Sunday, July 29, 2018

How to write a Sermon in 25 minutes

I previously explained how I prepare a sermon when I have lots of time, but what about when you only have a few minutes!

Here's a real life example of when I only have a few minutes, you can see me preparing the sermon in 25min. And below this vid is the actual sermon so you can see the end result:

and heres the actual sermon:

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

How I Prepare a Sermon when I have plenty of time

The title of this post sounds so arrogant - who cares! But, its a question I get asked a lot, so I thought I'd post an Urban Ministry Program case study of me preparing and preaching a sermon from Genesis 4.

The first video starts off with exegesis and finding the main point and the FCF, to then preparing how to preach it. 

If you haven't done the UMP, don’t worry if some bits goes over your head, you might even want to skip some bits

The handout for the first video is here.

The second video is of me actually preaching this sermon ‘Sin is crouching at your door (Genesis 4)’ so you can see how it turned out.
And here is the mind map that I preached from.

later I'll post how I prepare a sermon when I only have 25 minutes!

Monday, July 16, 2018

The 'Prejudice Gospel' 2: What is it?

I previously introduced this idea here. Now, I'm gonna unpack it.

The Prejudice Gospel movement makes some groups feel further away
Paul wrote, 'He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.' (Eph 2:17). When white middle class brothers act as if they are the near ones, and those at the margins are far away - they grossly distort the gospel. By contrast, the Bible teaches that no matter your class, or ethnicity, or disability, unless you were Jewish, you were in the 'far away' group. Being at the margins of UK society doesn't in anyway make you further from God. Yet, conservative evangelicalism often makes those at the margins feel further away. For the fortunate ones who recognise they are not in reality further away from God, they still often feel further away from their brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Prejudice Gospel movement looks down on those who are weak
If someone shares a weakness, even if it's a mc brother, then gossip and suspicion abound, and doors to service are closed. If someone shares that they need the help of others, they are seen as weak and unfit for ministry. Part of the New Testament good news however is that God is most strong in our weaknesses (2 Cor 12:9-10).

The Prejudice Gospel gives less access to those at the margins
Whereas Ephesians teaches that 'through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household,' (Eph 2:18-19). Conservative Evangelicalism is fraught with the old boy network on multiple levels. Those at the top, keep their own network, and look down on and shut out the next tier. This tier feel hard done by, but they create their own network, that gives their friends plenty of access whilst shutting out the next group. And so on, it goes, until the margins, because networking tends to be a middle and upper class activity that hasn't been impacted by James 2:1-6. At the bottom of the pile, people just feel like they don't have access to the fellowship, resources, and affirmation of the higher ups. Even if you fight the Spiritual battle to know that its not true that you don't have access to God himself, you still feel shut out from your brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Prejudice Gospel movement doesn't preach to the poor
It will preach to the wealthy, and the middle and upper classes, but hardly any funds are diverted to preaching to the poor and down trodden. Great lengths have been taken to ensure the word 'poor' does not appear in any mission statements, even though it features in a number of Jesus and Paul's (Luke 4:18; Matt 11:5; Gal 2:10)! The message is that there's good news for the wealthy, but not the poor.

The Prejudice Gospel movement does not accept everyone
Jesus said, 'Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me;' (John 13:20). Those of us impacted by the prejudice gospel do not accept all those Jesus sends. We tend to only truly accept those who have exactly the same doctrine and practices (even though we acknowledge that our doctrine may be wrong in places, and that our praxis is not perfect). But even then, people at the margins who subscribe to the same doctrinal basis are not as accepted.

The Prejudice Gospel believes in 'strategic' ministry over word based & repentance based ministry.
Whilst the rhetoric sounds otherwise, the church planting strategy, posh boy camps, student emphasis etc. all communicate that unless you're higher up in society, you're not gonna get saved and make an impact. Furthermore, when prejudice is exposed, the good news is that we'll eventually come up with a new strategy to correct it, rather than the good news that we can repent and be forgiven.

The Prejudice Gospel says you must conform to our ways.
Even though Paul said no-one should feel like a stranger (Eph 2:19), there is a distinct culture that demands minorities assimilate. It starts off as subtle offers of training and mentoring. And the minorities' suspicions are assuaged by empty promises of, 'we want to learn from your culture.' But whenever a sister or brother speaks up, they are interrupted, corrected, and eventually branded as outspoken, unless they shut up. 'Strangers' then have the option of assimilating, so as to not feel like a stranger. However, the majority culture will not bend towards the stranger's culture. If the strangers refuse to change their ways, they will be gossiped about and sidelined, because of course, they're doing ministry all wrong!

The Prejudice Gospel uses Straw man arguments of social gospel to avoid loving deeds.
Armed with the propaganda of 1) any second they could slip into the 'social gospel', and 2) poor people wouldn't be poor if they were as responsible as the middle classes-- adherents to this movement avoid any loving deeds that could help alleviate suffering. It doesn't matter that Jesus's good news included bringing justice (Matt 12:18,20; 23:23)-- unless its the abortion issue, they don't do justice. All the while, this communicates that the good news is to be born into a middle class family, and definitely, not to be born a refugee who ends up cut off from their support base, and unable to cut through the red tape of our benefits system.

The Prejudice Gospel teaches faith plus background for ministry
Whilst Jesus said you just need faith to do great works for him, this movement teaches you need faith plus background. 'Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.' (Jn. 14:12 NIV)

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!