Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Developing the Leader within You: John Maxwell 1

I have found this to be the most helpful leadership book I have ever read when it comes to self-leadership. From time to time in the next few weeks I will give you 4 of my favourite quotes. Here’s the first…

A few years ago when I turned forty, I began to review my life. I made a list of all the things I was doing at that time. My list included:

Senior pastor of a congregation of 3,500 attenders; oversight and development of thirteen pastors; President of Injoy, Inc., a company that develops resource materials for thousands of people; a national and international speaking schedule with over four hundred engagements annually; producing a monthly leadership tape for Injoy Life Club subscribers; writing a book every eighteen months; working on another education degree; and most important – taking enough time for my wife, Margaret, and our two children, Elizabeth and Joel Porter.

After writing out my list my conclusion was twofold: I didn’t have any more hours and therefore I couldn’t work any harder; and my future growth in production would be determined by my ability to work through other people.

These two realities enabled me to search for and find the most important leadership lesson I’ve ever learned:

Those closest to the leader will determine the level of success for that leader.’

Friday, 27 March 2009

When did death come into it?

There are two other weighty objections to reading the creation accounts in any other way than a literal one. The first is the explanation of the origin of death (Gen 2:16-17, Rom 5:12). If death only became a reality after the Fall then the long period of history that modern evolutionary science assumes simply did not take place. Secondly, the justification for the Sabbath is rooted in the seven day pattern of creation. (Exodus 20:8, 11).

These are impressive arguments but they have not convinced everyone. Three main questions marks have been raised against this interpretation of Genesis. These relate to the purpose of Genesis, its genre - i.e. the type of literature it is and the relationship between human knowledge and scripture. These will be picked up later as the other two approaches to the creation/evolution debate are discussed, but one further point needs be noted. Some who hold the literal reading of Genesis do so ‘with an unbecoming belligerence which threatens with the name apostate those who step out of line.” (from translator’s foreword, In the Beginning: the Opening Chapters of Genesis - Henri Blocher)

Further Reading
Three Views on Creation and Evolution – edited by J P Moreland & John Mark Reynolds
Over 25 Questions on Creation/Evolution and the Bible - Ken Ham
In the Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis - Henri Blocher

to be continued...

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

How long is a day?

Given that the primary purpose of the Bible is not to teach science, how much should we take account of what we read in Genesis 1-2 in our thinking about the origins of humans and the whole cosmos? Here’s what a great theologian of the early church wrote about the different approaches adopted in his day.

On this subject there are three main views. According to the first, some wish to understand paradise only in a material way. According to the second, others wish to take it only in a spiritual way. According to the third, others understand it both ways, taking some things materially and others spiritually. If I may briefly mention my own, I prefer the third. Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430 AD)

The dominant view for the church up to the end of 17th century was a literal reading of Genesis 1 & 2. Others would call it a flat, naïve or superficial reading. But taking these early chapters of Genesis as a straightforward account of what happened, then in six 24 hours God created the heavens and the earth. For those that know the God of the Bible the issue is not how He could have created everything in 6 days but why He took so long!

Augustine argues against creation in six days and thinks it all appeared instantaneously - in a moment. Some would say that those who believe that the Bible is God’s inspired authoritative word should be committed to the ‘creation in six 24 hour days’ view. For though the term ‘day’ can be used metaphorically or generally for a long period of time, in Genesis the phrase ‘evening and morning’ clearly points to a 24 hour period. Also the narrative of Genesis runs seamlessly from the creation of the world to Adam and Eve and then through their family to Abraham and beyond. As we do not doubt that events associated with Abraham are to be read literally shouldn’t we also read the accounts of Adam and Eve in the same way? The NT writers seem to implicitly accept the historicity of these accounts. (Luke 3:38; Rom 5:14, 1 Cor 15:22, 45; 1 Tim 2:13-14)

Friday, 20 March 2009

The Creator in His rightful place!

In complete contrast to the stories from the ancient Near East, Genesis reveals there is only one God, who is unique and without equal. He is all powerful and completely holy. God creates everything out of nothing and all that He makes is good. Creation has an order and purpose because God made it; life therefore is not pointless but meaningful and humanity’s role and destiny is unique. We are the only creature made the subject of divine deliberation, “let us make him in our own image” (Gen 1:26), and though made out of the dust of the earth and so linked with all creation, we are the only one to receive the breath of God (Gen 2:7). Adam and Eve are made in His image and given the role of stewards of creation. (Gen 1:27-28) So, far from being an also-ran, men and women are seen to be the climax of God’s creative activity.

The simplicity of Genesis is deceptive for, though briefly told, the account of creation undermines alternative religions and philosophies - ancient and modern. The Bible leaves no room for polytheism, pantheism, dualism, fatalism or materialism or any other ‘ism’ which dethrones the one true God or robs human life of dignity or purpose. On this all Christians should agree.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Creation and evolution and all that stuff...

I am passionately committed to broad theological thinking. The following postings on the creation/evolution debate are drawn from a paper put together by a theological research team – I asked them to look at this issue with reference to this year’s Darwin anniversaries - 200 years since his birth and 150 years since the first publication of his book The Origin of Species. I hope this review will be a useful resource to many. The aim is not provide a definitive answer but to identify key issues that need to be considered.

So, to start at the very beginning… Even amongst Bible believing Christians there is debate about how Genesis 1 & 2 relates to modern science. It should be possible to identify areas that all Christians should agree on and then subsequently to look at three alternative answers that evangelical Christians have given on this topic.

The basic events of Genesis 1-11 find some parallels in other ancient writings from the ancient Near East. Three of the most famous are:
Atrahasi Epic - which depicts creation and early human history.
Enuma Elish – contains a creation account
Gilgamesh Epic – in which Gilgamesh, ruler of Uruk, experiences numerous adventures, including meeting with the only survivor of a great deluge, Utnapishtim.

It is not the similarities between Genesis and these other ancient stories that is striking, but the differences. When looked at, Genesis’ unique and far superior nature is obvious. So, in the other ancient accounts there are a multitude of gods who are limited in power and knowledge. Besides that they are not always very moral. In these stories, humankind - far from being the crown of creation is an after-thought – in one of them we are created to help out the lesser gods who had the job of feeding the rest of the divine beings and the flood was sent because we couldn’t do that without making too much noise!

Friday, 13 March 2009

A Visit to Tim Keller's Church

I was inspired and challenged by hearing Tim Keller recently in London. To then have the chance to go and visit Redeemer Church in Manhattan, New York, which he has lead since 1989 and brought from an attendance of 15 to that of 3000 each Sunday, was a great privilege. His philosophy of ministry has enabled him to effectively present the gospel to the generation he serves, mainly singles and mainly young professionals.

When he spoke in London, he raised issues close to my own heart! The importance of reaching the cities for God - Deb and I moved from Bedford to S E London because of such a conviction. As we look to plant and establish new churches in the great cities of our nation this focus will be a challenge for leaders and elders all over the UK. People from all over the globe live here and we are increasingly aware that through them we can reach the nations.

Tim Keller’s stimulating views on preaching and using doctrines that have resonance with our culture as rafts on which to float doctrines that are more difficult to engage with – we need to consider these ideas and respond to them. Learning to do this will be a challenge!

He also stated that the political world only reflects the culture of the day and does not shape it. His call to go ‘up stream’ of our culture and to influence it reflected something of Mark Driscoll’s words from last summer’s Brighton Conference. Again – yet more for us to consider.

Having now spent a few days with staff members at Redeemer Church I found it to be an extremely impressive church - open, honest about what is has yet to accomplish and validating the message of its leader in all it does.

I am still processing much of Keller’s message to us. I do believe that this will prove to be yet another excellent contact for us in Newfrontiers; one I hope will continue and grow in mutual respect and appreciation.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Diversity 12 - Gratitude

I want to finish this series on Diversity by thanking God for the pioneers in this area – that’s not me – and if you are white, it’s probably not you! It’s those who have come across culture into our churches and said, ‘we’ll jump some hurdles, we like some stuff here’... It is time to honour them, but also to dream with them that we can truly build something that is in the heart of God and will honour Him and display to the world around that it can be done - a powerful model for the gospel.

To learn more about building multi-cultural churches in the UK… Understanding Worldviews and Cultural Strongholds Conference… at King’s Church… Sat 14th March… Speaker – Dave Devenish…Further details at www.kingscentre.org.uk/downloads/Conference_Leaflet.pdf

Friday, 6 March 2009

Diversity 11 - Other First Steps

- Read widely – increase your awareness and your self-awareness (book recommendations below). Be informed! The coming conference on ‘Understanding World Views and Cultural Strongholds’ here at King’s Church on Sat 14th March would be well worth attending. Dave Devenish will be speaking – his wealth of experience and his well-thought out, biblically-based principles in this area will give us all the provocation and the encouragement to examine foundations and practice in our churches.

I would recommend the following books to help you:
Letters Across the Divide: David Anderson and Brent Zuercher – Baker Books, 2001
Gracism: David Anderson – IVP, 2007

- Avoid stereotypes. Black people who are late/disorganized… I know a lot of white people who are late, too. I watch them come into church every Sunday! Timekeeping is often a more important value to a white person than that of community. If a black person is late it may be because they have met someone and stopped to talk – there is a high value on community versus time keeping. Keep a sense of humour about this, but take care with jokes.

- Do not get ahead of the curve. By this I mean that you may want to establish the whole diversity thing in a short time. It can blow up if you open it up too quickly. Know where you are – take it steadily. Wisdom is required! Weigh all you are learning and then apply it in your context.

Conference details and booking forms are available at www.kingscentre.org.uk/downloads/Conference_Leaflet.pdf

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Diversity 10 - Further points towards success

Continuing to look at Yancey’s principles for such a church:

Intentionality: Here I would commend David Anderson and his church (Bridgeway Community Church, Baltimore, US) on the example they have set. They have shown us that you need to look at who is on your platform on a Sunday (black and white), who is doing what – worship band, stewarding etc – through all the roles of church life, focused inclusivity is important. You may find that there are a lot of white people doing things and everything in the system is forcing it to stay as it is. Take the time (even in a busy schedule) to look at this area and make changes – it will pay dividends!

First steps to take:

Intentionally build cross-cultural friendships and invest in them. For me, it has been with Owen, one of our elders - a good friend. Few will be aware that Deb and I spent three years getting to know him and Pauline prior to him joining our full-time staff, building friendship and giving him responsibility. Build with a man of peace – you have to invest and there is no shortcut.

To learn more about building a multicultural church in the UK… Understanding Worldviews and Cultural Strongholds Conference… at King’s Church… Sat 14th March… Speaker – Dave Devenish…Further details at www.kingscentre.org.uk/downloads/Conference_Leaflet.pdf