Monday, 9 May 2011

Relay Update: 09/05/2011

What is Relay? Relay is a discipleship program I'm doing this year and you can read all about it here. I'll be updating the blog from time to time with updates for all the people partnering with me during the year. And this  is one of those updates!

First of all, apologies for not getting this update done sooner. I don't really have any excuses ...

But let's move on from my failures and on to your merits. See, thanks to you incredibly generous folks I've got enough money to live on until the end of Relay. Honestly I haven't really known how to respond. It's been pretty humbling. I know I don't deserve what I've been given and there's nothing I can do to "pay you back" so I'll just say "thank you,"  accepting your (and God's) grace.

Now let me belatedly update you.

The last couple months have been the slowest of the new year. Bear in mind January and February were intensely busy so slowest doesn't actually translate as slow. Rather, March and April saw me return to a more normal routine, one without mission weeks and talks in between every breath.

Equip, the weekly apologetics workshop I run, has still been going at both Stoke and Keele. In the last month we've looked at stuff like evidence for the resurrection, the relationship between science and Christianity, and the argument from evil. It's been a challenge to work through this material in a way that encourages discussion and thoughtful interaction rather than passive absorbtion in a lecture-style format. I don't think I've always avoided the latter but hopefully I'll be able to up the creative ante for the sessions this semester.

I've managed to restart some individual Bible studies with students during which I've encountered challenges ranging from intellectual doubts about whether it is still credible to believe in the soul to more 'pastoral' issues involving how we deal with shame and guilt over sin. I've sort of bungled my way through it all with the hope that God has used some of what I've said to encourage.

My elective study this term has focussed on the question of what exactly this beast known as 'evangelicalism' is and so I've dipped into some church history. Not being part of any particularly traditional churches I've probably lacked a sense of the narrative of Christian history, a story I've really enjoyed getting in touch with. I've focussed on the development of theology more than anything and it's inspired me to make a difference in the intellectual arena of 21st century western thought.

Like many other Relays I spent a week in April stewarding at New Word Alive an evangelical conference in Wales. Not being one who's particularly practically minded, nor someone with an abundance of common sense and initiative, I was a little worried about how it would go. As it happens, no one under my care was guided to a ravine rather than a loo, nor trampled to death rather than allocated a seat. In addition the team I was working with were lovely and were happy to flit from banter to busting chops in theological discussion.

Of course one of the advantages of stewarding is that you get to sit in on some of the teaching sessions and boy were some of them powerful. Rico Tice (creator of the Christianity Explored course) delivered a devastating sermon on Hebrews 11 that set out to counter some of the latent 'prosperity gospel' theology we hide in our thinking. He reminded us of the call to suffer and potentially suffer gravely for the gospel. Another highlight was an interview with Ben Kwashi, a Nigerian archbishop. He told of us his experiences growing the church in Nigeria and the persecution he and his family have endured (including both tragic and miraculous outcomes). He was truly a beautiful Godly man and his story left in me in tears.

I feel positive about the time remaining, and I hope mostly to just invest good time into the students here before I leave. I also feel hungry to grow in holiness and I thank God for that. Could you please pray...

... that I would be wise in how I handle my money
... that I would be disciplined in implemented my desire to grow in holiness
... that I would manage my time well so as to spend quality time with people here
... that Stoke committee's year-planning meeting would be productive
 
Thank you and God bless

Martin

P.S. If you want to get a taste of what Equip is like, there is a recording of a session on Handling the Bible and Worldviews available on Stoke CU's website. It was a session I did during the CU's main meeting (I was supposed to do something else but for various reasons I didn't have the time to prepare it!) Here's the link.