Krish Kandiah has a new book, that I have been looking forward to very much, and I think may of you will enjoy it too.
" The Christian faith is full of apparent paradoxes:
a compassionate God who sanctions genocide
an all-powerful God who allows horrific suffering
a God who owns everything yet demands so much from his followers
a God who is distant and yet present at the same time
Many of us have big questions that the Christian faith seems to leave unanswered. So we push them to the back of our minds, for fear of destabilizing our beliefs. But leaving these questions unexamined is neither healthy for us, nor honouring to God. Rather than shying away from the difficult questions, we need to face them head on.
What if the tension between apparently opposing doctrines is exactly where faith comes alive? What if this ancient faith has survived so long not in spite of but precisely because of these apparent contradictions? What if it is in the difficult parts of the Bible that God is most clearly revealed?
PARADOXOLOGY makes a bold new claim: that the paradoxes that seem like they ought to undermine belief are actually the heart of our vibrant faith, and that it is only by continually wrestling with them - rather than trying to pin them down or push them away - that we can really move forward, individually and together. - Krish Kandiah”
I just printed the first draft of my PhD. It is minus the conclusion and is rougher than badger’s bottom (British Adjective: Very rough, either literally, as in an unshaven gentleman’s chin or figuratively as in uncivilised or things or behaviour).
My supervisor suggested that before I embark on my final stage of re-writing, that I print all I have written off and look at it, walk around it, read it, lay it our and get the measure of it. Rather than viewing on screen in svelte digital display, I need to get a sense of what I have created and now need to get into shape.
How do you measure the making of a Phd? As I look at this pile of paper, I see and sense these almost palpable quantifications:
1. Tempus Fugit: Time does indeed flee. 6 years of reading, thinking and writing. Nearly 5,000 hours has gone into this work so far. As I look at it I feel the passing of time. When I started it I am sure I was a youngish man, who is now well into mid life. It has got to the stage that I cannot imagine ever coming to the end of it, and that I will shuffle of this mortal coil before finishing.
2. Weight and Size: 99,028 words, on 373 pages. That’s 1.86KG of printed A4 paper, that sits nearly 5cm high on my desk. I’m sure I can hear it breathing slowly and with menace as it stares at me.
3. Learning: Hard to quantify but looking through it I realise what a long learning journey I have been on. I’m not the same person I was when I started i.e I read my earlier work and now think ‘what idiot wrote that?’.
4. Life: The most sobering measure of all, is how buried within the writing and learning is the suicide of both my parents, the teaching I do for George Fox, the leading of my own Church, hundred of conversations about the ideas within it, the gaps in study from taking legal action against my local authority for my daughter’s special education needs. Those things are buried away in the words, the gaps and jumps in the writing and in many ways much of the content. The thesis itself is about life as an Evangelical Christian in Consumer Society.
I am allowed a final 2 years for writing up. But my hope and prayer is that I can submit in 12 months time. That however will take a lot of re-writing, and editing. Time to stop procrastinating with blog posts and get on writing.
Last autumn we had Krish come to speak at our church, and had one of the most inspiring times we have ever had as a church community. It was one of those times when we realised we were catching up with something God was already doing with us.
A sudden influx of new people to our church, along with several members of our church were considering fostering and adoption. They all just happened to be in our service - where Krish spoke about our adoption in Christ and the vision for Home For Good.
A simple but profound vision has now gripped our hearts.
There are 15,000 children waiting for fostering and adoption in the UK. There are 15,000 churches who are members of the Evangelical Alliance UK who set up Home for Good. If each of those churches fostered/adopted one child each, this awful situation would be transformed.
So our church wants to help respond to this vision, and work with other local churches to see more children adopted and fostered. Also we want a culture in our churches where fostering and adoption is seen as more ‘normal’ and not just something that super human people undertake.
Then there is the opportunity for our church community to support parents where live in all the challenges fostering and adoption brings.
And I imagine what the lives of young people might look like, finding family not just with adoptive/fostering families, but in the wider experience of a church family to love and nurture them.
If you have not yet had a chance to respond to Mark Greene’s invitation to attend this special LICC event on Tuesday 25th March, we would love you to join us.
Please see below for further details and information on how to reserve your place.
David Leeds - LICC Events Manager
… to this special event at LICC and I do hope, Jason, that you’ll be able to join us.
Together we face an immense and exciting challenge of refreshing mission for all God’s people. So I’m delighted to invite you to this special event with key thinkers and practitioners who will speak to this challenge from a variety of perspectives and experience.
Malcolm Duncan will deliver a keynote address on the topic of ‘A Church for the Nation’. As a senior pastor, thought leader, and chair of the Spring Harvest Planning Group, Malcolm has wrestled with the question of ”What kind of church grows ‘good news’ people?” who can engage well for Christ in today’s world.
We’re also joined by Jill Garrett, former headteacher and MD of Gallup, who will reflect on her experience as a follower of Jesus and what being fruitful means for her as she coaches leaders in the workplace and ordained ministry.
I’ll also share what we’ve been learning at LICC over the last decade as we’ve sought to envision and equip God’s people for fruitful mission and discipleship in daily lifeand what this signposts for us all as a church in ‘whole-life’ mission in and for our nation.
This will be an afternoon of provocative content, Christ-focused worship, great conversation and an opportunity to thank God and seek His direction. It’s also a celebration - marking the launch of two new LICC resources, Fruitfulness on the Frontline, a book published by IVP and an eight-session DVD course with the same title.
Please join us at LICC on 25 March from 12-4pm. Full details are here. RSVP to David.Leeds@licc.org.uk or on 020 7399 9555 by Tuesday 18 March. I look forward to seeing you.
May the Lord bless you and yours in all you do.
The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity
The Evangelical Alliance UK have an online and hard copy magazine called Idea. The latest edition March/April is titled, ‘The Church Edition: We explore the Church in all its glory’.
I was asked to write a short piece for this issues titled ‘what’s the point of church’. You can read it here.
Last week two of my favourite people - John and Ele Mumford, came to our Vineyard Churches London Area day.
I got to interview them for nearly 1.5 hours over the course of the morning. They shared how they met, their early experiences of Vineyard Churches, their own Church planting experiences and where they see the Vineyard Movement in the UK at present.
If you want to know more of the Vineyard Church story take a listen.
I’m late to commenting on this, but London’s church involvement is growing.
1. In the 7 years 2005 to 2012 church involvement in London grew from 620,000 to 720,000
2. In that period, 3,000 churches closed and 1,000 started.
3. The strongest growth comes from migration/immigration with Black and Ethnic Church growth, accounting for 50% of that growth.
London’s population has boomed recently growing from 8.3 million to nearly 10 million people. Perhaps that additional 1.7 million people account for where most of this growth is coming from.
4. Nearly 25% of all UK church involvement can be accounted for by Christians in London!
5. 50% of London churches are in outer London (where I live), but only account for 22% of those involved in Church. Many of the churches in outer London are in decline and are not growing
So we have a two track London. The white middle class suburbs where churches are declining (smaller churches are in decline, whilst bigger churches are seeing some growth), and the inner city urban areas, are rapidly growing due to migration/immigration.
We have over 200,000 people in the London Borough of Sutton where I live. If the London average church involvement of 8.8% applied to our area, that would be nearly 18,000! That would be a large number of people to bump into on a Sunday morning driving around Sutton! Anecdotally, we have far less than that number involved in Church.
I have tried to do some demographics for the SW area of London that live in (Sutton). Look up the total number of churches, then estimate from the personal contact we have the size of congregations and make use of annual reports from those churches.
I estimate that we are nearer to 4% of involvement in Church, in terms of church membership as percentage of population. Then we probably have 2% of our population engaged in church participation weekly - 4,000 people - on a good Sunday.
Now the population of Arkansas USA is approximately 3 million people, with and estimate that 53% of people there are involved in church - over 1.5 million people.
The past 18 months has probably seem me face the greatest amount of change in our church plant, since my wife and I planted it.
I’ve had to face many things as our church reached a growth barrier. A great church with so much potential, faced it’s biggest challenge - me.
I realised Autumn of 2012, that what had gotten our church to where it was, and me in my leadership of it, would not get us to where we should and could be next.
Some of the key things I’ve had to face up to and seek to grow in:
My vision for our church, and my role as the leader of it was the most important place to start. I realised I had fallen out of moving forwards with vision into relying on management of what was already in place. The effort to recover vision and passion for growth was a painful and then exhilarating process.
There were and still are a whole range of new skills I needed to learn for leadership, management, strategy and execution. The cycle of realising my incompetence, to undergoing coaching and learning new skills has been challenging and stretching. What had gotten me here wouldn’t get me there.
Then as should always be the case, God needed to work on my character. This new process of growth and learning brought out the best and worst in me. I’ve had to find ways on my own and with input from others to discern what needed to change within me. That has been painful as it usually is, but has been the greatest privilege of all.
4. Counting the Cost
One the things I needed to face up to the most was the cost of change. I knew what needed to be done and attended to in many ways, but found that I wasn’t ready to undertake that. Previous seasons of growth had cost me a great deal, and I have then lost both my parents to suicide. That left me praying that I could avoid the investment in growing that I new would be needed.
Change is prevalent throughout the above. Change in myself, change in my family and marriage, change in my church staff relationships, friendships and ministry relationships. More change that I can remember since planting the church.
In all this God has been good and I have enjoyed a season of being close to him in a way I haven’t experienced for a long time.
Our church is growing in some many wonderful ways, and it stands at the edge of the next major stage in it’s development. In some ways I feel like I did when we planted the church.
There are so many stories, resources, and lessons from those areas above that I am going to turn them into a blog series. I hope they will help other church leaders seeking to grow themselves as they lead their churches.
All that seems to have added fuel, that produces more ‘heat’ with the Scots determined to gain independence. For me, it has made me realise more than ever, that I will be sad if Scotland leaves the UK.
The economic arguments are waging, political spin is on overload, with anger and bigotry turned up to number 10. It seems the referendum on independence will have little to do with reasoned debate and will be mostly about tribal passions.
The rational part of me, looks at the arguments and wishes Scotland well. If Scotland wants to be really independent, to leave, then I hope it goes and thrives. But I don’t support setting up a new currency zone with the pound, Scotland needs to take it’s share of UK debt, then it needs to apply to the EU and make it’s own way in the world.
The non rational part can all to easily, like most of the debate, default into rhetoric and resentment. But at heart I realise something else.
My grandparents were Scottish - just saying that probably makes me sound like David Cameron claiming Scottish ancestry. I took my honeymoon in Scotland, named my son after his Scottish forebears (Cameron). Some of my best friends are Scottish. Some of the best roads in the world to ride a motorbike on, are in Scotland.
In all that my desire for Scotland not to leave the union is far from rational. I don’t want Scotland to leave, I love Scotland and want it to continue as part of the UK.
Scotland, stay with us.
Last Sunday I gave a talk about why my Church has Sunday worship meetings and why they are vital to Christian life and discipleship and evangelism.
I am convinced that meeting together for corporate worship is one of the most pivotal things for Christians to understand and engage with if they are ever to have a vibrant life of faith outside church, and a faith that impacts the community around them.
Churchless faith is a myth. Or rather it might be the experience some choose to embrace (they enjoy it) as individuals but is not one that leads to the transformation of communities by Christians, and people becoming new christians.
Gathered worship sits at heart of being the body of Christ - like all the other gatherings that sit at the heart of our other lifestyle commitments and social arrangements.
You can hear my talk here. I am going to make a short series laying out some of my experiences and research on worship that underpin that the next few weeks.
As I prepare that, I’ve noticed the online flurry of conversations Don Miller’s posts about not attending church has led to.
My immediate thoughts on that conversation where how reducing church to attendance of a Sunday service is the problem. Those whose understanding of church as sundays service, either just turn up and attend, or end up not attending at all. In other words those attending and those choosing not to attend are two sides of the same coin.
Or to put it another way, those who reduce church to just attending a Sunday service are often the people who talk about stopping attending because church should more than a Sunday serivce. A circular logic and experience.
Our understanding of Church has to be more than attendance. But not gathering to avoid the boredom of attending, does very little to advance any understanding of church and being church.
One of the greatest things I get to do is leading the Leadership and Global Perspectives D.Min for George Fox Seminary.
Here are some photos from last September when all my students came to London. Next September we are in Cape Town.
This is the photo-album for the Leadership and Emerging Culture (LEC) Doctor of Ministry (DMin) track with an emphasis in Leadership and Global Perspectives led by Dr. Jason Clark at George Fox Evangelical Seminary in Portland, Oregon, USA.
- Location: London, UK
- George Fox Evangelical Seminary
- Leadership and Global Perspectives Doctor of Ministry Program
- Lead mentor: Dr. Jason Clark
- 1314 school year
- Sept. 24 - Oct. 2, 2013
- LGP3-4 Cohorts
- tag: dminlgp
I find myself regularly repeating a phrase I heard from my friend Jim Henderson - We must stop comparing our best with their worst.
Garrick Roegner one of my students reading Bebbington, pointed me to this article by Laura Turner, the daughter of american historian Mark Noll. (BTW you can read all my students blogging about their reading at http://dminlgp.com).
In her article, 'The Gift of Being Evangelical', Laura Turner tells the story of her being brought up Evangelical and what a gift it has been to her.
As I read it, I thought how it so wonderfully embodied that phrase - We must stop comparing our best with their worst.
I love my Church and my church movement. There I said it. Again.
I just got back from an amazing week, last week, with my tribe - our annual national leaders conference. My church had a huge film night party Saturday night and then had a commissioning service this morning for a new church plant.
More than ever I realise how much I love my church, and my wider church family and the church itself more broadly. And more than ever I feel how that sentiment is at odds with our ‘cynical age that tends to celebrate anti-institutional suspicion’ (see the recent Comment Magazine).
I have reposted below something I wrote a few years ago, about that juxtaposition of cynicism about church and loving church. I find myself convinced of what I wrote then more than ever now, with my recent experiences.
I sometimes wonder if at present that kind of statement (I love my church) puts you up there with the ‘crazies’. Kind of like saying Margaret Thatcher was a warm gentle person, or that Tony Blair’s faith helped his political policy making.
I’ve written before that it currently seems much more ‘authentic’ to leave/criticise/doubt/be bored with church. Any confession of a high view of church, and love of church immediately paints you as an institutionalized reactionary conservative, blind to the problems of church.
I’m not talking about the idea of church, were we can all affirm the imagining of a better church. I’m talking about the church as it has existed and will continue to to in history.
The church messed up by you and me.
There is a naive sentimentalism about church, that is dangerous and leaves the church unable to change, with it’s fingers in it’s ears to any critique. But there is also a bilious cynicism about church, that finds it’s ongoing expression in a pathological idealised post-church narrative. And lots of stuff in between.
My location on the emerging church discussion, doesn’t come from being bored with church (I didn’t grow up in church), a dislike of worship aesthetics (there is much I don’t like), or the loss of faith in a post-modern world (I’ve nearly lost mine a few times).
It comes from a love of the church.
Church saved me. It introduced Jesus to me. It challenged me to hand my life, my basis for living and being over to Jesus, and to explore that with other Christians.
It brought healing to my life, through loving relationships, the presence of Jesus, examples of what it meant to live as a human being and as a father and husband (without alcohol and violence), with a new family of wonderful relationships.
It encouraged me to learn and grow and find out God’s plans for my life, and to try to locate that in the scheme of eternity and God’s kingdom.
It got in my face about the need to attend to my character, and take the pain of my past to Jesus.
And yes it has bored me, frustrated me, and been hopelessly out of step with my world so many times. And more than that it has regularly hurt me, abused me, tried my faith, and caused to me to doubt and question.
And yet I love and believe in it even more than ever.