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Is this the way to market Christmas?

Good question


Was Jesus ever naughty as a child?

How Christians Against Poverty couples social action with evangelism.




60 Seconds with…

Don’t associate Jesus with political parties, says Tony Campolo

On The Job

Good question

NOV/DEC 2012


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Chine Mbubaegbu: Godbaby has certainly done one thing: got people talking about him.

idea-torial It’s clear some people don’t like Godbaby.

Godbaby, pictured on our front page, seems to be causing quite a stir. It’s the latest Christmas advertising campaign from ChurchAds (the Churches Advertising Network) and our head of media Charis Gibson and I represent the Alliance as part of the executive team. It’s clear some people don’t like Godbaby. Some love him. Some don’t get him. Others are indifferent. But Godbaby has certainly done one thing: got people talking about him. As I write, Godbaby has just featured in the Daily Mail and BBC1’s Breakfast show. And to be honest, that’s what the ChurchAds campaigns are all about, getting maximum airplay for the real meaning of Christmas. My colleague Marijke Hoek was able to say on the nation’s broadcaster: “Christmas is about Jesus.” Sometimes, it seems society’s forgotten this. In a few weeks the UK will become a homage to tinsel, mince pies and presents. But what ChurchAds are trying to do with this year’s campaign is a) tackle Christmas consumerism by playing on the idea of a must-have toy b) point to Christ’s humanity and c) remind us that Christmas starts with Christ. If it points even one person towards finding out a little more about this ‘Godbaby’ , then I think it will all be worth it. Inevitably, some people will still not like the advert, but be assured that the creators of Godbaby are people passionate about depicting the good news of Jesus Christ to an audience which no longer knows about it. I’ve asked theologian Steve Holmes to help us think a bit more about Christ’s humanity through his childhood in this edition’s Good Question (page 10). Yet again, this magazine is telling stories of some amazing Christians and organisations fulfilling needs in their communities. Christians Against Poverty are guiding people out of debt, while telling them of the good news of Christ (page 28), Operation Christmas Child are giving gifts to some of the world’s poorest children (page 26) and Redeeming Our Communities are working for relationship and transformation within towns and cities (page 24). This year’s Advent Prayer guide, which you can view a sample of from page 19 is all about bringing good news, as Jesus demonstrated in Luke 4. Chine Mbubaegbu Editor

We’re on Twitter! Follow us @idea_mag NOV/DEC 2012


Introducing Godbaby. A look at what this year’s ChurchAds campaign is all about.

19-22 Advent prayer

Your pull-out sample of this year’s Advent Prayer guide, which is all about bringing good news, and is available to order.

28-29 CAP confidence

7 Exploring how Christians Against Poverty couple Straight-talking theologian Tony evangelism with social action. Campolo talks to idea following his appearance at this year’s Greenbelt festival. 32 Tolkien’s world

Sophie Lister writes ahead of the release of the muchanticipated The Hobbit film.

REGULARS 4-5 Connect

Find out what the Alliance has been up to…

10 Good Question

Was Jesus ever a naughty child? Steve Holmes on Christ’s incarnation and its implications.


13-15 Nations

News from Northern Ireland, Operation Christmas Child plan to reach Scotland and Wales. their 100-million shoebox mark this year.

36 In your words

idea readers respond

38 Last word

General director Steve Clifford writes…

Hear about the heart of new Northern Irish worship band the Velvet Melodies. Head Office 186 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4BT tel: 020 7207 2100 fax: 020 7207 2150 Evangelical Alliance leadership team Steve Clifford, Helen Calder, Fred Drummond, Elfed Godding, Krish Kandiah, Dave Landrum, Peter Lynas

Email address changes to Northern Ireland Office 440 Shore Road, Newtownabbey BT37 9RU tel: 028 9029 2266 Wales Office 20 High Street, Cardiff CF10 1PT tel: 029 2022 9822

34 Scotland Office Evangelical Alliance Scotland has moved: International Christian College, 110 St James Road, Glasgow, G4 0PS tel: 0141 548 1555



News from the Alliance

“We’re called to be the Bible that most people read, which is why we’ve got to be present.”

We are all called to lead

by Charis Gibson

Christians must create a culture of leadership to engage effectively in the public square, the Evangelical Alliance Council heard at its meeting in September. The Council, made up of church and organisational leaders from across the evangelical spectrum, met this week to discuss advocacy in politics and the media. Dave Landrum, director of advocacy at the Alliance, said: “In a world saturated with noise, it’s beholden upon us before God to think about our communication. If God changes the world by speaking through his people, what we say to the world clearly matters to God. “If we really want to impact our culture, we have to think about how we develop a voice and public leadership in the UK.” Gavin Shuker MP said that although it is not fashionable to be a member of a political party, we should be involved in our communities because we have something important to contribute. “One of the reasons the political sphere is important is that many of the decisions about what we will be as a nation in the next 20-30 years are being made now,” he said.


“We’re called to be the Bible that most people read, which is why we’ve got to be present.” Jonathan Chaplain, director of the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics, and Elim general superintendent John Glass said Christians need to have a united front to speak confidently and coherently in public. Lloyd Cooke, chief executive of Saltbox Christian Centre in Stoke-on-Trent, who appears regularly in the media, said it is important to build good relationships and credibility with people in power. And Nims Obunge, chief executive of Peace Alliance, added that in these relationships we must always remember that we are accountable to God over men, no matter how powerful they are. A number of speakers said we must not leave leadership to an elite few, but rather create a culture of Christians who are able to lead. Kate Coleman, chair of the Alliance’s Council and director of Next Leadership, and Care chief executive Nola Leach, spoke out about the need to raise up leaders beyond the church, in areas such as politics, the media and education. Dr Landrum said the Alliance is going to respond to this need by developing training for churches, networks and organisations, using the expertise of leadership organisations who are part of the Evangelical Alliance.

Andrew Green: Taking their faith seriously does not equate evangelicals with extremism

in the media

What we do is rooted in our faith

by Andrew Green, Alliance press officer

Yemi Adedeji, our new One People Commission director, jumped straight into the media spotlight in September with an interview for The Guardian. Andrew Brown, editor of Comment is free: belief, spoke to Yemi to hear a black African Pentecostal perspective on a new report highlighting the dilemmas facing medics when parents with a strong faith insist on continuing to pray for sick children even when it might be to their detriment. “As a Christian, your first point of contact and the first point of belief is that we believe in God who can heal all infirmities and all diseases,” said Yemi. “What we do is rooted in our faith, and our faith is rooted in our Bible.”

Yemi suggested that a way forward is to have an appropriate intermediary between the hospital and the faith leaders representing the parents. The article picks this up by concluding that ‘Hospitals often fail to communicate with parents with fervent beliefs – such as African Christians - over withdrawing treatment.’ Dave Landrum spoke on BBC radio about the impact to society of the four Christian cases heard in the European Court for Human Rights. Thirteen different local radio stations wanted to hear Dave on their Sunday morning faith slots. The first of the 13 interviews was on BBC Radio Merseyside: “Christians are compelled by their faith to do the jobs they do. They can’t be expected to take off their faith and leave it at the door of their workplace. Legally, for the four defendants, these are cases of discrimination but when rights clash against each other it is religious rights that get overruled in the courts.” Elsewhere we drew attention to an article in The Telegraph in which Alan Judd, advisor to the secretary of state for education, equated

evangelical Christians with ‘totalitarian muslims’ and ‘segregationist Jews’, referring to all such groups as ‘extreme’. His interpretation was that such extreme groups should be kept as far away from being able to open free schools as possible. Our letter of complaint, written to but unpublished by The Telegraph was picked up by the highly influential blogger, Cranmer. Taking their faith seriously does not equate evangelicals with extremism, argued the letter. “Letting evangelical Christians run schools is not just a matter of equality: it is letting the people who know their communities best work to make them even better.” Our argument against the label of extremism was picked up by Trans World Radio, Christianity Today, the Christian Post and the Conservative Home blog. Godbaby was also picked up by the national press, with articles in the Daily Mail and an appearance by our very own Marijke Hoek on the BBC1 Breakfast show.

The Alliance welcomes the following new members CHURCHES Amazing Grace Ministries (Kingdom Centre), Croydon Beacon of Hope Ministry, Croydon Belfast City Church, Belfast Christ Family Assembly Outreach, Welling Christ Overcomers International Ministry, Barking City of Refuge Foursquare Church, Sheffield City Vision Church Hull Destiny House International, Harrow Dunvant Christian Fellowship, Swansea Eagle Christian Ministry, London Ebenezer Baptist Church, Blackwood, Gwent Emmanuel Christian Ministries, Glasgow Faithway Christian Centre, London Family Church Saddleworth, Manchester Freedom Bath and Bristol, Bath Full Gospel Revival Centre, Nottingham NOV/DEC 2012

God’s Glory Ministry, Burgess Park Gospel Restoration Church, Camberwell, London

New Life Ministries International Christway (UK), Camberwell Newbirth Ascention Centre, London

Herts International Church, Welwyn Garden City

Pentecostal Revival Assemblies of God Church, Ilford

Holywood Christian Fellowship Church, Holywood

Powerhouse International Ministries, Dagenham

Hope Community Church, Norfolk

Praise Centre, London

House of Faith Ministries (Word Missions Church), Chigwell

Simnet Outreach Ministries, London

House of Hope (RCCG), London

The Apostolic Church Leyton, Leyton

House of Revival, Coventry

The Beloved Ministries, Brockley

Jesus Tent Meeting Ministries, Coventry

The Father’s House International, Edgware

Kent Foursquare Gospel Church UK, London

Victory Christian Centre, Leyton

Kings Family Church, London


Lifegiving Church, London

Mercy Ministries UK, Oxenthorpe

Living Bread Church (Ingreja Evangelica Pao da Vida), Bridgwater

Choice Ministries, Sherborne, Dorset

Living Waters Foursquare Church, Harrow

Foursquare Church Great Britain (HQ), Luton

Living Word Church, Portsmouth Llanishen Baptist Church, Cardiff London International Church, Uxbridge New Life Church (Great Yarmouth), Great Yarmouth

Lead Academy, Aylesbury Salvation for the Nations Intl Churches (HQ), Welwyn Garden City Spectrum, Bury St Edmunds IDEA MAGAZINE / 5




The must-have Gift this Christmas A very different image of baby Jesus is due to hit the streets this Christmas, with the new Godbaby poster from the Churches Advertising Network. The striking image of a fictional ‘Godbaby toy’ aims to make the Christmas story appeal to the younger generation, and puts Christ at the centre of conversations. “It’s another strong and arresting image. It will surprise some and disturb others,” said Bishop Nick Baines. “Which is exactly what the real Jesus did. And it forces us beyond the tinsel

to the human reality of ‘God among us’.” The brown-eyed boy doll in a blue baby grow represents the baby Jesus, and plays on the idea of Christmas being a time when everyone is searching for that ‘must-have’ Christmas gift. It carries the slogan – ‘GodBaby - He cries, He wees, He saves the world’ or the alternative ‘The gift that loves you back’ and is the latest advert from the Christmas Starts with Christ… campaign.

campaign has been running for four years and research shows that 42 per cent of people seeing it say ‘it makes me think more about the true meaning of Christmas’. trustee, Mike Elms, a former advertising executive, said: “Our campaign places a Christ-focused message at the heart of the seasonal consumerism: on shopping centre posters; on commercial radio; in the pages of our daily newspapers. This year’s poster features the ‘Godbaby doll’: this year’s ‘must-have’ gift. It’s a striking, contemporary and very simple way of communicating the nativity message that Christ, fully divine and fully human, came to us for our salvation.” The Christmas Starts with Christ




Supported by Premier Christian Media, The Jerusalem Trust, and major Christian denominations, including the Alliance, the aim of the campaign is to remind people of the real meaning of Christmas. To maximise the impact of the message, is asking individuals and churches to make a donation to a National Christmas Advertising fund. The aim is to raise enough money to cover the placing of posters at bus stops, buy airtime for specially commissioned radio ads, and buy colour ads in national and regional newspapers. For more information and a free campaign activation pack and resources, visit:



B I B L E .

HE L P Y O UR C HUR C H G R O W AND HAV E A GR E AT E R IMPACT THE STORY is an exciting new church-wide experience that unites and equips participants as they engage the Bible. Affordable, flexible and easy to use, churches are using THE STORY not only as a powerful church-wide experience, but also in individual ministries, such as small groups, Sunday School, kids’ clubs and in youth ministry. Your church members will come to understand God’s story, how their stories connect with it and how to share it with others. 3 2 Lesson THE STORY S’ PAGE: FOR LITTLE ONES: Preschool PARENT ol ACTIVITY SHEET: Lesson 2 Prescho ONES: LITTLE FOR STORY his faith THE . So Abraham and Sarah obeyed God and went es. trip. Match the he believed on a objects in the overcom because left column with long trip! They saw many , faith interesting the same object Abram 1 in the right column. things on their sin changes21:1–7 accepted God” What Lord 17; The NIrV Truth: 12:1–9, m Follows 2 is 15:6, the Lord. Timeless Genesis Lesson 2: “Abraha SKIT: Basis: believed —Genes Chapter BiblePreschool Abram the Lord. Ones, ONES: Verse: right with Key him point. for Little FOR LITTLE Story the key Talk made A teacher e: The of actors. Table at the talk about STORY FOR LITTLE LESSON GUIDE: Lesson 2 5 instead THEavailable. thePreschool Resourc and ONES: and Use not just not be used er it. week, and may two actors are this week to follow if times to rememb ut the it means age group ler with this the other character several throughoce what er the lesson. astIPs Ones preschooanytime very effective experien rememb can be with a puppett for Littlehelp your doess a cartwheel child child Puppets questionyour if you’re Story Paren will so he your Note: the on a conversation times Use 2 in The to help to helpmotion is looking, may carry one several ways air. Adapt Bible Basis: Genesis 12:1–9, 17; 21:1–7 chapter story No the lesson. designed more s inisthe Read around. about looks theto talkflare—arm activity give you Bible Verse: “Abram believed the Lord. The Lord accepted Abram because he believed. So his faith s Faith stage andReading ideas a gymnastic made him right with the Lord.” —Genesis 15:6, NIrV Mile Living walks on with question The Extra [Scooter The , finishing table. Bible Point: Abraham trusted and obeyed God. I can trust and obey him, too. God. too. him, or somersault obey Resource:obey The Story for Little Ones, Chapter 2: “Abraham Follows God” puppet.] using a me! trust and I can PoInt you scared God.

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Say, “Abraham chose to obey God. Abraham, Sarah, and everyone in their household moved.” Have children walk with you to the other side of the room and sit down.




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 olossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it C with all your heart, as working for the Lord


Tony Campolo Tony Campolo, professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University, and the founder and president of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, spoke to Chine Mbubaegbu shortly after his appearance at this year’s Greenbelt festival. I have just spent 20 minutes chatting to Tony Campolo. And in those 20 minutes he has made me take a long, hard look at my life and whether it truly reflects the radical teachings of Jesus Christ. I live a fairly comfortable Christian life, but is Jesus calling us to a life of comfort? Or did he urge us to live out the upside-down nature of the kingdom of God? “The red letters of the Bible make discipleship the most important thing. It’s about the call of Jesus to a lifestyle that should make us more like Franciscan monks than tele-evangelists,” he says. Re-reading the Sermon on the Mount has reminded me of Jesus’ challenge to us to live a life that is often contrary to our nature as human beings, and is at odds with the societies in which we live. It goes against our need to be comfortable, to seek justice and revenge. And it’s this radical lifestyle which can sometimes get lost in our obsession with theology and doctrine. “Theology is of ultimate importance. Without a sound theology, we have no basis upon which to move forward as Christians. Good doctrine gets us saved,” Dr Campolo says. “But becoming a disciple is more than about just being good believers. We have become pretty good at developing a sound biblical theology, but we haven’t paid much attention to the lifestyle of Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount is very challenging. It asks us to give our coats away, to seek first the kingdom; it tells us we can’t serve two masters. “Most of us are believers. This is what we must be to come under the salvation cloak. But Jesus says to those of us who are believers, are you willing to follow me? Good doctrine tells us who Jesus is and it explains to us how we can become

NOV/DEC 2012

spiritually imbued with his presence. Without that we wouldn’t be able to live the life that he’s called us to.” So why so often do we not take Jesus’s words seriously? “It’s because they’re difficult to hear. We are told that tithing is not enough. We’re told to turn the other cheek. We’re told to always press for the elevation of other people. But in reality, we’re ego-centred people. “I’m fascinated with how often people in church move from the Jesus in the New Testament to the Old Testament. If you look at the Old Testament, it’s easy to make a strong case for prosperity. “But Luke 6 says blessed are those who become poor. The image we get of the lifestyle of Jesus is not a prosperity theology. None of the disciples ever prospered.” I ask him, therefore, whether a billionaire can be a disciple of Christ. “I’m not going to make that judgment,” Dr Campolo says. “I’m going to let Jesus make that judgment. If you’re a billionaire, I just wonder what you’re going to do with all that money. Read 1 John 3:17. I don’t need to answer that question.” The founder and president of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, Dr Campolo pulls no punches. The straight-talking commentator on religious, social and political affairs has featured on Larry King Live, CNN and hosts Across the Pond, a weekly programme on the Premier Christian Radio Network. With more than 350 speaking engagements a year, he is a big fan of travelling around the world to preach God’s word and challenge the Church. As a regular visitor to the UK, he has observed that the UK Church has got something right.

“In the US the evangelical community has married the right wing of the Republican Party. That’s where they think Christ is leading us. The politicising of American Christianity has become so intense that evangelicals have made it clear that if you don’t vote Republican, you are not a Christian,” he said. “But when I meet an evangelical in the UK, I don’t know where he or she is going to be politically. You folks have got it right. To identify Christ with any political party is idolatry.” Dr Campolo’s talk at this summer’s Greenbelt Festival focused on the idea of power. He thinks it is a corrupting influence, especially on the Church. “Very often, I hear a triumphalistic spirit in the Church: that we’re gong to take over and rule. In reality, all power should belong to Jesus. “Max Weber said that power always carries with it a capacity to coerce. The Jesus I found in scripture is in no way coercive. We should live so sacrificially that we should earn authority. We have authority if people want to obey us. The Church has not lived lovingly and sacrificially enough to have authority. “We need to stand apart from politics. We should stand outside the political system in the sense that we speak as a Church to those in power and as people having authority. That’s what Jesus did.”


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The science and religion debate Edward B Davis, professor of the history of science, Messiah College, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, US, writes the last in our Christians in Science series

When someone hears the word ‘science’ in close proximity to the word ‘religion’, there is often a quizzical reaction: what does one have to do with the other, except to be in conflict with it? There are good reasons for such feelings. One doesn’t have to look very far to find examples of people in either of two opposing camps: those who have made their religion into a ‘science’, and those who have made their science into a ‘religion’. The ‘creationists’ read the Bible for the accurate, detailed scientific information it supposedly contains, while they reject strongly-supported conclusions about the history of nature from astronomy, biology, and geology. The ‘new atheists’ read their atheism into nature, concluding from the absence of God in scientific equations and theories that God therefore does not exist. Ne’er the ’twain shall meet. The harsh tone emerging from this confrontation is a relatively new phenomenon, and it hides the presence of some deep consonances between science and Christian faith. Above all, as John Polkinghorne has pointed out, science and faith are both searches for motivated belief. Contrary to what Richard Dawkins and others say, religion is not about blind faith in the absence of evidence, any more than science is about ‘truth’ emerging from nature in some simple, unmediated manner. Whether a belief concerns God or nature, it’s not simply what we believe, but why we believe it, that counts. Thus, we believe in the

NOV/DEC 2012

reality of subatomic particles, even though we can’t actually see them with our eyes, because so many physical phenomena are best explained only if they actually exist. Likewise, we believe in the bodily resurrection, because (as NT Wright has shown so effectively) it makes the most sense of all the available evidence. Ironically, the modern scientific emphasis on rational empiricism - a combination of reason and experience for understanding nature - is partly a product of Christian theological debates that began in the High Middle Ages and continued right through the Scientific Revolution. The issue was the relative roles of reason and will in God’s relationship to the created order: which was actually more important? On the one hand, God created the world rationally, as a product of God’s own reason - which, as creatures made in God’s image, we share to some extent. Thus, our minds ought to be able to comprehend what a rational God must have done; science can be done from an armchair. On the other hand, God created freely, not out of necessity (contrary to Plato’s view that God had no choice), so we must not allow our reason to dictate what God must have done; we must go out and discover things for ourselves. During the Scientific Revolution, when modern science was born, major figures (including Galileo, Descartes, Boyle, and Newton) stated their views on such matters in explicitly theological terms. The conception of scientific knowledge that emerged from that conversation still reflects deeplyembedded theological assumptions, but now they are rarely made explicit - and certainly not acknowledged by Dawkins and company. Nevertheless, modern scientists sometimes ask theological questions arising from their work, whether or not they mention God. When Albert Einstein said that “the most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible,” he was really asking, why does the world even make sense at all? When Eugene Wigner spoke of “the two miracles of the existence of laws of

nature and of the human mind’s capacity to divine them,” he was really asking, why is mathematics such a powerful tool for understanding nature, down deep? And why are we even capable of using it in this way? When Paul Dirac observed that “God used beautiful mathematics in creating the world,” he really wanted to know, why is it that the ‘beautiful’ mathematical equations are precisely the ones we need to understand nature? Science itself has no answer for questions such as these, which are implicitly theological, and the best answer is explicitly so: God is a mathematician, who has “arranged all things by measure and number and weight,” as a Jewish text quite aptly puts it (Wisdom 9:20). It’s no accident that Boyle and so many others have quoted this text, for it sums up so much of the scientific enterprise in so few words. Edward B Davis is professor of the history of science at Messiah College (Mechanicsburg, PA). Best known for editing (with Michael Hunter) the complete works of Robert Boyle, he has also written numerous articles about religion and science in the US, including a study of modern Jonah stories that was featured on two BBC radio programmes. (American Scientific Affiliation)


Steve Holmes: It’s about grace and forgiveness for broken sinners


Was Jesus ever naughty as a child? of growing up as a human being. He had to be told about them. Probably, he had to be told about some of them several times - that seems to me to be natural for a human child as well. Did Mary ever say ‘Jesus, don’t do that’ (or its Aramaic equivalent, which probably sounds less like a Joyce Grenfell skit?). I’m sure she did: Jesus would have been more than human, which means less than truly human, if she had not. And this is important - it’s at the heart of the gospel. A bishop from Turkey around 380 AD put it best: “He could not heal what he did not share.” If Jesus was not really, properly human, just as human as you and me - only without sin - then he could not save us. We would still be “dead in our trespasses and sins”. If Jesus had not had to learn how to behave well, just the way our kids do - if Jesus was never naughty as a child - then there would be no gospel left.

This year’s ChurchAds Christmas campaign pictured on our front cover raises the issue of Christ’s full incarnation. Theologian Steve Holmes answers whether that incarnation includes the terrible twos or the stroppy teenage years… The Christmas carol service. We will sing my all-time, number one, top-of-the-charts, worst Christian song ever - we always do. Not some 70s charismatic chorus; no, they were just poor; this is magnificent in its awfulness. It is Once in Royal David’s City. The carol is remarkably bad. Its lowest point is not the unutterably feeble ending, astonishing though that is (all in white will wait around - there’s a vision of heaven guaranteed to get the heart pumping!). No, it is in the third verse, where we dispense with the gospel completely, and replace it with sentimental saccharine Victorian moralism of the very worst sort. As the rest of the congregation sing out “Christian children all must be / Mild, obedient, good as he,” I always want to shout: ‘They can’t! That’s the whole reason he came! It’s about grace and forgiveness for broken sinners, not about making your kids feel guilty about not tidying their room!’ (I don’t shout it of course. Such behaviour is frowned upon, particularly from the preacher. And anyway, my daughter’s room needs tidying...) Was he, however, ‘mild, obedient, good’? Jesus was sinless, perfect in goodness and IDEA MAGAZINE / 10

holiness, but does that mean he was never naughty as a child? It depends, of course, on what we mean by ‘naughty’. Jesus was, I’m sure, never disrespectful or deliberately disobedient to his parents - he never sinned, so we can be sure he never broke the fourth commandment - but the meaning of ‘naughty’ seems a bit wider than that. As children grow up, we teach them how to live in the world. Some of what we teach is about staying safe and healthy good hygiene practices, for example; a lot more of it is about the way we do things in our society: we sit at a table and eat food with cutlery which we hold in a certain way. Not because there is something universally ‘right’ about that - in other cultures food is eaten with chopsticks, or fingers; Jesus ate formal meals reclining on a couch - it is just the way we do things. We teach by example and instruction, but also by correction: seeing a child do something potentially dangerous, or just culturallydeviant, we tell them not to. Is it ‘naughty’ to eat with your fingers? I think many parents would unreflectively use the words: ‘Don’t do that - it’s naughty.’ Jesus had to learn these things - it’s a part

How far does this go? Did Jesus ever complain that the journey was boring when he was eight, or think his parents hated him and slam the door as a teenager? I don’t know; he lived a perfect human life, and it is sometimes hard to work out which bit of normal childish behaviour is imperfect and fallen and which bit is just human. I suspect he found the journey boring, but found a politer way of saying so; and felt misunderstood by his parents, but never slammed the door on them - human, but perfectly human. The gospels don’t tell us enough, though, to be confident about where to draw those lines. So to this year’s Christmas advertising campaign, pictured on the front of this magazine with a tamer headline than the one which will feature on billboards around the UK: “He cries; he wees; he saves the world”. The saving the world depends on the crying and the weeing and the rest of being human including being a bit naughty sometimes.

Steve Holmes is a Baptist minister and senior lecturer in Theology at the University of St Andrews. He chairs the Evangelical Alliance’s Theology and Public Policy Advisory Commission

for a child living in deSperate poverty By the time she was just 10 years old, Elisabeth Ovalle from Guatemala was the sole caregiver for her family, including her disabled father. But her story changed forever when a student, also called Elisabeth, sponsored her. Now little Elisabeth is discovering a new story, full of opportunity, hope and love. We believe God is calling us to change the stories for more children who, like Elisabeth, have known only hunger, disease, neglect and the terrible disadvantages caused by poverty and we need your help.

Will you sponsor a child today and change their story forever? For just 70p a day, you can ensure a child has access to healthcare, education, food, clothing, social care and the opportunity to know Jesus Christ. You’ll be changing a child’s story from one of desperate need into one of incredible hope.


Sponsor a child today by visiting or calling 01932 836490 Registered Charity Number 1077216 NOV/DEC 2012


Christ ngle

Light up children’s lives with The Children’s Society Christingle Since 1968 The Children’s Society Christingle has been a key part of celebrations within churches, and has raised essential funds to support the charity’s work with vulnerable children and young people across the country. Thanks to celebrations held up and down the country, and the support of thousands of volunteers, we raised over £1.2 million last year. But now is the time to get ready for this year’s celebration. By taking part in The Children’s Society Christingle you can have a wonderful celebration in your church, welcoming children and families from your area. Together, we can transform the lives of children who have nowhere else to turn. Our new FREE resources are now available and include collection candles and envelopes, service suggestions, wax candles and a wide range of activities for children to help share the message.

Visit for more information and to order your resources today. Thank you! Charity Registration No. 221124 | Photograph modelled for The Children’s Society | © Laurence Dutton

The Children’s Society Christingle IDEA MAGAZINE / 12

A better childhood. For every child.



Seeking the welfare of the city

Unity We are involved in the Local Integral Mission Network, Community Faith Forum, policy meetings, faith and health sub-groups and continue to network and support local churches and Christian organisations in their work. We chair Marriage Week NI which encourages churches to promote, support and protect marriage through the running of pre-marriage and marriage enrichment courses. Look out for events from 7-14 February 2013.

It’s hard to believe that we’re nearing the end of 2012. So much has happened this year, from the Titanic and Covenant centenaries to the handshake that we never thought we’d see in a hundred years. In the last edition we celebrated 25 years of Evangelical Alliance in Northern Ireland, and God’s continual challenge and blessing during that time to encouraging a Christian voice in government and media, promoting relationships within and between churches, and supporting Christians within Northern Ireland. Jeremiah instructs: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Not only did this formulate the title of our Programme for Government Seeking Peace and Prosperity, but it continues to act as a guiding light in our work. In seeking peace and prosperity within Northern Ireland we have been following a twin approach of advocacy and unity.

In advocacy, we are following four key areas. Welfare and well-being:

We are developing a biblical and practical response to welfare reform. We want to help develop policies and attitudes that honour work, protect the vulnerable and promote good stewardship. We seek to

explore creativity, purpose and identity within economic justice. We are working to see family and relationships prioritised, well-being sought and rights balanced with responsibility.

Sexuality: We affirm that marriage is

an institution created by God in which one man and one woman enter into an exclusive relationship for life. We believe that marriage is the only form of partnership approved by God for sexual relations. We seek to represent this now near-revolutionary view of sexuality in a culture that has detached sex from relationship and turned it into a commodity to be consumed. We are currently working on issues such as marriage, human trafficking, pornography and promiscuity.

Conflict transformation:

We believe that God’s people here are uniquely placed to radically live out their Christianity above national allegiances. We are engaged in the next steps of the reconciliation process and a project exploring how we pass on the wisdom gained from pioneering Christian peacemakers to the next generation.

Charity reform: The Northern Ireland Assembly and NI Charity Commission are making some fundamental changes to the way charities are regulated here. We are contributing to this policy on behalf of our members and the wider Christian community. This is important work that will affect the way churches and para-church organisations, who make up at least 30 per cent of all charities here operate.

Back in June we organised a consultation day with Care for the Family on adoption and fostering. We were humbled by stories of hope and challenged to become a supportive network wrapped around those who care for those in care. Just last month, we co-hosted Stimulus for our under-30s – the leaders of the future – and explored how to do business, government, culture and church as Christians. From quiet conversations to presentations we’ve sought to unify and encourage Christians whether we find ourselves at churches, youth events, pensioners’ meetings, conferences or at Stormont. At all times we seek to speak words of love and truth without compromising either. There is lots more that we simply don’t have room to mention here. But enough about us, we would also love to hear from you. We want to know about your experiences of the Alliance, why you joined, why you support us and how we can better support you as our members? We’d also love to be able to share some of your stories of hope and transformation from the past year. Please feel free to send your comments, stories or thoughts to Finally, looking back we’re thankful and looking forward to 2013. We commit that to God and continue to seek His favour and your support for what lies ahead. Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland NOV/DEC 2012



Plans to tackle prostitution & human trafficking in Scotland Watch the Nefarious movie trailer.

The Alliance in Scotland has welcomed plans aimed at reducing the demand for prostitution in Scotland. MSP Rhoda Grant proposed the Criminalisation of the Purchase of Sex (Scotland) Bill in September. There are currently several existing pieces of legislation that provide boundaries for the purchase of sex in Scotland. These legislative boundaries cover young people in prostitution, the running of brothels, drawing earnings from a prostitute, soliciting for sex and loitering for the purchase of sex. The bill however seeks to impact broader sexually-driven criminal behaviour in Scotland, especially human trafficking. Prostitution and human trafficking are two separate issues but they are inextricably linked. Where prostitution is permitted or tolerated human trafficking for sex follows. The proposed legislation essentially advocates for the ‘Swedish Model’ which criminalises the buyers of sex rather than the sellers. In Sweden such legislation has notably impacted the conduct of those who purchase sex and the Swedish model of criminalising prostitution is of particular note for its success. In 2008, the Nordic Institute for Gender Studies released research demonstrating that the percentage of men purchasing anyone for prostitution has decreased from 13.6 per cent in 1996 to eight per cent in 2008 - a drop of nearly 50 per cent. Swedish Detective Superintendent Jonas IDEA MAGAZINE / 14

Trolle, speaking at an information exchange with Gardaí in Dublin in September 2011, said: “We have decreased the number of customers radically. If we talk in specific figures of the number of girls or women in prostitution in Stockholm, on a street level there are between five and 10 girls a day in a city with over five million people.” This is a significant reduction in the level of street prostitution, and was compared with Barcelona, a city with an equivalent population size, where it is estimated there are 20,000 people working in street prostitution. CARE believes the proposal is the best approach to help tackle sexual exploitation by reducing demand. The facts are stark, they say. In Europe the average age of entry into prostitution is 14 years, with as many as 75 per cent of those in Britain entering before their 18th birthday. Home Office figures reveal that homelessness, living in care, debt and substance abuse are all common experiences prior to entering prostitution, though some are also groomed online. Research shows that a staggering 95 per cent of women involved in street-based prostitution are addicted to Class A drugs. Gordon Macdonald, CARE for Scotland Parliamentary Officer, said: “We welcome Rhoda Grant’s approach to reducing the demand for prostitution and subsequently

people trafficking for sexual exploitation. Prostitution is inherently harmful and dehumanising. We encourage supporters to respond to the consultation.” The Alliance also welcomes this consultation on the morality and legality of buying sex. It prompts us to consider what lies behind the demand for sexual services. It’s unlikely that someone wakes up and simply decides to go out and buy some sex. Sex has largely been detached from marriage and relationship and been turned into a right, a commodity to be consumed. We must consider our response to a mediadriven culture that normalises mainstream pornography as appropriate sexual behaviour, and with integrity pursue lives that demonstrate the value Jesus places in all people. The Alliance in Scotland is working with anti-trafficking networks of charities and churches throughout the UK. One of these groups is Abolition Scotland, who are campaigning to see an end to modern day slavery. They are organising screenings of an award-winning documentary highlighting the global sex trafficking market. The hard hitting Nefarious: Merchant of Souls is to be screened in every city and town across Scotland, to raise awareness and mobilise prayer and action. The consultation period will run for 12 weeks until 14 December 2012.



The Power of Ten

by Gethin Russell-Jones

Collaboration has been the name of the evangelical game in Wales since at least 1999. In that year Gweini was established by Evangelical Alliance Wales, Care for Wales and Cornerstone Church in Swansea. As the council for the Christian voluntary sector in Wales, Gweini facilitates and champions dynamic partnerships between local churches and mission organisations. Thirteen years later and there have been countless examples of creative and fruitful co-operation where the mercy of God has been demonstrated to tens of thousands of people. Many of these stories have been captured in several books published by Gweini, including The naked church, Faith in Wales and Meet the neighbours. And a new resource, soon to be published by Gweini, will celebrate the diverse and powerful gospel partnerships present in Wales today. With the working title of The power of ten, the book will profile 10 churches which are partnering with mercy ministries. These partnerships involve UK-wide organisations such as foodbanks and Street Pastors, but also more grassroots projects like Swansea’s Adopt a Care Home. The story will also be told of the impact created when many churches come together in several neighbourhoods in Wales for the purpose of joint mission. The results are explosive and the fruit lasting. In addition to inspirational stories, The Power of Ten will include a step by step guide to help churches pursue similar plans in their localities. Such initiatives often start quietly with one person’s vision, or a group surprised in prayer. And what seems daunting, when shared with others, takes on a life of its own and new possibilities emerge. Added material on the Gweini website will include video material and further links. Commenting on the book, Elfed Godding said: “Wales has a positive history of churches partnering with mercy ministries. When we demonstrate the power of the gospel together, the joint impact is great. And when churches work together to serve their communities, the results can be astonishing as described in

NOV/DEC 2012

the book. As we multiply our talents and resources, the Lord is able to do far more than we could ever imagine.”

Donate a tin to Cardiff Foodbank As an increasing number of families in need turn to foodbanks for help, shoppers in Cardiff are being asked to donate to the charity. In recent years, foodbanks have become a simple and effective way for local communities to help those most in need by providing three days’ emergency food to those families struggling to make ends meet. Over 90 per cent of the food given out by foodbanks is donated by the public and collections at supermarkets have become one of the most effective ways to get people giving. With foodbanks busier than ever, the charity is asking local people to give generously. Ian Purcell, Cardiff Foodbank manager, said: “We know how tough it is for some families at the moment so we’re asking local people to give all they can. Giving a food box to parents whose child might otherwise go to bed hungry makes a huge difference, so if we can get the community to lend a helping hand, we can make sure no one in Cardiff is forced to go hungry.”

Christian visibility According to a recent study, the greatest threats to evangelical Christianity are secularism, consumerism and sex and violence pervading popular culture. The survey commissioned by the Pew Research Centre Forum on Religion and Public Life questioned nearly 2,200 evangelical leaders from 166 countries. Over 70 per cent identified the influence of secularism as a “major threat” to evangelical Christianity. This was followed by consumerism (67 per cent), and sex and violence in popular culture (59 per

cent). This sense of being a minority group within an increasingly hostile culture can easily result in Christians and churches developing a siege mentality. In such circumstances, Christ’s followers may conclude that becoming less visible is the least controversial option. And the issues facing Christian groups in particular can be very complex. For example, it is not uncommon for a church to receive public funding for projects that have wider social benefits. However this same church may also receive donations from other Christian charities whose aims and objectives may clash with values of statutory bodies. This can place the church in a position of conflict if these arrangements are made public. Evangelical Alliance Wales recently brought together a group of Christians to consider the issue of Christian visibility. Over the past few years a number of high-profile stories have appeared in the media, questioning either the individual’s right to wear religious symbolism or challenging a church’s freedom to pursue its Christian outreach whilst receiving public moneys. The media regularly highlights instances where an individual’s Christian faith clashes with a particular environment, and this meeting heard from Christians working in challenging situations. Elfed Godding said: “Whether it’s the impact of equality legislation, or the demands made by council funding, Christians are sometimes in danger of becoming invisible. We can feel under pressure to disappear, keep silent, and cloak ourselves in anonymity. But the impact of the church on society has been enormous and continues to be. I hope that this meeting of fellow believers encouraged us all to remain confident in our faith and wise in the way we share it.”


Yemi Adedeji: the One People Commission’s new director

60 seconds with...

Yemi Adedeji Rev Yemi Adedeji, director of the Alliance’s new One People Commission, is aiming to be “the bridge” that allows churches to cross the divides that often exist around ethnicity. Yemi Adedeji is a very busy man, who is passionate about working at the intersection of where the worlds of charity, ministry, business, social justice, media and mission collide. Now, he has added director of the One People Commission to his roles as associate director for HOPE, global ambassador for Compassion UK and strategic advisor for many church leaders across the country. Having been ordained as both an Anglican priest and a Pentecostal pastor, he is a great person to lead the Alliance’s new commission which aims to bring church leaders from across ethnicities together for unity and mission. Q. What is the One People Commission? The One People Commission is all about promoting unity through diversity. It’s an Alliance body made up of key national church leaders who really want to celebrate our diverse ethnicities, but also say that we need to come together as the UK Church. Q. What attracted you to becoming a part of the Commission? It was really when Steve Clifford came into relationship with a lot of the church leaders, encouraging us to get involved. I got excited then because this really is my passion. It’s the relationship that birthed the Commission. Q. Why are you the man for the job? I think God’s prepared me in terms of how he has skilled me to understand different cultures and types of church. As both an Anglican priest and a Pentecostal pastor, I understand these two worlds well. I’m able to say to Pentecostals, for example, that Anglicans aren’t un-Christian just because they are wearing robes. I feel I have a dualistic role within the context of mission. I don’t build a bridge. I am a bridge. I’ve also got great relationships with the church leaders who form the commission. I used to work for the Church Mission Society and travelled to places including


Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon and South Korea. But my life changed in 2002 when I felt the Lord call me to be a missionary to the people of this country. Q. Why do you think the Church is so divided around ethnicity? The Church is naturally divided. But this divide is often caused by prejudice on both sides. It’s also caused by the inability of individuals to cross over from where they are to learn from others. We need to realise that we’re all going in the same direction. Q. What are your hopes for the commission? We really want to see the UK Church – in all its vibrant ethnic diversity – united as one. We want to see divides crossed and barriers broken down as we build relationships and form friendships. But we don’t just want to do this for unity’s sake. Unity is a great thing. But it needs to be unity for a purpose – to see our wonderful, diverse communities, transformed with the good news of Jesus Christ. It’s only when there’s a synergy and a partnership for purpose that everyone can actually do what they’re trying to do.

NOV/DEC 2012


Daniel Webster: The research provides an encouraging picture about the approach of evangelical Christians to handling money


Does money matter? by Daniel Webster

Evangelicals are good at looking after their money, and they give generously, but the Church must do more to tackle the roots of poverty and injustice, finds Daniel Webster, the Alliance’s parliamentary officer… The latest report in the Evangelical Alliance’s ongoing research programme into the beliefs and habits of evangelical Christians in the UK, Does money matter?, examined the financial habits of evangelical Christians and uncovered a group who save well, give generously and spend sensibly. The research not only presented a sensible response in the current economic climate, but it also showed a Church that is active in their community providing support for others. The research shows 42 per cent attend a church that supports or runs a foodbank, and one in five attend churches running either a CAP Money course or debt centre, or both. However, other areas in response to economic need fared less well. Only seven per cent are in churches offering help to the unemployed, and 3.5 per cent have either a personal or church involvement with Church Action on Poverty campaigns on issues such as unscrupulous lenders or the introduction of the living wage. Foodbanks, which are often run by churches through the Trussell Trust, have received considerable attention in the press recently. They have been lauded for the service they provide to those in desperate need, people who are often in work but who are still unable to afford enough food to feed their families. However, they have also been on the receiving end of criticism for potentially aiding a dependency culture, replacing state provision, and not addressing the underlying problems. The survey, which was completed by IDEA MAGAZINE / 18

1,237 people in May 2012, discovered a high level of agreement on beliefs about God and money. On issues of compassion, justice, trust and prudence well over 80 per cent of respondents hold similar views. When asked whether or not it is “every Christian’s duty to help those in poverty”, 92 per cent agreed; and 89 per cent backed a belief in advocacy for justice and the poor. On other issues there was disagreement. Only 36 per cent agreed that wealth is usually a real barrier to someone who seeks to follow Christ, and the same number agreed that speculation and taking risks on the financial markets is morally wrong. As well as practical action and theological views, the research considered opinions on more political issues which have come under greater scrutiny during the recent financial crises. Around 92 per cent of respondents thought some ‘top’ people were paid too much, and 77 per cent thought that the rich should pay higher levels of tax. The results also echoed the complexity of the welfare system because, while 55 percent thought cuts in public services were causing too much hardship, 68 per cent thought too many had become dependent on state benefits. Generally, the research provides an encouraging picture about the approach of evangelical Christians to handling money and it shows a generous response from the Church to the economic crisis. However, the picture is not wholly positive, and the report highlights areas that should provoke us to consider whether the current response

is adequate. In particular it would appear mercy ministry responses are far more common than those which seek change to the structural situation that causes poverty. Specifically, despite evangelicals having a great history of helping the unemployed by providing relief and creating work, the report found that only seven per cent of churches are doing anything to help the growing number of people currently unemployed in the UK. Although there is clearly much to be proud of, the challenge to the Church is to embrace the more thorny issues. These will involve taking action over a longer term and will not always provide the same immediate results that can be achieved when handing over a much-needed bag of food. Often political campaigning or creating employment can be hard graft, but if we are concerned to see injustices righted, the hungry fed, and people given the dignity of work, then we have to do more than respond to the crisis and see what we can do to prevent it happening again.

Daniel Webster is the Alliance’s parliamentary officer

GOOD NEWS HAS ARRIVED Advent reflections 2 December - 24 December 2012

Good news has arrived A LIFE MANIFESTO (1) PURPOSE Mon 3 Dec

Sun 2 Dec

Luke 4:14-21 Reflect: For the first few days of our shared journey we will read the same verses several times. Let’s allow the word to permeate our mind, heart, spirit and souls. These verses have been called a Jesus manifesto because they outline, in a few lines, his mission. What would the mission of your life look like? Pray: Gracious God, I thank you for your love. Thank you that you have called me and gifted me to make a difference. Wherever you place me, help me to stay faithful. Amen.


Luke 4:14-21 Reflect: It is hard to swim against the tide. To be different takes energy. In a world of bad news and cynicism it is so easy to get sucked into negativity. The world needs good news people. A people living and moving to a different agenda. Who can you be good news for today? Pray: O God, help me to shine for you today. Help me to bring hope in hopelessness and peace in conflict. Work your good news out through my life. Amen.


Wed 5 Dec

Luke 4:14-21 Reflect: It is estimated that the average human utters around 16,000 words a day. That is a lot of words. But how many of these words are affirming? What percentage of our speech radiates life and brings about a culture change in a situation? With so many words spoken each day, there is a lot of room to speak a lot of hope into someone’s life. To speak of what is good, and that which builds up rather than knocks down. Take a minute to think about who needs to hear words of hope today? Which people in your life are in desperate need to hear that they are valued, special, loved? Who needs to hear the words ‘thank you’? Silence. Pray: Lord, may I speak well of people today. May my words build up rather than tear down. Save me from taking the easy road of wounding with words. Let me proclaim your goodness. Amen.

Philippians 2:5-11 Reflect: To love enough to give everything is an awesome thing. Leaving the splendour and majesty of heaven would have been a fantastic example. But Jesus goes way beyond that. He does not come and live as an aristocrat but as a servant. He surrenders all rights and ambitions to the will of God. Jesus became nothing for us. To be a humble servant, we must consider no task too mean. Pray: Lord, help me to remember the voiceless, the weak and those whose needs go unnoticed. Give me fresh vision to see the unseen. Help me reflect the servant heart of Jesus. In the servant king’s name. Amen. Proverbs 31:8 Reflect: Whose voice is being heard? There are millions of words spoken, sometimes shouted by lots of people. Sometimes people clamour to gain attention for good and legitimate causes. There are action groups, charities, lobbying bodies and politicians all wanting attention, Sadly, sometimes the voice of the Church seems marginalised and weak. We need to speak with boldness and compassion, especially for the voiceless and the disenfranchised. Are we being heard clearly enough on issues of justice and mercy? When was the last time you joined a campaign, wrote a letter or just got involved? Is there an issue God is calling you to get involved in? Pray: Lord, help your Church to speak with clarity, truth and love. No matter how unpopular that makes us. Amen.

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Philippians 2:5-11 Reflect: A well-known story tells of a confident young preacher invited to speak at a large church. He came in late, had no notes, but was supremely sure that God would use him. When introduced he bounded up to the pulpit, took a deep breath, looked around and suddenly... couldn’t think of anything to say. Slowly, and in huge embarrassment, before the packed congregation he came back down. Broken. The minister turned to an elder and whispered: “If only he had gone up the way he came down.” Jesus humbled himself. What about us? Pray: Lord it is easy for us to become like the world, to be more interested in the powerful, rich and the successful. How can it be that the followers of Jesus strive for recognition and position and forsake the road of humility? Lord, help me to be happy being noticed by you. Give me grace to do the small things. Show me this week what good thing I can do that will gain no reward but yours. Silence. Teach me the way of humility. Amen.


Luke 10:30-37 Reflect: Sometimes the road seems clear. The sun is shining, not a cloud on the horizon. Suddenly out of the blue disaster strikes. And every thing changes. The things that seemed so solid become fragile. Confidence is replaced by fear. Pray: Silence. Do you know someone whose life has been badly affected through no fault of their own? It may be through unemployment or illness, attacks or financial disaster. Whatever the cause, Lord, we pray for all those who don’t know how to face the future. Lord, renew their confidence. Give them grace and bring them people of unexpected kindness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Tue 11 Dec


Luke 4:14-21 Reflect: There are all types of poverty and various degrees of poverty. Material poverty, poverty of spirit, poverty of hope. To be poor is to lack a future, finance or love. To bring good news to the poor is to re-write the story. It is to amplify identity, hope and a future. It can be costly. How are our congregations rewriting the story for those around us? Pray: Mighty God, help me not to be intimidated by the extent of the need. Help me to make a difference in the life of one person today. Help me know what I can do today to bring good news. Silence. Now, Lord, help me to do it. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Philippians 2:5-11 Reflect: An old saying used by members of my parish was: “They are so mean, they could peel an orange in their pocket.” Some people are extremely stingy and never want to share anything they have. They are determined to cling onto everything they possess. Do you know people like that? The New Living Translation of 2:7 says: “He did not think equality with God something to cling onto.” Jesus did not show any white-knuckled determination to hold on. He let go to let God. Are there things you are clinging onto way too tightly? Are there things you need to let go of? Are there things that you are clinging on to so tightly that they are stopping you from grasping onto all that God has for you? Pray: Lord, show me what things I need to let go so that I can pick up the new thing you have for me. Lord, help me not to hold on too tightly to the things I mistakenly think bring me life, the things that I mistakenly thing are precious and valuable. Help me instead to cling tightly only to you. Amen.


Sat 8 Dec

Written by Fred and Caroline Drummond


Luke 10:30-37 Reflect: I love the voice of Dionne Warwick. I wonder if her big hit Walk On By would make a good theme song for many of us when we are faced by need. There are always good reasons not to get involved. Sometimes, we would rather pay for others to get involved than to dirty our own hands. Pray: Lord, save me from self-justification. Never, let me walk by. Forgive me for the times when I have turned away from suffering. Flood my heart with your compassion. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.


Galatians 4:4-7 Reflect: Slaves in Roman times were no-class citizens. No rights, no voice and no status. If a slave, for whatever reason, was freed by his master and adopted into the family, the slave would become a son with all the rights that bestows. In Christ this is how we are viewed. We are sons and daughters who can come into the very presence of a loving God, running into His arms shouting: “Daddy.” Stop and think of who you are in Christ. You are a beloved child of the King. Pray: Lord, thank you for the freedom to come into your presence. I praise you that I am accepted and loved, adopted as your child, all because of the finished work of Jesus. Lord, help me to think of those still lost in slavery. There are so many forms of slavery, physical bondage, addiction, prostitution, sin. May they find the freedom that is found only in Jesus. Amen.


Matthew 8:8-20 Reflect: Imagine a king making a surprise visit and finding he has nowhere to stay; a king with no bed to sleep in and nothing that he can call his own. That’s how Jesus came to earth and that’s how he lived. Jesus experienced hunger, loneliness and homelessness. So he knows every situation that we face. There is no one so far off or broken or lost that Jesus does not care about them. How do we respond when we pass homeless people on our streets? As we reflect upon the king who had nothing, is there something our church could do for the homeless? Pray: Lord, we pray for the homeless today. Those who are living without shelter, warmth and protection. We pray for your presence, God. We thank you for those who have a ministry among the homeless. Give them the energy, resources and encouragement for the task. Help us never to be short of compassion. In Jesus’ name. Amen.















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Fri 14 Dec

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Thu 20 Dec

Luke 1:46-53 Reflect: A new day and a new way. In the radical kingdom of God, everything gets turned on its head. The natural order of the world is all shook up. Look at the passage: princes are brought low, the lowly are exalted. The hungry are filled with good things and the rich are sent away empty-handed. How would the local church look if we applied these principles of the kingdom? Pray: Father, stir within us a desire for a radical encounter with you which shakes our priorities and changes our values. Consume us with a vision of the upside down, all shook up kingdom. Lord, help us to become risk- takers, bridge-builders and kingdomshakers. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Psalm 146:3 Reflect: The film The Sting shows how Paul Newman and Robert Redford’s characters manage to con the really bad guys. They manage to give the impression that they have information and influence that they never have. I wonder if the Church has fallen into a great con. Do we spend too much time, energy and money trying to lobby people we think are influential rather than trusting our cause to the King of Glory? Imagine if the Church in the world redirected all the money it spent on lobbying to local community needs. How would this reshape communities? How many food programmes and housing units could we put in place? The challenge is ultimately about whether our ultimate trust is in people of influence or the promises of God. Pray: Lord, help us to be a people of prayer. Teach us your promises and let us trust in you. Amen.

John 8:31-36 Reflect: If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. We are free in Christ. Jesus has broken the chains and ended our captivity. How wonderful is the grace of God. He has paid the price so that we may be free. Think of what Jesus has done for us. Sometimes we begin to take our salvation for granted. Jesus loves you enough to break your chains. While this text is about our chains to sin and an empty way of life, still it does help us to think of those who are captives today. Pray: Lord, we pray for those who are captive today, immigrants in a detention centre, prisoners of conscience and persecuted Christians throughout the world. May the love of Christ touch their lives, allowing freedom even in the midst of captivity. Amen.



Deuteronomy 32:1-4 Reflect: T in the Park is a big open air music festival. I live nearby and driving past afterwards you can see the masses of rubbish all over the fields. Everything is thrown away or just left behind. We live in a throw-away culture. Unfortunately, this now includes relationships, friendships marriages and every type of commitment. These verses remind us of the permanence of God. He is the solid rock. His ways are just and true and He is utterly and completely faithful. His love is constant and He never lets His people down. Pray: Lord, we pray for those who have been hurt when relationships have gone wrong. We pray for those who have lost confidence and feel worthless because they have been abandoned. We name those we know who are going through difficult days. May they find in you, oh faithful God, security, confidence and hope. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Revelation 3:14-22 Reflect: It was great to watch the Olympics. I was especially struck by the passionate support. The noise of the crowd was amazing. Passion is such an important thing. It is something that Jesus expects of his people and he is disappointed when the Church is marked by a lack of passion. Apathy sickens and saddens Jesus. This apathy is not connected to their worship service or the level of praise. What Jesus saw was the deeds of the Church. What they did indicated how their hearts were. I am enormously challenged by this. If Jesus were watching the deeds of your congregation would he see a passion for the things he is passionate for? Pray: Lord, help us never to lose the passion. Fill us with concern for the things that concern you. Keep us from apathy. In Jesus name Amen.




Luke 2:8-12 Reflect: It wasn’t the 9 o’clock news, but it was certainly good news. Angels announced this good news to shepherds. The greatest news in all of history, the Messiah had come, was announced not to the financial elite, but to the lowest of the working class. A dirty, sweaty bunch of guys in the hills suddenly encounter the most joyous news of all. Isn’t it amazing that the news of Jesus came to people irrespective of who they were or what they had done? Am I tempted only to look for Jesus within my social group? Pray: Lord, thank you that you come unexpectedly to surprising people. Thank you that you don’t wait until we are ready, you draw near to us as we are. Help us to look for you in unexpected places and through surprising people. Amen.

Matthew 19:13-15 Reflect: Jesus was always in demand. It is understandable that the disciples would want to limit access. Surely children could wait. They were not that important were they? They were yet another voiceless group with little influence. Little did the disciples realise that the kingdom belonged to such as these. Was it a child’s openness and trust? Could it be they represented the weak and the powerless? What we do know is that Jesus called them forward and blessed them. Pray: Lord we pray for children known to us. We name them before you. We pray for children in this world. In their vulnerability and weakness, we pray for your protection. We also ask, for children who have been abused, that you would bring light in the darkness. Mobilise us to action on behalf of those who can’t stand up for themselves. Amen.

BLESSED Sat 22 Dec

Matthew 5:3-10 Reflect: What an odd group Jesus describes as ‘blessed’ in his sermon. Not one group would really be lifted up by the world. A few peacemakers may be known, but not many. What amazing hope then for the brokenhearted, the weak, the meek and the persecuted. How exciting the rule of God is, that some of those both pitied and sometimes despised by the world are blessed in God. The coming of Jesus is the game changer for every culture for all time. Pray: Thank you Lord Jesus that you make all things new; that through your birth, life, death and resurrection you have filled us with hope. We are a new people with a new destiny. We praise you in Jesus name. Amen.


Psalm 82 Reflect: To lose material possessions is a tragedy. To have everything snatched away is devastating. But a greater disaster is to lose your family. To be fatherless is to be without name or protection. It is to be without an anchor in the midst of a hurricane. The orphan and the widow are close to the heart of God. He defends their cause and maintains their rights. We must be moved by the needs of the orphan and the widow. There are thousands of children in the UK in need of adoption or foster care. Is God calling us to hear the cries of the fatherless? Pray: Father of the fatherless, stir within us a care for the orphans and widows of the world. We especially ask that you might show to us how we can get involved in the needs of children. Perhaps there are some right outside our doors that need our help. Amen.



Sun 23 Dec

Revelation 5:9-12 Reflect: While we long for our churches to be places that are true reflections of God’s diversity, if we’re honest, they are often filled with the same types of people. The same ethnicities, social standings, the same backgrounds. But how exciting it is to know that one day all of us will worship God together, in one place. We will be part of a celebration where all of us, from every nation, tribe and tongue, will worship the lamb. Pray: Lord, you are so worthy of our praise. And we look forward to the day when, together with all the nations of the earth, we will worship you in your presence. Help us to see your image in all people, Lord. Help us to form new communities with people unlike us, but who love you. So that you may be glorified. Amen.

Matthew 2:13-15 Reflect: In the film The Terminal, Tom Hanks is stuck in an airport. He can’t leave but can’t get back to his country. He is totally displaced. He is caught in a bureaucratic nightmare. It is amazing to think that after the angel choirs and the wise men, after shepherds and celebration, Jesus and his family have to flee. They become part of the immigrant community, a displaced family living in fear. The king of glory ends up hiding with his family in a foreign land. They had to trust in the protection and plan of God. They knew that even in difficult times God is utterly faithful. Pray: Thank you for your plan of salvation. Thank you God that no matter what we face this Christmas you are utterly faithful. Your love is the same yesterday, today and forever. We do think of those living in fear, people displaced through famine or war. Gracious God may your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, he has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” Luke 4:17-19

Perhaps it began with the opening ceremony. Maybe it was when Heather Stanning and Helen Glover rowed to that first gold medal. Whatever the reason, there was a change in atmosphere over the UK. Suddenly there was an appetite for good news and people feasted upon stories of endeavour, success and effort. People laughed and cried with victory and defeat. There appeared to be confidence and laughter replacing cynicism and bad news. Even newspapers reflected a good news feel in the nations. How long will it last? Sometimes the feel good factor doesn’t last. The effect of good news can be like smoke; you know it has been here but you cannot hold it. It passes by and moves on. There is good news that lasts forever. It is news about God and His relationship with people. It involves forgiveness, hope, salvation and justice. It concerns the redefining of identity and the rising of hope. This good news is not temporary and has come in flesh and blood. This good news is Jesus Christ the Lord. This good news creates a new society, a radical

people who live for God’s glory and the advancing of His kingdom of justice, grace and love. This new society unites the rich and poor, weak and strong, male and female, and people of every tongue, tribe and nation into one family. George Beukema writes in Stories from below the poverty line: “I have come to see with increasing clarity how critical it is for the Church to bridge the divide between rich and poor, urban and non-urban.... Such a coming together is not only in the interests of the poor, who need the resources of the affluent, but also of the affluent, who need the resources of the poor. Quite simply, we need each other.” This is the power of the good news in a new people marked by unity in diversity. A new day has dawned that changes everything forever. Can you imagine the scene described in Luke 4? Jesus enters the synagogue in Nazareth, where everyone knows him. A stillness fills the room as all eyes focus on the young carpenter. He stands to read and a scroll is handed to him. Jesus unrolls the scroll and starts to read with clarity and authority. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, he has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4:17-20). Jesus rolls up the scroll and hands it back. I guess you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. What would Jesus say today? This

scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. The Jesus manifesto, fulfilled in his character is a changed society. It is about freedom, recovery and release. It is the new paradigm of hope. I love the way Shane Claiborne puts it in Irresistible Revolution: “Jesus did not set up a program but modelled a way of living that incarnated the reign of God, a community in which people are reconciled and our debts are forgiven just as we forgive our debtors.” A new community. Good news in the person of Jesus. This advent we want to think about the good news that is Jesus Christ. We want to celebrate his birth and also think about what it means to be the radical community of Jesus today. What does it mean to the poor, weak and marginalised that good news has come? This year in our Advent Prayer guide we invite you on a shared journey. We reflect upon the good news and we pray for transformation in our nations. We draw on themes suggested by the Bethany Christian Trust, a charity which works with some of the most marginalised in our society. Join congregations, small groups and individuals as together we reflect upon what it means to believe that good news has arrived. Fred Drummond, director of prayer and supporters and Scotland, Evangelical Alliance.

Fruitful vulnerability: Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation.


Fruitful vulnerability When God wants to do something revolutionary, the plan is robust yet the ingredients seem breathtakingly vulnerable, writes Marijke Hoek… A seed and a teenager come to mind. In a first century world dominated by the Roman Empire, where religious, philosophical and political trends were taking their course, a dialogue in the backwaters between an angel and Mary is in fact the most seismic dynamic. In a few weeks, we will be preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus and will be anticipating the return of Christ the King. The story reminds us again where the real spearhead lies; in prayer, humility, curiosity, and community. In her encounter with the angel, Mary is described as “wondering” and “enquiring”. A similarly inquisitive mind is found in Daniel, who “continued to watch”, “kept looking”, “enquired” and “wanted to know”. Both dialogues demonstrate that the Lord confides in those who fear Him; He makes His covenant known to them (Psalm 25:14). Curious minds and God-fearing hearts provide ideal conditions for abundant fruitfulness. While “strength” and “leadership” is so often claimed in “knowing”, these characters reveal an avid desire to learn. And God confides - willing to entrust radical responsibility and illuminating insights to humble servants. Good soil for His revolution. With her prayer of surrender - “May your word be fulfilled to me” - Mary unfurls herself into the grace of new beginning. Her beautiful song resonates age-old promises and a fresh understanding of divine faithfuness to her and all generations. For while the account is deeply personal, it is also commmunal. As God is working out His redemption plan, He links people in destiny. As Mary and Elizabeth seek one another’s company the “leap for joy” in Elizabeth shows the sustaining favour of God (Luke 1). Their lives are intertwined. Strands from different generations woven into one purpose. These two are better than one because they have a good return for their labour (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Later Paul reflects that God chooses the weak things of this world to shame the strong; the foolish to shame the wise; He chooses the lowly, despised and the things that are not to nullify those that are (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). Moreover, His empowering presence is promised in such human weakness – be it our limited knowledge, or numerical, economic and sociopolitical weakness (Romans 8:26). Paul redefines the power base. Adopting God’s lens, who would we choose? Are we including the foolish, lowly and weak? Spent any time on “the things that are not” recently? Any radical responsibiities handed out to teenagers? Shown any interest in what happens under the radar? Where does the spearhead lie? Are the margins able to disturb your peace? Do you cultivate curiosity? In whom are you hearing a new song? Being open to God’s future requires perceptive people. It presumes time to watch, listen and learn, for new beginnings NOV/DEC 2012

While the believers are expectantly looking to God, He is looking to Mary. are not repetitions (Isaiah 43:19, 50:4). Our narrow scope needs to broaden to include new voices and things that are not. And it requires seed - the God-breathed ideas that are planted, prayed over, watered, shared, and tended to, thus growing from “that which is not” into vital expressions of hope and life. The author and research professor at Houston University Brené Brown asserts: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” Recently, I’ve watched a group of vulnerable youth develop into creative wordsmiths whose poems and raps featured in the National Slam Final. I’ve seen a local film festival develop into a vibrant international forum for dialogue about faith. Expressions of God’s faithfulness that started with a question, an inkling or a chat - not always with angels. For: “When a great moment knocks on the door of your life, its sound is often no louder than the beating of your heart and it is very easy to miss it.” (A Captive of Time) While the believers are expectantly looking to God, He is looking to Mary. While some hoped that the Messiah would overthrow the Romans, God planted a seed. Expecting God’s in-breaking in this world is a revolutionary waiting, a prayerful attentiveness and being at ease in risk. While economic, political, religious and secular trends are taking their course in our time, we value “the day of small things”. For what is born from heaven is unstoppable (Acts 5:39). In dialogue with Him and community with one another we’ll discover how we fit into the big picture and how to live faithfully in its light. The Church can be a seedbed. Blessed are we, believing that the Lord will fulfill His promises. IDEA MAGAZINE / 23



Redeeming our Communities Debra Green speaks to Chine Mbubaegbu about how far Redeeming Our Communities – an organisation passionate about bringing about transformation in our towns and cities – has come... In September, the nation was shocked by the murders of two police officers – Fiona Bone, 32, and Nicola Hughes, 23 – killed in a gun and grenade attack while they investigated a hoax burglary in Manchester. The tragedy left a Force grieving and a community coming to terms with the deaths of two promising officers. Following the news of the deaths, it was Debra Green OBE, the national director and founder of Redeeming Our Communities (ROC), who rallied churches up and down the country to pray for the police officers and their colleagues and remember them by holding a minute’s silence during their services. It’s this bringing together of the Church and the police which is a marker of the work of ROC. The charity was founded in Manchester in 2004 with an aim to bring about community transformation by creating strategic partnerships which open up opportunities for the reduction of crime and the fostering of better community relationships. This partnership approach between the agencies which help communities to function is unique, and is among the reasons for ROC’s success. It has now set up more than 50 projects around the country, which have seen crime and IDEA MAGAZINE / 24

anti-social behaviour fall in some of the country’s most deprived areas. “I have four children,” says Debra. “And my early motivation for setting up ROC was to leave a good legacy for them and for other young people in our nation. I don’t want to live in a place where there’s fear and suspicion. “We are about changing the physical fabric of our society. We want to see communities where people are cared for; where people are safe; where people can live their lives the way that they were meant to.” ROC brings together churches, community groups, the police, fire service and local authorities to work together to bring about real and lasting change. With so many groups working together, fostering real relationship and understanding is key to ROC’s work. “We are able to broker relationships between the churches and other agencies. Because it’s a different language we both speak, and we try to translate for each. Our brand is very highly thought of by the local authorities, so we’re able to do that.” ROC also works hard to promote understanding between the agencies and the communities – often the young people – that they are trying to serve.

“The police tell us which is the area of greatest need, which is what multi-agency working is about. The police and fire officers also actually work at our projects as volunteers. This helps to break down barriers and also gives the police an understanding of why some people get into trouble. It bridges the gap between the authority figures and the young people.” Key to making this happen is getting the churches on board, says Debra. “My background is in church leadership and my big passion was always to bring the churches together. I thought that was the goal. But that’s not the goal. The goal is to come together to see our communities changed.” She said however that she sometimes comes up against opposition from churches who are more interested in seeing people become Christians than serving the communities. “A lot of churches say they don’t really see the value in what we do because they want to see conversions,” Debra said. “Although our projects are not directly proclamation and focus on value and citizenship, they do lead the young people and the agencies that we work with to ask questions because they see something different in our lives. By working in the community, it naturally leads to an openness to faith. It’s really about building relationship.” ROC is keen to partner with more churches around the country that are keen to work in their communities. For more information, visit their website.

new word alive Alive in Christ – a holiday to refocus 2–7 April & 7–12 April 2013 Accommodation still available at both events

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Giving gifts to by Lauren Belcher

Samaritan’s Purse are hoping that this year they’ll pass the 100 million shoebox mark in their Operation Christmas Child project. Six-year-old Jamil has been praying for a pair of gloves for months; faithfully expecting them to fall from the sky, or maybe appear at the foot of his bed in the orphanage where he lives. In Kenya, though, where almost a quarter of the population live on less than a pound a day, it doesn’t look like he’ll be able to keep his hands warm over the winter months. It is only when he goes to church and is given a shoebox that not only does he find a pair of gloves inside, but a scarf as well. It is the best day of his life. From then on he shares his own testimony in Sunday School: that God answers prayers, but not always in a way you may expect. Through Operation Christmas Child (OCC), Samaritan’s Purse have been answering children’s prayers, or sometimes even sharing with them the Christmas story for the first time, all over the world. From Swaziland to Ukraine, from Belarus to Haiti, the millions of shoeboxes, filled by us in the UK and other parts of the Western world, have been reaching the world’s poorest children. But it is not just about having presents, as Lisa, aged 13, from Ukraine said: “In general, the gift is not so important as the heart of people who did it for me.” You may not see the child who receives your shoebox, but they will certainly be able to imagine the person who puts the time and the effort into finding a box, wrapping it up, and carefully filling it. “We need to remind the children of the world that, whatever their circumstances, people in the UK do care about them and want them to know the true meaning of Christmas,” said Simon Barrington, Samaritan’s Purse UK’s executive director.


Esme and Resye from Kosova receive their Christmas shoeboxes

This year the charity has given itself an even greater challenge. So far they have delivered 94 million shoeboxes in 22 years, and this year they want to make it up to 100 million. However, Simon explains that for him it is more than just a number: “I can’t visualise what 100 million children would look like – I’ve been told that if they were to stand hand-in-hand they would circle the globe twice. But for me it’s always about the individual children receiving gift-filled shoeboxes; every box counts and has the potential to make a massive difference in children’s lives.” To reach their target of 100 million, Samaritan’s Purse is encouraging even more people in the UK to take part in OCC. Already, more than 5,500 churches, 7,000 schools and 3,000 workplaces are involved every year, and between them last year 1.1 million shoeboxes were generated in 2011. Consequently 105 countries received shoeboxes in 2011. But this is just the tip of the iceberg: “I’m already thinking about how we can produce another 100 million shoeboxes over the next ten years because children are being born into poverty every day. There are over 2 billion children on the planet under the age of 14 and so although 100 million sounds like a big number, we need to do more. We can do more.” For many churches in the UK OCC has become an integral part of their Christmas celebrations. Sue Farrance, the district co-ordinator for south Bristol, explains that for her church: “It began with putting something aside that was not working very well.



children in need

Our annual toy service in December was a struggle, and moreso the people receiving the toys didn’t really seem to want them.” In the search for a new way of engaging their local community, Sue and her church found that OCC offered a unique way of uniting people: “When I sit back and look at all that goes on for shoeboxes, I find that there are people who have made lasting friendships, they have renewed old friendships, there is a sense in which they help one another. We have a lady who knits but can’t sew the knitting up, she passes it on to another lady who no longer knits but sews up. Everyone in our church membership is involved in some way.” Now, having grown considerably from their original 50 boxes, their warehouse in south Bristol turns out 3,000. Putting their boxes together are members of the church of all ages, and people of all abilities, including the mentally and physically disabled. Sue explains exactly how worthwhile it is to wrap and pack all those shoeboxes, saying: “Our church has grown spiritually through its commitment to OCC. People have and continue to change as they are transformed by God’s amazing love. A shoebox changes lives, not only the life of the child that receives it but the lives of the people who put it together.”

that that shoebox was the main source of my toys for my entire childhood. My parents struggled to feed and clothe us, and so toys were not a priority.” Now Nikola, having fled Serbia, is living in Montenegro and helped a partner of Samaritan’s Purse, Vladimir, to deliver shoeboxes to a refugee camp. As he saw children receive the carefully-wrapped and filled boxes, Nikola remembered the gifts in his own shoebox: “There was this amazing little red and black car that spoke to me. The car said: ‘Step on the gas, we gotta get out of here!’ That made a huge impression on me at the time. I had that car for years and years - it finally fell apart from use.” It is stories like these which affirm the value of OCC. Ultimately, poverty is about individuals; people who are struggling in their day-to-day lives, families who can barely afford to feed their children, let alone give them gifts. As Simon Barrington concludes: “What a great way to celebrate Christmas by showing children, most of whom live in the most difficult circumstances, that God loves them and cares for them, that He’s not forgotten them.”

As we pack these boxes, we can remember how much they impact people. Nikola received his shoebox 15 years ago at his parents’ Pentecostal church in Serbia: “It was the only present I got that year, as my parents were not wealthy. In fact, I have to say

NOV/DEC 2012


Confidence in the gospel

Christians Against Poverty It often feels like social action and evangelism have to be held together in tension. Phil Green discovers that at Christians Against Poverty they go together seamlessly… Earlier this year I was on the phone to someone at Christians Against Poverty (CAP) HQ when a bell started ringing in the background. I thought the phone call was about to be cut short while the building was evacuated. But in fact this wasn’t the fire alarm. It was CAP’s ‘salvation bell’. Every time a client becomes a Christian the bell rings and the staff celebrate.

discussion about the relationship between social action and evangelism, and to me it often feels like these discussions are exploring how the two can be held together in tension.

Turns out the CAP office is a noisy place to work. With 40 to 60 clients welcoming Jesus into their lives every month, there are not many days when the bell doesn’t ring at least once. I later found out that every time a client becomes debt free, it’s the sound of harmonicas you hear. The two celebratory events capture both the passion and the purpose of this dynamic and rapidly growing organisation.

I visited the CAP team to find out how they connect the two and manage this tension as all the evidence suggests that they are very successful at both social action and evangelism. As I began to ask questions exploring this issue, I soon discovered from their baffled looks that I was confusing them! That’s because at CAP, social action and evangelism are not held in tension, they are seamlessly intertwined. Embedded in the DNA of this organisation is both the desire to provide professional debt relief services and a desperation to see people encounter Jesus.

In the UK, churches are becoming better and better at social action. Churches are now meeting a wide range of needs that can be found in the local community. This is essential work; however, there is increasing concern that evangelism is taking a back seat. There has been much

CAP, through its network of 205 centres based in local churches throughout the UK, provides a comprehensive and professional debt counselling service, which helps people practically climb out of debt as well as dealing with all the other related issues. Their work is highly regarded by many,


including Martin Lewis, the finance expert behind the popular website The whole organisation is impressive. The atmosphere at the HQ is casual, relaxed and friendly, yet the 200 plus staff are extremely motivated, efficient and professional. The numbers speak for themselves. In 2011, 1,085 clients became debt free. Since its launch in 1996 CAP have helped more than 45,000 people. By 2015 they aim to

They want to help people in desperate need and they want to tell people about Jesus.

Why don’t you offer to pray for people? If CAP’s work is anything to go by you’d be amazed where it might lead?”

have 500 centres throughout the UK. Despite the impressive statistics, they’re keen to focus on the stories, emphasising that every person who comes to CAP has their own. I was introduced to a client called Su. She told me her story - children taken into care, drug addiction, homelessness, domestic violence, prison and debt. It was a seemingly insurmountable amount of debt which left her feeling fearful and worthless. Every time the doorbell rang, the phone beeped or the mail landed on the doormat, she was scared that she was being chased for more money. CAP hadn’t found me a story-with-a-happy-ending for my visit. CAP has been working with Su for almost a year now; helping her get on top of her finances. During that time there have been ups and downs, and there’s still a long way to go. But she no longer feels alone and she’s beginning to feel like she’s worth something. As I listened to her story, I was thinking to myself, this must be exactly what Jesus had in mind when he laid down his manifesto to proclaim good news to the poor, free prisoners and restore sight for the blind (Luke 4:18-19). Su told me that a few weeks ago she attended a CAP Discovery Break (a short holiday for nominated clients). While she was there, she became a Christian. Her conversion was part of a gradual journey. It began when Dianne, the CAP centre manager for Bolton North, first met her. Toward the end of their initial meeting to talk about her finances, Dianne gently offered to pray for her. This is something that every client is offered; 95 per cent say yes, and a recent survey found that 90 per cent really appreciate it. For Su, as for so many clients, it was the moment when she began to consciously recognise God moving in her life for the first time. Many talk about feeling a sense of peace, others talk about a glimmer of hope.

People at CAP would like others to experience God’s love and enter into a relationship with Jesus because it’s the best life on offer. CAP staff and volunteers talk about Jesus passionately and directly, yet entirely naturally and from what I’ve heard, sensitively and respectively. What became obvious was that their approach to evangelism is not about technique. It is something that bubbles up from their passionate staff and wanting the best for their clients. Evangelism happens naturally. Along the way, as well as the offer of prayer, every client is given a befriender from the local church – this person will be with them throughout the often long journey to become debt free. On top of that, there’s a combination of client events (which others might describe as seekerfriendly events), being welcomed into the church community, being encouraged to read the Bible, and huge amounts of prayer going on behind the scenes. Beryl, who is a CAP centre manager for Southampton East, currently has eight clients that through CAP now regularly attend church. She said: “For me it was a real eye opener when I first started that people were so open to Jesus. People are open to hearing about the gospel. They might find church hard because it is another step, but on a practical level we can provide a real one to one personal service, through CAP, which demonstrates God’s love. “I am able to pray with clients and they share themselves and their lives so easily. It amazes me how open they are. CAP gives me the opportunity to pray or to help people practically in some way, which shows them what God’s loves is all about. I always offer to pray for something specific. Even if they don’t believe in prayer, we do and we have seen prayers answered.”

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What struck me is that CAP are not involved in debt counselling so they can then do evangelism. I didn’t get the impression that their social action was a vehicle for their evangelism. At CAP they’re just busy doing the business of God’s kingdom. They want to help people in desperate need and they want to tell people about Jesus. Both are seamlessly intertwined. There’s no sense that evangelism compromises the professional service they offer people. God is not forced on people; they offer the same service level to people regardless of whether they accept CAP’s invitation to pray with them. The reality is the majority of the clients don’t make a commitment to Christ, but every time the salvation bell rings there is a celebration. There is a celebration every time – because each story is seen as important. There were 547 celebrations during 2011. The CAP salvation bell rings more often than I make a cup of tea for myself. Each time the bell rings, their confidence levels must increase, making them more eager to share the good news of Jesus with the next person. It’s a positive perpetual cycle. Over the next two years, as part of the Alliance’s Confidence in the Gospel programme, we will be visiting bright spots – places where successful evangelism is taking place. We’ll be telling the stories, both in idea and on our website, of what God is doing throughout the UK, and along the way we hope we can all learn how we can more effectively communicate the good news of Jesus with our families, friends, work colleagues and communities. Let us know if you have a good story.

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Merseyside: Its people, passionate. Its identity, proud. Its Church, unified.

This is our place

Unity on Merseyside by Chine Mbubaegbu

As I arrive in Liverpool, Merseyside, I’m immediately struck by the spirit of the place. It is a place of creativity. This place that brought us The Beatles, two top-flight football teams – the red and the blue; this place still basking in the pride of being the Capital of Culture a few years ago. Its people: passionate. Its identity: proud. Its church: unified. As I meet John and Marie Manwell at their bustling home, they take me back to the history of Together for the Harvest (TFH) – an association of churches from across the Mersey region who work together “to reach every man, woman and child with a credible presentation of the good news about Jesus Christ, and working to see Christian values influencing our society”. The key word here is ‘together’. Because the churches in the region realise that if they are going to reach their place, they need to be unified. One of the major turning points in bringing together the Church in the area was Merseyfest, a community event which first took place in 2005, in which churches worked together in partnership with Merseyside Police. “25 years ago, there was hardly any unity in this city. There was limited fraternity within denominations, but not city-wide unity. The new churches were complete outcasts, there was no question of them talking to Anglicans or Methodists,” says John. “But then a few church leaders moved to the city in the early 1980s, just after the Toxteth riots. It was a difficult time for Liverpool. But it was a time when people were called here with a vision to see the kingdom come in this place.” This core group of leaders built relationship, under the mandate of being “united in spirit, intent on one purpose”(Philippians 2:2). They realised that unity demonstrated through prayer, relationship and mobilisation was the key to transforming the city with the good news of Jesus Christ. For four years, the churches have had continuous prayer each week, where each church prays for the work of another church, and at the end of the week hands the ‘prayer baton’ to a neighbouring church. IDEA MAGAZINE / 30

Marie says: “This domino prayer programme has really blessed us and the members of our churches really grasped the vision. But we see that there’s so much more that could happen. Within the Mersey basin there are probably 100,000 Christians. With unity, we have seen consistent growth over the last few years. There are people coming to the Lord. We haven’t experienced revival yet, but people have started saying they are baptising young people and seeing people coming off the streets and asking how to become Christians.” John adds: “I would like to believe that unity in itself creates something in the spirit realm, but it’s hard to quantify that. Jesus did say that when they see you love one another people will believe. And something has definitely changed.”

Unity in creativity The magical world of Narnia was brought to Merseyside last year, bringing the community together in a large-scale artistic production the likes of which had never been seen. The woman behind it was Anne Spiers, a Christian woman who believes that art is a great way to communicate the gospel and at the same time promote unity. Around 17,000 people walked through the wardrobe created at St George’s Hall to see the Narnia Experience – some of them hearing the CS Lewis story for the first time.

The heart of Y-Kidz Claire Morgans (pictured) has a real heart for the young people living in Bootle. This area of Merseyside doesn’t have the best of reputations. “A lot of the children here don’t have a lot of hope. They’re told they won’t amount to much,” Claire tells me. But Ykids – a children’s charity working to benefit the lives of children and young people in Bootle and Merseyside – helps them believe that their future can be a bright one. Shortlisted for our Inspire Awards last year, the charity also runs the Believe Awards which celebrates Bootle children. This year, their awards were based on the seven values of the Olympics – friendship, respect, excellence, equality, courage, determination and inspiration. Backed by the local press and local businesses, the children – many of whom had come from difficult backgrounds and face some of the toughest situations - were treated to a glittering awards ceremony in Bootle Town Hall. YKids’ vision is to work towards the transformation of the lives of children

This is our place Unity in creativity (cont.) The Great Hall at the venue was transformed into a wintry wonderland by In Another Place – a Christian community group based in Sefton and run by Annie. During the event last year, Annie was able to bring together a cast and crew of more than 400 people – volunteers from churches, community and amateur dramatic groups across the region. Meeting Annie at her home in Crosby, not far from where Anthony Gormley’s iconic ‘Another Place’ figures spread out along the beach, it’s clear that she thrives on creativity. “Narnia was an amazing experience. It was amazing that it worked and that we got lots of wonderful feedback. Some people had not realised that there was another message in the Narnia story. Quite a lot of the team were not Christians either,” she tells me. “We’re all about trying to take good news outside the church walls. The vast majority of people don’t go to church, so we need to take Jesus’ message outside to places that they do go to. The average Scouser also hasn’t been in St George’s Hall so it was a great opportunity for them to visit.”

Annie’s shed is full of theatrical props which she has used at community events over the years.

denominations working together for mission is what it’s all about. “We just have to remember the basis for why we’re working together. There’s no point having theological debates when the ship is sinking.

For Annie, seeing churches from different

“There are millions of children in this country who hear very little about the

and young people living in deprivation, poverty and hopelessness. It aims to bring positive life choices and chances for young people, so that they can lead

happy and fulfilled lives and bring about regeneration in their communities. The organisation also aims to see every church in every community offer vibrant, effective and relevant work for children and young people. YKids works in local communities to benefit children and young people in Bootle – one of the poorest places in the UK. In partnership with schools, community groups and churches, they are developing effective children’s ministry though training, partnership and support. They offer help, including assemblies, lunchtime clubs and workshops on subjects including antibullying, rap, citizenship and fair-trade. Working with children who have extreme needs, they have a vision for complete cultural change. Some of the testimonials from the young people include: “I learnt that even with a disability you can cope in life,” says a 14-year-old boy. Another boy, aged 13, says: “I learnt about what my life can be like if I make the right decisions, and what can happen if I choose and make any wrong decisions, the effect those will have on my life.”

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Bible and what’s in it. Our country was built on the Bible but lots of these kids are being sold a very confusing message of lots of different faiths. We have to trust that God is bigger than our plans. We just need to present the message – as Jesus so often did – and see how people respond.”

Some of its projects include ‘Not Just Cooking’ – a social enterprise that works in schools promoting healthy eating, and the Redi Project – a mentoring programme for eight to 18-year-olds which aims to reach, empower, develop and inspire young people. The Redi Project runs 10 sessions a week with more than 100 children in the programme. There is always a waiting list. It also runs mission trips and training for churches on engaging with young people in their area, as well as a range of other innovative projects.  ather is an emerging national G network of vibrant missional unity movements in towns and cities across the UK, facilitated by the Evangelical Alliance


Sophie Lister: is a researcher and writer for The Damaris Trust. For more articles and study guides see and


Tolkien’s world About 80 years ago, an Oxford professor sat down at his desk and impulsively wrote an odd little sentence: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” It was a tale, as he was later fond of saying, which grew in the telling. What began as a story for his children became a classic, giving birth to an even more famous series of sequels, and helping to set the stage for the fantasy genre as we know it. Thanks to Peter Jackson’s much-loved adaptations, JRR Tolkien is still very much on our cultural radar. The Lord of the Rings films managed to satisfy nerds and newcomers alike, combining spectacle with thrilling action and emotional depth. It’s not surprising that expectations are running high for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first in a new planned trilogy of Tolkien films.

Encounters Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is a stayat-home hobbit with few heroic qualities, and no desire at all for adventure. He’s an upstanding member of the community, and like most hobbits, considers comfort and food to be life’s most important concerns. He is entirely unprepared for the chaos about to be unleashed on him by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), and a company of dwarves led by the irascible Thorin (Richard Armitage). Before he knows what’s happening, Bilbo has been roped into a quest to steal the treasure hoard of legendary dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). What follows is a dangerous journey through the wilderness and over the Misty Mountains, along with a string of extraordinary encounters. Outside the familiar confines of the Shire, Bilbo comes face-to-face with trolls and elves, giants and goblins. Some of these episodes are filled with beauty and wonder, while others scare him senseless. The most significant, of course, involves the exchange of riddles in an underground cave - a meeting that will come to define IDEA MAGAZINE / 32

not only Bilbo’s own life, but the entire fate of Middle Earth. The Hobbit has its roots in the realm of fairy tale, a topic on which Tolkein – a scholar of myth and ancient language – was something of an expert. But it’s inarguable, too, that his personal experiences played a part. A veteran of the First World War, he knew how it felt to be an ordinary man swept up in conflict and terror. All of the Middle Earth stories are haunted by the sense of lost innocence which Tolkein carried from his time as a soldier.

Echoes Unlike his friend and fellow author C.S Lewis, Tolkein did not set out to write allegory. Though a devout Catholic, he rejected the idea that his writing should offer direct parallels to Christian belief – there is no Aslan figure in Middle Earth. Instead, he allowed his faith to flow organically through everything he wrote, shaping the foundations of the world he created. Middle Earth is presented as a place created good, but now fallen, subject to evil forces which are looking to corrupt and destroy. Unlike the typical fairy tale protagonist, Bilbo (and later Frodo) isn’t an embodiment of virtue, but a complex being capable of selfishness as much as heroism. Free will and destiny are both at work – prophesies direct characters’ paths, but their smallest choices matter too. And evil is defeated, in the end, not by military

force or tactical advantage, but through someone so apparently insignificant that the enemy overlooked him. Foolishness shames the wise, and weakness shames the strong. Working in and above all this is an unnamed benevolent force. What appear to be lucky coincidences are, Tolkein implies, glimpses of an intelligent, redemptive power. ‘Maybe Bilbo was meant to find the ring,’ Gandalf suggests to Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring. ‘Which means that you too were meant to have it.’ All of this adds up to what the author called eucatastrophe: the joyous reversal, thanks to grace from outside the characters’ own capabilities, of the catastrophe brought about by evil. Fans will flock to the Hobbit films just as they flocked to The Lord of the Rings, hungry to immerse themselves in a world where these things are a reality. We all long for a eucatastrophe which isn’t limited to fiction. As Tolkein said of Jesus’s resurrection, the event which he believed his stories ultimately echoed: ‘There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true.’ The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is released in cinemas on 14 December.

What’s new in books, DVDs and CDs?

idea-list Our pick of the top five book-to-film adaptations. by Lauren Belcher


Harper Lee’s only novel was adapted for film two years after its publication in 1962, and just as the book continues to be read 40 years later, the film’s fame is immutable. Both tell the story of two children, Scout and Jem, watching their lawyer father, Atticus Finch, defending the innocent Tom Robinson, who is doomed to lose his trial simply because he is black. In 2003, the American Film Institute named Atticus the greatest movie hero of the 20th century.


This adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, proves that sometimes the more change the better. Moving the story from Hardy’s Wessex to the swish hotels, barren sandy landscapes and bustling cities of Rajasthan, India; and merging the hero and the villain into the one character, the director Michael Winterbottom (an avid fan of Hardy’s) did what all the best adaptations do, offered his own interpretation of the original.


Stieg Larsson’s first novel was quickly adapted by Swedish film company in 2009 only to be released again by Hollywood in 2011. Apart from a much bigger budget, the most recent Bond playing the protagonist, and a brilliant (if excessively long) opening sequence, the second film stuck as closely to the novel as the first, so in plot they barely differ.


This CS Lewis novel had already been adapted for television several times, but the evolution of computer graphics meant that the 2005 film could truly capture the magic of Narnia. The director Andrew Adamson’s first ideas came from his memory of reading the book as a child, which resulted in the extra time spent on the Luftwaffe bombing at the beginning of the novel and the enormous battle at the end. The film though, is arguably an interpretation of an interpretation, for CS Lewis based the novel on another, quite well known, story.


Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Tolkien’s epic fantasy took eight years of production, and $285 million. However, it all paid off as almost magically, the film pleased both avid Tolkien fans and people who’d never heard of the trilogy before, leaving everyone wanting more.

NOV/DEC 2012

REVIEWS How to be a bad Christian... and a better human being (Hodder) by Dave Tomlinson I bet you that Dave Tomlinson was a punk rocker in his youth. His marvellously provocative books is laced with a touch of rage, a dose of anarchy and a desire to be noticed. It isn’t sophisticated, but it is a useful blast at churches that are dead at heart and full of rules and regulations. Tomlinson’s plea is to get back to the big distinctive of Christianity – love. At times he is in danger of becoming something of a parody – the shouty liberal who wants to diss the established church. At times his arguments are based on paper-thin grounds. But everyone should buy this firebomb of a book and let it make them angry and happy all at the same time. Classic material. Reviewed by Steve Morris

The Lion’s World (SPCK) by Rowan Williams Rowan Williams takes the reader on an adventure into Narnia in this short book exploring the themes of CS Lewis’s seven adventures. As the ideas and themes, and shortcomings and critiques are considered, Narnia seems just a little too far away to reach, like seeing through a window something you cannot quite touch. But perhaps that is one of the key messages. The world of Narnia is not the Lion’s Country, but a glimpse into what that country will be like. As the reader journeys with Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, along with Eustace, Jill Pole, Digory and the rest of the supporting cast you see that Lewis tried through these stories to encourage you to go further, that you cannot know what lies beyond the wardrobe unless you first step through. Reviewed by Daniel Webster

A New Name (IVP) by Emma Scrivener There were times I had to put this book down. Such was the impact of its writing. The author takes you with her on her journey through the darkness, the pain and fear of anorexia. Her vivid descriptions will make you weep, will make you feel nauseous, and will scare you. But ultimately they will bring you to an understanding of grace and of hope. The subject of eating disorders isn’t one that we often talk about, but let’s hope this book helps sufferers to come to a place of healing and of restoration. A truly amazing book. Reviewed by Chine Mbubaegbu



Velvet Melodies The Velvet Melodies love Jesus, love music and love stories, but also want to create real and honest worship music, song writer Scott McNamara tells Chine Mbubaegbu… “I heard a melody/A sacred symphony/ Ten thousand million voices sang to me/ As diamond droplets fell/Like rain upon my brow/In visions they petitioned me to tell.” Mockingbird. These are the kinds of beautiful, poetic lyrics that you’ll find on the new album Salvation Sings by the Velvet Melodies, a band which consists of Scott McNamara, Jaye McNamara, Phil Drummond and Mark Riley who all go to Alliance member church Causeway Coast Vineyard in Coleraine. The a Northern Ireland-based band are passionate about bringing the Church new songs. But for Scott, the band’s songwriter, these new songs need to reflect the honest struggles that Christians, who love the God they worship, experience as they walk through life. And Scott should know about such struggles. Although his mum became a Christian when he was aged nine, his early experiences of church left him yearning for more. And, as an experienced musician who nearly struck a deal with Simon Cowell when he was in a boy band - that was most often symbolised in his dissatisfaction with the worship times. “When I was younger, I found Christian music was so tacky. It offended me. I thought it was second rate. I had to force myself to listen to it. But after half an hour, I would give myself a treat of listening to the ‘good stuff’,” he told idea. He soon fell away from God and church and his life spiralled into drug and alcohol addiction. “My best friend was a drug dealer, so I was mixing with notorious gangsters. IDEA MAGAZINE / 34

Photo by David Cavan

Drugs were everywhere. I started a serious addiction to cocaine and alcohol. I saw my best friend almost die before my eyes, but was later resuscitated,” he said. “I said to God that if He kept me alive, I would turn to Him. I survived, but ignored the promise I made. But about six months later, I ended up in a church. There, I started to have an anxiety attack, so I went outside and felt what was like a tug of war going on inside. I told God there and then that everything I had, He could have. “And I was filled with the spirit in that moment. Everything changed. I went back to the one-room bedsit I shared with my brother. I went back to that dark place and it was illuminated with the presence of God. Within six months, I had won a God TV channel trip to the Holy Land. And within a year, I was smuggling Bibles into China.” Such a tumultuous faith journey can’t find its expression in what Scott calls the “everything’s rosy” type of worship songs that can sometimes be sung in

our congregations. “As a songwriter, I want to convey a real aching, the soul-wrenching cries that we often experience,” Scott said. “Sometimes in a congregational worship setting, we don’t go as deep. But I’m inspired by the Psalms – their honesty and creativity. My desire is to capture the tussle of the soul, like blues music. We deal with issues of grit and real life. The times when we say to God: ‘I can’t see you in the situation I’m in. I’m in pain and I don’t know what you’re doing.’” The opening track in Salvation Sings tells the story of being lost: “With these blinded eyes a thousand times/I lost direction I couldn’t find my way home/In my wilderness I must confess the road/I’d chosen wasn’t glittered with gold/There were many nights I used to sit and cry.” But ultimately, this being lost brings you to a place of being found, to which you can do nothing but praise God: “My God He lives/My God He reigns/My God He forgives the past He’ll take away your pain.”

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Letters: Have your say

In your words We love hearing from you, so have your say on any of the issues raised in idea or any comments about the Evangelical Alliance by emailing

PUZZLED I was a little puzzled by Krish Kandiah’s recent column (What is the gospel? Sep/ Oct). To me, his bullet point summary of the gospel - God loves you, you have sinned, Jesus died for your sins and rose again, you need to respond by confessing Jesus as Lord - is pretty much OK. Of course, no thoughtful Christian would question that there is a great deal more to the gospel in terms of outworkings of various kinds social, political, etc. But as an essential summary, a distillation, I think it does a good job. I feel that Krish sets up a sequence of false antitheses when he suggests that that “reductionist” summary somehow forces us to choose between mentioning “sin and judgment and hope and peace; Jesus’ death or Jesus’ life; the role of the Holy Spirit or the role of the Church; speaking the good news or living out the good news”. Why? The element we highlight at any given time depends, surely, on the circumstances. Certainly, none of us have the full picture perfectly worked out. But I can’t help the feeling that a common scholarly fault is surfacing here - that of taking something which is essentially simple and unnecessarily complicating it. Colin Sedgwick, via email

A MYSTERY I was very disappointed to see Dr Jennifer Wiseman (Sep/Oct) saying that thanks to powerful telescopes “we are now glimpsing infant galaxies shining to us from over 10 billion years ago”. Anyone who believes the universe is billions of years old clearly doesn’t believe what the IDEA MAGAZINE / 36

Bible tells us. Namely, that the universe is about 6,000 years old. It also depressed me to read her words about God “working over spaces and times that we can barely imagine”. So it seems that Dr Wiseman doesn’t believe that God created everything in six days (of 24 hours each) either. What an undermining article such as this was doing in your magazine is a mystery to me. Mark Ryder, Hemel Hempstead

PRAY FOR VICTORY? The answer to ‘should I pray for my team’s victory’ (Jul/Aug) as an “emphatic yes”, shows the shallowness of modern Christianity. No doubt Jenny Baker expects Christians to be praying for victory for their teams too! And how is God supposed to answer these prayers of opposing teams? Or doesn’t she really expect God to really answer? Wouldn’t it be better to pray that your team will be helped by God to give of its best, be a good example etc? No wonder the world doesn’t see Christians as being any different to them when they express the same desires and their motives appear no different. Patrick G Bateman, Borehamwood

RIGHT RECORD How encouraging to see Steve setting the record straight in response to Alan Judd’s Telegraph article. We thank the Lord for the Alliance’s ministry and witness - and remain thankful for Steve’s ministry at an open air event here last year.

Editor Chine Mbubaegbu – Consulting editors Steve Morris, Krish Kandiah Contributing writers Phil Green, Daniel Webster, Lauren Belcher, Sophie Lister Proofreaders Kim Walker, Nathan Jones Advertising manager Candy O’Donovan – Design Red & Green Marketing Printer Halcyon Print & Design idea is published bimonthly and sent free of charge to members of the Evangelical Alliance. Formed in 1846, the Alliance’s mission is to unite evangelicals to present Christ credibly as good news for spiritual and social transformation. There are around two million evangelical Christians in the UK, according to a 2007 Tearfund survey. idea is published in accordance with the Alliance’s Basis of Faith, although it is impossible in every article to articulate each detail and nuance of belief held by Alliance members. Articles in idea may therefore express views on which there is a divergence of opinion or understanding among evangelicals. Letters and story ideas from members are welcome, and will be considered by the editorial board, which reserves the right to edit letters and stories for length and style. We regret that we are unable to engage in personal correspondence. Unsolicited material will only be returned if accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

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Letters: Have your say



Steve Clifford: The general director writes...

A God-given opportunity I still find it hard to believe I’m now the father of two adult and indeed married children. Over the last four years both my son and daughter have got married. They were great days of fun, joy and celebration reflecting their character and that of those they were marrying. I am pleased to report that both Ann and I have managed to survive the experience. Our church doesn’t own a building, so those getting married usually have a registry office ceremony a few days earlier and then a full-on church wedding using all kinds of different venues. My son Jake was so lacking interest in the registry office bit that he managed to negotiate a discount rate for early on a Thursday morning. As far as he was concerned, it was a bit like picking up a birth or death certificate from the council – he wasn’t sure he needed any ‘civil ceremony’. I did point out to him that God was present on the Thursday morning even in Ealing Town Hall and that He did hear their promises even there. What I realised was that what really mattered to my children happened a few days later. In the context of worship, prayer, the opening of scripture, surrounded by their family and friends they made their promises to each other and we as a church committed to walk with them in their marriage. Marriage isn’t just about two people making vows to each other, it’s a community event, we were never meant to make it work on our own. Whatever comes of the re-definition of marriage debate and the government’s proposal to change the law to allow samesex marriage - a proposal which we are working with others to campaign against, convinced it is not in the best interest of the society we live in - there is another significant debate which needs to happen which is highlighted by these proposals. How do we as a Church inter-relate with this thing called the ‘State’? This is a far-ranging and profoundly significant discussion, impacting on many areas of how we understand British society and participate in it. Over the centuries, in all kinds of areas of life, but notably in the areas of marriage, an agreement has been entered into with the Church delivering a service on behalf of the State; a marriage service. This isn’t just true of the Anglican communion but most mainstream denominations. The government has now proposed to move the goalposts by re-defining marriage. Not only would this diminish a key social institution, it would also undermine the partnership of Church and State which has emerged over


centuries. This is particularly difficult for the Church of England which is under a legal obligation to offer a wedding to anyone who lives within their parish, regardless of their faith - an obligation which has provided some wonderful gospel opportunities. The excellent submission of the CofE to the marriage consultation highlights this dilemma and points to the untenable position that the established Church would be placed in by such changes. So as we look to the future and should the government be successful in re-defining marriage, how will we as a Church respond? We might have to find our own words to describe what we mean by marriage - the government having hijacked the historic and biblical definition. Some churches might have to find new ways of celebrating a man and woman committing themselves to each other for life. Maybe the ‘open to all’ in a parish will no longer be available as the government’s moving of the goalposts will have profound implications. The future will be more like what happens in many mainland European nations and indeed, as with my son’s and daughter’s weddings, we pick up our marriage certificate from the town hall, but then as a Church we celebrate our weddings in a way which reflects our faith without any government interference. In this context, although the historic social institution of marriage as a life-long union between a man and a woman would effectively be dead, there may be an opportunity for the Christian Church to breathe new life into its own God-given form of marriage. Perhaps with a sadness of heart, a God-given opportunity will emerge whereby we as the Church demonstrate with fresh faith and clarity what marriage as God intended it is really meant to be.

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idea November / December 2012  

idea: the magazine from the Evangelical Alliance. In this edition: We take a look at this years ChurchAds campaign, "the Godbaby", Steve Hol...