Last Friday as I was doing an 8k training run I was listening to ‘Awakening: Live from Chicago’ by Jesus Culture. The track ‘Break Every Chain’ has a fantastic chorus:
All sufficient sacrifice
So freely given
Such a price
Bought our redemption
Heaven’s gates swing wide
The last two lines stuck in my head as the run continued. When I got home I posted the follow on Twitter & Facebook:
Over the weekend my brother posted a great, simple question: ‘what does that mean?‘
I guess it was a bit too abstract to stand on its own. So, in short it means that: redemption is available to all & that the gates of heaven are ready to welcome any & all who have been redeemed.
I know, that needs a bit of explaining too. So here goes, stick with it…
When you’re given a voucher for your birthday for your preferred shop the voucher you’re given is inherently worthless: it’s a piece of plastic & ink with a magnetic strip (remember when they were just paper?). It’s probably worth about 25p max. But when you hand it over the shop will honour the promise which has been made previously (when the voucher was purchased) and will exchange the worthless voucher for something of value.
Think of redemption as the exchange of something which is worthless for something which is expensive (priceless even!).
Sinful man (Romans 3:23) was separated from God (Genesis 3) but God made a way for the relationship to be fully restored (John 3:16 & 1 Peter 3:18). The way was open to everyone to return to a full & rich relationship with God forever (Romans 10:9 & John 3:36)
To massively over-simplify for the sake of brevity: God exchanged His Son, Jesus, to pay for the voucher which anyone can claim for themselves, and which will buy their place in heaven.
Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. [source unknown]
Jesus sacrificed His life through excruciating death on a cross in order that you (yes you) could receive the gift of eternal life, at no cost to yourself.
So you will be saved, if you honestly say, “Jesus is Lord,” and if you believe with all your heart that God raised him from death. [Romans 10:9]
Here’s the full song from Jesus Culture:
Check out these two Gospel presentations if you want to know more:
Holiness is consecrated closeness to God. Holiness is in essence obeying God, living to God and for God, imitating God, keeping His law, taking His side against sin, doing righteousness, performing good works, following Christ’s teaching and example, worshipping God in the Spirit, loving and serving God and men out of reverence for Christ. In relation to God, holiness takes the form of a single-minded passion to please by love and loyalty, devotion and praise. In relation to sin, it takes the form of a resistance movement, a discipline of not gratifying the desires of the flesh, but of putting to death the deeds of the body. Holiness is, in a word, God-taught, Spirit-wrought Christ-likeness, the sum and substance of committed discipleship, the demonstration of faith working by love, the responsive outflow in righteousness of supernatural life from the hearts of those who are born again.» Read More »
Yesterday was Trinity Sunday, the day when preachers cower and hide away from the challenge of trying to explain the Trinity (God: Father, Son & Holy Spirit).
I felt challenged by a few updates on Twitter yesterday. The first read:
Well, I’ve been invited to preach at a local church next Sunday and as they didn’t have a Trinity service yesterday, and because I’m feeling brave (or stupid), I’m going to preach on the Trinity.
The other tweets read as follows:
If you’ve been going to church for a while I’m sure you’ll have heard some of the many analogies used to help explain the Holy Spirit. Here’s my incomplete list – just from memory:
- Egg: shell/White/yolk
- Water: ice/steam/liquid
- Jaffa Cake: sponge/chocolate/orange jelly
- Man: worker/husband/father
- Apple: skin/core/pulp
- Human: body/soul/spirit
- Three blade propeller
- Three leaf clover
- How would you critique these analogies?
- Would you add any other analogies to the list?
But my main question is this:
Is it helpful to use these analogies, even knowing that they are imperfect representations of the Trinity?
There’s a small but steady ‘movement’ on Twitter to use Mondays as a specific opportunity to encourage others. It’s called #loveMonday and it works like this: You send an encouraging message (public or private) to three other Twitter users, and invite them to encourage three of their friends/contacts/followers. Don’t forget to include #loveMonday in the message. Simple. Of course, it doesn’t have to just be via Twitter. Feel free to do the same but on Facebook, via email, or even offline (send a postcard, leave a message scrawled on a post-it note, etc.).» Read More »
I’m a big fan of Easter. No really, I am. But this year I’m feeling a bit grumpy about it. It all started about two weeks ago, and has been building since then. Let me try to explain why:
I’m also a big fan of Twitter. I find it an incredibly useful tool for connecting with people who have shared interests and discussing said interests. I use it to learn from others, to reflect with them, and to interact on a whole number of things. This year Easter & Twitter have aligned – or perhaps collided.
It’s Passover week in 1st Century Jerusalem. A bustling throng of Jewish pilgrims have gathered in the city. But this year a preacher/carpenter from Nazareth is set to turn the tables of history – right before their eyes. This is the Easter story and this is your cue.
By Tweeting your story, the Easter(LIVE) website allows you to showcase your very own Passion Play. Be it a historical and Biblical account or a poetic, visual, musical or creative retelling – it’s up to you. It’s a chance to explore, to learn and be creative. Give it your personal stamp, bring it to life and share it with everyone.
So they’re encouraging people to send out their own version of the Easter story, using Twitter as the underlying tool, and collating the tweets into a user profile on the Easter(LIVE) website. Last year they took a slightly different approach which I encouraged our Church to support, and I found very helpful & valuable. Everyone was encouraged to follow the @easterlive account on Twitter, and they published a retelling of the story to anyone who was following. I thought this was a fantastic idea, and was well executed (similar to the Christmas story being told through the Natwivity project).
There’s a lot about this project which I love
- anything which gets people hearing & talking about the Gospel has to be a good thing
- I love that the story is being retold from different perspectives – some people will be writing their account with their own friends, family, community, context in mind which is really important
- it is encouraging people to reflect on an “old” story in a new way
- and as a recovering techie, I love the fact that they’re making great use of an existing & popular tool (Twitter)
But I have number of issues with it too:
One gripe is that a number of the people I follow on Twitter have signed up to the project. So they’ve been busy developing the characters through whom the story will be told, and carefully crafting their updates, waiting for the launch today (Palm Sunday). When I read about the project I quickly realised that this was going to have an impact on my Twitter feed. With approx 10-15 of the people I follow having signed up, and with one or two of them having mentioned that they have 120-160 updates “ready to go” during Holy Week, I was bracing myself to be inundated with Easter(LIVE) tweets. Since midday approximately 70% of the tweets in my Twitter feed have been #EasterLive updates (of course, that represents a great success my the project’s organisers to get people involved). Initially I feared that my general use and experience of Twitter would be negatively impacted by an abundance of EasterLive updates. It’s still less than a day into the project, but so far, that fear has been realised. That’s a bit of a selfish gripe though – who am I to moan if my experience of Twitter is impacted, when potentially thousands of people will hear the Gospel message?
I may also sound like a bit of a hypocrite as I’ve said it must be a good thing to tell the Gospel story in a new way and encourage people to reflect on it (some for the first time). But I want to question just how useful it will be for people to hear the Gospel told from multiple perspectives, in multiple styles, and each of them crossing over the other. How easy will it be for someone to follow the story for the first time? How helpful will it be at helping someone reflect on the story in a new way, when it’s actually presented in a number of new perspectives all at once? Only time will tell.
Personally I haven’t signed up to join the EasterLive project, not out of protest, but due to a lack of creativity (and time) on my part. Instead, I’ve signed up to a project called “The Passion Experience” which is using a similar approach to that of EasterLive 2010. It is also a retelling of the Easter story, and uses Twitter as it’s underlying vehicle. For me it seems to involve most of the positive aspects of Easter(LIVE) without the negatives.
What do you think?
- Am I being selfish?
- Is it confusing to retell the same story from multiple perspectives at the same time confusing?
- Do you feel the approach taken by Easter(LIVE) this year is effectively spamming Twitter?
This is part six of the series looking at the inclusion of Children & Young People in Worship. I’ve updated recently on my presentation to and the outcome of the Church meeting in relation to the changes I proposed. Now I want to start updating on the progress which has been made so far and where we’re going next.
With the review in mind, following the Church meeting a number of us attended a training session by Doug ‘Duggie Dug Dug‘ Horley. The following is a brief summary of the sociological challenges, theological reflections and some practical tips which we felt were pertinent to our process of change:
He set out the imperative for children’s work – that children represent the greatest opportunity for evangelism:
- moral and spiritual foundations are set by the age of 9
- world view is formed by 13 years
- 66% of Christians accept Jesus before they are 18
- over 50% before they are 13
He explained the conflicting pressures which shape children’s worldview; the things we’re battling against as we seek to define their worldviews with Christ’s values:
- media: TV (celebrity), age-inappropriate video games
- family status: divorce & separation
- peer pressure
- internet: pornography
- Deuteronomy 6:5-7 – ‘Impress [the commandments] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up’
- the importance of relationships in our work
- parents share the responsibility to teach their children about the Lord
- Joel 2:16 – ‘Make sure that everyone is fit to worship me. Bring adults, children, babies…’
- everyone is to be included in the act of worship
- Psalm 8:2 – ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’
- the innocent but heart-felt praise offered by children is powerful & valued by God
- Psalm 78:4 – ‘tell the next generation of God’s power and the wonders He’s done’ [paraphrase]
- it’s important for us to share our experiences together (young & old)
- drawing young people into worship
- Mark 10:13-16 – ‘Let the children come to me! Don’t try to stop them.’
- children are not to be excluded from the Lord’s presence – not even by those who ‘know better’
- Matthew 18:6 – ‘Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time!’ [Msg]
- we are to encourage children in their relationship with the Lord, not hinder them
- follow Jesus’ example
- teach children well
- build friendships & relationships
- must encourage questions
- never shut down a child who is engaging with faith
- encourage an atmosphere of questioning
- genuine inclusion vs tokenism:
- ‘children will feel included not because they have been told they’re included, but because they have experienced it for themselves’
There were few practical nuggets of wisdom shared verbally about how to engage children and young people well, but many were modelled by Doug throughout the session (and the evening event):
- simple language
- even though his target audience for the seminar had an average age of 40+
- genuine enthusiasm in delivery
- don’t fake it – with children you might get away with it, but young people will spot it a mile off!
- energy in ‘performance’
- moving around, rarely standing still
- short bursts
- no one segment was more than 10 minutes before moving to the next
- style & approach of segments contrasted
Next I’ll outline the outcome of our meeting to start making the practical changes needed, then let you know how it’s been going. Thanks for sticking with it – I hope you’re finding it helpful.
I’m not a Children’s worker: it’s not my particular gifting. But I’m being increasingly challenged about the importance of work (particularly evangelism) with children. More on that later…but for now my mantra will be:
Go and have a cup of coffee *
And here’s why:
* to be fair, this has always been part of my personal mantra ;o)
Recently I attended a seminar entitled ‘Big Society, Big Mission’, organised by the Central Baptist Association and presented by Geoff Colmer & Helen Wordsworth. On reflection, it was very light on Big Society info (as is the government!) and so focussed on Big Mission. Nothing ground breaking, but a useful challenge and some Holy prompts along the way for me and my context.
What follows are my sketchy notes of the content as presented, and thoughts which arose during the session.
The Big Society is a Conservative idea with its roots in, among others, the Centre for Social Justice & and the thinking of Benjamin Disraeli. Many of the people involved in the continued efforts to shape and develop the concept & practice are Christians of many persuasions.
Details are very difficult to come by, but the working definition shared was of: social action, public service reform and community empowerment.
The government have identified four areas in which to trial the Big Society implementation: & Tendring. Liverpool was originally one of the areas but has recently pulled out stating the incompatibility of the budget cuts and the Big Society agenda – Tendring have taken their place. Each trial area is to appoint a Community Organiser who will be assisted by a Civil Servant. Their tasks will include devolving budgets to ‘street level’, open source planning & delivering (presumably commissioning) broadband services.
Part of the Big Society plan is to develop a new Community Bank to which communities & groups will be able to apply for funding for their initiatives & services. However, it has been pointed out that due to the budget cuts, the new bank will already have less on the books than is currently given to third sector organisations.
How do Churches fit in?
Currently it can be difficult for Churches & faith groups to gain access to funding due to their faith connections – many funders are reluctant to support them. It was suggested that under the Big Society ‘model’ the ‘door is ajar’ for faith groups to seek funding: ‘faith will not be a bar to community involvement’ – Eric Pickles, MP [1, 2]
Malcolm Duncan, formerly of FaithWorks, has said that the Big Society represents a once in a generation moment for Churches, and that we must grab it with both hands; he suggested that if we did not, future generations will look back and wonder what on earth we were thinking (no source provided for this quote).
At this point we were asked to share some of the activities/projects our Churches are currently involved in which are practical expressions of the Big Society and its community involvement aspiration. These included dyslexia support groups, debt & budgeting groups, credit unions, conversational English classes and many more.
It was playfully suggested that getting involved in the Big Society means that we’re bailing out the government, and therefore why should we get involved? Wouldn’t it be a distraction to our core mission? This led onto discussions around the relationship of faith & social action: can you get involved in these opportunities & preach the Gospel?
Mention was made of the book ‘Saving Souls, Serving Society’, which provides 15 studies of US churches and discusses the idea of building both social & spiritual capital.
There followed some discussion about mission generally, and the theological imperative; being both evangelistic & serving society, and the connection between the two: [here my notes get even more sketchy]
Williams Carey – ‘using means for the conversion of heathens’
References: Matt 28:19-20, Genesis 12:1-3, Psalm 24:1,
- mission is God’s grand narrative
- a God of mission chooses a people of mission
- Abraham to Jesus – then through the disciples
- the mission of God: not ‘where does God fit into our world?’ but ‘where does our life fit?’
- God’s big story combines both social action & evangelism
Using the metaphor of a river with Christians on one bank and non-Christians on the other, we considered how we could seek & create opportunities for engagement, and looked at a few different methods of ‘crossing the river’. [This time included some questions for reflection, and time for discussion in small groups offering the chance to apply the principles to our own contexts – I didn’t capture all of this detail...]
Firstly, building a bridge, which takes time and a lot of effort & resources, and is usually built from both sides.
- So what could we do to build bridges with those outside the church?
- What bridges of communication with people on the other bank already exist and how could they be better used?
- Who might walk across the bridges which already exist?
- Who are the best Church people to be on those bridges and how can we release them to be there?
Secondly, find a ferry, an existing crossing (opportunity) which you can use to reach the other side. It was suggested that Chaplaincy services (to schools, shops, workplaces, geographical areas) might be existing opportunities. If you have health professionals or language/music teacher in your church, you might find ways to use them. Perhaps we could even deliberately using public transport more often in order to intentionally engage with people in the community.
Thirdly, place some stepping stones. Recognising that the gap between the Church and those outside it is too big to cross in one leap, what stepping stones can we intentionally place between the two sides to assist them? We need to make sure the stepping stones are aligned appropriately for each group/opportunity.
Fourthly, build a raft. Create a new opportunity using the resources available – so working in partnership with other groups & organisations, what service could we provide which will meet the needs of our community? Are there people on the other bank who we can engage as helpers in the new project?
Links which may be helpful (or not!):
You may remember some months ago I started a series entitled ‘worshipping together‘. I was reviewing the inclusion & engagement of children & young people in our services at Spurgeon Baptist Church, and the posts were a chance for me to air my thoughts and discuss them before proceeding. Here’s a quick précis of each of the posts:
- Including Children & Young People In Worship: introduction, proposed areas to be covered and links to other posts as they appeared
- The Children’s Talk – Critiquing Current Practice: setting original out the remit of my review and highlighting some of the problems I had identified
- Segregated for Worship: highlighting our current approach to worship, and considering the strengths/weaknesses of splitting into age groups for worship
- Encouraging Children to Worship: a theological reflection on the merits of worshipping together with children & young people, and suggesting a change in our current practice
- Options for Worship: setting out three different approaches to the challenges faced at Spurgeons, analysing each, before my personal conclusion
Well, that was all before life got incredibly busy, and the posts stopped, but rest assured that the review and implementation didn’t. So here is a quick update of how the Church responded to my review & suggestions, before I share some of the progress we’ve made and include some details & practicalities in the hope that they may be helpful to others.
Using the posts above, and some of the helpful discussions had along the way, I set out a brief overview of the background, issues and possible options to our Church members’ meeting (‘cos that’s how it works in the Baptist Church). Although I outlined ‘option 3′ (that children and young people worship separately from adults), I immediately discounted it due to practical issues with our church building (although I also had a big theological concern). So the members had the choice of:
- option 1: tweaking what we do now in the present slot, some other minor changes
- option 2: change the start of the service all-age worship: new songs, activities, engaging all senses
- other: of course the meeting had the right to go for neither option
There was a lot of discussion around the issues I’d presented, clarifying some areas which weren’t clear and correcting some misconceptions, but on the whole it was a very positive time. The meeting recognised some of the issues, but admitted that their eyes had been opened to others which they’d not detected. The conclusion was that the meeting agreed to implement option 1 (tweaking the status quo) with immediate effect, but then working towards the implementation of option 2 (recognising that it would take a significant amount of time, planning & preparation).
We called a meeting of the people who were involved in the ‘children’s talk’ slot, and invited any others with an interest, and we set about agreeing the necessary tweaks and what would be required to make them. From October 2010 the newly renamed ‘YourSpace’ slot came into being.
In the next post I’ll share some of the findings from our initial meeting and how we’ve been getting on so far.