What Would Jesus Blog?

Tag: Church

Thesis

by on Nov.07, 2010, under Digital Eucharist?

For anyone who’s interested, my MA thesis can be downloaded here: Digital Eucharist. Plan is to blog my way through the research I did for it in a slightly more accessible format than a 15k word PDF :)

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Just Fair Laughs

by on Apr.10, 2009, under Uncategorized

My first night back in Kendal for Easter and I went down to Bamber Bridge with a friend and a few of his family to a Methodist-run regular comedy night called Just Fair Laughs. It was a great evening – my first beer in a long time, good company, a fantastic laugh and plenty to discuss.

We didn’t get a chance to thrash it out properly, but we did start a discussion that relates to my dissertation work – I’ll post something about it over on my dissertation blog soon. The question was – is Just Fair Laughs church? There were no hymns or a sermon and there was beer so obviously it wasn’t going to be anything like traditional church, so there was hope for it. People were meeting and interacting so there was community happening all around us – and a church is a community that’s part of God’s wider community. I argued that church needed to be intentional – it needed to set out to be church, with everything that means – teaching, worship, fellowship, everything, rather than set out to be a comedy night. My friend argued that intentionality in that sense meant institutionalisation, and that church was wherever two or three gathered together. Of course, he’s right – but so am I.

The difference comes down to semantics, mostly – but that’s not a bad thing and it’s helped to clear things up in my mind. To state the obvious, ‘church’ isn’t where you go or what you do for an hour on Sunday, it’s all gathering with others in the name of Christ (Matt 18:20). So from that point of view, yes, Just Fair Laughs is church. But also, church is more than just two or three gathering – it’s two or three supporting each other, encouraging each other, fellowshipping, teaching, serving each other. And by that definition, Just Fair Laughs neither tries to be nor is church. I came to the conclusion that JFL is part of church, and is a ministry. On its own, it’s not enough to disciple people, but it’s a way in which the church serves, befriends and becomes part of the community. And that’s worth every penny.

The proof is in the pudding, as they say. I’m told that the organiser, who is a Methodist minister, had journeyed with loads of people through tough times who he’d never have met if it wasn’t for JFL and that people appreciate a clean comedy night. Looking around I saw groups getting to know each other and I felt that if I’d been there on my own, I’d have left with a couple of new friends. Maybe no-one’s come to faith through it, maybe no-one will. But when the church is seen as the overbearing morality police, it’s good to know that it’s working where it’s meant to be – at a grassroots level, making people laugh, bringing joy to people’s lives and being there with them when they need it. As the world’s becoming more and more about me and I, it’s up to the church to show that it’s about us. And have a laugh while we’re at it!

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!AUDACIOUS CITY CHURCH

by on Feb.08, 2009, under Uncategorized

Yes, there’s a reason the title’s all in capitals! Cat and I went there this morning…it was an experience to say the least. Both of us left feeling really stressed, myself rather disturbed, and both partially deafened…yet at the same time I couldn’t help but see God doing cool stuff.

We must have shaken about five hands on our way to our seats, but I’m afraid to say the welcome ended there – barely anyone around us talked to us and all the regulars were up the front. Can’t blame the church for that though, I’m sure I’ve cold-shouldered a few people at Reach over the years. The service started with a rather cool video and about 30 minutes of very high-energy sung worship incorporating equally high-energy prayers into a very professional outfit – with plenty of space down the front for a mass of jumping bodies. A very long church notices followed, and the rather cool !A-TV – a five minute video with the latest news. There’s certainly plenty going on at that church – the booklet about it was several pages long and includes loads of interest groups, hang-out-in-coffee-shops groups, small groups, training, prayer sessions, youth stuff, a church plant the other side of Europe and all kinds of cool things.

The sermon was, well, an experience. This guy shouted at us with great passion and zeal for about 45 minutes about how we are made in the image of God and we should start acting like God’s respresentation here on earth. Great content, good exegesis, and even I only found a few minor things to pick him up on theologically, and they were certainly open to interpretation. He just shouted. Continually. We closed with a song and quickly made our exit….the traffic noise of central Manchester suddenly was as silence to our ears!

It was very, very slick – too much so IMO. It was far too programmed for my liking – certainly we should give God the best we can but I’m not convinced that slick programming is his idea of the best. The people there obviously love God and the church obviously sustains them so it’s doing great work – and it’s odd, I love loud gigs but maybe I’m just getting old and found this morning’s experience too much loud and too much going on to feel I could ever be at home. Plus, above anything else, it just didn’t feel right. Not like ‘Satan is in control’ not right but ‘This isn’t where I’m meant to be’ right. That settled it – I guess reach will always be a kind of home to me. Doesn’t help Cat though – her search continues!

(Techie note – if you ever feel the need to put every single aspect of your work through a compressor, resist. They’re great for a lot of things but having spent two hours listening to finely compressed loudness I found myself crying out for some dynamics! And yes, that’s why the title’s in CAPITALS – it really was church out loud!)

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Life is a dancefloor…

by on Jan.07, 2009, under What Would Jesus Blog?

Or rather, the life of the people of God is much like a Shakespearean play – at least in one of the illustrations I’ve used in this essay I’m working on. I have no idea who first introduced me to this idea but I absolutely love it and I think it fits really well.

Think of the life of the people of God as if it were a Shakespearean play that is missing its fourth act, and we are filling in the gaps with our very existence. The first three acts are known – the characters are laid down, there’s more than enough in the Bible and in the testimony of literally millions of Christians over the years to have a good idea of who God is and how he reacts when his people do all kinds of horrible stuff against him, and good stuff for him. The final act is known – although not all New Testament eschatological writing is about the apocalypse by any means – and we know how it ends, new heaven and new earth and all that.

So what does this mean? Instead of rulebooks and lists of dos and don’ts (which many of today’s churches often make implicit rather than explicit – I hate it!) we need to put ourselves, both individually and corporately, in the place of an actor playing the part of the Christian in that fourth act. Does what we do line up with what God has praised in the past? Are we the people God wants us to be? Of course not – but the closer we get to God, the more we know and love Him, the more natural playing his supporting cast becomes. This isn’t a new idea at all – but one that we need to consider before we go on our next witch-hunt.

Incidentally, I went to see Yes Man with Mike the other day – it’s a great film, very funny but there’s one scene a few minutes in that I think really sums up the approach to evangelism that far too many churches take – Jim Carey’s character gets converted to this life-changing ethos by being publically humiiated, shouted down and pressured into accepting, but then doesn’t have the understanding of the concepts required to live it properly. I just can’t help but think of seeing people give their lives to Christ at rallies and the like and the church not being ready to disciple them properly – and comparing their testimony to that of people who got in with groups of Christians and over time saw a difference in them, and then accepted it for themselves. No judgement here on which is better – both bring people to Christ so both are good but I think they present different challenges that churches just aren’t ready for.

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Full Metal Jacket

by on Dec.03, 2008, under What Would Jesus Blog?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I love Full Metal Jacket. It’s (for me at least) Kubrick’s finest work and it’s just so refreshing to see a film that has no happy ending, that doesn’t end happily ever after and is just so meticulously constructed that you can’t help but marvel. There aren’t many films that I can watch as many times as I’ve watched FMJ – if I had the cash I’d probably have the collector’s edition box set by now. Real life doesn’t end happily ever after, most of the time (eschatology aside) and it’s fantastic to watch a film that acknowledges that.

It’s where The Matrix Trilogy let me down. The first film was great – the second two were interesting but they left too much unexplained and yet explained away too much too easily. Honestly, I wanted to the trilogy to end with the destruction of Zion, the recreation of The One and it could be a fantastic example of how institutions can create diversions that avoid real change. If your boss shouts at you for being 5 minutes late in for work, for not putting the new header sheets on your TPS reports and asks you to work every Saturday, you get mad at him for that, and don’t spend your time getting mad about the wider injustice in the company, how it’s headed for moral bankruptcy or how just how meaningless your job really is – this makes you a more productive employee because your boss (usually subconciously) has controlled your anger.

The church does exactly the same thing – people come up with entirely new ways of doing church and feel that they need funding (sometimes true, although often a myth perpetuated by the institution), so they turn to the churches who welcome them, provide for them, nurture them…and leave them in the corner as a Fresh Expression to be looked at and referenced ad nauseum at Synod. Don’t hear what I’m not saying – I’m not saying that all Fresh Expressions are wastes of time, that we shouldn’t explore new ways of being church or that everyone in the church behaves like this. It’s really not the people – it’s the institution that we’ve inherited. So if you’ve got a great idea about church, pray about it and consider carefully how you should proceed – if you need a church to back you then that’s fine, but often you don’t so don’t be afraid to go for it with your two or three gathered. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll show the institutions that God works outside of their walls – and that they could learn some lessons from the ecclesiological equivalent of the little children….

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