This rapture thing has got me in a bad mood. It has been fun to take the mickey out of Harold Camping and his crazy eschatological maths but a serious point needs to be made.
He makes us all look stupid.
By “us” I mean Christians. Christians across the planet who have no idea when Jesus plans to come back because Jesus himself had no idea as to when he would come back. Did any of the disciples or apostles spend hours working out the maths of Jesus return? Nope, they went on mission like he might show up at any point.
What frustrates me most is that we are now on the defensive. We have to explain that no we do not believe the rapture (whatever that is) will happen on May 21st and no the Earth won’t be destroyed sometime in October. In a nation that views the church with crushing indifference we could really do without having to defend ourselves against this rubbish.
Anyhoo, I have a Superman suit to put on. If this rapture thing really happens then I am not going to pass up an opportunity of flying in a Superman suit.
Something I have come to love about Manchester is how some of the local churches relate to each other.
Long before I got here the churches who were involved in student work in some form met together to pray for and encourage each other. This group welcomed me in with a great deal of grace and patience. I turned up in their city making a bunch of noise and it would have been easy to tell me to sit down, shut up and show some respect. They didn’t do that, instead they invited me to join them on a mission that some of them were decades into.
On friday a few of these churches organised an event called the Gathering. It is a simple event, we turn up, eat popcorn, worship God, hear some testimonies, pray and then we eat a heart stopping kebab afterwards.
The day after The Gathering someone described some of the churches involved to me as “CCMs Competition”. I suppose in some way that they are our competition but I found myself defending these churches and explaining how much I love the guys involved and that I genuinely want them to be successful and rejoice in how well they are doing.
Dave Capener posted this today about a Christians tweeted response to the Death of Osama Bin Laden. I like what Dave wrote as the Christian twittersphere and blogosphere has been troubling me lately.
We have been incredibly quick to jump up and down on the death of another human being. By all accounts a particularly nasty human as they go but it is not our job to rejoice in anyones death or to loudly speculate as to whether they are in heaven or hell.
Dave also points out how Evangelicals are currently very quick to aggressively smack down anybody who dares disagree. The treatment of Rob Bell is an obvious example. Some very prominent Evangelicals were super quick to slap Bell around for thinking differently to them. (Dave calls them “Evanjellyfish”. I am stealing that and pretending I invented it)
I am all for disagreement, debate, argument and standing up for your position but do we have to look and sound like socially incompetent religious nutters while we do it? Clanging cymbal anyone?
I never met him (I have always wanted to) but he had a profound impact on my life. His book “The Cross and the Switchblade” and then Run Baby Run, which was written by Nicky Cruz who became a Christian in “The Cross”.
David’s story started in 1950s New York with God calling him to work with gang members. It is an incredible story of the gospels relevance to the most broken and lost people. Murderers, prostitutes, and drug addicts. Their own parents hated them and yet David Wilkerson found a way to bring the gospel in a way they understood.
Anyways, The Cross and the Switchblade put in me a desire to live in a city and work with the poor. It made a 10 year old boy sit up and look around at his comfortable background and feel profoundly grateful. That story also made me want to do something. I had no idea what that something was but once that desire is there it is hard to shake off. Thanks David.
Phil is a good friend who is brighter than me and I called him into CCM, and CCM:City in particular, because he talks and writes about issues that very few church leaders (especially in Newfrontiers) talk about. He has thought carefully about living generously, simply and with a clear understanding of what consumerism does to us.
He challenged us about how we view our possessions, our attitudes to money and our attitudes to the poor. In the best possible way, I felt challenged and a little guilty. Personally, I realised that I whine about money. I whine about the amount of money I do or do not have and I whine about the amount of money CCM has and does not have. Lets not be naive, we are not rich but we do have all the money that God has allowed us to have. Therefore I choose contentment.
Contentment does not mean an end to faith or prayer but it does mean a beginning to trusting God and an end to whining.
Anyhoo, Phil is off to Sweden in the summer to plant a church in Stockholm read his blog.
He also played us this video –
Well, for the first time CCM:City bounced. I mean we really shook the room last night. The band were really very good indeed and are beginning to move towards the sort of sounds that we need to see Manchester changed.
Sonically it would have killed my Granddad and it even made me flinch a couple of times as I was stood right next to a speaker, but the guys rocked hard. It is also worth noting that God happened to be in attendance as well. I always get nervous that I will end up with a church that sounds and looks good but which God doesn’t show up to because he thinks it is rubbish/pointless. Anyways, last night God represented and did his thing. I fear pointlessness.
I remember as a teenager in early 1990s Bedford we would go to the Kings Arms church on a Sunday evening (nothing else to do in Bedford apart from going to church – I do not miss that town). The church was, at the time, led by David Stroud and was reaching a bunch of 18 – 30s who were really quite a broken bunch. All I remember is watching worship that was passionate, and broken people falling to pieces and God putting the back together again. Every Sunday evening.
Even as a slightly stupid 15 year old these experiences had an affect on me and these memories resurfaced a few weeks ago and I wonder if we may be going in that direction. Manchester is a messed up (and beautiful) city. Please God.
I have been brewing this blog for a while. It is one of those opinion posts that I sometimes live to regret.
Multi-cultural worship is something I hear Christians talk about a great deal. On one level I think the idea is awesome and on another level it kinda bugs me (something that bugs me? Surprise!).
At CCM we have a very ethnically diverse church. We have people from Poland, Nigeria, Italy, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Sudan, the UK and a whole bunch of places I cannot remember. We often try to Worship in ways that reflect the culture of all the different nationalities, although everybody is keen to worship regardless of cultural or musical genre. So we use a few different languages and try to be imaginative where we can. Our worship leaders and musicians work hard and I am a big fan.
I am a big fan of churches adopting musical styles to meet the cultural needs of different ethnicities that may be represented in the church. If it helps them feel like they are valued members of the community then I am up for it. I can almost get my head round using styles of worship to reach out to ethnic groups that aren’t currently part of that church, although if that ethnic group doesn’t even exist in the churches locality I am not sure what the church is expecting to happen.
However there seem to be very few British churches who talk about using different styles from within our own culture. There is little use of music from popular (or unpopular culture). Is this due to the fact that the worship leadership scene is dominated by the white middle classes, and is also largely male and middle aged? Or is to do with the fact that church leaders feel uncomfortable pushing there worship leaders to view musical styles as a mission opportunity?
More to follow…
Running The Chapel has thrown a number of very talented people in our direction. It seems that every week I get to meet someone who does or can do something very cool.
So today I hung out with a drummer. A very good drummer.
We spent a bunch of time talking about music as we both have similar taste. Anyways, he helped me clarify a little bit more what I want The Chapel to be about. I want Christian musicians to be in bands with Non-Christians, because they love music and because the love mission. The Chapel could help support them in what they do by organizing gigs, publicizing there work and hopefully putting them in front of people. Also, and most importantly, we can support them. We can help them to live Godly lives whilst playing Punk, Death Metal, Jazz, Drum & Bass, R&B, Soul, Hip-Hop or (God forbid) Acid Jazz.
A Christian artist creating culture in a Non Christian scene could and should be very influential and incredibly missional.
So drummer dude, if you read this, go join/start that band. You will be a missionary.
So I preached last weekend! Now the dust has settled in my mind I can say I am quite pleased with how it went. Especially when I remember my last attempt (train wreck…). If you care you can down load it from the churchcentral website. (Hover your mouse over “resources” on the top right of the tool bar then click on teaching centre. My preach is called “walk, talk, fight”.)
One post that interested me was around the subject of student discipleship. He suggest that students often don’t get properly looked after by their church, that they are told to go and evangelise but no attempt is made to plug them into church.
The challenge is to have students who are properly plugged into church, whilst at the same time living lives of mission on campus.
Unfortunately the balance is hard to find. Some students get into church, Christian union, Christians in sport, Christians in art and a whole bunch of other stuff. Before they know it they don’t know any non-Christians and live life in the bubble of Christian culture.
Some others spend all their time with non-Christians, refuse discipleship and end up slipping away into sin.
The students that thrive are those that love Jesus, love church (the people, not the time and place) and are passionate about mission. The rest just argue amongst themselves.
The answer to these problems is a healthy church that gets hold of students, disciples them, plugs them into the church community and challenges them to live a missional life.