Yesterday I got my highest number of hits on the blog all week- yet I didn’t post a thing! This may have something to do with the fact that extra traffic seemed to come my way thanks to it being listed in numerous press releases and websites for being highly commended in the Surefish/Christian Aid web awards. If you are one of these people I hope you find something of interest amidst my unfinished musings and come back or sign up to the twitter feed @ https://twitter.com/unfinishedchris .It got me thinking about the concept of serendipity or happenstance- where we just come across things by accident and then take to them. Down the years this has happened to me with authors, artists, musicians, plays and even sport. Isn’t it amazing how we sometimes restrict ourselves to the familiar, uncertain of the risks or hassle we may be given by just pushing things out a little further. Just recently I was talking to a couple of parishes about mission in relation to a new build housing estate a couple of miles from some long established village churches and I read this from Acts 1:6-8:
“So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel? He said to them: It is not for you to know the times or dates the father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
I pointed out that the disciples were looking for the restoration of their Kingdom of Israel, something that was past but they felt needed to be restored before anything else. Instead Jesus gave them a new vision- to share the good news and be his witnesses, not just in their immediate locality- the familiar capital city of Jerusalem but to Samaria and the ends of the earth. I asked them to think about how the ends of the earth to them could be this new estate only a couple of miles down the road and how they could engage with the challenge and opportunity for mission this throws up. My prayer for you today is that you would allow God’s Holy Spirit to lead you with spiritual serendipity into the unfamiliar and equip you to be able to respond to extending something of God’s love and grace to those you find there. You may be pleasantly surprised what you discover about yourself and the gifts God has given you on this journey by being open to take on the unfamiliar.
It’s not often when reading the Guardian you get what seems to be the beginning of a joke; “what do you get when you put a Muslim imam, a Greek Orthodox priest, a rabbi, a Buddhist monk and 10 atheists in the same room?” The article went on to say that Turkish television are broadcasting a new reality Tv show in which, ” contestants will ponder whether to believe or not to believe when they pit their godless convictions against the possibilities of a new relationship with the almighty on Penitents Compete (Tovbekarlar Yarisiyor in Turkish)”
Four spiritual guides from a range of religions will seek to convert at least one of the 10 atheists in each programme to their faith and those persuaded will be rewarded with a pilgrimage to the spiritual home of their newly chosen creed – Mecca for Muslims, Jerusalem for Christians and Jews, and Tibet for Buddhists. According to the programme makers one aim of the show is to promote religious belief and to expose Turkey’s overwhelmingly Muslim population about other faiths. That programme’s advertising slogans make some bold claims which include “We give you the biggest prize ever: we represent the belief in God” and “You will find serenity in this competition”.
Only true non-believers need apply. An eight-strong commission of theologians will assess the atheist credentials of would-be contestants before deciding who should take part. Converts will be monitored to ensure their religious transformation is genuine and not simply a ruse to gain a free foreign trip. “They can’t see this trip as a getaway, but as a religious experience,” Ozdemir said. The programme, which is scheduled to air in September, has been criticised by commentators and religious figures for trivialising God and faith.
What’s your final answer or do you need to phone a friend?
Full the full story see http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/02/turkey-penitents-compete-gameshow
Teenagers say family, friends, money, music and even reality television are more important than religion according to a recent survey of a 1,000 13-18 year-olds by Penguin books undertaken to mark the publication of Kevin Brooks’ novel Killing God. What have we done when six out of ten 10 children (59 per cent) believe that religion “has a negative influence on the world”?
The survey also shows that half of teenagers have never prayed and 16 per cent have never been to church. The controversial new book is about a 15-year-old girl who questions the existence of God. Kevin Brooks, the author, said: “I can’t say I am surprised by the teenagers’ responses. “Part of the reason that I wrote Killing God was that I wanted to explore the personal attitudes of young people today, especially those with troubled lives, towards organised religion and the traditional concept of God. “How can the moralities of an ancient religion relate to the tragedies and disorders of today’s broken world? And why do some people turn to God for help while others take comfort in drugs and alcohol? “These are just some of the questions I wanted to consider… And I wasn’t looking for answers.” The research also found 55 per cent of young people are not bothered about religion and 60 per cent only go to church for a wedding or christening. Only three out of 10 teenagers believe in an afterlife and 41 per cent believe that nothing happens to your body when you die, but one in 10 reckon they come back as an animal or another human being.
A the Church of England is looking to cut its budget for youth mission work a spokesman said: “Many teenagers aren’t sure what they believe at that stage of their lives, as is clear from the number who said they don’t know whether they believe in God. “On the other hand many of these results point to the great spirituality of young people today that the Church is seeking to respond to through new forms of worship alongside tradition ones.”
Today a new site Make Jesus Famous is launched- http://www.makejesusfamous.org.uk/. Let’s help it generate the ideas, commitment and inspiration to reach out to to those who really don’t know or care about Christ. Let’s give them a message of hope, new life, love and transformation. Let’s be the miracle to them.
For the full article on this story see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/5603096/Two-thirds-of-teenagers-dont-believe-in-God.html
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.
Jewish Christian Steve Maltz the author of ‘How the church lost the way’– is passionate about how the roots of our faith have been damaged by the influence of Greek philosophy and culture. He suggests that the church needs to recover its roots if it is ever to fulfil its destiny, and see true and sustained revival. He makes some interesting arguments, but one thing I certainly agree with him on is his passion for the church to break out more and have a real impact on our culture, right here and now. Steve makes the point well in this passage from the chapter Redoing Religion:
” The question I now ask is, if we follow such a big God why do we cram Him into such a small box? We should let Him loose, let Him roam freely, let Him act according to His awesome nature. Of course He already does, but we act as if He lived just in ancient buildings, sports halls on a Sunday hire, or in front rooms swept clean of profane literature and embarrassing relatives…God doesn’t just live in church buildings for a couple of hours every Sunday. For a start nowhere in the bible is Church ever meant to be a building. It was the Greek Church fathers who changed things, leading to an idea that any expression of Christianity is best confined to a meeting place rather than the people who meet there. Whereas Jesus tells us to go out into the world to preach His Gospel, we have ending up telling the world to come into Church, to find Jesus there. And what does the world really find when it goes there?”
This morning I am off to talk to a group of Christians meeting in a hired-community centre who want to have their own Church building..interesting.
My earlier blog about Steve’s work can be found at https://unfinishedchristian.wordpress.com/2009/06/09/losing-our-way/
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.”
In the opening chapter of Acts the resurrected Jesus tells his followers not to leave Jerusalem but to wait there for the promises of the father- The Holy Spirit. The disciples are excited at the prospect of the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel- they still don’t get it! Only a few verses later Christ tells them to be his witnesses on Jerusalem, all Judea, and Samaria and the ends of the earth and then he disappears! As my friend George Lings would say, the message may have reached the ends of the earth but the church has set up a number of mini-Jerusalems. How many Christians effectively reach out beyond church walls other than through blitz events like Hope and Soul in the City and specific ministries like Street Pastors?
Some would say that the church is obsessed with Jerusalem and making it look better, bigger, slicker and brighter- when the real need is to set up camp in Samaria or even venture to the ends of the earth. As a church we tend to focus on people who are like us- Churched- those comfortable to be our people. What about the de-churched on the fringes of Samaria who are at least 3 times bigger than we are and many of whom don’t like who we are? What about the non-churched where we could come into contact we a group amongst the under 45s who are 6 times greater than that age profile in our churches? There is some excellent news and stories around the Back to Church Sunday initiative for which we should praise God, but we can’t ignore the facts that around 40% of the populations have had some experience of church yet have not returned- was it really their fault. My friend George suggests that the complex DNA have the church has dominant Anglican genes called worship and pastoral care and that evangelism and mission genes are recessive. For a national church, the Church of England, the number of people who appear to be deeply alienated from us is disturbing. It’s time to leave Jerusalem.