Today at healingsprings fellowship

Broadly speaking, in Judaism Yahweh is perceived as Constant while all else is Variable. This philosophical tradition is responsible for the various theological explanations of their socioeconomic conditions through Jewish history.

Cleaving on to stories of supernatural interventions their ancestors passed on through their rich oral tradition, they waited in hope for Divine intervention whenever they encountered challenges.

Interestingly, apart from a small numbers of miracles recorded in their Cannon, and the fact that most times Yahweh never showed – up as they were told he did in the era of Moses and Joshua, their prophets and priests still urged them to remain faithful to their tradition and religious systems.

Even though in the recorded text we see Yahweh showing up amidst the sin, rebellion, and irreverence of the people as they journeyed from Egypt to The Promised Land; whenever they encountered disaster they will blame it on sin (missing the mark or standard).

This includes actions and omissions, or a lack of adherence to the written or revealed word, or even Yahweh choosing to defer justice to the Afterlife. So much so that the leaders even added more layers and safeguards to prevent the people from ‘sinning’; all in the hope that Yahweh will show up and deliver them from their enemies. Overtime these rules became a burden on the people. Hence Jesus’ call to them:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – (Matthew 11:28-30)

Yahweh did not show up after Josiah’s reform, Uzziah’s reform, The Exile, Ezra’s reform, and the reforms which led to the Great Revolt against the Romans, and subsequent destruction of Judea, and the dispersion by the Romans. But yet they were still urged towards faithfulness, and to ‘wait’ on Yahweh.

I think there is a lesson for Christians, especially in the 21st Century. We cannot judge God based on his ‘performance’, rather, we are called into faithfulness. We are called to be lights and salt. A city set upon a hill, which cannot be hidden. We are called to infect this world with love and kindness.

To this end, we are not hooked on doctrines like the virgin birth, miracles, or even resurrection. Rather, we are focussed on his teaching and moral examples as we remain faithful to the Call to co-create a better World.

Join us for Resurrection and Ascension as part of our series, God Was in Christ.

3:00-4:30pm, coffee and light refreshments afterwards.

St John’s Hall

Church Rd,

Sidcup DA14 6BX

Reachout | Revive | Recover

Today at healingsprings fellowship

Immortality has always been something humankind yearned for.

It is captured in poetry, story telling and folk traditions of most known civilisations. In an era when people died from natural disasters, accidents, child birth, wars, famine, and diseases; superstition was rife. The idea of an ‘angry God’ punishing humankind with plagues and natural disasters made sense.

Socioeconomically, in the absence of justice for the poor and marginalised in the present world, the idea of an afterworld, resurrection, judgement, heaven and hell; gained traction in the central doctrine of most known faiths.

In the Jewish context, the Sadducees were opposed to these ideas, while the Pharisees, and later Christians held on to these view.

Consequently, what happened on the third day after the death and burial of Christ became the first recorded evidence of this once mythical idea. For Christians, the risen lord was also coming back in judgement against those who do not believe in his lordship.

In an era of great pain and injustice, the resurrection, afterlife, judgement and punishment was a very strong deterrent from evil, and a compelling message for the followers of Christ.

To this end Paul argued that:

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” – (1 Cor. 15:13–14)

Join us on this snowy winter day for Resurrection and Ascension as part of our series, God Was in Christ.

3:00-4:30pm, coffee and light refreshments afterwards.

St John’s Hall

Church Rd,

Sidcup DA14 6BX

Reachout | Revive | Recover

Thought Leaders Series: 2017

Where is our community?

If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. (Mark 3:24-25)

After the death of Jesus the church continued to attract followers in-spite of persecution. But internally, there were doctrinal challenges about Jesus. These questions could be summarised under the following major headers, commonly known as the who and what questions: who was Jesus? What was his purpose?

Even among Jesus’ disciples there were disputes, some captured in the letters – especially those ascribed to John and Paul. Overtime these questions caused major rifts in the church, most notably the spilt between the Western church (Europe) and Eastern church (The rest of the world).

What we refer today as the Bible is a selection of written works agreed by a team of Bishops as ‘sacred texts’. They were compelled by Constantine the Great (Roman Emperor) who was spurred by political motives to unite his subjects under a common faith – Christianity.

Under very difficult circumstances, these Bishops had to come up with a framework which underpinned the faith, a process widely known today as systematic theology. Simply put, systematic theology is an intellectual exercise which tries to marry complex doctrines like the virgin birth, the trinity, teaching, death, resurrection, second coming; to answer the ‘who’ and ‘what’ questions about Jesus.

Once agreed, under the hospices of Rome and the Catholic Church, these challenges were handled effectively at least in Europe. The Pope was God’s emissary, he provided doctrinal and exegetical leadership for the church. Local priests were trained to work under strict guidelines from the church, and supervised by local bishops. Any drift from the Pope’s decree was ruthlessly dealt with as heresy.

After Luther’s Reformation in the 16th century, everything was up for grabs. While the contents of the bible remained as we know it today, doctrines were revisited. This eventually led to brutal wars in Europe, perhaps not dissimilar to what we see within Muslim factions today in the Middle East.

The aftermath of these war of ideas opened up other discussions. Most of which were centred around social reforms for the common man (the social contract), against the privileged positions of the clergy and nobles, who were ‘ordained by God’ to exert rule over the people. The quest for answers against these injustices in society is mostly referred to as the Enlightenment and it kicked-off in the 17th century. Consequently, we had the French Revolution in the 18th century.

While Luther’s Reformation made the bible accessible to the educated classes in Germany through the technology of the industrial printing press and his work on translation, it also gave rise to a new problem which is still with us today. This problem is the absence of central doctrine, teaching and understanding of the Christian faith.

For the Jewish faith (where Christianity develops from), there were Rabbis who were theologically trained. The lineage of these Rabbis had a rich history, they built on the the works of their predecessors, anchoring on their philosophical understanding and interpretations of scriptures. This was a central and important aspect of community life.

For Christianity this was lost. Like the challenges facing Islam today, most of the leaders of the Pentecostal movement were lay men who were hardly educated, let alone theological trained. As long as there were ‘supernatural’ activities – God was with them.

But as to absolutes, the bible is filled with paradoxes. This is evident within texts, and between books within the bible. Our effort to try and force these paradoxes to absolutes is a major flaw in Christian teaching, which once exposed falls apart like a house of cards. For instance, we see Jesus working with people that had faith, and those who demonstrated no faith. In the Old Testament we see hostility between Jews and Gentiles – even a God who sanctions genocides; in the New Testament this becomes a hotly debated subject. However, a cross cutting theme is the fact that Jesus was reconciling the world, seeking and restoring all to one global community (2 Cor. 5:19).

Therefore, the work of Christian leaders in the 21st Century is to avail themselves to much studies, if possible, theological studies at a tertiary institution. This provides a better foundation for handling scriptures and it’s paradoxes. The idea of depending on the ‘Holy Spirit’ for understanding might be fine at an individual level, but extremely dangerous at community level.

Christianity is a faith that draws us into a community – God’s kingdom. It is not this greedy, self-obsessed, capitalist driven, individualistic cult that it is now! Wake up!

In the words of Paul:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Eph. 4:4-6)

Reachout | Revive | Recover

Thought Leaders Series: 2017

Everyone has a worldview…

It may be more or less conscious or systemic. It may or may not make reference to institutional religious or non-religious perspectives. It is one of the core tasks of faith leaders to enable people to reflect on their own and others’ world-views.

For society to flourish, people need to understand where their own and others’ worldview come from, to understand their impact on people’s actions in a whole range of areas of human life, and to be able to critique them in a climate of respect.

Reachout | Revive | Recover

Thought Leaders Series: 2017

The correct way to approach the Old Testament is to engage it as a collection of historical writings, commentaries, and views of Jewish thinkers of the Divine.

Treating it as ‘the word of God’ gives the notion of finality, thereby, hindering us from continuing the painstaking work of theology as these scholars themselves did in their time. It also presents the view that God has stopped working with, and through us today.

The New Testament consists of the accounts and correspondence of followers of Jesus. People who themselves were busy trying to make sense of all they had seen, heard, or were experiencing.

In fact, among Jewish thinkers in Roman occupied Palestine there was a real sense that the perpetuation of evil and injustice that they were experiencing will eventually lead to an end to human existence. For Jesus however, heaven had met earth, hence the call for ‘Repentance’, as he envisioned and articulated the possibility of God’s kingdom here on earth.

Like any revolutionary idea, this kingdom stood firmly against the existing structures and institutions. Its values will eventually overcome the existing structures through their kindness and love for all regardless of race, class, or gender.

It was a none-violent struggle, a battle of ideas, costing the lives of many. It would later be made mainstream. Curtailed and modified, so it fits with the old power structures of Rome. This is largely the version of Christianity practised today.

Reachout | Revive | Recover

Thought Leaders Series: 2017

Unlearning to Learn Anew – putting on the Veil of Ignorance.

Building on the work of Emmanuel Kant and other leading minds in discussions on Social Contract, John Rawls applies the concept in his seminal book: A Theory of Justice.

For Rawls, our personal biases and prejudices often affect our political position. Therefore, for true freedom and justice to prevail, we need to actively minimise them by assuming a position of ignorance (the Veil of Ignorance).

This discipline is important in Christianity, especially in leadership. Every aspect of the faith should be revisited with the “Veil of Ignorance” in order for the faith to breathe and revitalise.

To Veil of Ignorance is similar to the term being “Born Again” which sadly has been largely misunderstood. Jesus was in fact asking Nicodemus to unlearn all he had learnt, to put on the “Veil of Ignorance” in order to be a part of the new movement. The knowledge he had accrued through years of active participation in the religious system was suddenly an hindrance to his spiritual growth. What Jesus was advancing needed an open mind, if you may, a blank canvas.

Jesus highlights this position on many occasions, perhaps most notably when he challenged the actions of the leaders stating,

“… thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.” – (Mark 7:13)

The Judeo-Christian faith was never, and has never been concrete, hence we see the plea for Reformation at various points in history through the prophets and much later Jesus Christ.

The Born Again experience is therefore a state of mind and a way of life, not an event. It is an attitude of re-evaluation, critical thinking, rethinking, unlearning, learning; and dare I say, being humble enough to learn from other disciplines and faith. Thus Galloway notes:

“The question of God – the basic question of theology – is not the special concern of the ‘religious’ or those who happen to like that sort of thing. It arises out of the structure of human existence and is thus the most fundamental and universal concern of all mankind. Theology, therefore, is as public a discipline as philosophy or natural science. It belongs, in the first instance, in the university rather than the seminary” – (1973, p. 16)

This is what we see in the life of Jesus as he questioned the very foundations of the Jewish faith: Temple rituals, Sabbath, moral and legal codes, culture, and traditions.

Dear friends, if there has ever been a time when the World is willing to listen again to what we have to offer – it is now! When these Jephthah[s] arrive and after the goosebumps they feel when they encounter the Holy Spirit, they will still need to be taught.

My question to you – what are we teaching them? We have inherited lots of stuff that are now having detrimental effects on our psyche and faith.

We have to unlearn, to learn anew.

Reachout | Revive | Recover

Thought Leaders Series: 2017

Old Habits Die Hard.

The word anti-intellectualism is nowadays synonymous to Christianity, especially Evangelicals and Pentecostals.

By way of background an anti-intellectual is simply a person who believes that intellect and reason are less important than actions and emotions in solving practical problems and understanding reality.

Anti intellectualism is alien to Judeo-Christian culture or history. In fact as well as others the term ‘Teacher’ was one of Jesus’ titles. Judges, Kings, Priests, Rabbis, Prophets, the disciples, and even Paul were all seasoned intellectuals. We can still see this today in the priority the Jews give to academia, and the position they hold in most professions in leading economies.

Anti intellectualism crept into Christianity by stealth. As churches became elitist, break away faction (who were mostly from the poor and underclass) started reorienting towards the idea of “being led by the spirit”. These poor uneducated well meaning leaders were solely dependent on “signs and wonders” as they lacked basic education, not to mention theological training. Doctrines, exegesis, and interpretation became skewed; and those who dare question them were ostracised from their congregations.

One of these breakaway factions is the Pentecostal movement, which came out of the Methodist movement. As this group attracted the poor and underclass, they found affinity with the oppressed, especially those within Black communities in the West and developing World – owing to their common struggle.

Much later some within the movement saw the need for theological education and training, but by this time habits had been formed which made their way into the curriculum as doctrines. Besides, most people within the movement did not see the need for training or education as all they needed was prayer, fasting and “signs and wonders” to vindicate their activities.

For those who have “eyes to see”, when we fast forward to the 21st century we see the damaging effect of poor theological understanding, epitomised in anti intellectualism. As a result, ignorance and mediocrity prevails.

Jesus challenged Nicodemus,

“Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? – (John 3:10)

Reachout | Revive | Recover