Reconciliation

I have been away on a ‘Conflict Transformation’ course with Bridge Builders Ministries. In the opening session, one speaker made the point that the local church is to be a model of reconciliation, because that is core to the Gospel. Instead, we go to one of two unhealthy extremes: either we pretend that conflict doesn’t happen, or we fight badly. It is no good pretending that the New Testament church was all sweetness and light, but they found ways to reconcile their differences, as in Acts 6 and 15, among other places.

So – are our churches models of reconciliation for the world to see? If not, then what needs to change in our culture, our attitudes and our behaviour?

Is Faith Opposed To Science And History?

Faith

Faith by Lance Ulrich on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Many people would answer that question with the word ‘yes’. Someone once said that faith is believing in something you know not to be true.

But this is terribly wrong. Faith is not proof, but it is believing because there is enough evidence on which to base a relationship of trust. The Christian apologist and theologian Alister McGrath (himself a former atheist scientist) has said that neither religion nor atheism can be proved, but the issue is which provides the best explanation of life.

The God: New Evidence project has put together various video series about the consistency of scientific evidence with belief in God, and the evidence in history for Jesus and the Resurrection. Have a look at their website here and see what you think.

Whole Life Discipleship

The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity promotes a notion of ‘whole life discipleship’ if we are to engage the world (including our working lives and leisure times) in Christian mission. Much of it comes under their ‘Imagine‘ project.

Here are two videos from many that they post on YouTube under their ‘liccmedia’ account. In the first, Mark Greene critiques the sacred/secular divide:

In this second video, Neil Hudson asks how we can use the time we spend at church to influence the time we spend outside:

Imagine On The Road is coming to St Andrew’s Church, Goldsworth Park, Woking, on 22nd October. You can book here.

Welcoming And Inviting Churches

A few years ago, the Church of England produced a course called Everybody Welcome, which is available from Church House Publishing. Knaphill Methodist Church in our circuit has run the course.  The material starts with the contacts we make outside of the congregation, and gradually focusses in on Sunday worship. The video below contains samples from the course:

But is it enough to be welcoming? Ask any church whether they are welcoming, and they will say ‘yes’. Michael Harvey, the founder of Back To Church Sunday, says we need not only to be welcoming, but also inviting. He has written about nine reasons why we don’t invite our friends to church. Do you recognise any of these? What do you think we should do about them?

Engaging With Culture

South Austin Museum of Popular Culture by Beth (mirsasha) on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

South Austin Museum of Popular Culture by Beth (mirsasha) on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

When Paul went to Athens and spoke with people about the Gospel, It is clear he understood the local culture and related the Good News to it. (Read Acts 17:16-34.) He knew their poetry and philosophy, for example.

Similarly, we need to understand our culture today, if we are to share about Jesus Christ in a relevant and meaningful way. The journalist and poet Steve Turner gives ten reasons in his recent book Popcultured why we should take popular culture seriously in our mission:

1. Many Christians wrongly think that faith and popular culture have nothing to do with each other;

2. People often make popular culture with the intent of altering perceptions;

3. Popular culture is a great gift to us and we should take it seriously;

4. Christ is the Lord of all of life;

5. Most of us spend a good proportion of our lives having our thoughts prompted by popular culture;

6. Popular culture can be a useful barometer of the spirit of the times;

7. Popular culture shows us how our contemporaries are thinking;

8. Unless we first pay attention to popular culture, we have little hope of influencing i;

9. God can address us through popular culture;

10. People who don’t accept spiritual realities are responsible for most of the serious thinking about popular culture.

What do you think of these reasons?

And if you accept Turner’s argument, where might you go for worthwhile Christian input to help you? He lists various books and websites, but one he misses – especially for UK Christians – is Damaris. They have been at the forefront of relating the Gospel to popular culture (especially films) for over a decade now. You might like to check out their website.

The Power Of Story

This video is not explicitly Christian at all, but consider the points it makes about the power of story, and then think about this: not all Christians can handle the data and the logical arguments for faith, but we all have a story. And stories have a powerful effect. Does that say something about the importance of telling our story of faith (our testimony)?

Food Banks

Jo Playfoot

Jo Playfoot. Photo by Rebekah Faulkner.

No-one can miss the rise of food banks in the UK in the last couple of years. Christians and others feel conflicted about them. There is a concern to feed the hungry (certainly a Christian calling), but also a concern to ask why they have sprung up (a social justice issue). Certainly, government ministers find their existence awkward.

The Runnymede Food Bank has been running from the premises of Addlestone Methodist Church since February 2012. Run under the auspices of the Trussell Trust, and led by Beacon Church Runnymede, a few Methodist members help support it. One of them, Jo Playfoot, writes:

I became involved in  the Food Bank right from the first talks  with Trussell Trust members in our Church hall at Addlestone.   I find  it easy to relate to parents who  do not know where  the next meal will come from to feed their children, because there was a time in my life when I was in the same position, I know that mums go without just like I did.

Basically I am there to safeguard our church and offer cups of tea and coffee but it is a lot more than that, we also offer prayer this can be a touchy subject, so we offer to pray with people before they leave  or we pray for them in our prayers at the end of the Food Bank session.

I have prayed with many in the 2 years we have been open.

Recently one lady who did not need food but needed someone to pray with her just came in when she saw our church door open.

Even last Sunday a man who had been to Food Bank for food came into church just as we were about to sing our last hymn., he looked upset and very worried so I asked him if he would like to sit quietly on his own and pray he replied  “I don’t know how to pray, but will you pray for me?”

So, sitting in God’s house, I prayed for him.

You see our Food Bank does not only offer food to sustain the body, but prayer to sustain the spirit.