Monthly Archives: July 2006

Israel, Lebanon And Hezbollah

PamBG has reminded me of this important perspective from the academic dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary. I saw this article last week and didn’t have time to post on it. See the posts on Pam’s site here and here. She also posts the timely words of Alan Gaunt‘s hymn ‘We pray for peace’ here.

I post this as someone who as a young Christian only ever heard the evangelical Zionist viewpoint from the books of writers such as Lance Lambert. Later I changed my views, whilst trying to remain faithful to Scripture. It came first of all from reading Colin Chapman’s book Whose Promised Land? and later having him as a theological lecturer in Bristol. (NB There is a critical review of the book here and you can find some more recent articles by Colin on Islamic terrorism and the Israel-Palestine conflict here.)

Israel was promised ‘the land’ by God in the Old Testament. It was given unconditionally but they were also expected to care for ‘the alien in [their] midst’ on the grounds that they had been slaves in Egypt. This seems particularly pertinent to the question of land for Palestinians. But further in the New Testament scholars such as Kenneth Bailey have argued that Jesus ‘de-Zionised’ Isaiah’s prophecies. And Jesus’ own quotation in the Beatitudes from the OT that ‘the meek shall inherit the earth‘ could legitimately be translated, ‘The meek shall inherit the land’, which would be potentially more consistent with the original quote in Psalm 37. What might that mean today?

Of course the apostles just before the Ascension ask Jesus if he is about to ‘restore the kingdom to Israel’ but he tells them it is not for them to know the times or dates the Father has set. Chapman points out that after that the subject doesn’t come up again.

Does that mean that God does not have a special concern for Israel? Far from it: Romans, with its repeated refrain of ‘to the Jew first and then the Gentile’ and especially the difficult chapters 9 to 11, puts paid to that idea. But we cannot take OT texts that prophesy the retun from Babylonian exile and take them without warrant to prophesy the establishment of the modern State of Israel.

So do I have sympathy for Hezbollah’s violence? Not a bit. It is evil, and to speak of exterminating Israel is contrary to God’s concern for peace, reconciliation and justice. Nor, though, can I bless the dreadful violence Israel has unleashed. The experiences of persecution and injustice have fanned the flames of hatred on both sides.

An Anglican lay reader friend of mine who has training both in theology and psychology once observed in a sermon the difference between post-apartheid South Africa and Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. The difference, he claimed, was that South Africa was willing to engage in its process of truth and reconciliation, whereas Mugabe and his régime allowed the hatred of what had been done to them to fester in their hearts and become political policy.

If that is true, then may God have mercy not only on the Middle East and the Western governments and worldwide organisations that may or may not help, but also upon us all and the darkness of our own hearts. Let us pray for the world and for ourselves.

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links for 2006-07-30

Sermon, ‘Testing, Testing …’ (John 6:1-21)

Here is tomorrow’s sermon. The relevant Bible passage is here.

Introduction
On Friday we were in Lewes to bury my father-in-law’s ashes,
following his
death in February
. It was an unusual service for me to take – the family
had asked me to dress informally. So it was the first time I have officiated in
a cemetery wearing a polo shirt, chinos and trainers.

After the ceremony we
decamped to his favourite pub for
lunch. Over lunch I was sitting with Debbie’s nephews. One of them,
sixteen-year-old Ashley, is not enjoying this summer. And it’s not the heat.
It’s the wait until 24th August for his GCSE results. He hopes to go
on to A-Levels. He can’t yet think about whether he might get to university.
His mother is rather more sure of his abilities than he is. The results of his
testing will soon be with him. And with it the next stage of his life.

Likewise, one of the
things that scares me as a parent not of teenagers but small children is just
how young the testing starts, with SATs kicking in at age seven. Our children
are now the political footballs of power-hungry Government ministers. And they
will feel like they can never get away from being tested.

Testing, then, is my theme
this morning. It is a test for me, John’s account of the feeding of the five
thousand falling in this week’s Lectionary after I preached [an old sermon]
on Mark’s account last Sunday night!

But seriously, the testing
centres on Jesus. He tests the disciples, and the crowd implicitly tests him.
As we reflect on this story, I hope we can gain insight for some of the tests
and trials we undergo. And I hope we can also pay attention to some of the ways
we find ourselves testing Jesus – sometimes unwittingly.

1. Jesus Tests The Disciples
This is one of those
stories where the reader is in on the secret that some of the characters don’t
know. Jesus asks Philip,

‘Where
are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’
[verse 5]

Philip says that even six
months’ wages would not be enough money to pay for the amount of food needed
[verse 7] and Andrew says,

‘There
is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among
so many people?’
[verse 9]

Philip and Andrew feel
hopeless and helpless. But they don’t know the secret that John has let us in
on:

[Jesus]
said this to test [Philip], for he himself knew what he was going to do.
[verse 6]

Have you ever been in that
situation? Not, perhaps, having to feed five thousand men, plus women and
children with five barley loaves (the bread that the poorest of the poor ate)
and two fishes. But you may have felt that you were up against the impossible
and wondered what God was up to.

The most spectacular time
for me was in 1986 when I was about to leave work and study Theology. This was
before I offered for the ministry. In fact I thought God was calling me to
something and the last thing it could be was ordained ministry.

I accepted a place at Trinity College, Bristol. This being
the days before student loans, I applied for a grant. On the day before I was
due to leave for a summer holiday I learned that I had been turned down. I
authorised my parents to make an appeal in my absence and to contact other
people for help. I told the college my predicament. They said, “We need you to
guarantee us the first year’s fees,” and set me a deadline in August.

Two days before that
deadline was due to expire, I got the result of my appeal. I had been turned
down. Forty-eight hours to go and no money – apart from my savings, and they
weren’t enough.

It was at this point that
I discovered, like Philip, Andrew and the others in today’s reading that Jesus
‘knew what he was going to do’ all along. My parents discovered a savings
account they had forgotten about and gave me the money. A student who had taken
a year out before college to earn money for a car gave that money to me
instead. Her boyfriend sent me some money, not knowing my situation. Two
elderly ladies in my home church gave me sizeable donations. One wrote in a
letter, “It seems that God has called you to trust him to supply your needs. He
will meet ours too.” Those words told me what a sacrifice her giving was.

These and other gifts came
in. By deadline day I had three quarters of the funds I needed. I rang the
college Vice-Principal and he agreed I could come. He promised help with
applying to charitable trusts when I arrived. However these proved to be trusts
that my parents had approached and I did not fit the criteria for any of them.

However God had other
ideas, anyway. A week or two later I was preaching one evening at another
church in my home circuit. Due to my experiences I decided to preach on ‘Give
us this day our daily bread’. In the sermon I simply recounted that God had
provided all I needed. I did not say that I was still short.

After the service a friend
invited me back to his flat for a coffee. There he recounted a story. He had
been intending to take three-week holiday to New Zealand to visit his aunt, but
his aunt had died and he didn’t feel like going any more. However he had
already changed his pounds sterling into New Zealand dollars. But since
doing so the dollar had been devalued. He had held onto the money in the hope
that the dollar’s value would increase again. However it continued to fall on
the currency markets and his money was worth less and less. The money had become
an annoyance. Would I like to take this annoyance off his hands?

Before I could answer he
had left the living room, gone to his bedroom, and come back with some plastic Thomas Cook envelopes bulging with notes.
He threw them into my lap. To this day I can recall the exact amount: two
thousand, three hundred and ten New
Zealand dollars.

At the time my father was
working for NatWest and he got a staff
rate of exchange on the money. Again, I can remember the precise amount: seven
hundred and forty-two pounds, thirty-one pence. We calculated that my friend
had originally exchanged one thousand pounds for spending money. (And remember
this was twenty years ago.)

Later a friend at church
who was a Barclays Bank manager set up
a fund so that anyone who wanted to give towards my support could do so
anonymously. Since I was also turned down for a grant for my second year and
got just one third of a full grant for my third year, this giving – along with
some other gifts – bridged the gap.

As I said, that whole
story happened twenty years ago. I haven’t known anything quite so spectacular
in my own life since, although there have been some less dramatic examples of
the same truth. I was in a situation where I did not have what was needed. Yet
I was called to go to college. But Jesus knew what he was going to do.

So let me tell this story
as an encouragement and a challenge. Is there some similar situation in your
life? Might it be in our church’s life? Could it be in your family, or at work?
Something where you see a need – for yourself or others – and do not have the
wherewithal to meet it. Yet despite your lack God is not letting you off the
hook. It is time to press forward. Jesus knows what he is going to do.

2. The Crowd Tests Jesus
John tells us that ‘the
Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near’ [verse 4]. Is that just
incidental detail to the story? No. Colin Kruse explains:

‘Passover
was a time when Jewish people recalled their deliverance from Egypt through
Moses and were looking for the Prophet like him who was to come. They expected
the Prophet to bring deliverance and provide ‘manna’ from heaven as Moses had
done (cf. 2 Baruch 29:3 – 30:1). It
was a time when nationalistic fervour was high.’
[Colin Kruse, John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p
161.]

Now imagine the crowd of
thousands watching Jesus feed them with just five barley loaves and two fish.
Why, here is the man. The ancient story of the manna has been handed down to
us. Now, look at what we are witnessing! This must be the prophet whom Moses
told us to wait for. And we too are in slavery. We might be living in our own
land but under these wretched Romans we might just as well be back in exile in Babylon or in slavery in Egypt. And he has performed this
sign at Passover, the feast of deliverance. What else could it mean?

Hence verse 14:

When
the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed
the prophet who is to come into the world.’

Their limited assumptions
then become a straitjacket, for then we read in verse 15,

When
Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him
king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

It’s that detail: they
wanted to take him by force. Oh,
Jesus was ‘the Prophet’ all right. He was king, too. But force was the very
opposite value of Jesus’ kingship. His is a kingdom of peace and
reconciliation, a kingdom where deliverance is brought not through war but
suffering. So he resists and escapes the pressing of the crowd, at least
temporarily.

Of course we don’t
straitjacket Jesus, do we? We might not want to wage war like downtrodden Jews
in the first century AD, but we might want to express our faith in unduly
militant ways in our culture at times.

Or we might want to impose
other expectations upon Jesus. Prayer becomes less a request and more an order.
Or it becomes the application of a formula and we expect him to deliver.
Perhaps most worryingly we bring the consumerism of our society into the
spiritual life. We are the customers and we are always right.

Now many of you will
protest that generally we don’t do that to Jesus. We have learned over many
years of Christian experience not to be so juvenile. Maybe so. But it comes out
in other forms, not always directly at Jesus but often at his Body, the Church.
So when the Church of Jesus Christ doesn’t supply what I demand it does, I
write a letter of complaint and I may well take my spiritual business
elsewhere.

I am not denying that
there are times when it would be right to leave a church for another one. And I
am not saying that we should accept any old rubbish in church life, either. But
I am saying we have got the spiritual life entirely wrong when we have
converted it to a list of our own demands. If we think we have the right to
test Jesus then we have got the relationship upside-down. If he is Lord (and
that is the basic Christian confession) then it is not whether he meets our expectations, it is whether we meet his. Of course, we don’t meet his
expectations, and that is where we experience the miracle of grace.

All of which means we need
to be gracious ourselves. For believe me, I have lived with hurt and disappointment
in the Christian Church long enough. But there is no Plan B with Jesus. We are
the Church of Jesus Christ – Jesus who is Lord and who
owns the Church, not us. We are a company of sinners who have been found by
grace. It is not for us to do the testing but for Jesus to test us graciously
with five loaves and two fish for the crowd so that our faith in him may grow.

 

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Sermon, ‘Testing, Testing …’ (John 6:1-21)

Here is tomorrow’s sermon. The relevant Bible passage is here.

Introduction
On Friday we were in Lewes to bury my father-in-law’s ashes,
following his
death in February
. It was an unusual service for me to take – the family
had asked me to dress informally. So it was the first time I have officiated in
a cemetery wearing a polo shirt, chinos and trainers.

After the ceremony we
decamped to his favourite pub for
lunch. Over lunch I was sitting with Debbie’s nephews. One of them,
sixteen-year-old Ashley, is not enjoying this summer. And it’s not the heat.
It’s the wait until 24th August for his GCSE results. He hopes to go
on to A-Levels. He can’t yet think about whether he might get to university.
His mother is rather more sure of his abilities than he is. The results of his
testing will soon be with him. And with it the next stage of his life.

Likewise, one of the
things that scares me as a parent not of teenagers but small children is just
how young the testing starts, with SATs kicking in at age seven. Our children
are now the political footballs of power-hungry Government ministers. And they
will feel like they can never get away from being tested.

Testing, then, is my theme
this morning. It is a test for me, John’s account of the feeding of the five
thousand falling in this week’s Lectionary after I preached [an old sermon]
on Mark’s account last Sunday night!

But seriously, the testing
centres on Jesus. He tests the disciples, and the crowd implicitly tests him.
As we reflect on this story, I hope we can gain insight for some of the tests
and trials we undergo. And I hope we can also pay attention to some of the ways
we find ourselves testing Jesus – sometimes unwittingly.

1. Jesus Tests The Disciples
This is one of those
stories where the reader is in on the secret that some of the characters don’t
know. Jesus asks Philip,

‘Where
are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’
[verse 5]

Philip says that even six
months’ wages would not be enough money to pay for the amount of food needed
[verse 7] and Andrew says,

‘There
is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among
so many people?’
[verse 9]

Philip and Andrew feel
hopeless and helpless. But they don’t know the secret that John has let us in
on:

[Jesus]
said this to test [Philip], for he himself knew what he was going to do.
[verse 6]

Have you ever been in that
situation? Not, perhaps, having to feed five thousand men, plus women and
children with five barley loaves (the bread that the poorest of the poor ate)
and two fishes. But you may have felt that you were up against the impossible
and wondered what God was up to.

The most spectacular time
for me was in 1986 when I was about to leave work and study Theology. This was
before I offered for the ministry. In fact I thought God was calling me to
something and the last thing it could be was ordained ministry.

I accepted a place at Trinity College, Bristol. This being
the days before student loans, I applied for a grant. On the day before I was
due to leave for a summer holiday I learned that I had been turned down. I
authorised my parents to make an appeal in my absence and to contact other
people for help. I told the college my predicament. They said, “We need you to
guarantee us the first year’s fees,” and set me a deadline in August.

Two days before that
deadline was due to expire, I got the result of my appeal. I had been turned
down. Forty-eight hours to go and no money – apart from my savings, and they
weren’t enough.

It was at this point that
I discovered, like Philip, Andrew and the others in today’s reading that Jesus
‘knew what he was going to do’ all along. My parents discovered a savings
account they had forgotten about and gave me the money. A student who had taken
a year out before college to earn money for a car gave that money to me
instead. Her boyfriend sent me some money, not knowing my situation. Two
elderly ladies in my home church gave me sizeable donations. One wrote in a
letter, “It seems that God has called you to trust him to supply your needs. He
will meet ours too.” Those words told me what a sacrifice her giving was.

These and other gifts came
in. By deadline day I had three quarters of the funds I needed. I rang the
college Vice-Principal and he agreed I could come. He promised help with
applying to charitable trusts when I arrived. However these proved to be trusts
that my parents had approached and I did not fit the criteria for any of them.

However God had other
ideas, anyway. A week or two later I was preaching one evening at another
church in my home circuit. Due to my experiences I decided to preach on ‘Give
us this day our daily bread’. In the sermon I simply recounted that God had
provided all I needed. I did not say that I was still short.

After the service a friend
invited me back to his flat for a coffee. There he recounted a story. He had
been intending to take three-week holiday to New Zealand to visit his aunt, but
his aunt had died and he didn’t feel like going any more. However he had
already changed his pounds sterling into New Zealand dollars. But since
doing so the dollar had been devalued. He had held onto the money in the hope
that the dollar’s value would increase again. However it continued to fall on
the currency markets and his money was worth less and less. The money had become
an annoyance. Would I like to take this annoyance off his hands?

Before I could answer he
had left the living room, gone to his bedroom, and come back with some plastic Thomas Cook envelopes bulging with notes.
He threw them into my lap. To this day I can recall the exact amount: two
thousand, three hundred and ten New
Zealand dollars.

At the time my father was
working for NatWest and he got a staff
rate of exchange on the money. Again, I can remember the precise amount: seven
hundred and forty-two pounds, thirty-one pence. We calculated that my friend
had originally exchanged one thousand pounds for spending money. (And remember
this was twenty years ago.)

Later a friend at church
who was a Barclays Bank manager set up
a fund so that anyone who wanted to give towards my support could do so
anonymously. Since I was also turned down for a grant for my second year and
got just one third of a full grant for my third year, this giving – along with
some other gifts – bridged the gap.

As I said, that whole
story happened twenty years ago. I haven’t known anything quite so spectacular
in my own life since, although there have been some less dramatic examples of
the same truth. I was in a situation where I did not have what was needed. Yet
I was called to go to college. But Jesus knew what he was going to do.

So let me tell this story
as an encouragement and a challenge. Is there some similar situation in your
life? Might it be in our church’s life? Could it be in your family, or at work?
Something where you see a need – for yourself or others – and do not have the
wherewithal to meet it. Yet despite your lack God is not letting you off the
hook. It is time to press forward. Jesus knows what he is going to do.

2. The Crowd Tests Jesus
John tells us that ‘the
Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near’ [verse 4]. Is that just
incidental detail to the story? No. Colin Kruse explains:

‘Passover
was a time when Jewish people recalled their deliverance from Egypt through
Moses and were looking for the Prophet like him who was to come. They expected
the Prophet to bring deliverance and provide ‘manna’ from heaven as Moses had
done (cf. 2 Baruch 29:3 – 30:1). It
was a time when nationalistic fervour was high.’
[Colin Kruse, John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p
161.]

Now imagine the crowd of
thousands watching Jesus feed them with just five barley loaves and two fish.
Why, here is the man. The ancient story of the manna has been handed down to
us. Now, look at what we are witnessing! This must be the prophet whom Moses
told us to wait for. And we too are in slavery. We might be living in our own
land but under these wretched Romans we might just as well be back in exile in Babylon or in slavery in Egypt. And he has performed this
sign at Passover, the feast of deliverance. What else could it mean?

Hence verse 14:

When
the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed
the prophet who is to come into the world.’

Their limited assumptions
then become a straitjacket, for then we read in verse 15,

When
Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him
king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

It’s that detail: they
wanted to take him by force. Oh,
Jesus was ‘the Prophet’ all right. He was king, too. But force was the very
opposite value of Jesus’ kingship. His is a kingdom of peace and
reconciliation, a kingdom where deliverance is brought not through war but
suffering. So he resists and escapes the pressing of the crowd, at least
temporarily.

Of course we don’t
straitjacket Jesus, do we? We might not want to wage war like downtrodden Jews
in the first century AD, but we might want to express our faith in unduly
militant ways in our culture at times.

Or we might want to impose
other expectations upon Jesus. Prayer becomes less a request and more an order.
Or it becomes the application of a formula and we expect him to deliver.
Perhaps most worryingly we bring the consumerism of our society into the
spiritual life. We are the customers and we are always right.

Now many of you will
protest that generally we don’t do that to Jesus. We have learned over many
years of Christian experience not to be so juvenile. Maybe so. But it comes out
in other forms, not always directly at Jesus but often at his Body, the Church.
So when the Church of Jesus Christ doesn’t supply what I demand it does, I
write a letter of complaint and I may well take my spiritual business
elsewhere.

I am not denying that
there are times when it would be right to leave a church for another one. And I
am not saying that we should accept any old rubbish in church life, either. But
I am saying we have got the spiritual life entirely wrong when we have
converted it to a list of our own demands. If we think we have the right to
test Jesus then we have got the relationship upside-down. If he is Lord (and
that is the basic Christian confession) then it is not whether he meets our expectations, it is whether we meet his. Of course, we don’t meet his
expectations, and that is where we experience the miracle of grace.

All of which means we need
to be gracious ourselves. For believe me, I have lived with hurt and disappointment
in the Christian Church long enough. But there is no Plan B with Jesus. We are
the Church of Jesus Christ – Jesus who is Lord and who
owns the Church, not us. We are a company of sinners who have been found by
grace. It is not for us to do the testing but for Jesus to test us graciously
with five loaves and two fish for the crowd so that our faith in him may grow.

 

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Leonard Sweet – Forever Learning

Belatedly discovered that Sue Rinaldi has started blogging. She always has been one of the more interesting charismatic worship leaders (or lead worshippers) – not narrowly confined within stereotypes and expectations but thinking deeply and sensitive to the culture. This post chronicles some observations of Leonard Sweet (himself pretty learned) about forever learning. It contains a few reminders I would do well to pay attention to.

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links for 2006-07-27

links for 2006-07-25

Progress On Small Group Material

Further to my piece last Wednesday and Sally’s helpful comment on it, I’ve made a visit this morning to the ‘Guy Harlings’ Resource Centre and picked up some useful material. For the mission and vision course, I think I’m going to adapt the Anglican Mission-Shaped Church report for a Methodist audience. And although I thought the Emmaus Course was too long, I’ve now discovered some short Bible study courses they produce that could be just the ticket. I picked up David Day’s volume on Colossians, Christ Our Life. I’m going to pass that around and see what people think about it.

Having said that, I was particularly grateful for Sally’s reminder about the Beta Course. Last autumn I attended a theological lecture that should have been given by its author, Sara Savage, on her research into Generation Y (now published). (I say ‘should have’, because she was ill and had to email her lecture notes for someone else to give in her place.) At the time I picked up a leaflet about Beta. I can certainly envisage circumstances when I would use it, and having witnessed or learned about one or two personality clashes at church yesterday, I can well see its value! I think that especially with the cost of it I’d probably want to use it not simply in one small group but across a church, though.

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links for 2006-07-20

Time To Talk Of God

My main church, like a lot of British Methodist churches, has recently been studying the Time To Talk Of God book, which arose out of a report to Methodist Conference. The need for the book is itself a tragedy: it stems from the findings of The Church Life Census in British churches about three or four years ago, which examined the relative strengths and weaknesses of different Christian traditions. Although Methodists show well on all matters social and in our appreciation of the sacraments we are among those who find it hardest to speak about our faith. Thus the report – and, unusually, one that was widely welcomed across the theological spectrum.

When I first read the book, I must admit it seemed to have very little substance at all. I wondered what on earth the fuss was about. And more so when it was quickly apparent that the book had extremely limited aims: it only aimed to get Methodists talking with one another. But the fact that we have problems even with that is a further sign of the tragedy.

Nevertheless this apparently slight book was the key that unlocked some deep-seated feelings and some highly important observations about personal and corporate Christian life in our congregation. In this post I am sharing some of these in very general terms, and with the permission of the groups.

One joy for me was that although we had not even a third of the congregation in the groups, there has been a groundswell in favour of setting up small groups in the church as a result. When I saw the church profile before considering the appointment this appeared to be a gaping hole. The reasons for seeking the establishment  of more permanent groups amount to a collective cri de coeur, though. People needed a safe space in which to air their deepest questions about life and faith, and it seemed to them that no such sanctuary had existed before. It was not possible to have substantial conversations after Sunday worship – and maybe it was not desirable: another place and time was needed. Others felt that Sunday worship made little contact with the real world: the common Methodist practice of preaching from the Lectionary led to sermons that did not prepare people to engage in conversation with friends on the pressing ethical issues of the day, such as bioethics or environmental issues. Some would explicitly like to tie together small group material and the themes of Sunday preaching. Still others commented that they had not had any courses for mature Christian disciples during their journey of faith. The church membership classes and the like were the last courses some had done. Even for me to speak about some basic Christian spiritual disciplines such as fasting or solitude was new territory. And perhaps the most disturbing comment of all: how has the church made Jesus so boring?

So we have some challenges! But good challenges. I have the rest of the summer to start coming up with some suitable material! One constraint seems to be about the amount of reading that might be done as part of a course. Despite being located in an area that attracts professional, highly educated people there has been a nervousness in some quarters to studying a book such as Richard Foster‘s Celebration Of Discipline, because the chapters were about twenty pages in length. We need something more concise. (And the same reason rules out the Emmaus Course.) I have heard mixed reports of Rick Warren‘s The Purpose Driven Life: reviews I’ve read seem polarised. Either it’s adored or decried. The CPAS course Lost For Words would take us to the next step of talking about our faith with those who don’t presently share it. Nor do people want the kind of Bible study that is merely academic and enforces the division between church and reality rather than bridging it.

And those are just the immediate resources that occur to me. So, dear blog readers, what would you recommend? I am all eyes to read your thoughts.

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