Monday, June 23, 2008


Tomorrow the Wilson's will be heading off to Spain for a fortnight - I can't wait, the last few weeks have been seriously hectic! Apart from lots of family time and sampling a few fine Rioja's I'm looking forward to spending a couple of days at the ContraCorriente youth festival which will be taking place just south of Madrid. I so wish I'd persevered at my last attempt to learn Spanish but after weeks of listening to podcasts before my last trip out there I fell to pieces within about 1 minute of trying to chat to a taxi driver taking me from the airport to my hotel. One day I'll crack it though - I hate being a stereotypical monoligual Brit abroad. Speaking through an interpreter should be fun though, I'm planning on keeping my talks very visual using props and stuff to get the points across. How my story of nearly getting struck by lighting on an Indian beach will translate I'm really not sure!
The day before the Euro 2008 cup final (which I really hope Spain get to and win) I'll be taking a group out onto the streets of the town to do a bit of face to face mission with the local youth. I'll be seeing how a little idea I've used here in Manchester travels across the cultural divide. One of the challenges in short term mission in getting over the superficial 'How ya doin' and into a more meaningful conversation. It struck me a few weeks ago that maybe a cool way to get chatting to people, especially young people into the alternative scene would be to offer to do them a tattoo, with body paint. So I came up with some tribal designs and a bunch of words in gothic text and took them out to an event. It went down a storm and it was such a buzz to see young people walking round proudly displaying on their bodies words like: LOVED... CHOSEN... ETERNAL... HOPE.... It's a bit like being a hairdresser or something, they just sit there and happily chat until the job's done. The whole thing has a totally prophetic dimension too, it's a declaration of God's truth right there as close as you can possibly get. Part of me wishes I had a proper needle kit so they wouldn't be able to wash it off later! Anyway, I've had a translation done into Spanish and we're going to give it a whirl. Who knows, maybe it'll work ;-)

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Womb of Wonders

Church gatherings are a frustration to millions of people all over the world. Yes, there's millions more people who get their socks blessed off week in week out but the frustrated bunch are a sizeable contingent within the overall crowd. I think I stray in and out of both these camps fairly frequently. Most of this can probably be slotted under the broad statement often used in struggling relationships, "It's not you, it's me". But some of it isn't me.
On my journey of the last few years I've found that one of the hardest things about departing from an established form of church to try to create something new is to keep alive the inner hope that what you've glimpsed with the eyes of faith really is possible. It's really easy for the exciting newness, which will always be followed by a starker reality, to slide into an overall atmosphere of resignation. The little voice that whispers, "Actually, that thing you used to be part of, that's as good as it gets."
But I remain convinced of this: there is a point to communities of Christians gathering together regularly. What is that point? No less than this: Jesus intends his church to be a 'womb of wonders'. What I mean by that is - whenever his people gather in his name, with generous hearts, heeding the wisdom of the apostle Paul from 1 Cor 14:26, then all the potential of the resurrection morning is there too. Everyone present has the potential within them to contribute to the creation of the miracle environment. That should be our expectation. And expectation is far more than just waiting for something to happen, for some divine gift to land in our lap; God has designed us to be more than mere recipients of miracles, he has given us the potential to be initiators of new creation in the here and now.
And that’s how I'm trying to think of church, specifically in its gathered form. I'm beginning, all over again, to expect that my offering, however tentative and humble, however broken I may be, can trigger a chain-reaction. My hunch is that God is also cultivating that attitude in many others too, stirring a shared expectation that as we make our faltering efforts to show grace to one another Christ himself will rush to join in, enthusiastically pouring out his blessing amongst us.

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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Out of Sync

For years now I've been using PDAs as my second brain (some would say first brain!) A month or so ago I got another upgrade only to find out that it was perhaps a downgrade. The trouble is that it won't sync properly with my desktop computer at work. This is a nightmare for me as I'm not only always on the move adding stuff in myself, there are also 3 admin staff back at the office all with edit access too. If my desk-brain doesn't match my mobile-brain things go wrong.
Yesterday I met some great people in East London, John and Deanna Hayes, with their colleague and co-conspirator Darren Prince. They're at the heart of a global movement called InnerChange - a network with a lot of similarities to the the network I'm involved with which is called Eden. One thing struck me deeply about these guys (apart from the fact they seemed to prefer sitting on the floor to sitting on the sofa) - after decades of incarnational ministry in some of the world's poorest neighbourhoods they looked and spoke not as jaded or weary but as overflowing with hope and spiritual vitality.
And here's where we go back to the PDA and the desktop. You see, it's so easy to fall into a dualism. Ministry is one dimension of our life. Subsistence is another totally different dimension. Ministry involves the things we do for others, the things we sense to be within the sphere of our 'calling', it carries a certain attitude and outlook. Subsistence begins with the baseline of our own human needs but then ripples out to include our busyness and our relaxation, our aspirations and our anxieties. Many of us try to 'sync' these different spaces in our lives and we may do so with varying levels of success. When both sides are in harmony things feel good , there's a completeness. When the two clash there's the accompanying emotional struggle.
The thing was, when I met the InnerChange guys yesterday I simply got the sense that they don't have this dualism going on at all. They have simply found a way, perhaps by accident, perhaps by design, to live a fully integrated life in which daily subsistence weaves with devoted ministry.
John gave me a copy of his new book Sub-merge: Living Deep in a Shallow World- I'm about halfway through already, it's a really cracking read. The presence of the word merge is in the title is a big clue that these guys have really discovered something special in this area of living an integrated missional lifestyle. Needless to say I'm looking forward to seeing them again.

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Accusers of the brothers

"Your mother is a necromancer!"
It was at that point that I realised there would be absolutely no reasoning or meeting on common ground with these black-clad, finger-pointing, prophets of doom. The words were directed at one of my close friends, a colleague of the last ten years. We'd wandered over to the far corner of an outdoor youth event we put on yesterday in Manchester city centre having heard reports that some guys were handing out pamphlets dissing us as heretics and apostates. It hadn't escaped my attention that a website has been running a smear campaign against our work and I had my suspicions that the people behind this might one day show up in person. However, to finally meet these virtual personalities in the flesh was quite an experience.
Over the years I've become used to the daily grind of working in environments that are hostile to the gospel but have not really encountered any direct assault from others who also call themselves Christians. That's perhaps all the more remarkable considering the extensive networking I do within the wider church. Largely, even when I meet people with whom there is clearly a degree of disagreement about doctrinal issues there is a measure of grace evident upon which we can agree to disagree. So I must admit I was shocked to encounter at close quarters what appeared to be fully matured hatred spilling from the mouth of someone claiming to know Jesus. One of the two guys, the one who accused my friend's mum (the most faithful, saintly lady on the planet) a witch was literally shaking and trembling as he spluttered out one accusation after another. As you might imagine, after a few minutes of graciously pleading with these guys to please do something more constructive with their time we turned our backs on them and walked away.
Part of me really wants to name and shame this group but I sense the Holy Spirit restricting me from doing that so that no more fuel is added to the arson these deeply deranged people are trying to commit within God's house.

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