Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Free at last!

Not sure how to take this sign.

My first reactions were a bit tongue-in-cheek.
1. Free prayer! That's fantastic. The prayer I'm currently buying is quite expensive and cutting a hole in my budget.
2. Darn it. It's Tuesday 6pm. Now I have to wait a whole week until God's next set of opening hours.

As I walked on, I genuinely wondered what they meant by free. Do they mean free as opposed to controlled by the church prayer leader, who plays the role of a pseudo-spokesperson to God on our behalf?

Or do they mean free as opposed to recited prayer of Sunday School, or the read-in-unison prayer of church? That today you might be able to pray from your own heart.

Or do they just mean plain free (no money required)? Have public acts of kindness become so rare that we have to emphasise that this is NOT pay-per-prayer? That this is not a fundraiser and that we are not asking for donations?

However they mean it, I don't think it's a great reflection on how we generally do prayer. Perhaps more prayer could be free prayer.

What do you think?

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Is this the worst piece of evangelism?

Ok, there's probably been worse, but let me know what you think - or if you've had worse.

The background

My wife and I are downsizing. There's lots of stuff we no longer need (or never did). We care about the planet and about people. So we don't throw much in the bin. We try to sell or give away things to people who can use them. Online we've posted at least 200 items so far. One of these was a set of prayer flags my wife received from a work colleague. Apparently they are quite popular in Nepal.

Tim's inquiry:

Sat, 1:33 pm
Who do these prayers go to?

I wasn't sure where this was going, so took the bulk of my answer from wikipedia.

Our response

Sat, 6:11 pm
Hi Tim. Thanks for your question. The short answer to your question is "everyone". Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to gods, which is a common misconception; rather, the Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all. I hope that helps.

I thought that was fairly clear and non-offensive. The next came this:

The reply

Sun, 4:49 pm
Hi Chris. Interesting philosophy and pagan superstition. I'm thankful that there is a true God who has and does answer prayers ( Psalm 65:2.). Apart from the many attributes God has, there are things he gives, love, joy and peace. ( Galatians 5:22). These are just a few. Real hope and comfort ( Romans 15:4) come from his true wisdom ( Psalm 111:10. James 3:17). But as you are aware there are many gods ( 1 Corinthians 8:5) . One thing that eludes many people is the true God's name. (Psalm 83:18). Jehovah. If you have a bible, please look at the scriptures mentioned. Usually older bibles do have the name of God. Sadly most modern bibles have omitted his name.
Thank you.

Good grief

Clearly Tim is a Jehovah's Witness and (I'm guessing) never had any genuine interest in the flags. Instead he was just seeking (or forcing) an opportunity to trumpet his beliefs.

Three things puzzle me about this.
1. He seems to assume I am not Christian - and yet he quotes the bible as his proof of how wonderful god is. If I wasn't Christian why would I give two hoots what the bible says?
2. I'm still puzzled that people use references like "1 Corinthians 8:5" expecting that a non-Christian knows what to do with little piece of code. Of course it's Google-able, but he's talking hard-copy bible.
3. Obviously there's a huge vibe of 'your beliefs are stupid', 'I follow the true god' and 'you should too'. Does that ever work?

Interested to hear you thoughts.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Coming to church feet first

I was chatting with a friend recently about David Murrow's book Why Men Hate Going to Church.

There's a reason it has that title and not "why men don't go to church". Because this runs deeper than just the absence of men from church pews, it's also about the men who are there - but in the physical sense only.

The cartoon is a bit of an exaggeration, but sums up the situation for many.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Church Refugees

On one level using the term refugees seems weird. But on another level it's entirely accurate.

We're talking about people of faith who have fled the church. It's a place they'd perhaps like to come back to one day, but for now they've started a new life somewhere outside of churchland.

Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope have written the book Church Refugees. You can download a sample chapter and you can hear Josh being interviewed about it.

One of the big takeaway points is that these 'refugees' are often the people who are strongly committed to faith, and who have previously done a lot of work in the church.

Even now, living away from the church they pray more than church attenders do. They also find that by not being part of church they can live out their faith more effectively.

It seems to me that these are committed Christians who are frustrated with a church that isn't. A church that is more about keeping the wheels ticking over than in following Jesus.

Friday, 3 June 2016

What's wrong with this picture

This photo was made public by the Uniting Church. The man on the left was being thanked and recognised for his contribution in role of what is effectively a 2IC of the church in this state.

Except for lingerie, at the moment I can't think of a more feminine and inappropriate gift to give the man. Particularly a man who is 6 foot tall with broad shoulders and a shaved head. At least he didn't get the pink flowers. But that's kind of like buying a man black lingerie and saying is masculine because it's not the pink set.

I think we can do better.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Radical Chapter 3

The most memorable part of this chapter was right at the start. He tells a story of a church in Indonesia. Potential church leaders only graduate once they have planted a church and reached 30 new Christians. Remember that Indonesia is a majority Muslim country.

I wonder how we would go if we applied that here. I reckon there are many churches that haven't reached 30 new people in a decade - and that's in a majority Christian country.

I think it would be a culture shock. We tend to be focussed around just keep things ticking over, as if existence is the only goal.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Radical Chapter 2

In chapter 2 of Radical, David Platt asks if we are able to discern what parts of our faith are Biblical and which are just American.

He mentions our tendency to manipulate the Bible to our own comfort. In the Bible there is no verse about "praying a sinner's prayer" to "accept Jesus". But quite often that's what American culture reduces Christianity down to.

This "one time decision with no action afterwards", this "one-way ticket to heaven" is a road built on sinking sands. The actual gospel is far different from this (American) cultural version.