Blog something new?

In recentre I was wondering out loud if the new centre of culture or western meta-narrative was popular culture itself. PG

commented on how scary a thought this could be which in turn reminded me of the Thoreau quote below, that I use when doing stuff on spiritual disciplines.

“when our life ceases to be inward and private, conversation degenerates into mere gossip. We rarely meet a man who can tell us any news which he has not read in a newspaper or been told by a neighbour; and for the most part the only difference between us and our fellow is that he has seen the newspaper or been out to tea and we have not. In proportion as our inward life fails we go more constantly and desperately to the post office. You may depend on it that the poor fellow who walks away with the greatest number of letters proud of his extensive correspondence has not heard from himself in a long while.”
Henry Thoreau

I wondered about a rephrasing

“when our life ceases to be inward and private, conversation degenerates into mere gossip. We rarely meet a man who can tell us anything genuinely new about God or the world; and for the most part the only difference between us and our fellow is that he has been surfing blog-sphere and we have not. In proportion as our inward life fails we go more constantly and desperately to the computer. You may depend on it that the poor fellow who walks away with the longest blog roll, proud of his extensive list of links has not heard from himself in a long while.” (adapted from Henry Thoreau)

The mere act of rephrasing this is ironical and forces me back to re-look at my walk before God.

Maturity without Membership

In order to prepare for growth and outreach Chard Baptist are looking at Purpose Driven church, one of the principles of which is membership. This raises several issues for me. Membership in itself is not something I am fully confident about and whilst I understand many of the arguments, the approach to membership as we enter post Christendom seems all the more problematic.

How do you begin to grow towards maturity without membership? Murry in The church after Christendom offers a great critique of Matt 18 v 15-17

15″If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Whilst I accept the possible intended use of the language of tax collector/pagan to signify an outsider, it is interesting that this is only one of two times the bible actually places the word church on Jesus’ lips. I would want to explore the creative tension that verse 17 throws up as we begin to consider how Christ would have treated tax collectors or pagans. Murry points this out but I would want to push this issue towards a maturity without membership, that does admonish one another in a non dislocating way, and uses the process well to reaffirm core beliefs so the whole community matures, but does not exile people who disaggree.

Taking Youth Work Seriously

The Occasion “Creating Memories” that happened on October the 8th was a FANTASTIC event. The feedback was great. You find out just how good people said it was here Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban movies

download Chasing Amy

as well as some of the peoples notes and powerpoints from workshops.
The feedback forms were great with 96% of the 115 people who completed a form saying they would recommend The Occasion to a friend and the other 4% was a maybe.
Lunch was at a local Chinese restaurant and all in all it was an occasion to be remembered. (excuse the double pun) Lori also put up a toilet at the top of the stairs for people to graffeti with the names of the youth groups they had been involved with over the years.

Bookmark the website if you are in the south west so you don’t miss out on the next one!


Sorry for the confussion Phil.
What I wondered or questioned is many people say due to post modernity there is no overarching meta narrative but I was questioning this assumption and think the metanarrative may have been replaced with a new overarching story that is mosaic of popular culture. eg in the past people found their place by how they related to the meta narrative of the time and now people find their place in relation to pop culture, ie we use it to help us interact with one another, people define themselves by the latest produce or band or music they adhere to. So whilst the metanarrative is less clear there is commonality to it. Does that make sense?

Hot Shots! the movie

Where is the Centre?

Thinking more about effect of post Christendom church and mission, I think finding the new centre of our culture will be important. As the meta narrative (overarching story or worldview) has been lost the question is what has replaced it. Currently I think it has been replaced by interactions with popular culture and so in true post modern style there is no single centre but a centre that is formed by a collage of people interacting through popular culture. So the idea of Sunday papers as a metaphor for church fits well.

I was discussing this with some guys on the train back from London. They don’t know each other but often travel together as they get on and off at the same station, often their conversation centres around what is the news or papers that day. More on this another day but my battery is about to die.

Ideas on where the centre of culture is now, greatly received

Rules Rule?

Structures, traditions and institutions are all examples of rules. Most of the church today appear to be very happy with rules, they appear to create a certain level of health in the church. You can even measure the results of programmes and see how well these structures perform – just the same as a well run business.

However, Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was, in some way or another, an emergence of a new era of life in which the opportunity to have a renewed spirit that could drive a holy life. This was a step change away from the law, which could not bring life, but only death.

This was a move away from the inflexible law to flexible love, as demonstrated by Christ on, probably, many a Sabbath.

Laws, rules, routines, traditions and structures cannot provide the most optimised lives. A great example is the speed limit: Within a 30mph limit there are places where it would be unbelievable lunacy to travel through a give way junction, corner or a roundabout at 30mph, in other places, where there are no risks of the presence of unexpected other road users it seems to be an unnecessary task to do 30mph (please bear in mind that I am in no way promoting the breaking of the speed limit – we should obey the laws of the land unless God specifically calls us otherwise!). Similarly how can meeting on a Sunday at 10:30am week in, week out be an optimal solution? Why should a hymn sandwich reliably provide an intimate experience of God’s love? (or whatever it is supposed to provide)

What is great about rules is that they can embody hundreds or thousands of years of wisdom – that’s a whole lot more wisdom than your average Joe Bloggs. Because of this, society seems to flourish in the presence of a well developed system of law and social etiquette. To prove this general truth we note that in societies where law and order have broken down you tend to see a lot of injustice, poverty, violence etc.

Now, what scares the church about the idea of life without rules? Well, the same things as society really: injustice, exploitation, abuse, hurt, etc. You just have to see the evidence of antinomianism to ‘prove’ that laws and rules are an absolute necessity for the church.

…But hang on a minute, why does a lack of rules mean that we are going to descend into anarchic mayhem? What kind of tragic Christians descend into the pit of iniquity just because they lack a rule book? Aren’t Christians supposed to have love? Isn’t love supposed to be stronger than law? Aren’t we supposed to be able to resist the temptations that we are faced with? What kind of Christian believes that God inside isn’t enough to be a better person? Isn’t the community of the church going to moderate our beliefs and behaviours by mechanisms of accountability, discipling resulting from Holy Spirit lead lives?

Or am I missing something?…

“…as if I were a Christian!”

One of my student said the other day while we were eating lunch. “I’m so tired to live as if I were a christian – and not as a christian!” The phrase struck me. It was really good. We were talking about all the strategies, methods and stuff we are facing. (I’m lecturer at a theological school – Sometimes these strategies and stuff is hindering us from living as Christians. The focus in all the strategies is how to evangelize or do mission. But seldom what the content of the mission should be. But the truth is that the strategies are a theology! There are no value free strategies. The question is – are they true to Christ or not? Growth has most often become the most important thing. But our task is not to sell coke as coca cola co. should sell coke – we have to incarnate the gospel of Jesus Christ. Maybe is efficiency not a value taken from the gospel but from another story…

The christian life is sometimes getting so technical – we should do the right things to become successful instead of being a good person (understood in a christian way of course). The thing is that I think that the content and the strategies should be the same thing – DO-BE-DO – we should do what we are. And then reflect if we did what we should be… As an example – Jesus set demonized people free as an concrete example of the freedom of the Kingdom. He had done that, I’m sure, even if had not been successful because it was the content of the kingdom. He did reflect who he was.

I think we have to think through if all the methods, strategies, Mega Church techniques are a faithful way of living the Gospel in our specific context.

Communicating with/within the Church

We, the church, are the Bride of Christ. What I must remember is that the church is not my ‘bride’, it is not an extension of me.

When I interact with the church, I can interact with it in two ways:

  1. as individuals to whom I am accountable and am in relationship with.
  2. as an entity.

I suspect that I can only treat it as an entity when I bring prophecy to the church. Whilst I can bring my own ‘chat’ to individuals with whom I am in relationship, if I bring comments to the church surely there is much more of an onus on me to bring God’s word, to bring prophecy?

Most of our communication is within our tightly knit groups. Only some is ‘broadcast’. When we ‘broadcast’, both the purpose and responsibility is different. When we broadcast we are not seeking one to one discipleship, encouragement or accountability, we are surely bringing an edifying message of God to the church?

Anthropomorphising The Church

Whilst the Bible illustrates the church as the Bride of Christ, we must recognise the metaphor and not put too many ‘person’ characteristics on the church. The church is not a person, we are not hive!

I keep hearing about:

  • The will of God for a local church.
  • The specific mission of a local church.
  • The purpose of a local church.
  • etc.

Whilst I cannot knock these things absolutely, I do wonder if they illustrate our institutionalisation of the church. Hand in hand with institutionalisation come many characteristics that would normally only be applied to a person – the institute begins to have a character, a vision, a purpose, not enough time, not enough resources…

My concern is that we aren’t individualistic enough!!! OK – cringe in horror BUT:

  • We have to ‘work out our own salvation’.
  • Each of us has the Holy Spirit.
  • We are each a priest.
  • We each have to take our own responsibility to be obedient to God.
  • etc.

If we institutionalise the church and treat it as an autonomous entity then:

  • It is easy to ignore our personal responsibility.
  • We end up putting expectations on the church – which actually means putting the individuals under pressure, and because ultimately we don’t treat the entity that is church with the same loving care and attention that we would give an individual – we are insensitive to the entity that is church and therefore insensitive to the people in it.
  • We form structures to pass the ‘will of the church’ down through to the people who we expect to do the work. These structures enable distance to open up and can negate the need for intimate relationships.
  • etc.

So, let’s assume that there is a need to de-anthropomorphise the church, to deconstruct it’s structs and to de-metaphor our over literalism!

Isn’t individualism a crime?!

Sure, individualism that is self seeking is – sure it is. But what about taking our individual responsibilities seriously, not putting too much pressure on others, not making the excuse that something is ‘their’ responsibility.

We see throughout the New Testament plenty of teaching. This teaching is aimed at the individual, it is talking about our responsibility as individuals, our relationship as individuals with a God who loves each of us, as individuals. New Testament teaching isn’t full of stuff about how to control others, it’s about how to control oneself… and submit to others.

The individualism that we see envisioned in the Bible is a personal love. A love that we gain as individuals from God’s action on our individual hearts. Out of that love we sacrifice ourselves, as individuals, on the cross of love. Love for others. We are united as church, not by control, but by love, love for God and love for others.

Let’s stop palming off our individual responsibilities on the church, let’s stop trying to control each other through the structure that church has become. Let’s look to the fundamental property of church, that it is a network of individuals, concerned for each other and having varying depths of relationship with each other, ranging from the intimate to an awareness of our brothers and sisters around the globe, whom we have never met.