Saturday, 21 October 2017

Theos Report on English Ecumenism

The latest report from Theos was recently published:

Here is the summary blurb:

‘The ecumenical movement in England has been on a significant journey over the past few decades. The number of Churches and denominations engaged in the area has grown remarkably, reflecting shifting trends in English Christianity. That, combined with major changes in the ecumenical bodies, and changing perceptions of ecumenism among Churches, has given rise to a complex and vibrant ecumenical scene.

This report provides a snapshot of contemporary ecumenism in England. It tells the story of how ecumenism has changed and describes a movement that is now sitting at a critical juncture as it looks to the future. The report focuses primarily on Churches Together in England, the main ecumenical body operating in England. It identifies the strengths of the organisation and discusses the challenges it now faces.

The report concludes with some suggested possibilities for the future, making some tentative recommendations for Churches Together in England as an organisation. It is our hope that this report will serve to provoke fresh debate about the purpose, focus, and direction of ecumenism as it develops over the coming years.’

A pdf of the full report is available here.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Whole-Life Preaching

I’ve been involved with a project at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (where I work) on Whole-Life Preaching.

LICC works with churches, church leaders, denominations, and individual Christians to explore what it means to be disciples of Jesus in the so-called ordinary, everyday life, and how local churches might best serve their people to live out their callings wherever they find themselves.

We’re persuaded that becoming a whole-life disciplemaking church is not about a programme we bolt on to a church’s activities, but about being given eyes to see what God has already put in place – in the gospel, in his word, in the church, in a people indwelt by the Spirit who are empowered to be Christ’s witnesses in their daily lives. It’s about reframing what we already do through the regular means of grace in the life of a church – how we preach, how we worship when we gather together, how we run our small groups. What are the small shifts that churches might make in these areas which, over time, will make a difference to how people are discipled for the whole of their lives?

Whole-Life Preaching flows out of that larger commitment.

It’s the culmination of several years of working with my colleague Neil Hudson, and spending a significant amount of time with preachers and leaders from around the UK from different church traditions in seminars and workshops.

We’ve tried to capture something of that informal interaction in this resource – which is a series of 6 short videos (excellently produced by owlinspace) of us in conversation with each other, interspersed along the way with reflections from a series of experts, listeners, and preachers.

All six videos are freely available from here.

With each episode goes a downloadable pdf with some questions for reflection and discussion, and suggestions of things to try out. Our testing of the videos suggested that church preaching teams, in particular, would benefit from watching the videos and using hem as a basis for a discussion with each other, and we trust that proves to be the case.

It’s important to make clear that we’re not trying to offer a full-blown overview of homiletics in this resource! We have friends in various organisations which focus on preaching; they do great work, and we’ve not tried to replicate that.

But we wanted to dial up the significance of allowing a whole-life disciplemaking perspective to inform the preparation and delivery of sermons, of recognising that through Scripture God shapes his people for their calling in the world, and encouraging preachers to reflect on the implications of biblical passages in a way that is alert to the everyday contexts in which members of congregations find themselves.

For us, whole-life preaching flows out of a confidence in the scope of God’s loving rule over all things, from a commitment to the gospel of Christ and its implications for every aspect of life, and from a conviction that the Spirit works through Scripture to form and nurture the people of God for his good purposes in the world.

It’s in that light that we trust preachers and others will benefit from this resource.

Also on the LICC website (from here) is a set of resources on 1 Thessalonians – a pack for preachers with some background to the letter and some pointers for preaching it, and a set of Bible study questions for small groups to go alongside a series on the letter.

The Journal of Inductive Biblical Studies 4, 1 (2017)

The latest issue of the Journal of Inductive Biblical Studies is now available online, with the below articles and their abstracts (where available). Individual essays are available from here, and the journal is available in its entirety as a pdf here.

David R. Bauer
From the Editors

Drew S. Holland
The Meaning of Ἐξέστη in Mark 3:21
In examining Mark 3:21, scholars over the last century have focused their attention on the identity of οἱ παρ’ αὐτοῦ. The consequence is that scholarship has reached an impasse in determining who claims that Jesus has gone mad (ἐξέστη). The following paper attempts to focus instead on the meaning of ἐξέστη in Mark 3:21 as a key to solving the interpretational difficulties that have surrounded this verse and the pericope in which it is found (Mark 3:20-30). I propose that ἐξέστη means “he has amazed” as opposed to the traditional sense of “he has gone mad.” Moreover, it is the crowd, not οἱ παρ’ αὐτοῦ, who makes this claim about Jesus. This eases the exigency of locating the identity of οἱ παρ’ αὐτοῦ since we are no longer required to explain why either of these groups would claim Jesus’s insanity. This approach is strengthened by a literary pattern spanning Mark’s Gospel from the beginning until the passion narrative in which the crowd responds positively to Jesus, especially in contrast to religious leaders.

Jerry D. Breen
The Ransom Saying (Matt 20:28): A Fresh Perspective
The ransom saying in Matthew and Mark has intrigued scholars for centuries. Modern scholars were determined to ascertain the precise meaning of the saying to the Gospel’s writers, readers, and Jesus himself. The consensus opinion that Isa 53 provides the background of the saying was challenged by two prominent NT scholars in 1959. Since then the discussion has focused on the linguistic and conceptual parallels between the ransom saying and relevant backgrounds that introduced insightful arguments for and against parallels but largely ignored the contexts of the Gospels themselves. This paper seeks to elucidate the meaning of the ransom saying by identifying the relevant contextual evidence in Matthew and applying it to the discussion. Through this study, it will be demonstrated that the ransom saying should be viewed through the lens of Dan 7 and Isa 40–55.

Howard Tillman Kuist
Chapter X: A Critical Estimate of St. Paul’s Pedagogy

Stanley D. Walters
“Except for the Lord”: An Exposition of Psalm 124

Alan J. Meenan
Autobiographical Reflections on IBS Methodology

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Lausanne Global Analysis 6, 5 (September 2017)

The latest issue of Lausanne Global Analysis, from The Lausanne Movement, is available online from here, including pdf downloads.

In the issue overview, editor David Taylor writes:

‘In this issue we ask how Islamic radicalism and Saudi influence can be countered in Indonesia in the wake of former Jakarta Governor Ahok’s imprisonment on blasphemy charges; we highlight the church’s call to minister to, for, and with children-at-risk, empowering them to flourish as co-laborers in mission; we address the topic of innovation for integral mission, asking how we can generate more creative thinking, planning, and action to spread the gospel to the corners of the world; and we discuss how faithful presence means penetrating high and low culture for Christ as we assess the continuing salience of James Davison Hunter’s book, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World.’

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Centre for Public Christianity (October 2017)

The Centre for Public Christianity has posted a video interview in four segments with Brian Rosner, Principal of Ridley College, Melbourne. He is talking about issues of identity, drawing on his new book, Known by God: A Biblical Theology of Personal Identity, as as well as his own experience of loss and recovery.

Also posted is a wide-ranging audio interview with Andy Bannister, Director of Solas Centre for Public Christianity in the UK, talking about life’s big questions, some of the key differences between Islam and Christianity, and what Christian faith has to offer our culture that might be worthwhile.