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Christianity in the digital space July 14, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Bible, Media.
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digitalsymp3I am spending three days this week at St John’s College Durham at a symposium – ‘Christianity in the Digital Space’. Today has been full with a presentation by Mark Brown available here. Then 4 groups looking at Bible, Spirituality, Community and Mission in the Digital Space. This mornings discussion raised on Mission raised some very interesting questions around how we might actually create neutral, safe or sacred spaces on the net as part of our approach to evangelism. This afternoon we talked about on-line religious or missional orders. There’s loads of stuff to look at on-line videos on YouTube here and you can follow the live video feed here 7.30pm this evening

Does God Get Angry? 2 July 2, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Bible.
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A colleague of mine lent me a book called ‘Show Them No Mercy’ Which is a great title (It was published by Zondervan in 2003) . It’s a series of articles about the Canaanite Genocide and how we respond to the passages in the Bible that attribute this genocide to God. It’s not always comfortable (or easy) reading. But I’ll quote for you a story one of the writers recounts:
‘A former student shared with me the sad story of his father, a dedicated lay leader of an evangelical church, who in mid-life set out to read the Bible through for the first time. He was first surprised, then shocked, and finally outraged by the frequency and ferocity of divinely initiated and sanctioned violence in the Olt Testament. About half way through the book of Job, he shut his Bible never to read it again and has not set foot inside a church since’.

Now I kind of want to scream ‘ What do you mean he was only just reading it for the first time? He was a lay leader!’ But how many times do we read or wrestle with these passages? do we try to hide them or skip over them so that young people we work with won’t be put off.

They’re not easy but they are there, and if we want to avoid future leaders who are in our care having a similar experience to the one described above, I suspect we’ll need to think through how we help them engage with these texts rather than ignore them.

Britain ‘knows little about the Bible’ July 1, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Bible.
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Thats a surprising headline- NOT!

An initial note about a report that I have some connection with. The Biblical Literacy Survey has been exploring the extent of the Bible knowledge in Britain today. It is reported in the Independent here. Some of its headlines are

  • Figures such as Abraham and Joseph were a source of puzzlement and it was rare to find anyone who could name the Ten Commandments
  • 57 per cent of people knew nothing about Joseph or his brothers despite the hit musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat
  • 60 per cent were ignorant of the story of the Good Samaritan.

David Wilkinson comments ‘a good grounding in the stories and characters of the Bible was essential to understanding history and culture because so much of art, music and literature was bound up with religious themes’

It’s an idea very close to my heart as I believe that our practice in children’s and youthwork is largely based on calling children and young people back to a faith they already know about. Since this pool is getting smaller we will have to explore again what it means to be involved in evangelism and discipleship with those who have little or no previous Bible knowledge or experience of Christianity. (They are what mission shaped church refer to as ‘unchurched’ – a term I find perjorative!)

So are we content to work with those who already know and use approaches that call them to appropraite faith or will we go on the long journey to discover new ways to share the good news. I wonder who is doing that already and can share lessons for the rest of us?

Transforming Preaching June 25, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Bible, Youth Work.
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I have always enjoyed the stuff that Jonny Baker writes about Alternative Worship. I had been doing stuff with teenagers for 10 years before I discovereed a label for it. Others have also picked up on this and Scripture Union have a whole series of books in their Multi-Sensory… series

But I have also had two parallel feelings about the movement.

a) It’s come out of dissatisfaction  with the current practices of church. I would feel more comfortable if it was driven by a clear missiology

b) It has focussed on individuals or small groups rather than transforming existing practices (hence the term alternative).

So it was interesting to receive the latest Grove booklet from Jonny on preaching. It does seem as if most of the book is not about preaching at all. There are great examples of interactive activities and worship gatherings and a few nuggets for sermons. Perhaps what is missing at the start is a definition of preaching since most of the time we hear preaching and think sermons/talks. This is all hinted at in the book without being explicit.

The key feature for me is that our goal is surely that we want people to have space to encounter the living God. It is that encounter that transforms not our clever activities. But choosing activities that allow the space for that encounter is a significant tool. That’s where the grove booklet hits the nail on the head. I have recently been involved with two books focussed on that from a ‘Using the Bible’ perspective – check them out

toptips 1toptips 2

So this weekend where will our youth work allow the space for life transforming encounters with God? Worth reflecting on that as we sit down to plan.