Archive for the ‘Welsh Churches’ Category

It’s election time…

April 9, 2010

I’ve just returned from Llanw, a Welsh Language Christian festival, the closest thing we have in Welsh speaking Wales to Spring Harvest. One of the seminars was lead by Arfon Jones, the faithful servant who’s working on beibl.net a sort of Welsh on-line Youth Bible. Arfon has a great passion for the Bible as a whole (obviously) but he’s at his best when he talks about what the Bible teaches us about justice; so I looked forward to his seminar on ‘A bias towards the poor’. He said a lot of challenging things but one thing that stood out to me was his warning that we as Christians, evangelicals included, tended to be selective in our Bible reading with regard to the poor and justice issues. The Bible does not compromise as politicians today do on these issues.

He said that we have a tendency to over spiritualize verses of the Bible. For example, we tend to claim that Jesus was talking about spiritual poverty when in reality he was really talking about real poverty etc… In other words we like to read the Bible through the eyes of our own lifestyle and our own political and social values instead of letting the Bible steer out lifestyle and our political and social values.

In this election climate I think Arfon’s challenge is especially important. As Christians we must not let our politics govern our faith but let our faith govern our politics. Over the next few weeks in the build up to election day I hope, time willing, to discuss what this means in practise.

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Empire is sin incarnated

February 26, 2010

The highlight of sin in this world is empire and imperialism, both shown by force and subtle political leanings against the oppressed. Politicians and individuals who don’t see the sin of empire in their beliefs and actions are as blind as we all are to our own sin, if it wasn’t for the Holy Spirit to have opened our eyes. Empire does damage but it always looses in the end because it’s master lost the greater battle and the King of Kings won – Jesus. Thats why I live in hope despite current evil attitudes towards Welsh, Scottish and Irish freedom aspirations from English centric politicians both in London and from within the Celtic nations.

Will the real Jesus please stand up? (MP3)

November 30, 2009

I was kindly invited to speak at Penrallt’s Youth service on Saturday night. The theme of the talk was ‘Will the real Jesus please stand up?’. Most of the material, as faithfull Driscoll listeners will know, is taken from the first chapter of Vintage Jesus.

Unfortunately the first few minutes are missing from the recording but you can pick the thread of the message fine from where the recording starts.

Download MP3 (PC: Right Click+’Save File As…’, MAC: Ctrl+Click+’Download Linked file…’)

Is this blog a hindrance or a contribution?

November 23, 2009

Recently I have been thinking more about the purpose of this blog, and the fact that I have obviously, but totally unintentionally, offended a brother in Christ in my previous post has got me thinking even harder. Originally I hoped my blog would contribute something to the discussion about the future of Christian witness in Wales. This is what I said at the outset:

I hope to explain to those on the outside some of the issues facing Welsh churches and Welsh language Christian witness and mission. I’ll praise and give a shout out to the good stuff that’s going on in Welsh circles; and I’ll try, gracefully, to point out the not so good aspects within the body of Welsh language Christianity.

It seems that I have offended a lot of Christians in the process and that saddens me deeply. One option of course is to keep the blog going but avoid all contentious issues; but I have deep reservations about that. The unwillingness to tackle tough and decisive issues within Christian circles was what sort of made me loose interest in Christianity toowords my late teens. So I know that unwillingness to discuss tough stuff produces victims too. God leading me to meet, mix and share fellowship with Christians in University who were willing to engage in critical discussion about faith and church and it’s implications on culture and politics was what brought me back.

Anyway, here is a pole to my readers to help me decide the way forward with the blog. You vote totally anonymously so I won’t know who voted for what.

Thanks for your help – Rhys x

The problems of Evangelism-Driven mission

November 21, 2009

I came across this article on The Resurgence website this week. It discusses wrong and ineffective attitudes towards mission. The thrust of the post hits on what I have felt over the years about how a lot o reformed evangelicals in Wales see mission. An over emphasis on events and programmes – be they ‘mission week’, ‘tea and tost’ or a ‘quizz night’. This is how The Resurgence describes this mindset:

Their view of the gospel leads them to see social action as optional. For them, mission is synonymous with evangelism, and evangelism is highly programmatic. They focus on training individuals through evangelism training programs, apologetics, and use of evangelistic tracts.

The post on The Resurgence goes on to note some problematic issues with this attitude towards mission. Evangelism-driven mission, it argues, is often answer-based and heaven-centered. For example, this attitude usually leads the Christian to ask the non-believer “If you died tonight and stood before God and he said: ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ What would you say?” The questions are answer-driven. The aim is to get someone to say the right answer and to believe the right facts, like “Jesus died for my sins.” The problem here is an over emphasis on belief and hardly any on faith. The post on the Resurgence goes further and argues that this wrong attitude is not only effecting the Church’s mission but it’s started a rot in the Church itself. This is how it’s put:

Many Americans believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins, but it makes very little difference in their lives. They possess mere belief. This mere belief undermines the gospel. What we need is faith. Moreover, mere belief in the right answer baits people, not with Christ, but with heaven. It is heaven-centered, not Christ-centered. In evangelism-driven mission, Christ is subordinated to the treasure of heaven, instead of heaven being subordinated to the treasure of Christ. The goal is heaven, not Jesus. Answer-driven and heaven-centered evangelism leads to nominalism and distorts the gospel. Evangelism-driven mission can undermine, not advance the gospel.

Sadly I can see and identify a lot of that in Welsh evangelicalism today. It’s primary leaders put all the emphasis on believing the right doctrines and through that demoting the importance of simple faith and Holy Spirit experience. That fact that I’ve just said that now will get the alarms bell ringing in the minds of some and they will be thinking that I have ‘taken my eye off the Cross and the atonment.’ No I havent, I’m just living and discussing experiences in light of the atonment.

The flip side to the problems of Evangelism-based mission is the problems of Social action-based mission which is discussed in a further post on The Resurgence here. I suppose the problem we have in the Welsh language scene is that most Churches fall to one of the two categories and no churches get mission right. Evangelical churches fall away towards Evangelism-based while most denominational churches fall towards Social Action-based. As I have felt for a number of years now both are missing the point and need to rediscover the Christ and Cross centric fusion of the spiritual+social mission which we read of in the Bible if we are to see effective mission again in Welsh speaking Wales.

Osian jailed as part of the struggle for equal rights for Welsh speakers

November 5, 2009

Tomorrow, Friday November 6th at 9.30 am my friend, Osian Jones, North Wales organiser for Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society) will be sentenced to a month in prison by Pwllheli Magistrates. The magistrates have already warned him that he faces imprisonment because of his refusal to pay fines for his part in non-violent direct action on High Street stores as part of a Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg’s campaign for a comprehensive Welsh Language Measure that would give Welsh speakers equal rights in all spheres of society.

Osian will be the second member of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg to go to prison this year. Ffred Ffransis was imprisoned back in June for refusing to pay fines also imposed for his part in the campaign for a comprehensive Welsh Language Measure.

Osian Jones said:

It’s interesting that both Ffred and I faced prison this year for our part in this particular campaign. What is more significant is that Ffred the ‘offences’ for which Ffred was imprisoned go back to January 2001 which proves that this particular campaign has been long and hard. The sad thing is, that the Welsh Language LCO which is now on offer, and which is the product of all this campaigning is utterly inadequate since it does not give the Welsh people their legitimate linguistic rights which enables them to live their lives fully through the medium of Welsh, nor does it’s powers extend to the private sector.”

“Even though we argued our case with conviction before committees in both the National Assembly and at Westminster it became obvious to us that the legislative process in Wales is both wearisome and defective, and that we have no choice but to continue with our direct action campaign. I hope that my imprisonment will give other people the inspiration to campaign for the language and that we will see the responsibility for legislating on the Welsh language transferred in it’s entirety to the National Assembly in the near future. The Welsh people have had to wait a long time to see their linguistic rights realised. They deserve a great deal more than the LCO which is now on offer.

Please pray that God will grant Osian courage as he faces the next month behind bars in the name of a just cause.

My first English sermon

October 28, 2009

Last Sunday I preached at Penrallt, the English Baptist church in Bangor. I must admit that I was nervous wreck beforehand because my whole spiritual life, except for my regular does of State side MP3’s, is lived entirely through the Welsh language. But I think that the Holy Spirit carried the sermon through in the end. It’s in the reading at the start and the prayer at the end that it’s most obvious that I’m communicating in my second language.

After conquering my nerves the sermon went well. It was nice to preach in-front of a large and young audience and it was great seeing people laughing at my jokes – jokes that just fall flat on their face when I try them out in Welsh churches! But the most encouraging thing was to see people coming to me at the end thanking me and telling me that God spoke to them through the sermon.

Here is the sermon:

I hope I’ll get more opportunity to preach in English in the future but I’m still sure that God has called me to whiteness through the Welsh Churches.

Start Something Tour Video Diary

October 8, 2009

Back in July my band, Society Profiad, went on the Start Something Tour with The Repercussion, Tom Whitman and Steff Elis. Most of the video is in Welsh but the most interesting part of the video is in English – if you skip to 2.30 you can see what we got up to in Casllwchwr the birthplace of the 1904 Revival.

Mark and Books

September 17, 2009

booksOne of my main responsibilities in the Church where I’ve started as a Pastor in-training is to lead the weekly Bible Study. I think I’ve settled on the idea of going through Mark – partly because I want to sort of follow Christianity Explored – I think I’ll be using the course as a’n outline but I won’t be running the course as such. Yesterday I went along to my local Christian bookshop which now gives me a whopping 25% off on everything because I’m a full-time Christian worker. Nice. The books I bought yesterday to help me with preparation were Christianity Explored – Leader’s Edition and Mark for Everyone by Tom Wright. I also couldn’t resist the temptation of buying C.J. Mahaney’s Cross Centered Life because apparently I have to read it and I also bought Mark Driscoll’s Religion Saves + Nine other Misconceptions if only for the amazing artwork.

Please pray as I prepare the series of studies from Mark. In the past I have felt leading studies more of a struggle and hard work than just plain preaching so please pray that I may lead people and open up the Gospel.

(I have added a new category to the blog posts, “Penuel Bangor”, I’ll tag any posts which talk about my work at the Church under that, this being the first.)

Visiting Tearfund HQ

September 12, 2009

tearfundYesterday I travelled with Hywel Meredydd, Tearfund’s manager in Wales, to Tearfunds head office at Teddington, London. Hywel was taking part in a Poverty Prayer DVD they were filming but he took me along with him because he’s keen to get my input on different strategies to get more Welsh speakers and Welsh speaking churches a part of Tearfund’s work. Amongst other things we discussed was the need to develop more of a Welsh online presence.

Tearfund work to inspire the church to transform communities. They mobilise the local church to work with poor communities to bring material and spiritual transformation: to speak out in advocacy, and to prepare and respond to disasters. Tearfund are addressing a wide range of issues including HIV, water and sanitation, reducing the impact of disasters, economic injustice and climate change.

If Tearfund would just be a humanist charity it would still be an amazing organization; but what excites me about Tearfund is the fact that it’s not just any humanist charity it’s a radical movement of committed (or if you wish ‘evangelical’) Christians. That spiritual dimension to Tearfund means that the zeal and Koinoniaesq feel around the work is very special indeed. What this means in practice is that prayer is central to Tearfund’s work. At Tearfund they believe in doing everything they can. It’s a way of working that they call integral mission. It means that while they know people need material things to survive, they choose to work through church-based partners who won’t stop at just the material basics when it comes to helping their neighbours in need. They’ll do everything they can. Churches know and care about the people they live with. They see them as more than just mouths to feed – they know what they’ve been through and the kind of help they need.

Tearfund see people as more than just physical entities, we all have emotional and spiritual needs as well. The local church, operating at its best, has the power to change people’s lives, to give them a new perspective, to help heal emotional scars and offer the hope they need – to bring people together. Taking this approach has proved, in Tearfund’s experience, the best way to help people make lasting changes in their lives that free them from poverty. This is why working through local churches at the place of need is such a powerful way to help people.

Another great thing about Tearfund is the fact that 91% of money raised reaches the front line. Only 9% of the budget is spent on administration, staff, advocacy, education, further fund raising etc… This is significantly less than most major charities with Christian Aid coming in with 30% on administration! This is achieved by Tearfund through very careful spending reviews and a big emphasis on volunteers and action through local churches rather than an over emphasis on paid staff. Despite Tearfund only having two part time workers in Wales the money raised here is as much as other charities who have eight and more full time workers – that speaks volumes.

I don’t think you must be a Christian to be involved in charity work proper and I believe humanist charities like Oxfam and the more humanist elements withing Christian Aid do very important and brilliant work. But for me as a committed Christian and a young church leader in Wales I do feel that Tearfund shares’s the vision closest to mine – basically, believing and living the Gospel of Christ!

But what was great yesterday was meeting young Christians who were fired up to fight injustice and work to end poverty. Here in Welsh Wales we have hardly any young Christians full stop; and I can count those I know of which have a passion to fight injustice on one hand!

How to get involved with Tearfund?

  • You can visit the website to find out about the latest news so you can get praying about the work and give some money if you can.
  • And if your a Facebook user you can sing up to the Tearfund SuperBadger app through which you can lobby politicians about various issues Tearfund feel strongly about.

Please pray especially for Hywel and Miriam and all the volunteers Tearfund have in Wales and pray for Janet and the other brilliant people who I met at the head office. Pray that the Spirit will lead them in their work and that through them more and more Christians will live a more responding life to the Gospel and though that integral mission will happen and people all over the world through Tearfund’s work will see material and spiritual transformation in their life.