Momentum: What do Eric and Bill Johnson (Bethel) teach?

In previous articles I’ve talked about the challenges of interacting with specific people when we disagree. There is the risk that we personalise things that should not be personalised and that we also use famous names, to provide a theological kind of click-bait.

At the same time, elders have a responsibility to guard as well as to feed and so, no matter how reluctantly and cautiously, there are times when we need to step into the fray and to name names.  The challenge is that there are so many novel ideas and big personalities around that we cannot keep up with anything and everything.

With those things in mind, I decided to pick up a book by Eric and Bill Johnson from Bethel Church in Redding California. I picked it up because it was being promoted, on prominent display in our local Christian Bookshop. Also, I’ve been aware of the fuss surrounding Bethel for a little while. There’s two sides to this. First of all, Bethel is extremely popular both in terms of its reputation as a “revival centre” and in the music that is coming out of it.  Secondly, a number of people have questioned the theology underpinning the church and whether or not its orthodox.  Of course, Christian leaders are there to be shot down, especially when amazing things are happening around them, so it is possible that they are being misunderstood or misrepresented. However, the popularity and prominence of Bethel means that this is something relevant to the life of our local church. It is important that our members are able to discern truth from error. Continue reading

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The Goldilocks Zone: Collected Writings of Michael J Ovey – A Review

Let me take you back to one year ago.  I had just finished reading “Your Will Be Done” by my old college principal, Mike Ovey. I mentioned to my wife that I should drop him an email to say I’d enjoyed reading it and that he should write more books.

I never got to send that email because not long after, we received the shocking news that Mike had died suddenly. In the aftermath, as we read other people’s reflections, the theme “why didn’t Mike write more books?” came up again and again,  and the response kept coming back, “his books were his students.”

However, Mike did write so many things including articles, essays and conference papers and here is a wonderful volume bringing together some of those pieces. Chris Green was Mike’s Vice-Principal at Oak Hill and a close friend, so who better to do the job of carefully selecting and assembling the material?

The Goldilocks Zone is divided into four sections: Continue reading

Revitalisation

There’s not much time left until Christmas now but there’s probably just enough time to order John James’ excellent little book “Renewalrenewal: Church Revitalisation along the way of the Cross” from our good friends 10 of those.

John is the pastor of Crossway church in Northfield, Birmingham. In 2010, shortly after finishing at Theological College, he went with a small team from another local church to help a struggling church. That church had chosen not to die but to seek revitalisation so that it could be a viable gospel witness in a needy area.

I’ve had the privilege of preaching at Crossway. Today, you’ll find a lively gathering of people covering all generations and from a variety of backgrounds. This is a church that is growing not by transferring Christians from one church to the next but by getting out into the community and sharing the good news. In the book, you’ll find stories of people whose lives have been changed by the good news. This is not about big rallies and mass conversions. Rather, it’s about steady discipleship, 1-1 study, meeting with families in homes.  It’s about being an everyday church.

The book makes a clear and compelling case for church revitalisation and its valid place  alongside  more popular evangelism strategies such as church planting. It then takes you on a journey through the life of a revitalisation project, through the ups and downs, confronting the challenges and navigating pitfalls along the way. Continue reading

The Plausibility Problem

Ed Shaw writes as a Christian who experiences same sex attraction but who wants to live faithfully as a Christian in obedience to Scripture.[1] He argues that for Christians like him there is often a plausibility gap.  The message is “just say no.” But this looks like an impossible demand and an unattractive prospect.[2] Continue reading

Shaking hands with death

I picked up Terry Pratchett’s little book “Shaking Hands With Death” at our local Waterstones. It was available as a promoted book at the counter. There alongside all of the usual fun books and novelty items was a little booklet aimed at changing our attitude to suicide. Continue reading

“The Bible Tells Me So” (Book Review)

Everyone likes a good story, including God! This is the premise of Peter Enns’ book “The Bible tells me so.”[1]  Enns believes that, “Defending Scripture has made us unable to read it.”[2]  Essentially, God and his book the Bible have been badly misunderstood with dire consequences. Continue reading