Andy Warhol said we could all be famous for 15 minutes, but what could you do to help make Jesus better known? A new website Make Jesus Famous launches tomorrow Tuesday – 30th June. It would be brilliant if everyone who read this blogchecked it out and registered their ‘idea’ for sharing faith in their neighbourhood. All you need to do is briefly describe your everyday work … easy! You can then upload your photo or a suitable image, and make it part of the homepage ‘image wall’.
You can pre-register at www.makejesusfamous.org.uk right now, and you will be sent a reminder email on the launch day.
Hopefully, Christians who will inspire each other withtheir ideas, achievements and comments to spread the Good News . This in turn will build an ever-growing evangelism resource, harnessing the Christian creativity at work throughout the nation. If you ask why does Jesus need making famous?- the answer was given in a piece of research published only a couple of days ago when it was reported that a fifth of the population have no idea about the death and resurrection stories of Jesus.
Give it a try! Please help us Make Jesus Famous by pre-registering today. Many thanks – you will make a huge difference if you take part.
During weeks like this faithfulness and stamina are hard to come by.It’s been a tough week for me. I am juggling a couple of projects, with key members of the team away or posts vacant. There has been a great deal to do in a fast-shrinking time-frame and sometime it feels just as the top of the hill is being reached ,the clouds come down and time is spent just finding out exactly where I am as visibility becomes challenging and the hope of making the summit in good time slips away. Thank God for friends, family and hard-working colleagues at times like these. Once again I take encouragement from Nick Fawcett’s Daily Prayer as he writes:
“Lord God, you know that life isn’t always easy. There are times when I feel exhausted, overwhelmed and defeated.Remind me then of those who have gone before, keeping the faith, and running the race with perseverance. Remind me of Jesus, his willingness to endure the cross for my sake. Remind me of my responsibility to those who will come after me…Lord Jesus Christ, inspire me through your love and the great company of those who have gone before me, to persevere and run the race, to the glory of your name. Amen.”
One of the risks in blogging about a whole range of things (and not censoring comments) is that from time to time some correspondents will get fixated on single issues. The purpose of this blog is to share with you my continued journey as an unfinished Christian and invite you to play your part in helping me along the way. I guess I’d hoped that my musings would appeal to others who consider themselves unfinished Christians or work-in-progress followers of Jesus. Well, I know of few of you reading this fit this description, but since I blogged about the BNP I have had a handful of persistent correspondents who make it their business to justify particular theological positions and excercise their freedom of speech -that well-known catch all for the right to say anything however offensive or unlated to the purpose of this blog. So, should I continue to keep comments on this blog unedited and put up with anything and everything that comes my way or do I block the people running obvious agendas? I honestly don’t know, but in the meantime I want to pray that we all need to look beyond, colour, culture and creed to the person underneath- the person that Christ died for. In Acts we read that, “God has shown me I should not call anyone impure or unclean. I recognise how true it is that God does not show partiality, but accpets people from every nation who fear him and do his will.” As ever, Nick Fawcett gets it right in Daily Prayer-
Living God, teach me that you did not just make some but all people in your likeness, and so teach me to value and respect everyone in the family of humankind. Through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
Over the past few months I have listened to scores of people about the nature of how God calls us into ministry and service. I have personally found it really unsettling experiencing God guiding me into situations in which I am personally uncomfortable; yet once there -channeling something of God’s purpose and love to others. It has been a process of breaking me down and rebuilding me, slowly and gradually to appreciate that when I do things in God’s strength rather than mine amazing things can happen out of simple conversations. It has made me realise just how unfinished I am as a Christian, and also how complacent I have been for decades. I know that I still don’t take enough risks for the gospel. I now appreciate that feeling challenged and unsettled is something I have to get used to as I work out, if I can, the nature of God’s inescapable call.
Nick Fawcett puts this well in his Daily Prayer book- a constant companion of mine:
“Gracious God, I thanks you for your call: the invitation to be part of the work of your kingdom. I thank you that you welcome me as I am- with all my faults and doubts- and that though I fail you repeatedly, still you want to use me in your service. Gracious God, I praise you for that inescapable sense of call that you give; help me to respond. In the name of Christ. Amen.”
I hope this is a prayer we can all say.
I hadn’t heard of The Christian Council of Britain until yesterday. I was watching a debate on BBC Tv’s The Big Questions about the BNP and to my surprise saw a Christian minister Rev Robert West (in dog collar) a failed BNP candidate in the recent Euro elections saying that it is God’s will to “preserve nations as ethnic groups”. The other BNP rep on the show said that the people have a tendency to “caricature the policies of the BNP with an emotional tirade.” I know nothing about the Rev West, but under challenge from Jonathan Bartley he would not reveal how many people were members of his organisation, so I went on line to check it out. Its mission statement is (my highlights):
“To promote Christian views and values in our Nation and society; and to counteract cultural and ideological challenges and threats from extreme ideologies which would seek to undermine, persecute, or legally prosecute Britain’s national and Christian heritage as a basis for an attack on the free, open, liberal and democratic nature of her People, and of their society. The Christian Council of Britain has been set up to fulfill this Mission Statement through national and local campaigning and by obtaining a voice in the media for patriotic Christians. We promote and defend the Christian stance in government consultations on policy and legislation and we challenge anti-Christian, anti-family propaganda and activities in the media, the professions and wherever else they occur. We will work with like-minded organisations to end the undermining of Britain’s Christian family morality and Christian heritage from whatever source these attacks, insidious or overt, long-term or sudden, originate from.
As the Rev West was so evasive about the numbers and backing for his organisation. I checked out what Churches Together has to say about The Christian Council of Britain:
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland associates itself with the recent statement from the Methodist Church concerning a body calling itself the “Christian Council of Britain”, and wishes to make absolutely clear that there is no connection between CTBI or its predecessor the British Council of Churches and the “Christian Council of Britain”.The statement from the Methodist Church said: A body calling itself the Christian Council of Britain and apparently associated with the BNP recently started joining protests against Jerry Springer: The Opera. Anthea Cox, Methodist Coordinating Secretary for Public Life and Social justice, said, “I am outraged that the BNP and its allies are using Christianity to further their agenda of segregation and division. I think most Christians will be deeply affronted by this and want to speak out against such misguided extremism. We reaffirm our earlier statements that Christian belief is incompatible with any political party or philosophy that is based on hatred or treats people as inferior because of their race, beliefs or for any other reason. We are deeply concerned that some people are now appropriating Christian language and symbols for policies that are the very opposite of Christian values.”
The CCB has claimed that the Bible justifies its support for the BNP’s repatriation policy. But the Revd Ken Howcroft, Coordinating Secretary for Conference and Communication, said “this was a way of interpreting scripture that was used to justify apartheid in South Africa, the banning of mixed-race marriages and the setting up of homelands. The South African Council of Churches condemned this interpretation, and some of the churches that did support this interpretation later formally repented. In Galatians, Paul writes ‘In Christ there is no Jew or Gentile,’ and this makes it clear that there is no Christian basis for racial discrimination or separation.”
Now we know the sort of ‘Christian’ organisation that BNP’s Nick Griffin promised to support in his recent Times interview and the sort of ‘Christian’ values held by the Rev Robert West- More jackboots than Jesus.
The keynote speaker at the conference I have been attending this week was The Attorney General, the Rt Hon the Baroness Scotland QC who spoke on the importance of faith in the public space. She was clear and positive about the role individuals and faith groups have to play in a society in which she said “faith flourishes when respect for it is freely given by individuals and it is not just defended by public institutions.” She added that faith matters in the public space and it has the potential to make or break the modern world we live in when it is too often misunderstood to the point where it provides fertile ground for conflict and intolerance. Baroness Scotland, a Roman Catholic, shared how she has worn her cross every day of her adult life and often prays when on the front bench as well as before taking major decisions. Inspired by the vision of President Obama she that with faith inspired idealism it is a case of, “Yes we can and yes we must- the cultivation of respectful, positive relationships between the faith communities is vital. It is important that people gather around a common purpose for a concrete outcome.”
She slammed religious extremism as diminishing God. “He is not a God of one group but God of all and faith is not an optional extra. It goes right through you and is reflected in everything you do and aspire to achieve.” It’s hard to imagine the Christian faith having a better and more well-placed advocate in politics and the public space than Patricia Scotland.
A few weeks ago a met a Jewish Christian called Steve Maltz and he gave me a copy of his book ‘How the church lost the way’– a fascinating argument about how the Way of the early church has been obscured by the influence of Greek philosophy which has worked its way through every facet of our Christian life, from doctrine to rituals and from practices to attitudes. Steve does a great job in taking the reader on a journey back to the roots of the Christian faith with a compelling simplicity and invites us to consider the implications of boxing in our faith to ritualistic church attendance and hymn singing. To get the full flavour of Steve’s argument you’d have to read the whole book for yourself but here’s a brief taster to wet your appetite:
” To a religious Jew everything is spiritual, everything is theological, everything is sacred. Life is not compartmentalised…the key distinction between Greek thinking that has insinuated itself into all parts of the Church thinking and practice…Jesus once had a spat with a Samaritan woman about acceptable ways to worship God. He spoke to here of future time when true worshippers will worship the father in spirit and in truth, so worship is going to have to be infused in spirit and in truth. It needs to be of a spiritual nature because God is spirit, but it needs to be based on truth..The Western Church has evolved into a rigid pattern whereby the phrase we will move to a time of worship is a cue for throats to be cleared, brains emptied of the mundane and legs and arms placed on standby and praise and worship is understood as a musical genre. It puts God in a box and misrepresents him as someone who can only be worshipped in recognised spiritual ways, such a sprayer, singing and proclamation. Hebrew worship frees us up totally to worship him using every part of our created being, body and soul with our arms, legs, voice, mind and spirit.”
All I know is that these arguments will run and run as people strive for the authentic model for Christian community and worship. While we do , just let’s remember He is the God of Jew and Greek and Brit and African and American and Indian and Chinese and Australian and so on and so on until the ends of the earth and for all time. I am sure we are getting parts of our worship and understanding wrong and we have missed out on much, but thank God for the Good Shepherd who never gives up on the strays who have lost their way and thank God that we can keep asking questions and discovering more of Him each day. Steve’s idea about everything being spiritual and there being nothing out of bounds for God is also echoed by teaching minister Rob Bell. See this brief excerpt from his film Everything is spiritual and judge for yourself: