The Newfrontiers conference in Brighton is now over, but for me the learning continues. It was a delight to bring my son, Henry, to hear Mark in the flesh last night. Having been away, it was good to get some time with Henry on the way there. Henry was very observant of the unusual surroundings of a Church of England church. He pointed out what seemed to him to be a typo in a Bible verse that was carved into the stone wall. It said “This do in remembrance of me.” “Dad, that should say, “Do this in remembrance of me,” he said. The ensuing conversation about differences between Bible translations made him ask, “Can you buy the original Bible today, Dad?”
On the way there, Henry wanted to eat in that great American cultural export, McDonald’s. So, having heard from Driscoll this week, and the other Sunday from Tope Koleoso, about being missional, I decided to put it into practice. Having placed my order, noticing there was no queue behind me, I had the following conversation:
Me: “So, busy today?”
Server: “No, not really.”
Me: “Who was the weirdest person you had in today?”
Server: “No one really.”
Me: “Okay then, who was the weirdest person that came in this week?”
Me: “What? Cuz I actually talked to you?”
Server: “Yep …”
He didn’t even seem to be joking. So, don’t tell anyone, but it seems like I’m officially the weirdest person in North London this week.
Last week Driscoll told us that not being anxious to talk to new people probably is “something British,” and may be why Britain isn’t very Christian! So, I guess that guy in the McDonald’s near Bethnal Green tube station needs a few more of us weirdoes going in there to actually “talk” to him. Let’s totally freak him out, shall we? Who knows he might even get saved!
On the way home Henry and I spoke about the sermon, which he had enjoyed. I checked with him about whether he wanted to come with me to the Saturday mini-conference. He said that he didn’t want to listen to preaching all day. “No boy could cope with listening to sermons all day, Dad,” he said, “well, not unless he was unusually Jesus-like, anyway!”
Last night’s intriguingly-titled meeting was held in St. James Clerkenwell. It was interesting to hear a bit more about the network Driscoll leads from Scott Thomas, it’s director, and David Fairchild, who is an Acts 29 church planter in San Diego.
Driscoll began by telling his biography briefly and then began by reading from Acts 17. He again stressed that culture always comes from the city. These missional ideas came from James David Hunter, who apparently has some papers online – if anyone knows the URL, please let me know.
Cities are marked by density and diversity. Paul learns something of what Athenians are like so he can relate to them. He doesn’t change the message. Contextualization is never making Jesus relevant — it is showing who he is. We must pause and pay attention. In Brighton he saw bars open on a Wednesday and one had a sign “Sacred Thursday” and that meant that drinks were half-price. When our culture and our churches (for that’s what the bars are trying to be) say that sacred means men can get girls drunk for half-price, that’s bad news.
Pray that God will break your heart for the city. That can only happen if you take a look around. Everybody worships something. The only question is what do they worship? Someone or something is most significant to you. Sex can be worship. Some choose that sex with their boyfriend is more important than God. When the Bible says we worship created things, one of the things it means is we worship human bodies by having sex and pornography.
Paul walks into the town alone. He was anonymous and could have given in to sin. What about us when we are alone — are we seduced by the idols or are we broken by them? In Athens, the people basically loved blogging about other blogs. What are our religions? Football is a religion — it pays loads of money, paints faces, and even shouts and screams — they are “pentecostals”. For some its their stomach. In the USA, American football and baseball are far bigger religions than Christianity.
There are three approaches to the city:
Let’s just be like them and update and modify everything to be the same. The church, then, is like a cave — the world shouts into and it echoes back. If nothing that I believe or do is wrong, then there is no point in me going to church. It’s classic liberalism.
This is just the opposite. The church becomes a safe enclave in the midst of evil, and ends up leaving the city.
This is going into the city to change it from within. Contextualize first. Try to explain it in the way people will understand. Contending is telling them they are wrong. You have to do both, but first don’t be seduced by the city yourself and love them.
What makes Jesus better than any other “god”? All the others demand that we do something for them, Jesus died for us! If we want to bring him to the cities, we have to study them, we need to show them how he is relevant. Some will scorn us. Tolerance is a myth.