Worship: what’s shaping you?: I’m speaking LICC 21st October - London

I’m speaking at the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity on Monday night 21st October.

My working title is ‘Worship: what’s shaping you?’.  Blurb for what I’ll be talking about is below.

What stories, habits and practices make you who you are?

"We all live out of a set of what philosopher Charles Taylor calls ‘social imaginaries’ – ways of seeing ourselves and others which shape what we value and how we live in the world. Our desires and dreams are framed by certain ‘stories’ about what life should be like – preferably involving a nice house, untroubled relationships, and a secure job. And some of today’s most persuasive cultural drivers– capitalism and consumerism – can incline us to co-opt the Christian faith and church life as convenient ‘resources’ in this quest for fulfilment.

But what if worship – in the gathered church and in everyday life – was strong enough to reorientate our desires? What would such worship look like? How might habits and practices grounded in the gospel and nurtured in relationship with others train us to live differently in the world?

Join Jason Clark for an exploration of how worship re-narrates our lives, forms our identity, and equips us to take part in God’s mission in the world. Jason is married to Bev, and they are the senior leaders of Vineyard Church, Sutton. They also serve as area Leaders for London Vineyard churches. Currently completing PhD research on the church and consumer culture, Jason speaks regularly at church conferences and colleges in the UK, Europe and the US.”

Jesus Didn't Journal | Leadership Journal

journalling spiritual

Great short piece by Nancey Ortberg on the need for a multi-dimentional approach to spirituality.

And in that moment on Half Moon Bay, it was like every verse I had ever read, every Bible story I ever heard of his goodness, burst forth alive inside of me at a cellular level. I wanted to shout and be silent at the same time.

Meanwhile, my contemplative husband was throwing up over the side of the boat. What for me was an encounter with God was for him an exercise in misery….Joy. Celebration. Gratitude. These experiences approach nuclear levels of power in connecting some people with God. They count. Just like Contemplation. Solitude. Prayer.” 

Why God allows us to be Lonely (Five Minute Friday) | James Prescott

Summer holidays, the time to rest, relax and be with friends.  I wonder how often it become like Christmas, also a time to take stock and realise where we are in life and where we wish we were.

In other words a season for connecting with others, might be a season for realising our disconnection from others?  James Prescott has written this lovely short post about loneliness and God’s purposes in that experience.

'Wrath of God' Keeps Popular Worship Song Out of 10,000-Plus Churches


Issues of the atonement are still very much in focus for Christians, see this article in Christianity Magazine.

"The word that got "In Christ Alone" booted from a Presbyterian hymnal was not wrath (which is “all over the hymnal”), but satisfied, according to a thorough update reported by The Tennessean. (The hymnal committee offersits own clarification.)”

Autographer: Wearable Tech is on the rise

I have a device I wear on my wrist, it wakes me up with a vibrating alarm, and records my exercise and moods.  Wearable tech is on the rise, and is set to be the next big thing in technology.

Just released is Autographer, the wearable automatic camera.  It takes continuous hands free images, that you can then review and edit later on.

For some of my students I can see how this would be great for Visual Ethnography, recording an immersive experience, without having to hold a camera during interactions.

Also great for holidays and capturing moments you might otherwise miss.

But with the never ending rise of putting everything on facebook, its a new privacy nightmare.  We will have to learn some social etiquette for those times we do not want to be recorded.

Wearable tech means opting out rather than opting in, as we currently do with taking photos and videos.

Rachel Giles has written this interesting reflection on this new development for the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity.

Marriage FAQ in light of same sex couples act 2013

The Evangelical Alliance have produced this very helpful guide to the legal implications of the new same sex couples act 2013 for Christians and churches in the UK.

We are all Wonga now: Joining Welby’s war on usury

Luke Bretherton responds to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s criticism of pay day loans and the revelations that the Church of England has been invested in some of those same companies.  

Article is online at ABC.

Archbishop of Canterbury tells payday loans companies: Church wants to put you out of business

The new Archbishop of Canterbury made some waves http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article3824847.ece the Church of England wants to put pay day loans companies out of business.

We’ve seen the rise in food-banks from all sections of the church in the UK. I hope we see a similar partnership by churches for credit unions in the future, as the Church of England take a lead in this for us.

Global Leadership Perspectives Conference: London Sept 28th

George Fox Seminary, in partnership with The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, Evangelical Alliance UK, and Vineyard Churches, are bringing together some of the people who best embody and live out GlobalLleadership. We will convene in the heart of London on Saturday, 28 September from 10am to 4pm.

You are invited to interact with these leaders as they share their understanding of emerging trends in leadership and what they see as the defining issues and skills needed for today’s leaders.

Presentations will be short and to the point, with time for conversations and questions with the speakers. Bring observations about your context and specific challenges into contact with these leaders, so that you might be better equipped as a leader.

Register Online

Find Out More

Our Presenters include:

Martyn Percy

Martyn Percy, Principal of Ripon College Cuddesdon and the Oxford Ministry Course

David Male

The Reverend David Male, Director of the Centre for Pioneer Learning in Cambridge

Faith Ngunjiri

Dr. Faith Ngunjiri, Director, Lorentzsen Center for Faith and Work, & Associate Professor of Leadership and Ethics at Offutt School of Business, Concordia College

Marykate Morse

Dr. MaryKate Morse, Professor of Leadership and Spiritual Formation at George Fox Evangelical Seminary

Krish Kandiah

Dr Krish Kandiah, Executive Director for Churches in Mission and England at the Evangelical Alliance UK

Shawn Holtzclaw

Shawn Holtzclaw, Managing Director/President of Equifax UK & Ireland (a position he has held since May 2010)

Sponsored by:


New review Church in the Present Tense: A Candid Look at What’s Emerging

Theology Journal, are carrying a review of ‘Church in the Present Tense’, in which I wrote two chapters.  The review makes mention of my writing.

You can download the review here.

On God’s Side (3 September 2013)

"My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side."
Abraham Lincoln

Following the launch of his latest book, On God’s Side, best-selling author Jim Wallis joins LICC on 3 September for an evening discussing the ancient and compelling vision of “the common good.”

A vision that should influence and inspire not only our politics but our personal lives, families, churches and neighbourhoods, and our vocational and financial choices.

“It is these individual and communal choices,” writes Wallis, “which will ultimately create the cultural shifts and social movements that really change politics in the long run.” 

Book now to guarantee your place.

How salvation became private

A large part of my PhD research explores how Evangelical understandings of salvation within capitalist contexts, migrated into current privatised Christians practices.  These instrumentalised versions of Christian faith are now almost completely separate from any understanding of, and participation in Church.   

So this quote from Barth caught my attention this week;

"It was an intolerable truncation of the Christian message when the older Protestantism steered the whole doctrine of the atonement-and with it, ultimately, the whole of theology-into the cul de sac of the question of the individual experience of grace, which is always an anxious one when taken in isolation, the question of individual conversion by it and to it, and of its presuppositions and consequences. The almost inevitable result was that the great concepts of justification and sanctification came more and more to be understood and filled out psychologically and biographically, and the doctrine of the Church seemed to be of value only as a description of the means of salvation and grace indispensable to this individual and personal process of salvation….Our theme is the reconciliation of the world with God in Jesus Christ, and only in this greater context the reconciliation of the individual man. This is what was completely overlooked in that truncation. And if it is to be brought to light again, the prior place which the Christian individual has for so long- we might almost say unashamedly-claimed for himself in the dogmatics of the Christian community must be vacated again. We must not cease to stress the individual. We must not throw doubt on the importance of his problem. But!

Only in the proper place. The “pillar and ground of truth” ( 1 Tim. 315), the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the city set on a hill, is the community of God and not the individual Christian as such, although the latter has within it his assured place, his indispensable function, and his unshakable personal promise. It is not he but the ecclesia una sancta catholica et apostolica [note] that stands (in close connexion with the Holy Spirit) in the third article of the Creed. It is the Church which with its perception and experience of the grace of God stands vicariously for the rest of the world which has not yet partaken of the witness of the Holy Spirit. It is the Church which in this particularity is ordained to the ministry of reconciliation and the witness of the grace of God in relation to the rest of the world. “

Dogmatics IV.I, Bromiley trans., section 58.4

Is religion good for your cat or dog?

Mr. Rowland Hill used to say that a man was not a true Christian if his dog and his cat were not the better off for it. That witness is true”, Charles Spurgeon.

Given I have two dogs, both rescued, I’ve long been interested in the intersection of faith and animal welfare.  I suspect that for most western Christians animal welfare comes after the environment.  

By that I think most Christians would consider the environment important but pay it no attention day to day in their actions, overwhelmed by the pressure of life in the 21st century.  Similarly with animals such that beyond a general concern, any attention to animal welfare comes way down the list of focused interactions for Christians.

The Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics is one of the few places, focused on these kinds of issue.  This new project by them looks interesting for those with an interest in faith and animal welfare.


"Inspired by Baptist Preacher Charles Surgeon’s claim that a person cannot be a true Christian if his dog or cat is not the better off for it, the Centre will explore whether religious traditions are animal-friendly.  The questions to be addressed include whether religious people and religious institutions benefit animals? Are they more or less likely to be respectful to animals – either those kept as companions or those used for other human purposes?

The project is being organised by the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. It will be multidisciplinary, multifaith, and draw in not only theologians and religious thinkers, but also other academics including social scientists, psychologists, historians, and criminologists.  “We want to know whether religion makes any difference for animals”, says Oxford theologian, Professor Andrew Linzey, who is Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics.  “We often hear of how religion is detrimental to human rights, but is it also detrimental to animal protection?”

More information see here.

My extend review of James K.A.Smith, Imagining the Kingdom


I’ve written an extended review of Jamie Smith’s, Imagining the Kingdom for the Church and Pomo blog at the Other Journal.

Flash-mobs as the new seeker sensitive service


I came across this article by Vicky Beeching in the Independent, from a blog piece by Peter Ould, who takes Vicky to task (I like and know Vicky. We were in the same Church many years ago).

Nothing original in a flash-mob wedding. My friends Matt & Di Hyam did something similar with their church for a wedding that made the national news back in July 2011 (Picture of Matt taking the wedding at Netley Abbey near Southampton, Hampshire is the image above).

Now my issue isn’t with the flash-mob wedding events, but with the interpretation Vicky makes of them.

Her argument seems to run something like this:

We like in a post-Christian country where people are not interested in Church but are interested in spirituality (queue example of Stonehenge summer soltice flash-mob, and wedding flash-mob). The problem for the church in terms of relevancy is diagnosed as one of style, such that ‘flash-mobs’ reveal how church worship needs to change for these people. Where as Church is about sitting in rows, whilst one person dictates what happens, what people want is to break free and participate. The direct claim being made is that if we did this more, church would have more people involved in it.

Now I have many problems with this kind of analysis and it’s not unique to Vicky. Others have been making it for some time about church and worship. So in no particular order some of the reasons I think Vicky is right to see something happening and ask what it is, but is possibly wrong about what is really happening.(Digging around I found a recent blog post by Vicky that shows some of her wider understanding of worship in relation to these issues).

1. What is ‘this’: Other than the flash mob, Vicky gives us no examples of participatory worship. I’m left thinking is this what we now do, flash-mobs for weddings and services?

2. Moment vs Movements: The One campaign that saw people all around the world buying tickets to music events to end poverty, with social media moving people to events, for moments of experience. But as a BBC correspondent asked at a One campaign event, will this moment of experience become a movement?

I suspect the Stonehenge flash mob have had their fill of Stonehenge, and won’t be back there again. What was the flash-mob experience other than a novelty, which if repeated more than once becomes mundane. I suspect more flash-mobs at weddings won’t register on the media radar (wedding flash-mobs are so yesterday).

And and do those people at the Stonehenge flash-mob commit to care for the place, know about it, tell others about, return, given money to support it? I suspect they have moved on to the thrill of the next flash mob.

3. What was really worshipped: Did people really think, wow I never knew church could be like this? I doubt it. It was more likely that the nature of the event took over the wedding. The only thing people remember was how cool it was to crash the wedding and to get on Youtube. It might as well have been any other event, nothing special about the wedding, other than it was a place you don’t expect things like that to happen. See other flash-mobs on the Youtube, that take place in a shopping mall, library, etc. It’s not about participating in the wedding at all, but about the people interrupting the space they go to with their flash-mob. In that sense the flash-mob is the new liturgy, something people like to do in a certain way in certain places to express something other than what is happening in the place they have gone to. (Russell in the comments below highlights an article by Jamie Smith about flash mobs, and liturgy that is worth a read)

4. Participation: And the idea that church should be radically participatory because it isn’t compared to how most people live, isn’t the case at all. People stare a TVs all the time listening to others control what they hear and see. They sit at concerts in rows, watch sports they cannot play. Then look at weddings themselves. Non Christians trained from birth to imagine their weddings days, then copy each other like lemmings, with the same traditional format, the dress, the cars, the reception, the cake, the holiday in the maldives. I suspect the average mother in law, on seeing a flash-mob at their daughters wedding wouldn’t be thinking, how wonderful and participatory the worship was.

5. The Mundane: Most people’s life are about regularity. Doing the same things in the same way they like to do them. Shopping, cafes, holidays, leisure. They are not about radical participation by others. Put a flash-mob in the middle of a marathon, and see how welcomed they are by those trying to run their best time for the event. The real reason people don’t want much to do with church, is that they would rather be doing other things. No amount of flash-mobs will get them to engage with church more. What it does it get them to engage in flash-mobs more!

6. The new seeker sensitive: So if we have moved from a form of church that gives people what they want, to entice them in, is what Vicky suggests, just the continuation of the seeker movement. This is what people like want now, so let’s adapt our style for them, again.

And as I write all these I am not arguing for church to be irrelevant, boring and exclusionary! Far from it. But hunch is that articles like Vicky’s perpetuate a myth. A myth that ‘if only church was like this’ then people would take part, and worse than that, it becomes part of a self justification for those who don’t want to engage in church, and never will anyway.

And I’m not against flash-mobs, I just think they need to be seen for what they really are.

Lastly, I think this question about worship style puts the cart before the horse so to speak. By that I think, if we ask how our worship can be more relevant to the ways people outside it like to worship their ways of life then we’ve missed the point.

Worship is about God first and foremost. How do people in our culture today put God first with their lives and worship? Everything else takes shape around that, not the other way.

About me

trying to make safe spaces for diverse and healthy conversations about church, culture, mission, theology and motorbikes

Ask me anything