C***c R****f Humbug
The Comic Relief Police are out in force this week. "Want to buy a pen for £1 for Comic Relief?" (Rymans, where PT staff enjoy their lunchtimes). No? You miserable so and so. Well, actually, the assistant didn't actually accuse me like that, but I could read the face.
- first, it seems somewhat irresponsible to give to general campaigns without first doing some groundwork. This is not a CR dig, but a broader point. There is little or no visibility of where your giving is actually going when you donate to general campaigns. That's OK for Christian organisations (and there are plenty of worthy ones that we support corporately and personally), but for those who are not, how do you know how your money is being spent? I think churches should be nurturing specific relationships, either with individuals or projects or trusted organisations. That seems a more appropriate way to give.
- second, more specifically, some of CR's projects may be Christianly dubious. That's because they give to alleviate injustice and they have a broader view of justice than you or I. Wherever your draw the line on this (and we may all have different views), there may be one or two projects (amongst a myriad of many good and worthy projects) which cross it. For example, in the most recent published list, CR fund the Gay and Lesbian Youth Parliament. Now, Christians should be reaching out with the gospel to people from all kinds of backgrounds graciously and generously, but I don't personally think that is where Christian money should be going.
You must make your own decisions, of course. But the Christian principles remain: Give generously. But give wisely too.
PT iOS app
Don't forget if you're on iOS (iPad, iPhone or new generation iPod) you can download the PT app for free. This will give you easy access to the audio material from our website and the blog. We're sorry that since iOS6 it hasn't been working, but it's up and running again. Crucially it will allow you to both stream and download audio to enable you to decide how best to access online material.
Ask your wife
It's interesting being on a wives' conference. Here are 100 women, all married for some time, all in ministry some time. What do you think would be the overwhelming answer if I asked them for their husband's besetting sin?
There are nuances of course. And there will almost certainly be root causes that lead to overwork. However, overwhelmingly this is the thing that comes up time and time again in conversations I've had with some of the wives here.
Without wanting to be too blunt and direct: sort it out! You will be able to rationalise and spiritualise it, of course. That's the danger of being a Bible man. It's often easy to justify those respectable sins biblically. But ultimately it will blunt marriage and ministry and it is not glorifying to God. Catch it before it's too late.
If you've time.
Ministers and pornography
You're a church minister. You regularly preach to your congregation about sexual purity, after al it comes up again and again in the Bible, especially in the NT epistles. You're a modern preacher and so you're able to talk frankly about sex, same-sex attraction and related issues. You are even clear about the dangers and pervasiveness of pornography.
But you're hooked yourself. And you can't tell anybody about it.
I've not got any statistics but I reckon (from anecdotal conversations) that's it more common than we might imagine or confess, especially in our circles. There's a shame attached, rightly of course, which makes us very wary about saying anything to anybody. What can you do? My plea is for you to get pastoral help. But here are a few other points:
- Name it for what it is. It is adultery in your heart (see Matt 5.28). Our teenage boys at school may be told it is about harmless release, but that is simply untrue, a lie of the Devil.
- Understand that it will require serious remedy (Matt 5.29-30). You are kidding yourself if you think you can fix this easily. It requires real heart change.
- That said, don't despise practical help. CovenantEyes is well known. We use a similar package called SafeEyes. There are other similar packages available.
- Smart phones make carrying this addiction much simpler. If that is the way you access porn and you cannot kick it, then trade your phone down.
- Work out the root sin. I think an addiction to pornography reflects the sin of discontent. Ultimately this is discontent with Christ. More practically, if you are married, this is a discontent with your wife. Worse still, when you start to watch pornograhy you begin to demand things in the bedroom that might be common online, but are not, I believe, natural in marriage: I include anal sex in this list. So the discontent spreads.
- Sharpen your prayers. Work out the root sin and tackle this in your prayers. Don't just ask God to help you fix the problem but change your heart and tackle the root sins.
Wives, wives and more wives
Away at the moment on our spring wives' conference: one of our favourite conferences. There's me and Jonathan Carswell (so, 1½ men then). Oh, and 100 wives. It's a joyous occasion seeing these ministry wives supporting and encouraging each other. A happy and useful time. If you're in the first few years of ministry, then we've got a wives conference just for you. It runs from July 8 to 13 at Hothorpe Hall in Leicestershire. It was a nice place anyway, but they're doing it up a bit more. This is a luxury place to relax, make and keep friends and sit under God's word. And in July, Hothorpe is even nicer than in March. Perhaps you're reading this and you're a ministry wife just starting out? It would be good to see you. Perhaps you're married to one? Find a way to invest in her and let her come. She'll benefit and so, indirectly, will you. This year's teachers are Christopher Ash and Carrie Sandom. You can book online here. We're filling up, but at present there are still some places left. And if you are coming, who else could you bring along for her encouragement?
Facebook and all that
Sat down last night and watched a Channel 4 drama on a few weeks ago in a series by Charlie Brooker called Black Mirror: Be right back (available on 4oD here). The one off dramas are set in the near future and pick up and develop some current themes. Last night's viewing was mixed. Warning: some bad language and a couple of scenes of sexual nature (but no nudity). However, the message was very thought provoking. Essentially this is the plot.
A facebook addict dies in a car accident and his widow is able to recreate his personality and voice through signing up to a service that takes all his online information and processes it into a computer generated voice avatar. Doesn't sound so crazy. This guy had posted an enormous amount of stuff online. And ironically, his wife had been fed up with his phone use before his death, but afterwards became addicted herself because she wanted to hear his voice. She was then offered a pilot programme where, using synthetic skin, his actual body could be reproduced.
It was a dark tale touching on death, grief, relationships – but above all, social media. Mrs R and I found it fascinating in the sense we talked a lot about it afterwards and that rarely happens with TV shows. It also got me thinking about Tim Chester's very useful posts about Facebook which are now in a book, Will you be my Facebook friend. Short, punchy and also thought provoking (without the bad language and sex!). We're also running a seminar on the pastoral implications of technology at this year's EMA led by Ed Brooks and Pete Nicholas: really, really important stuff for every pastor. You can book online now.
Yorkshire preachers training
We're coming north! We've arranged a Yorkshire preachers day with the Yorkshire School of Christian Ministry under the umbrella of the Yorskhire Gospel Partnership. The date is Saturday 23rd March and the day will be held in Otley, North Yorkshire, starting at 10.30am and running until 4.00pm. We'll spend a day looking at teaching and preaching the prophets. I hope you will be able to join us.The day is particularly geared towards occasional or lay preachers, small group leaders etc who would benefit from some training on handling the Bible well. Why not think about who in your church could come along? It's part of our regional day training which in 2013/14 will extend to Ireland as well. Watch this space for more details. The cost is £15 for the day. See you there. More details here.
What do you need to preach Revelation?
Enjoying a good day with Steve Wilmshurst and our Cornhill+ team looking into Revelation. Who has ever preached a series on Revelation? All of it, I mean, not just the letters (you've done that too haven't you?). Here are Steve's tips for preaching:
- The key tool for understanding Revelation is a good understanding of the Old Testament quoted/alluded to possibly 600 times (on average once every verse)
- You need to understand numbers, 2, 3, 4, 7, 10, 12 and so on to get to grips with the book
- remember the genre, apocalyptic, prophecy, letter, all at the same time
- keep in mind the big picture before getting wound up about the details, messages that don't fit this big picture are probably wrong
- Make the scriptural connections and help listeners do so as well
- Preach Christ who is the heart and focus of the book, despite there being many other 'supporting' characters
- Don't be sidetracked, the book is full of potential red herrings
- Don't solve the sudokus like some kind of airport puzzle book rather than a book written to encourage God's beleaguered people
- Don't be too clever or dogmatic about things that can justifiably be disagreed upon, e.g. some views on the millennium (certain views at least). More importantly we need to show people that by looking at the text, reading Scripture with Scripture and with the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we can all come to a proper understanding of the text
The most misused verses in the Bible
THE MOST MISUSED VERSES IN THE BIBLE
The preacher as juggler
I've just come back from a very useful and encouraging week in India. We took a Cornhill team along and got up to all kinds of bible teaching work. It's one step removed from real pastoral ministry of course, but nevertheless it got me thinking about juggling. I took some editing work with me, and what with teaching, preaching, fellowship groups, morning devotions, family devotions, etc I think we managed to cover Matthew, Romans, Mark, Ezra, Nehemiah, Numbers and 2 Corinthians.
And even though that is somewhat unusual, the normal pattern of church ministry is that at any point the chances are you will be juggling several projects. You may have your own devotions, perhaps a Sunday morning series, another for the evenings, a midweek group series, some personal reading 121 you are doing…the list is potentially endless.
And as a preacher you've got to juggle all those balls. I'm not sure we ever really train ourselves for this. We teach people to rightly handle the word of God, but one book at a time. And when we become curates and assistants we're very often given discrete tasks and projects. But we would do well to train our younger men in the art of balancing several teaching projects at the same time. This is not the same thing as time management and project management (though perhaps those skills have some bearing). This is a spiritual discipline of being able to segregate out study and work on more than one teaching activity at a time.
Of course, in some churches, with large staffs, these issues don't arise so often. But I'm convinced that, in the cut and thrust of normal preaching ministry, it's a real skill to learn.