Links from the world of Christianity & Theology

Some interesting links from the world of Christianity & Theology:

One in five Brits do not know Jesus Christ born on 25 December, study finds: Report that a study has found that one in five British people do not know that the birth of Jesus is celebrated on Christmas Day.

Church of England trains leaders to help deal with terror trauma: Report on the Tragedy and Congregations project to help churches respond to the impact of tragedies through training ordinands in good practice, reflection and personal resilience.  One of my old lecturers, project director Professor Christopher Southgate, from the University of Exeter, is quoted.

Cassock chasers and compromised clergy: A response to abuse in the Church: blog by Dean of St Paul’s about Safeguarding and how the Church should respond better to survivors.

Oldest complete Latin ​​Bible set to return to UK after 1,302 years: the oldest complete Bible written in Latin, Codex Amiatinus, one of the great treasures of the Anglo Saxon world, is to return to Britain after more than 1,300 years. It will be lent to the British Library for a 2018 exhibition, Anglo Saxon Kingdoms, by the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence.

Public trust in priests has fallen to an all-time low: how do other professions compare?: Report that public trust in priests and clergy has reached an all time low, according to figures from Ipsos Mori’s long running Veracity Index. Of 988 adults polled, 65% said they trusted priests to tell the truth in 2017, down from 69% in 2016.

Christians are deemed to be dangerous, says Tim Farron: Report on a speech given by former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron at the annual lecture of the think tank Theos.

 

Children’s & youth work links

Links from the world of children’s and youth ministry:

How do we help young people to pray?: Joel Goodlet has written a great blog on the need to stop sending out the invitation to ‘try prayer’ and find a way instead to encourage our young people to devote themselves to prayer.

Hugh Hefner Wrecked My Life. . . Sort Of. . .: Walt Mueller blogs on the cultural impact that Hugh Hefner had.

If you have not read the Nashville Statement, please don’t: Steve Holmes nails it, on how the Nashville Statement is framed to try to make us take sides, and the loudest responses have been similarly framed.

The Annual Bullying Survey 2017: the fifth and largest edition of our yearly benchmark of bullying in the United Kingdom. Ditch the Label, the anti-bullying charity, surveyed over 10,000 young people aged 12-20 in partnership with schools and colleges from across the country.

Regular Energy Drink Use by Young Adults May Hike Risk of Substance Abuse: A new study by University of Maryland School of Public Health researchers suggests young adults who regularly consume highly caffeinated energy drinks may be at risk for future substance use.

Our Greatest Christmas Hope

Nancy Guthrie:

Our great hope is not just going to heaven when we die, though that is so wondrously good. But God has much grander plans. Our great hope is that Christ will come again, not as a helpless baby in a manger, but as a magnificent king on a throne—a king who will be close enough, and gentle enough, to wipe every tear from our eyes. He will personally put an end to everything that has brought his people pain. He will “raise the sons of earth” by transforming “our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21) to live with him forever on a gloriously renewed earth.

The wonder of it made the herald angels want to sing. And as the wonder of it begins to sink in, it makes us want to sing, too.

Read the rest here.

Oasis College to no longer recruit undergraduate and postgraduate students

oasis-college-tweet

I was sad but not unsurprised to hear that Oasis College will no longer be recruiting students to their undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

You can read Adrian Smith’s statement (College Principal) in full here.  Here’s some key parts of the statement:

Unfortunately Oasis College has also seen a steady decline in students, despite having a positive recruitment strategy in place, supported by staff and resources. We have failed to recruit our minimum target of students for a number of years. Consequently this has put a stress on the financial resources available and as a result, the College Board has had to re-consider the future direction of the College.

In the light of the financial implications specifically brought about by low recruitment levels for the current 2016-2017 academic year, the decision was taken by the College Board to no longer recruit to our undergraduate and postgraduate courses. In practice this means that no new undergraduate and postgraduate students will commence studying at Oasis College.

Oasis College will still seek to provide short and continued professional development courses for the foreseeable future and will continue to recruit for these courses.

Changes to the landscape of higher education always made this likely.  Ever since the development of higher fees for undergraduate degrees through the Higher Education Act 2004 universities funding has become increasingly consumer driven.  The top Russell group of universities are able to fund their budgets through a combination of high students numbers willing to pay the higher fees (now £9,000 plus inflationary increases) and large research grants.

For smaller colleges or departments it is impossible to compete because the research funding has often been cut in the more specialist areas not linked to industry (which Brexit will potentially only make worse by losing more EU funding) and they are not able to attract sufficient student numbers to balance the books.

What this means for the future of youth work and youth ministry isn’t clear.  The sector itself is much smaller, but with fewer teaching and research institutions, representing a narrower brand of youth work I don’t see this being a positive step.

 

 

 

 

Enabling Church No Limits conference

no-limits-header

An Enabling Church conference from Churches for All

An event full of ideas & inspiration for all who work with or support children, youth & families plus anyone with a passion to see the abilities of everyone recognised.

Although primarily aimed at both volunteers and professionals working in children, youth and family ministries, those working in a more general pastoral capacity would also find the day to be helpful and inspiring.

enable-church-conference-no-limits
When: 
Saturday 12th November 2016 • 10am – 4.30pm

Where: Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, London

Cost: Early Bird Price £20, From 8th October £25.

Contact: enabledchurch@gmail.com

Book: http://enablingchurch.eventbrite.co.uk

Assistance: If you need assistance with booking or accessibility advice call 01372 749955 (Through the Roof)

Download: No Limits flyer (PDF)

Follow this link for the Conference Programme

Download: The Conference programme

Follow this link for Workshop info

Follow this link for Speaker Biographies

Why God Might Not Have Plans To Prosper You And Keep You Safe

jeremiah-29-11

Martin Saunders has written a brilliant article on how too often we misinterpret Jeremiah 29:11 – instead we need to understand that God “doesn’t promise we’ll all get rich, and he doesn’t promise that life is going to be easy. His plan is so much grander than that.”:

It’s one of the most popular verses in the Bible, bringing comfort to millions every day. It’s a wonderful, warm sentiment, which has spawned a veritable industry of bookmarks, posters and mugs. It is pinned to refrigerator doors all over the world, a source of daily encouragement that ‘God is in control.’ Most Christians will know it well:

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

There’s an awful lot of truth in this verse. God is absolutely all-seeing; he knows everything that has been and that will be already. He certainly has a plan for the world, and our privilege as his followers is to experience and join in with it daily. He definitely promises us a hope and a future. But that’s not really what we read into that verse, and it’s not really what it’s saying, either.

Go read the rest of Martin’s article.

YLG2016: Lab Session 2

The third Lausanne Young Leaders Gathering is happening in Jakarta.  YLG2016 is a gathering of 1,000 younger leaders from over 160 countries who will connect, pray, and discern together God’s leading of their generation for his global mission.  It’s a privilege to be here and to share my notes from the 2nd Lab Session with you.

Churches are notoriously slow at planning. Planning in churches often seems to be done backwards – looking back at what you did last year. You get constrained by history. Other organisations such as relief organisations are much more reactive and can find it challenging to plan in advance.

 

The questions on service and value need more time than we have available here but do take them and continue to wrestle with them.

 

This template is based from a friend who led planning for a complex large organisation. It is key that if you’re not clear what your purpose is – not what to do you want to accomplish in life – but a 3-6 months time frame of what you want to accomplish and why. For example, in October I want to come back to Indonesia to celebrate my birthday. The “what” is in Indonesia, the “why” is my birthday, the “when” is in October. Then in Priorities I find out it takes 6 months to get a visa so then I either have to go somewhere else for my birthday or go to Indonesia later on.

 

The timeframe can then cause problems, especially in a large organisation or if a committee manages you. It is important that we have a timescale to make things more concrete, but it can be adjusted.

 

Either leaders end up with 50 items to do or you assign it someone else in a large organisation. What does it look like to have 3 priorities, e.g. travel arrangements, visa, and what activities I want to do. Which of those is most important, in this case 1 or 2. Under these big buckets you can then chunk down such as airfares, other connections, buy a new suitcase. If I can only do one, what would help me get started and keep me on track?

 

Focus on the purpose statement and the 3 priorities in your groups as there may be some divine appointments with resources and experiences others can share.

YLG2016: Lab Session 1

The third Lausanne Young Leaders Gathering is happening in Jakarta.  YLG2016 is a gathering of 1,000 younger leaders from over 160 countries who will connect, pray, and discern together God’s leading of their generation for his global mission.  It’s a privilege to be here and to share my notes from the 1st Lab Session with you.

 

Churches are notoriously slow at planning. Planning in churches often seems to be done backwards – looking back at what you did last year. You get constrained by history. Other organisations such as relief organisations are much more reactive and can find it challenging to plan in advance.

 

The questions on service and value need more time than we have available here but do take them and continue to wrestle with them.

 

This template is based from a friend who led planning for a complex large organisation. It is key that if you’re not clear what your purpose is – not what to do you want to accomplish in life – but a 3-6 months time frame of what you want to accomplish and why. For example, in October I want to come back to Indonesia to celebrate my birthday. The “what” is in Indonesia, the “why” is my birthday, the “when” is in October. Then in Priorities I find out it takes 6 months to get a visa so then I either have to go somewhere else for my birthday or go to Indonesia later on.

 

The timeframe can then cause problems, especially in a large organisation or if a committee manages you. It is important that we have a timescale to make things more concrete, but it can be adjusted.

 

Either leaders end up with 50 items to do or you assign it someone else in a large organisation. What does it look like to have 3 priorities, e.g. travel arrangements, visa, and what activities I want to do. Which of those is most important, in this case 1 or 2. Under these big buckets you can then chunk down such as airfares, other connections, buy a new suitcase. If I can only do one, what would help me get started and keep me on track?

 

Focus on the purpose statement and the 3 priorities in your groups as there may be some divine appointments with resources and experiences others can share.

YLG2016: Evening session: Our True Story

YLG 2016

The third Lausanne Young Leaders Gathering is happening in Jakarta.  YLG2016 is a gathering of 1,000 younger leaders from over 160 countries who will connect, pray, and discern together God’s leading of their generation for his global mission.  It’s a privilege to be here and to share my notes of Tracy Trinita, Nick Hall and Ravi Zacharias from tonight’s evening session with you.

Tracy Trinita

How do we communicate the Christian faith to a generation who is easily bored, and pursue happiness through looking good, who are often lost in the kingdom of money, experience and fame, how do we share the gospel in a world of instant gratifications?

 

There is no simple answer to these questions.

 

One potential answer is speaking true stories.  Stories have the power to open up minds, and breakdown barriers.  Every culture loves stories, but not every story is true.

 

As someone who was bullied for being tall and having a funny name I was thrilled when I became a model.  But I realised that money and fame made no difference.  Started shopping around the world religions.  The Christian faith had something different.  The more I read the gospel the more I realised Jesus was not boring.  I was showered with genuine love by Jesus who died on the cross for me.

 

Years gone by since joining God’s mission I’ve spoken with lots of young people, especially in Asia.  Listening to the angst of a girl in Japan who wants to commit suicide, looking into the eyes of a girl in Hong Kong who has to get straight As, a girl in Cambodia who desperately wants white skin, a girl in Shanghai who is exhausted from trying to please her parents.  They are young in age, but tired and old in souls.

 

Many of the young people can relate to my story they are pursuing happiness in ways that do not work.  I can chat, share the gospel and pray to close with these girls.  The tears shine in their eyes and I know Jesus has come, their life will never be the same again.

 

We all have a unique story to share about what Jesus Christ has done, we al have the Holy Spirit to guide us, we have resources to equip us.  1 Corinthains 1:6 it is the Lord that makes it grow.  Let’s plan the seed of the gospel and water it with true love and compassion.  We know God will make it grow.

 

Nick Hall

The time is now.  The time is now.  The time is now.  Does anyone believe it?  Is anyone excited tonight.  Of all the time in history God placed you in this moment, on the edge of the commission being completed in our lifetime.

 

1974 two gatherings – the first one was a gathering in Lausanne, as leaders met to commit together resources, partner together to share the Gospel.  We are sitting here because of that evening.  Tonight I want to propose we use events in public places.  The other gathering was in South Korea in 1974 of young people called Explode as 300,000 young people gathered.  A catalytic event for the church in Korea.  No matter what time zone your body is on, God’s time is now!

 

5 years ago we had a passion that we would take a message across the USA.  Started in North Dakota, the place where no one is from.  The place where no one belongs.  God gave a message offering a reset to young people.  To start again, to move passed errors, and to get it back to the way it was created and designed for.  As we looked at our generation we saw God created us to work in a certain way.  We are fearfully and wonderfully made but so many of our generation don’t know what it means to live out your life for Him.  Jesus came and offered this reset, and so we felt a need to share it across our country.

 

We want the largest places in our culture to be full of people.

 

Coca Cola in 100 years has evangelised the world.  Which of our nations does not believe in Coke, is not selling Coke, does not have it every restaurant, bar and café.  Their product is for everywhere, not just for small gatherings – which is why they are on every stage and platform.  Do we believe our message is for everywhere or do we just believe it is for the small places.

 

We want to fill the stadiums and the classrooms, the villages and the cities.

 

All the time people say events do not work, but ironically they say it while they are at an event!

 

Habakkuk 3:2

Stand in it

In awe of it

Renew it

 

Lord would you renew it in our day, and so we booked the National Mall in Washington DC for Jesus.  People said we were crazy, I don’t want to be normal, I want to be sold out for Jesus.  We had 500,000 young people come together.  But the key to any event is the send off.

 

We have filled the mall, now let’s fill them all.

 

Ravi Zacharias

I graduated alongside Alexander the Great, you’re inviting young leaders, but to try to persuade Nick is difficult.  I told him that August is my writing month but here I am.

 

Acts 24 would love to see an artist capture it, what an incredible moment.

 

He shook and trembled, whether or not it was a sense of fear, the power of what he was listening to.  All along his goal was to trip up the messenger as he could not contend with the truth.

 

1974 Lausanne: the words of Os Guinness :

 

“Why is there such constant disparagement of the mind? Why so much appeal to the emotions? Why so little content presupposed on which to decide? Why all the talk of “souls” and so little talk of whole people? Why the obvious exploitation of the testimony of the famous? Why is it so often a case of the most simplistic the message the most sophisticated the techniques? Why is there the need for always being bigger and more successful? Why the creation of Christian “celebrities” and “one man denominations”? Why the unconscious manipulations or the open fraudulence in public appeals for money or in prayer letters?

 

…Part of our failure to get thinking people to take the Gospel seriously is born of a credibility gap. We claim Christianity is true – a claim which is awesome by contemporary standards, but then we whittle down our claims by the patent incongruity of our practices of the truth. The way we operate speaks louder than what we say. Without the practice of truth, evangelism is in danger of becoming a giant institutional mouth or as E.M. Forster dismissed it scornfully, “poor, talkative, little Christianity!”

 

How do we bring what one startling coalescence of contrarieties?

Here we are making a choice in one of the most powerful countries ever. Rome is no less significant and clever than the original story.

 

He found a point of reference

He talked to Festus about righteousness.  What is it about the listener where you can find a point of reference?  At the time arguing from Causality was a strong argument, now they will laugh at you.  So then we always assume intelligence.

 

Moral reasoning

There is one argument that they all use now, trying to eliminate the ultimate cause, designer and we wonder how we split.  Joseph Stalin killed 15 million people, he was once a seminary student, when asked how long people

 

Point of relevance

Paul was a Hebrew by birth and a student of Rome.  Night, lightness, God has caused to shine light on Festus’ weaknesses.  Our current biggest issue is pornography.

 

Pont of disturbance

We cannot win crowds.  Young people are ready to pick it up when you are.  But we have compromised the gospel so much there is no gospel left.

 

General Romeo Dare said a key government leader kept the engines running had a quick look and as he left said he didn’t know it was so bad in a Middle Eastern war zone.  You didn’t know, you can’t simply Pontius Pilate 800,0000 people.  How do you reach a place like that?  You are talking about a womb, a womb so large it will hurt.  1 pulled muscle changes how you view everything, your life is changed.  When 800,000 are killed you are speaking through gaping wounds.  The only one who can do that is for the wounded to hear a wounded saviour.  Forms can change but substance cannot change.  If you can reach the youth they are the ones who can be game changers.  I like the idea of Nick’s gatherings.

 

Wesley was in a burning house.   The family and neighbours thought he was outside, men stood on shoulders to get him, none of them knew they would be standing on his shoulders to get to heaven.  When the disciples met Paul they didn’t realise he would be writing a third of the New Testament and planting churches.  You never know what that one person saved might do.

YLG2016: State of the World

The third Lausanne Young Leaders Gathering is happening in Jakarta.  YLG2016 is a gathering of 1,000 younger leaders from over 160 countries who will connect, pray, and discern together God’s leading of their generation for his global mission.  It’s a privilege to be here and to share my notes of Jason Mandryk and Molly Wall from Operation World as they give their State of the World address.

Largest religion by country & population

Most religions still tend to be concentrated in particular regions, especially Hinduism, Buddhism and to some degree Islam.  Christianity is the most global religion, 2.3 billion Christians in 38,000 denominations in every single country, with more cultures, ethnic groups, languages represented.  It is easy to see the prayer Jesus prayed for his disciples to have unity is still as challenging as before.

 

For about 100 years Christianity represents one third of the world population.  In 1960 29% of Evangelical Christians were living in Africa, Asia and Latin America, now in 2016 it is 78%, by 2020 it will be more than 80%.  This is true not just for evangelicals but every stream of Christianity.  We see that Evangelical Christianity is growing in 1960 there were 91 million (3%) now in 2016 there are 600 million + (8%).

 

Partnership

There is a greater degree of partnership and collaboration.  This is partly due to the size and complexity of the church and mission but also an increased willingness and even desire to partner together.

 

Prayer

The global church is seeing a deliberate focus on prayer, for every one initiative you know there are ten you probably don’t know such as the Holy Ghost service in Nigeria seeing 1 million praying together, and others much smaller.  Prayer is changing the church and the world.

 

Mission

In the last 25 years more people have entered the kingdom than in any other point of history.  A lot of this has happened in the context of persecution and suffering.  In 1960 50% of the world had never heard the gospel, now in 2016 it is about 29%.  There are 600-650 ethno-languages that have not yet received any part of the gospel.  Definitely mission has shifted from the West to the rest onto everywhere to everywhere – polycentric mission.  There is also a lot more reverse mission, former receiving fields are sending missionaries to the sending countries, a lot of people trying to reach places such as London.  The world’s mission force is more diverse in nationality, location, organisations and the range of activities we engage in.

 

Global Context

The story of humanity is a story of urbanisation from the garden of Eden to the City of revelation.  From 2008 the world population shifted over 50% urban population.  Cities contain not just the most people, but influence, energy, and more.

 

Human lifespan

Human lifespan is increasing, and the birth-rate is decreasing.  By 2050 there will be as many people aged 60 and over as those aged 15 and under.  In 1980 there were 100,000 who reached the age of 100.  By 2050 there will be 4 million who reach the age of 100.  This will impact employment, retirement and pensions, medical care, but also our Christian service opportunities.

 

Population Growth

As populations of global north decline (Japan, Germany etc.), half of all population growth will be in India, Nigeria, Pakistan, D.R. Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Indonesia and Uganda.  Or in other terms half of all population growth will be in Africa.

 

Poverty

Only 10% of the world lives in ‘extreme poverty’ according to the UN.  That still means over 700 million are living in injustice, exploitation, environmental degradation.  The 62 richest people in the world own as much wealth as 3.6 billion people (50% of the population).

 

Migration

Migration factors are the tip of the iceberg of the next 40 years.  They will be the context for much of the most fruitful ministry.

 

Data

Which movie gets 7 sequels in the cinema and which one goes straight to DVD, which advertisement and posts you see in social media is decided by data.  As the volume of data increases we are relying on others to prioritise and sort this.  We are influenced by those most closely aligned to our own values which narrows our learning and prevents us from relating to those who are different to us, and so we then abuse them.

 

What does it mean to be human?

This is increasingly important to us as morals, ethics, science and technology pushing up against boundaries.  Forming a sound biblical world view and ethic is essential.

 

As we look ahead we are facing critical unprecedented change.

 

The first Human Geno was sequenced in 2004 and cost hundreds of millions and took years.  Machines can do 18,000 genos in 1 year.  Long term strategic planning is nearly impossible

 

Complexity

The world is getting increasingly complex.  It is impossible for one group to understand everything.  Increasing uncertainty as the push of a button can end the world or the release of a virus.  Our lives have never been more secure and comfortable and yet insecure.  Terrorism happens everywhere.

 

The capacity to do the most good: all these technological changes mean we can communicate the good news to more people.

 

Secularism

We hear the narrative that religion is dying out but the global statistics doesn’t show that, in 2025 around 90% of the world will be religious.  Secularism declined since the 1980s due to China and Russia.

 

Future Growth

Most future growth of the church will happen in Africa, Asia and Latin America, partly due to higher birth rates as well as large numbers of conversions.  The global south will become an ever larger majority of the church.  They will increasingly provide leadership and set the agenda for the global church.  This is delayed somewhat from being proportionally represented as Western Christianity is very comfortable being in charge.  But many current key leaders are from all over the global South: Pope – Argentina; World EA – Filipino, IFES – Chad, OMF – Hong Kong, SIM – Nigeria, Interserve – India, OM – Singapore

 

The % of unevangelised is smaller (50% down to 29%) but due to population increase it is actually 600,000 more people (1.5 billion to 2.1 billion).  80% of those working in cities live in a slum context and yet only 1 in 6 Christian missionaries work in a slum.  Rural ministry can’t be ignored yet either.

 

There are 230 million migrants (5th largest population by country size) with an average stay in a refugee camp of 17 years.  They are not camps but cities.

 

81% of the world’s non-Christians don’t personally know a Christian.  For hundreds of millions of people they are the only gospel they may encounter.  There maybe Christians in every country but the spread is very uneven 90% to 0.001% of population.

 

Our Response

It is about the tough slug of discipleship and making disciples throughout the body of Christ and the world.  We have to radically demonstrate the power and the love of the gospel.  We must do it because the King of Kings has commanded us to do it, we must obey; but we can do it as the one with all power has commissioned us to do it and therefore we can.

YLG2016: Morning 1

The third Lausanne Young Leaders Gathering is happening in Jakarta.  YLG2016 is a gathering of 1,000 younger leaders from over 160 countries who will connect, pray, and discern together God’s leading of their generation for his global mission.  It’s a privilege to be here and to share my notes of Dave Benson from the first Morning Plenary with you.

Where is here?
You wake up in your room, you are still jet lagged, trying to find the bathroom, you headbutt the wall, wake up your room mate.

 

And yet …

 

Nearly 3 years ago the YLG Planning Team could see you, from over 160 countries, united in God’s big story. This is meant to be. God sees the beginning and the end. God planned for you, jet lagged as you are, to be here. We might get lost, but God never does, God invented the map.

 

Anyone seen ‘Thank God you’re here’, the TV show you dress tem in a costume and send them through a door into a drama they know nothing about. It could be a court scene, a home, a party, or more. The humour comes as they say inappropriate things for their scene. Isn’t that like our life?

 

The world is a complex state, a drama. The challenges we face our great, poverty, pluralism, sexual redefinition, secularism and more. There is no evangelisation as usual. We must search for creative ways forward in a rapidly changing world.

 

It is tempting to simply copy other cast members, we ask ‘What would Billy Graham do?’. Even though we should learn from the past, we should ask who would Jesus Christ ask us to be for this time and this stage. A complex stage requires us to listen to the directors voice using resources such as The Mission of God by Chris Wright.

 

We can only play our part when we step in. We can only play our part in the story through creation, fall, repentance, reflection, love, reconciliation and worship as we look at the story of the mission of God.

 

Evangelisation is re-entering this ancient story, this is telling the story in fresh ways. It is glocal – global mission in a local context and flesh. If you are a white male living in the West your story is incomplete until we hear from sisters in the 10:40 window, from brothers in the majority church, from those in the persecuted church. We must act, we must act with wisdom, we must act with courage and we must act with love. Only as a great cast united in the story would we discover more of the great triune God.