Archive for the ‘Preaching’ Category

51NWFZNKQNL._SL500_AA300_This question seemed to be one of the premises behind a book I read recently, although I am uncertain as to the author’s final answer.

Because I haven’t done a book review for a while I thought I would review this one which has been sat in my drafts box for a few months. In the course of researching housing scheme development and history in the UK somebody recommended this book to me and so I thought that I would give it a bash. The title seemed interesting enough and held out the promise of some practical insights into our (post) modern culture.

To be honest I am not sure what I really think of it. I wanted to be excited and stimulated but in reality it seemed like a pale version of (any) work by Francis Schaeffer. In fact, for anybody who has studied missiology at a basic level this is standard fare. I am still not sure what the author was trying to achieve when he wrote the book. It is a sort of historical (ish), philosophical and prophetic statement on his view (intellectual and middle class) of Christendom in the UK. He made very basic applications in parts such as the need to learn from Carey about his sensitivity to communicate Christ contextually (p13). Sadly, that is about as practical as the book got (in my opinion). However, there is a great chapter about Scotland as a case study for the decline of Christianity in Europe.

Hevdoes ask some interesting questions including:

Can traditional preaching survive in an era of multi-channel TV, the global spread of new information technologies, and a shift in public education from texts to images, from books to screens.

I think the answer is yes. But I don’t think he does. The problem is that I am still unsure how he answered the question or even if he did. He then goes on in the book to make other basic points about preachers having to engage with the peculiar pressures faced by people in our culture, particularly in the workplace. Again, it feels like this book was written by an older person because these seem like simple truisms rather than earth shattering insights in 2012. The book was published in 2000 and already feels dated (which partly proves his point above I suppose).

So, is it helpful? It is if you know nothing about history or the basic philosophy of missiology. It is definitely worth a read. It’s just that the book feels depressing, asks lots of questions, doesn’t provide any concrete answers and/or pointers and is lacking any real biblical punch. For a person arguing that we need to move on from old forms to engage with new he spent an awful lot of time engaging with old forms and even some dead philosophers, without making any real positive connection to the Twenty First Century. But maybe that was his clever postmodern point and I am just too thick to have realised it – which seems pretty plausible!

I haven’t posted to ‘Ordinary Pastor‘ (one of my favourite blogs) for a long while. So, here you go! A mini series on church planting. Enjoy it here.

Note: Re-posting doesn’t always mean 100% agreement. 🙂

Another great resource from 9Marks as Mark Dever delivers a sermon on the requirements for pastoral office. Download it here.

Jared Moore has put together some resources by Don Carson on the difficult doctrine of the love of God here. Although his context is American Southern Baptists it is a topic that is pertinent for all believers. The topic of God’s love and His wrath is just so important in a ministry like ours. Real people are going to a real hell. Jared writes:

The wrath of God towards sin and sinners is what makes God’s love so amazing.  All humans deserve hell, yet God reveals His love for us by giving His Son for the world.  Furthermore, there is a special love for the elect that the lost do not have.  This love should be shared instead of hidden, encouraging sinners to come and enjoy the love God has for the elect through repentance and faith in Christ.

Please take the time to read his helpful post and to download the free resources from Don Carson.

Please take and use this video on your blogs/Facebook pages and even consider showing it in your church service(s). 20schemes is making more contacts across Scotland every week with people and churches looking for support in some of the country’s poorest areas. We currently have several openings in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee & Selkirk. Most of these opportunities are with existing works in desperate need of revitalisation and at least two of them are start-ups.
If you would like us to come and speak at your church/event about the work then please do not hesitate to contact me: mez@niddrie.org. Otherwise, contact us through our website at www.20schemes.com.

Great stuff from the great man!

Here’s a bit of the silver (skipping) fox on “The Mission”. Always worth a punt.

Here are some resources from the Geneva Push 2011 Conference. As with all things, this is not a wholehearted recommendation for all of the content. But it is worth a perusal. Click here.

Here is a website that could be useful for those of us trying to plant churches and think through some issues.

www.churchplanting.com

As with all sites I am not claiming to agree with, or endorse, all that is written but it could be a helpful resource for some. I am currently thinking about whether I should be broadening this site for a UK context or developing a new church planting site for those seeking to work, plant and train in housing schemes. I will keep you posted.

Mark Dever notes on The Gospel Coalition blog, that:

Since the Fall, the trajectory of unredeemed human history—the City of Man—is always in the Bible to judgment (the Flood, Babel, Canaan, Egypt, Jerusalem, Babylon, Rome & then Rev. 19). (Not quite as universal as gravity, but seemingly as inevitable in its overall tendency.)

For a comprehensive overview of the Pastor and his relation to his community, read his full article here. Others would take the opposite view and would suggest that the New Earth will have with it a new, improved human culture and, therefore, Christians and churches should be engaging in cultural renewal in the here and now. The bottom line question is:

Is our culture redeemable and should the church be engaged in this so-called cultural redemption?

Those who are seeking to engage with this issue, at least in the USA, are falling into (being herded into?) different ‘camps’. We have:

  1. Two Kingdom Proponents. (God is working through the church and we should not be engaging too heavily with worldly, dying culture).
  2. Transformationist Proponents. (The church should be active in seeking to redeem the culture as we move toward the end times).
  3. Counterculturalist Proponents. (The church stands as a clear model of God’s kingdom and, as such, is a prophetic voice against the prevailing worldly culture).
  4. Cultural Relevance Proponents. (Christians should be looking for where God is active in culture and affirm that).

Obviously, I have just simplified in a sentence what is often a confused, heavily nuanced and emotive debate across evangelical, theological and denominational divides. I find it very difficult to place myself in this list. Indeed, I find the whole culture of Christians ‘tagging’ one another more and more unhelpful as I get older. If anything, I am more inclined to numbers 1 & 3. I believe that our job, as a church, is to glorify God, preach the gospel and make disciples. In doing so, by sharing our lives and living in community, engaging with our neighbours, seeking the good of our scheme and living clearly counter cultural lives, then people will be drawn to Christ by His Spirit, born again and will, in time, person by person begin to make an impact in our community. Community renewal is therefore the by-product of gospel centred preaching and healthy churches. Who knows what that makes me!

What is helpful for this discussion is tracing the roots of many churches in Scotland and the UK as they have sought to engage, or not, with their culture in the past 30 years. So, many churches, likewise, believing that the world is going to hell in a handcart, have focused on preaching Christ, rescuing repentant sinners, and leaving the rest to their own devices. Others, believing that we have a role to play when God ultimately ushers in the renewal of all things at the end times, have sought to engage more with the surrounding culture. The danger for the former group is slipping into a form of separatism.  For the latter, it is slipping into a form of cultural accommodationalism. In fact, I see the legacy of both these positions in housing schemes up and down the country. It shows itself in two main ways.

1. Those who have historically fought for doctrinal and theological purity at the expense of cultural engagement (for fear of watering down the gospel) now find themselves on the fringes of schemes, with aged, dying congregations. They have a gospel with nobody to preach it to. It suits their worldview of “us against the world” and, sadly, it is leaving generations with no clue about the good news of Jesus. People aren’t going to church anymore than the church is going to them. It’s a sort of spiritual Mexican stand off. Each side is hardening their heart against the other as time wears on. One believing the church to be full of ancient, judgemental do-gooders and the other watching the world destroy itself because of their ungodly, sinfulness. Spiritual desolation and confusion ensues and we have schemes littered with dying congregation or none at all.

On the other hand, those who have sought to adapt and engage with culture at the expense of biblical truths tend to be very socially aware but, ironically, also have the same aged, dying congregations. These ‘churches’ (if we can call them that) are viewed as little more than social work agencies. They don’t see any sides but view us all as God’s children and the church as a force for ‘good’ in the community. The world sees them as a means to an end but not salt and light and certainly not a challenge to their souls. The church in this case is seen as more organic than organised – a church ‘without walls’ if you will. The result is the same empty churches as our friends above. The same dying congregations with no real spiritual impact on their community.

Sadly, both groups are losing out, with the real victims being the very people they are supposed to be reaching with the good news of Jesus Christ. Whilst the Christian world has been drawing their theological battle lines over culture and contextualisation, real, live souls have been (and still are in great numbers) perishing for lack of a concrete gospel witness in housing estates and schemes up and down our nation. In the (slightly adapted) words of some, old, dead dude: ‘A plague on all our houses’.

2. Because of this turn of events, much of the evangelism and community development work is being carried out in schemes by a combination of government agencies and para-church organisations. Many such groups visiting schools in schemes, teaching RE classes, running clubs and trying to reach young people for Christ, are largely (although not always) detached from local churches, and without any real long-term aims and objectives to combat the ‘congregational crisis’ we now face. On the one hand, how can we blame them when the local church is either (a) dead or (b) not doing its job (either from a lack of heart or because it is just unable to)?

The only way, in my opinion, to reverse these trends in our housing schemes is to plant new churches and/or renew existing ones.

Wherever this discussion goes, it is a cast iron fact that housing schemes need healthy, gospel centred churches to make a comeback. Why? Here are three quick reasons:

  1. A localised congregation gives a solid, consistent thrust for concerted evangelistic efforts. A community of Bible believing, gospel proclaiming Christians living right in the heart of a community is a far more powerful apologetic than a part-time witness.
  2. It offers a place for spiritual accountability for those working in the field. Many para-church workers I have met (particularly youth workers) have little or no spiritual accountability and have either been burned out or are in danger of burning out trying to deal with the rigours of a front line ministry in housing schemes. Gospel workers need the spiritual accountability and discipline that being a member of a local church brings.
  3. It offers a context in which young converts and believers can grow in discipleship and in community, together. So, it avoids the hit and miss problem of people parachuting in, trying to reach out and then leaving people in the wind until the outsiders return again. The local church has the responsibility to evangelise, disciple, nurture and prepare people to worship and serve the Living God in their respective communities.

A God glorifying, Bible believing, gospel preaching, actively discipling, healthy, local church living in Christian community, serving and loving one another is going to make an impact in a housing scheme. It is what we desperately need. Even a small, tightly knit band of brothers and sisters is going to effect cultural and community renewal. Not because that is its goal but because that is the spin-off power of the kingdom at work. Pray for us as through our 20Schemes initiative we seek to bring back gospel light to dark places through church revitalisation and planting.

To be continued…