Monday, March 31, 2008

Reflections on Easter School


Well, I survived my first Easter School. And it was a blast!!

Not only was it an opportunity for spiritual growth and development, and for the aquisition of more skills for the priestly role, it was also a wonderful time of friendship and fellowship. Relationships within my own year group have always been excellent: we are a very supportive and grounded group with a great dynamic. What was a bonus was working with those in the second and third years on common tasks and therefore growing closer to those we did not know so well.

In addition there was, of course, the bar where many friendships were cemented. I seem to have developed a taste for a bourbon called Wild Turkey, which for you Brits out there, I concluded wasn't a Bernard Matthews product. I was certainly able to entice the usual suspects up to my en-suite room on the fifth floor for fellowship and whiskey. (Oh sorry, Richard, Stuart, Danny and Barry, you didn't have en-suites on the fourth floor, did you? Fancy me being so tactless and insensitive as to mention that!)

We were a group of seventy, staying for eight days as residents (and increasingly institutionalise as the days passed), at the Wakefield Police College, along with a large group of police in various stages of training.

Between us we were certainly in a position to take the moral high ground and lay on the guilt!

The theme of the week was Christian Mission in a Plural World. This took us out to Bradford for visits to a very Muslim area and visits to a Mosque and a Gurdwara. With the strange synchrenicity which I take to be the working of the Holy Spirit, this fitted in well with things I have posted and commented on elsewhere recently on witness and evangelism. More of this in later posts.

As a first year it was a source of some relief to me to be well within my comfort zone on this. As a teacher of Religious Studies, and living in a major and significant urban area, multiculturalsim isn't something I give much overt thought to because it is my daily life, at work, at church and as I walk around the City of Leeds and its environs. I think some of my friends from the white heartlands and the rural areas of the Yorkshire Dales might have struggled with this a little more, but I was just happy that I was aware of the issues and challenges and that I also had a sound academic and experiential base for exploring this theologically: indeed, that I actually had something to offer others because of that.

The first years were largely responsible for leading worship for the whole course during the week and we were broken up into groups of four or five. My cell led worship on three occasions during the residential, and it was an immense privilege and something the four of us enjoyed. There is, though, something a little scary about leading worship among your peers, two thirds of whom are ahead of you in the process and also in front of your tutors, who are assessing you, and in front of the chaplains. Never the less we coped well and received positive feedback.

During the week, we experienced a wide variety of worship from the formal prayer-book Matins and Evensong (both Anglican and Methodist) and Solemn Eucharist to a Taize service and an experimental liturgy. (I managed to get significant chunks of the Lutheran worship book into the services I led, so felt happy about that.)

My Bishop came to visit on Friday. This was our prior phone conversation:

"I thought I'd come and see how you were doing."

"Why?"

"Just a pastoral visit and a chat with your tutors."

"That's really kind, but you don't need to bother. I'm fine, really. Thanks."

"I'll see you on Friday."

Anyway, enough for now: you have the background. The theology is to follow.

Many thanks to Grandmere Mimi and Reverend boy, for their great contributions in my absence. I shall be away again during late July and August when I go on my parish placement to Tallinn, Estonia so I will be approaching a number of friends to hold the fort in similar fashion.

Friday, March 28, 2008

the Reverend boy's Ruminations


Greetings from New York City! I'm the Reverend boy, who along with Grandmere Mimi are guest bloggers while DP is away. Unlike Mimi, I do hope he is having a great time and I am sure he is being a very positive influence (read: influence of whiskey) on his classmates.

To give a bit of background about myself, I'm an Episcopalian in the Diocese of New York and currently in the discernment process for the Priesthood. I also run the local Integrity Chapter. If all goes well, I hope to be in seminary in Fall of 2010 or 2011 at the latest.

Like Mimi, I was wondering what on earth I could write about and still do DP some justice.

One of my best friends is someone I call my Personal Atheist, and he will sometimes comment on my blog. I certainly don’t hold his atheism against him at all, because it takes a lot of faith, I think, to say there is no God. In fact, it is in some ways a breath of fresh air. We joke between ourselves that it takes an atheist to keep a religious person grounded. One of the many reasons he does not believe in God is because it has become apparent to him that religion in general is a man-made creation. I would be hard pressed to disagree with him. Regardless of your faith or tradition, we can honestly say that the ritual, the pomp and the fanfare is simply window dressing. They are ways we thought up to express our faith. However, the expressions of faith and the faith itself have to be grounded in something or in the case of our own faith, grounded in someone. Sometimes, when we look past all the window dressing and pay attention to the things that we profess and proclaim during a worship service, we might wonder, “Is this all for real? Am I really deluding myself in being here? What if all those who say that ‘Christianity is a hoax’ are right?” These are very valid questions, and these questions lead us to the place of the apostle, Thomas, whose story we hear this coming Sunday.

I’ve always thought that Thomas got a bum rap. We all have heard the phrase “doubting Thomas,” which has become synonymous with skepticism or even cynicism. He demands proof of the Resurrection before he will believe that Jesus has risen from the dead. After witnessing the crucifixion, who can blame him? I mean, Thomas probably saw for himself Jesus being nailed to the cross and lifted up for all the world to see. Not only does he want real, solid proof of his friends’ claim, he wants to experience that claim in just as real of a way as they did. This is a very human response to his fellow disciples. In essence, he wants to give everyone a reality check. The intersection of doubt and faith are part and parcel of the Easter experience. We should be grateful for Thomas’ questions. Thomas stands for us here in the 21st century. He is being our voice because on some level he is demanding factual answers to the questions that come up every year around Easter such as “Did Jesus really rise from the dead?” “Was the body stolen? Was it given to the dogs?” Wouldn’t it be nice to say to skeptics once and for all, “See? I’m not crazy after all.”

This small scene with Thomas is quite powerful. Far from criticizing or belittling questions about our faith and the reality of Jesus, God invites our questions. “Let me show you,” he says. “Let me meet you.” We should not be afraid to question things which may seem impossible. At the same time, if we have the courage to ask the hard questions, we cannot be afraid of what the answers are. Sometimes the answers are not pleasant. Job virtually shook his fist at God for all the trouble that God allowed him to go through. If you were to read the book of Job, we could say that his only fault was having a bad attitude. Job demanded a reality check as well, and the answer he received from God was “Where were YOU when I laid the foundations of the earth? Who are YOU to question why I do the things that I do?” Job, too, wanted a reality check, but it wasn’t like anything he was expecting. He encountered God and his response to that encounter was “I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.” In the end, we know that Jobs troubles end, and he is even more prosperous and blessed than he was in the beginning. But, he encountered God and was changed.

One big reason why I believe the Bible gives a true revelation of God is because it shows God working with God-fearing folk, warts and all. It shows us a very clear picture of who we are at our best and our worst. It shows ordinary people doing extraordinary things because God stepped into their lives and met them. It is not the story of how we can become like God, but how God comes to us and meets us in all of our afflictions, our sorrows and even our questions. Thomas doubted the Resurrection. Job confessed he had a bad attitude during his ordeal. Both say, “I challenged you and you answered me, and you proved me wrong.” Both of their lives were changed forever by an encounter with the living God, a God that continues to encounter his people every day and every moment. So when we question or doubt some things, we need to remember that’s perfectly fine. God would not be much of a deity if he couldn’t withstand some scrutiny. We cannot be afraid of the answers to the questions we might ask, for they quickly become invitations to an encounter with Christ, whether they are at an altar rail, a soup kitchen, the workplace, or a park bench. There is a maxim which says, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” If what you are wishing for is an encounter with God, that is all the more reason to be careful.

You won't ever be the same again.

Posted by the Reverend boy

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What To Say?


Hello everyone. I am Grandmère Mimi, posting while Doorman-Priest is away having fun at Vicar School, and, we trust, learning a little. My hope is that he’s not having too much fun.

When DP asked me to post a bit while he was gone, I said yes without thinking much about it. Now that it’s time to actually write the post, I find that it’s a daunting task. I wrote one post which I sent to the Reverend Boy to look over, and he wrote back and said a few nice things, but he noted that the piece sounded as if I was searching for something to say and gently suggested that I should be myself. Was he ever right! I was searching desperately for something to say, all the while trying to be DP instead of writing in my own voice.

The reason that I’m having a difficult time of it is that DP is quite good at what he does, and I am fairly certain that I won’t measure up. He has such large shoes to fill. I’ll tell you a secret. The Reverend Boy is a bit worried, too. We both know it when we come up against our betters. To make a long story short, I scrapped most of the post that I had written and started over. The one true part of it that sounded like me, I left in.

Thanks partly to several of Doorman-Priest’s posts and some of the comments here, and having just commemorated the days between Palm Sunday and Easter, the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, and the Crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday, and celebrated with joy the great feast of the Resurrection of Jesus, the oft-asked question, “Are you saved?” came to my mind again. What does it mean? Having grown up in the Roman Catholic Church, I had no context in which to place that question when I first heard it and no clue as to what it meant. It’s a question that I still have no answer for.

Just as Jesus broke into the world by his Incarnation, changing everything by becoming one of us, once again, by his death and Resurrection, he changes the relationship of earth to heaven and heaven to earth. I see the Resurrection as not so much for me, but for us, for the whole of creation, which takes the focus off Jesus saving me and puts it where it rightly belongs, on the salvation of humanity and of the whole of creation.

The Resurrection does not so much answer the question, “Are you saved?” in the positive, so much as it empowers us to say, “We are saved; the whole creation is saved,” by the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, whom the God of love called forth from the grave to give us new life. Thus, we enter the kingdom of God, the paradoxical kingdom, which is right now, but not yet, a kingdom in the present reality, but not yet brought to perfection, a kingdom in which the people of God are called to work out their own salvation by striving to bring about the kingdom of God right here and right now in this time and in this place. Thanks be to God.

My gravatar up there is a portrait of Jane Austen.

Posted by Grandmère Mimi from Wounded Bird.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Christ is Risen. He is risen indeed. Halelujah


Off to Easter residential today. Coming soon to this blog: Grandmere Mimi and the Reverend Boy to hold the fort in my absence. I shall be thinking of you during the week.

A Blessed Easter to you all. Halelujah!

God of all goodness,
because of the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
the morning of the new creation dawns.
The day of the Lord has come.
The wells of salvation have opened.
In Holy Baptism you have joined us
to Christ's triumphal procession.
Grant to us the spirit of the resurrection,
that we may forever praise you
and rejoice in the gift of salvation,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Amen.


The guarding of the God of life be upon us.
The guarding of the loving Christ be upon us.
The guarding of the Holy Spirit be upon us
to aid us and enfold us
each day and night of our lives.
Amen.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Long Long Long weekend

This weekend is not fun. It's easter, but it's not really as it's too early in the year for the schools to have broken up for easter and it's too cold for the tourists to head out and about.

Instead we've got local drunken men and women with a few single-sex alcohol tourist groups landing in the city for a serious 4 day drink. Thursday night's Friday night. Friday night's Friday night. Saturday and Sunday nights are Saturday nights and Monday just a no work day with early drinking all day.

It's not chocolate and over-indulgence with the family. It's just beer, spirits and an extended period of alcoholism. We're having far too busy a time of it all. I dread to think how busy the drunk-kidnappers and blue light taxis are. I'm just taking it one night at a time and keeping my head well down. Another night, another set of idiots, another wage earned and hopefully intact forget the thing and get ready for the next one. No night off this week for me.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Strangely wrongfooted by Easter


I don't know why it is, but I have felt oddly dislocated in the run up to Easter and I am not sure why. At every stage I seem to have been reactive and on the back foot. Is it because Easter is so early?

Maybe.

It all started with Lent. What should my Lenten discipline be? What did I do? I opted for giving up a whole range of fairly meaningless things of which alcohol and chocolate were the key two. Looking back now I feel that someone of my age and experience should surely have managed something more spiritual and more creative.

Then due to a planning failure I invited the revered elders for the day on Palm Sunday and therefore missed the start of Holy Week. The previous Sunday I had made one of my occasional visits to St. Atrophy's and Rev. Jim preached a fabulous sermon. He and I went out together in the week and had a curry and put the world to rights. It seemed a strange role reversal, this young man as one of my mentors, and part of a support group which college insists we all have. The waiters kept looking at us. I am sure they were thinking: "Ah, what a nice lad, taking his old Dad out for a meal." Still, I like to believe that Jim gets as much out of these times together as I do and it was nice to come back home for coffee and a continuation of the chat.

But I digress: what that means is that I missed two consecutive weeks at St. Small's and I think this has added to my sense of dislocation. There was no Maundy Thursday service at St. Smalls. NO MAUNDY THURSDAY SERVICE!!! So I went with Mrs. D.P. to St. Angst's for the foot washing and Eucharist. I was welcomed like the Prodigal Son and ended up reading the Epistle and singing as one third of a scratch trio.

So it wasn't until yesterday that I began to feel that I was in Holy Week at all. A bit late in Holy Week too. This evening I am at St. Small's for the Good Friday liturgy where I will be reading and also be Eucharistic assistant.

Then it all goes wrong again. My course has its residential Easter school starting on Sunday for eight days. I will miss Easter Day at St. Smalls and will participate instead in a service, which I am sure will be wonderful, with all the other students in the evening.

As I shall be away for eight days I shall be asking some friends to guest blog here to keep things ticking over, so don't be surprised to see some unfamiliar faces.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ali - an answer to prayer


On Monday I mentioned Ali who was being held in detention prior to being deported to Iran. His assylum application had failed and he was being returned, as a Christian, to a nation which executes apostates.

I heard today that the intervention of his church had caused the Home Office to release him and he is now back in Leeds.

I have never met this man and neither had you and yet we prayed for him.

Thank you on behalf of his church, St. George's, Leeds.

O Lord: How Long?


Eternal Spirit
Earth-Maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all.
Loving God, in whom is heaven.
The hallowing of your name echoes through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the earth!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and forever.
Amen.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Good Old Aquinas


So Thomas Aquinas, Medieval monk and scholar, argued for the existance of God in ways not entirely in accordance with the thinking of his age.

His First Cause Argument, part of a larger series of similar arguments for the existence of God, goes something like:

Every effect has a cause.

Nothing that we experience is caused by itself.

There can not be an infinite regression of causes.

Therefore there must be a First Cause.

That is what everyone understands as God.

Although Aquinas predates modern thought, he is largely responsible for the acceptance by many modern Christians of the Big Bang Theory and Evolution: God is the trigger that sets the whole process in motion.

For me personally that is a bigger God than the Hebrew tribal totem who created the world in six days and I find that transcendence and omnipotence very exciting, while I find the traditional creation story, which I believe to be religious myth, very limiting.

Remember, though, as I have said before, with the God of classical theology ANYTHING is possible. The outcome is the same, though: there is a creative and sustaining force in the universe and we call that force YHWH.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Observations on Evangelism


I know this may be a post too far given all that has been discussed here on evangelism, but I had an experience today which seems relevant.

Two smartly dressed young men with American accents called on me today.

Them: "We'd like to talk to you about the book of Mormon."

Me: "Yes, come to the church where I minister tomorrow and we can continue the conversation then."

Them: "We can continue the conversation now."

Me: "Actually, we can't. I'm sorry."

Them: "Would you like a copy of the book of Mormon?"

Me: "I am a teacher of religious studies, I have one at school. Would you like a New Testament?

Them: "We are theological interns. We have one."

Further forays on both sides for a few minutes.

Me: "Let's cut to the chase. Do you think you have any more chance of changing my mind than I have of changing yours?"

Them: "Probably not".

Me: "Thanks for calling."

My hunch has often been that evangelism is a dialogue of the deaf, much as that exchange was. (No one, under any circumstances, at this point post me a list of Biblical injunctions to evangelise. I know. They're a given.)

Am I, at my stage in life, with my Christian commitment, experience and calling and with my academic background going to become a Mormon? No. Are those guys going to become Christians? Unlikely. Is my friend Asim with his cradle Muslim experience and committment going to become a Christian? Probably not. Will my friends Kuljinder and Jagtar with their cradle committment to Sikhism and all that goes with it become Christians? I doubt it. At least, because they have a faith stance, not through a couple of attempts at evangelism on my part. We are in a long term relationship. I will continue to talk and to witness by my life, but I have no expectations of conversion. Cross cultural conversion are rare. It is about more than faith: it is about family and cultural identity and if you are secure in all that, and you aren't searching........

Atheism is a faith stance which we tend to ignore at our peril. Someone's Atheism is likely to be as stubborn to my Christianity as my Christianity was to the Mormons.

I draw no conclusions from this.

I do not dismiss evangelism, nor witness.

The Holy Spirit will blow where she wills.

Its a tad more complicated than it was ever presented to me when I was a teenage evangelical.

Still awake

I know I work daft hours but the ever earlier sunrise and the stressful beast that was last-night has found me still awake at midday, about 6 hours after I'd usually be in the land of nod.

I got back, all ready for bed, then the sun came up, the randy birds started and I'm wide awake and sleep is still no closer. If it gets to 4 in the morning with no sleep I'm likely going to snap. Either that or dose up on caffeine at the start of my shift and hope I don't crash down too early.

The stresses of last night were all of my own making. I took an interest in watching some-one specific and made sure everyone was keeping an eye out for where they were and what they were up to. It's a fairly common thing for us to do but this one was more care in the community off his medication than possible drug dealer. He just had the strangest social pattern. The chatting selectively with one group then another then another. It stands out and that got him watched.

It then didn't help when some little chav thought he'd take the lad's drink. He got most annoyed, the chav got tossed out but this lad was on a mission. He clocked the fact he was being watched and once his aggravated self was out on the street went off on one. Not physically just verbally and persistently. Not enough to get nicked but enough to leave me quite highly stressed hence he delayed my sleep long enough for the dawn to kick my arse.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Teleology


So, as William Paley said: Imagine walking through the countryside, so far away from civilization that is possible to believe you are in a totally natural environment. As you walk, you find at your feet two objects: a stone and a pocket watch. As you examine the stone you see nothing remarkable about it at all. As you examine the pocket watch you see clear evidence of design: symmetry, beauty, intricacy, interdependence, purpose and detail. Where there is design you have to surmise the existence of a designer. i.e. the watchmaker.

The universe is like the watch, Paley said. It too, has all those design characteristics and more. Therefore we must surmise the existence of a designer: God.

Discuss.

Monday, March 10, 2008

It's Official: Brits Are Miserable


According to the Observer (Sunday 9th March) a "bestselling" book in the U.S. "has labelled Britain as a nation that is not only unable to experience happiness, but positively relishes being miserable." In "The Geography of Bliss" Eric Weiner writes, "I feel sorry for the Brits. The Brits don't merely enjoy misery, they get off on it."

Now the breathtaking scale of the stereotype apart, it seems he based his study on the town of Slough.

Enough said.

However, Britain is more than Slough. No, honest, it is.

He should have come to interview me. I'm a regular sort of guy and I've never been happier. Perhaps he misunderstood inate reserve as misery.

He also describes us as "chronically polite". Well, he's certainly not been to the part of Yorkshire where I teach, then.

Still, the judgement of a citizen from a nation who can elect Bush by accident through faulty electoral equipment and fail to rectify it, is unlikely to be taken too seriously here. We're too busy drinking tea in our moated castles, worrying about the smog and whether the rain will damage our bowler hats.


A PRAYER REQUEST

I heard yesterday that Ali, an Iranian assylum seeker and convert to Christianity, is in detention awaiting deportation within the week, his application for assylum having failed.

We are a big-hearted nation where returning an apostate Muslim to a country which executes apostates is seen as a fair policy. Maybe Weiner was on to something. It's not that we enjoy the misery for ourselves so much as inflicting it on others.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Hot Pants

Now the days of smoking inside nightclubs are over, alot of young, daft little punters spend a fair amount of their night standing in the cold. They are all tarted up to the nines, though doing this with the least square inches of cloth possible.

One of the many tasks I have to perform is to monitor the smoking area and make sure no-ones killed themselves or anyone else in a faster way than tar and cancer. It's still bloody wintry and I was struck this week at girls, ladies and things older than my mother that decide to wear hot pants and no tights. This is what some male punters think must be the best part of the door job. It is not, it gets tired fast especially when you work with more than just the martini beautiful people.

What struck me was this. Pretty young and shapely ladies in hot pants can be appealing. If your legs are a good feature, work with them, maybe even brave the icy cold and get them working for you. All fine with that, it's marketing and will work for some folk at some level.

What gets me is very large ladies, often squat lumpy ladies who really need to use mirrors, common sense, dignity, shame and taste before thinking hot pants. The idea that size 24 hot pants are manufactured and sold means something is wrong with the world. For the one 7' 2" lady with good legs who likes to get them out, I'm sorry. For the vast podgey, doughy, stumpy ridiculous hordes who wear them, please for the love of sanity, don't wear them in public and please don't try and come anywhere near where I work. I will laugh in your face until you go away. I'm not nice but why make me suffer plus sizes in hot pants. It's like shaving two blubbery seals and dragging them round town to get drunk.

Friday, March 7, 2008

How to Shower



Apropos nothing in particular, (but as its been a bit heavy over the last couple of posts), something that Mrs. D.P. received by e-mail.

How To Shower Like a Woman

Take off clothes and place them sectioned in laundry basket according to lights and darks.
Walk to bathroom wearing long dressing gown.
If you see husband along the way, cover up any exposed areas.
Look at your womanly physique in the mirror - make mental note to do more sit-ups/leg-lifts, etc.
Get in the shower.
Use face cloth, arm cloth, leg cloth, long loofah, wide loofah and pumice stone.
Wash your hair once with cucumber and sage shampoo with 43 added vitamins.
Wash your hair again to make sure it's clean.
Condition your hair with grapefruit mint conditioner enhanced.
Wash your face with crushed apricot facial scrub for 10 minutes until red.
Wash entire rest of body with ginger nut and jaffa cake body wash.
Rinse conditioner off hair.
Shave armpits and legs.
Turn off shower.
Squeegee off all wet surfaces in shower.
Spray mould spots with Tile cleaner.
Get out of shower.
Dry with towel the size of a small country.
Wrap hair in super absorbent towel.
Return to bedroom wearing long dressing gown and towel on head.
If you see husband along the way, cover up any exposed areas.

How To Shower Like a Man

Take off clothes while sitting on the edge of the bed
and leave them in a pile.
Walk naked to the bathroom.
If you see wife along the way, shake willy at her
making the 'woo-woo' sound.
Look at your manly physique in the mirror.
Admire the size of your willy and scratch your bum.
Get in the shower.
Wash your face.
Wash your armpits.
Blow your nose in your hands and let the water rinse
Fart and laugh at how loud it sounds in the shower.
Spend majority of time washing privates and
surrounding area.
Wash your bum, leaving those coarse bum hairs stuck on
the soap.
Wash your hair.
Make a Shampoo Mohawk.
Wee.
Rinse off and get out of shower.
Partially dry off.
Fail to notice water on floor because curtain was
hanging out of bath the whole time.
Admire willy size in mirror again.
Leave shower curtain open, wet mat on floor, light and
fan on.
Return to bedroom with towel around waist.
If you pass wife, pull off towel, shake willy at her
and make the 'woo-woo' sound again.
Throw wet towel on bed.

Observations?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Personality types, Preaching and Evangelism.


So if, as Myers-Briggs asserts, there are sixteen personality types, or more properly preferences, and each one communicates in their own default position, how do we best communicate the Gospel to others?

In order to understand this better we need to know that within each personality type two descriptors are key: Intuition or Sensing and Feeling or Thinking.

So, in learning terms:

• Sensing people need to be given a step by step presentation; they need you to be factual and to give detail; they need you to be concise; you need to keep what you say simple and down to earth and show why it makes sense; you need to demonstrate the practical application to life and give the historical overview, showing how the Gospel has worked in the past and impacted on the lives of others. YOUR AIM is to show that the Gospel is historically based, makes sense and how it is lived out in daily life.

• Intuitive people need to see the bigger picture; you need to talk in general terms and point bout the future benefits and opportunities; you need to be confident and enthusiastic; you need to indicate challenges and be creative and imaginative; you also need to be visionary and to be conceptual, using doctrine, symbols etc.; you need to talk about possibilities and try to make the message sound fresh or unique. YOUR AIM is to adapt the way we present the message to a person’s need’s concerns. You need to be a catalyst and inspire others to take a risk in faith.

• Feeling people need you to be friendly and personable; what you say needs to be personal and to show the implication for people’s lives; you need to show how it will make a difference and to talk about the Gospel’s values; they require you to be warm and sympathetic and to be tactful; you need to talk about how the Gospel affects others by using personal testimonies. YOUR AIM is to show how the Gospel is a message of love that demands a heartfelt response or self giving love to Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

• Thinking people need logic and a well organised and objective presentation; they need to understand the principles involved and you must emphasise the truth and authenticity of the Gospel. You must be willing to engage in intellectual debate and be competent and assured as you are tested and questioned. Thinkers need to hear the pros and cons. YOUR AIM is to show the truth, justice and authenticity of the Gospel, stressing that faith is not blind belief but to involve integrity it must necessarily involve struggle and intellectual questioning.

S types need something concrete; N types need something of the vision; F types need some space and silence and T types need something of the understanding.

Great, so now I’ll never attempt evangelism again. How can I know someone’s default position? I have a limited chance of getting it right. Are they N/Fs, or S/Fs or S/Ps or what?

Here in lies the weakness, but it does seem to me to reflect the reality of the situation. I guess if you are familiar with the above then the questions they pose lead you to a clearer sense of where they are coming from. At best your opening gambits need to tap into all four strands.

How would we do this with preaching?

Take the story of the healing of the man with the withered hand. (Mark 2.23 – 3.6)

• For the Sensing people: Think of the days of the week laid out before you like cards on a table. Now think about each day as a distinctive colour in its own right. What colour do you see for each day? What colour, particularly do you see for Sunday? Is it a bright positive colour or a dull negative colour? And what is it that colours your attitude to Sunday?.....................................

• For Intuitive people: The Pharisees were running a campaign to keep the Sabbath special which did not allow people to pluck ears of corn or non-emergency healings. Now if you could rewrite Sundays the way you would want them to be, where would you draw the line?............

• For Feeling people: Now see how the whole thing looks to the man with the withered hand. It must have all seemed so strange to him. His hand had been like that for years, on weekdays and Sabbaths but never before had his hand been the cause of so much controversy and never before had he seen a real healer in that town…………………………

• For Thinking People: Sinister controversy is at the heart of Mark’s Gospel. Think through the way that this controversy has been systematically developed throughout the first two chapters. Why, then, is sinister controversy so important to Mark?...................................

I can also see this working well in a study group where you give people options over a particular task which should give everyone something comfortable to do. In terms of Evangelism, though, my only conclusion thus far is that by the very nature of evangelism there must be personal point of contact otherwise we do not engage properly with our potential congregations. The scatter gun approach isn’t going to do it.

Can I preach in a way which encompasses the four personality types? Yes, with discipline. Can I evangelise in the same way? Only by looking for clues in how they respond initially and this is where I am frustrated: could you all tattoo your M-B letters on your foreheads please?

When my class were looking at Biblical passages to suit each type, these were some of our conclusions:

• Sensing: Fulfilment of prophecy. 1 Corinthians 13
• Intuitive: Psalm 139
• Feeling: John 3.16-17. The Parable of the Good Samaritan
• Thinking: Romans. The story of Doubting Thomas

Using the theories, could you add any others?

Why do people walk away? Is it because they are rejecting the Gospel or is it because the Gospel has not been communicated in a way that engages them? Does Myers-Briggs have potential in Christian work? Yes, undoubtedly, but in some areas its value seems to be more limited.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Evangelism, Preaching and Myers-Briggs


At the weekend my year group spent the best part of a day looking at the Myers Briggs personality types. Myers-Briggs on Wikipedia The activity was interesting in its own right because it gave us each a glimpse of our default positions in a number of areas. I can’t go in to the full theory here other than to say that there are eight key areas in four pairs and that within each pair we each have a natural preference:

E: Extrovert
or
I: Introvert

N: iNtuition
or
S: Sensing

F: Feeling
or
T: Thinking

J: Judging
or
P: Perceiving

There are, of course, sixteen possible combinations. In addition, some of the descriptors are superficially misleading. Judging, for instance, is about planning and organisation, not about being critical.

I came out as ENFJ. This is a typical teacher's profile which, as a teacher, I find reassuring. However only 2.4% of the population have it which may account for why some people just don't get me. Nevertheless it means that I am (generally) responsive and responsible. I feel real concern for what others think or want and try to handle things with due regard for others feelings. I can present a proposal or lead a group discussion with ease and tact. I am sociable, popular and sympathetic and am responsive to praise and criticism. I like to help others and to enable people to achieve their potential.

However, just before I get too self-congratulatory, there is a downside:

ENFJ's tend to be more reserved about exposing themselves than other extraverted types. Although they may have strongly-felt beliefs, they're likely to refrain from expressing them if doing so would interfere with bringing out the best in others. Because their strongest interest lies in being a catalyst of change in other people, they're likely to interact with others on their own level, in a chameleon-like manner, rather than as individuals. ENFJs do not like dealing with impersonal reasoning. They don't understand or appreciate its merit, and will be unhappy in situations where they're forced to deal with logic and facts without any connection to a human element. Living in the world of people possibilities, they enjoy their plans more than their achievements. They get excited about possibilities for the future, but may become easily bored and restless with the present.

All of that, using my profile as an example, is a way into looking at the idea of how we preach and evangelise if we accept ideas like Myers-Briggs as having validity. I do accept Myers-Briggs as having validity and of course, as such, it has huge implications on the way I communication…well, actually, on the way we all communicate. What I also need to recognise is that communication has two sides and people also hear and learn in their default positions.

That being the case, how do I as ENFJ avoid miscommunicating with someone who is my exact opposite as ISTP?

All of this raises things which have been bubbling under for me for a while and which have been brought into sharp focus by a recent event of classic miscommunication. Were the person I recently fell out with and I ever destined to be able to communicate effectively, especially without being face to face? Just on the little information on him that I have and my own impressions I am convinced he is ISTP.

That would mean that he is a reserved onlooker who analyses life with a detached curiosity who is interested in cause and effect and how and why things work. He is also the sort of person who likes to organise facts using logical principles who excels at getting to the core of a practical problem and finding solutions. Such people tend to become inflexible and rigid when someone seems to be threatening their lifestyle and they usually respond with a classic SP rage.

Not much chance of a happy accommodation here.

Now this is me thinking out loud, and to avoid making this post too long, I shall save the implications and applications to preaching and evangelism until the next post. (Once I've thought of them.)