Bible Study Showdown – A plea to ditch the classic formula and strike out on your own

There are Bible studies and there are ‘Bible studies’, the former are awesome – and the latter, perhaps not so much.

It looks to me pursuing the shelves of my local Christian bookstores, that the vast majority of youth Bible study resources on the market today are the prefabricated and pre-answered formulaic type. You don’t necessarily study any Bible! Instead you study somebody else’s thoughts on studying the Bible. Does anyone else feel cheated and cheesed by this? If we don’t it’s possible that we too were reared on these ‘prefab Bible studies.’

Tell me, does this excerpt look familiar?

Title: David, Giant Slayer!
Aim: To show that even the smallest person can knock down their giants with a little faith.
Read: 1 Samuel 17:31-50
Ask: Do you think David was afraid to face goliath? Why not?
Say: David had faith that God would fight for him!
Ask: A giant doesn’t have to be a real giant. A giant could be a school test or a bully. What giants do you face at home and at school?
Ask: How do you think having faith like David’s would help you face those giants?

Pray.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this short excerpt, but it’s not really a Bible study is it? It’s a thematic, application-driven chat bouncing around a couple of verses in a passage without cracking them open and getting to the goo-of-awesomeness inside.

How about approaching a question set like this instead:

Read: 1 Samuel 17:48 (in context of vv.31-50)

Ask:
– What did you notice in the verse – Anything at all?

– If you we’re leading, what questions would you ask from this verse?

– Who was ‘The Philistine’ and how did he compare with David?
– What is ‘the Battle line’ and why were only two of them on it?
– How did both of them approach each other?
– Why do you think Goliath first arose, then came, and then drew near? Why three stages?
– Why do you think David ‘ran quickly’?

– What or who was running with David? (Look back at v.47)

– What do you think this verse teaches us about God? (Don’t be satisfied with one answer).
– How does it teach us about people who follow God and people who hate God?
– What does it teach us about size?

– How about fear?

– When you face obstacles, how do you approach them?
– What things in your world mock God like Goliath did – how do you think David would respond to them?
– What ‘David qualities’ from this verse would you like to add to your identity?

– What Goliath qualities could you do without?

There’s some key differences in this approach:

First, the verse itself is dictating what questions should be asked.

Most people you work with are not going to be Bible scholars. Every other word is going to create complications and confusion. So why not let that be the way into reading the passage?

Second, the questions begin observationally, move onto interpretation and end with the application and reflection.
The train is led by what you see, how you read the passage then follows, which informs how you act on the passage. This is often the exact opposite to the approach demonstrated earlier.
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Third, this is question-driven not formula-driven.

Question-driven relies off who, what, when, where, why and how – whereas formula-driven relies on seeking exact answers to set up the teaching point that you (or your handy resource book!) need to make. Prefabricated studies are like knock knock jokes; the person hearing the joke needs to understand the joke formula or the punchline will fail!

Forth, the application flows directly from the passage it doesn’t have to be shoehorned in.

You might end up in a similar place application wise, but the grounding for it is much more secure.

Fifth, this teaches a method of reading the Bible that doesn’t rely on you – it relies on the text.

You and me – we’re fallible; shock, horror. The Bible? Not so much! Young people will be able to use this Bible reading technique on their own, carry it with them to university and help them spot Bible loving churches throughout their life.

Sixth, the Holy Spirit has more room.

The Holy Spirit is never divorced from the Bible itself, so you are allowing the Holy Spirit to speak more clearly because you are allowing the Word to speak more clearly. You also trusting conversation and discussion to the Holy Spirit for guidance and quality.

Seventh, the young people are directing the discussion.

Particularly in the early and late questions. This allows you to know much more about the young people that you’re working with, it helps them feel like they’re being heard and it develops you as a family, a team and a community.

Youth Work Management. eBook.

 

Youth Work Posts have all moved to YouthWorkHacks.com – check it out!

After a few weeks of compiling, editing and formatting ‘Random Thoughts On Youth Work Management‘ is finally a reality.

This is available from the iBooks / iTunes store.

Thank you to Katie Gough of Idiolalia for lots of help editing and to Joel Preston of Youth Ministry Management for writing a quality forward.

Summary

Random Thoughts On Youth Work Management is just that – a set of random blog posts that fits the bid. It is a short collection of thoughts on delivering quality youth work management in Christian settings. Specifically you will find ways to manage your team and develop good leaders; ways to manage yourself, developing personally and professionally; and ways to manage the tricky relationship between youth worker and youth work employer.

Download

On the iTunes / iBook store – click here.

Opening Up The Bible: Tips n’ Tricks

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Opening Up The Bible: Tips n’ Tricks Part 1.

This is based off a bible reading tool I was taught at Bible College.

It is not a definitive way of reading the Bible – duh – but an easy way to get physical with understanding the text.

This is a relativity easy passage to do this with – if you’d like me to demonstrate the same technique with a different passage, let me know!

A Youthworker and a Bible Walk Into A Bar…

All Youth Work Posts Are Now Available On YouthWorkHacks.com Check Them Out Here.

 

Culture and the Bible. These are the two indisputable pillars of effective youthwork. If you don’t get the former you can’t communicate the latter, if you can’t apply the latter you will make no difference to the former.

“There are two fundamental necessities in Christian Communication. One is that we take the world we live in seriously; and the other is that we take God’s revelation to us in the Bible seriously. If either is missing, the communication will be ineffective.” [Christian Youth Work, Mark Ashton & Phil Moon]

There is a youthwork culture in the UK that is really starting to push the envelop, dig deep and get innovative in cultural relevancy. This is absolutely fantastic! I fully embrace and stand by this.

I fear, however, that the Bible is taking more and more of a back seat.

 

The Famine of God’s Word in Youthwork Culture

I’ve been to almost every major, mainstream Christian youthwork gathering in the UK this year. These were amazing events with great people, and mostly solid, encouraging teaching. Most of all they were a showcase of good ideas to learn from! However they were also symptomatic of a serious famine of the Word of God.

I can count on one hand how many talks I’ve heard at Youthwork gatherings this year that genuinely opened up the Bible.

“Opening up the Bible means swimming around in its depths and drawing us into those hidden truths.”

This spills over to published materials too. Bible reading resources are driving further down the lane of ‘prooftext with reflection’ often without any discernible link between the passage and the attached thoughts.

If we don’t open up the Bible we lose perspective, focus, authority and foundations. What are we playing at?

 

We Don’t Know How To Open Up The Bible

Let me clarify what I mean by ‘opening up’ the Bible. Just reading a standalone verse and paraphrasing it a few different, interesting ways is not opening up the Bible. Reading a verse, picking a word from it and giving a talk on that word is also not opening up the Bible.

Opening up the Bible means swimming around in its depths and drawing us into those hidden truths. It means exegesis, context, study and clarity. It means bringing a passage to life by using the passage itself!

I’m becoming increasingly concerned that we don’t know how to do this.

My wife, an editor, is currently trying to re-write someones Bible Study that is trying to teach that David defeated Goliath because of his own prodigious experience and skill; not because he trusted in God despite his lack of experience and skill. How could we get a passage so dramatically wrong?

 

The Bible Makes Our Hearts Burn Within Us

Read Luke 24:13-35

How did Jesus reveal himself to the two followers walking to Emmaus? “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” v.27.

And how did they respond? They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” v.32.

“If you want young people’s hearts to burn within them in response to meeting with Jesus Christ, then you must, must, flippin’ must open up the Bible to them!”

If you want young people’s hearts to burn within them in response to meeting with Jesus Christ, then you must, must, flippin’ must open up the Bible to them! Yes, please be culturally relevant, but if you’re not going to bring God’s Word with you, you’re better off just staying at home!

If you want to communicate God’s heart, use His own words! There’s nothing wrong with the material – we must teach it until it burns within the hearts of this generation.

“However, if we have to err on one side or the other, we must not lose our hold on Christian truth. The simple message of God’s love for sinful humanity and of his forgiveness of our sins for the sake of his son has extraordinary and immense power: our incompetence as communicators is not able to destroy its ability to reach non-Christian young people.” [Christian Youthwork, Ashton & Moon]

Also See…

6 Ways to Train Teenagers to Read Their Bibles

Great Resource to Start Doing This…

  Dindexig Deeper: Tools for Understanding God’s World by
Andrew Sach & Nigel Beynon

YC14 Session: Andy Croft. Hope For Young People

This was a live blog for Youthwork The Conference, originally published on their webpage here.

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It’s going to be a buzzing night in the Big Room, session 3. We’re going to be joined by the legend Andy Croft. Andy is the Associate Director of Soul Survivor and a quality, passionate speaker. Andy’s also got a theology degree to boot from no less than Cambridge University.

Andy loves young people and as the head of ‘Soul 61’, he loves training people for leadership too, so expect this to be epic!

      (This is a live blog – please forgive any random grammar and liberal spelling!)

Big Room kicks off with a beautifully chaotic street dance masterclass, courtesy of the Youth For Christ mission team ‘Stance.’ There’s something both awe-inspiring and utterly terrifying about seeing a room full of hundreds of youth workers jiving away. Nothing, though was able to match Damian Wharton’s freestylin’ on the air guitar. Brilliant!

There was a fun on-the-couch plug by Rob and Chris for ‘Pursuit,’ a local community driven worship gathering happening in May next year. Check it out here.

Following this Dot and Damien made a really important announcement about the location of Youthwork, The Conference 2015. YC15 will be moving to a residential centre in Central England, near Swindon. If you book this week, this will only cost £130 – including all your food and accommodation – fabulous stuff!

We began to worship by hearing God’s word from Hebrews 12:1-2 and praying it over each other.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

As we worshiped a cry rose up:

“Let us become more aware of your presence,
let us experience the glory of your goodness. 
Holy Spirit you are welcomed here,
Come flood this place and change the atmosphere”

Here is the call of this youth working generation – that by an increasing awareness of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, we will see a change in the atmosphere in the streets and schools and communities that we work in.

How can we do this? Our next song led us straight there:

“If our God is with us,
Then who could ever stop us
And if our God is for us
Then what could stand against?”

Up comes Andy

Andy was terrified that he was going to be made to get on stage with the street dance crew before – an opportunity not to be missed again perhaps?

We are going to be looking at reaching out and what mission to young people can look like.

Andy has learned some golden lessons. What Andy has learned over the years when it comes to Christmas for instance, and his wife Beth, is it’s better to buy her a gift than not. Sound advice! Andy has also learned that it’s better to ask what she wants first.

One year after asking, Beth sends Andy on a mission to buy her a cocoon, slouchy, navy Christmas jumper. So on mission to TopShop, after the male instincts to need help and not ask for it were fully exhausted Andy appealed to the helpful looking shop assistant – who didn’t sell the right jumper. Gutted. Andy settled for something else, which Beth took back the following week. In all – not the best mission accomplished.

It’s getting continually harder to come up with a blueprint or formula for mission.

At Soul Survivor this year the theme was ‘relationships’ and the team was absolutely staggered at the amount of hurt that came out during the festivals through young people responding to these messages.

During a recent Soul 61 leadership session, a few were asked to give their testimony. The team, again was knocked back at the amount of pain and hard experiences in the lives of the young people who shared.

It’s continually getting harder to find a silver bullet for mission.

However, in light of all this darkness Andy says “I have never been more confident in the power of this Gospel. The more the situation becomes serious the more we see that the Gospel is what they need.”

It’s continually getting harder but we can have confidence in this Gospel.

It’s spelled out in Matthew 12:21, “In his name the nations will put their hope.”

Hope is the silver bullet, and it can be opened up for young people in three ways:

1. Hope that they are worth something

If you look up ‘Am I Ugly, Be Honest’ on youtube you’ll find loads of young people asking that question. Many of the responding comments are uplifting, but many are incredibly harsh and unhelpful!

Young people are desperately looking for self worth and confidence in their identity. How can we as youth leaders restore a young person’s confidence in who they are?

As youth leaders we are constantly looking in a hundred different directions and juggling a hundred different values. So much so we don’t see wood for trees and we miss the key which is the absolute unconditional love of Jesus.

Just because you’re broken doesn’t mean God can’t love you. Young People will put their trust and hope in Jesus when they know that they are worth something.

2. Hope that things can change

Young people need to hope that things can be different and will not always be stuck the way that they are. However, when we look at young people with raw problems and deep-set hurts it’s easy to lose confidence in the truth of a transforming God.

When you hang around with someone who is passionate about anything, it becomes contagious! After a year hanging out with Mike Pilavachi, who has an immense passion for food – Andy himself started getting OTT over his McDonald’s cheese burger. Passion rubs off on you.

When you encounter the God of the universe, when we spend time with him we begin to be changed more and more into his image.

When people encounter the living God, things change. Things do not have to be the way they have always been. Change can happen.

This can be a really slow process. For Andy, God worked on him for years to smooth out his rough edges and soften his heart. We need confidence that God can change us. Allowing him to flow through us by the Holy Spirit brings change.

We must give young people this hope in a God who can bring change.

3. Hope that they can be part of something bigger.

Even in the midst of the lack of hope that young people are burdened with, there is a thirst for adventure.

For many people the healing is in the going, the healing is in the doing. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus says go to all nations and surely I am with you always even to the very end of the age. I am with you – so go!

Young people don’t get mission when they hear a talk about it but when they get out and do it. When young people start to see their mates changed they then start to get excited about mission. This all comes from a friendship with him.

A full friendship with God needs the whole spectrum of life to be cultivated – the good and the bad. Even in the moments when you feel like things could go incredibly wrong, God can bring incredible intimacy. This is the power, the warmth and the hope of a friendship with God.

Bringing it in to land…

There is an urgency for reaching out to young people, but we can also have a massive confidence in the Gospel of hope that we have. Hope that they are worth something, hope that things can change and hope that they can be part of something bigger.

Spread the word. Spread the hope.

Andy ended with a brilliant story of a child that wanders onto a stage at a concert and starts playing ‘chopsticks’ on the piano. The pianist, rather than pushing the child away started to weave an intricate melody into the simple tune that the child was offering.

God requires no more than chopsticks. He will weave his melody and accomplish his plans through whatever we have to offer to Him.

YC14 Session: 2 Challenges From Youth Work Works

This was a live blog for Youthwork, the Conference, originally published on their webpage here.

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“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that you might have life and have it to the full” (Jesus, John 10:10). Youthwork pioneer Mark Yaconelli famously said that youthorkers “are passing on the way to stay alive.”

In the midst of the crazed, gut-wrenching frenzy of youthwork there is a constant, sometimes subversive and sometimes outright battle between the thief and the life bringer. A battle between darkness and light, between death and life. There’s nothing less than life at stake in what we do.

It’s appropriate then that this morning we heard stories from people on the frontline. Youthwork Conference’s opening session today, ‘Youth Work Works’ brought us compassion-driven youth projects from all over the UK. They were, without exception, incredible examples of youthwork passing on the way to stay alive. Check out the live blog for the session here.

I’m particularly encouraged by two values that came up in one way or another in just about every presentation. These make for two great challenges for us to talk about with our teams back home.

1. Meet genuine needs with what God has given you. See what the young people in your area are struggling with, and by working with the resources that God has provided reach to address those specific needs.

The youth work works speakers demonstrated that we don’t need any more flat-packed, cookie cutter youth projects. Instead we need a step out in faith to do something new and innovative and to take risks for the Kingdom where we live.

2. Give more responsibility to young people. Billy Graham fervently believed that the best way to bring a young person to Jesus is through another young person. It’s amazing therefore, to see youth workers inviting young people into the planning, problem solving and practice behind youth projects.

This was probably demonstrated best by Theresa and Hannah who are both involved in Mission Academy and through the simple and effective ‘you are loved’ cards from Naomi Robinson and the Pais Project.

YC14 Seminar: Today’s Discipleship, Tomorrow’s Disciples.

This was a live blog for Youthwork, the Conference, originally published on their webpage here.

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It’s ​9:08​ in Devonshire 1, and the room is slowly filling up to experience the first seminar of Youthwork​,​ the Conference 2014. The air conditioning is whirring, the awkward ‘chair-next-door conversations’ have started​,​ and the title, ​​Today’s Discipleship, Tomorrow’s Disciples is stirring interest.

Our speakers, Nathan Iles and Phil Knox, are here holding the torch for British Youth For Christ, so we’re expecting this to be fuelled by a drive and passion to ‘take the good news of Jesus Christ relevantly to every young person in the UK.’

(This is live, sorry about any mistakes!)

An opening question “how good was your breakfast?” with a hearty response breaks the ice and kicks us into gear. This is a fast paced, high energy presentation with masses of important information and deeply applicable challenges – so buckle up!


Ten Unique Challenges of The Millennial Generation

Sociologists have been saying ​that ​‘there​’​s something different about this generation’​, something that​ creates new categories, reaches for new terms and raises new questions for how we do youthwork today. They go by many names​:​​​ ​​the millennials,​​ the paradoxical generation, ​​the dot-coms,​​ the emerging adults,​​ the 18s-20s –​ ​and they come with unique wordviews which require us to ta​i​lor our approach to youthwork accordingly.

So what is unique about this generation and what are some of the ways that we can speak truth to them?


1. They are digital pioneers.

They don’t just go online, they are online. Over half will check their social media as soon as they wake up. They live in the moment and that moment is on the smartphone, the tablet and the laptop.

Paradoxically this hyper-connectiv​ity​​ ​with a whole net of other digital users also creates a sense of isolation, and often a polarisation between the persona in reality and the persona online.

There needs to be a definite level of incarnational involvement in that world. We need to be God incarnate online, and help our young people be responsible digital pioneers and good citizens of the online world.


2. They are anti-institutional

Once upon a time we trusted politicians, we trusted organisation and we trusted institution. Those days are rapidly wearing thin. There is a pandemic lack of desire to belong to, or be a card-carrying member of any kind of institution.

However, this does not mean that this generation is not deeply spiritual. They are! There is a rejection of organised religion but a widespread searching for a deeper sense of reality.

We need to tackle nominal church going. Phil reminded us that ‘small is beautiful’ and that we need to see a de-emphasis on the Sunday morning service and a greater emphasis on the small group. We further need to give young people a bigger image of what church can be, moving away from consumerist models. “We need a society to contribute to rather than a church to consume.”


3. They are instant consumerists

The mo​t​to of this generation is tesco ergo sum, I shop therefore I am. This is the first generation to identify as consumerists, and specifically instant consumerists. We can go from hearing a song on TV to downloading and owning it within thirty seconds. There used to be a day where we browsed video rental shops – now we feel hard don​e​ by if we can’t stream a video within seconds.

We can address this by speaking out on generosity and speaking out against consumerism and the desire craze. What kinaesthetic experiences can we give to our young people (like visiting homeless kitchens) to teach them about generosity?


4. They are influenced more by friends than romance or family

Peers have replaced parents. Friends have become the most dependable unit. Even in popular culture, TV shows have moved away from the family unit (The Simpsons) to the friendship circles (Big Bang Theory).

The church, however​,​ can uniquely give people a broader vision of family through all-age community. When young people were asked in a recent study, ‘what do you look for in a youth leader?’ 85% responded with a parent or grandparent figure.

Nathan gave us a great example of a program called ‘sponsor a young person.’ The deal is the young person has to say hello to an older person, and the older person has to commit to pray for that young person and give £1 a month to support them to go on a residential. Brilliant!


5. They have paradox between need for community and increasing isolation

There is a deep desire for individualism and a parallel longing for community. They are the ‘have it your way’ generation but​ they​ also have a deep need to be part of something bigger than themselves.

In youth ministry we need to hold these tensions and speak into these paradoxes. We need to speak into individual decision and church community  This should be easy for the church! Faith is rooted in individual decision, in light of a whole community.


6. They are a post-christendom generation

Religion is no longer at the centre of public life. Jesus is a swear word and ​N​oah is a myth. In 1985 520,000 18-30s were going to church​; ​in the 20 years since that has more than halved. This generation no longer has the context, the background or the language to engage directly with Christian culture.

Sunday school for many in this generation is a thing of the past. People don’t know the Bible stories now. We need to translate the language and use words that young people understand. We also need to look at a different paradigm for the communication of Gospel, using stories works more often now than using something like the 4 points Gospel. Not least because the lack of prior understanding also means that the stories also now have a real freshness.


7. They are spending more time in adolescence

The average age of Adolescence is extending and now sits somewhere between the ages of 10-27. They are also sometimes called the ‘Peter Pan’ generation because ‘they never grow up.’

There are ways, like being sexually active, where they are growing up faster​,​ however transitioning into full adulthood is getting harder and taking longer.

As church and youthworkers we need to intentionally celebrate the translations into adulthood by inten​t​ionally addressing transition issues and by supporting parents more. One of the things Youth For Christ has done is changed the age spectrum in its constitution from 11-18 to 7-25. We should consider running our youth groups older.


8. They have a ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deist’ worldview

The way that emerging adults view God is like Santa Claus or like a cosmic butler. He helps us be happy by bringing us good things and encouraging people to be nice and fair. The ultimate purpose of life is hedonistic – that is to be happy. ​(​Ideal moment to kick in with Pharall Williams.​)​

Bottom line here: We need to get uncomfortable. Comfort is the enemy of growth. We should as youth workers give our young people a sense of adventure and of mission. It’s not enough to entertain young people and show them a good time. We need to dare young people to do incredible things in their world for Jesus Christ.


9. They are anti-commitment

The average ​A​merican has 7 jobs in their 20s and on​e​ of the most downloaded apps in the UK today is ‘try before you buy dating’ which allows you to hook up with no strings attached. This bleeds into our profession too: the average time a UK church leader spends at a church is 7-10 years, however the average time a youth leader spends at a church is 18 months.

What does commitment to Jesus look like to an ant​i​-commitment generation? We must help young people to chose day in day out for Jesus Christ. The challenge is enabling teenagers to dream again. Helping them think big, aim high and work hard to get there. All the while we must constantly remind ourselves that generationally, things do shift. Things can change.


10. They have a happy midi-narrative – worldview

Happiness is the central goal of life. Period. This isn’t necessarily new, however​ what​ might be is how that is achieved. You don’t pursue happiness through metanarrative (the big picture of life), but on a much more modest scale that you can control in your microcosm of your own contacted life. An interesting picture this is our Facebook profiles. A small reality that we can control and protect.

We need to tell the big story though. We need to tell the whole story of God, creation, life, Jesus Christ. We must tell the metanarrate and challenge the microcosms. One of the best ways we can do this is to invite them into it. They too are part of this great story!

 

Capturing God’s Heart For Young People

A talk I gave at Antioch Church in Colwyn Bay, North Wales. This is a version of a relatively standard talk that I give regularly on young people across North Wales.

Two passages:

Luke 18:1-17

Acts 20:7-12

3 Minutes to Explain (in true ranty fashion) why I’m not a Christian Zionist.

Bible_paper

(Before you get too bogged down, here’s someone who says it better: http://www.christianzionism.org/article/burge02.pdf)

The promises made to Abraham are a great people, name and land. (Gen. 12, 15 & 17).

The theology that unravels throughout the Bible is a giant arrow that points to the Kingdom of God.

20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” [Luke 17:20-21]

A kingdom needs these three things, a people, name and land. A kingdom of obedient subjects (people), a king who rules the kingdom (name) and a land that marks out the area ruled (land).

The story of the Bible is the great revealing and unveiling of the Kingdom of God

The story of the Bible, including the promises made to Abraham, is the great revealing and unveiling of the Kingdom of God with a great people, name and land.

Who are the Kingdom People?

The people are those who choose, by faith to belong to it.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. [Ephesians 2:8]

Jews and Gentiles from every tribe, tongue and nation.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. [Revelation 7:9]

The people are Christians.

 

What is the Kingdom Name?

The name is the name of Jesus, the king above every king, the name above all others – the name to which Abraham himself bows.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Philippians 2:9-11]

The name is Jesus.

 

Where is The Kingdom Land?

The land is the new heavens and the new earth – the promise of a totally clean and perfect new creation.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” [Revelation 21:1-5]

The land is the New Creation.

Throughout the whole story of the Bible we are reminded constantly, time and time again that true Israel, or ‘the remnant’ are those who live by faith.

 

How Are We Part Of  This Kingdom?

The Kingdom of God begins now with the name of Jesus being worshipped and adored by people who freely choose by faith to love and obey him and working in the world – that is the land – to see it changed and set free under his rule and love.

This, I believe, is the only correct way to fully understand the unfolding promises made to Abraham in Genesis 12, 15 and 17. This, I thought, was standard orthodox theology.

Throughout the whole story of the Bible we are reminded constantly, time and time again that true Israel, or ‘the remnant’ are those who live by faith. Abraham himself was made righteous by his faith (Romans 4:3).

Ethnic Israel memberships does not equal salvation and it never did. It may yield some covenantal benefits but that doesn’t mean that you’re saved without faith. Israel are time and time again rejected and condemned by God for their lack of faith in Him. Those in the remnant, who live by faith in and obedience to God are saved.

We are saved by faith and by no other means.

 

What Makes Me Nervous?

Israel today, as always, are those who belong to Jesus through faith in Him. I am a gentile grafted in. Ethnic Jews without faith are cut off and need salvation by Grace alone, through faith alone the same as everybody else. Church without walls or boundary stones. We are God’s people not by birth nor by Ethnic origin, but because of the relationship had with the King of kings by being born again into His family and adopted as His Child. Again, I thought this was standard Christian theology.

I get nervous when people say any of the following:

– Yes, we are saved by faith, but faith for Jews looks like something else
– Yes, we are saved by faith, but God tries extra hard if you’re a Jew
– Yes, we are saved by faith, but God gives ethnic Israel more chance than all the other nations
– Yes, we are saved by faith, but you can also be saved by being an Ethnic Jew without faith
– No, we are not saved by faith, but by ethnic membership alone
– Yes, we are saved by faith but God will save all the Jews because he has a separate covenant with them

Zionists seem to be saying one or more of these, and trip over themselves trying not to.

 

So I Believe In Replacement Theology, Right?

I am told by my Zionist brothers and sisters that I have a ‘replacement’ theology. I.e. I believe that the new covenant of faith in Jesus replaced the old covenant of Ethnic membership. This is simply a misunderstanding of not only my view but of covenantal theology in general.

All covenants in the Bible; with Adam, with Noah, with David, with Abraham, with Israel and with the Church are whispers of and arrows pointing to the one single covenant.

Zionism is like coming late to a movie and leaving early.

God the Father promises the Kingdom to God the Son through His redemptive obedience on the Cross which ushers believers in though faith in Him. A people given by the Father to the Son, for Himself by Faith. There is only one covenant. Believe, call on the name of the Lord and you will be saved. The eternal action of the cross (the lamb slain before the foundation of the world – Revelation 13:8; 1 Peter 1:20) is what saved everybody – including Abraham. It was his faith that made him righteous.

Zionism is like coming late to a movie and leaving early. It takes the Bible out of context, mocks the Gospel of Grace, creates a separate, partisan ethnic covenant, and belittles the eternal work of Jesus on the cross.

I once wrote a dissertation on Romans 9:22-23. I read many commentaries on Romans surrounding Romans 9-11. Does it not bother the Zionist that the best, most highly reputable and evangelical commentators almost universally reject Zionist claims?

So there’s a three minute rant on why I’m not a Zionist.

Teach young people to dream wild – steal the rest later!

Just_a_Dream____by_enricoagostoniWhen I was 17 I was raising money at my church to go to Bible College. I was at a fund raising dinner that a terrific couple had organised for me, and at the end I went to the front to say what I wanted to do. They asked me what it was that I wanted to achieve and in my arrogance I said,  “y’know Billy Graham? Think him but you know… bigger!”

I’ve been pretty ashamed and embarrassed at that moment ever since I actually went to Bible College and learned about this silly little thing called humility. This is especially important when you consider that Billy Graham himself started every single one of his revival meetings by drawing a circle on the ground. Billy would then step into the circle and say Lord send revival and start with everything that you find in the circle.

It’s so easy to quench dreams with mistaken reality.

I’ve been in full time youth work ever since leaving Bible College nearly 8 years ago and in that time I discovered something about my initial overzealousness in that dinner. Looking past the arrogance, hero worship and the Christian celebrity culture there was a kernel of real goodness in that proclamation. I had a dream to tell the gospel to millions of people. Almost every adult I met afterward however, told me to shoot lower, be realistic and learn humility.

It’s so easy to quench dreams with mistaken reality. It’s so easy to pour cold water on the passions and compassions of young people because of the extra baggage, mistaken theology and missing pieces from their plan. It’s so easy to say that won’t happen because it never happened for us. It’s so easy to limit the prayers, expectancy, hopes, dreams and faith in the omnipotence of God in the hearts of young people. It’s so easy to suck so bad!

Proverbs 16:1 says “To man belongs plans of the heart but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue.” We use this passage to say that there is a fundamental disconnect between the plans in our hearts and the replies of our God. We use it as an excuse to not hold God to account for our prayers and to assume that we are not in keeping with God’s plan for our lives. We assume human nature over God’s virtue.

However if our hearts belong to God why can we not assume that many of the passions, plans and desires in our hearts originate from him?

The message of the Bible is the more you get to know God the more your heart becomes in-line with his heart.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says God has placed eternity in man’s heart. Psalm 37:4 says delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. The message of the Bible is the more you get to know God the more your heart becomes in-line with his heart. God buries plans deep in our hearts when we come to know him and He spends years clearing away the dross from those plans so they have room to breakthrough and live.

Yes we do need to correct bad theology, we do need to set expectations that allow God to be God and us to be us. We do need to clear dross and teach sanctification by the Holy Spirit through his Word. However, we cannot do this at the expense of throwing the baby out with the bath water and drowning good plans in legalistic low expectation.

We must set the bar so high that only a passion filled, God honouring, driven young person could reach it.

We must concurrently teach good theology and stoke the fire of dreams and passion in the hearts of young people. We must set high expectations. We must teach that God can accomplish the impossible. We must set the bar so high that only a passion filled, God honouring, driven young person could reach it. We must allow young people to achieve far more than we ever did. We must teach them to submit their plans to God as worship, not bury those plans in legalistic pseudo sanctification.

I’ve not stood on the stage of a revival meeting in front of millions of people. I’ve not led tens of thousands of people to Christ. I am not a bigger Billy Graham.

However, I’ve learned that the kernel of passion that I had as a teenager was not evil or wrong. Even though I only knew how to express it in that ‘bigger Billy Graham’ language, it has since been nurtured and grown by my God. He has allowed me to have a huge impact on the lives of many young people.

Young people develop abstract from concrete thinking very young, however when a young person says something that scares or challenges an adult, that adult has a tendency to only interpret as concrete thinking. I needed adults who were able to think in the abstract, see the kernel of God given truth through the fog of my imature language and help me develop my passions before God.

Priority number one – ask God to allow you to see and hear His voice through the language of young people and see what of He has placed in their hearts.

Priority number two – encourage young people’s wild, God-driven dreams.

Priority number three – give young people every opportunity to pursue those dreams.

Priority number four – teach and model the language of humility that always points back to God rather to ourselves.

Priority number five – help clear the dross and baggage of underdeveloped theology that could choke that dream.