Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Happy Agape

Agape last night, our covenant meal with bread and wine. It was a special one for us, as one brother made a covenant commitment. This is a special moment in our church life where a person commits themselves to belonging to the core of the church household. It’s a serious commitment and we were humbled (and overjoyed) to receive him.

And yet...

...Last night finished with most of us doubled up helpless with laughter. The brother who was leading had decided that we would share the cup a little differently: approaching and sharing the cup as many times as you want with different people (usually we just pass the cup round the circle).

This necessitated a bigger cup. Ever resourceful, our brother had fetched just the thing – a cut glass vase.

We had a very lovely time of reconciliation and mutual expression of covenant, but steadily the absurdity of drinking from what was patently a vase got the better of some of the less self-controlled of us (I confess, I was one – well, I was tired...) The giggles ensued. Followed by the chuckles. Hands were clasped over lips, fists stuffed in mouths.

But by the time our brother was reading to us (a very un-comical scripture from 2 Peter), we were helpless. And so was he. So we laughed, hooted and guffawed till we ached.

I don’t think Peter minded. I think the Spirit was in it. By the end of Agape we were relaxed, restored and ready to fight on together another day.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dizzy, my head is spinning

...Well, slowly turning anyway, but it’s enough to make me feel pretty sick at times. For those who don’t know, I was diagnosed a couple of years ago with Menieres disease in my right ear – an inner ear condition causing progressive deafness, tinnitus and bouts of dizziness and nausea.


Not pleasant and just recently it seems to have got a lot worse. I feel unsteady most of the time, to a lesser or greater degree.

But I fight on – and there are victories.

This weekend was Winning Weekend – an annual August Bank Holiday knees up for all the Jesus Army and others who may come along. There was a lot of power about – healings, deliverance and the like: it was great. And I made it to every meeting (including contributing to some of them) and wasn’t pole-axed by any vertigo episodes. Hallelujah. I also got some prayer and although I can’t say there’s been any discernable physical difference, I’ve got faith that Jesus will heal me in His time and a determination to get on with life in as much of a ‘normal’ way as possible in the mean time.

One of my closest friends was healed recently of a glandular condition that the medics said would necessitate lifelong medication. Another friend anointed him with oil every day for several months – and he was healed (blood tests et cetera to prove it!) But I note well that it wasn’t a case of a quick incantation and hands waved over his head and – bang – instant healing. We’re into faith, not magic. And faith is something we gain through relationship with God and perseverance.

So I’m trusting God and asking Him for grace for today (and preferably no dizzy spells!) You can pray for me if you like. I’ll let you know when I’m healed.

Friday, August 18, 2006

A time to plant...

Tomorrow evening will be the second time we divide our Saturday evening meeting into two. We’ve been aiming towards this all year, with a regular campaign to have twenty-four or more people come along (this means twelve or so – a decent number for a household meeting –in each half, should we spilt).

The aim is that early next year, we will officially make two households out of the present one and they’ll develop increasingly distinct identities as time goes on. (We call this a 'div plant': by dividing, a new church unit is begun. It's the biological cell principle.) In the longer term, one of the two will become the basis for a church planting into a new area – we’ve begun to set our sights on Worcester.

Before these long range visions though, we have the closer-to-home challenge of being in a meeting of twelve or thirteen rather than twenty-four or twenty-five. Result? Everyone has to give more, less room to ‘hide’, more chance to get closer to other people, more chance for our newer disciples to grow into active contribution.

So roll on tomorrow evening and roll on the future. ‘The world is our parish....’

Monday, August 14, 2006

No flowery beds

Must we be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease
While others fought to gain the prize
And sailed through stormy seas?
- Isaac Watts

So ran the hymn we sang in our congregation yesterday morning. One of those rabble-rousing-stir-the-blood kind of hymns. Certainly did the trick for me. It’s been quite a week with evangelism in Worcester (two days) Coventry (two days) an open air event in Coventry and the Goldsmiths gospel-music-drama-media event that evening.

We’ve dished out near 5000 Streetpapers (our ‘good news papers’), careered up and down streets singing and chanting, talked to people, sang to people, listened to people, loved people. It’s been great, but astonishingly tiring. The last of many conversations I had with complete strangers this weekend was with Fraser and Megan in Cov. We talked about why God doesn’t make His existence blatantly obvious (mountains with ‘I am God’ carved on them and such like heavenly graffiti); we talked about Jesus (fictional? mad? bad? God?); we talked about relationships and brotherhood. They were nice. They got me thinking. I got them thinking. I was glad to finish on such a note.

Except, I’m not really finishing. This manic week may have finished and I’ve gone back to work for a rest – but the mission rolls on. We want to plant radical church in Worcester. We want a thousand people in Christian community. We want hundreds of thousands to hear the message of God’s love.

We’re the Jesus Army – come and join us!

Friday, August 04, 2006

The way

'You thought, as a boy, that a mage is one who can do anything. So I thought once. So did we all. And the truth is that that as a man’s real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do.'

- Master Summoner, in A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


We’ve got our ‘Goldsmiths’ event coming up next week, in which we use drama and music and so on to present the gospel. As a result, I was flicking through a book of Christian dramatic ‘sketches’ this morning on the way to work.

I work in our church’s ‘Creative Department’. Sounds exciting, wouldn’t you say?

In fact, it’s only really just getting going and no-one seems to be quite sure exactly what the shape of its future will be. What we are sure of is that we want to be able to harness Spirit-inspired creativity and use it to communicate the message of the gospel of the kingdom.

That will involve writing, graphics, ICT and internet, video, music, photography... and as time goes on could well embrace new ventures in more expressive arts – the dramatic and the like.

These days much of my creativity at work goes into writing and editing. But drama is close to my heart (teaching it to teenagers for seven years gets it into your bloodstream...) It’s a funny thing about drama though. It can be regarded with a certain suspicion in Christian circles – and not without reason. Jesus reserved His most searing criticism for hypocrites (which literally means mask-wearers – actors!) And there are ever-present dangers of ‘art’ that vaunts the ego and leads to unreality. Such concerns shouldn’t be lightly dismissed...

And yet, and yet... when you’ve experienced the spine-tingling, breath-holding, tear-jerking, imagination-capturing power of live performance... and when you consider the inherent drama of some of Jesus’ stories and the prophets' demos... I can’t get away from the conviction that, used rightly, performance art has its place in communicating God. But we can't be glib - because of their power arts - drama, music, even graphic or fine arts - need to be used with care, in the fear of God.

And the Creative Department? Watch this space.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mop blog

A new month and a new name for my blog!

It was pointed out to me – and I take the point entirely – that ‘Captain’s Blog’ implied a kind of leadership which isn’t actually very Christian.

‘You've observed how godless rulers throw their weight around and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It's not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served...’ – Jesus, Mark 10, The Message

Years ago someone in our church described true Christlike leadership as ‘the man with the mop’. Someone who serves humbly, often unnoticed.

And, as it happens, God’s been teaching me about this very thing: what it means to be like the ‘good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep’.

So it’s about time for the change.