Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Finding God on the margins

Just back from Greenbelt. Had a fantastic time.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, Greenbelt is a Christian arts, music and teaching festival that happens every year. It's awash with great music and stimulating speakers but the really wonderful thing about it is meeting people, hearing stories, sharing laughter and somewhere in the mix finding God.

Among the highlights for me were hearing Naim Ateek from Sabeel in Jerusalem, meeting Jenny McIntosh from Spirited Exchanges in New Zealand and liustening to Duncan Senyatso from Botswana.

I'll be blogging later in the week about how my thinking was stimulated by what I heard.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Have you missed me?

Well, I'm back. Two weeks of uninterrupted sunshine, swimming in the sea virtually every day (no surf sadly) and lots of good food and wine with friends.

And I've been thinking about nothing. It's been bliss!

Now I'm home to 190 emails - most of them spam - and a list of stuff to do.

I rediscovered Jeff Buckley's Grace while I was away - what an extraordinary album. I also heard the album by Willy mason which was interesting.

I read Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down - probably the best thing he's written, funny and thought-provoking. And I dipped into Richard Middleton's The Liberating Image - demanding but fascinating.

But frankly, I was too busy relaxing in the sunshine and the sea...

Friday, August 05, 2005

hitting the beach

Well, I've packed my wet suit and body board and am quitting the blogosphere for the beach.

Just in case the British climate is true to form, I'm taking a book or two. I've just picked up Richard Middleton's The Liberating Image (it's £4 off at wesley Owen so go and get a copy). Middleton is one half of the duo that produced Truth is Stranger than it used to be (the other half being Brian Walsh). Everything he writes is worth casting an eye over, so I'm looking forward to this meaty study of Genesis 1.

And for light relief - you'll be pleased I'm hoping for some - I've got the new Jonathan Coe and Nick Hornby novels, Dave Nwokedi's Fitzgerald's Wood - a first novel from a mate of mine who's also speaking at this year's Greenbelt - Bono's autobiography and Eugene's Peterson's Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places.

I'll probably manage ten pages of one of them, gloriously distracted by waves, ice creams, walks in the hills, conversations with friends and family and watching movies, sharing meals and drinking wine. Let's hope, anyway!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Discipleship and growing up

I've just had a most agreeable lunch plotting the future of our youth work. Nick, my youth work consultant, helped me to clarify a few things. He also suggested that what we wanted to do, though good (even essential), was not common.

One of the problems we face - I think in common with a lot of churches - is that we are quite good at gathering and teaching children and young people. Over the years hundreds have been through our youth work. But many of those young people are not making it to the world of adult discipleship. Somewhere between A levels and mortgages, they lose interest in the church and possibly in Jesus as well.

So our plan is to appoint a youth and young adults worker, someone who will create a programme, recruit, envision, enthuse and train a team of good volunteers (as well as taking on the many excellent volunteers we currently have working with our young people) and build a work that disciples people from their teens into their twenties.

What are the reasons why twenty-somethings fail to stick in the church? What puts young adults off being disciples of Jesus? If we can answer these questions (and others), then maybe we can create a way of working with our teenagers that gives them the resources to navigate the choppy waters from education to work, living at home to being independent, having a child's faith to being an adult disciple.

Many of the issues we need to address are those being tackled by emerging church thinkers. In some way we are gearing up for creating the church that will replace the existing one - that is surely the task of each generation: to mould structures that embody the gospel in a way that is attractive to our contemporaries. For this reason the person we appoint will be part of our core leadership team helping to shape (and be shaped by) the overall vision we have the church.

Obviously the person we're looking for will be exceptional - but there are exceptional people out there, looking for a challenge. Maybe it's you...

Cooking up a storm in Birmingham

So, what do you call a gathering of 12,000 Baptists? A rumour of Baptists? A gaggle? Possibly a confusion...? Who knows!

I'm just back from the Centenary Congress of the Baptist World Alliance in Birmingham, a strange and perplexing event. I was involved in the fringe festival, hosting a twice-daily music and chat show called Congress Unplugged - it was great fun and seemed to go really well. Through it I met lots of great people - from the UK and around the world.

The Congress proper was an altogether more staid affair, dominated by Americans and their acolytes. Everything of significance happened in English despite the fact that native English speakers were a minority of the delegates. Most of the keynote speakers were American - Rick Warren, Tony Campolo and Jimmy Carter - or European - Myra Blythe, Steve Chalke and David Coffey. Even the speakers from other continents were Western-trained and enculturated.

I guess this is to be expected but it's still a tad disappointing. Anyway, all power to David Coffey who was inducted as president for the next five years - bring on the revolution, David!

Our visit to Britain's second city co-incided with the arrests of terror suspects and a tornado - I don't think the BWA's presence caused either of these things!

listening to Editors - a very accomplished debut album called The Back Room - and Krystaal - an amazing funk, hip-hop, rock and fusion band from Congo now resident in Canada. The band make great music and have an amazing story of endurance and God's grace to tell. They single-handedly made the congress worthwhile!

Now it's tidying things up ahead of going on holiday. I read yesterday that thousands of blogs are started every day but only 13% are updated regularly - so I'm not doing too badly...!