Category Archives: anglican

Quote on ministry

A quote that I liked from John Pritchard’s book, The Life and Work of a Priest.

“Success and Failure isn’t the right language. It’s the direction of gaze that matters. A wise spiritual guide siad to me “Ask for the gift of prayer. The request is always granted.”

We could say, walk towards the light. This is a much better indicator of doing the right things than any head counting could be.

What is the point of Sunday services?

Josh Harris has written a little book on commitment to the church called “Stop Dating the Church”. One of the chapters is about the Sunday meeting – how each member of the congregation can get the most from it. Here’s the gist of the chapter.

“Sunday is meant to be packed with promise, full of surprises, pulsing with life”

Sunday is the Lord’s Day

  • Jesus stepped out of the tomb on a Sunday and has “owned it uniquely” since then. For the first time ever, death and sin were beaten.
  • Through all our worship, Jesus is with us. Therefore it should never be routine.

Before the Service – Warm up

  • be well rested
  • read the Bible on Saturday night so that the ‘word can dwell richly’
  • Avoid unnecessary distractions on Sunday morning (such as the news, housework, internet, video games)

During the Service

  • Remember that we are part of to a family, not an audience to the church leaders
  • Focus on the truth of what is being sung, and the character of God, not our own feelings
  • Worship includes listening to the sermon. Listening expresses the authority of the word of God. The burden is on the congregation to listen (although that is not an excuse for poor preaching).
  • Take notes to help you remember (use whatever form of notes are most useful)

After the Service

  • “Come on the lookout for God, leave on the lookout for people” J Piper. Look out for new people or those you don’t recognise and welcome them.
  • Use the remainder of the day to rest and ‘stock up spiritually’ for the week. Ask yourself the question “How could my family and I invest joyfully in all of Sunday in a way that truly celebrates God’s love and presence in our lives – and helps us carry this celebration over into the rest of our week.”
  • Review the your sermon notes so you can take the things that God was challenging you with into the rest of the week.

Overall, remember:

“These are my blood-bought brothers and sisters in Christ. We are his church, His people. We are here this morning to proclaim His work in our lives. We are here to give witness to the world of His great love and power and glory.”


Those are Josh Harris’ thoughts, which certainly make a good place to start discussion, although I might quibble with some of his suggestions in the chapter.

My very-initial thoughts on what is the purpose of a Sunday church service, in no particular order:

  • to worship God
  • a chance to stop and listen to him
  • to hear the Bible read and preached
  • to break bread together as we remember Jesus
  • to receive ‘food for thought’ from others (congregation and preacher).
  • it is the ‘church gathered’ – the family of God, and therefore is an expression of his love
  • to encourage one another in the faith
  • it is an opportunity to reflect and address our lives, week by week, and make a change through confession, and through the word of God applied to our lives.

The Lambeth Conference on the Colbert Report

There’s a suprisingly informative and very funny video report on the Colbert Report about the Lambeth Conference and the current crisis in the Anglican communion. I love his sense of Catholic superiority.

Sadly I could get the vieo to embedd, so you’ll have to follow the link.

Weekly roundup – evangelism

Scott McKnight makes some good points on evangelism in post modern society, from two books he’s read including James Choung, who I wrote about earlier.

Time magazine has an article about what evanglicals beleive in America at the moment. They claim that increasing numbers no longer beleive that Christianity is the only way to God.

There is lots of stuff going on in the Anglican Communion at the moment, with the GAFCON meeting in Jerusalem and the lead up to the 10-yearly Lambeth conference. One blogger sums it up clearly and humourously here.

An over-zealous Christian out on the streets misses the point of the gospel

Mission Shaped Questions (iii)

I’m currently reading through the book Mission Shaped Questions, edited by Stephen Croft.

In chapter 6, Graham Tomlin opens by asking the question, should the church transform culture. The usual quick answer is yes. Behind this answer lies work done by Richard Neibuhr – the idea that fiath should engage with a particular culture to transform and change it. However, one can’t help but say that and have in the back of your mind all the times when the church has had power over culture and has either wasted it or done terrible things.

In the opposite corner is a church that does not try to transform culture, but simply builds its own (based on work by Stanley Hauerwas and John Howard Yoder). My first reaction to this was that it was stupid. Hasn’t the church been doing that for too long and in the process become irrelevant? That is not what they meant.

Tomlin claims that the main aim of the culture of the church is to bear witness to the kingdom of Christ in the world:

“Church is intended to be a place where we can catch an echo, a glimpse of the kingdom of God, in which God really gets his way. Church, of course, is not the same as the kingdom, but it is to point to it, to embody it, to identify it, and the demonstrate it for anyone to see” (p69)

Out of church may (should?) come Christians who are able to influence culture positively (such as the Clapham sect who helped to end the slave trade), but the mission of the church is not that. It is to demonstrate and live out the kingdom.

So, when thinking of fresh expressions of church or new congregation plants that seek to engage with particular aspects of our fragmented culture, the task for a church is to find the values and practices that most effectively express the culture of the kingdom to the society we’re in. This calls us to be relevant as well as faithful; to express the culture of the church in accessible and appropriate ways.

Some of the values that Tomlin pulls out (from Eph 4:24-32) as important to the culture of the church are the ones that develop real relationship and community, such as truthfulness, generosity, compassion etc. The values to be avoided are those that promote ‘personal empires and conflict’. For example in a culture where consumerism is rife, a culture of generosity might be one of the virtues that a new church strives for. Where there is a lot of aggression and violence, church should promote and practice love for enemies, peacefulness etc.

Tomlin also promotes the use of disciplines to help these virtues and aspirations become a regular reality rather than an occasional good moment. He does give examples but stresses that the disciplines should be contextualised to the target culture, so to stand out and have a good effect.

This was an interesting chapter. In the course of setting up a fresh expressions it is all too easy to go in gung-ho for the target culture and forget some important parts of Christian living. The Church is called to have a mission to express a kingdom that is contrary in many ways to how this world works. A church which doesn’t do this (like MeChurch) can simply become no different to the surrounding culture. This will neither be attractive nor useful. Equally, however, a church must be serious about engaging with the world so to live out its ‘kingdom’ culture in a way that is understood and accessible to the people they are trying to reach.

Mission Shaped Questions (ii)

I’m currently reading through the book Mission Shaped Questions, edited by Stephen Croft.

In the second chapter Martyn Atkins asks the question, what is church? What is its essence? What attributes are important?

He begins:

“The church has no essence ‘in itself’ as it were. Rather, its essence necessarily derives from the Christian Godhead, and therefore the nature and life of the Church is created and configured by the life and character of the Christian Godhead. To use theological shorthand, theology – read mainly through the lens of missiology – produced ecclesiology, rather than vice versa.”

This observation of Atkins is freeing for the church when coming to think about what is important in church congregations and fresh expressions. If the essence of the Church is tied to who God is, then the purpose and work of the church must be tied to those things God sees as important. The church is involved in the mission of God (missio Dei). The fact that the Church is derived from God means it must be contextual – fitting into the culture it is set in. Atkins doesn’t spell out how to do this, instead he delves in more depth into who God is and what His mission is. And it seems that Jesus talked a lot about the kingdom. A right understanding of the nature and consequences of the kingdom can help us understand what church should be about. It enlarges the vision beyond just evangelism and conversion.

“Sharing with God in bringing in the kingdom involves every facet of human life, the whole of life, in all creation.”

Near the end of his chapter Atkins looks very briefly at some of the defining practices that have been common to most churches throughout history and fresh expressions in particular. He sees sharing bread and wine to be important in remembrance of Christ, whether informally or formally. He states that most Christian groups baptise people upon initiation – sometimes in fonts, sometimes in rivers, seas, or swimming pools. Nearly all churches take hospitality and community seriously (the ones that don’t tend to diminish).

It is not a surprise that the aspects that Atkins has picked out can be seen in abundance in the New Testament.

one final quote:

“The challenge of fresh expressions in a mised economy for most of us lies not so much in a refusal to inhabit these practices per se, but in accurately distinguishing between these practices and the [existing] structures and rules in which they take place, especially when [these rules] seem to hamper rather than enable participation in the missio Dei”

Mission shaped questions (i)

I’ve just started reading Mission Shaped Questions edited by Steven Croft, the follow up to the report ‘Mission-shaped church’ brought out by the Anglican church a few years ago in the UK. It examines the beginnings of the Fresh Expressions movement which seeks to create fresh ways being/doing church which are culturally relevant. I thought I’d blog my way through it.

In the first chapter, the editor Steve Croft, who also heads up the Fresh Expressions movement gives an overview of the aims of the movement and the types of church that it was intended to create.

It is based on the premise that the church must become a ‘mixed-economy church’ because we are living in a mixed economy culture. That is – society is becoming fragmented and there are now a lot of different forced at work. In some places community is still based around a geographical location, such as in some villages or some areas of cities that have a firm identity. But increasingly, community is networked. That is, it is based around an activity, interests, age, ways of thought, and others.

“British society is becoming itself more diverse. This means it is no longer enough to imagine that the Christian Church can change in one particular direction (such as introducing guitars or informality into its worship) and so move with the times. That may appeal to some, but it will alienate others. Different parts of our culture are actually moving in different directions”

So diverse forms of mission and worship need to be developed that are in tune with the surrounding (sub?)culture. The church is now aware that one weekly service cannot appeal to everyone – fresh ways of proclaiming and living out the message need to be found for different groups.

But at the same time, the fresh expression of church needs to be based on something. In the Anglican Declaration of Assent, which all newly ordained ministers have to proclaim, it says:

“The church of England…professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation”

The basis of a fresh expressions must be the gospel, set out in the Bible and creeds. This is foundational, but how you then express this is up for debate. These gospel foundations can then be contextualised (not changed, but proclaimed in a relevant way) for the culture.

Steve Croft goes onto say that the Fresh Expressions network is dedicated to creating churches. It is not about evangelism as a stepping stone into an existing Sunday congregation, but to create new forms of church which are accessible to those who currently are not a part of any church. This may take many forms, such as reclassifying a midweek lunch club for the elderly by adding a community emphasis and some form of worship. Or it could be something much more innovative, such as the TubeStation, a church to meet the needs of the surfing community in Polzeath, North Cornwall. Because of this, Croft emphasises that service and discipleship must be founding marks of any fresh expression.

I visited the TubeStation a couple of days ago, albeit on a day they were closed to make adjustments to the interior. It is set in an old Methodist church which was practically dead. They gave the building to Christian Surfers UK who have turned it into a very welcoming skate cafe. Where the pulpit and communion table used to be there is now a skate ramp. The rest of the room is fitted out as an interactive cafe, serving good drinks and some food, with free Wi-fi, comfy chairs, and video games. This helps to build community. Out of this they can offer some well-tailored worship, informal chats and discussions. Looks great and it is attracting people who might never go into a more formal service, but still have a desire for God.

Brentor – a stupid place to build a church?

A few days ago I visited a church near the village of Brentor in West Devon. It is an old church, roughly 12th century, and nicely built, but it was built on the top of a tor – a hill with a rocky top to it. It is very exposed and not easy to get to.


My first reaction that this was a stupid place to build a church – in a very inaccessible place on the top of a hill, well outside the village. The path up to it is dangerous in bad weather and even in good weather it restricts many elderly people from getting there.

It’s location means that they currently only have one service a week between Easter and September, and even then only when it is not raining. A couple of centuries later they built a ;chapel of ease’ another church in the village which could serve the needs of the community more adequately – even the locals seemed to agree that is was a stupid place to build a church.

Brentor view

That is, if you want to use it as a parish church. As we climbed up the hill we found that its exposed location led to a wonderful view. We had a great sense of being away from the noise of the roads and towns. When we went inside and looked at the visitors book, it was full of comments about how peaceful it was, and how people came back again and again to enjoy the presence of God. Perhaps, as a parish church it is in a bad location, but this church no longer exists for that.  Do we not need places of silence and peace to think about God and pray, and to enjoy the fine views of his creation? Perhaps I don’t stop often enough to do this!