Thursday, 29 November 2007


I like pithy sayings. Especially when they play with words. Tim Dearborn’s “It is not the Church of God that has a mission in the world, but the God of mission who has a church in the world” is a well known favourite.

In an introduction to missiology class yesterday one my students came out with another good ‘un.

We were studying Alan [sorry John - see comments] Hull’s theological critique of the influential Mission-Shaped Church. I asked if anyone could summarise Hull’s argument. The answer came quick as a flash, “If the church misses the point, what’s point of planting more churches?” Nice, neat, sharp and spot-on accurate. So much so that I plan to nick it and use it whenever I can.

The problem is I don’t entirely agree with Hull.

He does have a point. A very important point. If churches are self-serving rather than kingdom-seeking they live in a way that denies the gospel. Absolutely. Preach it Alan! [sorry again John - see comments] But are such churches utterly pointless, a waste of time? I think not.

To assert, as Hull does, that church exists to be an agent of God’s mission is of course correct. But when he goes on to add that church is not a fruit of God’s mission he goes too far. Hull overlooks or denies the importance of individual salvation.

Church is very definitely fruit as well as agent of the mission of God. The reign of God isn’t only about justice peace and liberation of the oppressed through the transformation of society. It is also about the justification, peace and liberation of individuals as they are born from above becoming followers of Christ and part of God’s missional community, the church.

So nice line, great summary of Hull’s argument but not true enough to be used without qualification.

This week's poll 29/11/07

Last week's poll: Was the Baptist Union council right to apologise for the involvement of Baptists in slavery? 11 votes, 7 yes, 4 no, one more vote - I vote yes, absolutely yes.

If you want to do more than click for this week's poll you can always comment on this post.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Stop Bullying

Met a remarkable young man this weekend who is seeking to serve God by redeeming his own experience of being bullied. Stephen has developed his own anti-bullying website. I told him I'd publicise the site through my blog. I am more than happy to do so. Visit the site by clicking here

This Week's Poll 21/11/07

If you want to do more than just vote you can comment on this post.

Last week's poll:" Does formal, academic theological education make it more difficult for ministers to communicate with working class people?" 15 votes, 9 yes, 6 no. One more vote: I vote yes.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Sax for the Soul

Went to hear the Jan Garbarek quartet at the Royal Northern College of Music. Wow! Lyrical, plaintive, hard swinging, Norwegian folk-jazz with liberal doses of latin colour.

If you like music, any kind of music and if you are prepared to listen, check out the clips on YouTube here and here If you want more don't start with his best known Officium try Twelve Moons.

Now what would it take for worship to move people like this?

[For those who read the last post and who have also spotted the strap line under the photo of Garbarek, this is not ironic. This an entirely appropriate use of the word!]

Thursday, 15 November 2007


Cram in the clich├ęs
Originally uploaded by Mike of Surrey
This post is not about mission or ministry. It’s one of those miscellaneous mind leeks mentioned up there in the top right hand corner. In fact, to be honest, it’s not so much a post as whinge.

The thing is I’m utterly fed up with all this talk about passion.

It was the CCLI website that finally made me snap. “At CCLI we have a passion for serving the church in worship”. I know it’s a perfectly innocent site. I know, it’s entirely admirable that people should want to serve the church. I know I ought to show more self control but I’m sick to the back teeth of everyone being passionate about everything.

“I’m absolutely passionate about working with young people.”
“Oh no, gardening’s not my hobby … it’s my passion.”
“Please don’t vote me off tonight, cooking/dancing/singing/playing the flugel horn/appearing on T.V. even though I’m utterly talentless is my passion.”
“You see Jeremy I’ve always been passionate about collecting beermats.”

Don’ get me wrong. I’m not against passion. In fact quite like a bit myself now and again. My problem is word inflation.

We are wearing out one of our precious words by giving it too much work to do when there are lots of other perfectly good words lying around more suited to the task. If we are perpetually passionate and never keen or enthusiastic or interested we cheapen the very notion of passion. If we use the word to cover everything from passing curiosity to a long term hobby it will end up being utterly useless. Then what will we do when we actually need it? When we actually are passionate, in blazingly obsessive, “let me at now or I die”, sort of way the word just won’t be up to the job. It’ll be tired, floppy, sitting in a corner wheezing, knackered by over use.


Yours .... in a really quite miffed sort of a way.


Wednesday, 14 November 2007

This Week's Poll 14/11/07

If you want to do more than just click, comment on this post.

Last week's poll: Should we be putting more time and effort into working ecumenically? 13 Votes, 10, yes, 3, no. One more vote: I vote no.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Mindless Worship? Yes Please!

Originally uploaded by ShanniD
My default mode for worship is still the charismatic. At its best it can’t be licked. However I have over the years developed a taste for liturgy. But only if it’s done properly … and doing it properly means doing it mindlessly. Or at least it means knowing the words you are using so well that you don’t have to wonder how to pronounce them, what they mean and whether you agree with them. Set prayers and the like don’t really work unless you repeat them time and time again. It’s a bit like playing music, you don’t have a prayer of playing it to your best, expressively, with heart, if you are concentrating on getting the notes right.

I discovered this during my first spell at Northern Baptist College as a postgrad student in the 80’s. We had morning prayer each day and we used the same prayer day in day out. I started off hating it, resenting it, convinced it was a just another sign that the place was spiritually dead. I ended up really appreciating the liberty that those repeated words gave me to put my heart and soul into connecting with God. A bit like repeating a chorus in sung worship.

I had this conviction confirmed when I was introduced to the Northumbrian Community’s daily office. This too became a part of me. So I was able to use it to really pray. The oft repeated words carry their own meaning of course but the familiarity means that I have the liberty to weave in and out of the words other less than fully articulated yearnings, moods and gropings after God. A bit like speaking in tongues.

This is why I get hot under the collar with the way free churches tend to do written congregational prayers. Why do we have to come up with something different every time? It might be smart. It might be profound. It might pack our liturgy with fresh meaning week on week. But the novelty gets in the way. It is an overly rational approach to worship. Too analytical. Too much mind. No chance to put your guts into it. We end up falling clean as a whistle between the stools of folksy spontaneity and truly effective poetry. Typical, and deeply frustrating.