Friday, 18 December 2009

Decade Horribilis?

An insightful commentary on Britain over the last decade from Mark Greene, Executive Director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. His version of the beatitudes is particularly incisive.

Decade Horribilis

In December 1999, Britons voted John Lennon's 'Imagine' as the song of the millennium ? reflecting, perhaps, our tentative hope that the 21st century might herald a better world. It hasn't. A decade ago most of us hadn't heard of Al-Qaeda and had never lived through a financial meltdown that threatened the economy of the world. We now have. And the conditions and ideologies that led to them have certainly not been addressed.

Here in Britain, we now have the unhappiest children in the G20 (UNICEF) and the most miserable adults in Europe (WHO). And only 6.3% of us go to church monthly. I do not despair for the church - Jesus will build his church - I ache for our nation.

In Romans 1 Paul posits that the further a culture moves away from the truth about God the more decadent it becomes. In today's Britain:
  • Blessed are the brazen for they will be applauded.
  • Blessed are the beautiful of body for they will be adored.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for fame for theirs is the kingdom of Cowell.
  • Blessed are the selfish and the individualists for their ends will justify their means. Blessed are those who don't strictly believe in anything for they can dance to any tune.
  • Blessed are the drug-dealers, dream-weavers, make-over mavens and jingle-writers who help us forget our fractured hearts and our clipped wings and the echoing chasms of our souls. 
In such a culture, we have no reason to be ashamed of the gospel. In a culture of salvation by works, the good news is that God loves you - whatever. In a culture where everyone is thirsting for transformation, the good news is that if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation - reborn once and for all - with the minute-by-minute provision of the Holy Spirit to help live his deeper life minute by minute.

So then we - prayerfully, humbly, determinedly, lovingly - can do no better than seek our Master's voice for how we are to live and share this life day by day, place by place with those we have been called to serve.

After all, on the threshold of a new decade, has anyone really got a better offer than Jesus' invitation: 'Come to me all ye...'?

Mark Greene

The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity
St Peter's, Vere St, London, W1G 0DQ (t) 020 7399 9555

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Multi-site churches

Interesting USA Today article here re multi-site churches. It claims that 'Of the USA's 100 largest churches, 67% now have two or more sites and 60% of the 100 fastest-growing churches also have multiple sites.'

Tim Keller serves 4 already in New York, with plans for 6 more in the next 10 years. He argues in their favour: "The core of the multisite concept is that a church must 'reverse the flow.' Instead of drawing people to the church, take the church into their world."

Good advice on how to take criticism

Tim Keller blogs here some great advice on how to handle criticism...

Some extracts:

'The biggest danger of receiving criticism is not to your reputation, but to your heart. You feel the injustice of it and feel sorry for yourself, and it tempts you to despise not only the critic, but the entire group of people from which they come.'

' should look to see if there is a kernel of truth in even the most exaggerated and unfair broadsides. There is usually such a kernel when the criticism comes from friends, and there is often such truth when the disapproval comes from people who actually know you.'

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The Prosperity Gospel and the Financial Crisis

An interesting item in 'The Christian Post' discusses a recent article in December's issue of The Atlantic entitled 'Did Christianity Cause the Crash?' Hanna Rosin suggests that a vast and growing sector of the church demonstrably played a part in the part of the crash we know as the “sub-prime mortgage” scandal and the “foreclosure follow-up”. She argues that sub-prime mortgages were sold especially into and through many poor Latino and African-American congregations - the same churches who were being led by pastors (or Bishops or Apostles!) who teach a 'prosperity gospel'.

Many of the terms and concepts used by prosperity preachers today date back to Oral Roberts, a poor farmer’s son turned Pentecostal preacher. Roberts developed his famous concept of seed faith, still popular today. If people would donate money to his ministry, a “seed” offered to God, he’d say, then God would multiply it a hundredfold. Of the USA's 12 largest churches, the article suggests, three teach prosperity—Joel Osteen’s, which dwarfs all the other megachurches; Tommy Barnett’s in Phoenix; and TD Jakes’ in Dallas. In second-tier churches—those with about 5,000 members—the prosperity gospel is said to dominate: overall 50 of the largest 260 churches in the US teach prosperity. The doctrine has become popular with Americans of every background and ethnicity...

However many church leaders in the US take a diametrically opposite view, eg:

John Piper, very forthrightly, in this video.

Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Community Church and author of various bestsellers including 'The Purpose Driven Life: “This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy? There is a word for that: baloney. It’s creating a false idol. You don’t measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn’t everyone in the church a millionaire?”

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Bats in the belfry and pennies from heaven?

It's been an interesting few weeks in the progress towards our new church/community centre building...

Having applied for Planning Permission a couple of months ago, and perhaps surprisingly had no opposition from our (residential) neighbours, we were all set for the Planning Committee to consider our application on 10 Dec, until the Council's Ecology Unit sprung into life 9 days ago, having decided to require a bat survey of the site!

Our Architects responded remarkably quickly, with the outcome that less than a week later, the Council's recommended 'bat consultant' had carried out a survey and reported that there was no evidence of bats, and furthermore for various reasons the buildings and the trees were very unlikely to host bats! So we're hopefully back on track a month later for the January Planning Committee.

We're also coming up to the fifth Sunday when we're asking our congregation to bring their pledges towards a target of £850K - having already given £650K, and in the context of a total project cost of around £4M. As at yesterday those pledges had reached £295K, so it will be interesting to see how we do tomorrow morning where the balance is concerned! But given that less than a quarter of the church has pledged so far, the target looks within reach...

Friday, 4 December 2009

Nestlé surrender to STOP THE TRAFFIK pressure

From: Bex Keer []
Sent: 04 December 2009 14:03
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: Nestlé surrender to STOP THE TRAFFIK pressure

Christmas has come early!

Thank you to all those who are part of the STOP THE TRAFFIK chocolate campaign. On Sunday could you take the opportunity to announce the exciting developments that ….

Nestlé surrender to STOP THE TRAFFIK pressure

On Monday morning (December 7th) chocolate giant Nestlé UK will finally announce that Kit Kat is to be slave free or fairly traded from January 2010. But this good news is only partial. This is amazing news. But remember although Nestlé have bowed to pressure from the STOP THE TRAFFIK campaign to clean up their act, they will also announce that this will only apply to their ‘four finger’ product. In other words, two finger Kit Kats and all of their other chocolate products will continue to exploit the chocolate slaves of the Ivory Coast from where Nestlé source most of their cocoa.

Over the last few years thousands of churches and their members have put pressure on the big chocolate manufacturers around the world to eradicate the worst forms of child labour on the cocoa farms of Ivory Coast, West Africa where thousands of young children are trafficked, enslaved and abused to harvest the cocoa that makes over a third of the world’s chocolate.

First Cadbury, then MARS, now Nestle.

Since summer 2009 STOP THE TRAFFIK has turned the heat up on Nestlé – a global giant with a poor human rights record – and in recent weeks has launched a new and hard-hitting Christmas campaign designed to bring the giant company to task.
STOP THE TRAFFIK has learnt that from January 2010 the four finger Kit Kats will be fair trade and that this will be made public on Monday. However, Nestlé still refuse to budge on their two finger biscuits.

Steve Chalke, founder of STOP THE TRAFFIK and the United Nations Special Advisor on Community Action Against Human Trafficking says “We welcome the Nestlé announcement. We are relieved for the cocoa farmers and children in Ivory Coast. The surrender of Nestlé demonstrates that by making a simple consumer choice ordinary people can hold multi-nationals to account.”

But, he adds “Though we understand that it is hard to make all products ethical overnight, we want to see that this is more than a token gesture. So, we intend to keep the pressure on Nestlé until their commitment is global and product wide, like their competitor Mars. No chocolate should have the bitter aftertaste of slavery. Therefore our campaign continues.”


Ruth Dearnley CEO STOP THE TRAFFIK "This is only the beginning. The worst thing we can do is think that this is enough. This is a sign that our campaign is working but the chocolate industry needs to know that we will not stop until every bar on every shelf in every shop is traffik free. Because only then can we know that we are stopping the trafficking of young boys to pick the beans to feed us our sweet snack. Thank you for all you are doing. Be encouraged and be inspired. We will stop the traffik"

This e-mail has been sent by Bex Keer, STOP THE TRAFFIK UK Team Manager
t: 020 7921 4250 f: 020 7921 4201
STOP THE TRAFFIK, 75 Westminster Bridge Road, London, SE1 7HS

Friday, 27 November 2009

A great investment opportunity, where crime reduction is concerned?

An article in today's Guardian reports that 'The cost of crime related to "conduct problems" – defined by the report as problems such as disobedience, lying, fighting and stealing – is £60bn a year' and that 'Up to 80% of crime in the UK is committed by people who had behavioural problems as children and teenagers'.

In the context of the suggestion that 'A lifetime of crime committed by a single prolific offender can cost up to £1.5m', a great opportunity for churches and other agencies to make a huge difference by providing pre-school group parenting programmes and other similar early intervention programmes.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

'Humanists should be welcome on Thought for the Day – if they would only admit their own fundamental irrationality'

An interesting article by Nick Spencer in today's Guardian. He argues that 'In another way, however, humanism is deeply religious. It may not rely on revelation or the supernatural but, like any serious worldview, it does depend on beliefs and moral convictions that cannot be proved.' He goes on to suggest that (only) if those who hold such views 'are willing to abandon their fig leaves and embrace the vulnerability that goes with any religious faith position', they should be given a slot on Radio 4's Thought for the Day.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Church organizes a Halloween Bible and book burning party

Staggering to hear that churches such as this North Carolina one exist - ironically called Amazing Grace Church! And am ashamed to be included in the same "Christian" category as them. Watch the video!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

'Take my money: I don't want it'

So says Oxford academic Toby Ord in today's Sunday Times

He says we'd all be happier if we donated 10% of our income to good causes. He has no religious leanings, but in many Christian churches we're ahead of him, indeed have been for a couple of millenia, as we encourage 'tithing' of our incomes, and giving to all manner of good causes over and above that!

Saturday, 14 November 2009


Enjoyed spending an 'Agenda.1' day at the HQ of The Message Trust on Friday with some Manchester and national church leaders who are engaged in planting new churches. The Message's CEO Andy Hawthorne is a visionary pioneer whose influence has gone from city-wide to regional to national, with Eden projects now being started in deprived inner-city areas all over the UK.

Mick Woodhead from St Thomas's in Sheffield shared something of their recent history - church of 1,750, then 1,500 relocate to their central Sheffield church, leaving about less than 250, who then have grown to 1,100 in the last 6 years. Their simple vision is explained here. Mick's own story is an interesting one: had no particular Christian background but came to faith at 29; worked as a BT engineer for the next 20 years, then went to train as an Anglican vicar at 49; his first posting was to a dying church that he was supposed to close, but instead it flourished!; he then joined the leadership team at St Thomas's, and when Mike Breen reloacted to the US, became the Rector, with the church then growing by over 400%.