Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Jesus' Border Policy; A Clarification

I'm prepping for Sundays sermon on Matthew 19, whilst the world debates border controls. Struck by the fact that the Kingdom of God has an open border policy for the poor in spirit, children, persecuted and those who express their faith through kindness, and stringent border controls for the rich and those who ignore the needy. 

Boycott this blog if you don't agree with it

If Chinese new years were named after cricketers, 2017 would be the Year of the Boycott. A few weeks ago an American chat show host disinvited a potential guest because of the comments they had made about homosexuality.

Ewan McGregor then disinvited himself from a chance to promote Trainspotting 2 on Good Morning Britain, after seeing what Piers Morgan had tweeted about the US Womens March.

Now over a million people want to stop Donald Trump coming to the UK, after his dreadful (and cack-handedly executed) executive order on immigration.

Making statements is all fine and good, but I worry about the boycotting bandwagon. Despite becoming more globally connected, its very easy to use social media to surround ourselves with the voices we agree with, and then imagine that this represents the world. I don't often side with Russell Brand, but this is what you do with people you don't agree with. Jesus never shied away from his enemies and the people he disagreed with. He engaged with them, exposed them, loved them, and gave them the chance to change. Retreating into right-thinking silos may feel virtuous, but in a fragmenting world, we need more loving engagement and respectful debate, not less.

If we close our borders to Trump, then we borrow his weapons. We can do better.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

New Alpha film series - 'who is Jesus?'

A few months ago Alpha redid there materials into a new 'film series'. These are good - nicely presented, a move away from the lecture style, to something a bit more varied. I've used the clip on the reliability of the new testament (from 6:40 in) and folk found it really helpful.

if you can't view this clip, try https://vimeo.com/183533609

Saturday, January 21, 2017

'Setting God's People Free' - ministry on the other 6 days of the week, and who does it

A great opportunity lies before us. It is the same opportunity that has presented itself to the Church in every decade for the last 100 years. It is an opportunity that arguably has not been fully grasped since the days of Wesley. 

Will we determine to empower, liberate and disciple the 98% of the Church of England who are not ordained and therefore set them free for fruitful, faithful mission and ministry, influence, leadership and, most importantly, vibrant relationship with Jesus in all of life? And will we do so not only in church-based ministry on a Sunday but in work and school, in gym and shop, in field and factory, Monday to Saturday?

A new report 'Setting God's People Free', has just been published by the CofE in advance of next months General Synod. It tackles head on the need to equip all the members of the church, not just clergy, for full-time ministry:

According to a survey of 2859 respondents conducted in 2009 (82% had been Christians for over 10 years, 67% in some kind of leadership role in the Church, 1204 were Anglicans):
- 59% of those in working age said that the most challenging context to be a disciple of Christ was the workplace. 
- 62% of those in full-time paid employment experienced little, not much, or no help/preparation from the life and ministries of church to deal with the issues they faced at work.
-  47% said they did not have a story to tell about how God has worked in their lives (Note 82% had been Christians for over 10 years). 
-  59% (of Anglicans surveyed) said that their church does not equip people well for life in today’s world at home, work, or elsewhere.

This is shocking, but at last its being noticed and taken seriously by the whole church, not just by a few voices in the wilderness like the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, whose insights are a key part of this report.

A couple of stories from the report, to illustrate the kind of ground it covers:
I teach Sunday school 45 minutes a week and they haul me up to the front of the church to pray for me. I teach in a school 45 hours a week and the church has never prayed for me.”- Comment from a teacher

Curt is a policeman in his 40s. At an evening for 15 Christian men they are all asked, “What are you good at in the Lord at work?” No one says anything – Southern reserve perhaps. So the leader asks them to 14 write something down on a post-it note. “Well, now you have done that, you might as well read it out.” Curt goes first. He speaks hesitantly, “I work at No 10 as part of the Diplomatic Protection Group. It’s a pretty macho team.” The people in the room don’t find it hard to imagine why. These are men and women wearing Kevlar and toting submachine guns and Glock pistols, people who are prepared to shoot to kill and put their lives on the line for others. Curt continues, “Over the years there’s been quite a bit of conflict in the team but I’ve found I’m quite good at bringing people back together.” That’s all he says. And he looks a bit embarrassed and looks down at the coffee table. And then someone says, “You’ve got a ministry of reconciliation.” And Curt breaks into a smile the width of the Thames. And then someone else says, “You’re a peacemaker”. Blessed are the peacemakers. Here’s a Christian teaching people to forgive one another, teaching other police the ways of Jesus at No 10 Downing Street. But Curt hadn’t been able to read his own life through the lens of the Biblical and so he hadn’t realised how God had been working through him. Lay people don’t just need theological resources to grasp the range of ways they can be fruitful for Christ in the world, they need the theological imagination to see the ways they already have been. 

I've not managed to read it yet in full, but its excellent stuff if the CofE can actually get to grips with it. With the track record of the current leadership, I have no doubt it will - one key culture change in the CofE is that it no longer thinks that you change things by producing a report. Releasing all Gods people in ministry, all the time, will mean a big change in the way that clergy and the employed leadership of the church operate, what we prioritise, how we preach, and how we see ministry. Good. Bring it on.