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.
Today sees the launch of a community audit I am leading – A Church4U? at an event based in a local school, followed by a church service focused on the story of the road to Emmaus. The focus of the audit is to use surveys, focus group and films to discover the heart and soul of the area- a place with two distinctive christian communities yet no dedicated church building. We hope to discover what residents, and those working in the community, understand church to be, and also if they want to be part of a vision that will establish a multi-use church building as much about community service and a place to be as a venue for Sunday worship.
After the death of Jesus the disciples lost heart and hope. Their Rabbi and leader had died and they were devastated and had little idea of what to do next other than to return to their former lives. It was as if that previous three years had counted for nothing. On the Road to Emmaus Jesus revealed the truth of his mission to them and they learned that they would receive power through the Holy Spirit. They would gain hope and a new mission and would have some story to share- a story destined to turn the world on its head. Today two churches will meet in a community centre without any outward visible sign that they are church. I will be asking them about how many people they are walking with every day on their own road to Emmaus and how these strangers or friends will be able to catch a glimpse of Jesus?
For a previous post on a related topic see https://unfinishedchristian.wordpress.com/2009/04/13/now-you-see-me-now-you-dont/
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/
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.
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.
The mysterious undercover graffiti artist Banksy has infiltrated Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery this week and filled it with more than 100 of his iconoclastic creations. The grand vaulted Georgian galleries more used to hosting renaissance and impressionist masterpieces now give way to Banksy’s modern, humorous and controversial creations. Visitors to the exhibition, which is free and lasts until August, will be greeted in the foyer by a burnt out ice cream van, the remains of giant melted cornet running down its roof. A dummy riot policeman wearing a balaclava and a badge saying Metropolitan Peace is making his getaway from the carnage on a fairground horse. Exhibits have been infiltrated into the galleries alongside the museum’s own works of art. In one typically Banksian pun Dorothy and Toto from the Wizard of Oz are painted on a sheet of rusting iron with a speech bubble saying: “I don’t think we’re on canvas any more.”
There are digs at contemporary culture, including an original Damian Hirst spot painting defaced by a rat with a paint roller. A stencilled picture shows a starving African orphan holding a bucket saying: “Peaches Geldof – please give generously.”
The installations have had a mixed reception. It’s hard to be neutral about Banksy- you love him or hate him. The exhibition made me think of the shock waves that Jesus would have created amongst the religious establishment as he took his parables and teachings to people and place that were frowned upon by the religious establishment of the day. Banksy makes us think about what art is and how it connects with the reality of life, politics, values and popular culture: Jesus does much the same thing in relation to God. He seemed to be out of place in the synagogue and temple- always making shock waves and causing controversy. He also connected through humour, irony, vivid imagery and also kept his identity under wraps for most of his ministry and was hugely popular. Some of our churches have taken on the style and feel of an establishment art gallery and our Banksy Christ seems to have left the building for good. The tragic thing is that some our Christian curators seem really pleased.