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Rethinking exclusivity

A Muslim man joined us recently for our regular communion service at the place where I live and work.  Which made me think hurriedly about how to do communion inclusively and build bridges rather than barriers.  I could of course simply have said “This is not for you, but you’re welcome to observe”, as indeed you might, but as part of a community that is trying hard to get along well with our ‘cousins’, I knew this wasn’t how we would want to treat a visitor.  So I improvised.

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Things Home Mission Can Learn: Religion – Part 8

This post is probably the most straightforward one in this series.

If you are trying to reach people from other religions with the gospel, it’s a good idea to learn from people who already have extensive experience in the field. Why go ahead and make lots of mistakes, when you can learn from the mistakes and experience of others?

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Things Home Mission Can Learn: Contextualise – Part 4

During our time living among the Kouya, I was regularly called on to preach in church – people didn’t really think that Bible translation kept me busy enough. It became obvious, pretty quickly, that the way I’d learned to preach in the UK wasn’t going to cut the mustard in rural Ivory Coast. The logical three-point (alliterated) sermon gave way to a more narrative form and I soon realised that I needed to be far more overt in talking about the spiritual realm – bush spirits, witchcraft etc., than I would have been in the UK (more of this in a later post).

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There are no ‘World Religions’!

Christian mission often finds itself up against ‘world religions’. We have been told, since year dot (when we were toddlers), that there is a set of eleven or so ‘world religions’, of which Christianity is one. Those who told us this, didn’t seem to have any qualms about its truth.

When we believe the above, we see mission as doing our bit for Christianity, against other ‘world religions’. When we look in the bookshops, we find lots of books on the shelves telling us about those other religions. We think that is helpful, because if we can understand them better, that should help us to convince them that Christianity is ‘better’. At the same time we wonder – if there are so many world religions; then how can we be sure that ‘ours’ is the best?

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Did you know, ‘super-natural’ is an invention of Western theologians?

I have often been struck, that in Africa we do not have a ‘supernatural’. That is, African people, Christians included, refer to things ‘supernatural’ in the same way as they do to things ‘natural’. (While the term ‘supernatural’ is used in some African Englishes, it does not mean ‘supernatural’. It is used like a euphemism for ‘God’, or ‘amazing’.)

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Call on Him

Stress, burnout, overworking… These seem to be common features of both the secular workplace and missions today.

Whilst God created work (Genesis 1:28) and commends diligence (Proverbs 21:5), we often stray well beyond that into unhealthy patterns of overwork.

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Here comes the Sun

I welcomed the chance recently to dig around and ask the question  “what (actually) is the Kingdom of God?” It’s so central to the gospel, but if we had to answer a quiz about it, what would we say? Here are five things.Read more

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Like Lambs Among Wolves….

Having read the small print would you sign up for this? Would you want your son or daughter to go? This is how Jesus describes the short-term mission trip he sends the 72 disciples on in Luke 10.

Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves…

If we are going on a short-term trip because we think it will be fun or an adventure, we are missing the point. It might be, but our focus must be on our witness and obedience to Jesus. Mission is a serious business – even short-term. These 72 were appointed by Jesus – what a great privilege and responsibility. So are we! They were sent ahead of Jesus to places He planned to visit – keeping that perspective in mind will bring a new dimension to our trip.

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I Will Tend

Let me begin with a confession, I am not very good at cross-examining the theology of the hymns I happen to be singing. Tom Wright’s wonderful book, Surprised by Hope, did leave me wondering where I had missed spotting Buddhist eschatology, Gnosticism and Platonism in some of my favourite and not so favourite hymns,  but like many others I can be sucker for a good tune disguising some ropy theology. However, this Sunday I was caught off guard singing the hymn, I the Lord of Sea and Sky. It is a great hymn based loosely on Isaiah 6. The first half of verse three goes like this:

I the Lord of wind and flame,

I will tend the poor and lame,

I will set a feast for them.

My hand will save.

At least it goes like that if you take the words from Complete Mission Praise. However, in the equally incomplete, Complete Celebration Hymnal there is a minor change, just the change of a letter in fact. Here the “Lord of wind and flame” will send the poor and lame. In the changing of a single letter the poor and lame cease to be those ministered to, to whom we are sent (chorus: Here I am Lord……I will go Lord…) and become the agents of mission. One letter turns the theology on its head and raises some helpful questions.

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