reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Friday, February 20, 2009

I'd like to have faith but I just can't.

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 5 comments
This was a very common question from people at Newcastle mission. I think in a sense it is a really good sign, as I think it comes from people seeing a real difference in the lives of their Christian friends and just thinking "I just don't think I can be like that!"
I tended to take 2 different tacks, and you can tell me what you think.

1) The assumption behind this question is that faith is a qualitatively different thing when talked about with regard to religion than it is in every day life. Having faith in your chair to hold you is different, in some way, to mustering up this moral quality "faith" within you to believe in God - that some people have that and some don't. In fact, the two are, if not exactly the same, then pretty similar. You examine the evidence for something, and you rely on it to help with your problem - whether that is not having somewhere to sit, or not knowing where you will spend eternity! This can then lead to an interesting discussion- because if you get into enough depth people can often see that they are relying on something to give them what the Gospel offers: "functional Saviours" as I have heard them called. The "front foot" nature of this reply is to say that "I'm just naturally cynical, and therefore could never accept this" won't wash as a reason. The real question is "Is there a reason to be lmore cynical about Jesus that whatever you are relying on at the moment?" The answer is, after some discussion, usually no!

2) This is slightly more offensive answer, but Jesus does say that people don't believe because they don't want to - they love the darkness. If we reject him it is not because the evidence is insufficient or unworthy of our trust but because we have an inbuilt predisposition not to want God telling us what to do. So this, "I can't have faith" can be a smokescreen for "I actually don't want to." A useful question here is "If I could prove 100% now that Jesus rose from the dead, would you admit that you whole life belongs to him and live that way from now on?" If the person says no, and you ask why then you have really unmasked the heart of the issue for them.

The latter approach I would take very gently and carefully, only after the person has themselves seemed to have some realisation that not being able to believe is not their only problem. At the end of the first conversation you just want to invite (firmly!) to look carefully at the evidence - both for Jesus and comparing what he says to their own experience of the world - and see if it is trustworthy.

Anyway, that's what I did, but I would love your thoughts!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Newcastle: Day Five

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 3 comments
So - it's all over - or rather, we hope, it has all just started!

Today we had good numbers at the lunch bar although not some of the individuals we hoped to see which was sad. However, good questions at the second one: I did a much more straight talk from Mark 8, so maybe it just didn't provoke as many questions.

An interesting group discussion afterwards with the naturalist again, a lapsed Mormon and a professing atheist who couldn't process that there is no value to humanity if we are simply a group of atoms, or that there is any rational thought behind Christianity or, indeed why she should consider Christianity as an adult because she didn't like Sunday school when she was 6. Great group dynamic! Interestingly she came because she was totally offended and affronted at one of her atheist friends becoming a Christian, and insisted that Christianity is intellectually totally unfeasible, and one should only make progress in the other diretion. I didn't feel I answered her at all well, and the other atheist and the Mormon weren't exactly being helpful. Please pray for C to have her eyes opened.

Last event was a jazz night with live band, dancing, and a talk on Mark 6 from me - about 2 parties. Talks in that setting are hard, but people seemed to listen.

And home we go. I guess I always feel a bit disappointed when people don't profess suring the week - but no point teaching Mark 4 if we can't believe it. Please pray for new life here, and for Mark and Ruth as they sort out the follow up: lots of expressed interest, it would be great if they came through.

I want sleep.


posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 8 comments
...can someone write a book that is readable for non scientist Christians on explaining our views on evolution/ID/Genesis to non-Christians (NOT another tiresome, should Christians believe in a young earth book) and why evolution does not equal atheism PLEASE Lord Jesus.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Newcastle: Day four

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 0 comments
So - another good day, although in a covering of snow. A few snowballs at the marquee, and a big lot of snow hanging over the doorway threatening to fall on people - but well done to the CUGs for preventing any accidents!

We were on the Bible today, and I just tried to get people to consider the evidence for the Bible's accounts of Jesus being reliable, and then had a little sting in the tale saying that we don't believe because we don't want to, rather than because the evidence isn't good enough.

Great encouraging chat with a former atheist who became a Christian last week: asking me all the questions her housemates are asking about her conversion. Plenty of folks about - a bit less than yesterday due to snow - and good and serious questions. Some people who have come back every day - please pray that they will come through to faith.

Just considering with the CU now how follow up should work. Agape have been quite involved here, and were excellent at training students to do personal follow up alongside their staff, but have now decided to pull out to set up their own group. So I am hoping and praying that the vision for personal follow up will continue in the students: at least 30 people have signed up to say they would like to meet with a Christian to discuss further.

Finally, encouragingly, a group of guys decided in an impromptu way to run a grill a Christian this afternoon in the tent with a panel of students. Its snowing, cold and people are busy (Thursday is not an afternoon off for people here) and yet when I left there were 80 students in the tent, firing questions of all sorts at their peers. Two people on the panel not from Christian families answered about Hell in an incredibly moving way. It was the best of CU in action - students reaching students: showing them that it is possible to live as a Christian at uni.

Praise God for these brave young people and pray that they may have the joy that they long for - seeing their friends turn to Jesus.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Newcastle: Day Three

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 4 comments
Hey troops.

So, what an exciting couple of days. Last night's pub quiz was packed with lots of people and loads of CU peeps who had clearly brought friends - so thanks for praying. I always feel a bit like the talk is tacked on to this type of event, and feel a bit uneasy, but in fairness to the CU they had made the content very clear on the publicity. Everyone seemed to be listening, although, as one CUG said, it felt a little bit like people were enduring rather than engaging with the talk! Nevertheless, this is really important seed sowing stuff for people whom don't connect with lunch bar titles and we just pray that the CU members who brought people will be able to make the most of the ice having been broken.

Today was the best morning and lunch time so far. Ed the Relay Worker did a top job in organising surveys with people, and lots of interest, chats and visits to the tent because of links there.

The first lunch bar had about 70/80 with some great questions - including some quite detailed ones from one guy about Mark - which is great. The second lunch bar was absolutely packed out - abotu 130 and standing room only!

Today was on "I'm not a murderer or a rapist. Isn't it good enough to be good?" I really addressed it from the point of view of morality being totally removed from relatonship. Seemed to stir up a lot of questions - which all really lent themselves to re-explaining the message, the best type! S from yesterday was definitely back, although he didn't stay to chat. Pray that the Spirit is silently working.

A long and frustrating chat with an all out scientific naturalist - any clues on how to deal with someone who will only accept "scientifically verifiable" evidence? Interestingly, though, he keeps coming back because CU people are so kind generous and open with him. Great witness.

Please pray for fruit. A lot of the systems are in place, students are praying, working hard and loads of great examples of taking risks for their faith by asking friends, standing by the difficult stuff I am saying, and getting onto campus to chat to people. They would love the encouragement of new life. Please Lord, let salvation spring up from the ground!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Newcastle: Day Two

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 2 comments
Thanks so much for your prayers!

Last night's international event was totally awesome. It was co-ordinated by a local church worker but had CU "hosts" on every table to discuss with people. There must have been 150 people there - great meal, a talk on Mark 7 and then people sitting round chatting. At one point I looked round and every table was filled with people, Mark's Gospels open, having chats. Loads of students there from so-called "closed" countries, and a real privilege to be involved in.

Cold start again today in the tent for prayers and CUGs, then some work, and came back to find a gaggle of people around a laptop doing worldview surveys. That seemed to act as a good pull into the tent and both lunch bars were much busier (50 and 100 at a guess) with some great questions. Lots of questions about what to do if you don't "have faith" - so people claiming to want to be Christian but saying unable to believe. How to deal with that without accusing people of moral dishonesty I'm not sure!

Please pray for S, a Canadian student who can't believe that being good isn't good enough, another S from Mormon background, and a Muslim guy who asked a question about the trinity and said he'd read Mark.

Pub quiz with Mark 2 talk tonight!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Newcastle: Day one

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 4 comments
So day one began early in a very cold marquee! We prayed and then had a great CUGs meeting, where Lewis reminded us that evangelism is calling people to be included in the internal love of the Trinity. Awesome.

What's really interesting, and may be the shape of things to come, is that the university has been quite firm on the things CUGs can and can't do. A CUG can only flyer or do a questionnaire with a student, and the only CUGs allowed are on a list which has been previously approved by the chaplaincy. Gone are the days when one can just wander onto campus and do evangelism - which makes student led CUs more strategic than ever, I guess.

Anyway, after a bacon sarnie, a little bit of faff putting up a FREE banner outside the tent and getting the heater working, it was time for lunch bar round 1. Quite a small number in round 1 - maybe 30, and I rather barrelled through my talk as I was a bit nervous. No questions but some folk staying to chat.

Round 2 much better in lots of ways, lots more people, some great questions and I was a lot more relaxed.

The first talk was on "I'm not really bothered, what's in Christianity for me?" I tried using Buffy the Vampire slayer as a model of how we are fed the idea that if we don't get to choose our own destiny we are being limited, but actually how "what's in it for me" is not at all a useful question for running your life. Then how Jesus can free us from slavery to that.

I'm not sure if I quite got the balance of attacking secular worldviews and offering the Gospel right - but we'll see.

Tonight is an international event. Clearly this is a great onoging work that some people in Newcastle are awesome in their faithful commitment to, and I am just slotting in! So it's great to be in partnership with faithful folk who really have been putting in the hard yards. Mark 7 on the difference between religion and Jesus.

Its great to see some first year guys bringing loads of mates along - but so far not loads of inviting from the whole CU and it feels like little direct response after talks. Tomorrow is on "I don't like discrimination, why doesn't God accept everyone?" which has the potential to generate a bit more heat! Please pray that I would challenge people's wrong assumptions and clearly present the alternatives, and for CU members to feel confident in bringing folk along.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

If anyone is still out there..

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 19 comments
I am heading North tomorrow - lunch bar in Durham and Saturday CU central, and then to Newcastle for a week of mission.

I'm going to try and "live-blog" the events each day in the hope that some of you out there will "hold the rope" and pray for God's righteousness to be known on their campus.

Paul went to Corinth to preach in great fear and trembling: I know how he feels!

If, indeed, there is anyone still reading this blog at all!