Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Urban Catechism training videos now FREE online!!!!!!

All the training videos for the Urban Catechism are now available for FREE online below!
Initially, you had to do the Urban Ministry Program for this training, but I really wanted to make it available to everyone without cost.

The idea is to help people make disciples who make disciples. Its also a way of learning Systematic Theology, but through the lens of discipleship.

You can still take people through the catechism without this training as long as you have the Catechism and Teacher's Guide (available here). However, this video training will add the following:

1) Take you through the Teacher's Guide, explaining it.

2) Go a bit deeper than the Teacher's Guide, so that you are well and truly comfortable with the kinds of questions people will ask as you disciple them.

3) Give tips throughout the course on how to take a variety of people through the catechism, including young children.

4) Give you the equivalent of a first year seminary level module in Systematic Theology, in a way that you can easily digest and then explain to all kinds of people.

5) Train your group for discipleship in the urban context, without sending them away and losing their missionary power.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The 'Prejudice Gospel' 1: We wouldn't want more prosperity gospel churches planted, so why more prejudice churches?

In conservative evangelicalism I've often heard the perils of social gospel and prosperity gospel. For the record, I'm not a fan of either. However, our own constituency has the 'Prejudice Gospel'. We might not be too aware of it, but many in the word of faith movement aren't too aware of the term and implications of 'Prosperity Gospel' either.

There presently seems to be almost the white man's great burden to plant as many churches as possible to compensate for all the other churches who haven't got it right (I'm not talking about those who plant where there's no evangelical churches at all). But, you know what? We haven't got it right either!

Across the globe the UK is famous for its classism, and there's no reason to assume that at conversion we Christians automatically jettison every classist attitude that we've been entrenched in since birth. When Tim Keller spoke at EMA years ago, he told us we needed to deal with our classism problem in the church. But almost nothings happened. Its possibly the only Keller point that hasn't been celebrated over here! So we're possibly planting classist churches.

Since Stephen Lawrence years ago, and more recently, Brexit, our racism, which we tried to deny for so long, has also become well known. Again, there's no reason to think we as Christians are immune to racism. Those of us who have grown up amongst minorities, and then joined conservative evangelicalism, have witnessed racism in the church, even though it far more subtle than EDL marches. So we're possibly planting racist churches.

We also suffer from ablism. Look at the stats, and see how underrepresented people with disabilities are in churches, especially in leadership. How many churches and conferences even have decent disabled access? Furthermore, where is a robust theology of strength in weakness taught and practised? And where's the support - do we leave it to the government who are doing poorly in this area?

I'm gonna combine classism and racism and ablism here and say we have a problem I call the 'Prejudice Gospel'. I can't unpack it all here, I just want to introduce the concept. In general we have a good news message that wrongly includes the message that certain groups are superior and of more worth, and more desirable than others: 'God died for all kinds of people, especially the white middle classes.' Everyone has access to God and church, but some have more access than others!

What's the solution? Well, what would you expect of Benny Hinn if he were to stop promoting Prosperity Gospel? Possibly public repentance & being mentored? I think we need to trust enough in Christ's righteousness to be able to sit down with people and ask them of their experiences of prejudice (without any push back). And then publicly repent and make changes in keeping with that repentance.

more to follow on the prejudice gospel....

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Should we keep planting all-white leadership teams in London?

London is a multi-ethnic & multi-class city, but we're still planting churches that start with a white (and usually middle class) leadership team. I think this is problematic for the following reasons:

1) From the get go, it communicates that this church is for white middle class people. It really stands out from the rest of London, so the message is quite stark. Of course, some others might join, but usually only those happy to assimilate.

2) The leaders will reinforce each other's blindspots. Peter had blindspots that needed to be exposed by people with different cultural outlooks (Acts 10; Gal 2).

3) Any minorities added later to the team will have to adapt to an already established culture. It will be hard for them to be an equal voice.

Now the common objections I hear in response are:

4) 'But we don't have the people needed for diverse leadership teams.' To which I'd say, 'why not!!!!!! What is your group doing wrong, that it doesn't have diversity? - work on that, fix that first. Otherwise, you're actually compounding the problem, and promoting a system that makes your group even more top heavy with white middle classes.

5) 'But we're going to become more diverse later.' I find this unconvincing. If you don't already have diverse friends, what makes you think you'll gain them or even like them in ministry? You need to first learn how to relate to different groups as peers, or even mentors before you can start leading other groups. Start as you intend to go on, otherwise, later on, with the pressures of ministry, its gonna be even harder to become more diverse, because it wasn't in your DNA to start with.

6) But its more important to plant new churches, so we should plant even if we're not diverse' - but does the Bible really teach this? Where does this drive to keep planting new churches in London come from? I haven't heard one convincing theologically rigorous argument for this. Surely we want to deal with the prejudice within our movements before exporting them via plants on other people's doorsteps? Now if someone wants to plant a multi-class, multi-ethnic church, trans-cultural church in London - then great, because that's what church should look like and we're lacking that: But again, start with a leadership team that looks like that.

7) 'Its better to have separate homogenous churches' - Again where is the Biblical basis for this? How can you reconcile this with what the Bible says about different ethnicities and classes becoming one and avoiding prejudice? How does it reconcile with the New Testament churches of Jews and Gentiles? Even if you see merit in the homogenous unit principle, I've argued here that in Acts its used a different way.

So what's the way forward?
We need to look at the problems that have led to this sad situation. We need to repent where necessary. We need the leaders who make decisions about church planting to actually be a multi-ethnic and multi-class group themselves. And then, if we really do need another church plant in London, we can plant one with diverse leadership at the get go. OR, if repentance is too hard, maybe we can start working with other church groups who are already more diverse? OR, maybe we need to start new group - but let's remember Animal Farm too!