Monday, February 28, 2011

Summary of blog posts - February

Here is a summary from my blog of the posts for February. The main theme is ten things we can learn which is based on the latest draft of my book, “Turning the World Upside Down – lessons from the Primitive Methodist movement.”

Ten things we can learn from the Primitive Methodists

Always hope

How do you train lay leaders?

Equipping an army

Having a high view of the Bible

Keeping on track

Persecution is part of the package

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Always hope

God’s Spirit abhors a vacuum.

In 1800 the spiritual needs of the working classes were being largely ignored. In his divine providence, God raised a movement that transformed the lives of ordinary men and women. Today we have a different problem. In the Western world there is a missing generation of young people who are noticeably absent from our conventional churches.

Research consistently shows that there is a crisis of enormous proportions facing the church as the rate of decline increases. These lost young people represent the harvest field for another great move of God.

The Primitive Methodist story shows us that there is always hope, no matter how difficult the need.

Related links and posts

1. Why Innovation is Needed in Church Life

2. Age profile of church attenders

3. What’s in a name? Why “Primitive” Methodism?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How do you train lay leaders?

How did the Primitive Methodists train lay leaders?

Training for local preachers was apprenticeship training. Some of their most effective preachers were teenagers, both men and women. The first female travelling preacher or missionary was Sarah Kirkland, just 21 years old. Plough boys as young as 15 became effective evangelists.

Hugh Bourne was highly skilled at talent spotting and the movement excelled in training young men and women as lay preachers. They learned how to pray earnestly and preach powerfully.

Lay leaders do not need formal theological training as a pre-requisite for active ministry. Formal training can be valuable, but the old adage remains true:

"train the called, rather than call the trained"

Formal training in and of itself is not a precondition for ministry. Jesus' own disciples prove the point.

Related posts

1. Jesus, apprentices and Primitive Methodists

2. Equipping an army

3. Raising an army

4. We need heroes not celebrities

5. Hugh Bourne and the lads

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Equipping an army

The danger for any movement is to concentrate power and control in the hands of a few paid professionals or the clergy. The professionals become a bottleneck in the system, as they become overworked and perhaps unintentionally disenfranchise lay people. Lay people always outnumber the paid staff in any church or Christian movement and one of the keys to growth is the rapid mobilisation of lay leaders.

When Hugh Bourne died in 1852 there were over 9,000 local preachers, 6,000 class leaders and 22,000 Sunday School teachers. In other words the pioneers not only founded churches but raised an army of leaders. Any movement of God that wishes to expand rapidly must mobilise its lay leaders.

The role of church leaders is to train and equip the people for the work of service and ministry. They need to raise an army, train them and allow them to do frontline battle. The Primitive Methodist movement knew the power of lay people in action.

The Apostle Paul teaches that

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:11-13)

Rapid expansion needs an army of lay people who are trained and equipped for the work of ministry and service.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Having a high view of the Bible

The Primitive Methodist pioneers had a high view of the Bible as being inspired, or “God-breathed”, although written by human authors.

Paul writes that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

It is not just a human book, but a divinely inspired book that ultimately reveals Jesus Christ as fully divine and fully human, the One who saves us from our sin, by his death as a substitute on our behalf.

When human reason becomes the ultimate reference point, then great portions of the New Testament can be ignored. The danger, of course is that we choose to believe the parts of God’s Word that we like and discard those part that we find uncomfortable. This applies of course just as much to those of a conservative theological position as it does to those coming from a liberal position.

Do you hold a high view of the Bible? Why or why not?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Keeping on track

It was said of the early Primitive Methodists that “The preachers were men possessed of common sense, of sound theological views, and of ardent zeal for the conversion of sinners; but they were not distinguished by learning and eloquence.”

Sound doctrine and sound teaching is important. False teaching and heresy matter. Liberal Theology is alive and well today, and undermines the authority of the Bible. Sadly the failure of the Primitive Methodist movement to properly deal with the heresy of the liberal social gospel subverted the theological basis of the movement well into the 20th century.

The apostle Paul writes to Timothy and Titus regarding the importance of ensuring sound doctrine in their local churches. Timothy was responsible for overseeing the church in Ephesus and Titus for the church in Crete. He instructs Timothy to “watch your life and doctrine closely.” (1 Timothy 4:16). To Titus he writes “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1)

Leaders in local churches, such as pastors, elders and deacons have a responsibility to ensure sound teaching is taught and that false teaching is opposed. Truth is a vital foundation of any church.

One of the general trends today in the church population is that of increasing biblical illiteracy. As believers read their Bibles less than ever before this makes a local church susceptible to false teaching.

I suggest that we heed the advice of Hugh Bourne to read a chapter of the Bible every day. It is sound instruction for our contemporary believers.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Persecution is part of the package

One characteristic of Christian movements throughout history seems to be that of persecution. As a general rule of thumb persecution is used by God to shape and deepen a movement. Earlier this week a group of us met to pray and as part of that we read the dramatic story in Acts 12 where Peter was imprisoned by Herod. James, the brother of John had been executed previously and Herod, thinking he was on to a good thing was preparing to put Peter on trial for his life. Earlier, Stephen had been stoned, which initiated a great persecution resulting in believers being scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.(Acts 8:1b)

It also appears that God will limit persecution when it is contrary to his divine purpose. Hence the miraculous escape of Peter from prison. As it was for the church in the New Testament, so it was for the Primitive Methodist pioneers. Their preachers faced the anger and violence of unruly mobs and injustice from magistrates. In 1818 John Wedgwood was the first in a long line of preachers to be sent to jail. Many a Primitive Methodist faced jeers and insults, not least of which was to be called a Ranter. Their motto, printed on their membership tickets was taken from Acts 28:22 - "we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect".

It may well be the experience of contemporary Christian movements to experience some form of persecution, as our Western society moves from a post-Christian outlook and becomes increasingly anti-Christian.