Category Archives: Missional

Sermon: Jesus calls us to love the outsiders

I preached this sermon on 22 January 2017, as part of a series called Jesus Encounter. Jesus calls us to love, unconditionally and extravagantly. He specifically calls us to love those who outside our circles.

Jesus calls

AUDIO: http://www.futurechurchnow.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Sermon-Jesus-calls-lq.mp3

My sermon notes:

Jesus Encounter series start

Jesus Encounter series – until Easter

The stories recorded in the Gospels and Acts are not merely stories of what happened to a few people 2000 years ago – not just historical record. They were carefully selected in order to show us patterns, and help us understand how WE can encounter Jesus even today. As we read the Gospels and Acts we should be alert for those patterns in the stories, and look carefully for clues and instructions on how we can encounter Jesus and live Christ-like lives today.

PRAY

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Missional Business Seminar, Johannesburg, 5 Nov 2016

This is your invitation to a vitally important seminar. Download a PDF brochure here, and share with your friends.

The world is changing. More Christians from developing nations are becoming interested in mission. We need more people on the mission field, coming from more diverse backgrounds and finding new methods of funding their work.

Come and join a seminar hosted by OMF International that will investigate some new models of missional business.

LEARN about…

  • NEW WAYS of doing and funding mission
  • INTEGRATING your entrepreneurial spirit and gifts with mission to the ends of the earth
  • GOD AT WORK in various parts of the world through Missional Business

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VIDEO: Brian McLaren on the Courage to Differ Graciously

Brian McLaren’s last book was about interfaith dialogue and how we can learn to be both fervently Christian and also gracious to those of other faiths. In a recent event hosted by The Guibord Center, Brian spoke about his book (Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-faith World). You can watch the whole video here.

During the Q&A session, Brian gave some fantastic advice on how we should deal with people from within our own faith traditions who attack us and fight against us. I was both impressed and challenged by his advice, and extracted it in a short video. His simple message, and one I am trying to learn, is to have the courage to differ graciously.

For further reading on this vital issue, have a look at Brian’s own blog for two examples. And then read Mark McIntyre’s superb blog post on “Selective Grace in the Church“.

Wonderful examples of inter faith solidarity

Two years ago when the first riots swept across Egypt, I posted a wonderful picture of Christians who surrounded and protected Muslims who were praying. Now, in the past few days, as Christians have been on receiving end of persecution it is wonderful to see Muslim’s returning the gesture. There are now quite a few photos circulating on the web of Muslims surrounding Christian churches, protecting them from protestors and arsonists.

Here are two of these images:
Muslims protecting church in Egypt

Muslims protecting church in Egypt

One of the books I have enjoyed reading most this past year is Brian McLaren’s, “Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-faith World”. It is an insightful and well reasoned book that helps us reconsider how we can be truly Christian while still connecting with other religions. The intention of the book is to seek a “third way”. As Brian says, “We know how to have a strong Christian identity that is intolerant of or belligerent towards other faiths, and we know how to have a weak Christian identity that is tolerant and benevolent. But is there a third alternative? How do we discover, live, teach, and practise a Christian identity that is both strong and benevolent towards other faiths?” (Buy Brian’s book at Kalahari.com in South Africa, on Amazon.com or on [email protected]).

It’s great to see some examples of this in Egypt.

Being a witness to grace: Louie Giglio, homosexuality, a prayer, persecution and a storm of protest

One of the current themes of conservative evangelical Christianity is a persecution complex. They look for opportunities to be offended by popular culture (take the phony ‘war on Christmas’ in America, for example). And when something happens that could in any way be taken as an attack on Christians, they fall over themselves to proclaim how persecuted they are. This happened again this past week, as Louie Giglio, well known pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, was withdrawn from praying the benediction at President Obama’s inauguration. The reason was pressure from LGBT groups because of a sermon Giglio had preached in the 1990s about homosexuality.

The Gospel Coalition immediately jumped on this as a sign of an anti-Christian bias in society, of President Obama’s campaign of religious intolerance and (of course) of the fact that the conservative evangelicals must be right because Jesus said that people would hate them. Read their statement here.

It’s amazing how John 15:19 is taken so out of context it is made to say exactly the opposite of what Jesus intended. Go and read John 15 for yourself quickly. The immediate context is about love. It’s about proving our commitment to God, our devotion to each other and our service to the world by how much we love. And not the “tough love” advocated by James Dobson (so called “love” that would reject a child because of their sexual orientation, or cut off ties with a friend because of their divorce) but the sacrificial love of Jesus, who “while we were yet sinners”, gave up his life for us. Keep reading into John 16. The people that Jesus was warning his disciples about – those that would “hate them” – were the religious leaders. Jesus was hated by Pharisees and Saducees, not by the people. This is the tragic irony of the persecution complex: it’s actually conservative evangelical church leaders that Jesus was warning us about. They are actually the persecutors, not the persecuted.

Anyway, back to Louie Giglio, who I actually believe has done something different. He has provided a wonderful example of the grace and love we are supposed to be showing to the world.

It seems as if he withdrew his acceptance to pray at the inauguration (rather than being “disinvited” as the Gospel Coalition said). Read his statement here, and the Inaugural Committee’s statement here. In the light of a growing backlash to the invitation, Giglio – maybe under pressure from the White House – chose grace and peace and love. Rachel Held Evans has stated beautifully the value of this move by Giglio:
“I applaud Giglio’s decision to do as much as he could to ensure that something as sacred as a prayer did not become overly politicized or divisive. He made grace and peace higher priorities than his own celebrity. To me, that’s the essence of what Paul meant when he said, ‘As much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people.’ We would do well to follow Giglio’s lead in this regard and discuss this situation with civility, not making more of it than necessary.”

I’d suggest, by the way, we should discuss the whole issue of homosexuality in the same way, too.

By the way, Rachel’s blog post on the issue is masterful. She explains that there is no denial of freedom of speech in Giglio’s removal from the Inauguration, nor are evangelical Christians being persecuted in America. Read her thoughts here.

It’s becoming too predictable, and a bad witness, that every little issue is seen as a storm, a denial of rights and a persecution by evangelical Christians – especially in America.

Thank you, Louie Giglio for your grace and wisdom.
Thank you, Rachel Held Evans for your insights and analysis.
Thank you, LGBT community for your continued concern and advocacy for people broken and wounded by a society and a church that does not know how to engage with you in love.
Thank you, God, for your patience with your creation and for helping us to inch forward – however slowly – towards the type of world that is truly “your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”.

Does Hashim Amla make you want to become a Muslim?

Hashim Amla is a South African cricketer – and fast becoming a legendary one too. He is sublime to watch, and is having the most phenomenal season. He is also universally acclaimed, by teammate and opponent alike, as the nicest, humblest, gentlest guy you’ll ever meet. A real sportsman’s sportsman.

And he is devoutly Muslim. He has the most fantastic beard, and by all accounts, in all ways, he takes his Muslim practices very seriously.

I only mention his religious faith and one of its outward expressions, because he has caused me to think about something that Christians do quite a lot. If, as Christians, we discover that some famous star – be they a sportsperson, singer, actor or celebrity of some kind – is also a Christian, we tend to venerate them a bit. And then we often devise evangelistic campaigns featuring that person.

I lost count as a child how many events I went to that featured some or other Christian sports personality telling me how his or her faith really helped them to become a famous sports star. Since I have two left feet – and that’s just counting my hands – and have never been good at any sport, these talks were never quite as inspiring as they should have been. But I wasn’t the target demographic I suppose. I still don’t think that they were the best approach.

My question is this: does Hashim Amla’s success combined with his most remarkable character and aura of calm, humility, authority, respect, class and confidence (a heady mix of all the things I think are best in humanity) make me want to become a Muslim? If a local mosque had an evening featuring Hashim Amla as guest speaker, I would definitely consider going. I’d sit enthralled, I am sure, as he spoke. And then, I’d politely sit through whatever short Islamic message that followed. I respect Islam, have some Muslim friends, understand the religion, have visited a number of mosques and a holy Islamic shrine, and even own a Koran (which I have read). But I highly doubt whether anything that Hashim Amla did or said would convince me to become a Muslim.

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Christmas is coming, and so is Saint Nick

Our current image of Father Christmas as a fat old man with red cheeks and long white beard was cemented into popular culture by Coca-Cola in the early 1930s, as part of a marketing campaign to get people to drink cold drinks during winter. The red-coated figure of Santa was created by a commercial illustrator, Haddon Sundblom, based on illustrations that had appeared in the New York Times in 1906, 1908 and 1925 (see below):

Santa Claus NYT 1906   Santa Claus NYT 1908   Santa Claus NYT 1925

But Santa Claus has been around for a long, long time in various cultures and traditions around the world. It is generally accepted that the earliest incarnations are based on the real life figure of St. Nicholas, who lived in Asia Minor in the 3rd century AD. He seems to have been a wealthy man, who gave most of his wealth away to help others. Famously, he would go at night in mid winter and throw bags of money into poor people’s houses. He used his entire inheritance to help the poor, sick, and children in need. He gave in secret, expecting nothing in return. He attended the Council of Nicea in AD 325. Greatly loved for his faith, compassion and care, he is venerated in both East and West.

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Do Evangelicals Really Love Jesus?

Phil Zuckerman is Professor of Sociology at Pitzer College in Claremont, CA, USA. He recently wrote a very insightful critique of American Evangelicals, and I think he hits the nail entirely on the head. His conclusion is powerful: Evangelicals love what Jesus can do for them, but don’t really love what Jesus asked them to do in response. In this sense, they don’t actually love Jesus. His article puts it even more strongly. Read the original Huffington Post article, or an extended extract below:

Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus

Huffington Post, Religion Blog, 6 September 2012
by Phil Zuckerman and Dan Cady

The results from a recent poll published by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reveal what social scientists have known for a long time: White Evangelical Christians are the group least likely to support politicians or policies that reflect the actual teachings of Jesus. It is perhaps one of the strangest, most dumb-founding ironies in contemporary American culture. Evangelical Christians, who most fiercely proclaim to have a personal relationship with Christ, who most confidently declare their belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, who go to church on a regular basis, pray daily, listen to Christian music, and place God and His Only Begotten Son at the center of their lives, are simultaneously the very people most likely to reject his teachings and despise his radical message.

Jesus unambiguously preached mercy and forgiveness. These are supposed to be cardinal virtues of the Christian faith. And yet Evangelicals are the most supportive of the death penalty, draconian sentencing, punitive punishment over rehabilitation, and the governmental use of torture. Jesus exhorted humans to be loving, peaceful, and non-violent. And yet Evangelicals are the group of Americans most supportive of easy-access weaponry, little-to-no regulation of handgun and semi-automatic gun ownership, not to mention the violent military invasion of various countries around the world. Jesus was very clear that the pursuit of wealth was inimical to the Kingdom of God, that the rich are to be condemned, and that to be a follower of Him means to give one’s money to the poor. And yet Evangelicals are the most supportive of corporate greed and capitalistic excess, and they are the most opposed to institutional help for the nation’s poor — especially poor children. They hate anything that smacks of “socialism,” even though that is essentially what their Savior preached. They despise food stamp programs, subsidies for schools, hospitals, job training — anything that might dare to help out those in need. Even though helping out those in need was exactly what Jesus urged humans to do. In short, Evangelicals are that segment of America which is the most pro-militaristic, pro-gun, and pro-corporate, while simultaneously claiming to be most ardent lovers of the Prince of Peace.

What’s the deal?

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