Into The World

Servolution: Starting a Church Revolution Through Serving by Dino Rizzo.

Stop simply praying for the world’s needs: go in God’s strength and be ‘The Church’ to your community by addressing their practical and spiritual needs yourselves.

“It’s so important that we don’t always just send a cheque; whenever possible, we also need to engage with those who are hurting.”  According to Servolution the way to reach the community is to go and meet the community, and work with them rather than for them from a distance.  The community Healing Place Church serves is Baton Rouge in Louisiana, but that did not stop them being in New York City after 9/11 and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  If for John Wesley the world is our parish then for Dino Rizzo the world is also our responsibility: every church has a mandate from the mouth of Jesus and from scripture to be ‘The Church’, with no strings attached.

Each chapter ends with a Servolution Strategy with a summary of the chapter and several discussion questions to ignite thinking about the concepts raised for the local church.  Not every congregation can have an impact the size of HPC, but every community can engage with the people around it and reach into its neighbourhood with the love of Christ.

Flooded I-10/I-610 interchange and surrounding...

I like that this book constantly returns to two themes; that it is God’s work through us rather than our work for God that the Church is undertaking, and that God’s highest priority is not the programmes themselves, or even the growing reputation of the missional Church, but the people the local congregation is serving.  It all comes back to how we are caring for those who are yet to come, or are starting to come because they have heard about these people who care.  This message resonates well with me as a Christian and in my work as a school chaplain; and I am pleased to say that my local congregation is starting to think this way too.

If you enjoy books like The Church That Never Sleeps by Matthew Barnett, or even the 24/7 concept of local ministry conveyed by such a title, then Servolution is the book for you.

Candles, Contexts and Molotov Cocktails

 Prayer and Prophecy: The Essential Kenneth Leech edited by David Bunch and Angus Ritchie

A reader on the East-End, Anglo-Catholic, Christian Socialist, Drug Rehabilitation theologies of Kenneth Leech.

“We should not seek to bring Christ into our lives, but to enter ourselves into his.”  The question repeatedly asked by Leech is if Christ really is to be found among the outcasts and the overlooked then what does worship mean for the mainstream and established churches of the Western nations, and the coastal suburbs?

I had never heard of Kenneth Leech before I read this book, despite my having spent six years of Sundays worshipping in his London mission field of Soho.  I feel as though I have found, and yet missed meeting, a friend.  His work promotes him as more Roman in his Englishness than I was, yet his socialist, social heart beats to the same rhythm as my own.  Kenneth Leech is an enigma; equally at home Trotsky as with St John of the Cross he is both a robed and incense-clouded liturgist found in the highest of churches, an earthy and incensed rehab worker found in the dodgiest of dives, and a social commentator and theologian found in the worthiest of colleges, in the one fiery package.

Prayer and Prophecy covers forty years of Leech’s writing and thinking on theology, politics, and spirituality in easy to follow and exciting to read passages.  He speaks of a socially responsible, socially engaged gospel in a language drawn from within the beauty of holiness.  His cry is for the worshipping church to become the prophetic voice to our nation once more.

Theology for The Least

Hope In An Age Of Despair by Albert Nolan

A reader in an apartheid-era Liberation Theology.

The Gospel that we preach will not be a Gospel of Jesus Christ unless it takes sides with those who are sinned against: the poor and the oppressed.

“For use by white persons” – sign from the apa...

“For use by white persons” – sign from the apartheid era Español: “Sólo para blancos” – letrero de la era del apartheid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I found this book both useful and engaging as the Lectionary  directed my preaching through God’s preference for compassion rather than sacrifice.  According to Nolan Yahweh was the God who sided against “the powers that be” to rescue a people group trapped by the system.  That is what sets our God apart from all the other gods of ancient Egypt and modern South Africa.  Poverty is a structural problem as much in today’s world as it was in the days of Israel’s judges and kings.  Yet we cannot stop there, and Nolan directs his readers beyond a denunciation of injustice to an annunciation of the hope of a liberated society.  Don’t just complain, proclaim.

The most valuable contribution that a Christian can make in our age of despair is to continue, because of our faith, to act hopefully, and in that way to be an encouragement to those who have lost all hope.