Sunday, 31 January 2010

LifeChurch Manchester does 'missional'

'Missional' is the latest buzz-word in many of the recent books about newer church models and styles. Isn't that what all churches through all time were supposed to be, one might ask! See here for an extended discussion of how 'missional' is being most commonly understood. Our local missional pastor Nick Matthews explains that it's an emphasis less on our church's seating capacity and rather more on our sending capacity.

There's undoubtedly an increasing emphasis on being missional in many UK churches. For example at LifeChurch Manchester we've started having a 'missional Sunday' 6 times pa. This morning for example we featured City Centre Ministries, which is run by LifeChurch members Steve & Irene Brown, and serves the homeless in Manchester.

At LifeChurch we are excited to either operate as one of our ministries, or closely support an increasing number of ministries or charities which are led by or involve one or more of our members. Thus we've previously run missional Sundays focussed on the following:
Christians Against Poverty
Hope for Justice
Compassion UK
Fit Lives

and in future we may also focus on:
Rhema Theatre Company
Eden Eccles
The Gideons   
Rob & Marion White
Crossroads Counselling Service
Our workers in Uganda and India and the indigenous works they're serving
Our 6 mission teams that were launched in October 09

Friday, 1 January 2010

Tim Keller's 'The Reason for God'

I have just finished reading the excellent The Reason for God by Tim Keller, which made no.7 in The New York Times' bestseller list in March 2008.

Tim Keller founded Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, and 20 years on it has a congregation of 5,000. Named one of the Top 25 Most Influential Churches in America, Keller’s ministry is notable not only for winning over New Yorkers who are sceptical to faith, but also for its missional approach, planting more than 100 churches though the Redeemer Church Planting Center*. In an article entitled The Smart Shepherd, Newsweek refers to him a “C.S. Lewis for the 21st century”. It describes the setting in his church thus: There's nothing sexy here. There's no rock band, no drop-down theater-size video screen, no 100-member gospel choir—just a few chamber musicians and a couple of prayer leaders to help the congregation along in its hymns. The crowd at Redeemer Presbyterian is overwhelmingly young, single, professional and—for lack of a better word—sober.

The Newsweek article concludes with the following para:
Like so many New Yorkers, Keller is a misfit. He's a megachurch pastor who doesn't like megachurches. He's an orthodox Christian who believes in evolution. He emulates the Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards and loves a good restaurant. He's an evangelist who relishes the power of doubt. New York is the perfect home for such an idiosyncratic Christian....

In The Reason for God Keller makes an intellectually compelling case for God and the Christian faith, drawing on material from literary classics, philosophy, anthropology and a multitude of other disciplines. In the first half of the book he addresses the 7 most common objections to Christianity that he has heard from many Manhattan sceptics:
1. There can’t be just one true religion
2. A good God could not allow suffering
3. Christianity is a straitjacket
4. The church is responsible for so much injustice
5. A loving God would not send people to hell
6. Science has disproved Christianity
7. You can’t take the Bible literally

In the second half he turns to an examination of seven reasons to believe in the claims of the Christian faith:
1. The clues of God
2. The knowledge of God
3. The problem of sin
4. Religion and the gospel
5. The (true) story of the cross
6. The reality of the resurrection
7. The dance of God

I commend the book to believers and sceptics alike. In the words of Tim Challies, author of a more comprehensive review: Believers will rejoice in a book that carefully and patiently answers the objections of their skeptical friends and does so with grace and in a way consistent with the Bible. Skeptics will see that even their skepticism is founded on some kind of faith and will be challenged to discern those underlying beliefs. May this book convince us all that we can believe and can believe reasonably, even in this age of skepticism.

* The Redeemer Church Planting Center site links to an interview with my friend Leonardo De Chirico, who relocated in 2009 from Northern Italy with his wife and family, in order to plant a like-minded church into central Rome. They moved from Ferrara, having planted a new church there - now led by my friend Paul Finch.