empowered by the spirit for mission

Should We Observe Lent?

Lent resources are popping up all over the place on Christian sites at the moment. This season is now under way. Our church doesn’t do Lent so things like this still feel very new to me. For a few years now, on and off, I’ve been following the church calendar in my Bible reading programme. I found a book Ancient Future Time by Robert Webber, which aims to introduce the church year to a new generation of evangelicals. Reading it gave me the idea of incorporating into my Bible reading, the lectionary – the plan of Sunday Bible readings that is traditionally used in churches.

I can fully understand those who might cock a snoot at the traditional calendar, especially when some churches follow it too rigidly and it is associated with routines that some find boring. Yet now I find the lectionary is something that I love to dip into and explore. I like Jonny Baker‘s phrase: that he thinks of traditions like these as a ‘sort of dressing up box’. I am finding the church year gives a rhythm to my devotions that I can use and enjoy as much or as little as I want to.

Lent is about a lot more than just ‘giving something up’. But it is not to be approached legalistically. I don’t believe that we have to pray, read the Bible, give or fast at Lent more than any other time. But I think there is something powerful when the focus of our Bible reading becomes more communal. I am finding that Lent is giving me an opportunity to join in with the devotions of many other Christians across the world as I dip into these resources during this season.

What do you think?

Further Reading

When I originally posted this three years. Scott Lencke suggested this link:
New Covenant Lent by Internet Monk

February 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

A Theology of the Dark Side

A book review

A Theology of the Dark Side by Nigel Goring Wright is written to those who want an assessment of the doctrine of the devil and demons as taught in the Bible as it contains some good principles on in ‘deliverance ministry’ or ‘spiritual warfare’. However you may struggle with this book if you are not used to scholarly study as it quotes a number of theologians and evaluates their perspectives. Some may find some of this a little overwhelming and confusing especially since Wright often explains a viewpoint initially uncritically and later goes back to evaluate it. It certainly isn’t for the casual reader.

A Theology of the Dark Side examines the idea of there being supernatural beings existing in spiritual form from a contemporary view point. It evaluates theologians that have attempted to demythologise the spiritual realm. In doing so A Theology of the Dark Side carefully analysises Walter Wink’s view of the ‘principalities and powers’ as the properties of governmental systems. Wright sees this as a useful way of understanding how demons work but concludes that this cannot be the whole story as the Bible portrays them as having an existence beyond this.

This book warns people away from a paranoid view that sees the devil and demons behind everything that goes wrong. As such it is a much needed antidote to some charismatic practices such as shouting in prayer meetings ‘we bind you’ to supposed named demonic forces. Though Wright criticises such practices he certainly encourages spiritual warfare through prayer as well as through campaigning against injustice – encouraging Christians to be involved in politics. He also believes firmly that there are occasions when it may be necessary to speak to demons resident in individuals to cast them out and gives guidance as to how this should be done.


Further Reading

Down with the Devil quotes & comments by David Matthew on A Theology of the Dark Side

February 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

5 Missional Projects

Over the past few weeks I have blogged a series of brief case studies on five very different sorts of projects that all could be considered missional in their own ways. Here’s my recap. Please follow the links to read each one.

Sweet Notions

This is a social enterprise that collects used accessories and trains women rescued from trafficking, addiction and homelessness in the skills needed to turn these into highly stylish products.

Karis Neighbour Scheme

This is a charity that served the local community in Ladywood an area of the inner city in Birmingham that includes high unemployment and a number of refugees & asylum seekers. Volunteers take part in a number of projects such as gardening, DIY, befriending and teaching ESOL classes.

Christian outreach at Mind Body Spirit festivals

An interesting and challenging way for Christians to do outreach is to get together and hire a stall at a Mind Body Spirit festival where they can distribute literature, have some activities and also pray with people and chat about Jesus to the new-age types.

Healing on the Streets

This is a ministry with a simple pattern of inviting people for prayer especially for physical healing on the streets. They will train you how to do it and their approach is very biblical.

Reach Out Network – ministry to the homeless

A friend of mine, who is part of the same church as I am, heads up this work serving homeless people in Birmingham. A team of people regularly venture into the city centre distributing food and drink to those on the streets and run a drop in one day a week.

I trust that these projects give you some idea of the sort of things either you could launch, be involved in or give towards. I’d love to hear from you about the sort of projects you know about or are involved in.

February 14, 2012 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

Reach Out Network – ministry to the homeless

Concluding our short series on missional project Reach Out Network is another ministry that you might like to support. RON exist primarily to serve the needs of the homeless sleeping rough in and around the city centre in Birmingham and to bring God’s love into the lives of needy people. Reach Out Network touch many people’s lives each week. Reach Out Network is headed up by a friend of mine Paul Atkin. Paul is financed by individual sponsors through stewardship services. Those who sponsor Paul or who help with Reach Out Network are not limited to one church.

Tackling homelessness

Homelessness is a big problem in Birmingham and Reach Out Network is tackling it.

I have found it quite an eye opener to join them on the streets giving out soup and sandwiches, chatting and praying with some of the rough sleepers. It’s just wonderful how they create a safe place in which people are very happy to open up. Rather than expecting people to come to them Paul – as some outreaches like this do – and his team walk around the city centre and know many of the places that rough sleepers gather.

As the team ventures out into the city centre a couple of nights a week people are fed and conversations about Jesus sparked off very naturally.

Running a Drop In Centre

Paul also runs a weekly Drop in Centre that currently operates from our little church building the Ledbury Centre. As well playing games like snooker and dominoes and chatting over coffee and sandwiches there is usually a short talk with a Christian focus in the middle of the day.

I think it is amazing how a number of people from different churches are involved in this – all pulling together. Paul is part of our church but he is from a Pentecostal background.

There is quite a mix of people that also come to the drop in that they run at the Ledbury Centre. Some are members from churches in and around Birmingham coming to help, some are currently or have been homeless others just come for somewhere to go. There is a great family feel to the place and everyone can play their part.

Promoting the work through Awareness Days

Reach Out Network also hosts Prayer and Awareness Days with presentations from other organisations, giving opportunity to pray for them and the needs in the city. Reach Out Network have good links with many other groups in the city and know exactly the right place to refer people to where they will get the appropriate help. The next Awareness Day includes some will be on March 10th and includes some exciting developments.

Paul is a missionary here in the city centre of Birmingham and is well worth supporting.

Further Reading

Follow this link for further posts on Reach Out Network on my previous blog.
Ministry to the Homeless on our church website.


February 7, 2012 at 5:36 pm Comment (1)