Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Writing the ongoing story

I wrote a number of entries on this blog about Jim Elliot as I read through his biography. Having finished The Shadow of the Almighty I turned my attention to Through the Gates of Splendour, the story of Jim Elliot and the other missionaries with whom he shared the determination to bring God's truth to the Auca Indians. The book follows the story from Jim Elliot and Pete Fleming's departure for Ecuador. The following extract talks about their arrival at the mission station of Shandia.

In Shandia, Jim and Pete became full-fledged missionaries for the first time. They had come to reach the Quichuas with the Word of God, a task for which they were prepared but could accomplish only if the gained the Quichuas' confidence and love. So by living among them, sharing in their lives and thus laying the foundations of mutual trust they hoped to open the minds and hearts of the Indians to the Christian message.

When I think about writing the narrative of the gospel in my time, I think this idea of living among the people, gaining their trust and love, building foundations of mutual trust and respect is so foundational. Most of the time I've been around church evangelism has been a bold declaration of truth, and I'm not decrying that at all. The problem was always that we were dashing out into the world, doing a bit of outreach, and then rushing back to the safety of the church.

To live among the people is far more difficult. Perhaps the reason overseas missionaries appear to have more success stories to tell us than we have to tell them is because of this simple truth-they live among the people.

I like servant evangelism because it gives me the chance to live among the people. An opportunity to serve them, to share with them, to be an example of God's love and generosity to them in the hope that this will eventually open a way for them to discover the full extent of God's love for them.

Perhaps we write the story best when we live the story among the people Jesus misses most.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Red Herrings off the Starboard Bow

As I continue to muse on The Da Vinci Code I got to thinking about the nature of the gospel. It strikes me that the more we try to defend our faith position, the more we fuel the fire of a supposed cover-up. When you want a conspiracy, you'll find all the evidence you need. It's the "Of course they would say that" approach.
And when it comes to The Da Vinci Code it's not difficult to pick holes in Dan Brown's version of history. His assertions about the power of the church and pattern of decision making bears no real resemblance to the real nature of events. Others more able than I have documented and discussed these things.
So I got to thinking about what should be my response, and that's when it struck me. The gospel is a mystery to be revealed not a secret to be kept. As Christians we are not the possessors of secret knowledge, but the revealers of God's amazing truth.
If there has been a cover-up, if there has been a conspiracy, then it's surely been by the hands of those who don't want this amazing story of God's sacrificial love to get out into the public domain.
I'm going to give this some more thought. Perhaps there's a blockbuster novel in there somewhere involving a small, faithful band of Christ-followers who faithfully through the centuries have kept the truth alive through the worship and preaching and ministry of the church.
Perhaps it's a story that's already been written and is always being rewritten for each new age.
Perhaps you are even involved in writing it.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Do a Venice ditch

The issue for me is not about proving or disproving Dan Brown’s version of history. After all The Da Vinci Code is a novel, it’s not history, although worryingly even some Christians haven’t realised that. The issue for me is how to present the truth of the Gospel in an age that loves a conspiracy and a cover-up? Presidents lie, Prime Minister’s appear to bend the truth, the media manipulates and everyone is probably involved in a cover-up somewhere in the world.

As far as the conspiracy theorist are concerned we’re not told the truth about alien visitors, or Kennedy’s assassination or the moon landings. So why should we believe the story of Jesus as told in the bible and handed down through the church? That’s the crux of the challenge, not historicity of texts.

Perhaps the real challenge of the Da Vinci Code is for all Christians to get better informed about the historical origins of our faith, to grasp the narrative as much as the theology of our heritage.

And in case you hadn’t realised…

“Do a Venice ditch” is an anagram of The Da Vinci Code and interestingly Dan Brown is an anagram of own brand or down bran. This is obviously a conspiracy by the supermarkets to get us eating their own healthy breakfast cereals.

Ps Yes, I've read the book, and I'll probably see the film.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Miracle Question

The miracle question is something I came across in a book called Quick-to-listen Leaders by Dave Ping and Anne Clippard. Dave Ping co-wrote Irresistible Evangelism with Steve Sjogren and Doug Pollock.

The miracle question is this:

Think about your church, your vision, your mission, your purpose, and your people. Then ask yourself this question:

If a miracle happened tonight and you returned to the church tomorrow with everything and everyone operating just the way God intended, what would be happening?

Now someone is bound to say: "That'll never happen in my church!" But that is not the point of the question. In the book they explain that most of the time we focus on the problems that surround us rather than on the solutions that are available. The idea of the miracle question is to move the focus away from the problem towards the solution. When we become solution focused, we see the possibilities, the potential.

It's always been something on my heart that the church can sometimes be in danger of seeing the world outside as the problem rather than the opportunity. I'm no evangelist, but if I can shift my perspective towards thinking about how my community might look if Jesus was both its leader and forgiver, then maybe I'll start to think more about how I can be a part of what God may be doing amongst the people with whom I share this corner of England.

I need to give the miracle question some thought.