Monday, 20 April 2009

total church- totally worth reading

On Saturday I finished reading Total Church- by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis which I enjoyed immensely. They have a radical view of how to do church and are committed to being a gospel centred community rather than doing church three hours a week. The book appeals to me because the authors are reformed and yet responding to the challenges of reaching out in the C21st. At times I think they make too much of their new approach but as they close the book they acknowledge that 'This book has suggested changes that could, and should, be made to the life and mission of the church. But the future of the the church does not lie in changing its structures. Far more important than any ecclesiastical or missiological innovations is a passion for God.' p.199 This really comes out in the book, they are total church because they are totally committed to God.

One of their closing comments, 'There is a lot of talk today of 'gospel ministers', 'gospel work', 'gospel churches' and so on. There are some good reasons for this use of the word 'gospel,' since other definitions of identity are proving inadequate. But we must be careful not to depersonalize our faith. In believing in the gospel we believe in Jesus Christ. To be gospel -centered is to be Jesus-centred. A gospel worker is a servant of Jesus Christ. We must not reduce Christianity to intellectual arguments or principles of ministry, however gospel-hyphenated they are. Our focus must be on the Father, the Son and the Spirit.

I love being married, but I love being married because it unites me with my wife. In the same way I love the gospel, but I love the gospel because it unites me with my Saviour. We are not saved by principles or strategies, but by a person. Propostional truth is important, the suspicions of postmodernism notwithstanding. But propositional truth is important because it points me to the person who is the Truth with whom I have a relationship by grace.' p.202

I heartily recommend this book!



Sunday, 19 April 2009

God's mercy to me a sinner

I have the joy of doing the early shift with my daughter Hannah, she is an answer to prayer, a specific prayer. Joy and I had been praying for a child for 4 years on the final occasion I was praying and an overwhelming sense of peace came over me. I knew I could stop praying because my prayer had been answered. So confident of this I told my friend Daniel of Reformed Revolution fame that Joy and I were going to have a baby soon. Little did I know that it would be very soon. This morning as Hannah feel back to sleep I was overwhelmed with the generosity of God who hears me a sinner.
While reading my Bible I read Mark's account of Jesus' 'love the Lord your God with all your heart,with all your mind and with all your soul and your neighbour as yourself.' Again I was overwhelmed as I thought on my failure in both these departments. To be fully committed to the LORD would mean that love for neighbour would follow. Although I am pretty sure I don't hate anyone I am also sure I don't love my neighbours, but that isn't what Jesus commanded us to do, he commanded us to love our neighbours like we love ourselves. I know I have abundant self-love, and at the core of my being I am self centred. This morning I was able to pray with a sense of shame and my sinfulness but also delight in the God who loves me and forgives me. I asked that again he would hear this sinners prayer and empower me to love Him as he deserves to be loved and to love my neighbours as I love myself.

Stephen <><

Saturday, 18 April 2009

a church 10 yards from hell

Recently I had the privilege of visiting a church in a really tough and deprived area of Scotland. When I was going some of my friends from college said, "oh you don't want to go there it's rough." This church was really in a tough area, social housing problems, crime and drugs. Yet the church was awesome they are reaching refugee's with the gospel, these refugees are finding refuge in Jesus. One of them was an orphan who grew up in an Orphanage, she said at her baptism "I grew up in an orphanage without a mother and father but now I have a Father and I have a family. The church has a lot of middle class people but they are seeking ways to communicate the love of Jesus in practical ways to their neighbours. I found it a wonderful experience as I look forward to where God calls me I want to seek to serve those who are broken and unloved and show them both in word and deed the God of love.
I think quite often we Christians miss this, we have developed what Luther called a church of glory rather than a church of the cross. We need to remember that a church 10 yards from hell is a slice of heaven on earth.
May God Bless you

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Word and Spirit

I am really excited by a book I had recommended to me called 'Total Church' a radical reshaping around gospel and community. The writers Tim Chester and Steve Timmis both reformed in theology and probably emerging in a Mark Driscoll style. In the first chapter 'Why Gospel?' they argue for Word and Spirit ministry:
Churches can also polarize between intellectualism (what you think is what matters) or emotionalism(what you feel is what matters). In some churches issues of the heart and emotions have become functionally absent. We acknowledge their importance, but they feature little in our lives.' They go on to say, 'It is tempting to stress the need for balance as if a little bit of word and a bit of Spirit or a bit of intellectualism and a bit of emotion. But this is unhelpful. The truth is that in the Bible word and Spirit always go together.' p.29
On the next page they offer this caveat, ' Spiritual experience that does not arise from God's word is not Christian experience. Other religions offer spiritual experiences. Concerts and therapy sessions can affect the emotions. Not all that passes for Christian experience is genuine. An authentic experience of the Spirit is an experience in response to the gospel. p.30.

May God bless us as we seek to be not only people of the book but people of the Spirit.