Showing posts from 2015

Preaching at Christmas

I haven't posted anything for a while due to the Christmas rush. I wanted to put something up in response to an article by my diocesan bishop in the Church Times. There are good things in the article, but his comment about not preaching at carol services is pretty disappointing.

Ian Paul has written a good response I think. I have written to the Church Times as follows:


I was surprised and disappointed to see my Diocesan Bishop encouraging clergy not to preach at carol services (O come, all ye (occasionally) faithful). I would suggest there are a number of good reasons to preach. First, the biblical accounts contain regular explanation - whether in the messages from the angels or the references to the Old Testament. This suggests God intends the Christmas stories to be explained. Second, because we live in a culture which increasingly does not know or understand the Bible, we cannot simply read the story and hope people will understand. Third, the purpose of having preachers a…

Future Church of England: A Surprising Clarity?

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV)

20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. (Revelation 2:20-21 ESV)

The convulsions of the Church of England and for that matter much of the Christian church in the west over the issue of same-sex relationships is pretty disastrous in terms of faithfulness, witness and pastoral care. There may, however, be something of a silver lining because of the surprising clarity it gives.

In short, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (amongst …

Don't be a scribe!

38 And in his teaching he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at feasts, 40 who devour widows' houses and for a pretence make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation." (Mark 12:38-40 ESV)

As someone who quite often wears long robes for services, has people call him reverend and father fairly often and has a job that at least used to have a certain standing in society, when I was preaching on these verses in Mark recently I felt a little uncomfortable. I don't think I've devoured widows houses, but I'm pretty sure I've prayed for effect sometimes!

It's part of the section in Mark where the clash between old Israel and its leaders and new Israel and its leader is becoming so intense that it will lead to crucifixion and so the end of old Israel. The challenge in these verses is to see the hypocrisy …

Discipleship 101 - Bible

I started a series on discipleship a while back, suggesting we would look at the following topics:

Bible Prayer Church Evangelism

The goal is to help ensure that we are disciple-making disciples in our churches and so obedient to our Lord's command for the church. We start this month with the Bible.

Have you ever known someone who never stopped talking and never really listened. They might think of themselves as your friend. They might assume they know you, or know what you're going to say, but it's very frustrating, because actually they just make assumptions and project themselves and their opinions onto you.

Sometimes we can treat Jesus a bit like that. We might be forever talking to Jesus telling him what we need, what we'd like him to do and what we think about things. We might think we know him well and be confident that we know what he would think about a given situation or issue. We might even be very happy to tell other people what Jesus thinks. But do we ever …

Joy and Suffering

Church magazine Article for August


In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV)
I think one of the greatest challenges of the Christian life is to be joyful in suffering. Peter describes the Christians he is writing to as being able to “greatly rejoice” despite their “grief in all kinds of trials.” How is that possible?
I think Peter helps us here. First, we can rejoice in the wonderful realities of following Jesus, despite suffering now. In vv.3-5 he tells us about these benefits:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that ca…

Review: God with Us - Themes from Matthew

This is an excellent short commentary for congregation members and Bible study leaders by a reliable scholar-pastor.

Each chapter covers 2 or 3 chapters of Matthew in about 15 pages. The focus is on bringing out the main points and themes of each section. At the end of each chapter there are questions to encourage further reflection. 

Carson has produced both a detailed commentary on Matthew and a number of popular level expositions, showing his ability as both a scholar and a pastor. This book combines the scholar (he is a reliable guide to the main points) and the pastor (he applies those points).

It is clearly not enough for the pastor preparing his sermon (although it may help him get an overview), but it is good devotional material, good for helping Bible study leaders to get the main points in Matthew and perhaps good for enthusiastic congregation members to be reading alongside a series on Matthew.

I picked it up second hand, which you still can from Amazon although it's shippe…

Disicpleship 101

I'm starting a new series on discipleship basics in our church magazine.


In the last mini-series in Ministry Matters I looked at the foundation of the Christian faith by asking the question: What is the Gospel? The next question I want to consider is: What is a Disciple? In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus says to his disciples:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)
In other words, the focus of the church is to be a group of disciples who go and make more disciples. The first step in this process is for someone to trust the gospel, which is why I started there in the previous series. A natural next step is for them to be baptised (we will at some point consider questions about baptism and communion as well!). After that, what does it mean to be a discip…

New Ministry Trainee Advert

Ministry Trainees St Luke's, Deeplish St Peter's, Newbold
We are offering an exciting opportunity to experience ministry in two churches in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. The aim is to provide a one (possibly extendable to two) year ministry training experience for those who are considering full-time Christian ministry in the context of service in local churches.
The roles consist of three parts:
Bible teaching training on the North West Partnership training course Bible teaching and ministry experience in the local church context Practical service within the churches
Deeplish and Newbold are in the 10% most deprived areas nationally, according to the Index of Multiple Deprivation. Both parishes have a large and increasing Muslim population (Deeplish ~75% and Newbold ~45%). St Peter's and St Luke's are small Anglican Evangelical churches with rich opportunities for gospel ministry in a challenging context.
We would be interested in applications from committed evangelical …

Future Church of England: Thinking About the Thirty Nine - Part 2

A while ago I wrote some reflections on the place of the 39 Articles in the present day Church of England. In this blog I want to reflect on how the Articles might take a place in a reformed or reforming Church of England. In other words, suppose for a moment that something like the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans were to set a confessional statement for a reformed Church of England (I know about the Jerusalem Declaration, but run with me for a minute), what place would or could the 39 Articles have? Could we adopt them as our confession of faith?

I want to say up front, that if all churches and clergy in the Church of England subscribed to (as in believed!) the 39 Articles with their intended meaning, we would be in a significantly better situation than we are now. However, I want to suggest two problems/issues that I think we would need to resolve.

There is the uncomfortable issue that the articles would probably split those that we might like to think of as orthodox within the C…

The end of reason?

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:18 ESV)

And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures (Acts 17:2 ESV)

For the Christian, using our mind for the Lord and reasoning both in understanding and explaining our faith are important. The problem is that we live in a society, in the UK at least, that is averse to reason.

It's a media problem. How often have you watched a media report or read a newspaper article and thought: "that's not what he or she said?" The recent case with Melvin Tinker would seem to be a case in point. But we also see it in the way the media manipulate storylines and catchphrases to push an ideology without providing any reasonable foundation.

It's a social media problem. Sometimes it's almost comic. Someone pointed out a comment on th…

Contend for the Faith

My July magazine article. It seems an important topic at the moment and I expect a lot of us feel like Jude, wishing we could talk about the salvation we share.


Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God's holy people. (Jude 1:3 NIV)
Being a Christian in 21st Century Britain can be disconcerting. We live in a country that, on the one hand has a significant Christian heritage, but on the other has largely moved away from Christianity itself. Increasingly, Christian beliefs, attitudes and actions are misunderstood, attacked and mocked.
For example, there are atheists who seek to mock Christians who believe in miracles, the resurrection and for that matter the existence of God, because you can't use science to prove these things. Another example is in the area of ethics or morals. For decades now, biblical belief has been attacked on i…

Future Church of England: Evangelical Conversations and Same-Sex Marriage Part II

Some time ago, I wrote about a day conference of evangelicals on the question of same-sex relationships and the Church of England. A number of thoughts have been percolating on that one over the past few months, especially a the Diocese of Manchester and my own deanery seem intent on celebrating same-sex relationships.

The recent vote in Ireland has been seen as a significant marker post in moving the discussion along and in particular in the collapse of the influence of the church.

In a perceptive piece from Matthew Parris, asking for a more coherent case from the church for traditional marriage, he writes of the repeated process of revision:

"In which case, when we run out of male celibates we shall adjust a previously absolute doctrine to a more relaxed view of priestly duty. When we run short of male priests altogether (celibate or not) we shall review the teaching on women priests. When we run short of parishioners on their first marriage, we’ll think again about divorce. A…

Too much about your experience?

This may be something of a rant.  In fact, I think there are some ways in which I'm wrong about this (see below).  But I really want to read and hear less about people's personal experience.  The thing is, I've read quite a lot of Christian books and listened to talks on controversial topics over the last few years and frankly I'm getting tired of the huge amounts of autobiography I have to wade through.

It usually goes something like this.  I'm writing about controversial topic X.  I've had a real battle with X over the years.  I had so many difficult and thought-provoking experiences with X that I've had to reflect deeply, which means you should really listen to me about X, because of my deep and challenging experience.

Can I say to anyone writing one of those books, I'm not that interested in your experience!  I'm interested in your arguments, your reasons and particularly in your explanation of how Scripture relates to it.  I take 2 Timothy 3:16…

Acts 15 and Shared Conversations

I'm reading David Jackman's Understanding the Church at the moment and finding it very stimulating.  One of his chapters is on the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, which he entitles "Solving Problems and Moving Forward." In it he applies the situation in Acts 15 to conflict in churches. He has 5 good principles at the end of the chapter, which in summary are:

Open, frank discussion is necessary (vv.2, 4, 6, 12).Remove personal prejudices (James' Jewish background) and instead look for guidance it what God has done in people's lives (vv.7-11).Test everything against Scripture (vv.14-18).Refuse to compromise the gospel (vv.2, 11, 19).Respect other's scruples on non-primary areas. It struck me as interesting in the light of the conversations on sexuality in the Church of England. They would appear to be fairly strong on principles 1 and 2, but very weak on principles 3-5.
The discussions appear to be fairly open and frank - although I suppose you could argue the…

The Evangelism Conundrum

How exactly do we reach people with the gospel in 21st Century Britain?  It's a key question, as all our church statistics seem to plummet.

I went to a conference a little while ago looking at reaching out to Muslim communities in Britain with the good news of Jesus.  I suppose I went hoping to find the answers and it was a useful conference.  However, the main take-home was that no-one really knows how to do it, they're just trying stuff and it hasn't been very fruitful - at least not yet.

Then I was talking to a friend about the evangelism strategy of his church - I guess a lot of people would think of it as dated.  It wasn't bearing much fruit, but then I thought about all the other strategies, some of which are much trendier, and I don't see them bearing much fruit.

It seems to me that you can track something of a shift.  Some time up to the mid-eighties university missions and Billy Graham Crusades, were the big thing.  In many ways they were effective.  I th…

Book Review: A Christian's Pocket Guide to Islam

First, a couple of warnings.  The less significant one is that I read the Christian Focus reprint of the 2001 version.  There's now a revised edition.  Second, if you follow events in the Christian world you may know that the author, Patrick Sookhdeo, was found guilty of sexual assault recently.  Should we use his books in that light?  Well, we are all sinners saved by grace on the one hand, but on the other we are called to holiness, especially if we are leaders. Personally, my view is to proceed with caution, and to be very cautious in recommending the book to others (including you if you are reading this!).

Those warnings in place, let me say that this book is a short and simple introduction to Islam from a Christian perspective.  It covers beliefs, practices and different groupings within Islam clearly and helpfully, as well as occasionally making comments on how Christians can productively interact with Muslims.  It is very clearly written and very informative as a first boo…

Future Church of England: Thinking About the Thirty Nine - Part 1

What place, if any, should the 39 Articles of Religion, or for that matter any confession of faith, take in the future of the Church of England?

I mentioned in a previous post that we're preaching a few at a time through the 39 Articles, which is part of the formularies of the Church of England and I think is rightly seen as the historic confession of faith of the Church of England.  Reading them and about them, as well as thinking of their Scriptural foundation has caused me to reflect on their purpose and their value today.

Some of you may know of the Latimer Trust booklet by Packer and Beckwith on this topic, which was originally from 1984 I think and has been updated.  I have to admit to not having read that yet (it's on the list!), but I would imagine that it is considerably more reliable than these blog posts.  These are simply my reflections working as a pastor in the Church of England today.

I wanted to start by summarising what I see as the attitude to the Articles.

Christians, Politics and Social Media

There has been a little bit of a furore in general about political views and how social media is used in expressing them recently.  I've also noticed a few Christians get a bit frustrated about what's been appearing on Facebook from other believers and some fairly interesting if occasionally heated debates.

So four thoughts from me about how I want to engage with these kinds of things (something I concede I've not done perfectly):

1. Passion is Good

First, I'm quite encouraged to see people passionately trying to apply their faith to politics.  It's not the only area and not the most important area, but it's good to see people grapple with it and take it seriously.  If we're to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, then that applies in the area of politics too.

2. Overstatement is Bad

Second, both among Christians and non-Christians I've seen some surprising overstatement.  At its extreme its where someone implies that if you're a…

A Spiritual Battle