Church, Manchester, Faith, Punk


Getting Old and Stuff

I have been pondering this post for a while and I have no earthly idea how to write it. I have always wanted this blog to be honest and open about the journey we are on as a family and my experiences in working for a church.

I always wanted be involved in church leadership. I remember being about 5 years old and deciding that I wanted to be like my granddad who led a church. That’s a bit of a weird ambition for a 5 year old boy to have but there you go.

If I am being honest that ambition did me no favours at all. Idolising church and leadership is not in anyway cool and I was deeply uncool. The good thing about idolatry is that God gets you in the end. Idols get broken. That’s pretty much all I want to tell you about that!

Anyhoo, tomorrow night I am being turned into an elder. That’s where we are in our journey right now. Apparently, in Manchester, starting a church community in a vodka bar gets you made an elder. I love this city.

My main concern is that all the elders I know cannot sing, or clap in time, and have appalling taste in music. Is this a choice they make or does it just kinda happen?


A hyperlocal city church?

In my last post I discussed the emergence of hyperlocal blogs and the affect they have had on mainstream media.

At CCM we have begun to talk about how we live as a multi site church. We have considered what our philosophy of church is, we have debated many different models and slowly we have realized that we just need to embrace who we are.

We are an entrepreneurial church. We love the new and we love to dream of the future. We are also a hard working church with many fully committed volunteers who give time, energy and money way way beyond the call of duty.

We have realized that we cannot rest on our laurels and that we must keep battling to see Jesus kingdom move forward.

We feel convicted to start many sites of Christ Church Manchester across Manchester and we want to see churches planted across the North West of England.

The sites of CCM will be focused on a locality (that can be a geographic area, a people group, a cultural group or combination of all) but will play a part in the whole city. The city church will be colored by the local and vice versa.

CCM:Levenshulme has a facebook page, a venue and a time to meet! All I need now are some people…

City Wide and Hyperlocal

At CCM we have begun to talk about how we live as a multi site church. We have considered what our philosophy of church is, we have debated many different models and slowly we have realized that we just need to embrace who we are.

So we have started talking about being a church that is city wide and hyperlocal.

Describing something as hyper local seems a little counterintuitive. It would be like describing an Ant as having elephant like properties. It is an oxymoron but it is a very useful oxymoron! Let me explain what I mean. Hopefully I won’t sound like a moron trying to explain an oxymoron.

The term hyperlocal has been stolen from the world of bloggers. In recent years modern media has experienced a seismic shift from the massive to miniscule. Blogs are remarkably easy to set up and run, so a huge number of blogs have sprung up run by individuals that focus on a locality. That locality can be a geographic area, a people group, a cultural group or combination of everything; these hyperlocal blogs are heavily influencing mainstream media.

However, it is more than that. This change has seen the democratization of news and media. People are writing about what they want to read about and other people are following, sometimes in there millions. The local is affecting the international thus “Hyperlocal”.

Hyperlocal is driven by passion, it is high maintenance but costs nothing.

How does this relate to church, in particular multi site church? More tomorrow.

Manchester – Self Harm Capital of Europe

This BBC article has genuinely ruined my day – Self harm figures set to rise in Manchester

Christians need to be careful when talking and writing about this sort of stuff. Sweeping statements and generalisations only serve to make us look ill-informed and a bit naive. So lets just say, I love my city and I sincerely hope that some of these people show up at my church.

The Chapel Changes

So recently I have been tempting you with nuggets of news. I have suggested that The Chapel is going to undergo some changes, a bit of nip and tuck.

Well from September we are going to start meeting on a Sunday evening at Luther King House while the mornings will stay at Hyde Town Hall. The evening meeting will be called CCM:City and our morning meeting will be CCM:East. The Chapel is going to morph into something else entirely.

I will unpack what these changes mean over the next few blog posts but to start with its worth covering a little bit of background that give some context to the change.

We started The Chapel in September 2009. Since we started we have seen 60 ish first time guests come along who would never otherwise heard of or have come to a Christ Church Manchester meeting. Up until March 2010 we averaged about 14-17 people on a Sunday night. Since the beginning of March we have been getting 20-25. So we are definitely getting somewhere.

We decided that the by moving to a slightly more conventional venue (the room we are using is actually an old chapel) and becoming a fully fledged site/location/campus of CCM we will be able to appeal to more people and will gain the freedom to turn The Chapel into something more outreach focussed.

I will write more over the week. Honestly, I am dead excited about how this going to work out. It feels like we are trying to be genuinely innovative in a City famed for innovation.

Feeling good about 2010?

So this morning a good buddy on mine asks me how I am feeling about The Chapel in 2010. This is a good question.

I also follow a bunch of people on Twitter who are planting churches or lead churches. These guys always seem to be relentlessly positive about how they are viewing the future of their church plants / churches!

In 2010 I am hoping for big things. I want to see God move in Manchester. I want people to become Christians. I want the sick to get healed and I want God to move into the Godless areas of Manchester (which is most of the city).

How do I feel about the Chapel in 2010? I can only be honest. I have no idea. I am totally reliant on God. All of the things I want to see happen need God. Unfortanately I cannot manufacture any of those things. If I could I would be a rich rich man!

So am I looking forward to 2010? Yes. Do I feel good about it? No, it is totally beyond my control. Am I excited by 2010? Yes. Mostly.

A broken Bible belt

I was recently chatting with a friend of mine who works for UCCF. I asked him how many Christians he thought there are at the University of Manchester (MU) and at Manchester Met (Manmet). He guessed at roughly 500. To put this in context MU has 40000 students and Manmet has 35000. So that’s 75000 in total. That means the percentage of Christians at these two Universities is 0.66%. This must make them an unreached people group! If you check out this list from the Joshua Project you will see an even stranger context! Thats right, less christians than Syria, North Korea and Cambodia.

What makes this scenario wierder still is the vast number of churches around South Manchester. Friends of mine have described South Manchester as the bible belt! In which case the trousers have definitely fallen down…

Worship music puts people off church…

In my last post I wrote about the “I’m from Barcelona” gig I went to see. I made a throw away comment about how it was more fun than any time of worship I have been in for a long time. I feel like I should explain myself a little.

I love worshipping God. I love worshipping God as part of a church. I love worship times when there are songs with fantastic theology, when spiritual gifts are in abundance, when people bravely pray or sing out in public, when the power of God moves and when, at the end, people feel a bit closer to God or have met God for the first time. I am fortunate enough to be part of a church and part of a group of churches where this is a common experience.

The music, however, drives me potty.

My dislike of the music doesn’t stop me worshiping God because the words in the songs are largely excellent and because worshipping God is a choice that feelings play no part in. (Having said that I once went to a church where the worship leader couldn’t sing, couldn’t play guitar, screamed the next line of the song like an angry monkey, the PA was clearly made by Fisher Price and the band looked utterly despondent – that put me off…). However I think we are missing a trick with the Middle of the Road soft rock we use.

Some of you may think this is a stupid thing to gripe about and, up to a point, you are probably right. However, I want to argue that the middle of the road rock/funk/easy listen that most worship leaders produce actually puts a whole bunch of people off church.

I was chatting recently to a friend of mine who is a youth worker with Kids in a deprived area of Birmingham. I asked her if she ever thought about taking these kids to Newday and she said that the music in the meetings had put them off. These kids all like hip-hop and dance. They definitely don’t like Coldplay. God could clearly meet with those kids regardless of what style of music the worship band plays (apart from Country, that stuff is pure evil) but the issue might be getting those kids there in the first place.

I would love to see churches that have worship leaders who can lead people into the presence of God using dance, trance, hip-hop, electro, punk, etc etc. I am convinced we put people off with the white 30+ soft rock that most churches use.

What do others think?

Church gets in the way of community

So the debate on community keeps moving.

Matt Hosier gets all theological on us and points out that there is community at the centre of who God is, i.e. the Trinity. He is in community with himself, father, son and holy spirit. Matt also explains that as Christians we have love and so in some ways it must be impossible for us to not live in community because if we are truly Christians we have love.

I agree with this and am grateful for the biblical anchor to this debate. However, what does this look like?

Any suggestion that all churches need to have a communal lawn mower and everybody share a large house make me want to run for the hills, on my own. I think we need to think realistically about community. Church needs to appear attractive to non Christians; a sense of community and family in a church can be a huge selling point to a non Christian. However, there must be a line where it can get weird for people.

A few bloggers have suggested that our materialistic culture is helping to kill community. They suggest that because we view our possessions as “our stuff not Gods stuff” we are not so good at sharing within a community. Maybe this sense of isolation is also transferred into our homes. So, we keep our homes as a refuge that we rarely invite others into because it is inconvenient.

I absolutely agree with the points made. However, let me suggest another barrier to community in church. Church itself. I often hear my friends (in my church and churches across the UK) tell me how busy they are “doing church”. I think we often make the mistake of viewing busy people as successful people. The more someone does at church the better that person is. This is a result of the culture we live in.

Perhaps as Christians we should spend less time on the structure of church and more time on just hanging out? Maybe that would also create more time for non Christian friends.

Community or Isolation?

It is time that I am a little honest. I am a bit grumpy. I like my space. I don’t mind other people in my space but they have to be invited by me and they are not allowed to complain about any music that I put on (obviously I am free to be rude about other peoples music when I am round their house.). So it is possible to argue that I have no integrity to blog about community in church. None at all.

Having said that we love having people round for food (my wife is an awesome cook and I love doing BBQs). Every Sunday we cook too much so that we can have new students over to help them settle into church life.

Anyway, the question I am asking is what does a community look like for a church in 21st century UK? Matt Hosier replied to my comment on his blog:

One of my great frustrations in pastoring a suburban church has been the general reluctance of those who have spare capacity in their homes to offer that capacity to other church members in need of a place to stay. We may call ourselves “Christians” but in general our attitude towards our homes far more reflects our cultures approach – “my house is my castle, my investment, my refuge, my temple” – than it does a biblical approach.

Why is that? Phil Whittal (the simple pastor – simple because he likes to live simply not because he is intellectually stunted. At least that’s what he says) suggests that laziness could be a problem:

Convenience is a huge issue, we feel the pressure of time (rightly or mostly wrongly) and therefore we need things to be convenient, to hand, in reach and instantly available. Sharing is far from convenient. It requires much more effort.

Very challenging.

A concern I have whenever I hear Christians talking about church community (especially when they want to live near or with each other) is that they really just want to keep the world out. Being with non-Christians can be challenging and so churches can create this “community” that keeps outsiders at bay. I don’t suggest they do it deliberately, in fact I have see Christians talk passionately about evangelism and then spend all their time with people from church.

My brain is whirring so more to follow…