Summer Reading 2014

Books are such a wonderful gift and what could be more relaxing and refreshing that using some of the Summer holiday to get some reading in. Here are some of my Summer recommended reads:

Goodbye to All That – Robert Graves

This is a fantastic firsthand account of life as an officer in World War 1. Graves writes very poetically and movingly about the both the horror and the madness of life in the trenches and how he lived afterwards. It is controversial as some parts of the account are contested. On the 100th anniversary of ww1 this is well worth the read.

1913 The World before the Great War – Charles Emerson


This is a very interesting snapshot of life before world war 1 , it’s a strange thing how cosmopolitan and civilised relationships between the various european nations seemed to be before all hell broke loose with the bloodbath of the trenches. This is a fascinating global tour.

The Global Diffusion of Evangelicalism – Brian Stanley


This is a very well written and enlightening history of the Evangelical movement in the english Speaking world from the 1940s-1990s. (read my full review here).

Creativity Incorporated – Ed Catmull

Here’s the inside track on how Pixar conquered the world and then turned around Disney. Its an easy read with some great stories from life inside the world’s most successful animation studio.


Canada – Richard Ford



I loved this book it was my favourite novel of last year. It had me from the first sentence and maintained both beauty, depth and intense readability all the way through.

The Fault in Our Stars – John Green


This is a very good teen novel – it wrestles with intense questions such as mortality, disability, beauty and friendship. It is funny, witty and of course tragic. Haven’t seen the movie – am worried it will wreck the nuance and subtlety of the book.  If your teen is reading this – read it to. You will enjoy lots of it and it will give you a lot to talk about with them.

More than This – Patrick Ness


This is a great bit of science fiction – its a quick gentle read with some great ideas floating around. Another good book to engage the teen reader in your household .

Help Needed:

So now I need your help. I am looking for some good book recommendations for my Summer holidays. I’d love some good novels. I am currently planning to read:

To Kill A Mocking Bird- Harper Lee
The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Cover Photo by Lightgrapher  CC

5 Reasons to wish Wired Happy Birthday 

I have been a regular subscriber to Wired for a few years now. It’s a fantastic magazine to read. Here’s what I like

  1. Design

In my estimation Wired is at the cutting edge of design, I read the magazine for inspiration on lay out and visual presentation. The quality of the photography and infographics make the magazine a pleasure to read .

  1. Balance

There’s a fantastic balance between meatier – in depth articles (helpfully arranged at the back of the magazine) and lighter easy to digest news, reviews and how to pieces

  1. Depth

Love the fact that Wired gets to talk directly to some of the biggest names in the tech and design world – Tim Berners Lee; Daniel Ek (Spotify CEO)

  1. Breadth

For me Wired has found the sweet spot between tech, design, innovation, engineering and software. It is helping me connect with emerging trends across a wide variety of interesting topics.

  1. Numbers

I am a stat addict – I love the throwaway statistics the editors put in just for fun:

£15, 180 is the average price of a contract killing in Britain.

80% proportion of users Facebook will lose between 2015 and 2017 according to researchers at Princeton University

0 the number of students who will be enrolled by 2021 at Princeton (report by data scientists at Facebook).


So Happy Birthday WIRED for launching and developing an innovative magazine at a time when more and magazines are closing or switching to digital only.


There’s only one thing I would ask…

As I looked over the past 5 years of magazine covers. I noticed that you had 29 featuring men – most of whom were named as they were featured interviews rather than models. For example:

Jamie Oliver, Dennis Crowley, Alan Sugar, Brian Cox, Steve Jobs (twice), Mark Zuckerberg, Reid Hoffman, Jonathan Ive, Jack Dorsey, Richard Branson, Ray Kurzweil, Will.I.A.M, Tim Berners Lee.

Most of the other covers were graphical and only 4 featured a woman most of which were unnamed models there for aesthetic reasons. This really is EXPIRED thinking and for such a cutting edge magazine I believe you can do better. Lets model gender equality and refuse to bow to stereotypes about the role and significance of women.

Thanks for an otherwise excellent magazine.

5 Things I enjoyed about Word Alive

Its been a while since i have been to Word Alive so it was a pleasure to drive up to North Wales to take part in this year’s event.

1. Opportunity to hang out with three Nigerian Bishops

The highlight of my week at Word Alive was an evening laughing and swapping stories with three Nigerian Bishops. Each one of them doing Stirling work in a country which has some 20 million Anglicans. They shared frustrations with me about the level of wealth in some Nigerian churches and church planting which effectively took Christians from one church to another rather than saw new converts. They lamented the fact that much of this was focussed on the middle class affluent areas rather than pioneer work in the unevangelised parts of the country. I lamented we have a very similar set of problems here. There were many laughs together especially as they laid down the challenge that Nigerian food is spicier than Indian food – I need a way to see if this is possibly true. Any ideas anyone?


2. Meeting up with so many old friends

I worked for five years post graduation with UCCF and IFES and many of my old team mates and colleagues were around at Word Alive so it was great to see them again. We all look quite a bit older and hopefully we are all a bit wiser and humbler than the old days. It is a great thing to see friends going on with God.

3. Commitment to evangelism

Evangelism is a central passion of the Word Alive team. So it was encouraging to hear Ray Evans talk about the need for churches to break down the social barriers that divide the middle classes from the working classes. I bumped into two old friends who were both independently doing graduate level research into the challenge of class for evangelism for conservative evangelicals. ( Jo McKenzie and Peter Dray).

4. Interesting Seminar Programme

Loved that there was a seminar stream on social media, another one on photography and ofcourse Baroness Cox  running a series on justice. It was a real treat to see Rebecca Manley Pippert still as enthusiastic and infectiously energetic about evangelism as ever. If you only buy one book on personal evangelism “Out of the Saltshaker” is still the one to get.  The variety of the seminars was very impressive.

5. Openness to Home for Good

We were delighted by the opportunity to present about Home for Good briefly on the main stage and to be able to run a seminar. We saw hundreds of people come over the two weeks. It was amazing to meet adoptors and foster carers from across the UK and so many people interested in exploring it further.



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5 Things to enjoy at Spring Harvest 2014

I have the privilege of going to help at a lot of the UK’s Christian conferences. Everywhere I go there’s always something new to learn or ideas to enjoy. So I thought I would look for the positives where ever I go. Here are some of the things I really enjoyed about Spring Harvest this year

1.    The whole family curriculum

I love the fact that at Spring Harvest everyone is learning about the same things. From the smallest children to the oldest adults we are all on the same page. That means that lunch times and dinner times are a great chance to catch up together about what God has been teaching all of us.

I had a lovely conversation with my 9 year old nephew yesterday about what he had learned about God the Holy Trinity. As someone passionate about all age disciplemaking – this is one of the greatest things about the SH experience for me.

2.    The special needs provision

My friend Kay Morgan Gurr is the special needs advisor for Spring Harvest and she told me that there was an unprecedented rise in the number of children that were at Spring Harvest who were newly adopted or fostered.  She put this down to the influence of the Home for Good campaign over the last few years. We have been so encouraged by the support our friends at Spring Harvest have shown us and it is really beginning to pay off. Over the years we have brought a lot of children with special needs to Spring Harvest and the volunteers and childrens workers have been outstanding. They set an ‘industry standard’ for caring for vulnerable people. Well done! We talked about things that are modelled at Spring Harvest incepting into the church new models of best practice – long may that tradition continue!

3.    The emphasis on theology and mission

I always come away from Spring Harvest excited by the depth of theology we are trying to teach – this year it was the apostles creed, in previous years it has been hermeneutics, eschatology. We encourage guests to really up their game. But this is not all head knowledge, Spring Harvest encourages people to live out their theology with a strong call to action. As ever this was visible through the seminar programme and the way young people engaged in raising money for exciting projects such as peer evangelism in the UK and a church leadership training centre in Cambodia.

4.    The Global Dimension

The speaking highlight for me was definitely Barnabas Mamm from Cambodia. He shared passionately about the God who had transformed the killing fields of Cambodia where 2 million people were executed including many Christians during the regime of the Khmer Rouge 1975-1979. It was breathtaking to hear of what God is doing now in a country where the 10 000 christians were reduced to just 200 due to persecution and killing. Barnabas shows a video where over 400 people were baptised in a single day including leading military personnel. Allowing global leaders to speak on a stage like Spring Harvest is absolutely vital if we are going get rid of our colonial superiority complex in the west.

5.    Commitment to Evangelism

There was a recurring theme during the week as we sought to help Christians regain confidence in the gospel by reiterating some of the essentials of our faith. The aim being to help to encourage Christians to be bold enough to speak openly about their faith in a world that really needs in the gospel.

As ever we had a lot of fun on site. In our zone we ran a selfie competition and had a terrific response. Check out below some of our favourite responses.

great to work with Cath Lyden on the big top stage

great to work with Cath Lyden on the big top stage

a young couple annocuned their engagement through a selfie at Minehead

a young couple annocuned their engagement through a selfie at Minehead

possibly the youngest person at Spring Harvest this tiny little baby

possibly the youngest person at Spring Harvest this tiny little baby


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How do you know if you have a problem with social media?

I am running a seminar at Word Alive with the subject:
Digital Discipleship : serving Christ on Social Media. Here’s the blurb for the seminar:

Discover the opportunities that Facebook and Twitter bring for mission and discipleship. Start the conversation early by following @krishk and tweeting a question using #Socialdisciple

As I was preparing the seminar this week, I came across these images of poor old Ella Birchenough from Dover who dropped her Blackberry down a drain and then removed the drain cover and jumped inside to try and retrieve her phone. Sadly she got stuck and the fire brigade had to come and rescue her.  Its a mini parable of our times and that is why the story with its powerful imagery travelled around the world.

ella birchenough.001

We recognise that our digital devices are invaluable to our lives but at what cost? I’m no luddite and see huge opportunities for technology for social and spiritual good, but I recognise that one of my blindspots is knowing when my technology use good be addictive behaviour. I am quite likely to have jumped in after my phone just like Ella did.

So how can you tell if you have a problem with social media ? How can you tell if enough is (birch)enough – if you will excuse the pun.

What say you friends? Suggestions please.

Photo credit. 

Global Evangelicals

First published in Anvil March 2014

The Global Diffusion of Evangelicalism, Brian Stanley, IVP

“Dwell on the past and you will lose an eye; forget the past and you will lose both eyes.”

Often evangelicals have a nostalgic view of the past, whether it is those of us who believe the Reformation was the high water mark of Christianity or those of us who discovered the worship revival of the 1970s, evangelicals often enjoy reminiscing of better days. But a Cyclops still has an advantage over the blind so it would seem a wise investment to explore the history of a movement that has grown to global status so rapidly over the past half century.

Brian Stanley is the most qualified person I can think of to write the fifth volume in IVP’s “A History of Evangelicalism” series. Previous volumes have included such luminary historians as David Bebbington and Mark Knoll but Stanley’s role as an evangelical historian serving as Professor of World Christianity at Edinburgh University is ideal for the task of writing a history of the globalisation of evangelicalism in the English-speaking world.  Stanley has written a fascinating and engaging volume that rewards careful reading.

Rather than attempting a narrative history of the 1940s to 1990s of evangelicalism, Professor Stanley writes an introduction and then eight thematic essays exploring a broad range of trends.

1. Evangelicals and Fundamentalism

The first essay explores the evolving relationship between evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Noting that in the United States the defining feature of evangelicalism was differentiation from fundamentalism while in the United Kingdom the identity of evangelicals was formed in distinction from liberalism. This is a powerful and helpful distinction and may be the root of much miscommunication between American and European evangelicals.

2. Evangelicals and Globalised Networks

The second essay explores how evangelical networks globalised. Stanley focuses on the ministry of Billy Graham, the formation of the World Evangelical Fellowship (now known as the World Evangelical Alliance), the indigenisation process at work in Scripture Union and the worldwide effects of the East African Revival. Stanley notes how the decision in 1947 of Scripture Union director John Laird to deconstruct the movement’s “imperial” structure led to remarkable growth in Africa and a whole slew of indigenous leaders developing. This is a strategy that still needs further global application for many organisations 65 years on.

 3. Evangelical Scholarship Matters

The third essay highlights the growth of evangelical scholarship once thought an oxymoron due to confusion between evangelicals and fundamentalists. The development of Tyndale House in Cambridge is shown to have played a vital role. In a fascinating piece of theological archaeology Stanley also shows how the subsequent editions and revisions of the New Bible Commentary can act as a window of the increasing conservatism on issues such as biblical inspiration, infallibility and openness to biblical criticism. Stanley also notes the way that at the turn of the century systematic expositional preaching was not a norm in the diet of evangelical churches and it is through the preaching of G. Campbell Morgan and of course Dr Martin Lloyd Jones and John Stott that it became a staple.

4. Evangelicals and Apologetics 

In his fourth essay Professor Stanley tracks the development of evangelical apologetics and highlights the work of Cornelius Van Till, Edward Carnell, Carl F. Henry, Francis Schaeffer and Alvin Plantinga who in different ways helped evangelicals to defend the faith in the academies. Yet Stanley demonstrates that  non-evangelicals such as Lesslie Newbigin and more significantly C.S. Lewis offered “an intellectual armoury of a very different kind from that offered by the sterling efforts of conservative theologians”.

5. Evangelicals and Lausanne 

The captivating story of the Lausanne Congress on world evangelisation is told in the fifth essay. The Congress, the brainchild of Billy Graham, and after some coercion joined by John Stott brought together leaders from across the world in 1974. Stanley tells how the American-dominated programme was challenged by Latin American theologians: Rene Padilla (the need to rethink the cultural accommodation of Christianity in the West), Samuel Escobar (the need to engage with social justice in mission) and Orlando Costas (the need for contextualisation). Tribute is paid to John Stott’s mediatory skills in helping to include these insights into the final Lausanne statement. It is interesting to note that the UK reception to Lausanne was lukewarm – a term which applies to my experience of UK delegations at more recent global gatherings.

 6. Evangelicals and the Global Charismatic and Pentecostals Movements

The sixth essay tracks the development of global charismatic and Pentecostal movements. Tracing the rise in healing ministries, John Wimber, the adaptation of worship music, the Toronto Blessing, the impact of Bretherenism on Newfrontiers and the birth of Alpha. Stanley is on the whole positive about the impact, stating: “The global evangelical family gained much-needed spiritual vitality as a result.”

7. Evangelical Hermeneutics 

The seventh essay tackles hermeneutics, gender and sexual ethics. I think it was somewhat unfortunate to lump these issues together. There are very few women mentioned in the entire volume – the history of the global proliferation of evangelicalism is mainly told through white male leaders. When Stanley does get round to engage with women it is in the context of a debate around the role of hermeneutics that ends with an exploration of evangelical responses to homosexuality. Stanley tackles the controversy around women’s ministry by citing the debate between Melvin Tinker, a prominent member of Reform, who argued for a “slippery slope” that a change of view on women’s ministry would lead to the approval of homosexual relationships. Tinker’s debate with Dick France, then principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford who argued clearly and robustly that it does not. He then goes on to cite Stanley Grenz and Paul King Jewetts’ argument that there is no intrinsic link between a changed view on women’s ministry and homosexuality. It was a shame that the role of women in the proliferation of evangelicalism is only cast in the middle of this debate.

 8. Global Evangelical Trends

The last essay was a sobering one to read. Professor Stanley attempts to summarise the trends he sees at work in the evangelical world today. Stanley revisits the post-evangelical debate of Dave Tomlinson and comments that many conservatives (Professor Don Carson included) refuse to see a difference between post-evangelicals and post-conservatives such as Stanley Grenz and NT Wright. I have experienced this kind of tarring with the same brush such that if you take a different view on the role of women to the likes of Don Carson, John Piper and Wayne Grudem you are effectively labeled a non-evangelical. Stanley seeks to mediate the divide between Postconservative/ Open Evangelicals and Conservative Evangelicals. After citing Carson’s withering critique of Stanley Grenz’s “Renewing the centre” where Carson concludes that Grenz’s work was ‘truly outside of the evangelical camp’ Brian Stanley states that: “Grenz, however remained until his death a faithful member of First Baptist Church, Vancouver, under the conservative expository ministry of Bruce Milne… Assessments of the state of evangelicalism can be misleading if they focus exclusively on academic theological arguments and neglect the evidence of spirituality and church life.”


In many ways this book, though skillfully written, is a depressing read. Stanley recognises this in his summation when he states: “It is part of the vocation of the church historian to remind Christians who may be depressed about the current condition of the church that states of division and uncertainty are the norm rather than the exception in Christian history” (p.237).

There is a note of encouragement in the midst of the gloom. When we look back to the halcyon days of evangelical unity that saw the renewed confidence and growth of evangelicalism – there was as much disunity and the term evangelical was as contested then as it is now and that evangelicalism seems to be perennially needing to rediscover its identity. For me if the apostle Paul can call the church to continually hold firm to the gospel and continually re-examine those that claim to present the gospel in light of the apostolic witness – it seems evangelicalism’s need to continually re-examine itself in light of scripture is a healthy one.

Sadly, I think Brian Stanley is optimistic in his closing sentiment that “the battle for the integrity of the gospel in the opening years of the 21st century is being fought not primarily in the lecture rooms of North American seminaries but in the shanty towns, urban slims and villages of Africa, Asia and Latin America”. We praise God for the proliferation of the gospel that is bearing so much fruit among the poor. We rejoice that the centre of gravity of the church has moved to the global south. But in my limited experience of working with the poor – the gospel that is being spoken about there looks a lot like the Western individualistic virtually-gnostic version that we have exported. The battle for the integrity of the gospel is being fought on social media and in the budget meetings of western publishers and conference organisers where global celebrities are made out of certain preachers who export their cultural assumptions to the rest of the world. We need to allow the spirit of the first Lausanne congress to continue on and allow the global church to be reshaping our understanding of mission and the gospel in the light of scripture. We need to continually fight the imperialism of Western domination in global evangelicalism.


Stanley’s well written and researched book will help evangelicals to avoid the blindness of ahistoricity; perhaps we need a companion volume to help us know what we can learn from Evangelicals in the non English speaking world?

Photo from


5 reasons why I love Rev

I had a chance encounter on the train yesterday and ended up in a conversation with the chief writer of Rev;  James Woods.  It was such a pleasure to be able to tell him face to face some of the things I appreciated about the show.  I asked him what hope there was of another series after this one and he said something pretty final happens in the last episode that would make that pretty difficult.  So we should relish this television show which has been sold by the BBC to 140 different countries while it is on our TV screens for the next six weeks. (Rev kicks off on Monday night at 10.00pm on BBC2)

Here are Five things I really like about REV.

1. Laughing with Christians not at them

Rev is a very funny television show. It does a great job of poking fun at some of absurdities of the Christian life, but not in a sneering belittling way, but in a generous and warmhearted way. We develop great sympathy for the characters and their circumstances. Because of the quality of the research in the show – we can recognise the types of Christians  depicted in the show whether its the HTB types or the Archdeacon or the new curate.

2. The challenges of Parish life

A vicar friend of mine who works as a parish priest in London is constantly telling me that his daily life feels like an episode of Rev. Watching Rev is quite a therapeutic experience for him. Many christian leaders not just anglican priests can relate to the stresses of caring for needy people who turn up at your door at all sorts of strange times, the pressure it puts your family under to be living in the goldfish bowl of church and community leadership.

3.  Recognising the power of the Parish

When everyone else is leaving the inner city, the church is often the only institution that is still there. Many school teachers I know don’t want to live in the same area as the schools they are in, similarly many doctors and police officers. But most vicars  are firmly connected with their parishes. Rev shows the power of presence, showing what it means to demonstrate hospitality to the stranger or the addict, what it means to visit the sick and the dying what it means to care for all those in need. It offers a countercultural picture of how to rebuild community in the inner city.

4. Olivia Coleman

She is the megastar of the show now thanks in no small part to  Broadchurch. She is very impressive – I have watched the trailer for Mr Sloane so many times now I should be sick of it. But she pulls of a brilliant set piece put down with consummate skill. I am so pleased she has come back for the final series.

5.  The Complexity of Faith

I love the inner dialogue that we are given that reveals the thought and prayer life of Rev Adam Smallbone. Its an excellent insight into the reality of the life of faith.  Neither of the shows creators James Wood the writer nor Tom Hollander who plays the Rev  would have claimed to have a clear cut faith when they started the programme. But Tom Hollander can testify to a deeper faith as a result of being on the show, as he confessed to the guardian:

Does he think his faith has changed since starting Rev? “Well, of course I’ve gone a lot to church recently, entirely for work reasons, but it has its effect. You can’t go into these places without something happening. Just the buildings as much as anything. And the yearning to believe…”

It was interesting talking to Wood about his dislike for overconfident super certain Christianity and I hope to be able to send him a copy of my new book Paradoxology which tackles exactly that issue. So I hope he uses the contact details I left with him.

Blank bookcover with clipping path


Is this the hippest church in the world?

When you are  in LA on a Sunday morning where do you go for a church gathering? I decided to visit Mosaic Church’s Downtown LA service to see what I could learn and if I could be a blessing. Here are 5 things I enjoyed about the church.

1. Branding

There’s a place for demonstrating who you through your visuals and in LA a city of art and culture I can imagine if you are trying to reach young creatives then you put a lot of thought into your visuals.
are as a church through the way that you present yourself to the world. Mosaic Downtown meets in a concert venue and so their visual presence has to be temporary. But I really liked the signage that they used all over the area to point people to their meeting place. DSCF1590

2. Welcome

There was a welcome desk strategically placed so that you couldn’t enter the venue without someone greeting you. The welcomers were neatly presented, sat behind a desk – a bit like the reception to a conference venue. It gave a professional yet friendly feeling to proceedings. It’s not rocket science, but the welcomers asked good questions

1. What’s your name?
2. Where are you from?
3. How long are you in town?
4. How did you hear about the church?

2. The Pre party

I know it’s a pretty LA thing.  I was really really really early. Nearly an hour before things were supposed to begin. The welcomers did their job of ushering me into the main auditorium, but i was so early no one knew what to do with me and it felt weird to leave as I would have to walk past the welcome table…  So I did the play-with-my-phone-thing at the back,  it doesn’t mean I don’t want to talk to anyone but it means I feel awkward but don’t want to look like it. People did leave me alone which meant I got to listen in to the “pre-party.”

So the party is about 40 people mostly in their twenties made up of the people on the rot as.  There’s a lot of whooping and laughing –  when a new person is welcomed everyone gets a name shout out.

Ken: Hi my name is Ken.
Everybody: Hi Ken (whoop)
Ken: I am serving on the set up for the first time.
Everybody: Go Set-up (whoop)

There’s a lot of energy in the room, which is unusual for the teams I know that set up church. It’s a very affirming atmosphere, even if it is a little hard to take for a reserved Brit. There’s a shout out for all the teams whose service we are grateful for:

Set up– chairs and furniture set up , signage etc
Production – sound and visuals
Connections– a team to help people transition to deeper involvement in church
All stars– the creche I think
Kids mosaic– childrens’ programme
Team mommy – kind of hospitality for the band, pastors and speaker
Ambience – no idea what this is but would love to know

There’s a brief motivator talk from Joe the pastor for this venue. Its good helping everyone get a vision for why their role is important in helping new people make a step of faith.

 Everyone seems to know what they are doing.  Everyone is a 20 something  lots of cool urban sheek going on. 

3. Hospitality

These guys don’t mess about with the post-pre-party-pre-service-meet-and-greet – OK I made that name up. There’s a very cool DJ doing an excellent job of providing some uber cool ambience. It is a little loud (but I recognise as a 40 something father I am not in the target demographic) for conversation. There’s Starbucks on Tap and some very nice cakes cut into bite sized chunks. Hospitality is clearly a strong value here.

mosaic downtown

4. Creativity

There’s a lot of verbal affirmation of creativity throughout the service. This is a core value of the church and also the heartbeat of Erwin MacMannus’ new book “The Artisan Soul” which apparently is arguing that all of us are creative in some way.  There’s a little interlude in the service that involves two twenty something young women singing a comedy duet about the challenges of being a twenty-something in LA on Social Media. It is very funny and very catchy – they are very gifted, in fact if anyone knows who those women were let me know I want to buy their CD it was that good.  Strangely despite the language about creativity the service seems otherwise very normal. We get a block of worship (it’s lead by an excellent band who may well have written all the songs themselves as I don’t recognise any of the songs). We then get a talk with a creative response. So much so normal. I had to sneak out before the end to try and catch a flight home – so maybe I missed something. The vibe is working though as there are a lot of creative types in the room – judging by age and dress sense. I like the desire to reconnect Christianity and creativity something that feels like it has been sadly neglected for a couple of centuries.

artisan soul

5.  Twenty Somethings

It is great to see so many twenty somethings in a room.  In a city that is synonymous with cool – Mosaic has created a cool LA church.  I definitely feel like I don’t belong here.  I am too old, to brown, too married, too much of a family guy to have a place in this church. Apart from the speaker everyone on stage was a 20 something. Most of them look like they could be extras from a TV show or movie. Some argue that this is exactly what we need to do – we need cool church for cool people, young church for young people, artsy church for artsy people. I hold to a contrary picture of what it means to be the body of Christ, but I can see value in what Mosaic are doing. Perhaps if we can see this gathering as a journey rather than a destination . If this is a temporary staging post for young adults to connect in with the wider body of Christ; an outreach or discipleship programme rather than church in itself then we can get the best of both worlds?  Too often when we talk about multigenerational, multicultural, multi class church we settle for a lowest common denominator model that connects with no one in particular. What I appreciate about Mosaic is the attempt to contextualise into a subculture. I want to celebrate what they are doing and learn from it. But I believe we need both a contextual approach to church and prophetic edge that challenges the prevailing cultural norm of fragmentation, consumerism  and passivity.


After spending the weekend at the Justice Conference and walking around Downtown LA with its large homeless population and the number of Latino people in residence this church service felt very odd indeed as it neither reflected its local community or the Justice theme I had been hearing so much about. But perhaps that was just where I was coming from and you shouldn’t judge a church simply by one of its services. Perhaps I was just feeling homesick for our little community church.


So thank you to Mosaic Downtown for your welcome. Thank you for your creativity. Thank you for raising the bar when it comes to engaging young adults. I met a guy on my way out to LA and yours was the church I encouraged him to think about going to. I hope he makes it along to you. I am not on the same page as you in all that you do, but may God bless your ministry.
Your brother in Christ,


Justice Conference Day 1 liveblog

I am going to attempt to liveblog the sessions I am in today – so that I remember them, fight off the jet lag, and hopefully help you to connect with the justice conference where ever you are… please forgive the typos and the fact that things might not flow that easily when reading… enjoy!

So here we are in a ballroom in the prestigious Biltmore Millenium Hotel in downtown LA. The first session I am attending  is going to be lead by Alexia Salvatiera and Peter Heltzel both from New York.

Faith-rooted Organising and Biblically Based Public Policy Advocacy

Alexia is Luthercostal – a pastor from the Lutheran tradition who came to faith during the Jesus movement.

Peter is a pastor in New York and a theologian.

Time to quote Micah 6:8 ( we might be able to play Justice bible text bingo today…).

We are good at loving mercy as a church but we are not too good at doing justice.

We are not good at connecting justice and the gospel. We are especially confused when we get into the fuzzy areas of public policy. The way we do justice and advocacy is not congruent with our Christian faith.  Hence this seminar will explain how and why we do justice.

  • Organising is bringing people together to create systemic change.

  • Advocacy is a tool of organising influencing public decision-making.

Young people when they get involved in organising made it open source through social media. So this seminar is continually changing.  [ Alexia describes herself as “an Organic theologian.” ]

Peter leads everyone in a song of “I am going to lay down my burden… down by the riverside.”

The theologian foundations of the community organising comes from slave religion. It was down by the riverside they were able to conspire for the kingdom of God. It was postcolonial basis of prophetic Christian religion – abolitionism, civil rights movement etc.  Theologically how does our faith allow us to be unique in the way that we organise. In contrast to traditional community organising that emphasises self interest. Instead of looking for the winnable battles – lets make sure we are in the right fight.  We have moved from an emphasis on justice to justice – we should see the fruit of justification is justice.

If you give someone a fish you feed them for a day
– this is called direct service.
if you teach them to fish you feed them for life
– this is called community development.
if you take down the wall that stops them getting to the river
– this is called 
Organising and Advocacy –

We will explore two different approaches to power

Serpent Power – Luke 18:1-8

– the widow that nags the judge into doing what she wants.

– it is an important way of working and is the normal way of doing advocacy.

– but we the church bring something unique to advocacy…

“The 13th rule: Pick the target, freeze it, personalise it and polarise it” Alinski – the godfather of community organising.

Christian community organising cannot take this approach as it encourages division rather than unity and death (shooting) rather than life.  We should see people as human rather than as targets.

We need Dove Power – 2 Samuel 12:1-13

– we need to understand Spiritual power  – on Easter Sunday during Apartheid Bishop Desmond Tutu was preaching and the government sent in armed soldiers to stop him from preaching against apartheid. When they stormed the building he started laughing and  invited the soldiers to join the party now because God is going to win the battle for justice so they might as well join in now.

We need to make sure that we are not atheist in the way we do public policy work. We need to be prophetic.

We follow the prophetic tradition because we need to remember the poor. We are part of a dismembered body as a church – we need to remember the poor – bring them physically or through story into the conversation.

Alexia shares a story from the peace process she was involved which took the form of dream sharing.

1. Bring two polarised groups into the same room.
2. Ask each group to share their dreams for the city.
3. Be surprised by the fact that both groups most likely want the same dream.
4. Find a way to collaborate to make that dream take place.

right second session coming up:


 Ken Wystma: The Gospel and Justice

Most people say that justice is an important part of the Christian faith. But there is now a pushback from the response to justice movement. Justice is OK we need to be careful that we don’t get distracted from the main thing which is the gospel. But this sets up a false dichotomy that is unhelpful.

Part of the problem is that we have defined justice solely in terms of ethics. As a result justice is seen to be the parallel of “works” – the good stuff Christians do that don’t earn our salvation.  Works are already pitted in opposition to the gospel. If we don’t define justice at the beginning it is already put outside of the sphere of the gospel.

Going to do the definitions up front as a faulty definition has important consequences.

What is justice?

Justice is about right relationship between God, Self, Others and Creation. (You might want to check out this book). Just laws and structures allow for things to be in their right relationships. Justice and righteousness are synonyms for each other.

Isaiah 59:14

So justice is driven back,
and righteousness stands at a distance;
truth has stumbled in the streets,
honesty cannot enter.
15 Truth is nowhere to be found,
and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.

Truth is a universal concept that defines reality for us. Truth is true all the time – the correspondence theory of truth.

If truth corresponds to what is.
Justice corresponds to what ought to be.

Primary justice is the way things were in the Garden.
Restorative justice involves activities that bring us back to the way things were meant to be.

In the garden things were just and straight.
Sin bends things.
Restorative justice works to unbend things.

Most people think of criminal justice – law, order and court rooms. We right wrongs by punishing the wrong doers. The other way we think about justice is charity – we see a lack and then seek to meet it. We don’t think enough about primary justice – the way in which things were meant to be. Wystma refers to Nicholas Wolterstorf for some of these definitions.

Wystma argues that it is better for us, a more appropriate way for us to be human that we find our best life. We were made for others centred, self giving love we are in alignment with what God intended for us and our flourishing. Justice has an epistemic element.

Jeremiah 22:15-17

“Does it make you a king
to have more and more cedar?
Did not your father have food and drink?
He did what was right and just,
so all went well with him.
He defended the cause of the poor and needy,
and so all went well.
Is that not what it means to know me?”
declares the Lord.
“But your eyes and your heart
are set only on dishonest gain,
on shedding innocent blood
and on oppression and extortion.”

This is social justice – a word that has been abused. It just means justice in society.  This is what it means to know God – to be concerned about the needy.

Back to Isaiah 59:15-17

The Lord looked and was displeased
    that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no one,
    he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm achieved salvation for him,
    and his own righteousness sustained him.
He put on righteousness as his breastplate,
    and the helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on the garments of vengeance
    and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.

The incarnation is the right arm of God breaking into the world to bring restorative justice for God’s own creation.

The life of Jesus demonstrates the justice of God putting things back the way they were supposed to be.
The death of Jesus demonstrates the justice of God when he quotes Psalm 22. In this moment of suffering I am still the person that it prophecies.
The resurrection of Jesus (John 21) focusses on the mission of Jesus to bring peace into the world.

[This is pretty dense stuff – it could just be my jet lag with some pretty straight Bible teaching – uninterrupted by stories or illustrations. Wondering about the theology of education and transformation at play in the conference design. ]

When Jesus dies for our sins – the heavens shook, the earth broke and in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount. The altar is the place where sins were atoned for on a regular basis. Eventually you get the Holy of Holies the separation between the holiness an purity of God and fallen human people. The altar was always a way to mend a relationship. Hence the tearing of the curtain when Jesus died. We are reconciled with God.

When confronted by people who argue that justice is not an important part of the Christian faith.

The gospel is about how unjust people can  be next to a just god as if we are just, through a process of justification, whereby we are justified. but it has nothing to do with justice. 

It’s not a choice between Jesus or Justice. Its a category mistake: Substances have properties.
Properties are things that substances have.

Some properties are essential to our identity.
Jesus is the justice of God come to earth, if we stand against him and his plans we are against God himself. Justice is a defining feature of God. It is an essential characteristic. There has never been a place or time where you had Jesus and you did not also have justice.

Next stop seminar 3…

Social Justice and Consumerism
Hans E Tokse


How do we do social justice in consumer society.

Kuttner (1997) Everything for Sale.

How do justice workers respond to the onslaught of consumerism. In a world where people are quick to wear the cool social justice T-shirt and instagraming it – how do we respond?

– The background of consumer society

3 days after 9/11 president Bush said “We have to get everyone back to shop.”  This prompted a question “What is the essence of a country?” For example how come Turkey has not had a fundamentalist muslim government especially when in so many turkish coffee shops  the conversation is all about the military. Perhaps in the US the new civil religion is sports? No, the essence of America is money – its the economy stupid. Bush was right – 70% of the US economy is based on going to the mall.

The freedom to shop comes from the Bonne Marche in Paris. It allowed women to go and shop rather than the men who used to do it all.  New social etiquette developed:
Opening a door for a woman?
Holding the arm of a woman as you take her shopping

In the book the Consumer Republic argues this consumerism became part of life in the post war era. The factories ramped up to produce war machines now is turned into consumer goods.

The most important shift in US society was made by the washing machine – it turned an 8 hour job into an automated one. The soap opera was developed to meet this new amount of time.

I no longer know what I need. Need was corrupted by desire.
What was the protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism becomes the secular ethic and the spirit of capitalism.

[ This is a little rambly and difficult to follow] – What constitutes the consumer society

In the book Paradox of Choice it is argued that  because you cannot create more unique products you create more choice – Whole Milk, Half and Half, Organic Milk, Fair trade Milk, Chocolate milk. With the overabundance of choice we don’t choose we get confused. I don’t really know what I want.

1. Conspicuous Consumption

Power for the purpose of display.
Buying brands we show we can afford what others can’t afford.
Hannah Arendt talks about Snobvalue -I could do something that other people are not able to.
Entertainment -society is looking for spectacle and experiences.
Christopher Lash the culture of Narcism describes how americans have become self-absorbed me-ists. We want therapists and gurus to make sure we feel good about ourselves.

Brightsidedness – a term from the author of the book “Nickels and Dimes.” a sociologist invaded the cancer support groups and noticed how only good news stories were told about remissions.

Planned Obsolences- we make something deliberately to make things redundant.

We have a christian model of benevolence and social justice for the poor. Doing right in the sight of God is dependent on giving to the poor. How we treat the poor is a reflection on the civility of any society. Poverty ministry can develop an Us and Them dichotomy. American civil society is driven by Us rather than them.

– How has consumer society created a justice brand

There are some people who wear justice T-shirts because it is cool rather than because it is who they are. Do I wear the justice brand when I do my works for the poor? Does caring for the poor become an add on to my life? Occupy the brand was made by Ad Busters. Occupy was a branded protest.

Conspicuous Consumption – the branded T-shirt
Snob value – I have a T-shirt that you don’t have.
Entertainment – justice work is fun and brings a good feeling.
Culture of Narcissism – justice makes me feel good about myself.
Brightsidedness – everything is positive, all is good – we cover up the bad.

“There are many things that can only be seen through the eyes of those who have cried” Oscar Romero @Justice2014Live
21/02/2014 12:04

Eugene Cho

Cho is the founder of One Day’s Wages and the founding pastor of Quest Church in Seattle. Cho explains his job is to put us off from starting new things.

Nehemiah 1

Cho argues that we like Nehemiah have been spoken to by God.

What could the church learn from the Bridge?

There has been some interesting conversations buzzing around the blogosphere arguing that the Scandinavian crime resurgence owes its life to the Christian heritage of those nations.

I am interested in the other side. So for a bit of fun I wondered if there is  anything that the church can take away from the Bridge?


I love the way that Saga Noren is fully accepted and integrated into the team. Saga is socially awkward and has been described as being on the autistic spectrum.  The deep friendship she enjoys with Martin Rhode is a model of how to appreciate difference. Martin helps Saga to better read social cues and to navigate the complexities of team life. Saga in turn offers Martin uncompromising honesty and helps him face the realities of his life.

The church has a calling and a wonderful history of welcoming people from all walks of life. I have experienced many churches who have shown grace and hospitality to people with a range of social, physical and emotional challenges.  But sadly I have also come across churches that are unable to make room for people with additional needs. I came across  a Sunday school set up that would not accommodate a child with autism arguing that if he couldn’t sit still in Sunday school then he wasn’t welcome. It lead to his mother quietly sobbing in car park and unable to attend church for a while.

“It’s only now that I feel completely myself again. I’ve felt closed down, spiritually closed down,”

Sofia Helin


Saga is loveable because, not in spite of her unusual social skills. I lover her brutal honesty. Its an innocent almost childlike honesty. Sometimes in church we struggle to be honest with one another. Even in pastoral ministry we sometimes beat around the bush and struggle to “speak the truth in love” as  Ephesians 4 puts it.


I love Saga’s car. Apparently i t’s a classic 1970s  Porsche 912E. That’s a pretty old car to be using as a day to day car. But the car has developed almost iconic status thanks to its use in the series.  Strangely as a church we often don’t value our traditions. Many church’s are trying to look as contemporary as possible without recognising the value or the attraction of the classic and the ancient.


There is a clear moral framework at play in The Bridge.  Of course we are not applauding all that goes on in the show, but Saga is unafraid to challenge Martin on his adultery. In fact the show is unapologetic about the idea that everyone has a dark side – there are no spotless characters in the story.  Everyone is carrying a secret, a hidden agenda. The Bridge does not sentimentalise either the terminally ill , young people, older people, the Police. To me it is a clear example of the biblical principle “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

In the church we often don’t know what to do about sin. There are some churches that can only see the sin in us – they operate with a kind of worm theology that does not recognise goodness. But there are also churches that seem to assume everyone is basically ok. We need a deeper grasp of the pervasive nature of both sin and grace. We need to recognise that leaders are still sinners; works in progress that God the Holy Spirit is still working on. We need to be clear not to sentimentalise the young or the old but to recognise all of us struggle with sin – we all have a dark side. We need to recognise that God’s grace is big enough to deal with our sin – but God’s grace is radical enough to help us turn away from our sin too.

So what do you think? What else could the church learn?

photo credit (vauvau)