Wednesday, 7 November 2007

note to alex - revival and the summer

Yes the Heavenly Man, I haven't read it but various people have recommended it, breaking out of prison and raising the dead and all that jazz.And yes to revival, an issue, indeed the primary issue I am given to ponder in my waking hours, and particularly revival in the context of the nature of belief and the form church. I've just heard podcasted Heidi Baker speaking inspiringly on how God opened her eyes to the need for revival in the West in her 'Are you hungry enough?' talk.

I want to know why is the church where it is now, what can I do and what should I do to make another church culture possible, and after bits of reading a various talks I've heard I'm cautious to launch into a all phil's thoguhts on church for a number of reasons, partly having heard others talking much and doing little, but also I am relatively spiritually immature, so criticism of the church of its not being spirit filled enough will ring hypocritically hollow. I hold a level of embitteredness against this dry conservative anglican church that has so affected my beliefs, i should take this bitterness to God and work it through before I jump up on my high horse and start preaching. In critiquing the church along lines of church-in-need-of-revival vs living-church, if one tries to draw the line where one ends and the other begins you are being immediately devisive and dangerously taking that role of judging which are the goats from sheep. And the question of style, at times where I have tried to challenge my parents and others on this revival/deadchurch issue, their rebuke to me often is grounded in their conception that the charismatic church is shallow and that I apparently percieve it to be 'alive' simply because we play electric guitars and have pretty young things leading the worship. Sometimes the accusation of shallowness is true, it just makes me cautious before issuing a call for revival that amounts to a criticism of the less overt and out-there christians rather than a call to save the less alive christians.

So yeah for all of these I tread with trepidation into what is as much a preach to myself, conscious that when I say the church need to be more hungry, more humble, more united, more urgent, more reliant on God, that it is me who first needs to be more hungry humble urgent reliant..

There are believers and 'believers', when you say you are seeking revival among believers I don't think it is pedantic of me to press you as to where you are drawing the line, where does belief stop, who are you hoping to revive?

Antley Fowler spoke at St Mary's this summer, he's now leads a St Mary's church plant and he originally came out of a sessationist presbyterian church where he was running kids ministry and leading people to christ in that, he came out of that when he experienced the spirit and now wouldn't look back. However he derives from John Piper the notion that those calvinist heros of his faith who missed the experiential side of things - jonathan edwards, john knox, calvin.. that they were raised up by God to use good theology to combat heritical strands of the church in their time. While I nod and try to pretend to know who those eighteenth century names are, God challenged me I think, am I able to see God working through an apparently spiritually dry CU, through churches that aren't doing the whole Corinthians12 game. What does revival look like? Is it by necessity charismatic, is there a catalytic outward looking form of church that is not charismatic?

Rich Wilson shared in his 'Love your Uni' talk to Fusion leaders in March the imperative of Love, if you are pondering how to bring about revival, his talk provokes a few ideas. People need to know they are loved, I'm still musing over a t-shirt slogan for a mission week, the CU haven't got back to me, I don't know what they thought really of my thoughts, so I'm letting them come back to me if and when. But the exercise of questioning, both what is the gospel actually and how do you get under the skin of culture, keeps me thinking. And I still want to put out a God Loves Nottingham t-shirt, I've been working all summer so haven't drawn anything up, but people living in the knowledge that they are loved for me is a big part of what revival is and how it is brought about by God and through us. Shaun Bailey, now the conservative candidate for Hammersmith I think, spoke at St Mary's, and in his talk is described how he had come to Christ, after the kids he was working with as a social worker asked him what the meaning of life was and he said love. I think that the lens of love is the only lens to see the church and to begin to estimate the 'hows' of revival.

1 Corinthians 13:
"So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies."

I heard an estimate that 55,000 evangelical christians are leaving churches in europe every week. We are where we are not inspite of what we believe but rather because of what we believe.

"Church...is inconvenient, it's costly, it's about other people, it is organised, it is planned, and it's intentional – some [of] the things that we're all allergic to… ...one of the reasons 55,000 Christians [across Europe] are leaving church every week is because – the problem is with the church, but [it's] also because we will not pay the price of orientating our lives around following Jesus together …" Jason Clark

I look at the church and I just don't see the church of Acts, I don't see belief and I can't understand how we got here. Why is faith a struggle for me? What short of a sovereign move of God can move people out of the pathological materialism that we have so assimilated from culture around us?

I read John Eldredge's Wild at Heart earlier in the summer, which painted a picture of a christian masculinity that seemed so far from my current experience, and yet consistent, compelling and healing. Other bits of teaching have made me wonder what the christian notion of masculine and the feminine roles have to offer culture and whether there is an imasculation of the church and its gospel that is holding back more effective witness. Along the lines of matt 11v12, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, violent men lay hold of it. Where are the men and women willing to adventure, willing to be aggressive in their urgency and submission, and ernest in thier seeking to be swept up in the roles God sets in his grand story in his metanarrative?

I did a life course, an adapted alpha course at St Mary's at the beginning of the summer and in the final talk which is on church, at the point where John was describing his vision of the church as the answer to world peace he got heckled. The church is the answer to most problems, it is the model god has given us for functioning, I'd love to say the church, in its community, in its radical accountability, in its supernatural power, in its outward looking sacrificial love and so on should be the means of addressing crime, addressing the consumerism and materialism at the heart of the environmental problems, but that isn't the church the world sees, largely because it isn't. "

The church has to change to stay the same" an article i found, lost and didn't read, but the title stuck.

Rich Nathan on the nature of the spiritual battle we face - The problem with many christians is they are living out this christian life as if it were game practice, expecting every pass to go smoothly, every touch down to be a walk over, and so on, but this reckons without the reality that there is another team on the pitch, it should come as no surprise when things burn out, when projects fail.

The Bishop of London addressing HTB in a talk on Home Focus talked of the the church of england asa sleeping giant, with the structure in place as it were.

A few audio bits:1 - 'Liquid Church' and others - Jason Clarke on Emergent uk resources http://www.emergent-uk.org/ukresources.htm

2 - 'Are you hungry enough?' - Heidi Baker on the Yearn, Faint Cry podcast - http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=211010327

3 - 'Love your Uni' - Rich Wilson at Fusion - http://www.fusion.uk.com

I notice revival fires are podcasting, but I haven't really given them a long listen...

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