Listening to the Easter Witnesses

We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. (Acts 10:39-40 NIV)
When you want to know what happened in the past you look for witnesses. It might be that you want to know about an event in history. It might be that a court wants to determine the facts about a particular crime. It might be that you want to find out from your children just how the family heirloom was broken! In those situations, the ideal witness is someone who was there and can tell you about it.
When we come to the Easter story, and especially the resurrection, we feel that need of witnesses particularly acutely. We find ourselves being told something – that a dead person has risen back to life – which seems utterly impossible in our experience. That’s why the book of Acts, where the gospel spreads to the world, emphasises the witnesses.
Jesus told his disciples j…

Dealing with our Ministry Idolatry

I think the fundamental problem with the lack of resources for ministry in deprived areas of the UK is probably idolatry. I think that idolatry is found both in the ministry and in the pew if you'll forgive the distinction.
In my last blogpost, I had a go at addressing what makes me so uncomfortable as a conservative evangelical working in a deprived part of the north west of England. My basic concern is that, while it is widely recognised in areas such as education and healthcare, that you need to invest disproportionately in deprived areas if you want to make a difference, within the church we find the opposite dynamic where the vast majority of investment occurs in more middle-class areas.
I want to go a bit deeper this time and ask: why? What drives a dynamic where relatively wealthy churches and Christians largely give for the ever increasing ministry teams and ministry resources of their own churches and networks of wealthy churches? Now put like that, the answer might seem…

Re-Balancing Our Resources

As I drove home from PCC last night, through Rochdale's dirty streets, past the rows of terraced houses, the dilapidated mills and, sad to say, a couple of prostitutes plying their trade, I was reflecting on the problem we have with deprivation within evangelicalism and perhaps particularly conservative evangelicalism. It's something I've come up against repeatedly in the last few years of my ministry. My current parishes are respectively in the bottom 1% and the bottom 5% in terms of deprivation in the country.

On the PCC we were talking about reaching our community with the gospel. We are passionately evangelistic! But we were also talking about the consequences. The people in our community understandably come with needs and issues - they may be asylum-seekers, or economic immigrants, they may be struggling with their children, their marriage, their finances. They may not have enough to eat and they may not have knowledge to know how to change their circumstances. There…

Church Vision - Part 2

As promised, this is the continuation of some teaching I have given on our church vision. In the last blog I wrote about a vision to grow in numbers of disciples through witness. This time I'm looking at a different type of growth. In one sense this may be specific to our churches and I hope it gives you a vision of what we're trying to do. In another sense, I hope the Biblical stuff is inspiring for your own churches.
Growth – Fellowship I want to look at growth through fellowship. This is the growing in depth and maturity of our faith together.

If you at Acts 2 and particularly v.42 we read:
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Act 2:42 NIV) This gives us an idea of how the early church interacted. There are four things:

They spent their time learning from the apostles. Churches are places that take teaching and learning seriously. We don’t have apostles, but we do have their words. Churches must be …

The Goldilocks Zone - A Review

This is a superb book!
Let's start there, but before I go much further I'd better admit the limitations of this review. First, I received a review copy for free (thanks very much IVP and Chris Green). Second, Mike Ovey (whose collected writings the book largely consists of) and Chris Green (who edited the book) were the principal and vice-principal of Oak Hill College when I was a student there. It was an education I very much appreciated. Third, I haven't finished the book in detail yet. I've flicked through and I read some in detail and I will continue to plod through in detail at my snails pace. But as the book was launched yesterday, it seems right to write something now!
Michael J. Ovey was a lecturer and then principal at Oak Hill College until his untimely death last year. It was noted when he had died that there were not many books to his name and this book, in part, fills a gap, which sadly for us, Mike won't be able to fill himself.
It is a collection of…

Church Vision - Part 1

New Year is a time we commonly reassess our lives and make resolutions. It's a good time to do the same for our churches and so on the first Sunday of 2017 I decided to set aside the day as a vision Sunday. This blog is an edited part of the evening sermon based on Acts 1:1-11 and Acts 2:42-47. I'm passionate about seeing the church grow in Rochdale and we're praying this will happen at St Luke's and St Peter's this year.

When I first came to the churches we met together to discuss what we saw as a good mission for our churches in Deeplish and Newbold. At St Luke's, this is what we came up with:

Go with the good news of Jesus to Deeplish and beyond Grow in the knowledge and love of God

And at St Peter's we said our mission is:

Sharing the good news of Jesus in Newbold and beyond. Growing together as we follow Jesus’ teaching.

I want us to focus on how we can do that in 2018. What is our vision for 2018 for completing this mission?

We read two passage from the book…

Church of England: Reviewing 2017 as a Conservative Evangelical

Well we've past the end of the year and the Church of England is still intact, well sort of. It was a very bad year for both conservatives in the Church of England and for the state of the Anglican communion. I'm sure I won't cover everything significant here (and of course my focus is somewhat on the negative 'issues' rather than much good day-by-day work in parishes), but here are a few of the things that took my attention.

1. Aggression continued to be aimed at those who are conservative on women's ministry The most obvious example of this was the selection of Philip North to be Bishop of Sheffield followed by an outcry and him stepping down (it should be noted this is the second time this has happened to him). This made it clear that no-one conservative on the ministry of women will be allowed to be a bishop. It also made it clear that the incoherent 5 guiding principles are not only incoherent, but also irrelevant. Despite a little outcry at the time, the…