Archive for February 2010

is there a case for para-church?

February 16, 2010

Recently I’ve been questioning the validity of para-church organisations.  I am a person who has been so deeply changed by various para-church organisations such as this one, that i feel i owe my life to them and yet I wonder if this is where it’s at.

God is executing a plan where one day people of all nations will stand in community in worship of the living God as King.  God is executing a plan where all things on heaven and on earth will be reconciled to himself through Christ.  God is executing a plan where there will be no more sin or suffering, where broken lives and a broken world is restored and renewed, where dead things will live and bear fruit, where all things are made new.  God is bringing his kingdom under his rule under his love.

But how?  Well through the church. Gods people, Christ’s body.  Chris Wright says it like this – “our mission . . . means our committed participation as God’ s people, at God invitation and command, in God’ s own mission within the history of God’s world for the redemption of God’s creation”

God bringing his kingdom through Christ’s body (us) with Christ as the head of the church.

My question is this however – is there a difference in saying that God accomplishes his plan through the church as expressed in the local church rather than that God accomplishes his plan through the church in whatever form that takes – eg someone who is individually seeking to join in on what God is doing even though they might not at all be a member of a local church or indeed something that takes the form of what we refer to as a para-church organisation? If it is the latter then why bother with the local church?  if it is the former then what is the case for para-church?

I’m not saying that these organisations are bad, nor am i saying that they don’t succeed in doing amazing things or helping people come to know God, but is their existence a reflection of actual need or only need that exists because the local church has failed to be the church?  If so then should our energies not be spent on helping the church BE the church rather than Christians separately finding new ways to do the things that should be birthed out of the local church?

I feel like we’ve lost confidence in the church and with good reason, and yet without any good reason for if this is how God has chosen to do it then all that is left for us to do is to submit.

Or maybe i’m seeing distinctions that don’t and shouldn’t exist?



for the kids… or is it?

February 15, 2010

I am a youth worker.  I’m still not entirely sure what this means.  To be honest i’m beginning to think that just about anything could fall under the category of ‘Youth Work’.  Meeting with adults who help plan and lead, meeting parents and teachers and priests and ministers, reading, thinking, training, praying, planning, photocopying, emailing, shopping in tescos, making pancakes, being involved in all aspects of church and community life… ALL of it, is part of what I do to, oh yes that’s right… minister to the young people of my community.  I’m beginning to hate vague…

As I’ve embarked on this new bumpy journey (because that sounds cuter and nicer  than the exhausting battle which is really what it has more felt like) into youth work I have been forced… really forced, to think about the beast that is ‘youth ministry’.

The benefit of being a youth worker is that almost everyone is a fan of youth work christian and not – I am still to meet a person who will say that the youth aren’t worth it… (we wouldn’t say that about the poor or the elderly either – but our lives say something different).  When it comes to the young people (which incidently includes anyone from 0-29 years unless you’re married in which case you automatically get bumped into the adult category) everyone is very quick to tell me how we need to be investing in the youth of today. “they’re the future of tomorrow” they cry.  “you will help decrease teenage sucide” they say to me.  “if you reach those children you’ll reach their parents”… “you’ll save my housing estate!”… people have actually said these things to me.  I forgot that being a youth worker transformed me into God.  Deep down I suspect that a truer reason why the majority of people are keen on youth work is because the majority of people have children and they like it when their children have fun and somewhere safe to go on a friday night.

I enjoy these young people.  I really do.  I love them.  I care about who they are and who they are becoming, I care about what’s going on in their lives, I care about what they spend their days thinking and worrying about, I care about what they believe about themselves and about others and about God. But I care because they are people, not because they are YOUNG people.  I enjoy being around them because they are people, not because they are young.

I am probably about to talk myself out of a job but that’s ok if it helps me come to a better understanding of all this… but if in Christ there is no slave nor free, no man nor woman, no jew nor greek does that also mean that there is no young or old?  And if so, is it right then that we as the chruch make distinctions that Christ has refused to make?

Today I’m finding it hard to see the biblical basis for youth work – this does not mean that i do not see a place for youth workers but only in so far as they minister to people who are people rather than minister to people on the basis of their age.

So having said all that how do I bless the youth of my small quiet community in a way that honors their humanity not their age?  How do I encourage them to become people who are fully alive rather than mildly entertained? When I plan a youth event why do I feel pressure to spend more time thinking about what they’ll find fun than what they’ll find transforming?

I want more for these people than fun, I want them to be people who love and let themselves be loved.  I feel like the only way this can really happen is to let the church be the church rather than trying to short circuit it.  Maybe the only way this will really happen is if I pour my life into the few that God has put in my path and pray that as I do so they will pour their lives into the few that God has put in their path and so the revolution occurs with patience and time and quiet… but it happens.  And it shakes the world.

Right now i’m asking myself if there’s a place for big and flashy and entertaining programmes at all.  Even if teenagers enjoy it, it is what i should be about?  I want them to have fun of course, but not the kind of fun that comes from their consumption, I want them to laugh because they are known and knowing, I want them to laugh because they are safe enough to cry, or take themselves lightly.  I want them to have fun in the context of intimate relationships not a squashed crowd.

I have little idea of what i’m saying and even less of an idea what I am doing.  Thoughts welcomed.

The Mission of God & Chris Wright

February 1, 2010

On Friday I had the privilege of hearing Chris Wright speak on the mission of God.  It was quite wonderful.  The kind of stuff that makes me buzz and happy to be alive.

Here’s 5 things that have stuck with me:

1) Mission is the basis of the bible, we need to view it this way rather than viewing the bible as the basis for mission.

2) We tend to use the word mission to refer to the things we do, but it comes first of all from God.  Our ‘missions’ only make sense within the ‘Mission of God’ ie the journey from a humanity scattered to a humanity gathered together in worship of God.  God bringing blessing to the world.

3) The election of Israel was always missional – it still is – we are chosen for the sake of those around us.

4) In a world going in the way of Sodom, God wants a world going in the way of the Lord.

5) God wants the world to grow up not just get bigger.  Paul planted, Apollos watered, but it was God who gave growth.


February 1, 2010

“church is not something we ‘go to’… church is what we are” (patrick mitchel)

enough said.