Two fathers, two sons

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A dream came true last week when I watched Australia play England at the The Oval in London.

We went for the first day of the Fifth Test. Each day begins at 11am and finishes around 6pm. It’s a long day. A Test Match runs five days and there’s a chance it will end in a draw. In a series there are five Test Matches. That’s up to 25 days of cricket and a series could end in a draw. If you’re an American don’t even try and understand.

Down the row from us was a father and his young son. When I saw how young the son was, I thought he’s not going to last the day. I was right. No doubt dad had convinced himself that this was a great idea for some father-son bonding. But no child wants to sit still for hours watching adults play.

The dad could have saved his money and popped down to a local club game with his son. He could have shown him how adults play and then pull out a cricket bat and tennis ball and have some fun.

The next day I went for a walk in our local park. There are some asphalt tennis courts open to the public. One of the courts was occupied by a dad and his young son. They were playing tennis with a soccer ball. Instead of hitting the ball over with a racket they were using their feet. Dad was shouting encoureagment and instructions to his son as the boy bobbed and weaved around the court returning each shot with skill. That boy was learning to play the game. He wasn’t bored. He was having fun with dad. He was leaning to love the game by playing it. All this cost his dad nothing, except some time.

What a contrast between two dads and their sons. Sit and watch vs come and play.

I wonder if there are any parallels between those two sets of fathers and sons and how we make disciples?

Southern Baptists: More churches, fewer people

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The number of churches within the Southern Baptist Convention rose for the 15th consecutive year, but the churches lost more than 200,000 members, the biggest one-year decline since 1881. Average attendance, giving and baptisms also declined.

 

Matt Chandler on Philippians: free on US and UK Kindle

“To Live Is Christ to Die Is Gain” (Matt Chandler, Jared C. Wilson)

The Middle East in Crisis

Middle East in Crisis Mission Frontiers

The latest edition of Mission Frontiers focuses on the Middle East.

In addition Steve Smith has some good material on a Biblical foundation for movements.

While you’re there check out my article on How the West was Won.

097-From church to movement: Jimmy Scroggins [podcast]

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Jimmy Scroggins, a local church pastor, leads by example and casts vision for church planting movements.

Jimmy developed the 3Circles tool for sharing the gospel.

This podcast is the latest in the Church to Movement series

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Can good management save the Church of England?

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A report from the Spectator 

A new mood has taken hold of Lambeth Palace. Officials call it urgency; critics say it is panic. The Church of England, the thinking goes, is about to shrink rapidly, even vanish in some areas, unless urgent action is taken. This action, laid out in a flurry of high-level reports, amounts to the biggest institutional shake-up since the 1990s. Red tape is to be cut, processes streamlined, resources optimised. Targets have been set. The Church is ill — and business management is going to cure it.

Reformers say they are only removing obstacles that hinder the Church from growing. Opponents, appalled by the business-speak of some of the reports, object to what they see as a ruthless focus on filling pews.

According to the report two reforms in particular have generated headlines.

One is the plan to swipe £100 million from the Church’s investments to pay for more priests (target: a 50 per cent increase in trainee clergy by 2020).

The other is to give business-school training to bishops and deans and, more controversially, to identify a ‘talent pool’ of future leaders — in the official language, people ‘with exceptional strategic leadership potential for Gospel, Kingdom and Church impact’.

What can we say about all this from a movements perspective? 

The Anglican church is right to be worried. All the signs are evident of institutional decline and decay.  Even worse, they are lagging indicators of a  demise that has been going on for a long time and there are no signs that it is going away.

On the not necessarily brighter side, religious institutions are incredibly resilient. Even if the trends show a terminal decline, life is more complicated than statistical predictions. The Anglican church is likely to be around for a very long time.

The Anglican church in Britain is not a movement. Movements risk what they have for a cause beyond themselves. Institutions protect what they have for their own survival.

By all means, cut red tape and rationalise resources. Sure this is good business practice, it’s also good family practice, good sporting club practice, good local school practice. Nothing wrong with that. 

What about spending £100 million for a 50% increase trainee clergy by 2020?

More paid clergy does not equate to more and better leadership for the church of England. Dynamic movements are led by “lay” people unencumbered by traditional constrains. Yes, John Wesley was an ordained Anglican clergyman, but overwhelmingly the Methodist movement was led by ordinary people who did extraordinary things. They signed up for a cause, not a career.

The plan is to identify a talent pool of future leaders and develop people ‘with exceptional strategic leadership potential for Gospel, Kingdom and Church impact’. But what on earth does that mean? 

So Jesus walks up to a bunch of ordinary fishermen mending their nets and says, ‘Lads, I’m looking for some people with exceptional strategic leadership potential for Gospel, Kingdom and Church impact.’ And they left everything and followed him. 

Jesus didn’t commission any reports on the decline of God’s people. He didn’t have access to £100 million pounds to invest in future leaders. He wasn’t trying to save an institution. If there is any hope for new life in a declining institution it is by making an innovative return to tradition. Get back to first things—what did Jesus do? What did he train the Twelve to do? What did the risen Lord empower Paul and the early church to do in Acts and the Epistles? Get back to that heritage and ask, What does that look like today? 

Mission is not about us, or saving our institutions. It is about God revealed in Jesus Christ. God’s mission is always advanced when his people obey his call and put their hope in the power of the Gospel — his dynamic Word, and the Spirit — his dynamic presence. Obedience to the Great Commission is just the beginning. God has not given up on Britain.

UPDATE: Church of England defends sale of assets for recruitment plan

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Persecution and Power

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I listened again to Steve Parlato’s account of their ministry in SE Asia and the price that new believers paid for following Jesus and telling others about him. It’s a bitter/sweet story.

People went to prison, people disappeared, some were killed.

Today I spoke to someone working in the same part of the world. He immediately teaches new believers about sharing the gospel, getting baptised and persecution. I’ve never taught a new believer about persecution.

Brian Tabb has written a great overview of the relationship between persecution and the spread of the gospel in Acts.

He has identified five lessons, all still relevant today:

  1. Jesus’ suffering and vindication are the surprising means by which God accomplishes his promised plan of salvation.
  2. Believers’ suffering serves a strategic missional purpose in light of God’s inaugurated-not-yet-consummated kingdom.
  3. Suffering validates the legitimacy of the church and especially its leaders, who suffer like Jesus in fulfillment of his predictions.
  4. Suffering fundamentally expresses the world’s brokenness from sin and Satanic oppression.
  5. Believers should respond to suffering through concerted prayer, bold witness, and joyful, confident hope.

Brian’s article is a good resource for anyone who needs to help new believers deal with the cost of following Jesus.

Related: Factors in the growth of Christianity in China

 

Bargains on Kindle

The latest bargains for US Kindle.

“City of God (Penguin Classics)” (Augustine of Hippo) (free on Kindle but not the Penguin version)

“Isaiah 40-66: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary)” (Gary V. Smith) ($2.99 on Kindle)

“God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades” (Rodney Stark) ($4.99 on Kindle)

096-Pioneering Movements in South Florida – Troy Cooper [podcast]

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I’ve done a count and this is (around) the 96th episode of the Movements podcast. Our guest is Troy Cooper, a movement pioneering based in South Florida. We talk about how God has shaped him in that role and what it means to be on mission as a family.

Find out more about the Coopers…

To mark our 96th podcast I’ve finally introduced a numbering system.

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The Hispanic future of America

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One American in six is now Hispanic, up from a small minority two generations ago. By mid-century it will be more than one in four.

Hispanics are transforming the definition of what it means to be a mainstream American. During the roughly 200 years from the presidency of George Washington to that of Ronald Reagan, whites of European descent consistently made up 80-90% of America’s population. By the time of the 2010 census, the proportion of non-Hispanic whites (for simplicity’s sake called whites hereafter) was down to 64%. Some time around 2044 it is projected to fall to less than half.

David Rennie, The Economist

Let’s take a look at past and the forward predictions and see just how much America’s future is Hispanic.

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Based on effectiveness in reaching Hispanics, this is good news for the Pentecostals and Catholics. It’s bad news for the liberal Protestants and Southern Baptists.

UPDATE: ABC radio reports on Hispanics in America.