23 August 2010

THOUGHT - What's in a name?

I'll be honest with you - this is something that's been bugging me for a long, long time. Those of us who follow Jesus often refer to ourselves as 'Christians' or 'the Church', or in more specific cases we use the name of a particular organisation - 'I'm a member of the such-and-such church'.

An Escher print of endlessly connected fishThis troubles me because I really don't want to make any distinctions of this sort. We are all one in Christ, though we may have different gifts and abilities (Eph 4:1-7). We are one body and we should learn to see ourselves that way, not merely in terms of the Church Universal (although that is true and important) but in practical terms, in our daily lives and thinking.

The Bible recognises one church in different locations, it does not recognise different churches. Paul is emphatic on this point (1 Cor 1:12-14). The New Testament distinguishes church by province, city, and meeting place. We read of the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria, the church in Ephesus, the church that meets at the house of Priscilla and Aquila. The idea of distinguishing churches on the basis of leaders, doctrines or traditions is completely alien to the writers of the New Testament. In fact they always opposed any such move very strongly.

I am entirely happy to be known simply as someone who follows Jesus and is part of the church in Europe, the UK, England, the East of England, Cambridgeshire, St Neots, or Eaton Ford. I'm happy to be regarded as part of the church meeting in my house, or Jim's house, or Sean's house.

But there is a practical issue when a name is needed in, for example, a list. What I would prefer is to state that I'm a follower of Yahshua (Jesus) in St Neots. And if there's room, that might be acceptable but it will be confusing. So in a list like 'Eynesbury Methodist, Open Door, River Church, St Mary's Eaton Socon' what should I write?

Currently I use terms like 'organic church', 'house church', or 'simple church'. But these are not accurate or complete and they act to divide - which is the very thing I want to avoid! I'd like to write 'the church in St Neots' but that will not be understood.

Suggestions are welcome. Does anyone else worry about these things?

There doesn't seem to be a satisfactory answer. I don't want to be seen as set apart, I want to be seen as I see myself, part of the one body of Christ here in the town where I live. But there doesn't seem to be a word or simple phrase for that!

Perhaps it's better to avoid being listed and just get on with living as a follower of the King. The very existence of a list implies that the items on it can be distinguished in some way.

22 August 2010

REVIEW - Release International

Jesus' followers are being persecuted in many countries around the world. I have seen a number of websites providing information and comment, but one of the best must surely be Release International.

Release International's logoWhy is this a good website? It is balanced, focussed on reporting the unexaggerated truth, and provides useful ideas for action (prayer, petitions etc). Unlike some sites, Release International doesn't publish reader's comments which on other sites are are sometimes rude, inflammatory, or unreasonable

The organisation was set up by Richard Wurmbrand who himself suffered persecution in Communist Romania in the 1950s and 60s. He wrote many books and clearly understood the need for an international organisation to support the oppressed and persecuted.

For examples of the articles available, take a look at the current news page.

20 August 2010

NEWS - Updates from around the world

Here's a mixed bag of recent updates from around and about. They're all well worth a look.A megaphone
  • House2House Newsletter - Financing the infrastructure - Tony and Felicity Dale discuss the financial support of mission. This is such an important topic, itinerant workers cannot always support themselves and will need some form of help. The article is rich with links to other relevant sources on line.

  • Harvest Now - Why we do what we do - Steve and Marilyn Hill report from Kyrgyzstan, the scene of violent clashes recently between Kyrgyze and Uzbek people. Many have died and huge numbers been displaced during this Muslim on Muslim ethnic violence, but out of the ruins and pain something wonderful is happening. The love of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is impacting more people than ever before.

  • Stories from the Revolution - Brief interview with JoEtta Deaton - Have you ever wondered about your own paradigm of church? How do we grow? How should we encourage one another? JoEtta was surprised and excited at what she discovered. Visiting a meeting she found that instead of just being an observer, she herself was drawn into listening to Jesus and hearing his direction for her. (This is the third part of a series on church planting, see also parts 1 and 2.)

  • Nomad Podcast - Interview with Terry Virgo - Tim interviews the man behind New Frontiers and we hear about church and the new forms it may take.

  • SimpleChurch.eu - Nine best simple church books - This is a fine collection of titles. I haven't read them all, but those I have are outstanding. My personal favourites are 'You see bones, I see an army' and 'An army of ordinary people'. Would that be the same army? Yes!

19 August 2010

ANNOUNCEMENT - A letter from Cornerstone to the churches

Paul Shinners, the owner and managing director of Cornerstone, has circulated a vision statement and invitation to the church in St Neots.
A letter from Cornerstone
Here are some extracts.

Cornerstone is a cross-denominational company with directors from different churches and aims to bring Jesus into the high street and provide resources for local Christians and churches. However, its primary aim is to serve Jesus by blessing and loving the people in the area by representing him to them. This will present opportunities for the local churches around St Neots by providing a mix of affordable high quality coffee, fair trade food, meeting rooms, music, gifts, cards and counsellors in a welcoming and loving environment.

Cornerstone has been open for only a couple of days but we have had rave reviews on the quality and experience from both Christians and non-Christians alike!

However, there is an opportunity for more volunteers to be part of this exciting venture and for your church to be represented in Cornerstone to help engage in outreach with the local community in a non-threatening environment.

Specifically we require volunteers to help with any of the following duties:

- Book shop management
- Food preparation
- Coffee and drinks preparation
- Cleaning
- Counselling

We can offer any volunteers uniforms, free lunch and drinks, and travelling expenses.
I know that all of us living in the area and involved in small, organic expressions of church will find this an interesting opportunity. It fits particularly well with our own understanding of church and being actively involved with the people around us. We are here to love the Father, love one another, love our neighbour, and even to love our enemy. What better start could we have than a place like Cornerstone, designed to serve the local area with good food, good drink, good books, and good facilities for meeting?

So please bring this to Jesus in prayer, ask him if he wants you involved. If you need to know more here are some suggestions.
  • Watch the video about the making of Cornerstone.
  • Visit the website and read about it.
  • Come and visit for a coffee and a chat.
  • Let the staff know that you are considering becoming a volunteer and that you'd like the chance to ask some questions.
  • Ask to see the meeting room and other facilities.

17 August 2010

Cornerstone Cafe and Books


Cornerstone has been keeping me very busy for the last few months. This great little cafe and bookshop has prevented me updating 'All About Jesus' for some time (now Journeys of Heart and Mind), and just as I was beginning to think I could move on to other things again, I seem to be in danger of getting drawn in even deeper!

The Cornerstone websiteThe Cornerstone website (no longer available, but click the image for a larger view) gave much more information about the project itself, but I'm going to share some more personal thoughts here.

My life is indeed, 'All About Jesus'. I want him to be King in my life, I want to be obedient to him in the way a loyal subject would be obedient to a mediaeval king. Kings had absolute power in those days, disobedience was not an option.

Yahshua (Jesus) is always benevolent, and the reason is simple - he loves me. He simply has what is best for me in mind at all times and will lead me and command me in ways that keep me spiritually safe. That doesn't mean things will always turn out well as the world understands and judges these things. Bad things happen to us in life. But the world doesn't comprehend the truth.

So I have a dilemma. I want to help and serve my friends (and it is good to do that). But my overriding priority must always be to serve King Jesus. Cornerstone is a wonderful project and it is most assuredly a project conceived and enabled by the King. He has shown me without any doubt that I was to be involved in the development of the shop. But what is he requiring of me now? It's not enough to do what seems good or necessary, instead I must do what I am told. That's why listening is so important in our lives.

And what he seems to be telling me right now is that he wants me to be involved in Cornerstone in some way, but volunteering to work in the shop may not be quite what he has in mind. I am still feeling my way in this. Cornerstone certainly needs people to do the work, in fact it needs many, many people. Am I one of them? In a way, yes, but perhaps not as I might expect.

To be perfectly frank, I am not yet sure! My best guess as I write is that my role will be managing websites and helping provide direction. Straying into other areas could become a kind of disobediance. I need to be careful!

I am sure that over the next days and weeks it will become clear to me. It's not a matter of likes and dislikes, or of whether I am competent or not competent. It's a matter of obedience! I must wait to find out. Father, show me the right way forward.

Footnote (added in 2019): Cornerstone was a blessing to many people over the few years of its existence. But in the end it didn't have a long term future. Sadly, it failed in some ways and was unable to continue. Helping to get it started was a great experience, though, and I made some wonderful new friends in the process. Father has his reasons and his ways, all the glory is his!

See also - A short video on the making of Cornerstone.

05 August 2010

Where next with this blog?

This is the first post since 23rd June. I've been busy with 101 things and have failed hopelessly in my attempts to keep things up-to-date. In particular a family holiday in North Wales and work leading to the opening of a coffee/book shop on 14th August have demanded a lot of time, and the holiday was in an area where internet access was rather problematic.

As a result I've been thinking about ways of restructuring what I do. Currently I manage four blogs and a variety of other sites. The main parts of my online presence are...
  • All About Jesus (AAJ) - which you are reading right now. This blog is a record of meeting notes, thoughts, announcements and more. It centres on my spiritual life and those of my friends. AAJ developed from online meeting notes and goes back to 2001.
  • The Scilla Blog - this is a series of posts about other things that interest me - science, technology, thoughts about life, things I have read, things I have noticed, photography etc.
  • My personal 'home' page - also called 'Scilla', it has a little information about me and links to the other websites.
  • The Cornerstone website - the internet presence for the Cornerstone Cafe and Bookshop in St Neots.
  • Sundry other sites -  blogs, wikis, Facebook, Friendfeed, Twitter. Some of these are for personal use, others are part of my public presence on the web.
What I think I might do is collapse all these down into just two main sites, AAJ (this blog) and the Cornerstone site. I will also retain some of the wikis and other sites as glue and to communicate with close friends and family.

The main impact of doing so would be more frequent posts here on AAJ and on a much wider range of topics. I'll make sure to provide links to the old sites so it will be easy to read older items.

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