church

Church, theology

Into The Pray – Baptism


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*This is the fourth post in a seven-part blog series called Into The Pray*

At the end of last week’s post, I asked a whole bunch of probing questions and provided the link to Bible Gateway so you could punch in the areas in question and then see for yourself what the Bible actually says, and, in some cases, doesn’t say about them.

If I was to roll all of these questions into one paraphrased version, it would be this:

Why do we do stuff in church that clearly we were never meant to do; why do we not do stuff in church that clearly we are supposed to?

Writing specifically of prayer, Mike Bickle puts it like this,

What we do negatively and what we neglect to do positively deeply affect our (prayer) lives. (Emphasis mine)

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Church, theology

Into The Pray – The Bride


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*This is the third piece in a 7 part blog series called “Into The Pray”*

Pic ‘n’ Mix

The church Mairi and I have left recently are awesome in many ways. But in other ways they are not awesome. This can be said of any church as well as of ourselves personally, so this  shouldn’t be offensive news to any of us, should it? But as a symptom of the common departure of denominational ‘church’ from Biblical truth about the Church, into a kind of blinkered brain-washing, some of you reading this will already be offended. (more…)

Church, Culture

Into The Pray – The Church


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The Revealing Spotlight of Some Might Say

I have been genuinely amazed by some of the responses to our article last week.

Some have said that Mairi and I are ‘unbiblical’. Some have said that we are selfish. Some have said that we’re damaging others and one person has even suggested we’re not saved. Some have claimed that they’re ‘praying for us’ and, literally seconds later, have decided to damn us. (I’m pretty sure the world record was set during the week for the most laughable prayer ever muttered: “Oh Jesus, would You bless Nick and Mairi in this blog series…but then again, I think they might be only after applause…so they must need telling off…they need warning…smite them, Lord!”).

It has felt like the downing of a large cocktail of sadness and bewilderment to us as, in one fell swoop, some have wanted to gather stones to smash our skulls while offering sham pseudo-prayers, as though their ‘blessings’ concealed the pile of rocks behind their back.

Welcome to the number one problem facing the unsaved world…

The Church of Jesus Christ.

Popular Assumption(s)

The immediate assumption in saying this is that we don’t love the church or recognise our own contribution to its imperfection. Or that perhaps we don’t understand the relationship between love for Jesus and love for His body. This is just silly. Is it unloving for a young person to have a conversation with their parents about why they should or shouldn’t do X, Y and Z; is it really unloving to ask some questions about why church does what it does and, just as importantly, does not do what it should? (I will get to this).

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: leaving a church, (as opposed to leaving the church), and having a pause for reflection and enquiry, is not even close to being unbiblical or unwise. If you genuinely believe that it is, you need to ask yourself (biblically) why this is the case. Why is it better to attend a church that you fundamentally disagree with rather than having some time out to seek God for a better, more authentic way forward? I had no idea that our salvation, our wisdom and our security was as frail as this tissue-paper existence, did you?

The Kingdom cf. The Church

In all honesty, I wasn’t sure how this blog series was going to take shape. All I knew roughly were the areas that I wanted to write about (the Bible, church leadership and culture, marriage, the kingdom, millennial discipleship) but I wasn’t quite sure where to start. But the comments and emails sent to us this week, both positive and negative,  have convinced me that the Church is the starting point.

Reading some of these responses has been like the sudden lifting of a ginormous red curtain on a theatre stage, revealing not a modern version of the cave of Adullam (church leaders reading this – please, this is too easy a conclusion), but a significant part of the church for whom denominational ‘expression’ is not compatible with their Bible nor with the longings of their heart for the dynamic power of the kingdom of God.

I think Mairi and I have discovered that we’re actually characters written into this play.

Have you ever asked yourself, what has what we call ‘church’ got to do with the kingdom of God? What I mean is, how do they relate? Do we even know? Why do we not even ask?

bodiam-castle-castles-united-kingdom-impressive-hd-wallpaper-142943922017

Signposts

As signposts towards this mysterious, illusive reality of the kingdom within this series, last week I promised to include weekly annotations in a notebook entitled every day is a school day. This is important because, ultimately, this is why I’m writing – to discover (and help others to discover) the kingdom of God.

This week something amazing happened:

A friend of ours, a senior leader of a church in Edinburgh, called me on my mobile out of the blue. I couldn’t take his call because I was rushing out of the house but I assumed that he was phoning because he’d seen my blog about our decision to leave our church. When we did manage to speak, it turned out that he hadn’t read my blog at all, (he hadn’t even seen it), but that Mairi and I had been on his mind and he’d wanted to call to see how we were.

Within the maze of publicity that I was already navigating, this phone call subsequently struck me as a glaring kingdom signpost: the supernatural activity of the Holy Spirit to prompt someone to go out of their way, (for reasons known only to God), at a very specific time, to reach out to two people that He’d put on their mind. I was reminded of Cornelius’ encounter with an angel as the Holy Spirit connected him with Peter in Acts 10.

Can you see the difference between the two realities that I’m describing? On the one hand, we have the hurtful immaturity of the so-called ‘brethren’ and, on the other, the mind-blowing activity of the Spirit of God. One takes life, the other gives life. One is false, the other is true. One is earthly, the other is eternal.

Resolving

This signpost underlined for us that much of what goes on within church is very difficult to resolve with the kingdom of God as we see it clearly displayed and taught in the Bible by Jesus. How can the revealed attitudes of some this week be united with those of others? The truth is they don’t relate in any way.

Into The Pray was born because it has become our concern that much of what is called ‘church’ actually does not relate in any way to the kingdom of God. I’ve touched above on specific areas that I’d like to dig down into over the five or so pieces within this series. Similarly, continuing next week, I’m going to specifically focus on why church does what it shouldn’t and, just as importantly, does not do what it should.

Church, Culture

Into The Pray – Prelude


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Raw Disclaimer

{No, I’ve not gone vegan, but I would like to issue a WARNING that this series is going to possibly offend or insult if you’re religious or blinkered by denominational or institutionalised forms of control. The aim of writing Into The Pray is absolutely not intending to insult or offend in anyway (I take the subject of the church to be almost incomparably important) but I do want to deliberately ‘shoot in raw’ without ‘editing’ in order to process as best as I can}

_________________

“Once more into the fray…into the last good fight I’ll ever know.

Live and die on this day…

Live and die on this day…”

Ottway, The Grey

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Bible, Church

The Valley of Achor


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‘…thus says the Lord, God of Israel, ‘There are devoted things in your midst O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.’

(Joshua 7:13)

It can be painfully frustrating to read through the accounts of the people of Israel. They seem to make the most obvious mistakes and at times have total disregard for the miraculous events that take place in their midst. Reading Joshua chapter 7 felt like one of these frustrating chapters to begin with but as the narrative began to unfold it suddenly felt significant and then incredibly relevant. It will never cease to amaze me how God does this time and time again through scripture. (more…)

Culture, Poverty, Theology, Welfare

Mr Cameron, Please Take Note


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According to PM David Cameron in his 2015 Easter speech that most of us have heard, the UK remains a Christian country because the government help to repair Cathedrals and older church buildings that, supposedly, represent the ‘living active force’ who are the local church.

Mr Cameron also pointed to the phenomenal welfare efforts of the church in specific terms of homelessness and poverty relief.

Spotlight on this Living Active Force

Here are just two specific examples of this living active Christian force that meet many needs in our fractured society but who are not necessarily synonymous with Cathedrals or dilapidated church buildings. (more…)

1 John, Church, Culture

Back Stories


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We all have back stories – recorded and unfolding narratives of the span of our life forensically written by the sum of our experiences: great highs, often greater lows, innumerable memories all woven together in the finest detail to create a one-of-a-kind piece of art, hanging as a priceless tapestry in the inner gallery of our heart.

We don’t always want the public to view our own piece hanging there and we don’t honour the pieces that we see of others every day.

Do we walk through these galleries we’re in every day paying cursory glances at the pieces on display? Or could we stop to really look at what we see?

A biblical perspective for back stories is a faith-primed hope of a better future – all because of Jesus: He promises to never leave us alone and in the fullness of time to make all things new.

The difficulty with back stories is that we even struggle to know and understand our own let alone those of others – they require attention, thought and counsel. But understanding and attending to our own will help with our understanding of others.

The thing is – because everyone has come from somewhere, is currently somewhere processing the past and dreaming of a future; and because they are in fact headed somewhere into an unknown place, we must treat each other with the love that John talks about in 1 John. (I won’t quote chapter and verse but how about picking up your Bible, reading 1 John and noting the correlation between our love for Christ and our love for each other?).

See what I mean?

My prayer for myself and for you is that we would draw the same boundary lines as Jesus draws: grace upon grace upon grace upon grace upon grace [until it becomes annoying, ‘unfair’, even ridiculous] upon grace upon grace. You’ll need an eraser for sure; so will I:

We all know the feeling of being found outside of the boundary lines that others have drawn for us, (even in ink), essentially leaving us in relational exile where grace has run dry; but in the power of the Holy Spirit of God we can all be prayerful students of back story masterpieces and come to truly understand that each piece really does paint a million words.

Culture, Discipleship, Theology

Ancient Missional Adrenaline


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KFC Church

When I read the book of Acts, I really want to be a believer, a lover, a follower of Christ. I’m glad to be. I’m proud to be. When I go to church, I often feel like there’s something very important missing and I can be left feeling like I do when I occasionally go to KFC for some fried chicken – i.e. I’ve just eaten a bucket of it but I want to eat something else to combat that slightly empty, greasy feeling that it leaves me with. (Not that I’ve ever been to a church that I would describe as being greasy, or ‘chickeny’).

I’ve been ‘in church’ all my life so I’m not talking about looking for the mythological ‘perfect church’. (It’ll be our wedding day when we are ‘perfect’). And I absolutely agree that church certainly isn’t all, or even mainly, about our consumption and ‘being fed’. But it is a bit, isn’t it? Even when we’re ‘self-feeders’. Believers need the gospel as much as unbelievers, surely? Pastors need discipling as much as anyone else, right?

What I am talking about is the frustrating and inadequate compromise that there seems to often be in churches who excel in one major area of ecclesiology but then struggle in others. Let me give you some examples:- (more…)

Church, Culture

Disruptive Thinkers


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turningtablesWithin your world of creativity, with something you’ve written, produced, conceived or presented, it’s good to ask “how could this be better?” rather than only “what do you like about this?”. The pathway of constructive criticism should lead to better output. Not discouragement.

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