The Apostle Paul and training Christian leaders

Theological libray fromStrahov monastery Prague

Do you know how your church leader was trained? Maybe you know what college or seminary they went to? Perhaps you know what courses they’ve attended or even what books they’re reading to keep up with their studies.

Christians have a long record of taking education seriously and for training their leaders to understand the Scriptures and with good Biblical precedent. Just consider these verses from second Timothy: 2 Tim 1:13, 2 Tim 2:2, 2 Tim 3:16-17. In the context of false teaching, Paul stresses the importance to Timothy of knowing his stuff.

So when you consider training Christian leaders what do you imagine? My guess is that, for most people they would picture a classroom setting with earnest students learning Greek and Hebrew, and important subjects like Biblical Theology etc.. My guess is you probably imagine something close to a university. What you imagine is the transfer of information and knowledge from a group of clever people to your church leader and then hope for the best. Continue reading

God’s heart is on His temple

As our group was praying for our city and recognizing its great spiritual need, we were reminded of a familiar verse.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

It’s a verse beloved by Christians in a post-Christian context, despite the theological questions it poses about national repentance, that God would sovereignly move in a nation and turn it back to God. I get that but it was the following verses, as we read them together, that really struck home.

Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time. (2 Chronicles 7:15-16)

It’s a wonderfully intimate, affectionate description. God’s heart is on His temple, prayers from there are heard, and are given special attention. Then pair it with this:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

God’s heart is on the church, His eyes and heart are there, He is attentive to the prayers of the church. This actually gives me far greater confidence than the previous verse which somehow always seem to put the emphasis back on us – are we repenting, humbling, seeking, praying right – have we identified the right national sins t repent for. Instead, I approach a gracious Father, confident of His love, confident of His acceptance of His people that have been bought at a price, confident of His faithfulness and ask, God would you stretch out your arm to save in this city.

The Christian mission was not directed merely at centres of power. It was consciously aimed at the common people, and the ideals of simplicity and humility were never far from the minds of those who had to propagate their faith

Henry Chadwick, The Early Church

If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Three great videos on: Magic

I’ve been giving this site some much needed maintenance and along the way have discovered some long-lost treasures that needed dusting off and re-presenting. As a fan of magic, here are three very different videos (all from TED as it so happens).

  1. Lennart Green with close up card magic
  2. Keith Barry with brain magic
  3. Marco Tempest with some cyber-magic

I’d love some more, so please post links to your favourite magic clips in the comments.

Questions from the pool of Bethesda

A picture of the healing at the pool of Bethesda by Otto Heinrich

At Grace Church every Sunday we spend time studying the Bible together. We have people from all over the world and in all different stages of their faith journey. Our goal is to help people feel confident in reading their Bibles, feeling confident to ask questions of the Bible and how to find good answers. Every week (if I remember) I’ll share some of those questions and answers.

John 5:1-15 is a well-known story, one woman in the group recalled how she felt familiar with the story from Sunday School but reading it again now several questions cropped up:

  1. What was special about the pool of Bethesda? (Jn 5:2)
  2. Why was picking up his mat a problem? (Jn 5:9-12)
  3. What did Jesus mean when he said, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”? (Jn 5:14)

The first question helps us locate the story and contrasts the real healing offered by Jesus with the legend of the pool. The second question helps us understand some of the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders and the third question asks great questions about the character of God, the seriousness of sin and the power of the Gospel.

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Die heretic scum!

I was recently reminded of a powerful lesson that the labels we use to define us have great power to separate us. There are all sorts of labels I use to describe my faith; Christian, not Jewish or Muslim; then I define church – protestant as opposed to catholic or orthodox and so on down the label food chain past denominations and on to theology – evangelical, Baptist, charismatic are three labels I often use for myself. It seems the longer I go on in church leadership the greater the number of labels there seems to be – take your pick from the following: missional, complementarian, egalitarian, Calvinist, Reformed, Arminian, pentecostal, spirit-filled, gospel-centered and on and on and on.

Sometimes all you’re looking for is a descriptor that helps people understand you – it’s like trying to find your town on a map. “Oh that’s where you’re from”. Continue reading

Book Review: Equals

equals by jenny baker 191x300 Book Review: Equals gender roles gender egalitarian complementarian Living and church planting in Sweden, as I do, it is impossible to escape the issue of equality, it is everywhere. It’s reasonable, of course, to ask why anyone would want to escape something so obviously beneficial as equality? That largely depends on what you mean by equality as not every definition is, ahem, equal.

Secondly, as a father to a daughter, a husband to a wife and church leader of many talented women; in every one of those areas I want to help create environments in which women flourish. I’m convinced that churches of complementarian convictions need to do a much better job in this regard (I know some see that as impossible). So with those things in mind I recently bought Equals: Enjoying gender equality in all areas of life by Jenny Baker.

It’s an interesting and insightful read and there’s much here to support, be encouraged by or provides food for further thought. This isn’t a theology book, it doesn’t go into the various arguments that have divided the church on the extent and scope of the leadership ministry for women in the church but instead focuses on the practical, everyday issues of work, home and leisure. Personally I’m grateful for the thorough way this book thinks through various areas of life and tries to find practical ways that both men and women flourish together even though I approach the issue from different theological convictions.

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Church planting essentials: Perseverance

A Test Of Endurance

Previously in this ad-hoc series I wrote about the importance of patience in the heart of a church planter but took a moment to separate patience from perseverance.

“Perseverance is that quality that keeps you walking when you turn into a headwind, keeps you going when you’re faced with trials and battles. It is determination to not give up or go back. In other seasons of life perseverance becomes stubbornness.”

In this post I want to unpack perseverance a little more. I’m fairly confident that all church leaders see this need for this one, but for a church planter who maybe has not had years of leadership experience they may never have been in a situation where the leadership characteristic they most need is perseverance, the ability to endure. Continue reading

“It is interesting that death is not a biological necessity. Every living cell and organism is equipped with the essential machinery to ensure repair and renewal so that life can continue indefinitely. Surprising as it may seem, eternal life is not a biological impossibility! In one sense, although individual cells are destined to die, organisms seem to be designed to live forever. The ageing process  involves active biological mechanisms, as yet poorly understood, which cause the repair and renewal process to malfunction, leading ultimately to biological decay and death. Perhaps this is a physical counterpart of the biblical truth that through human evil, the creation is ‘in bondage to decay’ Romans 8:21″

- Professor John Wyatt, Issues Facing Christians Today