Thursday, 25 February 2010

delirious ... history makers...?

I don’t generally do facebook, but last week I went to our Team Leaders meeting to be greeted by Jez Brown’s comment ‘I like the breakfast’. Apparently, our present guest from Belgium had posted pictures of me preparing a very fine English breakfast! However, whilst I don’t look at facebook very often, I have signed up to join the group looking to place Delirious’ ‘History Maker’ at no 1 this Easter. Good idea, or not, it’s another insight into the power of social networking and the internet. Reading ‘Here Comes Everybody’ by Clay Shirky at the moment too. This is subtitled “how change happens when people come together” and is all about the new future of involvement. Now whether us Christians cotton onto make best use of what is essentially something part of the very fabric of the mission of God remains to be seen.Here’s the youtube link to the song, if you didn’t sing it last Sunday, and need to listen for yourself

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

any Church can grow ..... almost

We had a steering group meeting yesterday for PMC here in the UK. Martin Robinson is part of this and I always listen to his observations and reflections on mission and UK church life. So, when he came out with a 'after all these years, I've come to the conclusion...' statement. I had my ears tuned. What did he say? - 'basically almost any Church can grow .... the difference between those who do and those who don't is down to whether they are prepared to pay the cost of mission.' True/false? It pretty much bears out on practice. Don't we make life so complicated? The question some are posing to Churches is 'what would you do to reach this community if you had XYZ resources?' - it's designed to demonstrate we have the resources if we use them appropriately. However, shouldn't the question be 'what must we do if we have nothing?' Jesus did send disciples out with 'no purse, no bag, no sandals' (if only he'd allowed the sandals eh!). Is this a call to dependency upon God, a warning about how stuff clutters, a call to focus on the keeping the man thing the main thing, or all three?

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

the gathered church....

It's the morning after the night before. Not what you might think, however. I went to two church meetings yesterday. Both were 'church meetings' as Baptists describe them of the gathered body of Christ in a particular community. Both were very small churches, although one had three times the membership of the other.
In one there was hope, in the other none that I could spot very easily (but it is the morning after).
In one there was a growing sense of vision for the future - if we did this, etc. In the other, I'm tempted to say 'no vision', but I don't think that is not actually true. Nearer the truth would be to say there were conflicting visions - past versus future, buildings versus people, you get the idea.
In one there was trust, in the other seemingly no trust - and I'm talking among themselves not including what they felt about my presence and input, but i guess success in one was not being thrown out! What would Jesus do? A good question, not sure many are asking it though.
Now obviously, this leads me to have all kinds of questions, but I think I'd best not voice those till I've had at least another night to sleep on it. I wonder what Van Gogh was thinking when he painted this one?

Saturday, 20 February 2010

what faith in sport today?

Well, what's going on again in the world of sport? Amy Williams winning a gold medal at the winter Olympics is an astonishing achievement. The fact that Amy comes from Bath makes it higher profile here, but being the first British gold medal winner for 30 years makes her name in the record books secure for a long time to come. There's a few hills in Bath, but you don't get that good with a toboggan made out of an old table, which is probably where I went wrong! What kind of faith does it take to achieve such a feat?
Also, I watched the Tiger Woods confession along with the subsequent trial by journalism. Alongside the John Terry saga the world of sport is continuing it's debate about why it does/does not matter what goes on in private. The Tiger Woods case is even more interesting on this front than the John Terry situation because Woods is playing for himself, whereas Terry is the captain of both Chelsea and England.
Of course, the missional conversation is encouraging the move from simply doing mission towards a posture, which embraces both being and doing with integrity. If sports stars of this stature (and many would argue Tiger Woods is the biggest in sports history ever) cannot get away with separating what God has joined together even in the eyes of their fans, then the church needs to be very wary at any hint of a tiny wedge between the two things too.

Monday, 15 February 2010

I've been quite humbled these last few weeks. I decided to try and raise £5000 to help build a care centre in Zululand for the children affected as a result of HIVaids. As soon as I looked at the amount in print I began to think I was a little daft as I may have mentioned elsewhere. However, the guy who slipped a £20 note in my hand after the service last night is typical, so the money is coming in and I now have about £1250 - if the ordinary church members of WEBA can do this over and above everything else, it will be fantastic.
I guess I'm not the only one to feel some distress concerning the need for the advertising campaign today - targeting 13-18 year old boys, urging them not to use violence against their girlfriends. I'm not doubting the need, but what kind of society are we producing where one study suggests 25% of girls aged 13 to 17 had experiences physical violence from a boyfriend and a third had been pressured into sexual acts they did not want?
I'll add to this my concern around the lack of what might simply be called teaching in living - discipleship - in the church. The church seems to generally feel we've lost the moral ground in the arena of sexual ethics. Unfortunately, we've so confused the conversations for missional engagement with appropriate boundaries for disciples, many Christians seem to be given a message the ground-rules have shifted within the body of Christ too. I've heard a number of comments recently, which suggest to me our moral compasses are being directed by another pole.
Well, it's monday - a stress free weekend (Liverpool didn't play) - and off to Didcot for Team Leaders & Settlement Team.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Sidmouth Conference

Well, we’ve had our annual Ministers Conference this week and it usually leaves me pretty drained emotionally. This year, however, has been a notable exception to what I’d assumed would be an on-going rule.

Why is the question I ask myself? Two things spring to mind immediately – One factor is the sense of sharing the load within our small team has become reality. This means, whilst I still feel I must ultimately carry the can for anything which doesn’t work etc. we now have a much greater sense of shared responsibility in practice – for which I am very grateful.

Secondly, a less demanding queue of requests this year has meant I’ve been able to spend more time simply catching up with various folk and having more obviously leisurely conversations than all being loaded with difficult issues.

My colleague, Pat Took, was our key speaker and, I think, went down well enough, although I’ll know more after looking at the feedback forms. Interestingly, she helped us look at three dimensions of Baptist our distinctives in order to encourage us to evaluate them in our present contexts. So, we looked at

- the crown rights of the redeemer,

- the priesthood of all believers

- walking and watching over one another in love.

Thanks Pat.

The most stimulating session, for me, was one where she looked at the nature of Christian community alongside the questions ‘do we want it?’ and ‘what’s the cost of it?’

No photos – took my camera, but it stayed in the bag, so maybe not as relaxing as I thought!

Friday, 5 February 2010

borderland churches

I'm reading 'Borderland Churches' by Gary Nelson at present and must admit find his language really stimulating. He's writing from a Canadian perspective and saying similar things to a growing number on the missional journey, but brings a freshness with him.
Not only that, I like the 'borderlands' word.
Some of my Scottish friends speak highly of his accompanying workshop type materials.
I was thinking about something he says around our rediscovering our missional mandate as the church creates possibilities for the difficult work of shaping ministry to a particular context. "The only foundational hope for purposeful engagement of the borderlands dweller is the appearance of a visible and faithfully engaged church in the life of its communities and neighbourhoods. When that occurs, the church becomes a unique and distinct missional presence."
It struck me how the missional question is serving to find some meaningful expressions to the healing of the old evangelism v social action divide which was a big feature of conversation in the 1980's when I first discovered words like 'theology'. What is concerning me simultaneously, however, is the potential re-emergence of the old liberal v evangelical divides, which were often perceived unhelpfully as behind the different arguments. I hope we can avoid some of the squabbles in the US where the arguments over emergent, emerging, etc strike me as being singularly un-helpful in our contexts. When the US speak about post-Christendom they do so from a place where Christendom still has a power (and a willingness to yield it), which is no longer the case in the UK, except in a few isolated remnant areas.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


I’m not sure it was an eureka moment, but there was definitely a touch of the ‘ah-ha’s’ for me last night. I was at a deacons meeting helping them begin to think about the future when their present Minister leaves – nothing new there.

I was listening to their comments about how they saw they church and their current frustrations with not being able to build any momentum.

We were talking about ‘people today’ and how they tend to be both risk averse and, also, how commitment is being expressed differently. Margaret then simply said ‘but these people were talking about have been church members for years and are not young people’. Now it may be just me, but I’ve tended to engage with these things with an in-built assumption we’ve been talking about new people into churches, or younger people. The reality, what I’ve been missing, is the popular culture, in both these concerns is now the church culture in many places also.

I’m happy for readers to simply read and smugly mutter ‘slow’, ‘stupid’ etc at their screen, but this has been quite helpful for me. I think it will influence my ‘where are we now’ parts of reviewing church life in any particular situation. It’s increasingly clear to me that unless we address the culture and values of any group, we shall make our plans in vein. This certainly seemed to be what I was hearing last evening as issues, whose roots go back years were re-counted.

Monday, 1 February 2010

faith in football?

I've had a few conversations with friends recently about the state of modern football and there's no doubt there's a certain nostalgic atmosphere around them - wasn't it great when you could stand behind the goal, when you had to get in Anfield at least an hour before kick-off to get a decent view, when you could just turn up and queue, when tickets didn't cost an arm and a leg. Of course, no one mentioned you couldn't watch football on TV apart from MOTD & Sportsnight, how the urinals were frequently ankle deep (especially at Wembley I recall), how as a child you needed a wooden step to stand on to see anything even if at the front, etc. So, is it my age and that of my friends? Anyway, what place does Christianity, or Christian values, now have in the midst of a set-up , which seems to be dominated by mammon?
What I find fascinating is the way in which the question over John terry's future captaincy of England has been raised,a s a result of recent revelations about his private life. So, who says what I do in my private life has nothing to do with my work? If we were talking Clergy it's one thing, but this is irreligious football - interesting?
I've wondered about starting a new blog on faith in football as a means of engagement, but then wonder where I'd find more time. Anyone know of any Christians passionate about both football and missional engagement,who would be interested in sharing the load?