The Grove Is On Fire

SoulNet... Fancy some brunch?

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Free breakfast! I mean, no wait, free chance to pray and network with other youth leaders in London. Soul Survivor and Holy Trinity Brompton are organising a prayer breakfast type thing on the 5th of June. RSVP over at the website. I'll be there. Say Hi.

The Zombie Genre

Monday, 25 May 2009

Max Brooks, author of –I can't believe I've only just discovered this– The Zombie Survival Guide is quoted on the nature of the zombie genre.

"The genre cannot exist outside of the apocalyptic," he says. "Since we are living in times of great uncertainty, zombies are a safe way of exploring our own anxiety about the end of the world."

I think there's more to it than that, but it's interesting to here someone who's not a Christian say that.

Improvised Gaming Device

Thursday, 21 May 2009

This is probably what youth work is all about.

Old Age

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Something I noticed while on holiday - my one great observation of the canal boat world if you will - was the wisdom and serenity of the old person. Many times while motoring gracefully down the water I'd spy an old man sitting by the side of the river fishing, and as we slowly approached I'd offer up a good morning or some other such greeting. Inevitably the gentleman would stir slightly from his deep thoughts to offer a partial word of measured response. Something like "morn" or "right". Then later in the day again inevitably I would see another old man walking his dog and again I'd offer up a few words of greeting. And again the man would answer with due forthought some wise utterance encapsulated in a single gesture, perhaps a nod of the head or a raise of the hand. Sometimes even, as dusk settled and we left our boat for the warmth of a nearby pub we'd walk past a gentleman so wrapped up in his meditations that no greeting could elicit a response. We were left wondering in awe as to what he had been dwelling on so deeply.

It took a while to break the habit of greeting everyone I met like this when we got back to London and so it was without realizing that I made the mistake of saying "morning" to a teenager the next day. The moody pot-smoking neanderthal could only offer me a grunt of a monosylabic reply and a slight raise of the head, presumably lost in his mundane thoughts, showing me how much he really cared for his fellow man.

Job: Youth Pastor - St Paul's Hammersmith

Monday, 18 May 2009

St Paul's Hammersmith (the big church you pass on the way into London from the West) is after a youth pastor. Blurb:

To lead our expanding youth ministry

St Paul's is a dynamic, urban church in West London. We are seeking to appoint a Youth Pastor to inspire and envision our youth team in the task of building confident, secure, young disciples of Christ.

Responsiblities include:

  • Building up the St Paul's youth community
  • Building, leading and inspiring a fantastic team of voluntary youth leaders
  • Co-ordinating a strategy for discipling our 11-14 year and 15-18 year youth groups
  • Working strategically on how to connect with and witness to young people in the community
  • Leadership and pastoral oversight of the youth team
  • Participation in the broader St Paul's leadership team

We are looking for an experienced candidate in this kind of Christian ministry with a passion for discipleship and outstanding leadership skills.

For more information and details of how to apply please contact

There are a bunch of other jobs at the website too, including internships and children's work stuff.


Sunday, 10 May 2009

About six months since we got married, I've finally finished uploading all our honeymoon photographs to flickr, just in time for us to go holiday again tomorrow. I'm particularly proud of my series of cats of Morocco, if that doesn't make the Flickr blog I don't know what will.

Hello Kitty

Not Preaching

Thursday, 7 May 2009

After some wrestling with the issue, I, in good conscience, don't think that the sermon is a particularly blessed way of teaching the bible. I say this as someone who has been greatly blessed by preaching, who quite appreciates listening to a sermon for an hour, and who regularly downloads John Piper sermons (and not just to get a kick out of the way he pronounces Habakkuk). But I'm not convinced by the arguments that a sermon is especially blessed. Particularly there seem to be three arguments for sermons that are generally used all of which don't hold up.

Some say the word translated "preaching" in the New Testament is the same thing as preaching a sermon. The Greek word is Kerussw (Κηρσσω) which is translated in the ESV as preach, proclaim, or herald. In some situations it seems it's used for preaching sermons, in others for just generally telling people about Jesus. In most situations how the preaching is done isn't clear. The writers of the New Testament use the word Kerussw in a much wider than we do when we talk about preaching sermons, as this passage from Acts shows.

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, "What does this babbler wish to say?" Others said, "He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities"--because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean." - Acts 17:16-20

Paul is reasoning with the Jews and conversing with the Greeks and this is described by Luke as "preaching Jesus and the resurrection". I don't see how then we can argue that the word translated "preaching" must always be the same thing as our modern preaching of sermons.

Others will say it's the normal practice of the church. This is argued from Deutoronmy (which seems to be a series of sermons delivered to the people of God before they entered the promise land), from the sermon of the mount, and from various parts of Acts. It's worth pointing out that all these sermons might not be sermons the way we recognise them, and none of them are really spoken in a similar context to our current church one. But for the sake of the argument let's assume they are sermons, just because they happen a few times does not make it them the necessary pattern for the church. In Deutornomy you could ask how else could Moses have communicated to over six hundred thousand male Israelites other than through a sermon. Pragmatically a sermon makes sense.

The last argument is the authority of the leader. This is the argument I find most compelling, but ultimately I don't think it holds up. If someone is appointed to teach and lead a church then they should be teaching and leading, and over a certain size how else can they lead but by preaching? But again, that's a pragmatic argument not a theological one, it relies on the practicalities of the size of the church. It's also tied to a particular style of church that sees there being only a set few who are allowed to teach and preach and one who leads and oversees overall. Now clearly not all are given the formal position of teacher but all are taught to teach and admonish each other (Col. 3:16) and so, under the authority of official leaders and teachers I don't see why others can't lead small groups, or preach in churches.

It's not just that these three arguments seem weak though, it's that quite often they're argued really badly. You know when you hear an argument and you think "you're reading quite a lot into the text here, is this really the only way you could prove your point?" I get that sensation a lot when reading the arguments for preaching. Here's a quote from a talk from the Proclamation Trust called What's So Special About Preaching (pdf, registration required) which is a good example of this as any.

Let's read Luke 4:16-32. It establishes that the Lord Jesus was an expository preacher. He chooses a text from Isaiah 61 which focuses his ministry by repeating the verb "to proclaim" (which is mentioned 3 times in verses 18-19).

And here is the text of Jesus' expository sermon.

And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, "Is not this Joseph's son?" And he said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, 'Physician, heal yourself.' What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well." And he said, "Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.

Now, this might not be the full text of what Jesus' said, it might just be a summary, but if it is, the only exposition here is the one line where Jesus says "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing". Everything else seems to be spoken in response to their lack of acknowledgement to Jesus being the one prophesied about. It could be that he gave a sermon, but from the crowd interaction and the way he responded it doesn't seem like it was, and it's a lot to argue from one verse. It's a flimsy argument, so when you read a organisation as theologically as rigourous as the Proclamation Trust arguing giving a sermon from that passage, you feel a bit like their argument hasn't got much ground to stand on.

All that said I don't want to come across as negative on sermons. People talk about having a high view of preaching and I agree with them. Just I'm not sure that should be limited to the sermons. Can we have a high view of communicating the Word of God where the Spirit comes upon the person speaking or leading and they teach with power and authority? I'd like a high view of small groups and bible studies if that's possible. The Word of God is open in front of a congregation, and is being read aloud, I think that probably that'll make a difference.

Youth Work - The State of the Nation

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Capital Youthworks is running a training morning on Friday 15th May, from 10.30am to 2.00pm. The blurb is below, I'd be there if I wasn't on holiday.

This term we will be looking at the topic of "Youth Work - The State of the Nation." Ian Fry, who is a member of the faculty at Oak Hill Theological College in North London, will be leading our seminar. Ian is the responsible for running the Youth and Children's Ministry course at Oakhill. As well as input from the front there will also be time for questions and discussion.

An Open Letter Of Complaint To Nandos

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Dear Nandos,

You and I have a potted history, I first encountered you in Norwich while dining with friends, and while I was impressed with your free refills and magic shrunken ice making machine I was less so impressed with the quality of your food. We next ate together in London, where I became a frequent visitor as part of my role as youth worker to the local children. Again, I was impressed with your free refills and with the promptness of the food and was very much relieved that you had stolen the favour of young people from Pizza Hut, an eatery that never filled me with much but dread. However, I was again less than impressed with your food, chiefly with your claimed levels of hotness.

In the current Nandos heat range you have five options, and of real concern here are the hottest two which are apparently 'hot' and 'extra hot'. Clearly, these are mislabelled. I, a white skinny male can eat your 'hot' chicken without so much as a tingling sensation, and your 'extra hot' is much the same. This is poor, but not my real reason for concern. My real reason is the poverty of heat in your line of sauces. Your hot sauce would be better described as luke-warm, while your extra hot sauce could be used to pacify mewling babies. In short, your sauces are patronising and offensive to both my tastebubs and my linguistic sensibilities. And yet this is still not my reason for concern.

I, as mentioned, am a youth worker, and visit your restaurant in that capacity. When I dare young people to try the extra hot sauce I take it seriously, as do they. I expect them to weigh up the risk, to balance the mockery of their peers if they don't taste it, to the humiliation of not being able to consume it if they do. To assert bravely that they can eat it, and then run to the bathroom to cover up their watering eyes. I expect them to fear licking their fingers for weeks in case some chilli remains. I do not expect them to be able to down three cups of it and barely singe their tonsils. This is not hot sauce; this is an insult.

Recently, you introduced extra extra hot sauce, branded in smaller matte black bottles with red labels. Would this be the sauce to divide young people? Would this be hot enough to engender blindness? Clearly not. It baffles me how this sauce came to be considered as hot, let alone extra extra hot. How did you make such a mockery? When you shipped the sauces over did you fly them over a patch of chillies some miles distant and hope that some heat would rise into the sauce? Or did you just hope that by putting it in a black bottle some sort of placebo effect would take place? Your extra extra hot sauce is a sham and a fraud. I am not mad with you Nandos, I am disappointed. When my young people leave your restaurant with dry eyes but a grieved heart, I hope you feel satisfied.

Pocket Puritans

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

GAPE WIDE MOUTHED IN AWE. Banner of Truth, how we love thee. I am buying all of these either when I can justify them or when the Metropolitan Tabernacle start stocking them, which ever comes first.

New Labour and A Warning To Evangelicals

Monday, 4 May 2009

Is new evangelicalism really the same as old evangelicalism? asks Chris Walley. He also suggests an answer too, so it's worth reading for that. I sometimes read old dead Christians, or just the book of Acts and wonder, if that is what Christianity is meant to be like then we're doing something wrong.

Disclosure: Chris Walley is my dad, so, you know, we get along.

Regarding The Jonas Brothers

Monday, 4 May 2009

As a youth worker, you want to put off talking to your young people about sex for as long as possible, because, you know, it's awkward. And then you read about the -sexual exploits of the Jonas Brothers and realise, you probably should have started having that conversation with them a bit earlier. (via)

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The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it. - Psalm 24:1