Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Front Covers

This week a muslim outreach group has boldly put a 'full sleeve' ad on our local paper (and others across the region/country I guess) which gives them a big front page splash inviting people to ring or visit a website for information and a free Koran copy etc. The main grab of the ad is 'find out about the real prophet Muhammed'.

The first point to make is of course they have every right to do this - religious freedoms have been fought for long and hard over the centuries, with the first English baptists petitioning the king not just for themselves but also for Jewish and Muslims in early 1600s England (they were way ahead of their time!).

Secondly, Christians use similar strategies. Websites like have been effective in helping people discover Jesus, along with radio and TV stations, posters, tracts, and adverts across the decades. All these things have their place.

Yet the best front cover will be the shared life of an existing disciple. When people see us do they see the real Jesus, and in our interactions with people do we help them find out about the real Jesus?

All the major stats indicate that people come to faith through the significant influence of one or more Christians in their life. It was the way Jesus did it, it was the way Peter and Paul did it!

Let us ensure our lives our 'full sleeve ads' for the real Jesus, bold font proclaiming the good news that those who 'read us' can discover him too.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Christ Enabled Relationships

Ephesians 5 is often a favourite passage for preachers at a wedding. Yet many pick up at verse 22, which seems to me to be an important mistake. The previous verse 21 calls for mutual submission out of respect for Christ - in other words let your relationship with Jesus be the basis of respect for one another.

Scholars agree that this passage is effectively a 'holiness code' for relationships (akin to various other codes available at the time). The difference is that this one flows from relationship with Christ. Take Christ away (or skip verse 21) and what do you have: just rules and regulations (and therefore almost inevitable strife!).

The whole passage, including wives/husbands but also parents/children and masters/slaves (and I'm sure in Paul's mind all relationships in fact) is controlled by that initial verse 21, echoed (and rounded off) by chapter 6 verse 9 which refers again to Christ as Lord ('Master in heaven').

As a side order, the wives/husbands bit is really about Christ and the church (see verse 32) ... but at least that gives the wedding preacher a potentially useful way of jumping across to an evangelistic address (which in a UK wedding is a great opportunity!).

But the real relevance of this passage for our 21st century mission perspective is what we model in our significant relationships. Whether it is in marriage, in family, or even in boss/subordinate scenarios, we can model a positive Christ enabled alternative. Lose verse 21 and you will typically portray a graceless scenario - Paul urges us to something much better.