Monday, 16 August 2010

Terrorism!!!

I am becoming increasingly frustrated by the way the government and the 'powers that be' are seeking to instil fear, paranoia and panic within communities.

A radio advert created by the Association of Chief Police Officers warns listeners about 'suspicious' behaviour by neighbours and the need to report it as it may be linked to terrorism (read here about it). And what is this suspicious behaviour...?

Keeping curtains shut
Paying with cash
Not talking to your neighbours much


Now I've heard numerous stories about strange behaviour by people in 'power' who detain people for suspicious terrorist behaviour. Often its because someone is taking a photo and sometimes its because people are not willing to be denied their freedom of speech.

And that is what I get concerned about, that our freedom of speech and opportunity to express ourselves are being opposed and oppressed. My understanding is that the Police were established to be preservers of the peace, a group who sought to serve the community. Yet it seems that increasingly we are now being 'booked' for stepping out of line or not playing by the perceived rules. Now don't get me wrong, I believe that we need the Police and that many of them are trying to do their job well serving the community. I have mates who are in the Police. Yet more and more it seems that the Police are being squeezed to become target seekers for rule breakers rather than preservers of peace.

This advert, it seems to me, is promoting fear and paranoia within communities about anyone that seems a bit 'different'. I think it is another example of how the beauty of diversity and relationships, community and solidarity, is being further eroded to make people wary and suspicious of each other and to paralyse people with fear of each other and fear of the government and Police. And that is not right.

Jesus spoke about the truth setting us free. I think we are called to be seekers of truth and in finding truth we find freedom. Let us not be so naive to believe everything that the media and government feeds us about our communities and neighbours, but rather be seekers of truth who go to our neighbours and into our communities to find out for ourselves who people really are and what the truth about each other is. In the building of our relationships with one another and the discovery of love between each other then we will now the truth and the truth will indeed set us free.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Can These Bones Walk?

My brother responded to a post I wrote and, on his blog, shared that he believed that a doctrine or teaching that is seen as irrelevant within the life of the church is love. You can read his blog here.

I have reflected at various times on what I also perceive to be a real lack of love within the life of the church. I have said before that because of consumerism and materialism we are in danger of treating our relationships the same way we treat our possessions. We get bored and move onto the next thing, the better version.
Church has also become a place of 'targets' and 'resources'. The target is to convert people and then turn them into resources to convert more targets. Rather than love being the greatest, our desire for success or results becomes the goal. So Tom's blog post really hit home when I read it and has continued to make me reflect and be challenged.

I then read, via Church Mouse, a post by Tall Skinny Kiwi about the emerging church and how some within the 'conservative evangelical' wing are keen to slate and mock it. Some preachers would rather spend their time telling everyone else how wrong they are rather than looking for ways to be a sign and signal of the love of God. An old post by iMonk also picks up on this a little when he is talking about the Bible and how your understanding of it, rather than your relationship with Jesus can be how some Christians define you and reject you. Rather than love being the greatest, it is knowledge to some.
Rev Sam picks up on this too in that some can see the Bible as divine, much in the same way the Koran is viewed.
And I think herein lies some of the problem at times. It is the knowledge and understanding of Scripture that becomes the most important thing to some Christians. The Bible is seen as the centre and focus of everything and how it is interpreted. We then have 'Bibliolatry', a worship of the Bible rather than the God of the Bible whereby to even ask questions of Scripture is seen as heresy and unforgivable. Love goes out of the window, although I'm not sure it was there to begin with. Yet all Scripture is there to point us to Jesus. That is what it is there for. And Jesus calls us to wash each others feet and love as He has loved us.
However, rather than looking for radical ways to love others, a war of words and knowledge ensues within the church. Yet I'm sure Paul warned about endless arguments...

Surely in church we are called first to love God and love each other. Everything hangs on this.
When we seek to hang on knowledge or fear or words then we will fall and drag our communities down with us. Yet if we seek to love then these dry bones really can walk again.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Lean On Me

'Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.' Jesus

Moving here to Devon preparing to church plant has really filled me and Sarah with a great sense of excitement and utter dependance upon God. Today it really dawned on us how much we need Him to be at the heart of everything we are. We need His grace and mercy new every morning. We need to be faithful disciples of Jesus, watching, listening, asking and doing.

What an adventure!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Dialogue?

I read today of someone who used to be a Christian but now believes that belief in God is a delusion.

I never really knew this person but I know the church background that they have come out of and I know some of the same people that they do.

In describing their journey to disbelief (like my twin bro's) they say, using a quote, 'People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.' I think this is quite a profound statement and describes much of one of the issues that is facing the modern church. Where is the genuine dialogue?

My wife and I were at a Pentecostal church on Sunday beginning to introduce ourselves to the local Christian community. Near the beginning of the service the Pastor said that in a couple of weeks there would be 3 baptisms and to put the date in our diaries. He then said that if you have not been baptised then speak to him after the service because if you are a Christian then you have to be baptised. My wife said that she heard a lady in front of her whisper to her friend 'does that mean your not a Christian if you haven't been baptised?'
This is a perfect example of the need for dialogue and discussion within the life of church. Rather than being told what we should believe, there needs to be the space for people to ask questions, discuss what is being said and dialogue together so that we might be able to love the Lord our God with our mind because we have genuinely thought things through rather than being told what we should believe.

Back to this person who has journeyed to disbelief.

I do not know why they have given up on God, but I suspect that if people were given more space within church life to dialogue, ask questions and debate, then this person may well still be involved within the life of the church. Who knows what they might believe, but they would have the freedom and safety of exploring their beliefs within the church community.

I can't be alone when during sermons you've wanted to raise your hand and ask a question about something that has just been said or disagree with a statement that has been made.

That is why we started 'Crash' and will continue to explore this in Devon.

Isn't dialogue better for the soul? Jesus was always entering into discussion and debates, asking questions (sometimes with no response, but he still asked the questions!) and engaging with people verbally. I'm sure this is something that is valuable and missing from our churches.



Friday, 6 August 2010

We're Here!

So we have arrived in Devon and unpacked all the boxes! It is good to be here and we are all feeling more and more settled each day. The area is great with so much to do and see and loads of potential with regard to the church plant.

We were in a small tea-room just outside from where we live a couple of days ago tasting our first Devon cream tea when we got chatting to a family sitting on the table next to us. We explained that we had just moved here and they told us a bit about the area and some of the places we should visit. They asked why we had moved so we spent a little bit of time sharing why we were here and how we were looking to start a church from scratch but with a view of trying things differently to 'traditional' church. We shared some of the thoughts of how that might look. They loved what we were saying and thought that we should start something in the local pub in the village that they live! They invited us for coffee and said they would introduce us to people and see what could happen. Now we are going to have to wait and see if this is something we feel God is calling us to do, but already we feel like God is guiding and leading us and affirming us being here.

We've met quite a few other people too since we've been here, all of which have invited us round. The house is also really really nice, as are the neighbours, all of which are helping us settle in nice and quickly. Sarah and Grace are really well and love being here, so all in all its been a great first week! God is good all the time and He has shown us His goodness and love continually throughout this time of change.

I'll keep blogging and let people know how things are going. Keep praying for us! We need it.