God is my Director

Youth ministry, movies, no drugs and a variable amount of Rock ‘n Roll

Archive for November, 2006

England – Phoenix from the flames?

Posted by Martin on November 30, 2006

As I write, there are about four hours to go before the Second Ashes Test between Australia and England.

So I go to bed tonight with a simple prayer – please don’t let the Australian cricket team be as mean and nasty and generally superior this week as they were last. Please God.

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Amazing thing at Eastbourne (2 of 2)

Posted by Martin on November 30, 2006

The other big thing that happened to me at the Eastbourne Youthwork the conference was much more personal, but hopefully goes some way to finally explaining (to me as much as to anyone else) the title of this blog.

As I’ve explained in other posts, I’ve felt two different callings from God over the past few years, and they’re both crystal clear. One is to youth ministry; the other is to the Hollywood screenwriting industry. I’ve had huge, God-ordained ‘breaks’ in both areas, and I’ve often found myself scratching my head as to how on earth they fit together. Many around me have confidently predicted that at some point it’ll all just fit into place, but right now I’m not sure if that’s prophecy or just wishful thinking.

This incident went a long way towards confirming the both/and sense of calling I’ve had to these two seemingly distinct areas, and also a little way towards demonstrating how they might begin to feed and inform and link with one another.

To recap then, I both find myself heavily involved in the UK youth ministry scene, and simultaneously in the movie industry. I have one script with ‘attachments’ which the producer is looking to take into production soon, a great manager who’s trying to shape my career, and a bunch of opportunities with some great execs at some massive studios. I talk to one of these people most nights, and through those conversations am learning more about film and writing than I could ever hope to pick up from any film course. Recap over.

I was delivering a seminar on the impact of media on young people’s lives, and unsurprisingly found myself majoring on the film industry as a point of focus. I gave an overview of Hollywood’s current obsession with high-concept, and went on to talk about some of the movies which I think are particularly good for prompting spiritual and life discussion among young people. But then we had time for questions, and that was when it happened…

I’d revealed my secret screenwriting double-life, and it had clearly caught the interest of the delegates. The questions began to rain in, both on my writing, and on using film in youth ministry. And what really surprised me was not that I was able to give half-decent answers, but that those answers were being directly informed by what I’d learned on the phone to those movie execs. To cut to the chase: the things which I was learning and experiencing in my ‘other’ life – those things which I thought were supposed to be kept separate from my life in youth ministry world – were now becoming directly useful in a youth ministry context. I was answering difficult questions, and resourcing youth workers, thanks directly to what I’d picked up in film world. It dovetailed. At last!

Clearly that’s not as big a collision between the worlds as I was hoping for, but it was a start, and a massive indicator for me that in some way, it’s all part of a much bigger plan. I continue to enjoy the journey.

Posted in Spiritual is everything, Youth Ministry | Leave a Comment »

God bless the homeless man

Posted by Martin on November 30, 2006

Was on the train home from work just now when a homeless guy appeared, walking his way through the carriages and asking for money. It’s a fairly regular occurrence, and I’m ashamed to say that most times – just like today – I tend to look out of the window, find a point a thousand feet in the distance, and stare at it while he passes. I say I’m ashamed because when I write it out for all to see, it suddenly feels particularly un-Christ-like.

What I was struck by, however, was the guy’s response to the two people in my carriage who did find some loose change for him. To both of them, he repeated the same phrase:

‘God bless you.’

I don’t suppose these people, statistically speaking, would have been Christians. I don’t presume that our homeless friend was either. But yet he chose that phrase to thank them. A fuller version of that sentiment might be – ‘for the generosity that you have shown to me today, may God bless you.’ He was somehow recognising God’s role in the act of generosity – even if he was doing so subconsciously.

To take that further – and stop me if I’m leaping ahead too far – it’s as if, since God is love, the homeless guy saw God in what these people gave to him. They showed him love, ergo they showed him God. So his response, ‘God bless you’, actually makes perfect sense.

I’ve noticed this response many times before from people in need. They may not be people of faith, yet on some level, they devolve part of their thanks to ‘God’ when they receive help from a fellow human. We’re so used to hearing the phrase that we usually dismiss it as a colloquialism that has detached itself from faith and is now little more than a generic form of thanks. But is that missing the point? Actually, are these people acknowledging God, all around us, day by day?

If we look at the life of Jesus, we know he was biased to the poor and the needy. Is it a surprise then, that these are the people who are best at recognising His hand at work, even if the human hands He’s using aren’t aware of the fact?

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What is youth ministry? An unfolding thought…

Posted by Martin on November 30, 2006

Youth ministry is, in it’s broadest sense, discipleship, right? I mean really broadly speaking – everything we do in Christian youth ministry fits somewhere under that heading. We’re either leading young people, or trying to reach them in order to lead them somewhere; or at least trying to serve them in the hope of reaching them in order to lead them… right? Anybody still with me?

So if that’s the case, in order to learn how to be effective youth ministers, we need to keep an eye firmly on the best model we have for discipleship. And that, unsurprisingly, is Jesus. There’s compelling evidence to suggest that some of the disciples were actually what we’d term ‘young people’. So he was doing youth work!

So that makes me think – does our youth work look like Jesus’ youth work? Do I ever really stop to look at what Jesus’ model of discipleship was? And if I did, would it radically impact the way I approach youth ministry?

As I say, an unfolding thought, but one which won’t leave me. I know it sounds – on one level – incredibly simple and obvious, but in reality – does much of our ministry resemble His? And if not, maybe this is worth revisiting.

On this then, more later.

Posted in Spiritual is everything, Youth Ministry | 2 Comments »

New, improved, easier

Posted by Martin on November 30, 2006

You can now get here using the simpler URL: www.gimd.co.uk

The things I do for you…

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Sing and sign – oh, go on

Posted by Martin on November 30, 2006

Sitting here with my 14-month-old son, who can’t speak, but can communicate. He only knows three words – ‘Mumma’, ‘Dadda’, and something approaching ‘banana’ – but he knows a lot more sign language. That’s right – real BSL sign language.

He’s not deaf though. He’s learned, and continues to learn, through this now-fairly well-known innovation called baby signing. If you’ve seen the movie Meet the Fockers, you’ll probably know what I’m talking about. Children learn to connect words to their meanings, and then to the relevant hand sign. ‘Milk’ is a squeezing action for instance; ‘no’ is a dismissive swipe of the hand.

For the last six months, my wife has been taking him along to baby signing classes, run by a franchised business called ‘Sing and sign’. It’s kind of like the earliest kind of school you can possibly send a child to. She sits in a circle with a bunch of other mums and babies, and they sing songs which use the signs. Now I have to admit, sceptical doesn’t cover how I felt about it. It sounded frankly ridiculous, and certainly for the first few months it appeared to be going completely over my son’s head. Which, considering his age, is acceptable.

But now, things have changed. Among lots of other things, he can tell me when he needs food, drink, a nappy change or a sleep. He can tell me if he’s in pain, and show me where that pain is coming from. All those things that frustrate babies into regular bursts of tears because they can’t communicate. But he can communicate, so he doesn’t get frustrated, or upset. It’s brilliant.

I sit watching a DVD of a typical sing and sign class, most evenings. He’s addicted to it, and has even worked out how the DVD player operates in a desperate attempt to watch it even more. My brain is melting from the repetition, but he positively thrives on it.

[Visit www.singandsign.com for more info and to learn their ‘signs of the week’. Go on, you know you want to.]

Posted in Family | 3 Comments »

Amazing thing at Eastbourne (1 of 2)

Posted by Martin on November 29, 2006

Youthwork the Conference 2006I mentioned last week that, after I’d had time to inwardly digest a little, I would post something about my experiences as a speaker. There were two really significant things that happened, and I’d love to share them with you. Here’s the first – the second is coming soon.

I was presenting a seminar that was generally about the impact of sex in youth culture, but I’d always wanted to end it with a more focused time looking at the issue of pornography. More than that though – I also felt it was important to tackle head on the thorny subject of pornography addiction among Christian leaders, and specifically youth leaders. I’d done this at Southport, and though it had gone well, I hadn’t provided a middle-ground in terms of a response mechanism. My stats suggested that half the room would struggle with this issue, so I knew that there would be many looking to make some kind of first-step response. However, I only gave the audience two methods of response – they could either write down a helpful web address and visit it later OR they could brave coming to the front for prayer, which, considering the subject matter, would require a brave person indeed.

So I’m sitting there at Eastbourne, knowing that it hadn’t quite worked out the previous weekend, and searching for a middle ground. I’m just about to get up to speak, and then this idea hits me.

I presented the first two response mechanisms, as before, but then added a third. ‘In a moment,’ I said, ‘I’d like everyone to stand. Only you will know why you’re standing however. You may be standing as a response to God, saying “I want you to help me with this problem, because I can’t get past it on my own”, or you may be standing because you want to show solidarity for your brothers and sisters who struggle in this area. Only you will know which it is.’

Everybody stood, and we had the most incredible moment of Christian community. I would honestly say it was the most ‘kingdom’ moment I’ve ever experienced. Some people were giving this big issue to God, some people were just supporting them. But we all stood together. You could practically see Jesus right there in the room.

It lasted little more than a minute, as I prayed a brief prayer and blessing. Then it was the end of the session. I was surprised to find, even after that, a number of people looking to recieve personal prayer at the front, and I had some tremendous conversation.

The story doesn’t end there though – the next day, someone handed me a note, which someone else had handed to them. I don’t want to betray this person’s trust, but the note said that she was a victim of abuse from a person who had suffered from a serious pornography addiction. She thanked us for tacking this issue head on, and for offering people an opportunity to begin to deal with it. Her prayer was that it might stop someone from getting to the point which her abuser got to, and found enormous comfort in that thought. Quite honestly, it moved me to tears to read her words.

[Just in case it helps anyone – here are the links which I suggested for those people who were looking for help with an internet pornography addiction]

www.blazinggrace.org – statistics and help – a whole ministry to support those struggling with pornography addiction – including podcasts!

Integrity filtering: this is software which will allow you to block sexual content online.And if you’re really serious…

www.covenanteyes.com – Accountability software – also a free version, with more limited features, is available at www.xxxchurch.com

Posted in Spiritual is everything, Youth Ministry | Leave a Comment »

Argh – beaten to the punch

Posted by Martin on November 28, 2006

Just discovered that the movie script I’ve been working on bears a shocking resemblance to another movie due out in early 2007. This is hugely frustrating, and one of those things which apparently happens all the time in Hollywood. I now have a choice – rework the idea to make it less similar, or drop it altogether. It could still get made if I change things around a little, but then I guess I’ll be known as the guy who plagerised that other movie. Oh the struggles of a bottom-rung screenwriter.

One of the great things about being on the bottom rung however is that you basically get put through film school for free. Every other night I talk to a Hollywood exec who’s keen to dish out their wisdom on some aspect of moviemaking or another. I may not be getting paid, but hey, at least I’m learning.

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1,000 posts!

Posted by Martin on November 27, 2006

Not here, of course – that would be ridiculous. But at the home of my UK youth ministry ‘brother from another mother’, Ian at Youthblog. Thanks to his post, which is one of his regular all-seeing round-ups of the scene in this country – plus a bit of added weirdness, I’ve discovered that this blog is worth $1,693. Not on a patch on Ian’s $38,000, but it’s a start. Maybe when I’ve written 1,000 posts…

Posted in Blogroll, Youth Ministry | 1 Comment »

Listen to this

Posted by Martin on November 27, 2006

Nothing left to loseThis is what’s stuck on repeat play on my iPod right now – Mat Kearney’s Nothing Left to Lose. I was given a copy by my friend Annie who works for his record label, and I’m usually suspicious when someone like that says – ‘this guy’s great, really original’. It often means – ‘we’ve pressed 100,000 of these blasted tablemats – help me!’

Anyway – this is no tablemat. It is particularly original – Mat both sings and slow-raps to good effect, and there’s a flow to the album which is often missing from Christian music. I’m really enjoying it – but plug over – go and download some for yourself, or visit his website at www.matkearney.com

I shall write something on the issue of album misflow in CCM in a forthcoming post. I have something interesting to say about it, honest.

Posted in Music, Spiritual is everything | Leave a Comment »

Monkey confusion

Posted by Martin on November 27, 2006

MonkeyMonkeesThere seems to have been some minor confusion over the ‘monkey’ reference in my tirade against pointless DVD box sets (see below). To clear it up: I was suggesting that there would be no reason to buy the Monkey or Monkey Magic box set (see pic, left). I was in no way implying that a box set of the complete Monkees (see pic, right), would make anything but an essential purchase for any discerning DVD collector. Honest.

Posted in Television | Leave a Comment »

crAshes

Posted by Martin on November 25, 2006

General CusterOh dear. With apologies to my American friends, it’s time to talk about cricket. And if you are American, and always wanted to know what a really terrible cricket team looks like, this is definitely the time to watch.

It’s hard to find a word which adequately describes what Australia are currently doing to my beloved England in the First Ashes Test. ‘Putting to the sword’ doesn’t cover it; ‘crushing’ and ‘pulverising’ don’t go far enough. I’m struggling for an appropriate metaphor. It’s not even men against boys – more men vs. foetuses.

The foetuses are putting up the barest of resistances. Ian Bell (pictured) is the only guy who can hold his head up today, after scoring a dogged 50 (although none of the Australian batsmen seemed to have any trouble getting one of those). 18 months ago, we won the Ashes – now almost the same team are being made to look like the world’s worst. They bat and score 600, we bat and struggle to make a quarter of that score. Then they go out again, and beat our score with only a single wicket lost. It’s the most demoralising thing.

Australia could and should under normal circumstances have enforced the follow-on (US readers switch off here) – but that wasn’t enough for them. They had to underline their dominance in triplicate with a big black marker pen. Just so we know. So they’re batting again, in what appears to be an attempt to achieve the biggest winning margin in cricketing history (US readers come back).

We’re only one game in to five. But what Australia’s captain Ricky Ponting is trying to do is win the entire Ashes series in a single match. If he can achieve a winning marging of 6-700 runs, he knows that the fragile English confidence will be shredded like tissue paper. Sadly, I wouldn’t back against him.

If, somehow, England dig deep and manage to save the game, which will surely mean batting out five sessions, then Ponting’s bullying tactic will have backfired, and England have a shred of hope that the series will stay alive. If it goes to plan however, we might as well get on the plane home right now.

And I’m a sporting optimist.

Posted in Sport | 1 Comment »

Ooh… so close

Posted by Martin on November 25, 2006

60! We were just 5 short of a new record. Thanks for trying. We’ll have another go soon.

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Record attempt – come on – live the dream!

Posted by Martin on November 24, 2006

Ok, have noticed a surge of visits today (probably because I mention Rob Bell a lot and Google has picked it up), meaning that with a bit of good fortune I could beat the current world record for visits in a day to GIMD – meaning I’ll need more than an earth-shattering 64… So please come back today, and bring some friends!!! The current total is 26 and counting.

I could try a cheap sellout trick to boost my hits, such as talking about sex, porn, Britney Spears nude or Rob Bell – but i’m not that sort of bloke. Cheers everyone!

Posted in General | 1 Comment »

Knight Rider box sets and a seriously ill culture

Posted by Martin on November 24, 2006

Seriously!I always dive into HMV on a Friday morning on my way into work, just to check out the latest releases. Something caught my eye today though – a DVD box set of ‘The Complete Knight Rider – on 18 discs’!!!

 The first question – who on earth would buy that? Just as when they released The Brittas Empire, series by series, you’re left scratching your head wondering who’s bright idea it was to spend the money actually pressing these discs. Is there really a market?

And if so – and presumably there is – the second question is why? Why is there a market for DVDs of forgettable television programmes which you remember nostalgically but were average at best?

The flipside of our throwaway culture is the simultaneously true ‘collector’ culture – as we pick and mix our way through modern life, we rarely commit to anything; yet at the same time the marketing men are successfully convincing us to buy and hoard. DVDs seem particularly addictive – their sales are now equally important to the success of a movie as it’s theatrical release – and there are whole web communities devoted to people who like to talk about their gigantic collections. On sites like Avforums, users regularly talk about how they’re desperately spending their last pennies on the latest DVD releases – yet often confess that many of them lay shrinkwrapped on the shelf for months.

This cannot be more true than in the case of nostalgic tv shows, which are being boxed up and released more and more regularly. Some recent examples: The Complete Dangermouse; The Complete Transformers; The Complete Monkey!!!

Why are people buying boxes of shows like this? When you buy the complete Dangermouse, you must know on some level that you’re never going to watch more than one episode? And during that one, you’re going to be crushed at the realisation that the reality was nowhere near as great as your rose-tinted memory.

Join me – say no to rubbish old TV box sets on DVD. Otherwise it won’t be long before they’re releasing – News At Ten – The complete 1986 season on  DVD.

Posted in Television | 1 Comment »

You are a beautiful human person

Posted by Martin on November 23, 2006

BlobsSpent lunch today with the inimitable, one-of-a-kind veteran youth worker Pip Wilson. If you don’t know him, you may well know his blobs (see pic) – the tool he created with Ian Long to help communication between what he refers to as ‘beautiful human persons’. Pip is one of the most individual chaps I’ve ever met – he’s not some Guardian-waving wannabe, desperate to be hip and ‘different’, he’s just a down-to-earth geezer who truly loves people, and that’s such a rare thing that it gives him an edge – an aura even – that you’ve probably not come across in anyone else.

In keeping with his eccentricities, Pip wanted to meet at the Cafe New Piccadilly, in central London. It’s a perfectly preserved 1950s ‘caff’, which most people probably walk past with barely more than a distateful glance. But it’s got personality – bags of it – like the man I was meeting, of course.

Pip talked passionately about getting people talking – and we kicked a few ideas around together. The waiters seemed to know him well, and liked him. I wasn’t surprised. Again – the thing that really strikes you about this guy is that he LOVES people. I mean, like, all of us. If you met him, he’d love you, and he’d show it. He’d affirm you, and your contributions to the conversation. He’d ask you questions. He’d listen.

Sounds like I’m describing the last samurai of some almost forgotten culture, doesn’t it? Visit Pip’s blog (see blogroll) and check out what I’m talking about. He thinks humans are fantastic – yet he’s not a humanist. He’s just learned to see us the way God does. What a gift he’s been given. And what a beautiful human person HE is.

I wonder if I could learn something from him…

(By the way, I feel like the blob on the wooden plank today)

Posted in Spiritual is everything, Youth Ministry | Leave a Comment »

Go for the one

Posted by Martin on November 21, 2006

The one. Maybe not this exact one.It’s great when you’re impacted by a strong talk, sermon or seminar. It happens often to me – I mix in the world of youth ministry, and there are many great speakers out there.

It’s a rarer, but far more amazing thing when a talk is literally incarnated in front of your eyes. It doesn’t usually happen on the spot, but at some point, in the days after you’ve heard and processed the message – and that’s exactly what just happened to me.

Jill Rowe spoke on the lost sheep last week at Southport’s Youthwork the conference – and it impacted me hugely, as I wrote on this blog at the time. But tonight, I got a call from the lost sheep in my life, and suddenly it made much more powerful sense. He’s the kid I’d honestly given up hope on – the one who’d drifted so far from the rails that he can’t even hear the trains any more. And I’d love to say that I went after him – that I went for the one, as Jill implored. But he came to me. He bleated, as it were, when I least expected it.

Out of the blue, several months since we last made contact, he just calls to say hi, with the lamest of excuses for doing so. The challenge to me was clear – I’ve recieved a rebuke from heaven for daring to give up. I’ve come to my senses.

May you also be encouraged – the lost sheep in your life may still be bleating, even if you’ve given up hope of finding her. Leave the 99 some time, and go for the one.

Posted in Youth Ministry | Leave a Comment »

Danielle Strickland comes dancing

Posted by Martin on November 20, 2006

Danielle StricklandHave you ever come across Danielle Strickland? She’s a Canadian Salvation Army church-planter/missional thinker/ general genius who happens to be one of the best and most original speakers I’ve heard. She closed the incomparably excellent Youthwork Conference (Eastbourne) yesterday with a talk which appeared for so long to be going absolutely nowhere – and which then snapped into focus like one of those post-mortem injuries from CSI.

Danielle, like Jill Rowe last weekend, was speaking on the parable of the lost sheep under the header ‘One Life at a Time’, and told a clutch of stories from her own experience of working with individuals. Her challenge in mission to simply ‘look out for what’s right in front of you’ both echoed Rob Bell’s earlier instruction to ‘notice what God is doing all around you’, and jarred with 21st century Christianity’s usual approach of purpose driven strategy. I think they were all trying to make the same point: the Kingdom of God is near when we as Christians are near, because Jesus lives in us. So it’s up to us to reflect the kingdom to the people around us – one life at a time.

The old lady in Eastbourne passed by me (see post below) and I didn’t stop to talk. In all of our days, there are people who pass right in front of us, but we ignore their cries because they don’t fit in with our particular vision statement – I’m called to work with young people you see – she was about 70, so I let her go.

Maybe God doesn’t see it that way. I shall continue to think about the old lady in Eastbourne until I work it all out.

Anyhow, the conference was amazing in so many ways. I want to share something that happened in one of my seminars (well two things actually), but I haven’t got my head around it all yet. Oh and amusingly, have been asked to co-lead an ’emerging’ youth congregation. Which is only funny because I spend so much of my life slating the emergent movement. Ho hum, God has a sense of humour…

Posted in Spiritual is everything, Youth Ministry | 2 Comments »

The parable of the old lady in Eastbourne

Posted by Martin on November 18, 2006

Just had breakfast here in Eastbourne, and as I walked through the hotel lobby, my companions remarked that they were going to the morning devotional. As they exited the revolving door, an elderly woman – her body bent and crippled by age and who knows what else – hobbled through on two crutches.

‘Can you say a prayer for me?’ she mumbled, to no-one in particular.

That struck me. She didn’t stop to talk – just smiled and hobbled away. But was that an off-the-cuff joke, or was it her spirit, crying out on some fundamental level to a God she knows must be out there?

I’m going to pray for her. Maybe you’d like to also. She did ask, after all. Maybe she’ll be healed, and I expect I’ll never know. But it looked to me as if her life meant a lot of pain, and struggle. She has so little strength – she lacks even the strength to call out to God on her own. But she asked me to pray. And I will.

This probably means something.

Posted in Spiritual is everything | Leave a Comment »

The Bell keeps ringing true (apologies)

Posted by Martin on November 17, 2006

Ok, so I can’t find a wi-fi hotspot that works, so this will all kind of just appear at once. Sorry about that.

Interestingly, Rob moved from his famous Bible-teaching style into something far more hands-on and practical today as he finished the early day. He talked extensively and compellingly about Sabbath, most of the time from his own experience. Combining this with what I heard last month on the same subject from Mark Yaconelli (see older post) I am now pretty convinced that this is a good idea.

Well, duh. Here’s a little nugget – did you know that zookeepers have realised that after six days, animals need a day off from the public eye or they’ll start to behave strangely? It’s like even nature understands God’s rhythm of six and one: six days on and one day off. God has built 6+1 into the fabric of creation. Cool.

Today was a lot more bits-and-pieces than yesterday, but they were super-trendy-cool bits and pieces. On teaching I paraphrase – we need to be looking out for the work of God around us, all the time, because it’s going on constantly (John 5 v 17). And we need to become sensitive, developing a ‘radar’ for what God is doing right in front of our noses. Then we note these things, allow them to develop into ideas, and then mature over time into talks. It seems that to Rob, teaching is an organic thing – talks literally grow over time inside him.

Rob also made a brilliant and progressive response to criticism of the Old Testament, and over the whole day made it come alive in a way which I’ve never seen before. Oh you get the picture – it was great.

Excitement is now brewing as over 1100 delegates descend. Rob’s on tonight – I doubt this crowd will know what has hit them.

Posted in Spiritual is everything, Youth Ministry | Leave a Comment »

I am Borat

Posted by Martin on November 17, 2006

MeOr at least, my interview skills are akin to his. Having managed to arrange an interview with Rob Bell today (see previous post) I was less than amused when he suggested that we just do the whole thing in front of 200 delegates, as part of his ‘early day’ event. Great – now my questions weren’t going to look so smart; for a start I can’t now edit them post-interview to tie in better with his answers…

I agreed anyway, and things were going well until I described his book Velvet Elvis as having a ‘super-trendy’ design. He looked at me blankly. He had never heard this word.

In fact, no-one there had. In fact, nor had I. My nerves had got the better of me. Super Trendy? What was I thinking? And then it hit me, as I announced:

‘Oh no. I’m Borat.’

To which Rob replied:

‘This is very nas interview, yes?’

Posted in Spiritual is everything, Youth Ministry | 2 Comments »

Rob Bell blows my head up

Posted by Martin on November 17, 2006

A different Rob Bell - sportierArrived in Eastbourne last night for the start of the Youthwork the Conference ‘early day.’ The speaker is about as high-profile as they come in Christian circles – Rob Bell, the founder of Mars Hill Community Church in Grand Rapids Michigan (they meet in a converted shopping mall [which they were given]) and the man behind the nooma series of teaching DVDs. Expectations then were sky-high, which in my experience is rarely a good thing. Remember how you felt going in to see The Matrix Reloaded? And then how you felt when you came out?

So I was cautious about expecting too much. I needn’t have been. Rob was spectacular – he did an ‘overview of the history of the story of God’ using what he termed the four locations that are key to the Bible. Those are – if you’re interested – Egypt, Sinai, Jerusalem and Babylon. Everything else is tourism I guess. I can’t do it justice of course – but I can say that it entirely upended my view of how Old and New Testaments fit together. Previously I’d kind of looked at them as an unwieldy first volume and a much punchier sequel… now they’re more like two sheets of overlaid acetate. The scales fell from my eyes.

Simultaneously, Rob used the stories in Acts 11 and 14 about the criticism he received in Jerusalem for his methods, then displayed in action in Lystra, as a metaphor for our work with young people. There are often people in the background who talk of the importance of religious tradition, and are forever trying to hold us back and call us to account – at the same time, we are also trying to journey into the culture and lives of real young people, and reflect Jesus to them in a way that makes sense. That’s what Paul faced; it’s what we face today.

A key question then – Paul asked, what would it look like for the Jesus movement to break out in Lystra (and in Acts 14 we find his answer – he practically re-christens God!). We need to ask – stripping away some of the traditions that we’ve added over time, what would it look like for the Jesus movement to break out in Brentford, or Swindon, or Grimsby, or Belfast? In all those places, culture and youth culture are subtly different. So Rob’s call was for us to reimagine what it looks like for true church to appear there, I guess.

Tons of phenomenal stuff anyway – I may post more when I’ve had a chance, as Rob would say, to ‘let it all marinate.’

Posted in Spiritual is everything, Youth Ministry | Leave a Comment »

Youthwork the Conference: Southport

Posted by Martin on November 13, 2006

Just returned from this event so apologies for the absence of posts. Normal service has now resumed.

This was the first of the two Youthwork conference weekends, the second starting in Eastbourne at the other end of this week. I was on the speaking team, so you could possibly suggest some sort of bias, but I thought it was fantastic – although to be honest, it only made the jump from good to great during the final sprint.

The theme of the conference – Infinite Possibilities: Reimagining mission to the digital generation – was worked strongly through a huge programme of seminars looking at all aspects and definitions of mission to young people, and I hope every one of the 800 or so delegates who came along found something in there which they connected with – general feedback seemed to be very positive on the ground.

The main sessions, cut from five to four this year, were all of a high standard, with plenty of food for thought from speakers like Steve Holloway and Pete Greig (who appears to have morphed over the course of the last five years into the UK’s first Stoner-style Christian speaker) but the best of the lot came from Jill Rowe, whose ‘One life at a time’ call to seek out the lost sheep in youth ministry was simply stunning.

I can’t do her address justice – get hold of the CD if you can – but she set the place alight. And what was even more brilliant was that the best mainstage speaker at the conference (very possibly ever), was female. No token chick here. After she’d finished, leaving barely a dry eye in the house, the conference was treated to an equally stunning finale…

In a moment of ironic postmodern worship (we may have invented something new here, emerging church fans) worship leader Gareth Robinson chose to close the event with a funked-up rendition of… wait for it… ‘Shine Jesus Shine’. For 30 seconds, there was a lot of laughter, but something happened in the room, and suddenly it made sense. Perhaps these words are why:

‘As we gaze on your kingly brightness
So our faces display your likeness
Ever changing from glory to glory
Mirrored here may our lives tell your story’

What a rousing and perfect way to end up a conference on mission. Can’t wait for next weekend.

Posted in Youth Ministry | 3 Comments »

White is the new rubbish

Posted by Martin on November 6, 2006

Well, it turns out that I know more about rugby than I thought. England were indeed trounced by New Zealand, by the fairly resounding margin of 20-41. It was a strange match though – we scored very early on and the referee (French, draw your own conclusions) disallowed the try for no apparent reason – and after that our players’ heads went down and we kept making mistakes – every time the All Blacks scored, it was probably more due to our ineptitude than their brilliance.So should we have won? Well, probably not – to me it looked like the All Blacks were always only operating in third gear, and could have stepped up if needed. As it was, they cruised to victory without losing too much sweat.

Not usually being a big rugby man, I was unaware of some of the attached conventions. The stunned silence around me when I screamed ‘SHOOT!’ at our kicker was testament to that. I also didn’t realise that, unlike the football crowds in which I’m more at home, there is no segregation – they just put both sets of fans in together. This is excellent news if, like me, you enjoy winding up opposition supporters. In this game, it was easy – you just start voicing your disgust at ‘The Cheating Aussies’. They really don’t like that, it turns out.

A good day out, slightly improved by the comical miming of Girls Aloud in the end-of-game entertainments, and with for me, one interesting spiritual moment. 82,000 fans, with their hands on their hearts, singing the great English hymn Jerusalem, so passionately that it would make most choirs blush. I’ve pasted the words of the hymn below – pretty incredible stuff for a crowd of mainly non-churchgoers to be belting out on a Sunday afternoon.

JERUSALEM 

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountain green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

William Blake ca.1804

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Black is the new white

Posted by Martin on November 5, 2006

Sounds like it’s going to be a controversial post, but it probably won’t be…

Off now to watch England take on the mighty All Blacks (for the uninitiated, the Brazil of Rugby) at Twickenham with my best mate in the world. We’re allowing 4 and a half hours travel time each way, despite the fact that it’s only about ten miles away.

I’m fully expecting England to be pulverised, as I’m sure most people are – but it’s not going to hurt if they are. First, this isn’t football, and so it doesn’t really matter, and second, sometimes you just have to look on and admire a great side, even if it’s your own team that they’re destroying. Plus, I’ve always kind of liked Kiwis, and their country. Anyone who counts Australia as their sworn sporting enemy is ok in my book.

Whether I’ll feel the same way at 5.15pm tonight, at the end of the game, remains to be seen. I shall be sure to let you know…

Posted in Sport | 1 Comment »