Monday, June 18, 2007

Manifesto of Hope for Edinburgh (What Scotland can learn from MH III)

Barclay Church, Sunset on Bruntsfield Lynx
I'm becoming increasingly frustrated with the churches in Edinburgh, which is were I live. This frustration began shortly after I became a Christian. Now I don't want to blog a whole shed-load of negativity; rather I want to set-forth a manifesto of hope in Christ for Edinburgh. This is my dream: this is what the Bride of Christ in Edinburgh should look like; this is the church I am looking for. If I can't find it, maybe I will start a new one...

In this post, I pick up lessons we can learn from Mars Hill, and following their methodology, offer a vision of a contextualised church for Edinburgh which is shaped in response to the city and country.

  • Jesus At the end of the day (and at all other times!), if a church does not focus on Jesus, you might as well just forget everything else. Yet I know for a fact that many so-called churches in Edinburgh have forgotten their first love. If you think I am being harsh, simply pick up your bible, flip to the New Testament, and read a random couple of verses. If you don't find yourself reading about Jesus, I reckon you've picked up the wrong book. Now compare to how many times you hear him mentioned in your church service. If you hear something or someone else mentioned more often, then you know what I mean. Increasingly, I've noticed that Jesus is literally everywhere in the bible. You can't get away from the man! Mars Hill Seattle have really shown me the importance of exalting Christ. I'm not alone here, as Adrian Warnock blogs on how blessed Terry Virgo is as a result of the Christ-focused teaching of Mars Hill.

  • MissionI am looking for a church in Edinburgh that spends the bulk of its time, money, prayer, and energy on Edinburgh. Hardly a novel idea, you would think, but its a fact that many churches devote themselves to easier tasks such as blessing overseas ministries. This is of course to be admired, but I am looking for a majority focus on Edinburgh, not a token amount of prayer/outreach money after the bulk of resources has been used up by non-missional activities.

  • Relevant Scottish Worship I don't know why churches don't get it. Why is there a different musical genre when one walks in from a pub or club into a church? Of course I realise that worship will sound different to other types of music; but there is no excuse for the boring, dreary, cheesy annoying sound that to be honest is barely better than the old pipe organ. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, take a look (and listen!) to the music playing which everyday normal people listen to. Is it so hard to then use this genre and redeem it for Christ? Scotland is home to an entire movement of techno/rave, but the only time I've heard it used in worship was when I was spinning the decks myself. The Edinburgh clubs are filled with hard rock bands, yet reach out to them and you'll be forced to tell them that Christian worship in Edinburgh is 30 years behind their musical expression. Folks, this is not about worship wars: this is about worship being contextual, being missional, being relevant, and quite simply keeping with the times. Where is the Celtic worship? Where is the folk worship? Again, Mars Hill scores points here: their music (and they have about 7 different genres represented in their musical worship) may not be your cup of tea, but that's the point: its Seattle's cup of tea, which is all that matters.

  • Neither religious nor anti-religious Many churches I have visited fit into one of these categories: either they have a spirit of religion over the church, permeating much of what they do; or, there is a weird spirit of "anti-religion", which ends up being the same thing. Its hard to explain the latter, but its this attitude of "we aren't like the religious churches" sort of thing, which becomes a religion of its own. Thankfully Mars Hill doesn't fit into either category. We need more churches in Edinburgh which can say the same.

  • Celtic Spirituality: Signs & Wonders I believe that Edinburgh needs a greater emphasis on this than is present at Mars Hill Seattle. Our country has a wonderful heritage of the supernatural, thanks in part to the ancient Celts. We are a spiritual nation, in the broad sense of the term. The great powers of spiritual darkness over Edinburgh need to be broken in Jesus' name in part through the supernatural signs of his Kingdom.

  • Unity - breaking the spirit of tribalism & sectarianism Compared to other cities in the UK there is a disturbing lack of unity amongst the churches of Edinburgh. Surprisingly, there is a lot of grass-roots inter-fellowship between the various churches. Yet most churches simply plough on doing their own thing. And in the nation at large, we are plagued by tribalism on the small scale and sectarianism on the larger. The whole East vs West thing in Scotland is another example. This is one area that the church needs to demonstrate to the Powers that it is One in Christ, and that all peoples should be One in Christ.

  • Land of the Book Scotland was once a land that revered the Word of God. Edinburgh is also very much an educated, humanistic and elitist city. The church I am looking for needs to be both soaked in God's word and be able to present an intellectually credible faith for the educated masses of Edinburgh. It must also be able to oppose and denounce any and all philosophies which turn our attention away from Christ.

  • Financial Generosity Unfortunately I believe Scotland suffers from a poverty spirit. One of the ways this needs to be broken is by the wholehearted proper funding and resourcing of Mission, along with a new generosity which will blow the city away by the amount of time and money the Edinburgh Church gives to its own city, and especially the "poor".

  • Celebration If there is one thing we can do well in Scotland it is to party. This is something the church simply MUST capitalise on. People often ask my why I don't dance more often in church (I love to dance). The answer is quite simply: well play some darn music that makes me want to dance! The Church Edinburgh needs is a church that is caught up in God's Joy and in the celebration of the victory of Christ. Currently, quite frankly the non Christians in Edinburgh are doing a better job of celebrating than the rest of us. Its high time this changed. In the Old Testament, an entire 10% of Israel's income(the whole tithe was over 30%) went towards community celebrations. How much money does your church spend on parties for the city? Last time I checked, it was the Pagans that were funding city celebrations. Shame on us.

  • direct confrontation of the Pagan Powers Edinburgh has its fair share of Pagan activity. The church needs to stop avoiding this issue and hit it head on, now. And before anyone jumps in, I would be the first to say the church can learn from many of the pagans and witches and whatnot. They have a unique view of spirituality that we can learn from. But ultimately, the spiritual background to their faith is demonic. And we can't sit around and ignore their activity any longer. Its high time the church of Edinburgh got their act together here.

  • Finally, raising up the Warfare generation. Scotland is plagued with inactivity, indifference, "what do I care?" attitude. The spiritual power has influenced the church as much as the rest of the land. Its high time for the church to start fighting back. In prayer and intercession, I might add. There is so much disinterest in prayer. And I include myself in that sweeping generalisation. Warrior prayer is needed to apply Christ's victory to our darkened land. And this applies even more so to the men: because they are the ones who are absent from most prayer meetings. Men of Scotland, get yer freakin' act together, unite, and form a prayer army, and lets pray for our city and nation.

So what do you folks think? Does such a church exist? Am I just dreaming of the impossible? Should I hold out to find this church? Should I try to bring this vision to where I am currently at? Or should I just attempt to find some like-minded souls and start a jesus-centric, Kingdom-working, Missional, Relevant, Contextualised, Charismatic, Evangelical, Warfare, Partying church? One thing is for sure, I have no more time for "business as usual" or "church as usual". Forget it.

Oh, and before I sign off, one more thing. The Scottish church of tomorrow will need large dose of a "senses of humour" :-) Cos we're gonna need it...


Neil D said...

Hi Alistair,

Firstly, thanks for clarifying something for me about community in your Mars Hill observations. I think what you were saying was that, at MH, community was something which happened outside the main meeting - in fact, outside of that visit to the "church campus". So, in the MH case, you didn't see it on the Sunday but were clear that it was a community nonetheless.

I think the churches I have belonged to - and belong to now? - have all majored on improving our sense of community through
(a) that 1 ... 2 ... 3 hours onsite on the Sunday
(b) a mini-version of that - the cell or homegroup.

My sense of community normally stems from a shared common activity of some sort, whether it is working together, playing or singing music together, or painting someone's house together.

This is helping me to understand why I have lost much of my sense of community in Edinburgh (I don't mean church community - all community). It is because I work away and float back from time to time to see - but not work or play with - people here.

If this is the way others also experience community, then perhaps the sense of community in a church comes out of the sharing in mission and not vice versa. You have community with the people you are pulling together with. Does that make any sense?

Secondly, a question to you about the paragraph on mission. I think you are reinforcing the false dichotomy that mission is "home" or "away" and that these are in some way disconnected. Yes, we have all done it, talking about local mission and overseas mission. But your view is clearly that, in Edinburgh, a church which focuses on "away" mission is not also the church which focuses on "home" mission. I would have thought that the churches which do one also do the other, and the church which does not do one also does not do the other. But I don't think I can back this up with evidence.

Alastair said...

Thanks for the comment, Neil.

James Eglinton said...

Hi Alasdair,

I stumbled across your blog looking for Mars Hill related stuff. I'm a PhD student at Edinburgh Uni (doing systematic theology) and I'm the Assistant Minister of St Columba's Free Church (at the top of the Royal Mile).

It was interesting reading your thoughts on what a church in Edinburgh should be like. In St C's we have a lot of weaknesses, but we are growing by God's grace. We are trying to be much more consciously missional (we have grown from about a dozen people six years ago to around 150 at present).

Also, our worship is definitely quite authentically Scottish! I don't know if you've ever been to a Free Church before - we sing acapella Psalms in our services. I absolutely love this, as it is so different from the generic bland American/Australian stuff that you know find the world over. I sing the Psalms in my Scottish accent (in both English and Gaelic!) and appreciate so much that I can do this as a Scotsman, in living connection with my Scottish ancestors.

I grew up in the Highlands going to lots of Christian youth events where everyone sung either in the same accent as Matt Redman or with American accents. It was so contrary to the theology of the incarnation... Anyway, I've found a place where I can worship in my own accent.

I'd be interested to know if you've found somewhere that lets you do the same.

Did you go to hear Mark Driscoll tonight? I was there - thought it was sublime gospel preaching.



Alastair said...

Thanks for your comment, James. Yes, I was there with my wife. It was fantastic preaching. I'm shortly heading off to go to Menmakers, so I will respond to the rest of your comment soon. Cheers!

Alastair said...

Neil D:

"I would have thought that the churches which do one also do the other, and the church which does not do one also does not do the other. But I don't think I can back this up with evidence."

The evidence I have seen with my own eyes is to the contrary! But perhaps we have had different experiences. Its not right to speak of individual churches on this public forum, suffice to say that many churches view local mission (or indeed Mission) as another add-on activity, rather than something intrinsic to the nature and fabric of the Church.

Mel said...

i came across this blog randomly and as someone who's been trying to find the church u describe in Edinburgh for nearly 3 years, plus another previous 6 yrs of the same when living abroad i have finally decided to stop going.for me it has been the most liberating thing the end of the day an established institution (with a building,meetings,programmes and coffee rotas) is not the answer but rather how to BE church mon,tue,wed,thu,fri,sat and sun!

Alastair said...

Thanks for your comment, Mel. My wife and I actually host a group called "Dessert with God" that meets weekly and attempts to model what a real grass-roots church should look like. If you want to check us out, look me up on facebook and we'll go from there.