Monday, 12 May 2014

My church is a football ground.

Football IS a funny old game and those who follow it tend to be fanatically passionate about it. The football season has finally ended in England, Man City won the premiership, Liverpool despite everything didn't and some teams performed escape miracles on par with Houdini himself. There was blood, sweat and tears on the final day and it should be no different, i want my team to play with passion, to play like life depended upon that 3 point win. There is this theory that Football is the new religion, stadiums are the new churches, managers the new ministers and the players are the new idols to be worshipped and in some respects that is perfectly true, but if you dig a bit deeper it actually goes to the core of a person, it goes as deep as and in some cases deeper than faith. 

We pick a church because it resonates with us, our folks went there, a friend, there is something that gets you to a church to start with. Then invariably that church stays with us (well at least from a denominational) point and we become………. (fill in your own blank) Its no different with football, i'm a Leeds fan have been since i was 6 years old, something about that team hit me and stuck with me, i'm now coming up the fast side to 50 this year. The team has let me down, they have lost, they have won, they have made me cry with happiness and weep tears of pain, it's all very real when it's a team you are passionate about. Church/God can do the same to us, make us happy make us weep, and affect us in various ways, you see church and teams are very close bed fellows. It requires faith in God to be a Christian it's difficult to believe without faith. To follow Leeds requires an amount of faith that is monumental, it requires me to put my trust for 90 minutes in 11 guys running around a football pitch, who at times seem to have no idea what they are doing. Church is the same at times, when its going great we are all happy, when its going bad we all bitch and moan. Offering up sage advice to those in charge, offering our "expert" opinion when actually we sometimes only have a small idea of what is going on, we see the 90 minutes of play not the effort gone into getting there on the pitch. You see you can be a passionless follower of a team or God, only interested when they are winning or doing well, or you can have a passion which is all consuming, a passion which makes you go back time and time again, and gets you believing things will get better. Faith is required to follow a team, its a foregone conclusion that you need it to follow God, yes stadiums are the new churches, people attend because they feel they belong, they feel wanted. In our churches do people feel that way? if we are truthful we have to say at times no they are not. Football and faith are not that far apart they require certain common things to make them active work. For those of you who don't follow football, you can now cat ch up and watch your normal tv for 3-4 weeks, then its going to be wall to wall football for a month as it's the World cup, Passions will run high, things will be said, advice will be given. Lets actually try and be as passionate about God as we are about something we follow, whether a team or a programme, whether it makes sense or not, lets just practise a bit of passion and faith, because thats going to win through at the end of the day

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Ramble on

I'm going to probably upset a few people with this entry and i guess sometimes you gotta do it. For all of my walk with God i have classed myself as Evangelical, I'm a proclaimer of the good news, a born again fundamentalist with reasonable leanings. So its with some sadness that yesterday i found out that Steve Chalke and Oasis trust have been removed from the evangelical alliance. Now this was heart breaking for myself on a number of levels, but thats another day. What has become apparent now to me is that whether you call yourself, fundamentalist, liberal, conservative, or just plain weird, you have to stay within the confines of the label you wear, and don't you dare move away from it. All of my christian life i have struggled with church, i have struggled with its systems, its idiocy, its stubbornness to move forward, because we are holding onto the past, and in truth it sucks big time. You see i was never comfortable with being a Christian, i was never part of the in crowd, but i became the go to guy if you needed brutal honesty. Sometimes churches accepted what was said with grace, other times i was asked to apologise for what i said (yes really) My formative years of faith where in a hardline Pentecostal church, then into Methodism where i seemed to find some sort of fit for my faith. The problem is i despair and weep at times over what the church does and what Christians do, more time spent in committees, more time arguing over that semi colon in Timothy, more time denying the God of the Bible, and questioning whether or not the Bible is literal or not, whether it was written by monkeys or a spaceman. If I'm going to be brutally honest I'm thinking of throwing in the towel, just upping sticks and saying "stuff it" you see all i ever wanted from my faith was acceptance, acceptance from God which i got in spades, and acceptance from Christians, which has never been fully functional or fully coming from certain parts. The church should be a place where everybody feels safe, where everybody feels welcome and in all honesty its not. Christians have difficulty accepting each others diverse views, so what chance have we really got with dealing with the views of other outside of the church.
Over the years i have been fortunate to have met some incredible people, they have challenged me, nurtured me, helped me and saved me from myself, some have been Christians others have been as unbelieving as you could ever imagine. What that has taught me over the years is that all views count even if i don't like them, even if we disagree at least we know our voice counts. The exclusion of Oasis from the Evangelical Alliance is a step to far for me, its a step that says "if you do not agree completely you aint coming in" which is wrong wrong wrong. We should be able to accommodate creationists alongside those who think differently. Those who hold to male headship and those who don't, just when did sexuality become the defining factor on inclusion, when did my sexuality become an issue because it flipping well should not be, when other things are never seen as definitive.

Tomorrow being May 4th i take my last service on the preaching plan, as i have after praying long and hard realised i need to take a step back and stand down. Part of this is due to ill health,part not being able to fulfil the study side of local preaching, and not wanting to get stuck in a rut. Its taken me nearly a year to reach this decision, and I'm some what sad but excited about the future. My ministry has  taken me to some different and funky places (baptising a new convert in an oil drum at the Glastonbury festival) was one of the great highlights, met weird and wonderful people and enabled me to see a whole lot of life and acceptance.

Be at peace people, be with grace, be love.