The Sermon!

The royal wedding has occurred and the sermon by Michael Curry has been preached. It seemed to me that most of the guests and the British audience didn't quite know what to make of it. I wonder if they were nervous to criticise a black bishop preaching in a somewhat Pentecostal style (by which we mean with a bit of passion) and referencing Martin Luther King! But on the whole, he got a very positive write-up. Many Christians went to social media to declare how good it was, including many evangelicals

Conservative Christian commentators, especially Anglican were, on the whole rather more critical. Is this simply a case of "haters gonna hate" to quote the well-known theologian Taylor Swift. I think I'd suggest three reasons why not.

1. Knowledge Affects Understanding I guess most reporters and for that matter most Christians were coming to the sermon pretty cold. They probably didn't know a great deal about Michael Curry, nor the church of which he is the presidin…

Why I haven’t joined the Church Society

This weekend sees the Church Society conference and AGM. This year is especially significant as it sees the joining of the Church Society with Reform and the Fellowship of Word and Spirit - which represents the vast majority of conservative evangelicals in the Church of England. The mechanism for the union (which does rather look like a takeover) is that Church Society will remain and everyone will have joined it and thus will take part in the upcoming AGM. I haven’t joined and so, rather by definition, am now something of an outsider not only in the Church of England, but also within Conservative Evangelicalism.

Many of the great and good in conservative evangelicalism in the Church of England have been wheeled out to tell us what a good thing this is. I thought a blog about why I disagree might be worthwhile.

I should probably note that until relatively recently I was a member of all three of these groups (although I must admit I’ve never been a very active member of FoWS, I signed …

The Idolatry of the Middle-Class Church Member?

One of the most challenging things Jesus says in the Bible is:
"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34 NIV) Unfortunately, most of us who are Christians in the UK don't seem to get it. We're much more comfortable with other truths. We like to hear that God cares for us. We're encouraged that God works things out for our good and we like to hear that we can be forgiven. If our faith is more than just a spiritual add-on to our lives, then we might even like a little bit of a challenge. Maybe the challenge of regularly putting aside time to come to church and attend the Bible study. If we're really keen we might help teach the Sunday School or go on a summer camp. At the top end of enthusiasm we might even try to tell some of our colleagues, friends or family about Jesus.

What we won't do is sacrifice everything. That's only for those really "out-there" Christians who want to go a…

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 …