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February 2015

Re: Is God’s justice different from ours? 
Steve, thanks for your article. A couple of things in response...
While I agree that it is hard to offer a biblical definition of justice, I would want to argue that such a definition must start with Jesus, not least if we are to avoid seeing justice merely as an abstract idea rather than something ultimately relational. 
Following on from that, I would then say that biblical justice leans towards restoring relationships, rather than punishing or forgiving actions (although this may well be part of it), which is perhaps why Jesus' practise of justice seems to subvert the expectations of those who met him. Doesn't he know this woman is unclean? Doesn't he know it's the Sabbath? Why does he eat with such notorious sinners? 
Thanks again for a very thoughtful piece.
Ashley Lovett 

Was with you right up to the last two paragraphs where you seem to swing from the subject of Justice to that of the last Judgement and a promise of Heaven.
Whilst justice is absolutely the right of all and should be fought for, the final Judgement is a different subject matter and based on whether someone has put their Faith in Christ and turned away from their old way of life. Or, at least as best as they are able, coming to him for forgiveness each time they fall.
You "seem" to have morphed the two in order to imply a happy eternal end for anyone who has suffered injustice and if so, that is simply not true.
People may indeed receive justice at the final judgement, but it doesn't naturally follow that they will gain heaven. They may still stand with those who will be excluded.
In fact you list groups that are openly excluded if they continue practicing what is stated as wrong. (I didn't write the bible so please divert any argument about that to the Holy Spirit). There was no warning about that when maybe there should have been?
So will all people who suffer injustice be all ok?
The bible is quite clear that there will be people who WILL BE very upset by our Lord's judgement and it will be those who either refused to come to him to be saved or those that regardless what they say in regards to following him, or what they did in his name were never really known by him. Their future is the lake of fire and eternal separation in whatever literal form that takes.
Justice will indeed mean (as you implied), that we will be astounded by God's mercy, but it will also astound those who believe that simply saying we follow him will be enough when our actions prove our faith was less than genuine and we were in fact deluded.
Justice is of course a noble subject and to be supported. But let's not give the false impression that to be simply identified with a group suffering injustice is to be in any way connected with heaven. It isn't. And suggesting that it is, is a false hope.

Re: Libby Lane - celebrating a great day
Dear Brother as a self-described evangelical aiming to bring us back to scripture is it then fair to present such a cursory and incomplete appraisal
of God’s word on the subject?
Likewise where is this grace you mentioned to those who hold to the men only view in describing them as traditionalists, lacking in integrity
and motivated by prejudice? It is a sad reflection on our denomination that a regional minister team leader could lack such grace and air his irritations in such a way.

I very much doubt that God called her to this as it would contradict His word. THE HOLY BIBLE. we need to stop being so worldly.

I'm afraid the arguments seem very stale. They don't even mention key verses or offer an explanation of what plain-speaking verses really mean if they don't mean what they appear to mean (Such as 1 Tim 2:12-14 - which completely goes against the suggestion that the fall has no relevance to the issue.) It's sad to see Spurgeon's name mixed up in this too, and to have his words applied to an issue where his views were quite the contrary.

So sad to read about the politically-correct Baptist Union's attempts to embrace the world's values.

Re: Going to where the church isn't
For lots more ideas about doing church for people outside of traditional church see www.freshexpressions.org.uk there are lots of stories resources and training available
Andy Ryland

Re: Baptist-Catholic dialogue discussed 
How “substantial convergence” has been achieved on the following issues: the basis of the church in the triune God, the relation between scripture and tradition, the place of the Virgin Mary in Christian devotion, baptism and eucharist, and the nature of oversight in the church astonishes me. Evangelicals and especially baptists have nothing in common with the apostate, counterfeit RC church. What with Steve Chalke just what is the Baptist Union coming to!
Alan Taylor

The Catholic Church is in serious error and deceives millions of people with a false gospel. That is the message we should be preaching. We are trying to be more 'loving' and generous than Christ and his apostles.

Re: A fond farewell to Paul and Sue Hills
Thank you Paul for helping me hear the voice of God. Every blessing to you and Sue - may you have a long and happy retirement - not too busy, but busy enough!
Brian and Pamela

Re: Some thoughts on church numbers
Thank you Colin for wise words, as usual. I have long been critical of the “numbers game”, especially when it is used as a measure of God’s “blessing” without in any way thinking of the congregation’s context. Perhaps I can add some further thoughts.
1. I think it is perfectly reasonable for hard-working ministers to look for some “fruit” from their ministry: this gives them a measure of “job satisfaction” and a sense that they are not just wasting their lives. It is clear that numerical growth is one of the very few ways in which this can be quan tified, however this can not only be a seductive friend but, of course, plunge the minister whose church is not growing into a trough of introspection and despair at their apparent failure. Perhaps one could also suggest that church hierarchies also tend to notice growing churches and hence offer their ministers positons of leadership within the denominations – i.e. “success” is rewarded by recognition.
2. There is, perhaps, a corollary to numerical growth in the churches which almost revel in saying, “we’re small but we’re faithful”. Now, of course, I would not wish to devalue “faithfulness”, but statements like this can almost imply the meaning, “...and we’re not like that flashy, superficial church down the road which gets all the crowds”. In oth er words, a statement about “faithfulness” could be a cover for smugness and spiritual pride. Possibly more seriously, it could mask an unwillingness to evaluate why the congregation is not growing: perhaps its mission strategy needs thinking or perhaps its services are dull and dire!
3. We must also never decry growth when it does occur, especially when it is the growth which comes from conversion rather than by transfer from other churches. After all, we are in the Kingdom of God business and we want to see people becoming disciples of Jesus. Church growth is one mark of this and we cannot but be saddened that so many churches (including the one I serve) are today a fraction of the size they were 50 years ago.
4. Finally, might I say that Ialso think there needs to be a challenge “lay” Christians who may flock to the “successful” church, often at some distance to their homes, rather than supporting their local congregation which may well be grateful of their help. I appreciate that there may be many reasons for this: the fellowship of like-minded people, good activities for their children, a real “buzz” in worship and, sometimes, the possibility of just attending without having to take on a specific job. These may be good reasons; but there will also be times when Christians are called to join churches where the worship is not so inspiring, where mission is hard and progress is slow, where there is real sacrifice to taking on a mundane role – yet which may be the only incarnation of Christ’s body on a housing estate or in a village.
Andrew Kleissner

I was preaching on Ezekiel He did not see results - but his message and life were obedient to God - in that we honour God - God is glorified which is much more than numbers - his congregation would not listen!!
Andrew David Jones

Andrew Kleissner's comments are very pertinent and valuable. But may I add to them ? I grew through my teenage years and early twenties in a thriving suburban church on the edge of what was then Middlesex. The membership numbered hundreds, the fellowship was tremendous, and the service was notable. But entirely due to economic factors when I married 50 years ago I moved away to an area where housing was more affordable, and all my contemporaries did the same. This was no fault of the minister, the eldership or the congregation as a whole. But it did mean that now that church no longer exists. It closed a few years ago. At least, it did in name. But another way of looking at it is that the witness spread throughout the country ! I and many of my friends from those days now attend and play an active part in other churches as far spread as Amersham, Cheltenham, Chelmsford, Rugby and Cambridge (to name only a few). So who's counting - and how?
David Eldridge

Re: Creative appointments in EMBA
...and what a team they will be!
Barrie Dupree

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