Friday, 26 February 2010

Top Gun

Now this is a funny video! Bit of Friday fun. Enjoy!


Thursday, 25 February 2010

Life is Precious

An interesting interview with Man City's Emmanuel Adebayor.

He shares about the gun attack on the Togo team bus in January where two people died and many other's injured. Adebayor describes how it lasted for 32 minutes with bullets flying everywhere. He sent a text message to his mum saying that he was going to die, such was the level of the attack and the fear of the situation.

It is an insightful interview that gives you a view of what he and the other Togo team went through and how they felt during and after this ordeal.

He speaks of faith in God and how this has strengthened his faith in God, believing that God can take you whenever he wants. He believes that we are to be thankful for every day that we have and make the most of it.

Perhaps nothing sharpens the mind more than the prospect of death. Suddenly we are faced with the reality that life is fragile and our time is precious. Yet when we have such wealth of varying degrees in the West (Adebayor owns a Bentley!) we have all the capabilities of ignoring the fragility and preciousness of life. Maybe this is a part of the current debate about assisted death.

Yet if we face up to our situation, that death, indeed ultimate death, is completely out of our hands, then the grace and life offered to us by God is our only hope.

I have no idea how I would respond if I had bullets flying past my head. It seems that it has given Adebayor a new perspective on things.

Life is precious and when I look at the death of Jesus I begin to grasp just how precious it really is.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

History Maker?

I received a notification on Facebook the other day asking if I would like to join a group. The group was seeking to get a Christian song to number 1 in the UK charts. The song is called History Maker by a group called Delirious. I suspect it is off the back of the Rage Against The Machine Christmas campaign.

I looked at the group and decided not to join because I ask myself the question, 'what is the point of this campaign?'

I do not understand it. The reality is that if this song does get to number 1 (and I doubt it will), what difference will it make? Are Christians expecting a great revival in the nation based on this campaign? Are we expecting people flocking to church because they heard this Christian song on the radio? Or is it that once again we have sold out to celebrity culture?

I probably sound a bit grumpy, so apologies! The thing is, this is nothing more than a repeat of the Cliff Richard number 1 scenario that happened at the turn of the millennium. It doesn't matter that Delirious are a 'cool' Christian band, because the effect will be exactly the same; apathy from the British public.

Now I could be totally wrong, and I hope I am, but I suspect that even if this does get off the ground it will have little if any affect at all for the sake of the Gospel. I believe the best way we can be history makers is by loving God and loving our neighbour in deeply covenanted and radical ways. History has been made at the Cross, we have been called to declare it and live it out in ways that will bring real and lasting transformation into the communities we live. We can be history makers by bringing the Kingdom of God into the here and now, not by simply singing songs, but by being instruments of the grace and love of God.

The reality is that this is just a song, nothing more, and that is why it won't change anything. The Gospel is the power of salvation not a song. So it is as we live out the Gospel in words and actions where real history will be made.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Am I A Radical?

What does it mean to be a radical follower of Jesus?

What are the implications if we take seriously his call on our lives to take up our cross and follow him?

How does that look in the 21st Century?

How is he seeking to turn my world upside down?

What will I have to give up in order to follow him more faithfully?

What will I have to do in order to reflect more fully?

How can I be a witness to the risen Christ?

What does it mean to follow this radical, revolutionary, powerful, humble, beautiful Jesus?

Monday, 22 February 2010

People Target Locked

Rev Sam making some good points about blackmail. He makes the point that people are treated as a 'thing' rather than a person.
This and a recent article by The Baptist Times about church attendance prompted my thoughts again about church and mission.

I have said this before very briefly, but I want to expand on it a bit more now.

One of the issues and challenges I believe the Church faces is its understanding and approach to the person. Year in and year out we are fed statistic after statistic about how many people are going to church compared with previous years. Sometimes the statistics are good, sometimes they are bad, but whatever they are the general voice is that we need to seek ways in which church growth can increase.

Now I have no problem at all with a desire for the Church to grow and to see more and more people hearing and responding to the call of Jesus on their lives. I am a evangelist after all! But what I have noticed is the subtle changes in the way we speak about church growth and in particular the way we speak about people when we are talking about mission and evangelism. And this change in speech is not particular to the church, it is a cultural phenomenon. And I believe this is having a adverse affect upon the way the church is able to engage with the communities they are a part of because our language is often a reflection of what we actually believe.

Church decline in the West over the last 20 years has caused the church to sit up and take notice of why people are leaving and what we can do to reverse the decline. Programmes of evangelism and mission, books, seminars, seeker sensitive, emerging, fresh expressions, cafe church etc etc are all a reaction to this decline a genuine desire to do something positive in order that the church would be relevant and contextual and true to the message that God has called us to proclaim. Some things have worked while some have fallen by the wayside, but they have mostly come from a heartfelt response to the situation.

The problem is however that we have subconsciously turned the people we are seeking to engage with, with the message of Jesus, into targets of mission.

People become a 'thing' that we are trying to target in order that they would become a part of the church. We want to see results, a change to the situation, so we hope to get a lock on the target, engage our gospel guns, and see mission accomplished. We have become obsessed with numbers.

But church is not about numbers, it is about people. Every person has a story to tell, a hurt that needs healing, a joy to be celebrated, a life to be lived. I don't what people to ask how many people are in my church, I want to be asked, 'Are those in your church discovering life?'.

When church is about numbers and targets, people become a 'resource', and this strips people of their God given humanity. Yet this is what society does. We have company departments called 'Human Resources', fashion models, cheap labour and consumerism, all of which reduce humanity into a commodity, a target, a number, a resource. So when the targets are reached in church life, they in turn become a resource that we use to go and reach new targets, and the cycle continues. Yet people do not want to be a resource, they want to realise their God given potential. They want to loved.

So one of our challenges as the Church is to transform our thinking and our actions. To love unconditionally. To 'be' with people and journey with them. To 'incarnate' ourselves in their lives, not because they are a target, but because we want to love them.

And I suspect this is where so many arguments arise from within the life of the church. Clayboy highlights the woman in ministry debate which has many streams to it. But I believe one of these is that conservative thinking on this matter reduces woman to a 'resource' that is not good enough to use. It is absolutely absurd and an offence to the Gospel that some streams of the Christian church do not believe women should teach or be Pastor's/Bishops/Ministers. But when people become a 'thing' (and don't be fooled by 'complementarism' or 'equal but different' speech), then it is always an offence to the Gospel.

So as a Kingdom people, looking to a bright future, seeking to model now what will be, we need to be a people that oozes love, grace and enables people to be people. We must not see numbers and targets, resources and tools, but people with stories to tell, lives to lived, hurts to be healed and hearts to be loved.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Jesus 'a compassionate...gay man.'

A few interesting articles today that raise good discussion.

Elton John, in a recent interview in America, says that Jesus was 'a compassionate, super intelligent gay man who understood human problems'. I'm those comments will attract a lot of attention in America, especially among the Right Wing.
Reading what I have, it appears to me that Elton John is saying some really positive things about Jesus, namely that he was a man of love and forgiveness.
The gay comment I am sure is simply to get a reaction from those religious people he condemned before in a previous interview. He is simply trying to prove a point and I imagine that by saying Jesus is gay the reactions he will receive will prove that there are a lot of religious people who are bigoted and hateful, whereas he believes that Jesus was loving and forgiving. He has said before that he has many gay friends who are Christian, so it seems he is not against Jesus, but against those who promote hatred in the name of God.

Daily Mail having a rant about the upcoming 'The Bible: A History' with Gerry Adams presenting it on the life of Jesus.

Say One For Me is where Bishops will pray for the general public. Write a pray on the website and you will be prayed for by the Bishops.

And Church Mouse telling us to lay of Kay Burley from Sky News for her gaff about Joe Biden.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Do You See?

I posted this on my site a little while ago and think it is well worth watching again. Have a look. I think this is a powerful film about the reality of who Jesus is.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Converted

William Haslam was a Vicar in the 19th Century. We read some of his story today at college as we were exploring evangelicalism in Britain and how one Sunday morning when he was preaching he was converted! Interesting story. Below is an excerpt of his story. When I read it I was struck that in some way it was like my own story. I too was speaking at the front of a church when I was converted, talking about who I thought God was when suddenly I had a picture of Christ hanging on the Cross. I realised as I was speaking that Jesus had died for me and right there I became His follower and was converted. It was though all of a sudden Jesus became real to me. I too 'felt a wonderful joy and light coming into my soul'.

'The sun was shining brightly, and before I could make up my mind to put off the service, the bells struck out a merry peal, and sent their summons far away over the hills. Now the thought came to me that I would go to church and read the morning prayers and after that dismiss the people. There was no preparation for the Holy Communion that day, and I had deputed the clerk to select the hymns, for I was far too ill to attend to anything myself. The psalms and hymns were especially applicable to my case, and seemed to help me, so that I thought I would go on and read the ante-communion service, and then dismiss the people.And while I was reading the Gospel, I thought, well, I will just say a few words in explanation of this, and then I will dismiss them. So I went up into the pulpit and gave out my text. I took it from the gospel of the day--"What think ye of Christ?" (Matt. 22:42).As I went on to explain the passage, I saw that the Pharisees and scribes did not know that Christ was the Son of God, or that He was come to save them. They were looking for a king, the son of David, to reign over them as they were. Something was telling me, all the time, "You are no better than the Pharisees yourself-you do not believe that He is the Son of God, and that He is come to save you, any more than they did." I do not remember all I said, but I felt a wonderful light and joy coming into my soul, and I was beginning to see what the Pharisees did not.Whether it was something in my words, or my manner, or my look, I know not; but all of a sudden a local preacher, who happened to be in the congregation, stood up, and putting up his arms, shouted out in a Cornish manner, "The parson is converted! The parson is converted!Hallelujah!" and in another moment his voice was lost in the shouts and praises of three or four hundred of the congregation. Instead of rebuking this extraordinary "brawling," as I should have done in a former time, I joined in the outburst of praise; and to make it more orderly, I gave out the Doxology--"Praise God, from whom all blessings flow"--and the people sang it with heart and voice, over and over again.My Churchmen were dismayed, and many of them fled precipitately from the place. Still the voice of praise went on, and was swelled by numbers of passers-by, who came into the church, greatly surprised to hear and seewhat was going on.When this subsided, I found at least twenty people crying for mercy,whose voices had not been heard in the excitement and noise of thanksgiving. They all professed to find peace and joy in believing.Amongst this number there were three from my own house; and we returned home praising God.The news spread in all directions that "the parson was converted," and that by his own sermon, in his own pulpit to. The church would not hold the crowds who came in the evening. I cannot exactly remember what I preached about on that occasion; but one thing I said was, "that if I had died last week I should have been lost for ever." I felt it was true. So clear and vivid was the conviction through which I had passed,and so distinct was the light into which the Lord had brought me, that I knew and was sure that He had "brought me up out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a Rock, and put a new song into my mouth" (Ps. 40). He had "quickened" me, who was before "dead in trespasses and sins," (Eph. 2:1).

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Manipulation and Distortion

Read a funny story today on The Old Geezer Blog about the manipulation and distortion of the media.

Read this while also thinking about preaching.

It is so easy in our preaching to put into a biblical text whatever we want it to say. We can so manipulate and distort Scripture and use to promote our own agenda's, prejudices and desires. It brings me again and again to the way we handle the Bible and what the Bible is and what it isn't.

I heard a sermon online the other day which completely distorted Scripture and placed into the passage the agenda of the preacher, rather than letting the Scripture's speak for themselves. This problem is a by product I believe of why people are leaving the church. People can see through falsity and agenda's. They want integrity and realism and honesty.

I do believe that when we allow Scripture to speak for itself, when we take time to explore its context and background, when we are listening to the wind of the Spirit, then Scripture can challenge us and shock us out of our bigotry and into a deeper state of grace.

I pray that would be true for me.

Monday, 15 February 2010

A Poem

I like writing my wife poems and will write her one on her birthday, at Christmas and on Valentines day. So here is my latest poem that I gave her this Valentines:

The birth of a sunrise brings breath-taking beauty
The powerful orange glow beaming newness into the day.
Shards of light scatter through the morning mist
The morning song of the birds welcoming the event.

So the experience of your love was as a sunrise to me
Your beauty taking my breath away.

The power of your love bursting new life and new hope into me
When before you I knew nothing but sunsets and dark nights.

Shards of your love have scattered through the mist of my pain
And the song of your love welcomes in the hope I now have.

Your love is like a never-ending sunrise
And I thank God for the gift you are to me.
I will love you forevermore
You are my sunrise.

© Joseph Haward 2010

Friday, 12 February 2010

Forgetting What Is Behind

I would just like to comment that my friend made the right decision. I have a limited understanding of the events, but know he made a decision, under God, and that decision was made to honour God and lead the community into a better place. I'm some of you will know what I'm talking about, but I don't want to be too explicit about it until they feel ready to talk about it.

Jesus said things and did things that people didn't like because of lack of understanding and being short sighted. Disciples left him because of this. The road of the cross and seeking the will of the Father will sometimes mean that hard decisions are made, people walk away and grief will needed to be endured.

BUT, out of the agony and pain of the Cross comes the resurrection! And so we fix our eyes on Jesus and march boldly towards the Promised Land, forgetting what is behind and straining for what is ahead! And we do it as a community, and I offer my love to this person as a fellow part of that community.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

People I Would Have For Dinner

Five people, dead or alive, that I would like to have a dinner party with:

Freddie Mercury
Peter Kay
Martin Luther King Jnr
Mary Magdalene
Muhammad Ali





Wednesday, 10 February 2010

20-30 Year Olds Not In Church

I have just read an article sharing about why 20-30 year olds are leaving Baptist churches in America. I think it is a good article and speaks a lot of sense and, although it is written in the American context, I think there are some good points that the UK church can listen to.

I believe the difference here though is that the reality is that 20-30 year olds are not really engaging with church in the first place in the UK. I suspect that most teenagers who have grown up in church leave before they are 18 years old and are not seen very often in church after that.

One of the points that is made in the article is most 20-30 year olds want an authentic faith where people are transparent and open to dialogue rather than being told what they should believe in dogmatic ways.

As a 20-30 year old and having conversations with my friends in that age bracket I would have to agree. People want the opportunity to discuss and share and question what they are hearing. Very post-modern. They want the opportunity to be heard and taken seriously. They want to be able to challenge traditional notions of religion and faith and be assured that they will be listened to and taken seriously. But I think it is more than that.

People want integrity. If they are in dialogue with a Christian they want them to show integrity of belief, not only in their actions but also in the way they have come to that belief.
It is easy to be a fundamentalist. I can see everything in black and white and not really think about what I believe or grapple with the reality of the human existence. But that is not integrity of belief.

20-30 year olds want people to have seriously thought about why they believe what they believe and how that REALLY impacts our lives. It is no good spouting of religious language and ideals. We need to have thought through properly why we believe Jesus is Lord. Now I know that so much of faith is heart condition, a transformation on the inside. And that is good, for as Jesus said, out of the heart comes the truth of our condition. But Jesus also said that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. I believe many 20-30 year olds listen to Christians and think that they have literally lost their mind. It leads to a lack of integrity.

The challenge for the church in the UK is also not to create clone churches where everyone looks like everyone else. So many churches, and I suspect even more so in new church movements, simply have a clone culture where everybody looks like everybody else. The church is called to be diverse and I would argue that the local church is called to be diverse, drawing in people from all backgrounds and all walks of life seeing how we can be one in God.

I believe 20-30 year olds who have a desire to think for themselves enjoy diversity and the challenges it brings. It is also to not put everyone in a box which I have been in danger of doing by simply writing this post.

The church can slip into the culture and create sub-cultures where everyone looks the same (think about fashion, tv and music), or we can seek radical new ways of being a diverse local community.

Honest dialogue, thought out integrity and radical diversity are, I believe, a way forward for the UK church to engage meaningfully with the 20-30 years olds in this nation.

And here is an example of one such 20-30 year old!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Morality

A story here about recent research that believes atheists are 'just as ethical as churchgoers.'

'The research suggests that intuitive judgements of right and wrong seem to operate independently of explicit religious commitments.'

I must admit that I have a really tough time understanding where an atheist receives their moral framework. I have no problem in believing that there are plenty of good and moral people on this planet from a variety of beliefs and backgrounds (but even there I am making an assessment on what I deem to be morally ok according to how I understand God. However, I do believe we can make moral judgements based on our belief and understanding of God). My issue isn't whether people have good morality, my issue is WHERE that morality comes from.

For some it is morally acceptable to bomb the West. For others it is assisted suicide. For others it is pornography. For others it is drinking. For others it is preaching against homosexuality.

Morality seems to be very subjective according to where I've grown up, where I live etc. Therefore, surely there will always need to be a higher morality to live by that in turn determines how I live?

Some might say that it is obvious to do to others as you would have them to do you. But why? If I'm ok then surely that is all that matters? Unless you draw from a religious community a set of morals, I don't see where else you can get them from?

Like I said, I am not doubting the morality of atheists, I am simply asking where their morality comes from and if they are ok with it originating from within a religious community.

I know being a part of a religious community does not necessarily make you a morally decent person. Great atrocities have been and are committed by and within religious communities. Equally they have been committed by atheistic communities.

But I believe if followers of Jesus are serious about Him then our morals, ethics and practice will be good.

Monday, 8 February 2010

It's all about understanding

An interesting article about David Cameron. He was interviewed by the gay magazine Attitude where he says that 'if our Lord Jesus was around today he would very much be backing a strong agenda on equality and equal rights, and not judging people on their sexuality.'

There is a long ongoing conversation that people need to be having about what worship is and what it isn't. Rev Sam and I have spoken a lot about this before and I think the conversation is ever more important between church leaders (those called to help people to worship God) as churches grapple with how to engage in meaningful ways with the community and how to love God with all that we are and worship him in Spirit and in Truth.

A very good article from Cranmer speaking out against the recent article by Dawkins in the Times. A read the article last week and was going to comment on it and then couldn't be bothered! It seems a real caricature of Dawkins, almost like it was ghost written. I was a little surprised by it, in that his understanding of Christianity is so deeply flawed. I know Dawkins often reads the Bible and approaches it as a fundamentalist does, but I would have thought that by now he would have educated himself better in Christian theology and history if he really wants to tear it apart. But then I suppose a faulty and false 'christianity' is much easier to tear down than the reality. The article is sub-standard, flawed and really very bad. Read it for yourself.

Finally, I have decided to have an evening where I share in greater depth what I believe God has called us to do in Newton Abbot. I will share my thoughts and theology on what this church plant will be grounded on and how it will look in practice. I have had a number of people ask me about it and because it will be church, but 'not as we know it' it is difficult to explain in 30 seconds, so I will host an evening soon to share what we will be going to do in Newton Abbot. I will let you know when it is so that those who are able and want to, can come and share in the evening.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

School Mouse and Twenties

Church Mouse has flagged up new guidance for teaching RE in schools. I agree with the Mouse that it seems a highly political move, although I disagree that Christianity is the 'dominant faith of the nation'. I think Mouse is still in Christendom...

On another note, I was reflecting on being in my twenties (as you do the closer you edge to 30!) and how good it has been. The twenties has been a fantastic decade for me. So much good and amazing stuff has happened during this time and I really am thankful.

21 years old: Became a disciple of Jesus and was baptised. Met my beautiful, amazing Sarah.
22 years old: Got engaged to my beautiful, amazing Sarah.
23 years old: Began working as a evangelist.
24 years old: Married my best friend, my beautiful amazing Sarah. Began Spurgeon's College. Sarah fell pregnant.
25 years old: Our beautiful daughter Grace was born. Began accreditation as a Evangelist in the Baptist Union to be Ordained.
26 years old: Transferred onto full time course at Spurgeons for ordination.
27 years old: Celebrated 3 years marriage and our daughter turning 2 years old.
28 years old: Called to plant a church in Devon. Graduate from college.

God really has been good to me. I'm very thankful.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Incarnational Church Planting

Vision for Church Plant
in Newton Abbot
Joe Haward
Theological Principles
Incarnation – Future Fulfillment
The Incarnation[1] is a fundamental and foundational doctrine within the Christian faith whereby it is recognized that God has acted in a unique and distinctive way with the eternal Son of God coming in flesh to the world that was made through him.[2] The Incarnation is not merely about God identifying himself with us (although it undoubtedly is about that), but that God becomes one of us and embraces the fullness of our humanity in order that he might fully restore humanity and all of creation. Creation, therefore, has a goal, an ‘eschatological direction’, to become what God always intended it to become. Not merely a returning to something previous, but an intention to become something it has yet to be, something it never has been; something better. It is in light of this that the Incarnation can be seen to be so vital to humanity and all of creation; Christ has become one of us so that we might reach the goal to which God has called us.[3] This goal therefore, is for all of creation to participate in the communion of the triune God,[4] to ‘participate in the divine nature’[5] and escape the consequences of sin. For that reason the Incarnation reveals to us a God who desires us to become something more than we are at this moment and therefore truly incarnational mission must ‘in-flesh’ this concept of future fulfillment, of people and communities becoming something more than they are now, something they have never been before; something better. A church plant (alternative community)[6] in Newton Abbot would seek to enable the local community to journey towards a better future.
Incarnation – Identification
The Incarnation as identification is not about God resembling us and taking upon himself an ‘outer garment, like a beggar-cloak of a king who dresses up in order to seek out the love of a beggar-girl’,[7]it is about God stepping into our humanity and journeying with us through that humanity. From his birth in a cattle-shed to his death on the cross, Jesus fully identifies with the humanity that he created taking upon himself the limitations, conditions, temptations and struggles of humankind.[8] Yet in Christ identifying himself with us he reveals to us our condition, both good and bad; for in the humanity of the Son we see the goal of all humanity and also recognize how far we have wandered away from the goal that had been intended.[9] He reveals our need for salvation, not simply in terms of ‘getting to heaven’, but salvation in terms of complete and total healing from our ‘sin-sick’ state.[10] Sin has utterly contaminated all of creation and therefore humanity is in need of renewal and healing from our sin-sickness. That Christ fully identifies himself with humanity means that through him humanity may be fully healed and restored from its disorientated and contaminated condition; sin-sickness has a cure. Consequently, incarnational mission embraces this concept of identification, healing and future fulfillment and seeks to bring about healing and hope within the places it is being worked out in. Because Jesus fully identified with humanity, a church plant in Newton Abbot would seek to fully embrace the concept and practice of identifying with the local people. The church would find its missional focus in the ‘third place’ ensuring that we were a part of the society, meeting people where they were and ‘dwelling among them’. By identifying with the community the church has a valid and valuable voice into that community.
Love and Mission
This alternative community in Newton Abbot will seek to have at its core the Greatest Commandments to love God and love each other, with mission flowing in and out of this desire. For these commandments (worship and discipleship) to flourish and the church plant to grow and find expression, a number of practical and spiritual principles that are outlined below, would be embraced and lived out.
Practical Outworking
Practical and Spiritual Principles
  • Forgiveness – Forgiveness means that we are not forever bound by the consequences of our actions. We can be set free. This new church plant would practically seek means of facilitating ‘forgiveness’ within the local community whilst also seeking to model it. Working with local groups such as the police, Transition Newton Abbot, the town councils’ Community Officer and schools, the alternative community would search for ways in which local people can work together and find unity in their diversity and also know the love and forgiveness of God. When Jesus told ‘sinners’ they were forgiven he released them from the labels that the powerful had given them and enabled them to embrace their God-given identity. This church will seek to never label people or sideline people, but look to help people embrace their God-given identity.
  • Taxes and Debts – A church plant would desire people to become free from the burden of debt. Cooperative economic discipleship is one way in which this could happen (prophetic community). Consumerism is poisoning our society and so this church would hope to model another way of life helping people out of debt and finding fulfillment in God, not money.
  • Third Place – An alternative community would meet where those who don’t know Christ regularly meet in order that they may become a part of the community and share Jesus with that community. Local pubs, coffee bars and supermarkets are all places where we would seek to meet regularly.
  • Discipleship – The goal of the Church is make disciples, not converts, therefore small groups would be encouraged to meet together in order that they may break bread together, study the Scriptures and support each other, looking for ways in which they may grow in Christ and be a blessing to those around them. At the heart of discipleship will be mission, a focus to go and share the gospel with the community. Discipleship is best worked out in the nitty gritty reality of every day life and mission.
  • Table Fellowship – Jesus dismantled the ideas of ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ by eating and partying with ‘sinners’ and those rejected by society. An alternative community would seek to welcome all people and eat with them. Meals and breaking bread would be a significant part of the church’s life, seeking to invite those with whom ‘inherited’ church is not able to reach or identify with. Not only that, but in a society that is increasingly dependant on ‘social networking’, this alternative community would develop and nurture the beauty of physically meeting together over a meal (inclusive community). ‘Crash’, a mission initiative I began, is a means through which the exploration of faith would happen over a meal.[11]
  • Sabbath – The culture we live in has become a 24/7 movement with people busier than ever. An alternative community would model the beauty of Sabbath. It would encourage people to rest and spend time with God and with those whom we love. Individuals and communities need to rest to fully become what God has created them to become. In resting we find food for our souls and bodies.
  • Healing – An alternative community would explore how to bring holistic healing within itself and into the Newton Abbot community. This church plant must notice the pain within Newton Abbot and seek to address it. Who are the marginalized? Who are the oppressed? An alternative community would be a voice to the voiceless and to stand with those who are hurting (sacrificial community).
Transition Newton Abbot
Transition Newton Abbot is part of Transition Town, a global network that began in Totnes, Devon. The concept and idea behind Transition Town is that communities come together in order that they may adequately respond to issues of climate change and Peak Oil. The hope is that local communities can become resilient, self-sufficient and thrive in the key areas of life, such as food, energy, transport, heart and soul, economics, livelihoods and health (amongst other things). Through local people working together for the good of the community, real and valuable change can happen enabling local communities to thrive leading to better way of life for all.[12]
The local council are supporting the initiative of Transition Newton Abbot and see it has a part of the picture to regenerate the area. I have also spoken to the Steering Group who have launched Transition Newton Abbot and they have spoken to me about where they are in their progress and their hopes to further it in 2010 as it is still in its early stages. They would welcome any support and experience that others were able to bring. I believe this could be a part of the bigger picture into which a church plant could make an impact in order that Newton Abbot may indeed see regeneration both physically and spiritually.
Hopes
Here is what we hope will happen as time progresses with this church plant. However, we understand that the Wind of the Spirit blows where He pleases and things very often turn out differently to what we expect. Indeed, we hope it will be above and beyond all we ask or imagine!
6 months
  • To have a good support group in place in order that my family and myself have a group of people around us that we can pray, talk and discuss things through.
  • To have laid a solid foundation of prayer into this church plant by spending time praying in and around Newton Abbot on a daily basis.
  • To have found local Christians within Newton Abbot who we can work with to establish this church plant. People who share the vision and understand the need for an alternative community within the area.
  • To have begun in earnest exploring and being in the ‘third places’ of Newton Abbot and begun building relationships within the local community.
  • To establish good and positive relationships with the local churches in the Newton Abbot community in order that over time we may work together to be a blessing to the local community. It will also be to assure the local churches that a new church plant will not be seeking to ‘poach’ church members, but to be a blessing to the whole community.
  • To be involved within Transition Newton Abbot.
  • To have begun building relationships with the local council, police and local groups.
1st Year
  • To have established good and solid relationships within the community of Newton Abbot (identification). This will happen through a committed approach to the local people, spending time in the places where they are. It will also be, through those established relationships, to help build bridges between the community and introduce different people to one another with the hope of enabling positive change to happen in Newton Abbot (future fulfillment).
  • To grapple with and ground the church’s principles in the reality of everyday existence (Sabbath, Healing, Taxes and Debts, Table Fellowship, Forgiveness, Third Place, Discipleship).
  • To have begun to identify and have further clarity as to what particular group/s and need/s the alternative community will seek to be involved with and focus on.
  • To see people being baptised and discipled within this new church plant.
2nd Year
  • To build on the relationships that have been established and look for ways in which people can further explore the Gospel.
  • To introduce and discover relevant and contextual ways to share the Gospel in the light of the kind of people with whom relationships have been built.
  • To ensure that proper discipleship of whoever is in the alternative community is happening.
  • To maintain a missional, incarnational outlook.
3rd Year
  • To access where the community is and explore what the wind of the Spirit may be saying.
  • To see practical results of the alternative community working with the local community. By this I mean local people working together for the better of Newton Abbot in terms of healing, debt help and ‘forgiveness’.
  • To see a continued growth in the contact made with the local community and to see these contacts introduced to the Gospel.
  • To see the fruit of people taking responsibility within the alternative community and leading relevant initiatives that seek to share the Gospel with those whom the alternative community is in touch with.
  • To continue to see this worshipping community exploring how mission is a vital part of what it means to love God and love others.
Self-Financing?
It would be the hope that this alternative community would grow in such a way that it would become self-financing. It is the hope that those who are a part of this community would give into the community ensuring that it could be self-sufficient. A part of this happening would be that the community would meet in each other’s homes and in the ‘third places’. However, some of this depends upon the type of community that is formed and whether people have any money. Without doubt I will pray into ‘tent making’ as a possibility for this ministry.
My heart has always been and continues to be a desire to lead people into a living relationship with God and my hope is that this church plant will see many people become disciples of Jesus Christ.
Joe Haward


[1] ‘What is the meaning of the incarnation? A tear of divine pity.’ Barth, Karl, Theology and Church p 225
[2] John 1:10-11, Colossians 1:15-17
[3] Philippians 3:14
[4] See Volf, M., After Our Likeness, p 129
[5] 2 Peter 1:4 NIV
[6] Alternative Community is the term I will use sporadically for church plant.
[7] Frost and Hirsch, The Shaping of Things to Come, p 36
[8] Hebrews 4:15
[9] ‘This particular man Jesus Christ, therefore, is not to be considered and judged on the basis of some general preconception about human reality. Rather, every man, and the universal truth concerning man, is to be understood from this particular man.’ Barth, Karl, God Here and Now p 6
[10] This is a term Stanley Hauerwas uses to understand humanity as sinners and this sin disorientates our nature and us. See Hauerwas, S., ‘Sinsick’ p 192 cf. Colwell, J., Promise and Presence p 199-201
[11] 'Crash brings together 8-10 people from a variety of word-views and belief systems who meet to chat and discuss various issues while enjoying good food together. A guest speaker joins us and shares for 10 minutes about an issue that then enables conversations to begin. Then, over the meal, we talk, discuss, ask questions and see where the conversation takes us with the hope of finding common ground. It is called ‘Crash’ because so often in life two opposing views come crashing together and we try to salvage answers from among the wreckage. Crash seeks to be different and looks to enable different views to come together in such a way that enriches us all rather than tearing us apart.’
'Crash - We're so disconnected that we crash into each other just so we can feel something'
[12] For more on Transition Town go to http://transitiontowns.org

A few links

A few links today:







Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Ten-Pin Church

A church in Johnstown, near Wrexham in Wales, are radically rethinking the way they are church within their community. Go here to read about it.

They are opening a ten-pin bowling alley in order that they may generate jobs within the local community and any profit made will be reinvested into the community to fund food-banks, free debt advice and other projects.

The church will meet in the bowling alley on a Sunday morning which will also be used for other things such as a cafe and performing arts school for teenagers.

They have applied for £800,000 National Lottery Funding to enable this whole thing happen.

This is radical missional church! I love it.

It is really refreshing to hear of churches thinking outside of the box looking for ways in which they can meaningfully engage with their communities. They really are seeking to be Good News to their community.

What a great, Jesus focused, Kingdom bringing work.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Mission Part 3

Here is an interesting article on why men don't go to church. Some of the points made are:

-Church can be very uncomfortable and embarrassing for men, they can feel as out of place as they would in a ladies underwear shop!

-The image of church is 'women and children'...the decoration is often very feminine.

-Men appreciate 'professionalism'...things done well. For instance, if you're using a drama, make sure it is done well, otherwise men will find it embarrassing.

-Do you cover topics that are relevant to men?


I don't agree with all that is said in this article, but I do think some good points are made. The Church has struggled for some time with how to engage meaningfully with men. But there is a danger that we could go to the extreme and ridiculous.
I don't think that the gospel's emphasis Jesus' 'maleness'. So while I would want church to be relevant and accessible to men, I wouldn't want to it to always encourage some 'male attitudes', because some of these attitudes are just not very helpful. The reality is that most men will want to express themselves in often very surprising ways.
I do agree however that church has become far too 'feminine' and there needs to be a balance so that men can engage meaningfully with who Jesus is.

In Newton Abbot I want to explore how to explore the Gospel with in relevant ways with all people. And certainly I want to explore how to share the gospel with men.