark of a discerning reader – scripture is our only infallible source, in all other writings we must apply a spirit of gracious discernment that seeks to pick the fish from the bones as my Albanian friends like to put it.

3) Politics

The gospel coalition have recently published a pretty scathing review of Wright’s most recent book. After offering a few sentences of what the reviewer found helpful – which seem pretty minimal – namely that Wright draws on the Old Testament understanding of Jesus to set the context for Jesus’ ministry; that he hasn’t taken a typically liberal approach by focussing on the ethical teaching of Jesus and that the incarnation reflects God dwelling with his people in his Son. Which apart from the emphasis on the Old Tetsatment context are not primary elements of this book. The bulk of the review is a vigorous critique where Wright’s “shoddy scholarship” and either “sheer chronological snobbery” or “plain ignorance” are highlighted. Wright is reprimanded for apparently

“his loathing of democracy, particularly American democracy. Fox News, the killing of Osama bin Laden, small government, the system of voting on government officials, the separation of church and state, etc.”

No references are given – but to label the Wright a hater of democracy when he has played a significant role as Bishop in the House of Lords and has a theology and a practice of social engagement (see the new resource inside out featuring Tim Keller and NT Wright talking about evangelistic, social and political engagement) This is quite a telling critique – it reminded me of the work of another stalwart of the Gospel Coalition, Wayne Grudem’s lengthy explanation of why capitalism is the only biblically justifiable position. Is it possible to be a critic of some aspects of american foreign policy without being labelled a hater of democracy? Surely there is room for gracious dialogue on differences of theology and politics – otherwise how will we avoid reading our political persuasions back into scripture because of our cultural location?

I have been very provoked and helped by NT Wright’s works. There are flaws – he is not omniscient but I do enjoy reading someone who is trying to read the bible by paying close attention to its context, grand narrative and internal consistency.


Love to know your thoughts.