I received the sad news today that a man I’m deeply privileged to have called ‘friend’ and ‘brother’ was promoted to glory last night. He has been affectionately called “Bullfrog”, “John Wesley on a motorcycle” and even “Intelligence on fire!” I am, of course, talking about Rev. Dr. John Smith – founder of God’s Squad Melbourne, Concern Australia, mission-troubadour and ordained-pioneer way before it was cool.
The following is an extract from a piece I wrote on him for my BA a few years ago. There’s a bit of extra pain in sharing this today, as after a lot of prayer and discernment, me and the family decided in January it was time for me to resign my membership of God’s Squad. The colours given to me personally by John Smith have gone back to the club, but the radical Jesus Movement culture we learned from him and others will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Every time I find myself in some shady bar or risky situation – I’ll be raising a glass of good scotch to you Smithy. Rest In Peace good and faithful servant.
The reason I want to share this paltry piece (alongside recommending that you read some of his own work), is that I believe Smithy had a pretty unique gift – in that he was the real-deal. A deeply faulted person, like all of us, but the real-deal nonetheless. I see a lot of Christians virtue-signalling on social media about the latest fad cause, but I don’t tend to see them in the soup-line sharing a meal with people. Smithy was different. He lived it. And he started living it in a time when it cost him his job at a Christian ‘mission’ agency, surely cost him some friends, and certainly cost him his reputation as a ‘clean-cut’ Christian minister. He was a man of his time, and some of his views might seem a little out-dated to the younger generation, but I hope you can see past this.
So if there’s one thing I’ll be taking from Smithy’s legacy, it’s this – I’m not going to try to gain kudos by talking about issues which affect people I don’t have proximity with. Smithy showed us a type of pioneering-incarnational-mission that came with blood, sweat, and tears. Literally. I hope this is an encouragement to people who’ve never heard of this great man, and comes with some comfort for those of us that are grieving. I’m glad to have been part of a culture where it’s ok for men to show their grief, tears, and affection for one another.
I might not be ok for a few days.
Continue reading Intelligence on Fire – RIP Rev. Dr. John Smith
“To be pilgrims means that men must perpetually return to the starting-point of that naked humanity which is absolute poverty and utter insecurity. God must not be sought as though He sat enthroned on upon the summit of religious attainment. He is to be found on the plain where men suffer and sin. The veritable pinnacle of religious achievement is attained when men are thrust down into the company of those who lie in the depths.”
Karl Barth – ‘Epistle to the Romans’
After a long and winding journey, I’m at one of those ‘mile-marker’ moments in life. After a nail-biting afternoon hitting the ‘Get Mail’ button on my email client every two minutes, I learned a few months ago that I had been ‘Recommended for training’ – which for non-Anglicans means I’m off to vicar school in September.
It’s probably come as a bigger surprise to me than anyone, I’d convinced myself it would be a “thanks, but no” by the time the email came through. I fondly remember many years ago when a mate from Church started going out with a young lady from my school. Somehow they realised they both new me, and when he explained how, she replied, “No way, can’t be the same guy. He’d never go to Church”. And here I am some 18 or so years later, getting ready to start training for a ministry in the CofE – like proper dog-collar and black-dress type ministry. Continue reading Pilgrim
N.B. – I am no longer a member of God’s Squad Christian Motorcycle Club after resigning in January 2019 to focus on family, training and local work. I am grateful for the continued friendship and incredible ride I’ve had with some amazing people.
Back home in Blighty after a great weekend celebrating the launch of God’s Squad CMC’s new chapter in Malta. A great time catching up with club family and mates, and making some new friends too. The sunshine was an added bonus. Continue reading St Paul the Rebel?
Wanna see a revival tonight
Lord, let there be a revival, yeah
I need to see a revival tonight, oh
Wanna see a revival, oh
A bit of a dirty word in some circles, some prefer the gentler “renewal” – but what is it about this idea of “revival” that captures us for good or bad? The sin scandals of tent-revival televangelists used to undermine charismatic belief. The “glory days” of the past world-shaking movements – now studied and dissected in the hope of finding a sliver-bullet to turn the tides of decline in church and religious adherence. It’s fascinating.
Continue reading Revival.
Today is a special day for me. There will be no party, no cards in the mail, no “HBD!” posts on Facebook and no rights to claim “but it’s my special day!” when it’s time to take the bins out or change a crappy nappy.
Because today isn’t an actual birthday, but maybe the anniversary of the next most significant moment in my life (after being unceremoniously torn out of my poor mother and having my heart re-started back in ’83).
18 years ago in a quiet little chapel in the Buckinghamshire countryside, with one of the worst hangovers I’ve ever had, the immanence of God exploded into my consciousness and turned my world upside down forever. I can’t really explain it, I definitely can’t find a formula to repeat it, and I’ve certainly doubted it, but it happened.
Continue reading Coming of Age
I’m not entirely sure what the deal is with 2017 but it’s been fairly sucky for us so far. Especially the last month or two. Amongst the dramas of a car crash, tonsillitis, post-natal depression and the usual ups and downs of life, our little one has had a nasty ear infection which has given him soaring fevers and very little sleep for all of us.
Continue reading Faith Like a Child
Ah prayer, that thing we like to pretend that we do a lot more than we actually do.
In most of the morning prayer liturgies (routines) I use, there’s a part I have started to dread. So much so, that I think it has sub-consciously put me off using the liturgies altogether. This is often replaced with a few desperate, muttered prayers during the sprint to get to work on time.
Recently at a motorcycle rally, a stall vendor remarked that they appreciated my easy-going and slightly sarcastic approach to talking about faith. I replied, “That’s ok, I’m a professional”. In my experience, even people involved in pastoral work and Christian leadership struggle with regular prayer.
Continue reading Prayer for troubled minds
Can you sponsor me to lose weight and raise money for our Fresh Expression of Church?
Can you help Sir Lancelot slay the flab dragon?!!!
I’m looking for people to sponsor me £1 per kilogram as I try to lose some fat and raise money for our Fresh Expression of Church.
In September we start meeting weekly, and will be sharing a meal together each month. Currently we are not receiving any regular funding for our group so we need your help to cover some of our running costs. All moneys will be used for running the group and will not go to any individuals.
Can you help us provide a sacred space for ragamuffins???
Follow the following link to sponsor: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/churchforragamuffins
For more info about what we’re doing take a look at this written interview with CMS or listen to this recorded interview with UCB Christian Radio (2hrs 17mins into the show)!
Thanks for your interest and support, I’ll be posting updates on social media.
Very excited to share this little interview with Christian musician and worship leader Marc James. I’ve known Marc a while, we actually lived in a shared house together for a few years! I’m very thankful to call this man ‘friend’, I’ve learned so much from the time we’ve spent together. Marc is a ragamuffin who loves Jesus, plain and simple.
We talk about his new album ‘Promise’, which is available here.
Continue reading Chatting ‘Promise’ With Marc James
This is an abridged version of an essay I recently wrote, if you’d like to read the full thing do be in touch
It’s probably fair to say that the environment in which we share the Bible in the UK has changed radically in the last 100 years. People are bringing different kinds of questions to the table. As one author noted, the air of expectation and hope of the early twentieth century very quickly gave way to the cruel realities of “Auschwitz, Hiroshima and the Gulag Archipelago”. The West’s great hope of self-redemption and apotheosis through science, technology, education and the secular nation state gave way to a climate of fear, mistrust of institutions, and philosophical confusion. Continue reading Hermeneutics for Ragamuffins: Some things a former Calvinist has learned from Liberation theology
Latest blog post – babies, sleep deprivation, motorcycles, philosophy, and Nazis. It’s all here folks.
It’s been a crazy time. Well life is usually quite crazy for us to be fair, but particularly crazy. Our beloved 4 month old son hasn’t been sleeping much, we’ve been surviving (or maybe existing is a better word) on a few broken hours of sleep for well over a month, and it’s taken a heavy toll on all aspects of our life. Continue reading Stations On The Way To Freedom
Infant Baptism. Few matters of contention divide Christians as much as this one.
To our great joy a son was born to us, just a couple of short months ago. So this debate just got really personal. There are myriad books, blogs and articles arguing the issue in great theological detail, and I won’t bother to repeat what has already been said. But for the benefit of those who find what we’re doing strange, I will briefly explain why we are baptising our son. (If you are looking for something a little more theological try this) Continue reading Why We’re Baptising Our Infant Son
I saw the following words glitter in gold print on the wall of a Church in our beloved town of Luton this week:
“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people”
The bibliophiles among us may recognise it from Luke 2:10. As I stared, and pondered these words, I couldn’t help but wonder what they might mean to those outside the cozy inner circle of religious adherents. That day I had spent time with a lonely immigrant from Senegal desperate for work, a serial alcoholic, a young lady who had recently found herself homeless, a young man suffering from chronic mental health problems, and an older gentleman in chronic pain after a botched medical treatment, and many others with troubling stories. I couldn’t help wonder, what about Christmas is good news for them? Where they might find joy at this time of year save from the bottom of a bottle or a used hypodermic? Even experiences in my own cushy little life had me hating Christmas until recently. Continue reading What’s So Amazing About Christmas Anyway?
It’s been very quiet here for a while, with all the craziness of life – work, studies, Church, and of course family (with the arrival of our son Jared Benjamin). But I’m pleased to tickle your fancy with the news that soon I’ll be publishing an academic piece I’m writing:
Intelligence On Fire:
A Brief Analysis of Rev Dr John Smith – a 20th Century mission pioneer….