Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Why should Christians live in community?

We had a meeting on Monday night about Christian community. To promote Christian community living, in particluar to explore, promote and celebrate our particular community - New Creation Christian Community.

Many people shared about topics as far ranging as 'money and how not to love it', 'bringing up children in Christian community', 'building sharpening relationships' and so on.

I was given the task of answering the question 'Why should Christians live in community?' (in four minutes!)

I came up with 33 reasons. Some of them could well be qualified - but having been given only four minutes I decided not to bother. So here they are... unqualified!

Why should Christians live in community?

1. Because Jesus had a common purse and if it’s good enough for Him, it’s good enough for us
2. Because Jesus taught us to pray to ‘our Father’ for ‘our daily bread’ not to ‘my Father’ for ‘my daily bread’
3. Because in the same prayer, Jesus taught us to pray ‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’. Does anyone have personal possessions in heaven? Does anyone clear off or move away in heaven?
4. Because in the same prayer, Jesus taught us to pray ‘Deliver us from evil’ which includes evil like selfishness, covetousness, pride in possessions, and wealth for self
5. Because how else can you ‘lay down your life for your brother’
6. Because when the first church received the Spirit they were ‘all together and had all things in common’
7. Because one washing machine between just 2 or 3 people is a waste compared with one between 7 or 8
8. Ditto cooker
9. Ditto fridge
10. Ditto car
11. Ditto house
12. Because if we are devoted to God, we will hate money (or so Jesus said)
13. Because community is economical and frees funds for the kingdom
14. Because community is practical and frees time for the kingdom
15. Because Jesus said more about money than He did about heaven
16. Because if your were to sum up what Jesus said about money when He was mentioning it more than heaven, you’d get something like ‘get rid of it, don’t have any for yourself, bind it and force it to serve God, be wise with it’. Try doing that without sharing it!
17. Because community is fertile ground for training disciples
18. Because community shows you who you really are and means you get beyond romantic fantasy into reality
19. Because your whole life should be church
20. Because it’s impossible to live in community – so it has to be a miracle and God’s good at miracles
21. Because community brings us into true brotherhood
22. Because no-one’s going to persecute you for living in a three bedroom semi and Jesus said ‘blessed are the persecuted’
23. Because community creates opportunities for industry and service
24. Because community makes church family rather than institution
25. Because community means that we ‘live in the church and go to the world rather than living in the world and going to church’
26. Because what else does ‘love not the world’ mean?
27. Because salvation is not just spiritual or even moral and spiritual – but spiritual, moral, social, political and economic!
28. Because God is a community of 3 in 1
29. Because we will live in community forever after Jesus returns
30. Because ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing – and wealth!’
31. Because it is the lifestyle of true love
32. Because people are looking for love
33. Because all arguments against living in community are ultimately selfish

Monday, June 25, 2007

Clowning in the capital

Clowning in the capitalThe things we do...

This is me and two of my fellow fools for Jesus just before we performed a clowning routine on Trafalgar Square as part of a Jesus Festival we ran there on Saturday.

Colourful, eh (am I pretty in pink?)

Ironically, this morning someone showed me a book of less colourful photos of the Jesus Army which has just been published: one of those arty style books of black and white photos, ‘one man's voyage of discovery’ style.

In this case, it seemed like ‘one man’s voyage of discovery with a group of obsessive fanatics who’ve taken all leave of their senses’ if the rather sinister feel of the dark, forbidding photos of strange looking people (being ‘religious’ i.e. odd) was anything to go on.

I think the photographer was genuinely trying to express the Jesus Army ‘as it is’. And the worldly wiseman who wrote the preface was trying to be generous when he admitted that we don’t like being called ‘a cult’ – though he wasn’t generous enough to find a different epithet.

Ok, so we continue to have ‘cult status’ in some circles. If that means we’re totally committed, so be it. We live in a culture that sees any commitment as anathema, so I guess it make us stand out.

But what I object to is the insinuation that being totally committed to Jesus means we must be – well – fools. Religion, apparently, must equal delusion. What’s more, we’re sinister fools, because we’re trying to suck others into our delusion.

Let me say this: some of the most intelligent, sensitive, incisive, generous, deep, impressive, compassionate, creative and wonderful people I know are in the Jesus Army.

If they’re fools, they’re wise fools.

Rather like Jesus.

And let’s face it, art hasn’t been kind to Him (all those effeminate, miserable, stained glass windows... it’s a PR disaster!)

All of which reminds me of something Jesus said:

God will bless you when people insult you and say cruel things about you, all because you are a follower of the Son of Man... You are in for trouble when everyone says good things about you. (Luke 6:22 & 26)

I’d rather be a clown for Jesus than anyone else’s wise man.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Yesterday my wife, kids and I spent the afternoon with a brother from 4839 (and a half) miles away. The miles melted. They were nothing. Distances of colour, history, culture dropped away - because of brotherhood.

He is a church leader from Kitwe, Zambia, we're church leaders from Coventry, England, and we have the kingdom of God in common.

Of course, as the afternoon went by, we discovered we had much in common on the natural human level as well. The fact that we were human was a good start. And the fact that we have children who we have dreams for; the fact we like rowing down the River Avon, but aren't very good at it; the fact that we'd rather not get wet in the English rain; the fact that laughter is funny and leads to more laughter; the fact that we think Warwick town centre looks pretty...

We also discovered some things that we didn't have in common - and profited by them. Like listening to him talk about the plain reality of witchcraft in his continent. He commented that over here the whole danger of the occult is far more underhand and subtle and mentioned Harry Potter books, which convince children that witchraft is (fictional and) fun. I stayed silent about that fact that I've read all six and am looking forward to number seven. And I wondered - have I swallowed some of the lethargic draught of the rest of my culture. I was challenged (but will I be able to resist number seven?)

But, to return to my main reflection: brotherhood ties - and the brotherhood that Jesus brings is stronger than any other I know.

In Christ's family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. (Galatians 3:28, The Message)

(Read about our previous encounter: Ebony black and salmon pink)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Answers on a postcard

Profound question: do we ever have the luxury of tomorrow?

Any profound answers appreciated!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Hallelujah, all of me!

I led our Sunday morning meeting at the Jesus Centre yesterday. The theme was worship. So we worshipped. And I talked about worship. How it’s an ‘all-of-me’ thing: ‘body, soul and spirit’, ‘heart, mind, soul and strength’.

I used Psalm 103 as the basis for what I was exploring. ‘Praise the Lord , O my soul’ (‘soul’ being the translation of a Hebrew word meaning something closer to ‘all-of-me’ than the more Greek philosophical, disembodied notion we tend to have...)

It’s a wonderful call to praise, Psalm 103. It declares God’s ‘benefits’ to us as individuals and as His people. Benefits which amount to mercy and grace.

Ever wondered what the difference is between mercy and grace (we sometimes confuse them when we sing in Christianese...)? Here’s a little workaday definition which has helped me understand:

It is mercy that God does not give us what we deserve.

It is grace that God gives us what we do not deserve.

So, praise the Lord - all of me!

Here’s the whole psalm. Drink deep.

Psalm 103
Of David.
Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits-
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD's love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children's children-
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.
The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
Praise the LORD, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the LORD, O my soul.