BIBLE READING: John 3:14-21 TEXT: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). God’s response to the big question of suffering – is to give us an even bigger answer! One that will blow your mind. One that even the angels are amazed at. One … Continue reading The Death of Jesus – A.S.K 15
I wrote this Easter article for Christian Today in memory of Suzette Leverette. I have been thinking a lot about death and resurrection and the hope we have as Christians. On Easter Monday after a great Sunday….it seems appropriate….you can read the original here.. The Question The middle-aged man was irate. “What are you doing at my door?” he yelled. I explained that I was doing … Continue reading The Death of Death
What is the most difficult thing to believe in the Bible? I think the cross is a stumbling block for all human beings. This is the fifth thought for the day from Premier… This talk was based on chapter 5 of Magnificent Obsession. (I heard some encouraging news this week of a church which gives all its young people who are heading to College or … Continue reading Premier Thought for the Day 5 – The Difficult Doctrine of the Cross
Steve Chalke is often presented on mainstream Christian media (and indeed the secular media) as a Christian preacher who presents one point of view – that many do not agree with – but who nonetheless remains a Christian whose views are just a different take on Christianity. In reality it has been many years since Rev. Chalke has taught anything approaching biblical Christianity, but in … Continue reading Steve Chalke and the Cross of Christ
Society is awash with hatred, but love is stronger A strong contender for word of the year for 2018 is already ‘hate’. Every day we hear about hate speech, hate groups and numerous slogans along the line of ‘love trumps hate’. In this regard I was intrigued by a proposal from the city of Hamilton in Canada to ban ‘hate groups’. The trouble is how one defines … Continue reading The Power of Hate
I am offended. In fact I am more than offended. I feel angry, upset and quite nauseated. And it’s all to do with Easter. No I am not offended at Cadbury’s leaving the word Easter out of some of its headings. Nor at I offended at Tesco’s Good Friday beer advert. I expect crass commercialism from Tesco and they never fail to deliver. I … Continue reading It’s Easter – I’m Offended!
“For too long the western church has occupied a throne and has abandoned the cross. The church has reigned as king instead of bowing as a servant.”
John Caldwell’s statement is not new. In fact there is very little in this wee book that is new. You can find more detailed analysis of current cultural trends, contemporary church issues, historical developments and in-depth theology elsewhere. What you will not find, and what is new, is that all these things are brought together in this one book in a manner which addresses the needs of the churches today and which is accessible to the vast majority of people.
John’s basic thesis is one that I would totally agree with. One of the reasons that we set up Solas Centre for Public Christianity was precisely because we identified the same trends that John notices. With his social and varied ecclesiastical background he is well able to comment from both an insiders and outsiders perspective, on the confused state of the Church of Jesus Christ in the United Kingdom today.
Confused is perhaps the best word to describe what is going on. There is a great deal of confusion in the general society about God, the Bible, humanity, morality and ethics. It seems as though the foundations have been destroyed and people wonder what can they do? What is even more disturbing is that the church seems to reflect the trends within the culture and therefore ends up being even more confused. Perhaps we really are at a stage where God is judging the nation and letting us go our own way? We have become the blind leading the blind.
A View From the Battlefield
None of this is new. God’s church has often existed within confused and apparently declining situations. But God in his mercy does not leave us alone, which would indeed be the ultimate judgement. He sends his word, and he sends those who proclaim his word. John Caldwell is such a person. His analysis in this book of the contemporary church scene in the United Kingdom (and therefore applicable in the wider Western world) is insightful, depressing, and yet somehow stimulating and encouraging. This is not an academic thesis looking at the sociological aspects of religion from the safe vantage point of an armchair in an ivory tower. Nor is it the story of one particular work of God in a particular location at a particular time. This is a view from the battlefield, which takes a broad sweep over the whole contemporary situation.
The branding of the church is neither radical nor biblical.
What is especially helpful about this small book is that it takes a number of disciplines and applies them in a practical way to the current church situation. John notes that in reaction to a sinful, competitive denominationalism, evangelical Christians seem to have thrown out the baby with the bathwater. We have exchanged one mess for another. Reflecting the culture more than Scriptures, we have ended up with a sinful competitive networking based on dominant personalities and advertising branding. The branding of the church is neither radical nor biblical.
Of course there are those of us who are long enough in the tooth to find ourselves cringing whenever we hear the word radical. Every new program, every new work of God is deemed to be ‘radical’. I find myself yawning and switching off when I am told to read, watch or support the latest radical initiative from the latest in-vogue Christian organisation. If you have to say you are ‘edgy’ you are not! What I love about John’s book is that it is radical, precisely because it does not seek to provide us with something new. It points us instead to Scripture, the basics of the Christian faith and the lessons we can learn from our own history.
What is more radical than the cross? And yet how many contemporary evangelicals either do not understand or water down or even deny the atonement? And it’s not just the foundational issues of the cross, the person and work of Christ, or the inspiration and sufficiency of the Scriptures, which are under attack. It is also how we apply them, and how the church lives out the doctrines of the Scriptures in the contemporary world whose world view is so antithetical to them.
The Community of the Church
Whilst there are Christians who will argue that what we need to focus on is evangelism, others who argue that mercy ministry is the way ahead, and still others who want to emphasise prayer, Bible teaching and personal devotion; far too often the church in its various manifestations is either forgotten, sidelined or dismissed. John’s ‘radical’ notion is that all of these things matter and that all of them come together in the church’. In order to communicate the gospel we need therefore to work out, not only what the gospel is, but also how we live it out in the community of the church.
As you read this book there are things that you will say Amen to! There are other things that you will question or disagree with, and gaps that you will want to fill in. But one thing is absolutely sure – every single chapter of this book deals with issues which are vital to the well-being and health of the whole church in today’s society. It will benefit you enormously to prayerfully read through and think about these issues.
Just as ‘radical’ is an overused and often cringeworthy word, so ‘conversation’ often shares the same fate. But in this instance the word conversation is very appropriate. My hope and prayer is that this book will stimulate many conversations which cause us to turn to the Lord, the head of the church, and ask him what he wants. May it be that we will be encouraged to be faithful to his word, to be salt and light in a society which rejects that word, and to once again see the renewal, revival and re-formation of the church in our societies.
Christ is on the throne. We are not. We do not tell him what he should be doing with his church. We just simply say ‘speak Lord for your servants are listening’. And then pray that he would give us strength and grace to be doers as well as hearers of the word.
Continue reading “The Radical Church – Foreword and Review”
Monty Python was a hilarious surreal take on many aspects of life. It was so ludicrous that most of us could laugh. But nowadays I find that some aspects of modern life which are apparently taken seriously, are more Pythoesque than Python. Take this headline…. Bible students are warned…you may find the crucifixion too upsetting! This was in The Daily Mail so I guess there are those … Continue reading Snowflake Theologians Given Trigger Warning about the Crucifixion
Its been some week! Not least in terms of writing and contending for the Gospel and all hell has broken loose! For me Easter is a good time to remember that death is dead, Christ has won, love has conquered. Although I happen to think that we should celebrate every Sunday as the Day of the Risen Lord. Here is the latest in my … Continue reading The Ultimate Proof – The Resurrection of Jesus – Apologetics 101 – no.10
Last week I received a phone call asking me if I would be willing to write the Mail’s Easter essay! Is the Pope a Catholic?! It was actually a difficult task (2,000 words) and to be honest I was not sure if they would take it. Apart from a few edits to the first paragraphs they have printed it in full! I am so thankful … Continue reading The Dangerous Betrayal of Scotland’s Christian Heritage – Article in The Daily Mail – Easter Saturday 2016