I was thinking about someone recently who is quite renowned as a Bible teacher. He is from the conservative Evangelical wing of the church, and what is looked for in that particular version of Christianity is clear, objective, black-and-white Bible teaching. A sermon is a good sermon for conservative Evangelicals if it lays out neatly and objectively the uncompromising truth of Scripture. And the person I was thinking about is extremely good at “rightly dividing the word of truth.” That is definitely his gift, for those who like that sort of thing. Read more about In praise of team ministry
On my way out today I passed the local Shinto festival. In this particular festival, an ark is paraded around the whole town, carried on the shoulders of the young men, stopping at each houses and business so that the god enshrined in the ark can bestow blessings upon them. (Sounds rather like an Old Testament story, doesn’t it?) As you can see, it’s a very public festival involving a lot of people. That’s fairly common for Japanese festivals. Read more about Beating the Bounds
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?
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
We did Acts 8 in house church Bible study a couple of weeks back:
So Philip started speaking, and beginning with this scripture proclaimed the good news about Jesus to him. Now as they were going along the road, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look, there is water! What is to stop me from being baptized?”
Bible reading in church today included Ephesians 4:11:
It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.
I’ve been involved in quite a few pastorless churches recently and I know how much they have cried out for a pastor to come (and save them?). People find it really hard to be in a church without a pastor.
Reading today’s passage, I can’t help wondering what would happen if we found it just as hard to be in a church without apostles, prophets, or evangelists. Read more about Some as pastors and teachers
On Saturdays we try to have a family day off together, so often on Friday nights I spend a lot of time looking through tourist information and what’s-on web sites trying to think of something interesting to do. If you look at the official Kyoto city tourist information web site, you will find that the number one most accessed page was (until the new aquarium opened) Kyo Power Spots. So what’s a “power spot”? From the same page: Read more about Is the church a "power spot"?
The other day I wrote a long blog post in Japanese. I haven’t posted it yet; I have a feeling it might offend people. That isn’t why I haven’t posted it, though—I want to make sure I offend the right people to just the right degree: not too much, of course, but not too little either. Here I want to work through the philosophical underpinnings of that post—why I wrote it and what I’m thinking about it, and why I think it’s worth offending people over. Read more about Counter-contextualization: Keeping our saltiness
A funny thing happened last week. One of the communities that we’re part of here, a deaf signing group, went on an outing. The plan was to visit a deaf school, walk from there down the hill through a temple to view the autumn leaves, and catch the bus home from the bottom of the hill. Because of having Caitlin with us, we came by car, which messed everyone up. (Rule one of Japan: Don’t be different.) So the group leader, being a good Japanese leader and so knowing that the most important thing is to keep the group together, did something very clever. Read more about A sign that divides