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Source: (consider it) Thread: Reading Outpouring: new year stock-taking
Martin60
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But Bishops Finger! All the healing, all the God incidents that look just like coincidence like the ones the Archbishop of Canterbury himself encounters, all the words of knowledge and wisdom, all the prophecy; they don't break through the bubble wall either! Haven't heard any tongues for a long while inside the bubble. Never heard an interpretation of one.

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Gamaliel
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Yes, ultimately the Wesleyan emphasis did lead to Pentecostalism, albeit at several steps removed. John Wesley has been described as the Grandfather of Pentecostalism ...

Whether he'd have recognised it as among his 'offspring' as it were is a moot point.

I don't see any of this as something to be 'charged' at Wesley's door either in a blameworthy or a celebratory sense. There's more to history than significant guys and gals.

As SvitlanaV2 has reminded us quite a few times, there are standard sociological explanations as to how religious enthusiasm tends to cool down and morph over several generations. The Quakers are an example of that, the Methodists are an example of that.

Perhaps early Christianity itself was an example of that?

This isn't an issue about trying to 'stop' people doing whatever it is they do, more one of trying to bring some theological and sociological reflection to bear.

As Eutychus has indicated, what we are talking about with Reading, Cwmbran, Dudley and so on is very different to what was happening in the 18th century - although one can see parallels. There were particular 'hubs' and epicentres back then, for instance and transatlantic travel, pamphlets and so on played the role that social media and the internet do today ...

I'd argue that the speeding up of communications and the globalisation of revivalist accounts has led to an equal speeding up of the ephemerality - if there's such a word - of some of these 'outpourings'.

That's not new. Read Wesley and Whitefield and you'll see them lamenting about similar things - about 'many that had begun to run well' falling away and so forth.

However, given Wesley's particular talent for organisation and his systematic approach then many of the 'societies' he founded or else helped to develop did last for some considerable time, and fed into the emergence of the Methodists as an independent religious body after his death.

Whatever his quirks and foibles, Wesley certainly wasn't satisfied with a tick-box approach or a name on a card or the 'sinner's prayer' and what-have-you. The whole thing was far more robust than that.

I'm not suggesting that contemporary revivalists shouldn't go out evangelising or anything of the kind. I'm simply suggesting that they need to develop a more fully rounded and less reductionist theology and soteriology.

I don't see that as being too much to ask.

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Bishops Finger:
IOW, did any form of revival truly happen?

By their fruits ye shall know them.

Here's the standard I usually offer in these threads at this point:

According to John White in When the Spirit comes with power - arguing from a sympathetic, pro-charismatic position - "revival" means (p32-33):

quote:
1) First, converted and unconverted men, women and children, stunned by a vision both of God's holiness and his mercy, are awakened in large numbers to repentance, faith and worship.

2) Second, God's power is manifest in human lives in ways no psychological or sociological laws can explain adequately.

3) Third, the community as a whole becomes aware of what is happening, many perceiving the movement as a threat to existing institutions.

4) Fourth, some men and women exhibit unusual physical and emotional manifestations. These create controversy.

5) Fifth, some revival Christians behave in an immature and impulsive way, while others fall into sin. In this was the revival appears to be a strange blend of godly and ungodly influences, of displays of divine power and of human weakness.

6) Sixth, wherever the revival is extensive enough to have national impact, sociopolitical reform follows over the succeeding century.

Reading fails these, particularly 1, 2, 3 and 6.

For a contemporary example of a revival that fulfils most of these criteria with the exception of 4, I give you the gypsy revival which began near me in the late 50s early 60s and is still going. I know relatives of the very first convert in this revival; most interestingly, it has led, at least indirectly, to sociopolitical reform and receives national media attention from time to time - or even international, as this article proves.

If the proponents of Reading were willing to stick to "an incredible number of Christians being trained to evangelise on the streets" I'd be content. But they are claiming much more than that.

quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
All the healing, all the God incidents that look just like coincidence like the ones the Archbishop of Canterbury himself encounters, all the words of knowledge and wisdom, all the prophecy; they don't break through the bubble wall either!

The implicit assumption you are caricaturing is that signs and wonders of some kind are a key component of evangelism - a view popularised in the UK via John Wimber in the 1980s. I don't subscribe to this view, but I don't think it means none of these things, or "God-incidences", ever happen. I don't think they're important to "breaking through the bubble", though.
quote:
Haven't heard any tongues for a long while inside the bubble. Never heard an interpretation of one.
I still speak in tongues from time to time (in private prayer) and as related before here, have witnessed first-hand two alleged instances of xenoglossy, one of which I did not understand but believe could be authentically supernatual (knowing both parties involved), and one which in old French or Québecois which I did understand but which I think could be fake.

[ 08. January 2017, 16:12: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
Yes, ultimately the Wesleyan emphasis did lead to Pentecostalism, albeit at several steps removed. John Wesley has been described as the Grandfather of Pentecostalism ...

Whether he'd have recognised it as among his 'offspring' as it were is a moot point.

I don't see any of this as something to be 'charged' at Wesley's door either in a blameworthy or a celebratory sense. There's more to history than significant guys and gals.

I think the issue some people have with Wesley is to do with his apparently defective theology. Some commentators believe that Wesley's theology erred from the start, and hence created the basis upon which others went even further astray.

Wesley himself would probably have been dismayed at many of the developments in Pentecostalism, but TBH he'd also be deeply dismayed at modern Methodism. And the feeling would be mutual. As much as Wesley is admired from a safe distance, modern British Methodism at least has made it impossible for anyone like Wesley ever to have significant influence and power in the denomination ever again.

quote:

I'm not suggesting that contemporary revivalists shouldn't go out evangelising or anything of the kind. I'm simply suggesting that they need to develop a more fully rounded and less reductionist theology and soteriology.

I don't see that as being too much to ask.

What I've read is that theologians and the most theologically-minded tend not to focus on evangelism, and evangelists tend not to have the patience or personality to spend significant amounts of time on theological details. So you may have the theological rigour and the evangelistic zeal, but rarely in one and the same person. These qualities and personalities are probably unequally distributed in the various denominations also.

The complaint on this website is often that evanglists aren't sufficiently theologically grounded; but one could also argue that most theologicans aren't sufficiently invested in evangelism. To be fair to both, I think the wider church culture has created this state of affairs. Theology and evangelism are viewed as distinct from each other. Theological training is prioritised because it distinguishes the clergy from the laity and maintains the traditional division between the theoretical and the practical. By way of contrast, denominations with a stronger evangelistic impulse are less focused on traditional theological emphases.

This is how ISTM, although you'll say I'm generalising hopelessly. Fair enough, but the problem remains. A solution for someone like Pastor Oyekan may exist in exploring the new urban theologies. Cultural awareness could also be an issue, if he's trying to reach out to ethnic groups other than his own. The concept of revival is probably more meaningful and more 'realistic' in his homeland than it is here.

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Gamaliel
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Sure, except that Wesley, arguably, wouldn't have wanted to see the Methodists develop as a separate denomination anyway ... although it's clear that he did set a trajectory where that was almost inevitably going to happen.

The thing about Wesley is that he some kind of 'man for all seasons' who appeals on various levels to people of various theological persuasions.

His theology can be all over the shop, as it were, but some would regard that as a strength rather than a weakness.

Whatever the case, and however we cut it, his was a more holistic approach than is common to 'decisionist' revivalists today.

I take your point about evangelists not making good theologians and vice-versa, but would suggest it doesn't have to be that way.

The Orthodox would claim that this isn't how it plays itself out among themselves, but then they wouldn't be seen as 'evangelistic' in the revivalist sense.

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
A solution for someone like Pastor Oyekan may exist in exploring the new urban theologies. Cultural awareness could also be an issue, if he's trying to reach out to ethnic groups other than his own. The concept of revival is probably more meaningful and more 'realistic' in his homeland than it is here.

No concept is meaningful if it retains inherent confusion or misreporting.

Either he needs to stop talking in terms of "conversion" and "rededication" and simply refer to "numbers of people prayed with", or he needs to define what the initiative means by both "conversion" and "rededication" - and distinguish the two in all records and reports.

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Jerusalem is a city without walls

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ThunderBunk

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Sadly, meaningless concepts can have huge social and cultural significance.

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Currently mostly furious, and occasionally foolish. Normal service may resume eventually. Or it may not. And remember children, "feiern ist wichtig".

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by ThunderBunk:
Sadly, meaningless concepts can have huge social and cultural significance.

You mean like,
'I want my country back', and
'Make America great again'.

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mr cheesy
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The thing is that Methodism splintered in the 19 century into various competing denominations. Some were more similar to Pentecostalism, some seemed to prize simplicity and form, some seemed more like various strands of the stricter baptist, some went more towards (perhaps oddly) more formal and/or high Anglican.

In essence, Methodism became more about the form (circuits, use of lay preachers, cell-like structures) than about consistency in theology and style.

To suggest that Wesley was "responsible" for these later developments is hard to justify I think as it is hard to predict that any of this would happen. Given that some if these groups had contradictory ideas, it is likely impossible for Wesley to approve if them all.

I think Wesley just managed to set forth a meme, as it were, which was easily morphed into various different kinds of church.

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
The thing is that Methodism splintered in the 19 century into various competing denominations. ... , some went more towards (perhaps oddly) more formal and/or high Anglican.

I don't think that is odd, in fact, and not only because Wesley himself was Anglican. There is a well-documented sequence of second- and third-generation Christians going up both the social and ecclesiastical scales.

The "Catholic Apostolic Church", with roots in both Charismatic Enthusiasm and the Church of Scotland, ended up as a hugely ritualistic "High Church" - whether that was through influence of the Oxford Movement, I can't say. Sounds rather attractive, in fact.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
I don't think that is odd, in fact, and not only because Wesley himself was Anglican. There is a well-documented sequence of second- and third-generation Christians going up both the social and ecclesiastical scales.


I think it is odd given that the biggest Methodist group for a while (I think throughout the UK in 19 century) was the Primitive Methodists, who seem to have similarities with more modern charismatic and pentecostal groups.

Anyway, returning to the subject I suppose it is probably true to say that all the Methodist groups valued evangelism and presumably looked for revival event whilst their theologies had diverged..

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Gamaliel
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I think the social class issue had a lot to do with how Methodism developed, mr cheesy.

When I lived in Yorkshire I went through a phase or reading as many non-conformist autobiographies and accounts I could find in the local reference libraries, I was a geek that way ...

The thing that struck me was how quickly the Wesleyans abandoned full-on revivalism - which is one of the reasons the Primitive Methodists kicked-off from 1807 onwards on a hillside just 4 or so miles from where I'm typing ...

So there was a thing going on with the more middle-class Wesleyans trying to become respectable and with the more working-class, grass-roots Prim's trying to retain and maintain the revivalist fervour.

Eventually, of course, the Primitives themselves ran out of gas and were absorbed back into the main Wesleyan body in the 20th century.

I remember reading the autobiography of an not-unattractive but somewhat smug Victorian industrialist who retained his Wesleyan emphasis - the idea of conversion followed by some kind of sanctification experience - but expressed it in a rather mild and unenthusiastic way ...

It reminded me of some of the 'broader' Baptists I knew growing up in South Wales. They would still talk about conversion experiences and so on but often in hushed tones so as not to frighten the horses.

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
It reminded me of some of the 'broader' Baptists I knew growing up in South Wales. They would still talk about conversion experiences and so on but often in hushed tones so as not to frighten the horses.

Interesting - in my present church (mixed "high church" and "broad" Baptist and URC), not only "conversion" but also "evangelism" are somewhat dirty words - as would be "Enthusiasm" if I ever used it. Indeed, evangelism has been given the far less attractive label "proselytisaion" by some.
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Eutychus
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No, no, no: that's an irregular verb.

As in "I live out the Kingdom"; "You evangelise"; "They proselytise".

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
Interesting - in my present church (mixed "high church" and "broad" Baptist and URC), not only "conversion" but also "evangelism" are somewhat dirty words - as would be "Enthusiasm" if I ever used it. Indeed, evangelism has been given the far less attractive label "proselytisaion" by some.

I think the euphemism most often used in the CofE to avoid the embarrassing 'E' word is 'outreach'.

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Gamaliel
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Heh heh heh ...

I wonder where Ramarius is?

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Martin60
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@Eutychus.

Aye, we're stepping in to Heraclitus' stream again.

All the stuff I cruelly caricature is de riguer at my church.

For me your xenoglossies (discussed before, where I shared to singing in tongues which I did Godward to encourage myself under duress - should have done that four months ago!) fail (2), although that whole schema fails too. It just looks like a description encompassing the mass hysteria Wesley oversaw (public fornication included, (5)) which spread, initially particularly by Whitefield, to the States on the back of home boy Edwards, then was taken over by ignorant circuit riders and their media descendants.

I suppose there is as much of the Spirit in it all as there was in Israelite imperialism.

For me it opens up the question of how many times, if any, did, does God throw His rock in to the pond apart from as The Rock? Or did human cultures break upon the rock that was always there and for contingent, even historically deterministic reasons break upon it more and most in the southern Levant after initially late in the Mesopotamian cradle of civilization.

The question develops for me as to how active the Holy Spirit is in any sense, as opposed to passive. If we take the Bible accounts (which I must in the first couple of half-lives) and all attributed to Him since, in the modern period in particular, as valid, then He's 99% chaos, ignorant enthusiasm, random bubblings in the jacuzzi of Siloam.

Which He isn't. We are. In response to what? Beyond broken narratives and their broken, shamanistic narrators? Which Paul struggled manfully with, including in himself.

I must nonetheless give thanks for the culturally constrained Gypsies. If they were the only shoal in town I'd have to enthusiastically swim with them! Which would be less than a challenge than my present company I feel.

Could I swim at Reading? 'strewth! I'm barely bobbing along in Leicester.

I've been working with one very feral guy for years. And I've pointed him in the direction of guys whose camp touches on the Gypsy - who are manifest in north Leicestershire and in to the city centre - more and more, with every helpless, unhelpable plea for help. They are huge hearted blokes. The Spirit definitely finds home there.

Any road up. How much is Him active:passive and how much is us?

[ 09. January 2017, 11:29: Message edited by: Martin60 ]

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Gamaliel
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At the risk of being obscure, I'm not sure that's the right question to ask ...

Who can discern his errors?

My take would be that if God is 'everywhere present and fillest all things' as the Orthodox Liturgy has it, then we must expect there to be something of the divine imprimatur or image about almost everything and anything - however flawed it might otherwise be.

'By their fruits ...' and all that.

As I've said before, echoing your emphasis on the Incarnational, there can be signs of grace in any setting, regardless of how messed up it might otherwise be.

I sometimes disagree with SvitlanaV2 but have some sympathy with her tolerance towards those outfits that are actually trying to do something rather than those who aren't, for whatever reason ...

I seem to remember that the Apostle Paul had a pretty laid-back attitude to some of this stuff, 'Nevertheless, Christ is preached ...'

That's not to elide the damage that decisionist and revivalist activities do, nor the sense of heightened expectation that is then cruelly dashed - but it is to try to keep things in proportion.

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Martin60
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Not obscure to me Gamaliel. We are converging. And aye, as even I alluded, Paul said it first.

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Love wins

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
No, no, no: that's an irregular verb.

As in "I live out the Kingdom"; "You evangelise"; "They proselytise".

It has cognates: "I proclaim"; "You persuade"; "They brainwash".
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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:


I take your point about evangelists not making good theologians and vice-versa, but would suggest it doesn't have to be that way.


Can you name some individuals other than John Wesley whose example would be helpful for others to follow?

IMO the problem with praising Wesley's example is that he and his context are hard to replicate. He was an ordained minister, but doesn't seem to have spent much time on the humdrum stuff that ministers today have to deal with. Beyond his university studies he wasn't formally trained and released to do all the various jobs he took upon himself, but felt a personal burden to do them, and was fortunately gifted and enormously enthused for the work. He was willing to upset his employers and make enemies in the process.

He also had the time to write and publish the popular theological works that provided him with a decent income - something that only American evangelicals seem able to pull off today. His low-maintenance, itinerant lifestyle was also aided by his celibacy and childlessness; these are unfashionable choices in modern Protestantism.

The human resources he had were also different. Nowadays, the CofE and other denominations are short of trained people, so where would he find the right workers, ordained or otherwise, with the time to support him in such all-consuming work?

In fact, Wesley himself had difficulty finding quality class leaders as his revival progressed, and IMO this would be an even bigger problem for any revival today. It was probably an issue for the pastor in Reading, and for revivalists in other situations.

The actual purpose of contemporary class meetings (and other groups) would also be challenging to define. Wesley's original goal was to disciple and nurture people into holiness, and this process was apparently very intensive and invasive. Can you imagine large numbers of busy modern people signing up for that now, as either supervisor or disciple? You yourself are critical of church groups that take up too much time.

Moreover, there would no doubt be much disagreement today as to the kinds of behaviour that constitute holiness, so that would be a fruitful source of disputes among Christians. Wesley doesn't seems to have permitted much negotiation on this, and was willing to expel large numbers of people for repeated infractions. But he knew he could replace the leavers. Revivalists today are much less confident of that, which probably explains the temptation to boost numbers of 'converts', etc., in reports.

The psychology of the people Wesley attracted was surely also rather different from the target groups in modern British towns and cities, and I should think this is significant in terms of strategy. Indeed, the eventual formalisation and decline of the revival concept is a sign that both society and the church has changed. Many Christians now refer to other evanglistic concepts, e.g. belonging before believing, and see the idea of mass conversions resulting from preaching sessions (for example) as culturally unhelpful.

[ 09. January 2017, 22:35: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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Gamaliel
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I don't disagree with any of that, SvitlanaV2 and I think you've given us a pretty convincing and water-tight argument as to why we can't apply a Wesleyan template today.

Neither, of course, can we apply an Anglo-Saxon one, say, where a bunch of monks target the ruler and his thegns with the expectation that things will trickle down into the population at large.

Nor can we adopt the Holy Russia model or the RC model of catechesis through schools on any widespread scale.

What I was suggesting however, is an ideal - and one hard to achieve - which is for theological reflection to work alongside the process of evangelisation - rather than revivalism or the kind of decisionist proclamation that many of us see as the norm.

I don't have any systematic answers as to how that might be achieved.

Christianity arrived in these islands during Roman rule but it wasn't until the 7th century that it really achieved any critical mass.

We are now in a post-Christian, post-Christendom phase. We need plausibility structures to maintain what remains.

So no, I'm not against Fresh Expressions or new ways of doing things per se but I am against forms of evangelism and revivalism that give a semblance of progress but are essentially a load of hot air and bluster - which is what I think the Reading stuff amounts to.

On the intensity of involvement and churches taking up an inordinate amount of people's time ... I'm not sure how to resolve that one - somewhere or other we need a hub/core of highly committed people. Otherwise things unravel and dissipate. I s'pose I'm arguing for a balance.

Equally, I have no idea how to get theology out of the seminary or academy and into the churches, which is where it should be in my view.

What I do know is that dashing hither and yon from town to city inducing people to pray a particular prayer or repeat a particular form of words gives a semblance of progress and 'revival' but is in fact a chimera.

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SvitlanaV2
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On reflection, though, getting complete strangers to pray in the street is probably better for diffusive Christianity, or for stimulating an affinity for the religion, than holding intensive discipling sessions (or even Fresh Expressions of church) that only small numbers of people are likely to submit to.

Neither situation represents a revival, of course, but as you've said, Christian awareness has often provided a foundation for Western revivals, so the churches might do well to nourish that foundation, rather than imaging that they have the means or the divine gifting to nurture large numbers of the irreligious into devout, knowledgeable, churchgoing Christians in a short, hectic space of time.

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Gamaliel
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How does that work?

Praying a prayer in the street is likely to have absolutely no impact whatsoever.

It no more diffuses Christianity more broadly than us posting here does.

By the time those people have got home they'll have probably retained very little of what was done or said.

You can get anyone to repeat a form of words on a street corner if you're dogged enough and persistent about it.

I really don't 'get' what you're driving at. I'm not saying that everyone involved in church life should subject themselves to some form of intensive discipleship regime.

To be frank, I think the days of so-called mass conversions are over - if ever there was even such a time.

We need to 'strengthen the things that remain' rather than reducing the faith to a sound-bite formula that people can recite on the street and then carry on as if nothing has happened - which it more than likely won't have done.

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SvitlanaV2
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TBH, I'm not entirely sure what you're driving at either. If getting new Christians into discipleship sessions isn't important then what's wrong with the more laid-back alternative of 'sound-bite' prayers with willing participants on the street? Neither is going to have widespread or obvious impact, but I don't see the latter as particularly dreadful, for those who want to do it. It's not as if the practice is preventing other Christians from doing something much more worthy.

My reference to diffusive Christianity was meant to bring to mind censuses and other surveys that highlight how many people in Britain feel connected in some way to Christianity. Christian commentators are usually pleased to hear of the persistence of such affiliation, even if they know that for many people it doesn't include orthodox theology, practice or churchgoing. The idea is that a fuzzy affiliation is better than nothing at all.

From my perspective, anyone who willingly accepts an invitation to pray with Christians in the street is engaging in a Christian act - no matter how fuzzy or noncommittal their 'affiliation' may be - and I'm not inclined to believe that any Christian prayer is worthless, even if it's bad prayer. Even though the 'sinner's prayer' stuff isn't part of my church culture, the idea that someone can call upon God but it's all a waste of time sits uneasily with me. After all, I too make a total mess of being a Christian, so are my prayers worthless too?

I admit that my approach arises from my theologically vague MOTR experience, and I know your theological knowledge is much more informed and precise. What we can agree on is that revival isn't the issue here; neither of us has much expectation of that. IMO the main problem in Reading was that the churches should have used different and more honest language to describe their efforts and outcomes.

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Gamaliel
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Ok, I 'get' that in a purely pragmatic sense, but I don't see these things in purely utilitarian terms - who has the biggest congregation, which church has this, which one has that ... although I do accept that we are 'in the world' and aren't disembodied spirits floating around on fluffy white clouds thinking heavenly thoughts ...

I'm not primarily focussing on what is or isn't 'effective'. Surely discipleship is worth pursuing in and of itself, and in the hope that something will 'rub off' on those around us?

It isn't a tick-box, score-card exercise.

Also, I probably over-reacted in suggesting that such prayers as those advocated by the Reading types are somehow invalid or ineffective ...

Who knows what God makes of any of our prayers?

No, I'm not suggesting that such prayers are 'wrong' in and of themselves and that God covers his ears up and goes, 'La la la ... I'm not listening ...' whenever he 'hears' them ...

The issue for me is that it creates a false sense of expectation and leads to the kind of exaggerated 'results' that revivalists tend to report ... 'We had umpteen "commitments" and numpteen "redidications to Christ" ...' as if these things can be measured in a sales-y type of way.

I have no hesitation in considering that complete and utter bollocks.

Now, I'd be quite prepared to accept that some of these people may go on to investigate the Christian faith for themselves or it may rekindle some kind of residual interest - in which case it's part of a mysterious chain of events such as we may interpret in different ways.

I once met someone whose interest in the Christian faith had first been kindled by some out-of-context Bible verses in a piece of 'cultic' literature. She then went and sought out Christians of a more mainstream kind in order to find out more.

The issue I have, as you have correctly identified, is the level and integrity of the claims that are being made here. They don't bear scrutiny.

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
The issue I have, as you have correctly identified, is the level and integrity of the claims that are being made here. They don't bear scrutiny.

A thousand times this.

Lynn Green never answered me [Frown]

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
If you look back at the older thread, there's no doubt about the Bethel connection. They are advertising the Supernatural School of Ministry on their website, and Oyekan explicitly thanks Johnson in his Learning Review.

Catching up and reading back - I realised that I had been one of those who made that point back on the previous thread. [Hot and Hormonal]
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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
A solution for someone like Pastor Oyekan may exist in exploring the new urban theologies. Cultural awareness could also be an issue, if he's trying to reach out to ethnic groups other than his own. The concept of revival is probably more meaningful and more 'realistic' in his homeland than it is here.

I have no idea what 'new urban theologies' actually mean in any distinctive sense.

I'm suspicious about the idea that "(t)he concept of revival is probably more meaningful and more 'realistic' in his homeland", I'm not sure what it really means.

ISTM that 'true' revival is rare, frequently ends up being messy, and can't really be planned for, and the problems come when people try to do an end run around any of this. Usually there are accompanying historical contingencies that can't be replicated easily, and they are often path dependent so can't be 'repeated' in the same area.

If we were present at the first Pretty-Good Awakening, I'm not sure we'd judge it in the same uncritical air with which the original accounts are written. I think there are sometimes heightened times when particular social and emotional movements coincide with religious movements in often strange ways. I think this point has been made before, but I suspect that phenomane like 'Ghost Dancing' have more in common with what we term revival than we might be entirely comfortable with.

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Eutychus
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I would point once again to the Gypsy revival which has been going on for some 50-60 years and the ongoing manifestations of which I can visit any time I like.

They currently have twelve evangelistic meetings a week going on round my city. The revival means that you can find a pastor and probably a bible study group of some time on pretty much any of their official designated sites in France - themselves an outworking of the social change the revival has achieved.

Last Tuesday I was at an unrelated prayer meeting in a small group in which there was a non-gypsy woman who had been converted through the testimony of one of the believers.

I have a dozen or so gypsy pastors working under me as prison chaplains.

In summary, there is no shortage of evidence as to the reality and extent of this revival.

At the same time, it has its own nasty underbelly. Not least the not-quite-good-little evangelicals that make up most of my prison congregation. But something has indubitably happened.

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
I would point once again to the Gypsy revival which has been going on for some 50-60 years and the ongoing manifestations of which I can visit any time I like.

....
At the same time, it has its own nasty underbelly. Not least the not-quite-good-little evangelicals that make up most of my prison congregation. But something has indubitably happened.

Of course, it's rare but does happen - attempting to make it less rare seems to have problems of it's own, and as you point out the genuine article has issues itself.

Though I wonder still about some of the alleged revivals in the past. Hundred years hence, it might be possible to write a hagiographic treatment of the 'Alpha movement' in similar revivalistic terms (perhaps anchoring it in the 'great move that spread from Toronto in the 1990s') and go on to touch on it's widespread impact in society (insert various religious statements by Blair and others). Remove context and insert distance and the picture can change.

Reading about the occurrences in and around Edwards church in the aftermath of the 'Great Awakening' I'm wondering a closer acquaintance with events might have changed the narrative, perhaps the other-worldly demeanor of Edwards would have looked differently given a different contemporary accounts of the suicides and the apparent self-starvation of one of Edwards parishioners.

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Mudfrog
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What makes a revival 'real' for me is not the immediate phenomena, but the immediate effects.

I don't care about the falling, the languages, the healings; and even less for those silly stories about gold teeth and gold dust in the air.

In the past the revivals worth that name are the ones where nothing changed in the services except for the numbers that attended and the change in lifestyle of many people who were converted.

In revival what is highlighted most is prayer, the preaching of an evangelical (not necessarily charismatic) Gospel, and the call to holiness.

I can see nothing else in revival that is worthwhile, or should I say, I see nothing in some of the extravagant claims and happenings that would warrant the label 'revival.'

If there are not genuine conversions, and if those conversions don't lead to a Christian lifestyle, then it's not a revival.


Another aspec of revival is that it shou,d not be expected to last for ever and neither can it be manufactured. I always worry wjenI her a preacher 'bringing the blessing over from XYZTown where they had a great time three weeks ago'. What? Was he transporting the Holy Spirit in his travelling bag with his spare pullover and toilet bag?

Revivals are Bible based, God-given, Christ-centred, Holy Spirit-ordered (even if enthusiastic) and even if misunderstood by some, do genuinely change the lives of people.

I hope to see it one day.

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Gamaliel
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I attended a very useful academic conference called 'On Revival' back in 2002 and some of the reflections helped shape my current 'take' on these things. A book was published which contained the various papers and contributions. I can supply the ISBN details if anyone is interested.

In missiological terms, I think the Gypsy Revival is a 'people-movement' and these happen from time to time - a similar movement among the Lisu people of Burma/Myanmar would be an example.

I agree with Chris Stiles that we do tend to read accounts of past revivals in a hagiographic sense. For instance, I've read that the Awakening in Northampton, Massachusetts only involved a few dozen people at the most, although given that the population was only about 400 or so people in Jonathan Edwards's time, it did represent a substantial proportion of the population.

Likewise, the occurrences of 'spiritual affections' he describes didn't extend over a lengthy period either. His wife's spiritual crisis and experiences as it were extended over a fortnight. The rest of the time she was doing whatever 18th century minister's wives did.

Also, as I've observed upthread, if you read the actual accounts you'll find that a lot the big-name revivalists tended to play down the significance of 'revival phenomena' and weren't so taken with them as some contemporary charismatics try to make out.

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Baptist Trainfan
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A semantic point, if I may.

I always thank that the word "revival" ought to refer specifically to professing Christians "becoming warm".

It isn't an evangelistic crusade (which is the way I understand that the word is used in the US). More to the point, I don't think it should be applied to people who come to faith for the first time. Good as that is, it's surely "vival"!

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Mudfrog
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Tis very true. One cannot stage or organise a revival. That's what we call a crusade, a campaign or a mission.

A revival is not what you do, it's what is sent.

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Gamaliel
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Sure, it's 'sent' but this is another area where we have to exercise caution and strive for balance.

At the conference I attended, some of the more revivalist delegates as well as some of the more Calvinistic ones were somewhat taken aback by a presentation which I found myself completely comfortable with.

They felt it indicated that the author was making it all out to be a 'work of man.' I don't believe he was at all. All he was doing was drawing attention to particular features and factors around a particular revival at a particular place and time to show how social and cultural aspects shaped the way it worked itself out on the ground if you like. There were differences between rural and urban areas, for instance, various seasonal aspects that had to do with the agrarian cycle and so on ...

As far as I could see, the author wasn't downplaying the 'sent' aspect at all - any more than if we were to study the socio-political and cultural forces at work in 1st century Palestine we were somehow saying that Christ wasn't 'sent' but was simply a product of his environment.

So no, that doesn't mean that we can 'whip up' a revival or 'create' one, but neither, I submit, are we to understand a revival in some kind of Docetic sense - that it somehow descends from the clouds like Joseph Smith's magic tablets ...

I wish we could cut through all the hype about 'revival'.

Growing up in South Wales I was aware of people whose parents had been converted during the Welsh Revival of 1904/05. I was also aware of people whose families had been put off the whole thing or reacted against what they saw as a prissy and suffocating pietism.

Both things were present at one and the same time.

I'm not saying the Welsh Revival wasn't 'genuine' but it soon ran its course - and it left a lot of debris in its wake as well as good fruit.

If my memory serves, I seem to remember Mudfrog opining that the First World War had wiped out a whole generation of converts - which just doesn't fit the facts at all. Wales suffered heavily, as did the rest of the UK, but the number of casualties from the Principality was a lot lower both in terms of numbers and proportion than those suffered across the other parts of the UK.

The reality is that the Welsh Revival was primarily a young people's movement, and young people get older. Also, there's only so long you can stand in chapel singing 'Hear is love, vast as the ocean ...' over and over again until the wee small hours.

It doesn't matter how wonderful the meetings are. When you get up the next morning you still have to go to work. You still have to wash your socks.

A lot of the energy that was channelled into the Revival was also channelled into Labour Party politics, Welsh Nationalism or cultural expressions such as the Eisteddfod.

The Revivalists were so antagonistic towards sport and other forms of recreation that it caused a reaction - people wanted to play rugby and football and to do other things rather than sing revivalist hymns into the night ...

Evan Roberts was broken by the Revival. He never completely recovered, although he had a second-wind later on in life.

You can't maintain that kind of spiritual intensity indefinitely. Sure, as the Gypsies have done in France and elsewhere, once you've gained a momentum and have sufficient personnel you can keep going with your Bible studies and prayer meetings ... but as Eutychus has said, alongside the genuine social transformation there are trippings up and stumblings along ...

Of course, there's a balance somewhere. We need the warmth and the oomph. Somewhere or other - be it in a monastic form or in some kind of teaching-hub form or some other form of whatever kind according to our particular tradition - there needs to be 'plausibility structures' to keep up the momentum.

I've heard recently that historians now believe that when medieval knights fought on foot, they did so in relays. Otherwise they'd have become worn out very quickly indeed.

However we cut it, I believe we need some form of 'retreat to advance' system - some form of rest and recuperation in and amongst the activity - and that sounds entirely scriptural to me - in a Sabbatarian kind of way ...

Sure, Wesley had the fire, but he was also pretty darn methodical ... the clue is in the title ...

That doesn't mean that if we all started operating methodically then revival would break out ...

It's one of these mysterious synergistic things.

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Mudfrog
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I agree with every word you have written.

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
I'm not suggesting that such prayers are 'wrong' in and of themselves and that God covers his ears up and goes, 'La la la ... I'm not listening ...' whenever he 'hears' them ...

The issue for me is that it creates a false sense of expectation and leads to the kind of exaggerated 'results' that revivalists tend to report ... 'We had umpteen "commitments" and numpteen "redidications to Christ" ...' as if these things can be measured in a sales-y type of way.

I have no hesitation in considering that complete and utter bollocks.

So your main concern is what such activity does to the minds of the Christians who lead or hear about these evangelistic events, and not so much to the outsiders who may be on the receiving end, as such. (But: both/and. Yes, I get it!) Disappointment must be a serious challenge for some of the churches you know. Meanwhile, IMO congregations in MOTR churches may have the opposite problem: they expect little, and that's often what they get.

However, I can understand the tendency to 'accentuate the positive' in some church circles. AFAICS, serious evangelism takes a lot of work, and perhaps evangelicals (being only human) wouldn't bother with it much if their expectations were kept at a 'realistic' level. After all, the reality is that there are going to be fewer and fewer Christians in Western churches. Even if there had been a 'revival' in Reading (and even though some people must have found a lasting faith and joined churches as a result of this outreach) the overall reality is the same.


quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles:
quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
A solution for someone like Pastor Oyekan may exist in exploring the new urban theologies. Cultural awareness could also be an issue, if he's trying to reach out to ethnic groups other than his own. The concept of revival is probably more meaningful and more 'realistic' in his homeland than it is here.

I have no idea what 'new urban theologies' actually mean in any distinctive sense.

I'm suspicious about the idea that "(t)he concept of revival is probably more meaningful and more 'realistic' in his homeland", I'm not sure what it really means.

The urban theological approaches I'm thinking of aren't at all revivalistic. The basic idea is about engaging with local people where they are, getting involved with their concerns, being culturally sensitive, becoming aware of and responsive to the issues involved in multicultural ministry, etc. Sometimes evangelism is a priority, but it might not be. There may be an acceptance that some individuals may never commit themselves formally, but the church will nevertheless live out its calling to serve them.

I don't know if Reading would benefit from such an approach, nor if Pastor Oyekan would be the man to engage with it. It was just an idea.

Regarding what I said about the pastor's homeland, I'm assuming he was born in Nigeria. Google has a lot to say about revivals in Nigeria. Obviously, I don't know if your yourself would use such terminology in connection with any religious happenings in that country.

Let's be clear: most of us on this website are going to find the whole concept of revival problematic to some degree. I do too. Still, the word exists and doesn't appear to be on its way out. It seems to have a range of meanings among Christians, which is perhaps part of the problem.

[ 13. January 2017, 20:24: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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Eutychus
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The issue as far as I'm concerned in Reading is NOT about what is referred to as a revival.

The issue is about people claiming grossly inflated numbers of "thousands of souls reached", or in translation "turning to Christ", when nothing in the original leader's report distinguishes between conversions and rededications and he reports a success rate in arranging ONE follow-up meeting for a cup of tea with people prayed for in the street, no matter what happened to them, of less than 1 in 4.

The issue is about national church leaders saying they need to be open to criticism and refusing so much as to comment when discrepancies between the claims and reality are pointed out.

The issue is about leaders who people look to as an example and who the bible says will be held to greater account maintaining the ambiguity surrounding numbers and achievements to foster false expectations and channel them into a packaged product which then goes on tour nationally and internationally.

The issue is about Christian media that should be exemplary in integrity hyping these stories year in year out and utterly failing to provide any coverage of the actual events, leaving Christians who tell it the way it is to be slated as "lacking faith" and being a "bad witness", presumably in the assumption that any such coverage would cost them clicks and advertising revenue from their chums.

[ 13. January 2017, 20:36: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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SvitlanaV2
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Okay, I see. But I'm afraid one message I take from that is that the members of these churches are easily duped. How else have they got into the situation where the various people and authorities they've chosen to minister to them get away with telling stories which, as you see it, bear no relation to reality?

There must be a foundational psychological issue on both sides which writing a number of censorious letters or emails isn't going to resolve.

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Eutychus
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The best way to be duped, in my experience, is to assume that one in a superior psychological category that can't be duped. It happens to everyone. This just happens to be a constituency I am reasonably familiar with.

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SvitlanaV2
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Well, it must be harder to be duped if your expectations are low. Especially if your expectations of church leaders and religious commentators are low.

But I take your point.

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Martin60
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Stone me Eutychus. You remind me of Harry Houdini. He wanted to believe so much he became the best exposer of fakes.

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ExclamationMark
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
I would point once again to the Gypsy revival which has been going on for some 50-60 years and the ongoing manifestations of which I can visit any time I like.

They currently have twelve evangelistic meetings a week going on round my city. The revival means that you can find a pastor and probably a bible study group of some time on pretty much any of their official designated sites in France - themselves an outworking of the social change the revival has achieved.

Last Tuesday I was at an unrelated prayer meeting in a small group in which there was a non-gypsy woman who had been converted through the testimony of one of the believers.

I have a dozen or so gypsy pastors working under me as prison chaplains.

In summary, there is no shortage of evidence as to the reality and extent of this revival.

At the same time, it has its own nasty underbelly. Not least the not-quite-good-little evangelicals that make up most of my prison congregation. But something has indubitably happened.

The Light and Life church is the fastest growing fellowship in this town. They do some great stuff for a marginalised community
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Gamaliel
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Thing is, SvitlanaV2, do we have to make such a binary choice between fairly moribund, MoTR churches in the one hand and full-on no-holds barred revivalism on the other?

I don't see the evangelical posters here condemning evangelism or knocking the idea of revival per se.

Rather, what they are concerned about - quite rightly band legitimately - are overblown claims and what has effectively become the somewhat crass marketisation of particular methods and techniques.

The antidote to that isn't no evangelism or no concern for revival - although we have to be wary how we understand and apply that term - but rather a combination of evangelism with proper catechesis and theological reflection.

I don't see why those things have to be mutually exclusive.

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Baptist Trainfan
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I agree 100%.

Problem is, crass methodology and over-egged reporting are just the sort of things which make MotR churches reject the very notion of evangelism.

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ThunderBunk

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# 15579

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This may be a tangent, and if so please forgive me, but I think there's some point to saying what I'm going to.

Coming from the liberal catholic element of the Church of England, I can't decide whether this thread is in a foreign language or describing a journey to exotic parts which I recognise only by analogy. The question that arises in my mind is whether it any relevance to our experience, and what that might be.

In C of E terms, one part that leaps out at me is the car-salesman-like concern for figures, which is directly and shamefully replicated by Church House in its statistical obsession. I'm not sure who's supposed to be impressed by the number of people coming into churches for services or other events, but I can't help feeling that God isn't unduly.

The centre concern is still there, passionately: to connect people to God, and to do this as many times as it takes. To me, this is the point of having communion as a weekly (or daily) occurrence: that this intimate connection of nourishment between God and his beloved creation is available as an integral part of the life of the Christian community. To my mind, it's also a huge part of the point of having professional clergy, to ensure that this happens and is not reserved beyond the limits imposed by church order. I know that communion is widely seen as a sort of alienating technicality, but my solution to that is teaching rather than a fundamental change in activity.

New people are vital to the survival of any community, but the arrival of new people should be a byproduct of the way the community is functioning, not a separate focus of activity in itself. If the community is a creative, loving place to be, it will generally attract people to it. If it is cold but desperate, all the activity in the world, however superficially attractive, will be in vain.

So what am I saying? In short, this: however your community functions, attend to the fruits of the spirit and the rest follows. This requires faith, of course, particularly because there isn't the specific recruitment activity which anyone from a marketing background will want to insist is essential. But to my mind, it makes the community far more durable because its activities have mutual integrity: they form part of a whole and are an expression of the community itself, rather than being "bolt on extras" which don't express the core reality of the community, creating cognitive and emotional dissonance as soon as people move beyond the proverbial welcome mat.

[ 14. January 2017, 08:47: Message edited by: ThunderBunk ]

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Currently mostly furious, and occasionally foolish. Normal service may resume eventually. Or it may not. And remember children, "feiern ist wichtig".

Foolish, potentially deranged witterings

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Baptist Trainfan
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# 15128

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Thank you. And perhaps I may reply, as someone from an Evangelical background who has moved closer to the centre of the road.

1. I think there is an interesting discussion to be had about numbers. I absolutely agree that an obsession with them (and, even more,the reporting of artificially-inflated figures) is unhealthy. On the other hand, we not only want our churches to grow but want people to come to faith, for their own good and for the good of God's Kingdom. So I don't think it's unreasonable to have some idea of numbers.

2. I absolutely agree that there must be an integrity and consonance about the life of Christian communities - with, of course, the inevitable concomitant that "we are all imperfect human beings who mess up at times"! I also agree that it is important to maintain the regular life and ritual of the Church and that this, in itself, can sometimes have an attracting and converting effect.

But I do also think - both from a pragmatic point of view and because we wish to obey our Lord's final command - that there will be times when we intentionally go "out" into the world with the Christian message. Of course, what we say "outside" must square up with what we do "indoors", and our evangelism must always reflect the highest ethical standards. The fact that it does sometimes fall to the "dodgy car-dealer" level is indeed a concern and you are perfectly right to raise it.

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mr cheesy
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# 3330

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Gandhiji - messed up colonialist and morally compromised as he was* - used to say that Christians could best spread the message by living it.

In that frame of understanding, it matters not a jot if any individual congregation lasts 5 years, 50 or 500. It matters not how many are moved by rhetoric, music or persuasion. It matters not I'm the last person standing in this church, this community or this country.

So what does matter? Surely on some level it matters what it is that we think we are calling people to (which has to be more than calling more people to go out and make more converts). It matters that we are inhabiting our lives and churches with integrity. It matters that we do things on purpose, that we have hope of a better world, that we spend ourselves on behalf of our neighbour.

If we do all that - and yes, if we also seek to grow with appropriate spiritual teaching and support - then how many people who come through the door and mumble formulaic spiritual-sounding prayers must be almost irrelevant. The glory belongs to God, not us. Why are we thinking it is our job to worry about it? I honestly don't understand this mindset.

* and I speak as something of a fanboy who has seen his hero unveiled as a lizard

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my new book: Biblical But Bollocks. Available in all good bookshops.

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chris stiles
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# 12641

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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
The issue as far as I'm concerned in Reading is NOT about what is referred to as a revival.

I completely agree that all the things you list are very concerning, however I'd still argue that they are patterns people fall into because of the need to defend the salience of 'revival'.

Institutions are generally loathe to admit mistakes, but the underlying idea doesn't really help.

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