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Showing posts from January, 2010

Is an Intelligent Church a Questioning Church?

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Some readers of this blog and others who know me, probably know by now that I am not a fan of one-size-fits-all programmes, whether they be about church growth, personal development, community engagement or anything else. One of the reasons for that is that I am increasingly convinced that such programmes over-value the product over the process. In their original context they probably worked because the process was one which took the context into consideration, but care must be taken when employing such a programme that they are appropriately tailored for a new setting... Better still, learn from the principles of the programme but develop something much more organic in situ. You don't have to reinvent the wheel, and perhaps (as I have done) can use off the peg programmes for specific short-term goals, but don't forget that the long term journey is a vital part of discipleship...
Which brings me to the book that our church book-group has been looking at since before Christmas.…

Stomp! Reaches the Parts Other Shows Haven't Bin

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I grew up in Belfast in the sixties and seventies... so I was familiar with all sorts of drumbeats by the time I moved to Edinburgh in the mid eighties... I had even had experience of dustbins and bin lids being used as percussion instruments in the West Belfast Hunger Strike protests... But at the first Fringe Sunday I attended I was blown away by a group of guys from Brighton known as "PookieSnackenBurger", who were a dance/druming act using dustbins. Later I had the privilege of teching for them at the Lyceum as part of the Pick of the Fringe event for Amnesty International... Soon after they were behind one of the best-remembered Heineken ads... But they themselves never became a household name...



Fast-forward fifteen years and a show which had been the BIG thing in London, was now touring the world. My wife and I tried to get tickets when we were in Paris for our 10th Anniversary, but no dice... 5 years further on we tried when on our anniversry trip to London... but agai…

In Emergency: Blog

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Rarely in the time that I've been blogging, and even before that when I was merely a spectator in this weird and wonderful virtual world, has one subject so dominated the blogsphere for so long a time... Haiti... I posted my own semi-coherent rant last week prompted by Pat Robertson's nonsense... But one week on from the disaster the flow of words continues... So I thought I'd just point you in the direction of some of the more interesting ones I have come across... You might have already seen them, but maybe not...
Going back to Pat Robertson's pronouncements on Haiti's pact with the Devil, well that has been both refuted and nuanced in great detail (according to Franklin Graham he "miss-spoke"), but for my money the best response came from the pages of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, which posted a "Letter from Satan". A more cerebral response was the BBC's "Why does God allow natural disasters?" where they unleashed tame …

Who Would Jesus Shoot?

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I thought I had seen it all but a headline on my RSS newsreader on my phone at lunch made me think I had misread it... But when I got home and checked the news online, no, the headline was correct... "Gunsights' biblical references concern US and UK forces."
Read the story for yourself if you don't believe me, but essentially what is happening is that "Trijicon" is a company which supplies gunsights to the US and British military, and because the company was founded by a "devout Christian" and claims that it runs to "Biblical standards", they have been inscribing Biblical texts, including "2COR4:6" and "JN8:12" (both of which refer to God/Jesus as light - very appropriate on a gunsight which lauds its "self-luminous Brilliant Aiming Solutions™") in raised lettering at the end of the stock number.
Of course this is raising all sorts of issues in the US as regards the separation of church and state, and the thou…

God of the Car-Crash, Cancer and Earthquake?

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When I was at theological college, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, we lily-livered Arminians shared many of our classes and spent most of our week with our Calvinist friends in the local Presbyterian Theological College, a relationship which has only recently been terminated to, I believe, the detriment of both denominations. While I was there many of my Presbyterian colleagues would have regarded Calvin himself as "unsound" they were so roundly reformed... This resulted in some (generally) good humoured banter, and with the exception of the annual football matches, relationships were fairly good. In Old and New Testament classes you could see that many of the Presbyterian students were more conservative, if not fundamentalist than we Methodists (but we had a few people in that grouping ourselves). In systematic theology I heard enough about Calvin and Barth to do me a lifetime... apparently Arminians never write theology! But it was in practical theology that you real…

Commission and Commands

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I never cease to be amazed by the fact that even after years and years of studying the Bible that I can come back to a very familiar passage and find something that is blindingly obvious, yet I have missed it for years... Perhaps its just that I am stupid, but if I am I believe that I'm not alone...
I had one of those moments earlier in the week looking at Matthew 25, but I have had another this morning with the latter part of Matthew 28... the so-called "Great Commission", beloved of any minister wanting to stir up his congregation to evangelism... It's not something brand new, as I've been turning these ideas around and round for years, but the pieces of the jigsaw just seemed to fit together this morning in an "Aha!" moment... It may be obvious to to you, but pity one of our heavenly Father's slower children...
I was looking at it, partly as a more in depth look at Matthew in the light of my reflection earlier in the week, partly in preparation for…

Who are the Least of These?

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Now those who know me, either in the real or the virtual world, will probably have guessed by now that I am a constant advocate for Christian social engagement and social justice, and one of the Biblical passages that I often refer people to is Matthew 25: 31-46; what some people refer to as the parable of the "Sheep and the Goats", but is actually a reference to some future time of judgement when Christ will divide the nations as if dividing "sheep and goats."
However, after reading the exegesis offered by "Chaplain Mike" over on iMonk today, I'm not so sure that I will use this passage to the same ends again. He argues that "the least of these brothers of mine" is actually a reference to the church and that this is a parable concerning the judgment of the nations in relation to how they responded to the message and needs of the church. Given the likely context of Matthew's Gospel, which, many suggest was written to a Jewish Christian gr…

Normalisation Continues...

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Didn't see the Spotlight expose on the Robinsons last night, or rather didn't hear it as it was on screen but muted in the background of the pub I was in for a weekly quiz in Mrs. Robinson's constituency... Certainly not much support for her there... Indeed most of the team names (including our own I must confess) showed a certain delight in her discomfiture...
I intend to watch the programme when it is repeated at 2.30pm this afternoon on the news channel... But am frustrated again that this story is shoving into second place in local news the injury and attempted murder of a Catholic police officer by a car-bomb probably planted by dissident Republicans.
My reading of the material this morning has not shifted my opinion from yesterday that the media, in this case BBCNI, knowing its audience, has used the sex scandal as a hook to hang this whole thing on. There are important issues in play here regarding the use and abuse of power and influence, but the thought of a 59 year…

Normalisation of Northern Irish Politics

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Let me make this clear from the outset... I'm not a fan of Mr. and Mrs. Robinson; he represents the constituency that I currently live as both an MP and an MLA, while she currently represents the area that I work in at a council, assembly and parliamentary level, and I have encountered them numerous times in numerous settings since I was at school. It's not primarily the brand of politics that they represent, but the manner in which they have tended to conduct themselves in the past, including, particularly on her part, a very vocal profession of faith whilst showing little public grace. She has, I will admit done some impressive work for local constiuents, but even in that I would, at time have been critical of how she has gone about that.

In the past week, however, I have had to rethink my attitude to them and to politicians in general. First came Mrs. Robinson's announcement that she was standing down from political life because she was struggling with mental illness, or…

Welcome to 2010

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I wrote this for broadcast on Downtown this morning, but anyone who heard it either didn’t get much sleep last night, or else they were only just going to bed at the time… But increasingly I come across people who take no part in New Year's Eve festivities, but simply go to bed as normal on the 31st of December, and wake up at the normal time in a brand New Year…
And there is a fundamental question at the back of that: what’s the big thing about a change of year?
So often I hear people say, with a heartfelt sign, that they’re glad to see the back of the previous year because of the tale of woe that they experienced during it… yet the truth is that disaster and woe cannot be corralled by calendar months or years... but neither are God’s blessings to us…
Throughout the Christmas season, in songs and readings we repeatedly hear Jesus being described as “Emmanuel” which means “God with us.” But that doesn’t just apply to this time of year... To high days and holidays… it also applies to …