Re: 'Suffering is often the crucible for deep faith'
Thank you for this, Dr Paynter
As someone who ministered for some years in rural Northern communities I was often struck by the sense that it was somehow against the flow.
I think in part we have almost entirely given ourselves over to 'personal sense of call' as ministers (mea culpa). The days of going where you were sent are long gone, and perhaps to our loss.
Of course Salvation Army leaders and Methodist probationers are still "placed" although I think they have a certain amount of discretion in this. I certainly agree about ministers gravitating to large suburban churches - this in some ways is seen as "success" and "career development" (mind you,those churches can have their own challenges, but resourcing is not one of them)
One of the problems - and I have had a huge internal battle over this in the last year - comes in truly discerning God's voice. On the one hand it is too easy to accept unquestioningly the philosophy of "there's an open door, God must be leading me through it" or, as I have occasionally heard from Christians, a rejection something which seems "nice" simply because God can't possibly expect his disciples to do pleasant things, can he? Certainly I have recently moved to a less salubrious place believing it to be God's will; in many ways I was challenged by my own preaching on Christians being a pilgrim people who must not allow themselves to become to comfy!
None of these things are easy, but I agree with the comment that a personal sens of call can be very subjective.
Re: How evangelism can be fun
We surely want to be able to engage with people in everyday conversation, in a non-threatening way, about what we believe. Mark's approach gives us some inspirational food for thought.
I can whole-heartedly recommend that you read this book. I have seen Mark in action and his way of chatting about our Christian faith is simply a breath of fresh air. It is both playful and profound... enjoy it and learn afresh.
In the 25 years since I became a Christian, i have watched the church lose its confidence to share the good news of Christ. Often it is not through a lack of love for God or their neighbour, but their experience that their words just don't land with any weight. Our post modern listeners have so many ways to duck the relevance of what we say, to escape ever being cornered in a world of relative truth that we are often left exhausted and discouraged. Mark's approach is fascinating because it opens up people to reflect on the logic of what they believe, and many discover they disagree with their own world view and become open to the very ideas they have so successfully ducked and dived previously. As we think about presenting the gospel this idea of story telling in a way whic h exposes people to ask what they really believe has something to really encourage us with.
Thanks Duncan for these very perceptive comments about how many Christians feel exhausted and discouraged when trying to talk about faith. This is why it is so vital to engage with consumerist, materialist and relativist mindsets. I was so encouraged yesterday when I spoke to a social worker about consumerism and then talked about my faith. I told her some stories and she then thanked me for the discussion even though I had mentioned the resurrection!
Most non-Christians that I have met do not want to be preached to - Mark's ideas and thoughts about how to tell them about Jesus and what he has done for us open up many ways to reach the people we love with the Christian faith without preaching to them. Excellent!
Owen Carey Jones
My brother in law's middle name is Gabriel, but he's no angel.
Not everyone will have the same talent for telling stories but the principal of engaging with people and avoiding getting off on the wrong foot is a good one. Establishing that someone is wrong can't be the right way t start, will it put them at their ease and to wanting to find out more?
This book gives some excellent help with learning how to start conversations that have the potential to lead to important things like faith, who Jesus is, life after death and will Sunderland be promoted to the premiership this season!
I have known Mark for over 30 years, and he has always been able to mix fascinating ideas, with humour, witty comments, storytelling and football anecdotes (and put-downs). Storytelling is the way to go - so get reading! Learn stuff about that huge hadron collider, or about Jupiter, or about Bond. Read the newspapers! So much chat, and laughter, and questions can help communicate the faith. Don't be afraid to take on the ideas of "giants" like professors, and politicians, and philosophers! Mark is so refreshing - and now he owes me a beer!!
Revd Hugh Grear
Thanks for this insightful and helpful article. I've read Roques book and it provides excellent tools for making evangelism much more natural. It should be essential reading for all Christians!
Very welcome article by Mark Roques. Thank you for such a refreshing piece.
We live in a contemporary society and so we need to learn to communicate in a contemporary way- people quite often no longer know any basics on which we can build on but everyone loves a good story. Engaging people rather than boring them in the first instance is a good way to open up discussion , from the interesting to the wild and wacky Rocky will have a story ( usually with a voice !) and you can't help but warm to the story ( and the storyteller) and that breaking down of barriers is the way forward - much more effective to open a discussion with a bit of something wacky and though provoking rather than highlighting the error of ways. I have known Mark for some time and his heart to reach those who do not know is huge he is doing what a lot of others only think ab out and that is getting on with exploring how to communicate in a new and fresh way ( I think we can say the old way is not setting us alight).
Thanks Mark, your stuff is always so fun to read, you have a great turn of phrase! eg 'the pious crawler'... I love your central point: 'evangelism becomes easier and much more relevant when we engage intelligently with the hidden secular beliefs that are seldom mentioned or even noticed.' It's got me thinking...
I really found Mark Rocque's article fascinating and truly original in the use of his stories and experience to explain difficult evangelical themes in a context relative to the 21st Century.
Charles Michael Haseldine
Imagine a world where the ABC of salvation or the three points of Christian faith were replaced by people trained to understand the secular world and to interact with its devotees with dynamic, imaginative, witty stories. Imagine Christians busking the gospel in this way on street corners. Of course God can, and does use any efforts in evangelism either to bless others or to cause us to take a long, hard look at the way we do it and to try and find a better way.
What a vibrant picture that creates. No more skulking, mumbling, shuffling, no more apologies; apologetics, yes but not apologies. I think this is one of the most exciting ideas I've come across for a long time. I've read the book and couldn't put it down, I was so enthused about Mark's ideas I couldn't wait to g o and try them out! Brilliant!
In a world that overloads us with information, it is all too easy to be overwhelmed by what confronts us. Even those who feel confident about their faith in Jesus and have strong personal testimonies, may feel confused about how to respond to the views that are expressed in the media and in personal conversations. Mark's new book not only encourages us to see the world through the eyes of faith, it also challenges us to love our neighbor by taking seriously their concerns while engaging in creative conversations that point to the reality 'that all things are held together in Jesus Christ'.
Behind the engaging silliness of Mark Roques’ carefully targeted stories opens up a vista upon profound and crucial questions, an invitation to think through cultural assumptions that we often don’t think about at all. His is not an evangelism with a hammer, but with a welcoming smile. Mark’s stories set the stage upon which God’s Word can be heard in non-threatening but still utterly challenging ways. His is an inspired, and inspiring, ministry. Thanks, mate!
Jeffrey Dudiak, Professor of Philosophy, The King’s University, Edmonton, Canada.
Re: Ministers need a system to read the Bible
Having taken part in this survey, I was interested to see that as one of the 19% who “don’t have a regular pattern of reading,” that for myself and others: “it reflects a travesty of their calling.” I would prefer to say that what it reflects is a loosely worded question and an inaccurate assumption. For me, not having a regular pattern of reading is not the same as not reading the Bible regularly. I engage with the Bible every day, but use a variety of approaches to my reading, hence no regular pattern.
In addition to casting doubt on all reading approaches other than the lectionary, the author takes no account at all of the deep and rich engagement most ministers have with the Bible every week to prepare their sermons. The assumption that “only 13% of ministers enjoy a rich and balanced diet of Scripture” simply cannot be sustained from the evidence of this survey alone.
I can live with poorly thought-out surveys and interpretations. What has prompted me to comment, though, is the implicit legalism which does no favours to ministers or congregations when we are told that there is a prescribed way in which we should engage in the wonderful, God-given gift of Scripture reading.
Re: Can our prayers change God’s mind?
Very insightful and edifying article. Well worth reading!
Re: The Revd Dr Marie Isaacs: 1936-2016
I should have commented on this before, but neglected to do so. Marie was one of my lecturers and tutors at Heythrop College and, over that three year period we became good friends. She was a woman of formidable intellect combined with extraordinary good humour and grace. We soon discovered that whilst she didn't 'suffer fools gladly' she always had time for genuine discussion and debate. My NT essay tutorials were always such occasions and, though we crossed swords gently on a few occasions and over some topics, they were times both of significant learning and genuine fellowship.
I assisted Marie with non-conformist worship times on occasions, where her openness and integrity shone through. To fulfill the role she did at Heythrop as a Baptist Minister and a woman was some achievement. I believe she was highly regarded by her academic colleagues and know for sure that she was loved and appreciated by many of her students and is much missed.
Re: Migrancy and the UK: three areas to consider
Of course I understand that genuine refugees need assistance and help, and when they come to Europe they struggle with employment, healthcare and education. What about me and my family? I am a member of a Baptist Church, but because of uncontrolled economic illegal immigration supported by so many Baptist leaders, my daughter cannot go to the school 1 mile from my house. They gave her place to the children of a family from East Africa here illegally, and she has to take the bus to a school miles away. You care about those in other countries who illegally come here, but you also support those who break the law and come here illegally and it is hurting the people in the vicinity of many of your churches. When will you actually start caring about the people in your own neighbourhood and on your doorstep, or doesn't your version of Jesus care about us?
Totally agree. Few people want to turn our backs on those genuinely in need or blame immigration for all our ills, but the truth is we can barely provide homes, jobs, school places and health care for those already here, let alone all those who want to come. We have already been extraordinarily generous as a country and millions have already come to enjoy the benefits of this country. Should there be a limit to this? Is this generosity harming the prospects of people from this country? Or do we just owe the whole world a living? And does 'loving the alien' mean having an open door immigration policy?