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Before the deacons’ meeting

Two Deacons were chatting before the deacons’ meeting.

Peter: Good to see you back for a deacons’ meeting, John.

John: Yes I have been rather busy recently and haven’t been able to fit these meetings in. I hear we have got another intern starting next month.

Peter: Luigi isn’t an intern; he’s the new assistant minister.

John: Oh I thought he was a Latin American who is coming here to learn what it is like to work in a UK church.

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Holistic evangelism: What on earth is the church for?

I am angry. I have been since 6th July 1980. At times the anger has burned brightly, but on other occasions it is just sadness. Nearly 34 years later and there is still anger and sadness.

I am angry with the church. Not with any particular local congregation, but with the chronic failure of The Church – the community of people claiming to be Christians in this country. The anger is specific: it took The Church 17 years to tell me about Jesus. It was in July 1980 that I became a follower of Jesus, this controversial, delightful, enigmatic and fascinating manual labourer from Palestine.  It was then that I found I actually mattered to God, that I was loved by Him and that my life had purpose and meaning. But it took 17 years for The Church to bother telling me about this Jesus.

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‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’

Whether you are for or against ‘Brexit’, the fact is the EU has drifted from its original moral vision to put economics before values; while the Bible is clear that human existence is not just about ‘the standard of living’ but also ‘the quality of life’.

The European project has failed because it now has little to say on any issue except economics. Yet the original idea was in fact a ‘Christian vision’ of ‘theo-political imagination’ (academic Scott Thomas).

However, socialist thinkers in the European project eventually subjugated all else in order to develop policies on abortion, same-sex marriage and stem-cell research. Issues that have been driven rough-shod over centuries of Judeo-Christian values the EU project looks set to marginalise altogether.

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Global Connections conference reflections – Part 1

My role at Global Connections means that I have to be rather a conference junky. As a network we are committed to people learning from each other, and the best way to do that is to bring people together. Fortunately I love meeting new people at the many diverse events that we facilitate.

As well as the many day events, every couple of years we hold a residential conference where it is easier to spend quality time with others. This May we tried to do something different in terms of those we asked to contribute. Entitled From Where I’m Sitting we sought to explore mission from different perspectives.

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A Christian Mission Perspective on the EU referendum

We are constantly being told that the EU referendum is the biggest political decision of our generation and potentially a turning point in the history of our country. Well that may or may not be true, but whatever our political perspective, as Christians we believe that Jesus Christ, not politics, is the hope of nations.

The earliest Christians confession “Jesus is Lord” wasn’t so much a statement of faith as a defiant rejection of the supreme authority of Caesar. For Christians Jesus Christ, not secular political power, is our ultimate authority. He is Lord. His sovereignty should be our controlling paradigm for reflection on life, the universe and everything, even the referendum.

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Three young missionaries – part 2

The three young missionaries met again in their favourite noodle bar.

The Young American: It was great to hear about the growth of the church in China this morning. If the church keeps growing at the current rate, we in the US of A are going to have to look out for our status as the largest Christian nation. Who would have thought it?

The Singaporean: Well you know the saying. God must love the Chinese, he made so many of us. And now he is bringing us into his kingdom. You had better start learning Mandarin for heaven. And at least with so many Chinese cooks there we will get everlasting noodles for eternity.

The Englishman: Doesn’t the growth of the church in China now get us back to the question we had yesterday? After all, the recent growth is not the first time Christianity has had a presence and influence in China. I was reading a book recently that argued cogently for St Thomas having got to China as well as India[1]. Certainly the Syrian Christians got there during the Tang Dynasty and their message seems to have been accepted. The Great Church of the East once spread across China and into other East Asian countries, but nothing survives from that work today. Do we have any guarantee that the church in China today will continue to grow?

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Single Women & The Great Commission

Gladys Aylward, Helen Roseveare, Marjory Foyle, Elsie Maxwell … single women have always been, and probably always will be, a critical force in missions. It’s estimated that 60% of the missions workforce are single women. It’s a dynamic worth some more thought.

  1. Value. We need to celebrate the work of single women in our missions. Particularly as it will be the majority of that work! There are still conscious or unconscious biases in our society – wherein men, couples or families, may be more valued, noticed or acclaimed. And there’s probably some truth in the stereotype – that many women are less likely to push themselves forward or blow their own trumpet. Let’s encourage our single women to excel and celebrate them when they do.

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Bricks without straw – part 1

John, a new missionary, made an urgent Skype call to his Pastor

I need to talk to you. I have just had a row with my language supervisor.

What was it about John?

Well he was asking me to do something that was contrary to what you want from me as a church and I said that it was the church that sent me out and that I must obey them.

The Pastor wondered what the language supervisor had demanded that was so contrary to church policy. His mind began to speculate on various heresies that might have been urged on his church’s young missionary, but then John spoke to him again:

I’ve been told to stop tweeting, using Facebook and writing my blog. I said that you had told me that I must make sure that I communicated regularly with the church and kept in touch with all my friends if I want them to continue to support me. No way was I going to stop using social media to keep in touch with you all.

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Thine is the Kingdom?

Few would argue with the view that mission workers are sacrificially serving God.  They move far from their homes, often to work in uncomfortable, unstable or unhealthy places.  They risk health, career, family and wealth to follow their call into world mission.  Thousands of mission workers worldwide work selflessly for the God they love and the people God has sent them to.

Or is it selflessly?

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Making bones about mission

Earlier this week crowds flocked into the centre of Leicester for the triumphant  parade of the city’s victorious football team. Against all the odds, Leicester City had become the Premier league champions. When the news first broke I sent a congratulatory text to a friend in Leicester. His reply was swift, acknowledging the celebrations but reminding me that there is more to Leicester than football. I guess not all cities need to add that reminder… But I knew where he was coming from, having followed his earlier excitement over the discovery of King Richard III’s bones in a car park and their ensuing reburial in Leicester Cathedral. Somehow to me it didn’t match the wonder of the “Foxes” astonishing triumph. I told him as much. His response was that the events were connected, and, as many have noted, success of the football team seemed, along with other positive developments, to have followed the re-interment of a long dead king.

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