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Can you look your friends in the eye and say ‘I don’t care… that you reject Jesus and are heading towards hell’?

It struck me today that that can be effectively what we’re saying when we don’t pray for our friends, when we’re not intentional about looking for opportunities to speak about Jesus, or when we avoid talking about Jesus. That can be what we’re effectively saying when we don’t get to know the Bible well so that we can share the story of God with people. That can be effectively what we’re saying when we don’t have Jesus ready on our lips, when we don’t serve others because of a commitment to our own comfort…

But I imagine few of us have the consistency and integrity to actually look our friends in the eye and say ‘I don’t care…’

Obviously that’s not the only option. If we don’t want to look our friends in the eye and say those chilling words, perhaps we need to actually care about them. We need to pray more consistently and with tears for them. We need to learn our Bible, to be speaking the gospel to each other so we’re ready to speak it to others. We need to rejoice in the truth so that others hear it. We need to serve as Jesus served so they see it.

Then we can look our friends in the eye and say ‘I do care…’

Lord may this be true of me.

Just doing ‘the Open Bible Institute’ with some of our apprentices (it’s an adapted version of a TCH course called ‘Welcome to Gospel Ministry’). This is a little exercise that I found quite striking.

“Families eat together, play together, cry together and laugh together. Families provide for one another. They share something of the task of bringing up children and they look after their older members (or at least they used to). Family members do not go and join other families when they are fed up with things. Families do argue and fight, but they do not stop being families as a result – they have to find ways of working things out. And you cannot opt for another family just because it shares your taste in music or reading or whatever. When you are with your family you can take off your shoes and slump on the sofa. They provide identity and a place of belonging. Families define for us what is ‘home’.

Read that paragraph again substituting the word ‘church’ for the word ‘family’ and you will begin to get a sense of what Paul means when he calls the church ‘the family of God’ in 1 Timothy 3:15.”

This also relates to how we want to do mission. As we ‘do’ mission we are calling people to come home, to come into the household of God by Jesus’ death for them (Ephesians 2). So what we want people to see is us living in that household, that family, so they know what we’re calling them to, and they want to become part of it. Who wouldn’t want to be part of this kind of family?!

Last night we started a monthly training session for Gospel Community Leaders. I’ll post about some of the things that were taught, but this quote from Schaeffer was particularly helpful. He’s talking about hospitality but it applies to anything we’re wanting to teach others – we’ve got to model it.

Go ol’ Francis!

“Don’t start with a big program. Don’t suddenly think you can add to your church budget and begin. Start personally and start in your home. I dare you. I dare you in the name of Jesus Christ. Do what I am going to suggest. Begin by opening your home for community…

How many times in the past year have you risked having a drunk vomit on your carpeted floor? How in the world, then, can you talk about compassion and about community -about the church’s job in the inner city?

L’Abriis costly. If you think what God has done here is easy, you don’t understand. It’s a costly business to have a sense of community. L’Abricannot be explained merely by the clear doctrine that is preached; it cannot be explained by the fact that God has here been giving intellectual answers to intellectual questions. I think those two things are important, but L’Abricannot be explained if you remove the third. And that is there has been some community here. And it has been costly.
In about the first three years of L’Abriall our wedding presents were wiped out. Our sheets were torn. Holes were burned in our rugs. Indeed once a whole curtain almost burned up from somebody smoking in our living room. Blacks came to our table. Orientals came to our table. Everybody came to our table. It couldn’t happen any other way. Drugs came to our place. People vomited in our rooms, in the rooms of Chalet Les Melezeswhich was our home, and now in the rest of the chalets of L’Abri.

How many times has this happened to you? You see, you don’t need a big program. You don’t have to convince your session or board. All you have to do is open your home and begin. And there is no place in God’s world where there are no people who will come and share a home as long as it is a real home.”

I’m just listening to a talk by Dave Betts. He asks a very interesting question…

What’s the fruit of an apple tree? Think about it for a moment…

Read the rest of this entry »

I wrote this paper for a recent Northern Training Institute Seminar Day. My original conclusion is included in a footnote. As we discussed the issue a different conclusion came out and so I’ve tried to rewrite it accordingly. Any suggestions or thoughts, especially from those in the context I’m writing about, please make them!

 

Evaluate the significance of Paul Hiebert’s understanding of the ‘excluded middle’.

Introduction

This issue is of particular interest to me coming to a context in South Africa where animism or ‘traditional religion’ (a more neutral term favoured by some[1]) is very much part of the culture among the indigenous peoples. In recent years there has been a massive increase, especially in sub-Saharan Africa of converts to Christianity. John Mbiti writes: “In 1900 there were an estimated 9 million Christians (accounting for about 7 per cent of the population of Africa). This number has since grown rapidly, to the point that in 1980 there are estimated to be 200 million Christians (or about 45 per cent of the population).”[2]  By the year 2000 one statistic that was given was that there were 380 million Christians in Africa.

 
However with this massive growth have come questions about the interrelation between traditional African religion and Christianity. John Mbiti has written extensively on the subject and is a great advocate for the commonality between African religion and Christianity. The problem has come because many people have taken Jesus as Lord, but still visit the witch doctor for protection. As Bryant Myers notes: “People try to live as Christians in their spiritual life and be like good moderns in their material life, while still being bound to their animism. This explains the actions of some Christians who go to their doctor for medical advice, ask the church to pray for healing, and visit the shaman at night.”
[3]

 
What has gone wrong with the preaching of the gospel in these contexts that has resulted in such a seemingly compartmentalised life? Paul Hiebert, followed by Bruce Bradshaw and Byrant Myers argue that the problem has resulted in not understanding the worldview and context of the people the gospel has been taken to, and thus not addressing every area that needs addressing.

According to them there is a blind spot that Westerners have to a very significant area of life for many people in the world (not just in Africa). The result is that of the ‘excluded middle’. Read the rest of this entry »

My friend Stephen Murry wrote a very challenging article on his blog: http://stephenmurray.wordpress.com/2007/11/08/are-white-christians-scared/

It is worth reading and thinking about.

In it he raises the issue of comfortable ‘white’ churches in South Africa. Perhaps if you are reading this in the UK you can read it as comfortable ‘middle class’ churches in the UK. As I was thinking about Stephen’s honesty it struck me that Jesus was afraid too. As he knelt praying to his Father in the garden of Gethsemane he was sweating so much that it was like blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44). The thought of Hell that he was about to go through was petrifying…and yet he did, so that we don’t have to.

On that final day, can we look at the Lord Jesus with the nail marks still in his hands and say ‘I know you did that for me, but I was not willing to do it for you, even though what you asked was less’?

Here’s Stephen’s article: Read the rest of this entry »

Michael Tinker is a professional musician and part of the Crowded House which is a church planting initiative in Sheffield and around the world. He's a follower of Jesus, Husband, Father, member of a Gospel Community, Musician and avid follower of fashion...

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