Update #67 December 2017

End of the Year

As we come to the end of 2017, we’ve been reflecting on the year with thankfulness. The collage above gives a visual summary of some of the places we’ve been to and who we’ve been with – we are so grateful to God for the ministry He’s given us. The relationships and connections we’ve made this year are the centrepiece of Cor Deo. We’d be nothing without them!

We’ve each written a bit of a summary of our year which you can read below. But as we think back through the year, we also want to look forward – with Jesus and you – so we’d love you to keep praying with us and for us.

Who will we meet, and what will the collage look like in 12 months…?

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I think the biggest ‘change’ for me this year has been studying on Union’s Graduate Diploma program. Each Monday since September I’ve travelled to Bristol to meet with the Learning Community, where we watch video lectures and discuss the issues and questions raised. Along with weekly reading, and essays, the structure of my week has changed lots – but it’s such a privilege! It fits so well with Cor Deo, both in terms of content and a high-view of doing life and ministry as a team.

I love student ministry and I’ve enjoyed continued links with UCCF: The Christian Unions. I’m looking forward to speaking at a CU mission events week in February!

Recently, Peter and I spent a few days in Barcelona for an ELF conference. I was receiving training in leading small discussion groups – it was a great week for lots of reasons! I’m excited to put into practice what I’ve learned at the main ELF conference in Poland in May, where I’ll be helping Peter and Huw Williams lead the ‘Bible Teachers and Preachers’ networks. It’s such an amazing opportunity and joy to pour into the lives of Christians in Europe!

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This year has continued the transition feel that we had last year. We were able to give up our “Unit” – the facility we used for the full-time Cor Deo programme. Mike and I have enjoyed praying and planning what Cor Deo could look like going forward. We are confident that God will continue to work through the opportunities that we are given.

It has been interesting to see how many invitations have come this year related to training preachers. I teach preaching with Union School of Theology, and in various ways with the European Leadership Forum too. Please pray for Mike and I as we make plans for these opportunities in 2018.

The majority of my ministry energy this year has been invested in Trinity Chippenham. It is a privilege to be involved in a church that is seeking to live out values that resonate so deeply with us at Cor Deo. This year has felt like a season of blessed stability and steady growth. As we come to the end of the year we are having to move to a bigger venue because of the growth we have experienced. We thank God for that!

Coming Next Year

Women’s Program
We held the first ever Cor Deo Womens’ Program in February 2016 and again in February 2017. In 2018, we’re offering a unique opportunity for women from all walks of life to spend a week together (5 days) experiencing the richness of Cor Deo!

Monday February 26th – Friday March 2nd, 9.30am – 3pm each day.

Places are limited, but there are some still available – email us here for information or to register your interest! Maybe you could invite a friend…

Cor Deo Intensive
Join the mentors for a week-long exposure to Cor Deo training. Starting on Tuesday and ending Friday, we will have four days of intensive study and fellowship together. This opportunity is ideal for those who would like to get a taste of Cor Deo’s ministry, whatever their context.

Tuesday May 1st – Friday May 4th, 9.30am – 4.30pm each day

Email here for information or to register your interest.

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Why Cynicism Is One of the Historian’s Great Gifts to the Church

I was recently reminded of this older piece from church historian Carl Trueman, and I thought it might be worth reposting an extended quotation on how the church can benefit from historians who take the long view and don’t get caught up in hyperbole and hagiography.

Some years ago, Phyllis Tickle likened Brian McLaren to Luther and the Emergent Church to the kind of paradigm shift that happens only once a millennium.

The amazing thing was not that she said this; in a world shaped by the continual escalation of sales rhetoric, this kind of language is to be expected in advertising.

No. What was truly amazing was that people actually took her seriously, friend and foe alike. Such people are in urgent need of help to stop them saying or believing things that are very, very silly and absurdly self-important.

Enter the church historians. Any intellectual historian of any merit will tell you that the last 1,000 years in the West have only produced two moments of paradigm shifting significance, and neither of them was the Reformation.

The first was the impact of the translation into Latin of Aristotle’s metaphysical works.

This demanded a response from the thirteenth century church. The response, most brilliantly represented by Thomas Aquinas,

revolutionized education,

transformed the philosophical landscape,

opened up fruitful new avenues for theological synthesis, and

set the basic shape of university education until the early eighteenth century.

Within this intellectual context, the Reformation was to represent a critical development of Augustinian anti-Pelagianism in terms of the understanding of the church and of salvation, but it did not represent quite the foundational paradigm shift that is often assumed.

The second major moment was the Enlightenment.

Like the earlier Aristotelian renaissance, this was a diverse movement and the singular term is something of a scholarly construct; but the various philosophical strands covered by the terms served to remake university education and to demand new and fresh responses from the church in a way that the Reformation had never done.

In this light, to hear that the work of some trendy representative of the angst, insecurities, and obsessions of middle America somehow represents the kind of paradigm shift that comes along once in a millennium in self-evidently laughable. He may have an enviable gift for writing popular books and speaking (the musical talent is, I fear, more questionable) but he is not bringing about a comprehensive revision of the whole of theology, establishing a comprehensive framework for understanding the world, or reshaping the very foundations of knowledge as either the church or the wider world understands it.

Further (and here is the real historical rub) even if he were doing so, it would be a hundred years or so before anybody would really be able to make that judgment with any confidence. . . .

And that is why church historians play such an important role and our cynicism is such a boon. Church history keeps things in perspective. Through reading the texts and studying the actions and events of the past we can truly say that we have seen it all before. Thus, whatever it is that the latest guru is suggesting, it definitely will not work as well as expected, probably will not work at all, and anyway it will be a hundred years or more before we can say whether it made a real difference or not.

Thus, the next time someone comes along and tells me that a movie by Mel Gibson is the most significant contribution to church culture since the Apostle John laid down his stylus and parchment, my eyes can glaze over in confident knowledge that what I have just been told is complete drivel. When I am informed that a book by the Rev. Tommy Tweedlethumb is the most important piece of Christian literature since Augustine’s Confessions, I can politely stifle a yawn behind my hand and go back to reading the newspaper, for I know full well that in a hundred years time Tommy’s complete works will be as long-forgotten as genre-shattering pop bands such as ‘Men Without Hats.’

The old saying has it that the cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Whether or not that is entirely accurate, it is certainly true to say that cynicism is one of the historian’s great gifts to the church. To put it bluntly, cynicism serves to keep things, especially us, in proper perspective. After all, most of what goes on today in the name of earth-shattering paradigm shifts has no value, whatever the price tag.

Of course, cynicism is not the only thing a historian offers to the church, and cynicism by itself can be a vice and not a virtue. Neverthless, Trueman is right. We should listen to those who have a built-in skepticism about the latest hype because they know enough to have a proper perspective.

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