Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tim Chester on power and weakness in the Christian life

The Christian life is not a life of victory and power, nor a is it a life of weakness. It's a life of power in weakness. Through the Holy Spirit we experience the power of resurrection from the coming age, so that we might follow the way of the cross in the present age. We must never separate the power of the resurrection from the way of the cross. We live in the power of the Spirit, but the Spirit-empowered life is characterized by service, love and submission....

This is how we steer between hopelessness on the one hand and triumphalism on the other. Triumphalism suggests we can experience now that which truly belongs to the renewal of creation. It trumpets 'victorious Christian living' in which stress is placed upon Christian victory and joy at the expense of the needs of the world and the ongoing power of sin in our lives. But discipleship now is always to follow the way of the cross, sustained by hope through the Spirit.

Yet the alternative to triumphalism is not hopelessness and inactivity. By the Holy Spirit, the power of the resurrection is at work in the life of the Christian community. The coming kingdom has already entered history through Christ the King, and his presence continues to be mediated by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit creates the life of the future kingdom now in the Christian community. We live in the power of the future through the Holy Spirit and in that power we serve the needs of the world.

Tim Chester, The Ordinary Hero, pp.170-171

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Owen on God's mercy

Pardoning mercy comes by Christ alone. This pardoning mercy is revealed in the gospel, and in this pardoning mercy God will be glorified for ever (Eph 1.6). Pardoning mercy is not a vague general mercy which overlooks sin. This would be dishonouring to God. Pardoning mercy is God's free, gracious acceptance of a sinner because satsifaction was made to his justice consistent with his glory. It is a mercy of inconceivable wonder, for God came down from the heights of glory to bring forgiveness to sinners, whilst at the same time exacting justice and severity on sin. 

John Owen Communion with God (Banner of Truth 1991), p.80

Friday, June 10, 2011

Vanhoozer on evangelical identity and the imagination

"Intellectualism and moralism alike are fatal to genuine faith; evangelical churches must avoid them both. It is fatal, on the one hand, to equate faith with intellectual assent. Too many people in our churches identify themselves as evangelicals because they can give mental assent to a list of doctrines. We have far too many believers and far too few disciples. Bonhoeffer weas right: 'cheap grace' - the preaching of forgiveness but not of discipleship - is the enemy of the evangelical church. Moralism - the notion that to be an evangelical is to behave a certain way - is equally damaging. Going through the external motions, even when they are moral, is not the equivalent of having one's inner being renewed and transformed.

"Evangelical identity, I submit, is best viewed as formed by what we might call the evangelical imagination, namely, by the biblical narratives that display the world as it really is: created, fallen and redeemed. By imagination I am referring not to the capacity to produce images of things that are not there, but rather to the capacity to apprehend a dimension of reality that eludes sensory perception. The imagination is a distinct cognitive faculty that grasps diverse persons and events together in a kind of synoptic vision; it is the ability to grasp diverse parts in terms of a unified whole (or story). Evangelical s locate their identity in the gospel story concerning what God was doing in Jesus Christ. The gospel story should enjoy epistemic and existential primacy, serving as the norm for knowledge and ethics alike. In short: the imagination is the way to integrate the head and the heart: the unities it grasps are both thought and felt.

"The imagination is linked to another whole-grasping activity: the gaining of wisdom. It is not enough to know the facts of the Bible; one has to know how to apply and relate to them. The imagination is in this respect an ally of wisdom: the ability to see how things fit together and to know how one may oneself rightly fit in. Evangelicals must define themselves in terms of the gospel; the story of Jesus is the evangelical norm and criterion for understanding the true, the good and the beautiful. 'Evangelical' thus simultaneously names a renaissance of faith (born-again), a reformation of doctrine (Bible-believing), and a revitalization of the imagination (Bible-indwelling)."

Kevin Vanhoozer "Evangelicalism and the Church" in Bartholomew, Parry & West (eds) The Futures of Evangelicalism (IVP, 2003), pp.51-52

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Recently found excellent resources: church-planting and administration

Here are two excellent, and hugely stimulating resources on church-planting that I found recently:

FOR ALL SEASONS conference

URBAN PLANT LIFE consultations

And this is a really marvellous resource on all things related to administration
 - biblical, theological and practical:

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Timmis and Chester on Success

"Church without programmes, structures or buildings can make you very vulnerable. Leadership in which your life is open can feel scary. But we should embrace this fragility because it forces us to trust God's sovereign grace.
"I often describe our church as a group of messy people led by messy people. This is what happens when you take away performance and pretence. They are replaced by messy pastoral issues. But this is how growth takes place. This is how grace is displayed. To paraphrase the opening words of the Sermon of the Mount: 'Blessed are the broken people for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them' (Matthew 5:3). Ministry as performace does not welcome brokenness because it ruins the veneer. But God's kingdom is for broken people. When pastoral problems emerge, I do not think 'Oh no, here's another problem to solve.' I think, 'What a privilege to be serving the broken people. This is where God's blessing is found.'

"The real tragedy of leadership-as-performance is that it devalues the work of Christ. Our identity is not rooted in grace, but in the success of our ministry. And so we feel good when we have performed well and we feel down when things are not going well. We become enslaved to other people's approval. We are concerned to prove ourselves and that is just another way of talking about self-justification. We preach justification by faith on the day of judgment, but do not practice justification be faith in the daily routine of our lives. Our practical theology has become disconnected from our confessional theology. Our song becomes:
"My hope is built on something less
than Jesus´ blood and righteousness;
I trust my skills, I trust my fame
and maybe sometimes Jesus´name.

"But we cannot keep it up. Self-justification is always beyond us. The chorus of Edward Mote´s hymn which I have taken the liberty of inverting actually goes:"On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand." Leadership-as-performance is sinking sand.

Total Church, pp.193-194