Archive for the ‘evangelical’ Tag

PLOTTING TO EVANGELISE

Sigh. Non-Christian mates. What to do with them?? As we prepare for Passion for Life, through Revive, through our small groups and through our church meetings, we each have to start plotting how we might turn up to those events with somebody on our arm. After all, having been given about a year’s preparation, it would be pretty lame not to. The problem is – our non-Christian mates don’t know that! Chances are, they’ll be as comfortable saying no to this ‘weird church event’ as they are saying no to all the others. But it’s important… it’s really important! Phil Allcock at Revive gave a great seminar suggesting, first and foremost, that our lack of evangelism is a lack of faith – if we really believed they’d be punished in Hell for all eternity, then of course we’d say something… just as we would if their house was on fire or they were heading over the edge of a cliff. We don’t. Because it might make us look silly. Which is us saying that looking silly is a worse prospect than is the burning in Hell for all eternity thing…

So what to do? Here are my primary ‘targets’, and where my thinking is at with each. I love them all dearly by the way…

Friend A: Media Guy.

He loves London culture and his freedom within it. Raised in a nominally Christian home, he is currently challenged to examine his beliefs, particularly in preparing to raise a child. Even so, he is against any kind of evangelism or profession of certainty, believing anyone’s views to be equally deserving of respect. He has read Dawkins but was not particularly convinced. Has agreed to read Keller as a counter-balance. Is very aware of the change in me over the past couple of years. Respects it but is frustrated by it too. Would really like me to get good and drunk with him and stop taking this whole ‘religion thing’ so seriously!

APPROACH: I will invite him and his wife to a Passion for Life event and they might well accept. In the meantime I’ll get him the Keller book with a view to follow-up discussion. This is a good time to be chatting this stuff through – the prospect of a baby has led to thoughtfulness and self-examination! The key is finding one-on-one time.

Friend B: Disinterested Guy.

He cannot believe that this world comes from nothing and co-incidence. Coming from an Oxbridge PHD scientist that’s exciting. However, neither can he believe there’s ‘some person in the sky we can talk to’. His firmly stated decision is to not think about it. Has pronounced himself ‘impossible to convert to either side’ and has refused to attend any church event.

APPROACH: Conversation is the key, with the aftermath to games of squash generally giving the opportunity. His stance is one likely to soften with time and life experience – realisation of our mortality must surely make us more likely to consider that which we decide ‘not to think about’ for now. The shutters may be down, but the implied theism of the opening sentence above nonetheless offers hope. He is very unlikely to attend Passion for Life so I have to get the gospel in there myself. At least he knows me well enough that he won’t find it too unexpected or bizarre when it happens. Knowing him he will good-naturedly sigh and roll his eyes…

Friend C: Embittered Guy

Whilst a very open, friendly and accepting chap, experience has made him very ‘anti-religion’. He has in adulthood escaped the cult offshoot of Christianity in which he was raised (y’know, the ones who come to your door!) and is thus reluctant to entertain the notion of returning to any version of that lie that left him so isolated and bullied as a youngster. Has since mid-teenagedom been very sexually active and would struggle with the idea of giving it up for even a week. It sounds trivial but we have to accept that, for many in the world, that prospect is a major stumbling block to even allowing themselves to consider Christianity!

APPROACH: Likes experiencing things, and may well come to a Passion for Life event if located in a pub! He will be there with a closed mind – but then I do believe in the Spirit’s ability to open it. Humanly, it’s hard to envisage.

Friend D: The ‘Prospect’

Raised in a Christian home by still-Christian parents, he knows that it was good for him and would like to raise his own kids in the same way. Is therefore willing to be convinced and is often to be found at church events. Even so, the exciting idea that he is ‘on the verge’ of being converted is just not necessarily true. In reality he doesn’t have faith, despite years of witness from friends and family, despite understanding the gospel intellectually and despite wanting to eventually lead a Christian home. For whatever reason, it’s just not happening.

APPROACH: Keep on trying… keep on being honest. And realise God is patient and so must we be. At some point however, practically speaking, he needs shaking from the comfort zone – perhaps an honest talking to from Perks or the like. Things could very easily go on this way for ever! (Neither is the comfort zone his alone. Whilst he is around I know I can always turn up to things like Passion for Life with a guest…) I’d like to imagine he’ll turn up to something come March.

Friend E: Hedonistic Guy

One problem with our society is that, whilst conversion is often more easily envisaged when people are brought low and desperate, our comfortable middle-class existence doesn’t lend itself easily to desperation! Yet this friend at times seems close to it. With an obsessive, impulsive personality, he is prone to quit job and home at any time to gallivant around the world, craving experience in ‘massage parlours’ and with strange unknown drinking partners. He throws around money and seeks to live life to the fullest. But the loneliness and self-loathing hits him at the most unexpected moments. He is clearly looking for something but is, perhaps for that very reason, is very reluctant to even discuss Christianity. Indeed, things got seriously weird for a while when I challenged him on the subject via e-mail.

APPROACH: I don’t know! I have been open. It was weird. It will be weird again if I raise it again. I know that’s not the worst thing, but I’m of no use to him if he drops out of touch. In reality, my unspoken witness is important. He does see me as different to his other mates and does view that fact positively. Ideally God will use that situation at some point – but I have to live up his estimation by not letting myself down and doing something stupid! I will invite him to a Passion for Life event, but it will be the most difficult invitation I have to extend…

Right, I could go on like this ad infinitum but tell me your thoughts… Any ideas? I do think conversation is the key and there’s no magic bullet. But I’d appreciate any new insight in any of the above cases.

Advertisements

Guest ‘Week’ Part 6: UNITING CHURCH

And finally… Unity is not always a word that springs to mind on this website, particularly given some of the recent discussion! In the Co-Mission Initiative the question is often which will happen first – will be abandon Anglicanism or will they throw us out?? With all this in mind, it’s a privilege to end Guest ‘Week’ with an article by my brother-in-law Simon recognising the existence and importance of UNITY in the modern church. It’s not an article I could have written and I’m therefore delighted to post it and think on it. (And apparently there is Part 2 coming soon!)

A seismic change has occurred in the church in Britain over the last thirty years, in particular. You might not have noticed it. It may have crept past you. But I think it might just be the most significant work of God we have seen since the Reformation. 

Sixty years ago, if you went into a Baptist church, the preacher would probably be preaching hell, spiritual gifts had died out 200 years after Christ and adult baptism instead of infant baptism was the most important theme. Anglican churches were sprinkling water on children’s heads and spreading incense and talking about being nice to each other. Pentecostal churches were using lots of spiritual gifts and many were saying if you didn’t speak in tongues, you weren’t a true believer. In many of these churches, sermons would contain put downs to other denominations of Christianity. The vicar (or whatever) would subtly throw in a cuss to another church, “we’re not like that other church round the corner,” and Christian identity was formed not only by what you were but also by what you were not. Your identity existed yes, in Christ, but also in your denomination, what your exact doctrine was, who your pastor (or whatever) was and how you worshipped.  

I’ve spent some time in Italy and found that things, for the most part, are still like this over there, although there are some signs of change. Apart from the Catholic Church there are four main evangelical churches, with four completely opposing sets of doctrine, some of whom do not even recognise each others’ existence as Christian churches. In Siena the four churches would regularly preach against each other: the church which practised spiritual gifts was allegedly demonic; the one which didn’t was apparently missing the Holy Spirit (they might have had the other two prongs of the Godhead). The Valdeseans were “almost Catholic” (a massive insult) and the Pentecostals wore hankies on their heads so were too strict. This made it somewhat uncomfortable for me as I liked to regularly visit all four. I kept all the negative things they said about each other in a little book and made sure I never repeated them when I visited the other churches!  

The seismic shift, which I hope will spread even to Italy from our country is this: we’re losing our denominational boundaries.

It’s not complete yet, and there are still churches opposed to each other. There are still major disputes in the church. But ask yourself this… can you recognise a Baptist/Anglican/Charismatic/Methodist church any more? There are Baptist churches which practise spiritual gifts, Anglican churches that baptise, Methodist churches that preach a powerful gospel and Charismatic churches that don’t mind if you don’t speak in tongues and would actually quite like things to be done a bit more formally and efficiently!  

I frequent an Anglican church that baptises adults, believes in spiritual gifts and preaches the gospel every week from the Bible. Unthinkable even twenty years ago! (I was taught to mistrust churches with pews and spires when I became a Christian in a school hall church).

A lot of credit has to be given to the Alpha course and other cross-church initiatives which, I believe, are doing the work of God and unifying his church. A post-modern belief that knowing God is more important than knowing things about him, that loving people is more important than understanding and that there is no invalid way of worshipping God, is the packaging for the new consensus. And it seems that perhaps people are finally beginning to see that God is big enough and broad enough to meet all kinds of worshippers exactly where they are, as long as they worship with their hearts. 

Its hard to overstate the extent of this change in just a couple of decades. The rise of the non-denominational Christian is a 21st Century thing; the believer who would rather not subscribe to an exacting set of beliefs or doctrines; who would rather not be an Episcopalian or a Lutheran, but who wants to be counted as a Jesus follower, a God-botherer, a disciple no matter where he worships and serves. This Christian knows that some believers might find one day more holy that another or find some food unclean (1 Corinthians 11), but knows he has freedom in Christ to worship without those burdens.

Inside churches things are changing too: There are very few people these days, who would condemn the use of spiritual gifts and healing. At the same time, there are very few churches now who madly try to invoke the Holy Spirit every meeting and force people to speak in tongues or fall over.

The vast majority of churches follow the doctrine of adult baptism by immersion and christening kids seems to be dying out.

Most churches believe in the truth of God-inspired scripture. There seems to be an agreement across churches on all kinds of things that once divided them. Of course this is not the reality for all churches, there are still disagreements on some non-crucial aspects of the faith, such as what to do believe about homosexuality, but looking at the broader picture of what is happening across the country, its hard not to be impressed by the similarity of Christian doctrine across the country compared to sixty years ago. A new national consensus about key doctrines of faith seems to be forming. And this can only be good news, because there is only one church, one body and one baptism. We haven’t yet seen true unity across the British church, but God has done a pretty huge work in us and broken down a great number of barriers, to enable his Church to be more like what he intended it to be. The future of the Church is service.

Guest ‘Week’ 5: SERVICE IS GREATNESS

Well, it’s certainly been lively… and there is but a short while left before Guest ‘Week’ ends and you’re left with only me. However, not yet! Because here’s Tom with an honest and Bible-fired challenge to us and to himself. To serve and to value service…

First up thanks must go to Andy for the invite to guest on his blog. The only reason I have gone for it is the readership I know he has. I would be keen to have feedback from people, as this blog post is more like the start of a conversation down the pub than a grand proclamation. This doesn’t mean I haven’t thought through what I am about to say!  I am not the most logical thinker and seem to have quite a staccato writing style. It will make more sense if read alongside Mark 10 v35-45. I am not going to quote the passage throughout this post as it is not intended to be a bible exposition. 

Over the last few weeks I have been dwelling on a passage from Mark 10 v35-45. I should be open; I have used Paul Barnett’s The Servant King alongside reading the bible. I am often like James and John, there is so much that revolves around me, I want to be first! (v37) In this passage Jesus recognises this is how the world operates but not in his kingdom (v43-44).

I have recently become aware that I respect those who have served me, this has been a voluntary reaction, it is not like I have been forced by some organisational chain of command.

So what am I going to doing with this? I am working on how I measure greatness. My assessments of people, life and achievement are often done by status cues, for me personally this is not necessarily the obvious. As in we are not necessarily going to agree on what we deem cool. In fact the word cool is not exactly cool anymore (try nang). An awful lot of my life is about preserving my status, this is not necessarily just about obvious materialism if anything I can tend to be slightly inverted in this respect.

Either way I so often get suckered into a view or way of living that does not see service as great or even cool.

I am learning to be intentional in service of others and make sure it happens. This is with the church and those outside the church. I want to build up the church and not just make it all about my own spiritual development. Jesus was intentional in his service and was trying to get the disciples to understand why he was going to Jerusalem, the cross and his death. 

I remember when studying this passage in Mark in Knowing God, Chapter 10 v35-45 became my favourite passage because I understood how Jesus is my ransom, this bolstered my confidence in Christ.  I gained a fresh appreciation of how Jesus Christ has served me. It is possible to forget or abandon this as christians but Jesus serves in a way no-one else can. I have a simple prayer that I need to repeat Lord Jesus please work in me to serve others and be willing to come in last.

QUICK REMINDER TO VOTE!

Next Guest post tomorrow – thanks all for getting into the spirit of things – over 100 hits a day Tues and Wed (although 70 of them probably Phil!). In the meantime just a little reminder to VOTE!!! We have all heard the quote that all it takes for evil to prosper is for good people to do nothing. Whilst we may be able to pick theological holes in the concept , it is very apt for today… every apathetic soul too lazy to make it to the polling station – perhaps in the name of protest – is reducing the voting pool and thus increasing the BNP’s share of the active electorate… (and you can be sure their supporters WILL be pitching up!).

So vote. There is even a pretty sound Christian party option although I more than trust anyone on here to think for themselves when it comes to who to vote for. Just do vote!! And keep reading the blog as another friend gives up their time to contribute wisely tomorrow (and at least 3 more after that!).

WHAT GIVES THEM THE RIGHT?

The third most popular radio chat show host in America calls himself Michael Savage. He is a well known and influential character with a best-selling book behind him. He is now famous on this side of the Atlantic having been named last week on a government list of those refused entry into the UK for ‘inciting hatred’ in their public pronouncements.

Why can’t Michael Savage come into the UK? Because his views are right-wing? Because he offends Muslims? Because he has made controversial statements regarding rape? This case is important – really it is. He is not a convicted criminal – in fact no-one has even suggested this man has committed a crime. He is not some bloodthirsty extremist inciting violence or murder. He is simply an individual whose views do not chime with the government of the day. The precedent is appalling, particularly when considered alongside the observations I have made regarding the increasingly politically incorrect standing of biblical Christianity. How long before the next preacher invited to speak at a London Men’s Convention finds himself barred entry for his ‘hateful’ opposition to homosexuality or Islam?

My point is not to defend the views of Michael Savage – I know little about him and, having investigated his website and Wikipedia, I feel little urge to know more. He lost me at once with his first pronouncement upon finding he was an enemy of our state; a lame and ignorant piece of sarcasm about how he’d been planning to come to the UK for ‘dental work’ and ‘fine cuisine’. Neither is my point to once again state that Christianity stands in danger of falling foul of our government’s worldview and agenda. No, what riles me on this occasion is simply…

What gives politicians the right to decide whose views are right or wrong??

What’s more, why is it so terrible for an individual or group to be offended or upset? Why, even within that, is it worse for the homosexual community to be offended than for the Christian community? Why, looking deeper, is someone’s sexuality more valid as grounds for offence than someone’s faith? There is so much selectivity in playing this game… The Bible offends many; so does eating meat; so do hip-hop videos; so do overly short skirts; so does pornography in newsagents; so does the show Big Brother. Are we to ban them all until we live entirely in bubble-wrapped ‘safety’?? Let the preacher preach! Let the BNP campaign and thus reveal their own idiocy unhindered! Let Michael Savage get his teeth done! And let people make up their own minds – punishing them only if their opinions lead to actions which infringe provably upon the freedom or safety of others.

I know it’s a cheap blow in the week of ‘Expenses-Gate’, but I really don’t trust Westminster to have the last word when it comes to making moral judgements. Why would I? Upon what is this morality based? Find me 5 people anywhere who do in fact see them as our moral authority… No, I’ll stick to the ancient but relevant, means tested, divinely authored yardstick of biblical truth. Shorn of it we are left merely with subjective opinions, and I don’t particularly trust that of the Labour Party leadership. Who does?

PS I am currently re-reading my favourite book; Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’. Expect a resultant spate of anti big government posts and ‘thought police’ analogies!

PPS Has your work bathroom now got one of those government signs giving step-by-step instructions on how to wash your hands? I mean, honestly… Why not remind me how to wipe up whilst I’m in there?

BREAKING RADIO SILENCE

And then the blogging stopped… Sorry about that anyone who may have missed me these past couple of weeks. Truth is, having banned myself from tumour-related blogging, I subsequently found I had little else on my mind. Furthermore, this turns out to be the busy season, and I deemed the blog to be rather less deserving of my attentions than either work or my wife. If it’s any consolation, I never found any time to get on with watching my Heroes boxset either…

Even now I’m not entirely sure what to write. I’m not convinced the next week is looking any more free than the last – quite the opposite – so, whilst some may still be checking this page I guess I just want to put a couple of things down for the record.

 

God is being good. I always thought this was something people said through gritted teeth during tough times, whilst in reality wondering why He was being quite so harsh. However, in our case at least He really really is. I won’t go into details and contravene my own rules, but many prayers have been answered of late in our lives – things are changing in a way I wouldn’t have previously deemed possible. Once all this is over, I’ll write all about it properly.

 

Something has occurred to me though. We often pray for healing and deliverance (I certainly have) when illness and troubles rear their head. It is an understandable impulse, but it can reflect our own self-centred plans and perceptions. In reality, such hopes are perhaps seeking to opt out of that character-building and perseverance the Bible associates with seasons of suffering. In looking to bypass the difficult times we may be asking to miss out on those experiences that do most to forge our faith. Likewise, the ‘event healings’ that we presume would most glorify God, were they to occur, might in some cases prove a sideshow from the real witness of living faithfully in a fallen and frustrating world with eyes set firm upon Him.

 

God is being good. There has been more exciting progress made in our marriage, our friendships, our walk with God and our evangelism to others in the past month than in the whole of last year lived three times over. I want to make clear, lest anyone mistake this radio silence for a spiritual lull or bemused loss for words, that I’m grateful to Him, I trust in Him… and that I’m currently being given plenty of reasons to do so!

 

UNRELATED PS: How’s this for more material to come… I have a job interview on Wednesday. At a Catholic school…

GOOD CHURCH, BAD CHURCH

Posted 5/1/09

Never ever underestimate the blessing of a good church. CCB is not perfect. No perfect church will be seen this side of the New Creation. But it offers clear Bible-based teaching; it upholds faithful and unadulterated doctrine, for instance regarding penal substitution or justification by grace alone, accessed by faith alone; it acts on a longing for the lost of Balham and the world; and the community it brings together works lovingly for one another’s growth and good. The churches I visited over the festive period put this into stark contrast.

I don’t wish to be too harsh. It is good indeed that anyone would see fit to give up time and resources in order that Christ be praised and His followers be encouraged. It is even better that they do so when so much of our world deems such a use of time as foolishness indeed. And yet… how much better if they could do so without wasteful diversions; and not under the yoke of misled incomprehension. I have sat through a sermon based, not on a biblical passage, but on the song ‘Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer’. Even worse, having heard this red nose equated with the sin that makes us, too, ‘a misfit’, I have then heard that God ‘doesn’t mind our red nose (eg sin!)’ but ‘loves it’ and will ‘use it’! I have then delved back into the charismatic ranks where I wanted to learn good lessons, still believing that we are probably too shut off from fruits of the Spirit and joyful abandon. Instead I witnessed a church with no Bibles to be found or opened at the front, with our sin glossed over, the cross neglected and rather the Spirit proposed as that thing we seek – an elusive ‘sometimes near’ resource which we can grasp, given greater awareness and training, in order that we may be fulfilled.

How great then to return to Co-Mission. We are not ‘better’ Christians; my last post should make that abundantly clear. However, we are better taught, via a strict set-up of accountability, to the Bible and the scrutiny of those who know it well. This makes it far more likely that we will mature, by God’s grace, via the agency of those who diligently take responsibility for us within our congregations. To be at the Factory on Sunday was to be reminded of everything I’ve missed over the past chaotic month – to be reminded we’re a part of something growing and alive, to be told again of grace, true joy and of the cross… to have the Bible explained at the time I most needed to hear it. So yes, thank you God for good churches.

SO IT APPEARS I’M AN ANGLICAN…

Posted 2/3/07

Joining a congregation which has fought the battles familiar to CCB these past few years, I would never suppose to impart any wisdom regarding the issue of challenging liberalism within the Anglican church. Don’t take this for false modesty. I have never been an Anglican before, and it has taken me this long to realise that we in Balham are evangelicals, or exactly what that means (I still wouldn’t presume to venture a definition).

However, one thing I am coming to realize is that we have more right to be within this Church of England than do many of those who would gladly usher us out the exit door.It is in a spirit of conjecture therefore that I offer the following observation, if only to tie myself to the mast of what CCB represents: It is not the role of the church to appease or placate the world, nor to bend our values to fit those of society around us. We should be relishing the challenge that faces us. Of the many summarising statements applicable to Paul’s letters, one could certainly be ‘blessed are the persecuted’. Indeed I would suggest that the church thrives under such conditions. The early church spread like wildfire as a rebel organisation, as does the church today in Communist China. Nothing was so dangerous for the church in this country than to become safe, cosy and part of the cultural furniture – best represented in the eyes of the world as a cycling vicar in a sleepy country hamlet. Bend church doctrine to the will of the world and you render it ineffectual and essentially meaningless. Temper God’s word and you fight battle having left your sword at home. Removed from God’s message we risk becoming removed from God’s blessing, and then we are nothing but empty ritual and the bearers of vague reassurance. Besides which, the numbers sorely show that it is failing to pack in the punters. The Church of England lost 31% of its Sunday attendees between 1989 and 2005.

Now may I humbly suggest that there is a reason CCB bucks this trend of decline. We let God’s word do the speaking. The church as a whole must do the same. Perks has written on his blog that, whilst evangelicals were busy running the parishes, the liberals went and took over the positions of leadership. Reading this made me realise, even if from an inexpert perspective, how strange indeed is the discrepancy between the fact that, at the top, gay bishops are being ordained and archbishops advocating the blessing of civil partnerships whilst, at parish level, I have never heard of anyone supporting such a stance other than in a spirit of reluctant obedience – to church leaders rather than to their creator.

Now I am not au fait with how one goes about doing such a thing, but surely the priority must be for the body of the church to rise up, purge itself of such modernist nonsense and state boldly that we stand for gospel truth. That we believe in God’s message as stated through the words of the Prophets, his son Jesus and through his apostles. We need to give people a clear choice rather than a muddled apology – between the church and the world. Newspaper columnists would be up in arms, and we would be called all sort of names. The politically correct may even fling legal challenge and hostile obstacles our way… but, again, blessed are the persecuted. May their light be seen by all, and may they taste entirely salty. At least then people would know what we stand for. After all, if we are not following the gospel, we might as well make the whole thing up. I, for one, am up for a scrap.

THE LURE OF THE EXPERIENCE

Posted 2/3/07

The following story may be embellished somewhat, but is based on truth. There was once a man who came to CCB. He witnessed a powerful sermon, on a powerful passage, preceded by powerful testimony, leading to powerful prayer. When asked of his opinion, he replied that he preferred a livelier style of music. The person in question was quite clearly missing the point. He wasn’t me, but at times in my life it could quite conceivably have been. Many is the church I’ve judged on the standard of its worship. And many are the churches that have built their services, and the bulk of their outreach, upon the bedrock of lustily rendered songs.

I think of one church in particular. Ever single week, at the same point, the musicians, at the end of a particularly well performed number, would move smoothly into the repeated playing of two emotive chords. The congregation would instantly respond with a notable upgrade of ‘spiritual electricity’ around the room and would begin praying loudly, often in song, often in tongues. The worship leader himself would lead the way, singing ever more passionately in a combination of tongues and English. All concerned would feel the touch of the Lord. Were they wrong? Of course I would never dare to judge. It may well be that such a scenario led them to a greater appreciation and understanding of their loving heavenly father. However, it is dangerous to base your experience of God upon such manipulated tactics or, indeed, upon the addictive buzz of the Holy Spirit above all else.

It is only recently that, led by Perks, I have learned a little of why some regard the Alpha course with reservations. It stands charged of leading people to God via an experiential revelation – a conversion based primarily not on a biblical awareness of sin and subsequent repentance – but upon a sensual thrill. One testimony writes that ‘the “Holy Spirit” weekend convinced me of the reality of God as somebody personal to me. There was a time of prayer and in the background, a young lady sang with a perfect voice about Jesus. At that moment I sensed Jesus listening to me’. Salvation here, it could be said, is found through experience and feeling rather than through the doctrinal understanding required to make an informed commitment. (Although I remain sympathetic to the idea that this is preferable to no salvation at all…)

On a similar theme, the church in which I grew up brought somewhat into the ‘Toronto Blessing’ to the extent that, for a while, no service was complete unless it left someone lying on the floor. I’m sure the blessing was real and brought people into the church, but for me it marked the beginning of a long spiritual decline as I felt a failure for not speaking in tongues or crashing to the floor. A friend of mine left his church after taking offence at a leader pushing hard down on his head whilst praying over him during this time. Such tactics are also endemic to the Christian camps I attended as a child and teenager – powerful emotive meetings leaving those present high and enthused, but not necessarily any the wiser.

Now I repeat that I am not necessarily criticising the use of experience in building our Christian profiles. The things I have seen and witnessed that can not be easily explained from human perspective form a part of my faith, and reassure me greatly. I have been greatly encouraged by witnessing healing or the expulsion of demons. However, faith is less likely to endure if based only on experience. Moreover, if it forms the basis of our evangelism, we leave ourselves open to the Dawkins argument that we engage merely in tactics of mass persuasion and hysteria. The Toronto Blessing will come and go, but the Bible endures. Our faith then must be based on an understanding of the Bible, and we must be prepared to back up our faith on a biblical basis when engaging with others. I am a stronger Christian than I was before joining CCB because then I was looking for a good feeling, whereas now I am receiving good Bible-based teaching. I’d go as far as to state that we can’t truly know God if not through the Bible. To try and do so through impressive worship sessions instead would be to smell the food but to never eat it. Manifestations of the Holy Spirit are a powerful tool – the example of Acts shows us that – but they are not a substitute for God’s word.

PS: For all that – CCB could perhaps take the strait-jacket off a little… We may currently win the award for ‘the church in a school hall least likely to clap their hands’!!