A brief theology of sport (book review)

By Lincoln Harvey
SCM Press. 152 pages. £19.99
ISBN 978 0 334 044 185

(view original article here)

I must begin with some of the author’s closing words: ‘We are nowhere near speaking the final word on the subject. Instead, we are hopefully igniting a debate, encouraging Christians to think through the question of sport in the light of the good news of Jesus Christ’ (p.113).

Amen. As a recreational sailor with some sporty siblings, and a passing acquaintance with the invaluable ministry of Christians in Sport, I was eager to get my hands on Lincoln Harvey’s A Brief Theology of Sport. This is a very helpful little book that opens up an often ignored conversation to interested readers.

Noting the similarities between sport and religion, Harvey divides his book into two parts. Firstly, we are treated to ‘Historical Soundings’ as he surveys the link between ancient sports and religion, before moving through classical sports to the view of the early Church. This section concludes with valuable case studies, examining sport in relation to the medieval Catholic Church, and closing with a fascinating consideration of ‘Sport, Puritans and Muscular Christians’. With the groundwork laid – and this section is peppered with helpful illustrations and observations – Harvey moves on constructively.

Enjoying the unserious

In the second part of this book are the ‘Analytic Soundings’, and it is here that the central arguments of the book are illuminated. It is worth mentioning that this section is perhaps challenging for some: one notable chapter is entitled ‘The Liturgical Celebration of Contingency’, but Harvey is an assured and gospel-centred author. It is worth noting that Harvey grounds his discussion in what he identifies as our ‘deepest identity as the ones freely loved into existence by God’ (p.88). A closing chapter deals with seven key thoughts regarding sport and Christian living, which are thoughtful and comprehensive – in my reading.

Once Harvey got going, I was encouragingly reminded of G. K. Chesterton, and I was struck by his assertion that ‘All Christians should enjoy being unserious in some way or other. Sport is a great way to do it’ (p.108). This observation regarding seriousness, joy, and the Christian life shows the tone and posture of this informative book. I would have liked to see more reflection on the competitive nature of sport, but there is much to affirm and celebrate in Harvey’s call to ‘commentate on sport’, because, ultimately, sport is, in his words, ‘a wonderfully unnecessary but internally meaningful way to chime with their own unnecessary but meaningful life as creatures of God’ (p.113). I warmly recommend this book to those seeking to think about sport, leaders in CIS groups, or those leading particularly sporty small groups!

This article was first published in the June 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit our website or subscribe for monthly updates

Hope in an old new town

Some of the New City Church family in Milton Keynes

Some of the New City Church family in Milton Keynes

(view online version here)

In the Buckinghamshire city of Milton Keynes you can fill your days with snowboarding, shopping and water-skiing.

You can spend your hard-earned money at the all-new casino; you can eat and drink at one of the hundreds of restaurants and cafés, take in a show at the theatre or hang-out in one of the many green spaces. But what you won’t be able to do very readily is hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

As Milton Keynes has grown rapidly since its inception in the 1960s, one thing that has not grown up around the city (still officially a town) is a strong gospel witness. There certainly are gospel churches, but nowhere near enough to reach the quarter of a million plus people who live there, which is expected to grow by another 60% in the next few decades.

A new partnership

Seeing this need, and through a link with one small church in Milton Keynes (formerly Britten Grove Baptist Church), four FIEC churches in the region have formed a partnership to help replant this church and establish a strategic gospel witness.

The Four Counties Church Partnership (FCCP) consists of four supporting churches led by Ray Evans (Grace Community Church in Kempston), Martyn Hallett (Hope Church in Bedford), Mark Lawrence (Christ Church Dunstable) and Michael Teutsch (Flitwick Baptist Church). Together these churches have committed funds to help support a full-time pastor / church planter over five years to lead and re-establish the work.

A new church for a new city

In early 2013, the church and FCCP together called Richard Wardman as full-time pastor. Richard was formerly assistant pastor of the Thomas Cooper Memorial Evangelical Baptist Church (TCM) in Lincoln and as part of his ministry training he completed the Binary Course at WEST. Since starting in May 2013, Richard and the small team of elders have helped to relaunch the church as New City Church Milton Keynes: a new church for a new city. New City Church is an FIEC church plant working to see the whole city renewed and regenerated through the gospel of Christ.

Doubled in size

In the short time since Richard’s appointment the church has almost doubled in size to around 80 adults and children as the Lord has answered prayers to send workers for his harvest field. There is a wonderful sense of excitement about all that the Lord is doing and could do through this small church on the edge of a great city.

The church recently spent a Saturday morning dreaming up creative ideas as to how they will make links with the local community and tell local people about the hope of Christ. There have been people coming to Christianity Explored courses, and several unbelievers in regular attendance on Sundays. New people frequently comment on the warmth of the welcome they receive and the excitement of joining a church focussed on the gospel. The congregation is very diverse, reflecting the diversity of the city. Over 25% of the population comes from black or ethnic minority groups.

Old challenges

There are many challenges to growth: the 2011 census revealed that the average age in Milton Keynes is 35 and that the number of residents born outside the UK has doubled over the last decade. Other faiths are growing rapidly in number and over 30% of residents claim to have no faith at all. Ecumenism is rife in the town with Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists and Catholics all sharing the same designated buildings, while the local council seems reticent about granting planning permission for non-ecumenical church buildings.

However, despite these obvious challenges, Jesus has promised to build his church (Matthew 16.18). Christians may do the planting but it is God who makes the harvest grow (1 Corinthians 3.6). The church has a big vision for Milton Keynes with a big God behind them.

The need for workers

The long-term vision for the church is to grow beyond independence from the FCCP and develop the resources needed to plant more churches around the city. Part of that strategy involves calling and training gospel workers to help grow the work at New City Church and eventually to lead these other church plants. The church would like to see this happening sooner rather than later. They would like to see an assistant pastor work alongside Richard, possibly from September 2015. But the church needs financial assistance.

For more info see www.newcitychurch.co.uk

This article was first published in the September issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to en for monthly updates.

The third degree from Pod Bhogal of UCCF: 38,000 attend CU missions

Third Degree

(view original article here)

UCCF Staff Workers report that around 38,000 students attended a Christian Union (CU) mission week in 2014.

The 2014 figures represent a 19% increase from 32,000 students in the previous year. The figures include both CU and non-CU member attendance at lunchtime, evening and small group evangelistic events spread across 115 university missions.

Nottingham University Christian Union (NUCU) reported that 160 people have requested some form of follow-up, with at least 54 stating that they’d like to become a Christian during their events week. Jason, an international student, went to the wrong location for a lecture. He found a seat on an upstairs balcony overhearing the lunchtime CU talk on ‘Science and God’, and ended up asking a CU mission guest how to become a Christian. He has since been connected with a CU member, a small group and a local church.

UCCF Midlands team leader Tim Dennis said, ‘we have been encouraged that, so far, a handful of people have indicated that they would like to become Christians at Birmingham CU mission, and around 30 more have indicated that they would like to find out more by meeting up with a Christian or coming to Christianity Explored’.

Ready to become a Christian

Ryan Baxter, a student at the University of Central Lancashire said: ‘In my second year at university, I decided to go along with Jamie to an Uncover [seeker Bible study] session hosted by the Christian Union. Ben [the leader] encouraged me to ask anything I wanted. He prepared an hour-long session for me each week and tailored it to my queries. I decided I was ready to become a Christian and ever since then, I have felt free, like a massive weight has been lifted from my shoulders’.

Hannah Butler is in her first year at Exeter University, where she is studying English and German. She is not a member of the CU, but commented on her experience of Exeter CU’s events week, Life to the Full. ‘Life to the Full put forward Christian perspectives on some of life’s tough questions. The events proved an eye-opening experience, encouraging me to question my own beliefs. The Christian Union demonstrated an incredible openness and generosity which allowed students to explore new ideas and beliefs, and the week was a credit to everyone involved.’ Hannah has since attended a seeker course, has been given an Uncover Gospel and said, ‘the ideas are slowly falling into place, which is incredibly exciting’.

The Revd Richard Cunningham, National Director of UCCF, believes that while overall church attendance in the UK is dropping and the church nationally is lacking teenagers and those in their 20s and 30s, on campus, interest in exploring faith has never been higher. He said: ‘Across Britain, our student Christian Union leaders are reporting unprecedented interest in exploring issues related to faith, requesting Christian literature, and attending CU events. It seems that aggressive secularism is leaving today’s under 25s with a genuine spiritual hunger for something authentic and lasting’, adding, ‘Many will go on to attend follow-up courses, one-to-one Uncover seeker Bible studies and join a church for the first time.’

Pod Bhogal writes ‘The third degree’ column for EN.He is head of Communications, UCCF: The Christian Unions — http://www.uccf.org.uk

Follow Pod Bhogal on Twitter: http://twitter.com/podbhogal
Follow UCCF on Twitter: http://twitter.com/uccf — and on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/uccf.thechristianunions

This article was first published in the June 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to en for monthly updates.

11 lessons from the Church in China… and some other great links.

Links Worth A Look

Enjoy the following links!

St. Helen’s Church – We’re the problem!

The Gospel Coalition – 11 lessons from the Church in China

CBMW – Is motherhood enough?

Paul Tripp – Earth-bound Parenting

Albert Mohler – ‘Get with the Program’ – the Church of England votes to ordain women bishops

Prayer fuel: News from around the world

Prayer FuelHere are a handful of news-bites from around the world included in the September issue of EN. May these encourage us as well as spur us on to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world facing severe persecution.


China: Canadian arrests


A Canadian pastor and his wife, who have lived in China since 1984, have been detained in China under accusations of theft of intelligence, it was reported in early August.
Specifically, Kevin and Julia Dawn Garratt are suspected of ‘collecting and stealing intelligence materials related to Chinese military targets and important Chinese national defence scientific research programmes, and engaging in activities that endanger China’s national security’. They were arrested in the border city of Dandong. Simeon, their eldest son, said that the allegations are false and their Christian faith and close proximity to the missionary community are likely to be the cause of the arrest.
Religion Today

Pakistan: radio work


FEBA’s partners in Pakistan are now using medium wave to reach one particular language group, it was reported in July.
Until recently broadcasts were only transmitted on short wave in a remote rural area of Pakistan. To make programmes widely accessible, FEBA’s partners have begun transmitting on medium wave, reaching many more people.
Fellowship of European Broadcasters (FEB) 


Russia: church wins


The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in early August ruled against Russia in a freedom of religion case, in which a Pentecostal centre in Chuvashia, liquidated for alleged violations of educational, fire and sanitary regulations, won its case.
Liquidation as a registered religious organisation is not a complete ban, but makes it difficult to do much more than privately meet for worship and to study texts. Forum18

For more news and prayer fuel from around the world, visit our website of subscribe to EN for monthly updates.

Letter from America by Josh Moody: Meet the president!

Letter From America

(view original article here)

Josh Moody interviews David S. Dockery, the newly appointed president of Trinity International University.

This university in Illinois, USA, includes Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where Don Carson is a professor.

JM: What do you love about Trinity?

DD: I love the mission of Trinity International University, which is to educate men and women to engage in God’s redemptive work in the world by cultivating academic excellence, Christian faithfulness, and lifelong learning.

I love the stellar faculty members at Trinity who are committed to that mission. I genuinely admire their scholarship and their commitment to teaching, even as I love their dedication to students and to the work of the church. I love the staff at Trinity, the people who shape community, serve the students, and carry out the high calling of what I often call the hidden curriculum. I love the heart of the students at Trinity, both undergraduate and graduate students.

I am looking forward to getting to know all aspects of the university better. I love Trinity’s intercultural and international commitments, expressed in the institution’s investment in the life and work of the global church. The list of things and people that I love at Trinity is long, but I will stop there.

JM: What are the opportunities you envision for Trinity?

DD: Trinity’s numerous opportunities are tied to the institutional strengths. There are key opportunities to help shape Trinity’s expanding identity and influence in the world of Christian higher education. I think there are opportunities to help ensure Trinity’s ongoing commitments to evangelical faithfulness, to cultural engagement and service to the church.

I am excited to think about opportunities to help the divinity school focus on its distinctive calling, even as we work to strengthen and expand the work of the undergraduate programme. We have many opportunities, I believe, in the world of graduate programmes, including ways to help the Trinity Law School mature and develop. I think that there are great opportunities associated with three of the centres at Trinity, the Bioethics Center, the Carl Henry Center and the Jonathan Edwards Center; I believe that all three of these have incredible promise.

We will trust the Lord to guide our steps as we prioritise our efforts.

JM: What are the challenges that you see for Trinity?

DD: Trinity faces some of the same challenges that almost every other private college or university is facing at this time. These are things like the need for enrolment stability, revenue enhancement, finding the best and wisest ways to use technology, and other similar challenges that we share with our friends in the world of private higher education.

Trinity certainly has not been exempt from the enrolment and revenue challenges over the past five or six years. Now, Trinity must prioritise enrolment management, student retention, services to students, and resource development. Likewise, Trinity must continue to address matters associated with faculty and staff development in order to help us pursue Christ-centred excellence in all that we do each and every day.

Moreover, Trinity faces some unique challenges that are associated with its distinctive structure, a structure that includes a large divinity school, a smaller undergraduate programme, and underdeveloped graduate programmes, including the law school. In addition, Trinity has the challenge of serving and resourcing extension sites in South Chicago, South Florida, and Southern California.

We certainly will need God’s help, blessings and favour for the days ahead.

JM: How can others pray for Trinity?

DD: We need God’s wisdom, help, grace, favour and blessings for the days to come.

Please pray that the Lord would grant to us a sense of coherence in our identity and work, a sense of collaboration across the campus that would result in a new synergy in our shared efforts, and a team of administrators, faculty and staff who are working together shoulder-to-shoulder to advance the wonderful mission of Trinity.

Please pray that the Lord would send us the right students, that he would expand our resources, and that he would grant us unexpected blessings for the calling that is ours. We must all come to a place of recognising anew our sense of total dependence on our good and great God for his provision for Trinity.

Please pray that we all would be found faithful in our leadership and our stewardship of the institution, working together to advance the gospel and a Christ-centred approach to higher education for the glory of God..

Josh Moody is the senior pastor of College Church, Wheaton, Illinois.

This article was first published in the May 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to en for monthly updates.

Anglican update: Token men?

Anglican Update

(view online version here)

Will there ever be a conservative evangelical bishop who believes in complementarianism in the Church of England again?

According to the Archbishop of Canterbury, there will. Justin Welby was explaining to members of Parliament’s Ecclesiastical Committee a previously-made promise to appoint such a conservative evangelical bishop ‘within a matter of months’.

He declared: ‘We have undertaken to approach the Dioceses Commission to see if we can… use a vacant suffragan see for the appointment of someone holding the conservative evangelical view on headship. This was promised long, long ago in various ways.

‘One of the things that both the Archbishop of York and I feel about this – as did the House of Bishops – is that if we are going to create a climate of trust… we have got to keep our word on everything we promise. If you stop doing that, people will not believe you on anything’. he said.

Fair and equal

The archbishop also suggested that changes could be made for the processes in appointing all bishops, stating: ‘There are some absolutely outstanding clergy in both the traditional Catholic and the complemen-tarian evangelical groups; and we are going to have to develop… processes and procedures to make sure that they are considered fairly and equally, to see if they are the most appropriate person for a given post’.

Justin Welby also described Synod’s provisions for those opposed to women bishops as ‘an expression of love and concern for those who struggle with it. We are a family, not a political party. We don’t chuck people out who disagree with us’.

This all raises a number of issues. Firstly, as a letter in The Church of England Newspaper pointed out, over the summer, there have been previous promises of this kind. It said: ‘In the course of the discussions about women bishops, we were reminded that a Synod called for conservative evangelicals to be made bishops seven years ago. In the light of the failure to fulfil this ‘promise’, it is clear that: 1. conservative evangelicals should be consecrated in significant numbers (at least 10?) before any women are. 2. General Synod should stop issuing reports criticising other people since it doesn’t act on its own reports.’

Secondly, even if the archbishops are quite sincere in what they say – as I believe they are – it is hard to envisage the current process of appointment resulting in such an decision, or the particular diocese where there would be enough sympathy for it to take place. And making changes to the appointments process could be tricky.

Finally, does appointing just one bishop holding complementarian views really do justice to the movement’s strength and vitality (both numerical and financial) within the Church of England? Many would see it as mere tokenism.

Meanwhile, in relation to the other great contentious issue of the day, the first clergyman to marry a same-sex partner is planning to take the Church of England to court after his offer of a job as a hospital chaplain was withdrawn when his bishop refused to give him permission to officiate. The Revd Jeremy Pemberton stated: ‘This is an area of law that has not been tested and needs to be’.

Courteous but firm

As the latest Church Society magazine rightly says: ‘There will always be challenges to faithful evangelical ministry in the Church of England, and contending for the authority of Scripture and Reformation principles is not a new struggle… [John] Stott’s call to maintain a faithful evangelical witness ‘courteously but firmly’ working within the structures of the Church of England remains as relevant as ever’.

David Baker,
rector of the churches of East Dean with Friston and Jevington, East Sussex


This article was first published in the September 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to EN for monthly updates