Monthly Archives: January 2007

links for 2007-01-22

links for 2007-01-22

Amazing Grace, Amazing Hypocrisy

More from February’s Christianity magazine: there is a pungent editorial by John Buckeridge about the forthcoming film Amazing Grace about the life of William Wilberforce and the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. The magazine carries a big feature about how churches may use the movie to interact with their local communities. But Buckeridge’s editorial raises an uncomfortable point: the backer of the film is Philip Anschutz, the American Christian who wants to buy London’s Millennium Dome and turn it into a super-casino. Buckeridge says,

Doubly curious then that Mr Anshutz should fund a film about a man who opposed all forms of slavery and who rejected gambling – while funding another project that threatens to corrupt and enslave thousands.

It made me think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:29-39. Is Anschutz making this film a tomb for a prophet and a decorated grave for a righteous man? If not, then what is he doing?

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links for 2007-01-21

Steve Chalke On Preaching

I won’t be posting a new sermon on the blog this weekend, as I’ll be repeating my recent Covenant Service sermon tomorrow morning. However I thought I’d offer some thoughts on preaching.

A couple of days ago the February issue of Christianity magazine dropped through my letterbox. There were a number of worthwhile features, but one column I turn to regularly is Steve Chalke‘s monthly column about everyday life as a church leader. This month he talks about struggling with sermon preparation. He had told his congregation how exciting Paul’s letter to the Colossians was but the found himself with a passage that bored him. What do you do? Remembering some old advice from his theological college principal he just gets down and gets on with it. He quotes William Carey’s famous self-assessment of his abilities: ‘I can plod.’ The article is entitled, ‘Sometimes it’s OK just to be OK.’ In other words, you don’t have to have dramatic flashes of inspiration every week.

Sound advice. To which I want to add one encouraging thought. My experience is that those times when the inspiration is as zippy as wading through treacle can often be the times when your preaching most connects with the people. The sermons that have most seemed like a slog to me are frequently the ones that draw the greatest number of comments afterwards about how helpful it was.

I remember first seeing this not in my own preaching but in someone else’s. In the summer of 1984 I worked on Mission To London, a series of evangelistic meetings at QPR‘s Loftus Road football stadium, where Luis Palau was preaching. I was an ‘adviser’, supervising counsellors. The mission ran for something like forty-two nights and I was there for a good half of them. It was the night when I felt like Palau’s sermon was the most boring and inspired, a wet midweek evening. Surely no-one would come onto the pitch and make a response to Christ when his preaching had been so dull?

You know what I’m going to say. I never saw – insofar as my eyes could judge – a higher percentage of people come forward that night at any time during the mission.

So if you are a fellow preacher and your preparation (perhaps even for tomorrow morning) has all the appeal of sludge, hang in there. In our weakness Christ is strong by his Spirit. Be expectant – not of yourself, but of God.

Happy preaching tomorrow.

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links for 2007-01-19

links for 2007-01-18

links for 2007-01-17

Coffee Shop Discipleship

Here is a beautiful article by an American pastor who works one night a week as a barista at an independent coffee shop. It’s set him thinking about fellowship and mission: the coffee shop is a place where an eclectic group of people have space to relate. The article details his experiment in a Sunday night meeting based on these values.

It touched a raw nerve for me in thinking about one of my three churches. At two there is coffee every week after the morning service, but at my largest church it’s only once a month and then requires negotiation in order to fit with when we can sell Traidcraft goods. Every other morning people dutifully file out within a few minutes of the blessing – except for church officers and some people who rely on lifts from them.

Midweek it has a ‘Wesley Guild’ which attracts about twenty people. Originally in the 1890s Guilds were devised to attract and retain young Methodists. Not so now. It’s very much a programme-driven meeting, with the usual Guild format of four different types of evening: devotional, social, educational and cultural. I guess all sorts of reasons are given for the Wesley Guild movement: because it is not all overtly religious it is supposed to have evangelistic potential. That is fine to a point but it seems to be based on an assumption of ‘come to us’ evangelism, which is increasingly inappropriate in our culture. Our missionary philosophy needs to be incarnational and based on the word ‘go’, not ‘come’. Wouldn’t it be great if Christians got their cultural and educational input by joining local evening classes (even running some) and being salt and light there? As to the devotional aspect, one week in four does not do that much for today’s huge biblical illiteracy in the church. My guess is that Wesley Guilds work best as places of friendship where little else exists, but they do not work so well these days as places of spiritual formation and mission in our culture.

What else do we have? We now have two small groups. One is a Bible study that I lead, the other is a Covenant Discipleship Group where the members hold one another to account for their working out of the two great commandments to love God and love neighbour. Both these groups have the potential for spiritual formation. It’s interesting that both groups chose to meet on church premises, though. As a church we’re not so clued into sharing life together that we do so in homes.

So the American pastor’s article about coffee shop discipleship has become a reality check for me: how are we doing in mission, spiritual formation and life together? Because these are essential indicators of a church’s health.

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Coffee Shop Discipleship

Here is a beautiful article by an American pastor who works one night a week as a barista at an independent coffee shop. It’s set him thinking about fellowship and mission: the coffee shop is a place where an eclectic group of people have space to relate. The article details his experiment in a Sunday night meeting based on these values.

It touched a raw nerve for me in thinking about one of my three churches. At two there is coffee every week after the morning service, but at my largest church it’s only once a month and then requires negotiation in order to fit with when we can sell Traidcraft goods. Every other morning people dutifully file out within a few minutes of the blessing – except for church officers and some people who rely on lifts from them.

Midweek it has a ‘Wesley Guild’ which attracts about twenty people. Originally in the 1890s Guilds were devised to attract and retain young Methodists. Not so now. It’s very much a programme-driven meeting, with the usual Guild format of four different types of evening: devotional, social, educational and cultural. I guess all sorts of reasons are given for the Wesley Guild movement: because it is not all overtly religious it is supposed to have evangelistic potential. That is fine to a point but it seems to be based on an assumption of ‘come to us’ evangelism, which is increasingly inappropriate in our culture. Our missionary philosophy needs to be incarnational and based on the word ‘go’, not ‘come’. Wouldn’t it be great if Christians got their cultural and educational input by joining local evening classes (even running some) and being salt and light there? As to the devotional aspect, one week in four does not do that much for today’s huge biblical illiteracy in the church. My guess is that Wesley Guilds work best as places of friendship where little else exists, but they do not work so well these days as places of spiritual formation and mission in our culture.

What else do we have? We now have two small groups. One is a Bible study that I lead, the other is a Covenant Discipleship Group where the members hold one another to account for their working out of the two great commandments to love God and love neighbour. Both these groups have the potential for spiritual formation. It’s interesting that both groups chose to meet on church premises, though. As a church we’re not so clued into sharing life together that we do so in homes.

So the American pastor’s article about coffee shop discipleship has become a reality check for me: how are we doing in mission, spiritual formation and life together? Because these are essential indicators of a church’s health.

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