How do I love?

'The most important one,' answered Jesus, 'is this: "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." The second is this: "Love your neighbour as yourself." There is no commandment greater than these.' (Mark. 12:29-31 NIVUK) Getting Things the Wrong Way Round If you wanted to sum up how you should live, then Jesus' summary of the law above is pretty helpful.  We remember this summary each time we take communion to remind ourselves of the standard that we’ve failed to meet and why we needed Jesus to die for us, so we could be forgiven (we're not saved by keeping the law!). If we have trusted Jesus' death and received his Spirit, then we're aiming to live this life of love for God and neighbour. I was reflecting on these words recently as it struck me that many of the problems we face in today’s church are because we…

Why would you want to come?

Most of us working in tougher areas would really love people to come and help us. We'd love to have trainees or assistants, probably even more we'd love to have mature Christian people move to the area and be part of the church. The desire makes us raise the question from time-to-time of if you might want to come and help, usually resulting in a rather depressing tumbleweed moment!

I guess the reality is pretty simple. Christians don't want to move to Rochdale and similar places for the same reasons that no-one else does. If you're looking at ministry positions, then frankly Rochdale will probably be the graveyard of your ambitions. If you want to progress, you need a more whizzy church, with a higher profile. You'd be much better to plan to do student work, be part of a large staff team and you'll probably get to write a book or two and then move on to a really decent job in  larger church, maybe even ending up on the conference-speaking circuit. But if you c…

Do we want middle-class missionaries? Some Biblical thoughts

A question that percolates around every so often with respect to churches in working class/deprived areas is: do we actually want middle-class missionaries? That is, are we looking for middle-class people to become members and even leaders of churches and communities in areas that are not middle-class. In fact, this is a more specific version of the mission question: do we want outside missionaries or local indigenous leadership?

Now, cards on the the table, I'm a pretty middle-class bloke working in a pretty deprived area. I concede this might colour my view. However, that's true of anyone who comments on this kind of question. We all have some sort of personal investment in the question.

So let me share a couple of  biblical thoughts. I think there's quite a lot of material to think about here, but I would have the following general thoughts.

At the point of church planting and evangelising areas that have very little gospel witness, there can't be any problem with h…

Red Lines, Faithfulness and Playing the Game

In their (excellent) book, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome Kent and Barbara Hughes start by defining success as faithfulness. They quote 1 Corinthians 4:1-2:
This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. (1 Cor. 4:1-2 NIV) In the ups and downs of my ministry, I have been repeatedly struck by that emphasis. My goal is to remain faithful.

In the lead up to Christmas the House of Bishops dropped one of their increasingly regular bombshells giving guidance on how to mark the transition of a transgender person (see my blog which has links to relevant documents). We're still awaiting many implications and responses - the timing of just before Christmas meant that many were simply to busy to deal with it.

There have been various points where synod and Bishops have made disastrous decisions before - it's increasing…

Fear the LORD in 2019!

My January magazine New Year reflection.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Prov. 9:10 NIV) We all want to know the best way to live well. We’d all like to be as wise a possible with our lives, our decisions, our health, our families and much more. That’s why Amazon sells so many self-help books and it’s why newspapers and magazines employ people to write their advice columns. Whether we make formal resolutions or not, the start of a new year tends to be a time when we try to reset a little to live wiser lives. It provides a natural start point for making some changes, which will hopefully be improvements!

In January, we’ll be starting to look at the book of Proverbs in our new Bible studies called “The Maker’sInstructions.” Proverbs is part of what is often called the Wisdom Literature of the Bible (along with Job and Ecclesiastes). These books are written to help Christians know how to live well in God’s world, i.e. to te…

God’s Gift

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. (Tit. 2:11 NIVUK)
I wonder what gift you’re hoping for this Christmas. Maybe it’s something you unwrap – some gadget, or jewellery for example. Maybe it’s something you experience – time with family or friends, a special trip or holiday, or even just some rest and peace. Many of us may be a little old now to be waiting excitedly for presents, not wanting to sleep on Christmas Eve and up at the crack of dawn on Christmas Day. However, even for the jaded, it is good to remember as we approach Christmas, that we’re celebrating the greatest gift ever given: Jesus Christ.
The verse from Titus reminds us that, in Jesus, “the grace of God appeared.” Grace is one of the most important Bible words. It speaks to us of a gift given despite being not deserved. I wonder how many of us will, or have in the past, threatened our children that if they’re not good Father Christmas won’t come, or even worse, will leave a sack of coal…