Living Faith as it applies today!

I have been powerfully impacted by so much that has happened over the last week, the Three Girls programmes about child sexual exploitation on the TV and then the Manchester terrorist attack. Muslims are in the heart of both and some Christians have been speaking out against Muslims, telling them to put their house in order.

I have asked myself the question, how does Living Faith apply in this situation?

Firstly, I think that all communities need to look at themselves and get their own house in order before telling others what to do, as Jesus said in the sermon on the Mount.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Secondly, I believe we need to work together with others, listen to their perspective and seek to find solutions together rather than pointing the finger and making generalisations.

In Luton, this is happening around CSE. Christian and Muslim faith leaders are together seeking to raise awareness of the issues of CSE, working with the authorities and training people to spot the signs of exploitation and grooming. Recently we hosted a training evening with over 50 leaders from different faith backgrounds, including many Imams. I know Muslims are as horrified by CSE as Christians, I also know it is not an issue only within the Muslim community. More information can be found on www.faces.org.uk.

There are other initiatives we are associated with allowing Christians and Muslims to work together, breaking down fear barriers and hearing each other. E.g. Several Syrian refugee’s families live in Dunstable. Recently eggs were thrown at their homes and one of their children was severely beaten by white youths in what police are calling a hate crime. Nigel Taylor, leader of Hope Church South Beds visited to offer support to the families. Obviously, the families were frightened, he tried to assure them that not all white people felt the same and invited them all to a BBQ hosted by the church. It was a tremendous evening, appreciated by members of both communities. Further joint ventures are planned, some people from our church are also involved in this.

Our youth group is starting to meet regularly with other youth in the town from different backgrounds, mostly Muslims but also some Polish Catholics. They play games together as well as talk about their faith and what it means for them. Again, fears are faced and people are listened to.

But what to make of Manchester?

As David Aaronovitch said in the Times,

Muslim community leaders were deafening in their “speaking out” after Manchester, so I don’t think we need to be lectured again about that.

This is true in Luton as well as nationally. I know that it is heartfelt too. I also know that many Asians, not just Muslims but Christian Asians too, are fearful of physical and verbal abuse in retaliation from white people after Manchester. Whether this is a valid fear or not, we need to listen and stand with them, not allowing fear to win.

Many will have an Asian neighbour or work colleague, ask them about their fears, listen to them.

I have also pondered why did he it? My wife and I talked about it, we didn’t really come up with a definitive answer. I then read an article by Daniel Finkelstein in the Times where he asked the same question, and being cleverer than me he had an answer, which I found convincing.

He said that terrorists engage in acts of terrorism because they think they might work. And they’re right. Terrorism is evil and nauseating but not senseless……… terrorists think their cause is so great that they don’t mind what happens to them; some hope to get away with it somehow, and others think death’s finality is overstated…. They do what they do because they think their death is worth it. And they are sure that the death or others – even Manchester’s innocent children – are worth it.

He therefore concludes that, as long as terrorist attacks appear to advance a cause, publicise political aims and win tactical victories, they multiply. When they are resisted for long enough, they fizzle out. The examples of the IRA bombing campaign for a united Ireland and ETA’s campaign for an independent Basque state are amongst the examples given to prove the point.

How should we therefore respond? Not by discriminating against Muslims as a group, not by seeking to find root causes (e.g. why did the person feel oppressed and excluded). The only line of defence is resistance and defiance until they stop is all that we have.

Let us resist terrorism, do all we can to stop attacks, whilst recognising they cannot be stopped completely. Let us not play into the hands of terrorists, rather show them that it doesn’t work. Let us do that together as Christians and Muslims and people of no faith.

This is Living Faith.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Dotism – Barriers between people

posted in: Tony Thompson 1

Barriers between people are as old as the fall and far from easy to deal with, that is the message of Genesis chapters 1 to 11.

One of the barriers we need to overcome is “dotism”, let me explain.

I came across a social experiment where 10 people to be interviewed at a company for a job. Before the interview a red dot painted on their cheek. After the interview, there was a debrief. Each of the 10 said the interviewer kept staring at the red dot on their cheek.

However, 5 didn’t have a red dot – they had a clear one that couldn’t be seen! Yet they still felt the interviewer was focusing on the dot! People feel self-conscious about whatever makes them insecure. E.g. weight, gender, any negative distinctive.

Do you feel as if people are focusing on your red dot?

I have felt this on several occasions, but was it really a red or was it just in my imagination? E.g. I visited an adventure centre in Hong Kong mostly frequented by mainland Chinese. The men were mostly smaller than me and wearing suits. I was wearing shorts and felt everyone was focusing on my bare, long legs!

I ran in an open athletic race in Watford, people were put into a heat based on their expected finishing time. Most of the others in my heat were teenage girls! I have been the only white person in a black church.

Or have you felt like the interviewer – wrongly accused of focusing on the red dot? Once I interviewed two people for a job – I  appointed the white guy rather than the Asian. Was I racist?

Barriers exist between people – not least because of dotism! We need to be aware of these barriers and work to break them down if we are going to build an inclusive culture.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Living Faith: Praying For Others

posted in: Bible, Hope Church, Living Faith 0

One of the most fundamental ways we live out our faith as Christians is to pray. By bringing our requests to our Heavenly Father we demonstrate our belief that He is God and Jesus Christ is His son, by our action in coming to Him we deepen our relationship with Him.

In James letter to the early Christians he encourages them with these words :-

ch 5 13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Just as muscles in our body need to be exercised and used to be strong and healthy we need to exercise our faith by using it. Our faith is exercised when we pray for others and expect God to hear and answer us. As we receive answers to our prayers our faith grows, we trust and rely on our Heavenly Father more and we become bolder in offering to pray for others inside and outside of the Church. Living out our faith in this way we can bless those around us. As I work in open house our community drop in during the week, there are many opportunities to pray for people, it is a way to show our love and care for them, I cannot remember anyone being other than positive about the experience. We can offer to pray for people wherever we are, It is one of the ways we bring the kingdom of God in the now.

At Hope church we believe we are all able to pray for each other, it is not a job for experts or just for church leaders. We offer training sessions to increase our  confidence in our ability to pray and we have some guidelines to help us, and the people asking for prayer to feel safe.

In Matthew 18 we are told to be like children. Little children are often not backward in asking for things, in a secure family environment they can be sure they will receive good things when they ask.(although maybe not everything they demand). We can be the same way with our requests of our Heavenly Father He loves us to share our needs with him. Although He is all knowing and all powerful He chooses to work through our prayers as He loves us to come and ask Him for the things we need.(See Matt ch7 v7)

As we meet together as God’s family many different issues may be helped by prayer ministry, we are not meant to be alone but God has placed us in His church so that we can help each other. During our services or meetings we may be challenged to act on something, need to forgive someone, need to repent, need to receive healing or be struggling with fear, or would just like The Holy Spirit to refresh us, whatever it is as we pray for each other in Jesus name the Holy Spirit works to bless heal and restore.

Jesus said we would do all the things He did. So let’s grow in faith as we use this precious gift.

Written by Theresa Middleton – Pastoral Lead, Hope Church Luton

Living Faith

posted in: Bible, Living Faith 0

I have been struck recently by the insistence of James in his letter that faith without deeds is dead. (James 2v14-26). Living faith does things, it doesn’t just believe things. Our beliefs should result in actions, and our actions show what we believe.

It is very interesting to apply this principle to our lives as individuals and as a church.

On Easter Sunday, we showed a video produced by our kids work team. I asked myself the question, what did the video say about what we believe? The answers I came up with was that kids work should be fun, that it should be inclusive (kids from all backgrounds having fun together), that it is important as demonstrated by the gifting of those who lead our kids work.

Over the next while we will be asking the same questions about other activities of Hope Church, who do they demonstrate our living faith as per James 2v14-26

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

 

Things people from other cultures find difficult or offensive about British culture

posted in: In The News, Tony Thompson 0

I asked friends who were new to British culture what they found most difficult, below are some of their answers.

  • British people do not talk much
  • Hospitality is different – you don’t just pop in, you wait until invited
  • Different standards of hygiene
    • Dogs and cats are allowed in the house
    • Plates etc. are dried using dirty tea towels
  • Members of churches drink alcohol
  • People shake hands with members of the opposite sex, even hug
  • The word family is used of the church but it is not the type of family you expect
    • I was not invited to the wedding of the ministers son, would be if you were family!
    • Can’t just pop into people’s homes, let alone eat with them unannounced
  • The way some girls dressed with short skirts and cleavage. I was surprised by how much (almost) nudity there was around on the streets.
  • I found instant coffee difficult!

Written by Tony Thompson

Thoughts on being a church with people from many different backgrounds

posted in: Hope Church, Tony Thompson 0

One of the joys, as well as challenges, of living, working and building church in Luton is its ethnic diversity. Luton is 3rd behind London and Slough as the most ethnically diverse place in the UK.

Being in a multi-ethnic context doesn’t mean that we will be a multi-ethnic church. As Martin Luther King said, 11am on a Sunday is the most segregated hour in America, only 7.5% of churches in America are multiracial, having 80% or less of the majority race. We are a multiracial church, we have not always been, but we are now. It is something we have had to work hard to achieve and something we value highly. It is not something we want to take for granted.

I am therefore writing a series of blogs on being a church with people from many different backgrounds, seeking to celebrate this!

Some initial thoughts on culture.

Culture can be described as “how we do things around here.”

Every group will have their own culture, e.g. Families have their own culture, such as having meals together, rather than in front of the TV. Churches will also have their own culture, e.g. style of music, standard dress code. Nations can have their own cultures but lots of variations within them.

There are advantages and disadvantages of generalisations, but we can’t avoid them!

People living in a new country can experience “culture shock”, my son experienced this when living for several years in India.

Stages in culture shock.

  1. Honeymoon – excitement of a tourist, identity still back home
  2. Disorientation – overwhelmed, sense of inadequacy
  3. Irritability and hostility – blame new culture for difficulties
  4. Adjustment and integration – increased ability to function and understand good and bad in both cultures
  5. Biculturaility – fluent and comfortable in both cultures

It is important we understand these stages when seeking to build relationships with people from different cultures. It is not surprising that people from the UK living overseas tend to live in their own communities, hardly integrating at all. It is not surprising that people arriving in the UK from other nations also have the desire to spend time with others from their own indigenous community.

We need to reach out and help people from other cultures than our own to overcome culture to shock, to move towards seeing the good and bad in both cultures. This is the great benefit of being a community of people from many different backgrounds, but it is hard work. We need to celebrate those from other cultures who are brave enough to resist the temptation to stay exclusively within their own culture and join with us. We need to listen to them as they bring critique of our culture, we need to learn from each other.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

1 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 40