Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The belief that God speaks English, is western in his understanding of the world and is 'well off' is very deep seated in the British Christian world

Andy writes at The Coffee Bible Club - "God is not English speaking, Western and Affluent.... "The belief that God speaks English, is western in his understanding of the world and is 'well off' (in the sense of comfort and ease afforded by endless riches) is very deep seated in the British Christian world. It is also seems fairly deeply rooted in the rest of the Caucasian English speaking world. We must tread very carefully on this ground, for it is perilously fragile and hovers above the slope of imperialism and racism."

This is a hot current issue for us to handle. At Together for the Gospel it was Thabiti Anyabwile's talk that was most striking. I suspect many were tempted to skip the talk by the "non-rockstar speaker" and yet he gave us the most refreshing insight. Bearing the Image: Identity, the Work of Christ, and the Church, speaking against the unbiblical notion of race. Racism. Classism. These abound and we barely even notice.

I loved T4G and New Word Alive but you can't help but notice that both were dominated by affluent white people. By their very nature these conferences favour those who have affluence (both may have schemes to subsidise those who can't afford to pay a fortune for a conference but I'm not aware of that), those who have a University education (hour long, rigorous, intellectual talks...). We may have overcome the minor variations in how we "do" church by gathering charismatics and non-charismatics together in these conferences but there are bigger issues at stake.

Go read Andy's post. Go listen to Thabiti.


  1. I agree - Thabiti's talk was definitely a plumbline held against my thinking that quickly took me back down to size... been recommending it keenly to others!

    A time to look again at our wild olive branch background, our grafting in amongst the cultivated, by grace... [Romans 11]and think hard about what that actually looks like for "our" Christianity...

    Particularly challenging I guess for those whose ministry is amongst the affluent, university educated!

  2. You can hear Thabiti's testimony about how he went from being was a radical African American Muslim to a Christian here if you'd like:

    Of course, being from North Carolina, I like to brag that he graduated from NCSU here in Raleigh, NC!

  3. ...and here's his blog:

  4. Thanks Terry. Thabiti is already a firm favourite on my blogroll. Well worth reading.

  5. It's a shame he's from NCU, all the real NC heros go to Duke!

  6. To be honest, I think conservative & charismatic are in practice less about theology of gifts and more about culture if anything theological, eschatology.

    Thought about that way, I dont really think NWA brought together conservatives & charismatics at all - certainly not on the adult level.

  7. The point about affluence is helpful. Whilst we theology geeks love John Piper, I heard a lady who had just become a Christian found the NWA sermon went completely over her head.

    This is okay for a conference but for the pastoral ministry it won't do.

    The greatest periods of church growth have been when Christianity was strong with the masses (think about how Whitfield affected the coal miners).

    It was the same for Paul (1 Cor 1:26) and is so obvious for Jesus' I won't provide a quote.

    Piper et al are great for those who desire something deeper, we need preachers like that. Yet Pastors need to give up their desires for great oratory and intellectual comments and help the masses get scripture too.

  8. I suspect we'd see a difference between Piper's platform ministry and his regular pulpit ministry in his role as pastor.

    I also suspect we'd see a difference if we compared Piper now to when he first started at his Church, when, by all accounts, they weren't all that mature of theologically astute either. I think there's a place for a pastor's teaching 'deepening' as his congregation mature, although I also think we should always expect growth and be discipling new Christians.

    There's also a place for speaking to young Christians in a way that encourages them to stretch and grow, something akin to the way we talk 'adult' as well as 'baby' to our babies.

  9. Perceptive comment Chris.

    That's all I have to say :)

  10. I'm curious about what you mean by charismatics & 'conservatives' not being bought together... plenty of both were there... this thread might not be the place for it. I dunno.