Our conference is coming soon! We're going to meet at East London Tabernacle on Saturday 10-4:30pm 19th November 2016. MAIN SESSIONS: I'll be doing a talk on 'Christ Centered Church' - what is it? Is it different to Gospel centred? How do we do it? Graham Miller the CEO of London City Mission will be talking about the Socially deprived. Who are they today and where are they living? Simon Smallwood from Dagenham will be talking on reaching the socially deprived in grass roots ways. All these talks are intended to help us see the way forward for reaching the socially deprived in the UK. The vision of RTU is to see ‘a movement of Christ centred churches reaching the social deprived in a grass roots way’. We will also be having worship sessions, a time for testimonies, and a panel discussion. I'll let you know as soon as booking opens.
Many were shocked to hear Trump's recent comments about sexually assaulting women.
Many were then further shocked to hear people minimise his comments.
I have to say that sadly I wasn't shocked by either.
Over the years I've seen many respected people be complicit in abuse.
As a child I experienced adults ignoring the abuse I experienced.
As an adult, I've experienced adults not even caring about abuse.
Here's some of the ways I've seen this:
1. Not caring about child protection issues.
Years ago, I learned on a training course that the biggest factor for child abuse was people in power failing to ensure proper child protection policies. Since then, I witnessed many people not wanting to bother with proper procedures, and just assuming that no one who seems friendly and goes to church is a child abuser (which is totally untrue). Such attitude is so different to the biblical call to protect the vulnerable.
2. Downplaying complicity in abuse.
When it came out that Joe Paterno was complicit in his colleague Sandusky abusing little boys, many defended him. These defences often went along the lines of 'he didn't do the abuse himself, he just failed to report it properly.' One TGC article by Colin Hansen even argued that Paterno did so much good, he just made a little mistake, resulting in the court of popular opinion unfairly judging him.
Such responses shocked me. It shocked me that people would defend Paterno because of his sports achievements. It also shocked me that people thought it was fine to know of ongoing abuse and not try to stop it.
Abuse thrives where people are complicit:
Whether its a coach failing to properly report abuse to the authorities, or a pastor failing to implement child protection policies, or failing to call out Trump for harassment and assault - it's complicity. It all promotes a culture where the vulnerable are not protected.
Jesus is different:
Jesus is the good shepherd (John 10). He protects the vulnerable sheep, and carries them close to his heart (Is 40:11). He uses his rod to fight off the wolves who try to harm his sheep (Ps 32). He rebukes the watchmen who fail to blow the trumpet (Ezek 33), and the shepherds who fail to shepherd (Ezek 34). He rebukes those who call evil good.
I've just got back from a lovely family holiday. Here's some things I learned from it:
Being away from the internet can be a massive blessing.
It removed a lot of distractions and unpleasantness for me.
Being away from some of my problems, didn't mean I was away from my sinful heart.
I still had to wrestle with impatience, selfishness, and anger etc.
Making a goal of knowing God more, rather than having 'fun' days was more fruitful.
There's a pressure on holidays to make each day amazing. You've got to hit the beach as early as possible to get the best weather, best spots, and restaurant seating. But, I've found that prioritising family worship and catechism in the morning and evening led to a much more fulfilling holiday.
Making repentance a priority brought more peace and love to the holiday.
When there's six of you doing everything together 24/7, you inevitably end up hurting each other. Each day we had opportunities to confess our sin to each other and ask forgiveness. We helped one another apply the gospel to our regular sins, and grew in love and peace with each other.
Holidays make me long more for the new heavens and earth.
Firstly, seeing creation in a different part of the world helped me consider God's creative variety, and how interesting all the variety in the new world will be. Secondly, having to come back from holiday made me long more for the peaceful new world that my holiday represented.
Sometimes I can feel like if I'm not living perfectly, then I'm being a bad witness for Christ.
Of course, as we're living in the already but not yet, there is still indwelling sin within each one of us, so until I die, or Christ returns, I will still sin. This means that perfectionism is not possible, and Jesus doesn't expect me to live a perfect life.
So my neighbours and non-Christian friends won't be able to see a perfect person in this life (other than Christ). Instead what I can show them hopefully is a repentant person who is gradually changing.
Rather than trying to be perfect witnesses, I'm trying to be honest about my failings, and my sin, and instead demonstrate continual repentance. A repentance that shows how amazing Jesus is, that he's freed me up to be able to admit my sin, and that he's provided forgiveness so that I can openly repent, not fearing punishment.
When I was abused as a child by someone more powerful than me, I tried to use my voice to speak out against it, but I was shut up. When I went to a teacher who had the power to stop it, he did nothing.
As God's image bearers we have power and voice. Like Adam we're given power to serve and protect (work and keep the garden). Like Adam we're also given a voice to use this power (naming animals and his wife). The affects of the fall however messes up our power and voices.
In my case, my childhood voice was ineffective because it wasn't listened to. In my teacher's case, he had the power to protect me, but he didn't use his power to protect me, and he didn't allow my voice to be powerful.
In churches today we sadly see the same pattern. People use their voices to speak out against misuses of power. These misuses of power come in a various forms of abuse; gossip and slander, legalism and heavy shepherding, excessive anger and violence, inappropriate relationships, and child abuse. The complainant's voices often get ignored by the people with the power to stop the misuse of power. The people with the power often don't use their power to stop the abuse, even when its someone else causing the abuse.
There's 4 ways I'd like to highlight this plays out in the western church:
1) Racial Injustice: If someone from an ethnic minority tries to speak out against a racial injustice, the majority culture who have the power to do something about it, often ignore their voice. They often fail to use their power to redeem the situation.
2) Class Prejudice: If someone from the lower classes (in the UK) tries to speak out against class prejudice and inequality, some of the upper classes tend to ignore their voice. The people who have power to change the inequality often don't and instead use their power to defend themselves.
3) Child Abuse: If a child or parent tries to speak out against abuse, some church leaders try to quieten those voices. The very people who could use their power to stop the abuse, try to cover it up instead.
4) General Offences: If a believer goes to another believer and says, 'I believe you sinned against me' (Matt 18). The other believer will sometimes fail to hear their voice, and fail to use their power to wrong the right. Instead, they might use their power and voice to defend themselves. They subsequently hold a power over the wounded person, as they refuse to repent and provide reconciliation and closure.
All of these situations are highly unbiblical, yet sadly very common.
Why is this?
One reason for the first two situations could be that majority cultures can easily misuse the image of God by using their power to defend their positions rather than serving and protecting.
What about the third situation? Sadly child abuse is so prevalent all over the world that I don't think it can be limited to one culture. What we have seen is that all over the world, it is tragically common for some people to use their power in an exceedingly wicked way over powerless children. This is sin issue that is common to the whole human race.
What about the fourth situation? Sadly both majority and minority culture church leaders misuse their power, refusing to listen to other's voices. This is not a class problem, its a problem common to all of mankind, as we all have indwelling sin and deceitful hearts.
What's the solution?
We need a bigger view of the power of indwelling sin, and the deceitfulness of our hearts. This will help us to be more realistic about the possibilities that we ourselves are misusing power. We will also be more open to hearing that one of our colleagues might also be misusing power.
We need a bigger view of the cross so that we truly believe that Jesus has paid for the sin of misusing our power. If we truly believe this, we will experience the freedom to own up to our misuse of power.
We also need to apply the doctrine of justification by faith alone to our hearts. As we truly accept Christ's justification, we won't feel the need to justify and defend ourselves.
We need to regularly and constantly apply the gospel to every area of our lives, including:
How are we reflecting God's power and voice?
Are we serving and protecting others?
Are we using our voices in a proud way that ignores the cry of the hurt and oppressed?
How are we helping others to use their power and voice.
Are we helping those who have been hurt to use their god given power in the right way?
Are we listening to people and helping them to find and use their voices?
What will the result be?
We could end up reflecting God better, and having churches that are safer for children, and minorities, but also churches where children and minorities flourish. Multi-cultural churches where everyone gets to use their voice and power in an appropriate way for God's glory.