The Nonviolent Reformer that Sadly Didn’t Have an Easy Name Such As Luther


chelcicky_petr3Petr Chelčický

The following is an excerpt of Micael Grenholm’s upcoming book Charismactivism, due to be published later this year by Ettelloc Publishing.

The Protestants of the 16th century were far from the first who protested against Catholic errors and heresies, but this movement was the first one to escape being totally quenched by inquisitors and grow to a big, substantial size so that it was clear once and for all that Catholics and Orthodoxs didn’t have monopoly on the name of Jesus. This was primarily because unlike most previous Christian rebels, Martin Luther (1483-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564) did not question the state-church system — on the contrary they endorsed it! Thus, many Protestants weren’t persecuted; they persecuted others. Furthermore, while prophetic, charismactivist movements demanded believers to take discipleship seriously and actively seek holiness, Luther’s hostility towards works made it quite easy to be a Christian in…

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Healing our broken humanity


Has anyone had a child ask them recently ‘how many weeks until Christmas?’

When our 4 were younger it usually came up about 2 weeks after they started back at school following the long summer break; like a beacon of hope, the promise of Christmas beckoned them onward, resolute through the Autumn term.

For most of us the central message of Christ’s birth, the incarnation, is not at the forefront of our minds as we busy ourselves in preparation… It is hard to balance the material reality of a traditional, Western Christmas with the extraordinary, life-altering message of God’s self-giving love which was expressed uniquely in the person of a small and vulnerable baby, born on the margins of a powerful empire.

Yet, the mode in which God chose to reveal himself is a starting point, an identity marker, for our discipleship as followers of Jesus.

The incarnation gives us key clues to the question ‘how then should we live as people of faith?’ which are explored in imaginative and practical depth in the Global Church Project 

We highly recommend that you take time to explore the resources for yourself, your church, discipleship group, youth group or seminary class.

As we reflect on the Great Promises of the prophet Isaiah in Chapter 61 let us also remember that as people of faith we are called to manifest God’s love in each and every context we find ourselves. This may require us to cross uncomfortable boundaries in order to maintain faithful testimony to the call to be ‘New Humanity’ which the Apostle Paul spoke about in Ephesians.

In Healing broken humanity various people explore what this might mean in different contexts around the world.

[Click on the link and the 10 minute video is at the bottom of the page.]

Refuge and watering holes from Aleppo to Wales

It seems timely to re-blog this. Praying for Aleppo at this tragic time.

justice, advocacy and reconciliation

Before the war, I didn’t pay attention to how much water I used. But now, water is like gold for me. It’s practically holy. (29-year-old Ali)


Water sourced from underground wells in Aleppo (Photo: Aref Haj Youssef/Reuters)

Aleppo is heartbreakingly broken. Disembowelled by conflict and war, her treasures dismembered and her citizens fleeing since 2012, seeking refuge and hospitality in a world increasingly shaped by fear.

These images depict the devastation and ruin of Aleppo in Syria, an historic and globally significant city.

During a recent visit to the Pergamon museum on Berlin’s ‘Museum Island’ I saw, for the first time, a very personal slither of history which impacted me more than the museum’s centrepiece-the Ishtar Gate or Gate of Babylon.

12523196_1044517495571551_2958406799257743757_n The Aleppo Room, Pergamon Museum

The Aleppo room belonged to a prosperous merchant and Christian citizen of the Syrian town of Aleppo named Isa ibn Butrus (Jesus son…

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Advent 2: ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road?’

Georges Rouault-The appearance on the road to Emmaus

The Advent of our God
Our prayers must now employ,
And we must meet him on his road
With hymns of holy joy.

(Charles Coffin, The Advent of our God, Hymns of the Primitive Church, 1837)

It may seem strange to insert a piece of  art depicting a scene from the post-resurrection story of the meeting on the road to Emmaus during the season of Advent, but there is a reason…

Revelation and encounter with truth sometimes come when we least expect it. In spite of hearing reports from women who had seen the resurrected Jesus these disciples were not expecting to encounter Jesus on the road, but that is exactly what happened:

Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures? (Luke 24:32)

That disreputable shepherds and foreigners were led to and encountered Jesus in the lowly byre before those who were the official truth-holders of the tradition should at least make us stop and reflect…

Do we remain open to encountering Jesus ‘on the road’, in unexpected places, through or alongside unexpected people…?

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you… (Ephesians 1:17-18)

Hope – Making Mission Meaningful


In this season of Advent, the concept of hope comes to the fore; it is the incarnation, ‘God with us’, that gives each one of us, humanity as a whole and all of the created order, hope of reconciliation, renewal and restoration. Hope is also a critical element of mission; it is the Hope of ‘God with us’, that distinguishes the Christian concept from any other notion of hope, and provides the basis for God’s mission – a mission compelled by love.

Below is the text of my third and last in a series of 3 posts on mission:

In my two previous blog posts, Location, Location, Location and Empathic Leadership, I considered questions around ‘where we are’ and ‘who we are’. Our context and our character are key factors which help shape meaningful missional presence and the MA programme at ForMission College righty addresses these. The third element in this mini-series addresses the ‘why?’ and ‘what for?’ questions. Without a clear sense of purpose, we can completely miss the point of mission; to bear hope-filled ‘Good News’.

The result of the recent referendum, has brought our future, personally, nationally and globally into sharp focus. Depending on your political views, you may well sum up the current situation as one of hope, or despair; ‘Great Britain’ or ‘Broken Britain’, or more likely, as something in between! Our identity as a nation is under scrutiny and if we do not know where the journey is leading our hope for the future is critically affected. We live in times of great change and the resurrection narrative, which lies at the heart of the Gospel, orients us as a missional community to bring hope to share in this fast-changing context.

Tom Wright’s important book, Surprised by Hope, addresses the important issues of our destiny, the hope we have and how this impacts the way we live right now. Wright reminds us that our future home is a new heavens and a new earth and that this world is in the process of being refined and restored. We have a hope that is promised in Scripture, glimpsed through the pages of Isaiah and Revelation, and we have been entrusted to be co-participants with God in working that out.

So our hope is not just in the ‘yet to come’, but also in the ‘now’; this is the reality of God’s kingdom which has been ushered in and is active today. Working for the common good of the whole of God’s creation is demonstrated through pro-actively and faithfully beginning to live out this new reality ‘on earth as it is in heaven’. Tom Wright’s insight helps to deepen our understanding of this, and may well bring new revelation to some of us.

So then, the three dimensions of ‘context’, ‘empathy’ and ‘hope’, serve to equip and orientate the community of believers engaged in God’s mission, the missio dei. Shalom, the Old Testament Hebrew term to describe well-being, wholeness and the flourishing of all aspects of life (echoed by the New Testament writers in the word ‘peace’), is a valuable concept which helps focus our vision, and this will be developed in future blogs. God intimately loves His creation and worship of God demonstrates our love for God, the outworking of which forms the essence of missional community.

I finish with a quote from the first chapter of the book, Carnival Kingdom: biblical justice for global communities, referring to the vision of both the present and future hope that Wright describes:

…the Kingdom is described as an ‘upside down Kingdom’ – radically different to the status quo of earthly kingdoms where power and privilege coalesce in the hands of a few, often at the expense of the majority. At the heart of the vision of the reign of God is the belief that this reign will result in shalom; the delightful and convivial energy of a community at one and at peace with itself, in purposeful service to God and the greater good of the rest of creation (Carol Kingston-Smith, 2013, p.4)

The above blog post was originally published on ForMission College’s website at: on 18th October 2016.

Book Review: Sympathy for Jonah: Reflections on humiliation, terror and the politics of enemy-love

Illustrator Benjamin Harris [1] 
David Benjamin Blower’s Sympathy for Jonah is a slim but by no means a light read. It is an elegant and succinct work of profound poeisis; the artistic creation of a powerful imaginative lens which dives deep into the narrative of the book of Jonah and emerges with some paradigm-shifting reflections on this very familiar but often under understood story.

Whilst not a read for the faint-hearted, by David’s own admission, “Only when we are shocked, horrified, and unmade by the story of Jonah can we begin to imagine that we have understood it” (Epilogue, p57), it is a book imbued with the hope-filled vision that Love’s creative resistance, insistence and interruptive power will manifest again and again “awkward pauses in time in which repentance becomes possible and another world imaginable” (p55).

The book opens with a real time explosion- the recent bombing by Islamic State Militants of Jonah’s alleged shrine in Mosul dramatically connects by way of a twist of explosive wire and a BBC camera this ancient story and the contemporary reader. As the “flameless puff of gray dust” (xvi) settles, the reader is plunged into a disorienting sea of shanties and dirges, monsters of the deep and humiliations. David invites the reader to consider “why is the image of a man on his knees in the belly of a whale so compelling to us?” (p4) His chapter exploring the ‘episode in the whale’ ends with the warning stage whisper: “God help the revolution that has not first known humiliation” (p.10)

In Sympathy for Jonah David has attempted a somewhat Ricoeurian[2] resuscitation of traditional narrative in order to help us imagine and reconnect with a way of being present in and to our world which moves us hopefully into the future. He resolutely goes about the task of pushing the mythic fish tale off the sandbar of unimaginative, modern speculation and back into the mysterious depths. David then proceeds to tackle three key areas: our judgements about why Jonah did not want to go to Ninevah (was he really racist?), our beliefs about why he ended up in the belly of a large fish (is God really unkindly punitive?) and lastly our understanding of what those 3 days ‘inside’ were really about? (was it really just alternative transport?).

Sympathy for Jonah is an impactful read and its theological location is firmly in the heartland of radical non-violent love of Other. Jonah is a story of subversion- a literal ‘turning from below’ and David has taken its timeless message and enlivened it with a teacher’s attention to truth and application, a counsellor’s reflection on the inward and outward journey of reconciliation and a prophet’s call to an extraordinary type of non-violent, restorative justice:

Only by following him into the whale’s belly, by earnestly undergoing the death-and-resurrection of his baptism, and by allowing ourselves also to be unmade and dismantled, dislodged from the structures and obligations of the current order, and empowered with a strength to love that goes beyond ourselves, only then can we begin to adopt the Jonaic practice, the way of the cross and the call of the gospel: to go to the terrible other in search of the image of God.” (David Benjamin Blower, 2016, Epilogue, 57)

As David reminds us, “The book of Jonah is short. It takes up less than two pages of the Bible” (p.2) and though Sympathy for Jonah is also a short book the images it conjures speak thousands of words. In his Forward, Ched Myers draws attention to the bigger picture which David Blower’s reading of Jonah paints; the calling to journey towards the reconciliation of all things: “Ultimately, if humanity is to survive, the murderous logic of empire must be turned around. And nothing less is God’s will for history.” (Ched Myers, Forword, xi). David’s reading of Jonah insists that at key moments we need to be interrupted, however inconvenient, to be stopped in our tracks to examine whether we are living the narrative of empire or of the upside-down kingdom of Heaven: “One day there will be an interruption, and imperial time will stop as it has done many times before, and everyone will wait for it to start up again, but it won’t. It finally won’t be able to fool itself into being anymore, and all its machinery will be hammered into something good and beautiful, or thrown into the fire. And then we will know that the world to come is finally here.” (Blower, 55)

I highly recommend this book. It is at times a disturbing read-empire, domination, cruelty and violence are disturbing themes after all, but it carries profound prophetic relevance for the times in which we live.


[1] Illustrator, Benjamin Harris’ website

[2] The Christian philosopher, Paul Ricoeur develops his ethical hermeneutic around the importance of reading and meaningfully connecting our past and its traditions with our present in order to bridge with integrity into the future: “The entire present is in crisis when expectancy takes refuge in utopia and tradition congeals into a dark residue” (Time and Narrative Vol. III, p. 235)

[3] Author David Benjamin Blower’s website 


Empathic Leadership – Getting in touch with our true selves

ma_empathic_wpMy last blog post considered the importance of context – connecting with the wisdom of understanding the place, culture, language, and the struggles and joys of relationships, which contribute to making each and every place unique and special.

Further wisdom dictates that our actions within any given context be rightly motivated and take account, wherever possible, of the impact they have on those who inhabit that context and their wider environment.

Whether consciously or not, our actions (and non-actions) do carry influence, and one of the key elements of the MA programme at ForMission college is the provision for students to reflect (inner and outer) on the influence they carry and how their interface with others is conditioned by their actions, attitudes, and those subtle, yet profound, motivations. Motivations are tell-tale signs of our character and our theology; what and who we truly value become evident.

Scripture frequently prefaces Jesus’ miracles with the words, ‘…he had compassion on him/her/them’. I suggest that an important element of right behaviour and good actions is the need to be ‘affected’ by others. In other words, to be able to imagine how ‘the other’ feels or thinks; to read the signs of distress or the needs (often silently communicated) that draw us to respond with compassion. Another way of articulating this is ‘empathy’; the essence of moving beyond ourselves to respond to those we are in contact with, and which compels us to engage with an appropriate action, or with wise words, or sometimes needing to simply listen attentively and re-assure.

The above inevitably requires leadership to be as much about connecting with and empowering others to move forward in their character-growth and fruitfulness as it is about directing and vision-casting ‘from the front’. There are many styles and approaches to leadership, of course, but a powerful Christ-like model is one where empathy is practised and valued. This is, I would also suggest, an increasingly-lost art, not least amongst us men. Our culture showers us with many voices and perspectives, yet that moment of reflection casting our own competitive desires to one side, enables us to tap into those empathic resources that are abundant within us.

Roman Krznaric’s stimulating book, Empathy – Why It Matters, And How To Get It should be a must-read for any course on leadership. His research leads him to assert that not only is empathy as much a male quality as a female one, but that it can and should constantly be cultivated and exercised. Responding to a need with true compassion, as Jesus did, is likely to make our actions not only more e/affective, but more Christ-like; getting in touch with our homo empathicus draws out our essence without the ego getting a say!

Krznaric talks about ‘outrospection’ as a mode of thinking that helps to keep us healthily-balanced, to move beyond our tendencies toward selfishness and develop our cognitive empathy towards others; this video illustrates it well.

As Jesus showed us, let’s drink deep from God’s well of wisdom, that our thinking and actions might be truly compassionate and of real benefit to others. Empathy is one of the greatest gifts of good leadership and a key ingredient for social transformation at both individual and corporate levels.

This post was originally published on ForMission’s website at