This morning at church, we looked at the first six verses of Colossians chapter one. Our pastor titled the sermon, “The marks of a genuine Christian”.
He’s a good communicator and preached well. But this morning did expose a weakness in the evangelical desire to chunk the Bible up into ‘bite size chunks’ and preach verse by verse exposition. The Bible was not written in chapters and verses – and there is a danger that we impose an artificial structure onto God’s Word that distorts its meaning.
I don’t want to sound like a whiner about this, but it really does irritate me when evangelical presuppositions result in glaring omissions from Biblical exposition. To put it simply, I think our pastor got it wrong this morning – not in what he did say, but in what he didn’t.
Today’s sermon gave us three marks of a genuine Christian: Faith in Jesus (v4); Love for other Christians (v4); and, Hope of heaven (v5). But what about verse 6 – that the Good News of the Gospel is bearing fruit? The New Living Translation helpfully translates verse 6 as the Good News “is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives since the day you heard and understood the truth about God’s grace.”
This emphasis on changed lives in the here and now is then reiterated powerfully in verses 10 and 11.
In fact verses 8 through 13 just repeat what was said in the first six verses. The “three marks of a genuine Christian” are repeated again, but it seems to me that there is clearly at least a fourth sign: that our lives are meant to demonstrate that the Gospel has come (I also think there is something there about growing in our depth of understanding of what God has done for us – but I’ll leave that for another day). If everything we believe makes no difference to how we live now, what is it worth? And that does not simply mean some spiritual longing for a better life somewhere else. It means that we strive hard to “make it on earth as it is in heaven” – just as Jesus taught us to pray!
Faith in Jesus, love for others and the saints, and hope in heaven are definitely signs of being a genuine Christian. But they are not enough. The Bible is clear and consistent in its witness that you prove your Christian beliefs by your good works. Colossians 1 itself is clear on this. Why do evangelicals so easily and consistently miss the “good works” theme of the Gospel when it is in such plain sight?
Originally Posted on 23 June 2009
I was sent an email today that contained an excellent manifesto from one of my favourite thinkers and authors, Len Sweet.
It’s titled: “A Magna Carta for Restoring the Supremacy of Jesus Christ, a.k.a. A Jesus Manifesto for the 21st Century Church”
by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola
You can read the original at their blog: http://ajesusmanifesto.wordpress.com/
It really is worth it. Thought-provoking and powerful. I like it a lot, and think we need to take our Christ-centric nature more seriously.
Originally posted on 7 August 2008
Last week, I preached my final sermon at the church my family has attended for the past 5 years. I relied heavily on a sermon preached by John Broom, of Meadowridge Baptist, on the occasion of his last sermon after over 20 years of ministry at the church.
The sermon was the final part of a series on “What Jesus would say to…”. The essence of the sermon was that “church” has been expressed in at least 7 distinct ways over the course of church history. Today, as the church in the West enters a “post Christian” world, it needs to recaptures the “instincts” expressed in these seven streams, and become the holistic church God intended.
Listen to the sermon by downloading it here (7 Mb, MP3 file).
The summary of the seven streams is below…
Continue reading The seven streams of church – a sermon podcast
Originally posted on 22 June 2005
Too much of what happens in the typical local church is focused on the activities of that church and its people. I believe that this is due to a fatal flaw in the way most people think about church. They tend to see church as an end, as an entity that exists for its own purposes.
But church is not an end. Church was never meant to be the goal of Christian endeavour. God is not interested in empowering us to create better churches. No. Church is simply a means – a means to an end.
God is interested in extending his kingdom throughout the whole world. He is interested in empowering his church to impact of the world. In particular, God is interested in empowering local churches to impact local communities in very practical ways. After all, Jesus came to “preach good news to the poor… to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
Churches that focus the majority of the time, resources and facilities on their own internal programs, including worship, preaching, youth ministry, Bible study, young adults, women’s groups, etc, have lost sight of the purpose of their existence.
I believe this is one of the primary emphases of the emerging church movement – to bring the church back to its primary calling to be a vehicle for the establishment of God’s kingdom in this world. The church is not the end, it is only the means. It is not an institution – it is a strategy to assist us become the people of God.
Originally posted on 1 September 2009
I don’t agree with the political leanings of The Spectator magazine in the UK, but it certainly contains the finest writing in the English language of any magazine in the world. I read the mag regularly, just to experience excellent English. It also contains the type of opinionated columnists I enjoy. They get you thinking, and they’re inteliigent.
In their Christmas edition, there was an excellent analysis of what the official religious institution of England (The Church of England) should do. I need to think this one through in more detail, but I hope it sparks as much thought for you as it did for me.
Does England need an “official” church? Would it be better, both for the church and State, to change the current state of affairs? The original article can be found here, or read it below.
The C of E should follow John Milton’s lead
by Theo Hobson, Friday, 12th December 2008, The Spectator
Milton was a great poet but an even greater theologian, says Theo Hobson. His vision of tolerant Christian liberalism should be our template for the future
Continue reading Liberal politics, freedom and the role of Christianity in Britain
Gary Hamel is one of my favourite management gurus. His books are well written, and I have heard him speak live and in person on a number of occasions as he addressed business leaders in South Africa a few years ago. Gary was initially famous for his thoughts on innovation and helping companies create the right type of environment for innovation. More recently he has shifted his focus to the “future of management” – analysing the environment in which companies must now operate, and the structures that will help them achieve success. His book on the Future of Management is a great read – buy it at Amazon.co.uk or Kalahari.net.
What I didn’t know was that he was a Christian and has done some research on the challenges facing the church at the moment (especially in the USA). He spoke at his home church a while ago, and the talk was recorded and made available. After cataloguing the problems, he goes on to recommend some responses. And he brings his usual insightfulness to all of it. Well worth taking an hour out and watching.
Continue reading Gary Hamel speaks to church leaders on Shifting Tides
The senior pastor of our church, Richard Coekin, is the national co-chairman of “A Passion for Life”. This is a month long programme of events in hundreds of churches around the UK, leading up to Easter 2010. The goal is to share the Gospel with friends, family and neighbours, and create a multitude of opportunities for them to connect with the church and its message.
It has taken two years to work up to this point, getting different churches interested and involved. It seems that a great spin off is the collaboration between churches, and the sharing of resources that is taking place.
You can find out more at: http://www.apassionforlife.org.uk/
It’s not too late to get involved. And, if you’d like to find out more about how Christians view life, and their passion for it, connect with a church near you and ask them.
Originally posted on 19 April 2005
I am currently reading a very significant book, “The Present Future” by Reggie Mcneal (Buy it at Kalahari.net or Amazon.co.uk).
He argues in the book that there are six wrong questions that churches ask, and suggests six questions we should be asking in their place. In each chapter, he outlines the problem, a solution, and then gives a biblical and cultural contextual reason for his suggestion. Briefly, here are the six wrong and right questions:
||TOUGH NEW QUESTION
|How do we do church better?
||How do we deconvert from Churchianity to Christianity? (How do we redfine ourselves around ‘mission’ rather than ‘club’?)
|How do we grow this church? How do we get them to come to us?
||How do we transform our community? How do we hit the streets with the gospel?
|How do we turn members into ministers?
||How do we turn members into missionaries?
|How how do we develop church members?
||How do we develop followers of Jesus?
|How do we plan for the future?
||How do we prepare for the future?
|How do we develop leaders for church work?
||How do we develop leaders for the Christian Movement?
Here are some extracts from the introduction…
Continue reading The Present Future
First published on 21 July 2009, and updated on 27 Feb 2010
I like to think of myself as someone who keeps up with trends. That’s what I do for a living after all (see http://www.graemecodrington.com, if you’re interested). But I now confess to you that I have only recently realised that the legacy of John and Charles Wesley and other great hymnwriters of ages past is being carried forward by a new couple: Keith and Kristyn Getty.
I am a bit of collector of two specific types of music: Christmas albums (I have bought a minimum of two new Christmas albums every Christmas for the past 20 years, and have nearly 60 Christmas albums in my personal collection), and worship music. Listening to worship music is probably the most powerful way for me to personally do daily devotions. Over the past few years, though, good worship music has been a bit hard to come by. The big music houses around the world realised worship music was a winner (financially, I mean) about 7 years ago, and so most major Christian recording artists have realised (at least one) worship album in the past few years. But, as with all things, they’ve become a bit stale – formulaic, repetitive – and worst, we’re now getting compilation after compilation album that just repackages old stuff.
So, it has been refreshing to discover some great worship writing talent in the UK (I moved to London last year, and we have now been at our church, Dundonald since September 2008 – our worship leader, Andy Fenton is a fan of the Gettys).
Continue reading Keith and Kristyn Getty – modern hymn writers extraordinaire
Originally posted on 7 May, 2007
I attended a conference in Uganda in 2007 which was a significant moment in my “emerging church” journey. It as the first time I really understood that the “stories” of my faith were incomplete, and that a future church would need to find new ways of expressing what it meant to be church. The talk I make available below was one of those “aha” moments for me. I hope it can be for you, too.
A message by Claude Nikondeha, from Burundi, delivered at Amahoro Gathering in Uganda
Download the MP3 recording here
The sections marked (GC) in italics are my commentary, not Claude’s words.
The problem with a Gospel that only promises release when Jesus returns, is that Jesus has not yet returned. The people are not released – they live in suffering, poverty, famine and wars.
“The Gospel is not a doctrinal formula for the salvation of the individual but it is the Good News of God’s movement through Jesus Christ to carry out his purpose for the entire human race.” Rene Padilla
Jesus did not come to announce an evacuation plan, but a transformation plan.
Continue reading The Transformational Gospel vs the Evacuation Gospel