Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Where have all the Council Estate Christians gone? pt.2 'The Middle Class Dream'

Yesterday I posed the question and gave some quick answers. Today, I'm gonna look at one of the biggest reasons a lot of Christians have left their estate, the Middle Class Dream.

We've all grown up with it, even if we're from the endz. As a kid, I dreamed of moving off my estate. I was gonna buy a house for my mum in the suburbs, and a house for myself somewhere like Putney. The worldview I grew up with was that you need to do well, move out of the estate, and live in a nice house with a nice job. And I think that this is where a good number of our estate Christians have gone, and are going.

Its not automatically wrong to move to a nicer area, but I'd like to challenge the assumption that its automatically good.

Here's 3 very brief reasons:

1) A brief answer from the Bible
The Old Testament law and land system encouraged living close by to relatives, looking after relatives, and helping the poor in your community. The Decalogue tells us to not covet. The New Testament encourages us to use our station in life to glorify God. Acts outlines God using people's cultural backgrounds to reach people closer to those backgrounds. Now the Bible does also give exceptions but in general it points away from the British middle class dream.

2) A brief answer from missionary experience
Local people have a 'missionary power' that outsiders don't have, especially on estates. If you look at Paul, God used his Greek background to help him reach out to Greeks. Estate culture is suspicious of outsiders, so we badly need many of our insiders to stay to reach out to the lost.

3) A brief answer from common street knowledge
Remember how we used to look down on rappers who didn't live in the hood anymore, but we looked up to the rappers who still lived in their neighbourhood and supported it. There's something in us that just gets how good it is to support the empoverished tribe you're from. After a talk I did on reaching estates, a lady came up to me crying saying she deeply regretted leaving her estate years ago after becoming a Christian.

Where are you? Will some of you come back to reach the estates? Will the rest of us sell-out to a dream that falls so far short of God's glory? I know there are godly exceptions, but I'm heart broken over the lack of people staying.

pt3 tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Where have all the Council Estate Christians gone? pt1

Remember 2005? Christian rap and UK garage coming out of bedroom studios ran by Christian crews on council estates. Remember the outreaches? Remember the evangelism? Remember the excitement that street boys were turning to Christ? By now there ought to be a ton of indigenous estate Christians reaching out to the estates. But sadly that's not the case. What happened?

One of the things that happened was the power of the middle class worldview. Another thing thats happened is assimilation. Another thing is house prices. Another is the Christian job market. Lastly, and most tragically, backsliding has played a big role. I'm gonna try to respond to these with a series of posts over the next few days...

Monday, May 22, 2017

Reaching The Unreached Conference 2017!!!!

Hi, we're pleased to announced another RTU conference Sat 4th November 2017 at
London City Mission
Nasmith House
175 Tower Bridge Road

Booking is not open yet. Follow this blog to receive the latest info.

To see talks from previous RTU conferences, go here

Monday, May 15, 2017

Image Bearers 6: Voice

Here's the video and discussion guide for part 6 of our New Discipleship tool

Image Bearers 6 ‘Voice’

Feedback on how you got on with the tongue assignment of only building people up?

Read Matt 12:36, and discuss for a couple of minutes (how does it make you feel? How important is it to say the right thing? How easy is it to say the right thing? How long does the Tongue assignment really last for?)

Read Eph 4:15

What are we supposed to speak?______________

How are we supposed to speak? ________________

What will the result be? _______________________________________

Your mouth is your most useful tool for making disciples (helping people become more like the image of Christ).

Read Luke 6:45  
According to this verse, what’s going on when we don’t speak the truth lovingly to others?

So the real problem with our voices is our heart!

Tick the boxes for ways that you often use your voice. Circle the corresponding verses, and add them to your armoury of truth to pray through them during the week.

How you often use your voice
What’s in your heart
Replace with the good (meditate on these verses)
Speaking more than listening. Giving lots of advice
Pride: What I have to say is more important than what you have to say
Prov 3:7
Not sharing gospel truths with people
Fear: I can’t do this. Fear of man: They’ll think badly of me. Pride: They don’t matter enough for me to share God’s word with them.
Prov 29:25-26; Rom 1:14
Speaking in a harsh tone
Fear: I need to protect myself
Anger: I’m fed up with you
2Tim 4:18; Eph 4:29-32
Not encouraging people
Pride: They don’t deserve encouragement. Selfishness: All that matters is if I’m encouraged
2Cor 13:11; 1Thess 5:10-11; Heb 3:13
Pride: I know all the information about that person, let me be your guide about that person
Prov 11:13; 16:28; 20:19; 26:20; 2 Cor 12:20
Selfishness: I want you to like me, or to do something for me
1Thess 2:5; Rom 16:17-18; 1Tim 3:8 (NET)
Pride: I know better than everyone else
Prov 3:7; Jas 3:13-18;
Not giving constructive criticism
Fear: I might lose this friend if I correct them.
Eph 4:15
Accusing people
Pride: I’m all knowing and  you are definitely wrong.
Zech 3:1-4; Rom 14:4; Rev 12:10
Self-righteousness: Its impossible that I did anything wrong
Rom 3:23-24; 1John 1:8; 1Tim 1:15
Pride: I should be treated better than this
Phil 2:14; 1 Pet 4:9; Phil 2:3-11
Not speaking out on injustice
Selfishness: I don’t want to get caught in the cross fire
Prov 31:8-9
Self promotion
Pride: I want you to know how good I am, to win your approval.
Acts 5:1-10; 2 Cor 12:6
Putting people down (even with jokes)
Pride: I am putting myself in a superior position to you
Eph 4:29
Self-righteousness: I must be right.
Jas 3:17 ‘submissive‘ here means ‘open to reason’
Pride: I’m better than you
Prov 29:23; Jas 4:6
Pride, self-righteousness
Gen 3:12; Prov 28:13
Not owning up to sin
Pride, self-righteousness
Jas 5:16; 1 John 1:9

Read John 1:14
If we want to be like Jesus, our words need to contain ____________ and ___________

a) How can your words contain truth?
1)    Listening to God’s word (so that it informs your words)
2)    Listening to the person your speaking to (to avoid misunderstanding them)
a.    HUG without RESQ
Why do both these things require humility?

b) How can your words contain grace?
By exposing the hardened parts of your heart to God’s word. As the heart becomes softer, the more grace we will give others (Heb 3:12-13). Preaching the Gospel to ourselves each day.

So we need to be constantly:
1)    Hearing God’s word.
2)    Applying it to our hearts
3)    Hearing other people
4)    Passing on God’s words to them

There’s an interplay here of relationship, assessment, and voice:
a) To know the right way to use your voice with someone, you first need to assess where they are at.
b) To be able to use your voice in a patient way, you need to assess where you’re at and remove the log from your eye, and fill your heart with God’s love through his word.

Read 1 Thess 5:14, How can you know which category someone is in? ____________

If they’re weak – don’t speak, instead patiently _____________

If they’re disheartened, patiently ______________

If they’re idle or disruptive, patiently _____________

Memorize Eph 4:29


Sunday, May 14, 2017

RTU 2016 Q&A session now online

In this Reaching the Unreached 2016 panel Q&A, Efrem Buckle, Simon Smallwood, Julian Rebera, Graham Miller, and myself (Duncan Forbes) try to answer questions from the audience about:
Messy Church
Discipleship and Evangelism
What role cross-cultural workers should play (that one always comes up!)
Class and Race issues

Friday, May 12, 2017

Mental Health and Justification by Faith

As Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close, I'd like to focus on how it relates to justification.
Because of Justification by Faith (click on this link for an explanation by a much younger me!)

If I have mental health issues, people might look down on me. But Father God looks at me with a smile, saying, 'This is my son with whom I'm well pleased [because you're In-Christ]'(Matt 3:17)

If I have mental health issues, I might look down on myself. But Father God says, 'No-one is righteous, no one is good enough without my Son's righteousness being given to them. Here, take my Son's righteousness.' (Rom 3:10, 20-24)

If I have mental health issues, people might pass me over for things, But Father God says, 'I have chosen you and made you holy and blameless in my sight.'(Eph 1:4)

If I have mental health issues, people might judge me, But Father God says, 'Who are you to judge one of my servants? Is your mind 100% healthy?' (Jer 17:9; Rom 2:21-23)

If I have mental health issues, it might just make it even clearer to me how much I badly need Jesus' robe of righteousness.

If I look down on others with mental health issues, this might make it clearer to me how much I'm not trusting in Christ's righteousness.

If you wanna think about this more, here's a sermon called 'Are you good enuff?'

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What about when you're Post-Mental-Health?

Its Mental Health awareness week, so here's another post! There's many problems with the term 'Mental Health', not to mention how its used differently between the UK and USA. One particular problem is that once you no longer exhibit the symptoms necessary for a mental health diagnosis, its as if you're completely fine now. This leads to two similar problems:

1) Those who don't have an official mental health diagnosis can think they're ok.
But we all need renewing of the mind (Rom 12:1-2). We all have sinful hearts (Jer 17:9). We all have unbelief in God's goodness throughout the day. So, if we don't have an official diagnosis we can feel like 'I'm ok' when really our hearts (where our mental comes from) need some serious work on them. If you go through our worksheet here, you can see how even without mental health issues, our assessments of people and situations can be way off.

2) Those who no longer present symptoms can think they're now ok.
The doctors might say you're fine now, but you might still have stuff to work through. For example,
I found that once I no longer had PTSD symptoms, I still had to mourn through past abuse, and still needed renewing of the mind in key areas. I might no longer respond with PTSD symptoms to certain triggers, but I still respond in a way that need's God's help.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Trauma and what happens in the Brain (Sensitization)

When we experience trauma, our brain is changed. The excellent book "The boy who was raised as a dog" (by Perry & Szalavitz), explains in the second chapter how our brains can experience sensitization. The following is my understanding of this from both the book and my own personal experience of trauma.

Sensitization works like this: We experience a traumatic event, and our brain becomes more sensitive to the stimuli we've experienced. For example, one day we hear a gun shot and see something traumatic happen. Our brain logs the stimuli of the gunshot, and becomes more sensitive to loud noises. This could mean that a year later, we hear a car backfire, and our brain responds as if it were a gun shot, resulting in us hitting the deck, with our body surging with adrenaline.

How the sufferer can respond to sensitization:
1) Knowing that this is a normal pattern of the brain, can be immensely helpful. Instead of feeling like a brain injury patient, you can feel more like a person made in the image of God, with a brain functioning how God made it to.

2) Knowing the benefits of sensitization can be helpful. God has made our brains this way, presumably to protect us from further trauma. Sensitization can lead to incredibly quick and useful responses to harmful stimuli. In my case, by God's grace, I saved a couple of lives, and protected myself many times because of sensitization. I see the sensitization in my brain as part of Father God lovingly taking care of me as one of his sons.

3) Knowing that sensitization is not really an overreaction. OK, technically, I think scientists would say, the trauma survivor's reaction to the car back firing is an 'overreaction' to the present stimuli; but I think there's a more helpful way to view it: It is not an overreaction to the present stimuli, but a commensurate reaction to events both present and past. Here's why this matters: If I frame my jumping to the ground as an overreaction, then I will shamefully see myself as the problem, and wish I was different, and try harder to be different, whilst ignoring the past trauma I'm still reacting to. If, however I frame my hitting the deck as a commensurate reaction to both the past trauma and the present event, then, I understand how much the past trauma is effecting me, and I know what still needs to be dealt with - the past trauma.

4) Processing the past trauma. This is beyond the scope of this blog post, so I will just briefly explain that I need to work through the past trauma, with someone witnessing the trauma, validating my feelings, and helping me see any lies I might be believing about that trauma. I touched on this here.

5) Using sensitization to grow. My reactions to certain stimuli teach me how to grow in my response to a fallen world. I faced a number of life threatening situations as a child which were obviously very scary to me, and affected how my brain works. As an adult, when I've experienced life threatening experiences, I've found that afterwards I feel shaken and upset. One the one hand, that's to be expected, but on the other hand, knowing about sensitization, I know that part of my shakiness and upset is due to my childhood experiences. So, these are opportunities for growth. I grow by mourning the past events, and by renewing my mind (Rom 12:2). Now, I'm armed with a truth I did not know when I was a child, now I know that God is sovereignly in control of everything, and will only permit certain things to happen if its for my good and his glory (Rom 8:28 etc.). So, firstly, I live off a regular diet of meditating on this truth. Secondly, after life threatening events, I now process  them through this grid, considering how God was in control the whole time. Thirdly, I've processed the past events through this grid too. So, knowing about sensitization leads to the renewing of my mind, and the healing of past hurts.

How can friends respond to a trauma survivor's sensitisation:
1) Don't tell them they're overreacting. That's as useful as telling someone to 'Calm Down!' Instead, recognise that their reaction is probably a commensurate reaction to past and present events.

2) Consider if you are adding to their trauma in any way. When you think they're overreacting, have you in any contributed to that? For example, if they were traumatically betrayed in their childhood, have you just betrayed them in some small way? If so, don't minimize your actions by saying, "you're overreacting", instead quickly confess your wrong to them, no matter how small it might be. This will firstly help your own relationship with God, and secondly, be very healing to your friend. It might even be the first time a betrayer has repented to them - just imagine how healing that could be! The flip side, is that if you don't confess how you've hurt them, they are going to be feeling double pain, not just the pain of what you've done, but the pain of the past being replayed in their brain.

3) Be a trusted friend on their side. Our natural instinct to other people's sensitization is to be impatient and judgmental, thinking, "oh come on, just get over it, stop making stuff such a big deal." But when we think like that, we're beginning to cross over from being on the same side, to the other side of the road, which then easily leads to being in opposition to our friend. Instead, let's remember that we're on the same team. Let's show our friend that we're with them and for them, and will mourn with them (Rom 12:15). Let's show them they can trust us. If we do this, they might feel safe enough to trust us with helping them use sensitization to grow. For example, there's a small number of people to whom I can say, "you know, I think I'm really hurt because of how similar that thing is to what happened when I was a child." These are invaluable people in my life, worth their weight in gold. They are people who I can easily trust to give me the encouragement to keep on growing for God's glory.

Monday, May 08, 2017

The Rightness and Wrongness of Being a Minority

I'm a minority. I'm disabled, and I'm from a council estate. I've experienced discrimination for both of these things. My whole life I've also felt an affinity for any other type of minority group around the world. I believe us minorities are often treated badly, and I believe that we often fight against this in both a right and wrong way. So here goes....

The Rightness of Being a Minority
God is against favouritism and prejudice (Jas 2:1-4). He has a soft spot for the poor and the broken (Jas 2:5). When people in power act contrary to this, they are in the wrong. When people speak up against prejudism and injustice, they are in the right.

The Wrongness of Being a Minority
I'm not going to talk about the wrongness of social inequality in the UK, or the wrongness of disability from the fall (Gen 3). Instead, I'm talking about the wrongness that I carry around with me every day. I'm a sinner, with a heart that carries around a mixture of good and bad (Ezek 36:26; Jer 17:9). When I take a stand against injustices, there's a chance that I'll do it in a proud, self-righteous way.

Sometimes, people see us minorities as whingers who need to shut up complaining. Others see us as automatically in the right, almost made righteous by our minority status. I think its more complicated.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Image Bearers 5: Grace-based Relationships

In part 5, we look at grace-based vs works-based relationships.
As usual, we start with a sermon (here), and then later in the week discuss through our heart issues, with the worksheet below.

Image Bearers 5 ‘Relationships’

Two different ways to have relationships

Works based relationships
This is when we accept people based on what they do instead of their faith in Christ (compare with Gal 2:16). We each have our own mental check lists of how we want other people to be. If people check off enough boxes, we like them. If people do not, we judge them, and look down on them. We’re basically say they are not justified because they have not fulfilled the law!

The big lies behind this mentality:
1.    Its as if we think we are God, and we have the right to make a checklist, and judge everyone.
2.    Its as if we think we are a good person, because we think we do all the things right on God’s checklist (Jas 2:10).

Grace based relationships:
We accept people even with all their shortcomings. This is because we’re continually remembering that we have so many shortcomings, and yet God still accepted us through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:23-24).

Which of these things do you find hinder you accepting people?
Do you have the same root sin?
What might repentance include?
They’re from another group / class / ethnicity  
Are you from a different group to God? Has he still accepted you? Why?
Confessing self-righteousness. Accepting others from different groups
They don’t do things the same way as you  

Do you do things exactly as God does? Yet, does he still accept you? Why?
Confessing self-righteousness. Accepting people who do things differently
They seem selfish
Are you ever selfish? Does God still accept you? Why?
Confessing selfishness, accepting and viewing other selfish people as just like me.
They seem lazy
Do you have the same root sin of selfishness? Does God still accept you? Why?
Confessing selfishness. Realizing we all have our own favourite ways of being selfish. Accepting those who display it in a lazy way.
They seem controlling
Do you also try to control things in an unloving way? Does God still accept you? Why?
Confessing control. Realizing we all struggle with it in some way. Accepting others who control, knowing they’re like you and God has accepted you both.
They think they’re better than everyone else
Do you also have the same root sin of pride? Does God still accept you? Why?
Confess pride in even the thought that others are proud! Accept those people, knowing Jesus gives them and you his righteousness
They’re always letting me down
Do you let God down? Does God still accept you? Why?
Recognise when others let us down, its no worse than how we’ve let God down. Extend forgiveness to others like God has to us.
They gossip too much 
Have you ever gossiped? Do you have the same root sin of self-righteousness and pride? Do you only ever speak in a way that is a blessing to others? Does God still accept you? Why?
Recognise that none of us speak in a way that earns God’s righteousness. Therefore, its wrong to look down on others for how they speak.
They eat too much
Is there anything that you indulge of too much? Does God still accept you? Why?

They’re judgmental
Do you have the same root sin of pride and self-righteousness? Does God still accept you? Why?

They don’t encourage me enough

Are there ways that you also don’t lift people up enough? Does God still accept you? Why?

Read Matthew 7:1-5

Good relationships involves knowing where I’m at, and where you’re at.

Where I’m at.
I might think I can see a spec in your eye, but I need to also know I have a log in my eye. I’m in the wrong, but made in the right by Christ alone.

Where the other person is at
My friend is also in the wrong, but made right by Christ alone. I also need to be aware of what situation they’re in right now…

Memorize 1 Thessalonians 5:14

From this verse what are the 3 types of specs we might think we see in someone’s eye?

What are your usual reactions to these supposed specs in others?

Disruptive / lazy _________________________

Disheartened ___________________________

Weak     _______________________________

What might repentance look like for you?

For the previous parts to this course:
Part 1 video can be found here
Part 1 discussion guide can be found here
Part 2 video can be found here
Part 2 discussion guide can be found here