Thursday, April 27, 2006


A busy day of all sorts of shepherdlyleaderly stuff yesterday.

Call to another pastor in the church about someone who may be coming to join White Stone from another Jesus Army household about some of her 'issues'; arranging for one of our community members to start learning to drive (it's a bit of a palaver in community...); deciding whether one of our young member's older brother (who is rumoured to be a bit of a handful) can come and stay with us, having been kicked out by his girlfriend); defusing a potentially damaging situation involving someone having played a thoughtless 'joke' on someone else; getting my head round how to manage some of our latest converts and their complex relationships; planning a cell group at the local university that evening; tea with both my fellow elders in which among other things we decided to reduce a forthcoming evangelism campaign from two days to one; leading the afore-mentioned cell group at the local university; falling into bed and conking out halfway through a conversation with my wife.

"Come and join Christian community" they said. "Experience a life of love, joy and brotherhood" they said!

Well, I did and I do. But there's a lot of human stuff to wade through on the path to "love, joy and brotherhood". I guess that's Christianity for you.

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.

(John 1:14 The Message version)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Cotton buds

I was woken up this morning by my 3 year old daughter sitting on my neck and whispering "Daddy" in my ear. I was then gently showered with cotton buds from my bedside drawer. And another whisper, louder now, "Daddy". More cotton buds. Another night of sweet slumber comes to an end.

But it was OK, because my daughter was being adorable and 3. But imagine if she was 15 - worrying behaviour, wouldn't you say? A little eccentric? Childish certainly. I guess what you can get away with at 3 and it be delightful, doesn't really work when you're older.

There is a reason for my strange trajectory (in case you were getting worried about my eccentricity).

Recently, I've been engaging in a bit of debate with some of the teenagers ('Faith' in particular) around White Stone about how much you can get away with childish behaviour when you're a teenager. At one point I publically made a deliberately provocative statement that "we don't believe in teenagers".

This provoked a bit of a flutter, mainly in 'Faith's' blog and I posted a comment there to explain myself. For anyone who doesn't visit 'Faith's' blog, I thought I'd reproduce my comments here. (Apologies to those who have read the comment on 'Faith's' blog - you can stop reading here!)

OK, I'd better explain this whole teenagers thing. Here goes...

Sometimes I've heard people say things (I've even said them myself) like "Well, what can you expect from teenagers, they're bound to be selfish" and things like that. Excusing various things (selfishness, insensitivity, laziness etc.) on the grounds of teenagerness.

Now, on the one hand, this can be valid - adolescence can be a tough time which can lead to a certain amount of social awkwardness. BUT - and this is where my (now famous) comment comes in - being a "teenager" is actually rather a recent concept. The phrase was coined in the 1950s in America. "Teenagers" became a phenomenon at the same sort of time as the post-war rationing ceased and people were becoming more prosperous. Rather than having to grow up and become an adult, people at the age of 15, 16 were able to languish in a kind of in-between phase. So they listened to Elvis: youth culture was born. Teenagers (perhaps better called betweenagers) had arrived.

In the 60s and 70s the whole concept became so inbedded, that nowadays it's just taken for granted that there are teenagers and that you've got to expect them to be a bit childish and selfish at times (see Kevin the Teenager, the horrific creation of Harry Enfield...)

But for the vast vast vast majority of human history (and still in most places on earth today) you are a child and then you become an adult. There simply wasn't/isn't a long, drawn out "teenage" phase. (In some cultures there is a "rite of passage" which may last six or seven weeks - hardly 7 years of selfishness!)

In most cultures the age of becoming adult was/is about 13. At this age, you took on adult responsibility.

Mary was probably about 13 or 14 when she gave birth to Jesus.

Now obviously, in our culture today we don't expect 13 year olds to become fully adult (I agree with the age of consent/marriage being 16 and so on) - BUT the downside of "protecting" young adults of 13-19 is that they can become some kind of childish adult: they want the respect that comes with responsibility - but they're not prepared to be responsible!

Please don't misunderstand: I really like people who are between the ages of 13 and 19. I was a secondary teacher for 7 years and one of the best aspects of my job was working with so many excellent young people.

But because I respect them, I don't want to let them lower themselves to childishness. A child can be childish - we can't expect anything else. In a child, childishness can even be endearing. In a "teenager" it's irritating - why? Because, they're actually young adults.

Now for the spiritual angle: Jesus' call to become a disciple (the theme of our household week) was addressed to adults. Sure, he said we were to become "like children" to enter the Kingdom, but note the word "like"! (And he was referring to innocence and powerlessness not childishness). He said "If any man (i.e. adult) would be my disciple...

This isn't surprising because in Jesus' day people were children until they became adults at 13 (bar/batmitzfah). So Jesus' call to everyone over the age of 13 is "deny yourself and be an (adult) disciple". He never indicated that 15 or 16 or 17 year olds didn't have to deny themselves "because they are teenagers afterall".

So - I issued the statement at our household week that "we don't believe in teenagers". Not that we don't believe that people between the age of 13 and 19 exist (no, we're thoroughly convinced of that at White Stone), not that we don't support or champion those in that age range, but that we question the whole concept of an in-between stage where you can't expect the call of Jesus to discipleship to apply.

So, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 year olds - deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus: no excuses!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Stardate zero

Well, this is a beginning. Congratulations to 'Faith' because it was him - in a round about way - who got me to start a blog. (I wanted to post a comment on his and wasn't allowed to unless I was a part of the blogging in-crowd...)

A little about me and my ideas for this blog (now I have one, I may as well use it...) My name's James; some of my friends call me 'Normal' - apparently, it's a virtue that I have: being normal and straight-forward in a crazy mixed-up world. (Actually, it sounds rather dull and boring doesn't it? Hopefully that won't be the predominant flavour of my blog.)

I am a Christian and a member of the Jesus Army, which is a full-on, colourful, live-out-the-Bible, "love, power and sacrifice" kind of church and I love it very much. Along with about 600 others (in various places across the UK) I live in a Christian community called New Creation Christian Community (hereafter NCCC). NCCC is the engine room of the rest of the Jesus Army really. The house I live at - White Stone House - is in Coventry and has eleven adults - including me and my wife - and two children living in it. (The two children happen to be mine - my daughter is 3 and my son is 1.) We have loads of people who come round and are part of us to a greater or lesser extent - like the afore-mentioned individual (who has the much more exciting 'virtue' name of 'Faith'!) Together with a fine bunch of heroes, I lead White Stone: hence, this is something of a "Captain's blog" of White Stone life. (I ought to mention that if you want a much more profound, poetic, entertaining and readable version of White Stone life, you ought to check out my mate Tschaka's blog - see my list of blog links...)

Apart from my own name (and Tschaka's now!), I intend to stick to 'virtue' names and other pseudonyms in this blog - seems only fair, since other people may not covet international blog fame.

So, there is is: the next entry may well have some real content. See you then.