A Vast Majority: Part 3

 

I have been reflected on the premise contained in Stuart Murray’s book “A Vast Minority” that Christians in the UK are a vast minority. This hasn’t changed in a long time; we have always been a vast minority but previously within a context of “nominal” or “cultural” Christianity. We are now surrounded not by nominal or cultural Christians but people of different faiths or of no faith.

In this blog I want to reflect on the implications this has for discipleship, something that many are rightly raising as a major issue for today.

In the context where we were a vast minority in the context of cultural Christianity there was less of a gap between church and culture. An hour of worship and preaching on a Sunday seemed adequate to resource churchgoers for the rest of the week, especially when discipleship was understood as being compliant citizens and conforming to cultural norms.

We are now in a very different context, and many Christians have little knowledge of the teaching of the Bible and feel ill-equipped for life in the world outside of the church. Such equipping has to be a priority. We have to be equipped to participate in God’s mission within our families, neighbourhoods, workplaces and spheres of service.

We have to reflect on what a Christian lifestyle looks like in today’s context, sometimes it seems as if there is little difference between the lifestyles and priorities of those who claim to be Christians and those who do not. In doing so we need to avoid just laying down rules!

Human sexuality is an important aspect of discipleship for the Christian community, and especially for a minority in a culture that is experiencing rapid changes in its approach to sexual ethics. And if ‘the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil’, finding freedom in this area of life might help us to live freely in many other areas. Yet this cannot be simply tithe and do whatever you want with the rest of your money.

What if we invited others to join a revolutionary movement, a band of pilgrims, a community with quite different values and priorities than the rest of society? Discipleship only truly makes sense in such a context. Of course, this would mean at least aspiring to be such a community.

Written by Tony Thompson

tonyt

Tony Thompson is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

A Vast Majority: Part 2

 

In my previous blog I started some reflections based on Stuart Murrays book a Vast Minority. In this blog I ask some more questions inspired by that book. I find the questions so much easier than answers!

If our goal is a society that allows numerous minority groups to all live together without any one minority imposing their views on the rest, then…….

How do we speak out prophetically against injustice in society rather than just stand up for our own rights and preferences? My previous blog, I’m alright Jack also relates to this question.

In a diverse society made up of many subcultures what does it means to be counter-cultural? Where does the Christian community position itself among the many minority communities that in different ways are counter-cultural in relation to whatever is perceived to be the dominant culture?

I honestly do not know the answers to these questions, but know that these are the questions that we do need to find an answer to together as a Christian community.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

tonyt

Tony Thompson is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

A Vast Majority

I recently read a book by Stuart Murray with the above title which I found helpful and challenging. It made me ask lots of questions which I don’t know if I have the answers to, but are important to ask.

The initial premise of the book is that Christians in the UK are a vast minority. We are a minority, yes, but we are not a small insignificant minority, we are a vast minority. He goes on to suggest that this hasn’t really changed in a long time, we have always been a vast minority but previously within a context of “nominal” or “cultural” Christianity. We are now surrounded not by nominal or cultural Christians but people of different faiths or of no faith. We therefore need to learn to function differently, rather than just long for things to be as they were in the past.

Accepting this it raises all sorts of questions and issues. One that I have been pondering is this.

The complaint that was directed at Christians from previous generations was that as a minority they imposed their view on everyone. I think there is some truth in the complaint. There is now also the complaint that in this generation some Muslims have a secret (or not so secret) agenda to impose their views on everyone else. Let us all agree that it is wrong for any minority to just impose their view on the majority. However, the very people making the complaint against previous generations of Christians and against Muslims today are doing the same themselves now!

It is claimed we are now a Western secular society, however secularists themselves are a minority in our country. The majority of people are people of faith, but no longer belonging to just one faith group. Yet secularists are seeking to impose their views on the rest of us.

The question is therefore what sort of society are we looking to create that allows numerous minority groups to all live together without any one minority imposing their views on the rest? I don’t know if secular society is ready to allow people of faith to enter that debate as equals. I think that people of faith need to challenge the imposition of minority secular views on the rest of.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

tonyt

Tony Thompson is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

I’m Alright Jack

I’ve recently been stirred to think and ponder something that I don’t feel fully qualified to talk about but something that I feel could be a defining issue for the next few years. Something that I am increasingly feeling I need to have an opinion about, however controversial and difficult.

Our nation and most of the world are rightly concerned about terrorism, particularly terrorism in the name of Islam. As such various initiatives are being put forward by society as ways to combat it, many of which could be seen as curtailing the freedom of Muslims to practice their faith. Examples being proposed legislation which requires faith groups teaching children for more than 6 hours a week to be Ofsted inspected; schools having to raise concerns with authorities if they perceive children are being indoctrinated by religious groups.

As Christians we are rightly concerned about how these impact our freedom of expression of our faith. On the whole we are being reassured by the state that they are not directed at us but are directed at Muslim extremism but that Islam can’t be isolated out for special treatment in law.

This is what is causing me to ponder and think. What do I think about it?

I can’t get away from the famous quote attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer regarding life in Germany in the 1930s and 40s.

“First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”

 

I believe that as Christians we have to speak out strongly for our right to exercise our faith in the UK in particular but also across the world. There are examples in the UK where Christians are stopped from expressing their sincerely held Christian principles. We should speak out against this discrimination. The treatment of Christians in some countries around the world is outrageous and we should be outraged and speak out against it. Interestingly many Muslims I know are also outraged by the treatment of Christians in some countries that claim to be Islamic.

We should speak out against all forms of terrorism and seek to do all we can to stop it. However, shouldn’t we also insist on the same rights for others to exercise their faith as we expect for our own faith?

 

Written by Tony Thompson

tonyt

Tony Thompson is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

God Is Our Rock

carmel_splash_183780Most people believe in God, the issue is what is the God you believe in like. For example, Britain First recently visited Luton claiming to speak on behalf of God. They said of church leaders in Luton, “these so-called “Christians” are gormless, trendy, politically correct, tree-hugging, sandal wearing hippies who only care about “multiculturalism”, appeasing Islam and publicising themselves.”

Their actions did not in any way represent the God that I believe in!

We need ways to describe and understand God. The Bible is full of different names and metaphors, pictures for God. Some come from God himself, others by men describing the God they have experienced. Rock is the most common term used to describe people’s experience of God.

Moses and David, in the midst of their difficulties found God to be a rock. Moses at end of his life, looking back on his life. David when he had become King, following 20 years of civil war being hunted by Saul.

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. Deuteronomy 32v4

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18v2

The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior! Psalm 18 v46

The realisation of God being a rock came out of their experiences of turmoil, as the waves of life crashed around them, God was their rock.

Turmoil.

God as our rock is always relevant – there is always turmoil, waves in life. Life is challenging. As seen by the Britain First conflict – Luton is at the heart of many challenges.

Turmoil comes personally and globally. Global turmoil produces personal turmoil.

Global events become real when they come close, when we meet refugees, when terrorist attacks impact those we know and love. They bring home the fragility of life, its uncertainty. When the financial crisis causes us to lose our jobs, for our savings to be halved, we experience turmoil.

Personal turmoil. You know it can happen, but that doesn’t prepare you for it. Feelings rise up that you can’t do anything about.

It is then that we need to know God as our rock.

How is God a rock to us?

In Mark chapter 4 we have a story of Jesus stilling the storm, following which he says, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

God is our rock by stilling storms in our lives.

However, this is not the full extent of him being our rock. He is also our rock by being with us in the midst of our storms, not as wishful thinking, not as an imaginary friend we rely on when things get tough. But as a real support and comfort.

God is with us in our storms as the risen Lord Jesus. All global forces did their worse, the Roman Empire, religious authorities combined to put him to death; he faced the worse personal forces can do, including his friends deserting him. He overcame, defeated them all. Even the last enemy, death, being defeated. Jesus is with us, as he was with the disciples in the boat.

I didn’t make God up – he revealed himself to me and to all his creation. He revealed himself to Moses and David!

Jesus can say “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

We can have faith in God, our rock.

Such an important truth in the midst of storms and turmoil.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

– based on his sermon from 7th February 2016 – Click here to listen to it

tonyt

Tony Thompson is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.