Thursday, 29 October 2009

A Challenge to Churchy

I met up with my twin bro yesterday. We had a good chat. He used to be a Christian but would now describe himself has an atheist who wants to believe God exists. He's an atheist because he can't come to any other conclusion based on everything he sees and has experienced. But he would love it if God existed.

We were chatting about church when he said something that really impacted me. It was along the lines of:
'Christians do these events, big and little, so they can be deliberately 'churchy' and have a rest from being 'missional'. It makes me think that anything missional that churches do is just and act or facade. Church in these scenarios seems to be fake. It makes me wonder if the expressions of love in these situations is actually genuine.'

A real challenge. Do we love for loves sake? Or are people just a target to convert?
Also, can church communities be a place where we are always being real about who we are and therefore allow others who we meet be real about who they are? Can we ever drop the 'show' and be who we are called to be?

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

5 Deeply De-Christian Doctrines Meme

Thanks to David for prompting me to do this as a meme:

List 5 doctrines that are taught within the Christian church that you believe to be deeply de-Christian.

I tag David, Sam, Tim A, Banksy and Tim

Those that I listed were:

1. The doctrine of penal substitution

2. The belief that Genesis is a literal account of creation (i.e that the world was created in 6 literal 24 hour days)

3. The doctrine that believes woman should not be in church eldership/bishops

4. Calvin's doctrine of divine election/retribution

5. The doctrine that 'salvation' is about going to heaven

Monday, 26 October 2009

Random Beliefs

Banksy tagged me with this. 10 things I believe to ethical, philosophical or theological:

1. I believe marriage is one of the greatest gifts given to humanity, yet has been so abused we have lost sight of its beauty.

2. I believe that identical twins share a deeper bond than science could ever reveal

3. I believe films can touch our souls, both positively and negatively

4. I believe the church in the West is in 'Babylon' but are largely unaware of this.

5. I believe that the church must understand how vastly different tomorrow looks from today to engage meaningfully with our culture with the Gospel. It's failure to do this is one of the reasons it is in exile.

6. I believe God is far more loving and gracious than we could ever begin to imagine.

7. I believe fundamentalism is evil

8. I believe children to be a precious gift to our world and we therefore have a huge responsibility to love and care for them properly.

9. I believe wherever there is truth there is God and wherever there is love, there is God.

10. I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord.

I tag Tim A, David and Tim

Friday, 23 October 2009

5 Deeply De-Christian Doctrines

5 Doctrines that I believe to be deeply de-Christian:

1. The doctrine of penal substitution

2. The belief that Genesis is a literal account of creation (i.e that the world was created in 6 literal 24 hour days)

3. The doctrine that believes woman should not be in church eldership/bishops

4. Calvin's doctrine of divine election/retribution

5. The doctrine that 'salvation' is about going to heaven

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Vivid Dream - Strong Building

I had a very vivid dream on Monday night...

Sarah and I were in a field surrounded by hills in the middle of nowhere. It was a very dull and overcast day. We were looking at an old building that was falling down and in need of serious renovation.

Two of our friends were there who were instrumental in my obedience to God in pursuing the calling to ministry that he has given me. They had a photo album on them and were showing us photo's of our past. Some of the photo's were of really happy times since we were called to ministry. Others were of the difficult times. Others were of sin in our lives that we need deal with.

Sarah and I then collect some materials to try and restore this building. The materials we are using don't seem to be good enough, yet suddenly another man joins us and begins to show us how to use these materials. He tells us they are good enough if we use them properly. We discover he is a master builder. He shows us how to build properly.

He then warns us. He says that we need to listen to him and build properly because a mighty wind is coming that night and will blow so powerfully. The wind will be so strong that it will show up everything that is lacking about the building. It will expose the weaknesses in it. We need to build properly.

Sarah and I listen and keep building. We then crawl into the building. It seems so small and low now. And we wait.

I believe this was a dream from God. I shared it with some of my mates from college and one of my tutors. They are going to pray and let me know if they have an idea about what it may mean. My tutor said he was sensing ruach/pneuma type imagery in it.

Anyone else got any thoughts?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Missional Worship

'As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.' Mark 1:16-20

It seems to me that this is a significant 'missional worship' text. Here we have Jesus calling Simon, Andrew, James and John to follow Jesus and be fishers of people. It is a calling to worship Jesus and be fishers of people. 'Come follow me and I will make you fishers of people'. Worship and mission are interlocked with each other here. It is not that worship and mission are a seperate issue in the calling of Christ on their lives, but that a part of the calling to follow Jesus is the calling to be agents of mission.
And this continues for the Church today.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

A cry against the 'king'

'The economics of affluence and the politics of oppression are the most characteristic marks of the Solomonic achievement...So the third foundational element I suggest is the establishment of a controlled, static religion in which God and his temple have become part of the royal landscape, in which the sovereignty of God is fully subordinated to the purpose of the king...Now there is no notion that God is free...Now God is totally and unquestionably accessible to the king and those to whom the king grants gives the king a monopoly so that no marginal person may approach God except on this king's terms. There will be no disturbing cry against the king here.'
Brueggeman, The Prophetic Imagination p 28-29

Now this can easily be seen in terms of oppressive governments and regimes in history. But it can also be seen in the church in the West today. Every denomination and movement and stream old and new. None escape this worrying charge. I would want to say that the church is the 'king'...

Moving On

It struck me today that I am leaving Mersea in around 9 months time! Exciting!

I'll be taking up a new ministry in a new place somewhere in the UK. I'm looking forward to the change and the fresh challenges this will bring. College is an amazing place and I'm going to miss being there and the depth of learning I experience there, but I'm ready to spread my wings and fly. I'm going to miss Mersea, but because all my family is here I will back on a regular basis.

Hopefully I'll be ordained in June and graduate in June and then move sometime in July. I just need to try and hear and know where God is calling us to next. Sarah is really excited and has been looking at prospective places online and trying to get a 'feel' for them. The next 9 months are going to disappear quickly and the reality is that it is not long to settle into a new ministry. But I know God has got it all under control! If you pray then I would value your prayers about this whole journey we are now on.

It's been great to be a part of what God is doing here on Mersea. Plenty of ups and downs. So much to be thankful for. Learnt more about God, church, people and myself than I could ever have imagined. And there is a long way to go yet!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

missio Dei

'A trinitarian ecclesiology would take its basic clue from the fact that the most fundamental Christian affirmation about the God who has been revealed in Jesus Christ through the continuing activity of the Holy Spirit is that God is extravagant, outreaching love. The triune God is a missionary God, and the mission of the church is rooted in the trinitarian missions. Furthermore, according to trinitarian doctrine, the very nature of God is communal, and the end for which God created and reconciled the world is depth of communion between God and creatures. The church is the community called into being, built up, and sent into the world to serve in the name and power of the triune God. When the church is true to its own being and mission, it offers an earthly correspondence to God's own unity and diversity, to the inclusive and welcoming love of the other that characterizes the communion of the triune God.' Migliore, D., Faith Seeking Understanding 200-201

In other words, the church exists within this movement of God, the missio Dei, to such a depth that mission is not seen as an added activity, but as the defining essence of the church.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Mission and Worship

Over the last couple of years I have been on a significant journey in terms of my understanding of what the church is and what the church does. I've been studying these questions at college and sought to do much reading on it (still nowhere near enough mind you) and tried to observe churches in their various streams. I have spoken to many different people from many different theological and cultural backgrounds and tried to come to a place where I feel I can stand. Now I'm not sure I'm really in a place where I can stand, more in a place where I'm kneeling, but then maybe that is actually the best place to be.

One of the things I have been trying to understand is how the church exists week to week within the UK. Church in the UK continues to decline and in a small way I've been trying to figure out why that might be. I don't think there is one answer. I don't think there are simple answers. One thing I would say however is that maybe one of the reasons is because of where our understanding of worship is.

So often the church in the West organises itself around what happens on a Sunday. So everything is geared up around this time when everyone meets together to worship God together. Now meeting together is a good thing and something Scripture tells us we must continue in. But I wonder whether our understanding of what that worship consists of is one of the issues.

I do not believe worship is something that purely happens on Sunday morning, but that it is a way of life. Worship is what we should do with our whole being at all times in all situations.

I believe that mission is a means through which we worship God. It is not merely a fruit of worship, but a means through which we worship. It is an expression of our love for God and our love for others. Mission is a continuation in the ministry of Christ. 'As the Father sent me so I send you'. Mission is worship.

The church should be committed to preaching the Gospel as a way thorough which it declares its love for God. So when we meet together, our worship needs to reflect God's heart to see that 'none should perish.'

And surely Communion is at its very heart a meal of mission? 'For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.' As we share in this meal we are worshipping God and participating in Christ. And surely, if we are participating in Christ we are participating with him in his ministry to reconcile all things?

So much of the church in the West is more concerned with what happens in the four walls of our buildings rather than being concerned about the people outside of it. The Incarnation reveals to us a God who is deeply concerned about all that he has created and therefore became a part of that creation in order to redeem it. We therefore should have equal concern (if that were possible). As soon as mission comes of our radar and is merely something that we hope will happen as a result of worship then we're in trouble. But when mission is realised to be a part of our worship then I believe the church will be in a better place before God.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

India, Mission and Persecution

I've decided to pick out my key moments from India rather than share from every day in my diary. There are some things which came out of my time there that I think are significant for the church in this nation. One of the key points is in regard to mission that I want to blog about once I've processed it a bit more.

A recent thread on Sam's blog (here) has prompted me to think about it a bit more and then blog about mission and the church's calling to be missional. I don't entirely agree with Sam about worship and want to speak about my understanding of mission over the next few days.

Below is a video that we were shown while in India by a mission and church planting group called National Fellowship. The reason these guys showed us this video is because they went to Orissa and witnessed something of what happened and spoke to many people about what they had been through. What they shared with us, something of which is explained on this video, radically challenges and transforms your understanding of mission and church.

*WARNING* Footage is graphic:

Monday, 5 October 2009

Shopping for CCTV

Thanks to Sam for drawing my attention to these guys.

Diary of India 2009 Day 4

Diary of India 2009 Day 4

After staying overnight in the guest house near Bangladesh we travelled to a Muslim village. Big Life took lots of medical supplies and gave it to the village for free. After handing out the medicine the Doctor shared with the villagers his faith story and how he had converted from Islam to Christianity. Someone then shared a short evangelistic preach and invited the villagers to become followers of Jesus. What happens next is that some of the villagers will go to their Imam and ask him about what they have heard from Big Life. The Imam will then invite someone form Big Life to come and share and debate with him. If the Imam is converted then the village will have permission to become followers of Jesus. If the Imam is not converted then he will forbid the villagers to convert. If they do convert in this scenario then they will be beaten of even killed.

We then travelled to a remote village that could only be reached by boat. This village had been badly affected by a cyclone. Big Life took clothes, food and medicine to help the villagers there. From this contact a church has been planted. We spent time worshipping together and encouraging the disciples there. We prayed for them and then left.

We then went to another village and witnessed 11 baptisms taking place within their village. It is a Hindu village and the baptism happen in the pool where they bathe and wash their clothes. This is incarnational faith.

It has been an incredible day full of joy and heartache and challenges. My faith has grown and my passion for Jesus is on fire! So much to process...

Friday, 2 October 2009

Diary of India 2009 Day 3

Diary of India 2009 Day 3

Today we travelled with Big Life Ministries to a guest house on the border of Bangladesh over looking the Bay of Bengal.

From there we visited a house church that had been plated by evangelists from Big Life. It was in a Hindu village and they met each week to worship together. We spent time listening to each other's stories of how we became followers of Jesus and encouraged each other with words from Scripture. We also heard from those within the house church of how the actively go and share their faith with anyone that they can. They travel from village to village sharing their faith in Christ. There is no apathy to evangelism. They simply do it and are passionate to do it. They have a real passion for Jesus and are motivated by mission.

From there we travelled to another house church in another Hindu village and spent time enouraging one another and praying together. Many from the village came and listened and were challenged to put their faith in Jesus and turn from their Hinduism.

After this we went to a remote village to plant a new church. When we arrived some of the guys from Big Life were already there playing games with the children. We joined in with them and shared stories from the Bible with them. After this a big white sheet was pegged up between two trees, an old school projector was brought and fired up using a generator and they showed the village the 'Jesus Film'. Many adults and children sat and watched the film. It was very late so we headed back to the guest house.

Later on we heard how someone had preached to the villagers after the Jesus film had been shown and 35 people became Christians. A house church will now be planted in that village and evangelists from Big Life will continue to go there and disciple the new believers. A part of their discipleship is to equip them to be evangelists themselves.

What has impacted me today is how indigenous church is here in India. The practice and faith of these churches is very contextual. They don't call people to abandon their Hindu traditions, but call people to be followers of Jesus within the culture they are placed in. They don't have to become westernised!!

What has also impacted me is how evangelism and mission are key to every Christian we have met. They simply get on with it and see how crucial it is to do it.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Diary of India 2009 Day 2

Diary of India 2009 Day 2

We began the day leading a time of devotion with those who work at the BMS guest house. Many of them are not Christians but enjoy spending each morning reading from the Bible. We spent time reading from Ephesians 4:1-6 and the reflected on what it was saying. This was the first time I had experienced one of us being translated into Bengali and it is interessting how the dynamic of preaching and teaching changes when you need to be translated. Some of the words we use in the West simply do not translate here in India.

After this we met with some of the people we would be working with over then next 3 weeks and listened to what they are involved in and where the work and the kind of people they engage with.

After this we went to Mother Teresa's Centre and looked around there. It was an amazing experience. It is a place filed with the presence of God. A place of prayer. Mother Teresa's tomb is there and we spent time looking at it and reflecting on her life. An amazing women. We met a nun who was with Mother Teresa when she died and she spoke of her sadness that many people do not come any longer to visit the centre. Mother Teresa is an inspiration and the time spent at her centre was a real blessing.

In the evening we went to a house group that meets as a part of the Assemblies of God church in Kolkata. We spent time looking at the Scriptures and what the Bible says about adultery. It was all in English and the style and feel of the evening felt very Western. Yet the honesty and openness they had when talking about adultery and how to avoid it felt very un-Western!
The lady leading the group was called Melissa. She was about 25 and worked in a secondary school teaching English. She shared about the miracles she sees week by week at work. She is allowed to speak openly at school about Jesus and pray for students in class. She has seen students healed of sickness and injuries in her classroom. Imagine that happening in England...

It was a good day today. Challenging and inspiring. Tomorrow we travel with Big Life Ministries who are involved with mission and church planting. We will be involved in helping to plant a church tomorrow!