Friday, December 22, 2006

Apocalypse Noun

Here's the (only) essay I did for one of the highlight-modules of this semester - 'Biblical Theology and the Book of Revelation'. I'd be interested to know what others who did the essay think, and what others who didn't think about how what is discussed in the essay could be put to pastoral or evangelistic use.

(NB: This essay is based on a particular reading of Revelation, not new to the church by any means, but unfamiliar to most of us in the contemporary evangelical UK scenario. In this view the book is primarily about the events of AD70 when God judged Old Israel and made way for New Israel (Church). Obviously the last three chapters at least are still 'future' to us.)

(NB: Bible references are mainly in the footnotes, sorry, but hey, I was working to a word limit)

How does John use the idea of ‘name’ in the book of Revelation and what is its significance?

The idea of ‘name’ is used frequently in John’s Apocalypse. This is indicated by the occurrence of the Greek word /oνομα/ (or variant) 34 times across 29 verses of the book.[1] This essay will seek to show that John’s usage is largely rooted in an Old Testament Covenantal use of this concept, interpreted Christologically. It will also seek to show that the term is thus used as a tool (one of many John employs throughout the Apocalypse) for establishing his central contrast[2] between Babylon and the New Jerusalem, between the Kingdom of Satan and that of Christ, between idolatrous Israel coming under judgment and the New Israel awaiting promised salvation.[3] This essay will proceed by examining and discussing the various uses of the name concept.

The first usage of ‘name’ in Revelation (2:3) introduces one of the main ways the concept is used – to describe the faithfulness of God’s people. This same usage occurs three other times in the letters to the seven churches (2:13, 3:4, 3:8) each time as a commendation of the church for allegiance to Christ in various different ways. Reflection on the possible background for this usage suggests it is best understood in a covenantal sense. Throughout scripture the name of God is connected with a revelation of his character which he alone can fully know and reveal.[4] To know God’s name is to know him and be in an intimate relationship with him due to his self-revelation.[5] John in his gospel has already ably shown the relationship between the revealed name of God and Christ’s own name,[6] and these texts in Revelation assume such a link. To be faithful to Christ’s name is to trust in his self-revelation and to maintain identification with his character. This is seen in the way it is associated with commendations for faithfulness in suffering, doctrinal purity and perhaps even public witness.[7] This fidelity amounts to covenant faithfulness, as is confirmed by those texts in the Old Testament which relate the name of God to covenant faithfulness on the part of his people.[8] In this way then ‘name’ functions to flesh out aspects of the appropriate response to the message of the book which John is calling for in his readers.[9]

A similar Old Testament framework is doubtless behind John’s usage of ‘name’ with respect to the blessings promised to the faithful throughout the book. So in 2:17 the faithful are promised a ‘new name’ written on a white stone, evoking both their future vindication by Christ and the stones of remembrance worn by Aaron in the most holy place.[10] This ‘new name’ could be understood to be either the believer’s name or the name of God/Christ as revealed to the believer and placed on him in 3:12 and 14:1.[11] However, if this ‘name’ is understood as “the divinely-ordained definition of himself as belonging to the covenant of the Lord Jesus Christ”[12] then neither option is mutually exclusive of the other.[13] In other words, God will faithfully remember those who overcome, protect them and bring them to share in Christ’s victory (as suggested by his ‘name’ in 19:16) because they are marked out as belonging to him by virtue of faith-union.[14] This ‘new name’ thus suggests the typological fulfilment of prophetic ‘new covenant’ promises in Christ and in him also the Church.[15]

Similar ideas are in view in 22:4, 14:1 and 3:12 all of which describe God’s people as in some way bearing his name or having his name put on them.[16] This must be understood in the light of the Old Testament references to Israel as those called by God’s name, which is often related to blessing and salvation, including protection from and victory over their enemies. [17] This is confirmed by the similarity between the naming of these passages and the forehead sealing in 7:3 and 9:4 which is undoubtedly ‘a sign of ownership and protection’ and covenant membership.[18] Of all of these passages, 3:12 emerges as highly significant for our consideration of John’s usage of the ‘name’ concept not least because it contains three interwoven[19] ‘name’ promises for the faithful which in turn gather together several differing strands of Old Testament uses of the concept. Christ promises to “write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem…and my own new name” in the context of the believer who overcomes being established as a pillar in the temple. Thus 3:12 juxtaposes all the major Old Testament images related to ‘name’, i.e. God’s revealed Covenant Name, and his people, the city of Jerusalem and the temple - all of which were said to bear his name.[20] The inclusion of Jesus’ own new name may indicate that the basis on which these Old Testament allusions are being used and applied to the Church is Christological.

The same covenantal background is operating in those texts referring to the believer’s own name in relation to covenant blessings. 3:5 undoubtedly has as its background the proposed covenant expulsion in Exodus 32:32-33, Deuteronomy 9:14 and Psalm 69:28, as well as the books in Malachi 3:16 (referring to an Israelite remnant remaining faithful to God’s name) and Daniel 12.[21]

Together these undoubtedly indicate the guarantee of enjoying the blessings of Revelation 21-22, in particular God’s presence (given the link with God’s own name in all the allusions).[22] In addition however we must ask why these Old Testament allusions would be used by John unless he wished to portray the church as enjoying the fulfillment of a variety of Old Testament types, shadows and promises, in and through Christ. The self-understanding he wishes to impart or confirm to the seven churches is that in Christ they are the new Israel, the new temple and the new Jerusalem.This is confirmed by James Jordan’s outline of the “sequence” of “God’s Covenant-making” and the renewal of the Covenant throughout redemption history. Both the ‘Declaration of God’s new Name” and a new name for his people and/or “new world” are included in the sequence.[23] It would seem that such Covenant confirmation at least partly governs John’s usage of ‘name’.[24]

Therefore, thus far we conclude that John, by using the ‘name’ concept in these specific ways, is expounding his conviction that the Church is the Covenant people of God, constituted in Christ and awaiting full enjoyment of all the covenant blessings.[25] The importance of this covenantal concept within John’s usage of ‘name’ becomes clearer when we consider usages of the concept in connection with the forces of Satan and his counterfeit kingdom, to which we now turn.

Much like the letters to the seven churches, the section running from 13:1 to 15:4[26] contains several inter-related uses of the ‘name’ concept, 9 in total found in 8 verses. Of particular interest here is the way that the name concept as applied to the beast from the sea and his followers provides a contrast with the naming of Christ and his followers both in this section and elsewhere in the book. In 13:1 the beast wears blasphemous names on his forehead and proceeds (13:6) to blaspheme the name of God (in contrast to those who wear God’s name and fear it, 11:18 and 14:1). Poythress, who sees the beasts and the dragon together as a “counterfeit trinity”, suggests that the beast out of the sea is presented as a counterfeit Christ, not least because his blasphemous names contrast with Christ’s “worthy names” in chapter 19.[27] The names on his forehead thus signify “imitation of Christ’s true kingship.”[28] Similarly the beast mimicks Christ’s “covenantal headship” by sealing his followers with his name/number, an act which perhaps suggests that not only are they owned by the beast but also “that his followers will be like him”.[29] This mirrors what we have already seen regarding the usage of ‘name’ in the letters to the churches. Beale’s suggests that several texts (e.g. Exodus 13:9, Deuteronomy 6:8) about the place of the torah in Israel’s covenant relationship with the LORD stand behind the imagery of a mark on the forehead and the hand in 13:16-17.[30] This is obviously all the more poignant if ‘those who dwell on earth’ signify apostate Israel and the beast from the land represents apostate Jewish leaders.[31]

17:5 draws out a further contrast when Jerusalem the harlot (who sits on the beast from 13:1)[32] is named in contrast and then contrasted with the description of the bride in 19:7-8 and 21:2.[33] It is also possible that, together with the passages which describe ‘royal’ Babylon’s demise (18:2, 7,10 21), a contrast with Christ’s victorious name in 19:16 is intended.[34] Similarly in 13:1-15:4 ‘name’ is used to highlight the inevitable failure of the beast and his followers, not least because imitation itself implies defeat - Satan can merely counterfeit God the Creator and his Kingdom.[35] This is further supported by the possibility that the 8 ‘name’ statements in this section are arranged in a loose chiastic structure as below.

A. Rev 13:1 The beast and his blasphemous names.

B. Rev 13:6 The beast blasphemes God’s name.

C. Rev 13:8 Those not written in the book of life worship the beast

D. Rev 13:16-17 The beast marks his followers

D’. Rev 14:1 The 144k are marked with the Lamb and his Father’s name

C’. Rev 14:11 Those who worship the beast (and receive his name) will be judged.

A’. Rev 15:2 Vision of those who conquered the beast and its name.

B’. Rev 15:4 All nations will fear God’s name

If correct, this structure emphasises the vindication of God’s name and kingdom and the defeat of the beast. It could be that the inverted order of A’ and B’ is there to highlight the importance of the vindication of God’s name as blasphemed in B by making it not just the end of the cycle but also the eighth ‘name’ statement and therefore naturally associated with resurrection, victory and vindication.[36] Certainly this structure implies that the central contrast being made is between the worshippers of the beast and the worshippers of God, between unfaithful Israel and those faithful in the new covenant, whose divergent futures are described by John in terms drawn from Israel’s own covenantal history regarding the writing or blotting of names within God’s book.[37]

Thus it seems that ‘name’ is being used throughout this section to help establish a contrast, a contrast that is framed in covenantal language and imagery. This is because ‘name’ is functioning as a facet of the central contrast John wishes to establish throughout the book - the contrast between Babylon and Jerusalem. Apostate Israel had abandoned the covenant for an idolatrous relationship with Rome, and were standing in opposition to God’s new Covenant people who will inevitably triumph since they are marked with the name of him who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.[38]

However, this is not the only way in which John uses ‘name’. In particular, 3 texts (6:8, 8:11 and 9:11) emerge as not obviously related to covenantal concepts. These usages seem to form something of a set, being located within cycles of seven. In particular two (8:11 and 9:11) of them could be identified with Satan in either an indirect or a direct way.[39] The uses of ‘name’ here are not inconsistent with John’s relation of name to character[40] elsewhere in the Apocalypse as described above. It should be added that Satan is strongly associated with the beast’s kingdom and that both he and Death share that kingdom’s fate.[41] Thus whilst not identical, these other occurrences are far from unrelated to John’s main usage of ‘name’.

In conclusion, for John ‘name’ is predominantly a covenantal biblico-theological concept which he employs in the Apocalypse as one tool among many to establish the central contrast in the book between Babylon and the Church, both in terms of their covenant status and divergent futures. As such, meditating on this theme will further facilitate the promised blessing[42] of the reader.

[1] Or 35 times if a textual variant of 21:12 is accepted.
[2] David Field, “The harlot Babylon and the bride Jerusalem”, (Lecture notes, Oak Hill Theological College, 2006).
[3] Thus a specific preterist reading of Revelation is assumed throughout this essay. See generally Ralph E. Bass, Back to the Future - A Study in the Book of Revelation, (Greenville, USA: Living Hope Press, 2004), and David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance – An Exposition of the Book of Revelation, (Ft. Worth, Texas: Dominion Press, 1987).
[4] Carl B. Hook, “New Song”, Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology: 567.
[5] See e.g., Exodus 3:13-15, 6:3, 34:5-7. “Name”, DBΙ: 582-586 Cf. comments on 2:17 in G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation – A Commentary on the Greek Text, (NIGTC; Carlisle: Paternoster, 1999) 254 - 255.
[6] For e.g. in the many ‘I Am’ statements (e.g. John 14:6) and in John 17:11-12. Raymond B. Dillard, “God, Name of”, Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology: 295-297. 297.
[7] Beale, Revelation, 229, 246 & 256.
[8] See e.g., Exodus 20:7, Leviticus 24:16, Psalm 5:11, 7:17, 9:10, 20:7, 22:22, 61:5, 102:15, and Micah 4:5.
[9] Note the similarity between 3:8 and 1:3, especially given the relationship between ‘word’ and Christ’s name in 19:13. Also, Vern Poythress argues that the commendation in 3:4 functions as an incentive to others to be faithful and gain the reward of 3:5, thus it can be claimed that this is one way in which the commendations function throughout the letters. Vern S. Poythress, The Returning King – A Guide to the Book of Revelation, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 2000) 91.
[10] Exodus 28: 9-12 & 29. Beale, Revelation, 252-3, also Bass, Back to the Future, 119, and also Chilton, Vengeance, 55.
[11] Bass, Back to the Future, 120, Beale, Revelation, 254.
[12] Chilton, Days of Vengeance, 55, my italics.
[13] Hence Beale, in arguing that 2:17 should be linked with 19:12ff. argues that “those who know Christ’s name share in his character and end-time power.” He also argues that the 21:2 description of the church as the New Jerusalem, together with 3:12 shows “that the name written on “overcomers” (3:12) becomes synonymous with their very identity.” Beale, Revelation, 254, 257-258.
[14] Bass sees the ‘new name’ idea as primarily concerning ownership. Beale relates it to ‘identification’ and the promise of ‘final reward’ to those who trust in Christ. Bass, Back to the Future, 120 and Beale, Revelation, 254-255. Cf. “Name”, DBI, 585-586.
[15] See, Isaiah 62:2 and 65:15. Beale, Revelation, 255-256.
[16] See e.g., Beale, Revelation, 253-254.
[17] See e.g., Numbers 6:22-27, Deuteronomy 28:7-10, Isaiah 43:6-7 & Daniel 9:19.
[18] Poythress, Returning King, 92. Cf. “Name”, DBI, 585-586.
[19] Beale suggests they are in fact one promise and should be understood this way. Beale, Revelation, 293.
[20] Exodus 3:13-14, Deuteronomy 28:10, 1 Kings 8:28-29, 11:36, Daniel 9:19. Cf. “Name”, DBI, 585.
[21] Beale, Revelation, 279-281.
[22] Beale, Revelation, 293-294 and Bass, Back to the Future, 140 and Dan Lioy, The Book of Revelation in Christological Focus, (Studies in Biblical Literature 58; New York: Peter Lang, 2003) 129.
[23] James B. Jordan, Through New Eyes – Developing a Biblical View of the World, (Brentwood, Tenn,: Wolgemuth and Hyatt, 1988) 129-131.
[24] Some have suggested that the entire Apocalypse should be read as a Covenant document either for renewal or lawsuit or both. Martyn Calvin Cowan, “New World, New Temple, New Worship – The Significance of a Preterist Reading of the book of Revelation for the theology and practice of Christian Worship”, (Unpublished diss., Oak Hill Theoligical College, 2004). Chilton, Vengeance, 18-24 and also David Field, “Covenant Structure and the Book of Revelation”, (Lecture Notes, Oak Hill Theological College, 2006) 5-9.
[25] Beale comments on the relation between Christ and the fulfilment of covenant promises. Beale, Revelation, 256.
[26] Wilcock suggests viewing these passages as a discrete section, containing a further cycle of seven visions. Michael Wilcock, The Message of Revelation – I Saw Heaven Opened, (BST; Leicester: IVP, 1991) 115.
[27] Poythress, Returning King, 17-19 & 139-140.
[28] Beale, Revelation, 684.
[29] Poythress, Returning King, 19-20 and Beale, Revelation, 716.
[30] Beale, Revelation, 717 and also Bass, Back to the Future, 316.
[31] Hence David Chilton suggests the passages about Rome speak of her “only in relation to the Covenant and the history of redemption.” Chilton, Vengeance, 135 & 139.
[32] Revelation 17:5.
[33] Poythress, Returning King, 21-22
[34] Lioy, Christological Focus, 151
[35] Poythress, Returning King, 23-24
[36] Cf. David Field, “Number”, (Lecture Notes, Oak Hill Theological College, 2006) 4 and also Poythress, Returning King, 147.
[37] Revelation 13:8 and 14:11 & Exodus 32:32-33.
[38] David Field, “Harlot”, 3.
[39] Bass, Back to the Future, 240-241 and Beale, Revelation, 502-503.
[40] Cf. “Name”, DBI, 582-3
[41] Revelation 13:4, 20:10 & 14-15
[42] Revelation 1:3

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Confusion at the Evangelical Centre

Bishop of Durham Tom Wright has employed his considerable intellect and skill as a rhetorician in a passionate (almost vitiriolic?) critique of the covenant mentioned in a previous post (see here). Wright's comments can be found HERE.

He makes some valid points in many respects, comments which must sting coming from a self-confessed evangelical. He may well be right about the political inadequacy and bad-timing of the covenant, I'm not sure. He also exposes the fact that the model of ecclesiology assumed in the covenant is not exactly in line with traditional Anglican thought as he sees it. IMHO these valid points he makes probably demonstrate the ultimate untenability of evangelicals remaining within the CofE as it currently stands, rather than strengthening the case for Wright's methodology for achieving reform.

More worryingly, the Bishop seems to 'buy' the popular representation of the type of evangelicals he is criticising. At the same time he seems to sincerely believe that the majority of the bishops in this country are orthodox and that things are in a generally decent condition in the CofE. From my limited experience, I certainly do not recognise the CofE Wright seems to be living in.

This more positive picture relies partly on a dogged belief that whilst the paper definitions of the denomination remain orthodox all is relatively well. This, I would contend, is position hard to maintain in the face of long-term ignorance of and deviation from these paper definitions.

Thus, one of the major differences between Tom Wright's approach and those of his opponents seems to be Wright's faith in the structures to produce reform and renewal. Of course this is no surprise since he is a Bishop and who'd want to be a Bishop unless you believed that inhabiting the structures of the CofE would effect change? I do wonder however if Wright could ever conceive of a situation where revolt against and within the structures of the CofE would be valid, when it would be right to seek alternative oversight, when it would be ok to disobey central authorities for the sake of the gospel.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Ashes to Ashes

It's over.

In the end, the best side won.

My humble suggestions for salvaging something of the series? Jones out, Reid in. Captaincy to Strauss to give Flintoff a chance to play his natural game. Possibly play another batsman (and drop Mahmood) and let Flintoff drop down the order to take the pressure off and get him bowling better. Collingwood can always be the fifth bowler if necessary.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Anglican Fellowship

Curious developments in the Church of England (taken from Anglican Mainstream website read here.):

A small group met with the Archbishop of Canterbury on Tuesday December 12 and presented A Covenant for the Church of England on behalf of a wide group of Evangelical and Charismatic members of the Church of England with the support of a number of Anglo-Catholic leaders.

The Covenant is the fruit of an ongoing process reacting not to a few local or immediate difficulties but responding to widespread concerns in the national and global church.

The group were listened to carefully and as a result of the meeting it was agreed that there would be further discussion of the issues raised in the Covenant to find a way to maintain the unity in truth of the Church of England.

Click here for the covenant itself.

After a quick read, the covenant seems pretty direct and is a very welcome development as far as I'm concerned. And I am supportive of what my brothers and sisters (who are older, wiser and more godly than I) are trying to do in making this important (perhaps historically significant?) move.

But, as always for me with questions regarding the CofE, one thing nags at the back of my mind. And it's this phrase:

...with the support of a number of Anglo-Catholic leaders...

Call me uncharitable (and yes, I don't know the individuals Anglo-Catholics involved or what they believe etc. etc.), but I find it very difficult to be satisfied with a rallying call which fails to address the differences between Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical theology. I'm totally unconvinced that the problem in the CofE is only with liberalism. I'm not prepared to say that the matters over which Anglo-catholics and Evangelicals are often divided are of no consequence to fellowship. But that's maybe one of the reasons I'm not a CofE ordinand (although I am currently a member of a CofE congregation).

Maybe I'm reading too much into the covenant but talk of a developing two-way division in the Church seems to me to be a papering over of the other major division(s?). Said enough now, better shut up.

(It strikes me that these posts and comments are sort of relevant to this issue in some way)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Church Planting in Southgate

Here's an assignment about Church planting that I did earlier this term (NB I haven't included the appendix which was a copy of the survey I used for research purposes. Hopefully this doesn't make anything confusing). I'd probably change bits of it on reflection, but then that's part of the point I guess. Anyone up for actually doing a plant in Southgate some point next calendar year do get in touch!

Outline a potential Church planting strategy for a congregation to follow in Southgate. In doing this you will construct, conduct and evaluate an area survey with at least 20 responses from non-Christians.

Church planting is one of the most biblical and effective means of promoting the growth of the gospel.[1] This paper aims to outline a potential Church planting strategy by considering the way a Church-centred evangelistic mission to the people of Southgate[2] might take shape. Given the limited nature of the research and reflection conducted for this paper, as well as providing a provisional picture of what a Church planting strategy might look like this paper will also suggest how a congregation could proceed to refine and implement this strategy. The structure of presenting this strategy is largely derivative.[3]


To establish a network[5] of Churches in the north London area of Southgate. This is part of a wider vision for transforming the city of London by[6], in particular, aiming to see 15% of the city in bible-teaching Churches by the year 2020.[7]


To make disciples for the Lord Jesus Christ of the people of Southgate by planting a Church-planting, Reformed, Evangelical, Bible-teaching, Evangelistic Church.


It is essential to have a clear picture of the spiritual climate in Southgate, and as detailed a picture as possible of the target community when devising a strategy.[8] This profile has been constructed from both qualitative (chiefly from a brief survey of people in the area)[9] and quantitative research.[10] However, it must be stressed that this research has been limited in scope, and a greater volume and detail would be required before a plant was finally launched.

1. Overview – Quantitative Research
The 12,103[11] people who live in Southgate are an ethnically diverse mix[12] with high proportions of Asian/Asian British (8.85%[13]), Black/Black British (4.16%[14]) persons, as well as a high proportion (14.10%) of people who define themselves ethnically as ‘white’ but neither British nor Irish. This ethnic diversity is matched by religious diversity; whilst 57.71% of people in Southgate define themselves as Christians,[15] 4.33% of the population are Hindus, 6.99% are Jewish, 6.33% are Muslim.[16] People who live in Southgate are generally very well educated, with over a third of the population having qualifications of level 4 or above.[17]

2. On the Ground – Qualitative Research[18]
The area survey interview covered three main areas. The first set of questions aimed to research attitudes towards Southgate itself within the local community. This purpose is to uncover felt needs which a new Church might be able to address.[19]

People cited the quietness/greenness of the area, its convenience (through public transport), the shops and other facilities as well as the friendly people as the main aspects of the area they enjoy. That most people surveyed were readily able to cite reasons for enjoying Southgate may indicate a general satisfaction with life in the area. This was confirmed by the high proportion of people who had nothing to say in answer to questions 3, 4 and 5.[20] This must be set in context however with the negative comments interviewees did make. Of the concerns and problems listed in Q3-5, the most common were traffic congestion[21] and crime/policing related issues,[22] especially the need for a greater police presence. Other negatives raised about Southgate included the lack of facilities for young people and the expense of living there (in particular the cost of housing). In general those who had lived in the area the longest were more negative, with two people expressing the feeling that the area has deteriorated during their time living there.

Secondly the area survey focused on the personal beliefs of the participants, with a view to compiling a ‘spiritual profile’ of the community.[23] In general people expressed mixed views on both destiny and luck, but most were cynical about horoscopes,[24] reincarnation[25] and Guardian Angels.[26] The majority expressed strong belief in God (13 people gave it 5, only 2 people gave it a 1or 2). However, this does not necessarily reflect well formulated beliefs. Rather, Q7-9 revealed a general vagueness on questions of religion and spirituality. Three people stated they had ‘no religion’, and others defined themselves as ‘spiritual’ rather than religious. One Hindu (of 2 interviewed in total) defined themself as ‘open’ to working out what they believed, as did one person who was raised as a Jew. Several others expressed a similar distaste for dogmatism or fanaticism in religious convictions. Whilst three people called themselves atheists, all three rated their belief in God at 4 or 5; it could be that by answering ‘atheist’ to a question about religious self-definition they meant ‘non-religious’ or ‘not a Christian’. Similarly whilst 5 people described themselves as Christians (to which can be added 1 Orthodox person and 1 Catholic) few were able to give clear definitions of what ‘God’ meant to them in Q8. The most popular answer to Q8 across all participants was that God is a ‘higher power’.[27] Few people expressed overtly negative views about the existence of some sort of god. Slightly more were negative about ‘Jesus’ in Q9.[28] The most popular answer here was ‘Son of God’[29] - giving the impression of familiarity with Christian language even if not doctrine.

Some of these findings were confirmed by the answers given in the third section which focussed on Church-going. Here the aim was to learn of past or present Church experience, the general profile of the gospel in Southgate, and begin to ascertain attitudes towards a new Church initiative in the area.[30] 5 people interviewed were Church-goers, although only 2 mentioned ‘God’ in Q10b. Of the other 16, 7 had Church-going experience in their background (usually during childhood). The reason attendance lapsed usually fell into two categories – either circumstantial (e.g. move of location, busyness due to birth of children) or belief issues.[31] In this section it emerged that existing Southgate Churches have a low public profile, with six people in Q11 and 2 in Q12 raising this in various ways; some people said they didn’t know there were any Churches locally. This might help explain why 10 people felt they were unable to offer any answer to Q11. 3 others said they thought the Churches were doing a good job but only for those already attending. This perhaps relates to the fact that several people were taken aback at Q13 and 14 – the perception being that Churches exist for those who already attend and not for ‘non-religious’ people like themselves. Similarly, some responses to Q12-14 mentioned an increase in Church community involvement and the need to publicise assertively and attractively (suggesting they felt existing Churches didn’t do this). Amongst the other answers given to Q13, people said they thought they would give a Church a try if it put on activities for their age group (whether pensioners or youth or early twenties) and sought to help people with various problems.

3. Conclusions about Southgate
The people of Southgate appear to be well-educated and relatively satisfied with life in Southgate, albeit with concerns over traffic congestion and increasing crime (especially among the young who lack decent entertainment facilities in the area). They are ethnically diverse, although not necessarily well-integrated as a result.[32] This ethnic diversity is matched by great diversity on religious issues. If there is a theme uniting this spiritual diversity it would seem to be vagueness. Many people are open to spirituality of some sort although suspicious and or entirely ambivalent of organised religion (some because of negative experiences in the past). No-one expressed overtly negative feelings at the idea of a new Church in Southgate, with some even suggesting that it would be a good thing and citing reasons they might join. This said, although there are some Church-goers in Southgate for many others ‘Church-going’ is not even ‘on the radar’ because they are ‘not religious people’ – a fact perhaps unwittingly confirmed by the low-profile of existing Churches in Southgate.

This picture of the context of Southgate begs the question - what sort of Church(es) can reach Southgate?[33]


1. Targeting
Although the long term aim will be to reach all the social and ethnic groups within Southgate, in the first few years it is unlikely SCC will have the resources to be able to do this adequately. Instead the aim will be to reach the natural networks of Church members, which, given the nature of the sending Church is likely to be white middle class people. [36] At the same time however, SCC will look to find Church members who are willing and able to cross cultural barriers for the sake of the gospel and pioneer work amongst other ethnic groups. The long term aim will be to have homogeneity at the small/’feeder’ group level but heterogeneity across the Church as a whole.[37]

2. Size
The initial size of SCC will be approximately 50 adult members, currently members of the sending Church who already live or work in the Southgate area. The aim is to be small enough to provide the impetus and flexibility for growth whilst being large enough to resource an outsider-friendly Sunday service and several small groups.[38]

3. Evangelistic strategy[39]
Given the general ambivalence towards ‘organised religion’ (in some cases negative history) any evangelistic strategy must take a long-term and relational approach.[40] This, together with confidence in the power of the gospel, is the basic philosophy around which the following potential strategy has been formed.

3.i. Small groups
The basic unit of Church life in SCC will be a number of small groups (initially five).[41] This is where primary pastoral care, bible application and friendship evangelism can take place. Small groups can give the homogeneity, flexibility, informality and relational structure most helpful for evangelism and discipleship amongst those ambivalent to organised religion.[42] All Church members will be expected to commit to a small group.[43] In effect small groups will be ‘little Church’ whilst Sunday services will be ‘big Church’.[44]

3.ii. Sunday services
Although small groups will be central to SCC, a major part of Church life will be a regular outsider-friendly Sunday service. This is because of the benefits of larger gatherings for worship in both sustaining members[45] and evangelism. The aim would be to build up the membership as well as publicly make a fresh, ‘less religious’ presentation of the gospel to Southgate. Accordingly, a more ‘neutral’ venue (e.g. one of the local schools or a sports/community hall) would be suitable for at least the first phase of the Church’s life until an outsider-friendly reputation is established.[46] Services would last no more than 1.15 hours, but would not insult the relatively well-educated people of Southgate, addressing the bible to the mind and the emotions,[47] with applications for both Christian and outsider. These services should be well-organised but with a degree of informality, i.e. with room for controlled spontaneity and interaction. Although the emphasis will be on the communication of the Word, thought must be given to appropriate use of images for the purpose of teaching a wide-range of learner types. The aim will be to appropriately experiment with format during the initial planting phase and if necessary beyond. Leading up to and during this time many other questions will need to be settled.[48]

3.iii. Children’s/Youth ministry
It is expected that SCC will have a Children’s Ministry from the outset given the number of children in the area[49] and the suggestion by some survey participants that they would welcome Church involvement with their children. These would run concurrently with Sunday services.

3.iv. Involvement in the local community
In the survey, the basic need for facilities and activities for young people appeared to be related to the fears many expressed regarding crime and the need for a greater police presence. SCC must therefore investigate the possibility of running youth-targeted community projects. This may prove difficult initially without property and potentially great expense. Whilst seeking to materially serve Southgate, it may also be that such service will gain an audience for the gospel. Whilst it is not obvious how the Church can serve in relation to other felt needs (such as traffic and busyness) much consideration should be given to these areas before SCC launches and should be viewed as integral to fulfilling the Church’s mission.

3.v. Publicity
Although relationships are key, SCC will not seek to be purist in this sense, choosing rather to use whatever means seem viable for raising the profile of the gospel in Southgate. As an area highlighted by some in Q14 of the area survey, publicity will need to be of a high quality both in terms of design and production. The aim will be to market SCC as a Church for the community of Southgate both in terms of welcome to Sunday gatherings and practical involvement in the community.

4. The Church Planter
The main leader of SCC will fulfil the biblical requirements for Church officers[50]. As well as this he will share the vision for Southgate and London outlined in this paper. He will be able to communicate in a post-Christian environment and will have had some formal theological training. It will be the planter’s job to recruit a Steering Committee[51] and develop a leadership structure in the first two years of the plant.

5. Timetable
December 2006 – Church Planter appointed
January 2007 – Church Planter recruits Steering Committee
January to April 2007 – Steering Committee conducts further research, theological reflection and strategy refinement.
May to June 2007 – Church Planter and Steering Committee recruit the remaining core members from the sending Church.[52]
August to November 2007 – Church plant begins to meet together, train together, assess one another’s giftings,[53] consolidate vision ownership. Evangelistic contacts made during research phase are followed up during this time, as well as whole Church planning on how to increase community contacts.
December 2007 – Official public launch with Christmas programme.

6. Becoming a Network

6.i. Leadership training
Growth requires multiplication of ministries which in turn requires multiplication of leadership at all levels of Church life. From the onset SCC will look to provide ministry apprenticeships with the express aim of training future Church planters for Southgate and London. Similarly small group leader training will take priority over other adult education programmes in Church life. Annual evangelism training will be run for all Church members. Leaders of specific ministries will be expected to train future leaders.[54]

6.ii. Venue/Property needs
Whilst SCC will not be initially ready for purchasing large property,[55] from the outset the possibility of more permanent space within the area will be investigated. Any building(s) should be suitable for the public image of the Church as outsider friendly different from perceived religious norms and consistent with SCCs aim to reach Southgate specifically.[56]

6.iii. Connectedness/ Church Government
In becoming a network of Churches/congregations across Southgate theological and logistical reflection must be given to how future plants/ congregations will relate to one another. This will partly depend on whether the Church Planter wishes to develop his role to become an overseer of several Churches and their leaders. The demands and practicalities of fulfilling the mission and vision of SCC must be allowed to play a significant role in answering these questions.

[1] Timothy J. Keller, “Why Plant Churches?” 6.p. [cited 5 November 2006]. Online
[2] ‘Southgate’ for the purposes of research was defined as Southgate Ward.
[3] In particular this paper is indebted to the model for a Church planting action plan given in Timothy J. Keller and Allen J Thompson, Church Planter Manual (New York: Redeemer Church Planting Center, 2002), 105-109. It is also based on Tim Davies and Christ Church Working Party, Christ Church Central Launch Presentation, (Unpublished document, Sheffield, 2003).
[4] Assuming the definition of vision in Aubrey Malphurs, Planting Growing Churches for the 21st Century (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1992), 234-238.
[5] Network is used throughout with reference to the concept of a ‘movement’ found in Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 105.
[6] Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 105.
[7] Cf. Peter Jensen, “How can we reach our 10% goal?” n.p. [cited 5 November 2006]. Online Also, 15% was suggested a more noticeable figure by Chris Green during a sermon in 2004.
[8] Malphurs, Growing Churches, 165.
[9] See Appendix. The survey was based on “Oak Hill Community Survey Project – Street Interview,” 2.p. [cited 25 October 2006]. Online
and Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 76. and Malphurs, Growing Churches, 167-168.
[10] Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 69-73.
[11] “Neighbourhood Statistics Key Figures for 2001 Census (Southgate Ward),” n.p. [cited 3 November 2006]. Online;jsessionid=ac1f930dce5b05e380a7bba41ea86c4ddf229a4b56c.e38OaNuRbNuSbi0Lah0PaNyQbxaQe6fznA5Pp7ftolbGmkTy?a=3&b=5942137&c=southgate&d=14&e=16&g=332790&i=1001x1003x1004&m=0&enc=1&bhcp=1
[12] 80.72% white as against 90.92% in the UK as a whole. “National Statistics,” n.p.
[13] Compared with a percentage for all of England of 4.58%. “National Statistics,” n.p.
[14] Compared with a percentage for all of England of 2.30%. “National Statistics,” n.p.
[15] The figure for England is 71.74%. “National Statistics,” n.p.
[16] Compare with figures of the whole of England of 1.11%, 0.52% and 3.10% respectively. “National Statistics,” n.p.
[17] 35.17% as compared with a total for England of 19.90% and 30.99% for London. Level 4/5 covers First Degree, Higher Degree, NVQ levels 4 and 5, HNC, HND, Qualified Teacher Status, Qualified Medical Doctor, Qualified Dentist, Nurse, Midwife or Health Visitor. “National Statistics,” n.p.
[18] Based on the results of Survey in Appendix which was conducted with 21 people outside Southgate Tube Station. All of the participants either lived in the Southgate area or studied/worked there regularly. The statements made in this section will assume that these 21 participants are in some way representative, although more research would be required before this was confirmed.
[19] Malphurs, Growing Churches, 169. Cf. Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 77.
[20] 7, 4 and 5 people respectively.
[21] 7 people in total across the three questions.
[22] 6 people raised this sort of issue as a greatest need in Q5.
[23] Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 91. Cf. Malphurs, Growing Churches, 259.
[24] 18 people giving this a rating of 1 or 2.
[25] 11 people rating their belief at 1, although 7 rated their belief at 4 or 5.
[26] 14 people rating their belief at 1 or 2, although 6 people rated 4 or 5.
[27] 7 people answered in this way.
[28] 3 people doubted his existence or expressed overt disbelief ‘in Jesus’.
[29] 7 people answered using this phrase.
[30] Cf. Malphurs, Growing Churches, 167-168.
[31] E.g. one person raised a Catholic stated they had left Church attending behind because the religion was misogynistic and they had problems with several articles of belief.
[32] Only one participant highlighted this.
[33] Cf. Malphurs, Growing Churches, 259-260.
[34] Essentially this section is derived from the need to answer the three questions posed in Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 84. and questions found in Malphurs, Growing Churches, 259-272.
[35] Suggested name only. ‘SCC’ from here on.
[36] Malphurs, Growing Churches, 170-171.
[37] Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 94. It may well be that as the Church grows into a network of congregations by evangelism that greater thought is needed on how these congregations relate to one another so as to pursue gospel-based heterogeneity.
[38] This is based on conversations had with various UK Church planters during early 2003.
[39] Reference has been given here to various questions found in Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 93-96.
[40] Stephen Timmis, “Church Planting: Key Principles,” in Multiplying Churches – Reaching Today’s Communities Through Church Planting (ed. Stephen Timmis. Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus, 2000) 122-123.
[41] This is taken from a cell Church model. “What is cell?” n.p. [cited 5 November 2006]. Online
[42] Malphurs, Growing Churches, 215-218.
[43] Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 98.
[44] See, e.g. Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 95.
[45] Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 95.
[46] A Church’s identity can be linked to the meeting place. Lyle E. Schaller, 44 Question for Church Planters (Nashville: Abingdon, 1991), 84 & 122.
[47] Malphurs, Growing Churches, 179.
[48] E.g. The when and how of celebrating the Lord’s Supper, the place and logistics of congregational singing.
[49] Over 17% of the population are 0-15 yrs old. “National Statistics,” n.p.
[50] See, e.g. 1 Tim 3: 1-7 and Titus 1: 5-9.
[51] This is essentially the same idea as the ‘leadership team’ in Malphurs, Growing Churches, 248.
[52] Malphurs, Growing Churches, 275.
[53] See, e.g. Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 84.
[54] Ideas taken from talks on “Ministry Mulitplication” by Archie Poulos at Oak Hill in 2005.
[55] Perhaps until membership passes the 200 mark. Thinking here has been influenced by Schaller’s distinction between ‘temporary’ and ‘permanent’ meeting places. Schaller, 44 Questions, 60-64.
[56] i.e. SCC must resist the temptation to find cheaper property outside of the area.

Monday, December 04, 2006

CUs in the Guardian

THIS article from the Guardian the other day is worth a read. It's by Richard Cunningham (Mr UCCF) and comments on the recent problems some CUs have been experiencing (see other posts with this label for more information).

Friday, December 01, 2006

Pilgrim's Progress and Justification

This is a great little excerpt from Pilgrim's Progress which is my current loo-reading of choice. Christian and Hopeful are in conversation with Ignorance about where he stands with God. Ignorance has recently denied that his heart is bad.

IGNORANCE: Why, to be short, I think I must believe in Christ for justification.
CHRISTIAN: How! think thou must believe in Christ, when thou seest not thy need of him! Thou neither seest thy original nor actual infirmities; but hast such an opinion of thyself, and of what thou doest, as plainly renders thee to be one that did never see the necessity of Christ’s personal righteousness to justify thee before God. How, then, dost thou say, I believe in Christ?
IGNORANCE: I believe well enough, for all that.
CHRISTIAN: How dost thou believe?
IGNORANCE: I believe that Christ died for sinners; and that I shall be justified before God from the curse, through his gracious acceptance of my obedience to his laws. Or thus, Christ makes my duties, that are religious, acceptable to his Father by virtue of his merits, and so shall I be justified.
CHRISTIAN: Let me give an answer to this confession of thy faith.
1. Thou believest with a fantastical faith; for this faith is nowhere described in the word.
2. Thou believest with a false faith; because it taketh justification from the personal righteousness of Christ, and applies it to thy own.
3. This faith maketh not Christ a justifier of thy person, but of thy actions; and of thy person for thy action’s sake, which is false.
4. Therefore this faith is deceitful, even such as will leave thee under wrath in the day of God Almighty: for true justifying faith puts the soul, as sensible of its lost condition by the law, upon flying for refuge unto Christ’s righteousness; (which righteousness of his is not an act of grace by which he maketh, for justification, thy obedience accepted with God, but his personal obedience to the law, in doing and suffering for us what that required at our hands;) this righteousness, I say, true faith accepteth; under the skirt of which the soul being shrouded, and by it presented as spotless before God, it is accepted, and acquitted from condemnation.