Posts Tagged ‘church’

John D Manwell's Blog

    8 Representatives Together

You Tube video of 8 leaders prayer together 

With all that has separated the Body of Christ over hundreds of years there is a mountain of disunity that we need to deal with. At Saints in the Stadium thousands of Christians from all traditions and backgrounds came together to call on God to seek His help for the United Kingdom. Eight people from different denominations of the Church stood and prayed for Oneness in the Body in the United Kingdom.

There is only one God and Father. Centuries of separateness amongst believers for countless reasons does not change the unity of God. Standing together and singing or praying does not change the separation in our hearts. Issues of truth do not become flexible with us simply holding hands.

We can, however, take heart from the increasing number of leaders and church representatives who want to see a change…

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What tho’ my joys and comforts die?
The Lord my Saviour liveth;
What tho’ the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night he giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?

When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,
And hear their death-knell ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near,
How can I keep from singing?
In prison cell and dungeon vile,
Our thoughts to them go winging;
When friends by shame are undefiled,
How can I keep from singing?

Listening to Irish singer Enya sing this old hymn inspired me to pray again this week for brothers and sisters celebrating Christmas in far off prisons, labour campus, and gulags. They are not far from their Lord and saviour.
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Hebrews 13 says this:
Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”

Do we treat our brothers and sisters in prison as if we are in prison with them? Do we pray for them monthly? annually? ever? Do we care for our family who have been mistreated in Syria? Have we been praying for them and sending money for food? The good news is that despite our neglect our brothers and sisters won’t be neglected by the Lord, but let us continue to pray nevertheless for what we do to the least of our brothers reveals our attitude to Jesus our saviour.

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A bulldozed church in China

In addition to the Christians suffering persecution in prison, there are those being attacked in their own homes in the Middle East. Recently the Prince of Wales was joined by Prince Ghazi of Jordan on a visit to the Egyptian Coptic church in Stevenage and the Syriac Orthodox Cathedral in west London, where he heard from a number of Christian families who have had first-hand experience of the rising tide of persecution. “We cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are, increasingly, being deliberately attacked by fundamentalist Islamist militants,” he said. “The Arab spring [is] rapidly turning into a Christian winter” was how the author William Dalrymple put it on the BBC.
Christians have increasingly become the target of violence, with churches assaulted, priests abducted, individuals targeted and homes looted. In Egypt alone, Amnesty International has reported that during this past year 207 churches have been attacked and 43 Orthodox churches totally destroyed. And the situation of Christians in Syria is deteriorating rapidly as the Free Syrian Army has become increasingly influenced by foreign jihadist militants. Many thousands of Syrian Christians are now fleeing over the border to Turkey. One man who made the journey from Syria claimed: “Where we live, 10 churches have been burned down. They started to threaten Christians in the town we live. When the local priest was executed, we decided to leave.”

I’ve added some links to provide some food for thought for Christian prisoners of conscience in the Far East

http://dynamic.csw.org.uk/article.asp?t=report&id=176

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/12/05/satellite-images-reveal-scale-north-korea-prison-camps-group-says/

http://news.sky.com/story/1182848/chinas-illegal-detention-of-christian-pastor

http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/pray_for_the_persecuted_church/2011/08/china-releases-five-church-leaders-two-years-after-linfen-police-riot.html

One of the many “culture shock” moments for me returning from China is the tribal nature of the church in London.  One of the joys of living and working in Beijing is that although there are many limits on Christian meetings, the foreign believers are forced to mingle together at BICF, Beijing International Christian Fellowship.  This means that I have spent the last 9 years not only working with Chinese friends in the house churches and state sponsored churches, I have also had the joy of fellowship with friends from the Assemblies of God, Old German Baptist, Southern Baptist, Presbyterian, Acts 29, Charismatic, Conservative, Korean, African, Pacific Island, Russian, Singaporean, European, American, Latin American church groupings (to name but a few).  Here in London most Christians keep to our own cliques.  This is a pity because it displays  disunity when we should be distinctive to the world because of our love for one another.  We make the problem worse by spending our time criticising every other group and worrying whether anyone outside our grouping is really a Christian.  The entire African church is sometimes written off as “prosperity gospel”, the charismatics are too “feeling orientated”, the conservatives are “quenching the Spirit”, the Koreans are “workaholics”, etc.

In Ephesians 3, Paul explains that he has been given a ministry to Gentiles so that the church will display to the all the “manifold wisdom of God” Eph 3:10.  This word manifold, πολυποίκιλος means multi-faceted, diverse, many sided.  The context , Paul’s discussion of his mission to the Gentiles, suggests a sense that God’s church displays the diverse, muti-coloured nature of his plan for the world. We fail to display this πολυποίκιλος beauty when we remain in our church ghettos. Worse, we fail to show the distinctive Christ-like love for which the church should be famous. Christ’s love is sacrificial, steadfast, culture-crossing. Clique love is self-serving, fickle, and aimed at people similar to ourselves. Even the businessmen at the golf club know how to invite golfing friends over for dinner and drinks. If the extent of our fellowship is inviting people just like ourselves over for dinner and drinks to extend our social network then we are not showing Christ-like love, we are showing world-like love. Finally clique churches will tend to be more faddish, and less creative. Each visit from China to the UK I have spotted new church fads because we are all reading the same recommended books and attending the same annual conferences. Diverse congregations have a much wider group of opinion sources.  They will tend to have more creative conflict and may even break apart under the weight of that conflict, but they will benefit from having less “groupthink” and more innovative solutions to long standing problems.
So how can we learn to be more inclusive without watering down our doctrinal statements or distinctive values?
One way is to reach out into the diversity of the community in which we find ourselves. South Asian origin kids make up something like 15% of London’s schools. London’s Christians need to be making friendships across those cultural boundaries at the school gate.  Polish immigrants arrived in 2004 and Romanians are arriving as I write.  Our churches need to be reaching out to these people groups for our good as well as theirs.
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Fast growing churches tend to be made up of young graduates. Young people in the church need to be encouraged to visit and befriend the elderly in their neighbourhood.
Many Christians (especially those reading this blog) will be getting new ideas and forging connections online. We need to make a conscious effort to listen to voices outside our usual cliques and groupings and make connections with people from different racial, economic, and age backgrounds.

A church which is welcoming to a diverse community will have diversity in its leadership.  People tend to attend a church where the people down the front of the church look a bit like themselves.  Planting a church of 100 young middle class graduates onto a housing estate is a noble thing to do, but it is likely to be more effective to start a church with a dozen local people and only half a dozen of the graduates, and then encourage the local people to take responsibility for the singing, praying, and welcoming.  A big, “white”, Anglican city centre church on the other hand will benefit by adding leaders from Asian or African backgrounds to the leadership teams.
Making friends cross-culturally can be a source of great joy.  One of the wonderful aspects of living in a city like London is that I can have Korean, Indian, Nigerian, young, old, rich, poor friends and we can learn from eachother’s diverse experiences.  We need to be ready to widen the cultural makeup of our network of Christian friends if we want to display the multicoloured beauty of God’s Church.  It is not so hard, but it requires patient, humble, sacrificial love.  It is the Holy Spirit that pours this love into our heart, and that is why Christians love is distinctive.  As we pray for a deeper love for our neighbours of all backgrounds we shouldn’t be surprised when we have opportunities to love the elderly, the foreign, the poor, the marginalised.  They are all around us but we haven’t been looking.

Here is an exercise for you. Have a look at the people you follow on Facebook or Twitter. Count up 100 and see how many of them are from a different economic, racial, age background. If less than 20% are different from you then you need to ask if you are engaging with society or hiding in your clique.
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