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Makes you think August 4, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Young people.
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There was an interesting contrasting piece in the Times on Friday. Two articles – one reporting on Camp Quest – an atheist camp helped financially by Richard Dawkins (Britain’s first atheist camp) and a CPAS Venture Christian holiday (helping children keep the faith). The two articles offer an interesting contrast especially for someone devoting two weeks to running such events this summer. Ruth Gledhill sums up the two articles quite well on her blog here

I have long felt that there is nothing particularly Christian or even spiritual about the residential experiencs. The former Soviet Union used Pioneer Camps as part of their strategy for training youngsters in their ideology. But there is something about the what happens when you put a group of young people together. However in that atmosphere we can create space for open honest questioning and investigation – that is what I experienced most last week.

Of course – I believe God was at work but i counted it a real privilege to be with such a great group of people on holiday with God as a natural part of all we did. I was again struck by the relevance of the Bible for all time.


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?

Literature and the Bible June 1, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Uncategorized.
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I just heard about a rather useful website that helps students (mostly aimed at A level) understand how Christianity has influenced literature and the arts down through history. It’s very easy to navigate and well presented. Check it out at http://www.crossref-it.info and pass on the details to young people you know currently revising hard, or thinking – hey there’s a year to go what’s the stress!