reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Subbing for deacons?

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 7 comments

Now, I’ll admit that this is something of a bugbear with me. But there are people who make me feel like I am constantly on the back foot recruiting Relay Workers because I am not a church. I’ve blogged about it before.

But, I was struck by a conversation that my parents had recently with friends of theirs whose son was thinking of working on a church apprenticeship scheme. The son said, “It will be some student work, some training and some practical work. “ “Great” said the dad, “what is the practical work?” “Oh setting out chairs, hymn books, folding service sheets and stuff”. “Oh”, said the dad “it’s just that, in our church, normal church members who have other jobs do those things. We call them deacons.”

Recently I found an old article in a Christian magazine where someone was asking whether it is really a strategic use of our resources to take people out of secular work, our most promising graduates in fact, to move chairs, stuff envelopes and cook food. Fair point.

But what we want to do in UCCF is train people to do mission work to our dying culture! I want to immerse them in the Bible AND in pioneering missionary work, mentoring and frontier mission on Britain’s campuses. I do not want to have a “theological upper hand” card played at me to trump that so someone who could be an effective campus missionary can move chairs, when I’m quite sure that taking a year off secular work for a year of training on Relay will not be wasted, whatever they go on to do.

Is it just possible, that apprentice-ships can sometimes be (not always, dear reader, lest you think I am over-generalising) a middle class way to deal with the deaconing that needs done in our churches – “we are all too busy to serve the church, so throw a bit of money to get a graduate in to do it”. Of course they learn to serve by doing it, I’m not denying that, but what does the church learn by paying someone (or not!) to do that stuff?

And does the church learn by releasing someone into campus ministry with a specialist ministry to students for a year? I think so.

So, by all means, recommend the church deal as the best thing for some people. But please don’t play that trump card with me. It is, in my humble opinion, a bad theology of deaconing.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Grace Academy

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 2 comments
So. Grace is the Relay buzzword. Which means, as the Relay Co-ordinator, you'd think I'd kind of have it pegged. And yet, I feel like, even though I spend a lot of my life thinking on, teaching about and depending on grace it still feels like this picture, like I can just see a sliver of the amazing light dawning all the time!

This weekend I had a great time doing 4 talks on grace and chatting to CU leaders in the UCCF North East Region.
But getting the talks ready and teaching through them I had a bit of an epiphany.

Let me fill you in. I don't understand much about the New Persepctive, but at least part of the debate seems to be whether Luther got it right that "righteousness" in Romans is God's giving us his righteousness or God displaying his own righteousness. Ignorant amateur theologicans like me wondered why we had to choose.

Anyway, I started this weekend in Hosea 11. What a great passage for expressing God's grace: for it shows the the depths of the adluterous idolatrous behaviour we have adopted against our faithful, loving gentle and gracious Father, and yet the aching and emotional compassion He has for us. What's clear from the passage is that God's bringing his people back won't be any sort of weak begging of a cheated husband, but a terrifying roar that will bring us trembling to him. God demonstrates his righteousness in bringing us back. What's also clear in Hosea is that God considers this demonstration of his amazing character an alluring of his people to him: not only will he objectively bring them back, but they will subjectively want to come back when they see his greatness. When they see his acts of saving judgement, they will wonder why they were worshipping and serving such stupid dead things instead.

Fast forward to Romans 3, talk number 2 - where the righteousness of God is made known in the Gospel. Righteousness of God or from God?
Well - both frankly. God is just and the justifier - making us righteous and ALSO at the cross displaying his own amazing, superb, awesome mercy and justice. The Gospel is all about God being really seen to be who he really is - not only does he objectively make it possible for us to come back by the cross, he also woos us back by displaying how great he is. God did this, as the passage says, to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time.

When I see the cross, which allows me to come back to God, why would I worship anyone but the great God revealed at the cross?

Awesome - God opens the way, AND woos us back at the cross.

This explains much. Not least why the ultimate aim of the Gospel in the Bible is to glorify God - for it is in the Gospel God is revealed as he really is - glorified.

But more than that I feel challenged about my formulaic, what's in it for the listener, Gospel talks. God woos us back, allures us, by showing us his greatness in the Gospel. When I present it to people I want to be saying not only, you can be forgiven and justified but also, this God is so great, why worship something else. When I call Christians to full commitment to God, I'm not just preaching the cross as the place where you can be confident that your lack of commitment can be forgiven, I'm preaching as the place where you'll see that worshipping another God is just stupid and dead and swapping someone awesome and great and alive and righteous for things that are dead and cruel.

Grace rocks. For not only allows us to come back if we want to, when we see it moves our foolish sinful hearts to come back and live in covenant with a brilliant stupendous, too great for me to explain in words, Husband. And that, my friends, has set my heart a-singing today.