I’ve been thinking a lot about Mark 2 recently; the paralysed man being led to Jesus by his friends. There’s a lot of richness in their: how Jesus recognises their effort, ingenuity and love in bringing this man to him, and Jesus calls that faith; how the paralysed man has no choice in his situation but his friends decide (unilaterally?) to create an encounter with Jesus, in effect lending their faith to him. Using our faith to set up encounters between Jesus and the people we meet is, basically, what we’re trying to do here. But that’s not what I want to talk about. Read more about Mud and tiles
When I was at Redcliffe on the leadership course, we studied a lot about toxic leadership. (If you haven’t come across the concept, read this now and then come back.) One of the reasons why it’s called “toxic” is because bad leadership permeates the whole organisation to create a twisted, self-serving, unhealthy culture. Read more about A little yeast affects the whole dough
When I first came to Japan as a missionary, I was convinced that what I needed to do was to fit in with the Japanese culture. This is what we were taught that we had to do. So I really tried my hardest to work “in a Japanese way.” I lived in a Japanese style house. I sat on the floor. I tried to speak indirectly, and to hold back in meetings from telling everyone about my brilliant ideas. (Well, usually I tried.) I would take Japanese o-bentos to meetings in case anyone was looking, when what I really wanted was bread.
It was crazy. I remember looking at a row of aftershaves in a supermarket and, without word of a lie, thinking “what kind of aftershave would a Japanese man buy?” (Stupid really: any of them, that’s why the shop sells them.) I wanted to smell like a Japanese person. I really wanted to fit in, and this despite the fact that I was six foot one and white. I worried about doing the wrong thing. I worried about saying the wrong thing. I worried about how what I said would be interpreted. I worried about offending people unintentionally—I worried All. The. Time.
It was very, very stressful. Read more about Culture is hard
It’s been four years since the first Japan House Church Conference in Osaka, and much has changed in those four years. As I sit and reflect on the wonderful experience of the past three days, of sharing, praying and listening to God together with fifty other house church leaders from all over Japan, I think the main impression I am taking away tonight is of a movement which is still young and dynamic, but is also growing in confidence and finding its own voice. Read more about Japan House Church Conference - Reflections
I haven’t been blogging much recently, often because things have been happening and I just haven’t had time, but also because I tend to use this blog to think through and comment on particular issues and there haven’t been many issues coming up recently. Apart from one. We’ve been preparing someone for baptism and it’s been raising all kinds of issues. Read more about Baptism (or, “Why I believe in theological education”)
The churches that we’re planting don’t have Twitter accounts. They don’t have Facebook pages. They don’t even have web sites. I guess that makes me some kind of social media Luddite or something. Partly it’s due to the very early stage we’re at, but even then, I think the conventional wisdom is that setting up the web site—or perhaps these days, the Twitter account—is the first thing you do when setting yourself up as a church; it’s your virtual signboard. Read more about Would the Early Church have Tweeted?
When I was growing up, the Church was very simple—there was the Evangelicals, who had the truth of the Gospel, and then there was everyone else: Anglicans (who were all nominal), Catholics, and liberals. There was another very simple equation: Evangelicals spread the Gospel and try to win converts, liberals didn’t really talk about Jesus but just did social and political stuff. You can still see remnants of these equations, in the way we talk about churches today. Read more about Learning to love the liberals
I wrote recently about the danger of doing, and specifically of the danger of chasing the kind of activity and achievement that feeds the ego, and about making the choice to go the quiet, invisible way. This has become a running theme not just in my work but in my personal life as well over the past few years. I have been facing the need—the urgent need—to let my dreams die. Read more about You in your small corner and I in mine
I’ve been reading (and, let’s face it, publishing) a lot of books recently about discipleship. New discipleship programmes are a bit of a booming industry at the moment: Neil Cole, Frank Viola, Tony Dale, Tim Miller, Mike Breen, Alan Hirsh, the list goes on and on, and the premise of each of their books is essentially this: “What would it look like if the Early Church wrote a discipleship training manual? Read more about The Way of Life
I was planning to write a post defending Rick Warren (which, let’s face it, is news enough) from the suspicion and criticism aimed at his plans to establish a Saddleback Church franchise in London. I was going to say something like this:
I’ve been on both sides of this debate: initially as a Christian when a new denomination was looking to plant “one of their churches” in a very well-churched area; and then on the other side right now, as I’ve been questioned for planting churches in an area which area does have churches in it. I don’t believe as some (including the agency we work with) that church planting is necessary the best way to share the Gospel, nor do I believe it is the commission we’ve been given. (which I think said something about disciples and nothing about churches, which makes it a lot harder to carry out. If I can plant a church, then any fool can.) But there is still a merit in planting churches, even in an area with lots of churches already. First, people are different and we should contextualize the Gospel to as many tastes and subcultures as there are—no single local church can hope or expect to serve everyone. So there is always room for a church which is bringing something new to the area. Second, what’s the threshold for describing an area as well-churched or under-churched? You may actually find that an area which appears well-churched actually has difficulty serving all the people in that area, if you just try running the numbers.
Obviously the first point doesn’t apply to Saddleback, since it is practically the apotheosis of franchise Evangelicalism—it both defines and reflects the culture which many, many other churches are trying to achieve. Which leaves point two: try running the numbers and see. So I tried running the numbers. Read more about Base ecclesial colonialism, part 3