Monday, September 26, 2016

Perfectionism vs Repentance in Witnessing

Sometimes I can feel like if I'm not living perfectly, then I'm being a bad witness for Christ.

Of course, as we're living in the already but not yet, there is still indwelling sin within each one of us, so until I die, or Christ returns, I will still sin. This means that perfectionism is not possible, and Jesus doesn't expect me to live a perfect life.

So my neighbours and non-Christian friends won't be able to see a perfect person in this life (other than Christ). Instead what I can show them hopefully is a repentant person who is gradually changing.

Rather than trying to be perfect witnesses, I'm trying to be honest about my failings, and my sin, and instead demonstrate continual repentance. A repentance that shows how amazing Jesus is, that he's freed me up to be able to admit my sin, and that he's provided forgiveness so that I can openly repent, not fearing punishment.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Power & Prejudice in the Church today

When I was abused as a child by someone more powerful than me, I tried to use my voice to speak out against it, but I was shut up. When I went to a teacher who had the power to stop it, he did nothing.

As God's image bearers we have power and voice. Like Adam we're given power to serve and protect (work and keep the garden). Like Adam we're also given a voice to use this power (naming animals and his wife). The affects of the fall however messes up our power and voices.

In my case, my childhood voice was ineffective because it wasn't listened to. In my teacher's case, he had the power to protect me, but he didn't use his power to protect me, and he didn't allow my voice to be powerful.

In churches today we sadly see the same pattern. People use their voices to speak out against misuses of power. These misuses of power come in a various forms of abuse; gossip and slander, legalism and heavy shepherding, excessive anger and violence, inappropriate relationships, and child abuse. The complainant's voices often get ignored by the people with the power to stop the misuse of power. The people with the power often don't use their power to stop the abuse, even when its someone else causing the abuse.

There's 4 ways I'd like to highlight this plays out in the western church:

1) Racial Injustice: If someone from an ethnic minority tries to speak out against a racial injustice, the majority culture who have the power to do something about it, often ignore their voice. They often fail to use their power to redeem the situation.

2) Class Prejudice: If someone from the lower classes (in the UK) tries to speak out against class prejudice and inequality, some of the upper classes tend to ignore their voice. The people who have power to change the inequality often don't and instead use their power to defend themselves.

3) Child Abuse: If a child or parent tries to speak out against abuse, some church leaders try to quieten those voices. The very people who could use their power to stop the abuse, try to cover it up instead.

4) General Offences: If a believer goes to another believer and says, 'I believe you sinned against me' (Matt 18). The other believer will sometimes fail to hear their voice, and fail to use their power to wrong the right. Instead, they might use their power and voice to defend themselves. They subsequently hold a power over the wounded person, as they refuse to repent and provide reconciliation and closure.

All of these situations are highly unbiblical, yet sadly very common. 

Why is this? 
One reason for the first two situations could be that majority cultures can easily misuse the image of God by using their power to defend their positions rather than serving and protecting.

What about the third situation? Sadly child abuse is so prevalent all over the world that I don't think it can be limited to one culture. What we have seen is that all over the world, it is tragically common for some people to use their power in an exceedingly wicked way over powerless children. This is sin issue that is common to the whole human race.

What about the fourth situation? Sadly both majority and minority culture church leaders misuse their power, refusing to listen to other's voices. This is not a class problem, its a problem common to all of mankind, as we all have indwelling sin and deceitful hearts.

What's the solution?
  1. We need a bigger view of the power of indwelling sin, and the deceitfulness of our hearts. This will help us to be more realistic about the possibilities that we ourselves are misusing power. We will also be more open to hearing that one of our colleagues might also be misusing power.
  2. We need a bigger view of the cross so that we truly believe that Jesus has paid for the sin of misusing our power. If we truly believe this, we will experience the freedom to own up to our misuse of power. 
  3. We also need to apply the doctrine of justification by faith alone to our hearts. As we truly accept Christ's justification, we won't feel the need to justify and defend ourselves. 
  4. We need to regularly and constantly apply the gospel to every area of our lives, including:
    1. How are we reflecting God's power and voice?
      1. Are we serving and protecting others?
      2. Are we using our voices in a proud way that ignores the cry of the hurt and oppressed?
    2. How are we helping others to use their power and voice.
      1. Are we helping those who have been hurt to use their god given power in the right way?
      2. Are we listening to people and helping them to find and use their voices?
What will the result be?
We could end up reflecting God better, and having churches that are safer for children, and minorities, but also churches where children and minorities flourish. Multi-cultural churches where everyone gets to use their voice and power in an appropriate way for God's glory.

Monday, September 12, 2016

How God Comforts Us

For the last few weeks and months I've been teaching on how God comforts us. You can watch the series if you're interested here:

Friday, September 09, 2016

The Song I Wrote when my Dad Died

It would have been my dad's birthday a few days ago. Here's the song I wrote when I'd heard he'd died.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

RTU Conference Line Up (19th Nov 2016)

This year at our Reaching The Unreached conference, it looks like we're gonna be blessed with having Graham Miller and Simon Smallwood speaking. I'll do a session too.

The conference will be at East London Tabernacle which is a great venue.

I'll post more details as they come.

If you want to know more about Reaching the Unreached, head over to

RTU's vision is to see ‘a movement of Christ centered churches reaching the social deprived in a grass roots way’.
RTU's mission (how we get there) is through, ‘Linking and Training.’

How do we learn stuff?

With new students starting the Urban Ministry Program, I've posted this video to help us be better learners.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Trusting God in advance for future suffering

Since childhood I've had a fear for the future. My thinking has often gone along these lines: 'So much has already gone wrong in my life, there's surely going to be much more that goes wrong in the future.' This thinking is fuelled by fear, and promotes more fear, fear about the future. 

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.' (2 Cor 1:8-11 NIV)

The apostle Paul faced a lot of suffering and trauma. Sometimes his suffering was so bad that he despaired of life itself (2 Cor 1:8). But he believed one of the reasons for this was that he would not rely on himself but on God (v.9). 

Paul reflected on how God had delivered him from these trials, and that he would again in the future, 'He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.' (v.10). Paul's experience has made him intentional about trusting God for the future, for he says, 'On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us' (v.10). For Paul getting through suffering is not just about getting through it, but is about then learning to continue to trust God for future suffering.

Here I see the need to reflect on what God has done in the past, and how it shows he will get me through any future sufferings too. 

However, for Paul to get through future trials, he knows that this is also dependant on the prayers of others, 'On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.' (v.11).

So, to guard against fear for the future, I see the need for the following:
1) Reflect on how God has got me through past suffering
2) Based on this reflection, trust that he will get me through any future suffering
3) Ask for pray, build up prayer support, people who will be faithful in prayer during times of suffering.
4) Reflect on how this process helps me to rely on God instead of myself.

Here's a sermon I preached recently on these verses:

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Reaching the Unreached Conference Nov 2016

We're doing a one day RTU conference for reaching the socially deprived of the UK on 19th November at East London Tabernacle.
More details will follow soon on this blog and on (where you can also find videos of our previous conferences).
If you follow @UrbanMinistryUK on twitter you will get the very latest updates too.
I hope you can make it.