Early on in the journey I announced that although we’d asked to be taken to the local cinema, on a Sunday morning it’s actually a church! Sadly the driver didn’t share my enthusiasm for this exciting fact, but as we went on our way he did point out a new church in the city which I hadn’t seen before. As I looked toward the converted warehouse, I immediately recognised the logo on the front of the building. The church belonged to the fastest growing Christian denomination in the UK.
After I shared this useless piece of knowledge, the driver voiced his concern that the organisation was probably only interested in taking money from its members. Rather than being meek and mild about his comment, I got a little agitated. I wasn’t rude, but I was straight with him. I told him that just because an organisation is big, it doesn’t automatically make it solely interested in money.
In my experience, (and forgive the generalisation) much of the non church going public are quite happy for their local parish church to run a fete, do a little community work and help the poor, but as soon as church membership and resources expand beyond 10 members and 50p in the offering, it’s a different story. Mr Taxi “Grumpy-grumps” Driver emerges to spoil the fun with his own brand of anti-religious cynicism.
This negativity is often reflected back to us by the media. I am a strong believer that we get the media we deserve. Every newspaper and news channel (with the exception of the BBC) relies on consumer interest in order to stay afloat. The Sun exists to give Sun readers what they want. If Sun readers change their minds, the paper changes its mind. The media doesn’t tend to force content on us. It simply gives us what we’ve always wanted.
Why is much of the media negative and cynical? Because much of the public is negative and cynical. And that’s why a story like this one titled “Religious satellite TV show Miracle Hour ‘risking lives’” has made its way onto the BBC.
My issue is not that the TV station has been pulled up on their actions (praying for sick people), but that the BBC chooses to report a negative story despite there being thousands of testimonies from people in the UK – all claiming to have been healed of all sorts of conditions.
The media decides it’s better to criticise people praying, because people praying is a more interesting story than someone actually being healed. They decide this because much of the public has decided this.
In the same way, ‘real life’ magazines decide that a story about a 20 year old having an affair with an 80 year old would interest their readers more than cancer being instantly cured. Welcome to 21st century Western news values. And remember, the media doesn’t create news values. We do.
Who is Mr Grumpy-Grumps, anyway? It’s not the cat. It’s me.
Yes, the title of this post is my fiancée’s (affectionate?) nickname for yours truly. Perhaps I’m proving her point by writing this blog post? Because if you boil my few hundred words down to their most basic essence all you’ll find is ‘a grumpy young man ranting about a grumpy old world’ (this is also known as blogging).
And if that wasn’t shocking enough, I have another bombshell to end on: The Daily Mail published an excellent article this week. I’d go as far to say it partially discredits much of what I’ve written here today. Perhaps our society isn’t as grumpy as I thought? Maybe the problem is me. Mr Grumpy-Grumps.
For the last three years I have been involved in a project called Parklife.
The idea is really simple. Put up a big tent in the middle of a Southampton city-centre park, invite people of all ages and backgrounds to come along and show them that God is real, alive and loves them.
The concept really boils down to #churchinthepark. Culture, and in turn the media have moved from a default position of openness to the Christian message to skepticism. Our job as Christians is not to just preach, but actively demonstrate through real down-to-earth actions that God cares and his message really is good and really is for everyone.
One of my favourite stories from this year was a man who came to the event in a wheelchair, was healed and literally left his wheelchair behind in the tent!
Another lady was prayed for depression. She was so overwhelmed by what she believes is total healing that she became a Christian and was baptised today. And who can blame her? If you were on medication every day for years and were healed in an instant after a normal Christian bloke prayed for you, what would you do?
At the centre of the Christian message is the word “gospel” which means good news. Just because some Christians and some churches have given the impression that Christianity is boring and pointless, doesn’t mean that’s true! I’d like to think that most of the people who saw us at Parklife went away understanding that.
When I’ve written about healing before, I’ve been immediately bombarded with messages explaining why healing isn’t true and how I’m either mistaken deluded or simply lying. The trouble is with that is it’s incredibly arrogant to state that you know for a fact that no one has ever been healed of anything supernaturally.
To put it another way, just because you’ve seen some counterfeit diamonds, doesn’t mean there aren’t any real ones in existence in the world today.
Let’s be clear, there are ‘faith healers’ out there. They do it for money, fame and self promotion. Sometimes they will even plant people in the audience who claim to have been healed when they haven’t. I accept these things happen. No religion or community is immune from imposters. They can creep in.
But, in my view, they aren’t too difficult to spot. If the meeting revolves around their charismatic personality, their entourage of security personnel, there’s lots of money around and they have their own TV channel then we have every right to be skeptical. But the best way to spot a faith healer is by looking at their actions. Are they claiming to heal people?
No one at Park Life claimed to be able to heal people. They merely followed the example in the Bible, which goes something like this: God is an all powerful creator > Jesus was God > Jesus healed people > Jesus allowed his disciples and all who believed in him afterwards to heal > Christians today can pray in Jesus name and Jesus will heal.
Here all the attention is directed away from the individual and put on God. It’s all through Jesus power, not our own. God delights in humility. When people recognise they haven’t got it all sorted and trust in Jesus, things happen. And when people recognise they are nothing special, but humbly ask God to work in their lives, he does.
The Centre of the Christian Message
It’s been wonderful to be reminded of the simpleness of the Christian message again. My favourite aspect of this ‘good news’ is that it’s only good for those who haven’t got life figured out! If you think you’re perfect then you probably will find the Christian message irrelevant.
But I’ve never met anyone who really believes they are 100% perfect.
So if you know you’ve not always measured up to your own standards, let alone God’s standards, then the good news is you can find forgiveness, purpose, healing, joy and hope. No wonder the early followers of Jesus called it ‘good news’.
You don’t have to look far to see people searching for fulfillment in other things. Whether it’s living for the weekend or living for your other half or living for the next drink, everyone worships something. Ultimately we won’t find fulfillment. As Jim Carey put it, “I wish everyone could get rich and famous and everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that’s not the answer.”
Finally, I know of no other religion where I can turn up with a Les Paul, whack the Marshall amp up to 11, mess around with some effects pedals, strum a few chords and it be understood and acceptable to God as ‘worship’. Of course the reason for this is true worship comes from the heart, so whether it’s a Les Paul or vuvusella, if you’re doing it for God’s glory and not your own, it’s worship.
It was a pleasure to work with Tim Kendall on preparing many of the songs for the week. Leading the band in singing some of these songs was a new experience for me. I’d like to end by giving a big shout out to them all, they played their hearts out all week. One of the favourite tracks we did was this one:
I think it perfectly captures what we did this week.
All pictures copyright David & Katy Carter [firstname.lastname@example.org], Debs Ford and Joe Kilby [email@example.com].
I’m not normally bothered about Lent.
I tend to make smart-arsed comments when people ask me what I’m giving up for Lent. You know, really childish remarks like “I’m giving up giving up”.
But this year I’ve been strangely up for doing (or not doing!) something.
So for 40 days I will be joining Stacey in giving up chocolate. I’m hoping this will go better than a previous conversations in Starbucks when I commented that giving up chocolate would be easy, while drinking a white chocolate mocha.
“But wait!” I hear you smart-alecs cry. “How will that benefit your spiritual life?” As if our spiritual and “non spiritual” (whatever that is?) lives are separate. Despite not wishing to divide my life up into “spiritual” and “non spiritual”, I do understand where such people are coming from. It is worthwhile taking something up.
I was inspired by my friend Emily’s suggestion of posting 3 things online that I’m grateful for each day. Therefore on my Twitter account, I will be doing exactly that! Follow me here
I have been listening to rather than reading the Bible since the beginning of the year. On top of that I’m going to give Tom Wright’s Lent for Everyone series a go.
3 things is probably enough! I will let you know how I get on. Happy pancake day y’all!
I’ve been watching the news unfold and have been amused by a number of tweets. This one being my favourite.
But all joking aside, people really are up in arms about the Pope’s visit. While birth control, gay rights and abortion are issues of widespread disagreement among all Christians- it’s the recent church/child abuse scandal that we all view as inexcusable. How the Catholic Church could have allowed such widespread abuse to happen is beyond me.
But rather than continue to slate the Pope on that issue, perhaps we should take a moment to remember his apology on June 11 when he said the church must “insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again”.
The Pope continues to meet with the victims and their families to offer personal apologies over this whole issue. Of course that could never put things back to the way they were, but what more do we want Benedict to do? (And please do not mention the disgusting practise of flagellation.) Although this issue of abuse is by far the biggest issue the Catholic church has had to deal with in recent decades, this is not the issue the “Pope Protests” will focus on.
Instead the problem appears to be a religious leader making comments (from a religious point of view) on issues such as homosexuality and the distribution of condoms in Africa. Although his comments are controversial, isn’t it his job to make statements on such things? Sure, we don’t have to agree with his words (I often don’t), but that’s no reason to slate him. He’s perfectly entitled to say what he likes. He knows better than most that the majority of people in the world (including some Catholics!!) won’t be paying a blind bit of attention to what he says. So let him speak!
Then again, perhaps I’ve missed the point? Maybe the point is that the government has invited him over, not the Catholic Church. So in theory- tax payers money is funding his (utterly ridiculous) pope mobile, and all other costs which will inevitably result from this visit.
Fair enough, I agree the money would be better spend elsewhere, but is that really a reason to take to the streets and protest against this figure? After all, as a friend was saying to me today- we often have expensive state visits from other world leaders that no one complains about.
For the record, I don’t like the way the Catholic church is structured, and I find the idea that the Pope is infallible quite ridiculous, however, I think we need to cut this guy some slack and remember there are millions of Catholics in the UK, for which this is a highly significant event. As a Christian I would like to stand beside my Catholic friends and whilst acknowledging our differences in theology, be happy for them that their Pope has made the effort to come to the UK and encourage not only Catholics, but all of the Christians in the UK.
So go on, tell me I’m wrong…
In it, the pastor says…”If I had enough money, resources, or even enough guts…I’d put a big sign on the side of the building saying ‘God loves gay people’ or ‘Kings Church loves gay people…”
The most important commandment for Christians is ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and spirit. AND love your neighbour as yourself’
If Christians were to do that, would so many of them be labled ‘homophobic’?
There’s a difference between agreeing with what people do and loving them as people. A huge difference.