empowered by the spirit for mission

He’s My King – High Energy Remix

August 13, 2013 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

How to Be With Those in Pain

Today for May’s synchroblog several bloggers are writing about how to help Christians know what to do and what to say when others are going through times pain or hardship.

It’s not easy finding the words for these but here are my four tips based on my own experiences:

1. Be approachable – not intimidating

dave sympathyI remember being intimidated when everyone gathered round me to pray. I’d just been made redundant. I am sure that that everyone wanted the best for me. But I found myself backing away from them as they offered their loudly hyped up ‘faith filled’ prayers on my behalf.

2. Be approving – not patronising

On another occasion I remember feeling the Holy Spirit comfort me during a time of worship. I was experiencing something deep. I must have looked upset because someone asked if they could pray for me. Again they were well meaning but somehow they came over as patronising because I hadn’t ‘got it all together’.

3. Be available – not too distant

More recently when my mother died I was so grateful to have our church home-group that meets in our home around me. They were just getting on with activities as normal but being there for me. It was great to be given some space but still be able to get a sympathetic listening ear when I needed it.

4. Be adaptable

I’ve appreciated when people have just been there for me, rather than when they have felt they have needed to sort out the situation. But over the years I’ve heard others sometimes complain because the church hasn’t been given the support they expected. Everyone is different and it isn’t always that easy to tune into their needs.

I wonder what you would add as number five.

Here are the other synchroblog posts:

May 14, 2013 at 6:00 pm Comments (6)

My Google A to Z of Missional

A quick way to research what people are searching for on the internet is to use Google’s predictive feature. You start typing a word and Google with give you a few suggestions based on popular searches. By typing a word followed by each letter of the alphabet it is easy to collate an A to Z of that topic by just picking one of the four words or phrases that Google gives you.

google missional

A is for Missional Alliance

B is for Bible – ten scriptures on missional by Ed Stetzer

C is for missional communities as in CMS’s small missional communities

D is for Defining Missional – what does it actually mean?

E is for Missional Entrepreneur – making social enterprises missional

F is for missional formation – see these top ten books from Jesus Creed on missional formation

G is for God of Mission or Missio Dei

H is for hermeneutics – watch this video on how we interpret the Bible in the light of mission

I is for imagination. Here is Mike Frost speaking on Missional Imagination

J is for joining God in the neighbourhood. This is what missional is all about. Buy the book Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood from or

K is for Keller as in Tim Keller. In this short but important video he distinguishes between missional and evangelistic

L is for leadership as in the MA in Missional Leadership at Springdale College

M is manifesto. Read Ed Stetza’s blog posts under the heading Missional Manefesto here

N is for Network as in The Missional Network – a team of ministries coaching and supporting missional leaders

O is for order – missional orders are related to new monasticism. As in this post by the Blind Begger

P is permaculture as in the Missional Permaculture Network – Christians seeking to be missional through permaculture – an organic approach to gardening. They are on facebook here

Q is for quotes. There are some missional quotes from Good Reads here

R is for Rhythms. Missional Rhythms by David Fitch

S is for Songs – a playlist of missional songs on YouTube here

T is for theology. There are four elements of missional theology from Jesus Creed here

U is for urban. God is moving in the inner city with organisations like Urban Expression

V is for verses as in missional verses evangelistic (see K is for Keller) or missional verses attractional. Mike Frost explains this here:

W is for Missional Wear – come on! Is wearing a t-shirt with a Christian slogan on it really being missional?

X is for Generation X which has been a topic discussed in missional circles. There is a cool looking guy talk about this here

Y is for Youth Ministry. How can we make youth ministry more missional? asks Steve Knight.

Z is for zip code – in the UK we call it a postcode. Demographic data on your area can be important in assessing the culture and the needs of the people you are aiming to reach.

April 30, 2013 at 5:24 pm Comment (1)

What if Genesis was a Creation Myth?

Today for April’s Synchroblog several bloggers are posting on the question “What if some or all of the Bible narrative is not necessarily true history, but is myth of one sort or another?” This video post is my contribution. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for a list of other contributors.

Evangelical author Peter Enns has recently suggested we interpret the early parts of Genesis not as literal history but as the unique style of writing of a creation myth. This leaves room for evolution to have taken place.

We often use the word myth in a dismissive way implying that a story is a hoax. But scholars have understood for some time that a creation myth can be allegorical truth. This is an issue of interpretation of the Bible not a question of its reliability.

Where does creation myth become actual history? Genesis 11 perhaps? But what to make of the genealogies that go all the way back to Adam? I don’t know.

I’m a lot less comfortable with the idea that the later Bible stories are mythological. If I came to believe that I might feel more at home in a more liberal church. If we took this idea to its extreme then Jesus death and resurrection would not be historical fact. What would be left of the Christian faith and even the Church?

Doubting the historical accuracy of the Bible could destroy our faith. But for each part of the Bible we do need to understand the style of writing. Is it history, poetry or allegory?

I’ve no problem with the idea that God may have used evolution to create us. I believe that if we interpret the Bible correctly it doesn’t have to be at odds with science.

I wonder what you think of this.

Below is the infographic Is The Theory of Evolution True? courtesy of showing some of the history and current state of the creation-evolution debate.

Further reading on Peter Enns

PDF Summary of Peter Enns’ Inspiration and Incarnation
PDF Summary of Peter Enns’ Evolution of Adam
Peter Enns own blog
Peter Enns at Biologos

Other posts from this month’s synchroblog

April 16, 2013 at 6:00 pm Comments (7)

Do you know more Christians or non-Christians?

One vital key for Christians to be missional is to have some influence on people outside of the Christian faith. God’s heart is to reach the world. He wants us, as Christians, to be rubbing shoulders with people outside our faith.

I believe God wants us, as Christians, to know and build relationships with non-Christians. He wants to us to be having genuine conversations with people who might see things very differently from us. God especially wants us to be chatting about our faith.

Do you feel that you know many people outside of Christianity? Perhaps you know lots of people from a variety of backgrounds including those who are Christians and those who aren’t. But it may be that most or even all your friends are Christians.

Please let me know your response to this poll. It is completely anonymous. If you want to discuss this further please feel free to leave a comment on this post. If you have a tip of how to get to know people outside of your Christian circles or any insight on this issue I would be pleased to hear from you.

I will post the results of this poll in a week or two and discuss the points it raises.

April 2, 2013 at 5:00 pm Comments (2)

3D Printing – a craft idea for a social enterprise

One way that you can serve your local community is to set up a social enterprise or, particularly in this time of high unemployment, to help people set up their own micro-businesses.

One idea for such an enterprise that is worth looking into is making handmade crafts. This could be a good time to start something as there is new technology like 3D printing that could revolutionise handmade crafts in the next few years.

Black Country Atelier runs workshops on some of this emerging technology. They have also been involved in helping craft groups like Shelanu to develop their craft products.

Today (Saturday 2nd March 2013) I have been on a 3D printing workshop run by Jing Lu who founded Black Country Atelier.

What is 3D printing?

You create a design using a computer aided design package such as Sketchup – about half the time we were learning how to use this package. You then export an STL file that can be printed with types of plastic that extrude from nozzles – that are bit like mini glue guns.

If you want to start an enterprise with this I wouldn’t buy one of these printers straight away. To start with you might want to initially find someone with a 3D printer who can advise you about checking that you file will print properly. Then you can try using an online service like Materialise. If you are doing this all the time then you can buy a printer such as a MakerBot.

There are a number of packages you can use but Sketchup can be downloaded for free.

If and when someone starts working on this full time they could purchase a professional package. These other packages enable you to work quicker – three clicks in Sketchup can be achieved in one click in other packages. But Sketchup does have plugins that can give you greater control and most of them are free. There are also plenty of free tutorials that come with the package.

For more advanced 3D design Ararkik enables you to do sculpting freehand.

If you want to make a 3D image of something you already own you can use the 123D app which enables you to convert a series of photos of your item into a 3D image that can be printed.

How can this make money?

When goods have been printed they can be sold at craft fairs or online using Etsy. You can even put your design online for others to print on sites such as Materialise. Whenever someone prints it from these sites you get commission.

What can I print?

At the workshop with Jing Lu we practiced by roughly tracing a scanned 2D image that could be made up of a number of fairly regular shapes. We then extended these into three dimensions. You could try this with any image.

As the size of what you print is often limited by cost one big use for this is creating jewellery. You could create a necklace or a badge from simple shapes like these or 3D printed words.

But it’s not just for jewellery. There are lots of other items that you can print. You could make signs for bedroom doors. We saw some toy cars that had been printed – you just had to add the wheels. IPhone covers are also popular items to print.

There are a number of places you can look for ideas.

Of course you would of course need to improve on the warehouse ideas or produce something original to put on Materialise and making money. This could be a bit of a steep learning curve but it looks possible.

What other new technologies are there besides 3D printing?

CNC Milling

Jing Lu explained that 3D Printing is additive as it builds up the model a layer at a time. Subtractive technology have been around a little longer such as CNC milling that can carve your figure out of solid material.

Laser Cutting

There is also laser cutting which involves creating a 2D design – possibly in Sketchup but Inkscape might be preferable. From these you export a DXF file. Laser cutting is a more established business idea.

The shapes can be cut out in acrylic and by layering them, folding them or slotting pieces together they can still be 3D in the end. David Brannon who also runs workshops at the Atelier told us about some Christmas trees he had made and sold like this.


In the room next to us at Black Country Atelier Gary Bulmer was running a workshop on using arduinos. An arduino is a type of microcontroller.

What to make of this idea?

This workshop was fascinating. I think this could be an option for a small enterprise that is well worth investigating further.

Related Posts

WorkShop: 5 Lessons on setting up a community project

March 2, 2013 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

Planting New Life in Detroit’s Vacated Landscape

DetroitI’ve just found this article in Christianity Today about how Christians are on the forefront of a new urban food growing movement spearheaded in Detroit in the States.

Community involvement and particularly food growing is something my wife and I are into. I’ve just posted on my personal blog about our local urban food growers meeting.

Just a few weeks ago I posted about how Jonny Baker said that some small missional communities where meeting among other places on allotments and seeking to transform their communities.

Here are some quotes from the Christianity Today article:

So what is happening in Detroit?

Detroit isn’t exactly an agricultural paradise. Drive across the city, built for 2 million residents, and signs of decline are everywhere. But all the empty and unused land makes Detroit an urban gardener’s heaven. But community development is hard when 70 percent of the houses are empty.

How do they do they make community gardening work?

They sell their produce at local farmers’ markets

Is it just small scale community gardens?

Gardening is good, but it’s not enough to fill the gap in this city. We need some large-scale farms in the city that would make better use of the natural resources.

So what is their mission strategy?

‘A single patch of land allows Christians to minister in a nonthreatening way’, Hebron says. Her church recently baptized neighbors who became involved in the Oakland Avenue garden. The church and this initiative are impacting people’s lives in a way that is saying we accept them and love them and they make a difference to us.

Please follow the link and have a look.

January 30, 2013 at 2:16 pm Comments (0)

Why Did Jesus, Moses, The Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road? – A review

In Why Did Jesus, Moses, The Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road? Brian McLaren argues for Christians to get along with people of other faiths as he is sure that the leaders of these faiths would have been hospitable and respectful to each other.

His main point is that being strong in our faith should result in such a loving attitude and not one that stands violently opposed to those who disagree with us. I would agree with this important message but some of his ideas do need some careful thought and unpacking.

What does McLaren mean by not being hostile?

McLaren challenges the way that many Christians have engaged with other faiths. Rather then excluding people of other religions from our lives if we are to be faithful followers of Christ we should be going out of our way to be friendly and hospitable towards them.

However in seeking to be non-hostile I feel McLaren goes too far by seeing other faiths as somehow compatible with Christianity and underplaying the need for conversion. I wonder if this comes from an over-reaction to the intolerance shown particularly of Muslims by Evangelicals in the States.

Where does McLaren stand doctrinally?

In getting to his conclusions there are some detailed doctrinal arguments to sift through. Why Did Jesus, Moses, The Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road? surprisingly tackles the Christians doctrines of the atonement, original sin and hell in ways you might not have expected.

McLaren certainly believes that Jesus died for our sins but he rejects the penal substitute explanation of atonement. He also rethinks the doctrine of origin sin and rejects the notion that any people end up in hell. Personally I wouldn’t agree with these ideas and I fear they may be too much for many evangelicals to stomach.

Does McLaren say that all roads lead to God?

No. McLaren talks about the uniqueness of Christ and our message and the importance of sharing that. He does not hold to a pluralism that says all faiths are just different paths to God. However I feel that he needs to take care not to lose the distinctiveness of the gospel and the distinction between those who are and those who are not Christ’s disciples.

In one of his stories there is a good description of the work of the Holy Spirit at an inter-faith meeting that many evangelicals and charismatics can say ‘Amen’ to. But there is also some speculation about the ways that the Holy Spirit might be at work in other religions that I felt needed more justification.

How should we apply McLaren’s teachings?

McLaren suggests a place for people coming to faith in Christ yet staying within their own religion. It would be interesting to see how this might work in practice. I must confess to reservations with this but suspect that he is talking more about a cultural definition of religion than a spiritual one.

I think there are some clearer and more helpful applications of this book:

  • He encourages Christian organisations to work together with other faiths in charitable work. Those who see mission as mainly evangelistic may fear this compromises their message. If so, it is obviously not for them. Yet if your aim is primarily to bless and serve people then this could be a very positive move enabling you to rub shoulders and have spiritual conversations with both those you are serving and those who are helping.
  • Something that we can all definitely do as a result of reading this book is to get to know people of other faiths. Invite them to a meal and as well as sharing our stories of Jesus, listen carefully to their stories and begin to see how they see the world.

In conclusion I would see much to engage with in this book. Even though I would not agree with all of McLaren’s conclusions I found plenty of food for thought.


Further Reading

A Better Atonement: Beyond the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin

Tony Jones one of McLaren’s fellow Emergent Church leaders gives more a detailed discussion on what it might mean to rethink the doctrine of original sin.

Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of the Atonement

An outline of models of the atonement that is both scholarly and readable showing that penal substitution is only one approach to the doctrine of the atonement.

The Evangelical Universalist: The Biblical Hope That God’s Love Will Save Us All

Gregory MacDonald (a pseudonym for Robin Parry) gives a very good Biblical argument for Universalism – that all are saved in the end. Although personally I can’t quite agree with his conclusions I feel that this book clearly shows that this can be a Christian position and should not be rejected lightly.

No Other Name: Investigation into the Destiny of the Unevangelized

This book criticises both the Universalist position and the position that only those who have explicitly made a decision for Christ will be saved – and comes down on a position in between that acknowledges the fact that God is not just revealed through Christianity.

The Cross and the Crescent: Responding to the Challenges of Islam

Colin Chapman discusses how Christians should understand Islam and points out the need for Christians to interact hospitably with their Muslim friends.

Related Posts

Brian McLaren’s Love, Peace and Misunderstanding Tour
Why Did Jesus, Moses, The Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road: Quotes
Understanding Atonement
What is the Gospel?
The Awareness Course

January 22, 2013 at 6:00 pm Comments (2)

Transforming Communities

I thought this quote from a recent post by Jonny Baker was interesting:

Something really interesting continues to bubble up in the church in the UK – small missional communities… that had moved into a particular area (often one with a lot of deprivation and poverty), meeting together in a bar or home or allotment, seeking to follow Christ but their focus is simply helping transform their community – in arts, environment, in social needs… and so on.

Jonny was at a meeting in London discussing new churches being planted and this was the gist that he felt came out of that meeting. I think it is brilliant that God is working through Christians to transform their community. This is bringing values of the kingdom to play in our local settings. Of course leaving your church to set up something new in a new area is for most people.

How can we join God in transforming communities?

From my perspective I have always felt to be involved in my local church and be involved in my local community at the same time. I feel that if we just mix with our own church folks we miss so much of God’s purposes. It can be a challenge to some Christians to get to know their neighbours and they might feel more comfortable with their church friends. On the other hand if some people my have good links with their community and friends but struggle to be joined to local church.

What are we doing to help?

My wife is much better at community involvement than I am. She is part of our local residents association where she is very involved in a number of local projects such as community gardening in our local grow space growing vegetables together and our annual in Britain in Bloom.

As a couple we have also started a local job club called WorkShop helping people in our inner city area look for work and are very involved with a local charity called Karis Neighbour Scheme.

Recently my wife has been knitting items to sell on local arts and crafts stalls to help raise money for Karis and loves the idea of making saleable items out of scrap material.

This an important first step in extending God’s kingdom

There is of course more to the gospel of the kingdom than just community transformation and at some point we need to introduce people to Jesus. But for many Christians I think that getting to know our neighbours and showing God’s love for our community is an important first step.

Related Post

Reaching the Inner City

October 30, 2012 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

Understanding Atonement

At Easter we remember the death and resurrection of Jesus. On Good Friday especially we remember the story of the cross and that Jesus died for us. But what does Jesus death actually mean for us?

The answer lies in the doctrine of the atonement. Somehow through Jesus death we can now be reconciled to God and made at one. One way to remember it is that atonement is at-one-ment. But have you ever stopped to think how exactly that works?

Penal Substitution

The dominant understanding of the atonement in evangelical circles has been penal substitution. This basically says that God punished Jesus for our sins on the cross.

Looking back at Church history this interpretation of the Bible can be traced back to Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) who developed an idea that the atonement involved God’s honour being satisfied by Christ’s obedience where before God had been dishonoured by human disobedience. This was refined further by Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) who saw the atonement as Christ making a substitution for us – suffering for us. John Calvin (1509-1564) went even further with penal substitution – Christ was legally punished by God instead of us and so it is God’s wrath that was satisfied. This has been largely accepted as orthodox evangelical belief but recently as questioning of this really come to the fore.

In recent years a number of evangelicals, most notably for us in the UK, Steve Chalke have spoken out against the implications of penal substitution. Steve Chalke raised the hackles of many evangelicals by referring to this idea as “cosmic child abuse” in The Lost Message of Jesus (2004).

Christus Victor

An alternative view of the biblical teaching of atonement that is being embraced by an increasing number of evangelicals is called Christus Victor. This view emphasises Christ’s victory over the devil (e.g. Col 2:15).

In his 1931 book Christus Victor Gustaf Aulen argues for a theory of the atonement which he sees as the classic view held by the early church for a thousand years until superseded by satisfaction. Although held by Martin Luther (1483-1586) it did not make its way into Lutheran orthodoxy and was not systematically put together until Aulen did so in his book.

The basic idea of Christus Victor is that Jesus death on the cross defeated the devil liberating the world from the devil’s rule by paying the ransom due to Satan (e.g. Matt 20:28). You see, according to this theory, the Bible teaches that devil ruled mankind and the earth because of Adam’s fall but Christ’s payment set humanity and the world free from the curse but the devil was tricked as he could not keep Christ in the grave so he ended up with nothing.

David Matthew has some quotes and comments about Christus Victor on his website here.

Christus Victor has been held by a few evangelicals since the book was published most notably C.S Lewis. You may recognise the imagery from Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. This appears to be a very powerful view however some have found the idea of God deceiving Satan to be an unpalatable idea and penal substitution remained the prevailing view.

More Than One Explanation

Despite their misgivings not many evangelicals are willing to throw out substitutionary atonement altogether. But a growing number, such as Scot McKnight in 2007 in A Community Called Atonement and subsequent Christianity Today article, are now admitting that there can be a number of legitimate approaches.

Some are beginning to say that penal substitution is only part of the explanation, Christus Victor another part and even the moral example view can be seen as a third part and so on. The moral example view is that Jesus died as an example for us. He sought to influence us morally in showing us how to live a life of sacrifice culminating in his death on the cross. However this doesn’t really explain how sin is dealt with and may not really take sin seriously enough.

Nevertheless appealing to a number of stories of atonement, rather than just one, is an answer that I like i.e. ‘both/and’ rather than ‘either/or’. It is well illustrated here by one church in 2006 when one writer Mark Dever was arguing for penal substitution alone.

The Debate Continues

In this 2011 Christianity Today article Mark Galli looks at and critiques the rise of the Christus Victor view over substitutionary atonement. For instance, he points out this model emphasises that we are victims that need rescuing from the powers evil whereas substitutionary atonement emphasises that we are guilty and need forgiveness that liberates us from our sin. Also rather than just individual forgiveness it emphasises the redemption of the cosmos. He comes to the conclusion that though Christus Victor language is there in the Bible the overwhelming emphasis is on substitution. Perhaps the emphasis on Christus Victor can be understood in a society where we are acutely aware of being victims but becoming less aware of our own failings.

A good response to this can be found on Bramboniusin’s blog here where he questions the dichotomy that Galli draws between Christus Victor and substitutionary atonement without mentioning penal substitution. Doesn’t Christus Victor include the original idea of substitutionary atonement as it is all about Christ dying for us? Perhaps it would be more precise to see Christus Victor as a rival to penal substitution.

And anyway I still wonder if there may be a good case for embracing more than one of these explanations in order to fully understand what it means that Christ died for us. In a post from 2009 blogger Mike Morrell having analysed and critiqued the models of the atonement had a go at putting it all back together again here.

I can see that this is far from as simple as I once thought. Nevertheless even if I haven’t got all the detailed sussed this Easter, this I do know: Jesus died for me!


I originally posted this article last year on my blogger blog here where it attracted two or three comments.
Related post: What is the Gospel

April 6, 2012 at 8:19 am Comments (0)

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