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malcolm chamberlain

musings about the emerging church, mission and contemporary culture...

God is at large, intimately involved in his world in ways that the church is maybe just waking up to!

faith - the battle of two funtamentalisms...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Yesterday's Guardian newspaper carried a fascinating article simply titled 'faith', in which Stuart Jeffries explores the notion that "Britain's new cultural divide is not between Christian and Muslim, Hindu and Jew. It is between those who have faith and those who do not." The article argues that dogmatic atheists, such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, simply present an alternative fundamentalism to that of religious extremists; one that is just as devoid of tolerance, grace and the desire to understand the other.

It seems to me that both points of view, religious fundamentalism and atheistic fundamentalism, are equally underpinned by modernist propositional rationalism and a certainty that leaves no room for doubt. Both claim to have grasped the True meta-narrative and, as such, both are equally out of touch with the cuture(s) of postmodernity and the sense of exploratory journey. The challenge for incarnational mission is to tune into the spiritual heartbeat of the postmodern explorer and simply provide spaces for connections with the ever-present Christ to be made. For this to happen with integrity, we will need to buck the trend of the two fundamentalisms and open up the arena of questions and doubts, for it's in the doubting and questioning that many people find the God of grace.

Read the full Guardian article 'here'

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:23 AM | link | 0 comments |

fairtrade fortnight...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Tomorrow is the first day of the UK's fairtrade fortnight (26 February – 11 March). The theme for this year's fortnight is: "CHANGE TODAY. CHOOSE FAIRTRADE. (Munch it! Wear It! Taste it! Choose it!)" The website blurb describes the aim of the fortnight in this way...

"Change Today. Choose Fairtrade, is an urgent call to people in the UK to engage with the Fairtrade Foundation’s vision of an even bigger movement for positive change on unfair trade, including making the switch to buying Fairtrade."

Find out more about national events 'here', or about the campaign in general 'here'.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 4:59 PM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:39 AM | link | 0 comments |

live generously...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

'This' is a great way of joining others in trying to make a positive difference. It began as a practical action after Greenbelt 2004 and now has over 1,200 members across the globe (see map).
You can be one of them!! Go see, join and live generously...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 4:04 PM | link | 0 comments |

the emperor of our imaginations...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Alan Hirsch has posted a helpful (in its simplicity) description of Christendom, drawing on the work of Stuart Murray (read it 'here'). He also demonstrates how the paradigmatic shift of Christianity, from the margins to the centre of the institution, undermined the 'Jesus movement' that had previously been transforming the Roman world from the grassroots.

His quote from the Church Historian Rodney Stark is striking...

"Far too long, historians have accepted the claim that the conversion of the Emperor Constantine (ca. 285-337) caused the triumph of Christianity. To the contrary, he destroyed its most attractive and dynamic aspects, turning a high-intensity, grassroots movement into an arrogant institution controlled by an elite who often managed to be both brutal and lax."

Hirsch argues (and I happen to agree with him) that although Christendom has long since demised, the Church generally continues to operate with the Christendom mindset, or as he puts it, "Constantine is still the emperor of our imaginations".

For the Church to fully grasp and realise its missional calling, a similar but opposite paradigm shift is necessary to the one that took place under Constantine. Is this where the Emerging Church (in its best use of that term) is acting as a prophetic challenge to the institutional Church as it gets on with the business of seeing grass roots, culturally contextualised, communities of faith emerging? Is the 'Jesus movement', largely crippled for the last 1700 years through institutionalisation, finally being allowed to live again?

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:04 AM | link | 7 comments |

honest, humorous and healthy (?!)...

Kester has begun what promises to be a hilarious series entitled "The Spiritual Failings of an 'Emerging Leader'", and the first post 'Failing to Fast' is great - well worth a read! I was chatting to someone yesterday who is exploring the whole 'vocation to ministry' thing. As part of our conversation we spoke about the value of vulnerable leadership, and the urgent need to pull clergy and church leaders down from the pedestals that so many have put them (us) on and see all as co-travellers on the journey of faith. Kester's post is a healthy (burgers aside!) contribution to this process. Go read...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:42 AM | link | 0 comments |

will the real prophets please stand up (or not)...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I was involved in a discussion last night about the prophetic ministry and the role of prophecy in the church. I must admit to being slightly uncomfortable with the way that the term 'prophecy' is often banded around to describe what is often at best simply a reminder of Biblical assurances (and yes, I'm very happy to regard this as God speaking, but why do we feel the need to add weight to it by calling it 'prophecy'?), and is at worse self-indulgent or even a justification for the abuse of power! While I'm on the 'admitting' stuff here, I must also admit to being slightly uncomfortable with my own discomfort (and perhaps cynicism) in this, given my charismatic roots!

So, as is advisable when you feel uncomfortable with something, I did a bit of reflecting on this! Here's what I'm thinking (for what it's worth)...
  1. I sincerely believe that the ever-involved God is constantly communicating with us (though not always in words, which carry their own set of linguistic and cultural limitations).
  2. I sincerely believe that the Spirit of God wants to help us to switch off the mute (if you like technological analogies) so that we can hear God more clearly in our day to day lives.
  3. I get this from Jesus' teaching about being the good shepherd and his sheep listening to his voice (John 10:15). In order to listen, we need to get to know his voice and that requires a certain amount of risk taking and a safe space to make suggestions of what you think God might be saying.
  4. However, I also think that this is not the same as prophecy! It strikes me that prophecy as a revelation from God is usually unsettling, challenging and unwanted, rather than an 'encouragement from the Lord'. On the whole, the people of Israel in the Old Testament didn't really like their prophets and did their utmost to shut them up. They certainly didn't feel 'encouraged' by them!
So what, if any, is the role of prophecy today? I have to admit (they often come in threes!) that I get a bit cynical when I see someone labelled as 'prophet whoever' - not because I don't think there are prophets around today but because I think that most of them (in true biblical fashion) don't really know that they are prophets and are not all that keen on wearing the 'official prophet' badge. They don't regard their prophetic ministry (if they see it as that at all) as something to get them noticed and recognised, but as something they simply must do - compelled by God and their missional instincts and passions.

The Church in the West is being shaken up by these contemporary 'prophets' and it's much needed! In the Old Testament tradition God usually sent prophets to the people of Israel when they had become inward looking, complacent and/or abusive; in short, when they had lost sight of their calling to be a light to the Gentiles. The Church in the West has become so complacent in its privileged position (Christendom) that it failed to realise for a very long time that it no longer held that privileged position! Society moved on as the Church continued to pat itself on the back and utter 'encouragements from the Lord' as to what a good job we were all doing!

The contemporary prophets, some of them involved in what is being labelled (why do we love to do that so much?!) the Emerging Church, are challenging the Church in the West to wake up and smell the coffee - to get real, come down from the ecclesiastical ivory towers and pulpits beyond contradiction or challenge, and to get stuck into the stuff of the Kingdom that is all around us. Fortunately for us, God doesn't need prophets to remind him of where he should be and what he should be doing, so, if we want to find him again we need to heed the call of these people to lay down our churchyness and even some of our arrogant 'certainties', and join in with the missio dei. Now that, I'm happy to believe, may just be a prophetic call - uncomfortable but exciting!

Just a thought!...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:55 AM | link | 1 comments |

misleading metaphors?...

'This' is a great post from Ben Edson, reflecting on mission, evangelism and his discomfort with the fishing metaphor.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:51 AM | link | 0 comments |